Monthly Archives: March 2017

ARC Review – Windwitch (The Witchlands #2) by Susan Dennard

29939390Title: Windwitch (The Witchlands #2)

Author: Susan Dennard

Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: After an explosion destroys his ship, the world believes Prince Merik, Windwitch, is dead. Scarred yet alive, Merik is determined to prove his sister’s treachery. Upon reaching the royal capital, crowded with refugees, he haunts the streets, fighting for the weak—which leads to whispers of a disfigured demigod, the Fury, who brings justice to the oppressed.

When the Bloodwitch Aeduan discovers a bounty on Iseult, he makes sure to be the first to find her—yet in a surprise twist, Iseult offers him a deal. She will return money stolen from him, if he locates Safi. Now they must work together to cross the Witchlands, while constantly wondering, who will betray whom first?

After a surprise attack and shipwreck, Safi and the Empress of Marstok barely escape with their lives. Alone in a land of pirates, every moment balances on a knife’s edge—especially when the pirates’ next move could unleash war upon the Witchlands.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

So I feel like I am in a minority with this series. I thought Truthwitch was delightful candy, but Windwitch was just… more candy. I didn’t find this sequel as compelling to read as the first book, which is a real shame given how fast I whipped through Truthwitch. I think the reason I didn’t enjoy Windwitch as much was that there just wasn’t enough Safi and Iseult.

Safi and Iseult were easily my favourite parts of Truthwitch. I loved their friendship, I loved their banter, and I maintain that they are the superior ship over Safi/Merik (mostly due to my dislike of Merik). Sadly, this book didn’t change my feelings of Merik, which I hoped it would given he had much more of a larger focus in this installment. I still find him bland and cheesy, and there is part of my brain that is still not computing why Safi and Iseult are the main ship. Well, they can be the mainship in my heart.

I actually liked the way this book separated all the different plotlines that were at work, but like any story that focuses on multiple plotlines, some are going to be stronger than others. My personal favourite of the bunch was Iseult and Aeduan scenes, which I thought were pretty stellar. I also really enjoyed Vivia’s plotline as well. I feel like Safi got the short end of the stick in this book, because her sections felt very out of place a lot of the time, or didn’t feel like they connected fully with the rest of the book. I still adore Safi as a character, but I feel like she didn’t get her due in Windwitch.

I just found this book to be all over the place. I feel like Dennard had a bit too much going on in this novel and it was simply missing a lot of the cohesion that existed in Truthwitch. That being said, I do think the book was still fun to read, and it’s definitely fantasy candy for me. If you liked Truthwitch, keep your expectations in check when you read Windwitch because your feelings may go either way.

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ARC Review – Blueberry Pancakes Forever (Tuesday McGillycuddy #3) by Angelica Banks

Title: Blueberry Pancakes Forever (Tuesday McGillycuddy #3)

Author:  Angelica Banks

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Winter has fallen in the world of story, and at Brown Street, Tuesday’s typewriter lies silent. Far away in the Peppermint Forest, Vivienne Small fears that she will never again feel the touch of the sun…But when the mysterious Loddon appears in Vivienne’s treehouse, he brings with him terrible danger. Without warning, Tuesday is swept up into the world of story as she has never seen it before. In this forbidding and unfamiliar place – and without her beloved dog Baxterr at her side – Tuesday becomes Loddon’s captive. But who exactly is this strange boy? And will she find a way to defeat him?..Blueberry Pancakes Forever will capture the hearts of everyone who is entranced by the power of story.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I am so depressed that the Tuesday McGillycuddy series is completed. This has been one of my “go-to” middle grade series that I love to recommend to kids at my work. It’s funny, it’s enchanting, the writing is stunning, the characters are delightful — it’s the complete package for any middle grade lover. I loved each installment of this series, but reading Blueberry Pancakes Forever was both wonderful and bittersweet all the same.

I can’t go into too much detail for this review because it is a series and there are events leading into this finale. There’s a lot of drama in this book, particularly involving Vivian Small, Tuesday’s mother’s leading character in her popular children’s series. Baxterr the dog also has some awesome moments in the story as well (although let’s be real here, Baxterr is always the best). I also love the incorporation of food in Blueberry Pancakes Forever, and we get to see more of Tuesday’s family dynamic as well.

There’s also some very heavy moments in this story. For all this series’ humour, there are some gut-punching moments that I know got me as I was reading along. Especially in the first few pages, even! But in all honesty, if you’ve never read the Tuesday McGillycuddy series and you love middle grade, this is A+, will read again material. If you have a young one who loves magic and fun characters, this series is equally for them. While I am sad that this is the last book in the series, I really cannot wait to see what Angelica Banks has in store next.

#TBRTakedown 5.0 Results

Sooooooo…. #TBRTakedown 5.0 happened back at the beginning of February and I never did share my results with you guys on how I did. It ran from Feb 6-12 and was hosted by Shannon @ Leaning Lights, who if you’ve never watched her booktube channel, you should, she is a treasure. I was hoping to complete all five books and challenges, and sadly only completed three (though I read the other two books I missed this month as well). Here’s a picture of my TBR:

c3yabjkxuaa9zts The Challenges! (* indicates it was completed during that week)

1) TBR Shelf for Over a Year – The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
by E. Lockhart (3.5/5 Stars)

2) Most Recent Book Haul – The Crossover by Kwame Alexander* (4/5 Stars)

3) First Book in a Series – A Spy in the House (The Agency #1) by Y.S. Lee* (3/5 Stars)

4) Sequel in a Series – Windwitch (The Witchlands #2) by Susan Dennard (3.5/5 Stars)

5) Out of Your Comfort Zone – The Season of You & Me by Robin Constantine (romance)* (1/5 Stars)

So the only two book I didn’t get to were The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks and Windwitch. However, I did make time this month to finish them and I am glad that I did. If you ever have the chance to participate in this readathon, you absolutely should make the time. It’s a ton of fun to do the challenges and come up with a workable TBR for the event. Hopefully Shannon runs another one soon!

ARC Review – The Other F-Word by Natasha Friend

29102849Title: The Other F-Word

Author:  Natasha Friend

Rating: ★★

Synopsis: A fresh, humorous, and timely YA novel about two teens conceived via in vitro fertilization who go in search for answers about their donor.

Milo has two great moms, but he’s never known what it’s like to have a dad. When Milo’s doctor suggests asking his biological father to undergo genetic testing to shed some light on Milo’s extreme allergies, he realizes this is a golden opportunity to find the man he’s always wondered about.

Hollis’s mom Leigh hasn’t been the same since her other mom, Pam, passed away seven years ago. But suddenly, Leigh seems happy—giddy, even—by the thought of reconnecting with Hollis’s half-brother Milo. Hollis and Milo were conceived using the same sperm donor. They met once, years ago, before Pam died.

Now Milo has reached out to Hollis to help him find their donor. Along the way, they locate three other donor siblings, and they discover the true meaning of the other F-word: family.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:
This book gets a resounding “ugh” out of me. I had high hopes for this book given it’s about a topic that interests me (vitro fertilization), and it was a snoozer. I found myself pushing through the book because I kept hoping I would enjoy it more, but I found myself never entirely connecting with this book at all. It’s not a bad book either, it just did a lot that didn’t work for me personally.

The main issue with this book falls on the main character Hollis, who is just awful. I generally don’t mind characters who can be a bit mean or cruel, but I really despised how Hollis’ treats her mother Leigh, especially given the recent loss of her wife (and Hollis’ other mother) Pam. Hollis is so malicious, so cruel, and very inconsiderate. Sadly, she stays that way for the majority of the book and never feels like she has a lot of feelings towards others. Even her treatment of the other protagonist, Milo, whom she shares a sperm donor with, at times she’s is downright dreadful to him, and again, without truly a good reason why. I feel like it takes her too long to grow in the book, so much so that I found her chapters to be so difficult and infuriating to read.

On the other side of it, I liked Milo. I thought he was kind of darling at times, though the fact that he is so persistent with someone as dreadful as Hollis baffled me. I think unlike Hollis, Milo is a much better developed character and I think his reasons for wanting to connect with his biologic father are very sound — he wants to know his medical history in case he may be allergic to different things. I think that is more than fair, no? I found his chapters so much more engaging, but I think the issue here is that Friend’s writing is a little flat on Milo’s side. In fact, at times it felt like I was reading two very different books given how the chapters read out. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it is a bit jarring.

If I am being honest, the characters I felt for and enjoyed the most were Milo’s parents and Leigh (Hollis’ mother). I found that I was most engaged when they were on the pages, and again my heartbroke with how little attention they get. I think even the search for the bio-logic father wasn’t even that particularly well done, and when the connection was made, it just read so flatly. That’s the larger mystery in that story and it just felt like it was being strung along at times.

I really wanted to like The Other F Word, and I like the title and it’s many interpretations. I just wished I had connected more with the characters and the story, but I just found myself more angry and frustrated just by the lack of potential that this story had. I think there will be people who will love and gravitate to this story, I just wish I had been one of them.

Five Books I Am Jazzed About Thanks to #FrenzyPresents

Last Sunday I had the amazing opportunity to visit the Harper Collins Canada main office in Toronto. The Harper Collins Frenzy team focuses on YA fiction, especially promoting new and up-and-coming Canadian YA titles as well. This event that they hosted focused on Spring and Summer releases, and they have quite an exciting crop of titles coming out in 2017. I thought I’d share with you all the five I am most jazzed about.25752164

That Thing We Call a Heart
by Sheba Karim (Release Date: May 9th 2017)

When Suman, our MC for the afternoon began discussing That Thing We Called Heart, I was immediately intrigued. This book tells the story of Shabnam Qureshi, a young Pakistani-American who attends a private school in New Jersey. When her best friend, Farah, starts wearing the headscarf, it begins to change their friendship forever. This a book about racism, race, cultural clash, family, and self-discovery. I have an ARC of this book and it is surprisingly small looking, but given all the things I’ve mentioned above, I’m excited to see the kind of punch it’s going to pack when I get the chance to read it.

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Fireworks
by Katie Cotugno (Release Date: April 18th 2017)

I loved Katie Cotugno’s debut How to Love, but I admit my indifference towards 99 Days. However, Fireworks has me reaaaaaally excited given it is written for the boy/girl band geek in all of us. I won’t lie: I am complete and utter trash for books about pop bands, as they were and have been a large guilty pleasure of mine for years. I still maintain that “Backstreet’s Back” has one of the best music videos of all time! (Seriously, come at me bro if you disagree). But seriously, this book sounds like it has Cotugno’s signature style, and I expect at least one moment of ugly crying out of me once I read it.

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The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue
by Mackenzi Lee (Release Date:  June 27th 2017)

So according to every person I know, I need to read this book. Apparently it is the most delightful romp ever, with absolutely delightful characters. Molly swears by this book (but that also might be because she and Mackenzi are friends), but I’ll be honest, this just sounds like a book I would adore. Apparently this book has gay romance, swashbuckling pirates, and streaking. What more do you want from a fun historical read? I definitely can’t wait to devour this one. It’s a chunky book, but I bet it reads fast!

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Ramona Blue
by Julie Murphy (Release Date: May 9th 2017)

So there’s a lot of positive and negative buzz surround Julie Murphy’s latest. Frankly, I am already in enough trouble given how much I loved Murphy’s debut, but somehow have not read the infamous Dumplin’ (a book that I was stoked for and it somehow slipped off my radar. I suck, you guys). I feel like Ramona Blue is going to have a lot of what I already love about Julie Murphy’s books: strong heroine, tough situations, and I think the way this book is premised is partially why it’s getting the negative reaction that it is. Truthfully, I love seeing bi-rep in books, and I’m curious to see how this story will unfold once I read it.

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The Upside of Unrequited
by Becky Albertalli (Release Date:  April 11th 2017)

Of course this book is on the list. I want it. Give it to me now. NOW. NOW. NOW. NOW. The wait is so hard for this one. I need more fun that is a Becky Albertalli book in my life RIGHT NOW.

And no, I’m not going to write something cohesive in regards to the book. I just want it. Or I can just reread Simon until it releases. Whichever.

And these are the five books I cannot wait to star reading or get my paws on. There was a lot of interesting titles being shown, but I really found myself gravitating towards the contemporary line up (are we surprised?). A huge thank you again to Harper Collins Canada for the invite, the wonderful company, and of course, the swag. I cannot wait to check all the above and below books out, though I swear I am going to need another book shelf with the way 2017 is looking for book releases.

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ARC Review – The Pants Project by Cat Clarke

26828816Title: The Pants Project

Author: Cat Clarke

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: A Transformer is a robot in disguise. Liv is a boy in disguise. It’s that simple. Liv knows he was always meant to be a boy, but with his new school’s terrible dress code, he can’t even wear pants. Only skirts.

Operation: Pants Project begins! The only way for Live to get what he wants is to go after it himself. But to Liv, this isn’t just a mission to change the policy- it’s a mission to change his life. And that’s a pretty big deal.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

The Pants Project is one of those books I knew I had to read when I first discovered it. It is the story of Liv who is transgendered, but goes to a uniformed school that has some strict policies regarding gender and the clothing that must be worn. Liv launches “The Pants Project” in an attempt to show that gender norms shouldn’t be the norm, and since Liv is a boy, he feels that he shouldn’t be subjected to wearing a skirt if he doesn’t identify as female.

This book is an amazing little gem that offers big discussion about being transgendered, as well as rights for those who are transgendered. Liv is a great hero who often discusses with the reader what his identity is like (he states it’s like a Transformer, which I can totally see), what people see on the surface and why people need to dig a bit deeper. Liv’s narration is a wonderful tour de force, showcasing in such simple but powerful ways the kinds of discussion that needs to be had at schools regarding students who are transgendered. Liv’s quest in providing this knowledge doesn’t come without challenges, but he has great support in Jakob, who is just an amazing and sharply written character. Seriously, he and Liv are a delight when they are on the page together.

Also I loved that Liv had two moms. In fact, if I am being honest, the moms were my favourite characters in the story because I love how different their personalities were, but the joke of the story is that they are called “The moms.” I love how their personalities differed on somethings, but they always come together. If anything I wish their had been more of them in the story because they were seriously delightful.

The Pants Project is a fantastic discussion about transgender identity told through a fantastic and clever hero. Much like George before it, Cat Clarke weaves a courageous tale about a young boy who wants to be treated properly, and at the end of the day isn’t that what anyone wants? If you loved George then The Pants Project should easily be your next go to book, as it is both touching as it is smart.