Haven by Kristi Cook

You can tell that I’m torn between the “real-life” type stories, like the Sarah Dessen books and the paranormal area.  To be honest if I had to choose one of these “genres” I don’t know which I’d choose – I love them both.  So I’m trying to mix it up – once I finished Sarah Dessen’s What Happened to Goodbye I looked at my TBR pile – trust me I have a real pile of books beside my bed – and saw Haven by Kristi Cook sitting there.  I remember buying this a while back but never had the chance to read it – so…  here was my chance.  And OMG!!  I loved it!!!  Very different from the “real-life” type stories but so so great!

Violet has always looked at herself as a freak – she has visions and has tried to warn people who she saw in the visions only to be rebuffed and ignored.  So…  after the death of her father, her stepmom gave her 2 options:  move to New York and find a school to attend nearby OR stay in Atlanta with her maternal grandmother and companion.  After reviewing all the school pamphlets, Violet was drawn to Winterhaven.  First night and day at Winterhaven had poor Violet very confused, but she soon realized and learned that Winterhaven was a “Haven” for “freaks” just like her.  Kids with all sorts of “talents” lived and schooled there.  The one thing she did not expect was to fall in love with Aidan, a very unusual student at Winterhaven, one who disappears for hours on end, who is able to move swiftly from place to place and one can read and speak into Violet’s mind.  Their unique relationship leads Violet and Aidan to learn the dark secret of their headmaster while learning who they truly are to each other as well.

A wonderful, wonderful, and fun book!  Had me guessing page after page.  Just when I thought I had things figured out – whoosh there went that carpet from underneath me.  I love an author who can put a new twist to a species of “monsters” that hasn’t been covered yet and make it totally believable.  I mean, really – a vampire with a beating heart?  Love it!!!  This was Kristi Cook’s debut novel and after looking at her website – I’m soo…  excited to hear that there will be more books in this series.  I can’t wait to see where they’ll take me.

Highly recommended

Ages: 14 and up

Favourite Quotes:

Oh no…  another one – I got so wrapped up and pulled in by the “Aidan effect” that I have no quotes for this book – sorry…  But do read it!  You’ll understand!

Cook, Kristi. (2011).  Haven.  New York, NY: Simon Pulse.

Author website:  http://kristi-cook.com/


What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen

I stayed up until 2am to finish this book! I could NOT put it down! Now how crazy is that? Sarah’s books just keep getting better and better and better.

Ever since the divorce, McLean and her Dad move from town to town with his job.  Her Dad works for Eat Inc. and moves from restaurant to restaurant – for those of you that watch Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares – he’s a much kinder Gordon but essentially moves to evaluate the restaurant and tries to resuscitate them.  In any case, in each town they live, McLean reinvents herself into a different person, all starting with a different name.  However, something is different about this stop – every time she tries to introduce herself as Liz Sweet something prevents her and she ends up being McLean Sweet, her true self.  Along the way she meets Dave her neighbour and for some reason unbenounced to McLean, people are choosing her as a friend.  She’s starting to feel settled….  But push comes to shove when her mother demands more visitation time – and well…  McLean needs to discover who she really is.

As I’ve mentioned above – this is another one of those wonderful stories!  You’re laughing with McLean, Dave and the gang one minute and yes crying your eyes out the next.  I lived through all of McLean’s fears and dreams in this book – it was fantastic!  A must read!!

Highly recommended

Ages: 14 and up

Here’s a great trailer with Sarah talking about What Happened to Goodbye – really great!!

Favourite Quotes:

Well…  this is one of these books that I got Soooo involved with that I completely forgot about capturing a quote or two.  However – there is one saying that sort of summarizes many themes of this book – which I adore….

“Everyone is something”    p. 132

Dessen, Sarah. (2011).  What Happened to Goodbye.  Toronto, ON: Viking.

Author website:  http://sarahdessen.com/

YA Bloggers Best Overlooked Book Battle Round 2 Winner…..

Song of the Sparrow by Lisa Ann Sandell and Keeping Corner by Kashmira Sheth were the 2 books that Evie at The Book Fiend and I were challenged to read for the  YA Book Bloggers best Overlooked Book Battle 2011.   Two excellent books!

 What are these books about you may wonder?  Here are the summaries from Goodreads.com:

Song of the Sparrow by Lisa Ann Sandell

 “The year is 490 AD. Fiery 16-year-old Elaine of Ascolat, the daughter of one of King Arthur’s supporters, lives with her father on Arthur’s base camp, the sole girl in a militaristic world of men. Elaine’s only girl companion is the mysterious Morgan, Arthur’s older sister, but Elaine cannot tell Morgan her deepest secret: She is in love with Lancelot, Arthur’s second-in-command. However, when yet another girl — the lovely Gwynivere– joins their world, Elaine is confronted with startling emotions of jealousy and rivalry. But can her love for Lancelot survive the birth of an empire?”  From Goodreads.com

Keeping Corner by Kashmira Sheth

Pretty as a peacock, twelve-year-old Leela had been spoiled all her life. She doesn’t care for school and barely marks the growing unrest between the British colonists and her own countrymen. Why should she? Her future has been planned since her engagement at two and marriage at nine.

Leela’s whole life changes, though, when her husband dies. She’s now expected to behave like a proper widow: shaving her head and trading her jewel-toned saris for rough, earth-colored ones. Leela is considered unlucky now, and will have to stay confined to her house for a year—keep corner—in preparation for a life of mourning for a boy she barely knew.

When her schoolteacher hears of her fate, she offers Leela lessons at home. For the first time, despite her confinement, Leela opens her eyes to the changing world around her. India is suffering from a severe drought, and farmers are unable to pay taxes to the British. She learns about a new leader of the people, a man named Gandhi, who starts a political movement and practices satyagraha—non-violent protest against the colonists as well as the caste system. The quiet strength of satyagraha may liberate her country. Could she use the same path to liberate herself?”    From Goodreads.com


Song of the Sparrow


 There were a couple of reasons that we selected Song of the Sparrow over Keeping Corner.  One of which was the character of Elaine in Song of the Sparrow. She was so easy to connect with, you were able to play a role in the story along with her, you experienced her fears and her angst.  Compared to the main character in Keeping Corner, Leela, as the reader you were a bystander, you were being told how she felt, we didn’t feel that we were able to experience her frustrations along with her.

 Prose vs. verse…  The verse written by Lisa Ann Sandell was beautiful, it flowed and was very easy and quick to read.  Keeping Corner, the introduction of so many local terms made it difficult to follow at times (I didn’t discover the Glossary till I was finished the book).

 Both books are well worth a read!  But Song of the Sparrow moves onto the next round of the  YA Book Bloggers best Overlooked Book Battle 2011

Michelle and Evie from The Book Fiend

Song of the Sparrow by Lisa Ann Sandell

Song of the Sparrow by Lisa Ann Sandell was the second of two books we were challenged to read for the YA Book Bloggers best Overlooked Book Battle 2011.  This is my review of the story – but stay tuned for  Evie at The Book Fiend and my evaluation of this and our first book, Keeping Corner by Kashmira Sheth to decide which moves onto the next round.

Another fabulous book and written in verse.  I’ve read a number of these types of books and find that I really enjoy them!  They flow so easily and a point can be made simply by changing the form or appearance of the verse.  Song of the Sparrow is a story about Elaine of Ascolat.  Sorry…  but I didn’t know who she was until I read the book.  Now I know most of you have heard about Arthur and his Round Table – well…  this is a beautiful version of the battle that Arthur led the Brits to – well….  it’s really about Elaine and her role in the battle.

This is another area of folklore that I really enjoy!  The notion of whether or not Arthur and his Round Table of Knights existed… how they lived…  the role of women in their lives – it was great!  I lived through the whole ordeal with Elaine – got to know her intimately, her love for her brothers and father, her “puppy love” for Lancelot and her instant dislike for Gwynivere and later admiration.  How well-respected Elaine was amongst hundreds of men, and yet how she struggled with who she really was – fantastic writing!

Without reading the book, one might wonder where the title came from – really we’re talking about King Arthur here not some love story….  But throughout the story there was a theme of the sparrow – the way I interpreted its appearance was that it  was a testament of Elaine’s courage and her fear!  Wonderful!  I admire authors who have this ability to weave imagery into their stories!

Highly recommended

Ages: 14 and up

Here’s a great Youtube video of Lisa Ann Sandell talking about her book Song of the Sparrow



Favourite quote:

“But now, now I am happy to enjoy
whatever granule of ease or freedom
I may find,
after all that has happened.
The freedom of childhood innocence.
The freedom of the sparrow.”           p. 359

Sandell, Lisa Ann. (2007). Song of the Sparrow. New York, NY: Scholastic Press.

Author website:  http://www.lisaannsandell.com/index.html

Keeping Corner by Kashmira Sheth

Keeping Corner by Kashmira Sheth was the first of two books we were challenged to read for the YA Book Bloggers best Overlooked Book Battle 2011.  This is my review of the story – but stay tuned for  Evie at The Book Fiend and my evaluation of this and our second book, Song of the Sparrow by Lisa Ann Sandell to decide which moves onto the next round.

I have to admit that I found this to be a very interesting book… Keeping Corner is set in 1918 and is the story of a young girl, Leela, who is married and by a fluke of fate, becomes a widow at the age of 13 before she and her husband have had their Anu (ceremony where the bride moves in with her husband).  The act of keeping corner, is essentially that – staying in your parents’ home for 1 full year, no social interaction and removal of any and all luxuries.  During this time in India, in the Brahman caste, once you are a widow you are seen as a bad luck charm and are never allowed to marry again.  The rules are different for the men, but the women’s lives are brought to a dead halt.

I’ll admit I learned an awful lot about the customs and beliefs of India back in the early 1900’s.  Gandhi was just coming into his own during this time and his influence was amazing and was felt across the country, including the tiny village of Jamlee.  The year that Leela was keeping corner was truly a transformational year for both herself and the country.  Leela continued her classes with the help of a progressive teacher, Saviben, who coaxed Leela into opening her eyes and seeing the world around her.  By the end of her year, Leela and her family questioned many of the customs forced upon the young girls and broaden their perspectives on them.

I enjoyed this book, but in a different way than I have others.  As a reader, I felt like I was always on the sidelines – watching this story unfold in front of me.  At no point was I really invited in and allowed access to Leela…  oh I know that sounds wierd – but as much as I enjoyed learning and seeing a different world and times, I was not able to connect with Leela – As with many other books I don’t carry her character with me once I’ve finished the book.  Strange…  But I’ll admit it was a book that I had to finish – I had to know exactly what was to happen.  I also really enjoyed the family theme.  We saw the hard-nosed father firmly rooted in his traditions, and then we saw her softer brother, who didn’t necessarily value his family’s traditions and was set on helping Leela find her own way in the new World.  The way their society viewed life and the very important role that superstitions seem to play in society was just amazing.  I think the scary part of this, is that I suspect some if not many of these societal influences still exist in some societies…


Ages: 14 and up

Favourite quotes:

” ‘Don’t forget that sense arrives before beauty.  God gives sense at sixteen and beauty at twenty for a reason.’ ”      p. 65

” ‘….  Your inner self is like an onion: you keep peeling it, and a new layer is always there.’ ”          p. 111

” ‘Happy times are light and fast, sad times are heavy and slow.  They all end, though, and what remains is me.  Just me.’  ”      p. 261

Sheth, Kashmira. (2007).  Keeping Corner. New York, NY: Hyperion.

Author blog:  http://kashmirasheth.typepad.com/

The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong

When is the next one coming out?? That was the first question on my mind when I finished this book… If you go to Kelley’s website you’ll see that it’s not due until 2012 – tentatively April and there’s yet to be a cover design.  Ugh! Ugh! Ugh!!!!  Why do I do this to myself?  I should know better than to read a book where the following book is yet to be released…  knowing beforehand that there’s a BIG chance that I’m going to love the book!  Oh YES!!!

I mean really…  how can you leave us hanging the way you did?  Just NOT fair!  Let’s see can I protest in any way?  Is there anything I and you can do to get the next book The Calling released any earlier?  Like…  um… tomorrow?  Ok I’ll stop going on – but it’s going to be a LONG year waiting for this one 😦

This is just one of those books – got me the first chapter and never let me go.  Took me a day to read it – so that MUST tell you something!  The story is set on Vancouver Island, in a little town called Salmon Creek, about an hour from Nanaimo.  The real funny thing here, is that I was just in Nanaimo earlier this year and I could easily envision the roads Kelley refers to and I could imagine the shops downtown and the Harbourfront.  That always adds another dimension to my reading if I can “see” where the plot unfolds 🙂  Sorry…  I’m weaving away from the plot again…  So…  the story is set in Salmon Creek, a community built by a research company and built to keep their employees very happy and not wanting or needing anything.  The teens seem to have everything they need…. but when Serena, swim team athlete, drowns in the local lake, her best friend Maya vows to learn how this happened.  However..  Maya gets side-tracked along the way with the new bad-boy Rafe, who makes her fall for him and leads her down a path to learn her true heritage.

I know I love the paranormal stream of stories and this is one of those unique stories where you’re really not sure where the paranormal aspect comes in.  You’re left with glimpses of it here and there in the book and by the end you’re wanting more!  so much more!

Highly recommended!

Ages: 14 and up

How many of you will still not pick up this book after you see this trailer??

Favourite quote:

“It’s like my love of nature.  Some people say it’s because I’m Native, and I know they’re not trying to stereotype me, though sometimes I really wish I was into model airplanes instead.  I love animals and yes, I’m Native, but as my teachers would say, correlation doesn’t imply causation.”       p. 70

Armstrong, Kelley. (2011). The Gathering.  Canada: Doubleday Canada.

Author website:  http://www.kelleyarmstrong.com/

YA Book Battle continues

Yes I was lucky to continue in this battle as a Round 2 judge 🙂  What does that mean?  Well…  it means that Evie at The Book Fiend and I are review partners!  The books that we’ve been asked to review are Keeping Corner by Kashmira Sheth and Song of the Sparrow  by Lisa Ann Sandell.  Two fantastic books!  Remember the theme of this year’s battle is the Battle of the Best Overlooked Books…  So get ready to add to your TBR lists.

We had gorgeous weather this weekend so I was able to get some sun and finish my books.  So stay tuned for reviews and the announcement of the book that will move onto the next round.