Review: Words That Start With B

Words That Start With B
Vikki VanSickle

Seventh grade was supposed to be the best year of Clarissa Delaney’s life. Instead, she ends up with the wrong teacher, a best friend who is bullied and can’t stand up for himself, a teacher’s pet trying to be her friend, and a boy with a crush on her. But none of these things can compare to the possibility of losing her mom.

This book hit close to home for me, having lost my own mother to breast cancer, though as an adult, not a twelve-year-old girl. Clarissa is too embarrassed by the “B word” to even talk about what is going on with her mom. Middle school is never an easy time, but Clarissa finds a way to get through everything that is thrown at her with a sense of humour and the help of some new friends. I really connected with these characters. Clarissa is a smart girl whose smart mouth may sometimes get her in trouble, but she has a good heart and tries to protect Benji from the bullies, and her relationship with her mom is truly special. A great coming-of-age story.


Review: Shiver

Maggie Stiefvater

As a young girl, Grace was attacked by wolves. She could have died, except that one wolf saved her, forcing the others to back away. Ever since then, Grace has looked out into the woods to catch a glimpse of her wolf. But this is no ordinary wolf. During the spring and summer, Sam turns human. But only for a few years, until one year he will remain a wolf forever. He and Grace fall in love instantly, but as the temperature drops, can they find a way to keep Sam human forever?

It took me a long time to get around to reading this book, but I am glad I waited, because now the third book is out and I won’t have to wait to find out what happens to Grace and Sam. At first I wasn’t sure I was going to like this book. Grace’s obsession with wolves seemed a little odd to me. But what won me over was the relationship that developed between Grace and Sam. Even though they have only just met as humans, the love between them is believable and heartbreaking because we know it can’t last. Or can it? I
look forward to reading books two and three to find out.

Review: The Cat’s Table

The Cat’s Table
Michael Ondaatje
McClelland & Stewart

In the 1950s, an eleven-year-old boy named Michael boards the Oronsay en route to England to reconnect with his mother, whom he has not seen for years. At mealtimes, he is seated at the Cat’s Table, about as far removed from the Captain’s Table as one can get. There, he meets a cast of eccentric characters, including two other boys who become his constant companions as they explore the secrets of the ship and its passengers.

I really enjoyed reading the tales of each member of the Cat’s Table, especially Miss Lasqueti, whose mild appearance belies hidden talents. Michael is an engaging narrator and the story flows smoothly. I wasn’t completely blown away by the novel but I did find it an interesting glimpse of a period in someone’s life and the impact people can have on us in even a short time

Review: Divergent

Veronica Roth
Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins)

Divergent is set in a dystopian society in which people are divided into five factions based on personality traits: Dauntless (bravery), Candor (honesty), Abnegation (selflessness), Erudite (intelligence), and Amity (peacefulness). Each year, all sixteen-year-olds must choose the faction they feel they belong to, which may mean leaving their families behind forever. This is the choice that befalls Beatrice, or Tris, as she comes to call herself. It turns out Tris is what is known as divergent – not suited to one particular faction, a dangerous trait to have as it makes her less susceptible to the manipulations of her new faction’s leaders. Tris’s loyalties to both her faction and her family are tested as she struggles to figure out who she really is.

I picked up this book because it was getting a lot of buzz on Twitter this summer, and I am glad I did. If you like The Hunger Games trilogy, you will likely enjoy this one. Tris starts out at the weak one in her group of initiates, but as she progresses toward becoming a full-fledged member of her faction, she grows stronger both physically and mentally. Her struggle with being loyal to her family versus conforming to the norms of her faction made for interesting reading. The action really ramps up toward the end, placing Tris in a perilous position. I look forward to book two.


Review: The Book Thief

The Book Thief
Markus Zusak
Alfred A. Knopf

Set in Nazi Germany during World War II, The Book Thief tells the story of an orphaned girl named Liesel who develops a love of words – to the point that she begins to steal books in order to continue her love of reading.

This was my first time reading Zusak. I had started reading this book back in the winter but got distracted when a number of holds came in from the library. I’m glad I made my way back to it, though. I was very touching and well-written. At first, the idea of Death as the narrator took some getting used to, but I think Zusak pulled it off well. I’m not normally someone who reads for language (normally I prefer  a plot with lots of action and a compelling cast of characters), but I admired the author’s ability to create beautiful images with words. I found myself really caring for the characters and anxious to know whether they would survive the war. I look forward to reading I Am The Messenger in the near future.


Review: Baby Proof

Baby Proof
Emily Giffin
St. Martin’s Press

Book editor Claudia and her architect husband, Ben, have agreed they don’t want kids. That is until one of them has a change of heart. Can they find a way to make their marriage work?


I have to say, I was disappointed with this book. I picked it up because I was curious to see how the author would resolve her characters’ dilemma. Claudia is adamant about not wanting children, yet as the novel progresses she realizes she really loves Ben, to the point that she would be willing to have a baby with him if that was what it took to get him back. I didn’t find Claudia’s change of heart very convincing. It seemed she was only open to having a baby in order to get back together with Ben, and I don’t think this is a solid reason to have a child. It would be one thing if Giffin had made me believe Claudia really did come around to the idea of motherhood and actually wanted a baby for herself, but it seemed she was just doing it to please Ben. When Claudia and Ben get back together at the end of the book, they don’t even resolve the issue that split them up in the first place. Claudia is still unsure whether she will be a mother someday. It seems to me that they could just as easily break up again since really, nothing has changed other than Claudia is at least willing to consider motherhood. If I were Ben I don’t know if that would be enough for me. The ending felt like a cop-out to me and kind of made the whole book feel like a waste of my time.


Review: Secret Daughter

Secret Daughter
Shilpi Somaya Gowda

In India, 1985, Kavita must give up her baby daughter in order to save her life. In the village she lives in, daughters come with the high price of a dowry, and a poor family needs sons to work. Therefore, daughters are often put to death. Having lost one daughter before, Kavita can’t bear to have another die, so she and her sister travel to an orphanage and give the baby up. Meanwhile, American doctors Somer and Krishnan desperately want a child, but Somer’s early menopause prevents her from conceiving. This novel tells the story of Somer’s adoption of Kavita’s child, the effect giving up her baby has on Kavita’s life, and Kavita’s secret daughter’s quest to find her birth parents.

I thought Secret Daughter was very well-written and I enjoyed seeing the story from Kavita’s, Somer’s, and later the daughter, Asha’s, perspectives. Gowda explores interesting questions of what family and motherhood mean both in terms of Asha’s being accepted by her adoptive family and in terms of Somer’s struggle with having an Indian husband and daughter while she herself is white and therefore feels like the odd one out.


I wish the ending had been a bit less open-ended. I was so invested in these characters I wanted to experience Kavita and Asha’s reunion. I am not even sure if the two ever met. I found this very disappointing after leading up to it throughout the novel. Ending aside it was still an engaging read.