Happy New Year!

2011 was a good year for me, since I got a cat, read a lot of books and graduated from university. This year was also the only year I kept a New Year's Resolution! I wanted to read 50 books, which I definitely did. This year I'm going to have a few more goals, and hopefully I'll be just as good at achieving them as I was last year.

1. Read 50 books I want to read a bit less this year, so I'm going to start with 50 books. I'm likely going back to my old job in the summer, which will leave me with very little time for reading anyways.

2. Read more of the books I already own I'm not ambitious enough to say I should read all of them, but I definitely should read a good chunk. Some of these books were given to me, but I should definitely read all of the ones I bought myself.

3. Shop at more independent bookshops After I finish my Chapters gift certificates, I should start buying from independent shops more often.

4. Read more adult fiction It's funny because as a teen I really only read adult fiction. Now I'm 21 and I seem to be reading YA the majority of the time.

5. Write More I have so many empty journals. I definitely need to pick up a pencil more often.

I hope everyone has an awesome New Year's Eve and an even better 2012!

A Year in Books

Today is December 29th, which marks one year since I started the 50 book challenge. I ended up reading 210 books, although that number would have been much lower if I hadn't been out of school/work for so long. You can see the list of all the books I read here. I probably read something like 20 books in 2010, and  having this blog definitely helped me read more. Earlier, someone asked me if I was going to post a picture of all the books I read this year. I can't do this since a) a number of them were from the library and b) there are too many to photograph without difficulty. Instead, I decided to list and photograph some of my favourites. Ones listed but not in the photograph are from the good ol' library. I didn't include rereads because if I reread a book it's one of my favourites anyways. So, if you look at my book challenge and wondered why I didn't list The Book Thief or The Hunger Games as a favourite, that's why.

Favourite Junior Fiction Books  
The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild
The Little Prince by  Antoine De Saint-Exupery
The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood

Favourite YA Books
Looking for Alaska by John Green
The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
Delirium by Lauren Oliver
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak
It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life by Bryan Lee O'Malley
Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan 
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Favourite Adult Fiction
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
The Guernsey Literary Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Anne Shaffer and Annie Barrows
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Sarah's Key by Tatiana De Rosnay 
The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Top Ten Tuesday (3)

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's topic is top ten favourite books of 2011. If I did my favourite books I read in 2011, I could probably list 100 books. Instead, I'm listing my favourite books released in the past year. Doing this made me realize how few books I read that were actually published in 2011.

10. Divergent by Veronica Roth I was originally going to not include Divergent in this list, but I had a change of heart. While I was unhappy with the pacing at the end, I was loving this book until that point. I loved the main character and the plot, and I couldn't believe that the author isn't much older than I am. This book would probably be at the top of a lot of people's list, so maybe I should eventually reread it. I'm really looking forward to the sequel, Insurgent. 

9. Withering Tights by Louise Rennison From the author of the Georgia Nicolson series, this book was just a lot of fun. While it didn't top Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging, Withering Tights was full of laughs at the eccentric collection of characters attending an arts college in Yorkshire. Talulah Casey originally signed up for summer courses at Dother Hall just to find some freedom from her family, but in the end she can't imagine leaving. 

8. Shine by Lauren Myracle This book was involved in a bit of controversy this year, from Meghan Cox Gurdon’s infamous article, “Darkness Too Visible,” to the National Book Awards mixup. I was actually surprised by how much I liked this book. Shine centres around a small town in North Carolina, where seventeen-year-old Patrick was found beaten. The attack was clearly a hate crime, and Patrick's former friend Cat sets out to find out the truth about what happened. 

7. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor I loved this book for its originality and the wonderful world I was able to explore in its pages. If you think you are tired with paranormal fantasy, I would recommend reading just one more book from the genre, if it's Daughter of Smoke and Bone. While Karou might seem like an average Prague art student, she lives a double life doing errands for creatures from another world. 

6. The Night Circus  by Erin Morgenstern This book is the only non-YA novel in this list, a sure sign that I need to read a bit more adult fiction. This book has been said to be the best book of 2011, and it is certainly one of my favourite. While The Night Circus won't be loved by everyone, I found a special magic in this book, and I won't soon forget how I felt while reading it. 

5. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness This is probably the most poignant book of the year, for me. While I loved all of the books on this list, I know that they are not for everyone. However, I honestly feel that A Monster Calls is the one exception; everyone should read this book. With amazing writing, illustrations and characters and a captivating plot, I would recommend this book to all. 

4. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs While this was one of my favourites of the year, I almost didn't read it. I was put off by the creepy cover and the 'horror' label at my library. I ended up loving Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, which tells the story of Jacob Portman, whose grandfather was always telling him about the children he grew up with. These children could do impossible things, and his grandfather has pictures as proof. 

3. The Name of the Star  by Maureen Johnson This was nothing like the other books I've read by Maureen Johnson. Rory leaves Louisiana to attend a boarding school in London's East End, but her arrival coincides with the first murder mimicking Jack the Ripper. I really loved this book, perhaps partially because who isn't interested Jack the Ripper? In school, the teacher/prof would usually bring up the White Chapel murders just as everyone was getting bored with the course, and then we'd discuss all the ridiculous theories (the strangest being that Lewis Carroll was the murderer, and he left clues in Alice in Wonderland.) 

2. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys This book was so wonderful! In 1941, Lina is a fifteen-year old girl living in Lithuania, and her life changes forever when Soviet officers take her family from their home. Lina and her mother and brother are separated from her father, and they embark on a long journey on train to a work camp in Siberia. As Lina tries to send messages to her father through her drawings, she experiences love and loss while struggling to understand why this happened to her family. 

1. Delirium by Lauren Oliver Originally I was unimpressed by the premise, but the beautiful writing captured my interest and lead me to fall in love with Delirium. 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. But things begin to change when Lena meets Alex. 

What are your favourite books of 2011? 

Review: The Whole Truth

Title: The Whole Truth
Author: Kit Pearson
Publisher: Harper Trophy
Publication Date: August 16th, 2011
Genre: Junior Fiction, Historical Fiction

During the depression, nine-year-old Polly’s life is turned upside down when her father is reported dead. Polly and her fifteen-year-old sister Maud leave Winnipeg to go live with the Grandmother they can’t even remember who lives on an island outside of Victoria. Leaving everything they know behind, the girls move to the small island with the family they don’t even know. While Maud is sent to a girl’s school in Victoria, Polly goes to the local school on the island and adapts to her new life. But Polly’s secrets are becoming difficult to keep, not to mention her family seems to be keeping secrets from her. As Polly grows up on the island, she learns that the truth really can set you free.

I was a really big fan of Kit Pearson when I was younger, so when I saw this book in the bookstore I knew I had to find it at my library. The Whole Truth begins in 1932 during the depression. While Maud and Polly lived in poverty in Winnipeg, their Grandmother is quite well off and the family hunts, fishes and grows their own vegetables so they never have to worry about food. This book is mainly about Polly growing up, dealing with losing someone and struggling with secrets. Polly also learns that the people in her life are neither good nor bad, but often somewhere in-between. While I enjoyed the setting and the themes, this book didn’t live up to my expectations. While there are many children’s books that can be loved by anyone, I’m not sure that this is one of them. I felt like this was written specifically for children Polly’s age and the writing style was too young for my taste. The plot dragged a bit mid way through and sometimes the pacing didn’t feel right. However, I thought the characters were realistic and I liked how the reader was shown the good and bad sides of many of them. I felt a lot of what Polly was feeling, especially her frustrations with Maud and her sadness upon hearing about her Grandmother’s flaws. While it was an interesting story with a beautiful setting, nothing lived up to my memories of how wonderful Kit Pearson’s other books are. This made me want to re-read some of Pearson’s books (specifically The Sky is Falling) to see if they are as good as I remember or if they are more for younger children and won’t be as appealing to me now. If you are interested in Kit Pearson’s books, I’d recommend starting with The Guests of War trilogy and skipping this one for now. However, I think The Whole Truth would be most enjoyed by young girls, especially if they are interested in historical fiction (like I was.)


In My Mailbox (19)

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.

Merry Christmas! I got exactly what I wanted this Christmas: books! I recieved A Game of Thrones by George R. Martin, Lonely Planet's guide to New York City, The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano, Emma by Jane Austen, The Invention of Huge Cabret by Brian Selznick and How to Be an Explorer of the World by Keri Smith.

I was lucky enough to not only get Harry Potter: Page to Screen, but I also found a perfect place for it! I was afraid for a moment I'd have nowhere to put this beautiful (and very big) book, but there is just enough room on top of one of my shelves. I'm really looking forward to reading and reviewing this monstrous book!

These magnetic bookmarks from my stocking are perfect for me! I also got a Deathly Hallows bookmark, Harry Potter Ultimate Edition DVD's for 4 and 5, a Keep Calm and Carry On mug, chocolates, a wallet, a memory card, a lock for my suitcase and some gift certificates. 

I hope everyone is having a wonderful Christmas, and feel free to post the link to you own IMM in the comments. 

Merry Christmas!

It's Christmas Eve and I decided to do my first non-book related post! As it's Christmas, I thought it would be fun to blog about what my family does for Christmas and hopefully others can comment with their Christmas plans. I really wish my family had some sort of book-related Christmas tradition, like reading A Christmas Carol together, but no such luck. Today is mostly filled with cleaning and cooking and getting ready for tomorrow. Tonight we'll eat appetizers for dinner (mini quiches, cheese tray, finger foods, etc) and then we'll go for a walk and watch It's a Wonderful Life. Tomorrow we get up early and open presents. Then we go to church and afterwards we'll probably spend most of the day relaxing and straightening up a bit. My grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins will come in the mid-afternoon. There are 21 of us in total, which is much smaller than my mom's family. For dinner we have turkey, salmon, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, brusselsprouts, a broccoli casserole, cabage salad, beet salad and rolls. Dessert is mincemeat tarts, cheesecake brownies, Christmas pudding, my aunt's cheesecake and some of my assorted candies and cookies. I'm really hoping to be able to post my IMM tomorrow, but who knows. 
I hope everyone has a great day tomorrow, whether you celebrate Christmas or not, and hopefully there will be a lot of book shaped packages under our trees! 

Review: Knit the Season

Title: Knit the Season (Friday Night Knitting Club #3)
Author: Kate Jacobs
Publisher: Putnam Adult 
Publication Date: November 3rd, 2009
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary

This review contains spoilers for the previous books in the series.

Tis the season to knit and be merry! The Friday Night Knitting Club are back for this festive third instalment. Dakota Walker, the co-owner of the Walker and Daughter knitting store, is now twenty and in school working towards becoming a pastry chef. Christmas is the time for family to come together, but Dakota is offered a prestigious Christmas internship that would mean missing family Christmas in Scotland. While Anita is trying to plan a New Year’s Eve wedding, Catherine is blissfully in love with an Italian widow. KC is enjoying the single life, while Lucie and Darwin struggle with raising their growing families. As the very different members of the knitting club struggle with the many changes occurring as Christmas approaches, they will never forget Georgia Walker, the woman who started everything and brought them all together.

I never wrote a proper review for The Friday Night Knitting Club, which I read a few months ago. I was drawn to the premise, since I like to knit and I enjoy books about people coming together. I also like to fantasise about owning my own shop (books not knitting,) so I was drawn to a novel about a young mother starting a business based on her passion. I thought that it was filled with too many life lessons and heart to heart conversations, and the writing had some flaws. Overall, I would rate it at 2.5 out of 5 stars. I bought the third book in the series (thinking it was the second) because it was on discount and I was looking for a holiday book to read. As Christmas approached, I kept putting off reading Knit the Season. I finally got to it today (December 22nd) and I enjoyed it more than the first book. While I probably should have read Knit Two before reading the third book, it was easy enough to understand what was going on. There was considerably less knitting in this book, and I think we only saw one of the club’s meetings. This book focused mainly on Dakota, with very little focus on KC, Lucie and Dawin. In the first book, Dakota was only 12. While I thought she was spoilt, she was quite young so I felt I couldn’t hold it against her. Now Dakota is 20; only a year younger than me and the same age as my brother. While I might forget what 12 year olds are like, I know what the average 20 year old is like and I thought Dakota was a bit immature and very selfish. Everything had to be about her, and the other characters helped encourage this. The Friday Night Knitting Club is made of several very different women, bonding over a shared passion. Strangely, I didn’t connect to any of the characters. There were ‘Georgia flashbacks’ throughout the book, and they felt awkward and unnecessary. All of that aside, this was a quick read that kept me engaged and wanting to keep reading until the last page. It was fun and I think fans of the series will enjoy this addition. It would actually make a good end to the series, although I’m not sure if the author intends to keep writing about the Walker and Daughter knitting shop or not. As a Christmas book, Knit the Season doesn’t offer anything special, although I did like that it also showed Chanukah celebrations. Knit the Season shows Christmas both in New York and Scotland, which was interesting. Fans of the series will enjoy this festive novel, which shows these friends trying to make the most of their lives, one stitch at a time.


Review: Home for the Holidays (Mother-Daughter Book Club)

Title: Home for the Holidays (Mother Daughter Book Club #5)
Author: Heather Vogel Frederick
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing
Publication Date: October 4th, 2011
Genre: Junior Fiction, Realistic Fiction

As the Christmas season begins in Concord, snowflakes and magic are in the air for the mother-daughter book club. The girls are sophomores in high school and have now been friends for what feels like forever. For the first half of the school year, the club is reading the Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace. They’ve managed to do the impossible: find a series that Emma hasn’t read! This Christmas is bittersweet: none of the girls are going to be home for the holidays this year. Megan and Becca are going on a cruise with their families. Becca’s father has just lost his job, but her family’s pride is stopping them from sharing their troubles with their friends. Cassidy is going back to California, where her family is considering moving. Jess’ ski trip to Switzerland was canceled when she broke her leg, but her and Emma are going to a German lodge in New Hampshire instead. The girls have pledged to always put friends before boys, but they still find themselves feuding due to boy related drama. Becca is jealous of the fact that her longtime crush Zach likes tomboy Cassidy. Megan and Becca turn their efforts to gain the attention of a handsome crewmember into a feud that ruins their Christmas. Emma finds herself distrusting Jess when she seems to get along too well with another boy, despite the fact that she’s dating Emma’s brother. And a secret Santa fiasco does nothing to help their friendships. When many of the girls wish they had stayed home for the holidays, they will have to do their best to try and have the sort of friendship that Betsy and Tacy have.

When I heard that there was going to be a Mother-Daughter Book Club for the holidays, I assumed they would be reading A Christmas Carroll by Charles Dickens. I was completely wrong: the girls are actually reading the ten books in the Betsy-Tacy series. Before reading this, I had only heard of the series from the movie You’ve Got Mail. I’d been meaning to read them, but this book gave me the push I needed to go directly to the library and take out Betsy-Tacy. I read Home for the Holidays with no knowledge of the books they were reading, but that didn’t lessen my enjoyment of the novel. They book club discussion isn’t too sophisticated, so you can follow it with no prior knowledge of Betsy-Tacy. While in Pies & Prejudice it could be annoying to be told these facts about Jane Austen that I already knew, this time around it was entirely new information and I ate it up. This book starts at Thanksgiving and ends at New Year’s. It is the first book in the series to be told from Becca’s perspective as well. Becca is the newest member of the book club and a former queen bee. She bullied Emma in middle school, but their relationship has improved since then, although the girls still call her their frenemy. One of the discussion questions at the end of the book is whether Becca being one of the narrators changed your opinion of her. To be honest, I’ve only read Pies & Prejudice and Becca didn’t have a large role in that book. However, I knew a lot of girls like Becca when I was fifteen or so, and I thought she was realistic, if a bit unlikable at times. The other girls are much the same as ever. What I like most about this group of girls as that instead of sitting by passively they make things happen, especially when a friend is going through a tough time. They are all very driven girls who have found their passions, despite how young they are. These books are mainly character driven and don’t have a plot that’s easy to describe: the story is mainly about their relationships with each other, with boys and with their families. Although you wouldn’t guess it from reading the description, I find these books hard to put down and I practically devour them. Home for the Holidays captured the holidays perfectly, with help from references to the Betsy-Tacy books. I love the holiday traditions the girls start based on the books. It was a great addition to the series and I wish more than ever that these books were around in my younger years. I need to read the earlier books in the series. Nothing is better than reading about girls who love books as much as I do!


Bookish Gifts For the Lover of Everything Christmas

Jingle bells, mistletoe, Santa Claus and snow.... Some people are crazy about Christmas. While they might have more ornaments and ceramic Santas than one person can ever need, there's still something you can give your holiday loving friend that will make them merry and bright.

1. Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan 
Dash just isn’t a Christmas person. This year, he’s managed to take advantage of his parents’ divorce by telling each of them he’s spending the holidays with the other, so he can be alone. Among the bookshelves of the Strand in New York, Dash finds a red moleskine notebook challenging him to a series of dares. Lily, the owner of the notebook, loves everything Christmas and even organized her own choir group. The notebook was her brother’s idea, in efforts to find her the perfect guy. As Dash and Lily get to know each other through writing in the notebook, they embark on an adventure throughout Manhattan. Although there is undeniably a special magic between the two of them on paper, what will happen when they actually meet? Is meeting worth the risk, or should they keep things on the page? Full review here.

2. Let it Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle
It’s the night before Christmas and Gracetown is hit by a snowstorm. Jubilee is sent to her Grandparent’s house in Florida when her parents are arrested at a sale for pieces of a Christmas village. When the snowstorm causes Jubilee’s train to break down, she takes refuge at a waffle house with other passengers, and ends up spending Christmas with the perfect stranger. Tobin and his friends intended to spend Christmas Eve watching James Bond movies, but instead rush to the waffle house for the chance to spend the snowstorm with some stranded cheerleaders. Meanwhile, Addie just wants to get back together with her ex-boyfriend Jeb and finds herself searching town for a friend’s teacup pig. When the world becomes a winter wonderland, new love and second chances seem to be in the air. Full review here.

3. The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Holidays by Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht
You better watch out, because Santa Claus is coming to town and there are a million things that could go wrong. What if the tree falls down or someone gets mistletoe poisoning? And what are you supposed to do if there's no one to kiss on New Year's Eve? This is the book to help get you through the holidays scar free! From extinguishing a burnt turkey to stopping a runaway one-horse sleigh, The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook will help you know what to do no matter what happens. 

4. Letters From Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien 
Most children write letters to Father Christmas, but John, Michael, Christopher and Priscilla Tolkien were fortunate enough to receive many letters in return. Between 1920 and 1943, J.R.R. Tolkien would write letters to his children from Father Christmas. Father Christmas recounts stories to the children, including the misadventures of the North Polar Bear. From falling through Father Christmas’ roof, to setting off the Northern Lights that shatter the moon into four pieces, the North Polar Bear is always getting into trouble. Throughout the years, the North Pole goes through a goblin war and experiences some wartime difficulties all while preparing presents for children everywhere. Full review here.

5. Dave Cooks the Turkey by Stuart McLean 
When Dave promises his wife Morley that he will take care of the Christmas turkey that year, he doesn't fully understand what that entails. It's not until he's in bed on Christmas Eve that Dave realizes taking care of the turkey meant buying it as well. From one disaster to another, Dave barely manages to put a grade B turkey on the table for his family. This is a very funny short story by CBC radio's Stuart McLean which is told every year on his radio show, The Vinyl Cafe. It is his most popular story, and even a Christmas tradition for some families. 

Review: A Christmas Carol

Title: A Christmas Carol
Author: Charles Dickens
Publisher: Puffin Classics
Publication Date: 1843
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy

Ebenezer Scrooge only loves one thing, and that’s money. He hates anything that brings cheer and happiness to others, so he naturally despises the whole Christmas season. One Christmas Eve, Scrooge is visited by his dead partner, Jacob Marley. Marley has been dead for years and was just as selfish as Scrooge. His spirit is now forced to wander the earth in chains, and has come to warn Scrooge that the same fate awaits him if he continues living the way he has been. Three spirits are going to visit Scrooge: the ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Yet to Come. As Scrooge is given the chance to wander through his past and future, he comes to see himself in the same way that others see him.

If you’re going to read one holiday related book this Christmas, then make it A Christmas Carol. I’m quite certain that everyone is familiar with this story. Even if you haven’t seen the film, so many TV shows have done A Christmas Carol themed episodes that everyone knows the tale of Scrooge and the three ghosts. Like most people, I am very familiar with the plot and have seen many adaptations, from Mickey Mouse to Doctor Who. Because of this, it didn’t hit me until midway through how original and genius the idea behind this story is. I’ve seen so many retellings that I momentarily forgot that someone actually dreamed this story up. I love the style of narration, the plot, the overall message and how the story presents the festivity of Christmas. This novella is an allegory about poverty in Victorian London, with the infamous Scrooge representing the greed of the rich. A Christmas Carol is very short and could be a good introduction to Charles Dickens. While it’s not his best work, it does capture a lot of the great things about his writing, while being short and easy to understand. As a Christmas story, this is as good as it gets. There are so many retellings for a reason: A Christmas Carol is a timeless story that captures the spirit of the holidays. No matter how many movie adaptations you’ve seen, the book has a special magic that will make you feel like you’re learning of Scrooge’s redemption for the first time.


“There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.”

Review: Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares

Title: Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares
Author: Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
Publisher: Ember
Publication Date: October 26th, 2010
Genre: YA, Realistic Fiction

Dash just isn’t a Christmas person. This year, he’s managed to take advantage of his parents’ divorce by telling each of them he’s spending the holidays with the other, so he can be alone. Among the bookshelves of the Strand in New York, Dash finds a red moleskine notebook challenging him to a series of dares. Lily, the owner of the notebook, loves everything Christmas and even organized her own choir group. The notebook was her brother’s idea, in efforts to find her the perfect guy. As Dash and Lily get to know each other through writing in the notebook, they embark on an adventure throughout Manhattan. Although there is undeniably a special magic between the two of them on paper, what will happen when they actually meet? Is meeting worth the risk, or should they keep things on the page?

I love Christmas so much and there doesn’t seem to be enough YA books about the winter holidays. Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares is a YA Christmas book, and that was what lead me to picking it up. This is Rachel Cohn and David Levithan’s third book together. I loved Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist but wasn’t so keen on Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List. All of their three books share a New York setting and feature alternating narrators. I wasn’t sure what to expect with Dash and Lily, since Naomi and Ely was a let down for me. At first, I couldn’t stand Dash’s pretentious narration. However, the interesting concept kept me reading. I’m not sure if I got used to Dash’s snobbery or if it was toned down later, but he stopped bothering me as I kept reading. Midway through, I thought Dash was alright, and while Lily would be perfect for him, I didn’t think he’d be perfect for her. By the end, I could look past his snarly demeanor and love him for his loyalty. I liked Lily from the start, but had this nagging feeling that she was exactly like someone I used to know. Someone who also likes Salinger, singing Christmas carols and wearing beat up chucks and thick black glasses. Someone who acts just like her…. Then it hit me: Lily reminds me of me at sixteen. For this reason, I really took to her and loved the chapters from her perspective. The story was fun and original. While Lily originally leaves the notebook beside a copy of Franny and Zooey with a scavenger hunt for the finder, later Dash and Lily pass the notebook back and forth while giving clues to where the other person should leave it. Their dares take them throughout New York City, and I thought the writers fully utilized an amazing setting. It made me want to visit New York at Christmas (and the Strand!) The plot may not sound that interesting, but the way it was carried out was perfect. There were times when I actually laughed out loud (code crimson) and there were so many adorable parts. This book captured the magic of Christmas and made me forget that it was still fall when I read it.

Christmas festiveness? Check. Great setting? Check. An entertaining and engaging plot? Check. Adventure, fun characters and some mild flirtation through a notebook? Check, check, check. Despite a few minor annoyances in the beginning, I loved this book. Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares was an amazing holiday read that left me smiling.


“It's only a game if there is an absence of meaning. And we've already gone too far for that.”

Bookish Stocking Stuffers

Any book lover will be happy to find any of these gifts in their stocking Christmas morning, or to receive them as a Secret Santa gift.

1. Magnetic Poetry I'm not going to lie, I stole this idea right out of The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. In the book, Charlie and his friends do the version of Secret Santa where you receive a small gift every day for a week. Charlie receives a number of things, including magnetic poetry. Fun for writers and readers alike! They also have magnetic poetry for early readersShakespeare loversromantics and cat lovers. The romance version was very popular in residence when I was in school.

2. Wooden Cat Bookmark Bookmarks are probably the most obvious small present for readers. You can never have too many, they're useful and (usually) very cute!

3. Desktop Notepad This very cute notepad will make your work desk neat and nice looking.

4. Moustache Paperclips Is it just me or are moustaches very popular lately? These paperclips are cute and practical!

5. Magnetic Bookmarks There are enough of these little clip on magnetic bookmarks that it will be difficult to lose them all. There is also a different version here.  

6. Thumb Thing for Reading This handy little thumb thing helps you read more comfortably, and hold your book with one hand.

7. Pocket Moleskines I love these! I carry one with me wherever I go, just in case I think of something clever on the bus. They come with two in slightly different shades in the same colour.

In My Mailbox (18)

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 all the books I have are travel books from my library! I'm going to New York the week of January 9th. I'm planning to go to The Strand, Books of Wonder and John Green's book signing, as well as all the normal tourist things. I have Frommer's New York City 2012, Let's Go New York City on a Budget, The Rough Guide to New York City and Fodor's New York City 2012. I'm really nervous, since I get lost very easily and I've never traveled alone. 

What was in your mailbox this week?

Bookish Gifts For the Pre-Teen

Kids who are middle school age can be tricky to buy for. Here are some books for the ones who love to read and for the ones that (usually) don't.

1. The Mysterious Benedict Society Box-set by Trenton Lee Stewart
When Reynie Muldroon sees a newspaper advertisement looking for gifted children, he is one of the many children who take a series of challenging tests to determine if they have what it takes. In the end, Reynie is one of the four children selected, along with Sticky, Kate and Constance. Mr. Benedict created the tests to find capable children who are willing to help him save the world. The foursome will have to go under cover at The Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened to stop the scheming Mr. Curtain. As the four children encounter the unimaginable evil taking place at The Leaning Institute, they will have to rely on one another and their own special talents to save the day. Thus begins The Mysterious Benedict Society series. The series is told in three books: The Mysterious Benedict SocietyThe Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey and The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma.

2. The Invention of Hugo Cabret  by Brian Selznick 
Read the book than watch the movie! From Goodreads: "Orphan Hugo Cabret lives in a wall. His secret home is etched out in the crevices of a busy Paris train station. Part-time clock keeper, part-time thief, he leads a life of quiet routine until he gets involved with an eccentric, bookish young girl and an angry old man who runs a toy booth in the station. The Invention of Hugo Cabret unfolds its cryptic, magical story in a format that blends elements of picture book, novel, graphic novel, and film. Caldecott Honor-winning author-illustrator Brian Selznick has fashioned an intricate puzzle story that binds the reader like a mesmerist's spell."

When Miss Penelope Lumley graduates from Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females, she immediately applies for a position as a governess at Ashton Place. When the advertisement specifies that “experience with animals is strongly preferred,” Penelope assumes that the children have ponies, or another sort of animal. Instead, she is greeted by the three children that Lord Ashton found in the forest. The children appear to have been raised by wolves, and are now the Ashton foster children. Named Alexander, Beowulf and Cassiopeia Incorrigible, the children enjoy chasing squirrels, baying at the moon and climbing trees. Though Miss Lumley knows she has her work set out for her, she sets out at once to teach the children language, poetry, etiquette and mathematics. After considerable improvement, the children must prepare for Lady Constance’s Christmas dinner party. How will children who act like animals be able to act maturely at a respectable gathering? As Miss Lumley attempts to raise the three Incorrigible children, she also tries to understand the many mysteries of Ashton Place. Full review here.

4. Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver
Liesl has been locked in her attic bedroom by her stepmother ever since her father became ill months ago. A few days after his death, Liesl encounters a ghost in her bedroom. The ghost, Po, is neither male nor female and both at the same time. When Po goes to the Other Side to look for Liesl’s father, he learns that he doesn’t feel he will be able to move to the Beyond until his ashes are scattered with his wife’s. Liesl and Po set out to bring the box holding his ashes to the house where Liesl grew up. Meanwhile, Will, the Alchemist’s apprentice, is making an important delivery and accidentally misplaces the most important magic in the world. The Alchemist has created a complicated spell that involved bottling the sun. Due to his magic, the whole world is a dull grey colour. Will’s mistake leads him to join Liesl and Po in their quest. As the children and the ghost set out to help Liesl’s father move on, they inadvertently bring colour back to their world. Full review here

These beautiful clothbound hardcovers are a great addition to a growing library. These editions are available for Peter Pan, Anne of Green Gables, The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Wind in the Willows, The Secret Garden, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Black Beauty and The Call of the Wild. 

Bookish Gifts For Nerds, Geeks, Fanboys and Fangirls

Whether you know a full time or casual nerd, there’s always something for their geeky soul.

1. Geek Wisdom: The Sacred Teachings of Nerd Culture edited by Stephen H. Segal This book features clever explanations of popular quotes loved by nerds everywhere. From Goodreads: "Geek Wisdom takes as gospel some 200 of the most powerful and oft-cited quotes from movies (“Where we’re going, we don’t need roads”), television (“Now we know—and knowing is half the battle”), literature (“All that is gold does not glitter”), games, science, the Internet, and more. Now these beloved pearls of modern-day culture have been painstakingly interpreted by a diverse team of hardcore nerds with their imaginations turned up to 11. Yes, this collection of mini-essays is by, for, and about geeks—but it’s just so surprisingly profound, the rest of us would have to be dorks not to read it. So say we all."

2. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green This is John Green's most often overlooked book, and also the nerdiest. With math equations, tons of interesting facts and a boy genius as the protagonist, An Abundance of Katherines is a must read for anyone slightly geeky. Colin Singleton has only ever dated girls named Katherine. And he has always been dumped by each Katherine he dated, nineteen times in total. After graduation and his nineteenth breakup, Colin and his best friend embark on a roadtrip where they go on a detour to see the grave of Franz Ferdinand and end up finding jobs. Colin is trying to make a theorem that will predict the outcome of any relationship. Can romantic relationships be broken down into a mathematical formula and is Colin destined to always be the dumpee? 

3. The Geek’s Guide to World Domination by Garth Sundam Written for lovers of trivia. From Goodreads: "Finally, here’s the book no self-respecting geek can live without–a guide jam-packed with 314.1516 short entries both useful and fun. Science, pop-culture trivia, paper airplanes, and pure geekish nostalgia coexist as happily in these pages as they do in their natural habitat of the geek brain."

4. Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd edited by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci Illustrated by Bryan Lee O’Malley, this book includes short stories written by Cassandra Clare, John Green, Libba Bray, Scott Westerfeld and David Levithan. From Goodreads: "Acclaimed authors Holly Black (Ironside) and Cecil Castellucci (Boy Proof) have united in geekdom to edit short stories from some of the best selling and most promising geeks in young adult literature: M.T. Anderson, Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, John Green, Tracy Lynn, Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith, David Levithan, Kelly Link, Barry Lyga, Wendy Mass, Garth Nix, Scott Westerfield, Lisa Yee, and Sara Zarr.With illustrated interstitials from comic book artists Hope Larson and Bryan Lee O'Malley, Geektastic covers all things geeky, from Klingons and Jedi Knights to fan fiction, theater geeks, and cosplayers. Whether you're a former, current, or future geek, or if you just want to get in touch with your inner geek, Geektastic will help you get your geek on!"

4. The Scott Pilgrim Series by Bryan Lee O'Malley Videogame and comic references galore! Plus, lots of epic battles. You can buy the first book, Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life, here or splurge on the full series here. As the series starts, twenty-three year old Scott Pilgrim’s life is pretty awesome. He lives in Toronto with his roommate, Wallace Wells, and he’s currently in-between jobs. Scott spends his time playing bass in his band, shopping at goodwill, playing video games and listening to music. Scott is also dating Knives Chau, who is only seventeen. Things become complicated when he meets Ramona Flowers, who is literally the girl of his dreams. Cool and mysterious, Ramona is the opposite of Knives, and Scott can’t stay away. Unfortunately, if Scott wants to date Ramona he will have to defeat her seven evil ex-boyfriends. Will Scott, the ultimate slacker, be able to fight to be with the girl he loves? Full reviews for  volume one,  volume two, volume three, volume four, volume five and volume six.

5. Star Wars Moleskines From Chapters.ca: "The Star Wars saga has furnished Moleskine with fantastic material to commemorate both sides of the Force: memorable quotes, Space-scapes, and battle scenes."

Review: Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour

Title: Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour (Scott Pilgrim #6)
Author: Bryan Lee O’Malley
Publisher: Oni Press
Publication Date: July 20th, 2010
Genre: YA, Graphic Novel

It’s been four months since Ramona left Scott, and all he’s done since then is play video games and sleep all day. As Scott tries to move on and get over Ramona, he learns that Gideon, the man behind the league of evil exes, is in Toronto. Even though Scott and Ramona aren’t technically together anymore, Scott might still have to fight Gideon. Who exactly is Gideon and why did he create the league? And what happened to Ramona? As Scott makes amends with his other ex-girlfriends, it seems that there are things he’s just forgotten. How could that be? Ever since Scott first started Ramona, everything has been building up to the moment Scott fights Gideon. Gideon is the mastermind behind all the evil exes, and defeating him will be the biggest test Scott has yet to face. Will he rise up to the challenge, or could this be game over for Scott Pilgrim?

When I was in grade twelve the word ‘epic’ was very popular. I mean, nearly everyone who signed my yearbook wrote something like ‘These last four years were epic’ or ‘Next year’s going to be epic,’ or ‘Remember that project you did on Oedipus? That was epic.’ Since then, I’ve kind of been hesitant to use the word. It’s used too often, even in times when it’s not applicable. For example, high school was not epic. Now was my project on Oedipus. But Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour is worthy of the word. As the book begins, Scott is doing nothing with his life and moping over Ramona. As he tries to move on by looking for a casual hook-up, he decides that he has to fight for Ramona to earn her back. Thus begins the best fight in the series. The whole fight takes place in Toronto’s new Chaos Theatre (care of Gideon,) although there are different stages to the fight. A lot of answers are revealed about mysteries in the series. As a side note, my copy from the library was stabbed with pencils and had about a dozen pages torn out. I feel like I missed some important things, which was a bummer. I’m pretty sure this was not the volume to miss parts of, but I managed to piece things together with some help from Wikipedia.

The best thing about the book (aside from the final battle) was seeing how some of the characters have grown so much over the past six books. Mainly Knives, who is now 18 and shows more wisdom than Scott. Kim Pine, who has been my favourite from the beginning, is brilliant in this book. She sums up one of the themes of the novel: you can’t simply forget about your mistakes and the things that have hurt you, because how will you ever grow? Ramona has also grown a lot and apologizes for ditching Scott. I would have liked Scott to apologize to Knives, since she was the person he hurt the most. Just dating her in the first place was wrong; it was kind of like he was using her just to have something simple and easy. And of course she was the one who ended up getting hurt. I hope she goes to UBC and forgets all about him. In the past five reviews, I don’t think I’ve touched much on Scott. He’s the hero, but he’s also lazy and self absorbed. He hurt Knives and Kim and he takes advantage of Wallace. While he was very flawed, I still thought he was an overall loveable guy who just needs to grow up. I think that having a guy like Scott as the main character worked well for this series. His cluelessness provided a lot of comic relief and I can’t really imagine Scott being any other way.

Now that I’ve finished the series, I thought it would be a good time to talk about the movie, Scott Pilgrim Vs The World. This movie was my first introduction to the series, and after I finished volume six I re-watched the movie. Is it possible that it’s even better now that I’ve read all the books? The casting was spot on, especially for Kim, Knives, Envy and Julie. I’ve mentioned this before, but I prefer Ramona in the books. This isn’t due to the actress; it’s just that I never got the impression in the film that Ramona really liked Scott. She was too aloof. The movie didn’t quite capture how truly evil Gideon is. Scott Pilgrim Vs the World is an adaptation of all six of the Scott Pilgrim books. While it follows volume one very closely, the other volumes are obviously condensed. The series takes place over a year, while the movie occurs in a few weeks. Things are simplified, but probably for the better. What works in a book doesn’t necessarily work in a movie. I think some of the things they left out would have been confusing in the film, or just outright outrageous. For example, the cryogenically frozen girlfriends would have looked ridiculous in the film. I’ve heard this movie called a ‘hipster film,’ and to be honest, I don’t really know what that means. I think of it as more of a film for nerds. While I loved this movie, it’s not for everyone. I saw it with some friends, and they all thought it was the worst movie they had ever seen. And I saw it again with my brother and his girlfriend, and she fell asleep. I went to see this movie because it takes place in Toronto and Metric did some of the music, but I fell in love with this movie, despite its weirdness. Maybe I’m biased since I saw the movie first, but I thought it was an excellent adaptation.

The final volume of the Scott Pilgrim series was everything I hoped for. It was exciting, funny and full of action and character development. Artistically, this is the best book in the series. Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour is everything that is awesome and nerdy in this world. It truly is an epic of epicness.


“I feel like I’m in this river just getting swept along... And if I hold on to anyone, if I'm holding on for dear life, I'm not getting anywhere. I'm stuck...I never wanted to get stuck.”

#241: Find a Christmas Tree

If Chevy Chase has taught us anything, it's that the best way to begin a Christmas Vacation is by cutting down the perfect tree for the living room.  If you haven't already found the best six-footer in Michiana, no worries.  There's still plenty of opportunities to find a nice tree in the area.  Plus, the forecast of light snow over the weekend will make it the ideal wintry conditions (but not too wintry) whether you're cutting it down yourself or just packing it into the trunk.

Here are a (few) suggestions -- please feel free to comment if you'd like to add your favorite spot!

For the convenience factor and everything but the tree: Buy a pre-cut tree at the Downtown South Bend Tree & Wreath Sale, outside the College Football Hall of Fame.  Keep kids entertained with the Holiday Train, screenings of holiday movies inside the Hall of Fame, and a visit with Santa (and/or the Grinch, if they're being particularly mischievous).  Visit downtownfortheholidays.com for more info.  Note: The sale was extended as of December 8, but selection may be limited.  Cash only.

For the 'out in the country' feel with all the convenience: Head to locally-owned and operated Matthys Farm Market at 57754 Crumstown Highway just west of town.  Fresh-cut Fraser and Douglas fir, Scotch and white pine, $25 and up.  Open from 8:30 - 6 PM weekdays; 8:30 - 5 PM Saturday; closed Sunday.  Call 574.287.1935 or visit matthysfarmmarket.com.

For the free hot chocolate and candy canes: Try Southern Plantation Christmas Tree Farm on 63727 Orange Road for precut and u-cut trees.  They offer a variety of tree types and wreaths, too... and of course, free sugary treats!  Open seven days a week at varying times until 5 PM .  Call 574.289.7485 for exact hours.

If you are willing to head toward Three Oaks, MI, Pinecrest Farms, 4403 Spring Creek Road, off US 12, offers free hot chocolate (and coffee for the grownups), as it does open at 9 AM.  Rides on the horse-drawn wagon are available in the afternoon.  Call 269.545.8125.

For the full woodsman effect: Trek to Gloria's Christmas Trees, 207 E. Bertrand Road (Niles).  You can have any blue spruce you like, from 6 feet to 20 feet (!!) for $25.  Open 9 AM - dark, Friday through Sunday.  Call 269.684.8632 and don't forget the hand saw and the Advil.

For the best swag: Roseland Garden Center on 25 Dixieway S. and Ginger Valley Garden Center off Route 23 in Granger offer a wide selection of fresh garlands, wreaths, and something called the "fancy mix." Probably named after Drake.  U fancy, huh?

Bookish Gifts For Young Readers

While you can have too many toys or stuffed animals, you can never have enough books! And unlike clothes, picture books are harder to outgrow.

1. Little Miss Austen: Pride and Prejudice by Jennifer Adams This counting book is so cute that I want one! Jennifer Adams has also written Little Master Shakespeare, Little Miss Bronte and the upcoming Little Master Carroll. From Goodreads: "With the perennial popularity of classic writers like Jane Austen and William Shakespeare, Baby Lit™ is a fashionable way to introduce your toddler to the world of classic literature. With clever, simple counting text by Jennifer Adams, paired with stylish design and illustrations by Sugar’s Alison Oliver, Little Miss Austen and Little Master Shakespeare are a must for every savvy parent’s nursery library."

2. The Elephants and Piggie Books by Mo Willems
I read at my library with kids ages six to nine, and they all love Elephant and Piggie. Gerald and Piggie couldn't be more different but they're best friends all the same! I love Happy Pig Day the most. It's Pig day and Piggie couldn't be more excited, but Gerald is feeling left out. Luckily, he discovers that Pig Day is for everyone! These books are simple but fun and sweet as well. Mo Willems is also the writer of Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, which I'd also recommend.

3. Home for Christmas by Jan Brett
Rollo is a wild troll who hates doing his tedious chore work. When Rollo decides to run away, he spends time with families of owls, bears, moose and otters. However, nothing can compare to his own family, so Rollo decides to return home for Christmas and learns that nothing is better than family. This book is beautifully illustrated, with a great deal of attention put into the small details. Jan Brett is also the author of The MittenGingerbread BabyThe Wild Christmas Reindeer and (my favourite) Trouble with Trolls.

4. The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories by Dr. Seuss
Seuss scholar Charles Cohen found a buried treasure when he uncovered several lost stories by Dr. Seuss. While some of these stories influenced his later works, they all are unique and witty in a away you can only find in Dr. Seuss' books. These seven stories were written for magazines, so they are all very short. They use the zany rhymes that Seuss is known for. While you may have thought you had read all of Dr. Seuss's books, there is one more that you won't want to miss!

5. The Balloon Tree by Phoebe Gilman
When Princess Leora's father leaves for a tournament in a neighbouring kingdom, he tells her to send balloons into the air if anything goes wrong. When the evil Archduke takes over the kingdom, he locks Leora in a tower and pops all the balloons in the kingdom. When she escapes, she meets a wizard that tells her a spell that will fill the kingdom with balloons if she can find just one. They only problem is, there doesn't seem to be a single balloon left in the entire kingdom! Will Leora be able to find the last balloon so that she can make a balloon tree and save the kingdom?

6. A Porcupine in a Pine Tree: A Canadian 12 Days of Christmas by Helaine Becker
This one is likely only for Canuck kids, I'm afraid. This is the Twelve Days of Christmas with a Canadian twist. From Mounties to the Toronto Maples Leaves, this book captures everything Canadian. With cute illustrations, this is a very funny book and great for the holidays. Alas, I'm not sure if non-Canadians will find this worthwhile.