Books are our friends

… sometimes a better friend than the flesh-and-blood people at our sides, don’t you think?

Books are never too busy, or impatient and if you constantly re-read your favourites like I do, then you can anticipate which emotional need they are going to fill for you too.  For instance, I have my “book boyfriend” and my “book family”.  Those books/series where I wish I could jump through the page and live for all eternity.

My family is loving and supportive, but we’re not that close and I don’t think they understand me.  They don’t speak my love language.  I’m just different; from the foods and drinks I like, to my religion, to my sense of style and wildly passionate nature, you’d think a stork dropped me on the doorstep as a baby.  My sisters certainly always maintained I was adopted (it isn’t true).

And so I return to my books.  On days that no one is around and I’m bored or lonely, curling up with my favourite characters is like visiting with an old friend.  And when an author delays the release of the next book in that series, I start to feel like there is a little piece missing.  Until I realize, it’s those friends, that world that I miss.

And then there are those little things you come across in life, that remind you of a particular friend.  In my case, sometimes it’s a friend in the fictional world that I am reminded of, more than the real one.

Lately I have had Dmitri Novikov on my mind, a character created by Ann Mayburn. I was reminded of Dmitri by Khal Drogo in season 1 of Game of Thrones.  Two completely different worlds, but at their core, they are very much the same person.  Both are absolutely ruthless and cruel warlords in complete control of their lives and empires, so it would seem, but genuinely love and cherish their wives. Each would break every rule they enforce to protect their love.

I was thinking of Dmitri again this morning.  I was singing along to a cover of Lana Del Rey’s Young and Beautiful and this phrase reminded me of my favourite Bratva Lord.

“Dear Lord, when I get to Heaven

Please let me bring my man

When he comes, tell me that you’ll let him in

Father tell me if you can”

Dmitri is not the best of men. Case in point, he is the Pachan of his family in the Russian Mafia.  But he and his wife Rya love each other more than anything else and she is religious.  I can imagine her praying, begging God to let her bring her man with her to Heaven when the time comes, because there is no way she would go through those gates without him. She’d give up her place in Heaven to be with him instead.

It’s a little bit funny, these connections that my brain makes.  Out of nowhere, my real life and pretend life collide, in the most surreal of moments. The worst thing is that no one around me gets it.  Even bibliophilic friends don’t, because we generally read all different things.

So hopefully someone out there in the big wide interwebs will understand, and if you feel alone, I hope that you know that I am on this end of my computer feeling the same way. And in the mean-time, I’m probably curled up re-reading the same books as I was two years ago.

Because books are our friends.


Suddenly Royal by Nichole Chase – A review


This is my least favourite book type of book to review.

One that is ok… but left me feeling less than passionate afterwards. I don’t want to hate on the book because it honestly wasn’t bad, but it also wasn’t what I expected.  And maybe my expectations were the problem, the fact that I had the story planned out in my head, instead of letting it unfold as directed by the author.

Suddenly Royal is essential the new adult version of the Princess Diaries series. Instead of an American teenager finding out she is the Crown Princess of Genovia, the protagonist is a mid-twenties Minnesotan grad student (Samantha) who finds out she is the long lost Duchess in a small European country, and immediately falls for the Crown Prince (Alex) of said country.

I did like the book, and I loved the fact that it was a more grown up version of the Princess Diaries, because those movies rock but I was just a little too old when they came out.  I mean, Samantha actually gets laid!

But in the end, most of the story was entirely predictable, the characters too nice and Samantha’s path too easy.  She has suffered a lot of loss in her young life, but there is no strife in the book.  She adapts to her new life without debacle and seems to leave the old one behind even easier.

(potential spoiler ahead)

Chase essentially ended the otherwise light, happy book with the main character’s father dying from cancer very suddenly.  I am an emotional reader and did not appreciate spending the last few pages bawling my eyes out, in a book that was in no way marketed as being sad.  Gayle Forman or John Green, ok I expect that, but not in a princessy pink-covered book.

I would have liked to see the characters develop more, in fewer pages. At the end of the day, I felt the author could have taken out a good 100 pages.

* * * (and a half, maybe)


The Imitation Game

The Imitation Game is a 2014 blockbuster film telling the story of Bletchley Park’s code-breaking team, which was charged with cracking the “unbreakable” German code Enigma, during WWII. It follows the efforts of Alan Turing and co, as well as telling us of Alan’s heartbreaking personal story, from childhood to his death in 1951.

Alan Turing and his team solved the Enigma Code, and it is estimated that their doing so ended the war two years earlier and saved 14 million lives.  That fact that the Enigma Code was broken remained a state secret for 50 years.

If this had not been a historical film, I would have said that the writers needed to go back to the drawing board.  Despite not knowing much about this topic, I was able to foretell many aspects of the plot, including Christopher’s fate, the identity of the Soviet spy and “the sacrifice”.

Clearly, this film is based on historical fact though and somehow, that makes it all forgiven. At the base of it, this wasn’t a spy thriller; being able to see the outcome did not ruin the movie. It was a dramatic retelling of some of England’s best – and worst – moments in the 1940s and 50s.

One thing that struck me throughout the film, was how different things were then, from now. A 25 year old woman was almost barred from being a member of the team, based upon her gender, and then further prevented from joining because of her parents’ objections.  It was indecent for her to work on a project with five men, and to work for the war effort instead of hunting for a suitable husband. Likewise, I had no idea that in the 1950s, homosexuality in Great Britain was punishable by custodial sentence or chemical castration.

I had wanted to watch The Imitation Game when it was released last year but I never got around to it.  I have always been interested in history, and took multiple classes in secondary school and uni, but somehow missed ever learning about Turing or the Enigma Code.  The Eric Walters book, Enigma, which I just read about was also based on war efforts occurring a Bletchley Park, so it was an interesting parallel to finish both this weekend.  I definitely want to go and learn more.

The movie was nominated for 8 Oscars, including Best Picture of the Year, and ultimately won for Best Writing (adapted screenplay). Not surprising, considering it starred fantastic fan-favourite actors including Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightly, Matthew Goode, Allen Leech and Charles Dance.

It was a remarkable film that I am so thankful I made the time to watch this weekend. I highly recommend it.

* * * * *


Enigma by Eric Walters – A review


If you have never heard of Canadian author Eric Walters, you must live in a cave and have never been a child.

He is a former teacher from Toronto who started writing to inspire his students and hasn’t stopped since. The guy churns out amazing novels for 8-14 year olds at an amazing rate. I first experienced his brilliance more than a decade ago in seventh grade, when we read several of his books. He promptly became my favourite author and even as an adult, I go back to re-read the occasional standalone or newest addition to a series.

Okay, okay, I should be writing a review for Enigma, not fawning all over the guy. But I love him so much, I’m going to leave a list of his best novels at the end of this post, in case you are that youth or parent looking for some good reads.

Enigma is the sixth, and presently the most recent, installment of the Camp X series.  It follows two teenage brothers, George and Jack, and their exploits helping Allied powers during the Second World War.  The first several books take place in Canada, the fifth in Bermuda, and Enigma, in the UK.

The style of the book changes slightly, in that George and Jack really don’t seek out trouble this time around. In fact, 70% of the way through the book, lots has happened but there are no suspicious characters to be found.  Hopefully there will be one more book to tie the series off, but I enjoyed Enigma, and it certainly redirected the series after the previous book flopped.  You can see the progression of time, the boys are older and becoming more independent. The elder brother Jack is barely in this book, spending most of it at work or with his girlfriend, instead of with George and the reader.

If you are a fan of Eric Walters or the series itself, definitely make some time to read this one.  I am always impressed with the level of research Walters does, and his attempts to write a fictional tale within a historical framework.  Not many authors take the time to do this when writing for youth and it matters.

* * * *

Books I highly recommend you start with (boys and girls): The Bully Boys; Camp X series; Northern Exposures; Safe as Houses; Sketches; Shattered; Trapped in Ice; The Hydrofoil Mystery; Stars; Diamond in the Rough; Stand your Ground; Visions


Silver Bastard

Well. This spring I have a ton of books to look forward to, from a bunch of my favourite authors. I just had the opportunity to read the prologue to Silver Bastard, by Joanna Wylde.  All I could say is Daaannnng Girl! And then I actually lol’d.

I cannot wait to get my hands on the full book, when it comes out on April 7th.

Silver Bastard is the first in a new outlaw MC romance series, but fans of Wylde will definitely recognize characters from her other MC series.  The prologue takes us to a party celebrating Puck and Painter’s release from jail and fans will also get to revisit Horse, Rueger, Picnic and Boonie at the least.

The cover blurb had me feeling a little bit meh going into this release, but now I can’t wait. Something to look forward to over the next couple of weeks!


A storm of swords (II)


(A word of warning, this post will contain spoilers from the book)

I wanted to talk a minute to take about my impressions of A storm of Swords, by George R.R. Martin, now that it has had time to sink in a bit.

It was definitely my favourite so far.  The pacing was much quicker and more dramatic. From the Red Wedding, to the Purple Wedding, to the deaths of the Hound and Tywin Lannister, the shock factor just kept driving, again and again, boom boom boom.  I loved it.

The first novel was exciting as well, but I hadn’t yet seen the show and had trouble keeping track of all the characters and histories, on top of the rather complicated plot. The second book was easier and enjoyable, but by that time I had seen the show, and it stayed so true to the book, I got a bit bored.

This time around, things had changed. Maybe because it’s been nearly a year since I saw the third and fourth seasons, which are both based on the third novel,  but also because you can see where the book and the script are diverging in places, and its fun to learn the different interpretations.

Side-bar: Is Martin’s work really an interpretation?  It is HIS story after all. Hmmmm. Sorry, back to my regularly scheduled post.

I liked the bit that we had in Nymeria’s POV, finding the naked, milky, female body in the river.  I knew at once it had to be Catelyn but to find out in the epilogue that there was some magic about, made me think much harder back on that scene.  Did Nymeria somehow install some magic in the bloated corpse?

As the recording ending, I couldn’t help but gasp, “Holy Crap! Catelyn Stark is a zombie?!!”

Guess I’ll have to wait until next month to see if David and Dan write that in.


A Storm of Swords

I just finished A Storm of Swords!

If you don’t know, this is the third book in the mega series Game of Thrones, written by George R.R. Martin.

I listened to it via audiobook and it is 48 hours long.  Is it childish to feel like it is a huge boost to my ego to have finished the first three books in this series? Its nothing tens of thousands, perhaps millions, haven’t done already – that and more. After all, Martin has released 5 books in the series thus far.

And yet 48 hours is a huge commitment to one book and it is an accomplishment.  To be one among many does not diminish the time or effort I spent, just as mine does not diminish another’s.

Now that I am finished it, I am ready to spend some lazy evenings on the couch, re-watching the last four seasons while I wait for the fifth to begin in a month.  Can’t wait!

I give it * * * * *


I picked up this cheap kindle romance today (a novella), something by an author I had never read.  It featured an outlaw biker as the male protagonist and the female protagonist was a survivor of childhood sexual abuse.  I won’t be more specific than that, I am not going to name authors or titles/series when giving less than two stars, but that was the gist of it.

It was awful! A complete train-wreck.  One star and I’m possibly being generous.  The story was so poorly written, I couldn’t start to explain all my problems with the book on here.  I actually went and found another novella in the series as well, because I couldn’t help myself.  I had to see if it was just as bad as the one I had read… because it couldn’t possibly be, could it?

No. Yes?  I don’t really know but it sure was close.  The second one I read was just as poorly written, but the general plot-line was more appealing to me, so that redeemed the writing a tad.  Seriously though, I don’t know how some of these books get published.  It’s series like these that give the romance genre a bad name.

Do you ever do that, dear reader?  Read absolute trash and then go pick up another book by the same author, just to see if anything else could be quite that awful?  I’m guessing you do.  Something has to explain all those reality television shows that keep getting renewed after all 😉

I’m still waiting for Suddenly Royal to arrive from the library, so I think I will go back to an old childhood favourite next, try to knock the filth out of my head from earlier today.

Eric Walters, here I come.


Doin’ that reading thang

Do you ever feel pressure when you’re reading?

I do.  A lot.  As in, it’s a problem.

I feel completely stressed out when I take too long to read a book, or I’m not just knocking those guys down.  Probably because I know I could never read all the books I want to, even if I lived to be one hundred and eleventy. But still, not a great idea to turn one of life’s greatest gifts into a task on the mental checklist.

One of the New Year resolutions I set in 2015 was to bring my TBR shelf on Goodreads from about 90, down to under 50.  At the time, that seemed like a reasonable goal for the year, given that I knew I would read more books that weren’t on the shelf, especially new releases that didn’t have pages yet.  But I think I’ve only knocked one off of it and we’ve already reached mid-March!

Part of the problem is that I naturally read thick, heavy books in winter (I have no idea why, it just happens).  For example, right now I am working on a few text books because I went back to school for a semester to finish an old degree.

Then I’m also working on the third Game of Thrones audiobook, which has 82 chapters and is 48ish hours long! Craaaa-zy.  I’m trying to finish it before the next tv season starts up in April, and I’m confident I’ll make it but it leaves no time for anything else.

Luckily, I’m in a position where I can take a bit of a break from school for the next two weeks, so I just ordered the first book in a series called Suddenly Royal, from Interlibrary Loan.  It will be a great change from the heavy books I have been into this year and should be a quick way to knock a book off my TBR list, while adding one to my Goodreads challenge.  I swear I am dedicated to my goals, but I think the challenge is a little skewed when it gives you the same credit for a 48 page novella as it does for a 1300 page tome.

When Suddenly Royal arrives, I’ll be sure to leave a review.  Check back soon if you’re in the mood to hear about a little YA chick lit.


Audiobook evolution: bypassing print formats

So I’m reading this NPR article about a new trend in self-publishing, where authors self-publish their story directly into audiobook, bypassing both traditional and indie styles of print.

My first thought was, “so you mean plays?”. My second, “huh. I guess that’s what that meme I saw yesterday was about”.

Here is an excerpt from the NPR article (link at end of post):

‘Now Audible… is starting to ask well-known writers to create original audio works. “While performances are being elevated and attuned to this advanced listening experience, why not write to the form in an original way?” says Katz. “So it’s not just book authors. TV writers, movie writers, others are flocking in to help us get to the next stage”.’

– Lynn Neary

I think it’s an intriguing idea. The audiobook market is exploding now, and I myself am a recent convert.  Companies like Audible have made this medium so easy to access, I can listen via my phone, computer, iPod … there’s no need to be connected to the internet or data… it’s priceless.  The only drawback is that many books don’t translate well because of the writing style, but in this next stage, we are going to see audiobooks evolve, much as self-publishing and niche publishers have in the last decade.

Up until two months ago, I never understood the audiobook, thinking I was too poor an auditory learner to pay attention, but after stagnating for months awhile on A Storm of Swords, I gave listening to it a try and I’m loving it! The freedom to accomplish tasks or transport myself while getting some chapters in is liberating and I’m now pestering encouraging family to try it.  You should too.

Link to original NPR article, written by Lynn Neary, from which I borrowed the quote: