Looking for Alibrandi - Melina Marchetta

Looking for Alibrandi is a beautiful coming of age story starring Josephine Alibrandi, an Australian girl of Italian descent. Melina Marchetta weaves together a brilliant story of love, heartache, culture and racism that will speak to girls and women of any age.

The Story:Josephine Alibrandi hails from a very traditional, rules-driven Italian family. Her very well-connected grandmother hears everything and anything through the grapevine, and admonished Josephine if she has deviated even slightly from tradition. To make things more difficult, her father left before she was even born, leaving her and her mother estranged from the Italian community for the first few years of her life.

On fitting in: A strict Italian family is not all Josephine has to contend with as she forges her way through a private school dedicated mostly to rich, white Australians. There, she encounters many instances of racism; students call her wargand other hurtful names, prompting her to become confused about where she belongs.

Why can’t these people understand that this is my country as well? Why do I feel like cursing this country as much as I adore it. When will I find the answers, and are there ever going to be answers or change?

Funnily enough, the second sentence in the above quote demonstrates how myself, and many of my friends, feel about living in Canada. In such a multicultural country, it’s actually quite difficult to feel a sense of culture and belonging. While we are proud to be Canadian (mostly because of our international reputation for being nice), we can’t really define what it means. It’s so easy for teenagers and young adults to relate to Josephine’s experience, because who hasn’t felt like they belong at some point or other in their lives?

But Josephine still feels the tug between assimilation and culture. While spending time harvesting tomatoes with her family, she understands the importance of culture.

A tradition that I probably will never let go of either, simpily because like religion, culture is nailed into you so deep you an’t escape it. No matter how far you run.

On romance and love: And what coming of age story would be complete without a romantic aspect? The beauty of Marchetta’s writing is that she doesn’t sacrifice other parts of her story for the romance. Josephine’s attraction for Jacob seemed organic and unforced. I loved the way their relationship played out and the decisions Josephine made with regards to her beliefs.

“Welcome to the nineties, Josephine. Women don’t have to be virgins anymore.”

“No, you welcome to the nineties, Jacob! Women don’t have to be pushed into things anymore.”

“What is it? A prize or something?” he scoffed.

“No. It’s not a prize and I’m not a prize. But it’s mine. It belongs to me and I can only give it away once and I want to be so sure when it happens, Jacob. I don’t want to say that the first time for me was bad or it didn’t mean a thing or that it was done in my school uniform.”

“But you’re almost eighteen. You’re old enough. Everyone else is doing it.”

“And next year someone is going to sat to someone else, ‘But you’re already sixteen, everyone else is doing it.’ Or one day someone will tell your daughter that she’s only thirteen and everyone else is doing it. I don’t want to do it, Jacob, because everyone else is doing it.”

At this point I wanted to stand up and give Josephine a high five. Not many teenage girls have the guts to stand up to a boy like that when it comes to sex. 

On dealing with hardship: One of the parts that really hit me hard in this story was Josephine’s friend’s suicide. It was actually quite a bit shock to me even though there was a ton of foreshadowing leading up to the event, I wasn’t sure he was going to go through with it. I think it reflects what a lot of kids and young adults are dealing with these days: increased pressure to be something, too many opportunities to count (not that this is a bad thing, just sometimes difficult to come to terms with), the expectation that one has to DO something with his or her life. 

I loved the way Josephine’s father put it: 

“A person doesn’t necessarily have to be happy just because they have social standing and material wealth, Josie.”

This is so true. We can’t assume that just because someone has everything anyone could ever want, they are happy. One doesn’t necessarily logically follow the other. There are many people who have less in life that are happier. This again reminds me so much of life in Canada, North America, and the first world in general. Sure, some people are happy with all that they have, but some people continue to have unrealistic expectations about the material wealth they should obtain, when it’s really close relationships and doing things you love that matter.

I've Got Your Number (Basic) - Sophie Kinsella

Another short one while I'm on holidays.

This is the exact kind of book you want to be reading on a relaxing vacation. It's a fun, easy read that keeps you interested, but not at the expense of holiday fun! 

Poppy is such a fun character. She acts exactly as I'd imagine real women to act in the same situations. There are times where you shake your head at her stupidity, while thinking that if youwere in the same situation you would have done the same thing. Some of the things she says are hilarious, but so true.

As I scroll down, I start to feel uncomfortable. I've never had so much access of someone else's phone before. Not my friends'; not Magnus's. There are some things you just don't share. I mean, Magnus has seen every inch of my body, including the dodgy bits, but I would never, ever let him near my phone. 

To top it off, the charming British English and British slang make this even better for me. 

If you want a fun, easy read that will make you laugh, this one is for you. I can't believe this is the first time I've read Sophie Kinsella, but you can be sure I'll be reading more.

Red Fox - Karina Halle

Short review while I'm on vacation:

Much like the first in this series, Red Fox was interesting, but not entirely riveting. Karina Halle is a master at creating a dark, suspenseful atmosphere that keeps the reader on his/her toes throughout the book. 

The major shortcoming for me is still the characters. Don’t get me wrong. I do really like Perry, and Dex is sexy and mysterious. But I think Perry is just, dare I say it, too real for me. It’s nice to have a heroine who isn’t stick-thin, with a perfect body and perfect personality. On the other hand, I don’t need to be reminded of it every second page. Perry is tough and has a fantastic attitude, but her continuous preoccupation with being less pretty or thin than other girls was annoying. As for Dex, I dig a mysterious man, but not one who we NEVER get to know. 

While Halle is great at creating a suspenseful atmosphere, I still think her writing could be a little tighter. If the premise of there books wasn't so interesting, I might be tempted to leave the series here, but I'll definitely be continuing.

A Disappointing Sequel

World After  - Susan Ee

2.5 stars

I have one word for the way I felt as I read this book.INDIFFERENCE.I don't know what happened betweenAngelfall and World After, but I couldn't bring myself to enjoy this one. There are so many aspects of the story that irked me to the point where I debated not finishing at all. If it hadn't been so short, I might have just put it aside.

For me, World After fails to live up to Angelfall in so many ways. To be fair, I've always struggled a lot with writing in first person and present tense. While it can sometimes feel like you're experiencing everything along with the character, it can also be limiting and narrow. By the time I was halfway through the book I was tired of the short, clipped sentences Penryn uses to describe what's happening. This aspect bothered me so much that it actually ended up detracting from the dark atmosphere that other readers loved about the story.

I was also disappointed with the character development, not of major characters like Penryn and Raffe, but of minor characters. This is one of those times that I wish I would pause in my reading to take notes and highlight so that I could provide some examples, but unfortunately I don't. Generally, I didn't feel like I was getting anything from characters who weren't Penryn, Paige, or Raffe. Some characters, like Dum and Dee, were absolutely fascinating, but only two-dimensional. Even Uriel, who I expected to be a dark, intimidating force, came across as vapid and ridiculous. His character didn't inspire any fear in me, which made it difficult to connect with Penryn and other characters who are terrified of him.

Although we get some helpful insights into Paige's kidnapping and what she experienced at the hands of Beliel, as well as some more background about the apocalypse, it felt like there was no plot for the first 50-60% of the book. Penryn wakes up in a Resistance van with her crazy mother and mutilated sister, lives at the Resistance camp, gets in a few scuffles, and dreams A LOT about Raffe. Afterwards, the plot picks up a bit, but I didn't find it to be tightly woven at all, to the point that I questioned why almost everything was happening. For me, it didn't seem like there was a clear sequence of events, or even cause and effect, which left me confused and lost. 

Overall, a disappointing read, made even more so by the excitement I felt about continuing this series. Penryn's mom continues to intrigue me. Finding out about her and Paige may be the only reason I continue with this series. On a side note, I couldn't stand the way Penryn thought about her mother throughout the first half of the book. I was actually a little disgusted with the way she describes her mom (again, I should really start taking notes). So while there were parts I was impressed with, like Penryn being totally kick ass, but my issues with the book unfortunately far outweighed the parts I enjoyed.

Reading progress update: I've read 45%.

World After  - Susan Ee

I'm going through this quickly, but I think it's the first-person, present-tense writing style that I'm not enjoying. For some reason, it seems to make everything less suspenseful than it really is.

Manic: A Memoir

Manic - Terri Cheney

For someone who has not suffered from mental illness and only ever had to grapple with mild seasonal depression, books likeManic almost seem like fiction to me. I am morbidly interested in the experiences of people grappling with mental illness, mostly because I want to try and understand them.

A few years ago, my best friends sister attempted suicide. Thankfully, she was found and stopped in time, but the ramifications have continued to this day. This is one of the first books I've read on manic depression and has really helped me understand the actions my friend's sister took. While technically she is not bipolar (she has multiple personality disorder), a lot of the behaviour exhibited by Terri Cheney, particularly mood swings and depression, also describe the type of person my friend has been living with for the past years. It's amazing to see what so many people grapple with in their lives.

Even if I didn't have such a personal interest in psychology and mental illness, I would still have enjoyed this book. Cheney is a fantastic storyteller (I always feel very guilty when I read memoirs like this as if they are fiction), and the way she set up the book was interesting. Rather than giving a chronological account of her illness and various suicide attempts, she skips from one part of her life to another because that is what it feels like to be manic. It was fascinating to be inside her head, both when she's manic and depressed, but also when she is "sane". After she finally stabilizes with modern medication, it's almost as if she misses being manic although she doesn't do anything that would threaten her streak of sanity.

Overall, an educational and riveting read. Anyone interested in mental illness, or just a good memoir should read it.

Reading Update: I am 24% in

World After  - Susan Ee

Interesting seeing into Raffe's past, but for some reason my attention still hasn't been captured. 

Staring at Lakes: A Not So Interesting Memoir

Staring at Lakes: A Memoir of Love, Melancholy and Magical Thinking - Michael Harding

So, this book. I'm not really sure what to think of it. I often feel guilty or wrong if I read a memoir and end up disliking it. Who am I to judge a work recounting someones life? However, I still think there is a way for those writing memoirs to engage the reader and make themselves relatable, even if the reader has not had similar experiences.

Staring at Lakes didn't do this for me. I've been on a bit of a memoir craze for the past while, and have read some absolutely fantastic books depicting women who have suffered from mental illness and eating disorders. Thankfully, I have never had to grapple with either of these issues, but I still found these books engaging and easily found myself relating to the characters. 

Possibly, I found it difficult to sympathize with Michael Harding because he is a male. I don't know. But I do know that I felt disengaged from the story, and almost annoyed with the man for being so self-centred and selfish. I've read a ton of memoirs about depression and not once did I have this sort of reaction to a character experiencing it. 

I read this book for a book club I'm currently taking part in in Ireland. I found the book mildly interesting, only because it takes place in Ireland and I could identify with many of the places Harding visited. Other than that, this book, unfortunately, just isn't up my alley.

2.5 stars

70% finished

Staring at Lakes: A Memoir of Love, Melancholy and Magical Thinking - Michael Harding

This book is interesting, but I get quite lost sometimes when the author jumps around from story to story. 

I'm Baaaaackkkk!!!!

All safe and sound in Ireland! I have a few reviews to post, but I still won't be back on until I find a place to live and a job. 


So nice to be back.

Leaving on a Jet Plane

Hello all! I am boarding my flight to China in less than 16 hours now and wanted to wish you all happy reading while I am absent from the book world for the next 2 weeks or so. 



Couldn't. Put. Down.

Unteachable - Leah Raeder

I'm not entirely sure I can convey the way I felt about this book. It was simultaneously sexy, frustrating, suspenseful and beautiful at the same time. Leah Raeder writes beautifully and masterfully conveys an atmosphere of built-up lust and anxiety all wrapped up into one pretty package. 


This story spoke to me on so many levels. Oddly enough, I am not at all like the main character Maise. In fact, my parents both have jobs and did their best to provide me with every available opportunity, no matter the cost. Compared to Maise I am particularly spoiled. But it was her relationship with Evan that spoke to me the most. Not just because it was totally sexy and more than once had me wanting to *ahem* sate my hunger, but also because even faced with losing the love of her life, she still decided to pursue her dreams. I've been in this situation twice in less than a year, not necessarily with the love of my life, but with two very different men with whom I felt I could see a future with. And I ended up leaving them both for Europe on two separate occasions. 


And therein lies my problem with this book: the ending. I can't say too much here because I don't want to spoil it, but I was so disappointed. And maybe I'm just bitter, because neither of the men I was with made the decision that Evan did, and I didn't get my HEA. But I thought it was kind of a cop-out. If this book had ended in another way, I would have for sure given it 5-stars.


Other than that, I was astounded by how much I liked Maise and the other characters in the book. Even creepy Wesley. And especially Wesley's awesome mom. Lately I've been lucky enough to have read some fantastic books where characters are imperfect and flawed. Unteachable was no different. The characters felt so real to me and didn't conform to tropes. 


As I already mentioned, the writing was absolutely stunning on so many levels. Just the way Raeder conveys the way Maise feels makes you practically melt. I haven't read something so sexy in a while. The way she writes isn't only beautiful, it also deescribes the way so many of us feel after losing something you so desperately want back:


"There's something so terrible about wanting something you've already had. You know exactly what you're missing. Your body knows precisely how to shape itself around the ache, the hollowness that wants to be filled."


I know how you feel, girl. 


If you haven't read this one yet, go out and buy it. It's totally worth your money and you'll be unable to put it down. I'm just thankful I started this one tonight (and not on my plane ride to Ireland or I'd definitely have some issues). 4 stars.

4 stars

Unteachable - Leah Raeder

Read this in one sitting. I am at a loss for words right now. Full review to come.

Needs a Re-Read (3.5 for now)

Blood Song - Anthony Ryan

This is such a difficult book to review, mainly because I haven’t been able to devote much time to reading lately. Through my own fault, I realized I couldn’t remember who certain characters were or what their purpose was in the story. So, I must conclude that this book needs a re-read before I can feel comfortable rating it properly.  For now, my 3.5 will stand, but I feel like it may change in the future.


There’s something about fantasy like this that I just love. Especially when you have a writer like Anthony Ryan, who just knows how to build a solid world and create fantastic characters. I wish I had had the map of Ryan’s world beside me, particularly through the last two parts of the book. I loved the world he created, though I’ll admit, I didn’t feel an extreme desire to live in it. More on that later. Other than that, I enjoyed following Vaelin through the Order, and through his travels in the Unified Realm and beyond.


I think the reason I didn’t immediately want to take off to the Unified Realm was due mostly to the lack of female characters in the story. However, the female characters we did get to meet were strong and very capable. I can’t wait to see more of them in the sequel. The majority of the characters in this book were wonderfully flawed. The lack of perfection was something I really appreciated because it made you think about each character and how you felt about him or her. The lines between what is right and wrong were blurred and Vaelin constantly found himself torn between the two.


I’m going to cut it off there until I can re-read it and properly review it. Overall, a fantastic fantasy story. For those of you who liked Mistborn, or want a Game of Thrones type story where not everybody dies, this book is for you. 

Blood Song

Blood Song - Anthony Ryan

3.5 stars? Rating may change. I need to think on this before I review.

I haz this!

Unteachable - Leah Raeder

$3.00 on kobo. YES. But first, Blood Song.