Monthly Archives: June 2016

Blog Tour – How it Ends by Catherine Lo (Review and Q&A)

I am always thrilled when Raincoast invites me to participate in a blog tour. They have yet to send a book I haven’t liked when it comes to doing these kinds of promotions. Plus, I am always 100% on board when they tell me it’s to promote Canadian talent. We have amazing YA writers, and I think Cathrine Lo is one to watch. Seriously though, let me tell you all about How It Ends.

How it Ends is one of the best examples I have ever come across in terms of protraying a realistic break up between best friends. It’s raw, thoughtful, and it definitely left me quite reflective of my friendship back when I was in high school, and in a lot of ways, I wish this book had been around for me during that time.

I hope after reading my review you’ll give this stunning and intelligent book a chance. It left me with a lot of thinking after I finished it.


22608764Title: How It Ends

Author: Catherine Lo

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: There are two sides to every story.

It’s friends-at-first-sight for Jessie and Annie, proving the old adage that opposites attract. Shy, anxious Jessie would give anything to have Annie’s beauty and confidence. And Annie thinks Jessie has the perfect life, with her close-knit family and killer grades. They’re BFFs…until suddenly they’re not.

Told through alternating points of view, How It Ends is a wildly fast but deeply moving read about a friendship in crisis. Set against a tumultuous sophomore year of bullying, boys and backstabbing, the novel shows what can happen when friends choose assumptions and fear over each other.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I admit, I’ve been coveting this book since last year’s #TeensReadFeed event hosted by Raincoast. The premise seemed so simplistic and yet so appealing at the same time. This is the tale of two girls befriending each other in tenth grade, at what seems to be the perfect moment in time. The reader gets to watch their relationship organically grow and transform. We see how these two friends grow together, as well as fall a part.

I was completely captivated by this novel right from the get go. It’s a novel that gradually builds and builds, as we watch Jessie and Annie work through high school. I found myself nodding along with the feelings of both characters, as I’ve been in both their shoes in different situations. I remember wading through high school the way Jessie did, living with anxiety and worrying how I would be seen and accepted by others, and it was something that carried with me well into my first few years of university.

When you suffer from anxiety of any kind, you do in fact see the world so differently compared to others that it is often seen as a “paranoia” meanwhile, that isn’t entirely the case. Lo examines Jessie’s social anxieties with such a fine tooth comb, and to the point where even when Jessie is at her worst, she is still someone who is redeemable and someone we as the reader can sympathize with. I’ve also been in Annie’s shoes — the person who is attempting to take care of someone else and is trying to understand their ways and behavior but never feeling like you entirely get it.

Annie is strong, sassy, and she wants to see the good in everyone, whereas Jessie can’t because the fear of being hurt is just too strong with her. Both share similarities in that they both have walls that are hard to break down, and watching how there friendship develops and breaks down is what makes this book so interesting. When we start to see how their relationship falls apart it is just so heartbreaking, and I found myself just wanting to shake both of them and say that things can be mended, they can be repaired.

This book is such a raw experience, full of open wounds that need mending. It is such a realistic look of friendships and how we value people in a lot of ways, and when things are not okay, how that value is quickly taken away.How it Ends is a beautiful examination of how beautiful, complicated and messy friendships can be.


Q&A with Cathetrine Lo!

lo

Those lovely ladies at Raincoast gave me the chance to ask Catherine a question of my choice. Here’s my question and her wonderful response.

Q: The friendship portrayed in How It Ends is both raw as it is believable. Why did you
choose to write a novel that focused squarely on the complexities of friendship?

A: In my role as a teacher, I see a lot of young people struggling with friendship issues,
and it reminds me of the same difficulties I had as a teen. In some ways, I wrote How It
Ends for my students, but in others, I think I wrote it because it was the book that the
teen me needed to read when I was in high school. Back then, there were a lot of books
that addressed romantic breakups, but not as many that dealt with the rocky patches we
all go through in our friendships. I wanted to explore the complexities of female
friendship, and show just how intense and important these relationships are.


As always, huge thank you to Raincoast for their support and kindness. They are such a delight to work with! Also big thank you to Catherine Lo for taking time out of her busy schedule to respond to my question! How It Ends released on June 7th, and is current avaliable at your favourite local book retailer. Please make sure you check out the other stops on the tour to find out their thoughts on How it Ends!

a1b29947-7b02-4cb0-988e-cbaecdb4aef2

ARC Review -Autofocus by Lauren Gibaldi

25263136Title: Autofocus

Author: Lauren Gibaldi

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Family. It’s always been a loaded word for Maude. And when she is given a senior photography assignment—to create a portfolio that shows the meaning of family—she doesn’t quite know where to begin. But she knows one thing: without the story of her birth mother, who died when Maude was born, her project will be incomplete.

So Maude decides to visit her best friend, Treena, at college in Tallahassee, Florida, where Maude’s birth mother once lived. But when Maude arrives, she quickly discovers that Treena has changed. With a new boyfriend and a packed social calendar, Treena doesn’t seem to have time for Maude—or helping Maude in her search.

Enter Bennett, a cute guy who lives in Treena’s dorm. He understands Maude’s need to find her mother. And as Bennett helps Maude in her search, she starts to find that her mother’s past doesn’t have to define her own future.

Huge thank you to the publisher for this ARC!

Molly’s Review:

Last year I read Lauren Gibaldi’s debut, THE NIGHT WE SAID YES and fell in love with her work. TNWSY was one of my favorite books last year and it was such a special book for me because it had a lot of things that paralleled with my own teen life.

And the same can be said of Autofocus. Personally this book hit close to home because my own mom is adopted. And as an adult she went through some of the same things that Maude did with finding out (for my mom it was straight up finding because her birth mother is still alive) about her birth mother. It wasn’t very pretty, much as it was for Maude. And I was able to really connect with that part of the book.

The other part that I connected with was how Treena was acting while at college. I went away for my 2nd year of college to a big school (first year I was at home at a smaller school and then transferred) and wow, a lot of what Treena did and how she acted was how I did. To be honest Maude reminded me of my Before College self and Treena reminded me much of my First Year of College self. I didn’t drink, never really thought of it, didn’t really spend much time (or have much experience) with guys, then I was brushing off friends for guys that I was interested in. I was trying to find myself and pushing people away and at the same time trying to figure out if what I was doing was even what I wanted to be doing. It was a mess and it took a few years for me to figure things out but I did and I’m sure that these characters will too. But it was just so true to life, and that is something that I ADORE about Gibaldi’s writing!

I also really love the female friendships that she writes. They’re true and complex and messy and full of love. I really enjoyed the relationship between Treena and Maude and how they were willing to be themselves, to hash things out, to share and love and forgive.

Another thing that Gibaldi does well is write male characters. Okay, she basically writes about guys that I grew up with and was friends with. SHE BASICALLY JUST WRITES MY TEEN LIFE OKAY.

In this book we have a nice mix of characters too. Treena is Indian and her parent’s moved to America after they got married. Treena has spent time in India and grew up in a very Indian community. I loved that this was in the book because Gibaldi has the experience to write this. I know from social media that her husband and extended family is Indian and I loved that she used that resource and experience to write about Indian characters. I loved that Maude was adopted and grew up in a loving family but still had questions about her birth mother and her origins. I loved that Bennett was such a good guy and that Trey was such a jerk but that they were both rich characters that were representative of the types of people that you encounter in life.

I am so sad that I have to wait for MORE writing from Lauren Gibaldi because is a fav author now and I will read anything she writes.

Late to the Party ARC Review – The Gallery of Lost Species by Nina Berkhout

26114471Title: The Gallery of Lost Species

Author: Nina Berkhout

Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: Edith grows up in her big sister Vivienne’s shadow. While the beautiful Viv is forced by the girls’ overbearing mother to compete in child beauty pageants, plain-looking Edith follows in her father’s footsteps: collecting oddities, studying coins, and reading from old books.

When Viv rebels against her mother’s expectations, Edith finds herself torn between a desire to help her sister and pursuing her own love for a boy who might love her sister more than he loves her. When Edith accepts a job at the National Gallery of Canada, she meets an elderly cryptozoologist named Theo who is searching for a bird many believe to be extinct. Navigating her way through Vivienne’s dark landscape while trying to win Liam’s heart, Edith develops an unlikely friendship with Theo when she realizes they might have more in common than she imagined; they are both trying to retrieve something that may be impossible to bring back to life.

Huge thank you to St. Martin’s Press for sending me a copy of this book for review!

Molly’s Review:

This book was just okay for me. It’s an adult novel but the main character, Edith, is a teen and then in her early twenties for the entire book, so it’s bordering on the YA side of things. I went into this expecting things from the synopsis and it really didn’t deliver.

I did enjoy the writing and the story of the two sisters. Edith and her sister Viv are two very different girls. Edith loves to read and collect junk with her father while Viv lets her mother parade her around in child beauty pageants. The mother is a piece of work and I loved how complex her relationship was with Viv. Viv is also an artist, like her father, but she succumbs to drug and alcohol abuse and kinda ruins her artistic career.

Edith grows up into a normal young woman and she gets a job at an art gallery. She works in the collections room cataloging items. I was lead to believe that she was going to forge a deep friendship with one of the researchers who frequents the collections room and that that was going to be a core part of the story. But that was very brief and I didn’t even feel like their friendship and connection went that deeply. I was also disappointed that there wasn’t more done with the researchers quest for the mythical extinct bird.

And the whole love story with Liam was just weird and kinda gross and I didn’t really like him or the relationships that he had with either sister. I felt like Edith was rather pathetic when it came to Liam and even when she did get into a normal relationship she was still kinda pathetic about it.

And Viv’s ending was very unsatisfactory. I really was disappointed with the lack of resolution with her and her family.

Overall this book looks and sounds like it’s going to be gorgeous but it’s kinda just meh.

ARC Review – This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

23299512Title: This Savage Song

Author:  Victoria Schwab

Rating:  ★★★★ / ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: The city of Verity has been overrun with monsters, born from the worst of human evil. In North Verity, the Corsai and the Malchai run free. Under the rule of Callum Harker, the monsters kill any human who has not paid for protection. In the South, Henry Flynn hunts the monsters who cross the border into his territory, aided by the most dangerous and darkest monsters of them all—the Sunai, dark creatures who use music to steal their victim’s souls.

As one of only three Sunai in existence, August Flynn has always wanted to play a bigger role in the war between the north and the south. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate Harker, daughter of the leader of North Verity, August jumps on it.
When Kate discovers August’s secret, the pair find themselves running for their lives and battling monsters from both sides of the wall. As the city dissolves into chaos, it’s up to them to foster a peace between monsters and humans.

Huge thank you to Greenwillow Books / Harper Collins Canada for this ARC!

Molly’s Review:

TBH this is a low 4 stars. Not quite 3.5. Idk. I liked this but at the same time I felt like I’d already experienced this story and these characters somewhere else. The closest I can get is that it’s a mix of two Japanese anime; D.Gray Man & Tokyo Ghoul. But even then I feel like I’m missing another title or movie that I’ve already seen.

The characters are cliche but enjoyable. There’s not a lot going on for the first half of the book. If you want solid explanations on the HOW and WHY you aren’t really going to get it. If you’re okay with vague ideas then you’ll be set.

This is also a super quick read despite the length (big font and short lines on the page). It is compelling, but didn’t live up to the OMG hype for me. It also didn’t disappoint but that might be because, for me, Schwab isn’t an OMG FAV, but just another author who’s work I enjoy.

Sam’s Review:
I adore Victoria Scwab’s books. They are often very imaginative and easy to get sucked into when it comes to story and characters. Here’s the thing, I LOVED This Savage Song but read it reminded me a lot of watching anime. It’s an exciting, crazy read, but it feels like something I have, admittedly, encountered before.

This Savage Song explores a world that is divided by humans and monsters. Both struggle to exist together, and this also gives us our two protagonists: Kate and August, one human and one monster, and their common goals. This idea of humans and monsters co-existing is nothing new, but I actually loved our heroes and thought they were a lot of fun to follow around, even if they were a touch cliche. Part of the issue with this book is that the world does take a long time to develop, and there’s a lot of vagueness. Sometimes I don’t mind that, but in this case, having a lot of the world be more fleshed out would have been a bit more of a benefit.

Despite the the vagueness, which sometimes made me feel a bit lost, this book was compulsively readable and it was like reading candy. I kept turning the pages, wanting to read and know more, and when I didn’t get more, I still didn’t seem to mind because I was just so glued to trying to understand anything and everything that was going on. I do hope some of the vaguer aspects of the world gets explored in the sequel, because I WANT TO KNOW MORE. The ending worked so well for me, and around the two hundred page mark, I was really glued to trying to figure out the story.

I do think there’s a lot of action and fun with This Savage Song, but for me it wasn’t perfect. In fact, it was far from perfect because even though I was so glued to the pages, there was a lot of cliches and vagueness that just felt there and needed a bit more explaination. The characters are fun, cheeky, and that ending does have me sold to see where things go. Plys the lack of romance in this novel worked insanely well to its advantage and will say that watching Kate and August’s friendship blossom was an absolute delight. I still wanted more about the monsters, more about the world, more about the Harkers.

If you are a die-hard Victoria Schwab fan, I still think you will find merit here, but it’s not a book I would recommend as a starting point. It did, inevitably leave me wanting more information, and I think if more had been explained, this would have been a slam dunk for me.

#TBRTakedown 4.0 TBR Post

Hey guys! I thought I’d share that I am participating in #TBRTakedown, which runs from June 20th to the 26th. This event is hosted by the amazing Shannon @ LeaningLights. Here’s her video to announce the event if you want to know more of what it is about!

I have been doing this event since Shannon started it, and it’s a favourite readathon of mine because I love the challenges and I find I accomplish so much in terms of reading when I do it. Here’s my TBR along with what books fit what challenges:

ClVKkB0VAAAj8yU

1. TBR over a year [longest] – The Night We Said Yes by Lauren Gibaldi
2. Sequel – Thanatos by Karen Dales (Book Three of the Chosen Chronicles)
3. First book in a series – This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab
4. Out of comfort zone [whatever that means for you] – Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty (Non-Fiction)
5. Most Recent Book Haul – How It Ends by Catherine Lo

Considering this is my week where I work seven days in a row, I think I can read all five of these books without too much of a problem. This comes with the joy of commuting between work places. At the end of the month you’ll find out whether or not I was successful, but pray for me that I will be because June has been a very trying month of being an adult and reading (and gaming, and writing, all my favourite things) have fallen a bit to the wayside.

Are you participating? Share your TBR with me, as I’d love to see what you’re reading for the event.

ARC Review – The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson

25689042Title: The Art of Being Normal

Author: Lisa Williamson

Rating: ★★ 1/2

Synopsis: David Piper has always been an outsider. His parents think he’s gay. The school bully thinks he’s a freak. Only his two best friends know the real truth: David wants to be a girl. On the first day at his new school Leo Denton has one goal: to be invisible. Attracting the attention of the most beautiful girl in his class is definitely not part of that plan. When Leo stands up for David in a fight, an unlikely friendship forms. But things are about to get messy. Because at Eden Park School secrets have a funny habit of not staying secret for long and soon everyone knows that Leo used to be a girl.

As David prepares to come out to his family and transition into life as a girl and Leo wrestles with figuring out how to deal with people who try to define him through his history, they find in each other the friendship and support they need to navigate life as transgender teens as well as the courage to decide for themselves what normal really means.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I am hugely torn on The Art of Being Normal. It was one of my most anticipated reads coming out of last year’s #TeensReadFeed event hosted by Raincoast because everything sounded like it would hit all the right notes with me. I love LGBTQIA+ literature and I’ve always been an avid supports of these titles, but something about this novel didn’t work for me.

I do think there are elements of this novel that make it an important read. There’s nothing new in this novel if you’ve read books about trans issues, but it does have so poginent and sweet moments that I did love. I think my main issues came more from the David chapters given that David wants to convey to people that he wants to be a girl and is attempting to push people into referring to him as such. He of course gets called by his “dead name” and it never feels like David is given a chance in the novel to truly transition. I was so sympathic to David throughout the novel, but I struggled with how the author presented David’s transition issues.

Leo, on the other hand, I enjoyed for the most part and I think the depiction of what happens to him worked well for the most part. I could sympathize with Leo, but for very different reasons, especially in regards to his relationship troubles. I think a lot of this novel is presented too simply, and I think it will get overshadowed by titles like If I Was Your Girl where the presentation feels a lot more authentic to both sides of a transition.

I will say as a positive, I did love how Williamson developed the friendship between David and Leo. I thought that was quite splendid and very well written. There was a sweetness to it that I very much enjoyed.

So I am sad. I hyped this book up in my mind as being something larger than it was, and it’s not a bad novel at all. It’s just one that half clicked with me and half didn’t. I think I wanted more out of the story than I got, and I think the resolution of it all didn’t necessarily stick the landing the way I was hoping it would either. I wish there had been more to the characters, and I wish there had been more to the story. Everything just felt too simple, even though the intentions were coming from a very good place.

Late to the Party Review – The Magnificent Mya Tibbs: Spirit Week Showdown by Crystal Allen

25081701Title: The Magnificent Mya Tibbs: Spirit Week Showdown

Author: Crystal Allen

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Nine-year-old Mya Tibbs is boot-scootin’ excited for the best week of the whole school year—SPIRIT WEEK! She and her megapopular best friend, Naomi Jackson, even made a pinky promise to be Spirit Week partners so they can win the big prize: special VIP tickets to the Fall Festival!

But when the partner picking goes horribly wrong, Mya gets paired with Mean Connie Tate—the biggest bully in school. And she can’t get out of it.

Huge thank you to Harper Collins Canada for this finished copy!

Sam’s Review:

Mya Tibbs is going to be one of those series that I am going to relish for next installment as I complete each book. There is this genuine quality to Crystal Allen’s story of a young black girl who wants to be herself but also be friends with those in her class. Mya wants to be a cowgirl. Mya wants to win Spirit Week for her “best friend” Naomi. Mya wants to do the right thing, and she wants to be appreciated.

I loved this story and I could identify with Mya’s troubles in elementary school because they happened to me. Mya’s best friend Naomi is so problematic as a character and it makes her a wonderful foil. Naomi wants to be the most important person in all her friend’s lives, she wants to be the star, and if she is betrayed, she takes it pretty personally. This begins a lot of Mya Tibbs’ story, along with her being paired with the school bully for Spirit Week, hence the “Showdown.”

What I adored about this novel is that Mya’s problems, her resolve, and her kindness felt so realistic, and I love the way she is written such tenacity. She’s a sweetheart, and every time she got into trouble I completely felt for her. I also loved the relationship that blossoms between Mya and Connie as it felt very organic in the story, and not forced in the slightest. I loved Connie’s secret and the way in which Mya fell in love with it as well.

There is just so much so adore about Mya Tibbs, and I cannot wait to see what new friendships and adventures she will have. I think this is the start of a fantastic middle grade series!