Monthly Archives: June 2015

The Devoted & Delicate Monsters Blog Tour – Q&A with Stephanie Kuehn & Jennifer Mathieu

Raincoast invited River and I to join in on the Delicate Monsters and Devoted blog tour. Each member of the tour was given an opportunity to ask each author a question related to their novels. I am honoured to share what information I’ve learned from both Stephanie Kuehn and Jennifer Mathieu. Without further ado, let’s see what they had to say about their works, shall we?


23014725Delicate Monsters, by Stephanie Kuehn

Published June 9th 2015 by St. Martin’s Griffin

Review / Add to Goodreads

Preamble: If you read my review above, then you are aware of how smitten I was with Delicate Monsters. It’s an eerie novel that keeps you guessing and shows you just how messed up people can really be. I’d love to see this book as movie some day, because I feel like a director would have a complete field day. Now, one with the question!

Sam: The title of your book, Delicate Monsters is quite the oxymoron. Can you tell us a bit about your choice of title in regards to the story?

Stephanie Kuehn: Well, it’s a reference to Baudelaire’s line about “ce monstre délicat,” in Les
Fleurs du Mal. But the phrase also captures both the monstrousness and genuine humanity
of the characters in the story.

About Stephanie Kuehn:

Stephanie Kuehn holds degrees in linguistics and sport psychology, and is currently working toward a5762535 doctorate in clinical psychology. Her debut young adult novel, CHARM & STRANGE, was the winner of the 2014 William C. Morris Award, and her second novel for teens, COMPLICIT, was named to YALSA’s 2015 Best Fiction for Young Adults list. Stephanie was also awarded the 2015 PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship for her forthcoming novel, THE PRAGMATIST, and her most recent book, DELICATE MONSTERS, has received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist. Stephanie lives in Northern California with her husband, their three children, and a joyful abundance of pets.


22718682Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu

Published June 2nd 2015 by Roaring Brook Press

Review / Add to Goodreads

Preamble: Devoted was such a wonderful and refreshing read for me. It taught me about a perspective I never considered and showed me a lifestyle I don’t think I could have ever grown up in. Rachel’s Christian upbringing is one that leaves quite the impression, but also teaches a valuable lesson in being sympathetic to others.

Sam: Devoted looks at issues of being confined by beliefs. Can you explain where the inspiration for the novel came from? Why do you feel Rachel’s story is so important to tell?

Jennifer Mathieu:  Well, the inspiration for the novel came from my interest in the TLC reality
show 19 Kids and Counting. I started watching it because I was curious about how a family with nineteen  kids lives life day to day. When I realized the family had a very obvious and specific
way of living their faith, I started doing all this research into the Quiverfull movement, which is sometimes called the Christian Patriarchy movement.  I managed to meet some women who had been raised in this lifestyle and shared their stories with me.

I feel Rachel’s story is important to tell because in extreme faith traditions, women and
girls often have their voices silenced. I felt by telling Rachel’s story, I was giving
a voice to many of the young women who have been raised Quiverfull and want to share
their experiences, which are often quite painful. I also feel Rachel’s story is
important to tell because all of us – no matter how we are raised – ask ourselves the Big
Questions. I hope Rachel’s drive to figure out who she is and what she believes in
motivates readers to live authentic lives themselves.

About Jennifer Mathieu: 

I’m an English teacher, writer, wife, and mom who writes books for and about young adults. My debut6549106 novel, THE TRUTH ABOUT ALICE, was published by Roaring Brook Press on June 3, and my second book, DEVOTED, will be out June 2, 2015.

My favorite things include chocolate, pepperoni pizza, and this super hilarious 1980s sitcom about four retired women called The Golden Girls. I can basically quote every episode.

I live with my husband, son, one rescue dog, one fat cat, and another cat that is even fatter than the fat cat.


We hope you enjoyed reading what Stephanie and Jennifer had to say about their novels. Delicate Monsters and Devoted are both out now and can be purchased at your favourite book retail outlet. To see the duo answer more questions, check out the rest of the tour schedule below!

blogtour

Advertisements

ARC Review – Delicate Monsters by Stephanie Kuehn

23014725Title: Delicate Monsters

Author: Stephanie Kuehn

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: When nearly killing a classmate gets seventeen-year-old Sadie Su kicked out of her third boarding school in four years, she returns to her family’s California vineyard estate. Here, she’s meant to stay out of trouble. Here, she’s meant to do a lot of things. But it’s hard. She’s bored. And when Sadie’s bored, the only thing she likes is trouble.

Emerson Tate’s a poor boy living in a rich town, with his widowed mother and strange, haunted little brother. All he wants his senior year is to play basketball and make something happen with the girl of his dreams. That’s why Emerson’s not happy Sadie’s back. An old childhood friend, she knows his worst secrets. The things he longs to forget. The things she won’t ever let him.

Haunted is a good word for fifteen-year-old Miles Tate. Miles can see the future, after all. And he knows his vision of tragic violence at his school will come true, because his visions always do. That’s what he tells the new girl in town. The one who listens to him. The one who recognizes the darkness in his past.

But can Miles stop the violence? Or has the future already been written? Maybe tragedy is his destiny. Maybe it’s all of theirs.

Huge thank you to Raincoast Books/St. Martin’s Grffin for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Can this book be a movie? I feel like it needs to be a movie.

When I started Delicate Monsters, I didn’t entirely know what I was getting myself into. The synopsis made it seem like it could have been a mystery/thriller, but it really is one of those scary realistic novels that is meant to paint a horrific picture. Sadie, Emerson, Miles, they are all awful people, driven through awful means, and getting off in strange ways.

What I love about Stephanie Kuehn’s writing is how disjointed and frazzled it feels (more so in this book than her others). The style provides a dreadful feeling throughout, making you ponder what is exactly happening. It almost feels like the reader is being dragged against their will, but they aren’t able to shield themselves away from the violence that takes place in the story. Even the ending feels like it refuses to be tied up into a neat bow.

And I loved the whole experience because of it. These people are ugly, scary, and they make you question how they feel absolutely nothing. Emerson has moments where he feels sadness, remorse, guilt, but it’s coupled with this bizarre behaviour that is often present on his face. Miles is afraid, nervous, and he’s the easiest to sympathize with, but as the novel progresses, you realize more and more how screwed up he is.

Finally, there’s Sadie. Sadie is probably the scariest of the three, if only because she’s honest in her malicious intentions. Reading her sections felt like I was being put into the mind of a sociopath, and overall, her intentions towards other, making them feel pain, fear, she’s just terrifying.

But in all seriousness, Delicate Monsters is a book that will mess with your mind. I read this book in two sittings because the narrative ties were so engrossing. I had to know more, I had to keep going, and boy was I exhausted after finishing this novel. Stephanie Kuehn presents us with such terrifying people, it’s no wonder why she classifies them as monsters.

ARC Review – Between the Notes by Sharon Huss Roat

23287163Title: Between the Notes

Author: Sharon Huss Roat

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: When Ivy Emerson’s family loses their house—complete with her beloved piano—the fear of what’s to come seizes her like a bad case of stage fright. Only this isn’t one of her single, terrifying performances. It’s her life. And it isn’t pretty.

Ivy is forced to move with her family out of their affluent neighborhood to Lakeside, also known as “the wrong side of the tracks.” Hiding the truth from her friends—and the cute new guy in school, who may have secrets of his own—seems like a good idea at first. But when a bad boy next door threatens to ruin everything, Ivy’s carefully crafted lies begin to unravel . . . and there is no way to stop them.

Huge thank you to Harper Teen for sending me an ARC of this!

River’s Review:

ALL. THE. FEELS.

Wow this book snuck up on me. The first 100 pages or so were okay (around 3-star territory) but then about halfway I was REALLY in love with this book and didn’t want to put it down! You know you’re hooked on an unputdownable book when you’re halfway through the workday and all you want to do is go home and read! That’s how I felt about this book.

Ivy Emerson’s family is rich. Her dad has a large company, she lives in a gated mansion on the “right” side of town and is part of the elite crowd at school. Then one day it all falls down around here when she finds out that her dad’s company is NOT doing well and that they’re losing their house and most of their possessions. Ivy’s family needs to use what money they have left to keep surviving and to pay for her little brother’s therapy. So the family of five moves to the “wrong” side of town, into an apartment that is roughly the size of her parent’s old master bedroom.

Ivy’s new home is next door to Lennie, the school’s resident bad boy who apparently sells drugs. Ivy hates him from the start and she refuses to believe that the situation they’re in will be permanent. She forces her best friend to keep quiet about the fact that Ivy’s family is now poor and she goes to great lengths to hide her now home and situation. Only she can’t hie from Lennie because they go to school together.

Enter James, the new boy at school. He’s got the looks, a BMW and apparently a good taste in literature. Ivy and James spend a lot of time getting to know each other while Ivy tries to hid what her family is going through. At the same time Lennie is trying to befriend her, and she does her best to avoid him. When James finally does find out about Ivy’s family he doesn’t care, but later she friends out that James is actually very wealthy and due to some miscommunication he bails on her and goes back to his family (who he was running away from because he was sick of people only seeing him for his money).

Ivy’s secret does eventually get out and the way that she handles it just seems to real. She’s embarrassed and scared and sad. She doesn’t know who to turn to when people start to turn their backs on her. But she makes new friends, get close to an old friend, and starts to warm up to Lennie.

I loved all of Ivy’s interactions with Lennie, and I wish there had been more. I also loved how he tied back to a very important part of her stage fright and even helps her get over it when she finally plays the piano and sings in front of a crowd. I really loved the way that she misjudged him and admitted that she was wrong. I also loved the themes of friendship, how sometimes you’re just suck with the friends you have based on circumstance and how like cling to like. I was so happy when Ivy broke away from her group and did what she wanted, spent time with who she wanted, and stopped judging. And the family was so sweet. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for her parents to struggle the way there were. And it shed such a sad picture on what the American lower-middle and lower class looks like.

Ivy’s piano playing and musical ability was woven so seamlessly into this. I loved how she used music to help herself understand her situation and how as she grew, her music grew, and what she allowed herself to do with the music also grew.

And finally the end. THE END! That’s what bumped it up to a full five stars. Because it gave me ALL. THE. FEELS. I love it when two characters come together and are just so right and the moment is perfect and then there’s swooning and yes. It was perfection.

Make sure to check this book out guys. It’s a hidden gem.

ARC Review – Like it Never Happened by Emily Adrian

23281823Title: Like it Never Happend

Author: Emily Adrian

Rating:  ★★★★

Synopsis: When Rebecca Rivers lands the lead in her school’s production of The Crucible, she gets to change roles in real life, too. She casts off her old reputation, grows close with her four rowdy cast-mates, and kisses the extremely handsome Charlie Lamb onstage. Even Mr. McFadden, the play’s critical director, can find no fault with Rebecca.

Though “The Essential Five” vow never to date each other, Rebecca can’t help her feelings for Charlie, leaving her both conflicted and lovestruck. But the on and off-stage drama of the cast is eclipsed by a life-altering accusation that threatens to destroy everything…even if some of it is just make believe.

Huge thank you to Penguin Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed Like it Never Happened. The characters sort of fit into that category that my co-blogger and I love, which is ugly people being ugly. While not all the characters in the story fit that bill, it’s the level of melodrama that really makes this quite the popcorn read.

Rebecca Rivers and her four friends make a pact to never date each other. Except that falls a part fairly fast when Rebecca falls for Charlie. For a kid who wants to be a lawyer, he has some epic moments of dumb in this story, but I enjoyed the fact that as a love interest he was flawed like that. Even though there is a “romance” between Rebecca and Charlie, I hesitate to call it that because a lot of the book really is about the rumours being spread about how much of a “slut” Rebecca is.

… a “slut” whose never had sex. It’s amazing how fast a rumour can spread like wildfire, and it’s even more impressive how fast it can destroy someone’s life. That’s really what this book focuses on — and the characters in this story all self-destruct in fast and rather unpleasant ways. The amount of jealousy in the Essential Five is crucial to the plot development — for a group that supposedly respect each other it’s actually abundantly clear that that is not the case.

What I love about this book is that it is about exploration and experimentation of the self. When you’re a teen, you still don’t entirely know your self-identity, and it’s impressive how people reinvent themselves and the world around them, which is exactly what happens in Like it Never Happened. Furthermore, because of this large over arching theme, I know for me, it made it such a page-turner because I wanted to see if people would even grow. Spoilers: not everyone does.

This book takes a bit to get into, and it may feel at times like it’s not going anywhere, but once the drama begins — the book it quite golden. This is a great summer read, and definitely great for those who don’t mind an unlikeable heroine who has some major growing pains.

ARC Review – Three DC Comic Reviews

25138266Title: Batgirl Vol. 1: The Batgirl of Burnside

Authors: Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart & Babs Tarr

Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: Barbara Gordon’s ready for a fresh start. She’s packing her bags, crossing the bridge, and heading to Gotham’s coolest neighborhood: Burnside. And when a freak fire burns up her costume and gear, Babs has the chance to become a whole new Batgirl!

But she barely slips on her new DIY costume before Batgirl starts trending as Gotham’s first viral vigilante — and attracting a new wave of enemies who want her social-media spotlight for themselves. Meanwhile, the girl beneath the gear’s got a whole new crew of friends, college classes that are kicking her Bat-butt and a dating scene that can make anyone want to swipe left on life. This bat’s done living in the shadows. But will the bright lights of Burnside burn her for good?

Huge thank you to DC Comics and Edelweiss for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I have been a Batgirl nut for as long as I can remember, in fact, I love Babs even more than I do Bruce (and that says a lot considering my love of Batman). In this instalment of the New 52, Babs really has a different transformation from the Gail Simone run that came previously. The changes made are interesting, but I’m not sure if I completely love them.

For starters, Babs feels much younger here than she did in previous instalments, but she’s penned at times as being both a genius but also incredibly immature, which threw me for a bit as I was reading. Simone’s Batgirl had a sense of maturity that I loved so much, so to see her behave like a child at times didn’t always feel right in my mind.

The ARC itself is quite good (minus the weird anime, ‘kawaii’ bit which was just dreadful and I wish I had not been included — very out of place), as it’s very fluid for the most part. I also loved the portrayal of Dinah and Babs’ relationship, as you can tell they have this mutual respect, but often want to slap the other for some reason, usually pertaining to the other being selfish. There’s some wonderful comedic moments between the two, and their resolution is a good one.

One thing I will absolutely praise is the artwork. It really has a unique and distinctive style that really separates it from other versions of Batgirl. Her new suit is awesome looking, as it is functional, and there’s less emphasis on driving sex appeal, which I appreciated. There’s also these wonderful extra touches in the artwork that quite excellent, especially the attention to detail in someone’s outfit, or how a certain villain is drawn.

Overall, I liked this quite a bit, though sadly not as much as Simone’s stuff. Still, I feel like I will find my groove with this Babs, as she’s really quite spunky and likeable. There’s definitely fun to be had in this instalment, though if you’re a big Gail Simone fan, it may be hard to detach yourself from what you’re already used to.

23395763Title: Gotham Academy, Vol. 1: Welcome to Gotham Academy

Authors: Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher, Karl Kerschl

Rating: ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Gotham City’s most prestigious prep school is a very weird place. It’s got a spooky campus, oddball teachers, and rich benefactors always dropping by…like that weirdo Bruce Wayne. But nothing is as strange as the students!

Like, what’s up with Olive Silverlock? Is she crazy or what? Where did she go last summer? And what’s the deal with her creepy mom? And how come that Freshman Maps is always following her around? And is she still going out with Kyle? P.S. Did you hear the rumor about the ghost in the North Hall?!

Review:

Gotham Academy was not what I was expecting from a DC Comics franchise. Quirky, cute and off-the-wall, Becky Cloonan and co. have done an amazing job at creating a school-ish spin-off that really is a joy to read.

Part of what makes Gotham Academy a lot of fun is its overall atmosphere. Those who are fans of many of DC Comics’ capes franchises will be able to point out many of its characters, and even though we have an original cast leading the charge, the balance is done quite well. Olive is darling, Maps is insane, and the antics they get into are funny. I found myself snickering through parts of the comics just because Olive looks like the last kind of person to get into so much trouble.

This comic is so comedic, and it will make you smile. It’s not without its faults — sometimes the characters behave like they know more of what’s going on than the reader, and yes the cliffhanger of this instalment was, well, kind of lame, but I feel like there is a ton of potential with Gotham Academy to go in a fun, or even dark direction. I feel like the hardest part of Gotham Academy was trying to understand the direction it wants to go, and it’s not obvious even towards the end. Still, I want to recommend it, most because I still want to see where it goes next and because at the end of the day, I always love a comic that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

23505378Title: Grayson, Vol. 1: Agents of Spyral

Authors:  Tim Seeley & Mikel Janin

Rating: ★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Dick Grayson. Former Sidekick. Former Superhero. Former dead man. Agent of Spyral?! A thrilling new chapter of Dick Grayson’s life begins here. A super-spy espionage thriller that will shock you and prove one thing: you might think you know Nightwing–but you don’t know Dick.

 

Review:

I have to admit, the idea of Dick Grayson being a spy didn’t win me over in any way. It should have, but I found this whole first instalment quite bland as I was reading it. It tries to overexert personality, but I honestly just didn’t enjoy Dick’s characterization at all. Perhaps it’s because I always adored him as Robin or loved his take over as Batman, but Spy!Dick just didn’t engage me the way he has in his other personas.

I think the other issue I had with this, and it’s more on my fault than it is the comic’s is that I felt like I was missing something when I was reading this. Even though it provides a detailed backstory to how Dick becomes an agent, I felt like I was missing pieces of the puzzle by having not read something that came before this.

I will admit, I did love the art in this. It’s crisp, clean, colourful. I loved the action sequences, which just oozed in detail. But as I’ve said, there’s a lack of spark in Grayon Volume 1, and I don’t think I’ll be continuing this series any time soon, sadly.

Summer Contemporary Fling – Nowhere But Here by Katie McGarry

23492282Title: Nowhere But Here

Author: Katie McGarry

Rating:  ★★★

Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Emily likes her life the way it is: doting parents, good friends, good school in a safe neighborhood. Sure, she’s curious about her biological father—the one who chose life in a motorcycle club, the Reign of Terror, over being a parent—but that doesn’t mean she wants to be a part of his world. But when a reluctant visit turns to an extended summer vacation among relatives she never knew she had, one thing becomes clear: nothing is what it seems. Not the club, not her secret-keeping father and not Oz, a guy with suck-me-in blue eyes who can help her understand them both.

Oz wants one thing: to join the Reign of Terror. They’re the good guys. They protect people. They’re…family. And while Emily—the gorgeous and sheltered daughter of the club’s most respected member—is in town, he’s gonna prove it to her. So when her father asks him to keep her safe from a rival club with a score to settle, Oz knows it’s his shot at his dream. What he doesn’t count on is that Emily just might turn that dream upside down.

No one wants them to be together. But sometimes the right person is the one you least expect, and the road you fear the most is the one that leads you home.

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

 

Sam’s Review:

I am generally a big fan of Katie McGarry’s romance novels — in fact she one of the few romance authors that I enjoy. Part of what I love about McGarry’s writing is that she captures teens very well, especially those coming from rougher situations, be it broken families, abuse, and violent life styles, and does it with a lot of honesty.

While that exists in the first instalment of her new Thunder Road series, I admit, I struggled a lot with Nowhere But Here. I found the book got off to a very rocky start and it had a hard time picking up its stride, even towards the middle. Normally I am quite the fan of McGarry’s female protagonists, and generally I find I often struggle with her male ones (though they usually in the end win me over). This was not the case with Emily or Oz, sadly.

I didn’t find either protagonist easy to connect with, and I found myself annoyed by their behaviours and mannerisms. While I found Emily got better later on in the story, I never ended up liking Oz. In fact, the majority of the novel I just despised him, and for the life of me I couldn’t see what Emily saw in him. Even when both characters redeemed themselves in the story it was still too late for me. I just didn’t enjoy the romance between them at all.

And yet, what kept me going was the story itself. When the novel was looking at Emily and Oz’s family issues, it was so fascinating and interesting. While a lot of it is nothing new, once again Katie McGarry does this fantastic job of making you feel empathy for those in a rough situation, and learning about Eli, Olivia, Razor, the gang, you get a sense of family, as well as a sense of fear. They don’t know how to function without each other, and as much as I didn’t like Emily or Oz, I found that when the novel focused on family aspects, it was the parts that would win me over.

Nowhere But Here is not a bad novel at all, and I think it will find it’s audience with ease. For me, I just had a hard time with the main characters and the romance, and yet I still found enjoyment with other aspects in the overall story. The book really does get off to a rocky start, but I am interested to see where she goes in book two, since y’know, Razor, is the protagonist this time. Even though I felt disappointed by this book, I am still willing to give the sequel a shot.

Late to the Party ARC Review – The Clouded Sky (Earth & Sky #2) by Megan Crewe

23199305Title: The Clouded Sky (Earth & Sky #2)

Author: Megan Crewe

Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: When seventeen-year-old Skylar escapes the time-bending Enforcers who secretly control Earth, her troubles have just begun. She and her friend Win take refuge on Win’s home space station with his fellow rebels, but the fate of Skylar’s planet still spins out of her control.

To avoid detection, Skylar poses as the Earthling “pet” of Win’s rival, an arrogant boy named Jule. Homesick and faced with a cool reception from the other rebels, she throws herself into the group’s mission: assembling a weapon to disable Earth’s restrictive time field. Gradually, Skylar’s skill for detail gains respect—even from Jule, who is more vulnerable than he lets on.

Yet challenges spring from every side. Not only must Sky navigate the muddy waters of romance, but suspicions of betrayal grow among the rebels as their work narrowly misses sabotage.

Huge thank you to Amazon Skyscape and Netgalley for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I really enjoyed Earth & Sky when I had read it last year, and part of me felt I needed that second book right away. Funny enough how things change, because the sequel, The Clouded Sky took me forever to get into — and it begins right where the last book leaves off!

I am struggling to put my finger on why I simply liked this sequel as opposed to loving it the way I did the first book. Part of it was I didn’t find myself instantly connected even though I still enjoyed these characters. I felt there was a bit too much going on, even though most of it was quite interesting. Weirdly this book felt more like a space thriller/mystery novel, and I liked and disliked that aspect. Again, it’s hard to put into words why this sequel didn’t entirely work for me.

I still love these characters, and I think the world building is still great. Being on Kemya the whole book was definitely quite the treat, and it was so fascinating the amount of detail Crewe put into the world. I still appreciate that the characters are in fact aliens and not just aliens looking like humans. Still, the action packed pacing in there, there’s lots of intrigue, and it is a solid sequel. I’m still on board for the last book, but for the life of me I wish I could figure out why I liked and not loved this one!