Monthly Archives: March 2017

Book Riot’s Read Harder 2017 Challenge – March Reads

March is almost over, and much like February, I didn’t complete as many of the challenges I would have liked. Truthfully I got way too obsessed with some of the personal reading challenges I gave myself this month, and my husband’s silly challenge of reading as many blue books (blue on the cover, on the spine, just blue) as I could. I read quite a few, not going to lie. Still, I managed to complete two more challenges on my read harder journey. Here’s what I read in March!


King Baby by Kate Beaton

Completes Challenge #9: Read a book you’ve read before.

Thoughts: I recognize that picking a picture book may seem like cheating, but my goal this year is to read books I own and haven’t read, so I knew this challenge would be challenging given my own reading goals for the year. However, I ended up rereading King Baby for an interview I did where I had to perform storytime. I sadly didn’t get the position, but I will admit how much fun it was to reread this book to adults during the interview process. This book is still so funny, quirky, and I need one of those King Baby plushies that exist. Or a Queen Baby plushie. I maintain that my husband reads this book out loud better than I do. Seriously if you have wee ones, this is a must read!


Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War by Mary Roach

Completes Challenge #14: Read a book about war.

Thoughts: For this Book Riot Challenge, I decided to read a non-fiction book about war, and one that was more science-based than historical. I love Mary Roach’s writing, and adored Packing for Mars, but Grunt feels like a very different book. It has Roach’s humour and her methodical breaks downs for how different things work, but this was definitely a much more challenging read to get through. For starters, I am not really interested in books about war, and two: there’s some stuff in this book is really not for the faint of heart. Roach describes things like penis transplants, diarrhea, and others aspects of the military that are unique and challenging to say the least. I learned not to eat while reading this book. It’s very informative and very accessible, and I liked it given it gave me a different perspective on war that I didn’t think was actual possible.


When Everything Feels Like the Movies by Raziel Reid

Completes Challenge #21Read a book published by a micropress.

Note: This book is published by Arsenal Pulp Press.

Thoughts: This book is a very difficult read, and it’s a book that doesn’t shy away from anything. It’s vulgar, it’s raw, and it doesn’t pull any punches. I both enjoyed and found this book frustrating. I really found myself disliking how Jude treated any friends he had in the story, but I weirdly loved his self-absorbed world where he was the movie star and everyone else the players. I feel like Reid nails that voice and nails that presentation throughout the story, to the point where it is so believable to both Jude and the reader. I also found the ending to be so difficult and given some of the hints in the story it was bound to happen. The writing had some awkward moments for me though. This book is definitely not for everyone, and if you can’t stomach sexual content or vulgarity, I would advise not touching this book with a ten foot pole.

 

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ARC Review – Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Title: Strange the Dreamer

Author: Laini Taylor

Rating: ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Strange the Dreamer is the story of:

the aftermath of a war between gods and men
a mysterious city stripped of its name
a mythic hero with blood on his hands
a young librarian with a singular dream
a girl every bit as perilous as she is imperiled
alchemy and blood candy, nightmares and godspawn, moths and monsters, friendship and treachery, love and carnage.

Welcome to Weep.

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

Sam’s Review:

I want to preface this review by saying that Strange the Dreamer is a fairly difficult book to read. There are moments where you will feel lost, confused, and swept away. These issues will be problematic for some readers, as this is not an easy story to engage with in the slightest. This feels like such a departure from the Daughter of Smoke and Bone I trilogy, and that’s not a bad thing. While this book is a slow burn, I really enjoyed my time with it.

The issue with Strange the Dreamer is that to me it felt like more of an experience than a novel. Taylor’s prose is gorgeous, it leads you into a majestic world of The Weep, and it is such a rich realm ripe with exploration, darkness. Taylor does this fantastic job of blending dream and reality, making the reader feel as though at times they are in a dream-like state or inhabiting a nightmare. There is so much to this book that at times it feels overwhelming and I feel like in a lot of ways that is the experience Taylor is providing to the readers.

I think there is a beautiful world in this book, but I admit, I wish I liked the characters more. I felt that they weren’t the most well developed or even the most memorable. I found myself so drawn into the picture she was painting, but I didn’t find myself attached to anyone in particular. Perhaps that is both the strength and weakness of this book: there is so much happening in this story and yet it also feels like there’s something missing that stops it from being perfect for me. This is also very much a mood read for me: I’d have have moments where I was super into reading this book, and some days where I picked it up, felt overwhelmed and said NOPE.

And that’s just it — if you are a fan of Laini Taylor, you’ll likely adore this book because it has everything that makes her books special — fantastic and poetic writing and very vivid worlds. I think this is definitely a book I am going to have to reread before the sequel comes out just too see if my opinion on it changes, because part of me feels like if I had been in a different frame of mind this book would have easily been a win for me. Still, there’s a lot to like here, but if you don’t like feeling overwhelmed by intense world building, or feeling confused until the pieces of the puzzle are given to you, this might not be the book for you.

ARC Review – 100 Hours (100 Hours #1) by Rachel Vincent

30653906Title: 100 Hours (100 Hours #1)

Author: Rachel Vincent

Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: A decadent spring break getaway on an exotic beach becomes a terrifying survival story when six Miami teens are kidnapped and ransomed.

Maddie is beyond done with her cousin Genesis’s entitled and shallow entourage. Genesis is so over Miami’s predictable social scene with its velvet ropes, petty power plays, and backstabbing boyfriends.

While Maddie craves family time for spring break, Genesis seeks novelty—like a last-minute getaway to an untouched beach in Colombia. And when Genesis wants something, it happens.

But paradise has its price. Dragged from their tents under the cover of dark, Genesis, Maddie, and their friends are kidnapped and held for ransom deep inside the jungle—with no diva left behind. It all feels so random to everyone except Genesis. She knows they were targeted for a reason. And that reason is her.

Now, as the hours count down, only one thing’s for certain: If the Miami hostages can’t set aside their personal problems, no one will make it out alive.

Huge thank you to Miss Print’s ARC adoption for this review copy.

Molly’s Review:

This book was like watching an early 2000-esque action movie. Lots of complicated ugly pretty people, random almost faceless “bad guys”, a tropical location, some vague references to political unrest & explosions.

So naturally I loved it.

The writing in this book isn’t spectacular, nor are the characters, but it was very fast paced and I flew through the first 250 pages in one sitting. I didn’t really care about anyone, but I did want to see what was going to happen.

A lot of this is pretty unbelievable. One of the characters is diabetic and she’s able to jump off a cliff, hike MILES through the jungle, and make out with the cute boy she’s known for a full day without having any problems. And no, I’m not saying a diabetic couldn’t do that, I’m saying that pretty much nobody could do that, let alone a teen girl with a disease that is affected by lack of food and too much physical exertion.

There is A LOT of teen drama in this, which I also found to be a little over the top because really, I feel like most teens that were kidnapped by Colombian terrorists in the middle of the jungle would be a WHOLE LOT LESS WORRIED about who’s hooking up with who. But then again it wouldn’t be an early 2000-esqu action movie without the main character hooking up with the beautiful strange they just met (hello every single Jason Statham movie EVER).

So yeah, this book was okay. It tried hard to be something more than it was, but didn’t quite make it. And it ends on a cliff hanger so I guess there’s going to be a second book. I might pick it up if I’m in the mood for some mindless action.

Book Chat – Buying Less Books & Reading My Own Crap

One of the biggest problems I had as a book nerd in my teenage and college years was that I loved to buy books. I mean to the point of hoarding. Now, there’s nothing wrong with having a lot of books, but as I’ve joked about my “Shelf of Shame” it really is one of those things where I get super frustrated with myself. So I decided to make a conscious effort the last few years: cut back on the book buying. It just started to make sense, but then a new problem arose.

The Dilemma: 

I work at a public library. When I get to process the new books I am like a kid at Christmas with excitement. I was already a heavy user of my library even before getting the job, but I found myself getting this rut where I kept taking out books, reading them, and then not reading my own stuff. “It’s for the circulation stats!” I would tell myself, but it didn’t help my massive pile of personal books. In March I devoted myself to reading all the books I’ve had out from the library (and at the time of this post I am down to two left) because in April I am putting myself on a ban for a little while. The only thing I won’t ban myself from is new comics and manga since I read and return it fast enough. But book books? Yeah, I need to control myself.

The other issue is ARCs. I love my ARCs, I love reviewing books for you guys, I love sharing stuff I am enjoying as well. I admit, this one likely won’t stop, but I do need to work on balancing the ARCs and my own reads better. What I am going to try to do again is do one ARC, one personal read and try to keep the back and forth going. Sometimes an ARC is not what I am craving, so I may just slip into reading what I want.

Trying to Find a Solution:

If I am being honest, I would say 2016 was the year I really did start to reduce my book buying and stick with it. I still buy books from authors I love to support and one of my goals is to donate ARCs I’ve kept and replace them with a legit copy. Because money can be a real tight thing, sometimes you have to get crafty. One thing I love doing is book trades, which I have a select group of people I trade with and that has been a wonderful thing. It’s allowed me to give away books I know I won’t read again and in exchange get something I want to read. However, it also adds to the pile.

One thing in 2017 I am doing different is giving myself specific reading challenges for the year and each month. In my goals journal I’ve given myself a few broader goals for the year:

  • Read 200 books
  • Read ten Non-Fiction books
  • Read five 500+ page books
  • Complete/Catch-up on 10 Series

I find recording what I read base on my challenges has been very helpful. It allowed me to visualize what I have on my shelves that need to be tackled. It also just helps is planning some of my reading for the month. I have managed to complete my reading goals for the first two months without trouble, but we will see how things go throughout the year. I always try to keep my goals every month even though sometimes it’s very difficult. Still, I try to stay positive!

Where To Go From Here?

Frankly, this is the larger question I ask myself. One of my goals is to read my own stuff and down-size my books. I have ideas on what I plan to do with the books I don’t want to keep, and I’ve weeded and pruned my collection down to stuff I still want to read. If I can continue to use my library less (which I love so hard) and keep reading my own stuff, I’d like to think that once my husband and I are ready to downsize that my collection will be much more manageable.

Here’s hoping I can stick to this plan. It’s going to be tough, but I really need to keep at my Shelf of Shame and focus on reading what I have. I hate not being able to support authors financially, and I do try when I can (or instead encourage my library to buy it so others can enjoy). Cutting back on things you love to spend money on is hard, and given the amount of money I have spent in the past? I feel like I have a lot of work to do.

ARC Review – Things I Should Have Known by Claire LaZebnik

Title: Things I Should Have Known

Author: Claire LaZebnik

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: From the author of Epic Fail comes the story of Chloe Mitchell, a Los Angeles girl on a quest to find love for her autistic sister, Ivy. Ethan, from Ivy’s class, seems like the perfect match. It’s unfortunate that his older brother, David, is one of Chloe’s least favorite people, but Chloe can deal, especially when she realizes that David is just as devoted to Ethan as she is to Ivy.

Uncommonly honest and refreshingly funny, this is a story about sisterhood, autism, and first love. Chloe, Ivy, David, and Ethan, who form a quirky and lovable circle, will steal readers’ hearts and remind us all that it’s okay to be a different kind of normal.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!
I have adored Claire LaZebnik’s books in the past. They are cheeky, funny, and always full of heart. That’s not entirely the case where with Things I Should Have Known. This book is definitely full of heart and it definitely comes from a deeply personal place. I admit I had a bit of a rough start with this book, but it’s only because the introduction to Claire and Ivy is a slow burn with a lot of ground to cover. Once I got a few chapters in, I felt the spark from this book.

This book, at it’s core, is a book about autism and sisterhood. Ivy is autistic, while Claire is the older sister who becomes in a lot of ways, Ivy’s pillar of support. Claire teaches Ivy about dating, integrating with others, and through the story we come to learn that not only is Ivy autistic, but she is also gay. There’s a lot of exploration in this story revolving Ivy’s sexuality, how her autism affects her, and how she wants to feel like everyone else, despite knowing she is anything but. I really loved the way LaZebnik sheds light on the sister’s relationship: it shows a lot of strength and there is a part of me that could really relate the sister’s situation. Claire has to sacrifice parts of herself for Ivy, but it’s only because she cares so deeply for her sister and her happiness.

I really adored how real this book felt. The large conflicts at play, be it Ethan’s plotline or Claire’s relationship with David — there is something in how LaZebnik connects all these people together that just works so well. I also liked how long it took Claire and David to get together, it felt so organic and I found it made a lot of sense as I was reading a long. The only thing I can say in regards to the romance that I disliked was Claire trying to force Ivy into a relationship towards the beginning. I really didn’t like that, but I did understand Claire’s point of view in this regard (even if it didn’t make it right). I appreciate that this gets remedied later on when Claire and Ivy start to undercover Ivy’s sexuality more. It’s very interesting and thoughtful.

I feel like those who love raw YA novels will definitely love Things I Should Have Known. This is an amazing and well researched book that has really great characters, and it shows a lot of sensitivity. There’s a gentleness in this novel that is appreciated as it is thoughtful. If you love tough YA, this book is worth checking out.

Book Chat – Falling Back In Love With Manga

Growing up I used to be a huge anime and manga fan. I used to consume it like it was candy. Then somewhere in the land of getting older and crustier, I stopped enjoying and perusing both mediums. My husband still religiously (and to this day) follows anime and manga, but somehow I fell super out of love with it.

In 2016 when I got my new job at the library, I gained a work!wife who reintroduced me back in manga. She constantly recommends new titles to me stuff she’s enjoyed, as well as stuff the teens at our local branch have been devouring as well. We also bonded over old anime classics like Saiyuki, and newer  shows like Yuri On Ice!!! My friend and co-worker did this amazing job of accidentally rekindling my love for manga and anime. Now, I struggle to stop.

Admittedly, I borrow a lot of manga from my work and that’s just because there is so much of it out there that it’s hard to keep up. It also gets insanely expensive as well. But I am finding that I am getting more and more into it. Especially when I see the kinds of manga that I am trapping for holds, or just what the teens come and talk to me about. It’s AWESOME. I now find myself completely down the rabbit hole for Haikyu, which is my friend’s favourite at the moment. I recently devoured Steins;Gate, which made me so happy considering I got a different ending in the video game than the one the manga implies is canon. I feel like anime and manga is back to those golden years where I was super in love with it. She also recommended Food Wars, and I am currently keeping up with Danganronpa as it releases in English.

I am just so happy with the amount of diversity in manga now. I was starting to worry for the longest time that it was mainly going to be moe and nothing but, and yet it’s so great to see the variety of titles that exist in English, as well as the popularity a lot of these series, old and new, still have. I admit, Haikyu for example is bringing me back to that dangerous fangirl territory I was in back when I loved Prince of Tennis. Reading Danganronpa reminds me how much I love the video games, and reading JUDGE instilled fear in me in a way which I didn’t think was entirely possible.

So dear readers of this blog who are manga fans: what are some manga out there that you can recommend for someone who is slowly getting back into the hobby? I’d be curious to know what some of the favourites are!

ARC Review – Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner

Title: Goodbye Days

Author: Jeff Zentner

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Can a text message destroy your life?

Carver Briggs never thought a simple text would cause a fatal crash, killing his three best friends, Mars, Eli, and Blake. Now Carver can’t stop blaming himself for the accident and even worse, there could be a criminal investigation into the deaths.

Then Blake’s grandmother asks Carver to remember her grandson with a ‘goodbye day’ together. Carver has his misgivings, but he starts to help the families of his lost friends grieve with their own memorial days, along with Eli’s bereaved girlfriend Jesmyn. But not everyone is willing to forgive. Carver’s own despair and guilt threatens to pull him under into panic and anxiety as he faces punishment for his terrible mistake. Can the goodbye days really help?

Huge thank you to Penguin Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I have heard for various friends and bloggers that Zentner’s The Serpent King was an amazing debut novel. I’ll admit that I haven’t read it yet, and instead was handed his latest novel by my bookish angel over at Penguin Canada. I knew a bit about this book, more like, I knew the tag line and that a text message would play a larger roll. What I wasn’t expecting, was how deeply involved I would get into Carver’s story.

This was one of those reads that I dreaded putting the book down. Every time I had to put it down, whether it was to do chores, work, or help someone else… I was thinking about this book. Goodbye Days had that strong of an effect on me. I felt for Carver throughout the story; his grief, anxiety, depression, anger, loss — he feels a whirlwind of emotions, feels as though he has no control, and is told to keep pressing on. I found him easy to relate to, and I feel like I connected with him given my own personal circumstances (very different, but the emotional impact was very much the same).

I loved the way Zentner wrote the Sauce Crew, and I found myself really draw to the flashbacks in this book. At times, they felt like cheesy teenagers doing stupid things, but I found the way in which they were portrayed to be easy to connect with. They genuinely are friends! And it’s nice to see that genuineness in the writing as well. You get larger sense in the story as to how close each member was, and Carver does a great job sharing with the reader their stories, their lives, and his overall connection to them.

I won’t sugarcoat this: Goodbye Days is a very sad, depressing book. For it’s bits of glimmer and humour, it’s a sad tale that will take you to sadtown with no real way out. Expect sadness, but expect a book that feels raw as well. The writing has some moments of awkward, but overall I really did love this story, and I was always compelled to keep reading. Goodbye Days is a lovely, emotional novel that will leave you with all the feels.