Running in the Family by Michael Ondaatje // A Very Confusing Story

Thursday, 18 January 2018 0 comments
Running in the Family, by Michael Ondaatje
Publication: November 30, 1993, by Vintage
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir, Contemporary
Pages: 208
Format: Paperback
Source: Borrowed

In the late 1970s Ondaatje returned to his native island of Sri Lanka. As he records his journey through the drug-like heat and intoxicating fragrances of that "pendant off the ear of India, " Ondaatje simultaneously retraces the baroque mythology of his Dutch-Ceylonese family. An inspired travel narrative and family memoir by an exceptional writer.

My Thoughts: 

I guess me admitting to you that this was a book I read for school is what helps you see WHY I didn't really enjoy Running in the Family. I had high hopes for the story, even though most of my friends who previously read the book hated on it, however, I was equally disappointed as they were. This was one of the most random and confusing stories I have ever read. I totally get that it is a memoir, and the random-ness of the writing style Ondaatje promotes is meaningful and metaphorical (in a way), however, I did not enjoy it. I am writing this review to obviously tell you if I recommend this or not, and even though I was forced to read it for school so I could analyze the author's purpose, I am trying to tell you to steer away unless you enjoy analyzing every bit of a novel for no good reason. 

This book is... not necessarily about the author's life. It's more about everything that has to do with his life. His family, where he was born, his family's issues, things that run in the family... all of the things that aren't specifically about Michael. What was most interesting is that Ondaatje went from one time period to another so frequently that I was just left confused. The chapters are relatively short, separated into sections that have titles that are supposed to have some kind of metaphorical meaning. I couldn't see it, whoops. There were poems scattered all over the place about feminism, life in Ceylon (which is now Sri Lanka), and weird stories about Ondaatje's family that will put a smile on your face before you realize that... it's just weird.

So that is what I got out of this book when I read it for the first time, without going online and reading sources about what others think. However, when I began making notes about this book, I began to see that IF the metaphorical meanings are true, they are beautiful and somehow related to Michael's story. These metaphorical meanings helped me enjoy the book, even though they could truly be based on someone's opinion. Readers will never fully understand why an author wrote a novel or article or... whatever it may be.

Running in the Family may be your kind of book if you're some English genius who is the best at analyzing novels and diving deep into them. I am no English major genius, so this was a weird experience for me. If this were written in a normal, chronological order, there definitely would have been some kind of potential for it to be enjoyable.

What are some books that need to be analyzed in order for one to enjoy reading it?

Nice Try, Jane Sinner by Lianne Oelke BLOG TOUR // Read This Quirky Story!

Thursday, 11 January 2018 4 comments
Nice Try, Jane Sinner, by Lianne Oelke
Publication: January 9, 2018, by Clarion Books
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary
Pages: 416
Format: ARC 
Source: Publisher

The only thing 17-year-old Jane Sinner hates more than failure is pity. After a personal crisis and her subsequent expulsion from high school, she’s going nowhere fast. Jane’s well-meaning parents push her to attend a high school completion program at the nearby Elbow River Community College, and she agrees, on one condition: she gets to move out.
Jane tackles her housing problem by signing up for House of Orange, a student-run reality show that is basically Big Brother, but for Elbow River Students. Living away from home, the chance to win a car (used, but whatever), and a campus full of people who don't know what she did in high school… what more could she want? Okay, maybe a family that understands why she’d rather turn to Freud than Jesus to make sense of her life, but she'll settle for fifteen minutes in the proverbial spotlight.
As House of Orange grows from a low-budget web series to a local TV show with fans and shoddy T-shirts, Jane finally has the chance to let her cynical, competitive nature thrive. She'll use her growing fan base, and whatever Intro to Psychology can teach her, to prove to the world—or at least viewers of substandard TV—that she has what it takes to win.

 My Thoughts:

Nice Try, Jane Sinner can be best explained by labelling it as refreshing. It is different, more alluring than most books I've been reading these days. For one, we FINALLY have a college student YA protagonist. Normally, protagonists in New Adult novels are college students (or a little older), but the fact that this fits in the YA genre is lovely. Since the first time I learned about this story through an event Lianne Oelke, the author, attended, I was hooked to read this book. Reality shows, drama, and college life are what hooked me in, and let's just say that those were the aspects that sticked with me even after I finished reading this. 

I actually don't think I've ever read a book about a reality show. Make sure to prepare yourself for a realistic, contemporary experience that is the complete opposite of your typical Laguna Beach/90210 story. Oelke beautifully accompanied her writing with humour that actually made me laugh out loud. (I normally laugh in my head when viewing bookish humour, to be honest.)

Now - time for the flaws and cons. Before I get started, please note that I definitely recommend this book. Just because the writing style didn't work for me, does not mean that it will ruin your experience! I found it quite difficult to equally enjoy the different formats in which the book was written. There were text messages, conversations and short-term names that bored me. The story also felt really unnecessarily long, which I am ALWAYS picky about. It took me a long time to start to connect to the characters, which was a major flaw.

HOWEVER. I did enjoy this story nevertheless, and found that the best part was our protagonist, Jane Sinner. House of Orange, the reality show she is part of, allows readers to see how cameras and pressure can manipulate a person and help others see how they are. This was great.

Nice Try, Jane Sinner is a read you must devour if you are looking to meddle away from your typical YA contemporaries. I hope more books like this will be published... with, of course, faster pacing and a plot that intrigues me earlier.

*A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for a honest review. Thanks so much!*



Q: Would you want to be in a reality show? If you do, what kind of show would be your dream one?

A: There’s a reality show on the History channel called ALONE, where contestants are dropped off in the middle of the wilderness on Vancouver Island. Not only do they have to survive on their own for months (build shelter, fish, hunt, forage, hope a cougar doesn’t eat them), each contestant has to film themselves, as there’s no crew around. Some of the contestants spend months out there, trying to be the last person standing. I really enjoy camping, so I would love to be tough and skilled enough to take it to the next level– and maybe I’d last a day or two on ALONE– but more likely, I’d be radioing for help as soon as the sun went down. There is nothing more terrifying than glowing eyes in the dark. Also I’d have a hard time committing to months away from home because I’d miss my cat too much.  

36 Questions That Changed My Mind About You by Vicki Grant // AWWW.

Monday, 27 November 2017 0 comments
36 Questions That Changed My Mind About You, by Vicki Grant
Publication: October 17, 2017, by Running Press
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 288
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher

Hildy and Paul each have their own reasons for joining the university psychology study that asks the simple question: Can love be engineered?
The study consists of 36 questions, ranging from "What is your most terrible memory?" to "When did you last sing to yourself?" By the time Hildy and Paul have made it to the end of the questionnaire, they've laughed and cried and lied and thrown things and run away and come back and driven each other almost crazy. They've also each discovered the painful secret the other was trying so hard to hide. But have they fallen in love?
Told in the language of modern romance—texting, Q&A, IM—and punctuated by Paul's sketches, this clever high-concept YA is full of humor and heart. As soon as you've finished reading, you'll be searching for your own stranger to ask the 36 questions. Maybe you'll even fall in love.

My Thoughts:

36 Questions That Changed My Mind About You is one of the coolest books ever — it is written with an impeccable format that many authors should go ahead and pick up on. What is better than reading a book that is divided into chapters/sections in relation to each one of the thirty-six questions Hildy and Paul (our two main characters and YOU GUESSED IT, love interests) had to ask each other? Nothing is better than this format, let's just say that. Vicki Grant, through the premise of this story, has created something so memorable, so lovely and cute that I promise you; I will remember this book for years. 

In essence, Hildy and Paul's story starts off with the two of them not having any clue who the other is. They meet at the local university, where they both decide to participate in an experiment. Hildy participates in the experiment to gain some fun out of it, while Paul, on the other hand, does it for the money. However, little do they know that the experiment's goal is for the two of them to fall in love, which obviously makes things interesting. 

Vicki Grant's characters sure had personalities. Hildy and Paul were opposites of each other - and that's what really entertained me. Although readers were able to predict that the two would fall in love and generate some kind of romantic connection, they were so different that it was unbelievable. They both came from two different worlds - Hildy, from a wealthy family, and Paul from the opposite, however, what was shown thanks to the revelations of who the characters actually were, was that everyone has problems. Everyone has issues in their lives, no matter how many materialistic goods they were fortunate to own. What matters is that we take care of ourselves and stay appreciative of what we have. Agh. THE FEELS.

WHAT I REALLY REALLY REALLY WANTED from this book was a better ending. The one we were provided with was splendid, don't get me wrong, BUT what about the university staff? Were they satisfied/dissatisfied with the results of their experiment? That would've been so cute. *giggles*

36 Questions That Changed My Mind About You was truly fantastic. I loved the writing, premise, characters, romance... all of it. I cannot help but recommend it to everyone — go ahead and enjoy it!

*A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for a honest review. Thank you so much!*

What is the cutest chick-lit book you have read recently?

Remember Me Always by Renee Collins // I Never Expected to Love This!

Friday, 24 November 2017 0 comments
Remember Me Always, by Renee Collins
Publication: October 3, 2017, by Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher

Shelby is nervous to start her senior year after spending the whole summer away from home. After all, it's hard to be carefree when you're trying to protect a secret.
Shelby was in a devastating car accident, and everyone in town thinks that she was undergoing more physical therapy in Denver. Instead, Shelby's mother enrolled her in a clinical program to stop the panic attacks that started after the crash. The treatment erased Shelby's memory of the accident, but she can't help feeling as if a piece of herself is missing, that the treatment took more than the doctors claimed.
So when Shelby starts hallucinating a boy with dark and mysterious eyes, she knows it must be a side-effect of the clinical program. Except you can't kiss hallucinations. And this boy insists that they know each other and are in love...

My Thoughts:

Remember Me Always was unbelievable. UN-OMG-BELIEVABLE. After previously reading Renee Collins' debut, Until We Meet Again, I expected to sadly never pick up a book of hers again because of the weird mysterious fantasy she tried to create in that book. However, when word first was released about this new 2017 book of hers (and the fact that it had an aesthetic cover with gorgeous Polaroid photos), I was so in. Of course, I was skeptical that it would be a favourite of mine, as the premise... well, let's just say that it does not sound like the most promising book. FORGET ABOUT EVERYTHING I JUST SAID. Remember Me Always is surely one of the best books I have read this year. It picked me out of a hideous, dreadful reading slump that I have experienced since the summer (!!!!), causing me to finish it in one sitting. There's nothing better than being on a road trip with a gorgeous story that keeps you going and not bored. Because let me just say it: some of the 'scenery' we can view out of the window is not always so... awing. 

THIS WAS ACTION-PACKED AND BEAUTIFULLY WRITTEN. Collins has a poetic vibe to her writing which I totally appreciated due to how it made this story seem less fictional and more moving. This time around, Collins explores the effects of PTSD, a traumatic experience, loss/love and the setting of a small Colorado town. She mixed all of these various concepts together, and voila: this novel was born. The spotlight shines on Shelby, a heart-warming, real protagonist who has spent her entire summer before senior year in a hospital in Denver trying to forget. To forget the memories that scarred her so much. It turns out that Shelby was in a tragic car accident, leaving her with tragic memories and panic attacks that wouldn't stop occurring. When her mother discovers a clinical program that will relieve the panic attacks and fade some memories away, Shelby is sent off for a month, discovering that the memories are blurry. Except for those involving a mysterious boy. 

When the boy starts appearing in Shelby's 'memories,' we immediately expect that this guy could be a ghost or some supernatural figure. However, FORTUNATELY, he is not: he's real. And Shelby meets him, discovering that she once knew him... quite well. And even though this book is a total love story, as the cover suggests, it focuses on a lot more than just the love. Renee Collins captures the reality of living in a small town with citizens who literally have their nose in everyone's business. Imagine hiding Shelby's huge secret (of losing her memory) in a place where everyone knows everyone. It felt as if there were so many characters in this story in comparison to other books. I loved learning about the personalities and lives of so many — I find that it is often difficult to connect with characters in books, but this one had no flaws with that, or anything, for that matter.

Shelby was a protagonist who I know I will compare others to. She had the right amount of down-to-earth-ness and intelligence and empathy to the extent that she was not letting anyone around her use her. I appreciated her so much - the book would have surely been different if she wasn't around. AND THE LOVE INTEREST? Auden? He's my lover. New book boyfriend. New favourite character. AGH. If you like a mysterious, interesting man, you now know which book to read. YAY FOR THEIR FLAWED, BEAUTIFUL ROMANCE! Collins showed, through this lovely book, that love is so flawed, that there is no perfection involved.

Remember Me Always is a book I (and you, if you read it) will never forget. I loved the pacing, premise, characters and most of all, romance, which was the opposite of perfection. How can I relive what I felt during this book again? To remember it always.

*A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for a honest review. Thanks so much!*

What book would you want to remember, always?

Changes in Latitudes by Jen Malone // *shrugs*

Friday, 3 November 2017 0 comments
Changes in Latitudes, by Jen Malone
Publication: July 25, 2017, by HarperTeen
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 384
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Rating: ½

All Cassie wants is to get some solid ground under her feet following the shock of her parents’ divorce. So when she learns of her mom’s plans to take Cassie and her brother, Drew, on a four-month sailing trip from Oregon to Mexico, she’s stunned. There is absolutely nothing solid about the Pacific Ocean.
Cassie is furious. And nervous. It’s been hard enough keeping Drew sheltered from what Cassie knows about her mother’s role in breaking their family apart, but living in such close quarters threatens to push her anger past its tipping point.
Enter Jonah, a whip-smart deckhand who’s as gorgeous as he is flirtatious. Cassie tries to keep him at a distance, but the more time they spend together—wandering San Francisco, riding beachside roller coasters, and exploring the California coastline—the harder it is to fight the attraction.
Cassie wants to let herself go, but her parents’ split has left her feeling adrift in a sea of questions she can’t even begin to answer. Can she forgive her mom? Will home ever feel the same? Should she take a chance on Jonah? With life’s unpredictable tides working against her, Cassie must decide whether to swim against them…or dive right in.

My Thoughts:

Changes in Latitudes was expected to be amazing by me. I thought that I would adore it because I really enjoyed Jen Malone's Wanderlost, which was a traveller's dream story. Wanderlost made me feel as if I needed to read more contemporary romances and travel the world as much as possible. This story, however, was disappointing. I surely did enjoy it, however, I found that it was missing something... some concept/characters I would enjoy and learn from. Some content that I did not see before. Yes, the whole 'sailor' story was completely new, however I felt that the types of characters who were introduced were plain. Boring. 

This book featured a protagonist, Cassie, who explored a new pace of life as she began traveling by boat along the West Coast of America. WOW, RIGHT? And along the way, she stereotypically (and unsurprisingly) falls in love with Jonah - who introduces her to a world of fun, especially since her parents recently got divorced. Jen Malone takes us through San Francisco, Oregon, on the way to Mexico, which seems to be a reader's dream itinerary. I couldn't help but fall in love with the premise of this story, but what was lacking was a racing story that made me addicted. This was just a book that I can classify as "meh." I've read better things, more action-packed stories, but it is what it is.

Cassie was kick-butt. I loved her attitude and how she was all about trying to gain some kind of positivity in life. In the midst of her life, she is battling several demons, such as dealing with the fact that she was miles away from her friends and senior year. And then the romance with Jonah began and I just fell in love with everything the story was promoting. Although the ending was mediocre, I still liked it.

Changes in Latitudes was a book with a great story with a nice premise and set of characters (including the romance), but there were flaws that prevented me from really enjoying the book. Aside from the slow-moving of the story and the ending, I'd highly recommend this one. Grab it and head on a cruise ship, exploring the destinations as you sail around the world!

Are there any other YA books about traveling on the sea?

Afterward by Jennifer Mathieu // A Beautiful Premise

Sunday, 22 October 2017 0 comments
Afterward, by Jennifer Mathieu
Publication: September 20, 2016, by Roaring Brook Press
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Romance, Abuse
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher

When Caroline's little brother is kidnapped, his subsequent rescue leads to the discovery of Ethan, a teenager who has been living with the kidnapper since he was a young child himself. In the aftermath, Caroline can't help but wonder what Ethan knows about everything that happened to her brother, who is not readjusting well to life at home. And although Ethan is desperate for a friend, he can't see Caroline without experiencing a resurgence of traumatic memories. But after the media circus surrounding the kidnappings departs from their small Texas town, both Caroline and Ethan find that they need a friend--and their best option just might be each other.

My Thoughts:

Afterward by Jennifer Mathieu is a story I am so grateful to have finally read. I loved everything that it was about, everything that it was inspiring and trying to tell readers. The author did a fabulous job at writing this story as if the main characters, Caroline and Ethan, were real, and if the kidnappings of Ethan and Caroline's brother actually did occur. As the title suggests, this story takes place as the aftermath of the kidnappings. Instead of the mystery part that every kidnapping story seems to deal with (the victims trying to escape), this focuses on the emotions the characters are enduring and how they feel they can strengthen.

This is a beautiful story that I cannot forget about. Once I began reading, I was not able to stop and it became so addictive. And although I would normally not be the biggest fan of a book involving a romance between two characters who are both dealing with some kind of personal issues, this somehow worked. Mathieu used her brilliant writing skills to create a balance between remedy (of Ethan's), acceptance (Caroline's acceptance of what occurred to her brother), and love. It just shows that everyone is meant to recover from many of the traumas they experience. 

READ THIS NOW. It's an underrated story that has so much potential to please readers. I enjoyed its characters, premise, writing style - all of it. By the end, I was completely pleased and ready to read more like it.

*A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for a honest review. Thank you so much!*

What are some other kidnapping YA books?

What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum // Promising and... Good.

Saturday, 14 October 2017 0 comments
What to Say Next, by Julie Buxbaum
Publication: July 11, 2017, by Delacorte Press
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 292
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Rating: ½

When an unlikely friendship is sparked between relatively popular Kit Lowell and socially isolated David Drucker, everyone is surprised, most of all Kit and David. Kit appreciates David’s blunt honesty—in fact, she finds it bizarrely refreshing. David welcomes Kit’s attention and her inquisitive nature. When she asks for his help figuring out the how and why of her dad’s tragic car accident, David is all in. But neither of them can predict what they’ll find. Can their friendship survive the truth?

My Thoughts:

Julie Buxbaum's What to Say Next looks as promising a glass of iced, cold pink lemonade. No jokes. When I first saw its cover and read the summary, I discovered that this could be the cutest summer read ever. The word I can use to describe this book is "good." It surely was not amazing or phenomenal or *insert extremely positive adjective here* but hey — I enjoyed it. I loved the back-and-forth perspective change between the two protagonists, Kit and David, who were interesting, conflicted characters, who, by the end, I discovered were quite similar.

Buxbaum introduces us readers to this book by making it seem as if high school is like what we see it is in movies. That's acceptable; this is a chick-lit book, after all. However, learning who Kit and David really are helps us understand that everyone is conflicted in some sense - that we are all able to create different personalities that do not describe us well. Kit, the so-called popular girl at school who seems to be getting everything she wants in life, finds that her life completely changes when her father dies in a car accident. And everything starts crumbling. She finds that her friends are acting too fake, not wanting to address what actually happened, and that her mother is hiding more secrets about her and her father's relationship. 

Her life collapses until she starts to pay attention to the "weird" David Drucker. And I loved that David was Kit's remedy, and that she was his. That's the kind of love I want - the one that you do not expect and that fits so well in your life. Agh. I guess you can tell that I totally supported the characters' relationship and loved it.


There's always a but.

It felt forced. I felt that Kit kind of moulded herself into David's arms without really wanting to. Buxbaum wanted to create a relationship that was unlike others, so she put the 'weirdo and popular girl' together. And of course that will cause audiences to go mad and excited, because it's different than all of the other contemporaries out there. Yay for that - but meh. In addition, I was bored every now and then, which made me take around two weeks to finish this. *frowns*

What to Say Next makes me feel like I do not really know what to say next. It was DEFINITELY GOOD. I loved the concept and relationship, and aside from a few negative spots, I definitely recommend it.

*A review copy was provided by the author in exchange for a honest review. Thanks so much!*

What is the coolest, most atypical relationship you have seen in books recently?