Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Line by Teri Hall

Title: The Line
Author: Teri Hall
Publisher: Dial
Release Date: March 4, 2010
Date Read: June 23 - 26, 2011
Rating: 2.5/5 stars 

An invisible, uncrossable physical barrier encloses the Unified States. The Line is the part of the border that lopped off part of the country, dooming the inhabitants to an unknown fate when the enemy used a banned weapon. It's said that bizarre creatures and superhumans live on the other side, in Away. Nobody except tough old Ms. Moore would ever live next to the Line.

Nobody but Rachel and her mother, who went to live there after Rachel's dad died in the last war. It's a safe, quiet life. Until Rachel finds a mysterious recorded message that can only have come from Away. The voice is asking for help.

Who sent the message? Why is her mother so protective? And to what lengths is Rachel willing to go in order to do what she thinks is right?
I've been captivated by The Line's cover since it was released in early 2010 and have been waiting to get my hands on it for ages. I had such high expectations especially after receiving several recommendations from other bloggers. While I did enjoy the book, I was mainly disappointed with the characters and young reading level.

I am hesitant to categorize The Line as a middle-grade read. While Rachel's age was never stated I gathered from her language and thought process that she'd be around 12-13. I was really thrown off when chapters would alternate with Vivian, her mother. To me YA is a perspective not a reading level, so to read a YA novel with an adult and a middle-grade perspective was very odd. 

Many of the characters seemed stereotypical and cliched rather than original and refreshing. The silent old man in the greenhouse, the strict old lady in the mansion, the Mom with secrets, the rebellious daughter. I felt like I'd already read this book before I even finished the first few chapters. Most of the dialogue between the characters seemed forced, especially when the plot history was conveyed in "history lessons" rather than in thoughts, explanations, or memories.

I absolutely loved the premise of The Line. Novels with such a rich history especially a focus on political strife are favourites on my bookshelf. This book had such promise with a totally realistic plot about military action, a pinch of supernatural/paranormal activity, and an old fashioned mystery. Unfortunately, tied with the overdramatic characters and unrealistic plot line I didn't really connect to the story as a whole. I found the pacing too fast, then too slow, too focused on history, then too focused on irrelevant characteristics. I found the ending very abrupt and sudden. I was finally invested in the plot and intrigued to see where it would lead when it just ended. Hopefully the sequel will pick up exactly where The Line left off. 

Constructive criticism aside, I am eager to read the sequel to see if the plot improves and see what becomes of Rachel. 

Favourite Quote: Couldn't find one!

Recommended: The Giver (Lois Lowry), The Declaration (Gemma Malley), The Compound (S.A. Bodeen), Among the Hidden (Margaret Peterson Haddix)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Canada Day Blog Hop: Meetup & Giveaway!

Happy Canada Day!

To celebrate Canada Day I am participating in the Canada Day Blop Hop created by Aislynn at Knit, Purl, Stitch, Read & Cook and Chrystal at Snowdrop Dreams of Books. Each blog participating is posting a Canada-themed post and giveaway from June 29th to July 2nd. The best part? All giveaways are open to Canadians!

My Canada-themed post is: Meet-Ups!

I've spoken to a few fellow Canadian YA book bloggers and I think it'd be awesome if we could all meet up at some point. Of course, not all of us live near Toronto or would be able to travel there but it's a central spot where the majority of us could meet at. What's a better venue than Word on the Street! If you are free on September 25th and are able to make it Toronto, send me a Tweet/comment/email. If there's enough interest hopefully we can all get together.

I am giving away one copy of Leap by Jodi Lundgren. This is her most recent YA novel, published on March 1, 2011.

When life is changing, sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith in yourself.

Natalie Ferguson has just turned fifteen, a momentous age that, happily, means that she's officially a grown-up. But while her mom doesn't seem to have got the memo, Kevin, her best friend Sasha's older brother, has. The school year is over, and Natalie is looking forward to a summer of perfecting her technique at dance camp. Caught up with the excitement of Kevin's attention, their relationship quickly becomes intimate and all-consuming.

Natalie's summer is a mix of amazing highs and dramatic lows. She goes from being in love and lust with Kevin to realizing that he is not the guy she thought he was, and she may have lost her friendship with Sasha in the process. Then, just when she's ready to turn to her single mom for advice, she learns that her mother is now in love with a woman. Losing her virginity, dealing with her new understanding of her mother, and trying to renegotiate her relationships, Natalie clings to her dancing as the only sure thing in a life suddenly full of questions.

Giveaway Rules
  • One entry per person
  • Open to US/Canadian residents only
  • Must be 13-years-old minimum
  • +1 entry for GFC follower
  • +1 entry for Twitter follower
  • +1 entry for tweet
Fill out this form to be entered. 

Giveaway closes on July 2nd at midnight. Winner will be randomly selected on July 3rd and will have 48 hours to respond to my email to claim the prize. 

Check out some of the other blogs on the hop for more awesome giveaways!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Something Wicked by Lesley Anne Cowan

Title: Something Wicked
Author: Lesley Anne Cowan
Publisher: Puffin Canada
Release Date: June 1, 2010
Date Read: June 19 - 22, 2011
Rating: 3/5 stars 


Melissa’s most recent troubles stem from a secret: her 28-year-old boyfriend, Michael, has just broken up with her. Melissa clings to the memories, riding a relentless wave of hope and disappointment. Meaningless sexual escapades, drunken nights, and drug-induced blackouts help her cope with heartbreak, but her pain goes much deeper than unrequited teenage love. Her insight, sense of humour, optimism, and sheer determination prove to be saving graces, as is her ability to find solace in the Greek myths she’s learned about in grade ten English class. And in the end, it is Melissa’s mother who proves to be the real victim, and Melissa who must save her.
I found Something Wicked at my local library and was intrigued by the awesome cover and the Canadian author sticker. I love Canadian authors, especially forgotten ones like Lesley Anne Cowan. I had no idea what to expect out of the book and was caught completely off guard by it's dark plot and characters. 

Melissa was such an interesting character to read about. While I sympathized with her plight to define herself separate from her negative home environment and previous history I was also frustrated with the choices she made about her education, sexual experience, friends, and substance abuse habits. I loved how the novel wasn't about one central "thing" that happened to her but rather a conglomeration of her ADD, poverty, breakup, and home life. Rather than focusing on one issue Lesley Anne Cowan made Melissa as real as possible because we each face multiple problems and roadblocks in our every day life that shape the person we become. 

As I struggled to empathize with Melissa I was shocked by her comparison to Greek mythological characters. She identified as both Echo and Sisyphus, doomed forever to repeat both her actions and words. Her beautiful descriptions of her thoughts and experiences turned her from a trashy lost teenager to a scared young woman in my mind. 

As someone who has never tried drugs before I am very uncomfortable reading stories where characters are obsessive or regular users. Seeing how it controls their lives and changes them is a "birth control" on drug usage for me. However I'm glad that substance abuse novels are written because they can be awesome tools and resources for youth trying to overcome their own vices. In the recent #yasaves/WSJ incident it was mentioned that teens need literature that mirror their own lives to give them hope. I'm really glad that all of Melissa's actions had serious and realistic repercussions to show other teenagers that you can't get a "free ride" in life, that there are consequences for poor or illegal behaviour. 

Favourite Quote: "I'm somewhere between being in love and having my heart destroyed. I'm trapped in a waiting room, not permitted to feel bliss or misery. It's like knowing you won the lottery but not having the ticket in your hand. Or being given a death sentence by a doctor but forgetting to ask just how long you have left."

Recommended: Crank (Ellen Hopkins), Not Like You (Deborah Davis), Get Well Soon (Julie Halpern), The Freak Observer (Blythe Woolston)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Summer Reading List

Summer's here!

To celebrate my first week of summer holidays I've compiled my official reading list. The list encompasses books from the 2011 Debut Author Challenge, the Awesome Awktopus Summer of YA Lit Challenge,  and my goals for the Once Upon a Read-a-thon.

I'll probably end up reading only half of these and be distracted by shiny new covers at the library but it's always good to have a goal!

2011 Summer Reading List

Across the Universe by Beth Revis
Annexed by Sharon Dogar
Between the Lines by Tammara Webber
Clean by Amy Reed
Dear John by Nicholas Sparks
Fall for Anything by Courtney Summers
Four Seasons by Jane Breskin Zalbin
Leap by Jodi Lundgren
Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta
Nowhereville by Sean Campbell
Released by Megan Duncan
Summer in the City by Elizabeth Chandler
When It Happens by Susane Colasanti
Wildefire by Karsten Knight

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

On a side note I will also be reading Harry Potter in preparation for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 release on July 15. I won't count this towards by 100-in-2011 though because it's a re-read.

Did you make a summer reading list? Post your link below and I'll be sure to check it out!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

In My Mailbox (19)

In My Mailbox is a weekly Sunday meme by The Story Siren where participants show what books and swag they received this week through a store, library, or publishing house.

Unfortunately, due to the current postal strike I haven't received any of my books from publishers or giveaways yet. Plus I was sick this week and didn't get a chance to visit my library, so IMM is incredibly small this week. Yay for NetGalley!

Ashes (Ilsa J. Bick)
The Beginning of After (Jennifer Castle)
The Mephisto Covenant (Trinity Faegan) 

Did you post an In My Mailbox today? Leave your link below in the comments and I'll be sure to check it out!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Wannabee Book Hipster (9)

Wannabee Book Hipster is a weekly Saturday post by The Zealous Reader. Every Saturday I will feature two novels I loved with under 200 reviews on Goodreads. Hopefully this will give underrated authors more publicity and diversify "to-read" piles.

No Such Thing As The Real World
An Na, M.T. Anderson, K.L. Going, Beth Kephart, Chris Lynch, Jacqueline Woodson
April 10, 2009

A short story collection about young adults growing up and facing the realities of the "real world".

Miss Match
Wendy Toliver
February 1, 2009
Simon Pulse

Sasha Finnegan has always had a knack for setting people up, and at sixteen, she's turned her talent into an online business, molding high school crushes into true love. But Sasha finds her toughest match yet when hottie Derek Urban asks her to set him up with Sasha's gorgeous sister, Maddie. It's not that Derek isn't a good catch. In fact, after spending so much time with him, Sasha can't help but think he's perfect -- for her, that is.

Can Sasha push her feelings aside for the sake of her business? Or has this miss finally found her match?

If you'd like to post your own Wannabee Book Hipster, leave a link in the comments.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Prom by Laurie Halse Anderson

Title: Prom
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Publisher: Puffin
Release Date: March 3, 2005
Date Read: June 8 - 16, 2011
Rating: 4/5 stars 


High school senior Ashley Hannigan doesn't care about prom, but she's the exception. It's pretty much the only good thing at her urban Philadelphia high school, and everyone plans to make the most of it—especially Ash's best friend, Natalia, who's the head of the committee. Then the faculty advisor is busted for taking the prom money, and Ash suddenly finds herself roped into putting together a gala dance out of absolutely nada. But she has help—from her large and loving (if exasperating!) family, from Nat's eccentric grandmother, from her fellow classmates. And in putting the prom together, Ash learns that she has choices about her life after high school. 
In honour of my high school prom last week I decided to read a prom-related novel. I'd heard that Laurie Halse Anderson wrote on and assumed it would be depressing (as most of her novels have controversial content) but decided to read it anyways because I love all her novels. As I thought, I loved it and it wasn't sad, it was hilarious!

I presume most prom novels are about hyped up teenage girls who freak out the week before the event about their date, their dress, etc. Not Ashley Hannigan. She hates prom. Which made me love her unconditionally. In the mess of my hectic prom plans, Ashley's narration was a calm strong character to hold me character. I loved how she wasn't a goody-two-shoes, wasn't passing all her courses, hated authority, came from a less-than-functional family, but was still a hilarious and lovable character. Usually I sigh and groan about trashy or lazy characters but instead I thought it made Ashley all the more realistic and fun. 

If you love Jaclyn Moriarty, you'll love this quirky and insane cast of characters. From Ashley's Mom who's about to birth yet another child to Nat's Russian Grandma next door you'll either be giggling with pleasure or wishing you were hanging out with them. I wish I'd had a group of friends as fun as Ashley's to bum around town with. I liked how the adult characters weren't all stereotypical and had important roles in the novel rather than "be home on time!" I appreciated how Laurie Halse Anderson started with a romantic interest already established rather than focusing the whole book on "Oh, he's so dreamy!" and wrote him as flawed as can be rather than the typical Prince Charming we see so often. 

Fun aside, Laurie Halse Anderson wrote Prom as she does all of her novels: full of run-on sentences of teen angst. She has such a unique writing style than effectively describes the teenage mindset and writes her narrator's thoughts as we would think, not how we should be grammatically written in a novel. Her realistic characters, dialogue, and settings are what define her as a YA author and I'm really glad that she branched out from contemporary realism to an equally realistic comedy.

Quote: "Catholics don't dunk. We dab. But wait, your grandma went swimming in the baptismal pool?" "Wrong. She is still swimming in the baptismal pool. She won't get out."

Recommended: Prom Crashers (Erin Downing), Wintergirls (Laurie Halse Anderson), The Year of Secret Assignments (Jaclyn Moriarty)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (24)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly Wednesday meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine Participants highlight an upcoming unpublished novel they're interested in.

Title: Without Tess
Author: Marcella Pixley
Release Date: October 11, 2011
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux


Sometimes growing up means letting go--even of those we love the most.

Tess and Lizzie are sisters, sisters as close as can be, who share a secret world filled with selkies, flying horses, and a girl who can transform into a wolf in the middle of the night. But when Lizzie is ready to grow up, Tess clings to their fantasies. As Tess sinks deeper and deeper into her delusions, she decides that she can’t live in the real world any longer and leaves Lizzie and her family forever. Now, years later, Lizzie is in high school and struggling to understand what happened to her sister. With the help of a school psychologist and Tess’s battered journal, Lizzie searches for a way to finally let Tess go.

I saw the cover for Without Tess a few weeks ago and absolutely fell in love. I can't wait to read it!

Did you post a Waiting on Wednesday? Leave your link in the comments and I'll check it out! 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday (2)

I've been tinkering around with different orders of my reviews and memes over the past few weeks. I last did a Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish in May and figured "Why not try it again!"

Top Ten Reasons Why I Love Book Blogging

1. Books! I love books. I eat books, I work books, I dream books. Books are some of my best friends. Any opportunity to talk about, listen to, or read about books is an opportunity I love. The idea of a blog where all I do is read, review, and talk about books is so amazing I didn't believe it at first. I absolutely love book blogging!

2. Goodreads! I am a Goodreads addict. It's an open tab on my laptop 24/7. Before I started blogging I had a massive "to-reads" shelf with no end in site. And it's grown! I've since added at least 200 books but also managed to read 41 titles I've never gotten around to reading. I've also started to utilize some of the website features like giveaways and quotes more often too.

3. Sharing My Love of Books! For the past 5 years I've been a member of my local youth book club and every week we discuss new books we've heard about. For ages this was restricted to new releases at the library but ever since I started this blog our horizons have expanded. Now everyone knows about 2012 releases and can't wait to read and review them. Sharing my love of books and my new knowledge with friends has made the whole project seem worthwhile. 

4. Sense of Achievement! Creating and running a book blog was my project for 2011. I thought it would be tiresome and I'd give up after a few weeks as I do with most projects. Instead I'm loving every minute of it and having a blast. I haven't felt this proud of myself in a long time and I love to "brag" to my friends and family about The Zealous Reader 24/7.

5. Armchair BEA! Even though this is technically an author event, I absolutely loved participating a few weeks ago. Being a part of such a large global community coming together to celebrate literature is a dream come true. While I would love to attend the in-person event next year I would just as happily participate in Armchair again.

6. Followers! My goal in January was to have 100 followers by December 31st. I figured at least 50 of these would be friends and family. Never in a million years would I be at 91 by the end of June and not know at least 70 of them. Every time a new person follows me my heart soars and I'm so appreciative of each and every one of you for following me.

7. Author events! Since my blogging adventure began I haven't had an opportunity to attend any events but I'll be at Word on the Street and introducing an author for Eden Mills in September. It's also been great to be informed about YA authors coming to Canada more often.

8.  Meeting awesome people! There are too many awesome book bloggers to count. I never thought I'd find some that lived in Canada too! I love hearing what sort of books they're interested in, their favourite authors, and what releases they're looking forward to. In the past week I've started following three new awesome bloggers: Nic at Irresistible Reads, Carina at Fictional Distraction, and Melissa at I Swim for Oceans; check them out!

9. Supporting debut authors! Through researching various authors' struggles to be published and receive recognition for their works in the early years of YA I aim to use my blog as an effective marketing tool for as many debut authors as possible. 

10. Free books! Who doesn't love free books! I've received over a dozen copies from authors and publishers for review in the past 3 months and can't wait to read them all. 

Did you do a Top Ten Tuesday this week? Post your link in the comments and I'll be sure to check it out!

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Murderer's Daughters by Randy Susan Meyers

Title: The Murderer's Daughters
Author: Randy Susan Meyers
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Release Date: January 19, 2010
Date Read: June 16 - 18, 2011
Rating: 4/5 stars 


Lulu and Merry’s childhood was never ideal, but on the day before Lulu’s tenth birthday their father drives them into a nightmare. He’s always hungered for the love of the girl’s self-obsessed mother; after she throws him out, their troubles turn deadly.

Lulu’s mother warned her to never let him in, but when he shows up, he’s impossible to ignore. He bullies his way past ten-year-old Lulu, who obeys her father’s instructions to open the door, then listens in horror as her parents struggle. She runs for help and discovers upon her return that he’s murdered her mother, stabbed her sister, and tried to kill himself.

For thirty years, the sisters try to make sense of what happened. Their imprisoned father is a specter in both their lives, shadowing every choice they make. Though one spends her life pretending he’s dead, while the other feels compelled to help him, both fear that someday their imprisoned father’s attempts to win parole may meet success.
Wow! I received The Murderer's Daughters to review from St. Martin's Press under the pretence of appealing to young adult readers, though it is technically an adult novel. This is Randy Susan Meyer's debut novel and I was blown away with how rich and beautiful her story was. Based on the phrase "Do the sons bear the sins of the father?", the novel is a wonderful analysis of guilt and how it can affect every part of our lives. Rather than being a story about domestic violence The Murderer's Daughters is about how we are extensions, not products, of our parents yet should not feel owned by their actions. 

I absolutely loved The Murderer's Daughters mainly for its character development. Lulu, asked to save her mother from her father, is haunted by the guilt of her mother's death. She removes herself from her father's life in prison and creates an identity separate from her childhood yet never fully escapes her past, struggling to be a good mother to her own children. Always questioning why she was stabbed, Merry becomes her father's keeper in jail and can't escape his presence in her life. Merry becomes shrapnel in the aftershock of the event and can't quite piece herself back together as she grows from a frightened child to a wild teenager and finally a lost adult. I appreciated how flawed Merry, Lulu, Aunt Cilla, and Joey were as characters: rather than being strong, healed, perfect humans Randy Susan Meyers wrote them as the realistic, broken people they would have been.

A discussion question at the back of the book made me reflect on the concept of identity and it's role in this novel. Merry and Lulu never quiet escape their identity as "the murderer's daughters" which is a homage to how single events can leave lasting impacts, yet the problem goes deeper. Lulu especially tries to rid herself of being labelled by becoming as successful, loving mother to cancel out the bad karma from her childhood but her past continues to catch up with her. It raised the question "As humans, are we obligated to reject the role society gives us as an  attempt to create our own identity, even though we know we will fail?" and left readers wondering how any of us create a life mirroring our expectations rather than as an extension of our past.

I would recommend The Murderer's Daughters to older teens as the novel does deal with mature content such as sex, drug and alcohol abuse, and domestic violence. If you are a fan of any Alex Award nominees or have never read a crossover title before, you would greatly enjoy this book. 

Favourite Quote: "Adults should be able to offer themselves up for adoption. I'd find a family that gathered at every holiday ever invented - quick, get out the Columbus Day tree! - offering ourselves immeasurable occasions to use our in-family jokes and us-only references. A family that celebrated birthdays in some way other than sending homemade birthday cards from prison....Adopting adults should be as desirable as rescuing beautiful little Chinese girls."

Recommended: Breathe My Name (R.A. Nelson), Nineteen Minutes (Jodi Picoult)