Waiting on Wednesday (3)

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating

Dreams of Significant Girls, by Cristina Garcia
Release Date: July 12th 2011

Brought together each summer at a boarding school in Switzerland, three girls learn a lot more than just French and European culture. Shirin, an Iranian princess; Ingrid, a German-Canadian eccentric; and Vivien, a Cuban-Jewish New Yorker culinary phenom, are thrown into each other's lives when they become roommates.

This is a story of 3 paths slowly beginning to cross and merge as they spend the year apart, but the summers together. Through navigating the social-cultural shoals of the school, developing their adolescence, and learning the confusing and conflicting legacies of their families' past, Shirin, Ingrid, and Vivien form an unbreakable bond.

This story takes readers on a journey into the lives of very different girls and the bonds that keep them friends.

I love friendship stories, especially between girls (as we are taught so much to compete against each other, and that society perpetuate the stereotype that we all are "frenemies" with each other), and this sounds like such a perfect Summer read. Oh, and yeah for diversity!
(summary from Goodreads)


Thoughts: Unfinished books

I used to never be able to leave a book unfinished (unless it was for school). No matter how boring or infuriating it was, I had to finish it. Looking back, I'm not sure why I was compelled to do so. With time I learned that life is too short and time too precious to spend it on reading books I do not want to read (unless it's for school. Funny how this change as you get older).

There are several reasons why I would decide to abandon a book midway, but I must say first that I always try to give the book a fair chance. I like to read at least half of it before deciding to leave it aside or not. I tend to be very specific about the books I read, and I must admit, not always adventurous, so that it's actually fairly rare that I come across a book that I do not want to finish. Most of the time they are not even bad books, just, you know, not-for-me books. Books that bore me, or books that are dissapointing somehow, have a great chance of being abandon unless they are very short. I haven't come across many books that make me angry, or that I feel insult my intelligence as a (female) human being, but it does happen. Those don't get much of a chance.

Most of the time, though, I leave a book behind when I cannot connect to its characters and/or plot.
Take the book The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May & June (pictured) that I just abandoned. The writing wasn't bad, nor was the plot (although not much had happened yet), but it did annoy me a lot (I could not find anything entertaining in the almost constant banter/fighting between the three sisters). I acknowledge that this was purely personal. There wasn't any big issues like blatant sexism, racism, homophobia, etc. that would make me close the book almost immediately, it was just that it didn't retained my attention. I couldn't care about the charaters or about what happened to them. That said I must say that the author showed real talent in crafting rapid and dynamic dialogues. I would actually even go as far enough as to recommend this book, or at least tell people to try it out.
It therefore made me think a bit about the reasons we choose to finish a book or not. I feel that sometimes, it's not even a choice, I HAVE to finish certain books, that there is no way I am doing anything else before I turn that last page. Those are the best books of all.

So, what about you? Do you finish all of the books you start? What are the reasons you have to continue or stop reading a book?


In My Mailbox (5)

In My Maibox (or IMM) is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren. It enables bloggers to mention the books they have acquired during the week. Read more about it HERE.

This week I broke my book-buying ban. In my defense though, most of them were bargain books, and didn't cost much. And I bought two books by an author that I like, incluging one that I hadn't read before. AND my birthday is this week, so I think I was entitled to some gift-to-myself moments, right? Right. I regret nothing!


  • Rampant, by Diana Peterfreund
    (read. I recommend it for its awesome mythology of killer unicorns and the chosen girls who have to fight them)
  • Black Juice, by Margo Lanagan (short stories)
  • The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie, by Jaclyn Moriarty
  • A Spy in the House (The Agency #1), by Y.S. Lee
    (young girls trained as spies in Victorian London!)
  • The Tales of Beedle the Bard, by J. K. Rowling
    (I actually haven't read this yet, can you believe it?)
  • The Peach Keeper, by Sarah Addison Allen
  • The Girl Who Chased the Moon, by Sarah Addison Allen
    (read & recommended. This author is part of my comfort reading list)
Digital ARC (through netgalley.com):

  • The Near Witch, by Victoria Schwab
    (Thank you to the publishers, Disney-Hyperion!)


Quick Review: Saving Francesca, by Malina Marchetta

The first book I read by Melina MArchetta was Jellicoe Road (click for review). I so loved it that I had to get my hands on her other books. Unfortunately, my local library had just one of them, Saving Francesca. Fortunately, it was so good I didn't mind not being able to read the other ones right away.

Francesca is starting year eleven in a new school that used to be boys only, without any of her old friends and nobody she knows well to support her. On top of that, her lively, energetic mother suddenly cannot get out of bed anymore, and spends her days in her room. Nobody tells Francesca why or what is happening and she feels her world, and family, slowly unravel around her. Used to be passive, and always prefering to keep out of things, Francesca finds that she will have to fight for what she loves, and that more people than she thinks will love her back, unconditionally.

I do not know how Melina Marchetta does it, but I found myself three-quarters in this novel, with no real idea how I got there, and what exactly had happened besides the daily routines of the characters, but knowing that things had changed, things had moved, and I could not stop reading without knowing how it ended. There is a point where I realized I loved those characters, even the small unimportant ones. It just creeped up on me and suddenly I was in love, which I think is a testament to the author's storytelling skills. This book also explores really well what it is like to be a child with a parent who suffers from depression. I know, I've been there. And while it is different for everybody, each family being unique in its own way, there is an understanding of the confusion and pain that comes with something like this, which made me connect (and cry) with the story. That said, it is so clearly written, that anybody would or could understand what Francesca is going through, or at least empathize. It's a book about friendship, love and family and the things, however small, that bind us together. I am really looking forward to any other book by this author.


Review: The False Princess, by Eilis O'Neal

I came across this book while browsing possible debut novel for the Debut Author Challenge. I thought the story sounded interesting and it reminded me of a teenage version of some of Gail Carson Levine's books.  And beside there is so much YA paranormal these days, that I will almost jumped on any YA Fantasy book I can get my hands on that sounds remotely decent. Fortunately, this book was more than decent, and I am quite happy I took the chance of buying it without knowing much abou it.

Nalia, crown princess of Thorvaldor, learns on her sixteenth birthday that she is really Sinda, a poor peasant girl who was raised as the princess due to a prophecy that said there was a great chance of an attack on the princess' life before she was sixteen. The King and the Queen, worried for their childs's life, agreed on a plan in which the real princess would be hidden for sixteen years, while another girl, born around the same time, would take her place. Now Sinda is sent to her aunt's house in the countryside, far from everything she has ever known. Unable to adapt to her new life (not for lack of trying) and with the discovery of magical talents that has laid latent inside of her for all these years, she makes her way back to the city in hope of becoming a wizard. To her dismay, she soon discover a plot to usurp the throne from the rightful princess. Sinda, with the help of her best friend Kiernan, who never deserted her, is now in a race against the clock to discover who the conspirators are, and stop them before it's too late.

I must say, I thoroughly liked this book. It was was really well paced, the plot constantly moving forward with hardly any slower parts. The plot istself was intricate, but still simple to follow. The characters were, in general, endearing and fun. Sinda was a good protagonist, I enjoyed seeing her grow through the novel. She genuinely tries to adapt to her poor life once outside the castle. Sinda wants more than anything to figure out what and who she is, she wants to prove to herself and the people around her that she can be somebody even if she isn't a princess anymore. After all, how does one cope with being a princess and the future Queen, one moment, and a nobody the next? Sinda is constantly plagued by self-doubt, constantly questioning herself and how people see her, which at times can become a bit annoying. But the beauty of her is that she always rise up to the occasion in the end. I found myself liking the other characters as well, especially Kiernan, the real princess and  Philanthra, the wizard who takes her on as her scribe. The False Princess is the story of a girl and her growth, of love and loyalty. Thre wasn't any "wow" moment for me, but it was a solid first novel, a quick read, and quite enjoyable at that. I look forward to more from this author.
For fans of Gail Carson Levine and Robin McKinley.

Waiting on Wednesday (2)

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making, by Catherynne M. Valente
Release Date: May 10th 2011

Twelve-year-old September lives in Omaha, and used to have an ordinary life, until her father went to war and her mother went to work. One day, September is met at her kitchen window by a Green Wind (taking the form of a gentleman in a green jacket), who invites her on an adventure, implying that her help is needed in Fairyland. The new Marquess is unpredictable and fickle, and also not much older than September. Only September can retrieve a talisman the Marquess wants from the enchanted woods, and if she doesn’t . . . then the Marquess will make life impossible for the inhabitants of Fairyland. September is already making new friends, including a book-loving Wyvern and a mysterious boy named Saturday.  With exquisite illustrations by acclaimed artist Ana Juan, Fairyland lives up to the sensation it created when the author first posted it online. For readers of all ages who love the charm of Alice in Wonderland and the soul of The Golden Compass, here is a reading experience unto itself: unforgettable, and so very beautiful.

I absolutely ADORE Ms. Valente's books. They are so full of magic, fantasy, foltales and adventures and everything I adore about books and fiction. This novel was once available online and I missed it, so I am absolutely thrilled, and I cannot wait, for it to come out in print.
(summary from Goodreads)


Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Bookish Pet Peeves

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hoste by The Broke and the Bookish. Each week a new theme is given.

This week the is : BOOKISH PET PEEVES

Now I know we all have those, me included, and I will try to make this list not only about YA romantic stories/plots, because I think I could make a list just with that.

1. Elitist Readers.
People who think there is one kind of literature better than others. That look down on people who read genre literature, or young adult and children fiction, or romance novels, etc. In my opinion reading is good. Sharing is good. And it doesn't matter what kind of book you read, as long as you read and enjoy yourself, or find refuge in words. There is something comforting, reassuring, enlightening, and life-changing in words and stories and it should never matter how or where you find that comfort. This goes as well for people who look down on comic books, saying they are not "real" books. I love comics. Comics are awesome and works of art, and if you like them, good for you. (and comment and tell me which ones are your favourites because I am looking for new ones to read)

2. Obvious foreshadowing
I am so so annoyed when authors use too much foreshadowing in a book. Or when the foreshadowing reveals plot twists or events. Things like: "Little did he know, that he would never see her again" or " She would learn the meaning of all this before the night was over". Don't tell me things in advance, just tell me the story. Foreshadowing, in my opinion, can be well done only if the novel is told in a fist-person point-of-view, where the narraotor is telling things that happened to him/her in the past. Foreshadowing can then feel more like a discussion you're having with the narrator. And even then it's hard for me not to find it slightly annoying.

3. Love at fist sight.
Especially in YA books. It's not believable. At all. And it takes away the complexities of feelings that come with falling in love and the insecurities that come with it. In the same vein, characters that fall in love too fast are also not very believable. When your main characters have only known each other for a few days or weeks, they cannot suddenly think that the other person is the love of their life. It makes them look silly, immature, annoying and fake. And it feels like laziness from the author.

4. Whitewashing YA covers
This applies to YA novels that have protagonists of color. Too often the covers of these novels will show a girl or a boy that do not fit the race or ethnicity of the protagonist. Too often they will be white. Publishers have all kinds of reasons for doing this, none of them good, none of them understandable. This needs to stop.
In the same vein I wish there were more characters of color in YA fiction, especially in genre like paranormal romance, because it seems, these days, that only white people can be/fall in love with vampires or werewolves or fairies.

5. Abusive boyfriends pegged as "best boyfriends in the world"
The title says it all. I am sick and tired of all those unhealthy, abusive relationships in YA romance. It is not good, nor roamntic, when your boyfriend stalks you, or tries to tell you what to do or not to do, pushes you away to make you feel guilty, or any other kind of emotional manipulation. It is not romantic, it is not healthy, and it certainly isn't love.

6. Too many brands.
To drop brand names once in a while IF it is important to the plot, is okay. But I am really annoyed when it is done obviously to try and seem "cool" or in touch with the times. It is also highly distracting. Things like: "she way typing her paper on her Macbook Pro" instead of  "she was typing her paper on her laptop". Unless in the next sentences someone shows up to have an argument about PCs versus Macs that is part of the plot, there is just no need for it. It's like product placement in TV shows and movies.

7. Romantic plot taking over otherwise non-romantic novel
It seems like we cannot have YA books without a romantic plot line, which I have accepted even if I don't like it. But there is a difference between reading a romance novel and reading an adventure story, or a dystopian novel, etc. And when the romantic plot and conflict takes over the plot of these books, I really want to bang my head on the walls.

8. Too many hot guys in YA fiction
You know what makes me roll my eyes? when I read the back cover of a YA book to learn about the story and that inevitably the main male character is described as: mysterious, hot, handsome, dark, intriguing, gorgeous, etc. They are always the most gorgeous guys alive! How? Why? Why is this necessary? I have no idea. It's like they think I wouldn't want to read the book, if I am not absolutely certain that the male love interest will be a hottie. Just like I would never go see a movie where the actors are not handsome, right? And on top of that, they tend to make the female protagonists "plain", because they want the readers to identify with her, but of course she is almost never really plain, and even if she is, she will absolutely attract the most gorgeous boy in the school. Because that's how life works. I want plain boys, and fat girls and geeky characters that do not know how to dress and might have a few pimples, but have hearts of gold and courage coming out of their ears. Something a bit different for once.

9. Out-of-character actions to further the plot
When authors make one of their characters do something obviously out-of-character without reasonable explanation as a way to introduce a plot twist or further the plot in any way. That's just lazy or poor storytelling. Or both.

10. Unnecessary epilogues
Epilogues set a few years in the future showing what the characters have become without it having anything to do really with the main plot of the book or the series. Even more frustrating is when this epilogue wraps eveybody's lives in perfect marriages and children and sweet nuclear families with nobody single or in a same-sex relationship. And it absolutely brings nothing to the actual story, and feels more like fan service than anything else. I'm looking at you Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and possibly Mockinjay.


Monday 10: Of Aussie Young Adult Books & Authors

Monday 10 is a weekly post where I share a list of 10 bookish items based on a theme, subject, idea, fancy, etc.
Every reader and blogger is also invited to participate and make their own list. It doesn't have to have the same theme, it just needs to pertain to books!
If you do make your own list and post it to your blog, share the link in the comments. Or if you prefer write your own list in the comments!
Note: I put 3 asterisks beside the titles I have read and recommnend. Ihave not read all of the books I put in these lists, so be sure to check them all out!

Almost all of the contemporary fiction I've been reading in the past few months has been written by Autralian authors, so I thought I would make this Monday's list about them and their books. The title links lead to their respective goodreads page, the author links lead to their personal website.

* 10 YA books by 10 Australian authors *
Happy Monday!


Quick Review: Book of a Throusand Days, by Shannon Hale

I love Shannon Hale's books, and I've been slowly making my way through them, and so it was only natural to grab the copy of Book of a Thousand Days my local library has.

Book of a Thousand Days is a retelling of a little-know fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm called "Maid Maleen" (you can read the online annotated tale HERE) and tells the story of Dashti, a maid, and her mistress Saren, who are locked away in a tower for seven years, and their adventures after through the land of The Eight Realms.

This book is a quick and simple read for middle-grade readers, but would still please many who are older. What I like a lot about Shannon Hale's books, is her ability to quickly build worlds without lengthy descriptions, that come to life and feal real, full of magic and cultural details. This book is set in an imagined land inspired by Central Asia, especially Mongolia, and revolves mostly around two of the eight realms of this land. Dashti, the narrator, is also what they call a mucker, people from the steppes, whose culture is full of healing songs and lyrics, that she uses throughout the book. I could really believe in her roots and the land she inhabited. I could see these cities and believe in their Gods and Goddesses. The book is told in diary form, from Dashti's point of view, and her voice is simple (sometimes too simple), but often engaging. It's a tale of survival and love and mystery, but mostly it is a tale of loyalty. Saren is not an easy mistress, she is fragile and broken and fearful, refusing to do many things, prone to crying and shaking. She is wounded by something, and it is only toward the end of the book that we understand why. But always Dahsti cares for her, sing to her, and protects her.
I cared about the story, but I must say it took me a while to care about the characters, especially Dashti. She was brave and honorable, but too complient at the beginning (which is understandable from a servant, but still). She did eventually raised up to her full potential and I was literally cheering for her at the conclusion and climax of the story. In the end, though, I just wanted more. More details, more adventures, more substance. But this is a middle-grade book, more similar to Shannon Hale's Princess Academy, than her Books of Bayern series. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it a lot, and had great time reading it.


Waiting on Wednesday (1)

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs
Release Date: July 7th 2011
  A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. And a strange collection of very curious photographs. It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children who once lived here—one of whom was his own grandfather—were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a desolate island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.

I am absolutely fascinated by the promise of this book and its mix of fiction and photography. It sounds so creepy as well, especially with that cover. I am very curious and can't wait to see what it looks like!
(summary from Goodreads)

Review: The Betrayal of Maggie Blair, by Elizabeth Laird

This is a review of a Digital ARC, provided by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt through netgalley.com

I generally do not read a lot of historical novels unless there are some element of fantasy as well, but I do enjoy stories taking place during certain eras and/or events. I am also a bit fascinated by the witch hunts and trials that happened in Europe and New England during the 17th century and this is precisely why I requested this book and was very interested in reading it.

The novel tells the story of sixteen-year old Maggie Blair who lives with her very angry and spiteful grandmother on the island of Bute in seventeenth-century Scotland. The first third of the novel deals with her life on the island, the tensions between the inhabitants and her grandmother and the subsequent accusations of witchcraft. Maggie finds herslef accused and sentenced to death and is forced to flea the island. She takes refuge in her uncle's house on the mainland. There she thinks she can finally lead a peaceful life, but trouble seems to follow her. Her uncle Hugh is a Covenanter, a group of Scottish men and women who want a church free of the King's rule. By refusing to akcnowledge the King as the head of the Church and to attend any services lead by any royal-appointed bishop, they were soon fined, persecuted and even executed. Maggie finds herself more and more involved, never sure where she stands in her beliefs, but still willing to risk her own life to save her uncle and his family.

The Betrayal of Maggie Blair is, in my opinion, a fascinating YA historical novel. This was partly due, I must admit, to my total ignorance of the history of the Covenanters (presbyterians) in Scotland, and I was so happy to learn more about the subject. I thought the book was a bit too long, though. It's hard to say why as I look back on it, because the story always moved forward, there rarely were any idle moments or unnecessary long descriptions. It did cover a lot of time and events, from Maggie's life on the island, to her life with her uncle, to her quest to help him, and back. But I must say that I was immerse in it nonetheless, I read it relatively fast, and I absolutely needed to know how it would finish. There is no love story in this novel (what a change!) and is purely the story of a girl's journey and of a specific period in Scotlnad's history.

There was a disconnect between the first and second part of the book. While both dealt with religious persecutions of two different kinds, one born of hatred, ignorance and fear, the other out of power and control, plot-wise they felt almost unrelated. Maggie could have had any other reason to see her uncle without having to flea due to false accusations of witchcraft. The only connection between the two parts was the character of Maggie herself and her emotional and psychological growth spurred by all of these events. As a protagonist Maggie is well developed, starting as an uneducated, fearful and slowly developing into a smart and braver young women. Her growing process was slow and sometimes frustrating, but it felt true at the same time. I sometimes wanted her to be more proactive, more outspoken, just more, but then I realized I was comparing her to all those fantasy heroines I like, not to what a seventeenth-century Scottish girl would be. Once I realized my mistake, I was able to appreciate her more. In the end, I liked this book and it did make me want to maybe pick up more historical novels in the future.

This book will be published April 18th 2011. See the Goodreads page, to add it to your to-read list!


Monday 10: Of Witch Trials

Monday 10 is a weekly post where I share a list of 10 bookish items based on a theme, subject, idea, fancy, etc.
Every reader and blogger is also invited to participate and make their own list. It doesn't have to have the same theme, it just needs to pertain to books!
If you do make your own list and post it to your blog, share the link in the comments. Or if you prefer write your own list in the comments!
Note: I put 3 asterisks beside the titles I have read and recommnend. Ihave not read all of the books I put in these lists, so be sure to check them all out!

Since I'm currently reading a book about a girl on the run because she was falsely accused of witchcraft in 17th century Scotland, I thought that I would make a list of 10 books relating to this matter. A lot of them take place in New england, specifically at the Salem with trials.

* 10 Books about witch trials *
Happy Monday!


In My Mailbox (4)

In My Maibox (or IMM) is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren. It enables bloggers to mention the books they have acquired during the week. Read more about it HERE.

This week I've only borrowed books from the library as I am trying to maintain a book-buying ban I imposed on myself. Not the easiest thing to do for someone like me :)

From the Library:

  • Afterimage, by Helen Humphreys
  • Book of a Thousand Days, by Shannon Hale
  • Saving Francesca, by Melina Marchetta
  • Wicked Girls: A Novel of the Salem Witch Trials, by Stephanie Hemphill
  • The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson
  • Guardian of the Gate (Prophecy of the Sisters #2), by Michelle Zink


Thoughts: Literary Sisters

Last year,  Angie of Angieville made a post called Literary Sisters which ispired me to make my own list of favourite literary sisters. I first posted it on listography, but I thought it would be nice to share here as well, now that I have a book blog of my own.

I do not have any sister myself and have always been a bit fascinated by the realtionship of sisters in books, sometimes good, sometimes bad, sometimes very complicated, but almost always fascinating. Here are some of my favourites.

The Penderwick sisters: Rosalind, Skye, Jane & Batty

First I must say, that I am absolutely in love with The Penderwicks books by Jeanne Birdsall. The third one is coming out this summer and it is one of my most awaited book of the year. They are joyous and touching and fun middle-grade books with plenty of adventures, fun, and endearing characters.

What I love about the Penderwicks sisters is that they are complicated little girls that avoid clichés and refuse to be put in little boxes. For example, Jane is the artist, she is dramatic and loves to write stories, which normally would mean that she would hate science and sports or something along those lines, as the clichés go, but no, she is a mean soccer player as well. They are all different from each other but totally dedicated to each other as well. They each have their own personality and still work well as a unit, and what fun it is to see them grow and change.

The March sisters: Jo, Amy, Beth & Meg

To be honest I probably fell in love with them because of the movie first, as it was one of my favourite when I was younger and still is, but my love for them didn't decrease once I got to the book. Jo and Beth, especially, I've always loved more than the others. I love how they balance each other, being complete opposites, and that it's these differences between them that strengthens their bond. Jo is loved by so many for her grand spirit and her boldness and her desire to elevate herself above her stature as a women in times when it was not easy and not well seen (and I would not have her marry a boring professor at the end). But I've always loved Beth's quietness and silent strenght, her soft kindness and desire for a simple life at home surrounded by her loved ones. I find that there is a sort of perfect middle ground between Jo and Beth and this is why I love them so much. Of course I also really like Meg and Amy and the story wouldn't be the same withtout them, but Jo and Beth have a special place in my heart.

The Blackwood sisters: Merricat & Constance

We Have Always Lived in the Castle, by Shirley Jackson is one of my favourite book and it will get its own post one day, as just a little blurb would not be nearly enough to express my love for this it and the two sisters at the center of the story.

Merricat is the narrator (and a most perfect example of what is called unreliable-narrator) and such a complex character. She is full of strange little quirks like burrying things in the ground and believing in their intrinsinc magical power or believing that by affecting something that once belonged to somebody, she will affect that person too, or that if she repeats a word a certain number of times, the desired effect will happen. But even more interesting is her relationship with her sister Constance. The both of them live alone in an old castle on an estate that almost nobody visits, ostrasized by the villagers who believe Constance killed all the members of her family except for Merricat and her uncle. It would be hard to describe all the subtulties of their relationship without giving away too much of the book, but I can say that they are not only one of my favourite literary sisters, they are also some of my favourite characters of all time.

Other favourites:
  • The Owens sisters: Sally & Gillian (from Practical Magic, by Alice Hoffman)
  • The Beaudelaire sisters: Violet & Sunny (from A Series of Unfortunate Events, by Lemony Snicket)
  • The Mortmain sisters: Cassandra & Rose (from I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith)
  • The Miller sisters: Charlotte & Rosie (from A Curse Dark as Gold, by Elizabeth C. Bunce)
  • The Grimm sisters: Sabrina & Daphne (from The Sisters Grimm series, by Michael Buckley)

What about you? Do you have favourite literary sisters?

Quick Review: The Year of Secret Assignments, by Jaclyn Moriarty

This is one of those rare YA contemporary that I read (I'm slowly reading more of them), and it happens to be written yet again by an Australian author (the preicous book was Jellicoe Road, by Melina Marchetta). This is the second book I read by Jaclyn Moriarty after The Spell Book of Listen Taylor, which I thouroughly enjoyed and recommned. Since I had liked the first book, I was prompted to borrow another book of hers at the library and am very glad I did.

The entirety of The Year of Secret Assignments is told through letters, emails, notes, and journal entries that the characters exchange between each other. The book follows three best friends, Cass, Em and Lyd, as they start corresponding with three boys as part of an English exchange program between their two high schools who are too often at odds with each other. Ensues a series of hilarious and touching situations as the characters learn about each other and help each other in their hour of need.

I really enjoyed this book. It was quick and funny. I was iniatially scared that it would be too much for teenagers and that I would not be able to relate. So often YA authors try to sound like teenagers, but end up sounding silly and like adults who try to sound like teenagers, but I found that this was not the case with Jaclyn Moriarty. She gave all of her characters distinctive voices, never entangling herself in too much slang and gimmicks to try and make them sound like teenagers, and yet they felt like teenagers. This made them infinitely more endearing to me and proves that the author has very good characterization skills. And while there was romance and heartbreak, the book was first and foremost about friendship. About three girls who, even though different, love each other more than anything and would do anything to help and protect one another. And this is what made me love this book in the end. Too often nowadays YA fiction is solely about romance, espcially when novel have female protagonists, as if that's all young women really want, and forget about the true love that lies in friendship. I find friendship stories more interesting and lasting than most romantic stories and I am glad that the author showed that in her novel. I'll be sure to pick up her other books on my next trip to the library.


Review: The Lost Garden, by Helen Humphreys

I love stories about gardens, that involve gardens, or where the setting is in a garden. So I could not resist picking up this book and having a look at it. The story sounded interesting and intriguing as well. And oh, how I wasn't dissapointed. I got so much more than what I was expecting.

It's England, 1941, and London is being destroyed by the Blitz. Gwen Davis, our narrator and protagonist, is a 35 year old horticulturist. Solitary and better with plants than she is with people, Gwen nevertheless volunteers to move to an estate in the Devon countryside to lead a team of young women in growing crops for the war effort. There she finds herself overwhelmed at first by her inadequacy and lack of leadership. With time, her relationship with Jane, a young women waiting for her fiance missing in action, who loves too much and passionately and is a bit too wild, and with Raley, a Canadian soldier posted with the rest of his regiment in the house nearby, waiting to be deployed, will change her forever. She also finds a lost garden, hidden on the estate and take it upon herself to restore it and discover the love story it seems to tell, a story which, in a way, will become her own.

I loved Gwen from the start. Shy, solitaty, unsure of herself except when it comes to her knowledge of plants, she writes letter to Virginia Woolf in her head, and puts the volumes of The Genus Rosa (an encyclopedia of all the roses known to man) on her body when she lies in bed to calm herself. She grows and learns about love and loss and coming to terms with ones past and fear of intimacy. This novel is mostly about loss and love which are almost the same thing when you live in times of war. It deals with the fear of the soldiers about to leave, the fear of the ones left behing, the loss of home and family, and the things we cling to in an effort to make sense of things that just don't. But mostly, though, it was so brillantly and beautifully written. I love Helen Humphreys' prose, poetic and fluid, with moments of such intense beauty and truth at times. Sure sometimes it might have been a bit cheesy, but I never minded. It swept me up from the first page, and even though it lulled a bit in the middle, I still didn't want to stop reading. It wasn't a long novel at all, not even 200 pages, but it felt utterly complete, and still open to so much more. I borrowed this book from the library, but I think I'll buy it for myself so I can reread it as much as I want.
I'll finished with a quote from the very beginning of the book which I think sets the tone beautifully and made me want to just keep reading
But what is love if not instant recognition? A moment of being truly equal to something. What I recognized in this place, from the moment I arrived here, was something within myself that I didn't even know was there. Something under the skin, in the blood. A pulse of familiarity. The wild, lovely clutter of London. Small streets that twisted like rivers. Austere stone cathedrals. The fast muddy muscle of the Thames, holding the city apart from itself; the tension of that moving gap, palpable, felt. I have leaned over the stone balustrade of the Embankment in the dark, the true dark now of the blackouts when even starlight is an act of treachery. In blacked-out London, people, once familiar with the city, bump along the streets, fumbling from building to building as though blind. But I have stood beside the Thames and felt it there, twining beneath my feet like a root. But this is what can no longer be trusted. Everyday the landscape is radically altered. House become holes. Solids become spaces. Anything can dissapear overnight. How can love survive this fact?


Monday 10: Of Gardens

Monday 10 is a weekly post where I share a list of 10 bookish items based on a theme, subject, idea, fancy, etc.
Every reader and blogger is also invited to participate and make their own list. It doesn't have to have the same theme, it just needs to pertain to books!
If you do make your own list and post it to your blog, share the link in the comments. Or if you prefer write your own list in the comments!
Note: I put 3 asterisks beside the titles I have read and recommnend. Ihave not read all of the books I put in these lists, so be sure to check them all out!
I took a week off this blog (and reading in general as I was doing a multitude of other things), but now I am back with another Monday 10. Since I am currently reading a book about a garden and gardening (The Lost Garden by Helen Humphreys, review coming soon), I thought that should be the theme of this week.

* 10 books about gardens, gardening and flowers *
Happy Monday!