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April 29, 2016

Review: Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

Title: Eligible
Author: Curtis Littenfeld 
Publisher: Random House Canada
Publication date: April 19, 2016
Genre(s): Adult contemporary 
Source: Publisher
Pages: 512
Add to Goodreads | Chapters | Amazon CA | B&N

This version of the Bennet family—and Mr. Darcy—is one that you have and haven’t met before: Liz is a magazine writer in her late thirties who, like her yoga instructor older sister, Jane, lives in New York City. When their father has a health scare, they return to their childhood home in Cincinnati to help—and discover that the sprawling Tudor they grew up in is crumbling and the family is in disarray.

Youngest sisters Kitty and Lydia are too busy with their CrossFit workouts and Paleo diets to get jobs. Mary, the middle sister, is earning her third online master’s degree and barely leaves her room, except for those mysterious Tuesday-night outings she won’t discuss. And Mrs. Bennet has one thing on her mind: how to marry off her daughters, especially as Jane’s fortieth birthday fast approaches.

Enter Chip Bingley, a handsome new-in-town doctor who recently appeared on the juggernaut reality TV dating show Eligible. At a Fourth of July barbecue, Chip takes an immediate interest in Jane, but Chip’s friend neurosurgeon Fitzwilliam Darcy reveals himself to Liz to be much less charming. . . . And yet, first impressions can be deceiving. Wonderfully tender and hilariously funny, Eligible both honors and updates Austen’s beloved tale. Tackling gender, class, courtship, and family, Sittenfeld reaffirms herself as one of the most dazzling authors writing today.
I was very excited to read Eligible because I love anything Pride & Prejudice related. Knowing that this is a retelling, one that is anticipated by many of my reader friends, had me pick it up as soon as I received it in the mail. I have to say that I was hooked immediately, however, this is a 500+ page book... and halfway through the book... the momentum seemed to have fizzled? so while I truly loved the first half of the book, the second half somewhat disappointed. 

What I liked about Eligible is that the author tried to make this story as much hers as it is Jane Austen's. I have abandoned many P&P retellings because it seemed just that... the story being retold.. with not much personal input from the author. However, Curtis was able to do that. For one, Liz and Jane are both 38 and 40 years old. Many times I would try to remember which part of this plot it is in relation to the original, which showed me how the author owned this retelling. 

Unfortunately halfway through the novel... I felt I was back to reading a parody of P&P... I felt (personally) that the author lost sight and tried to make it as unique as possible to the point that some scenes felt contrived? or made to be too different from the original to the point that the decisions and paths made didn't make much sense.. however the author has to follow the direction of the original work. A very thin space is between being too much like a P&P retelling, and being too different to not make it look like one. Some decisions some characters made were not in character but they had to be made to stick to the storyline. It was a tad disappointing. 

I liked Liz however she was very easily pushed around by her family. She paid for things, listened to her annoying mother complain even though it is her mother's fault they are in that exact situation.. let her younger sisters talk crap about her to her face..... that was very grating on my nerves. However I got she was trying to be the mature one here. Lastly, the romance... I wasn't a fan of? it wasn't developed well... seemed out of the blue how they both liked each other... I was waiting for that signature P&P tension between Liz and Darcy but I didn't see it. 

I know I had complaints about the book.. but I truly did enjoy it. If I had to rate it, I would give the first half 4 stars while the second half 2 stars. I would recommend it to fans of P&P retellings if any that i've said doesn't bother you too much.. I know it didn't bother me all that much since I was able to finish the book by the end. 

April 25, 2016

Three Scoops of Summer: The Last Boy and Girl in the World's author, Siobhan Vivian, guest post

Yes, summer is finally here! (at least in some parts of the world), and with it comes the Three Scoops of Summer blog tour hosted by Simon & Schuster Canada! In this tour, many canadian bloggers will be bringing you author written pieces, reviews, and fun posts for: The Last Boy and Girl in the World by Siobhan Vivian, The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson, and The Museum of Heartbreak by Meg Leder!

Today, the tour will kick off with a written piece by Siobhan Vivian, the author of The Last Boy and Girl in the World here at Maji Bookshelf!

The Last Boy and Girl in the World
Title: The Last Boy and Girl in the World
Author: Siobhan Vivian
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Canada
Publication date: April 26, 2016
Genre(s): YA (Contemporary)
Pages: 432

What if your town was sliding underwater and everyone was ordered to pack up and leave? How would you and your friends spend your last days together?

While the adults plan for the future, box up their possessions, and find new places to live, Keeley Hewitt and her friends decide to go out with a bang. There are parties in abandoned houses. Canoe races down Main Street. The goal is to make the most of every minute they still have together.

And for Keeley, that means taking one last shot at the boy she’s loved forever.

There’s a weird sort of bravery that comes from knowing there’s nothing left to lose. You might do things you normally wouldn’t. Or say things you shouldn’t. The reward almost always outweighs the risk. Almost.

It’s the end of Aberdeen, but the beginning of Keeley’s first love story. It just might not turn out the way she thought. Because it’s not always clear what’s worth fighting for and what you should let become a memory.

The Top 5 Things Siobhan Would Do If Her City Were Sinking

Here’s what I’d do if Pittsburgh were about to disappear under water, like the town of Aberdeen in my new book, THE LAST BOY AND GIRL IN THE WORLD.

I’d have to hit up my favorite restaurants for the last time. First stop would be iced coffee and a doughnut from the best local coffee shop, Tazza D’oro. For lunch, I’d chow down on a veggie burger (with grilled pineapple, avocado and jalapenos) from Burgatory. For dinner, I’d get thai fried chicken from Noodlehead. And dessert would have to be homemade ice cream from Millie’s.

I’d probably max out my phone memory snapping pics. When it comes to documenting a place, I don’t think you should worry about getting the perfect staged picture. It’s quantity over quality. Like, I don’t want to just remember the house I live in. I want to remember all the houses on the block, plus the way the stop sign is a little bit dented from someone shooting a BB gun.

Photos aside, I’d want some sort of tangible memorabilia to take with me. Something that, long after Pittsburgh was gone, would prove that it was once was a thriving city. Maybe a street sign? Or a beautiful map?

If Pittsburgh were flooded, I’m sure I’d want to do something super crazy. Maybe I’d explore an empty building or museum. Or take a canoe and paddle it somewhere surreal, like the middle of a football field.  

There’s nothing worse than getting robbed of the chance to tell someone how you really feel about them before they’re gone. I have a few friends in Pittsburgh mean the world to me, and I’d want to make sure they knew it before they left. It’s the perfect setting for a heart-on-your-sleeve, no-holding-back, here’s-everything-I-never-told-you conversation.

The inverse of that, of course, is coming clean about someone you don’t like. I have a neighbor who is a horrible, horrible man. I have to play polite with him, since we live next door to each other. But! If Pittsburgh were suddenly being evacuated, I would definitely go knock on his door and tell him exactly what I think about him!

April 16, 2016

Review: OCDaniel by Wesley King

Title: OCDaniel
Author: Wesley King
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: April 12th, 2016
Genre(s): Mental health, Middle grade, Childrens, Contemporary
Source: Publisher
Pages: 304
Add to Goodreads | Chapters | Amazon CA | B&N

From the author of Incredible Space Raiders from Space! comes a brand-new coming-of-age story about a boy whose life revolves around hiding his obsessive compulsive disorder—until he gets a mysterious note that changes everything.

Daniel is the back-up punter for the Erie Hills Elephants. Which really means he’s the water boy. He spends football practice perfectly arranging water cups—and hoping no one notices. Actually, he spends most of his time hoping no one notices his strange habits—he calls them Zaps: avoiding writing the number four, for example, or flipping a light switch on and off dozens of times over. He hopes no one notices that he’s crazy, especially his best friend Max, and Raya, the prettiest girl in school. His life gets weirder when another girl at school, who is unkindly nicknamed Psycho Sara, notices him for the first time. She doesn’t just notice him: she seems to peer through him.

Then Daniel gets a note: “I need your help,” it says, signed, Fellow Star child—whatever that means. And suddenly Daniel, a total no one at school, is swept up in a mystery that might change everything for him.

With great voice and grand adventure, this book is about feeling different and finding those who understand.

This is a book about OCD.

I want to establish this, because although the plot of the book had many other things going on with it, that is what the focus of the book was for me, and what I learnt about this condition was my primary takeaway.

I think the beauty of the book lay in how Daniel’s condition was woven into his life along with the problems and experiences that come with the middle school life. Will his best friend remain his best friend in high school? Will the prettiest girl in his class fall for him? Will his father be proud of him for his effort in the football team? Will he be angry if he quits? I say “woven”, because I was able to point out how his experiences were significantly altered by his OCD. That’s what I loved about the book--his OCD was a very real, very significant aspect of his life that wasn’t portrayed as insulated from the rest of his experiences.

I have, of course, heard the stories and experiences of people with OCD. But this book made me feel on an entirely new level, the desperation and fright, the helplessness and and compulsiveness that is associated with this disorder. My heart broke for Daniel’s confusion at his behaviour and the way he struggled to make sense of it. He soon develops a strong camaraderie with the resident crazy of his school, Sara, who seems to be the only person that is comfortable with his OCD.

When he realizes that Sara is just as normal as him, he is understandably jarred. Here was someone what everyone proclaimed weird and crazy, but all he saw was her strength and understanding, and how normal she turned out to be. That was a huge step in his character growth, because it taught him that people with mental health conditions are no different than those without. They are people, and they deserve as much love, care, and attention as the next person. They are not broken. They are not crazy. This acceptance was what eventually led to him coming to terms with his own OCD.

A lot of this book involves Daniel silently suffering alone with this disorder, initially because he doesn’t understand it, eventually because he’s ashamed of it, and later, because he feels like no one will understand. Daniel’s inability to understand it was because his parents or teachers never made him aware that such disorders exist. The shame he felt because of his disorder was because he wasn’t aware that other people have had similar experiences, and that he wasn’t alone. His feeling that no one would understand was because mental health was never discussed mental health openly and freely in his social circles. OCDaniel made me realize me all that, and more.

Middle grade needs more books like this. I’d love for this to be required reading for middle school kids. Kids learn about conditions like this too late, if at all. I highly recommend this book for an enlightening, touching, and eye-opening read about a young boy’s confusion, shame, denial, and eventual acceptance about his mental health.

April 13, 2016

Review: Regrets Only by M. J. Pullen

Regrets Only

Title: Regrets Only
Author: M. J. Pullen
Publisher: Raincoast Canada
Publication date: March 1, 2016
Genre(s): Adult contemporary 
Source: Publisher
Pages: 336

At thirty-three, Suzanne Hamilton has no regrets. A successful event planner with a swanky condo in a hot Atlanta neighborhood, she’s got a close group of friends and a list of men a mile long who would happily bend over backwards to win her heart. Plus, she’s just landed the event that will take her career to the next level.

Then a freak accident changes everything. Humiliated, with her career in tatters, Suzanne’s lost her business not to mention her self-respect. She’s managed, however, to retain the surprising support of her newest celebrity client: the sexy country music star, Dylan Burke. Against her better judgment, but without any better offers, Suzanne agrees to plan a wedding for one of the Burke sisters. But when she comes to realize her freak accident was anything but, her catalog of past relationships turns into a list of suspects and Suzanne must question everything—her career, her friendships, and most acutely, her own dating rules.

As it turns out she might have quite a bit to regret after all.
I picked up Regrets Only when I needed a quick fun contemporary read, which is what I got. The story enters around an event planner, Suzanne, who was planning a big event for country star Dylan Burke. Unfortunately during the event, something goes very wrong and Suzanne's reputation as an event planner goes down the drain. Not only that, but it seems like someone is out to get Suzanne. Dylan comes to the rescue (for her career) and asks her to plan his sister's wedding, which she accepts. 

Obviously sparks fly for Suzanne and Dylan.. however he is seven years younger... and Suzanne has commitment issues (to say the least). There's also the whole mystery behind who was out to get Suzanne. Unfortunately I felt the mystery was slightly unnecessary because it was underdeveloped and to be honest obstructed the flow of the story more than it gave it interest. Maybe because I read too many mystery novels. So take this mystery plot with a grain of salt. Suzanne and Dylan's relationship as somewhat messy.. but I mean, it is one of the times where it had reason to be messy. I really liked Suzanne and Dylan's friendship, and I wished it was developed more before jumping into the romance, but it was still enjoyable. 

If you want to pick up a contemporary to get you out of a reading slump, or one you can read through quickly, then this is the one for you. Even if it isn't 100% memorable, at the time I was reading it, I was interested enough to sit and read for long stretches of time. This is a feat for me especially since I have only read 8 books in 2016 so far. 

April 03, 2016

March book haul - Too many to count

Another month, another book haul! this time sponsored by some amazing friends. I met up with a couple of friends the past two months and we did some book exchanging.. but I seem to have gotten a lot more books than I anticipated! Thank you to Lynn and Brittany!! <3 you guys are awesome. The only review books in this haul are Salt to the Sea and Shimmer so thank you Penguin Random House for sending them my way! I am a huge Ruta Sepetys fan ever since I read Out of the Easy <3 

Lots of adult fiction titles here that I am super excited for, especiallyPaullina Simons' The Bronze Horseman

I have been meaning to read Erased by Jennifer Rush because I really enjoyed Altered and now I can finally do that! I have read Control as a review book years ago and fell in love so I am glad I have a copy now. The next books on my reading list are Panic by Lauren Oliver, Erased by Jennifer Rush, and Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

I am a big fan of Paula Weston's The Rephaim series so I jumped on it when I got Shimmer and read it. It was fantastic <3 I can't wait to pick up Salt to the Sea as well as The Program because I need to read a good dystopian

Several books I was interested in but wasn't sure if I would like. When I went to the Simon & Schuster preview, everyone was raving over The Scorpion Rules so now I am even more excited to read it. I am also very interested in reading No Love Allowed because it looks like a very cute contemporary