Backlog reviews

In an effort to clear my reviewing backlog and ease my conscience, I’m going to batch up a couple of books today. There’s actually no rhyme or reason to the books that I’ve chosen to pair up – wouldn’t it be nice if I had a lovely theme today like Italy or historical fiction or books about awesome people?

Sadly the books that I’ve chosen to pair up today were ones that were just OK for me.

game of hope

First up, young adult historical fiction, a genre I had high hopes for. Sandra Gulland has written some incredible adult historical fiction set mostly in France. She is responsible for a trilogy about Josephine Bonaparte and I’ve read some great ones set at the court of the Sun King. I was excited about The Game of Hope about Napoleon’s stepdaughter, Hortense.

In The Game of Hope, Hortense is a fifteen year old girl relegated to a drafty boarding school on the outskirts of Paris. She is the victim of circumstance, dependent on her mother’s floundering relationship with her stepfather for the outcome of her own life. Desperately in love with a friend of her brother’s, she hopes she will be allowed to marry him. It is 1798 and Napoleon is trying to win power in France – over the course of the book he achieves that.

But Hortense spends the whole book, a book about her, waiting around for things to happen. She waits to be told she can marry, she waits to go home, to go back to school, for the return of her brother and the man she thinks she loves. Nothing happens to Hortense.

It’s a shame because in real life, Hortense goes on to become the Queen Consort of the Netherlands, after marrying Napoleon’s brother Louis. Instead Gulland decides to paint her as a kind of serious, ultimately uninteresting teenager waiting for life to happen to her. I wanted so much to like this, was hopeful that my eyes were about to be opened to a glorious new genre. But alas, The Game of Hope just left me wishing for a different book.

the house swap

I thought that I had some glorious baby-and-work-free days ahead of me when I started Rebecca Fleet’s The House Swap. But I ended up starting it the day before I went into labour and then it took me two weeks to finish (see: life with a newborn). How much the circumstances contributed to my feelings about this book is unknown. I do think it would have been a more enjoyable read had I been able to read it in one or two sittings.

Caroline and Francis are giving their marriage another go after some difficult years. Caroline was unfaithful and Francis had been in the middle of addiction but they are looking at their week at a house in a London suburb as a fresh start, a chance to focus on each other. While they are in this house, the home’s owner is enjoying their own time in Caroline and Francis’ home up north.

Right away, Caroline notices strange things about the home: there doesn’t seem to be any personal effects in the home and she could swear that some of the things that are there are messages to her. But that’s crazy right?

The novel is broken up into sections telling the story from present-day Caroline’s view, Caroline from two years ago and Francis-then. Slowly a full picture forms of what exactly happened two years ago.

Like I said, I think if I’d been able to sit and read this book in one shot, it would have felt different. It could have been a fun light thriller. But partly because I dragged it out and partly because the solution to the mystery was pretty obvious, The House Swap just wasn’t what I hoped it would be. It had some of the ingredients to make for a decent thrill ride – infidelity, death, sinister house, neighbour with a ‘vibe’ – but mixed altogether it was missing something crucial to make me care.

Thanks to Penguin Random House of Canada for providing me with copies of these books in exchange for honest reviews


Read it: The Hate U Give

If not for my book club, I’m not sure that I would have read The Hate U Give anytime soon.

Oh, it was on my list. But without the book club pressure, the impetus to get it read by a certain date, I’m not sure when I would have got to it.

Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give is BRILLIANT. For real, if there’s one book I would recommend to everyone this summer, this is it.

From Goodreads:

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

It’s really hard to overstate the importance of this book. It should probably be required reading in schools. Thomas has given us a gift with her debut novel.

hate you giveI was emotionally invested in this book really quickly. Thomas’ characters are bold, written with heart, they imprint on readers very quickly. Starr is straddling the middle ground between these two worlds – her neighbourhood with childhood friends, complex family dynamics and violence born of a lifestyle that is necessary to survive with just the basics, and her prep school an hour away, a white boyfriend who has never seen where Starr lives, working hard for an education her parents want so badly for her while handling micro aggressions from girls that are supposed to be her friends.

Thomas is able to deftly handle so many different angles in this book – of Starr, caught in the middle of everything; her parents, fearful for her safety should she speak out; the police, including her uncle who needs time to work out what this means for him; Starr’s friend DeVante, shook up by the shooting and wanting to walk away from a lifestyle that seems destined to end in violence; and the activists who want to use Khalil’s death to force change.

All told, it’s a maelstrom of a book. I cried again and again and again. It’s also incredibly funny. Starr’s observations are so spot on that I found myself chuckling in bed late at night, trying not to wake my husband.

By the time I finished this book, I was sad to leave it behind. I miss Starr and her family. I’m so grateful to Angie Thomas for writing this book.

If you haven’t read it, don’t wait. When it becomes a movie, everyone will be talking about it!


Aud Thoughts: City of Saints and Thieves

Sometimes I get lazy and ask my sister to write content for me. This is one of those times. She’s an art school student, cat sitter, instagram wizard and one of my favourite sisters – here’s Audrey.

Wow it’s definitely been awhile since I’ve written a review. Let me just tap the dust out of my keyboard, crack the rust out of my fingers and get this gal moving.

So, Eva asked me if I’d write a little something for one of the books she was sent and so here I am, in the digital flesh and blood. 

This time I read City of Saints & Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson, a book that before it was given to me I had never heard of before, not because it doesn’t deserve attention but because my nose was so far stuck up school work and fantasy books that it had been awhile since I had popped my head out into the open. 


City of Saints & Thieves is best described, I think, as a mystery thriller with a side sip of romance and definitely a bunch ton of thievery and running away like an epic badass – as Tina totally is. 

Tina is a teenage girl who is living with one of the more prominent gangs in Saigon City, having fled the Congo with her mother as refugees long ago. They come to this city and her mother gets a job with one of the big, rich important man, that make a lot of money off of the land but also off of some less savoury things. While staying there, her small family gets entangled with the man’s family, the Greyhills and thus sets off a series of events that end with her mother dead and Tina taking her sister and leaving the family behind, promising vengeance and ruin on the man she blames for her mother’s death. 

It isn’t until years later that Tina gets her opportunity and that is where the books opens up, Tina sneaking into the Greyhill’s estate and attempting to rob them blind – only of course things don’t go as planned. 

So when I started reading this book I had absolutely no idea what to expect and it was kind of exciting. I didn’t look up what it was about online, didn’t check any other reviews, I don’t think I even really read the description, I just dove in. 

And what a dive.

The first line itself, is one of my favourite lines, seriously, what a great opener. 

If you’re going to be a thief, the first thing you need to know is that you don’t exist.

I mean, how do you come back from that not interested?

So I finished this book, stumbling across this story and being sucked into this world that I didn’t know and being amazed that it wasn’t strictly fantasy, that this was a world people lived in.

On this escapade to seek revenge for her mother, and prove who murdered her, Tina finds herself winding through the intricate ties of secrets, greed and dark, dark answers that will leave you otherwise breathless and praying for sunnier days. 

It was a wonderful young adult book, illuminating the tenacity of a young girl who against all odds has chosen to be the epic badass that she is and of course her friends are as lovable as they come. 

It is definitely a sampler of a true thriller for an audience that isn’t constantly straining to hope no one dies. While the book describes itself as “nail-biting” I wouldn’t quite say that. It was definitely 120% interesting and I found that it was well paced, but the urgency that perhaps was intended wasn’t always immediately present. Still, the way this book was written achieves the feat of beauty in simplicity, really bringing you directly into Tina’s thoughts and feelings and making you understand what it is to feel angry and upset at the world and still come out to make something more than what the world has tried to hand you.

So if you need to feel like a badass, like you can do anything, like the world can be crap and kick you down and you get the hell right back up again, give this book a try. Tina might just teach you something. 

Paperback Princess note: Just saw that Universal has bought the movie rights and KERRY WASHINGTON is producing so I might have to take this book back and read it ASAP.


Aud Thoughts: February Faves

My sister Audrey is back to offer up some of the books she’s fallen in love with this month. You think I read a lot – this girl sometimes goes through 2 books a day. The perks of an early shift without a lot going on, I guess. When she gets to Big Magic, know that I made her read it. And now I’m waiting for her to let me borrow it. Also, last time she posted, she had a really hard time replying to comments; as in, she couldn’t. Not sure why, we’re hoping it won’t be an issue this time! Once again, here’s Audrey!

I’d like to think that this month I’ve made some pretty wise decisions with my choice of books. I’ve annihilated any past record of how many books I can read in one month, and actually even within a day. I’ve destroyed my credit card with online book buying binges, and induced my plum points card into a blissful state of over usage. I’ve already compeleted 34% of my reading challenge, 22 books ahead of schedule. This isn’t even an addiction anymore; this has become a new way of life.

And these are the books that I’ve pored over so far. These are the books that make up my Goodreads reading challenge, and I thought I’d share a few of them with you.

The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer was one of the first series I plowed through this month. I had already spent the past few years accumulating the first books and was sneaky enough to get my mom to buy the last one for me for Christmas. I am proud to say that I am now the owner of the complete collection and let me say, I am better for it. I adore fairy tales with a passion, so when you take the princesses from fairy tales and give them mechanical limbs? Sign me up. Not only does this story include action, of course romance, but the humorous and endearing way that the characters interacted with one another made me never want to finish that last page. Thank god Marissa Meyer has enough mercy on us to produce short stories.

Red Rising by Pierce Brown was a book that I was reading and only mildly interested in and then suddenly, I was sucked in. I don’t even remember how it happened. One moment I was reading it, minding my own business and then suddenly I’m on Mars – MARS! – in the middle of a giant lesson of War Strategies with bigger than life beings.  Red Rising is about a boy that loses his wife and then his own life and then comes back to destroy the society that took everything from him. Pretty standard, right? WRONG. He comes back with a fury that is amazing to read. I can genuinely say that I felt smarter for some reason when I read this book (and the second and third one…). This wasn’t some Class of Clans simulation, I felt like a genuine badass when I immersed myself into this book. Please, give it a try. It’s Game of Thrones in Space with a pinch of Hunger Games. It’s amazing! Plus it is now a completed series…annnnd I need someone to discuss it with.

City of the Lost by Kelley Armstrong did not disappoint.  I am an avid Kelley Armstrong fan. Give me a book by her and I will read it, then I will buy it, then I will buy the entire series (all thirteen of my Otherworld books say hello). Her characters, I always find, to be funny in a dark way (of course), but also hard. They’re badass and they’re realistic and they are never, ever perfect. City of the Lost is about a town full of people hiding from something; abusive partners, the law, some cannibalistic tribe in the woods, you name it. So detective Casey is recruited by the town’s only Sheriff – a very attractive man (Kelley Armstrong knows how to write her men to make me fall in love) – to help solve a couple of pretty gruesome murders. Not teen fiction ladies and gents, but god I loved it. Not that I had any doubts that I wouldn’t.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert came to me at a good time in my life. I’m at the point where I’m trying to figure out my future a bit more and what direction to go in (I think I’ve got this now guys) and this book spoke to me like a kind, funny, aunt. I’m not one to read much non-fiction, but boy, I should start. I felt lighter when I finished reading this book. It helped me understand how creativity is something I need to learn to embrace and incorporate it with my life, working alongside of it instead of trying to let it rule me or vice versa. This book shone a light on the necessity of exercising some precaution and practicality when I think about the decisions I make regarding the art I want to pursue. And I’d just like to thank you Elizbeth Gilbert, wherever you are. So if you’ve got a confused college type in your life, or perhaps anyone who struggles with understanding their creativity perhaps give this to them to read. You don’t even need to wrap it the cover is so pretty!

That’s all I’ll bore you kind people with today, head on over to my Goodreads page to check out a list of what I’ve read so far, there are few that I wouldn’t recommend from that pile. So give it a peek!




Something New: Aud Thoughts

I’ve mentioned before that I come from a family of readers. Recently my sister, Audrey, has been devouring books at a rate I can barely keep up with. I’ve asked her to start writing a little something for this here blog and she agreed. So once a month, she’ll pop in to share some of her bookish thoughts. Audrey is 19, recently back from time au pairing in the Netherlands, is wicked talented with liquid liner and loves Outlander. Here’s Audrey.

Dear Closeted YA Fans,

Your time is now. Your time is here. Your time is the time to stand up and admit fully and openly that you read Young Adult Books. You dabble in the PG-13; you peruse the stacks of trilogies and multiple dystopian novel sets – yes you Divergent – and as you fall just out of the spectrum of high school, your addiction (my own included) must be kept hidden. Must be stowed at the bottom of your book bag and be covered up like it’s a ten cent harlequin novel with a half naked man on the cover (I must admit, I devour those…). But I’ve decided that enough is enough.

Our time is now. We must make our case, we must let it be understood that what we love should not be devalued just because it is set for a younger studio audience. Do we refuse to go to movies meant for children, where we ourselves leave the theatre mopping our eyes and hugging bags of popcorn to our chests? No!

So why should be tip toe around the YA section, into the adult section, and then when no one is looking, throw ourselves amongst the stacks of books where the youth frolic smoking cigarettes and smacking bubble gum and discussing belly button piercings (I only wished I was so cool).

I mean, I think it’s safe to say that muttering the word “Teen Books” to another fellow adult is like admitting that you still wear diapers and suck your thumb at night. Suddenly you’re opinion is taken in with an eyebrow raise and the slightest hint of “Oh, I guess you can sit at the edge of the adult table”.

So to avoid these rather unwelcoming reactions, I’ve found myself going to great lengths to avoid admitting to others that what I am reading is in fact a teen fiction book. It does in fact have a slightly gooey love story. There is in fact a teenage male heartthrob that everyone is cheering for. There is also in fact a happy ending.

But why is that so wrong?

I read a lot at work, and I have recently been taking up with my kobo – taking out ebooks from the library is a dream for those days where I go through two books – and so now I have to explain to people exactly what I’m reading. I can no longer just smash the curious onlooker in the face with the cover of the book and let them figure it out.

So I was innocently finishing off the delicious morsel of a book by Gayle Forman called One Night (please read it) and one of my customers comes up to me and begins to ask what I’m reading and I freeze. Torn between betraying my new found love affair with Ms. Forman, or opting out like a coward and hiding under the bush of my obsession and straight up lying.

So then, I lied. I betrayed my new found relationship, swimming up to my eyeballs with guilt and self-directed annoyance. Why was I doing this? Why was I lying? Why was Game of Thones my go-to lie?

I was a liar and fraud and a cheater.

I had cheated on my wonderfully sweet and confused, and maybe a tad bit naïve characters of the world of One Night. I had betrayed my adork-able main heroine. I left her to pin after the boy she spent a wonderful night with in Paris. IU had abandoned her in the aftermath of their night together (I don’t mean pregnancy, jeez, I mean college, bleh). 

But I also left him. My wonderfully funny little Dutch boy. He even eats hagelslag. Because he’s Dutch.

Instead the world was left to believe I was reading about Sean Bean getting his head chopped off and dragons and Jon Snow and Red Weddings and while I have read about these things before (ermygod so good), no great love affair should be stuffed in the freezer in your basement and forgotten about when your wife shows up.

I don’t find that teen books even often reflect a less important life lesson if you will, from within their depths. I’ve read some messed up teen books. Anything by Ellen Hopkins can make your head spin and your heart hurt. Rainbow Rowell’s Fan Girl teaches me it’s okay to be the way you are, however it is that you want to be.  And One Night teaches me not to always worry about what you’re doing next, to believe in accidents, to believe in what is meant to be will be and you’ll find your way. It teaches me to give myself time and to get on trains with tall Dutch boys with wonderful taste in sandwiches. I think that teen books, even if they are about sparkly vampires, are books just the same.

I suppose, a book is a book, no matter what subject matter.

So read your own goddamn book and take pride in the fact you took the time to sit down and fall into another world. Not enough people bother to take the time you do.

So I suppose from now on you can think of me as your liaison to the teen world. Yes, occasionally perhaps I’ll read some adult books to appease your adult needs, but I’m a firm believer in giving any book a chance – if it sucks, it sucks, you know – and I’m here to help you learn what that means. Hopefully you can spare some time in your busy month to allow a moment for little ole me, but I hope we can get along splendidly and give you a chance to really get to know some of the teen books that I do love.

If you want an idea of some good teens books that I’ve read this month, here’s a little list for you:

The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer – basically fairytale retelling, but in the future, but in space, but with love stories, but it’s great.

The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey – Alien, pretty good. I’ve only really read the first one so far, so bear with me.

One Day and One Week by Gayle Forman – just YES.

If I Stay and Where She Went by Gayle Forman – another YES.

Well that’s all for now folks, I’ll divulge back into the regular world now to deal with my post-book blues, but stay classy.





Sophie Kinsella Nails YA Fiction

Full disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Penguin Random House of Canada in exchange for an honest review.

I loooooooooooove Sophie Kinsella. It’s rare for me to read one of her books and not enjoy it. She is a really funny writer and I’m not sure she’s given enough credit for the emotional depth of her writing and her characters. People are probably distracted by the insane(ly hilarious) hi jinx her characters get up to.

Maybe Finding Audrey will change that.

Finding Audrey is Kinsella’s first attempt at YA fiction and I have to say, she hit it out of the park.

finding audrey

Audrey has developed an anxiety disorder from something that happened at school. You never find out exactly what happened, but you can guess. The result is that she wears dark glasses all the time because she finds eye contact extremely difficult, she never leaves the house – even for school – and her family, brothers Frank and Felix, and her very concerned but a touch hover-y parents, are constantly concerned she’s going to have a meltdown.

With the help of her therapist, Dr. Sarah, Audrey starts trying to push herself more and that’s how she starts talking to Frank’s friend, Linus. Linus seems to understand that Audrey needs to take it slow, that writing works as communication for her right now and soon he’s helping her to go all the way to Starbucks, a massive step for her.

I loved so much about this book.

I loved that it was about a teenaged girl struggling with her mental health. I loved that her therapist was a warm, understanding person who urged Audrey to continue taking her medication while pushing her to take bigger steps outside of her comfort zone. I loved that she had a loving, yet totally realistic, family. Her mom is always trying crazy things she reads about in the Daily Mail, Frank is addicted to video games, and her dad is half-listening some of the time.

Yes, it was a teen romance in a way but only in all the best ways. Linus shows Audrey that she’s worth something, that she can go to Starbucks and be ok, that the world isn’t always a scary place.

I loved the fact that we never find out what exactly happened that triggered Audrey’s anxiety disorder because it was never about what happened. It was about moving forward, about allowing it to have happened but not to let it define who Audrey is. There’s such a great lesson in this book about the ups and downs of life, it’s not a straight line up, there are always going to be tough bits of life but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t participate anyway.

Programming note: This will likely be my last post before Christmas. Am hoping to get a few posts up before the new year but in the meantime there’s a log cabin in the woods waiting for me. I’ll basically be spending all my time reading though so hopefully I will have lots to write about when I get back! Hope you and your families have a wonderful holiday!


2015 TBR Pile Challenge Complete

Well guys, I did it. I completed the 2015 TBR Pile Challenge as hosted by Roof Beam Reader.

Samantha Shannon’s The Bone Season was the last book I needed to read, stepping in after that time I tried to read The Teleportation Accident and just couldn’t carry on.

bone season

The Bone Season is the story of Paige Mahoney, a high level clairvoyant living in London in 2059. She is part of an underground crime syndicate that pays her really well and keeps her off the radar of the people in charge. Clairvoyants like Paige are illegal in this world and the leaders of Scion (the collective in charge of London) hunt them. If you’re caught, you’re imprisoned in The Tower and probably killed.

Except when Paige is captured after an unfortunate incident on the Tube, she isn’t executed; she’s sent to this penal colony in Oxford, where ‘voyants like her are trained to protect their new overlords from these creatures called Emim.

Doesn’t sound like something I would normally read, right?

Yeah, I thought about not finishing this book a lot. In the end, the only reason I finished it was because this was the last book for the challenge. The thought of having to finish The Beautiful and the Damned if I didn’t finish The Bone Season was the only thing keeping me from abandoning it.

I really think that this time, it was completely me. Shannon is an incredibly imaginative writer – she’s created an entirely new world with a new government and social order. That’s no small feat. But there was almost too much new information, it’s too different from anything I know and I couldn’t keep up. I suspect that this is because I am old. My sister didn’t seem to have this issue at all.

I also had an issue with being told how Paige felt. It seemed like this was a late development, like suddenly Shannon thought “oh, maybe I should explore how this all makes Paige feel now!”

I had a houseguest when I had 40 pages left to read and it was torture to not be able to finish it and just be done with it already. I’m definitely not going to continue with the series. I’ll just have to be ok with never finding out what else happens.

But hey, I did it. I read the 12 books from my TBR List that I said I would and that feels pretty great. I know that Adam @ Roof Beam Reader isn’t doing the TBR Pile Challenge for 2016 but I’m teaming up with Holly and Amanda @ Gun in Act One to do our own version of this anyway!


Where does the time go?

I’ve been embarrassingly quiet on the blog front over the past week or so. Let’s all take a moment to blame Shirley for that because that book took way too long to get through! Trying to slog my way through Shirley during the day and attempting to finish Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix under the watchful (read: impatient) eye of my significant other who, despite years of dismissing these books as childish, had finally actually read them and wanted to get started on book 5 as soon as possible.

But I’m happy to report that I finished the fifth Harry Potter *and* Shirley and am now free to pursue other literary treats.

While I was bemoaning the stall in my reading life, a blogging milestone of sorts snuck up on me: you are reading my 200th post.


In the grand scheme of things, 200 posts isn’t that many. But it feels big. Since I haven’t read anything that’s grabbed me in what feels like a while, I thought that I would use this milestone to run down some of the things I’ve learned since I started this book blogging thing.

Canada loves to read. I can’t tell you how many of the book bloggers that I’ve connected with are Canadian. Hint: it’s almost all of them. It’s not just the online book bloggers though – since I started this blog I’ve become hyper aware of readers in the real world and on the West Coast, there are a lot. Canada just can’t get enough of the written word.

YA Fiction doesn’t suck. This is a more recent development but I think that posting here and connecting with other readers online has made me more open minded about what I will read. Eventually this meant opening my heart to YA fiction and I kind of dig it.

I will never make a dent in my TBR list. No really – I will never make any progress. It feels great to cross a book off my list but if I take another look I will see that one crossed off book makes no difference if when I do it I simultaneously add 5 more to the bottom.  This is probably the number one book nerd problem to have and I don’t think we’d have it any other way. If I finished my TBR list what would I even do with my time?

Reading is a group sport. I know – I’m surprised that I’m good at a sport too. Before I started blogging, reading felt like a solitary activity, like I was constantly being anti-social. I’ve since discovered that reading is a conversation starter, a commonality, the beginning of a friendship. And then I come here and spew my opinions all over the internet and find people that agree enough with me to comment.

People are always looking for a good book. It doesn’t matter if they are hardcore book nerds (me), casual readers or those people that claim they don’t like to read – we’re all looking for that next book that makes us fall in love. It’s especially important for those that believe they don’t like reading; as soon as they find that book, reading love is born.

If you’re a casual Paperback Princess reader, a regular commenter, a devotee (Thanks Mom) – I thank you all. You’ve all bumped my love of reading up a level I didn’t know existed.  And I promise to get some proper reading done soon so I can give you the posts that you deserve.


YA Fiction is becoming a thing I read

A few weeks ago I read Fangirl. When I finished it, I knew it would only be a matter of time until I read Eleanor & Park too.

Once I get an idea like that into my head, it’s not going to be very long until I make it happen. I’m not really one for delayed gratification.

Eleanor & Park is completely different from Fangirl. I think I liked Fangirl better but Eleanor & Park is till pretty awesome.

The major difference is that Fangirl comes to us complete with 21st century complications: texting and fan fiction and emails and constant connectivity, even for someone hiding from real life. Eleanor & Park takes us back to 1986 where some people (in this case Eleanor) didn’t even have a home phone. The book becomes much more about the relationship face-to-face (awkward) rather than all the distractions we’ve all become so used to.


Eleanor is the new girl on the bus and she has nowhere to sit. She’s wearing men’s clothes with all sorts of things pinned to them and has bright red hair. She’s an easy target so Park urges her to sit down beside him. Every day they ride the bus together and neither of them says a word. Park notices that she reads his comics with him so he starts waiting for her to read them at the same time. Then he brings her comics to take home with her. She reads each of them several times, careful to return them to him in perfect condition.

And slowly but surely their unlikely relationship takes off. They come from very different worlds: Park lives in a typical family home with his parents, who love each other, and his little brother; Eleanor has just returned home which is a room shared with her four brothers and sisters and a stepdad who is quick to anger.

I have to say that I really appreciated the fact that the romance between these two is so off. Not only do they come from very different backgrounds, but neither of them are the popular kids at school. This isn’t a Bella and Edward thing where one of them can’t believe they could be with someone so cool. Each of them marvels at the fact that they like this other person so much and didn’t see it right away. They are both living in their own heads, with their own insecurities about their bodies, their friends and their families. They are trying to figure out who they are while they navigate the torture chamber that is highschool and make this whole relationship thing work out.

The thing that everyone says about Eleanor & Park is that Rainbow Rowell didn’t chicken out with the ending. The story happens over the course of one school year between a pair of 16 year olds. Most relationships at that age don’t work out. I’m not certain that the ending is as cut and dried as everyone made it out to be though. But life is never black and white either and Rowell once again expertly crafts a true to life relationship that feels authentic but not forced.

On a somewhat related note, my sister (who made me read The Fault in Our Stars) read Me Before You on my recommendation this week. She had some pretty choice words for me when she finished it as she felt I didn’t adequately prepare her for the ending. I feel like now we’re even for that whole Augustus Waters thing!


Sometimes My Little Sister Knows Best

One time, I was having a discussion with my then 12-year old sister about books and reading and coming up with some titles that I thought she might enjoy.

She flipped out and stomped out of the room yelling for me not to tell her what to read before slamming her door.

It’s one of my favourite memories.

These days we’re much more likely to trade recommendations. Most of the time these solicit an eye roll from me. Since my sister is 17 she’s much more likely to be found reading YA fiction than anything. She’s the reason I read Twilight. It took years for me to recover from that enough to get started on The Hunger Games. Which led, very indirectly, to Divergent. Last week she leant me The Fault in Our Stars and then I ended up buying Fangirl on her recommendation.

She is now a part of a very select group of people who can recommend books to me.


I read The Fault in Our Stars in the car on our way to our long weekend retreat. I read almost straight through, right until the sketchy ending when it got too dark and I wanted to read privately anyway because I knew this was going to get messy.

I’m the last human to read this book right? So I don’t need to tell you that The Fault in Our Stars is about Hazel Grace Lancaster and her fight against terminal cancer? That her mom forces her to go to support group that she hates but which is where she meets (the amazingly named) Augustus Waters?  And then he reads this book that she is obsessed with and he becomes equally obsessed so he uses his Wish (through a Make-A-Wish type foundation) to take her to Amsterdam to find out what happens to the characters in the book because it just abruptly ends?

And everything is so wonderful and great, aside from the whole cancer thing, and then everything falls apart and you’re left sobbing quietly in a room away from other people because you’re an unholy mess of snot? You all already know that stuff?

Right. So I was prepared for sadness but I wasn’t prepared for how much. Or for how thoughtful and intelligent Hazel and Augustus both are. The book is brilliant and poetic and filled with so much hope despite the devastating ending. I found myself thinking about teenagers in a whole new way. I mean, if they are all losing their minds for this beautifully eloquent book, then they will probably all be OK in the end right?

So after using Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (Agatha Christie is always called for on long weekends) to get back my book equilibrium, I was ready for Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl.


Cath and Wren are twin sisters who have always shared everything, including a deep and abiding love of the Simon Snow books. Each is active in the Simon Snow fan fiction world. But when they go off to college and Wren decides that they need to have other roommates so that they can get out in the world more, Cath is left to her own devices for the first time. She ends up rooming with Reagan who makes no secret of the fact that she doesn’t want a roommate and Cath retreats further and further away from the real world in favour of the fictional world of Simon Snow.

But life has a way of getting in the way despite all our best efforts doesn’t it? Cath can’t help but notice her sister seems to be drinking a lot and her dad doesn’t seem right when she talks to him on the phone and the higher level fiction writing class she asked to take part in doesn’t seem to be going the way she thought it would.

That’s before we even get to the boys in Cath’s life or the estranged mom.

I loved it. I was completely swept away by Rowell’s charming characters. Here’s another author that knows how to channel the teenaged voice but in a way that doesn’t diminish what they feel or force grown up emotions on them. Cath is very nearly a full person, figuring out how it all pieces together in the end. It’s no wonder legions of young people love this author – she gets them.

I’m told that Eleanor and Park is even better. For now, my sister wants to borrow Fangirl to read it again.