I've always enjoyed a good re-imagining of a classic story; whether based on a legendary myth or a popular work of fiction, I really love when a writer tackles the often difficult task of breathing new life into a well-known tale. Kenneth Oppel does so with expert finesse in This Dark Endeavour (HarperCollins Canada). The story is a prequel to the popular classic novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley; it follows the adolescent Victor Frankenstein in the events that propel him on the dark path that will lead to the creation of his infamous monster.

Victor and Konrad Frankenstein are twin brothers who, along with their distant cousin Elizabeth and best friend Henry, get up to all kinds of mischievous adventures on the grounds of Castle Frankenstein. When Konrad falls deathly ill and no doctor is able to find a cure, it is up to the other three to take drastic measures to save his life. Konrad enters the forbidden Dark Library, hidden in the basement of Castle Frankenstein, and finds the recipe for an ancient alchemical potion called The Elixir of Life. With help from Elizabeth and Henry, Victor must embark on a series of harrowing tasks to gather the necessary ingredients for the Elixir, before it is too late.

This book was so much fun to read; not only is it adventurous and fast-paced but the storytelling is really detailed. The plot progresses quickly and Oppel weaves in details through Victor's narrative in a way that really worked for me. Victor makes for a fascinating protagonist; he is a bit of an anti-hero and at times his behaviour is deplorable, but I still found myself rooting for him. He has some pretty fantastic moments of bravery and selflessness that help to prove his heart is ultimately in the right place (for now). I felt Oppel really hit the nail on the head when it came to striking the balance between Victor's good and evil sides.

This Dark Endeavour is one of my favourite reads so far this year; the gothic style, the historic setting and a compelling narrator all make for a really engrossing book. Though it does have the quick pace and plot-driven writing style common in contemporary YA fiction (one of the many reasons I love reading teen novels), for me there was a lot of complexity written between the lines in this book. The sequel entitled Such Wicked Intent is due out at the end of this summer and I plan to head out to my local bookstore that very day so I can get right back into the story.
I have been MIA from my blog for a couple weeks, due to the hectic and beautiful thing I call my life. A lot has been happening in my world in the last little bit that has kept me preoccupied, both literally and mentally/emotionally. I had an interview for a really great publishing job in Toronto, finished up my internship at First Book Canada (no more long commuting!) and upon hearing not a peep about the job I was waiting on, decided I wanted to put my energy into another option I'd been toying with for some time: moving to the wonderful city of Kingston, ON.

My boyfriend Jess got a really great job in Kingston back in January. We both finished school around the same time so we were in the same boat when it came to looking for work, and I am so proud of him for finding a job in his field. Of course, I was living in Guelph and commuting to my internship in Mississauga everyday, so this meant a lot of time apart. We've been in a long distance relationship for about a year and we are both ready for that to come to an end. So, when it seemed I hadn't gotten the job and my internship was finishing up, I decided to move to Kingston so I could be with the love of my life. 

It was a hard decision because 95% of publishing jobs are in Toronto so for me, a move to Kingston means that for the next little while, I likely won't be working in publishing. That isn't to say that Kingston doesn't have a vibrant literary scene; there are two wonderful independent bookstores (one new and one used), the Kingston Writers Festival, a lot of writers who call Kingston home, an awesome Bookmark featuring the Bronwen Wallace poem "Mexican Sunsets" and from what I can tell, a wonderful community of avid readers. So, being the glass half-full kinda gal that I am, I look forward to all the exciting things waiting for me in Kingston; be they literary or otherwise.

So, that is what has been occupying my time. I am in Kingston now, looking for work, trying to find an apartment and just strolling around the city I'll hopefully be calling home. As for this blog, I've got a review coming up soon, an exciting (well, I think it is exciting) addition to my booklists and other bloggish-type fun. 

Thanks for reading!

This book blew my mind. Those five words sum up my feelings towards The Night Circus (Random House) by Erin Morgenstern so perfectly that I could just leave my review at that. However, I don't think that would be very satisfying for those reading my blog so I'll do my best to add a few more thoughts.When I first heard of this book I was so excited, it sounded absolutely magical and it was getting all kinds of crazy good reviews. Then, two of my friends read it, and both stated that it was over hyped and didn't live up to their expectations. I began to worry that I wasn't going to enjoy it either; we have similar reading tastes so it was a good possibility. I should never have worried though because I fell head over heels in love with this book.

The Night Circus tells the story of Le Cirque des Rêves, a mysterious traveling circus that is only open at night. It is full of magical wonderment, unlike any circus that has ever been seen before, and continually dazzles the audience night after night. The circus is really a front for an intense competition between two young magicians, Marco and Celia, who have been pitted against one another by their rivaling instructors. As the years go by, and the game becomes more and more imaginative and complex, Celia and Marco find that they are falling in love with one another. Their fate, and the fate of all who love the circus and call it home, becomes entangled in the deadly duel of magic that must be played out till its inevitable end.

For me, the best part of this book is the beautifully detailed writing. Morgenstern evokes the magic of the circus so perfectly that I felt I could see, smell, hear, taste all the delights of Le Cirque des Rêves myself. The best word I can think of to describe the writing is seductive, every time I was reading I felt entirely swept into the world of the circus. I longed to experience what I was reading for myself; the writing is so visceral that I felt so close to the action of the story and yet, as it is a book and not real, so very far away. I was jealous of the characters in the story because they got to experience this truly hypnotic circus. It reminded me of my jealousy towards the characters in Harry Potter because they got to attend Hogwarts. 

There is an interesting cast of characters, an odd collection of delightfully eccentric individuals brought together through the unique magic of the circus. None of the characters clearly claims the role of the protagonist, unfortunately creating a slight issue when it comes to character development that I think might turn some readers off. I personally wasn't bothered by this as Morgenstern evokes such a detailed world that I let my imagination fill in the rest. I also felt that the true protagonist of the story was the circus itself.

The Night Circus is not an action-packed, page-turner written to be devoured in a few short sittings. It is a luxurious, meticulous read; one that the reader must fully submerge themselves into in order to get the true experience. Utterly fabulous!
Usually when referring to those who "have" and those who "have not," we are talking about a person's financial and social position. However, for the purposes of this post, I am referring to those who have experienced the transformative power of books and those who, quite simply, have not.

I was bitten very early on by the "reading bug." For as long as I can remember, reading has been a huge part of my life, I read on an almost daily-basis. If I go more than a day or two without reading, I get restless and out of sorts. For me, books have always been a place of refuge from everyday life; I can disappear into the world of stories and leave my life behind. It is as though all my cares, my stresses, my responsibilities just melt away. Nothing else outside the world of the book matters. It is pure bliss and I will happily (and proudly) admit to being addicted to the wonderful world of literature. Most of you reading this blog probably feel very similar. We are the "Haves."

There are people out there who do not read, shocking I know, but it is true. It is not as though they never read or despise reading, they just don't read very much (a few books a year, maybe) and they feel like reading is more of a chore than a pleasure. These people are the "Have Nots." 

The "Have Nots" will never understand a book lover's obsessive need to always have a book on the go, just as the "Haves" will never understand how a person can get by on reading only once in a blue moon. Of course, there are a lot of people who fall somewhere in the middle, they love reading and do so on a regular basis. They will happily engage in a conversation about books, and they understand wholeheartedly the power of reading a book. They are like the upper middle-class of the literary world, but not quite the 1%.

As a total bibliophile, I will occasionally find myself at odds with the "Have Nots" when reading is concerned. There have been numerous times in my life when all I want to do is curl up with my book and shut out the rest of the world, including other people. This is as necessary for my well-being as my morning smoothie and getting fresh air everyday. It is not because I don't like you, or because I am anti-social. It is simply because I have a burning, unyielding and passionate need to read. If I do not fulfill this need I become at best, a "Grumpy Gus" and at worst, a raging, crying ball of fury.  For some people, this is an unreasonable and strange need that they will seemingly never understand. Sometimes not having this need understood by those around me can be hurtful, as though I am not accepted for who I am (an insatiable book nut who cannot be stopped). 

But, you know what? More often than not I feel sympathy for these "Have Nots" rather than contempt. I feel sorry that they have never experienced the joy that comes with loving a book so much that it gives your life new meaning. And so, fellow book lover, next time you are chided for choosing books over play just smile and nod, bury your nose back into the pages and slip into your special book world. You are so lucky that such a world exists for you.

“At one magical instant in your early childhood, the page of a book--that string of confused, alien ciphers--shivered into meaning. Words spoke to you, gave up their secrets; at that moment, whole universes opened. You became, irrevocably, a reader.”

-Alberto Manguel
I wanted to read this book from the moment I first saw it when my class went to Random House on a field trip last summer. It was on display in the board room, and I had a few moments to flip through it and mentally add it to my long list of books to read. The Midwife of Venice is the debut novel by Roberta Rich and is published by Random House Canada. The story follows Hannah Levi, a young woman living in the Jewish Ghetto of sixteenth-century Venice. She is renowned for her skill as a midwife, so much so that late one night a Christian Conte comes knocking at her door, seeking her out to help his labouring wife. It is illegal for a Jew to give medical care to a Christian, the punishment being death, but the man is desperate to save his dying wife and Hannah's compassionate nature, combined with an opportunity for rich payment, wins out. Her beloved husband Issac has been kidnapped and sold into slavery in Malta, the money could be enough to pay off his ransom.

And this is only the beginning of the gripping story as Hannah finds herself entangled in the dangerous affairs of the affluent Christian family she agrees to help. Throw in an outbreak of plague, the safety of the entire Jewish ghetto and the matter of securing Issac's freedom, and you have an amazing historical page-turner.

I was positive I was going to like this book, I love historical fiction and I have always been drawn to books where midwifery is featured prominently. The Midwife of Venice did not disappoint. Hannah is a wonderful protagonist; she is fierce and determined but is still very human. She is motivated by her love for Issac and her sense of right and wrong; Rich does an amazing job of creating a strong female character who is still very much a woman of her time. In historical fiction, I find it can often be tricky to get the balance right but Hannah is perfect. I really connected with her and cared deeply about the outcome of the story. The novel also follows Issac in Malta, detailing his time working as a slave and devising his escape so he can return to Hannah. The love between these two characters is palpable without becoming hokey, and for me it was the glue that held the story together.

The Midwife of Venice is a fantastic combination of excellent prose and great readability; it's a fast-paced novel full of action and excellent detail of sixteenth-century Venetian life. There were certain aspects of the story that I felt could have been fleshed out a little bit more, but my enjoyment of reading this book far surpassed any small criticisms I might have had. If you are a fan of historical novels then you must read this book; it would also be the perfect choice for someone who is curious about historical fiction but doesn't know where to start.

All in all, a thoroughly satisfying read.

So, I was getting tired of the layout of my old blog because I found it uninspiring and I didn't really want to post on it, plus it is a registered domain name that is going to expire soon, and I don't really want to deal with all the trouble of renewing it (and paying for it, ha). 

Anyways, this is my brand-spanking new book blog. I am really excited about it, though I have to admit that I feel super behind in my blogging efforts. I have about six books I need to write reviews for and to make it even more difficult, I am just zooming through my reading list these days. Partly because I have a three hour commute everyday on the GO bus, but also because I am too damn tired to do much else once I get home from said commute.

I hope everyone is having a relaxing weekend, and that you are finding time to read great books. I am about to crack into The Taker by Alma Katsu, which comes enthusiastically recommended from my friends Chelsey and Ikhlas, so I am going into this one with high hopes! 

Happy Saturday Night everyone!!!

I am a lover of fiction! It is the bulk of what I read and enjoy, and I always assumed that non-fiction equaled a snore fest. I viewed it as something an unimaginative teacher forced the class to read as a form of unwarranted torture. However, I was recently introduced to the world of non-fiction by a very lovely man who is an avid reader of non-fiction books and I was very pleasantly surprised...they can be just as mesmerizing and wonderful as any novel. I have compiled a list of some non-fiction reads that I gobbled up voraciously, and I think would appeal to both readers of non-fiction and those who, like me, shun non-fiction like it is the plague (ok, I am being slightly hyperbolic). Enjoy, and please suggest some non-fiction reads you love!

1. Our Inner Ape by Frans De Waal

coverimageThis book holds a really special place in my heart because it was the first book my boyfriend ever gave me. It is an awesome look at our two closest relatives, the Chimpanzee and the Bonobo, and how their social, sexual and problem-solving behaviours compare to our own. Frans De Waal is a Primatologist (an anthropologist who studies apes) and he offers an engaging, humourous and often touching look at the similarities between us and our closest relatives.

2. Tales of a Female Nomad by Rita Golden Gelman

coverimageAn amazing travel memoir written by a truly fascinating and inspirational woman. In her late fifties, and as her divorce was being finalized, Rita Golden Gelman embarked on a life-changing journey around the world. Determined to abandon the notion that we must live in one place and adhere to one cultural norm, she sets off to live amongst peoples from all over the world and learn their particular way of life. She truly adopted a nomadic existence, and continues to live her life this way.

3. Why We Get Sick by Randolph M. Nesse, George C. Wiliams

coverimageThe authors of this book challenge us to rethink what we know and believe about being sick. Pioneers in the new field of Darwinian Medicine, they examine common illnesses from allergies, to cancer, to the common cold and how our society handles being ill all wrong. They remark on (amongst many things) how we confuse symptoms for an actual illness, how medicine can actually increase the length of a sickness and ultimately, on our culture's inability to recognize what our own bodies are telling us. An engaging, fascinating read that offers a new perspective on what it means to be sick.

4. The Sacred Balance by David Suzuki

coverimageI probably don't need to tell you who David Suzuki is, and if you have never seen his show, The Nature of Things, I suggest you check it out posthaste. This book is part environmental cry-for-help and part spiritual guide to reconnect with nature and our place in it. Suzuki explores the great dependence all species (humans included) have on the four basic elements of the planet: earth, fire, water and air and the evolutionary importance of living in harmony with all species we share this planet with. A beautiful, fascinating wake-up call.

5. Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer

Cover ImageWhen confronted with the realization that he will be unable to explain where food comes from to his soon-to-be born son, novelist Jonathan Safran Foer embarks on a quest to find the answer. He speaks to farmers, animal activists and corporate honchos and does his best to visit farms, slaughter houses and ranches to find out what he can about the lives of the animals we call food, and how we as a culture justify treating them as mere commodities. It is both a memoir and a philosophical look about the ethics and morals surrounding humankind's culinary preference for meat and other animal products. This book is profoundly shocking and horrific, but Foer approaches the dilemma of eating animals with an empathetic and non-judgemental tone. Still, I dare you to read this and eat a philly cheesesteak sandwich afterwards.