Monthly Archives: December 2017

ARC Review – Meet Cute: Some People Are Destined to Meet Edited by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Title: Meet Cute: Some People Are Destined to Meet

Editor: Jennifer L. Armentrout

Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: Whether or not you believe in fate, or luck, or love at first sight, every romance has to start somewhere. MEET CUTE is an anthology of original short stories featuring tales of “how they first met” from some of today’s most popular YA authors. 

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Meet Cute was a book I requested entirely based on its cover. I had pure cover lust for this adorable looking book. Turns out, it’s a pretty cute, if not entirely remarkable short story collection.

One of the issues with short story collections is that some stories can be hit and some can be a miss. I think this collection in particularly because it’s about first meetings and loves, it makes it kind of tricky to really enjoy. However, I appreciate the diversity of couples and relationships in the story, and many of the stories featured a lot of great LGBTQIA+ characters. Some of my favourite stories in this collection where:

– Print Shop by Nina LaCour
– Somewhere That’s Green by Meredith Russo
– Oomph by Emery Lord
– Something Real by Julie Murphy

These were the four stories I really connected with while I was reading the book. These ones not only made me smile, but I felt they were the strongest in terms of an authentic first meeting. I wasn’t huge on the few stories that attempted science fiction, as those ones felt very awkward in the collection. I do love science fiction, but those stories felt out of place and more insta-lovey than I would have liked. Not to say the ones above don’t have insta-love, but I found my enjoyment was just there by comparison.

Meet Cute has a great variety in terms of stories and I think there’s definitely something for any reader than picks it up.

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ARC Review – The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

Title: The Hazel Wood

Author: Melissa Albert

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: Her mother is stolen away―by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

This. book. I read it and I was just completely absorbed into the world and this story. There is something about the way Melissa Albert crafts everything in this story that just feels spot on. Her characters are frustrating, difficult, but also full of determination and gusto. I really loved Alice’s character given she can be very unlikable at times, but I see why. When your grandmother has written a famous novel with psycho fans, I’d be that way too.

There is a huge sense of foreboding reading this novel. Learning about the Hinterlands and the Hazel Wood, you get an eerie sense that the world isn’t what it seems. There’s almost this “Into the Woods” vibe where characters will end up exploring the landscape, but the setting has it’s own personality. I loved the descriptions of the environments and how they felt creepy, yet very much alive.

I also just want to share how captivating the writing is as well. I found myself reading and hanging onto every word because I needed to know what was happening to the characters. Can I also say how much I loved Ellery, fanboy extraordinaire? I think what I loved about his character specifically, is I feel like everyone has a friend or knows someone who loves something SO DAMN MUCH. Ellery was just such a fun character, a great foil for Alice on many occasions.

The Hazel Wood is a very atmospheric read that has strong world building and characters who have the ability to grow. They are imperfect, sometimes uncomfortable, but feel very real as well. I love stories within story narratives and this book just hit all the right notes with me at the right time upon reading it. It’s definitely worth checking out if you love dark fairy tales or fantasy, and it’s definitely a good book for cold winter nights when you need a hot cup of tea and candle light.

Late to the Party ARC Review – Kat and Meg Conquer the World by Anna Priemaza

Title: at and Meg Conquer the World

Author: Anna Priemaza

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Kat and Meg couldn’t be more different. Kat’s anxiety makes it hard for her to talk to people. Meg hates being alone, but her ADHD keeps pushing people away. But when the two girls are thrown together for a year-long science project, they discover they do have one thing in common: They’re both obsessed with the same online gaming star and his hilarious videos.

It might be the beginning of a beautiful friendship—if they don’t kill each other first.

Huge thank you to Harper Collins Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

One thing I’ve often disliked in contemporary YA is the lack of friendships between girls. I mean the genuine, well-meaning, kind of friendships where there is mutual respect between the characters. Stories about friendship often have more to do with romance, but what I loved about Kat and Meg Conquer the World is that the friendship is the large focus, while the girls also attempt to conquer their mental illnesses while maybe like-liking a cute boy here and there.

Priemaza’s debut is wonderful. There’s a distinct difference in Kat and Meg’s voices, and I found myself able to visualize what the girls were doing, how they were behaving, and of course, the video game they are both obsessed with. It is so AWESOME to see girl gamers being represented in stories without it being a quirk in their character. There’s a lot of care and attention to detail in the way in which the girls interact with the MMORPG that they play online, and how online culture can feed into mental illness, in Kat’s case anxiety and depression, and Meg’s ADHD. Even the way in which mental illness is represented in this novel is just very thoughtful and mindful of those who suffer from them.

I adored Kat and Meg Concuer the Universe because it’s such a true-to-life story with fangirls who want to be accepted by others, but ultimately themselves. Kat and Meg’s friendship is easily one of the strongest and most complex part of this story, and it’s so easy to fall in love with the characters and root for them when they succeed and feel empathy when they fail. I urge people to check this book out, especially if you’re looking for a story with complex female friendships and ya don’t mind a dash of gamer culture.

Five Favourite Books I Read in 2017 (That Weren’t 2017 Releases)

While I focused a lot of my reading energy on 2017 releases, I will say I had favourites that I read this year that came out past years. It’s hard to fit in reading time for older titles when there is so many new and shiny reads coming out and demanding your attention. It’s true and utter hardship, I tell you. However, I have five books I read this year that didn’t release in 2017 that I loved to pieces and want to recommend.

Crooked Kingdoms by Leigh Bardugo

Hello, my name is Sam, and I only just read the sequel to Six of Crows in the last week of November. Seriously though, THIS BOOK. There was so much drama, intrigue, failures, successes, discomfort — I was a ball of emotions reading it, particularly during one point where I sobbed like a huge baby. This duology is easily a favourite because it’s one of the few cases where I can say I loved the entire ensemble cast of characters and wanted to protect all my babies in one go. I maintain that Inej and Nina’s friendship may still be one of my favourite things about these books, but in all honesty, Crooked Kingdoms was just such a satisfying conclusion for me. Thanks for all the pain, Leigh.

Born A Crime by Trevor Noah

Born a Crime was a book I picked up on a whim thanks to a friend and co-worker’s recommendation. This book looks at Trevor Noah’s life living in South Africa and being born to an African mother and Swiss father. Being mixed race in South Africa is considered a crime, and Noah leads up through all the lengths of what his family did to keep him safe, while also sharing amazing, if often sad stories of his life growing up. I LOVED this book, and it was one of those books that kept me wanting to read just one more chapter, and another and another. This is a great non-fiction read, and a great gate way into non-fiction if it’s something you don’t read very often or at all.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin

This is a beloved book that has been floating around Booktube for along while. I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel reading this book, but I am glad it was my companion for my cottage driving that I did. This book is full of magic, heartbreak, and is a true book lover’s book. The ending wrecked me while I was listen to the audiobook (a bad plan!), and admittedly I couldn’t stop thinking about this book as I listened to it, gasping in situations that surprised me, chatting to myself when something happened. I loved this book and it’s one I want to gift every person I know who loves books as much as I do.

The Collected Essex County by Jeff Lemire

My husband and I adore Jeff Lemire’s works. They are twisted, dark, psychological and just plain intriguing to read. Essex County has won numerous awards in Canada, and I felt it was finally time to check out why. Each of the three stories is gripping, uncomfortable, and simply difficult to read. Lemire doesn’t shy away from topics and his work tends to face challenges head on in ways that can be difficult for some readers. Regardless, I loved this book, and all his other books as well.

Purple Hibiscus
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

When I grow up, I want to be as badass as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I want to put that out there. Purple Hibiscus was a eye opening read for me in terms of learning about Nigeria, family relations, and culture differences. It made it a hard read at times, but one that just offered so much clarity and insight. Plus her writing is simply gorgous, engaging and completely sucks you in. I still have a few more of her books to check out, but right now I am a huge fan.

I am always looking for new book recommendations, so please feel free to leave me some in the comments below. What were your favourite non-2017 releases you read this year?

Five Favourite Books I Read in 2017

As we are winding down the year, I thought I’d share five reads this year that stuck with me since completion. I read a lot of books this year (with less than a month to go!). I read over 400+ books (including comics) and I thought I’d narrow it to five simply because if I shared all my favourite, this post would go on forever and no one would read it.  All these books released in 2017, and I will be doing a post of favourites I read that didn’t come out this year soon!

Shall we begin?

My Brother’s Husband by Gengoron Tagame

This beautiful manga looks at one man’s relationship with his brother’s husband. Yaichi is a single parent raising his daughter, Kana, when a Canadian man named Mike shows up at their doorstep informing them that he is the husband of Yaichi’s deceased twin brother. This manga stuck with me all year since I read it — it looks at blended families, cultural differences, issues of homosexuality in Japan versus Canada. It’s just an amazingly well-woven story that made me snob, laugh and smile all in one go. I highly, highly recommend this manga to those looking for something meaty but thoughtful.

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

The premise of this novel-in-verse is based on an elevator ride that Will is taking and contemplating. Going down the elevator, Will is trying to figure out why his brother was murdered and given the “rules” of their family, one of them is exact revenge. This novel shows Will’s thought spirals as he tries to determine who his brother’s killer is, and can he commit murder. Gorgeously written,  Jason Reynolds work became a favourite of mine throughout the year, but this is the book that has stuck with me so far. I still have Boy in the Black Suit and his Miles Morales novel checked out from the library to read.

Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu

It is no secret on this blog that I am an intense fan of Jennifer Mathieu’s books. I have yet to be disappointed, and Moxie was the first of her books to come out with any sort of hype behind it. This book was worth the hype. It’s a feminist manifesto that looks at issues of sexual harassment, lady friendship, and taking matters into your own hands for the purpose of protest. Viv is a fantastic heroine who is someone many of us can relate to with ease, and how she grows in this story is easily one of the book’s best parts. Moxie is a kick ass novel through and through.

A Conjuring of Light by V.E Schwab

This conclusion left me a hot mess after completion. There is something about this world, these characters, and the way in which all the magic and politics flow in the story that keeps you guessing. Kell and Lila go through so much in this story, and it just felt like a roller-coaster of my feelings plummeting down the deepest slop, then feeling slightly relieved, only to find the hidden drop on the ride that makes you scream the loudest. I am so excited there will be more books set in this world, but A Conjuring of Light reminds a very satisfying and emotionally charged conclusion to an amazing fantasy series.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

I recognize that this is THE novel of 2017, but I think that title is well earned. The Hate U Give is a book I found myself recommending to patrons at the library frequently, regardless of whether they were readers of young adult fiction or not. Offering amazing insight into the Black Lives Matter movement, Starr and her family are memorable, wonderful, and people who are flawed but fighters. This book reminded me of when I was growing up, something I mentioned to Thomas when I met her back in the summer. While I will never understand what it is like to be a young black person, I have so much respect and an even greater desire to understand. This book was emotional, painful, and truthful. A hairbrush is not a gun.

These are some of my favourite 2017 releases that I LOVED this year and that stuck with me throughout. What are some of your favourites? I’d love to know in the comments below.

ARC Review – Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills

Title: Foolish Hearts

Author: Emma Mills

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: A contemporary novel about a girl whose high school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream leads her to new friends—and maybe even new love.

The day of the last party of the summer, Claudia overhears a conversation she wasn’t supposed to. Now on the wrong side of one of the meanest girls in school, Claudia doesn’t know what to expect when the two are paired up to write a paper—let alone when they’re both forced to try out for the school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

But mandatory participation has its upsides—namely, an unexpected friendship, a boy band obsession, and a guy with the best dimpled smile Claudia’s ever seen. As Claudia’s world starts to expand, she finds that maybe there are some things worth sticking her neck out for.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I swear when it comes to writing friendship stories, Emma Mills always knocks it out of the park. What I love about Foolish Hearts is that this is a story about an unlikely friendship through boy band fandom.

Claudia and Iris do not seem like the kind of people who would be friends, but when Iris and her girlfriend Paige suffer a nasty break up, Iris is forced to work with Claudia to work on a school paper, as well as the school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. However, one day while working on said project, Claudia learns that Iris loves TION (or This Is Our Now), a boy band that takes over every inch of her bedroom wall. They begin to foster a friendship through their love of TION, and it is adorable.

What I love about Emma Mills’ books is that they are very genuine, her heroines very believable, and it’s always chock full of humour and heart. I adored the characters in this story, I loved the building of Claudia and Iris’ friendship, and I loved all the feelings this book gave me. Even the romance between Claudia and Gideon was adorkable. I just loved everything about this story and the cast and I just found myself in such a happy state of mind while I was reading this book.

Reading an Emma Mills book is like comfort food. It’s happiness and fun, and I just love what she does with her characters. Much like This Adventure Ends, I feel like Foolish Hearts is just such a memorable read, and I will continue to support Emma Mills if she continues to keep writing fannish, fluffy, contemporary novels.