Monthly Archives: February 2015

ARC Review – Mosquitoland by David Arnold

21921204Title: Mosquitoland

Author: David Arnold

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: After the sudden collapse of her family, Mim Malone is dragged from her home in northern Ohio to the “wastelands” of Mississippi, where she lives in a medicated milieu with her dad and new stepmom. Before the dust has a chance to settle, she learns her mother is sick back in Cleveland. So she ditches her new life and hops aboard a northbound Greyhound bus to her real home and her real mother, meeting a quirky cast of fellow travelers along the way. But when her thousand-mile journey takes a few turns she could never see coming, Mim must confront her own demons, redefining her notions of love, loyalty, and what it means to be sane.
Told in an unforgettable, kaleidoscopic voice, “Mosquitoland” is a modern American odyssey, as hilarious as it is heartbreaking.

Huge thank you to Penguin Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

There is something quirky and endearing about Mim Malone. She’s absolutely bonkers, her level of trust for people is at an all time low, she is easily attached to things, and all she really wants is her own place in the world. Mim is one of those unforgettable characters who whether you like her or not, doesn’t stray from one’s mind.

Mosquitoland is a page-turner, and there’s something to be said about what is actually happening on the pages versus what makes it a real page turner. This is not in a lot of ways, a plot driven story, which usually makes up an awesome page turner. This book really is a character study and does it in all the right ways. Mim’s losses, the devastating changes in her life, the decisions people have made for her, all instantly connect the reader to her world the people around her. The characters that Mim encounter on her journey are also truly unforgettable, I had a love for creepy Poncho Man, if only because Mim reminded me of Spike from Cowboy Bebop in that instance.

Mim in a lot of ways is one of those problematic characters who gives the reader a lot to contemplate as they are reading. The road trip in this novel is highly entertaining as it is tragic — there’s a lot of unexpected feels in this book, despite it’s overall humourous tone.

There is one problematic element that many readers of the book have brought up and it was the representation of natives and I can agree with that sentiment, because any time Mim brought up her war paint, it made me slightly uncomfortable. On the other hand, I don’t think there was a malicious intent on the author’s part to make readers uncomfortable in that aspect, but at the same time how it in included can be seen as an issue. I won’t go into the spoiler aspects of this, but as a reader you can decide if this aspect bothers you or not. I was uncomfortable, admittedly, but it didn’t ruin my experience with the book on a whole.

Mosquitoland is a fun, crazy, whirlwind that keeps the reader engaged from beginning to end. The book will take you on a ride that is both insane and thoughtful. Every time Mim Malone reminds the reader she ‘is not okay’, a part of me felt as though we were connected — that I could help make it okay (even though yes, it’s a book, I get that). However, you want Mim and those around her to work things out, become better, and ultimately this book is about identity, but also letting go of the past and trying to build a better future. I loved my time with this book, and it’s one worth checking out when it releases, especially if you are a lover of quirky, awkward characters!

Event Recap – Ontario Library Super Conference 2015

For those of you who aren’t familiar with me outside of the bloggosphere and game journalism scene, you may know I’m training to be a library technician. Well, at the end of January, there is a wonderful event for library professionals to attend — the OLA Super Conference. The event focuses on a variety of sessions geared towards the various types of libraries, there’s a huge expo floor to explore, and there is always something happening. It’s not as big as something like BEA, but there’s definitely more of personal interaction at OLA then I’ve seen at other events.

I started my day over at Penguin Random House where in I chatted with the wonderful, always an amazing conversationalist, Vikki VanSickle. She is always a delight to talk to, and I always feel inspired afterwards because she is so passionate. She’s someone who cares about Canadian Literature, Kit Lit and YA and she knows her bloggers insanely well. As always, seeing Vikki at an event reminds me that I’m doing a bit of good in the world, and people like her are always great spring boards for good conversation and ideas.

At 10 am, Rachel Hartman was signing Shadow Scale. Let’s just say that was a mini dream come true. Seriously, I lovelovelove Seraphina, and Shadow Scale is one of those books that fans have been waiting a long time for. I haven’t read it yet, but it’s next on my list because I NEED TO KNOW.

rachelhartman

 Ahhhh Rachel Hartman is so nice.

After the signing I headed down for the only session I was scheduled for, and that was #WeNeedDiverseBooks. The session discussed the importance of inclusion and how we are library professionals and work towards building our collections to support diverse literatures. A lot of children and teens want to be represented in literature and they want to be able to see themselves in the books they are reading. I ended up feeling so inspired, and I came away with a ton of great ideas and new authors to check out. Also, there was a presentation on Canadian First Nations Literature and I really need to go and seek some of those books out. Great presentation and panel over all.

Then it was back up to the Expo floor, where working on my assignment happened, sort of food happened, and then it was offer to Raincoast Books to meet Courtney Summers!

courtneysummers

Meeting Courtney was a big deal for me. We’ve talked for a long time on Twitter about video games, horror, and all kinds of crazy. The week leading up to OLA was a lot of silly tweets about who was sexier and OMGTHIS. She makes me laugh, and she writes some of the most amazing and thoughtful books out there, so of course I had to go and show my support and grab a copy of All the Rage (which I devoured might I add already). Next time you are in town Courtney, you are letting me take you out to lunch. 😛

After getting my hugs, video game talk, and fangirling, I rushed over to see another person who I’ve been having mad twitter conversations with: Sam Maggs!

sammaggs

I heart Sam Maggs, and she knows it. She helped participate in a feature I ran over at RPGamer for Valentine’s Day called Inquisition de Amore. The feature had a ton of authors and other journalists sharing a dating profile for their Inquisitor from Dragon Age: Inquisition. Sam was very enthusiastic about the project. I may have also sent a bucnh of my classmates her way because in all seriousness The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy really is such a fun read. Sam’s voice has such confidence and enthusiasm and she really makes you smile along the way. She’s a loveable soul and I’m happy we finally had a chance to meet.

After seeing Sam, there was more running around, more vendor flirting, and a ton of books being picked up. One of my professors even attempted to scope out my bag because she was impressed by the pile. Here’s the haul for your enjoyment!

olabooks

Huge thank you to Penguin Canada, Random House of Canada, Raincoast Books, Scholastic Canada and Harper Collins Canada for all the wonderful new books for me to read and review. Also thank you to all of you for your kindness, your approachability and your enthusiasm. There’s nothing better that dealing with publishing folk and authors who love the same things you do and want to share it on a similar level. Seriously, you gotta admire that.

At the end of the day, my feet were killing me, I was popped and all I wanted to do was get some dinner and go read some of my new books. I did a few other things at the event, such as a resume workshop, talking to other professionals and playing around with new software, and it was a great experience overall. I will definitely be going to the OLA Super Conference again, hopefully not as a student, but as someone attached to a library. Here’s hoping, right?

The end of the day was spent at the Loose Moose. Let’s just say, All the Rage and I made good friends that day. My husband who came to meet up with me afterwards, well… he wasn’t too happy with the new pile of books, but at the same time, he’s loveable and listened to all my stories over beet and nachos. I cannot wait for next year’s conference!

loosemoose

Happy reading! 🙂

ARC Review – No Parking at the End Times by Bryan Bliss

22403036Title: No Parking at the End Times

Author: Bryan Bliss

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Abigail’s parents have made mistake after mistake, and now they’ve lost everything. She’s left to decide: Does she still believe in them? Or is it time to believe in herself? Fans of Sara Zarr, David Levithan, and Rainbow Rowell will connect with this moving debut.

Abigail doesn’t know how her dad found Brother John. Maybe it was the billboards. Or the radio. What she does know is that he never should have made that first donation. Or the next, or the next. Her parents shouldn’t have sold their house. Or packed Abigail and her twin brother, Aaron, into their old van to drive across the country to San Francisco, to be there with Brother John for the “end of the world.” Because of course the end didn’t come. And now they’re living in their van. And Aaron’s disappearing to who-knows-where every night. Their family is falling apart. All Abigail wants is to hold them together, to get them back to the place where things were right. But maybe it’s too big a task for one teenage girl. Bryan Bliss’s thoughtful, literary debut novel is about losing everything—and about what you will do for the people you love.

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

River’s Review:

This book was so difficult to read at times. It actually made me physically angry too. See, I once dated this boy who’s family was SUPER religious. And the boy acted like he wasn’t but then about two months into our relationship he told me about how I wasn’t going to go to Heaven unless I let Jesus into my heart and repented and he sobbed to me that I needed to do it or he wouldn’t see me in Heaven and that he couldn’t stand it. He also said that he didn’t like to kiss me because he didn’t want God to see him and that he’d always have to pray afterwards… so we broke up and he was like ‘let’s still go to youth group together!’ and I was like ‘uh, no, Jesus isn’t really my thing…’ and then I found out that he would go smoke pot after church with his friends and I was just done.

I respect people who are religious. Everyone has the right to their own beliefs, but I’ve found that more often than not those religious people don’t respect the right to not believe. Or to believe something different. And those are the people I have a problem with. So Brother John and the father in this book just made me want to kick things.

In this book Abigail and her family sell all of their worldly possessions and travel across the USA to join Brother John who’s basically a scam artist peddling the end of the world for those who will believe. Abigail’s father lost his job and found Jesus and it was just so sad how he was so blind and naive. He truly believed that the end of the world was coming and that his family didn’t need anything anymore.

But then the end of the world didn’t come. And Abigail’s brother began to not believe. He turned his back on God and got angry. I totally understood him. Abigail took a bit longer to come around, and it was so hard seeing her torn between knowing what was right and what was faith. But did God really want her family homeless? Living out of a van? Eating leftovers from the soup kitchen? Did God want that for them? Her brother knew the answer, but Abigail loved her family and I think she wanted to believe that her mother and father would do the right thing eventually. She had faith in them. And I liked that about her, but man when that dick Brother John would take their money (that they were getting from ANOTHER church because their family had NOTHING) and spout out some crap about ‘God’s plan’… I just got so mad and wanted her to get mad too.

The end really got me. I wish that the father would have been a little more dramatic, and I would have loved to see him admit that he was wrong or at least that Brother John was a sham, but we didn’t get to see that. Maybe that wasn’t the point. I was just happy that family won in the end.

Overall this was really good and makes you think about your place in the world and what you believe in. But if you’re really religious you might want to avoid it. Maybe. Not that this is an anti-religion book, it’s not, it just might not resonate the same way it might with someone who doesn’t have super strong religious beliefs.

#Project TBR Results

This is going to be a quick post because I need to start getting ready for my field placement (starting today, woot). As I mentioned previously, I was participating in #projecttbr. It was a week long read-a-thon from February 16th to the 22nd, and the challenge was to read five books that fit particular themes. Sadly, I only completed three books. I’ll share with you the book and the challenge it completed.’

2) Read a book over 500 pages. How to Win At High School by Owen Matthews

3) Read a book with green on the cover. Mosquitoland by David Arnold

5) Read a sequel to a book you’ve been wanting to read for awhile. Codex Born by Jim C. Hines

I’m a little disappointed in myself that I didn’t get to the other two books (I started another one yesterday and didn’t get very far).

Sadly for the next couple weeks it looks like I will be doing nothing but ARC reading. Meanwhile, checking my February stats so far since the month isn’t over yet, but all I’ve done this month is read ARCs. I liked a lot of them, but I fell behind in my own personal reading. Outside of the four March paper ARCs I have, I’ve decided March is going to be whatever I feel like reading. There will be reviews in March, don’t fret! But I am hoping to have some other content for you guys soon.

Hopefully next read-a-thon I’ll have better results! 🙂

ARC Review – Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan

22749539Title: Echo

Author: Pam Muñoz Ryan

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Lost and alone in a forbidden forest, Otto meets three mysterious sisters and suddenly finds himself entwined in a puzzling quest involving a prophecy, a promise, and a harmonica.

Decades later, Friedrich in Germany, Mike in Pennsylvania, and Ivy in California each, in turn, become interwoven when the very same harmonica lands in their lives. All the children face daunting challenges: rescuing a father, protecting a brother, holding a family together. And ultimately, pulled by the invisible thread of destiny, their suspenseful solo stories converge in an orchestral crescendo. 

Huge thank you to Scholastic Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review: 

This is my first Pam Munoz Ryan novel. I had been meaning to get to some of her more popular books, but when this was handed to me at OLA a few weeks ago by a Scholastic Representative, I knew the time had come.

Seriously, the writing in this book is gorgeous. It’s lyrical, hitting note after note, and it simply dances about as you read on. This novel hosts three different stores, each centring around family and a harmonica. For such a chunker of a novel, I was surprised how fast I read it. But I found myself very invested in each one of the stories. My favourite was easily Friedrich, if only because he loses his sister to the Hitler Youth Movement, and no matter how much he tried to bring her around, he never entirely succeeded. He loses so much in his life, and so quickly, yet he tries to preserver and do ultimately what he thinks his right.

Reading through Friedrich, Mike and Ivy’s stories, you get this sense of passion and zest for life. Regardless of their hardships, they are children who are attempting to make sense of the world around them in the early 1940s. They are all at curious ages, coping with worldly changes that will affect their lives in the long run. The characters in this book were beautiful, and they accompanied by very fantastic and thoughtful adult characters who didn’t treat them less than simply because they were children.

The only thing I wasn’t huge on was the ending. It was a bit of a non-ending in some ways. You get this sense of everything coming together, the characters coming together and then it just stops. I’m not really big on those, but I don’t think it should deter someone from enjoying this novel. The writing and characters alone make this novel quite the pleasure to read.

Reading Echo gave me a lot of different feelings, and transported me to a time that felt familiar. It certainly has it’s moments where it can make a reader uncomfortable, but it’s shown with the right reasons in mind. This story is beautiful, poetic, and it solidifies why people adore Pam Munoz Ryan’s works. Echo really was a joy to read.

Late to the Party ARC Review – Firefight by Brandon Sanderson

15704459Title: Firefight

Author: Brandon Sanderson

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: They told David it was impossible–that even the Reckoners had never killed a High Epic. Yet, Steelheart–invincible, immortal, unconquerable–is dead. And he died by David’s hand.

Eliminating Steelheart was supposed to make life more simple. Instead, it only made David realize he has questions. Big ones. And there’s no one in Newcago who can give him the answers he needs.

Babylon Restored, the old borough of Manhattan, has possibilities, though. Ruled by the mysterious High Epic, Regalia, David is sure Babylon Restored will lead him to what he needs to find. And while entering another city oppressed by a High Epic despot is a gamble, David’s willing to risk it. Because killing Steelheart left a hole in David’s heart. A hole where his thirst for vengeance once lived. Somehow, he filled that hole with another Epic–Firefight. And he’s willing to go on a quest darker, and more dangerous even, than the fight against Steelheart to find her, and to get his answers.

Huge thank you to Random House Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I have to admit something: I wasn’t huge on Steelheart. Parts of that novel felt so clumsy put together (especially considering how rad the opening was) and I had a hard time enjoying the cast and the world-building. Something felt off, and I couldn’t entirely put it on my finger what was rubbing me the wrong way.

Thankfully, Firefight actually worked for me this time around.

David finally stopped being a tool in this book. He finally became a protagonist I didn’t find myself wanting to smack around due to poor decisions. He still makes some precious decisions in this book, but I found him and the cast of this novel to be so much more well developed. Hell, I even loved the secondary cast. I loved Val and Mizzy, and I always enjoyed their back and forth, along with their treatment of David. I thought David’s self revelations in this story worked well to develop the plot and push his character further. I even loved Megan in this book! I loved how challenging her decisions were and how it wasn’t that simple for her. I also love that she shatters David’s visions of her and that’s she’s not as she appears.

The action and drama in this book work well too in Firefight. The world is crumbling around everyone and yet there’s a sense of determination instead of hopeless. The Reckoners are in rough shape, but by damn do they attempt to keep it together. I have to give the characters in this book credit considering the Epics they faced and encountered were pretty one-dimensional, but they were the scary kind of one-dimensional.

Oh and that ending? Actually pretty fantastic and it makes me sad how long I’m going to have to wait for Calamity to hit. In typical Sanderson fashion, this book ends with him getting ready to knock down the house of cards. Curse you, Brandon Sanderson!

ARC Review – Fish Out of Water by Natalie Whipple

24081785Title: Fish Out of Water

Author: Natalie Whipple

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Mika is about to fulfill her dream of working at the world famous Monterey Bay Aquarium when her plans are derailed by an unexpected arrival—her estranged grandmother Betty. Betty has dementia, and is no longer able to take care of herself. Betty is in need of her family’s help—and she’s not going to be particularly nice about it.

Mika has to give up her summer internship at the Aquarium and stick to working part-time at AnimalZone in order to take care of Betty. The manager at AnimalZone has hired his nephew Dylan to work there, and Mika thinks he’s entitled and annoying. Or is he just trying to become a better person?

Mika is trying to be as patient as possible with her grandma—but Betty doesn’t make that easy. And neither does Dylan.

Huge thank you to Natalie Whipple for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Fish Out of Water is not what you expect. It’s got a swell romance, handles some interesting issues, and is just insanely sweet to read. I found it to be a bit slow at first, but I’m happy I stuck with it because the story grew on me as I read on.

Mika is a somewhat unusual heroine in that she actually likes her part-time job. Can I just say that I’ve never really seen that in a YA novel? Sure, girls like the job when there’s a hot boy involved, but Mika genuinely likes her job. It’s cute, it’s odd, I liked it. Actually, to be honest, I loved reading about the antics in the AnimalZone, and seeing her come out of her shell in various ways. Whipple does this great job of giving the reader this gradual build in Mika’s growth, one that feels so organically done.

There there’s all the sacrifice. In a lot of ways, this story is a lot about that word, and it’s one that a lot of people struggle with. That being forced to give something up even though you know it’s the right thing to do. Sometimes they have to be made, and I feel like the characters in this novel learn it the hard way, and it’s completely believable. It’s hard to make sacrifices when someone is ill in your life, and that’s where part of this story admittedly mirrored parts of my own life. I understood Mika, her frustrations, because taking care of someone else is :not an easy job, and sometimes it can feel a little thankless, even if those you love appreciate it.

I thought a lot of the characters were wonderful and diverse. Oddly the character I did have a hard time with, was the love interest Dylan. He rubbed me the wrong way, and I didn’t really care for him at first. But much like this novel, he grew on me, but I still found myself not entirely bought in to his genuineness considering the horrific thing he does in the story. It did have a hard time with that and even though there’s cute fluff between he and Mika, I still feel like this resolved a bit too neatly.

Still, I think Fish Out of Water is a wonderfully clever, quirky little read. It’s got a lot of great elements and the charm simply oozes in ways that a lot of contemporary novels miss. I highly recommend checking it out — it definitely has something for every kind of reader.

For those curious, you can purchase Fish Out of Water at AmazonThe Book Depository and other major outlets that sell books. Remember to support great indie authors when you find them!