Monthly Archives: November 2016

Book Chat: Why I Love (and Why You Should Read) the Whatever After Series by Sarah Mlynowski

16043628As you all know, I work in a public library. Working in a public library you get a huge sense of what is hip and in with the middle graders. While I can’t for the life of me get the appeal of Geronimo Stilton (he’s just too perfect), there’s one middle grade series that has really sunk its claws into me. I am, of course, talking about the Whatever After series by Sarah Mlynowski.

Those who might be unfamiliar, Sarah Mlynowski is a Canadian author who has written a plethora of novels ranging from middle grade to YA. Her books are beloved in Canada and this series in particular gets a lot of love from middle graders. I will tell you why that is as well: it has to do with the heroes of this series, Abby and Jonah.

First off, Abby and Jonah are Jewish, and every so often Abby or Jonah will teach the readers about Jewish customs, Hebrew words, and holidays and she does this in a way that feels organic to the story. Second of all, both Abby and Jonah are VERY well fleshed out and flawed as characters, and to the point where in each novel shows a bit more of personalities. Truthfully, I adore Jonah, and that is because he goes beyond the annoying little brother stereotype and often he’s the one suggesting to Abby how they can solve the mysteries in the fairy tales! I also adore Abby, and I love that her life’s goal is to become a Judge. What girl says that at her age? Not many.

The last thing about this series is that it is a fun twist on traditional fairy tales. From Rapenzel 18527499losing all her hair because of Jonah’s sports cleats to Beauty and the Beast just not being compatible for each other, I love the creativity that  Mlynowski throws into each of these books. It really makes you think about how the original fairy tales are, but how easily one can flip them upside down.

I feel like more folks need to check this series out because not only does it have the depth that some middle grade lacks, but it adds pure fun to a genre that can often feel stale. Sure the covers are pretty cheesy, but don’t let them fool you — these stories are funny, light-heated and they and just plain fun. I say this as a person who has whipping through all the books that are currently out in less than a year. Definitely check this series out if you have a middle grader in your life or if you just love middle grade!

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Ten Books to Read Before 2017

Last year I made a list of ten books I wanted to read about the year was out — I decided that list in December, got distracted by shinies and did not complete my challenge. I got through most of them, but I still feel like I failed somewhat. I decided this time around that I would start in November, and hopefully I can knock these ten reads off my TBR. I’ve been dying to read all of these books and for whatever reason I just haven’t grabbed them yet! Let’s look at the ten books I’d like to read before the new year hits (can you believe we only have two months left? Time flies!)

 

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All the Light We Cannot See
by Anthony Doerr

I got this book via #BooksforTrade over Twitter because everyone and their grandmother told me this book was fantastic. I tend to be wary of people stating when something is the best book ever, but I do love historical fiction (I just have to be in the right mood for it) and this novel’s premise sounds like it will be both interesting and heartbreaking. I love the idea of fated meetings, though I’m not always huge on books set during WWII. I cannot wait to give this read a try!

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Midnight Without a Moon
by Linda Williams Jackson (Release Date: January 3rd 2017 by HMH Books for Young Readers)

One of my quests doing RA work is to work on reading more diversely (though as my husband has pointed out, I predominately read novels written by women). I want to work on reading more novels that feature Own Voices and also People of Colour because I think that is such an important issue. I also want to read more novels where the protagonists are not White. What stuck me about Midnight Without A Moon is that it is another piece of historical fiction, written for middle grade audiences, focusing on an event in 1955 when Emmett Till, a young Africian-American boy, is killed for allegedly whistling at a white woman. That story is so famous and haunting, and I am interested to see what Linda Williams Jackson shares with that as the backdrop for this debut novel.

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The Monster on the Road Is Me by J.P. Romey

My co-blogger Molly shared this particular novel in her favourite books set in Japan and this one stuck out for me because of what she said and its beautiful cover. I LOVE Japanese folklore and I love books set in Japan, and through the synopsis it just sounds like this book is quite the wild ride. Definitely check out what Molly thought of this book, and I bet you it will sell you on this novel. As for me? I need to make time for it because it sounds like my jam.

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The Burning Chaos (Smoke and Mirrors, #2) by Melissa Giorgio

I LOVED The Fading Dusk last year, and I thought Melissa created a really delightful fantasy world in that story. The sequel released, and of course somehow I haven’t read it yet (I am a crappy friend!). But seriously, the ending of the first book was a fantastic cliffhanger that left me wanting this sequel, and I just can’t believe I didn’t read it right away. I plan to remedy this, and you all should check out the first book because it is AWESOMESAUCE. You can purchase it here if you are interested!

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Black Apple
by Joan Crate

I have actually had an ARC for Black Apple since January of this year and somehow I haven’t read it yet. I’ve heard so many mixed things about this book that it has left me somewhat wary of what I am going to find here. This book is written by a Canadian author and is focusing on Native issues, and I am always a bit hesitant on books like this when they aren’t written by a Native author. I know there is an insanely important message regarding Natives in Canada and the Residential School system, which I do think is an under-discussed issue. I am looking forward to seeing what I think of this one.

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Stars Above (The Lunar Chronicles #4.5)
by Marissa Meyer

I only finally got to Winter this year, and gah, I loved that book so much. Of course this being a short story collection, you would have thought I would have ripped through this after I finished Winter, no? Well, I took a break, and now I want to make sure I read this before the Iko graphic novel Nerve & Wires comes out next year. I also promised my bestie she could borrow this, and should probably make good on that promise.

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

This is one of my most anticipated reads of 2017 and I already have an ARC of it. Part of me knows once I read it, I won’t be able to stop myself. Following the coat-tails of the delightful George by Alex Gino, Cat Clake brings up the tale of a transgendered middle grader who is in transition. I LOVE stories like this, and I will always continue to support books that focus on the transgendered experience. I feel like The Pants Project is going to give me some knowledge and perhaps some bigger feels.

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Love and First Sight
by Josh Sundquist (January 3rd 2017 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)

I loved Josh Sundquist’s non-fiction novel We Should Hang Out Sometime, mostly because I loved the honesty and over-the-topness of some of his dating escapades. He’s also just a great speaker in general, and I love how he reminds people that living with a disability doesn’t mean he is any less of a person. This is his first fictional YA novel, and I am looking forward to see if his signature voice and humour may translate over. We shall see, but I am stoked to read this book!

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Caraval (Untitled #1)
by Stephanie Garber (January 31st 2017 by Flatiron Books)

This is THE BOOK I keep hearing about in all of the YA bloggosphere, and I am so excited but so nervous to read this book, omg. I am trying to think of coherent thoughts about this book, but all of my lady friends who have read this book have told me nothing but amazing things. AMAZING THINGS PEOPLE. I need to read this, like, now. NOW NOW NOW. *faints*

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American Girls
by Alison Umminger

This is another book a lot of my friends have been raving about and Molly was kind enough to send me a copy of it. Molly and I have this trend in YA that we love and have dubbed “pretty-ugly girls,” which are, pretty, mean and yet we can’t look away from them. I am kinda hoping this fulfills that for me because I haven’t really read any books this year that really fits that trope, and it makes me kinda sad. I definitely need to read this one before the year is out.

 And there you have it! If you have read any of these books I’d love to know your thoughts on them — which are worth reading, passing on, which are OMGAMAZEBALLS and which ones are just ‘okay’. What are some books you want to get to before the year is out? Let me know in the comments!

ARC Review – We Are Still Tornadoes by Michael Kun & Susan Mullen

28220739Title: We Are Still Tornadoes

Author: Michael Kun & Susan Mullen

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Growing up across the street from each other, Scott and Cath have been best friends their entire lives. Cath would help Scott with his English homework, he would make her mix tapes (it’s the 80’s after all), and any fight they had would be forgotten over TV and cookies. But now they’ve graduated high school and Cath is off to college while Scott is at home pursuing his musical dreams.

During their first year apart, Scott and Cath’s letters help them understand heartache, annoying roommates, family drama and the pressure to figure out what to do with the rest of their lives. And through it all, they realize that the only person they want to turn to is each other. But does that mean they should be more than friends? The only thing that’s clear is that change is an inescapable part of growing up. And the friends who help us navigate it share an unshakable bond.

Huge thank you to Raincoast/St. Martin’s Griffin for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I remember hearing about We Are Still Tornadoes at one of the the Raincoast #TeenReadFeed events, and it sounded intriguing to me. It is a novel about a friendship in the 1980’s, and it’s entirely told in back and forth letters. I loved that concept, so when I got the chance to read it, I was immediately draw to how much this narrative style worked for me.

First of all, this is a friendship novel through and through. Scott and Cath have such a beautiful friendship, and they know how to call each other on crapola just as much as they know when to console each other. I also love that we don’t know the events in between letters because we only get a sense of what information is important based on what is told in the letter. It’s a very limited POV, but it works really well in this story because the authors give you just enough information every time to put together the details that aren’t being said.

But seriously, Cath and Scott are adorable. I loved their interactions and I loved how they describe the other people that exist in their lives, particularly Cath’s roommate Dorothy, who was both batty and really hilarious. The whole cake incident alone kinda had me in stitches. I also loved Scott’s dream of wanting to be a musician and I loved the original titles to his songs and I love how his lyrics always came from a deeply personal place. I loved Cath’s constant encouragement, and even when she was mad at him, she would always be able to forgive him because that is how much their friendship means to her.

I also loved the 80’s references! I loved that Scott thought Freddie Mercury was straight (so wrong!), and how “Billie Jean” was one of Cath’s favourite songs. These little touches remind you of a world without e-mail, without instant communication, and it reminds you of a simpler time. I used to send letters to my friends all the time, and it was always such a treat getting a hand-written letter in the mail. Scott’s responses to getting letters — that was totally me when I was his age getting letters in the mail. It’s like Christmas!

And we need more stories like this in YA. Books that showcase friendship as a focal point. While I predicted the ending and was kinda hoping it wouldn’t go the direction it did, I still think We Are Still Tornadoes is a wonderful, quick little read that packs quite the punch given how short it is.