ARC Review – A Darkly Beating Heart by Lindsay Smith

27414389Title: A Darkly Beating Heart

Author: Lindsay Smith

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: No one knows what to do with Reiko. She is full of hatred. All she can think about is how to best hurt herself and the people closest to her. After a failed suicide attempt, Reiko’s parents send her from their Seattle home to spend the summer with family in Japan to learn to control her emotions. But while visiting Kuramagi, a historic village preserved to reflect the nineteenth-century Edo period, Reiko finds herself slipping back in time into the life of Miyu, a young woman even more bent on revenge than Reiko herself. Reiko loves being Miyu, until she discovers the secret of Kuramagi village, and must face down Miyu’s demons as well as her own.

Huge thank you to Macmillan for sending me an ARC of this book for review!

Molly’s Review:

Okay, so I know that this book doesn’t come out until October, but I HAD to read it as soon as I got it. For those of you who DON’T know, I lived in Japan for seven years and I generally find a lot of issues with YA books set in Japan. I’ve kinda taken it upon myself to read them and pick them apart. So I went into this book both excited and leary because I don’t believe that the author has actually lived or even spent a significant amount of time LIVING in Japan (I did read her author’s note and she went there for a vacation, I know).

That said I REALLY enjoyed this book. This is the story of a troubled Japanese-American girl who goes to Japan to stay with her Uncle and cousin while she tries to work out her issues. She’s waiting to hear back from colleges and planning her own perfect revenge against… well you find out later on who and why, but for most of the book you just get glimpses at those who wronged her.

Reiko is an angry girl. She’s a cutter (trigger warning) and she spends A LOT of time thinking about how she’s going to kill herself and get revenge on her ex-girlfriend, brother, parents, and later this extends to her cousin and friends. We find out that Reiko had a passionate relationship with a girl named Chloe who unleashed Reiko’s dark artistic side. Reiko is swept up in Chloe’s orbit and does thing that she normally wouldn’t, which later gets her into a lot of trouble.

While in Japan Reiko works for her Uncle’s web design company and spends time with her cousin and the other employees who are also employed by the cousin, Akiko, who is trying to become a J-Pop idol. Akiko has her own lifestyle brand that she’s trying to sell via her youtube channel, blog, cell phone novel and website. The other employees are basically her entourage as she tries to find ways to get her name out there. And Akiko’s boyfriend, who is a washed up idol himself, gets Akiko a gig at a culture festival in a remote Japanese village.

So the group travels to Kuramagi village where Reiko is swept away to another time, the Edo period, where she inhabits the body of a young woman who is filled with her own rage and revenge plots. Reiko loves being in Miyu’s body and feeling all of Miyu’s hate. At first, when Reiko time travels, she thinks that her antidepressants are making her crazy and she gets rid off them. But we later find out that something much more sinister is happening, something that happens every year at the festival, something that the village is desperately trying to stop.

So the story was good, I really enjoyed it. As for the writing I thought that the whole”I walk the path of vengeance, I must get my revenge” parts were a LITTLE heavy handed. Like, we got it, Reiko is angry. And while I liked the glimpses of what had happened, and we do get the full story by the end, I was sometimes frustrated that I didn’t have a full picture and was just filling in gaps and wasn’t quite sure if I was even right.

As for the Japanese aspects a lot of them were pitch perfect. My only two nitpicks are:

1. Why in the world did Smith keep using the world “pallet” for a futon!? This boggled my mind to no end. She uses TONS of Japanese words (well) in the text with either direct translation or translation that follows not too long after. But the entire time they were sleeping on “pallets”. And I really don’t see why the word futon wasn’t just used, defined, and then used for the rest of the book.

2. Names. In Japan it’s Surname followed by Given name. There are many different honorifics that are used much like Mr/Mrs, Sir/Ma’am etc. Usually these name conventions fall away around foreigners. In the group and at work they should have ALL been referring to each other by Last name + san. Instead they all use first names. I chalked this up to them being around Reiko and falling out of the convention because of her, but from my own experiences even around myself the Japanese people (especially while speaking Japanese) would not have used first names. So while Reiko was being called Reiko and using everyone’s first names, Akiko would NOT have been calling Kenji by his first name unless they were VERY good friends and even then she probably should have added “kun”.

And then in the Edo period it was very odd that everyone was again using first names. Especially for Miyu who was so hated. And she would not have called Jiro by his first name from the very start. I’m not even sure if she would have used it after they got closer.

So yeah, those were my only two real issues. The rest of the Japan stuff felt very authentic and true to my experiences as well as those around myself. I enjoyed that Smith didn’t get too heavy with the “weird” Japan and that she really seemed to have a grasp on the lifestyle brand culture that Akiko was going for. Major props.

Sam’s Review:

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

I love books set in Japan despite having never visited. There’s always something very atmospheric and lore driven, which A Darkly Beating Heart follows to a tee. I loved how well put together the story was, I thought the characters were very interesting, and the use of time travel was something quite special given our heroine goes backwards in time.

I loved Reiko and I thought she was a great character. I feel like we get such a huge sense of her emotions, her desire for revenge, and how she is struggling to define her anger given her circumstances. I also loved the Miyu half, because I think it perfectly manifests angry and aggression in a way that feels almost symbolic given Miyu’s story. They were a neat fusion of characters, and I liked how Smith blended them together.

I also thought the way idol culture was presented was really interesting here. Aki comes across like quite the nutjob at times, but it’s because you spend a lot of the story seeing her as her brand rather than a person. She’s malicious and calculating at times, but it’s interesting because you see it more from her being a businesswoman than just that type of person outright. It also doesn’t help that certain characters really pander to her branding, which made for some great moments in the story. Personally, I liked Kazuo. He likes the PlayStation Vita, which makes me happy given that no one seems to love the Vita.

While I think the ending wraps up a bit too neatly, I do love this story and I think Smith has a knack for doing balanced research and transforming it into an interesting narrative. I loved reading her Author’s Note where she explains where her inspiration came from, as well as the extent of her research went. There’s a great sense of tension and emotion in A Darkly Beating Heart and if you love books that feel dark and mysterious, check this one out.

ARC Review – Mighty Jack (Mighty Jack #1) by Ben Hatke

25648247Title: Mighty Jack (Mighty Jack #1)

Author: Ben Hatke

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Jack might be the only kid in the world who’s dreading summer. But he’s got a good reason: summer is when his single mom takes a second job and leaves him at home to watch his autistic kid sister, Maddy. It’s a lot of responsibility, and it’s boring, too, because Maddy doesn’t talk. Ever. But then, one day at the flea market, Maddy does talk—to tell Jack to trade their mom’s car for a box of mysterious seeds. It’s the best mistake Jack has ever made.

What starts as a normal little garden out back behind the house quickly grows up into a wild, magical jungle with tiny onion babies running amok, huge, pink pumpkins that bite, and, on one moonlit night that changes everything…a dragon.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this book!

Sam’s Review:

I am mad at myself for putting this book off. Why? Because it was one I was crazy excited to get my hands on and then life took over and it fell by the wayside. I say this given that in a lot of ways this is how Mighty Jack begins. Jack wants to sleep in, he wants to be able to get a job to help support his mother who is already working two jobs to support the family, and he has an autistic sister, Maddy, who doesn’t speak. This beginning proves my point about life trying to escape past you.

However, in true Ben Hatke form, this is a wonderful friendship oriented story, retelling the tale of Jack and the Beanstalk. I’ll admit, as a child I never really liked that story, and often found it to be a frustrating narrative for one thing. However, there is something so fresh about Hatke’s take on the story that it makes up for my distaste of the original tale. It is so easy to love the characters in this story: Jack, Lilly, Maddy, their mother, and they are characters that Hatke does a great job providing empathy towards. I really, in particular, loved Maddy’s portrayal, and after the cliffhanger of an ending at this book, I NEED to see what will happen next.

This is a great start to a series, and Ben Hatke’s artwork continues to be so vibrant and delightful that I always enjoy my time with his books. There is a lot of great commentary and ideas in Mighty Jack and I can’t wait to see where the next book goes. There’s so much to love in Ben Hatke’s stories, and he does a good job of showing us how strong humans can be when they are faced with crisis. I really loved this story, and definitely check out if you love fairy tale retellings or just awesome comics.

Thoughts on reviewing and where I want to go

Guys I have been so absent from this blog that if Sam wasn’t so good about updating it this space would surely be dead. But it’s not and I just can’t let go of it, but I have so many thoughts about blogging and reviewing, and I don’t know what I’m going to do, but i thought that I would at least write some of my thoughts out here and just… get it out.

So I haven’t seen anything official, but it looks like one of my biggest source of ARCs (and thus reviews) is going to stop sending out their monthly blogger packs to bloggers. This has me really upset on two fronts. First I’m just upset because I’ve heard all of this second hand and even when I reached out to the pub I didn’t hear anything back. I was consistently receiving ACRs from this pub for almost two years and I was reviewing almost every title they sent (that i had requested. Any extras or unsolicited I reviewed at my own digression). Second… I’ve spent a lot of time these past two years reviewing books for them! And not to just stop without a word… it hurts. I know that getting ARCs is a perk and that it’s not the reason that I blog or read, but it really helped. I’ve been able to freely read almost anything that I’ve wanted because of this and now I won’t be able to. Yes I can get all the same books digitally and review them there, but my kindle is old and dying and idk if I want to invest in a new one.

I haven’t fully decided yet but maybe this will be the end of my reviewing career. A part of me is a bit relieved… it’s getting tiring reading on a schedule. It’s getting exhausting forcing myself to read books because I feel obligated. It’s getting boring writing what I feel is the same review every time. I think, but I’m not fully sure, that I might quit requesting books and just review whatever is sent to me. If anything is anymore. And then just read what I want. I have friends who can get me ARCs if I ask, there’s trading on twitter, and I have a HUGE backlog of things that I want to read but always feel like I should read later, AFTER my review books.

I do still want to blog. I want to be more active on here and bring more than just reviews. I want to talk about books that I’m reading, to catch up on books that people have been telling me to read for YEARS. I want to support authors that I already love.

But who knows. I might change my mind and buy a new kindle and make a new schedule and read all of the eARCs or I might give up totally and just become a hermit that never posts on the internet again (haha yeah right). But for the end of this year I have decided to not focus on reviews, to not read on a schedule, and to do what I want. And hopefully that will mean ya’ll will hear from me more often on here than just twitter or instagram.

ARC Review – The Great Shelby Holmes by Elizabeth Eulberg

28260589Title: The Great Shelby Holmes

Author: Elizabeth Eulberg

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Shelby Holmes is not your average sixth grader. She’s nine years old, barely four feet tall, and the best detective her Harlem neighborhood has ever seen—always using logic and a bit of pluck (which yes, some might call “bossiness”) to solve the toughest crimes.

When eleven-year-old John Watson moves downstairs, Shelby finds something that’s eluded her up till now: a friend. Easy-going John isn’t sure of what to make of Shelby, but he soon finds himself her most-trusted (read: only) partner in a dog-napping case that’ll take both their talents to crack.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

What a refreshing surprise The Great Shelby Holmes was! This is one of the best homages I’ve encountered when it comes toSherlock Holmes, and making his work accessible to younger audiences is even better! Plus it’s written by Elizabeth Eulberg? I believe we have a winner.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when The Great Shelby Holmescame through my mail box. I love a good mystery, and I also loved that this mystery focused on dogs. I am a sucker for dog stories too! I also think it’s wonderful that Eulberg decided to have Watson be a young black boy who had recently moved to Harlem, and I found his voice to be utterly delightful. I think this story does a great job of capturing the personalities of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson and transferring them into the souls of two eleven year old kids.

I also loved the way that Watson constantly debated between being a part of the mystery and trying to make friends. While the dognapping in the book is the main mystery, there’s a larger mystery looming in regards to Shelby’s character not actually having friends and Watson trying to make friends being the new kid in town. This larger aspect of the book was completely well thought out and done, and I loved how Shelby and Watson’s relationship is so organic from the start. I think Eulberg also did a great job with the main mystery as well, and for middle graders in particular, she offers some good twists and turns to keep the reader guessing. And the dog show at the end of the story? Easily the most hilarious part.

I absolutely loved Shelby and Watson’s first adventure, and I can only hope Elizabeth Eulberg writes more for this and turns it into a series. It’s just such a joy to read, and I loved the characters and the mystery that can in this book. If you love middle grade mystery, you need to check this little gem out.

And can I say that I loved that Shelby’s English Bulldog was named “Sir Arthur”? As an English Bulldog owner that gave me way too much joy.

Ten Comics & Graphic Novels, and Manga You Should Check Out! October 2016 Edition

Hi! I haven’t forgotten about you beautiful people. Life is… life. However, I have been reading a crapton of graphic novels and comics and I have another ten that I definitely want to share with you all. If you have a favourite retailer, or your library is great at keeping a good stock, then you need to check some of these guys out.

Previous Lists:


Zodiac Starforce: By the Power of Astra
by Kevin Panetta, Paulina Ganucheau

This is a comic series that I discovered through Elena @ Elena Reads Books Youtube Channel and it sounded like a fantastic twist on the magical girl storyline. Yes these girls have magic powers but they also have real problems that don’t consist of the male variety. I love the way in which the friendships are written, I love how they combat their monster problems with real life ones, and the humour is just so delightful. Definitely great for fans of Giant Days, Sailor Moon or Lumberjanes.


The Tiny Titans series & The Superman Family Adventures series by Art Baltazar & Franco

I have recently gone on a huge binge read of Art Baltazar & Franco’s Tiny Titans and Superman Family Adventures. Both series are written for younger comic audiences, but I love the way in which the authors play with a lot of the DC characters and focus more on the quirky bits of theirs personalities. These comics are charming, funny, and my goodness Aqualad never gets a real break — but it’s part of the fun. These books are so well loved at my work place that I find myself both enjoying them and repairing them so kids can also be entertained by them. We need more Tiny Titans, darn it!


Danganronpa by Spike Chunsoft & Takashi Tsukimi

I am a huge gamer, and one of my more recent obsessions is the Danganronpa series. If you aren’t a gamer, but love anime and manga, then you can still check this series out. It’s not for the faint of heart, however, as it’s about a mutual killing game and a creepy bear with a lust for murder. But it is such a fascinating series at the same time, especially for those who love psychological thrillers or love a strong mystery series. There’s only two of these graphic novels out at the moment, and a new game is coming next year. Seriously, if you loved messed up storylines, then Danganronpa will have you covered. Then go watch the new TV series, because oh my stars I keep crying, I can’t even.


Long Walk to Valhalla by Long Walk to Valhalla
by Adam Smith & Matthew Fox 

Long Walk to Valhalla is weird as all hell, but it’s part of its charm. It has a similar vibe that I Kill Giants provided, providing a larger metaphor for something that is hard to definite or be made tangible. It also does an amazing job twisting Norse mythology on its head, which I am always a fan of. It has a really lovely, sketchy art style that also gives it a real beautiful visual appeal as well. If you can find this one, it’s worth a read


The Legend of Bold Riley
by Leia Weathington

This graphic novel was a beautiful and wonderful surprise. Featuring a lesbian heroine, it focuses on one woman’s desire to be a heroine and move beyond boundaries. There’s a lot of sword, sorcery, romance, swashbuckling, and lady love, and it just warmed my heart. Riley was also so easy to love and Leia Weathington’s storylines were just fantastic. I just found this book to be such a fun read.


Spider-Woman: Shifting Gears, Vol. 1: Baby Talk 
by Dennis Hopeless & Javier Rodriguez

Of all the Spider-ladies, Jessica Drew was the one I knew the least about and from the comics I read that she starred in, I didn’t entirely enjoy her character either. However, this installment by Dennis Hopeless caught my attention because pregnant super heroines are… pretty non-existent. Outside of Jessica Jones, super heroines who are still fighting crime while pregnant is just unheard of, and I love how Jessica Drew doesn’t allow her pregnancy to feel like a hindrance when she’s out on the job. There was something crazy empowering about this run, and I really began to enjoy Drew as a character more through Hopeless’ writing. I don’t have any children, but I loved the way in which the trials and tribulations of being pregnant were shown here. Fun stuff!


Paper Girls series 
by Brian K. Vaughan, Cliff Chiang & Matthew Wilson

Paper Girls is messed up. It’s crazy strange, and reading it makes you feel like you’ve entered bizzaro-world. The first volume is really weird, very unsettling, and if anything, doesn’t feel like it gives you a full picture of the story until you hit the cliffhanger. Brian K. Vaughan is one of those storytellers who is very good at giving you bits and pieces, but never the full picture, which is so true of Paper Girls. I can’t wait to dive into volume two at some point because shit has hit the fan hard.


We Stand On Guard (We Stand On Guard #1-6)
by Brian K. Vaughan & Steve Skroce

I realize this is getting a bit Brian K. Vaughan heavy, but I can’t neglect this series. We Stand On Guard is an amazing alternative history story where Canada has been taken over by the U.S and it’s now an insane dystopia. This comic stirred a lot of emotion in me — it made me angry, it made me feel very patriotic to my home nation, and it is just violent and crazypants. The characters are really interesting, the hook is great, and it keeps you guessing how Canada will survive this totalitarianism.


Wonder Woman by Greg Rucka

SO SO GOOD YOU GUYS. This is the kind of Wonder Woman I’ve been wanting to read about for ages, and I am so glad that she is in the hands of Greg Rucka. This is an amazing omnibus collection, and it does an amazing job of reminding the reader about who Diana is and her sense of justice and duty. Plus her encounters with Batman are easily some of the highlights in this collection (especially boot to the head — so classic!). I have always loved Diana, but I admit I have always been picky about how she is portrayed, but this has restored my faith in comics humanity. Definitely check this out if you want to read Woman Wonder but disliked the old sexist portrayals that other authors have ruined her with.


by Svetlana Chmakova

The last item I want to recommend is the middle grade comic, Awkward. This is a fantastic story for younger audiences that focuses on friendship when you get to the age where “boys and girls can’t be friends.” There is something so delightful and innocent in this story that really drew me in. The characters were clever, and I loved that they never fall into the trappings of peer pressure. There’s a fantastic message in this story that reminds us that friendship with the opposite sex doesn’t always have to lead into romance. If you have a middle grader in your life or love middle grade, this is definitely worth looking into. Plus the artwork is adorable.

As always, I hope you enjoy these recommendations. I also hope that you share with me some of your recent findings, as I am always looking for more comics, graphic novels and manga to check out. Let me know in the comments what youve been loving lately!

Blog Tour – Speed of Life by J.M Kelly (Review & Excerpt)

Speed of Life is a book that came in my grab bag during one of Raincoast’s #TeenReadFeed events. The moment I pulled it out of the bag and read the back I had a feeling that this was a Sam!Book. I love tough contemporary novels and I love books that look at family dynamics. This novel in particular focuses on two twins, poverty, a baby, and big dreams. I loved Crystal and Amber’s story, and since reading the book, have recommended it for purchase at my library that I work at. It’s such a beautiful story that I think so many teens and adults would easily be able to read and gravitate towards.

If you haven’t checked Speed of Life out, you’re missing out. Especially if you love contemporary YA, you need to check this book out. Check out my review below if you don’t believe me, then read the excerpt provided by Raincoast to see if it might be up your alley.

But seriously, GO READ THIS BOOK.

And as always, huge thank you to Raincoast for having me on this blog tour and supplying me with a copy of this book. They are book angels.

28114594Title: Speed of Life

Author: J.M Kelly

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Twins Crystal and Amber have the same goal: to be the first in their family to graduate high school and make something of their lives. When one gets pregnant during their junior year, they promise to raise the baby together. It’s not easy, but between their after-school jobs, they’re scraping by.

Crystal’s grades catch the attention of the new guidance counselor, who tells her about a college that offers a degree in automotive restoration, perfect for the car buff she is. When she secretly applies—and gets in—new opportunities threaten their once-certain plans, and Crystal must make a choice: follow her dreams or stay behind and honor the promise she made to her sister.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

It upsets me how much this book isn’t being talked about. This is one of those contemporary gems that has no buzz behind it, and it’s just such a genuine and thoughtful read. Speed of Life is about two twin sisters who share everything, are dirt poor, and are looking to get out of their backwater town and make real lives for themselves and the child that one of them has had out of wedlock. While this doesn’t sound like the most original plot line, there is something so engaging about the way in which Kelly shares this story.

What I loved about this novel is Crystal’s narrative. She’s very thoughtful, has a huge sense of pride in herself and her abilities as a mechanic, and she wants to be able to rescue herself, her sister, and the baby they are raising from the poverty that they face. I love the way the author establishes the sister’s relationship to both each other and their friends and family. The writing and looking at the world through Crystal’s eyes are just so vivid. She has aspirations, she has goals, and she hopes that Amber will share those goals with her. When the fall out in the story occurs, it just really broke my heart into several pieces because I just connected so deeply with the sisters conflict, despite not having experienced it personally.

I think the author does such a great job of sucking the reader into the story and making the reader connect with the girls and connect with their story. I think what I also loved about Speed of Life is that there is such a larger mystery going on with who is Natalie’s parents, why are the girls caring for her, and I think Kelly does an amazing job keeping the reader looking for these answers.

I wish more folks would read this wonderful novel, especially those who love contemporary. Speed of Life is raw, heartfelt, and it asks the reader to open themselves up to a situation that is just so emotionally exhausting. I hope when this novel releases that more readers consider checking this one out. Everything about it just left me emotionally drained in the best kind of way.

An Excerpt from Speed of Life

Raincoast was kind enough to send an excerpt from the novel. I think the bit that they sent over will give you a good indication of what one can expect from this novel, and especially the kind of character our narrator, Crystal, is.


I’m pretty sure our school’s new guidance counselor’s got a college degree in perky with a minor in enthusiasm. Even her green sweater is bright and cheerful, like spring grass. Except so soft looking, I kind of want to pet it.

“So,” Ms. Spellerman says. “Miss Robbins, isn’t it?”

I want to say, “No, actually, it’s Crystal. I’m eighteen, not thirty.” But I nod instead. In the middle of our sophomore year we got a new principal, and he decided that as a matter of respect, all teachers and staff would refer to the students by their last names prefaced with Mr. or Miss. You can imagine how much more respect is flying around now. It obviously never occurred to anyone in charge that last names like Cochran and Dykster are so much easier to make fun of than Robert or Ashley. But whatever.

Ms. Spellerman holds out her hand to me. “Nice to meet you.” She’s got long fingers and perfectly pink nails. When we shake, all I feel are skin-covered bones.

She shuffles through some papers for a while, the huge diamond on her engagement ring catching the fluorescent light and hypnotizing me. I wonder if we’re ever going to get to the reason I’m here. I’ve made it through three years of high school without seeing a guidance counselor, so I can’t imagine why they called me in when I’m almost done. As far as I know, I’m doing fine in my classes. I’m even doing okay in Amber’s classes. Not that anyone knows about that.

I hide a yawn behind my hand — I’m super tired and missing the little nap I usually take in English. Ms. Spellerman holds up a sheet of paper and squints at it. Then she slips on a pair of square pink-framed glasses and smiles. “Don’t look so worried, Miss Robbins. I just want to talk to you about your college plans.”

Is she kidding me?

“Now that I’ve joined forces with Mr. Akerman, we’re not so short on guidance counselors,” she explains. “So I’m working my way through a list of those of you who haven’t previously requested an advisor.”

Maybe not asking was a clue that we didn’t want one. I don’t say anything, though. I don’t think she expects me to.

“Now,” she says, “you might be wondering how your name came up so early in the school year. Well, I’ll tell you a little secret.” She leans in across her desk and practically whispers, “I started at the end of the alphabet instead of the beginning!”

I wonder if I’m supposed to clap or something.

“So,” she continues, “what are your plans for college? Where are you going to apply? What’s your dream school?”

“Umm . . . I don’t have one?”

“No dream school? Well, that’s understandable. There are so many choices! Do you think you want to stay in Oregon, or go somewhere out of state — get away from it all, that sort of thing?”

Is this where I tell her I’m not going to college?

“You must’ve thought about it,” she says when I sit there speechless.

“Umm . . . not really.”

“Not at all?”

“I’m not going to college,” I finally admit.

Her eyebrows shoot up. “What? Why not?”

I’m thinking I was wrong about her minor being enthusiasm. It must’ve been stupidity. Does she think she’s somehow landed at a private school? Or maybe one of Portland’s fancy high schools? This is Sacajawea High, and half the kids can’t even spell the name of it by the time they graduate. If they graduate. College is not part of the plan here.

I try to keep it simple for Ms. Spellerman. “I’m gonna . . .you know . . . get a job.”

A huge thank you to Raincoast for providing me with this opportunity to share more about Speed of Life, as well as J.M Kelly for her beautiful words and fantastic novel. If you are curious to learn more about J.M Kelly’s debut, why not check out the other stops on the blog tour!🙂


ARC Review – The Infinity Year of Avalon James by Dana Middleton

27414424Title: The Infinity Year of Avalon James

Author: Dana Middleton

Rating:  ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Avalon James and Atticus Brightwell have a secret–one that they aren’t allowed to discuss with anyone. This secret is shared between two best friends. When you and your best friend turn ten years old magical things are said to happen. You both will receive some kind of magical power. It can be a power you can call on time and time again. Or it can be a power that comes once when you need it most. It’s your Infinity Year and the possibilities are endless.

The past year hasn’t been great with her family being torn apart and bullying at school, so Avalon is depending on her magical ability to appear soon and help. With the clock ticking and her eleventh birthday approaching, which would be the end of her powers, Avalon’s hopes are running high. Will she and Atticus get the powers they so desperately want and need?

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

The Infinity Year of Avalon James has an intriguing premise: it’s about two best friends who when they turn the age of ten are granted an “infinity year” — magical “things” are supposed to happen, especially since it’s a secret they share. I loved this idea of two best friends sharing a secret like this, though this novel didn’t entirely win me over like I thought it would.

First off, I LOVE the friendship between Avalon and Atticus and I think the way Middleton develops it is fantastic. You get a very rich sense of their friendship, what they share with each other, and they are great to grow alongside in the novel. I loved how they wanted to protect one another, and yet when Atticus’ secret is let out, Middleton does an amazing job of connecting the reader with both Avalon and Arricus’ feelings.

However, the premise for this novel feels a bit misleading. I had it in my head that something really magical was going to happen, because it’s something constantly discussed by the two best friends. This novel is through and through contemporary all the way, but the blurb makes it sound as though there’s more to that contemporary setting than there actual is. This is not a bad thing, but it was definitely a case for me of expecting one thing and definitely getting something else.

I also felt that the supporting case in this story were way too one-dimensional at times, and to be honest, I don’t entirely understand Elena’s real motivations for being such a poop disturber. The reason is given, and while it’s perfectly good in middle grade, it did leave me wanting a bit more. I do love some of the littler tidbits in the novel, such as the spelling bee, and M the cat (I loved M the cat, M is rad).

While I have a few criticisms of this novel, I do think it is pretty swell over all. I had a lot of fun reading about Avalon and Atticus’ adventures, and I think Atticus’ secret was wonderfully shared in a way that I think a lot of kids can relate to. I think the portrayal of bullying is spot on here and I love the way Avalon handles herself. There’s a lot to enjoy about The Infinity Year of Avalon James, and I think those looking for a good book about friendship will find something to love here in Dana Middleton’s debut.