The Dogs by Allan Stratton

Hey there readers,

Allan Stratton's new YA novel, The DogsIt’s hot and stormy out and there’s nothing better to read poolside (or lakeside!) than a little summer suspense. Check out The Dogs by Allan Stratton, an award-winning Canadian writer who will be in Winnipeg this September for Thin Air 2015, the Winnipeg International Writer’s Festival!

I’ll be partnering with the festival this year to keep you up-to-date on what’s going on, what to read, and what events to check out, so keep your eyes on the blog for more updates as we get closer to the festival. I’ll also be posting regular features on the Thin Air website (like this one on The Dogs), so be sure to check out their website frequently. Big names are coming to the festival this September (including Lawrence Hill, author of The Book of Negroes!) – you won’t want to miss it.

To prepare for TA2015, check out the newly released Summer Reading List. Even though I’m still chipping away at Jeff Rubin’s super-relevant The Carbon Bubble: What Happens to Us When It Bursts, and just started S.E. Grove’s The Golden Specific (the follow up to Grove’s amazing first novel The Glass Sentence – trust me, even though you’ll find these babies in the 9-12 section, these books are entertaining and sophisticated enough for all ages to enjoy!), I’m also about to dig into Méira Cook’s Nightwatching, out now and on the TA2015 reading list. PS: Méira Cook’s from Winnipeg!

Happy reading and stay cool!
Katrina

 

 

Advertisements

Summer Reads

Hello readers,

Welcome back! I’ve taken quite the break from blogging over the past few weeks but I promise you, I haven’t stopped reading. One of my favourite things about summertime is having more time to read, so here are a few good ones I’ve picked up over the past month and a half.


 

X-Men Reimagined. 

I mentioned these two briefly in my last blog post – here’s a more thorough look.

  • If you like X-Men and the what-if-we-had-special-powers scenario, I recommend Alexandra Bracken’s The Darkest Minds series. Set in dystopian America in the near future, The Darkest Minds series examines the lives of children with special abilities and their rebellion against repression and certain death. To mutant or not to mutant? I couldn’t put these books down – I finished the series in a week.

The Darkest Minds series by Alexandra Bracken

  • If you like the special-powers scenario but are looking for a different angle, check out Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen. Aveyard has created a world where those with special abilities are the ones in power and heroine Mare Barrow is about to upset the whole system. This is looking to be a big seller in Young Adult fiction this year, so definitely take a read. Aveyard is set to release Book 2 in 2016.

 

The Queen is Back.

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika JohansenThe Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

  • If you haven’t read The Queen of The Tearling yet, well, shame on you. It’s a book people have been buzzing about all year, and here’s one reason why: Emma Watson is set to star as the heroine, Kelsea Glynn, in the film adaptation. Erika Johansen signed a seven-book deal last year and the second book in the series, The Invasion of the Tearling, was released last month. In my honest opinion, I found The Queen of the Tearling lacking – but Invasion had a lot more substance and it left me wanting more. If you’re a fan of fantasy, pick these two up and tell me what you think.

 

Emily St. John Mandel's Station ElevenWhat the End of the World really looks like.

  • One of the best books of 2015, Station Eleven will make you long for a world we already live in. I’ve never felt nostalgic for light switches or refrigerators until I read this masterful novel written by Emily St. John Mandel. It’s ridiculously realistic – a pandemic hits Toronto and life as
    we know it grinds to a screeching halt. Station Eleven chronicles the lives
    of the survivors, giving us a glimpse of humanity’s darkest days and reminding us how precious life really is. I loved this book.

 

 



The Little Old Lady Who Broke All The Rules
Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreightGossip|Gilmore Girl(s) and Feisty Females

  • It’s Literally a Book Club read and discussed two great summer reads to put on your nightstand: Reconstructing Amelia and The Little Old Lady Who Broke All The Rules.
    • We were huge fans of Reconstructing Amelia. Having just read The Girl On The Train, we were in mystery/thriller mode, so this was the perfect follow-up. After the tragic death of her daughter, Kate begins researching the mysterious circumstances surrounding her daughter’s last days and final hours. Kimberly McCreight definitely has a knack for nailing mother-daughter relationships and strong female leads. Secret societies, long-held grudges, and prep school politics are uncovered in this thrilling and heart-wrenching story. If you’ve enjoyed Gossip Girl and The Gilmore Girls, you’ll definitely find a favourite in Reconstructing Amelia. We gave this one 3.5/5.
    • Next, we tackled Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg’s The Little Old Lady Who Broke All The Rules, a hilarious romp about a group of pensioners who believe that jail would hold more comforts than their retirement home. A comedy of errors, this book will keep you giggling. To sum up the funniest scene, two words: sauna + marijuana. Funny things happen. This was an unexpected pick for our group but we enjoyed it. 3/5.
  • Next up, we’re reading Agatha Christie’s classic mystery, The Tuesday Club Murders. It’ll be just like reading a game of CLUE and I can’t wait.

 

Close to Hugh by Marina EndicottJeff Rubin's The Carbon BubbleCanadian writers are the best writers. I’m biased.


 

A few more books on my “to be read” bookshelf: Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember In The Ashes and Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman, out next week. So many good books for us to explore this summer, my friends!

Keep your eyes on the blog for more summer reading recommendations.

Happy reading,
Katrina

 

Review – Where They Found Her

Hello readers,

Now that school’s out, I’ve been a book-reading machine! I’ve had the chance to finish up Love in the Time of Cholera, The Darkest Minds, Red Queen, and binge-read two Kimberly McCreight novels in 3 days: Reconstructing Amelia and Where They Found Her. You can look forward to my thoughts on Reconstructing Amelia in the next month, as that’s the book that It’s Literally a Book Club is reading for April and May.

As a part of Harper Collins Canada’s newly relaunched #HCCFirstLook program, I, along with 9 other readers across the country, received an advanced copy of Where They Found Her and got to review it. Here’s your first look at my review – enjoy!


 

Where They Found Her by Kimberly McCreight
A review by Katrina Sklepowich

where they found her

Kimberly McCreight’s sophomore novel, Where They Found Her, masterfully weaves together the stories of a mother struggling with a devastating loss, a daughter desperately striving for perfection, and a town reeling from the discovery of a newborn dead in the woods.

Where They Found Her explores more than what is lost and found in an idyllic New Jersey college town ­– it explores mother-daughter relationships at their very core and what it means to be a parent in today’s world.

When Ridgedale, a picture-perfect town by definition, is shattered by tragedy, former lawyer and budding small-town journalist Molly Sanderson is there to pick up the pieces. But instead of a plucky heroine in designer clothing and stiletto heels, McCreight gives us a broken, depressed, and wonderfully human character that not only solves a mystery, but also heals herself in the process.

Like Reconstructing Amelia, Where They Found Her pieces together a story through the voices of multiple women, all of whom are flawed, struggling, and relatable. This is McCreight’s strength: providing characters with which we, as readers, can deeply relate. Each character’s wishes, fears, insecurities, and hopes are what drive this story and keep us yearning for more.

A page-turner filled with unexpected twists, creepy characters, and McCreight’s exceptional knack for online and social media commentary, Where They Found Her will keep you guessing until the very end. And as you find out more about Molly, Sandy, and the other strong women in this story, you’ll also probably find out more about yourself. You’ll also come away with a newfound appreciation for your mother.

The perfect read before Mother’s Day, Where They Found Her will keep you on the edge of your seat but it will also inspire you.


This review, and others, will be posted on TheSavvyReader.com – be sure to check out the site for more great recommendations.

I encourage you to pick up a copy of Where They Found Her and get reading, especially if you are fan of books like Gone Girl and The Girl on The Train. I also think it would make a great gift for mom – remember, Mother’s Day is coming up this Sunday, May 10th!

Happy reading,
Katrina

Stay Tuned…

Hello readers!

Today was my last day of school until September and I’m definitely on ‘Cloud 9’ because we all know what no more school means for me – more time to read books!

To start the holidays off right, I went to the Children’s Hospital Book Market at St. Vital Mall (on now until tomorrow!) and pops and I picked up a few gems. Now, I generally classify book market week as the most wonderful time of year (besides Christmas, obviously, because you all know how much I love Christmas), but I’ll admit to dropping the ball this year. The sale started on Tuesday and by the time dad and I got there yesterday, a lot of books by the authors we tend to read were already gone. We were a little bummed, armed as we were with our lists of books by authors so that we could fill in the holes in series we own, but managed to look on the bright side of things and explore new titles. We walked away with six new treasures (dad calls them ‘mercy buys’) so that we could support this worthy cause. As you head into the weekend, consider stopping by the mall and perusing the tables upon tables of wonderful books longing to be read!

I’m heading out of town tomorrow for a weekend of fun and relaxation (and shopping!) and can’t wait to start Kimberly McCreight’s newest release, Where They Found Her.

Can't wait to dig into this one this weekend!

Can’t wait to dig into this one this weekend!

It’s sure to be a thrilling mystery and I am looking forward to having time to fully immerse myself in the story on my road trip (trust me, I won’t be driving – safety first, kids!).

Over the summer, I’ll also be developing a new project that I’ll be unveiling in autumn! Fun stuff! So stay tuned, my dear loyal readers, as exciting things are happening. Although school has come to an end, I will still check in on the blog whenever I can and entertain you with all things bookish throughout the summer. You’ve all been an amazing support and I’ve loved chatting with you about books and life and all things literary.

Happy reading, much love, and many thanks,
Katrina

It’s Literally a Book Club

books on books on books

books on books on books!

Hello readers,

Last Friday, I met with my lovely book club for the very first time to chat about Paula Hawkins’ The Girl On The Train. We had a great discussion about how the story unfolded, which characters we liked and couldn’t stand, and even shared some (often outlandish) alternate endings and plot line theories. It was good times! At some point in the evening, we also took a moment to give our book club an official title. We got pretty creative, I won’t lie. Right now, we’re rolling with “It’s Literally a Book Club”. So much love for my friends.

If you and your book club are currently reading The Girl On The Train or plan to read it in the next few months, Penguin Books USA has an excellent discussion guide. You can follow the guide to the letter or use it as a jumping-off point. We had so many opinions and thoughts to share that we didn’t really use the guide but I found the questions helpful for keeping the discussion on track.

Here are our thoughts:

  1. Hawkins’ main character Rachel is an unreliable narrator – she has memory issues, alcohol dependency issues, peeping-tom issues, self-esteem issues…the list goes on. For some of us, this created confusion – the timeline jumps around a lot and there are big chunks of time missing from Rachel’s narration, leaving us wondering what the heck she is doing during those blank afternoons. For the rest of us, we found that Rachel’s unreliability was a clever writing tactic. Hawkins didn’t have to explain everything and pieces to the puzzle were deliberately missing – our job as readers was to fill in those holes with assumptions and theories. This dynamic made for an interesting read and kept a lot of us guessing throughout the entire book.
  2. Some of us saw the ending coming from a mile away (mainly, me). I don’t know why, but I thought that this was a pretty predictable whodunit and even though Hawkins throws a few red herrings at us to keep us in the dark about what really happened, I rarely strayed from my hypothesis about ‘misogyny man’ (you’ll know who I mean). However, a few of us had entirely different expectations about this book’s outcome…
  3. RIFF OFF: Multiple Personality Disorder Theory. Miranda and Whitney totally thought that all three female narrators – Rachel, Anna, and Megan – were, in fact, one person. Brilliant! This theory by far led our discussion because it had the rest of us reeling. It was a plot line none of the rest of us considered! Honestly, by the end of the night, we all thought that a multiple personality disorder twist would have made for a better story – sorry, Paula!
  4. While Rachel’s unreliability as a narrator is effective, one thing that a few of us found upsetting was her alcoholism and how the disease was portrayed in the book. However, we all realized that while something may be upsetting, that doesn’t mean it isn’t real or true or important to examine. Alcoholism, to many people, is sad, destructive, pathetic, weak…and those aren’t qualities we typically like to associate with our protagonists. We like heroes and Rachel doesn’t seem like much of one. In fact, sometimes we suspect her to be the story’s villain. Rachel does begin to pull through and find purpose though. The minute she starts seeing a shrink (albeit for ulterior motives), you start getting the sense that this woman will get better – and I think that she does.
  5. Another thing we noticed: fat shaming. I’m not sure if it’s a UK-cultural thing but the way Hawkins describes Rachel and puts her down really turned a few of us off. This could have been another tactic used by Hawkins to illustrate how defeated Rachel is, but the association of a certain weight with failure and weakness was straight up rude. We didn’t like it. Another interesting thing: a few of us couldn’t imagine Rachel (Kaeri and I still can’t picture her face!) and this made her hard to identify with.
  6. HOLY MOM ISSUES BATMAN. The underlying tension throughout the book is motherhood and how it defines women. Rachel’s life fell apart because she couldn’t be a mom, Megan’s life fell apart when she became a mom and then had crazy shit happen to her (I’m not exaggerating!), and Anna’s life got better after the birth of her daughter (she found fulfilment). It’s fascinating how Hawkins developed her characters around motherhood in such diverse ways.

The character we liked the most: Megan
The scene that shocked us the most: toss up between the Rachel-Scott fling or Megan’s baby backstory
What we wanted more of: more Rachel + Anna teamwork

At the end of the night, we sat in our little circle and raised our hands in a vote to rate this book. We settled on giving this book 3/5 stars. It certainly was a page-turner (you will want to find out what happens!). Next up, we’ll be reading Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight, another thrilling whodunit mystery. I can’t wait to dive into this one. In all, we had a great time reading and then discussing The Girl On The Train.

One comment I heard a few times during the evening had me positively glowing: a few of my girlfriends confessed to not reading very much any more and were so glad to have a reason to read again. They all expressed how much this experience made them realize how much they enjoyed and missed reading – follow their lead: start a new book and (re)discover your love of reading this weekend!

Happy reading,
Katrina


PS: If you are a fan of Game of Thrones and watched the premier of season 5 last weekend, check out this fantastic analysis: http://grantland.com/hollywood-prospectus/game-of-thrones-season-5-episode-1-recap-the-wars-to-come/

Face Off: Narnia versus Book of Negroes

Hello readers,

I hope you all had a wonderful Easter long weekend – mine was filled with Netflix (Treasure Planet with the cousins!) and chocolate (birthday) cake. It was fantastic.

While we look forward to the premier of season five of Game of Thrones this Sunday (read my last blog post if you’re out of the loop), here’s a quickie post on a few book-related things to keep you going…


This year's full roster for HCC March Madness.

This year’s full roster for HCC March Madness.

#HCCMarchMadness, Harper Collins Canada’s spin on the college basketball tournament, is finally coming to a close this week, with two heavy-hitters in the top spots duking it out for the win (duking it out…Duke…get it? Clever, right?). The top choices are: The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill, or The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, both favourites of mine. I know I’ll be happy with either one as winner – which one will you choose? Today is the last day to vote – the winner will be announced tomorrow. Exciting. Get your votes in, as you have a chance to win all 64 books in that were this year’s tournament.

Who do you think will win??

Who do you think will win?? Get your votes in today!


The next best thing: the Buzzfeed Books newsletter. I’m always looking for a good book and I like getting recommendations from a variety of sources – you never know what’s out there until you look! All you have to do is sign your email up to receive the weekly e-newsletter (it comes out on Wednesdays) and read away. My favourite part of the BuzzFeed Books site: the curated quizzes, natch (all you could ever be asked about Harry Potter!).

A few of the fun posts on BuzzFeed Books.

A few of the fun posts on BuzzFeed Books. Totally worth checking out. Be warned: you’ll waste a lot of time doing quizzes!


Tomorrow night, I’m getting together with my book club for our inaugural meeting – we’ll be chatting about The Girl on The Train by Paula Hawkins and I can’t wait to hear what my friends thought of the book. I’ll be sharing some of our thoughts and reflections on the blog next week – if you read the book, leave your comments here for discussion!

Happy reading,
Katrina

Winter is Coming…despite the fact that it’s supposed to be over!

Hello readers,

Many of you may have been dismayed when a small snowstorm hit Winnipeg yesterday afternoon. I know I was longing for sunshine and green grass and was sad to see the snowpocalypse hitting downtown. Here in Winterpeg, we often have unrealistic hopes for springtime – but this year, it looked like we were going to experience a true spring and we were excited! Well, worry not friends. Even though there is a little bit of snow back on the ground, the fact that ‘Winter is coming’ doesn’t have to be a bad thing….if that winter refers to Game of Thrones.

We’re a little over a week away from the premier of Game of Thrones season 5 on HBO and I am super excited. My dad watched the first season when it premiered in 2011 before either of us had heard of George R.R. Martin’s series Song of Ice and Fire and really enjoyed it. I watched the recap of Season 1 and then decided to purchase the books so that we could get the full experience (because aren’t the books always better?). We have both now read all five books and are eagerly awaiting book six, Winds of Winter. According to an Entertainment Weekly interview with Martin, he hopes to release Winds of Winter by 2016 – my fingers are crossed!

Zero spoiler alerts here – but I do want go over which character plot lines I’m most excited to read about in the next GOT instalment. My favourite characters to follow are Jon Snow, Tyrion, and Daenerys. I love Samwell Tarly. I used to like Arya and then I really didn’t but now I might again. I wish there was more about Bran up north and I am super curious about the White Walkers. My money is on Benjen Stark being the guy on the elk (nicknamed ‘Coldhands’). I love Daenerys (who doesn’t?) but I also have an appreciation for Jamie Lannister (even though he has questionable morals). I am not a fan of Sansa and I tend to skim anything to do with the Greyjoys. I think Bronn is hilarious and in terms of the show, I find Jon Snow and Daario Naharis extremely attractive. Guys, there’s so much to look forward to this season and in the next book!

While I wait for winter to get here, I’ll be reading Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, which is a post-apocalypse novel being endorsed by none other than our friend George R.R. Martin. Check it out!

Season 5 of Game of Thrones will be premiering on Sunday, April 12 at 9pm on HBO.

Happy reading and Happy Easter!
Katrina