Monthly Archives: November 2014

ARC Review- All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

23350066Title: All the Bright Places

Author: Jennifer Niven

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

Huge thank you to Knopf Books for Young Readers and Netgalley for this ARC!

River’s Review:

My god. This book is amazing. Put it on your TBR shelves people. You want this. It’s smart, funny, heartbreaking, lyrical, poignant, edgy, and so fucking real.

I can’t say too much about this because I don’t want to spoil it, but the story of Violet and Finch is beautiful. I love how they love, I love how they grow. It’s also a story of too little too late. And that made my heart hurt. I cried in this book multiple times. I read all the way to the end (author’s note, acknowledgements, etc.).

Both Violet and Finch were strong characters. They’re people we know, people we grew up with. That weird boy, that tragic girl. I love stories where unlikely misfits fall in love, and this just tugged at all the right strings and gave me all the feels.

I also really like how the incredibly strong message this book has doesn’t come across as preachy at all. It’s smooth and natural and at the same time jarring and shocking and really makes you think about life and the way mental illness is treated and the stigmas that are attached to them.

Just read this book you guys. Just read it.

5 Reasons Why You Should Read the Clarissa Delaney Books by Vikki VanSickle

8474886This post has been awhile coming, especially now that I’ve completed all three books in this series. I completely powered through this series, and I want to share why I think Clarissa Delaney’s story is worth looking into.

1) This series is proudly Canadian, and if you are a Canadian reading it, then you get to play the “I KNOW WHERE THAT IS!” game, and I like that Vikki VanSickle doesn’t change the story to be somewhere else. Toronto, as described by Clarissa, does feel like it’s own character at times, and I like that.

2) Clarissa completely acts her age. Middle grade is such an hard area to write, especially in terms of contemporary fictions. Here is where we get all the growing pains, and Clarissa has her fair share of them… on top of the fact that her mother is diagnosed with cancer. This is a tough age group to have dealing with that type of crisis, and I like that Vikki never, ever shies away at this being a difficult subject matter. Clarissa responses the way any seventh grader would — scared, but wanting to understand as best as possible. 11459003

3) Clarissa is wonderfully sassy, kinda bratty, and knows how to speak her mind — in fact, the girl comes across fearless at times… well, until Michael shows up. Then she’s tongue-tied! But seriously, I appreciate having a heroine in a story who is able to articulate her feelings in such a way where you understand where she’s coming from. When Doug enters the picture in Love is a Four-Letter Word, Clarissa’s response to him, though horrific, makes perfect sense. You have a man who wants to be a part of her life, but with no father to look towards, how do you accept someone new to possibly attempt to fulfil that roll? I actually loved Clarissa’s interactions with Doug, and he got a lot of my sympathy in books two and three.

4) Benji will make you grin. No seriously, the kid is brilliant, ridiculous and loveable. He easily will steal your heart and he has some of the best moments in this series. Especially all of Love is a Four-Letter Word. No really, go read it and see what I mean.

172079105) These books teach wonderful lessons without beating a younger reader over the head. This series is loveable in so many ways — there’s well crafted characters, some gut-punching yet touching moments, secrets that will keep the reader guessing (especially in Days That End in Y), and it’s so easy to fall in love with Clarissa’s voice. It’s distinctive, but has the right amount of innocence to it. That is to say, Vikki VanSickle does an amazing job of making contemporary middle grade feel accessible, something we can relate to, and still pack a ton of feels in each book, from start to finish.

December Holiday Madness Reading Challenge~!

Let’s face it, once in a while a good reading challenge is fun to have! After much debating, I realized December would be a great month to have a challenge in because everyone gets some time off and let’s face it, sometimes you just want something fun to kick start you into a good reading streak.

So I am proposing a challenge for the month of December.  For the entire month (December 1st to 31st), I’m listing twenty challenges! The challenges are fun and meant to be done at a leisurely pace. Nothing too difficult! I think a lot of us would love to be able to knock some items out of our TBRs and read some things that may be we haven’t considered or because we’ve been swamped, may be we just haven’t gotten to yet.

Here are the twenty challenges for the December Holiday Madness! Huge love to Katharine @ Ventureadlaxre for helping with some of the challenges. She is made of love.

1) Read a book that exceeds 450-500 pages.

2) Read a book with winter in the title, as a theme, or as a main setting.

3) Read a book that has been signed by an author. (if you don’t have any, read a book by an author you’d love to meet in person)

4) Read a book that has been gifted to you by a friend.

5) Read a book that you’ve had on your shelf for over two years.

6) Read a book-to-film adaptation (no you do not need to watch the film for this to count, just needs to be a book that has been turned into a film).

7) Read a book that has animals in it, either as a protagonist, side kick, or as a huge focal point (examples: Black Beauty, Rain Reign).

8) Read a middle grade novel.

9) Read a book that has travelling.

10) Read a novel with a green cover or has green in the cover.

11) Read a book featuring cultural diversity (see We Need Diverse Books campaign for more information).

12)  Read a graphic novel or a book with pictures.

13) Read a book a friend has always nagged you to read.

14) Read an award winner (any award winner, can be Goodreads Choice Award, Giller Prize, Printz, Mann Booker Prize, anything, but state the award the book is from!)

15) Read a self-published book or a book from an independent publisher.

16)  Read a book inspired by fandom OR read a book of non-fiction.

17) Read a retelling of some kind (ex. Cruel Beauty is a retelling of Beauty & the Beast, Great is a retelling of the Great Gatsby).

18) Start a new series!

19) Read a middle book in a trilogy.

20) Read the ending of a series/latest instalment of a series.

Obviously, twenty challenges is a lot, but remember it’s a casual event, you can do as many or as little of the challenges as you want. Also note, you can have some overlap on these challenges. For example: I have a signed copy of The Body Electric by Beth Revis. This book if completed would knock out two challenges – read a signed book and a book that is green. You can have as much overlap as you like for the challenges, because twenty is a lot and even though the goal is to read as much as you can, I want people to feel like they are succeeding at the challenges, even if they don’t get to read as much as they like.

To keep up with your progress, feel free to share it on your blog or by using the hashtag on twitter #HolidayReadingMadness. The goal is to read, read, read, whether it’s ebooks, audiobooks, physical books, library books, just enjoy reading and have fun. If you want to participate, let me know in the comments because I would love to be able to see or read people’s progress!

ARC Review – This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman, Meagan Spooner

22082300Title: This Shattered World

Author: Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis:  Jubilee Chase and Flynn Cormac should never have met. Lee is captain of the forces sent to Avon to crush the terraformed planet’s rebellious colonists, but she has her own reasons for hating the rebels. Rebellion is in Flynn’s blood. His sister died in the original uprising against the powerful corporations that terraformed Avon. These corporations make their fortune by terraforming uninhabitable planets across the universe and recruiting colonists to make the planets livable, with the promise of a better life for their children. But they never fulfilled their promise on Avon, and decades later, Flynn is leading the rebellion. Desperate for any advantage in a bloody and unrelentingly war, Flynn does the only thing that makes sense when he and Lee cross paths: he returns to base with her as prisoner. But as his fellow rebels prepare to execute this tough-talking girl with nerves of steel, Flynn makes another choice that will change him forever. He and Lee escape base together, caught between two sides of a senseless war. As Flynn and Lee attempt to uncover the truth about Avon, they realize that there is a conspiracy on the planet that runs deeper than either of them could imagine, one that Lee’s former commander Tarver Merendsen only scratched scratcehd the surface of two years ago. The stunning second novel in the Starbound series is an unforgettable story of love and forgiveness in a world torn apart by war.

Huge thank you to Disney Hyperion and Netgalley for an advance copy of this book!

Sam’s Review: 

This book. So much better than the first one, in my opinion. That’s not to say I didn’t love the politics and Lilac and Tarver’s struggles, it’s just Jubilee and Flynn really can steal a show. In fact, this book doesn’t have the pacing issues I felt in the first book, as this one starts fast and keeps its rapid pace throughout. The book also ties in smartly to the previous one, no hole or stone unturned. Having Tarver and Lilac appear was pretty fantastic and I’m glad to see their growth since book one.

But yeah, this book and I got along SO WELL. I really cared about the conflict and the surrounding politics, and the story never felt bloated. Every piece of the story felt like it needed to be there. Plus, Jubilee. She may be the best of the four protagonists so far — she’s easy to fall in love with and you want to cheer for her throughout the story. When things get hard for her, you want to tell her to pull up her pants and fight through it. I love having a character to cheer for, especially a main character who is as flawed as she is. I loved Jubilee, even in her impulses and struggles. I loved her and I could go on and on about why I think she’s wonderful. Flynn, however, took some warming up to. I loved his attitude, but he is NO JUBILEE!

I think what I love about this series is that the dual points of view work so well and the voices are very distinctive. Each plot line has its own players who have a role to accomplish and each person has their own vision of what Avon should be like. It makes for good conflict, and I liked how Kaufman and Spooner really took the time to ensure that both sides of the story were woven well together.

I feel like I’m having a hard time describing this book, but it’s really because I adored it. These characters and this world were something I felt intimidate connection with, and I was so happy to just enjoy the ride.

ARC Review – Captive (The Blackcoat Rebellion #2) by Aimee Carter

21911561Title: Captive (The Blackcoat Rebellion #2)

Author: Aimee Carter

Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: For the past two months, Kitty Doe’s life has been a lie. Forced to impersonate the Prime Minister’s niece, her frustration grows as her trust in her fake fiancé cracks, her real boyfriend is forbidden and the Blackcoats keep her in the dark more than ever.

But in the midst of discovering that her role in the Hart family may not be as coincidental as she thought, she’s accused of treason and is forced to face her greatest fear: Elsewhere. A prison where no one can escape.

As one shocking revelation leads to the next, Kitty learns the hard way that she can trust no one, not even the people she thought were on her side. With her back against the wall, Kitty wants to believe she’ll do whatever it takes to support the rebellion she believes in—but is she prepared to pay the ultimate price?

Huge thank you to Harlequin Teen and Netgalley for this ARC! 

River’s Review:

Man, I remember liking the first book SO MUCH and this one just… what happened?! Kitty was annoying and Knox was a dick and half of the political stuff just didn’t seem to make any sense. All Kitty and Knox did was argue and fight and threaten to kill each other (srsly Kitty, enough with the ‘if this happens I’ll kill you!’ ‘if that doesn’t happen I’ll slit your throat!’) And there were set-ups and double crosses that made me think ‘how does that even work?!’ and I just had no idea where any of this was going half the time.

I guess a lot of it just felt forced to set up the rebellion that happens at the end. And to give us a new aspect of the dystopian society to experience. Most of this book takes place in ‘Elsewhere’, which is a place that Kitty got taken to to ‘hunt’ humans in the first book. Elderly people, IIs and IIIs, Extras. But there are also other horrors in Elsewhere… such as a human butcher shop! Now, I actually like the dystopian society in this book (well, not like it, but I think it’s one of the more interesting ones and I guess less annoying ones out there), but I felt like this book was just trying to force the issues a bit sometimes.

And I guess that’s my biggest complaint about this book. Everything feels a little forced. Middle book syndrome? Possibly.

I really hope the last book makes more sense and wraps things up in a satsifactory way!

Sam’s Review:

Admittedly, I liked Pawn, but I wasn’t in love with it the way a lot of my friends were. Pawn definitely had some refreshing elements within the water-down YA dystopian genre, but it wasn’t without some glaring flaws. Captive, however, is definitely a good book, but goodness does it take it’s sweet time to get interesting.

Part of Captive‘s problem is that it suffers from the middle book syndrome that some trilogies face. This book is all build and exposition, and not enough in terms of getting to know the characters more, feeling a lot less personal in my opinion. Kitty is still a fun protagonist, but she had her moments in this book that really irked me, and her obsession with Knox, yes I get it, no I don’t think it’s worth it. In one chapter alone his name came up over fifteen times and it was a lot of Kitty being obsessive and it got a bit borderline irritating for me. I get it, he scorned you! Let’s not keep thinking about it and may be do something about it!

A lot of the political intrigue that made the first book interesting was quite lost here. In fact, there were numerous instances where I was raising my eyebrows or just shrugging off what was happening because it didn’t make sense but the book wanted you to roll with it. Some of the political stuff also felt heavy handed, which I didn’t think was necessary given that Carter really well established how the dystopia worked in the first book. Elsewhere is interesting, quite creepy, and I loved the atmospheric elements to it as a place. I loved a lot of the description and when you learn what is actually happening there, it’s quite creepy and I think the descriptions painted in this novel is quite graphic, but really interesting.

I’ll give Captive points for being a very atmospheric book, but when it was about Kitty and Knox squabbling, I found myself groaning because that’s all it felt like it was. I wanted more relationships to be built in the story (and more Benyj! He’s interesting!) and I wanted to get more personal conflict as well, which I felt like the book kept swaying back and forth on. This definitely is a middle-book and it suffers from the problem of being the ‘middle book in a series’, but hopefully Queen will make up for all of Captive‘s shortcomings.

ARC Review – Dragons at Crumbling Castle: And Other Tales by Terry Pratchett, Mark Beech

22522818Title: Dragons at Crumbling Castle: And Other Tales

Author: Terry Pratchett & Mark Beech

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: This never-before-published collection of fourteen funny and inventive tales by acclaimed author Sir Terry Pratchett features a memorable cast of inept wizards, sensible heroes, and unusually adventuresome tortoises.   Including more than one hundred black-and-white illustrations, the appealingly designed book celebrates Pratchett’s inimitable wordplay and irreverent approach to the conventions of storytelling.

These accessible and mischievous tales are an ideal introduction for young readers to this beloved author. Established fans of Pratchett’s work will savor the playful presentation of the themes and ideas that inform his best-selling novels.

Huge thank you to Clarion Books and Edelweiss for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Huge thank you to Clarion Books and Edelweiss for this ARC!

Oh my goodness, I was not expecting to read this as quickly as I did. This is what happens when you’re doing laundry and you start a page turner. Every book in this story is a lot of fun, and each is more crazy than the next. I haven’t read a lot of short fiction by Terry Prachett, but I’ve read every Discworld novel published to date, and I’ve read a lot of his middle grade offerings — the man is a comedic genius, and these stories, which come from his earlier periods of writing prove that point further.

I just couldn’t stop laughing at how ridiculous a lot of the stories were in this collection. Dragons just wanting to be friends, the worst bus ride ever, to a really, really boring knight, Terry Pratchett’s characters are completely loveable as they are nuts. Some of the stories had me in complete giggle-fits, that’show much fun they were. PLUS! Their are stories of The Carpet People! I didn’t like that book at all, but I weirdly loved the short fictions about them in this collection, and it makes me wonder if I need to give that novel another chance since it was Pratchett’s first published novel.

If you are a Terry Pratchett fan or you wanted something fun for a middle grade reader who appreciates comedy gold, this book is fantastic. The humor is spot-on and crazy, and this book will simply make you grin from ear-to-ear, from start to finish.

INSPIRE! Toronto International Book Fair! – Saturday & Sunday!

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And now, part two of my INSPIRE! Toronto International Book Fair adventure. You’ll be getting both Saturday and Sunday in this post because I feel super chatty and don’t feel like doing another post afterwards. Anywho, Kiki and I got up stupid early and went back down to the convention for Day Two. When we arrived, we hung out a bit in the Penguin-Random House booth, wherein we (and by which I mean me) tackled Vikki VanSickle. Kiki went off to watch Debbie Macomber’s talk on the Main Stage and I… coloured colouring pages with Vikki. We coloured purple dinosaurs, pink dragons with spots, and we had an adorable eighteen month baby hang out with us. She kept hanging me markers. For some reason. She was SO CUTE!

After that, I ran over to the Main Stage and found Kiki. After Debbie Macomber’s talk, she went to get her books signed while I wandered about. I bought my husband the newest William Gibson book, which I will share a story for that later. We wanted around, found an amazing booth for a Caribbean book store called A Different Booklist. The ladies working in that booth were insanely passionate about the books they were selling, and I ended up buying The Chaos by Nalo Hopkinson from them! Then Kiki went off to line up for Astronaut (or rather Awesomenaut) Chris Hadfield.

I ended finding Entangled Publishing, in my alone time, who were basically GIVING AWAY their books, and the lady running that booth was a complete doll. She gave me a pile of books! And then one of their authors was signing and she gave me a signed book (I ended up with two, one for Molly, which Brutus may have… ate the side of, I am sorry he autographed it). It was fun to just chat with them about romance novels, though I admit, it’s not a genre I generally enjoy. But, I decided I am totally going to give all the books I got a chance.

Then I was wandering around and I saw Dav Pilikey, author of the “Captain Underpants” books on the TD Kids Stage and let’s just say, he both a fabulous reader and public speaker. he drew artsy fartsy for all the kids in the crowd and tested their “Captain Underpants” knowledge, and man those kids were insanely smart. Also, I want his new book that’s coming out, “Dog Man” because it’s The Dark Knight Rises… only it stars a dog. Can we say win? I also met someone I went to high school with and we ended up hanging out quite a bit at the event, which was insanely nice, though I may had been a creeper about it at first (what can I say? I can be socially awkward).

And then it was time to meet William Gibson. The conversation I had with William Gibson was as follows (well the paraphrased version in which Sam comes across super duper awkwardly).

william

I met William Gibson. He was lovely.

Me: HI! Nice to meet you! My name is Sam!

William Gibson: Hello, Sam.

Me: My husband and I love your books and we bonded over them, though truthfully, I think the only reason my husband married me is because I have a first edition of “Neuromancer.”

William Gibson: I’m pretty sure that makes you a keeper.

Me: *STUNNED FACE.* …thank you. GOOD TO MEET YOU!

William Gibson: *goes back to being awesome*

Me: *texts picture to husband* “William Gibson called me a keeper.”

Husband: *texts back* “Yes you are.”

Lets just say, it was a treasured encounter. Turns out, however, Kiki had a treasured encounter as well, because Chris Hadfield hugged her. Life was perfect in that moment. After that, we went to Harlequin to see Amanda Sun and she is still the cutest ever. I also ended up with a signed copy of “Rain” thanks to Kiki. Then we said goodbye to Amanda, and headed home due to being tired and pooped.

THEN SUNDAY HAPPENED. Kiki picked me up in the morning and her mom joined us! We ended up wandering the event and ended up back at Entangled and they gave us smutty books this time. We ended up with signed copies of “Into the Fire” by Amanda Usen and its sequel. Then we proceeded to take pictures of each other reading the darn thing. Holy steaminess, Batman. Let’s just say, I can’t decide if I will be reading it or not, but I may have giggled through the first few pages because Kiki dramatically read them. We also met Eric Kim, who is a fantastic author and artist and he signed copies of “The Complete Plays of William Shakespeare adapted by Eric Kim” which was HILARIOUS. My favourite in the book? His version of “Titus Andronicus” (which is my favourite Shakespeare play. Yes, I’m a horrible person.) If you can find the book and you love Shakespeare, READ IT.

Then lunch and more wandering around happened. Somehow I ended up losing Kiki and her mom and ended up at Erin Bow’s reading, and she was reading from “Sorrow’s Knot” and let’s just say I was tearing up because damn that book hurt. Here’s our review! I also ended up meeting her and she signed my copy of Sorrow’s Knot, though we admittedly talked about about how she makes people cry in her books (“Plain Kate,” anyone?). She apparently enjoys feeding on people’s tears, but she is an amazing lady and she HUGGED ME.

erinbow

Erin Bow: Amazing lady or crusher of souls? The answer: both!

And then finally it was time for Maggie Stiefvater. She was on the Main Stage and she is wonderfully crazy. She talked about the Gentleman’s Club convention that was happening next door, how The Raven Boys came to be, why she is a spooky person, and she even answered fans questions. I actually asked a question too, probably the most important question of them all.

Me: Hi Maggie! I have a question for you: why IS Gansey’s face so fancy?

Maggie: …. I was not prepared for that question. *turns to Chandra, the host* YOU DID NOT PREPARE ME FOR THESE QUESTIONS!

Maggie explained the tiny spoiler behind Gansey fancy face, but it made Kiki and I happy. We immediately texted Molly, and here was that conversation:

B2mOAxcCAAAMnJs

Molly is favourite. Best co-blogger ever. Kiki also told her how we were “looking out for her best interests.” Needless to say, Kiki’s mom looked like she wanted to read Maggie’s books after that presentation. Then we went to the “official signing” which I got my copy of “Sinner” signed.

maggie1

Candid with Maggie! She asked if I liked to cry, but I’m pretty sure she feeds on tears.

After that, Kiki and I wandered over to Beguling to see if Ryan North was signing, which HE WAS. Years ago, at an Anime North long, long ago, he found out my name was Samantha and I was carrying a T-Rex toy. He asked me for my picture because T-Rex in Dinsoaur Comics has an imaginary girlfriend name “Samantha.” Well, I showed him the comic, told the story and let’s just say he reminded me that my name was STILL PRETTY, as according to T-Rex:

B2mXMcxCEAAJRRa

STILL A PRETTY NAME!!!

And then I went over to Scholastic for the super awesome more personal Maggie Steifvater signing. I was able to get many Christmas gifts signed, discuss “The Raven Boys” with a lot more detail (she wanted to know who was the “Raven Boys” drug dealer and who was each of my friend’s fave Raven Boy) and she’s a lovely, lovey person. WE ALSO HUGGED! But I met the real Gansey Fancy Face in person. LOOK HOW CUTE WE ARE!

B2mMrPwCQAAvnS2

The real Gansey Fancy Face. Huge love to Jessica for taking the picture.

And after that, the book fair was pretty much over. Will I go again next year? Absolutely. I really had a great time and it was just such a blast to meet a lot of the authors, make new friends and just be in a place that made me super happy the whole time. Seriously, I wouldn’t trade these experiences for anything. Plus, I got to meet so many of my favourite authors in one spot, and really? How cool is that. I’m sad the book fair is over, but I am looking so forward to see who is going to participate next year.