Review: Ten Things We Did (And Probably Shouldn’t Have)

Title: Ten Things We Did (And Probably Shouldn’t Have)
Author: Sarah Mlynowski
Publisher: Harper Teen
Publication Date: June 7th, 2011
Genre: YA, Realistic Fiction

The past few years of April’s life have been complicated, with her parents’ divorce and their respective remarriages. She chose to stay in Connecticut with her Dad, rather than move to Paris with my Mom. When her Dad and Stepmom want to move to Ohio half way through April’s junior year, she works out a plan to stay at her friend Vi’s house. The only problem is that Vi’s Mom isn’t going to be around and there is no way April’s Dad would let her live without parent supervision for a whole semester. By simply creating two fake e-mail accounts, April and Vi lie to their parents and manage to have the whole house to themselves. This leads to April breaking nearly all of her Dad’s rules and doing a lot of things she probably shouldn’t have. But who could blame her for skipping class on occasion? Or maybe buying a hot tub? And she never would have thrown a huge party if it hadn’t been for a very good cause. April quickly makes use of her new found freedom, and who can blame her for making a few mistakes along the way?

Ten Things We Did was so much fun! For some reason I thought it was going to be a let down, and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I really wish that I’d read this book over the summer, since it would have been a great beach read. The concept sounds a bit unbelievable at first (two teenage girls with a house to themselves for a few months) but the author made it work. It was easy to suspend my disbelief while I was being pulled into this story. The plot mainly centres around April and her friends taking advantage of their new found freedom by doing some things they definitely wouldn’t have done if their parents were around. April and Vi’s escapades were amusing without being too ridiculous or over the top. A lot of the plot focuses on April deciding whether she should lose her virginity to her long-term boyfriend, Noah. The flashbacks of their relationship and of April’s family added a lot to the story. Although this book isn’t what you’d call deep, April has to address her abandonment issues and other problems that stemmed from her parents’ divorce. Adding some of these bigger issues to a light and fun novel is one of the things I loved about this book.

I really didn’t think I would like April, but I did. Sure, she made some mistakes, but that’s kind of the point of this book. Somehow with all that lying she still managed to make me feel bad for her, since her Dad was being unfair in asking her to move to Ohio a few days before school started again. The secondary characters were great, although at the end of the book I still felt like I knew next to nothing about Marissa, even though she was April’s best friend. However, the other characters felt real. I especially liked how things were wrapped up in the end and the revelations that were made about different characters.

This was a quick read that was light and fun. It wasn’t laugh out loud funny, but I enjoyed it all the same. In fact, I didn’t want it to end.


"You know, April," he said. "Sometimes you don't need lightening to start a fire. Sometimes, it builds on its own." 

Review: Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Title: Life As We Knew It (Last Survivors #1)
Author: Susan Beth Pfeffer
Publisher: Harcourt Children’s Books
Publication Date: December 31st, 2005
Genre: YA, Post Apocalyptic

Sixteen-year-old Miranda is a normal girl who lives in Howell, Pennsylvania. When news of an asteroid hitting the moon becomes all anyone can talk about, it just seems like an excuse for her teachers to assign more homework. Asteroids have hit the moon before, but this is the biggest one on record. The world is shocked when the asteroid knocks the moon out of orbit and closer to the earth. Suddenly, the life Miranda has always known is gone. The world is suddenly hit by tsunamis, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. With unreliable electricity and shortages on gas and food, Miranda and her family have to worry about surviving for the first time in their lives. Things they have never had to consider are decisions they have to make daily. Can Miranda refuse helping others if it means keeping her family alive for another day? Will she put her younger brother’s survival ahead of her own? When the world seems to be falling apart, Miranda writes a candid journal about life as she knew it.

I should start out by saying that this book freaked me out a little bit. This may have been because I finished it at night, but I think it was mainly because what happens to Miranda doesn’t seem so distant from our reality. While the futures shown in novels such as The Hunger Games feel very far away, the events in this novel feel like they could actually happen. And some of them have, on a smaller scale. Natural disasters happen much more frequently than they should. People are recurrently predicting the end of the world, the most recent being last May. In the weeks leading up to the millennium, I’d go to a friend’s house and their basement would be stocked with canned food, matches and emergency supplies. The panic leading up to Y2K reminded me a bit of the panic in this book, except one was warranted and the other was not. I’ve also known people who were living in Quebec during the 1998 winter blackout, and had to worry about keeping warm. Knowing people who have had similar experiences to Miranda’s family makes this book feel very real.

Life As We Knew It is told in Miranda’s diary entries, and I can’t help but wish it wasn’t. The book dragged along a bit in the middle, and I feel that it would have worked better in a different format. Miranda appears to be a lot younger than sixteen in her diary, and maybe this wouldn’t have been the case if it were simply told in the first person. Despite this, I couldn’t stop reading. Even if some parts were slow, I still was dying to know what was going to happen next. The plot is mainly focused on Miranda’s daily life, and there isn’t a lot of action. However, I think the author’s ability to emotionally affect the reader offsets any flaws in the writing. I found myself bringing Miranda’s world into my own and worrying about the fact that we don’t have a wood stove in our house. It was interesting to see how different characters dealt with things, such as Megan immersing herself in religion and Dan and Sammi leaving Pennsylvania. Miranda’s mother was hard to relate to at times, especially since I have trouble understanding how she could put one child ahead of the others. Of course, I’m not a parent and I’ve never been in any life-threatening situation, so I can’t claim to truly understand what she was going through. Early on in the novel, Miranda’s mother decides that her family is the most important thing, no matter what. A lot of interesting questions are asked throughout he novel, such as the cost of survival and whether you’d be willing to put your own well being over a friend’s. This book would definitely be a good choice for a teen book club.

Susan Beth Pfeffer took an interesting concept and turned it into a gripping and unsettling novel about an average family fighting for survival. This book had a strong effect on me, and it succeeded at making the events of this novel feel so real that I couldn’t help being a bit paranoid. A quick and thought provoking read, I’d definitely recommend Life As We Knew It.


“I feel myself shriveling along with my world, getting smaller and harder. I'm turning into a rock, and in some ways that's good, because rocks last forever. But if this is how I'm going to last forever, then I don't want to.”

Review: This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen

Title: This Lullaby
Author: Sarah Dessen
Publisher: Speak
Publication Date: May 27th, 2002
Genre: YA, Realistic Fiction

Remy has just graduated from high school and is looking forward to attending Stanford in the fall. As the summer begins, Remy is finishing the planning of her mother’s fourth wedding since her marriage to Remy’s dad. Her musician father died when she was a toddler, before he could even meet her. The only thing he ever gave her was the song, “This Lullaby.” To Remy, the song is a reminder that her father was the first man to let her down. While Remy has had her fair share of boyfriends, she always sticks to her rules about dating, which involve breaking up before she can get hurt. If her mother’s failed marriages have taught her anything, it’s that all relationships are doomed to fail, and Remy believes it’s safer to end things sooner rather than later. When Remy starts dating Dexter, the fearless optimist, she finds herself breaking her own rules for the first time. Dexter is a clumsy musician who is nothing like the boys Remy usually dates. His mother has also had a number of failed marriages, which have had the opposite effect on him. While Remy is cynical and uptight, Dexter has become mellow and easy going from having so many different father figures in his life. In the summer in-between her old life and her new life in college, Remy just wants a fling that doesn’t mean anything. Dexter is the one boy that never fit into Remy’s rules, and he’s also the one boy she might be able to love. Falling in love is a risk that Remy has been avoiding her whole life, and Dexter might be the one person who can help her have faith in relationships.

Earlier this week I went to a book signing for Sarah Dessen in Toronto. One of the questions from the audience was which one of her books was her favourite, and Sarah said that This Lullaby was the most fun to write. This made me very excited to go home and read it, since I already (by chance) had it checked out from the library. So far, this is my favourite of Sarah Dessen’s books. The writing is as good as ever, and despite the slow start I found myself completely absorbed in this book by about page 50. While it’s often a fast paced plot that makes me not want to stop reading, this wasn’t the case in This Lullaby. The book focuses primarily on relationships and the characters, so it isn’t exactly plot heavy. Instead, it was the characters that drew me in. Remy was very different from the other protagonists in the books I’ve read by Sarah Dessen. Her friends call her a “cold and bitter bitch.” She’s recently quit smoking, drinking excessively and sleeping around. She takes control of situations, and she isn’t afraid to stand up to people. The Truth About Forever and Just Listen were both about girls who appear to be perfect, and Remy was a refreshing change from that. I can see why some readers would find her unlikable and difficult, but I found her to be a complex character that is a little rough around the edges. I found myself wanting to know more about her background, such as why she decided to change her life style and quit partying. I also wanted to learn more about her life with her different stepfathers. However, as a whole, I thought she was very real. Before I start talking about Dexter, I should mention that I’m not one of those people who are constantly falling in love with fictional characters. My friends will often read a book and tell me how they wish the male lead was their boyfriend, and I very seldom feel that way. Of course, Dexter seems to be the exception. I love him so much. He’s just so lovely and unlike so many of the boys I read about. I loved Dexter and Remy and their “natural chemistry.” I was really rooting for them to be together. The supporting characters were great, including Dexter’s band mates and Remy’s best friends. I found the characters in this novel to be interesting and realistic. They drew me in, and are a huge part of the reason I loved this book.

When I can’t find anything to read, I know I can always count on one of Sarah Dessen’s novels to be a quick and light read that will always cheer me up. With a simple story that rings true and great characters, her stories always feel relevant to my life, even if on the surface I have little in common with the characters. Dessen’s fans will not be disappointed by This Lullaby, and I’d recommend it to fans of YA romance and chick lit.


“Some things don't last forever, but some things do. Like a good song, or a good book, or a good memory you can take out and unfold in your darkest times, pressing down on the corners and peering in close, hoping you still recognize the person you see there."

In My Mailbox (6)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren, in which book bloggers post about the books they've bought, borrowed or received in the past week.

This week I borrowed Wildwood by Colin Meloy from the library. I wanted to read this book because it looked so pretty and the author, Colin Meloy, is the lead singer of the Decemberists. The book is illustrated by his wife, Carson Ellis, who also illustrated The Mysterious Benedict Society. I read it earlier this week and I honestly think it's the prettiest book I have ever read. The book itself was all right, but I now want to read everything illustrated by Carson Ellis.
I also picked up Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead from the library earlier today. I was there a few minutes before opening and there were over 50 people waiting to get in. This book was recommended to me on my blog, and I'm not posting a picture of it because the cover is very beat up. 

I know that when normal people want a used book they just go to a used book shop. I always check my basement first, since you never know what you will find down there. My Mom majored in English in University, and there are a lot of old paper backs around the house. Although she has trouble getting rid of things, my Mom is nice and usually lets me have whatever book I ask for if it's not on one of her main bookshelves. I happened to be looking for Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and found it pretty quickly. I think I'm going to read this around Halloween. 

#226: Write a Love Note to South Bend

September 24 has been deemed "I Love South Bend Day".
The Beatles claim that love is all you need.  Really?  Is love the solution for South Bend?  Can it fix the issues of the homeless and vacant housing, bring people and businesses back into the city, and improve the public school system?  Why celebrate love when there are so many important problems to address?

No, love for the city will not solve these issues.  Rather, it's an approach to tackling them.  Appreciating it--for both its positives and negatives-- and focusing on what's right while trying to help fix what's wrong is love.  Love should inspire action.

Even a small act of love can go a long way.  Just as hearing "I love you" can ease the weight of a long day, expressing your appreciation for South Bend demonstrates that the town is still very much alive and loved.  And in addition, the act of saying "I love you" requires a positive frame of mind for the speaker as well.

That's the purpose behind this "I<3SB" event, sponsored by DTSB and Sunny 101.5.  There are plenty empty windows downtown, but we shouldn't focus on them, but rather on what we do have.  And the "love notes" that you can fill out at online or at downtown coffee shops will posted in some of the vacant spots.  Write one yourself, or simply walk past the places like the State Theater that display others' reasons why they love this city.
Where: Downtown South Bend
When: September 24 - October 31

Tip: To celebrate "I Love South Bend Day", Wayne Street has been renamed "I Love South Bend" Boulevard (for the day only).  Local businesses downtown are offering specials as well.  Check here for more information.

Banned Books Week

Today kicks off Banned Books Week! From today until October 1st, people all over the world are celebrating our freedom to read what ever we want. The books above are some of my books that are frequently challenged or banned. After taking this picture, I did some more research online and realized that I forgot so many other books. Books like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Golden Compass, The Lord of the Rings, The Giver and A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein are also banned in some schools. You can see a larger list of banned and challenged books here.
What banned book will you be reading this week?

Sarah Dessen Book Signing

On Wednesday I went to Sarah Dessen’s book signing at the Eaton Centre Indigo in Toronto. She was really lovely and sweet and it was an awesome experience! It was also my first book signing and I leant two things: show up early and always bring a receipt if you bought your book before hand.

Review: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

Title: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks 
Author: E. Lockhart
Publisher: Hyperion
Publication Date: March 25th, 2008
Genre: YA, Realistic Fiction

When Frankie Landau-Banks was a freshman at Alabaster Preparatory Academy, she was a geeky member of the Debate Club and the kind of girl that was easy to forget. Over the summer between freshman and sophomore years, Frankie becomes someone who boys can’t help but take notice of. And her crush, Matthew Livingston, is no exception. As sophomore year starts, Frankie begins dating Matthew, who is clever, handsome and charmingly goofy. She becomes an honorary member of Matthew’s group of friends, without fully belonging. While Matthew thinks that she is adorable, Frankie feels that he underestimates her. When she learns that Matthew and his friends are part of a secret society called the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds, it feels like just another male exclusive group that Frankie will never be a part of. Lead partly by an urge to prove herself, Frankie becomes the mastermind behind the Order’s pranks. This is the story of her transformation from a geeky and overlooked freshman to a pranking mastermind.

Have you ever read a book and felt like it was written just for you? That’s how I felt about The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. I adore this book. I started reading it with an idea of what it was going to be like, and it rose above any of my expectations. I was expecting some stereotypical rich kids, lots of focus on boys and crushes and an overall forgettable novel. This book was nothing like I imagined. I fell in love with the writing style from chapter one. Told in the third person past tense, the writing style reminds me of books like Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland. For me, the writing was the first sign that this book was going to be something special. The second sign was the main character, Frankie. She’s brilliant, she’s a strategist, and she’s feisty. She sets out to change things at her prestigious boarding school and makes a stand in a big way. I just love her. In other reviews, some people have been complaining about Frankie being too perfect, since she’s pretty and basically a genius. I think that by the end of the novel it’s clear that Frankie is flawed; Matthew even goes as far as to call her a psychopath. A lot of novels I’ve read are about average girls, but it is fun to read about clever and out of the ordinary characters. People are quick to call them ‘Mary Sues’, but there are people who are attractive and smart in real life. It does happen.

As for this book being written for me, I felt like this because it had so many things I love in it. A boarding school, brilliant pranks, some feminism, a secret society, smart characters and a great heroine. I loved the style of the novel as a whole, and I thought that it was smart and thoughtful. It took a while for the plot to pick up, but there was enough going on that that didn’t matter to me. Frankie’s pranks were my favourite part of the novel, since they were not only hilarious but also stood for something bigger. Plus I love a little rule breaking.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks is now one of my favourite YA novels. It was unique and fun, and I loved the main character. I was actually surprised by how much I loved this book and how it rose above any of my expectations. Lockhart tackles some complex issues, such as gender roles and patriarchy. It left me with a lot to think about. With an awesome protagonist, some cleverly planned out pranks and a bit of rebellion, this book was better than I could have ever imagined.


“It is better to be alone, she figures, than to be with someone who can't see who you are. It is better to lead than to follow. It is better to speak up than stay silent. It is better to open doors than to shut them on people.”

#225: Business Expo After Hours 2011

Why go to a business expo?  As an employee in the non-corporate sector, I did not have a ready answer.

To learn something about local businesses? To network? To get free schwag?

If you think these answers are valid (as I do), head downtown to the Century Center today for the 9th Annual Business Expo After Hours.  This event focuses on these aspects, billing itself as "part trade show, part cocktail reception".  More than 140 companies participate, ranging from 1st Source Bank to Ziebart (car detailing).  

You might run into someone who has an answer to that question you had in the back of your mind.  Who can fix my tub?  What classes does that new yoga studio offer?  Where should I get a car loan?  Who can I hire to take care of catering a USC-ND tailgate?  Get the answers to those types of questions by stopping by tonight.  The relaxed atmosphere of an 'after-hours' event takes away the intimidating business-minded attitude of other expos.  Enjoy live music and free food while you mingle and look at new products and solutions.

Where: Century Center, 120 S. St. Joseph Street
When: Today, 4:00 - 7:30 PM
Cost: Free! A business card is all that is needed for admission.

In My Mailbox (5)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren, in which book bloggers post about the books they've bought, borrowed or received in the past week.

This week I bought Submarine by Joe Dunthorne and What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen. Submarine was an impulse buy based on 1) the fact that it was discounted, 2) I like the cover and 3) the movie looks good.  I'm looking forward to What Happened to Goodbye and I'm actually planning on going to a Sarah Dessen book signing later this week. 

#224: "Fight Like A Champion"

Many college graduates in the area have left the town and returned, with many accomplishments to their name.  Notre Dame alum Mike Lee is returning this weekend, but he comes back not to boast, but to further his list of success.  After winning Notre Dame's amateur boxing event, Bengal Bouts, for three years in a row, this finance major has made a career of professional boxing.

Tomorrow, in an event titled "Fight Like A Champion", the undefeated Lee will take on Jacob Stiers of Kansas at the Purcell Pavilion on Notre Dame's campus.  This is the first ever professional boxing event held on campus.  All proceeds go to charity, either the Ara Parseghian Foundation or the Robinson Community Learning Center.
Where: Purcell Pavilion (in the Joyce Athletic Convocation Center), Notre Dame
When: 8:00 pm, first bell at 9:00 pm
Tickets: $50, $30 and $15 General Admission for students.  $150 floor seating. Can be purchased  through the Notre Dame Athletics Ticket Office by calling 574-631-7356 or

#223: Siam Thai

Tomorrow is the Third Thursday of the month, and as such, it means that certain restaurants in downtown feature special pricing (similar to this summer's Restaurant Week).  Yesterday, we highlighted Ciao's, which is a participant; today features Siam Thai. 
Siam Thai is to Cambodian Thai as what Ciao's is to Rocco's.  Both restaurants are beloved with good reason, but Siam Thai's ambiance, attentive service, and adventurous flavors set it apart.  It has a prime location on Main Street, and fingers crossed, the weather will be nice enough for them to set out their cheery yellow umbrellas and teak dining set.  The food is artfully made, and on my last visit, I tried their tofu curry.  It was mild yet full of flavor.  I also ordered an appetizer from their specials -- green curry ravioli -- and it was an odd juxtaposition but it worked.  Some South Bend Polish/Italian heritage mixed with Thai flavor does a person well, especially when you're overlooking DTSB.

Their menu for Third Thursdays is a great deal and good for lunch ($12) or dinner ($15).   They offer several choices for the appetizer, soup/salad, and entree, which you can pick separately.

Where: 211 North Main St.
When: Lunch: Mon-Fri, 11:00 am - 2:00 pm; Dinner: Mon-Thurs, 5:00pm - 9:00 pm, Fri-Sat 5:00 - 9:30pm
Call: 574.232.4445

Review: The Maze Runner

Title: The Maze Runner (Maze Runner #1)
Author: James Dashner
Publisher: Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: October 6th, 2009
Genre: YA, Dystopia

When Thomas wakes up in a dark and enclosed area, he has no memories of his past or of who he is. The only thing he knows about himself is his name. He soon finds himself in the Glade, where a group of fifty or so teenage boys live together. The Glade is surrounded by a Maze, which is home to monsters called Grievers. Every week, the creators send supplies, and a new boy is sent monthly. When Thomas arrives, the boys already have life in the Maze down to a science. Each boy has a job, which is eventually assigned to him based on what he does best. Although Thomas is at first overwhelmed and frightened by the new life he has been thrown into, he feels like the Maze is familiar to him. He unexplainably wants to be a Runner, one of the boys who run through the maze every day, mapping it out and looking for a way out. The day after Thomas’ arrival, a girl is sent to the Glade with a message for the boys. As life in the maze begins to change dramatically, Thomas tries to solve the mysteries of his new life. Who are the Creators of the Maze and what do they want? Will the boys ever be able to solve the Maze? When Thomas’ past seems to hold some of the answers, he will have to find a way to remember life before the Maze.

I bought this book on a whim and am very glad I did. I loved it! I couldn’t put it down until the very last page, and after that I couldn’t stop thinking about it. As The Maze Runner begins, the reader basically has no idea what’s going on. In the beginning, there are so many questions about the Maze and why these boys were sent there. This may be an unpopular opinion, but I love having no idea what’s going on at the beginning of the novel. It’s a fast way to get me hooked. The plot was fast paced and exciting, with lots of action and mystery. It was really interesting to see how these boys had created a functioning community. I loved Minho, Newt and Chuck but was really disappointed in Teresa. She’s the only female character but her character is never built and she feels flat throughout the whole novel. Hopefully that will change in the other books in the series. I loved the concept and think that Dashner wrote a great story. Not only a good book for discussion and book clubs, it would also be a good choice for teenage boys who are reluctant readers. The Maze Runner is a well-written and promising start to the series, and I’d definitely recommend it.

Overall, The Maze Runner is based on an original concept that Dashner managed to turn into an exciting and riveting book. I loved the ending, and I cannot wait to read The Scorch Trials, the next book in the series. Gripping and full of adventure and suspense, this book pulls you in and makes you think.


Review: Linger

Title: Linger (The Wolves of Mercy Falls #2)
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
Publication Date: July 13th, 2010
Genre: YA, Romance, Fantasy, Paranormal Romance

Do not read this review if you haven’t yet read Shiver and do not want to read any spoilers.

In Shiver, Grace and Sam fell in love, even though they believed that their time together was limited. Now, Sam no longer transforms into a wolf after contracting meningitis. Sam and Grace are finally able to be together and plan their future. Now that Beck is permanently a wolf, Sam is in charge. The lives of the wolves are complicated when Cole, an angry and arrogant recruit of Beck’s, arrives in Mercy Falls. Cole wants to be a wolf permanently so that he can forget about his life as a human. For him, being a werewolf is an alternate to suicide. Cole begins to bond with Isabel, who is struggling with her guilt over her role in her brother’s death. Together, they delve deeper into the mysteries of werewolves. Is it really the cold that triggers transformation? What is it that killed one of the older wolves? When Grace gets sick, her and Sam both fear what her sickness could mean. As she gets worst, her love for Sam might not be enough to keep them together.

At this point, I know a lot of people are sick of Paranormal Romance. Apparently at some bookstores they have a whole section in YA dedicated solely to the Paranormal. However, I have barely read any books from the genre so it doesn’t feel overdone to me. If you are sceptical or tired of Paranormal Romance, I wouldn’t read this book. Although some books I’d recommend to people even if they hate the genre (like Harry Potter for people who hate fantasy, or a great number of books to anyone who hates YA,) Linger just isn’t good enough for that. Don’t get me wrong, I liked it. But it certainly wasn’t great. Like Shiver, Linger has little plot. Most of the book is centred around the characters and their pasts and relationships. The mysteries of the wolves do not come to the forefront until the end of the novel. The ending was the best part of Linger, and the only part I couldn’t put down. The last few chapters were fast paced and managed to up my rating for this book by .5 stars. The rest of Linger was slow moving, since it is primarily character driven, not plot based.

While Sam and Grace narrated Shiver, Linger is also narrated by Isabel and Cole. And thank God for that. I love Isabel, and found her perspective refreshing, compared to Sam’s melodrama. I was very curious about Cole, and was glad to be able to glimpse into his past. One of the interesting things about Cole as a narrator was being able to see Grace and Sam from someone else’s perspective. Sam was probably the thing I disliked most about this book. I have no idea how his poetry didn’t bother me throughout Shiver (maybe I was in a good mood when I read it.) An example of Sam’s poetry: "One thousand ways to say good-bye/ One thousands ways to cry/ One thousand ways to hang your hat before you go outside /I say good-bye good-bye good-bye/ I shout it out so loud/ Cause the next time that I find my voice I might not remember how." I love Stiefvater’s prose, but I can’t stand Sam’s poetry. While some of his lyrics might sound lovely in his songs, they are awkward in this context. He is very melodramatic and begins a section with “I was an open wound.” In Shiver, I assumed that Stiefvater could not write from a boy’s perspective, since Sam’s voice doesn’t sound like a teenage boy’s. While Sam’s sections in Linger often made me roll my eyes, Stiefvater has shown through Cole that she can write from a male perspective. Despite the fact that he annoys me, I still think that Sam is great with Grace. They are completely different, but they compliment each other. You can see why they are attracted to each other. Their relationship is the focal point of Linger, and despite the flaws of the novel I still found myself hoping that they would be together in the end.

Linger was slow at times, but the ending was worth it. At that point, I couldn’t put this book down. Adding Isabel and Cole’s narration to the novel was a great idea, and the new perspectives added a lot to the novel as a whole. I think that Maggie Stiefvater writes beautifully, although her descriptions are a lot stronger than the story itself. Like Shiver, I’d say Linger is worth a try if you like romance and are open to Paranormal Romance.


"Once upon a time, there was a girl named Grace Brisbane. There was nothing particularly special about her, except that she was good with numbers, and very good at lying, and she made her home in between the pages of books. She loved all the wolves behind her house, but she loved one of them most of all.
And this one loved her back. He loved her back so hard that even the things that weren’t special about her became special: the way she tapped her pencil on her teeth, the off-key songs she sang in the shower, how when she kissed him he knew it meant forever."

#222: Ciao's

The summer was spent wandering the cobbled streets of Rome, hearing Italian everywhere I went, and eating copious amounts of pastries and pasta.  As with any travel, it's a bit of an adjustment to return home, and when I returned, I didn't know what I would miss most of those activities.  Happily, there's Ciao's.

Ciao's is situated in an area I would argue is South Bend's "Little Italy".  Competition is stiff among the four Italian restaurants all are located within a half-mile of each other (Carmela's, Sunny Italy Cafe, Rocco's).  Each has an inspiring story about starting up their business, and each offers something special in ways of ambiance, value, and flavor. 

For me, when I want a little taste of Italy, I would head to Ciao's.  It's tucked away near the Madison Center in an over-sized brick building (the old Bistro on the Race spot).  The benefits to the place include spacious parking and seating, but the building does seem to swallow the intimate feel this type of restaurant might otherwise have.  From an table inside by the window, however, the ivy-covered brick does lend a degree of wine cellar charm.

A glass case of pastries greets you -- these were the catalyst for Adele de Rosa Ciao to open up this restaurant -- and make sure you get some for either dessert or a takeaway treat.  They're not to be missed, especially the fruit-based mini tarts.   Entering the restaurant, you might also run into a member of the Ciao family sitting down with some friends for a meal.   The last night I went, I met three generations of the Ciao family, all speaking Italian.

In regard to food, paper (ie. changeable) menus and an extensive wine list are good signs in my Italian foodie mind, and the variety of dishes offered reinforced that.  The complimentary bruschetta served was just as good as anything I remembered from my trips to Italy, and reviewing the menu became a form of armchair travel.  The pheasant and lamb-based pastas made me think of hearty meals in Umbria, and the pasta da nero di seppia recalled a dare made on a visit to Venice.  The latter dish might make you look like you bit off the end of an exploded pen, but the unusual (and deliciously rich) taste of squid ink is to be tried...although perhaps not on a first date. 

I haven't found another restaurant in town that offers such adventurous Italian fare.  The prices are not the lowest found in South Bend, but the quality of ingredients (and proportions) are among the highest.  Ciao's is the optimal option for an upscale authentic Italian.

Where: 501 North Niles Avenue
When: Tuesday-Saturday, 5:00 - 10:00 pm.  Warning: the pasticceria (pastry shop) opens at 10:00 am.  Disclaimer: This information does not hold me liable for any cancelled diet plans.


In My Mailbox (4)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren, in which book bloggers post about the books they've bought, borrowed or received in the past week.

This week's IMM is a little late, since I didn't get a chance to go to the library until tonight. I actually took out The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao in May, but never got a chance to read it. I ran across it in the fiction section and thought I'd take it out again (and hopefully have time for it.) I've been meaning to check out Fight Club for a while, and thought I might as well take out Diary as well. Random fact about Fight Club: it was probably the most popular movie poster in my residence in first year. Everyone had some sort of Fight Club poster son their walls. 

From the YA section, I took out The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart, This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen and Does My Head Look Big In This? by Randa Abdel Fattah. I liked Lockhart's The Boyfriend List and soooo many people have recommended The Disreputable History to me. I was in the mood for some chick lit, and Sarah Dessen is my go to girl for that. I randomly found Does My Head Look Big in This? and decided to check it out, since it got a lot of hype when I was a young teen. I've always wanted to read it, but never got around to it. 

#221: Zoo Brew

When you’re a kid, there’s nothing like going to the zoo with playmates. When you’re a grown-up, there’s nothing like going to the bar with some friends. It’s an added bonus if you happen to be sampling a variety of beers with those friends.

Luckily, the Potawatomi Zoological Society’s 3rd Annual “Zoo Brew” has combined those two dream-states tonight from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. at the zoo. Unluckily for some, the event is sold out, having generated 750 tickets for thirsty South Benders, Mishawakans, Grangerites and folks from across Michiana.

About 30 local breweries and groups will have stations for samplers to fill small glasses. Some of the breweries featured include Upland, Bell’s, Three Floyd’s, New Holland, New Belgium, and Barley Island. For a visual savoring of this great event, check out the happy promotional video the Zoo put together.

A creative participant will try to find beers that match his or her description. For me, it would be a “hoppy ginger with a hidden complexity and pale coloring.” For others, it would be a “tall, adventurous brown ale with a curious aftertaste of nuts and berries.”

So if it’s tonight or next year, be sure you find your favorite animal from childhood and combine it with your favorite beer from the region. You might leave thinking of an Otter Gumballhead or an Elephant Fat Tire!

-guest post by a resident Golden Lion Tamarin

Where: Potawatomi Zoo, 500 S. Greenlawn

When: Tonight, 7:00 - 10:00 PM

Review: Delirium

Title: Delirium (Delirium #1)
Author: Lauren Oliver
Publisher: Harper Teen
Publication Date: February 1st, 2011
Genre: YA, Dystopia

Lena cannot wait until she turns eighteen so that she can receive the cure for deliria. In Lena’s world, deliria, or love, is a life threatening disease. It was deliria that killed her mother when she was a child, and Lena fears that the same disease runs through her blood as well. When American citizens turn eighteen, it is safe for them to receive the procedure that protects them from the disease. This makes them safe and content and prevents them from ever being unhappy. As her high school graduation approaches, Lena has to prepare for the evaluation that will determine who she will marry. Things begin to change when Lena meets Alex. Lena has always been average and an in-between person, but Alex makes her feel extraordinary. As she spends more time with him and begins breaking rules, she gradually starts to see the lies that her society has been telling her. As the day of her procedure draws closer, Lena will have to choose between living a safe life without ever being happy or unhappy, or risking everything for love.

I’d wanted to read Delirium for a while and finally bought it just because I found a signed copy at my bookstore. Before reading it, I didn’t like the overall concept. It seemed a bit ridiculous to me, but I love a good dystopian read and thought I’d give it a shot. I read it on vacation a few weeks ago and loved it! Not long after I started, I found myself completely absorbed in this book. I thought that Oliver’s writing was beautiful; there are so many wonderful quotes from this book. Some of the themes presented in Delirium actually reminded me a bit of The Giver by Louis Lowry. Both books are partially based on the idea that no one is able to be truly happy if they’re never unhappy. Also, in The Giver Jonah’s family have never felt love and don’t understand the concept. Delirium goes more in depth to some of these ideas and looks at them in a different way. Lauren Oliver did a very good job creating a society where love is seen as a sickness. I’m really interested in how love came to be known as a disease and hopefully that will be explained in the sequel. Although at first I thought that Delirium was based on a bizarre concept, I was quickly convinced otherwise by Oliver’s loveless dystopian world. Despite my scepticism, this book pulled me in and made me think.

Since this book is about love, romance played a huge role in Delirium. I liked Alex and Lena’s relationship, although I felt that they fell in love too quickly (which is often the case in novels, to me.) While reading Delirium, I felt that Lena didn’t have much personality and was a bit flat. However, while writing this review I realized that the restrictive society that Lena grew up in encouraged people to be sort of personality-less. To me, a flat character seems fairly realistic in this case. As the novel begins, Lena blindly believes that the government’s laws are for the better good. It was interesting to see her evolve throughout the novel and slowly start to see her society for what it was. I loved Hana and how she contrasted with Lena. I liked how she represented the teens that rebelled against society, but were still content with their lives and not willing to see it change. I especially liked Hana and Lena’s friendship and how they knew that nothing would be the same after their procedures. I loved how Oliver showed different kinds of love, not just romantic, and how all types of love are removed by the surgery. The procedure changes how you feel about your children, your friends, your family and even your hobbies. In this brilliantly crafted story, Oliver shows us a heartbreaking loveless world, where a mother is considered a freak for showing her children affection.

I think that my joy in finding out that there is going to be a sequel basically sums up how I feel about Delirium. A great dystopian romance, I’d definitely recommend this book to anyone.


"Love: a single word, a wispy thing, a word no bigger or longer than an edge. That’s what it is: an edge; a razor. It draws up through the center of your life, cutting everything in two. Before and after. The rest of the world falls away on either side.”

In My Mailbox (3)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren, in which book bloggers post about the books they've bought, borrowed or received in the past week.

This week's IMM from me is very boring, since I've only bought school books in the past week. Tuesday means back to school for me and I've slowly started to buy my text books. I usually take my time in buying them, and only buy them in advance for classes I'm 100% sure I won't switch out of. And then I can't actually read them for a while, since the profs may change their booklist. 

For my Contemporary Novel class I bought White Noise by Don Delilio, Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie, Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman by Angela Carter and Ali Smith and Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov. I still have a few more books to buy for that class. I love the cover for Infernal Desire Machines

For Modern British History, I bought Death, Dissection and the Destitute by Ruth Richardson and Perfect Summer: England 1911, Just Before the Storm by Juliet Nicolson. Death, Dissection and the Destitute doesn't exactly sound like fun.... 

#220: Pow Wow

Potawatomi, Mishawaka, Elkhart, Chippewa... those names all sounded odd when I first moved to the area. Yet I soon grew used to the way they roll off your tongue, and the more I learned about the area, the more I appreciated them: they recall the town's foundations in the Indian tribes that dwelled here.

Keepers of the Fire, the English translation of Potawatomi, is  also the name of the bright orange installation artwork on the river next to  the Century Center
This weekend, a pow wow at St. Patrick's Park brings this heritage to the forefront.  There will be several tribes present, performing music and in dance contests and displaying authentic dress.  Vendors will sell crafts, such as leather- and beadwork, and food.  Check out wigwams and teepees, the fox dance and flint knapping.

Where: Fragomeni Shelter, St. Patrick's Park, 50651 Laurel Road
When: Saturday and Sunday, 11 am - 8 pm; dancing both days at 1:00 pm and at 6:00 pm on Saturday
Cost: $6/adults, includes admission to the state park
Check out the website here or call 231.371.6661 for more information.

#219: Zombie Walk

While the theme of this month's First Friday celebration is "football", Notre Dame fans won't be the only ones pouring into downtown this weekend.  There will also be a zombie invasion.

That's right, zombies.

She'll never know what hit her...
A quirkier side of this city is the annual Zombie Walk on the first Friday of September.  To those unfamiliar with hundreds of people traipsing around in torn clothes and moaning about how itchy fake blood is, the website defines it quite well.  My favorite line?  "It should be noted that zombie behavior is a hot topic of debate. Purists who draw their definitions from the original Living Dead films will claim that a zombie would never have the ability to call for "brains" and furthermore that a zombie needs only living (or freshly killed) flesh for its sustenance and not the brain in particular."   But don't worry about undead snobs -- first, they're dead, and second, a quick check on the website reveals this event welcomes the "freshly killed" to join in the march.

This is no small matter.  Currently, on Facebook, there are 1,102 signed up to participate.  (If only half were our Facebook fans...)  You can buy a commemorative t-shirt, attend the after party at O'Sullivan's or the all ages costume party at Howard Park, or participate in activities at Howard Park beginning at 3:00pm.  The event is free, but all participants are encouraged to bring nonperishables for The Food Bank of Northern Indiana. 

The official walk starts at 6:00 pm at Howard Park.  Check its website or Facebook event for the route.  For info about the additional activities, check here.