Monthly Archives: May 2016

ARC Review – Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes

22297294Title: Girl Against the Universe

Author: Paula Stokes

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: No matter how many charms she buys off the internet or good luck rituals she performs each morning, horrible things happen when Maguire is around. Like that time the rollercoaster jumped off its tracks. Or the time the house next door caught on fire. Or that time her brother, father, and uncle were all killed in a car crash—and Maguire walked away with barely a scratch.

It’s safest for Maguire to hide out in her room, where she can cause less damage and avoid meeting new people who she could hurt. But then she meets Jordy, an aspiring tennis star. Jordy is confident, talented, and lucky, and he’s convinced he can help Maguire break her unlucky streak. Maguire knows that the best thing she can do for Jordy is to stay away. But it turns out staying away is harder than she thought.

Huge thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy of this for review!

Molly’s Review:

I really liked this book! I’ve always had a soft spot for books/movies/TV shows about people trying their best at a sport. Maybe because I’ve always wished that I could be good at a sport, but instead gave up on the one that I really loved 😦

ANYWAY! This is a book about Maguire, a girl who believes that she is bad luck. She thinks that she’s cursed and that the Universe is against her. Bad things seem to happen around her: her brother, father and Uncle died in a car crash while she survived, friends have gotten sick, accidents have happened, houses have burned. Maguire chooses to see the bad and she isolates herself from her family and friends. Her mother finally gets her into therapy and her therapist encourages her to make a list of challenges to face so that she can hopefully conquer her fears and go on an international trip with her mother to visit her grandmother.

I loved the topics dealt with in this book. Magical thinking is something that I don’t feel gets spoken about enough. Often YA books focus on the more “hot topic” mental illnesses (which is fine, I think that talking about depression and other mental illnesses is SUPER important). I think that everyone in the WORLD falls prey to magical thinking. I know that I often find that my husband and I fight around holiday celebrations and I often say things like “we shouldn’t even bother celebrating, only bad things happen when we do”. It’s also socially accepted to have good luck rituals (knocking on wood, blowing off eye lashes that have fallen onto someone’s cheek, etc) that are considered normal if we don’t view them as magical thinking. And ya know, some magical thinking CAN be good. Believing that you can do something, telling yourself that today is going to be good… that can all be very positive. But the focus on the negative magical thinking in this book was really well done, relate-able, and realistic.

The characters in this book were really fun and I loved watching Maguire grow. She makes friends, falls for a great guy, and gets closer to her family. She does have moments when she doesn’t believe in herself and she fails her challenges or regresses back to old habits, but that’s what made this book realistic. I LOVED how supportive everyone was of her and it was really hopeful feeling that if you do have something that might be considered “different” or “weird” that if you find the right people they’ll be totally supportive and accepting.

The positive portrayal of therapy was also very refreshing. I often times find that books for teens have very negative therapist-patient relationships and I really like it when they seem healthy and helpful.

I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about where the ending was going and was almost a little mad that things seemed to be coming full circle and I did NOT understand how Maguire was ever going to be able to move on with her life, but then when something really amazingly good came out of it, I just felt so happy and everything felt so right.

Def check out this book, it is SO good.

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ARC Review – Circle of Jinn (Becoming Jinn #2) by Lori Goldstein

18046383Title: Circle of Jinn (Becoming Jinn #2)

Author: Lori Goldstein

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Being Jinn is Azra’s new reality. As she grants wishes under the watchful eye of the Afrit council, she remains torn between her two worlds—human and Jinn. Soon, secrets spill. Zars are broken. Humans become pawns. And rumors of an uprising become real as the Afrit’s reach extends beyond the underground world of Janna.

Straddling the line becomes impossible. Aware of her unique abilities, Azra must not just face but embrace her destiny. But when the role she must play and those she must protect expand to include a circle of Jinn greater than her own, Azra will be forced to risk everything. A risk that means there’s everything to lose, and at the same time, everything to gain—for herself and her entire Jinn race.

Huge thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy of this for review!

Molly’s Review:

This is the perfect conclusion to the Jinn duology. If you were a fan of the first book then you’ll enjoy this one! This story picks up where the first book left off, and you can see how Goldstein has grown as a writer. The writing is very clean and she has a very strong YA voice. I really enjoyed how much Azra and her Zar sister’s have grown in this book too.

I actually ended up enjoying this book even more than the first one. Azra has a lot of hard choices to make and she’s much smarter about the things that she does. She also makes new friends and finds out a lot of secrets. There are some sad parts in this that really got to me, and the end was very heartwarming.

Overall I really enjoyed these books and I can’t wait to see what Goldstein write’s next!

ARC Review – Relativity by Antonia Hayes

25814254Title: Relativity

Author: Antonia Hayes

Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: Twelve-year-old Ethan Forsythe, an exceptionally talented boy obsessed with physics and astronomy, has been raised alone by his mother in Sydney, Australia. Claire, a former professional ballerina, has been a wonderful parent to Ethan, but he’s becoming increasingly curious about his father’s absence in his life. Claire is fiercely protective of her talented, vulnerable son—and of her own feelings. But when Ethan falls ill, tied to a tragic event that occurred during his infancy, her tightly-held world is split open.

Thousands of miles away on the western coast of Australia, Mark is trying to forget about the events that tore his family apart, but an unexpected call forces him to confront his past and return home. When Ethan secretly intercepts a letter from Mark to Claire, he unleashes long-suppressed forces that—like gravity—pull the three together again, testing the limits of love and forgiveness.

Huge thank you to Simon & Schuster Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Relativity was a book I had heard nothing about until it appeared in my mailbox. I’ve been trying to get myself to read more adult fiction again, despite running a mainly MG and YA focused blog. There’s a lot of good in this book, though for me there was also a lot that held it back as well.

The book follows three main characters, Claire, Mark and Ethan, who are all family. Ethan has a unique generic case where he is able to see physics. He also has been separated from his father, Mark, for many years and wants to be reunited with him. Claire, Ethan’s mother, believes that the amount of sacrifices she had made for her family has amounted to her neglecting her own needs in life, but still feels as though she can’t put her needs before that of her child.

I really dug the emotional struggles that were present in the novel, because each of the characters all had different problems resulting in a need for wanting to be selfish. Claire has made sacrifices to no end but doesn’t feel valued, Mark wants his career and a family but doesn’t want to make either of these actually work, and Ethan is the product of two people who in a lot of ways didn’t necessarily want him for different reasons. It’s really sad to watch a lot of these people falling a part and the novel doesn’t really allow them to entirely get back together either.

That being said, while the plot was interesting, the writing was kind of bland. It was either over saturated in metaphors or everything felt so plain and direct. While I could sense the emotional struggles within the characters, sometimes I felt like the writing wasn’t able to convey that strongly. It definitely had it’s heartfelt moments, which I think fit the tone of the story well, and I liked the level of research that went into describing Ethan’s Shaken Baby Syndrome, and the backstory to that was intriguing, but I wish the writing did a better job of making me emote as a reader.

Relativity is a decent read, and I think for some readers will be an easy book to connect with. The overall story is really interesting and well put together, even if I found the writing a bit overdone or even lacking in places. It’s great for those though who want to be invested in a small scale story with only a handful of characters.

Five Books From the #TeensReadFeed Fall Preview That I Need

Last weekend I had the opportunity to attend Raincoast’s Fall Book Preview. This event was to highlight upcoming titles releasing in the fall, and what was shown was quite a range of works, from new mystery and thriller titles, to epic sounding middle grade novels. There were two events, one in Vancouver and the other in Toronto. The Toronto people were able to interact with the Vancouver people via Google Hangouts.

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Once we were ushered in, there were many treats to be obtained, homemade lemonade (so delicious) and other snacks. We were also given a grab bag with posters, bookmarks, and a few ARCs that were being highlighted in the event. Here’s my pile, and let me say, I am excited to read all three of these!

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There was also a special guest, Eileen Cook, who wrote With Malice. During that section of the event readers were able to ask Eileen questions about her writing process, the novel, and some of her recent favourite reads. I really enjoyed listening to her discuss the writing process and where the inspiration came for With Malice. She was also just delightfully candid and entertaining as well. If you want to check out With Malice, it releases on June 7th 2016.

Now, you are all probably wondering what books were highlighted at the event, and there was a lot of them. I’m not going to go through the entire list, but rather share with you the five books that I came out of the event desiring the most. So without further ado, let’s highlight some of the most wanted titles!

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Missy Piggle-Wiggle and the Whatever Cure
by Ann M. Martin, Annie Parnell, Ben Hatke (Release Date: September 6th 2016 by Feiwel & Friends)

Surprise! I bet you weren’t expecting a middle grade title to be my most anticipated book from the event, but here we are. I ADORED Ann M. Martin’s Rain Reign and it was one of my favourite books the year I read it. I also am a huge lover of Ben Hatke’s artwork, so to have two people who’s works I love be in the same book? It’s a win for me. Missy Piggle-Wiggle sounds delightful charming, in the vein of books likes The Penderwicks, which I love. This one looks fun, quirky, and I think the team on this can totally stick the landing.

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A Darkly Beating Heart
by Lindsay Smith (Release Date: October 25th 2016 by Roaring Brook Press)

Japan? Time travel? Lindsay Smith knows how to write historical novels and give them interesting twists. This novel moves between modern day Japan and the 19th century, and focuses on LGBT issues in Japan. Not to mention it sounds like quite the thrill ride, and who doesn’t love a good timeslip story where the heroine fights for injustice in two realms? Could be fantastic!

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Vassa in the Night
by Sarah Porter (Release Date: September 20th 2016 by Tor Teen)

First off, this cover. This cover is beautiful. Second, the book is inspired by the Russian folktale Vassilissa the Beautiful, which I had never heard of and did some research on. This book sounds eerie, but also intriguing. There’s witch’s, curses, and it’s all done in the backdrop if Brooklyn. Definitely could be an interesting fantasy pick to recommend when I’m working with teens at the library. BUT HOLY SMOKES THIS COVER.

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With Malice
by Eileen Cook (Release Date: June 7th 2016 by HMH Books for Young Readers)

Okay, so this one is a cheat, given the author was at the event. This is also not a fall title being released (DON’T JUDGE!), but after hearing Eileen Cook talk about this one, I know it’s a book I’d probably enjoy quite a bit. There’s a lot of mystery surrounding Jill, and I am a sucker for a revenge story, and a book that takes place in Italy. I am definitely going to be grabbing this when it releases, and I’m glad it’s getting a lot of positive attention from bloggers as well.

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Gertie’s Leap to Greatness
by Kate Beasley (Release Date: October 4th 2016 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)

This debut middle grade novel features illustrations by Jillian Tamaki and a zombie bull frog. How can anyone say no to these things? I certainly can’t. We have a heroine who wants to be the greatest fifth grader that ever lived, and how can you not love a heroine who has a lot of conviction? Gertie sounds AWESOME and it looks like the kind of book I’d love to read and likely read in one sitting. Awesomeness to come? I think so!

And there you have it! Are any of these books on your radar? They probably should be. A huge thank you to Raincoast for inviting me to the event and being able to share there upcoming titles with all the bloggers in attendance. I had an amazing time, and I hope that all five of these books live up to the hype that I’ve put into my brain. When you have books like these, it’s no wonder why fall is an exciting time in the publishing industry!

ARC Review – Unrivaled (Beautiful Idols #1) by Alyson Noel

26116460Title: Unrivaled (Beautiful Idols #1)

Author: Alyson Noel

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Everyone wants to be someone. Layla Harrison wants to leave her beach-bum days for digs behind a reporter’s desk. Aster Amirpour wants to scream at the next casting director who tells her “we need ethnic but not your kind of ethnic.” Tommy Phillips dreams of buying a twelve-string guitar and using it to shred his way back into his famous absentee dad’s life. But Madison Brooks took destiny and made it her bitch a long time ago.

She’s Hollywood’s hottest starlet, and the things she did to become the name on everyone’s lips are merely a stain on the pavement, ground beneath her Louboutin heel.

Huge thank you to HarperCollins for sending me a copy of this book for review!

Molly’s Review:

So I wasn’t going to read this book when I first heard about it. The author alone put me off it (I wasn’t a huge fan of some over her previous work) and then I saw the huge international deal that it got and I was like ‘whelp, here comes the hype monster”.

Yet somehow this book hasn’t really been all that hyped up? It arrived with a fancy VIP invitation attached to it and then I read the synopsis and I thought it sounded like the type of ugly-pretty-people stories that I like. So I gave it and try and I liked it.

But I still don’t get it. This book is another Pretty-Little-Liars-Gossip-Girl-The-Lying-Game types and there’s nothing really special or important about it. It’s a fun read about the seedy night life of LA and there’s little bit of a mystery to it and a lot of brand name dropping, but other than brain candy it’s not like AMAZING.

But I did like it?

I totally think that people who love Gossip Girl or Pretty Little Liars will really enjoy it. But much as with those books (oh I also think fans of the 90210 TV reboot would love this too) they aren’t much more than a beach read (but hey, summer is coming!!!)

So grab a copy and take it to the beach and enjoy it for what it’s worth.

Ten Comics & Graphic Novels You Should Check Out! May 2016 Edition

Despite all the sad that’s been in my life lately, graphic novels and comics have definitely been a thing I’ve been clinging towards. They are quick, easy reads that can be enjoyed in a lot of different forms. I haven’t done a recommendation post for comics and graphic novels in awhile, so here’s some new favourites and others I think are worth checking out.

Previous Posts:

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Goldie Vance #1
by Hope Larson, Brittany Williams, & Sarah Stern

My best friend tossed this little gem of a comic over to me recently and let me tell you: it’s spunky, cheeky, and a whole heck of a lot of fun. It feels like a fresher take on Scooby-Doo and stories that are inspired by that era. The characters, especially our heroine, Goldie, are just really cleverly written and delightfully charming. I’ve only read the first issue (of four) and considering where the plot line is going, i think it’s going to continue to win my heart over.

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The Pitiful Human-Lizard series
by Jason Loo

OH MY GOD THIS SERIES. It is perfect in so many ways, and if you are a Torontoian, there’s a lot more you can appreciate as a reader of this comic. Pitiful Human Lizard is a very weird hero, a loser who we can all root for. But he isn’t even the star in his own comics, because Mother Wonder is just… she’s the best. Oh, and Lizard’s mom. I love his tiger mom. There’s currently six issues out of this comic, and it’s definitely worth grabbing for those who love twists on the superhero formula along with great writing and artwork.

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Zatanna: The Mistress of Magic 
by Paul Dini, Stephane Roux, et al.

Zatanna is an amazing superheroine who really never gets her due. It’s a shame really, because she’s such a clever little minx, who offers readers tons of magic and fun. Plus this series is written by Paul Dini, the ultime Zatanna fanboy. But seriously, her solo run is easily one of the most fun I’ve had the pleasure of reading, and there’s a lot of creativity that is done with her character that other DC heroines just don’t get. There’s only two trades for this series, and both are worth checking out.

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Soppy: A Love Story
by Philippa Rice

Everyone should read Soppy, regardless of whether you’ve been in a relationship or not. It’s such a true to life series of comics that remind you what it’s like to be so in love with someone, that even the simplest things can bring you joy. I couldn’t help but yell at my husband about this book and some of the stuff that was happening in it and screaming “THIS IS US HONEY!!!” and him going “Okay, Sam. You’re nuts.” Then looking and agreeing. This book with make your heart flutter with fluffiness, and we all need some fluffiness every now and again.

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Tomboy: A Graphic Memoir
by Liz Prince

Tomboy by Liz Prince is a graphic memoir that really spoke to me. It is about Liz Prince’s experience growing up as a “tomboy” and how she dislikes gender stereotypes of what it means to be male or female. In a lot of ways she reminds us how cruel those stereotypes can be, and how people regardless of age she be able to promote themselves any way they want. There’s a lot of heart and soul in this memoir, and I loved my time with it. Definitely worth the read for those who want more meaningful exchanges in their graphic novels.

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Power Up 
by Kate Leth, Matt Cummings

I LOVE POWER UP! This is a comic that bends gender norms and stereotypes and it is HILARIOUS! Amazing characters, quirky adventures, beautiful artwork, this is one of those graphic novels for those who love crazy characters with hearts of gold. How can you not love an art student, a stay at home mom, an ageing athlete and a goldfish as a superhero team? Best superhero team ever! (Screw you, Justice League and Avengers!)

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Descender, Vol 1: Tin Stars (Descender #1)
by Jeff Lemire, Dustin Nguyen, & Steve Wands

Descender is a wonderful, mysterious series penned by Jeff Lemire. This means it’s an instant read for considering how much I adore his work. It also features Dustin Nguyen’s stunning artwork, which is AMAZING and wonderfully detailed. TIM-21 will steal your heart on his quest to survive in a world where bounty hunters wish to capture robots for… various gains. I really am excited to see where this series goes, and it’s one of those comics that makes you long for space adventures. Fantastic comic series for those who love space and robots… or both!

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Giant Days 
by John Allison, Whitney Cogar, Max Sarin & Lissa Treiman

GIANT DAAAAAAYS. It is a fantastic ongoing series about college adventures, personal relationships, and how to survive adulthood. This series is charming, funny, and it’s easy to love Esther, Susan and Daisy. Every time my best friend hands her her physical issues when she’s done with them, I immediately devour them because that is how much this series makes happy. This is definitely a good recommendation if you love series like Lumberjanes. READ THIS SERIES!

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Bitch Planet
by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Valentine De Landro, Taki Soma, & Robert Wilson

Meet your new favourite feminist series starring ladies who can probably kick your ass. Kelly Sue DeConnick continues to impress me with her work, but Bitch Planet may be my favourite of hers. These are woman of various backgrounds, identities, social backgrounds and they refuse to give up who they are to an institution that wishes to change them. The stories in this series are rich, personal and thoughtful. This series kicks so much ass and you will love the ladies of Bitch Planet, I promise.

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Something New: Tales from a Makeshift Bride
by Lucy Knisley

You may have saw my recent review for this one, and I stand by my thoughts on it. Truthfully though, I’ll read graphic memoir that Lucy Knisley pens. Each of her graphic novels is very personal and full of a lot of inspiration. She just tells everything like it is and she eases the reader into so many situations that they can relate to. Something New is great for those who are married, but I’d even argue those who are single would find value in this as well. Any of her books are worth checking out, but this recent one is pretty spectacular.

What are some of your new favourite graphic novels? Let me know in the comments, and trust me, there will be more of these coming up, as I read more stuff worth recommending.

ARC Review – The Last Time We Were Us by Leah Konen

26116496Title: The Last Time We Were Us

Author: Leah Konen

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Liz Grant is about to have the summer of her life. She and her friend MacKenzie are getting invited to all the best parties, and with any luck, Innis Taylor, the most gorgeous guy in Bonneville, will be her boyfriend before the Fourth of July.  Local teen convict released early. Jason Sullivan wasn’t supposed to come back from juvie. A million years ago, he was her best friend, but that was before he ditched her for a different crowd. Before he attacked Innis’s older brother, leaving Skip’s face burned and their town in shock.

Huge thank you to Harper Collins for sending me an ARC for review!

Molly’s Review:

So I totally read this book because I had to find out WHAT the big secret was. And I ended up really enjoying this book. There IS a lot of dram and teen angst (and at times I was just like GIRL WHAT ARE YOU DOING) so if you sometimes feel “too old” for high school YA then maybe skip this one.

But I totally got this at times. I had a male BFF for 10 years before some shit went down, but I could totally relate to some of the stuff that Liz was dealing with. My ex-BFF didn’t go to jail or anything, so that part I didn’t really relate with, but some parts I was there for. The shared history, the fun memories, the comfortable understanding… I do miss all of that. But the confusing emotions and what-not where what made my friendship end.

Liz knows that she shouldn’t give her ex-BFF (who they call an ex-con, but are you really an ex-con if you went to Juvie???) the time of day. She has it all going for her; super popular BFF, super popular ALMOST boyfriend, a fun summer of the RIGHT parties and a chance to lose her v-card with THE ONE. Then she see’s Jason (the BFF) and it all comes crashing down around her.

I totally got why Liz wanted to see Jason again. She used to care about him, she was intrigued when he suggested that there was more to “that night” than most people believed and she was curious about where their friendship still stood. And the closer she got to him the more she realized what a sham her “popular life” was.

During all of this there’s A LOT of teen drama and there’s also Liz’s sister’s wedding happening. There’s a whole thing with Liz’s sister and her high school sweetheart (whom she is NOT marrying) and “that night” and Liz’s sister is a royal jerk about Liz’s newfound friendship with Jason. I really wanted to smack the sister at times because she was just so selfish and entitled about things at times. Yes, she was getting ready for her wedding and was probably super emotional and stuff, but man, some of the ways she’d talk to her sister… really made me upset.

Thankfully there is a happy ending (after some more predictable drama) and sadly the secret wasn’t as big of a deal as I’d hoped for. The writing in this is smooth and the characters do show some strengths and growth, so I decided to give this four stars.