Monthly Archives: June 2016

Late to the Party ARC Review – You Were Here by Cori McCarthy

25679559Title: You Were Here

Author: Cori McCarthy

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: On the anniversary of her daredevil brother’s death, Jaycee attempts to break into Jake’s favorite hideout—the petrifying ruins of an insane asylum. Joined by four classmates, each with their own brand of dysfunction, Jaycee discovers a map detailing her brother’s exploration and the unfinished dares he left behind.

As a tribute to Jake, Jaycee vows to complete the dares, no matter how terrifying or dangerous. What she doesn’t bargain on is her eccentric band of friends who challenge her to do the unthinkable: reveal the parts of herself that she buried with her brother.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

THIS BOOK EMOTIONALLY MESSED ME UP.

Okay, that’s a bit of a stretch, but it did make me very emotional as I read it. This is a book about friendship, it’s about reconnecting with someone you’ve lost (in this case who has died). There is a huge mystery surrounding Jake’s death, and Jaycee wants to recreate his death-defying stunts so that she can connect to him in another way. She and her group of friends, who are all going through different problems, accompany her on this journey, sometimes trying to talk her out of things, other times to be supportive and it’s just, wow.

Grief makes you feel and do strange things. In Jaycee’s case, there’s this strong desire to find connection in her brother’s death. It’s heartbreaking, but totally something I could understand and sympathize with, having recently dealt with the death of my own mother. You miss someone to the point where you wish them back into existence — you want them to still be flesh and bone yet the world has taken them from you.

The friendship in this story is one of my favourite aspects, and I thought every character was strongly written. Natalie’s plotline was particularly engaging, and I actually loved how some of the prespective was told in different formats. There’s poetry, an ongoing comic, artwork, and it all fits into this story. It doesn’t feel out of place or strange, it’s just perfect actually. I loved these additions because it gave us so much insight into each character. Heck, I generally am not huge on the romance, but Mik and Jaycee’s romance was really well developed. I also liked Zach and Natalie as well, and my heart went out to Zach a lot throughout the novel.

This book is one that needs to be talked about more. It offers an insightful look to dealing with grief, while also weaving so many exceptional smaller stories along the way. Easily one of my favourite reads this year, and one that I hope others will try because there’s just so much going on in this novel, and it’so good at making the reader feel like they are a part of this story. The emotional investment I had felt so real, and I felt really connected to this story and its characters.

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ARC Review – The Ghost Rebellion (Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences #5) by Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris

26814043Title: The Ghost Rebellion (Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences #5)

Author: Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: The chase is on! After rescuing Queen Victoria from the clutches of the Maestro, Agents Eliza D Braun and Wellington Books are in hot pursuit of Dr Henry Jekyll. While he continues his experiments on the aristocracy of Europe, he leaves a trail of chaos and despair in his wake. However when Eliza and Wellington run him to ground in India, they are forced to come face to face with ghosts from the past, and the realities of empire.

Meanwhile Ministry agents Brandon Hill and Bruce Campbell travel deep into Russia hunting down a rare ingredient to save Queen Victoria’s life. Amid the cold they uncover a threat from the revitalized House of Usher that comes directly from their new Chairman.

All in the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences will find their allegiances in question, and their mettle tested as a new dastardly era of international intrigue dawns.

Huge thank you to the author for this ARC! This is no way effects my review.

Sam’s Review:

I have read every book in the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrencesseries, and have loved each one for different reasons. It’s hard not to love Books and Braun, as their steamy chemistry and kick butt attitudes always make for fun dialogue and crazy adventures.

The Ghost Rebellion is a great instalment to the series, and one chock full of mystery and adventure. I was completely invested in the mystery behind the Ghost Rebellion, and I found a lot of the Interludes this time to be quite gripping. It took me a bit to realize some of the connection this time around, but there was certainly a lot more “aha” moments this time around. A lot of the new characters were really interesting, though some of them, particularly O’Neill, were quite frusrating (and rightfully so).

I completely flew through this installment. There is just so much action, and even the politics in this novel were just facisnating to read about. I found myself captivated by the way in which Hill and Campbell handled certain situations, as well as how they dealt with some of the cultural issues as well (the situation with the Russian… oh boy). I actually liked their plotline a lot. Plus, so happy this didn’t end on a cliffhanger! Because the last few have driven me crazy because of that!

But the dialogue was on point, the comedy was still golden, and I am always happy to fall back into this universe. There’s always so much adventure, and the sexual tension! (Well, that isn’t sexual tension so much anymore) is still wonderfully steamy. While this isn’t my favourite installment of the series, I’ll definitely still be recommending it to my fantasy readers at the library.

ARC Review – The Best Worst Thing by Kathleen Lane

26875633Title: The Best Worst Thing

Author: Kathleen Lane

Rating: ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Maggie is worried. She’s starting middle school, and she suddenly sees injustice and danger everywhere–in her history textbook, on the playground, in her neighborhood, on the news. How can anyone be safe when there’s a murderer on the loose, a bully about to get a gun for his twelfth birthday, rabbits being held captive for who-knows-what next door, and an older sister being mysteriously consumed by adolescence? Maggie doesn’t like any of it, so she devises intricate ways of controlling her own world–and a larger, more dangerous plan for protecting everyone else.

Huge thank you to Hachette Book Group Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I’m not sure what I was getting into when I requested The Best Worst Thing. If I’m being honest after finishing the book, this was a bit of an odd duck, but in a good way. It has a very unique writing style and Maggie’s voice is very distinctive. As she begins to grow up and mature she begins to see a world of danger and injustice — she’s terrified. There’s a murderer out on the loose, the rabbits next door are being held prisoner, and she is struggling to accept the fact that she is growing up.

The writing style at times threw me off a bit. It felt a bit challenging for a middle grade story, and the subject matters, though important, sometimes read a little awkwardly. I get that the book is showcasing anxiety and looks at the realities of life and growing up, but part of me felt very disconnected from Maggie, something I think I shouldn’t have been feeling. I felt like she was somewhat distanced from the reader (or maybe that is my impression).

Still, I LOVED what this book represents. It’s a very honest protrayal of middle grade anxiety and attempting to cope with the fact that the world is slowly starting to expand. When you are young you don’t realize a lot of what is going on in the world, let around what is even around you, and The Best Worst Thing captures these emotions and discomforts exceptionally well. You feel the tenseness of Maggie’s feelings, you see that she is struggle with the idea of growing up. I felt for her, I really did.

And I think, of anything, that is why this book needs to be read. While I had trouble connecting with the writing, I think the themes and story itself are very valuable to middle grade readers out there who are still learning about what it means to grow up. There’s no manual for it, and even when you become an adult, there’s no hard-and-fast rule to be an adult either. Maggie’s struggle of life changing dynamics and discomforts — they aren’t new and they are something we shouldn’t be ignoring either. Definitely worth investing if you like more realistic middle grade reads.

ARC Review – Grayling’s Song by Karen Cushman

26312968Title: Grayling’s Song

Author:  Karen Cushman

Rating:  ★★★

Synopsis: Like all Karen Cushman’s gorgeous novels, “Grayling s Song”delves into the past to let us know what we must ask of our future. Lena DunhamIt s time for Grayling to be a hero. Her mother, a wise woman a sort of witch has been turned into a tree by evil forces. Tangles and toadstools! Lacking confidence after years of being called Feeble Wits by her mother, Grayling heads off dubiously into the wilds in search of help, where she finds a weather witch, an aromatic enchantress, a cheese soothsayer, a slyly foolish apprentice, and a shape-shifting mouse named Pook!A fast-paced and funny coming-of-age odyssey from a Newbery medalist.” 

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I read Grayling’s Song in a day. While that is a positive in the book’s favour, it’s definitely not a new middle grade favourite for me. This definitely one of those novels where I feel like adults wouid have a deeper appreciation for the language and the story itself, and that makes it harder to recommend for younger readers.

There is a rich fantasy world in this novel that resembles medieval England. I really loved the setting and the way in which it captures the story. Cushman’s writing is very vivid, almost dreamlike, and she definitely challenges readers with her use of language. As an adult reading this novel, I can appreciate the use of language and the way in which it captures the world and the characters, but at the same time I feel like if I was a middle grader reading this book, I’d have a bit of a hard time with this book.

I admit though, I really did struggle at times with the characters. For me, the characters in this novel were missing a spark for me. They didn’t have the same kind of layering that I generally like in middle grade, so I found it hard to fall in love with them. For me the most memorable character was Pookia, whom I adored. I just thought he was such a delightful character!

Grayling’s Song is beautifully written and I do think it will have an audience with fantasy fans, especially older ones. There’s beautiful writing and a rich world in need of exploring. I just wish that I had personally enjoyed it more than I did.

May Wrap Up and June Reading Goals~

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If you can’t tell from this picture, my reading mojo came back full force. It’s been over a month since my mother passed away and reading fell a bit on the wayside. As I was telling Molly, I just haven’t had the motivation for awhile to read, and now all of a sudden I just started flying through books again. I loved the majority of the books that I read above and I’m hoping June is equally a stronger month.

For June I want to do something different. My husband and I are planning to move in the fall and obviously my TBR shelf of shame is too huge to take with me. My goal between now and the fall is to read my own books and see how many of them I can knock out. This is where for the next few months I going to get you all to help me out. I asked on Twitter for people to come up with challenges for me.

Here’s June’s challenges:

  1. Read an Adult Fantasy novel
  2. A one-word title.
  3. A book that is has purple on the cover.
  4. A must-read Molly recommendation! (Night We Said Yes)
  5. An LGBTQIA+ read
  6. Read This Savage Song by V.E Schwab (because I’ve had it for awhile)
  7. Something by a Canadian author.
  8. A book with a dog in it or as the main character.
  9. Something sci-fi.
  10. Read something that has blue on the cover.

At the end of the month I will let you all know if I accomplished these challenges, as well as share all the physical books I read. I am hoping to share an updated picture of the Shelf of Shame to give you a sense of how much has been read. We’ll see how this goes, and hopefully by September my TBR will look more manageable.

Hahaha… manageable. Who am I kidding? 🙂

ARC Review – Nobody Likes a Goblin by Ben Hatke

25689038Title: Nobody Likes a Goblin

Author: Ben Hatke

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Goblin, a cheerful little homebody, lives in a cosy, rat-infested dungeon, with his only friend, Skeleton. Every day, Goblin and Skeleton play with the treasure in their dungeon. But one day, a gang of “heroic” adventurers bursts in. These marauders trash the place, steal all the treasure, and make off with Skeleton—leaving Goblin all alone!

It’s up to Goblin to save the day. But first he’s going to have to leave the dungeon and find out how the rest of the world feels about goblins.

Huge thank you to First Second for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Ben Hatke seldom does wrong in my eyes, and if I’m being honest, I think he may easily be one of my favourite graphic novelists and picture book writers. Nobody Likes a Goblin is an adorable look at difference, friendship, and acceptance, and it’s whimsical in its approach to these topics.

If there’s one thing I love about Ben Hatke’s stories, it’s that the art and words do an amazing job at evoking emotion. You laugh, smile, frown, and it always comes full circle. This particular book has a goblin for a protagonist and goblins are always unloved in fantasy stories. It was great to see the kinds of lessons that the Goblin was learning. Plus, it has really great appeal for those parents who are into tabletop gaming, as this felt like a children’s D&D story. If you have little ones who love a fantasy story, or creatures, then Nobody Likes a Goblin is a worthy picture book to share with your little one