Throwback Thursday: Books I’ve Loved and Lost

Recently I’ve been reminiscing about all the books I’ve loved and lost. I haven’t actually lost them, but I never owned them and/or have forgotten their titles. Specifically, there was a chapter book I loved as a kid that was about these Welsh siblings who were playing at a stone circle (possibly Stonehenge?) and followed a wild boar through a portal to a magical world. AND I CAN’T FOR THE LIFE OF ME REMEMBER WHAT IT IS CALLED.

However, I did manage to track down one of my favourite ever paranormal YA books. I had borrowed it from the library and had lost track of it since. I swear I read it twice in a row, it was so good. Here it is: Walk of the Spirits by Richie Tankersley Cusick.

Walk of the Spirits

I didn’t even know it was part of a series because I read it so long ago! This book made me sa-woooon and is so hauntingly awesome. It takes place in New Orleans and is part ghost story, part romance. I might borrow it from the library again and give it another go, especially now that I know it’s the first in a series. It was honestly that good.

Another one of my favourites is Ordinary Ghosts by Eireann Corrigan.

ordinary ghosts

This book is also haunting in the best way. The main character inherits the keys to his school from his MIA brother and sneaks in after dark just to hang out. At first he thinks the place is haunted, but then he finds out that it’s just a girl sneaking in to use the art studio. Swooning ensues.

I love them both. I’m pretty sure I read them both in the same week, actually. You definitely need to check them out.

-Ember Book Reviews xxoo

Walk of the Spirits on Goodreads and Amazon ($3.69 for the Kindle edition, just saying).

Ordinary Ghosts on Goodreads and Amazon.

 

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THREE DAY SUMMER by Sarvenaz Tash

three day summer

4 ½ out of 5

[ARC provided to me in paperback format in exchange for an honest review. Date to be released: May 19, 2015. Imprint: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. Release information: Hardcover, $17.99/$21.99 Canadian.]

It’s 1969 and the biggest concert of all time is about to descend on the small town of Bethel, New York, only nobody knows just how big it’s going to be yet. There have been rumours, which is why Michael just has to go. It’s the only thing he’s sure about. Torn between enrolling in college—which he’s not too thrilled about—and putting his name down for the draft into the Vietnam War when he turns eighteen—which he’s impartial to—Michael is happy to just focus on the music, despite the manipulative girlfriend that he wishes he could break up with tagging along.

Cora wants to be a doctor. It’s her deepest, darkest secret. It’s why she’s volunteering as a candy striper in the medical tents at the concert being set up practically in her backyard. But even she can’t resist the music, and when Michael comes stumbling into her tent, carried by two of his friends and then left there, his love for Jimi Hendrix and knowledge of the music scene is intoxicating. Cora finds herself swept up in Michael’s enthusiasm, but a part of her holds back. It’s the part still hurt by her recent break-up. It’s the part still scarred from the fact that her ex-boyfriend didn’t believe she could be a doctor because she’s a woman.

Cora and Michael discover themselves in the middle of the biggest musical gathering in history and discover each other as well. Three Day Summer will leave readers wishing they had been at Woodstock and feeling the flower power. Music lovers will go crazy over this book about the biggest concert of all time.

I don’t think I’ve ever read anything like Three Day Summer before. It was an incredibly unique and refreshing read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It reminded me of the movie Across the Universe, only the YA book version, and I love Across the Universe. I’m sure you can see what I’m getting at.

One of the things I loved most about this book was its emphasis on living in and really experiencing the present, which was ironically delivered through a story that takes place in 1969 at Woodstock. Though the book wasn’t as perfectly swoon-worthy as I had hoped, it did have some steamy moments and the character development was spot-on. It did have a slight slump at the 4/5 mark where I could see where the book was going and I just wanted it to get there. That being said, it made me wish I had been born a few decades earlier so that I could have experience Woodstock.

I hope Tash writes more books that take place in this era because Three Day Summer definitely has me wanting to explore it more. I’d also love to see fans of the book posting pictures of random people at Woodstock that they think could be the characters in the book. (And just a side note: everyone needs to hear Joe Cocker’s version of “Come Together.” It just so happens to be on the Across the Universe soundtrack.)

-Ember Book Reviews xxoo

P.S. I never do this, but for this book, I sticky-tabbed three separate pages that had really awesome quotes. They are mantras to live by, I swear.

Also, fun fact: my mom was a candy striper.

Check out this book on Goodreads!

Purchase this book on Amazon.

THE CEMETERY BOYS by Heather Brewer

The-Cemetery-Boys-Heather-Brewer

5 out of 5

The Outsiders meets The Twilight Zone in Heather Brewer’s latest, The Cemetery Boys.

Stephen is a big-city kid thrown into small-town life after his mother is committed to a mental hospital for ranting about monsters. As the medical bills pile up, Stephen’s dad is forced to move them back to the very place that he’d ditched the minute he’d grown up. The town is called Spencer, named after the guy who founded it. Not only does it feature all the clichés of small-town life, like the pack of oldsters who spend every waking moment hanging around outside the gas station gossiping—it also comes with a sinister past. The town has its own boatload of crazy: Martha, Cara and Devon’s mom, publicly screams that everyone will burn after her husband was murdered by being burnt to death; the town founder himself was suspected of murdering his daughter so many years ago. Crazier still, there’s a legend swirling that the town is watched by the Winged Ones that bring bad times, only appeased through the sacrifice of an outsider. If Stephen thought his mother was the only one who believed in monsters, then he has another thing coming…

All I can say is this: wow.

Hands down, The Cemetery Boys is one of the best books of 2015 that I’ve read so far. I’m not one for horror—and if I read it, I expect it to scare me properly—and this book was actually creepy. It wasn’t like one of those stories that gets told in Boy Scouts while you’re sitting around the fire roasting marshmallows. I had nightmares while I was reading.

As I said in my pitch, this book reminded me of The Outsiders. I’m not sure why, but for some reason the two books gave me similar vibes. Perhaps it was the gang-of-brothers thing, but if you’re thinking this will be a feel-good story about friendship and heroes, you’ve got another thing coming. That’s one thing I just learned about our Auntie Heather: she likes to make you squirm.

The way Auntie Heather painted the image of the small town was crystal clear and spooky. I just wish she’d explored some of the scarier settings a bit more, like the funeral-home-turned-house with the crematorium still in the basement. I also would have liked to see more swearing in the book, which is something I rarely say (I’m not a saint or anything, I just think it has its time and place and can be overdone or feel wrong for the character). I guess I just wanted Stephen’s kick-ass side to come out a bit more. Basically, I’m trying to say that this book was definitely curse-worthy.

Everyone should read this book. I cannot stress that enough. I loved it, and seeing as it was my first read post-exams, I’m so glad that it didn’t disappoint. I can’t wait to read more from Auntie Heather and I hope it gets spookier and more twisted as she goes along.

-Ember Book Reviews xxoo

P.S. I love this quote:

“And belief was a funny thing. It made people do things that theories and ideas couldn’t. Beliefs made people associate with certain people or not. Beliefs made people give money to certain causes or avoid them altogether. Beliefs made people sacrifice, be it luxuries or lives. Ideas could be changed. Theories could be modified. But beliefs were hard-core. They were solid.” -Heather Brewer, The Cemetery Boys, pg. 210-211

Check out this book on Goodreads!

Purchase this book on Amazon.

GALGORITHM by Aaron Karo

Galgorithm

3 out of 5

[ARC provided to me in paperback format in exchange for an honest review. Date to be released: May 5, 2015. Imprint: Simon Pulse.]

Shane is a seventeen-year-old love guru. Having already survived through one devastating and failed relationship, guys like the one Shane used to be (nerdy, shy, awkward around girls) seek him out for a little help in the love department. Using a formula Shane cleverly calls the “Galgorithm,” Shane teaches the dweebs of Kingsview High how to snag and keep a lady.

When one of his teachers takes notice and seeks out Shane’s expertise, things begin to go a bit awry and Shane realizes he’s taken on more than he can handle. Galgorithm is a story about quirky guys who just need a little confidence to get the girls of their dreams.

The Galgorithm failed to work on me, I’m sorry to say. When I first started the novel, I thought I would be head-over-heels in love with Karo’s writing. Karo is a comedian, and his humour definitely shone through in the first few pages. My initial impressions were very positive, finding similarities between Galgorithm and the film version of The DUFF (I have not read the book, sadly), if it had been told from Wesley’s point of view. It also seemed like it was going to be a light and refreshing read.

Unfortunately, we quickly fell into a rut. The narrative humour exemplified on the first two pages was quickly thrown out and replaced with hundreds of pages of dialogue with very little narration in between. It read more like a screenplay than a novel (perhaps the screenwriter in Karo shining through), and I would have appreciated a little bit more narrative description rather than so much talking. The dialogue itself was incredibly—almost mind-blowingly—repetitive. It was too perfect, to the point that it was cheesy and mundane. It is rare that the characters, even the ones in a bad mood, don’t have something positive to say, and it’s usually about Shane. Shane is constantly complimented or told that he’s an awesome or good guy, and nobody is that well-liked. Couple that with the fact that Shane’s middle name is supposed to be Aaron, the author’s actual name, and it felt very much like a Mary-Sue was happening here. As I read, I struggled to think of anybody who spoke in real life the way the characters do in the book.

I was also incredibly disappointed to find that one of the jokes used in the book was a joke that I first heard from British comedian Michael McIntyre on one of his comedy tour DVDs. Knowing that Karo is a comedian himself, I would have liked to see some original material in his novel. A few other issues that I had with the book involved the sense that Karo, at times, seemed to over-emphasize the diversity in his book, which made it feel less genuine, and the fact that Karo held the reader’s hand way too much, often stating what was happening in the plot when it was already obvious.

Finally, without giving anything away, the final nail in the coffin for me was this: the cliché happened. I am so disappointed.

-Ember Book Reviews xxoo

Check out this book on Goodreads!

Purchase this book on Amazon [kindle] [hardcover].

The Versatile Blogger Award

versitle-blogger-bw

Wow. So I’m incredibly honoured to announce that Erika the Bibliophile has nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award. This is my first ever blogging award, having only re-started blogging recently, so I’m incredibly flattered and thank you so much to Erika (everyone go check out her blog!).

The rules are as follows:

  •  Thank the person who gave you this award. That’s common courtesy.
  •  Include a link to their blog. That’s also common courtesy — if you can figure out how to do it.
  •  Next, select 15 blogs/bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow regularly.
  •  Nominate those 15 bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award — you might include a link to this site.
  •  Finally, tell the person who nominated you 7 things about yourself.

So, here are your seven facts:

  1. I’m a student attending the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus for English and History.
  2. I hope to attend the Creative Book Publishing program at Humber College next summer to become a professional book reviewer.
  3. My lifelong dream is to be an author.
  4. My favourite book is The Fault in Our Stars, with my second-favourite being The Truth About Forever.
  5. I am the oldest of three sisters.
  6. Just one month ago, I won the Best Fiction award at the 2015 UTSC Humanities Conference for my short story “Songbird.”
  7. I am fascinated with names. I could spend all day on Nameberry looking up names and their meanings.

Nominees:

Ri at Hiver & Café

Nic at View From a Walking Frame

Confessions of a Lit Addict

Mel at The Daily Prophecy

Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl

Tash at The Bookie Monsters

Zakiya at Books, TV, and Me

Joanna at Sweet Little Wood

CraftyReads

Sarah Cross at Fairy Tale Mood

Eilis O’Neal

Amy at falcoskater

Brilliant UK

The Wandering Folklorist

Saloni at By Blood a Queen

I took to heart the idea of versatile blogs and tried to list as many different types of blogs as possible. I hope you’ll check them out and enjoy!

-Ember Book Reviews xxoo

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten (Five) Characters I’d Like to Check in With

I heard about this post by The Broke and the Bookish through Erika the Bibliophile. I thought it was super neat because, as an avid reader, writer, and daydreamer, book characters are more than just fictional to me: my imagination transforms them into real people—friends—who I am convinced are still out there doing their thing to this day. So OF COURSE I fell in love with the idea of listing all the characters I wonder about on a casual (constant?) basis. Unfortunately, I couldn’t come up with ten characters that I’m all that worried about. Instead, I picked my top five. I’m also going to tell you all where I hope they’ve taken their lives, or where I think their lives might have gone based on where the book(s) left off. Hopefully you guys will comment and give me your two cents as well! I’d love to hear who your top ten (or five or seven or three-hundred eleventy-one) characters are.

#1. The Harry Potter characters

I know that Erika the Bibliophile also posted this as her number one, but can you blame her? I grew up with this series and was heartbroken when I read the final lines, knowing that I would never read them for the first time again. Like Erika, the epilogue wasn’t enough for me, but rather than wondering about the main gang (Harry, Ron, Hermione, Luna, etc.), I’m more concerned about the next generation and how Hogwarts is carrying on after the final battle.

Here’s what I think: I like to imagine that Harry’s son is a teensy bit evil. I don’t know why. I guess I just think it will thicken the plot a little bit (I felt that the epilogue led into a very boring story and I’d like to spice that up). I imagine him in Slytherin, but I picture him isolating himself from the other children and eventually taking a turn down the dark path. I mean, how crazy would that be? Harry defeats the Dark Lord just to have his son turn around to become Voldermort, the Next Generation.

hp harry's sonvoldemort

#2. Gemma from Libba Bray’s The Gemma Doyle Triology

Kartik was left in a tree. I mean, enough said, right? Not that Gemma can’t go on without Kartik or anything, but she really loved him. I guess I just wonder if that tree still stands, if Gemma eventually moved on but in her old age still thinks about him. I wonder if, like Rose in the Titanic, she spent her life with somebody else but her heart still truly belongs to Kartik. I kind of hope it does, but at the same time I feel sorry for the poor bugger she ended up with. (I mean, the ending of Titanic is great and all—it’s my favourite movie—but when she returns to Jack, IS NOBODY WORRIED ABOUT HOW HER POOR, DEAD HUSBAND IS FEELING LOOKING DOWN ON ALL THAT???)

gemma doyle

#3. Allie from The Vinyl Princess

It’s been a long time since I read this book, and I don’t remember the precise spot that it left off at, but I still wonder about Allie skateboarding through the streets on her way to work at the music store. Basically, Allie was awesome, I wished I could be her, and I think she’d make a freaking cool thirty-year-old, so I’d like to see that.

vinyl princess

#4. Hazel from The Fault in Our Stars

(Yeah, I refuse to call her Hazel Grace. That was Gus’s thing. It wouldn’t feel right for me to get to call her that.) So, if you don’t know how TFiOS ended, you’ve been living under a rock. Basically, I just want to know if Hazel is okay. I want to know if she’s still even ALIVE. But most of all, I want to know that wherever she is or wherever she left off, she still loves Gus with all her heart. What can I say? I’m a romantic. I hope she’s still best friends with Isaac, and I hope that they think of Gus whenever they play video games. I hope that Hazel has a little picture of her and Gus in Amsterdam tucked away somewhere that she pulls out to look at occasionally. I hope she spends lots of time with her parents. I hope that wherever she is, she’s happy.

tfios

#5. Macy and Wes from The Truth About Forever

This one’s a bit trickier for me. The book left off with Macy and Wes jogging down the beach together, and they make a cameo in another of Sarah Dessen’s novel, but it’s not 100% whether or not they stay together. That’s why it’s tricky: I want to know but I don’t. If they’re still together, I want to know. If they’re not, I don’t. I also can’t really picture what their happily ever after would look like. Do they have kids? Do they have a dog? A house or an apartment? Does Bert visit them in his ambulance? Is Macy still best friends with Kristy? So much of the novel was spent with Macy and Wes navigating boundaries and not with them actually together that it leaves me with too many question marks. I’m overwhelmed. I almost don’t even want to start looking for answers.

the_truth_about_forever

-Ember Book Reviews xxoo

Monday Updates: Why I Couldn’t Finish SHATTER ME by Tahereh Mafi

So it’s Monday, the day that I would normally post a book review, but I’m sad to say that I don’t have one to post this week. There are a couple of reasons for this: 1. I’m in university and it’s currently final exam season, which means I am spending most of my days studying; 2. I could not for the life of me get into Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi.

shatter me

Why? That’s a really good question, and one that I’ve been pondering for the past few days. I’ve only ever heard people rave about her books, so how come I couldn’t even get through half of the first one? What’s wrong with me that I’m just not getting all the hype?

I’ve narrowed it down to a few factors. One of those is the writing style. If you’re a reader who looks for unique writing styles, then this book is quite possibly for you. While I’m not someone averse to unique writing styles, Mafi’s style in Shatter Me put me right off. I think there’s a difference between something being unique and something being creative. To me, Shatter Me’s prose was not creative. Without any spoilers, I’ll break it down for you: the MC, Juliette, is on the edge of insanity, so the prose is supposed to reflect her stream of consciousness to a degree. Mafi does this by occasionally ditching the rules of grammar and also having words or complete phrases crossed out on the page, so they’re readable but reflect that the character is fighting with herself on how to perceive or think about her situation. If this blog was written in the Shatter Me style, it might read something like this:

If this blog was written in the Shatter Me style it might read something like this

Like this like this like this

Why don’t I think this is creative? Because it seems too easy. I’m not saying it was easy for Mafi to write this book, but it almost seemed as if Mafi started revising her draft and then decided not to finish it, instead letting the readers see all of the pre-revision work. For me, as a reader, it was incredibly annoying, and it just felt like something that anyone could have done. I’ve read the stream-of-consciousness, absence-of-grammar book before, I’ve read the cross-out-lines-to-reflect-the-MC-is-struggling-to-think-straight book. I want something refreshing. Maybe show me a diary where the font looks like scribbled words and there are words written in the margins. Scatter the words across the pages with blank spaces in between to show the MC struggling to sort out their thoughts or come up with the right thing to say. To me, those things would feel more creative.

As well, I don’t know about you fellow readers, but I’ve trained my eye to skip over anything that is crossed out, so it was super tedious to have to constantly remind myself to read those parts. However, what I found was that you actually could skip over almost all of it and the story/narration wasn’t drastically altered. In fact, I found it to be better.

The other problem I had with this style was that it was occasional. The crossing-out was fairly consistent throughout the portion that I read, but there were random paragraphs where grammar and punctuation would be forgotten while the next two pages were written as you’d normally see them in any other book. It felt very sporadic to me, which may emphasize Juliette’s mental state to some readers, but it just appeared sloppy to me. I think I would have appreciated the style much more had it been consistent throughout every paragraph, sentence, etc. I once read a book where there was basically no correct grammar or punctuation because it was written by a post-traumatic stress victim who was sporadically remembering the events of her life that lead to her present state, and I loved it. The continuous stream-of-consciousness narration was so powerful alongside the overarching story that it had a pretty big impact on me afterwards. Unfortunately, while I feel as if that was something Mafi was trying to accomplish, I think she missed the mark.

Finally, I felt like Mafi was occasionally going over-board with her descriptions. This feeling that I have is a bit harder to describe, but it was kind of like this: where Mafi could have used two or three adjectives to describe what she was talking about while simultaneously demonstrating Juliette’s struggle with her sanity and love of words, Mafi used ten. That’s the best way I can describe it, though it’s not a very good expression of the feeling nagging at me. I can only encourage you to give the book a try and see for yourself.

Now, like I said, I seem to be the only person in the world who does not like these books, so I’d like to know if there’s anyone else out there who just could not get through them. Please comment and let me know. I’d love to have your input!

In other news, I am currently reading Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige and am finding it pretty interesting so far. The Wizard of Oz always creeped me out so I’m pumped to be reading someone else’s dark take on the tale. Waiting for me on the book shelf are: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor and The Iron King by Julie Kagawa, with The Cemetery Boys and a few other new releases waiting for me at the library. I am also hoping to grab Shutter by Courtney Alameda as soon as I get a little extra cash. My TBR list is nearly endless, you guys.

-Ember Book Reviews xxoo

dorothy must die  daughter of smoke  the iron king

the cemetery boys  shutter

Dorothy Must Die on Amazon.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone on Amazon.

The Iron King on Amazon.

The Cemetery Boys on Amazon.

Shutter on Amazon.

(P.S. If you have ever clicked a link on my blog that lead to your purchase of a book, please let me know. Thank you.)