Monthly Archives: September 2016

Blog Tour – Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova (Review and Q&A)

Labyrinth Lost is a book that wasn’t on my radar until I had gone to the #TeensReadFeed event hosted by Raincoast back in May. The book was in my goodie bag, and though it had been mentioned at previous events, the release date kept getting pushed back. I have friends who love Zoraida Cordova’s novels, but I admit I wasn’t too familiar with her work.

Labyrinth Lost is a joy. It’s sassy, it’s adventurous, and it gives you a sense of appreciation for otherly worlds and other people’s culture. Once again I am super grateful to Raincoast for inviting me on this blog tour, and a huge, huge thank you to Zoraida Cordova for taking time out of her busy schedule to do some Q&A.


27969081Title: Labyrinth Lost

Author: Zoraida Cordova

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives.

Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can’t trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange marks on his skin.

The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland…

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I generally am not big on paranormal YA, like, at all. I was hesitant then that I would enjoy Labyrinth Lost, and you know what? It was a pleasant surprise for all the right reasons. It didn’t have the usual trope-yness of YA paranormal, and I think because a lot of this novel is rooted in Latin culture, that was what gave it a lot of appeal that made me fall in love with it.

I have never read any paranormal that is rooted in Latin-American culture. I am Canadian so my knowledge of Latin-American culture is fairly flimsy at best. However, I LOVE to read about other cultures and learn new things I never knew about. And this book is such a fun, fun read. The characters are very well developed, the story is fast-paced and quick witted, and I never felt bored reading Labyrinth Lost. There was always just so much happening, and my goodness when the action was on, it wad turned way up.

I think what I loved about this novel the most was how well developed the world of both Brooklyn and Los Lagos was. Cordova breaths so much life and makes both places so vivid, and watching Alex go between both places made the novel all that more interesting. She faces so many struggles because of powers she never wanted and is forced to embrace something she was fearful of. Forbidden power and family history play such a large, playful role in this story, and I found myself just turning the pages, needing to know what was going to happen next… and then the book ends on a cliffhanger — not cool Zoraida Cordova! (Except it is, because I adored this book).

But seriously, the cast of characters in this story is love: Alex is wonderful, she’s strong, and her head-space is just an interesting place to be in. I also loved Rishi and thought she was great as well. Nova took awhile to grow on me, and frankly it wasn’t until the end when I finally realized that he wasn’t too bad of a character.

I love books like Labyrinth Lost that drop you into a story and then offers so much more than meets the eye. This novel offers a fantastic adventure, with a fun cast of characters. I am very grateful that books like this exist where I can enjoy cultures that I am unfamiliar with and make them super accessible. I am excited and scared to read book two when it releases!


Q&A With Zoraida Cordova!

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Q: One of my favourite aspects of Labyrinth Lost was being allowed to learn more about
Latin culture and how you used it to create a paranormal experience for Alex. Are there
any Latin stories or myths that you love and would perhaps want to transform into a story?

ZC: There’s one story of La Llorona that used to scare me as a kid. It isn’t uniquely
Ecuadorian. There are lots of Latin American countries that have a similar story. It’s
about a weeping woman who steals children who are bad. I used to want to write a story
about her, but I don’t think I’d do it justice. There is a book called Summer of the Mariposas by Guadalupe McCall that does this wonderfully. Maybe one day!


Huge thank you to Raincoast for allowing me this chance to participate in the blog tour, and huge thank you to Zoraida for taking time out of her busy schedule to answer my question! Want to see where the blog tour is heading next? Check out all the tour stops and don’t forget to check out Labyrinth Lost, which released on September 6, 2016. 🙂

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ARC Review – Afterward by Jennifer Mathieu

27414452Title: Afterward

Author: Jennifer Mathieu

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: When Caroline’s little brother is kidnapped, his subsequent rescue leads to the discovery of Ethan, a teenager who has been living with the kidnapper since he was a young child himself. In the aftermath, Caroline can’t help but wonder what Ethan knows about everything that happened to her brother, who is not readjusting well to life at home. And although Ethan is desperate for a friend, he can’t see Caroline without experiencing a resurgence of traumatic memories. But after the media circus surrounding the kidnappings departs from their small Texas town, both Caroline and Ethan find that they need a friend–and their best option just might be each other.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I think I just might be in love with Jennifer Mathieu. I consider Devoted to be one of my all time favourite books in recent years, and her debut The Truth About Alice left me broken yet hopeful. Her latest release, Afterward focuses on a kidnapping, and how people attempt to return to a “normal life” after such a traumatic event.

This novel focuses on two narratives: Caroline, who’s younger brother with autism is kidnapped on her watch, and Ethan, a young man who was taken at a young age and longs to feel normal again. Both boys are suffering from PTSD, remembering horrific things from the time they were removed from their families. Caroline befriends Ethan in hopes of learning about her brother’s kidnapping and why he has become much more closed off.

The friendship between Caroline and Ethan was superb in this story, and I loved that Mathieu did not make them into a couple. The novel shows the gradual build of their friendship, and it looks at how important having a good friend can be when dealing with mental stress. The plot twist that Mathieu throws in, though I had some hunches about, I was not actually expecting the way she executed it and it totally ripped me to shreds.

I also loved the way that Mathieu explores autism and families who have children who are autistic. This felt very authentic to me, and written with a very keen eye and a genuineness to understand. I think that is what I loved about reading the relationship between Caroline and Dylan, and I loved how she feels she’s the reason he was kidnapped, and how she in some ways, wants to atone for what happened.

This novel is impeccability researched and is constantly thoughtful of its every move. I really loved both main characters, I loved how fleshed out their families were given the circumstances of what happened to Ethan and Dylan, and I think just reading about the afterwards of something so horrific is unique and interesting in itself. I am so thankfully that these situations are rare, but it doesn’t make these kinds of stories any less important.

If you love tough!YA and want to read a beautiful, heartbreaking story that offers the reader so much in terms of subject matter, then Afterward is the kind of book you need in your life. Upon finishing the book it left me reflecting on the story and its characters, and even when it ended, there was a part of me that didn’t want to let go to these characters.

Jennifer Mathieu, I think I’m a fan for life. Thank you for these stories and sharing these voices.

Book Chat – How I Learned to Stop Being Afraid of Non-Fiction

As a public library worker and someone who specifically handles a lot of Readers Advisory requests, non-fiction still is the one area that I often struggle with. It’s not to say that non-fiction can’t be enjoyable, but it’s definitely a genre I struggle to gravitate towards. However, in 2016, I’ve read more non-fiction than I have any other year that I’ve done my reading challenge. Sometimes I think non-fiction is about finding books that interest you and, if your like me, find things you enjoy while also coming out of your comfort zone.

Here’s three non-fiction books I’ve recently read that I loved and would encourage others to definitely check out.

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Adulting: How to Become a Grown-up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps
by Kelly Williams Brown

This book made me laugh and provided me with practical advice on how to live alone for the first time. If you are familiar with my background, I spent the majority of my twenties taking care of my sick parents and I wasn’t one of those lucky kids  who went away for university. This book gave me so many ideas and solutions for different situations that I may come across, especially cleaning techniques that I never would have thought would work. I feel like this should be mandatory reading for first time youngins who happen to be on their own for the first time. Seriously, there is some wonderful tried and true advice here.

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Let the Elephants Run: Unlock Your Creativity and Change Everything
by David Usher

I had a long love affair with David Usher’s music back when I was in high school, more specifically, I was a fan of his band Moist. This is our public library’s community read, and it’s definitely a very different choice than what we’ve had prior. This book explores unlocking creative potential, and being reminded that everyone can posses creativity and the ability to try and do things in different ways. It’s also a book that encourages the reader to WRITE IN IT! I think while some of Usher’s methods are a bit contradictory at times, I do love the moments in the book where he explains where a lot of his inspiration for some of his popular hits like “Black Black Heart” come from. There’s definitely some interesting ideas in this book, and if anything, it’s definitely a fast read.

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Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory
by Caitlin Doughty

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes is easily one of my favourite recent non-fiction reads, and it’s a book I discovered through Cece @ Problems of a Book Nerd‘s YouTube Channel. I chose to read this book very recently after my mother had passed away and it gave me insane insight into the funeral industry, how we mourn those we’ve lost, but also some of the funnier situations that come from dealing with the dead on a day to day basis. While this book definitely has some “ew” moments, it also has a lot of “ah ha!” and “Bwahahahaha!” moments as well. If you can get your hands on this book, it’s definitely worth the read and it’s quite the little oddball.

I’ve also read a few other good non-fiction reads which includes Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy by Sam Maggs (she knows I love this book though… repeatedly), and I read Spinster by Kate Bolick, which provides an interesting look at spinsterhood and the women who pioneered spinster-culture. There’s definitely a lot of great non-fiction out there, and I feel like I’m really only just scratching the surface.

I would love to have some recommendations for awesome, fun, or interesting non-fiction reads. Please share them in the comments below and recommend me some fun non-fiction! Help me expand my reading universe! 🙂

ARC Review – The Swan Riders by Erin Bow (Prisoners of Peace #2)

26409580Title: The Swan Riders (Prisoners of Peace #2)

Author: Erin Bow

Rating:  ★★★★

Synopsis: Greta Stuart had always known her future: die young. She was her country’s crown princess, and also its hostage, destined to be the first casualty in an inevitable war. But when the war came it broke all the rules, and Greta forged a different path.

She is no longer princess. No longer hostage. No longer human. Greta Stuart has become an AI.

If she can survive the transition, Greta will earn a place alongside Talis, the AI who rules the world. Talis is a big believer in peace through superior firepower. But some problems are too personal to obliterate from orbit, and for those there are the Swan Riders: a small band of humans who serve the AIs as part army, part cult.

Now two of the Swan Riders are escorting Talis and Greta across post-apocalyptic Saskatchewan. But Greta’s fate has stirred her nation into open rebellion, and the dry grassland may hide insurgents who want to rescue her – or see her killed. Including Elian, the boy she saved—the boy who wants to change the world, with a knife if necessary. Even the infinitely loyal Swan Riders may not be everything they seem.

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

Sam’s Review:

I absolutely adored the crap out of The Scorpion Rules. It was by no means perfect, but it was one of those books where my eye balls were completely glued to the page because I couldn’t get over some of the stuff that was occurring in the story. I had moments where I cringed, gasped, and maybe even threw the book — it had that much of an effect on me. I was so excited when the sequel appeared in my mail box because with the way the first book had ended, it was a hard wait to find out what was going to happen to poor Greta.

And poor Greta it is. This sequel picks up almost directly from the previous book so one needs to have read The Scorpion Rules to get a full taste of what The Swan Riders has to offer. The prisoners are not so much prisoners anymore, Greta has transformed into someone who isn’t herself anymore, and Canada is… well, Canada is an utter mess, more so than it was in the first book.

I think what I love about this series is that Bow does an amazing job of giving you a larger sense of all her characters, their motives, and their coups on morality. Frances, Greta, Talis, all have different perspectives on freedom, humanity and the decaying world, and each attempts to be compelling about their stance. I equally loved the surprises that she wove into this particular installment surrounding Talis, who is by far one of the most interesting characters in this world if I am being frank. I do think the emotional intensity of the first book is missing from this sequel, but I think the strengths here come from the larger plot being developed.

Oh, and Talis. Talis is perfect. I miss Xie. She was best.

I do think this is a solid sequel to a book that in a lot of ways didn’t need a sequel to be great. I think the ending of this instalment isn’t as strong as the first book, and it definitely leaves the door open for a potential sequel given there’s still characters whose stories don’t entirely feel complete. The last monkey wrench Bow throws in is pretty darn fabulous, though I wish the book really hadn’t ended where it did. Still, if you loved the first book, I do think this sequel is definitely worth checking out.

ARC Review – Every Hidden Thing by Kenneth Oppel

28374370Title: Every Hidden Thing

Author: Kenneth Oppel

Rating:  ★★★

Synopsis: Somewhere in the Badlands, embedded deep in centuries-buried rock and sand, lies the skeleton of a massive dinosaur, larger than anything the late nineteenth-century world has ever seen. Some legends call it the Black Beauty, with its bones as black as ebony, but to seventeen-year-old Samuel Bolt, it’s the “rex,” the king dinosaur that could put him and his struggling, temperamental archaeologist father in the history books (and conveniently make his father forget he’s been kicked out of school), if they can just quarry it out.

But Samuel and his father aren’t the only ones after the rex. For Rachel Cartland this find could be her ticket to a different life, one where her loves of science and adventure aren’t just relegated to books and sitting rooms. And if she can’t prove herself on this expedition with her professor father, the only adventures she may have to look forward to are marriage or spinsterhood.

As their paths cross and the rivalry between their fathers becomes more intense, Samuel and Rachel are pushed closer together. Their flourishing romance is one that will never be allowed. And with both eyeing the same prize, it’s a romance that seems destined for failure. As their attraction deepens, danger looms on the other side of the hills, causing everyone’s secrets to come to light and forcing Samuel and Rachel to make a decision. Can they join forces to find their quarry, and with it a new life together, or will old enmities and prejudices keep them from both the rex and each other?

Sam’s Review:

Huge thank you to Harper Collins Canada for this ARC!

As a Canadian, I am insanely embarrassed to say that this is my first book by Kenneth Oppel. I work in a public library, and he is beloved by Canadian middle graders and teens and yet somehow I just never got around to reading his novels. That was until I was handed a copy of Every Hidden Thing, his latest YA release, and this is one of the rare cases where the book’s blurb is actually quite spot on.

This book is basically Romeo and Juliet, if it were in theIndiana Jones-verse. We have two star-crossed lover teens whose fathers are bitter rivals in the archaeology business. Convinced that their fathers are both jerks, the two begin to take comfort in each other and romance ensues. The pitch is PERFECT and I will say, Oppel knows how to weave together a story that borrows from so many different genres and make it work.

I will say though, I love Indiana Jones, but despise Romeo and Juliet, and yet this book worked in a lot of ways. I think the story beats were really well thought out, but the characters were definitely lacking for me and I struggled to get attached. I will say, I appreciated the way in which Oppel hands Sam and Rachel’s sexual encounter, as it’s very thoughtfully done, but it’s also very Romeo and Juliet-esque.

I think the main thing I struggled with was the method of how the story was told. Two different fonts work simultaneously through out the story, one representing Sam, and one Rachel. Sometimes I found their voices a bit too similar, and found I had to really pay attention to the font to ensure that I understood which character’s mind I was in. I wish the book had broken up the POVs in a way where it didn’t read so confusingly, and while I think some will like the style, it didn’t jive with me a lot of the time. I enjoyed the story though and that is what kept me going.

Every Hidden Thing is a very interesting read given the genre mashup that it is. While I wasn’t in love with this book, it did make me curious in wanting to check out some of Kenneth Oppel’s other works because there’s definitely a sense of uniqueness that felt undeniable.

 

#ARC August Wrap Up!

ARC-August-2015

#ARCAugust is hosted by the amazing Octavia & Shelly @ Read. Sleep. Repeat! Thank you again ladies for running an awesome event!

Let’s see the results!

  • The Dog Who Dared to Dream by Hwang Sun-mi (September 6)
  • This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills (October 4)
  • The Infinity Year of Avalon James by Dana Middleton (October 11)
  • Missy Piggle-Wiggle and the Whatever Cure by Ann M. Martin (September 6)
  • Girls Like Me by Lola St.Vil (October 4)
  • When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore (October 4)
  • Speed of Life by J.M Kelly (October 11)
  • Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova (September 6)
  • Every Hidden Thing by Kenneth Oppel (September 20)
  • The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog
    by Adam Gidwitz (September 27)
  • Blood For Blood by Ryan Graudin (November 1)
  • Afterward by Jennifer Mathiu (September 20)
  • Write This Down by Claudia Mills (September 27, ebook)
  • The Swan Riders by Erin Bow (September 20)
  • Mark of the Plague by Kevin Sands (September 6)

Total Read:12/16

Well, my last week of #ARCAugust was a bit of a bust as I only finished Girls Like Me. I am super proud of myself for the number of books I managed to complete during the event, as well as the number of reviews I managed to write as well. I always find #ARCAugust to be a super motivating and positive event to participate in and it was no different this year. I only hope everyone else had a crazy awesome #ARCAugust and managed to get through a chunk of their ARC backlog. I still don’t feel like I made enough of a dent, but you know what? Can’t be hard on myself considering I see my results as quite the accomplishment.

Here’s hoping I have as much success in September!

ARC Review – The Thousandth Floor (The Thousandth Floor #1) by Katharine McGee

24921954Title:  The Thousandth Floor (The Thousandth Floor #1)

Author: Katharine McGee

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: A hundred years in the future, New York is a city of innovation and dreams. But people never change: everyone here wants something…and everyone has something to lose. 
Leda Cole’s flawless exterior belies a secret addiction—to a drug she never should have tried and a boy she never should have touched. Eris Dodd-Radson’s beautiful, carefree life falls to pieces when a heartbreaking betrayal tears her family apart.

Rylin Myers’s job on one of the highest floors sweeps her into a world—and a romance—she never imagined…but will her new life cost Rylin her old one? Watt Bakradi is a tech genius with a secret: he knows everything about everyone. But when he’s hired to spy by an upper-floor girl, he finds himself caught up in a complicated web of lies. And living above everyone else on the thousandth floor is Avery Fuller, the girl genetically designed to be perfect. The girl who seems to have it all—yet is tormented by the one thing she can never have.

Huge thank you to the publisher for this ARC!

Molly’s Review:

I REALLY enjoyed this book. Way more than I had expected to. It is very “Gossip Girl”, but I think it also has a lot of the diversity that Gossip Girl is lacking. And a lot of the diversity isn’t IN YOUR FACE THIS BOOK IS DIVERSE but it’s a lot more quiet. And that’s something that isn’t being said. So I thought I should point it out.

I wasn’t really big on the multiple POV, but the voices were all so different that I wasn’t lost or confused at any point. And I really actually enjoyed the story from each one. I loved the futuristic aspects, and the idea of the Tower was cool (idk how practice it actually would be, but whatever scifi, whatever).

This was a unique twist on a typical contemporary YA. The writing was good, the characters were all fleshed out, and the writing was really well done. I’ve heard some things about this book that people didn’t like (like insest) but most of the things that I heard people didn’t like either didn’t bother me or wasn’t really THAT WAY. So I guess if you’ve heard some of those things just go into this book with an open mind.

I’m really glad that I gave this one a shot.

ARC Review – The Dark Talent (Alcatraz, #5) by Brandon Sanderson

26114421Title: The Dark Talent (Alcatraz, #5)

Author: Brandon Sanderson

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Alcatraz Smedry has successfully defeated the army of Evil Librarians and saved the kingdom of Mokia. Too bad he managed to break the Smedry Talents in the process. Even worse, his father is trying to enact a scheme that could ruin the world, and his friend, Bastille, is in a coma. To revive her, Alcatraz must infiltrate the Highbrary–known as The Library of Congress to Hushlanders–the seat of Evil Librarian power. Without his Talent to draw upon, can Alcatraz figure out a way to save Bastille and defeat the Evil Librarians once and for all?

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I was dreading reading this book. Mostly because I didn’t think I’d ever actually get to read this book. This is a story of failure, cowardice and family, and it should be what one comes to expect when reading the Alcatraz series. I got to say, for the last book in the series, Sanderson really threw down his gauntlet and the amount of surprises? Well, they were plentiful.

There’s not a lot I can talk about with this book because it relies so heavily on the events of the previous books. The surprises in this story are many, and characters who didn’t receive growth in prior novels definitely got much more developed this time around. There’s always such a strong focus on family in this series, and this installment really truly reminds you if how fragile Alcatraz is in a lot of ways, and how his relationship with his parents isn’t the most solid of foundations. There was a good amount of twist and turns, though I will say the excessive footnoting started to grate on me at times.

Also the artwork in this novel? It’s pretty fantastic and I look forward to seeing how it looks in a finished copy, as a lot of what was in the ARC were mainly sketches. There’s a lot of movement and personality in the artwork and it really does a great job of highlighting what a fun and cheeky seriesAlcatraz is.

Of all of Sanderson’s series, Alcatraz has always been my favourite, and it’s a series that I think deserves more recognition than it actually receives. It’s fun, crazy, and just a heck of a ride, and this ending does a great job of coming full circle and showing why this series is such a great read. I definitely urge readers that if they haven’t checked out theAlcatraz series to do so, and I hope you’ll find the ending as satisfying as I did.