Title: The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch, Volume One: At the Edge of Empire
Author: Daniel Kraus
Synopsis: May 7, 1896. Dusk. A swaggering seventeen-year-old gangster named Zebulon Finch is gunned down on the shores of Lake Michigan. But after mere minutes in the void, he is mysteriously resurrected.
His second life will be nothing like his first.
Zebulon’s new existence begins as a sideshow attraction in a traveling medicine show. From there, he will be poked and prodded by a scientist obsessed with mastering the secrets of death. He will fight in the trenches of World War I. He will run from his nightmares—and from poverty—in Depression-era New York City. And he will become the companion of the most beautiful woman in Hollywood.
Love, hate, hope, and horror—Zebulon finds them. But will he ever find redemption?
Ambitious and heartbreaking, The Death & Life of Zebulon Finch, Volume 1: At the Edge of Empire is the epic saga of what it means to be human in a world so often lacking in humanity.
Huge Thank you to Simon & Schuster Canada for this ARC!
If I’m being frank, I had no idea what to expect from The Life and Death of Zebulon Finch. When I started reading it, it was one of those books I couldn’t powerthrough, and I’m a fast reader. I found myself completely absorbed into Zebulon’s narrative, as though he was enticing me word by word, enriching me with his long lasting history of what it means to be a living man who cannot die.
Part of what makes Zebulon Finch such an enchanting read is the character of Zebulon himself. There’s something about reading through his life and understanding where he’s been throughout the course of history. It’s interesting to see how Zebulon discusses the various folks whom he’s passed in his travels, as well as how he perhaps has influenced them. My personal favourite was Mary and Leather, and I loved that they stayed as an integral part of his story. Especially Mary, she was just downright fabulous and easily my favourite character.
Plus there’s so much genre bending in this story. While the book behaves like historical fiction, it is as much a horror and science fiction novel. It also has a very unique writing style that at times talks at the reader, which is something I think readers would have to get used to. I personally loved the style, but I could see it being something some readers may have trouble with, because it does make for such a different kind of storytelling.
Then there’s the world building — it’s an alternate history starting in 1896, right until the Depression. However, since he is a man who cannot die, it makes for such an interesting aspect considering he’s also completely on the run. Plus he’s in love with Mary Pickford! MARY PICKFORD! Canada’s Girl! Kraus has done a lot to stay true to historical events while also infusing it with his own style, and I just loved it.
I haven’t read too many novels like The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch, and while this took me a long time to read, it’s a book I savoured. Once I finished it, I was bitter I didn’t have Volume Two in my hands because I wanted to just keep going and see how Kraus would continue to alter history after that ending. If you love horror, or alternative history, then Zebulon Finchreally is worth tracking down. It has amazing characters, a rich word, and a protagonist who just keeps you guessing throughout. What more could you ask for?
Author: Sean Olin
Synopsis: What do you do if you find yourself fantasizing about kissing your best friend? Sensitive guitarist Jake has been asking himself that same question for a long time, and there’s no easy answer. Telling his dream girl –talented anime artist Elena– about his feelings might lead to the ultimate rejection, but not telling her just might kill him.
Before Jake can make his move, though, a new mysterious guy enters the picture in an unexpected way. In Elena’s mind, Harlow is excitement-personified: a rebellious yet kindred spirit who she instantly connected with online. Jake’s gut is telling him that something about Harlow is off, and that Elena is in way over her head, but the more Jake pushes the issue, the more he pushes Elena right into Harlow’s arms –and into a tragedy that neither of them would ever see coming.
Huge thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy of this for review!
So last year I tried to read the first book in the “Wicked Games” series and I could not get into it and had to drop it. I was surprised to get this from Harper and thought that since they’d sent me a copy I’d give it a try. Thankfully things went MUCH better this time around.
Overall this is a quick contemporary read. The writing isn’t anything special and I saw the twist coming a mile away. But I enjoyed the characters and the overall story. I would have liked more depth and more emotions… especially because Jake was supposed to be this deep, emotional guy. This was a very surface level story that was a bit predictable but like I said, I liked the characters.
I actually could relate very well with both Jake and Elena. I was in love with my best friend for a long time before I finally realized what a hot mess it was and left for good, so I could totally understand Jake’s reservations over telling Elena about his true feelings. I could also understand how hard it was for him to see her obsessing over another person. And I’ve been in the situation before where someone I held dear to me wanted MORE than I could offer in that relationship and how hard it was to want to be close to that person, but not in the way that they wanted. I really enjoyed the struggle that both Jake and Elena went through and it was so hard for me to choose who I wanted to root for.
I also like how anime played a part in this. It was fun that Elena was so into anime and that she enjoyed drawing and animating things. I was a bit wtf at Harlow and his insistence that it was super easy to just get animators in Japan to notice some stupid American teen, but at that point I knew that Harlow was a jack-off.
Overall if you enjoy YA contemporary and are looking for a quick read then this should fit that need. And if you liked the first book then you should like this and if you hated the first book know that this one was MUCH better.
Title: Hollowgirl (Twinmaker #3)
Author: Sean Williams
Synopsis: Clair’s world has been destroyed – again. The only remaining hope of survival is for her and Q to enter the Yard, a simulation as detailed – and as real – as the home they have lost. But in the Yard there are two Clair Hills. The other Clair is headstrong, impulsive, suspicious – just like Clair herself used to be, and their very existence is causing cracks. As Clair searches for a solution, a surprising new ally emerges from the ashes. Together they fight their way through the digital and political minefield in the hope of saving Jesse, her friends and the whole of humanity.
HUGE thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy for review!
I. LOVE. THESE. BOOKS!
I read Twinmaker back when it first came out and LOVED it. Then I read Crashland and while I really enjoyed it, I remember being confused about some things that I’d forgotten fromTwinmaker. So when I got a copy of this book I knew that I was going to be even MORE confused because I’d forgotten so much from the first book… so I did a re-read. I almost NEVER do this, and I am SO glad that I did. I HIGHLY recommend reading these books one after another, if not very closely after having finished the previous book because these books ARE complex. There IS a lot of science, a lot of people (and people dying, and then coming back… and then dying…) and just so much going on that if you can keep track of it all you’ll enjoy these books MUCH more than if you read them spaced out and forget important things.
I’m really surprised that in the WE NEED DIVERSE books movement and culture that we’re currently participating in that these books aren’t mentioned more. The MC is a POC and they live in a futuristic world where genders are fluid and same sex couples are the norm. It’s a very beautiful world (sadly not without terrorists and dictators) that I actually would love to live in. Science has advanced beyond our wildest imagination (or so we think! I wouldn’t be shocked to know that a lot of this stuff IS going to be happening soon if it hasn’t already happened). I don’t remember exactly, but I think the author is doing (was doing) his PhD on some of the science that he fictionalizes in this book. I’m going to need to check that out…
I LOVE the characters in this book. I love how diverse they are and how they all grow and make mistakes (some are HORRIBLE mistakes) and how they are always trying to do what’s right. There’s a lot of philosophy in these books and a lot of debate about ethics. Some things discusses in these books rings very true about our current society.
I highly recommend these books and really hope that everyone will check them out. Despite being on the thicker side, these are a quick read (I flew through all three in a week) and there are so many unpredictable twists and turns being thrown at you that you wont want to put them down!
Author: Tristan Bancks
Rating: ★ 1/2
Synopsis: When a twelve-year-old boy’s parents discover millions of dollars deposited into their bank account, they take him and his sister on the lam in this fast-paced middle-grade adventure.
Ben has always wanted to be a cop, so he’s intrigued when police officers show up at the door, asking for his parents. Then his parents arrive after the police leave and rush him and his sister into the car, insisting they are going on a vacation. Ben’s a little skeptical—his family doesn’t go on vacations. After they lose the police in a high-speed car chase and end up in a remote cabin deep in the woods, Ben discovers his parents’ secret: millions of dollars were deposited into their bank account by accident, and they took the money and ran off. Ben isn’t sure what to think. Are his parents criminals? And because he ran off with them, is he a criminal, too?
Huge thank you to Raincoast Books for this ARC!
Considering I decided to read this during the month of October, I was hoping for a much more spooky middle grade experience. On the Run in a lot of ways was not what I was expecting, as no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t suspense my disbelief enough.
Or rather, at all.
Part of the issue for me is that Ben reads so much younger than he is, yet will do things that you question how old he really is. The writing fell super flat for me, so in suspenseful moments, I didn’t find myself having the kind of emotional connection I think the author wanted me to have. I didn’t like the characters, and the only character I did like (Olive) wasn’t always handled very well in my opinion. A lot of the mannerism and behaviors from the characters felt so all over the place and as it went on, I started to care less and less.
If I’m being honest, I’m weirdly impressed but confused at the idea of Ben and Olive running off with over a million dollars and being able to hide it safely. I say this considering they are on their own for parts of the novel and any time they met someone I kept wondering why no one was really questioning them ON being alone. I recognize this book is supposed to have survivalist elements, but I couldn’t suspend my disbelief to see how any of the situations Ben got himself into could really be plausible.
I adore middle grade, especially those with a tougher concept in mind, but this book didn’t work for me at all. I just found myself bored by the writing and confused as to how a lot of the plot really occurred. That being said, I will still likely recommend it to middle graders at the library I work at because I do think they would enjoy the adventure aspects present in this story. For me personally, however, it just didn’t work.
Title: Bridget Wilder: Spy-in-Training
Author: Jonathan Bernstein
Synopsis: Middle school meets Mission Impossible in this hilarious tween series about a girl whose life is turned upside down when she discovers her father is a superspy.
Up until Bridget’s birthday, the most exciting moment in her life was when Dale Tookey maybe, sort of smiled at her one time. But that was before—before she found a mysterious gift bag at her doorstep, before she was transported to a covert CIA agency called Section 23, and before she became Bridget Wilder: Spy-in-Training. Now Bridget’s busting boys out of detention, being chauffeured by a talking car, and infiltrating the popular girls’ clique to steal secret codes, all while under cover as a semi-awkward middle school girl. But will she be able to keep up with her new action-packed life while hiding it from her family and friends? And what if Section 23 is keeping secrets of its own?
It is no secret—Bridget Wilder: Spy-in-Training is the start of an explosive new series packed with gadgets, humor, and, best of all: girl power.
Huge thank you to Harper Collins Canada for this ARC!
I must admit, I had never even heard of Bridget Wilder: Spy-in-Training until it appeared on my doorstep. I’m glad I gave this book a chance, because it is such a fun middle grade read filled with tons of action, great use of spy tropes, and has a delightful heroine who is easy to relate to.
Bridget is a Plain Jane with nothing remarkable about her… until she learns that she is the daughter of a famous spy. Going from unremarkable to spy-in-training, seems like a lot, but Bridget is determined to make it work somehow. I really loved Bridget as a character, and I thought the way the author showed how she goes through the ups and downs quite realistically. She wants to make friends, be noticed, and now that she’s a spy, she seems a lot more noticeable than she’d like.
What I liked about this novel is that there’s a lot of humour in it. Bridget has very over-reactive responses about her newfound training, and it’s written with a lot of charm. I also loved how dramatic a lot of the characters were in this book because it actually fit the overall tone of the story — it felt almost like reading a Saturday Morning Cartoon. Yet, at the same time, you can tell the author is a huge fan of spy movies because a lot of the tropes exist within the novel, but are presented in a way that the audience would understand. There’s definitely lots of name dropping and pop culture references, but the author was smart in that a lot of the them are geared towards the age group in question.
I feel like middle graders will gravitate towards this book because it’s a great adventure story with a delightful heroine. The characters in this book are funny, but easy to relate to. Bridget’s narrative is both fun and quirky, and she’s just so easy to root for. You want to watch her grow and succeed, and ultimately the novel does a great job of that. Definitely excited to see what adventures and hot messes Bridget will get into next! (Providing there is a sequel of course!)
Author: Allison van Diepen
Rating: ★★★ 1/2
Synopsis: Like any other Saturday night, Gabby Perez and her best friend, Maria, are out dancing. But this isn’t just another night. When a mysterious stranger warns Gabby their drinks have been drugged, she hurries Maria home. Sure enough, the next day, Maria can’t remember a thing. Gabby’s shaken by their close call. And she’s not going to stay quiet about it.
She opens up the airwaves on her radio show and discovers an even worse truth: the guy who drugged them was going to force them into prostitution. Then Gabby’s friend Bree never makes it home from a party, and Gabby fears the worst.
Gabby reaches out to the guy who saved her, the gorgeous stranger she knows only as X. As they dive into the seedy underworld of Miami, searching for Bree, they can’t ignore their undeniable attraction. Until Gabby discovers the truth about who X really is and the danger that surrounds him. Can their love survive the light of day?
Huge thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy of this to review!
So I didn’t read On the Edge even though I have an eARC of it and now that I know that this was a companion I might go back and read it someday. If you’ve read OTE, then you’ll be happy to know that Lobo and Maddie made an appearance in this book. This book and OTE both have the Destino gang connecting them, just fyi.
Anyways, I rather enjoyed this book. I wasn’t too sure about it when I got a copy of the publisher, but I thought I should give it a shot. I do enjoy edgy YA contemporary. I was surprised that for a book about street gangs, pimps and prostitution that it was actually rather wholesome. There’s a lot of good people doing not always the legal thing, but definitely the right thing.
So Gabby and her friend are at a club, hanging out with some blinged out thug who slips date rape drugs into their drinks. Gabby is tipped off by a sexy mystery guy named X who she thinks is an undercover cop. Gabby thankfully gets them out of the situation before things get out of control only to discover later that if X hadn’t been there the two girls probably would have ended up in a prostitution ring… the guy they were talking too wasn’t just a scumbag trying to drug girls… he was a pimp out looking for new girls to traffic.
Gabby is a radio DJ (she has an hour show on Sunday nights, it’s her dream to go to school for broadcasting) and she talks about what happened on the show. She wants to warn people, but instead she gets a target on her back. X thankfully is there to step in and help out… and what he really is shocks Gabby to her core.
Then one of Gabby’s classmates goes missing and X see’s her with a well known pimp. Wanting to save her friend, Gabby starts to help X, and she starts to fall in love with him.
So why do I think that this is so wholesome? It has a lot of really positive messages. It shows that you can overcome your origins and become a good person. There’s no judgement on people who choose to step off the beaten path. And Gabby is constantly showing that if you’re a smart girl who uses her brain that you can do anything, including saving yourself.
There were a couple of sub-plots that I really liked about Gabby’s family and friends too. Her family is very traditional and pushes her towards a more “practical” career. They also don’t like how outspoken she is and wish that she’d just settle down and be a “good” girl. They HATE that she broke up with her “perfect” boyfriend and are always on her case about how she treats people poorly. I was really upset with her family in the beginning of the book but I loved how things evolved and they became closer and accepted each other more towards the end. As for her friends… Gabby was once a popular girl because she was dating the popular guy. But the popular guy was a dick, and she broke up with him. He then spread rumors about her and made everyone hate her… so she found a new group of friends; a couple of loaner girls who were into paranormal things like spirit calling and psychics. I really liked how the group that Gabby fell in with went from being her default friends to her real friends and how even though they were “weird” she really began to enjoy her time with them even though they were so different from each other.
So overall this book has a lot of good messages and I really felt like I was reading something that teens can relate to and enjoy.