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!


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

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Before I Die - The Movie!

Just thought I'd take a moment to share the just-released trailer for the movie version of Jenny Downham's book Before I Diere-titled Now is Good and starring Dakota Fanning and a super delicious Jeremy Irvine. I read this book only recently, but it is a beautiful story of love, loss and coming of age that I would encourage everyone of all ages to pick up. I'm looking forward to this film - check out the trailer for yourself!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Island (Elin Hilderbrand, 2010)

The Heroine: Two generations of women who have arrived on Tuckernuck Island to spend a month living with only the bare necessities in their family's ancestral beach house, to reflect on the past and future and lean on each other for support. After the catastrophic end to Chess Cousin's engagement to a man everyone thought was perfect, she is sent spiralling into a deep depression. Her mother Birdie, recently divorced and falling in love for a second time, and her aunt India, running away from confronting feelings for her female art student, rally around her and bring her to Tuckernuck for a chance to recover. Joining them is Tate, Chess's younger sister, who is still struggling with feelings of inadequacy in regards to her beautiful, talented and now fallen older sister. Over the course of a month filled with confessions, secrets, fighting and love, all four women will find their lives changed forever.

The Highs: The Island is an ensemble novel narrated by all four women, featuring a great variety of unique characters. Chess, the prized daughter who has toppled from her pedestal, struggles with the disastrous consequences of betraying her own feelings in order to fit the mold. Tate, her sister, has finally caught the eye of the man she's loved for ten years, but is unable to be happy in her sister's shadow. Birdie, their mother who has devoted her life to her children, is ready to become the woman she missed out on being since her recent divorce. And India, still reeling from the suicide of her famous sculptor husband, is trying to come to terms with her new feelings toward a student at the art school she teaches at. While all four women have their own problems to struggle with, I really enjoyed the heartfelt way they came together, supporting each other like family should. I particularly enjoyed the relationship between Chess and Tate; sisters fascinate me, probably because I never had one of my own.

The romance between Tate and Barrett Lee, her childhood crush who has finally noticed her, was sweet, touching and at times, mildly suspenseful. I was really rooting for them to find a way to work out their issues. I really enjoyed the scenes between Tate and Barrett; Tuckernuck Island provides some really romantic scenery, especially for anyone who fantasizes about being ravished on the beach at twilight!

Elin Hilderbrand is a very masterful story-teller. She has a great sense of pacing and crafts beautifully written characters and scene descriptions. I was really impressed by her ability to provide each of the four women with a unique voice and outlook!

The Lows: The Island was a very difficult book to read. While the relationships between the women are interesting, its hard to get sucked into a book where nothing much happens. There is no real action, not much suspense and no dynamic plot twists. Not a lot surprised me about the plot; I feel like I knew how the story would end before I was even halfway through.

I would say loathe is a strong word, but I really have no pity or sympathy for Chess, one of the main characters. She spends most of the book sulking and lurking in the background, depressed over the death of her ex-fiance and pouting over her feelings for his brother, Nick. It is hard for me to feel sorry for a woman who could have prevented most of her problems by simply being honest. Another big issue for me was the romance between Chess and Nick. They pronounce themselves in love after exchanging not much more than a few words, and other than a sexual attraction, not much more is said about Nick to provide justification for why Chess's feelings were so strong for him.

The epilogue also really ticked me off. While its all nice and good that Tate, Birdie and India find resolution with their problems, Chess's relationship with Nick is a loose string just dangling uselessly in the last couple paragraphs. After going through an emotional journey with a character, I typically like to know what actually happened to them at the end!

Final Thoughts: The Island is very well-written and beautiful at points, but it ultimately left me unsatisfied.

Rating: The Island earns five bluefish out of ten. 

Buy 'The Island' on The Book Depository here
Connect with author Elin Hilderbrand here
Photo from here
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