Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Second Hand Heart - Catherine Ryan Hyde

Vida is 19 and has never had much of a life. Struggling along with a life-threatening heart condition, her whole life has been one long preparation for death. But suddenly she is presented with a donor heart, and just in time. Now she gets to do something she never imagined she'd have to do: live.

Richard is a 36-year-old man who’s just lost his beloved wife, Lorrie, in a car accident. Still in shock and not even having begun the process of grieving, he is invited to the hospital to meet the young woman who received his wife’s donor heart.

Vida takes one look at Richard and feels she’s loved him all her life. And tells him so. Richard assumes she’s just a foolish young girl. And maybe she is. Or maybe there’s truth behind the theory of cellular memory, and maybe it really is possible for a heart to remember, at least for a time, on its own.

Second Hand Heart is both a story of having to learn to live for the first time, and having to learn to live all over again.
(Summary taken from goodreads.)

Title: Second Hand Heart
Genre: Adult Fiction, Coming of Age, 
Publisher: Black Swan
Publication Date: September 2, 2010. 
Source: Received from author. Many thanks goes to Catherine Ryan Hyde, and Kari from Teen Book Scene for sending me a copy of this book for review. I received this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review. 
My rating: 4/5

Second Hand Heart chronicles the journey Vida is taking in preparation for her death. She doesn't want to die, but it is inevitable what with her heart condition. When she receives a heart transplant, she is both bemused and grateful. For her to receive a heart, that meant someone else had to die. When she meets her donor's husband, she realizes that she is suddenly, and strongly in love with him. He passes off her adoration as foolishness. With Richard and Vida both having to become accustomed to their new realities, they will need to learn how to live for the first time, and all over again. 
Second Hand Heart starts off with a solid observation from Vida. She is preparing for her death; unsure if she will receive a heart transplant, and if she does receive one, if her body will accept it. She talks as if she is conspiring with the reader; her voice uttered through the pages of her journal. She is a realistic sort, not afraid of death, but not hastening it either. When she gets a reprieve from death, she has no idea what to do with her newfound life. She is now trying to find herself. When she is with Richard, we see just how young she is, and also how fathomless her wisdom is. Her friendship with Esther adds more to the story as well. 
Richard is one of those characters that I couldn't help but empathize with. He has just suffered a debilitating blow, and is going so far as to meet the person who received his newly deceased wife's heart. I think Catherine Ryan Hyde tackles the subject or theory of cellular memory beautifully, as both Richard and Vida learn over the duration of the book, what exactly the heart knows. 
This also could be considered a coming of age novel in the sense that Vida learns how to live, while Richard learns what it is like to live without his wife, Lorrie. Vida also learns what it is like to make new memories separate from those associated with the hearts history. 
All in all, a well-rendered book. It is a slow-paced, yet intensely emotional read. The depth given to Vida and Richard, and the circumstances they find themselves in, will have the reader deeply invested in the outcome.There is some detailing of the procedure Vida undergoes, but I did not find it overly graphic. While this book is aimed at adult readers, I do think young adults would enjoy it as well.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Scourge - David H. Burton

Two dads, five siblings, and goggles!

Grim Doyle has always known his life was not exactly "normal", and things get even more curious when he discovers a set of stones that sweep him and his family to the fantasy, steampunk world of Verne - a place they had escaped from years ago. Now that they've returned, Grim and his siblings hide from the evil Lord Victor and his minions. And while learning about Jinns, Mystics, and the power of absinth they try to discover who is trying to kill them with the deadly Scourge.

Scourge is the first novel in the Grim Doyle Adventure series by author, David H. Burton. He can be found online at http://davidhburton.com

Title: Scourge: A Grim Doyle Adventure
Author: David H. Burton
Genre: Middle Grade Fiction, Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Steampunk
Published by David H. Burton
Publication Date: November 29, 2010
Source: Received from author. Many thanks goes to David H. Burton for sending me a copy of his book for review. I received this copy free of charge in exchange for an honest review. 
My rating: 4/5

In Scourge, we meet Grim, and his family of 5 siblings and two fathers. Though life can't be defined as normal, it hasn't been too off the wall either. That is, until Grim discovers another world beyond his wildest imagination. He is full of questions about this new world, but is forced to put them aside when his family is attacked. With their enemies closing in on all sides, Grim's family is forced to flee to the new world of Verne. Along the way, Grim learns that his family originally came from Verne, and now that they are back, they will have to go into hiding again until they can find out who is trying to kill them. 
Scourge is such an action-packed and adventure-ridden book. I think middle graders and certainly young adult readers will love this book. I loved how Burton tackled the world of Verne and how it affected Grim and his family. Though there was a lot of information to process it didn't feel overwhelming in the slightest. Grim is the oldest boy in the family, and is second only to Rudy, his sister, who is older than him by a mere 10 months. They will have to look out for the rest of their siblings when they are sent into hiding at an orphanage. When they arrive at the orphanage, they are put straight to work. I loved the characters they met while they were in the orphanage, and I loved the sense of mystery throughout. The varying range of illustrious characters just adds more to the book. They made some new friends, and some new enemies, and I loved reading how Grim handled things with both groups. The inflection used in some of the voices was hilarious, and definitely kept me engaged as well. I honestly thought I had the book figured out, and then Burton would throw in another twist. It was a refreshing read and it kept me guessing, which is always a good thing. 
All in all, this is an exciting and thrilling read. Though we are left with some questions, I was really happy with the ending and did have some closure. I can't wait to find out what is next for Grim and his family as this is just the beginning. This was a truly refreshing read, and I liked the aspect that it focused on the mystery and not on a romantic subplot. Once I started reading, I was hooked. I hope you will be too. Those who like a little steampunk in their reads are sure to enjoy Scourge.

Important Links

Scourge is available on Amazon Kindle as of today. This link will send you to the Amazon page.
The print edition will be available in two weeks time. 

David is also offering a personalized ebook version of Scourge on his site. It comes with an autographed dedication page as well as a fun feature where he will alter the name of one of the minor characters in the story with the name of the purchaser. 

The link to purchase a personalized copy is located here: http://davidhburton.com/?page_id=4113

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Virals - Kathy Reichs

Tory Brennan, the fourteen-year-old niece of acclaimed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan (of the Bones novels and hit TV show), is the leader of a ragtag band of teenage "sci-philes" who live on a secluded island off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina. When the group rescues a dog that's been kidnapped for medical testing on nearby Loggerhead Island, they are exposed to an experimental strain of canine parvovirus that changes their lives forever. 

As Tory and her friends discover their heightened senses and canine-quick reflexes, they must combine their scientific curiosity with their newfound physical gifts to solve a cold-case murder that has suddenly become very hot--if they can stay alive long enough to catch the killer's scent. Fortunately, they're more than friends: they're now a pack. They are VIRALS. 

Title: Virals
Author: Kathy Reichs
Genre: Young Adult, Mystery, Suspense
Publisher: Razorbill 
Publication Date: November 2, 2010
Source: Received from publicist. Many thanks goes to Vimala from Penguin Canada for sending me this book for review. I received this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review. 
My rating: 4/5

Tory Brennan and her friends all live on an island off of the coast of Charleston, North Carolina. With their parents working on nearby Loggerhead Island, they often are left to their own devices. When they make a discovery on the island, they unwittingly unleash a virus that will change their lives forever. If that isn't enough, they also stumble upon the remnants of a cold case which quickly heats up, spiraling things drastically out of control. Will the four friends be able to figure out what is going on before they end up dead?
As an avid fan of Reichs' Temperance Brennan novels, I was intrigued to see how Virals would turn out. I appreciated the fact that Tory is Temperance's niece and couldn't wait to find out more. I was skeptical though about how she would use the experimental strain of parvovirus in the story. I shouldn't have worried. 
I really liked the sci-fi feel to the book, but more so than that, I really enjoyed the mystery. The story does not solely revolve around the characters newfound powers, as they don't know what exactly is happening until later on in the book. They do, however, end up right in the middle of things when they inadvertently stumble upon the remains of a cold case. The killer is still very much in the area, and is willing to do whatever it takes to keep things unsolved. 
I found it a refreshing read, and loved the fact that it was a true mystery, with only a few hints towards a romantic subplot. I loved the characters, especially Tory, Ben, Hi, and Shelton, and I love how they banded together. I do wish we could have seen Tory interact more with Kit though, and hope that they'll spend more time together in the next installment. 
I will mention that I felt like this book read more so for a younger audience, tweens rather than YA readers, however I think both age groups would enjoy the book. The science was accessible and the language also made this book easy to understand; the reader isn't bogged down with unexplained scientific theories. The plot and pacing made this an exhilarating read as well. 
All in all, an enterprising and entertaining young adult debut from Reichs. I loved the action-packed scenes, as well as those involving the exploration of the teens' new powers. The scientific reasoning behind the way they obtained their powers makes this a plausible theory without sending it into the realm of the supernatural. The mystery included also adds another facet to the book, as does the use of several canine faces within the title of the book. I'll definitely be picking up the next installment in the series as I can't wait to see what Reichs has planned next for Tory and company.

In My Mailbox -45-

In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi over at The Story Siren every Sunday. In My Mailbox is a weekly meme that lets everyone see what books you have received or bought that week.

First and foremost, I would like to wish all of my American readers, friends, and fellow bloggers, a safe and happy Thanksgiving long weekend. I hope you all had--and are having--a great time with family and friends. 
For Review
1. The Healing Spell - Kimberley Griffiths Little (signed -- this one is for the the Teen Book Scene blog tour, and will be given away after I've read and reviewed it. Look for that giveaway mid-December.)
2. The Lake of Dreams - Kim Edwards
3. The Book of Tomorrow - Cecilia Ahern
4. The Fates Will Find Their Way - Hannah Pittard
5. A House Afire - Emma Kinna
6. Day of the Dragon - Rebecca York 
7. Bitter End - Jennifer Brown

Many thanks goes to Kimberley Griffiths Little, Teen Book Scene, Bronwyn - Penguin Canada, Mark - HarperCollins, Emma Kinna, Dana - Kaye Publicity, and Hachette Book Group Canada for the books I received this week for review. 

1. Blood Lite II: Overbite - Edited by Kevin J. Anderson
2. Bitten in Two - Jennifer Rardin
3. Black Magic Sanction - Kim Harrison (signed)
4. The Secret Life of Sparrow Delaney - Suzanne Harper

That's what I received in my mailbox this week, what did you get in yours? 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Blog Tour: Restoring Harmony - Joëlle Anthony - Interview

Yesterday I had the pleasure of reviewing Joëlle Anthony's Restoring Harmony. It was an incredible book, and I absolutely loved it. Today, I have the absolute pleasure of interviewing Joëlle as well, courtesy of the Teen Book Scene. If you would like to follow along with the tour, you can find all of the tour stops and details listed here.

If you were faced with the decisions that Molly had to make, what would you do? Would you do anything differently? If so, why?

I hope I would be strong and brave enough to do what Molly does, but sometimes I wonder! Some of the choices she makes, I could definitely make myself, like working in the garden and taking over the cooking and the chores. I am much more of a rule follower than I like to admit though. The very first thing Molly does, even before the book starts, is sneak into the United States. I would be so freaked out about being caught that I would definitely get caught and then I’d be in a totally different book than Molly.

If Molly had a theme song, what would it be?

Well, Molly does have a theme song. In fact, she has several. There’s Handsome Molly, a very old traditional song that she plays on her fiddle. Also, Hard Times by Stephen Foster. And the tune Brianna’s Reel was a fictional tune I made up for the book, but the wonderful teen fiddler, Sarah Tradewell wrote for me. In fact, you can hear all those tunes on my website (Sarah and my husband, who are both professional musicians, recorded them). There’s a great story about how I met Sarah and how she came to write the tune and star in the book trailer too. http://joelleanthony.com/restoring-harmony-book-trailer/

What would some of Molly's favourite books be? (Granted she had the time to read.)

I think Molly might be interested in the history of music. She’d probably like memoirs and biographies of famous musicians too. She strikes me as a much more nonfiction type of girl than one who reads simply for fun.

What would the front page headline of a newspaper say about you?

Author Spends Her Days Walking on Treadmill While Writing Novels

My husband’s quote would be something like, “My wife is a write-a-holic. I have to hide her computer on the weekends.”

If you were a tree, what tree would you be, and why?

A fir tree because they bend and sway with the wind. I’m pretty easy-going and flexible. Or at least, that’s what I aim for in life.

Thank you so much for being here today, Joëlle. I loved your answers and can't wait to check out the music on your website (linked here). I think that your meeting with Sarah was quite serendipitous, and I absolutely love Handsome Molly! 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Restoring Harmony - Joëlle Anthony - Blog Tour Review

Sixteen-year-old Molly McClure has only ever known a life where she grows her own food, depends on solar panels for electricity, and relies on horse-drawn wagons and bicycles for transportation. Since the Collapse of 2031, her family has fared better than most, thriving on their isolated farming island in Canada--but Molly knows worldwide devastation lurks just beyond the shores of her home. And when calamities strike all at once, Molly is forced to leave the comfort of the island for the very first time, embarking on an impossible rescue mission in the U.S.
The year is 2041. The oil has almost run out, poverty and crime are rampant, and food is in short supply. Armed with only her ingenuity and sheer farming know-how, Molly braves a chaotic world where people are hungry and desperate, and no one is as they seem. But if she ever hopes to get home alive she'll have to make some tough, fast choices about whom to trust, especially after a crime organization sets their sights on Molly. Her only way out may be to beat them at their own game. Luckily, there's a handsome stranger who's willing to help. 
Set in an all too plausible postapocalyptic world, Restoring Harmony is a fast-paced romantic adventure with a lot of heart. 

Title: Restoring Harmony
Author: Joëlle Anthony
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian
Publisher: G. P. Putnam's Sons
Publication Date: May 13, 2010
Source: Bought. This review is part of Teen Book Scene's blog tour for Joëlle Anthony. Tour details can be found here
My rating: 4/5

The economy collapsed ten years ago, and devastation reigns. For Molly and her family, things are a little easier as they have been living off of their farm. That is all Molly has known. When her family receives word that Molly's Grandma has suffered a stroke, their worst fears are realized. With no way to get in contact with her grandparents to see how her Grandma is faring, Molly sets off to bring them home. Further disasters solidify her decision to embark on this perilous journey. She doesn't know what to expect when she arrives, and her journey home may be just as dangerous. 
Restoring Harmony is a thought-provoking and challenging read. It strikes a chord all too real, of a possible future looming for us all. Molly has been isolated in her thinking about the worldwide devastation as she has never been out of her farming community. On her travels she sees the debilitating impact of the Collapse on those less fortunate than her. Crime is rampant. While on her way, she meets a young man, Spill. Molly is happy to make a friend, especially because he is someone who knows the area, and has taken an interest in helping her out. 
Molly is such an inspiring character. She sets out boldly, facing the unknown, and does everything within her ability to help out her family. She is dedicated, engaging, responsible, and talented beyond belief. She cherishes her fiddle, and plays many a lilting tune to the absolute delight of those around her. When obstacles are placed in her path, and she gains unwanted attention, it will take ingenuity on her part to bring everyone safely home with her. I enjoyed the care taken with her grandparents, and those around her. Molly is a hardworking, and heartfelt character.
Her counterpart, and newfound friend, Spill, is a charismatic, handsome young man. He has a soft spot for Molly, and has taken her under his wing. I really enjoyed his character, as he brought another perspective to the story. His questionable line of work shows how the system really works, and that the house always wins. He is an engaging and affable character, at odds with his profession. 
 Anthony's writing is impeccable as the words flow effortlessly across the page. Descriptive without inundating the reader with trivial facts, this makes for an inspiring read. It is easy to see that Anthony has poured out her heart onto the pages of this book, and infused her characters with a warmth, and realness not easily replicated. 
All in all an astounding read, with warm, three dimensional characters. The reader will be lost, mesmerized, in the world Anthony has created here. A courageous, and down-to-earth main character will also entice the reader in, and will have us hoping fervently that things turn out for her and her family. A well-established world, enchanting characters, and an epic struggle for survival as the characters embark on their obstacle-laden journey. 

Monday, November 22, 2010

Pukka: The Pup After Merle - Ted Kerasote

Since the publication of the best-selling Merle's Door, Ted Kerasote has received thousands of e-mails asking two questions: "Have you gotten another dog?" and "Are you writing a new book?" Pukka: The Pup After Merle answers both, in the most heartwarming way. 
Told in the charming voice of Ted's new pup and illustrated with more than two hundred photos, Pukka tells the story of how Ted met the young yellow Lab, recounting the early days of their bonding as they explore Kelly, Wyoming, and the wider world. Walks become hikes and hikes become climbs, their adventures culminating in a rugged wilderness journey that teaches both Pukka and Ted something new about the dog-human partnership. 
Filled with stunning images of the West, Pukka is a love story as well as Ted's take on raising a puppy. It will do pictorially what Merle did with words--show how dogs thrive when treated as partners, while illustrating the many ways that any dog can open the door to our hearts. 

Title: Pukka: The Pup After Merle
Author: Ted Kerasote
Genre: Memoir, Adult Non-fiction
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date: September 29, 2010
Source: Received from publicist. Many thanks goes to Anna from FSB Media for sending me this book for review. I received this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review. 
My rating: 4/5

Pukka chronicles the journey Ted takes in picking out a new puppy, the training involved, and the love and companionship bestowed upon both owner, and pet. It is written in Pukka's voice, and it truly is a heartwarming read. Pukka is a cute puppy, and he is remarkably well-behaved. He does get into some mischief on his route to adulthood, but all in all, he is a great pup. This book shows the affection that both man and his best friend can have for one another. 
It is a relatively quick read as it is mainly pictorial, but Pukka's eager voice is heard throughout the book. It also showcases some training tips, and how easily Pukka is trained. From Pukka's visits to the post office, the city, shooting some rapids, and his treks with Ted through the mountains, he is a well traveled dog.
All in all, a cute read. Fans of dog stories will enjoy this one. It is definitely a lovely addition to the pet-lover's collection. Another added bonus is that this book is a "green" read, as it is printed on FSC certified paper. Pukka would approve. 

Some winners, and a Tyger, Tyger trailer.

Hi everyone. I hope you are all having a fantastic Monday. I was running around all weekend, and neglected didn't get a chance to post the winners for the Knit the Season giveaway hosted by Penguin Canada. Oops. There were two signed copies up for grabs, and I've sent the emails out to the winners. The winners are:


Congratulations ladies! I hope you enjoy the book! :) I've already heard back from Colleen, and am just waiting to hear back from Nicole. Once I have heard back from her, I'll send both mailing addresses over to Beth at Penguin Canada. Thank you to everyone who entered the giveaway. 

I'll leave you with the amazing new book trailer for Tyger, Tyger by Kersten Hamilton. It's gorgeous, eh?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

In My Mailbox -44-

In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi over at The Story Siren every Sunday. In My Mailbox is a weekly meme that lets everyone see what books you have received or bought that week.

This week was a pretty quiet week for books. I received only a few, but that's okay. It gives me a chance to read all those I need to catch up on! :) 
For Review
1. The Elephant Tree - R.D. Ronald (signed, and received a few bookmarks.) 
2. Minder - Kate Kaynak (not pictured)
3. Adversary - Kate Kaynak (not pictured)

Many thanks goes to Richard Ronald, and Kate Kaynak for the books I received this week! 

That's what I received in my mailbox this week, what did you get in yours? 

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Replacement - Brenna Yovanoff - Blog Tour Review

Though he lives in the small town of Gentry, Mackie comes from a world of tunnels and black murky water, a world of living dead girls ruled by a little tattooed princess. He is a Replacement--left in the crib of a human baby sixteen years ago. Now, because of fatal allergies to iron, blood, and consecrated ground, Mackie is slowly dying in the human world. 
Mackie would give anything to live among us, to practice on his bass or spend time with an oddly intriguing girl called Tate. But when Tate's baby sister goes missing, Mackie is drawn irrevocably into the underworld of Gentry, known as Mayhem. He must face the dark creatures of the Slag Heaps and find his rightful place, in our world, or theirs. 

Title: The Replacement
Genre: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy, Horror
Publisher: Razorbill
Publication Date: September 21, 2010
Source: Received from publicist. Many thanks goes to Vimala from Penguin Canada for sending me this book for review. I received this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review. This review is also part of The Replacement blog tour courtesy of Teen Book Scene. You can follow along with the tour here
My rating: 5/5

The Replacement is about a boy named Mackie. He isn't ordinary by any means as he was left in the place of a human baby sixteen years ago. He has grown up knowing he is different, and in Gentry, different is a bad thing. Mackie hopes that he can avoid drawing attention to himself, but when another child goes missing, he knows people might start looking at him. 
I absolutely loved the premise of The Replacement. It is eerie, foreboding, and yet you can't help but want to know more. The vivid descriptions and overall sense of wrongness within the town, and within Mackie, made this story appeal so much more to me as well. From the first chapter, I was hooked. I loved the writing style, and found the words flowed easily throughout. I love how the town was presented, and while reading about the rituals, and the prosperity that Gentry gained, I couldn't help but notice some similarities to one specific Supernatural episode, Scarecrow. I love how Yovanoff tackled the superstitions and legend, playing upon the fears of the people of Gentry. The similarities I found between Scarecrow and The Replacement were in how the communities reacted to their situations. They both were aware of the issues, but turned a blind eye towards it. 
I found the characters were rich, and illustrated beautifully. Individually, they all brought something to the table. I loved Mackie's character, and fully appreciated his dilemma. He has a lot going on, he doesn't really know much about his history, but is willing to learn. I love his relationship with his sister, Emma, as well. The siblings really care for each other, and won't let anything happen to each other if they can help it. I really liked that aspect. 
Mackie's friends were also detailed nicely, and I really enjoyed their relationship with him. His best friend, Roswell, is also amazing, though I thought he could have questioned things more, rather than turn a blind eye when certain aspects were presented to him. 
All in all, I absolutely loved this book. I can't stress how much I enjoyed it. It gets a full five stars from me, and I know I'll be reading this one over and over again. I loved how everything was relayed to the reader, and that things were alluded to, but not given away right off the bat. I loved the atmosphere surrounding the town, and Mackie. This is definitely one that I would recommend to those who are fans of horror, or urban fantasy. 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Crash Into Me - Albert Borris - Blog Tour Review

Owen, Frank, Audrey, and Jin-Ae have one thing in common: They all want to die. When they meet online after each attempts suicide and fails, they make a deadly pact: They will escape together on a summer road trip to visit the sites of celebrity suicides. . . and at their final destination, they will do themselves in. 
As they drive cross-country, bonding over their dark impulses, sharing their deepest secrets and desires, living it up, hooking up, and becoming true friends, each must decide whether life is worth living--or if there's no turning back. 

Title: Crash Into Me
Author: Albert Borris
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: July 21, 2009
Source: Bought. This book is part of the Crash Into Me blog tour for Albert Borris hosted by Teen Book Scene. You can follow along with the rest of the tour here.
My rating: 4/5

When four teens decide to go on a road trip to visit the graves of celebrity suicides, they are looking forward to the finale; committing suicide themselves. What they don't realize though, is that the bonds they are making on this journey can last a lifetime. They then have to ask themselves if they are going to continue on with their plan, or is life worth living? 
Crash Into Me is a book that tackles the very real topic of suicide. It is an emotionally heavy book, full of angst; however it isn't as dark as I thought it was going to be. The four characters are portrayed realistically, and have valid reasons for their feelings. They aren't being whiny, or self-indulgent. They have real problems, and they can't see how living will solve them. When they finally meet and start on their way, they don't realize that the healing process may have already begun. They learn that they have each other, and realize that they can confide their deepest, darkest secrets without fear of judgement. When they continue to grow closer, they need to ask themselves if this, life, is worth giving up. 
I enjoyed this book far more than I thought I would. I was apprehensive as I started the book, as I wasn't sure I was going to be able to relate to any of the characters. I think everyone has times that they are depressed, or are feeling lonely, and it is magnified in these characters. In this way, I found that I could relate on some level to them. I particularly felt bad for Owen as he seemed to have a lot going on, and became quite emotional throughout the story. The other characters, Frank, Jin-Ae, and Audrey are all believable as well, but it was Owen who stole my heart.
All in all, a heartfelt, moving debut that questions the validity of life. A surprising gem, full of intriguing facts, which helps alleviate the overall tone of the book. Though it starts out as a fatalistic mission, it turns into so much more. It is definitely a worthwhile read! 

Side Jobs - Jim Butcher

As Chicago's only professional wizard, Harry Dresden has had cases that have pitted him against insane necromancers, power-hungry faerie queens, enigmatic dark wizards, fallen angels--pretty much a "who's who" of hell and beyond--with the stakes in each case ranging from a lone human soul to the entire human race. 
But not every adventure Harry Dresden undertakes is an epic tale of life and death in a world on the edge of annihilation.
Here, together for the first time, are the shorter works of the #1 New York Times bestselling author Jim Butcher--a compendium of cases that Harry and his cadre of allies managed to close in record time. With tales ranging from the deadly serious to the absurdly hilarious--including an all-new never-before-published story--this is a must-have collection for every devoted Harry Dresden fan. 

Title: Side Jobs: Stories from the Dresden Files
Author: Jim Butcher
Genre: Adult Fiction, Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Roc
Publication Date: October 26, 2010
Source: Received from publicist. Many thanks goes to Laura from Penguin Canada for sending me this book for review. I received this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review. 
My rating: 5/5

Side Jobs encapsulates the short stories and novellas taken throughout Harry Dresden's career. Most of the short stories have been released in other anthologies, or are available on Butcher's website, however it does include one gem that hasn't been published before. Many fans will jump at the chance to read this new story as it is set a few hours after the finale of Changes. 
I'll break down this review into short segments for each story. 

A Restoration of Faith: This is the first story with Harry, and it is a little rough around the edges, but having read this one, and having read the series throughout, it is nice to see how Butcher's writing has evolved. I quite enjoyed this story, and loved the sneak peek we get of Harry, and Murphy. A Restoration of Faith was previously released on Jim's website

Vignette: This is a short piece that showcases a discussion between Harry and Bob. It takes place between Death Masks and Blood Rites, and was also previously released on Jim's website. It was a quick read. I loved the fact that Bob was showcased in this one. 

Something Borrowed: This one was previously released in the anthology, My Big Fat Supernatural Wedding. It takes place between Dead Beat and Proven Guilty. Georgia and Billy  play a central role, however Harry's help is needed when the unexpected happens. It is classic Dresden, and I thoroughly enjoyed the re-read.

It's My Birthday, Too: This story was released in the anthology, Many Bloody Returns. It takes place between White Night and Small Favor. I enjoyed this story as it brought together several of my favourite characters, Harry, Thomas, and Molly, in a birthday celebration that I don't think they'll be forgetting anytime soon. 

Heorot: As with most of the others, this one was included in the anthology, My Big Fat Supernatural Honeymoon. It also takes place between White Night and Small Favor. When fire extinguishers, mead, virgins, and the supernatural collide, you know you are in for a treat. It is interesting to see what dilemma Harry has gotten himself into this time. 

Day Off: Also included in an anthology is this light-hearted story. First published in Blood Lite, and taking place between Small Favor and Turn Coat; hilarity ensues when Harry actually has a day off, and ends up juggling more than his share of work-related chaos. 

Backup: Previously released as a novelette, this story is told from Thomas' perspective. While I enjoy the stories told from Harry's point of view, I do like that Thomas played the lead in this one. We get to see another side to the vampire world, and consequently, Harry. Backup also takes place between Small Favor and Turn Coat.

The Warrior: This one is my absolute favourite in this anthology. I absolutely love Michael's character, and love reading this story. It was previously published in Mean Streets, and it also takes place between Small Favor and Turn Coat. I love the idea of the law of unintended consequences, and really enjoy reading, and re-reading The Warrior. It gives us a few gems of wisdom as well, and is overall, brilliant. 

Last Call: This one was previously published in the anthology Strange Brew. It also, like its predecessors, takes place between Small Favor and Turn Coat. Mac returns in this one, and Harry is involved in the case when he realizes that Mac's business has been sabotaged. Full of fun, this is a quick and humorous read. 

Love Hurts: This one is taken from the anthology Songs of Love and Death, and it takes place between Turn Coat and Changes. This may be the only anthology that I don't own from all of those listed. When Harry and Murphy are working on a case where love spells abound, things are bound to get amorous. I mean, it's only a matter of time. A fun, light read that brings about the best of the two as they work together. 

Aftermath: The novella that everyone has been anticipating since the stunning conclusion of Changes. It takes place a few hours after the end of Changes. In an effort not to give anything away, all I'm going to say is that fans of The Dresden Files are going to want to read this original novella. Some questions are answered, but there is still a lot left in the open. It is a bittersweet tale that showcases Butcher's phenomenal talent. 

Overall, I think that this anthology was superb. I know I was ecstatic when I learned that all of Butcher's short stories were going to be published in one anthology. It is definitely a must have for those wanting to round out their collection. With tales ranging from bittersweet to serious, and intense to tongue firmly planted in cheek, there is something for everyone. Butcher shows us exactly why he is a master of the urban fantasy genre. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Sapphire Talisman - Brenda Pandos - Blog Tour Review

With the local vampire coven decimated, Julia and Nicholas try to begin a somewhat normal life together. Bound by secrecy from a shape shifter determined to see Julia’s world-saving prediction come to fruition, Julia isn’t allowed to tell Nicholas the leader survived, ransacking her happiness with guilt. When Alora returns, bent on revenge, the reunion forces Nicholas and Julia to choose what they are willing to live and die for.
(Synopsis taken from Goodreads.)

Title: The Sapphire Talisman
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal
Publisher: Obsidian Mountain Publishing
Publication Date: December 15, 2010
Source: Received from author. Many thanks goes to Brenda Pandos for sending me a copy of her book for review, as well as Kari from Teen Book Scene. I received this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review. This review is part of the Teen Book Scene blog tour for The Sapphire Talisman. 
My rating: 4/5

Things heat up for Julia and Nicholas in the second installment in the Talisman series, The Sapphire Talisman. Julia is hoping that things will return back to normal, but with Alora's inevitable return, she doesn't think they will any time soon. When things escalate for both Julia and Nicholas, they are left with a choice. 
The Sapphire Talisman starts off several months after the conclusion of The Emerald Talisman. Things seem to be going well for Julia and Nicholas, until a monkey wrench is thrown into the works. Now, the two must make a choice. With new circumstances comes the re-emergence of some surprising characters from the prior book. Certain characters return with a vengeance, while others make cameo appearances. The friction between several of the characters adds to the intensity, which enhances the plot.
Julia is ever empathic to her friends and family. I loved her character progression in this installment as well, as I found that she was quite genuine, and warmhearted, though she did what needed to be done. 
The action starts relatively early on in this installment and doesn't let up until the very end. We get some answers to certain questions from the previous novel. Things start to fall into place, making this an enjoyable read. I love the world that Pandos has created, and I really enjoyed the world-building that she incorporated in The Sapphire Talisman. It pushed the envelope in unexpected, yet good, ways, creating an even more intriguing read. I also loved the aspect of Dirty Harry, and loved the humour infused in the plot. 
All in all, Pandos has created an outstanding, and worthy, successor to The Emerald Talisman. Second books sometimes don't live up to the standards set by the first book, but I'm happy to say that this book surpassed the standards set for it. It is an engaging and deliciously vampiric read. 

Monday, November 15, 2010

Annexed - Sharon Dogar - Review and Giveaway

I look out the window into the street. . . I'm meant to be at Mr. Frank's workplace in a few hours. We're arriving separately, all of us. We'll walk into the building just like it was any other visit--only this time we'll never walk out again. 

What was it like hiding in the Annex with Anne Frank? To be with Anne every day while she wrote so passionately in her diary? To be in a secret world within a world at war--alive on the inside, everything dying on the outside?
Peter Van Pels and his family have lost their country, their home, and their freedom, and now they are fighting desperately to remain alive. 
Look through Peter's eyes.
He has a story to tell, too. 
Are you listening? 

Title: Annexed
Author: Sharon Dogar
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, Holocaust Literature
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date: October 4, 2010
Source: Received from publicist. I received two separate copies of this book from two separate companies. Many thanks goes to Anna from FSB Media, and to Anita from Thomas Allen & Son for sending me this book for review. I received this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review. 
My rating: 5/5

Annexed is a fictionalized, albeit harrowing account of those who were hiding in the Annex. It is given voice through Peter Van Pels perspective of the events that happened in the Annex, and the aftermath of their discovery. 
Annexed is a poignant and heartbreaking read. Though the people are real, and most of Dogar's writing is truth, there is a large portion that has been fictionalized as she is writing from Peter's point of view. Not much is known, and Dogar does take some liberties with his character. He, along with his family, the Frank's, and Dr. Pfeffer shared the living space that is the Annex. Quarters were cramped, and it was a struggle to survive as long as they did without being found. His views of Anne, progress over time, and it was quite intriguing to read what he may have thought about her. 
Once the story progresses to life in the death camps, their story becomes all the more horrific. Dogar portrays a vivid re-imagining of what life was like in the camps. The absolute torment that every person was put through created a stark portrayal of the anguish and horrific conditions that those in the camps were submitted to. Unfortunately, we see the worst, yet the best, that man is capable of. How anyone could subject another human being to the depravity seen in the death camps, is beyond me. I don't think I fully realized how agonizing life was for those in the camps until I read Annexed. Overall, I knew what had happened, but hadn't pictured it to the extent that is shown in Annexed
Peter's portrayal is an honest one, and we read his thoughts from the Annex, as well as from when he was held at Mauthausen. Though he also gives voice to certain feelings, I don't think it detracts from the novelization as it brings into perspective that he was in his prime as a teenager during the Holocaust. He lost so much, as did many others. 
The tone of the book is dark, haunting, and gripping. The further I progressed in reading Annexed, the more dismayed I became. The cruelty of the human race is disheartening, but there is yet hope for those who would rise against it. 
Overall, I believe this is a book that should be read by everyone. It is an emotionally draining read, and will leave you sobbing, but it is one of those books that must be read. We need to remember. 


I ended up receiving two copies of this book, and in saying, am hoping to give away one hardcover copy of Annexed. 
The giveaway is open to those in the US and Canada only. (Sorry to those of you who are international.) 
It will run until December 2, 2010.
Please fill out THIS FORM to be entered. Though comments are appreciated, they will not be counted as entries. Thank you. 

Under My Skin Winner!

Hi everyone! November is flying by fast! I didn't even realize how fast November was flying by until I realized the giveaway for Under My Skin ended three days ago. Anyway, I guess I should get to the important part, eh? :) 
I had a whole slew of entries and the winning number (through Random.org) was #29.


Congratulations, Onge! I hope you enjoy the book! I have already heard back from her, so will be ordering the book shortly through The Book Depository. A big thank you to everyone who entered the giveaway. Keep an eye out as I have some more contests in the works. I'll have one for you later tonight, actually. 

Congratulations again! :) 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

In My Mailbox -43-

In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi over at The Story Siren every Sunday. In My Mailbox is a weekly meme that lets everyone see what books you have received or bought that week.
For Review

1. A Long Walk to Water - Linda Sue Park
2. Scourge - David H. Burton (not pictured)
3. The Second Coming - David H. Burton (not pictured)
4. Least Wanted - Debbi Mack (not pictured)

Many thanks goes to David H. Burton, Debbi Mack, and Anita from Thomas Allen & Son for the books I received this week for review. 

1. The Candidates - Inara Scott
2. Ghost Town - Rachel Caine
3. Misguided Angel - Melissa De La Cruz

I actually won some books, and was happy to see them arrive this week. (I never win anything!) 

1. Kill the Dead - Richard Kadrey. Won courtesy of Darkeva's Blog. Thank you, Anita! I can't wait to read Kill the Dead!
2. Compulsion - Heidi Ayarbe Won an ARC courtesy of Ruta. Thank you, Ruta! I can't wait to read Compulsion!

That's what I received in my mailbox this week, what did you get in yours? 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

We Will Remember Them

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders Fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.

-Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae

In honour of those who fought in years past, and those currently serving today; we will remember them. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Green Books Campaign: The World of the Polar Bear

This review is part of the Green Books campaign.Today 200 bloggers take a stand to support books printed in an eco-friendly manner by simultaneously publishing reviews of 200 books printed on recycled or FSC-certified paper. By turning a spotlight on books printed using eco-friendly paper, we hope to raise the awareness of book buyers and encourage everyone to take the environment into consideration when purchasing books.

The campaign is organized for the second time by Eco-Libris, a green company working to make reading more sustainable. We invite you to join the discussion on "green" books and support books printed in an eco-friendly manner! A full list of participating blogs and links to their reviews is available on Eco-Libris website.

This book is printed on FSC-certified paper. With all of the natural resources used on a daily basis to print books for our use, it is hardly ethical to use any method other than a green method. Our footprint on Earth is a destructive one, and it is only in recent years that we have started to diminish our carbon imprint. It is my hope that we can raise "green" awareness and lessen the damage we are inflicting on the world. 

Title: The World of the Polar Bear
Author: Norbert Rosing
Genre: Non-Fiction, Animals, Environmental
Publisher: Firefly Books
Publication Date: 2010 (3rd Edition)
Source: Received for review from Eco-Libris to raise awareness for eco-friendly printing. Many thanks goes to Eco-Libris and Firefly Books for sending me this book for review. I received this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review.
My rating: 5/5

The World of the Polar Bear details the habits and ecosystem of the polar bear. While the polar bear is the main focus, the animals residing in the same habitat have been documented as well. This book has a glorious amount of pictures. They are absolutely stunning. The book is documented into the four seasons, then into chapters. It was very informative, and is told in Rosing's straightforward, yet laidback way. It gives the appearance that Rosing is imparting his knowledge to a friend, or is acting as a tour guide, without overloading the reader with an excessive amount of information. The World of the Polar Bear is still a font of information though, and would be a great resource for those working on science projects, or those who just want to know more about polar bears. It brings to light the issues with global warming, especially how it'll affect the bears feeding habits if the ice is melting earlier each year. 
All in all, an educational read. It is in-depth and detailed without being dry. People of all ages will be able to understand and follow along while reading. The photographs are absolutely gorgeous and are an added bonus. Exceptionally well put together, and provided on FSC-certified paper, this book shows that the publishing world has already started processing books in an environmentally friendly way. This book would be an excellent addition to any library.