Thursday, May 24, 2012

Big News!


Hi, guys! I'm super excited to share with you all that I will be spending the next three months - June, July and August - in Delhi, India! I'll be working as a volunteer intern with two different but equally worthy causes and hopefully having some amazing cultural experiences. I am currently only four days away from my departure date from Ontario, Canada. I'm in for some crazy culture shock, but ultimately I think this summer will be full of rewarding experiences.

However, I will unfortunately have to put Books Are My Heroine on hiatus until my return in September. I considered trying to keep up my book reviews while abroad but I simply don't think I will have enough time to read and review enough books. I'd also like to take the opportunity on this trip to really focus on my own personal development instead of my literary aspirations. So instead, I'll be keeping a travel blog to record and share my experiences with family, friends and blogger buddies while I'm in India. I'd love for you all to come check out my adventures at Genny's Journals, which can be found at http://gennysjournals.blogspot.ca/.

I hope you all have a great summer and I'll see you back at Books Are My Heroine in September!

Photo from here

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

In Leah's Wake (Terri Giuliano Long. 2012)



The Heroine: Leah Tyler, a high school junior and soccer star with a bright future at an Ivy League college ahead of her. Meeting Todd Corbett, however, changes all that as her new boyfriend opens her up to a world of sex, drugs and hardcore partying. As Leah's life begins to fall apart, the effects of her behaviour echoes through her parent's shaky marriage and her younger sister Justine's life.

The Highs: An ensemble novel told from the perspectives of each member of the Tyler family, In Leah's Wake provides a full 360 view of a family in crisis. I enjoyed reading all the family member's perspectives, especially Zoe, Leah's mother. I also appreciated how well rounded and realistic each character is. Leah in particular reflects the regular motivations and thought processes of a young adult, though I felt she seemed a lot more like a thirteen- or fourteen year old than a seventeen year old.

I really feel the topics discussed in this book such as drug use and sex in the teen years are really relevant to today's western culture and society. While I am not for or against sex, partying and alcohol, I really can agree with the message in this story that communication between parents and teens is really important in order to preserve family relationships and help guide teens to make the right choices for them. I definitely sympathized with Zoe and Will, Leah's parents, who were only trying to do what was best for their daughter, but I didn't agree with their methods at all.

My favourite character in the story was Justine, Leah's young sister, who is adorably geeky and such a sweetheart. Of course, her choices begin to change as well, since she idolizes her older sister. I felt bad for Justine because she became lost in the conflict between her parents and her sister and was basically ignored by her family for the majority of the story. Remarkably insightful for her age, I would love to see what happens to Justine as she grows older!

The Lows: While at first I could understand Leah's conflicting ideas about who she is and who she is supposed to be (the typically teenage identity crisis), her selfish attitude and lack of common sense really began to bug me. By the end of the story, I no longer cared what happened to Leah as I felt she deserved whatever she got for her self-absorbed and ungrateful behaviour toward basically all the other characters in the story.

I also worry that Leah will give a bad reputation, so to speak, for real-life teenagers when adults read this book. I know that at age seventeen, for instance, I would never be stupid enough to think I could make a living as a musician when I had never even touched a guitar, or silly enough to throw my whole life away for any boy. I can only hope that the adults who read this book know that most teenagers are much more intelligent, mature and insightful than Leah.

Final Thoughts: While I enjoyed the book, I felt the plot moved a little slow at some points. However, I really enjoyed Terri Giuliano Long's writing and definitely plan on picking up her next novel!

Rating: In Leah's Wake earns seven beers out of ten. 

Buy 'In Leah's Wake' at the Book Depository here
Connect with author Terri Giuliano Long at her blog here
Photo from here

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Everything Was Good-Bye (Gurjinder Basran, 2010)



The Heroine: Meena, a young Canadian girl struggling with the tension between her traditional Indian family and her yearnings for the freedom to choose her own path in life. The sixth daughter to her widowed mother, Meena knows she is expected to keep her reputation in tact, make a good match with an Indian boy and produce children. However, her relationship with bad boy Liam, a white boy from a poor family, gives her a taste of the life she could have outside the demands and obligations of her family. When Liam asks her to run away with him, Meena is forced to choose between duty and love, resulting in consequences that resonate throughout the rest of her life.

The Highs: I really enjoyed reading Everything Was Good-Bye. Not only was it a well-written and fascinating, but I feel it is a really important story for everyone living in a multi-cultural and multi-faith society. We often struggle to understand the perspectives and lifestyles of those from different cultural backgrounds and this confusion can easily turn into fear and anger given the environment. I think the only way to lessen racial tensions and promote understanding between different sects of society is through narratives such as these that help share the perspectives of minority groups that are often misunderstood by the masses.

Meena was a very sympathetic narrator, caught between her love for her family and her personal dreams and goals. Every time she tries to do the right thing, she ends up unhappy. Meena's failure to find happiness really pulled on my heartstrings. I also really felt close to her by the end of the story, due to the revealing and intimate nature of the first person POV. Meena is a realistic and fully rounded character, compiled of the many contradictions that often show up in human nature.

I also really enjoyed the love story between Meena and Liam, the high school boy who gave her a glimpse into life outside of obligation and duty. Though complicated by many different events, characters and circumstances, the ultimate prevalence of their love was inspiring.

The Lows: Frankly, the ending to Everything Was Good-Bye is quite devastating. Just when it seemed Meena had finally achieved her ultimate happiness, it is snatched away from her in a heart-wrenching instance. The ending left me cursing the unfairness of life and wanting to chuck the book at the wall.

Final Thoughts: Beautifully and honestly written. Everything Was Good-Bye shows the author Gurjinder Basran as a true talent and I am excitedly looking forward to her next book.

Rating: Everything Was Good-Bye earns eight rotis out of ten.

Connect with author Gurjinder Basran at her website here
Photo from here

Monday, May 14, 2012

Web of Angels (Lilian Nattel, 2012)



The Heroine: Sharon Lewis, the suburban mom of a teenage boy and two young girls. With a knack for finding things, keeping her family on schedule and numerous sewing projects, Sharon's super-mom facade hides a deep secret from the outside world. Sharon has dissociative identity disorder, otherwise known as multiple personality disorder. Caused by childhood trauma, her body is home to a multitude of personalities that occasionally force themselves out. Sharon's secret is threatened when a neighbourhood girl, Heather Edwards, commits suicide and Sharon begins spending time with Heather's younger sister Cathy, whose curious behaviour hints at a dark secret of her own.

The Highs: While I know a little about DID (dissociative identity disorder) from a course I took in psychology at my university, I still didn't really understand the reality of someone who is DID until I read Web of Angels. The author Lilian Nattel handles this complicated disorder with skillful ease, painting what I believe to be an accurate portrayal of someone with DID. Impressive and fascinating, I was completely swept up in Sharon's story and inner life.

Heather and Cathy's story really touched me, especially Cathy's efforts to take care of her sister's baby daughter Linny. I felt very emotional at many points of this book, as Sharon, Cathy and Heather had all been through hell and back. Again, the author handled these sensitive topics and scenes with the appropriate balance of realism and tenderness.

I loved the surprising plot twists and element of mystery in the story. The author has a real knack for pacing, slowly revealing necessary information and secrets as needed through the course of the plot. This kept me reading well into the night!

The Lows: I would definitely slap a warning on this book for scenes and topics of a sensitive nature. This book may not be appropriate for everyone, especially younger readers. I actually found I had trouble sleeping on this night I finished this book as I was a little disturbed by some of the things that went on in the story.

I also had some issues at the beginning of the book with understanding what was going on in Sharon's inner world (the parts labelled INSIDE). At first I found it quite confusing! Thankfully by the end of the book I finally got a grasp on what was going on.

Final Thoughts: I really enjoyed Web of Angels and would definitely recommend it to a friend. I hope to read another book by Lilian Nattel soon.

Rating: Web of Angels earns eight knitting needles out of ten.

Connect with author Lilian Nattel here
Photo from here

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Affair (Alicia Clifford, 2012)



The Heroine: Celia Bayley, the young daughter of a housekeeper swept off her feet by a charming and handsome soldier, Frederick, in the English countryside during the Second World War. While on the outside their marriage seemed perfect, secrets, betrayals and lies were shared between Celia and Frederick until after their death. As their three children and their families clean out Celia's private papers and scan the numerous novels she penned during her life, startling revelations come to light, causing them all the question the woman they all thought they knew.

The Highs: I absolutely loved the ensemble cast of this novel. The story is narrated from the perspective of Celia, in the memories of the past; her daughter Sarah, dealing with the infidelity of her slacker husband Whoopee; her younger daughter Margaret, trapped in a loveless marriage; and her granddaughter Bud, who was closest to Celia in her last years. Each character is fully rendered and realistic, featuring their own unique voice and perspective. The viewpoints of each character come together to form a fascinating picture of Celia, the famous writer adored by her fans and the private, secretive mother hiding truths from her past.

There are many surprising twists and turns in The Affair. I often made one assumption, only to be proven wrong later on in the story. I really enjoyed the element of mystery. I became enraptured with the plot and finished this novel pretty quickly, racing through it even at the detriment of the exams I should have been studying for!

The best part of The Affair was Alicia Clifford's writing style. This is the first novel I have ever read by her and I really enjoyed her effortlessly beautiful prose.

The Lows: I felt the actual "affair" part of the novel came really late into the story and didn't really have the amount of significance that the title of the book suggested. I thought the relationship between the two people involved in the affair seemed really rushed and unrealistic. I'm trying to be purposefully vague about the details, if you can't tell!

I also didn't like the ending of the novel. I felt like none of the subplots involving the members of Celia's family were resolved and I wish I had known how their stories had ultimately ended.

Final Thoughts: I really enjoyed reading The Affair, though it doesn't stick out in my mind as a book I'd be really eager to read again. I do hope to read another novel soon written by Alicia Clifford, however, as she is a fantastic writer!

Rating: The Affair earns seven letters out of ten. 

Connect with author Alicia Clifford here
Photo from here

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Eat, Pray, Love (Elizabeth Gilbert, 2006)


The Heroine: Elizabeth Gilbert, a real-life writer and journalist on the edge of a mid-life crisis as her marriage falls apart. Combating depression in the midst of a messy divorce, Liz decides to embark on a journey across Italy, India and Indonesia in order to learn what each culture knows best: pleasure in Italy, spirituality in India and balance in Bali. From encountering new friends in Italy, to struggling with meditation in India, to finding love in Italy, Eat, Pray, Love encompasses all genres into one extremely funny, entertaining and touching memoir.

The Highs: All women should read Eat, Pray, Love. While Elizabeth Gilbert's style is light, playful and humourous, this book is ultimately the tale of a women's fight to overcome her personal demons and move on from life's hardships. Inspiring, uplifting and life-affirming, Eat, Pray, Love is a lesson in happiness as the readers learn along with Elizabeth on her journey of self-discovery. I first read this book last year and since then I have re-read it quite a few more times!

Elizabeth Gilbert is an extremely personable narrator; I don't think even she could have invented a better protagonist! By the end of the book, Liz feels as if she is both your best friend and your sister. Candid and personal, Liz bares her soul to her readers and lays her vulnerabilities open for all to see. I must applaud her for her courage and tenacity, as I learned a lot about myself while reading about her struggles – I suppose I could credit her for providing a valuable psychological health service! By sharing her struggles, I'm sure there are millions of women who feel less alone in their own troubles and pain.

For travel junkies, Eat, Pray, Love is a must-read. Since Liz spent four months living in each country, she had a great range of experiences and got to see things most vacationers and tourists miss out on. I know I'm dying to go to Bali since reading Liz's lush descriptions – and I've taken note on what she claimed is the best pizza in all of Italy!

The Lows: For those who have no interest in the subject of spirituality, you may not enjoy Eat, Pray, Love as much as I did. Liz spends a lot of time mulling over the topics of spirituality, as well as spends four months staying in an ashram in India. While I found Liz's spiritual exploration fascinating, others might find it tedious or boring.

I have never seen the movie version of Eat, Pray, Love, so I have no comments to make on how closely the film follows the book.

Final Thoughts: Eat, Pray, Love is a feel-good read with an added dose of spiritual soul-searching.

Rating: Eat, Pray, Love earns nine bowls of pasta out of ten. 

Connect with author Elizabeth Gilbert here
Photo from here

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Lantern (Deborah Lawrenson, 2011)



The Heroine: Eve, a young translator who has become disenchanted with her career in England, secretly longing to write her own stories. On a business trip to Switzerland, Eve meets Dom, a charming and wealthy composer. Immediately swept off her feet, Eve and Dom embark on a whirlwind romance that leads them to Les Genevriers, an ancient and crumbling farm in the beautiful Provencal countryside in France. Although captivated by the beauty around her, Eve begins to learn that not is all what it seems: spirits seem to haunt the old house, Dom grows distant and cold and Eve becomes obsessed with the mysterious disappearance of Dom's ex-wife Rachel. Intertwined is the story of Benedicte, a young farm girll that lived at Les Genevriers with her family in the early twentieth century, Eve's story is a traditional Gothic tale spun on its axis to meet the modern era.

The Highs: The Lantern is full of romance, though not the type between a man and a woman. The prose is full of drawn-out descriptions of Provence and its hills, the flora and fauna of the region and beautiful imagery of the seasons, reflecting Eve's emotional life perfectly. Truly a Gothic tale, this book is perfect for anyone who longs for a little more beauty in their life, though The Lantern also does include some interesting plot points.

I really enjoyed the story of Benedicte Lincel and her family that was intertwined with Eve's tale. One of the last of the traditional farming families, the Lincel's struggled through cold winters, the burden of Benedicte's blind older sister, Marthe (destined to become a famous perfumer) and the insane cruelty of Pierre, Benedicte's brother. I really felt for Benedicte and developed a camaraderie with the sweet, simple farm girl whose life was plagued by trouble and disappointments.

The mystery of Rachel's disappearance and Dom's refusal to talk about it really caught my attention. I love plot twists, and though I felt The Lantern was a little lacking in suspense, I was intent on finding out what became of Rachel and I was satisfied by the ending.

The Lows: While The Lantern may be beautiful and sumptuous, I felt that the author really dragged out her descriptions so much and laid it on so thickly in each and every chapter that the actual plot moved along at a sluggishly slow pace. I got very impatient with the novel by the end of the book, wishing the author could just cut the crap (excuse my language) and get to the point already!

I was disappointed with the protagonist, Eve. Although I understand that the book is supposed to be written in a "hauntingly beautiful" way, it seemed like Eve was kept at a distance from the reader and, as a result, I never felt close to her or truly invested in her life.

Final Thoughts: The Lantern was enjoyable, but I doubt I would ever read it again.

Rating: The Lantern earns six parakeets out of ten. 

Buy 'The Lantern' on the Book Depository here
Connect with author Deborah Lawrenson here
Photo from here

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Wishlist Wednesday!


Wishlist Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Dani at Pen to Paper. This week, I'm looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of Everything Was Goodbye by Gurjinder Basran. I came across a review on this book in a magazine and I've been looking forward to reading it ever since. Here's the summary from Chapters:
Raised by her widowed mother and the youngest of six daughters, Meena is a young Indo-Canadian woman struggling to find her place in the world. As a restless and headstrong teenager, she knows that the freedom experienced by her Canadian peers is beyond her reach. But unlike her older sisters, Meena refuses to accept a life that is defined by an arranged marriage. She befriends a young man named Liam, a social outcast and kindred spirit, who asks her to run away with him. As she weighs her decision carefully, she learns that she is too late-he has already left without a trace. Faced with increasing pressure from her family and her tight-knit community, Meena must confront the expectations placed on her, and with them, all the rippling consequences that follow.
I'm super excited about this book because I am absolutely fascinated by the complexities of cultural assimilation and multiculturalism. As a Canadian, these are issues that are given a lot of air time in our "mosaic" of a country. I'm also really interested in learning more about Indian culture because of my upcoming trip to India (more on that later!). This sounds like a new twist on a Romeo and Juliet style tale, wrapped up in the political and social hot topic du jour. Can't wait to read it!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Arranged (Catherine McKenzie, 2011)



The Heroine: Anne Blythe, a journalist and aspiring author who suddenly finds herself single at thirty-three after discovering that her boyfriend has been cheating on her. Lonely and longing for partnership and a family, Anne decides to take a chance on Blythe & Company, a dating service whose card she happened to pick up off the street. Only after meeting with the company does she discover that their true service is arranged marriages. In a bold move, Anne flys off to Mexico to marry Jack, a man she has never met until the day before their wedding. In the sand and surf paradise of Mexico, Anne discovers that her new husband may actually be her perfect match after all. Or is he? Arranged follows Anne's unconventional love story and her journey to self-discovery.

The Highs: Reading Arranged was really a breath of fresh air (if you'll excuse the cliche). This novel is completely original, unexpected and unique, three things you rarely find in romance – and I say that with affection, as a devoted lover of all things, well, love. Catherine McKenzie's unconventional take on a love story really pays off and thanks to her excellent plot and talent with words, I devoured this book in a single sitting.

The protagonist, Anne Blythe, is extremely lovable and relateable. While those girls who complain endlessly about the woes of the single life ("Why can't I find a man?") can get annoying fast, Anne walks the fine line between mopey and proactive with ease, taking control of her own destiny. While her judgement can be questionable, I admire her tenacity and her boldness. I was really rooting for her throughout the story and by the end, I felt as if she was a close friend.

The romance between Anne and Jack is the real highlight in this novel. Perfectly paced and realistically narrated, their scenes are sometimes sweet and sometimes sexy, but always interesting. Anne and Jack really do seem like a real life perfect match – neither of them are perfect, but they compliment each other well and help each other become better people.

Arranged is more than just a love story. It is a tale of a woman's search for self-discovery, self-acceptance and self-love. This book made me question a lot of things I'm not sure I really understand yet. Like what makes a good marriage? Is love or friendship more important? What kind of person do I want to spend my life with? As I am only just turning 20, I think it will be quite awhile before I ever discover the answers to these questions!

The Lows: One cliche in Arranged that has persisted, despite the unconventional plot, is the evil journalist that tricks the members of the opposite sex into liking them so they can write about it. Remember Matthew Maconahey from How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days? Remember Eva Mendes from Hitch? Yeah, well, you'll find one of them in this book, too. As a writer, I'm often attracted to other creative types...this long-standing cliche makes me wonder if I should worry guys are using me as content!

Final Thoughts: A love story with a twist, Arranged is perfect for anyone looking for a little romance in their lives.

Rating: Arranged earns eight margaritas out of ten. 

Buy 'Arranged' on the Book Depository here
Connect with author Catherine McKenzie here
Photo from here

Sunday, April 8, 2012

You Against Me (Jenny Downham, 2011)



The Heroine: Ellie Parker, a shy, pretty honors student who is suddenly trust into the spotlight when a girl at school, Karyn MacKenzie, accuses Tom, Ellie's older brother, of rape, setting off a series of events that reaks havoc through the Parker and MacKenzie families. The single light is Ellie's life is the mysterious boy she meets at a party. Unfortunately, her good looking and kind hero turns out to be Mikey MacKenzie, Karyn's older brother, searching for answers to what really happened to his sister. As Ellie is forced to stradle the line between the Parkers and the MacKenzies, between right and wrong and between truth and fiction, she is forced to question her own values and what she really believes in above all.

The Highs: I absolutely adored You Against Me. The novel is narrated by both Ellie and Mikey, providing the reader with perspectives from both sides of the conflict of alleged rape. I loved this style, with the alternating perspectives, because it gave each moment a deeper meaning to know what both characters were thinking. It was especially sweet during the romantic scenes, when the author provided the reader with a peek into how both characters felt about the other. It made for some excellent sexual tension and some really exciting plot twists and suspense!

Ellie and Mikey's love story was very romantic and sweet. It reminded me a little of Romeo and Juliet, with Ellie and Mikey divided by their dueling families, but desperate to be together. The author handles romance expertly, easily preventing the love scenes from slipping into cheesy or melodramatic territory. Realistic but tender, the story made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

You Against Me made me think long and hard about my life and my values. In the novel, Ellie is forced to choose between what is easy and what is right. Could I have the strength to turn my back on my family in I thought it was the right thing to do? Or does family loyalty trump everything (after all, if your family isn't there for you, who will be?)? This novel is much more then a teenage fluff piece; there is the same emotional depth that was present in Jenny Downham's first novel, Before I Die.

The Lows: I felt frustrated when I reached the end of the book because the ultimate outcome of the court case (Tom Parker versus Karyn MacKenzie) is never revealed. After most of the story revolving around the effects that the upcoming trial was having on both families, it was a let down to never learn what the verdict was.

Final Thoughts: You Against Me is a thought-provoking, well-written novel about family, love and truth that is gripping and powerful enough to appeal to all age groups.

Rating: You Against Me earns nine tea biscuits out of ten. 

Buy 'You Against Me' on The Book Depository here
Photo from here

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Wishlist Wednesday!


Wishlist Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Dani at Pen to Paper. This week, I'm looking forward to grabbing a copy of Arranged by Catherine McKenzie. I'm currently in the mood for some fun chick-lit, probably inspired by the slightly warmer weather here in Canada. Here's the teaser summary from Barnes and Noble
Anne Blythe has a great life: a good job, close friends, and a potential book deal for her first novel. When it comes to finding someone to share her life with, however, she just can't seem to get it right. When her latest relationship implodes, and her best friend announces she's engaged, Anne impulsively calls what she thinks is a dating service—only to discover that it's actually an exclusive, and pricey, arranged marriage service. 
Anne initially rejects the idea, but the more she learns about the service, the more she thinks: Why not? After all, arranged marriages are the norm for millions of women around the world; maybe it could work for her. 
A few months later, Anne is traveling to a Mexican resort, where, over the course of a weekend, she meets and then marries Jack. And initially, everything seems to be working out. . . .



This book sounds really interesting and completely different from anything I've ever read before. Arranged marriages are a subject that ignites much curiosity here in the west so I'm very interested in learning more on the subject, especially if the lesson comes in the form of a snappy chick lit novel. Plus, Catherine McKenzie is a Canadian author from Quebec, so I'm excited to support a Canadian author. If any of you have already read this book, let me know what you thought!

Ransom My Heart (Meg Cabot, 2009)



The Heroine: Finnula Crais, a young maiden in the small village of Stephensgate, England in the year 1291 AD. Known as an eccentric in her town for her habit of wearing breeches instead of gowns and her considerable talent with a crossbow, Finnula is forced to step even further beyond the boundaries of proper behaviour for a young woman when her sister falls pregnant out of wedlock and asks Finnula to kidnap a soldier for her in order to collect the ransom to use as a dowry. Loyal and courageous, Finnula captures the good-looking and charming Sir Hugh – who, unbeknownst to her, is actually her vassal, Lord Hugo, on his way back from the Crusades in the Holy Land. Enraptured by Finnula, Hugo decides to play along with Finnula's scheme and sets them off on a journey full of humour, unexpected twists and of course, love.

The Highs: Though set in the Middle Ages, Meg Cabot's signature light and comedic style is still present in Ransom My Heart. Funny and endlessly entertaining, the novel is a light-hearted romantic comedy that is made more charming by its unlikely setting. I really appreciated the author's commitment to staying true to the time period, including such details as the proper historical terms for clothing to the lifestyle of the illiterate peasants the period is known for (at least, if you've been watching any Monty Python lately).

The romance between Finnula and Hugo is at times sweet and tender and at others, fraught with sexual tension. Stubborn, brave and loyal Finnula is the perfect match for the headstrong, noble and kind-hearted Hugo – the pair seems destined to end either in a wedding or murder (though this novel includes both!). Their fiery romance leaps off the page and Meg Cabot is no amateur when it comes to penning steamy sex scenes!

I really loved the plot twists in this novel. Featuring many small subplots within one story – you've got the classic romance, the murder mystery and the historical drama – plot twists are abound and just when you feel you have found the conclusion, another plot emerges. I especially liked how the story doesn't climax at a wedding; not all is resolved when the couple ends up together. This novel features a many-layered plot to appeal to a wide audience.

The Lows: I felt that a few things in the story came almost out of nowhere, when I thought that perhaps their importance warranted at least a mention earlier in the story. For example, Finnula's dog Gros Louis (a little joke for anyone familiar with Meg Cabot's Princess Diaries series!) is quite important to the plot of the book, but is brought in rather abruptly near the conclusion of the book without a single mention at the beginning. It could show a lack of planning on the part of the author when an element of the story seems added as an after-thought.

I should also warn any readers who may object to scenes of a sexual nature that Ransom My Heart is full of sex scenes that are fairly graphic in nature. Personally, I'm all for it, so this was a high for me!

Final Thoughts: Ransom My Heart is an adorably funny historical romance, perfect for anyone looking for an uplifting read.

Rating: Ransom My Heart earns eight barrels of brew out of ten.

Buy 'Ransom My Heart' on the Book Depository here
Connect with author Meg Cabot here
Photo from here

Friday, March 30, 2012

The Juliet Stories (Carrie Snyder, 2012)


The Heroine: Juliet Friesen, a young Canadian girl living in Nicaragua with her peace activist parents in the mid 1980s. The oldest of her two younger brothers, Juliet feels like an outsider in her Spanish school and neighbourhood, and feels ignored by her passionate and wild mother, Gloria, and her charming, charismatic father, Bram. However, the Friesen's life in Nicaragua is brought to a halt when Keith, Juliet's younger brother, becomes ill with cancer, forcing the family to return back to Canada and driving a wedge into Gloria and Bram's marriage. The Juliet Stories chronicles scenes from Juliet's life from childhood to adulthood, documenting her journey as she grows with experience, time and reflection on her past.

The Highs: I really loved the plot behind The Juliet Stories. The journey of an expat family from Canada living in South America, particularly during a turbulent period in Nicaragua's political history, has the potential to be revealing, fascinating and deep. As a travel enthusiast myself, I really loved learning a little about Nicaragua through the story, especially since it is revealed in the author's notes that Carrie Snyder actually spent time living in Nicaragua with her family in order to do research for this novel.

I also really enjoyed the chapters in the novel that included the perspectives of different characters, such as the chapter told by Juliet's grandmother near the end of the book. The author has been really creative in crafting a large group of original characters, all interesting and realistic. Juliet especially reflects all the typical stages and crises that are usual during the evolution from girl to woman. I felt close to Juliet throughout the novel and was really hoping for a good outcome for her at the end of the story.

I should also mention that (though irrelevant) I absolutely love the cover of this book!

The Lows: While the prose style is extremely creative, beautiful and carefully crafted, I didn't feel that the overly descriptive, metaphor-stuffed style worked well in a story-telling capacity. At certain times I had difficulty understanding what was going on in the novel and I felt frustrated with my limited understanding. I also felt that the literary writing style almost served to keep the reader at arm's length, preventing them from really delving into the story. While I understand that a literary style can be beautiful and thought-provoking, I found it frustrating with this novel.

I also didn't appreciate the layout of the novel, written in short snapshots of various times in Juliet's life. I felt that important, interesting moments were passed by too quickly or skipped altogether, while less important moments were stretched out. Perhaps these scenes had some sort of metaphorical or emotional significance, but if that's the case, then the meaning went right over my head.

Final Thoughts: Fans of literary fiction, or authors such as Margaret Atwood, will absolutely love this novel.

Rating: The Juliet Stories earns five palm leaves out of ten. 

Buy 'The Juliet Stories' on Amazon here
Connect with author Carrie Snyder at her blog, Obscure CanLit Mama, here
Photo from here

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Wishlist Wednesday!


Wishlist Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Dani at Pen to Paper. This week I'm looking forward to reading You Against |Me by Jenny Downham, author of Before I Die. Here's the Goodreads summary: 
If someone hurts your sister and you're any kind of man, you seek revenge, right? If your brother's been accused of a terrible crime and you're the main witness, then you banish all doubt and defend him. Isn't that what families do? When Mikey's sister claims a boy assaulted her at a party, his world of work and girls begins to fall apart. When Ellie's brother is charged with the crime, but says he didn't do it, her world of revision, exams and fitting in at a new school begins to unravel. When Mikey and Ellie meet, two worlds collide. Brave and unflinching, this is a novel of extraordinary skillfulness and almost unbearable tension. It's a book about loyalty and the choices that come with it. But above all it's a book about love - for one's family and for another.
I`ve been in the mood for a good love story lately, and this one seems full of tension and drama. Not to mention Jenny Downham has already proved herself to be a fabulous writer in her debut novel, Before I Die. I`m really excited to get my hands on a copy of this book!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Wishlist Wednesday!


Wishlist Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Dani at Pen to Paper. This week, I'm looking forward to the release of Deadlocked, the twelfth book in Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse series (the books that inspired the television show True Blood). While I have only reached the seventh book in the series, I'm still looking forward to finding out what happens to Sookie next and most of all, whether or not she and vampire Bill end up together! Here's the Goodreads summary for Deadlocked
With Felipe de Castro, the Vampire King of Louisiana (and Arkansas and Nevada), in town, it’s the worst possible time for a body to show up in Eric Northman’s front yard—especially the body of a woman whose blood he just drank. Now, it’s up to Sookie and Bill, the official Area Five investigator, to solve the murder. Sookie thinks that, at least this time, the dead girl’s fate has nothing to do with her. But she is wrong. She has an enemy, one far more devious than she would ever suspect, who’s out to make Sookie’s world come crashing down. 
Vague enough not to give too much away for readers who, like me, aren't quite caught up yet in Sookie's adventures with the undead and supernatural. One of the reasons I love these books is because Sookie herself is a kick-ass heroine, who refuses to let anything get her down and always fights back to the best of her ability. Not only does this series feature a great protagonist, but it also includes sexy romance, surprising plot twists and lots of exciting supernatural fantasy. I'm hoping to be caught up in the series by the time Deadlocked is released, so I can grab it right away and get reading!

Deadlocked by Charlaine Harris will be released May 1st, 2012. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Earthquake Machine (Mary Pauline Lowry, 2011)


The Heroine: Rhonda Hope, a teenage girl trapped in Texas suburbia by a ruthless father who keeps his wife hooked on drugs in order to maintain his control. Troubled by her family's secrets, Rhonda finds escape in the stories of Mexico told to her by Jesus, the illegal immigrant hired to take care of their garden. When Rhonda's mother commits suicide and Jesus is deported back to Mexico, Rhonda feels her life is spiralling out of control and rather then follow in her mother's footsteps, chooses instead to run away to Mexico while on a rafting trip in the Rio Grande. Once across the border, Rhonda assumes the identity of Angel, a Mexican boy who can travel unnoticed across the country to Arrazola, the small town where Jesus and his mother live. Along the way, Rhonda is forced to confront the grief over the loss of her innocence, her complex feelings about gender and identity and the thin line separating adulthood and adolescence.

The Highs: The Earthquake Machine is an edgy, provocative and thoroughly modern take on the classic epic, featuring a fearless protagonist who sets off across a distant and unfamiliar land in order to confront the demons that haunt her, both internally and externally. As the plot follows Rhonda through her physical and emotional journey, exciting and unexpected plot twists are abound, in the shape of fascinating characters, spiritual awakenings and chance encounters that force both Rhonda and the reader to question that certainties they have taken for granted. Riveting and addictive, this novel's depth and intellectual power only add to its pure entertainment value. I had trouble putting it down!

The author has crafted some beautiful characters in this book who all add to Rhonda's journey in their own way. From the Boys of Fire, a group of rebellious teenage rule-breakers that show Rhonda that even the "stronger sex" do not have complete freedom, to the sexy, vivacious and snappy Banditas, a band of young woman who pretend to be men in order to be taken seriously as roadside bandits, each new personality that influences Rhonda on her trip to Arrazola adds a new perspective and new questions for the reader to mull over. Two of the most gorgeous characters are Jesus and his Mama, who touched my heart and definitely made me weepy at some points in the story as they show Rhonda what family truly means.

One of the main themes in the story that made me sit up and pay attention was the underlying current of feminism within the novel, a perspective that framed the events in the story and accepted norms in our culture, in a way that made me question what I believe. One of Rhonda's biggest conflicts was the idea of God, who is foreign to her until she comes across the Virgin Mary (or La Virgen), a female figure that is often ignored outside of her role as the womb that carried Christ in male-dominated Christianity. I was both discomforted and eager to discover this theme and I now find myself interested in further exploration on the role of women in religion and culture. I'm glad to see feminism has not died completely in popular culture and is still available to young girls in the form of entertainment and media such as The Earthquake Machine.
The Lows: I became a bit confused when the author first began to refer to Rhonda as "Angel", her chosen identity while travelling in the disguise of a boy. Within the narrative and sometimes even within the same paragraph, the author flips back and forth between these two names, which could become confusing for some readers.

I also did not understand the attraction between Rhonda and Mansk, her middle-aged rafting tour guide, at all. From the author's description of Mansk and the interactions that occur between Rhonda and Mansk, what happens between them seems completely random and unexplained to me. Maybe I could understand if Mansk had been a gorgeous college boy working on the river during spring break, but alas, I could not see what attracted Rhonda to the greying, pony-tailed Mansk, nor did the story provide me with any idea of why she felt that way.

Final Thoughts: Moving, thought-provoking and completely unexpected, The Earthquake Machine is hard to put down! Perfect for anyone who wants something "more" out of their literature.

Rating: The Earthquake Machine earns nine peyotes out of ten. 

Enter to win a copy of The Earthquake Machine below!

To connect with author Mary Pauline Lowry, click here
To buy a copy of this book on Amazon, click here
Photo from here

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Friday, March 16, 2012

Friday Recommends!


Friday Recommends is a weekly meme hosted by Dani at Pen to Paper. This week, I am recommending one of my favourite books by the hilarious author Meg Cabot, The Boy Next Door. I first picked up a copy of this book at a used book store in Paris, another reason this book holds sentimental value for me, but I quickly became a huge fan of Meg Cabot's adult fiction. The two books that follow in the series, Boy Meets Girl and Every Boy's Got One are both great reads as well. Here's the Goodreads summary: 
Gossip columnist and single New York City girl Melissa lives in the most exciting place in the world, yet she's bored with her lovelife. But things get interesting fast when the old lady next door is nearly murdered. Mel starts paying closer attention to her neighbors--what exactly is going on with the cute boy next door? Has Mel found the love of her life--or a killer? 
Just to give a more in-depth summary than Goodreads provided, The Boy Next Door is written entirely in the form of emails. Hilarious and fast-paced, the story follows Mel after her neighbor is nearly murdered and she is stuck taking care of a Great Dane and two terrified cats. Enter Max Friedlander, nephew of the comatose Mrs. Friedlander and famed photographer who has returned to look after his elderly aunt's pets. Unbeknownst to Melissa, "Max" is really John Trent, Max's old college buddy who owed him a favor and now has been wrangled into impersonating Max so his aunt will never know he chose a vacation with a supermodel over rushing to his aunt's bedside. Mel and John find themselves falling in love, but trouble is abound in this tale of mistaken identities, murderous plots and adorably funny romance.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves romance or any of Meg Cabot's young adult books, as her humorous and imaginative style is still prevalent in her books for an older generation. I still get out this book and read it whenever I'm feeling down - it has the effect!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty Giveaway!

I'm really happy to announce another giveaway! I have a brand-spanking-new hardcover copy of A Grown Up Kind of Pretty by Joshilyn Jackson. For those of you who missed my review of this terrific book, you can find the review here. I gave it an 8/10, so I would definitely recommend you pick up a copy soon...or simply enter my giveaway and win a copy for free!

THE RULES: 


1. You MUST be a follower of Books Are My Heroine in order to qualify to win.
2. This is an international giveaway. Yay!
3. Please, please, please refrain from leaving your email address in the comment box. I use Rafflecoptor in order to keep everyone's privacy safe, so play along please!
4. I am only as reliable as the postal service. All I can do is stick on a stamp and hope it gets to you!

This giveaway begins at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, March 16th, 2012 and ends on 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday, March 20th, 2012. 






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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Wishlist Wednesday!


Wishlist Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Dani at Pen to Paper that gives bloggers a chance to share books from our wishlist with our readers! This week, I looked into the other works by Revolution's author, Jennifer Donelly, and found a trilogy I am now adding to my must-read list. Starting with The Tea Rose, this multi-generational trilogy takes place in the late 1800s to the early twentieth century. Here's the Goodreads synopsis of The Tea Rose
East London, 1888 - a city apart. A place of shadow and light where thieves, whores, and dreamers mingle, where children play in the cobbled streets by day and a killer stalks at night, where bright hopes meet the darkest truths. Here, by the whispering waters of the Thames, Fiona Finnegan, a worker in a tea factory, hopes to own a shop one day, together with her lifelong love, Joe Bristow, a costermonger's son. With nothing but their faith in each other to spur them on, Fiona and Joe struggle, save, and sacrifice to achieve their dreams.  
But Fiona's life is shattered when the actions of a dark and brutal man take from her nearly everything-and everyone-she holds dear. Fearing her own death, she is forced to flee London for New York. There, her indomitable spirit propels her rise from a modest West Side shop-front to the top of Manhattan's tea trade. But Fiona's old ghosts do not rest quietly, and to silence them, she must venture back to the London of her childhood, where a deadly confrontation with her past becomes the key to her future. 
This book excites me because of its historical setting, its brave and independent heroine and the inclusion of Jack the Ripper, of course! As grisly as it is, blood and gore are some of the best markers of a suspenseful plot and I love nothing more than an exciting mystery. I also enjoyed Jennifer Donnelly's writing in her novel Revolution, so I am eager to try out another one of her stories. The two books following The Tea Rose are The Winter Rose, the story of a female doctor and a gangster in 1900, and The Wild Rose, about a female mountain climber and the two men vying for her heart. All three sound promising and I can't wait to snatch them up!

Revolution (Jennifer Donnelly, 2010)


The Heroine: Andi Alpers, a high school senior still reeling from the death of her younger brother Truman two years previously, caused by an accident that Andi blames herself for. Barely hanging on with the help of medication and her passion for music, Andi's world is turned upside down again where her absentee father returns, sending her grieving mother to rehab and taking Andi away for a vacation in Paris, France. While Andi thinks of her trip to Paris as being a prisoner under her father's watch, things brighten up when she meets a mysterious musician, Virgil, and finds a hidden diary written by a young girl, Alexandrine Paradis, during the French Revolution. By reading Alex's story, Andi is able to come to turns with the loss of her brother, the depth of her depression and may even find love with Virgil.

The Highs: The protagonist, Andi Alpers, is a realistic and interesting character that made this story a great read. Rebellious, witty and sharp, Andi sees the world through the dark glass of her depression and narrates with a unique voice that rings true of a twenty-first century teenager from Brooklyn. Characterized down to the skull rings she wears on her fingers, Andi is a marvellous creation that is a fascinating, if somewhat gloomy, narrator.

The relationship between Andi and the French musician Virgil is one of the highlights of this novel. Virgil, a cab driver from the projects that moonlights as a rap artist, is sweet, charming and truly cares for Andi. Scenes between the two of them were fraught with sexual tension and adorable moments and I was cheering them on until the end!

One thing I loved about Revolution was the historical aspect involving the French Revolution. Through Alex's diary entries that follow the course of the revolution from her unique spot as caretaker to the young son of Marie Antoinette, the French Revolution becomes easy to understand for readers. While I have read many books on the subject, both fiction and non fiction, I enjoyed the simplified version in this novel very much.

Another high point: this book includes an epilogue! I simply love to find out how the characters fared once the story is over.

The Lows: I thought Andi was extremely hard on her father, Lewis, a Nobel-winning scientist responsible for the decoding of the human genome. Though busy and often absent, Lewis obviously cares for his daughter and is trying his best to sort out the ruins of his family in the wake of his son's death. Andi is very ungenerous and unkind to her father, completely ignoring the fact that he too is grieving for Truman and that his work is responsible for providing her with a private school education and all the opportunities she could imagine. I felt truly sorry for Lewis.

I also absolutely hated the long, confusing and just plain odd dream sequence near the end of the book. Andi is suddenly transported to eighteenth-century France, where she meets the composer Amade Malherbeau and somehow becomes Alexandrine. I still do not understand the purpose of this section of the book, nor why it had to be so long. I also don't understand whether this was a dream or she actually went back in time. As well, I found the writing in this section rushed and lacking in detail. Instead of saying, "Everything looked different" over and over again, I would have preferred for the author to tell me how it was different with descriptions.

The story also never explained how Truman's key got all the way from France to Brooklyn, NY.

Final Thoughts: An edgy, unexpected read for anyone with an interest in the French Revolution, one of history's most exciting time periods.

Rating: Revolution earns seven guitar strings out of ten. 

Buy 'Revolution' on the Book Depository here
Connect with author Jennifer Donnelly here
Photo from here

Have you read this book? Let me know what you thought by leaving a comment! 

Friday, March 9, 2012

Friday Recommends!


Friday Recommends is a weekly meme hosted by Dani from Pen to Paper where we bloggers recommend books we've read in the past to our readers! This week, I'm recommending The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons. This book was actually featured in my very first review here at Books Are My Heroine (which can be found in the review catalogue) but I thought I was feature it again here because it really is one of the best books I have ever read. Here's the Goodreads summary: 
The golden skies, the translucent twilight, the white nights, all hold the promise of youth, of love, of eternal renewal. The war has not yet touched this city of fallen grandeur, or the lives of two sisters, Tatiana and Dasha Metanova, who share a single room in a cramped apartment with their brother and parents. Their world is turned upside down when Hitler's armies attack Russia and begin their unstoppable blitz to Leningrad.
Yet there is light in the darkness. Tatiana meets Alexander, a brave young officer in the Red Army. Strong and self-confident, yet guarding a mysterious and troubled past, he is drawn to Tatiana--and she to him. Starvation, desperation, and fear soon grip their city during the terrible winter of the merciless German siege. Tatiana and Alexander's impossible love threatens to tear the Metanova family apart and expose the dangerous secret Alexander so carefully protects--a secret as devastating as the war itself--as the lovers are swept up in the brutal tides that will change the world and their lives forever.

The Bronze Horseman is a gorgeously written love story set against the background of Russia in World War II. Tatiana is the perfect heroine: she is brave, selfless, innocent and optimistic, despite all the horrors happening around her. Her strength is inspiring and now, when my friends and I face hard times, we often say what would Tatiana do? Alexander, on the other hand, is the perfect hero; strong, courageous, sexy and a little rough around the edges. Their love story is intense and moving, often bringing me to tears. This is the first book in a trilogy, so I urge everyone to read The Bronze Horseman and its followers, Tatiana and Alexander and The Summer Garden. All three are touching, beautiful and will stay with you long after you turn the last page. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Wishlist Wednesday!


Wishlist Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Dani at Pen to Paper. This week, I'm wishing for Tilt by Ellen Hopkins, the author of Crank. The colourful cover caught my eye and the summary equally piqued my curiousity. Here's the Barnes and Noble summary: 

TILT is the story of three teens inter-related through their parents' family relationships and friendships. As their parents pull away, caught up in their own dilemmas, the kids' worlds tilt, through love--good and bad:Mikayla, almost eighteen, is over-the-top in love with Dylan, who loves her back jealously. But what happens to that love when Mikayla gets pregnant the summer before their senior year, and decides to keep the baby?Shane turns sixteen that same summer, and falls hard in love with his first boyfriend, Alex, who happens to be HIV positive. Shane has lived for four years with his little sister's impending death. Can he accept Alex's love, knowing his life, too, will be shortened?Harley is fourteen—a good girl searching for new experiences, especially love from an older boy. She never expects to hurdle toward self-destructive extremes in order to define who she is and who she wants to be.
I love books that feature multiple points of views and perspectives, especially those that are not typically explored in literature such as Alex, a gay teen. These three characters and their stories seem to be about first love in all its various forms, a subject that I find really interesting. I also really enjoy the free-verse poetry form the story is told through. Hopefully this book is as edgy, deep and interesting as it seems!

Tilt will be released September 11th, 2012
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