Monthly Archives: November 2014

INSPIRE! Toronto International Book Fair! – Friday!

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The Toronto International Book Fair happened last weekend and I was fortunate enough to go for free thanks to Random House Canada and a giveaway they held on Twitter. I have to say, what a fun event it was! Not only was able to meet a ton of interesting authors, watch some fantastic panels and speakers, but I was surrounded by books, books, and more books. Books are a wonderfully intoxicating thing, ya know? Also huge thank you to Vikki VanSickle for allowing me to hug her every two seconds. She is the best!

On Friday, I bolted from my classes and made it out to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. When I got the event I wandered around and eventually I sat in on Eric Walters’ panel, “The Seven Sequels” which he hosted with Sigmund Brouwer, Norah McClintock, Shane Peacock, Richard Scrimger, and John Wilson. Let me tell you, this panel was absolutely brilliant. Not only did they talk about all fourteen novels in this series in less than a hour, but it was basically a whirlwind comedy act wherein they made fun of each other and their characters, but also discussed how one can weave such a large story together when the right people are involved. John Wilson is an adorable Scottish man who is at his most adorkable when he says the word “Scooter.” Eric Walters is a meanie (but I love his books and I think he is hilarious, so that is OKAY!).

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 Sigmund Brouwer, Norah McClintock, Shane Peacock, Richard Scrimger, Eric Walters and John Wilson

The second panel I attended was called “I Don’t Give a Damsel,” which starred Gayle Forman, E. Lockhart, Sarah Mlynowski, and Meg Wolitzer, and was hosted by Elaine Lui, also known as Gossip Laney from CTV’s “The Social.” (Who also made have upset the crowd when she spoiled parts of Gayle Forman’s upcoming novel, “I Was Here.” Oh the faces on the crowd!). These amazing ladies discussed what it’s like to write strong female characters, the difference between realistic vs. “likeable” characters, and the big bad F-word we all love, “Feminism.” I loved a lot of E. Lockhart’s responses to the questions, especially how feminism is an important word that we shouldn’t lose sight or hold of. It makes a lot of women who they are, and we need be able to embrace that word without fear. Needless to say, I found myself nodding a lot with the discussions that were had. Also Gayle Forman is an adorable spaz, who flails her arms and is just really, really cute. I also loved a lot of Meg Wolitzer’s insight and a lot of the research she brought into discussions, but she is an amazing woman to talk with (which I will get to in a sec).

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Elaine Lui, Meg Wolitzer, Gayle Forman,  Sarah Mlynowski and E. Lockhart.

So INSPIRE had a policy that I am not going to bring up, but needless to say, it upset and confounded a lot of the fans who went to the event. A lot of the authors felt very conflicted, so did a lot of the publicists and publishers, but let’s just say I did get into a bit of trouble that Gayle Forman got me out of. I had my copy of “Sisters in Sanity” with me, which if you don’t know, is an out-of-print novel, and it also happens to be my favourite of Gayle Forman’s books, mostly because I think it’s her most unique. When i got up to meet her, she smiled at me and said “You’re the girl with Sisters in Sanity.” I nodded, and pulled out the book, and told her this was the one I wanted to get signed, but I didn’t want to disrupt the policy that had been put into place. She then announced that she would sign it, and if others had books in their hands that weren’t bought at the event, she and the others would sign them too. She made me smile, and we talked for a few minutes about how “Sisters in Sanity” is such an unloved novel (or as she put it, the child no one loved and only sold 12 copies of). Needless to say, she HUGGED ME, and I was just beyond happy. SEE? SEE?!

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Gayle Forman loves Sisters in Sanity! AND SHE HUGGED ME.

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E. Lockhart also HUGGED ME! And asked if I had “contraband books.” She signed my copy of  The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks and the book she co-wrote is Sarah, “How to Be Bad.” 

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I am sad this picture is blurry and I don’t know where I was looking, but Sarah Mlynowski is a cutie and I loved her.

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And finally, Meg Wolitzer! 

And now to share my Meg Wolitzer story: so when I was chatting with her, she asked me if I was a writer. I explained to her that while I’m not a fiction writer, I’ve been writing in the games industry for over five years as a reviewer, editorialist and features writer, and she smiled at me. She told me about how she’s learning to play games and how she fell in love with Gone Home! She wanted to pick my brain for more emotionally charging games, because apparently she is writing a novel that is using games in it. She also asked me about #GamersGate and she was just amazing to talk to. Very thoughtful, asked tons of questions, and I was more surprised she wanted to talk to me about this kind of stuff. We also discussed “Belzhar,” which I need to get off my butt and read.

Finally, after that, I met up with Kiki and we wanted some more around the show floor. We found out that Debbie MaComber (aka our moms favourite author) was signing over in the Penguin booth and can I just say she is the nicest, cutest lady EVER? Because she totally is.

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DEBBIE MACOMBER! She was so cute and was like “I need to try and look like my author photo but it isn’t working!”  It was also nice to be the same height as someone in a photo.

Then we realized Kate Beaton was signing! She put out these super duper cute tea towels (and we both got one). I ended up buying a copy of “Hark! A Vagrant!” which I didn’t own (but I have her other book), and this happened…

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Yes, Kate Beaton drew my dog, Brutus, in my book. It says “Brutus is a love champ.” I nearly died of laughter when I saw it. I adored it. Then we hugged and pictures happened! (But no, I will not show you guys our ugly face photo. NOT HAPPENING. DON’T ASK. Only Kiki has proof.)

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KATE BEATON!!! (ALL THE EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!!!!)

After meeting Kate Beaton, Kiki and I decided we were super duper pooped from all the book fair fun and we went and grabbed Japanese food and headed back home. Home had Brutus snuggles, a mom sobbing about how the new Debbie book signed ON HER BIRTHDAY was the best thing ever, and then there was also lots of tea.

Hope you enjoyed my Friday recap. It was made of a lot of feelings, flails, and books. Check back for my Day 2 & 3 recap coming soon! (Or you know, tomorrow.)

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ARC Review – Top Ten Clues You’re Clueless by Liz Czukas

22056080Title: Top Ten Clues You’re Clueless

Author: Liz Czukas 

Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: Top Five Things That Are Ruining Chloe’s Day

5) Working the 6:30 a.m. shift at GoodFoods Market

4) Crashing a cart into a customer’s car right in front of her snarky coworker Sammi

3) Trying to rock the “drowned rat” look after being caught in a snowstorm

2) Making zero progress with her crush, Tyson (see #3)

1) Being accused—along with her fellow teenage employees—of stealing upwards of $10,000

Chloe would rather be anywhere than locked in work jail (aka the break room) with five of her coworkers . . . even if one of them is Tyson. But if they can band together to clear their names, what looks like a total disaster might just make Chloe’s list of Top Ten Best Moments.

Huge thank you to HarperTeen and Edelweiss for this ARC!

River’s Review:

Cute. Fluffly. Quick. This book in three words. I read this for the nostalgia… I spent quite a few of my teenage years working in a supermarket just like the one in this book. Bagging, getting carts (in the snow!), ringing people up, stocking produce… I did it all. So this book was super fun for me to read because it was like OMG I UNDERSTAND.

Aside from that though, this book was a little flat and incredibly predictable. A group of teens are working in the grocery store on Christmas eve and the donation box that SHOULD have a lot of money in it is… almost totally empty. Somebody points their finger at the teens and they get forced to stay after work to wait for the cops.

This part just pissed me off. First off, the donation box shouldn’t have just SAT THERE FILLED WITH MONEY FOR TWO MONTHS. jfc. Any store manager with a brain would empty that damn thing ever night and lock the money in a safe. So it was totally his own fault that the money got stolen! And then the store manager had NO RIGHT to hold those kids after work. They were all scared of losing their jobs and scared to tell their parents that they were being accused of stealing, so they just dealt with it but omfg, as an adult, it made me SO angry.

I did like how the teens bonded and it totally reminded me of how I was BFF with a lot of my fellow grocery store coworkers.

Check this out if you’re in the mood for a quick, fun read!

ARC Review – The Perfect Place by Teresa E. Harris

8477401Title: The Perfect Place

Author: Teresa E. Harris

Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: Treasure’s dad has disappeared and her mom sets out to track him down, leaving twelve-year-old Treasure and her little sister, Tiffany, in small-town Virginia with their eccentric, dictatorial Great-Aunt Grace. GAG (as the girls refer to her) is a terrible cook, she sets off Treasure’s asthma with her cat and her chain smoking, and her neighbors suspect her in the recent jewel thefts. As the hope of finding their dad fades, the girls and their great-aunt begin to understand and accommodate one another. When a final dash to their dad’s last known address proves unsuccessful, Treasure has to accept that he’s gone for good. When she goes back to Great-Aunt Grace’s, it is the first time she has returned to a place instead of just moving on. Convincing, fully realized characters, a snarky narrative voice, and laugh-aloud funny dialogue make The Perfect Place a standout among stories of adjustment and reconfigured families.

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

Sam’s Review:

I really wanted to like this book more than I did, and the beginning did keep me invested. But once I’d put the book down, I found I never found myself going back to it. I’d read a chapter… once a week? There’s just something about this book that just never took hold of my full attention.

Truth be told, The Perfect Place is a decent novel, but it’s one that really depends on the reader’s participation and whether or not they enjoy a lot of the challenges that are faced by Treasure and Tiffany. Thing is, both Treasure and Tiffany are wonderfully sympathetic characters, but I guess for me I was expecting a bit more than a lot of woes me. However, I found the characters pretty flat, with the exception of Auntie Grace, who for whatever reason I quite enjoyed. She was a bit too religious for my tastes, but she won me over when she dealt with the mean girls within the story. That, admittedly, was brilliantly done.

Then there’s the writing. It’s good, but nothing fantastic and in fact, it’s quite ordinary and plain. The writing was at it’s best when it was slathered in emotion, but at its worse when exposition was happening. I DO adore the fact that this is a diverse novel with two African-American heroines and I loved that they do persevere, but I wanted more from this story, and considering it took awhile for me to get into it, and to the point where I kept forgetting about it? That just isn’t a good sign for me.

I think a lot of the messages in this novel are great and I do think that this book will be quite loved by a reader who can instantly connect with Treasure and her family. For me, I wanted that connection, it’s just a shame (for me) that it never took hold. This is a good book (hence three starts), but I needed more of a solid connection between me, the characters and the writing. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen as well as I wanted it to.

ARC Review – Love and Other Theories by Alexis Bass

22379143Title:  Love and Other Theories

Author: Alexis Bass

Rating: ★

Synopsis: If you want more, you have to give less. That’s the secret to dating in high school. By giving as little as they expect to get in return, seventeen-year-old Aubrey Housing and her three best friends have made it to the second semester of their senior year heartbreak-free. And it’s all thanks to a few simple rules: don’t commit, don’t be needy, and don’t give away your heart.

So when smoking-hot Nathan Diggs transfers to Lincoln High, it shouldn’t be a big deal. At least that’s what Aubrey tells herself. But Nathan’s new-boy charm, his kindness, and his disarming honesty throw Aubrey off her game and put her in danger of breaking the most important rule of all: Don’t fall in love.

Huge thank you to HarperTeen and Edelweiss for this ARC!

Sam’s Review: 

Well, it’s been awhile since I read a book that I vehemently did not like, but here you have it. Love and Other Theories is a book I feel that should have been up my alley as someone who loves pretty-ugly people, but this book does pretty-ugly pretty darn poorly.

Truthfully, there wasn’t a single character that I liked in this book. Aubrey was just horrible to people and without good reason most of the time. She was judgemental, she slut-shamed despite doing similar things herself, and while she claimed to be anti-relationship (which I am cool with and intrigued by considering I’m a married woman), even that angle was just frustrating to deal with. I don’t mind an unlikeable protagonist if there’s good reason for what they are doing, I dislike it when there seems to be no purpose for it. Plus the female attitude towards men being stupid and only wanting sex — I’m sorry, but why is this still a thing that needs to be brought up? Yes, men in high school are immature, but guess what? So are girls! I mean, it’s irritating that this mentality still has to be brought up and in this book it’s written in such a degrading way. Plus the girls in this book talk down to the men in the story but then do stupid things with them! I’m sorry, I have no sympathy for that kind of behaviour.

Plus this book has such a huge focus on partying, drinking, betraying your friends, which I’m fine with depending on the context of the book (something like Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas, it works perfectly) but it felt like there was so little consequence to what was being done by these characters, to the point where you expected there to be larger consequences. You know, I think what frustrated me the most is that Aubrey leads Nathan (he we assume is her crush throughout the story, she’d tell you it’s something different) and to the point where she then drops him, and then takes awhile to feel bad about it. REALLY? REALLY? I’m sorry but no, I just can’t buy into that. I can’t also buy into the idea that the person being lead on is OKAY with it for the most part. That them “being together” it just didn’t feel fully developed considering all the dramatic crap before.

This book is all dramarama, but it’s not even the fun kind of dramarama to read about. There’s no substance here and the characters are so hollow that it felt impossible to make any sort of connection. As I got to know everyone in the story, the more I had no desire to learn more (except, ha ha, you do). Nathan was the only character I tolerated and in the end even he makes enough stupid decisions that I found myself checking out of the book pretty damn quickly. The mentality this book presents is one I just cannot agree with. I finished the book, I tried to get on it’s wavelength and I just found myself more angry as I read on. I just cannot recommend Love and Other Theories with any sort of endorsement because remembering it just makes my blood boil.

River’s Quickie Reviews #6

22171558Title: Twisted Fate by Norah Olson (January 20th 2015 by Katherine Tegen Books)

Synopsis: When Alyson meets Graham Copeland, the new boy next door, she instantly feels like he’s a kindred spirit—shy and awkward like her, someone who has trouble making friends. It’s impossible to resist having a crush on him.

As usual, her sister, Sydney, sees things differently. In Sydney’s mind, Graham’s odd personality and secretive past scream psychopath, not sweetheart. Her gut is telling her to stay away from him, and to protect a love-struck Alyson from her own naïveté. But despite her instincts, Sydney is surprised to realize that a part of her is drawn to Graham, too.

And the more Sydney gets to know him, the more she realizes just how right—and wrong—she is about everything.

River’s Review: Well I’m not sure what to think about this. I liked it and it kept me engaged, but there were WAYYYYYY too many POVs (like, some only happened once in the book) and the ending just made no sense. I started to sense the ‘twist’ coming, but there are a lot of places in the book where I was like ‘does this even work?’

Also, nothing like We Were Liars.

Overall this was a pretty fast read that kept me guessing, horrified me quite a bit, and then had a sloppy ending that made me drop it a star. There’s a lot of negative reviews about this, and while I can see their merits, I don’t think it was an awful book. I really did like it up until the very end. 3/5 Stars.


20527903Title: Suspicion  by Alexandra Monir (December 9th 2014 by Delacorte Press)

Synopsis: Mysterious. Magnificent. Creepy. Welcome to Rockford Manor. “There’s something hidden in the Maze.” Seventeen-year-old Imogen has never forgotten the last words her father said to her seven years ago, before the blazing fire that consumed him, her mother, and the gardens of her family’s English country manor. Haunted by her parents’ deaths, Imogen moves to New York City with her new guardians. But when a letter arrives with the news of her cousin’s untimely death, revealing that Imogen is now the only heir left to run the estate, she returns to England and warily accepts her role as duchess.

All is not as it seems at Rockford, and Imogen quickly learns that dark secrets lurk behind the mansion’s aristocratic exterior, hinting that the spate of deaths in her family were no accident. And at the center of the mystery is Imogen herself–and Sebastian, the childhood friend she has secretly loved for years. Just what has Imogen walked into?

River’s Review: Well… this was boring. Or I was bored. I just couldn’t get into this book. It sounds gorgeous and it should be, but it’s super flat. Everyone is super stereotypical YA and Imogen is supposed to be this ‘teehee fish out of water look how cute it is she has NO CLUE about almost anything British despite spending half her childhood there and living in NYC’. I just don’t get how Imogen is so damn clueless about so many aspects of British culture. And whenever she makes some slip up it’s always like ‘aww, so cute, you silly American’.

I guess what I really didn’t like was the way things were set up. The first half of the book is the ‘before’ being a Duchess and then the second part is the ‘after’ becoming a Duchess part and the first half just didn’t really do much for me other than give us background and info. Which could have been done with like, a prologue or something so the majority of the story could have been focused on her actually being at Rockford and the paranormal stuff.

And good lord the paranormal stuff was boring. It wasn’t even in the book for most of it!

So I gave it a try but sadly just didn’t connect. 2/5 Stars.


 

Huge thank you to Netgalley, Edelweiss, Delacorte Press and Katherine Tegen Books for these ARCs!

River & Sam’s Fave Books of October

Well, this doesn’t happen too often, but River and I have the same favourite book this month. Guess what? It shouldn’t be a shock to anyone.

River & Sam’s Pick:

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Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater

Are any of you REALLY surprised at this pick considering how much fangirling River and I do when it comes to this series? This book was perfect, perfect, perfect. It made me love Adam SO MUCH MORE (even though Ronan is my favourite) and it created Gansey Fancy Face, which I am convinced needs to become a meme. Seriously, if you haven’t read The Raven Boys yet — get the heck on it. Please. It’s amazing. GET ON IT, DAMMIT.

… now we have to wait until next year for book four. 😦

What was your fave read in October? Let us know in the comments!

Late to the Party ARC Review – Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine

17303139Title: Of Metal and Wishes

Author: Sarah Fine

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: There are whispers of a ghost in the slaughterhouse where sixteen-year-old Wen assists her father in his medical clinic—a ghost who grants wishes to those who need them most. When one of the Noor, men hired as cheap factory labor, humiliates Wen, she makes an impulsive wish of her own, and the Ghost grants it. Brutally.

Guilt-ridden, Wen befriends the Noor, including their outspoken leader, a young man named Melik. At the same time, she is lured by the mystery of the Ghost and learns he has been watching her … for a very long time.

As deadly accidents fuel tensions within the factory, Wen must confront her growing feelings for Melik, who is enraged at the sadistic factory bosses and the prejudice faced by his people at the hand of Wen’s, and her need to appease the Ghost, who is determined to protect her against any threat—real or imagined. She must decide whom she can trust, because as her heart is torn, the factory is exploding around her … and she might go down with it.

Huge thank you to Margaret K. McElderry Books and Edelweiss for this ARC!

River’s Review:

While I feel bad for missing the deadline on this, I’m also really happy that I read it now, right before Halloween. PERFECT CREEPY FALL READ. This is a re-telling of The Phantom of the Opera and I LOVED that, and I loved this. I loved that it took place in a slaughterhouse, that there was a ‘ghost’ and that it was a mix of what felt like a dystopian world with steam punk elements. It actually never says when or where this takes place, but I kept picturing a future China after having some huge technological crash. They do have some modern conveniences in here, but then there’s also a lot of things that feel very historical.

I really liked the characters in this. Some I LOATHED. And I love that I loathed them. A lot of them got what they deserved, and others broke my heart. I loved Wen, loved her relationship with her father (even the bad parts) and her relationships with both Melik and the ‘ghost’.

The writing in this is beautiful and parts of it are just down right savage. There’s a lot of blood, a lot of death, a lot of killing. There’s also quite a handful of social commentary, which I thought was woven in quite well and didn’t come across as preachy at all.

I can’t wait for the next book! Super excited to see how everyone’s fates turn out.