Monthly Archives: March 2016

ARC Review – This Is Where the World Ends by Amy Zhang

24039424Title: This Is Where the World Ends

Author:  Amy Zhang

Rating:  ★★★★

Synopsis: The heart-wrenching new novel about best friends on a collision course with the real world, from the author of Falling into Place.

Janie and Micah, Micah and Janie. That’s how it’s been ever since elementary school, when Janie Vivian moved next door. Janie says Micah is everything she is not. Where Micah is shy, Janie is outgoing. Where Micah loves music, Janie loves art. It’s the perfect friendship, as long as no one finds out about it.

Huge thank you to HarperTeen/Harper Collins Canada for these ARCs!

River’s Review:

I really loved Zhang’s first book and I was so excited for this. I actually didn’t read the synopsis that is here on GR until right now… the synopsis on the back of the ARC is very, very short and doesn’t give away anything that the synopsis on here does. It also doesn’t really match the way that Micah deals with what happened to Janie… so I guess if you can, don’t try to match the synopsis to the book too much?

Anyway, I think that it’s very refreshing to have an actual teen voice in YA. So often we talk about authenticity in the diversity of the characters and that we should have books written by diverse authors… but what about diversity in age? That’s something I haven’t really heard much of. So I really enjoy Zhang’s books because I feel like they give us an even deeper look into what actual teens go through? I’m also hella impressed with her writing. I know that when I was her age-ish my writing wasn’t anything like this.

So, I liked this book. I liked the writing and the way the story wast told. I like that Janie kinda knows she’s a manicpixiedreamgirl and that she wants to be one because it’s high school and bitch please you can do whatever you want in high school because when you graduate and leave your shit small town home town then you can actually be you’re real self. At least that’s what Janie does to justify her actions a lot of the time. Especially when it comes to boys. She knows that Micah is in love with her and she knows that she’ll end up with him in he long run, but she wants to have fun before settling down. Makes sense. I was actually in a similar situation (tho I was in Micah’s position) for my senior year of high school and all of college.

Yes this book is about a manipulative friendship. They exist. In teens in adults, in high school, college, work… they are out there. Sometimes they turn around and sometimes they don’t.

Yes there is rape in this book. It’s not the central topic (the friendship is) but it does lead to the final events in this book. I think that it was handled well, but that the full extent that the synopsis of this book leads you to believe isn’t quite shown. And while Micah never really fully figures out what happened, through not wanting to, being blind, and not believing, it doesn’t really feel like it’s this huge wedge in their friendship. I guess I would have liked a little more exploration within that.

Overall I think this book is very good, but maybe not as solid as Zhang’s debut. It is compelling and I couldn’t put it down (read it in a day) and fans of contemporary YA should really enjoy this.

Sam’s Review:

I adored Amy Zhang’s debut Falling Into Place. It was one of those books I couldn’t get out of my head the moment I finished it. The writing was gorgous, and she provided me with what felt like an authentic teen voice. I admit though — I have a thing about pretty-ugly people, and This Is Where the World Ends continues this loves. If only Goodreads hadn’t posted the major spoiler of this book as the blurb!

Janie and Micah are inseperable, and it’s to the point where they have this disturbing toxic relationship built upon co-dependency. When janie goes missing, Micah spends a lot of the novel contemplating his relationship with her, while also potentially believing that he may have been the cause. In the before segments of the novel, we are looking at Janie and her need to feel wanted by others. It’s also about her “relationship” with both Micah and Anders, and the personal apocalyse that she creates. She is raped, feels as though no one will believe her, and questions if anyone really gives a crap about her. At the same time, however, Janie is someone who emotionally manipulates others, and has no problem bringing people down a peg. She’s not a nice person in the slightest, but rape is not something you wish upon someone either.

I felt for both characters in the story, even though I was so frusrated and angry by their actions. A lot of the characters in this book are unlikable, mean, ugly, but they feel so realistic and important. There’s no kindness nor justice in the world that Zhang illusrates, and you get this dire sense that human decency is a dead art form. There’s so much victim blaming, aggression, and it made me so sad. Especially when we learn what the metaphors mean… it really affected me.

I also appreciate the protrayal of friendship in this novel, as it’s the main focus. While it’s not the kind fo friendship one wants to have, it makes so much sense in the relationship that Zhang has painted for Micah and Janie. It’s disturbing, raw, playful, and I loved all those elements about it. While I can’t say I enjoyed this book as much as Falling Into Place, I still feel like this novel offers an autheentic voice that we need more of in YA. This book is definitely recommended for those who love diverse relationships and screwed up friendships.

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Blog Tour – Gena/Finn by Hannah Moskowitz & Kat Helgeson (Review and Q&A)

Gena/Finn is one of those books where if you grew up loving a fandom so hard with your friends, you’ll appreciate it from head to toe. When I learned about its existence during the #TeensRead event hosted by Raincoast, I knew I had to get my paws on this book. If I’m being honest, this book brought up a lot of great memories and was everything I hoped it would be.

Huge thanks for Raincoast, as well as the authors, for letting me in on this blog tour, and into their worlds. Even if it’s only a little bit.


19254725Title: Gena/Finn

Author: Hannah Moskowitz & Kat Helgeson

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Gena (short for Genevieve) and Finn (short for Stephanie) have little in common. Book-smart Gena is preparing to leave her posh boarding school for college; down-to-earth Finn is a twenty-something struggling to make ends meet in the big city. Gena’s romantic life is a series of reluctant one-night-stands; Finn is making a go of it with long-term boyfriend Charlie. But they share a passion for Up Below, a buddy cop TV show with a cult fan following. Gena is a darling of the fangirl scene, keeping a popular blog and writing fan fiction. Finn’s online life is a secret, even from Charlie. The pair spark an unlikely online friendship that deepens quickly (so quickly it scares them both), and as their individual “real” lives begin to fall apart, they increasingly seek shelter online, and with each other.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:
Gena/Finn is a book that brought up a lot for memories for me. The majority of my university years were spent with people loving and worshiping fandoms. From cheesy Canadian televisions shows such as The Collector to the fantastically aged video game series Suikoden, the majority of the friends that I have came from being a part of a fandom.

This book is told in a mixed media format: chat logs, e-mails, text logs, blog posts, litter the pages this book from beginning to end. It’s actually perfect given how this story is being told. Gena is a young girl who has a secret identity, while Finn is a twenty-five year old recent college grad who is trying to find where she fits into the world. She has the perfect boyfriend, but he doesn’t seem as interested in her fannish life.

The story of Gena/Finn hit so close to home as I was reading it. It reminded me of my university days where I would spend hours looking through message boards (we didn’t have tumblr when I was growing up), I ran a successful Suikoden role-playing community over on Livejournal, and I even shared that love with my friends. We all felt as though we were sharing all our loves and passions, and that is totally reflected in both heroines, Gena and Finn.

When fandom and real life begin to collide and feelings become apart of the equation, this novel loses a bit of the fannish edge in favour of pushing the larger parts of the narrative forward, while still inserting fannish aspects when possible. It’s delightful, heartbreaking, emotional, and I found I could identify with both heroines a lot of the time. The only character I couldn’t identify with was Charlie, seeing as my husband has been a large influence in my life when it comes to fandoms as well. However, I could totally understand and even empathize with him and his personal feelings through the novel.

Fandom often gets such a tough rap and treated as something to be misunderstood. Gena/Finn remind us that fandom came bring people together in remarkable ways. There’s so much love and attention to detail in this novel, and I loved the positive memories that it reminded me of as I was reading it. This story just gave me all the feels, and it’s a book I plan on buying for all my fannish ladyfriends because dammit fandom friendships are rad.


Q&A with Hannah Moskowitz & Kat Helgeson!

As always, Raincoast has allowed all the blog tour participants to ask the authors a question or two in regards to their novel. Here’s what I asked to Hannah and Kat in regards to Gena/Finn!

What is your favourite fannish memory? What fandom do you feel defines a lot of your
personality?

KAT: Before Gena/Finn was a thing, Hannah and I used to write fanfiction together on
occasion. So there was this one night when we’d come up with a project we wanted to start
together. We were up all night hashing out the details – creating a place to host the
stories, making art, outlining what was going to happen. We had a few nights like that
when we were working on Gena/Finn, but I think working on this fanfiction project was the
first. It was the kind of epic all-nighter you can only have with your best friend.

HANNAH: My favorite fannish memory is when I met the stars of Degrassi on their mall
tour. I made them shirts with quotes their characters said on the show. I’m sure Drake
still wears his all the time. (Sam’s Note: We can only hope so, Hannah!)


And that’s a wrap for this blog tour! Huge thank you to both Hannah Moskowitz and Kat Helgeson for taking time out of their schedules to answer some questions, and an equally large thank you to Raincoast for allowing me the chance to participate on the tour. If you’d like to see where the Gena/Finn blog tour is heading to next, check out the tour schedule below. Remember: fandom is delightful, and some of the best folks you will ever meet, will be because you loved the same thing so damn hard. 🙂

blogtour

Late to the Party ARC Review – The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman

15993203Title: The Dark Days Club

Author:  Alison Goodman

Rating:  ★★★

Synopsis: London, April 1812. On the eve of eighteen-year-old Lady Helen Wrexhall’s presentation to the queen, one of her family’s housemaids disappears-and Helen is drawn into the shadows of Regency London. There, she meets Lord Carlston, one of the few who can stop the perpetrators: a cabal of demons infiltrating every level of society. Dare she ask for his help, when his reputation is almost as black as his lingering eyes? And will her intelligence and headstrong curiosity wind up leading them into a death trap?

Huge thank you to Razorbill Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I am insanely torn with how I feel about The Dark Days Club. This was a book adored by so many of my friends, and it hard everything I should have loved in a story: regency era politics, paranormal magic fun times, and in depth, gorgeous world-building.

And yet, I was bored for large chunks of this novel. It seemed like Goodman had so much she wanted to build in this story, so there would be these periods where I was completely in love and engaged with the story, and other moments where I found myself screaming “GET ON WITH IT!” It’s a book that just felt like such a mixed bag — if the world building was on and awesome, then the characters felt flat. If the world building was boring, the characters oddly seemed more engaging. I feel like this book is just too difficult to describe, but it made my emotions flip flop all over the place.

For me, there are chunks of this novel that are just perfectly described, and then other moments where I found myself slogging through the text to get to the good bits. I loved the last hundred pages of the story, while the middle just felt like it carried on too long. I admit, I think so much was just built up in this story that the characters were just missing the spark for me. I wanted more from them, and I wanted to have a strong connection… but it never quite happened. The pacing is slow and deliberate, but even then I felt like I was missing something a lot of the time.

I feel like The Dark Days Club is going to be a polarizing read for a lot of folks. This was my first Alison Goodman book, and I do plan on giving her another shot given that I have Eon sitting on my shelves. I’m unsure as to whether or not I will continue with this series, as it’s interesting, but it didn’t quite keep my attention. This is great for lovers of paranormal, as well as historical fiction, and I do think it’s worth the shot if you can handle a slower burn read.

ARC Review – Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston

25528801Title: Exit, Pursued by a Bear

Author:  E.K. Johnston

Rating:  ★★★★★

Synopsis: Hermione Winters is captain of her cheerleading team, and in tiny Palermo Heights, this doesn’t mean what you think it means. At PHHS, the cheerleaders don’t cheer for the sports teams; they are the sports team—the pride and joy of a tiny town. The team’s summer training camp is Hermione’s last and marks the beginning of the end of…she’s not sure what. She does know this season could make her a legend. But during a camp party, someone slips something in her drink. And it all goes black.

In every class, there’s a star cheerleader and pariah pregnant girl. They’re never supposed to be the same person. Hermione struggles to regain the control she’s always had and faces a wrenching decision about how to move on. The assault wasn’t the beginning of Hermione Winter’s story and she’s not going to let it be the end. She won’t be anyone’s cautionary tale.

Huge thank you to Razorbill Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

This. book. There is nothing like this out there in terms of novels that focus on rape victims receiving support. That alone makes it a unique read, as our heroine Hermione must cope with the fact that she has been raped, but chooses to never let it define her being.

I adored E.K Johnston’s previous novel A Thousand Nights, but I think Exit, Pursued by a Bear might be the stronger novel of the two for me. Hermione’s voice is so strong and constant, she is someone the reader can sympathize with, but she’s also someone who easily sympathizes with others. It’s also a book that explores rape and victim culture so differently, as Hermione has an amazing support network, she gets help, she attempts to come to terms with what has happened by reliving it when her cheer team goes to finals. Her narrative often left me thinking, particularly about why books like this don’t seem to exist.

I also loved that this novel took place in Ontario. Since it’s my home province I found it so easy to visualize a lot of the places Hermione went, the name dropping of different cities. There was so much that felt so familiar in this story, and it made for such an engaging experience. I loved Hermione’s friends, especially Polly, and I loved how being supportive of each other plays into this story. It’s just so unheard of, let alone strange to read about given that most books focus more of blame and shamming.

We need more books like Exit, Pursued by a Bear that focus on the support and healing process for victims of any kind of sexual assault. These books are so far and few between and it’s so disappointing given that these stories can often be just as compelling as the incident itself. This book is beautiful, haunting, and there’s just such a wonderful and deep rooted message about finding support in a time of crisis, and how people often struggle to work through traumatizing events. Hermione’s story is completely worth experiencing, and this novel has me excited to see just what E.K Johnston is capable of as a writer.

Book Review – Dead Endings by Jessica Chavez & Irene Flores

23363286Title: Dead Endings

Author:  Jessica Chavez & Irene Flores

Rating:  ★★★★★

Synopsis: In the city that never sleeps, spirits are equally restless and vie for the attentions of those who can sense them. Cailen Delaney, grad student and long-suffering ghost magnet, would rather spend her break getting reacquainted with her pillow, but is instead dragged into the aftermath of a strange series of murders by Everett Jung. Join Jessica Chavez (author) and Irene Flores (illustrator) through the streets of modern New York in this darkly comedic mystery about the connection between life and death…and how sometimes, literally, the separation is razor-thin.

Sam’s Review:

This review may seem a tad bias since I am friends with the author, but screw it, even if I wasn’t friends with her I probably still would have loved this book.

This book. Oh lord this book, did I laugh, cry and have all the feelings. Jessica Chavez, if you aren’t familiar with her work in video games, is a fantastic localization writer, but if I’m frankly, she’s just a fantastic writer writer (and she would kill me for the multiple uses of ‘fantastic’ and ‘writer’, on the other hand, I have stoked her ego as well!)

Dead Endings follows grad student who is a ghost magnet Cailen Delaney, and her alcohol-fueled misadventures in dealing with the undead who are refusing to rest. She’s sassy, snarky, and really just wishes you’d leave her the hell alone. Along with the head of her roommate, Gabriela and the quirky Everett, together they attempt to engage the spirits so regular folk don’t have to.

The story is this great blend of snark and seriousness. Chavez really knows how to play to her strengths in writing, mainly in her skill of writing witty character banter. There’s strong character interaction as well, and it makes for a real delight when the trio are together. Couple this with Irene Florez’s beautiful illustration work, and it just makes for an awesome experience. Seriously, they are gorgeous and they really being Chavez’s words to life in a way that makes for a great reading experience.

If you love snark, booze humour, paranormal adventures, and quirky characters, Dead Endings will delight from start to finish. I look forward to whatever else Jessica writers in the feature, and I can only hope there will be much more in the Dead Endings universe.

Late to the Party ARC Review – A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic by Lisa Papademetriou

24585386Title: A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic

Author:  Lisa Papademetriou

Rating:  ★★★★

Synopsis: Kai and Leila are both finally having an adventure. For Leila, that means a globe-crossing journey to visit family in Pakistan for the summer; for Kai, it means being stuck with her crazy great-aunt in Texas while her mom looks for a job. In each of their bedrooms, they discover a copy of a blank, old book called The Exquisite Corpse. Kai writes three words on the first page—and suddenly, they magically appear in Leila’s copy on the other side of the planet. Kai’s words are soon followed by line after line of the long-ago, romantic tale of Ralph T. Flabbergast and his forever-love, Edwina Pickle. As the two take turns writing, the tale unfolds, connecting both girls to each other, and to the past, in a way they never could have imagined.

Huge thank you to Harper Collins Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

This book got me through a rough patch, let me tell you. Being trapped in the hospital waiting on my very ill mother, I needed a book that I could smile my way through, and A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic actually fit the bill. While it has it’s emotional moments, this was one of those books that just had so much charm and personality, making it compulsively readable.

While this book is written in both Leila and Kai’s perspectives, my actually favourite parts in the novel came in the form of The Exquisite Corpse, the book the girls use to write back and forth to each other. I loved how imaginative this story is, and how on point a lot of the humour is. The book talks back! It has OPINIONS! There’s just so much to love about the humour in this book, and I may have laughed out loud more than once reading this book.

Funny enough though, I loved the way this book is written. It’s very fourth wall breaking and cheeky. It’s as though the characters know, but don’t know what is actually going on and it makes for a charming narrative. I also loved it’s approach to integrating cultures (though to be fair, I found Leila to be the more interesting of the two heroines, Kai’s chapters didn’t interest me as much, nor did I find them as strong, except for Doodle who was perfect). I felt as though I was learning so much about the girl’s home lives and how they view the world around them.

A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic soars with imagination and is great for readers who love to laugh and be taken out of their seats and transported to somewhere both different yet familiar. There’s fantastic and charming characters, and while this book is short, it packs a sharp punch in terms of its whimsical nature. This is definitely a must read for middle grade lovers, and younger readers who love letting their imaginations soar to crazy places.

ARC Review – Into the Dim by Janet B. Taylor

26028989Title: Into the Dim

Author: Janet B. Taylor

Rating: ★

Synopsis: Being “the homeschooled girl,” in a small town, Hope Walton’s crippling phobias and photographic memory don’t help her fit in with her adoptive dad’s perfectly blonde Southern family. But when her mother is killed in a natural disaster thousands of miles from home, Hope’s secluded world crumbles. After an aunt she’s never met invites her to spend the summer in Scotland, Hope discovers that her mother was more than a brilliant academic. She’s a member of a secret society of time travelers, and is actually trapped in the twelfth century in the age of King Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. Now Hope must conquer her numerous fears and travel back in time to help rescue her mother before she’s lost for good. Along the way, she’ll discover more family secrets, and a mysterious boy who could be vital to setting her mother free… or the key to Hope’s undoing.

Thank you to HMH Books for Young Readers & Netgalley for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I can’t remember the last time I was angry reading a book. Like, really angry. But here you have it,Into the Dim managed to set me off as I was reading it, because I simply couldn’t get over what people think teens are like. Part of the issue is — this isn’t a YA novel at all. It doesn’t feel like one, and if anything it has the trapping of an adult romance novel, which I didn’t like one bit. Furthermore when it tries to be a YA novel, it just fails because it spends more time focusing on stereotypes that are already exemplified in other novels.

This book is being marketed as Outlander for teens, but if I’m being frank, teens should go readOutlander over this novel. The kinds of cliches that exist in this novel are so problematic, and I think if teens wanted a good romance novel, they could do better than Into the Dim. This book is big on slut-shamming, and suggests that aggressive and abusive men are perfectly suitable love interests.

Hope disgusts me as a heroine because she falls into the trapping of the “poor girl who doesn’t know she’s beautiful, but omg everyone thinks she’s beautiful.” The worst part is she makes such stupid decisions throughout the novel and is perfectly okay with an abusive male character. Collum is worst than Hope, as he’s described as being perfect looking, yet his only personality trait is that he is “aggressive.” Because all Scottish men are aggressive, and angry, and mopey. Again, we could do better than this. His treatment of female characters in the novel is so problematic and thinking back to the story just makes me seeth with anger.

Then there’s the time travel element which is just a hot mess. It makes very little sense, and while it’s important to the story between Hope and her mother, it doesn’t feel as prevelient as it should. The level of stereotyping, especially the intrpretation of Scottish people is just odd. It’s hard to really care about the characters in this story because they are either so mean or just have zero personality beyond “he’s handsome but mean” and “she’s pretty, but so so plain.” Again, readers can do so much better.

I think there’s this notion that teens aren’t smart enough to go beyond sterotypes and trappings within the genre, and that’s disappointing. I kept hoping it would get more interesting considering how much I love time travel stories, but this one just felt flat and confusing a lot of the time. I didn’t feel like I fully grasped what the author was trying to get at in the Dims usage beyond it being a connection between mother and daughter. It’d be interesting if both characters didn’t behave like such horrible people.

And that is ultimately my issue with this book. Nothing felt cohesive or even interesting! What this book represents is this logic that slut-shamming and one dimensional story telling is an acceptable practice. There are better written adult romance novels than this book. I just can’t recommend Into the Dim, because it just offers a message that I can’t get behind, and further perpetuates stereotypes that don’t need that. Don’t waste your time on this chunker of a novel, it’s easily worth the skip.