Monthly Archives: September 2016

ARC Review -The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz & Hatem Aly

29358517Title: The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog

Author: Adam Gidwitz & Hatem Aly

Rating:  ★★★★

Synopsis: 1242. On a dark night, travelers from across France cross paths at an inn and begin to tell stories of three children: William, an oblate on a mission from his monastery; Jacob, a Jewish boy who has fled his burning village; and Jeanne, a peasant girl who hides her prophetic visions. They are accompanied by Jeanne’s loyal greyhound, Gwenforte . . . recently brought back from the dead.
As the narrator collects their tales, the story of these three unlikely allies begins to come together.

Their adventures take them on a chase through France to escape prejudice and persecution and save precious and holy texts from being burned. They’re taken captive by knights, sit alongside a king, and save the land from a farting dragon. And as their quest drives them forward to a final showdown at Mont Saint-Michel, all will come to question if these children can perform the miracles of saints.

Huge thank you to Penguin Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Revie

Let me preface this review by saying I knew nothing about this book going into it, and the first chapter basically wrecked me into a ball of tears. The rest of the book, thankfully, wasn’t that way, but it just goes to show you that sometimes middle grade books will throw interesting curve balls to get the reader engaged.

This book largely focuses on three children and their holy dog, but their story is actually being told by a large variety of narrators: a nun, a barmaid, an inquisitor, etc. Each character has their own version of the events in the novel, providing snippets of truth that focuses the reader to play a bit of a guessing game. With so many unreliable narrator’s,The Inquisitor’s Tale makes for such an interesting read.

The book is not for the heavy of heart — it’s an emotionally draining and exhausting read where you want to cheer for these characters. You as the reader feel like you are following their journey, partaking in both their successes and sorrows as well. There’s very well timed humour, and the children are really delightful as their are unique. Even just how the story unfolds is very unique in itself, and it makes for an interesting reading experience as well.

Also there is an intense about of research in this book, and I loved reading Gidwitz’s Author’s Notes at the end as to where the inspiration of the novel comes from. I really had no idea that the holy dog was in fact a thing, but there ya go. Fun, cheeky, and emotionally draining, The Inquisitor’s Tale is a ton of fun for those looking for an adventure that feels both entertaining as it is timeless.

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ARC Review – Bright Smoke, Cold Fire (Untitled #1) by Rosamund Hodge

28448239Title: Bright Smoke, Cold Fire (Untitled #1)

Author: Rosamund Hodge

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: When the mysterious fog of the Ruining crept over the world, the living died and the dead rose. Only the walled city of Viyara was left untouched. The heirs of the city’s most powerful—and warring—families, Mahyanai Romeo and Juliet Catresou share a love deeper than duty, honor, even life itself. But the magic laid on Juliet at birth compels her to punish the enemies of her clan—and Romeo has just killed her cousin Tybalt. Which means he must die.

Paris Catresou has always wanted to serve his family by guarding Juliet. But when his ward tries to escape her fate, magic goes terribly wrong—killing her and leaving Paris bound to Romeo. If he wants to discover the truth of what happened, Paris must delve deep into the city, ally with his worst enemy . . . and perhaps turn against his own clan. Mahyanai Runajo just wants to protect her city—but she’s the only one who believes it’s in peril. In her desperate hunt for information, she accidentally pulls Juliet from the mouth of death—and finds herself bound to the bitter, angry girl. Runajo quickly discovers Juliet might be the one person who can help her recover the secret to saving Viyara.

Both pairs will find friendship where they least expect it. Both will find that Viyara holds more secrets and dangers than anyone ever expected. And outside the walls, death is waiting. . .

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

Molly’s Review:

I loved this book SO MUCH. I originally went into it with mixed feelings because I wasn’t a fan of the author’s debut, I decided not to read her second book, and I probably wouldn’t have read this one but it just sounded so unique. And I’m so glad that I gave it a shot.

This is a twist on Romeo & Juliet. It takes place in a fictional world where revenants (zombies) have taken over the world and the only people left are three clans that live inside of a city protected by magic walls. And the walls feed off of blood sacrifices. There’s a group of Sisters who tend the walls and one of our MCs, Runajo, is a novice. She’s feisty and has strong ideals about the world that they live in. She’s a member of the same clan as Romeo, who falls in love with Juliet, a member of another clan. Only Juliet isn’t just a girl, but she’s the sword of her clan. Her own purpose is to basically be their trained killer. And Paris is supposed to be her guardian.

Only everything goes horribly wrong.

This book is dark and beautiful. It’s romantic without any actual on page romance (Romeo and Juliet are actually separate for the entire book). It’s atmospheric and full of beautiful world building. I loved the Sisters of Thorn and their twisted rituals. I loved how vicious Juliet was, and how bumbling both Paris and Romeo were. I really loved the relationships and friendships that developed between the characters. The twists and turns and secrets kept me engaged and on my toes. I read most of this book in two sittings.

My only complaint is that the ending is a bit rushed, but thank god there’s a sequel. Because I need it after THAT cliffhanger.

If you’re a fan of Hodge or just a Romeo & Juliet fan, then this book is for you!

Five Must-Have Books from #TeensReadFeed

Raincoast invited me and a bunch of other bloggers to an event in Toronto to showcase their upcoming line-up of titles for Winter/Spring 2017. The list of titles that they narrowed it to was completely insane, and if I am being frank, I need to say how impressed I was given the plethora of titles releasing in Winter alone. However, what I love about the #TeensReadFeed events is that they are a chance to talk to other bloggers and publishing staff to learn what folks think are going to be the it titles. It also helps that the event is run by some of the best and most delightful people in the publishing business.

There was also a special guest via Google Hangout for the Toronto Crowd, which was Mary E. Pearson! I am a shame to admit I have only read one book by her. After her discussion about writing and the writing process, I am super excited to check out some of her other books and perhaps continue the Remanent Chronicles. Those lucky ducks in B.C had her in person! SO COOL!

It was hard for me to narrow down the five titles from the event that I believe will be must haves for me personally, but I am going to give this a try. Let’s be honest, I kinda wanted to read all the darn books on the list.

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Caraval by Stephanie Barber (Release Date: January 31st 2017 by Flatiron Books)

Oh all the books showcased at the event, this was the one everyone repeatedly stated they wanted to read. I was lucky enough to trade for a copy of it at the event, so I am pretty darn excited to read this one (and keep finding myself tempted to pick it up and fly through it). I am a large sucker for “circus”-style books, or books where it is about performances or games, and this book seems like it’s just a little bit of everything, pixie-dust and more. I’ve heard the writing is beautiful, and that apparently it is a favourite in the Raincoast offices at the moment. Colour me super excited to get to this one. 🙂

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Under Rose-Tainted Skies
by Louise Gornall (January 3rd 2017 by Clarion Books)

Those who have been around the blog long enough know I am a lover and advocate of tough!teen literature, and I love books that focus on much more difficult subject matters. This book is about mental illness, and even more specifically about a girl with agoraphobia and OCD. The author is a mental health advocate, and I am a sucker for books like this which discuss illnesses that I am less familiar with. Sometimes their are topics you just want to have more perspectives on, and I admit that agoraphobia is not a topic I have read a lot about. I am excited to see how Norah’s journey will unfold when the book releases!

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Get it Together, Delilah! by Erin Gough (April 4th 2017 by Chronicle Books)

I have been wanting to read this novel since it released in Australia, and I never bothered to import it (or ask my favourite Aussie about it). I looooooove contemporary fiction sent in Australia, and there’s something about their YA authors that gets authentic teen voices just right. Not only is this an LGBT+ novel, but it looks like the story is going to have a lot of heart, humour and personal calamity. My kind of book!

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The Pants Project by Cat Clarke (March 1st 2017 by Sourcebooks Fire)

Hot on the heels of Alex Gino’s George (a book I adored in 2015) comes The Pants Project by Cat Clarke, a book about a transgendered middle grader who is forced to be someone else because of a school dress code. I always love stories where boundaries must be addressed and broken and I think this book has such the potential to be the kind of story that can punch you in the gut and potentially provide all the feels. I am definitely looking forward to this one!

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The Stone Heart (Nameless City #2) by Faith Erin Hicks (April 4th 2017 by First Second)

And this wouldn’t be a Sam blog post if it didn’t include a graphic novel. I finished The Nameless City back in 2014, and I was clamoring for this sequel the moment I finished it. This book has been a very hard wait for me, even after talking with Faith Erin Hicks back at TCAF 2016 and some of the elements of the story that she said would ramp up in this installment. April is going to be a hard wait for me, but I loved the first book so much that I think I can stick it out (maybe, no, no probably not). I ended up recommending this book for the public library I work at and it has been a hit with a lot of the readers who have been checking it out. If you haven’t read the first book, get on that STAT!


It was so hard to narrow down five picks, but these are the five I am super jazzed about. If I am being honest, almost all of them sound like wonderful reads and I am sure I will likely get to most of them throughout the year.

Huge thank you again to Raincoast for the invite, the food, the swag and the hospitality. I love going to these events and seeing what kind of new gems are going to be releasing. I hope all of these books rock my blogger socks off when they release!

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.