Michelle’s Currently Reading!

Okay, I haven’t posted as much as I’d have liked to in the past few weeks, but that’s because I’ve been busy with school and work and otherwise having a life away from my computer. And as much as that hasn’t been good for you, it’s been good for me to get out in the world and experience some IRL connections with other humans.

Besides getting out of the house and doing things, I’ve also been working on school assignments. Cool ones, like getting to create my own photography blog. And I’ve been reading a lot as well. I’ve just been reading so much at once that I haven’t actually finished anything recently.

So since my lovely readers of this blog have been left a little high and dry, I’ll let you know what I’ve been reading and my quick thoughts on each one so far!

1. American Psycho – Bret Easton Ellis: Great book, but very dense, so I’ve had to put it down and take breaks in between. I’m reading it to fulfill my 2015 Reading Challenge (see top bar for details), but I’m actually really enjoying it so far! Not good to read if you don’t appreciate sex or violence – I don’t mind it, but in case you do.

2. Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives – Gretchen Rubin: I was really excited to get this ARC, because I really love these sorts of self-help books. I feel like I’m being informed, and learning how to get a good hold on living life the way I want to is something very interesting to me. Highly recommend.

3. Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro: Almost finished this one. Amazing. Wonderful. If I didn’t have anything else to do, I’d have finished this days ago. Beautiful.

4. My Heart and Other Black Holes – Jasmine Warga: So upset that I’ve had to put this book on hold. I’m reading so many ARCs that I have to prioritize those and set this aside until I’ve finished one of the others I’m currently reading. Which sucks because I’m a few chapters in, and the book I’ve been waiting forever for is living up to the hype I’ve created.

A Guy Like Me by J.S. von Dacre: Review

Are you looking for a great short story to read this week? Look no further – J.S. von Dacre has written a short gem that will have you hooked. A Guy Like Me is only about ten pages long, but von Dacre’s descriptive writing is almost poetic, and her twists and turns throughout the story made me constantly wanting to know more.

I’d offer a summary, as I usually do in my reviews, but in this case I’d recommend you just take the chance to read the story! Von Dacre is offering a 5 day free trial of her book, which you can order from Amazon and read on Kindle. It’s not a long story; it took me about 15 minutes to read through, but A Guy Like Me was definitely a story that impressed me. At first, I wasn’t sure what to expect and I was hesitant going in, but the style of writing captivated me and the message in the story was quite moving.

I recommend you take advantage of the offer to check it out for free, while you can. A Guy Like Me addresses some interesting ideas about gender, sex, and how one thing can happen which can change your perspective on these topics.

Get A Guy Like Me on Amazon.ca, Amazon.com, or Amazon.co.uk!
Follow J.S. von Dacre on Twitter!

One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories by B.J. Novak: Book Review

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I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of B.J. Novak’s One More Thing from Random House of Canada when it got re-released in paperback this month. As a fan of Novak’s sense of comedy and his portrayal of Ryan in The Office, I knew I’d eventually get my hands on a copy of this book and give it a read. I was skeptical at first, because people who act or write for the screen can’t always translate that talent to a novel or collection of short stories in this case, but Novak impressed me very much.

One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories is, as previously mentioned, a collection of short stories. The difference between short stories and a novel is that these tales have very little time to capture your interest. You barely have the opportunity to learn about all of these characters and fall in love with them, as you would a novel, so a lot is riding on the quality of writing and the message the story is trying to get across. Every single one of Novak’s short stories read, to me, like modern day fairy tales or fables, using witty monologues and striking symbolism to create tales that are not only entertaining but gave me something to think about.

I especially enjoyed how some of the tales were intertwined with others, and the clashing perspectives weren’t revealed to be connected until the end of the second story. One More Thing was funny, charming, and most of all, had me really intrigued as a writer. All I could think while I was reading was, “Wow, this is the kind of stuff I wish I could come up with.” And that’s how I knew it was special.

There are very few books that I can deem “favourites” before I’ve hit the ending, but I knew this gem was something special before I was even halfway finished. It earned five stars on Goodreads and was added to my favourites shelf without even having to contemplate. While reading this book, I laughed out loud a number of times. I couldn’t even put it down. I was reading during my fifteen minute breaks at work, through lunch, before bed – non-stop until I turned the final page and wished there was more.

I may even merit this one a re-read. One of the best books I’ve read in the past year.

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay: Book Review

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When this book of essays first came out, a lot of the book bloggers I followed raved about it – everyone needed to read this book, it was amazing, it was eye-opening. Well, it wasn’t the rave reviews that had me interested. The minimalism and the pink title caught my eye, style-wise, but the word ‘Feminist’ is what got me to buy a copy. The topic of feminism is one that I find extremely interesting, paired with the fact that everyone was actually enjoying reading this book, it made me curious. How good was Bad Feminist?

The answer: Very.

First of all, when I begin to read any non-fiction books, I’m normally very skeptical simply because the writing style can be dry, or too thick for my taste. I can read a paragraph and have no idea what I just read. This was not the case with Bad Feminist. I was immersed throughout the entire book. Gay’s storytelling mixed with informative perspectives and facts was not only educational but actually highly entertaining to read.

Not only did Gay write about gender issues and feminism, but there is an entire part dedicated to the issue of racism that I found particularly interesting. As a woman, I could identify with the gender issues, but as a white woman, I don’t have the experiences that she has had with the media misrepresenting her identity. It was educational to read about the way she looked at movies such as The Help and Django Unchained, and what she may look for in properly being represented.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading Bad Feminist. As someone who identifies as a feminist myself, it was nice to know that other women struggle with the title. Can a person be a feminist and still have typically feminine hobbies? Does it make you a bad feminist if your favourite colour is pink and you read girly magazines? I don’t necessarily think so. Gay uses very current examples of feminist issues and examples of good representation of women in pop culture to make her point, and it kept me thinking until the very end.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart: Book Review

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I know, I know. I’m really late to this party. We Were Liars came out in 2014, which wasn’t that long ago, but reviewers have been raving about it since it hit shelves. I don’t know why I put it off, but it was one of those that was always on my to-read list. Finally, I went to the Toronto International Book Fair and got a chance to meet E. Lockhart – and what better time to pick up a book than when you have a chance to get it signed? And let me tell you, the anticipation was worth it.

This is usually the part of the review where I give you a quick summary of the novel. But this time, you get nothing. Sorry, my faithful readers, but I did it and you can do it to. Going into the book knowing nothing about it is the best way to go in. It’s about a rich family who visits their island in the summer. That’s the crumb I’m giving you – my lie of omission.

We Were Liars is incredibly written. Lockhart pulled me into these characters’ lives and made me feel as though I was there. She created a mystery that had me trying to figure it out throughout my entire read. I’m usually pretty good at catching onto things and cracking codes before the authors intend, but when the end of this book hit me, I was baffled. To me, books are 50% enjoyment and 50% ending. If the ending is terrible, it ruins the entire thing. Liars did not disappoint.

Lockhart told me to lie about the book, so here it goes. We Were Liars was dreadful. The worst book I’ve ever read. I really hope you don’t read it.

…But please, do. It was amazing.

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven: Book Review

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The minute I read the summary of Jennifer Niven’s recent addition to the young adult shelves, I knew it was a read I could not pass up. The minute I started to read, I knew I’d have trouble putting it down. And the minute I finished reading this book, I stared at the wall for a moment and uttered the words, “How dare you, Jennifer Niven”.

If you have any hesitations, it was a good “how dare you” – I swear.

All the Bright Places follows the story of this unlikely friendship that develops between Violet and Finch, high school students who both suffer their own mental disabilities. The two pair up for a school project which has them travelling the state looking for little wonders – a project which has these depressed individuals searching for things that make life worth it.

This book was a wonderful mix of themes from some of my favourite films and novels, creating a very moving story of two incredibly believable characters. It reminded me of The Breakfast ClubThe Perks of Being a Wallflower, with a little bit of last year’s YA novel, Say What You Will. Misunderstood characters who find each other when they need another person most.

There was a highlight of how misunderstood not only these characters are, but the severe nature of their anxieties. I loved the emphasis Niven placed on how debilitating these problems are, and how quickly people are to sweep them under the rug. It’s an issue that is very close to me, and seeing it so well projected in this book made me cry on several occasions – good tears, I swear.

On a lighter note, I also enjoyed reading a YA novel that didn’t star overly geeky characters. I don’t know if it’s just the novels I’ve been reading recently, which I wouldn’t doubt because I normally enjoy reading about people like me (hello fellow geek community!), but I’ve been seeing a trend of nerdy leading guys and girls in books, and it was nice to read about fairly normal, well-balanced characters who aren’t a walking stereotype.

My heart broke when I was finished reading about Finch and Violet. I didn’t want them to be out of my life so soon. That’s how much I loved All the Bright Places.

Bout of Books: Wrap-Up

Bout of BooksSo this past week I participated in the Bout of Books read-a-thon again, and I didn’t really post any updates as I read. I wish I could say it was because I was too busy reading, but alas, I have family responsibilities and school starting up soon that I got a little distracted and didn’t read as much as I wanted. But I still got some done and read a really great book, so I’m happy to be able to report that back to you, lovely readers.

I know my TBR list had about five books on it; instead I read three. Well, two and most of another.

  • In Real Life – Cory Doctorow: Read and finished this graphic novel in one sitting. Really enjoyed this one.
  • All the Bright Places – Jennifer Niven: Read and finished this YA novel. Absolutely loved it and I’ll be posting a full review hopefully in the next week. Beautiful.
  • Life After God – Dougas Coupland: I’m about 75% done this book, but I’m on the road to finishing it quickly. Coupland is such a great writer.

Didn’t get as much done as I’d have liked, but I read a graphic novel, a nearly-400-page novel, and about 225 pages of Coupland, so that’s an accomplishment for one week!

Did you participate in the readathon? What did you read?

2015 Reading Challenge

I normally try to steer clear of yearly reading challenges because I’m one of those people who can only stay motivated to do something for about a week, and then I get bored and jump onto the next project. But I’ve been reading too much YA fiction recently and I want to get back into reading all sorts of books, so I’m going to give the POPSUGAR Reading Challenge a try!

The challenge gives you very general topics and you can pick which book to read for the requirement, and honestly, when it comes to reading challenges, I keep to the pirate code and view them more as guidelines. It’s motivating people to read, and if they read one book or another doesn’t matter to me, as long as people are reading.

Below you can find the checklist to complete this challenge. If you’re interested, you can follow the posts regarding my progress under the “Read-a-Thon” section of my blog, with my other reading challenges I take on throughout the year.

Let me know if you’ll be trying to complete this 2015 reading checklist – I’ve got to search my bookshelf for ways to complete this challenge! Happy reading!

Top 10 Reads of 2014

Happy new year to all of you lovely readers! To celebrate the end of 2014, I’m going to share with you the list of my absolute favourite books I read last year. Not necessarily books published in 2014, but books I picked up and read within the year.

1. House of Leaves – Mark Z. Danielewski

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House of Leaves is a 700-page mammoth that I never thought I’d have the motivation for, but I read it non-stop for three days until I’d finally turned the last page. This horror novel was probably the most creative novel I’ve read in the genre in a very long time. Danielewski writes in such a way that immerses the reader into the story by forcing them to flip through the pages, or hold up the book to a mirror to understand the words.

It was a book I never expected to love so much, and if anyone ever is looking for a great horror read, I always first think of House of Leaves.

2. The Sandman series – Neil Gaiman

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I was told to read Sandman, I don’t know how many times. But at the beginning of 2014, I finally took the chance and decided to dive right in. And once I’d finished the first volume, I wondered why I’d waited so long. Needless to say, I flew through the series. The characters, the stories, the dialogue is absolutely beautiful.

When it comes to graphic novels, writing isn’t the only factor – so is the artwork. Sandman had really great portrayal of the endless characters and was visually interesting.

3. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl – Jesse Andrews

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I read a couple of really wonderfully charming YA fiction books this year, and this is definitely in the top three YAs of all time for me. It was the story sure, and how it didn’t fall into the typical plotline and character circles that most YA does, but what got me most was the style. I loved reading the narrator’s voice – it reminded me so much of my own. I loved how he wrote about what he was writing, and how he broke the fourth wall so often. Very seldom does a book make me laugh out loud, and this one had me looking like a crazy person in public. Absolutely great book, that I’m actually wanting to re-read in the near future. And I don’t re-read often.

4. Love Letters to the Dead – Ava Dellaira

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This book reads very similarly to Perks of Being a Wallflower, so if you’re a fan of that novel, I highly recommend Love Letters to the Dead. The themes are very comparable, but there was something about this book that really had me relating to Laurel on a different level than I did with Charlie in Perks. I felt myself curious about the real story of what happened with May. I liked the idea of Laurel having to cope with the way she idolized and romanticized her sister. So. Many. Feelings.

 

5. Dorothy Must Die – Danielle Paige

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I picked this book thinking the plot would be one thing and it totally threw me off – in a really great way. At first, I was scared it would be typical and predictable, but as I read on, the new Oz started to remind me of a creepy-as-all-heck Tim Burton film or something. It wasn’t just a new Oz, it was eerie and sort of terrifying to think about. And I love eerie, especially when you take a positive setting or happy-go-lucky band of characters and make them just a little off. I flew through this book, and I eagerly anticipate the next one!

 

6. Seconds – Bryan Lee O’Malley

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I don’t know if this is good or bad, but when I was reading this graphic novel, all I could think of is how the Scott Pilgrim-esque film adaptation would go. Just like with Pilgrim, I loved the art style and witty fourth-wall-breaking humour, but I feel like Seconds had another factor that made me love it even more than my beloved Scott – a new level of maturity. The storyline was really intriguing and the characters were flawed and real, which made me love them so much.

I hope that this novel gets turned into a film honestly, because it is so visually stunning and symbolic and charming that I really don’t want Katie’s story to be finished. I got a reading hangover with this one, like I did with Harry Potter; when it was over, I would have given anything for it to not be over.

7. Virgin – Radhika Sanghani

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I was so stoked when Penguin gave me a copy of this book. I expected a great story about the reality of sex and the unimportance of virginity – all that jazz. But I didn’t expect Virgin to be so effin’ funny. It’s crude, it’s graphic, it’s kind of gross at times, and it’s so real. As a girl with girl parts reading about vaginas and not knowing how to deal with them, it was so accurate. Sometimes I was laughing with Ellie, and sometimes I was laughing at her, but either way, Virgin was hilarious and I hope teaches people that it’s okay to laugh at sex. Losing your virginity, or having sex with someone for the first time is uncomfortable, it’s awkward, and it’s okay to laugh about that.

8. Say What You Will – Cammie McGovern

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I think there’s a theme about the kinds of contemporary YA that I read, now going through this list, because I found this book to be so important mostly because it was again, so real. I won’t rave about this book again, as I’ve already reviewed it on this blog. All I’ll say is that Say What You Will is an amazingly heart-felt read and I didn’t want to put it down, because I was so curious as to what would happen with the protagonists. Not only that, but I loved how McGovern finally writes about the fact that not all disabilities are physical.

 

9. Let’s Get Lost – Adi Alsaid

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Another amazing YA story of this year. I picked it up because of the comparison to my ex-favourite YA novel, John Green’s Paper Towns. But I ended up preferring this book a lot more. If you like the humour and witty dialogue combined with crazy teenage antics of Green’s writing, I really recommend you try Let’s Get Lost. Again, if you’re interested, I did write a review for this one already, and it goes into much more detail. But it’s one of my top favourite reads of all time, so far.

 

10. Horrorstor – Grady Hendrix

13129925It takes a lot for me to find a horror novel actually scary, but this one did its job. It’s a haunted house tale that takes place in an Ikea rip-off store, and as someone working in retail (a superstore, no less), all of the details rang true for me. I actually found myself getting scared because I could imagine the events unfolding in my own store after hours. If you’ve ever worked retail and read this book, I’d love to know what your thoughts were as you were reading!

 

What were some of your favourite reads of last year?

Little White Lies by Katie Dale: Book Review

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I had no idea what I was getting into when I started reading Little White Lies. It was one of those reads where you pick up the book, cross your fingers and hope for the best. And I was actually quite surprised by this one; unfortunately, the surprise didn’t come until about halfway through the novel.

Little White Lies tells the story of Lou, a university student who has taken on a new identity in order to hide some big family secret and avoid the press in the process. She’s accompanied by a friend who is trying to help her keep her secret identity, but of course, she starts to get a little too close to a boy who has secrets of his own. This is the point where the book took off, and honestly, I was less than impressed when I began.

It was an easy read, so I continued on, but the main character seemed very typical YA – clumsy, awkward, love-struck. She and her friends party at uni, she meets a dark, handsome stranger who doesn’t like her back right away and she’s trying to do everything in her power to get together with him, even though it’s dangerous for her to get too close. But as the book goes on, I started to see why Lou had to be clumsy and awkward. And as the secrets start to be revealed, I found the whole thing a lot less two-dimensional.

As the plot unfolds, I really enjoyed reading. I couldn’t put it down, to be frank. I needed to see how everything would fit together, and the truth behind what happened to Lou’s family. I started feeling for the characters and needing to know that they would be okay. I suppose I understand why all of these factors couldn’t come into the story right away, but I still wish that I’d felt this connection to Lou a lot earlier on in the book.

Overall, gave it a solid three out of five stars. Fun read, good mystery aspect to it, but a little too much melodrama for my personal taste.