Monthly Archives: March 2018

Book Riot’s Read Harder 2018 Challenge – Feb & March Reads & Challenge Wrap Up

As you may have noticed, I missed February for my Book Riot Read Harder Challenge Wrap Up! Honestly though? It was due to exhaustion both physically and emotionally. I I am still in the midst of trying to get my mother’s house up and ready for sale, and when I am not working on stuff for that, I basically feel a lot of guilty. At least, that’s how I mainly felt throughout February and the beginning of March. However, life goes on and guilt isn’t worth feeling when you aren’t taking care of yourself. Here’s some of the challenges I have completed since the last update.


Missoula by John Krakauer

Completes Challenge #2: Read a book of true crime.

Thoughts: Missoula was a disturbing read. It looks at the justice system regarding victims of sexual assault and how this particular college town managed to get many male predictors out of being in prison by using tactics that degraded the victims.  This book made me weep, it made me angry, and I felt sorry for all the women who were victims and who had been let down by the American justice system. Sadly this book rings even truer now compared to when it released. That’s a real shame more than anything else.


The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

Completes Challenge #8: Read a comic written by a person of colour.

Thoughts: I want everyone to read this graphic novel. EVERYONE. Read my review! 

 

 

 


The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

Completes Challenge #16: A 1st book in a new-to-you YA or middle grade series.

Thoughts: I bought the hardcover of this forever ago, and it was starting to take up space on my shelves. I remember I bought it on a whim, though I didn’t know much about it other than it had won so many awards when it released by in 2002. I decided recently to grab the audiobook from my work to finally get to this one.  I wanted to love this classic so much, and I just struggled with it. I kept hearing the ending was worth getting to, but everything started to feel too similar in the story? I don’t know. What I do know is, I felt pretty bored and I wanted more intrigue than I got. In the end, I definitely won’t be continuing on in this series, which is hilarious because I remember getting the sequel on Kindle for $1.99. Such is life.


There you have it! I haven’t done too well with this challenge in the last month or so, but I am trying.

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ARC Review – Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles

Title: Tyler Johnson Was Here

Author: Jay Coles

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: When Marvin Johnson’s twin, Tyler, goes to a party, Marvin decides to tag along to keep an eye on his brother. But what starts as harmless fun turns into a shooting, followed by a police raid.

The next day, Tyler has gone missing, and it’s up to Marvin to find him. But when Tyler is found dead, a video leaked online tells an even more chilling story: Tyler has been shot and killed by a police officer. Terrified as his mother unravels and mourning a brother who is now a hashtag, Marvin must learn what justice and freedom really mean.

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

Sam’s Review:

We need more books like Tyler Johnson Was Here, written by young voices. This fantastic debut explores police brutality, racism, prejudice, and the way in which people are labelled. This book is about a boy named Marvin, who loses his twin brother, and begins to start his own social media revolution. This story is powerful, it’s thoughtful, and it has me excited to see what Jay Coles is going to write in the future.

I do want to talk about the writing because I think I will be hit-or-miss with some reader. There are moments of beautiful passages and metaphors, but there’s also moments where the writing does feel a tad stilted and awkward. There were a few times where I had to reread sentences to ensure I knew what Marvin was getting at, though this only happened a few times. Regardless of how you view the language, the subject matter is fairly brutal and very eye-opening.

Marvin is a fantastic protagonist going through grief, and I found I could connect with him on that level. There are instances where he shuts down and he’ll mention how he feels empty or lonely, and I know it was something I could relate to. The loss of Tyler in this story shows how torn apart Marvin and his mother are, as through a large part of them was stolen by police violence. You get a sense throughout the story that people, specifically white people, need to smarten up and listen — and damn straight we do.

I will say, I wasn’t entirely super sold on the relationship between Marvin and Faith in the story. It felt too insta-lovey for me personally, but I will say that I did like Faith as a character a lot. I loved that she tried to be guidance for Marvin, offering him support and kindness. I loved G-Mo and Ivy, who I felt were developed just enough that you see their compassion and care for Marvin and his family. Hell, I even adored the passages we get from Marvin’s father in prison and some of the lessons and social commentary he makes about being black and living in a world where people peg you one way, and it’s all they can see.

I think Tyler Johnson Was Here is a powerful debut that tackles some rough subject matters, and does it in such a pro-active way. It doesn’t shy away from emotion, it’s brutally honest and unapologetic, and we need more stories like this. I feel like I still have so much to learn after reading this book.

Unique Pages in My #BuJo

2017 was the year I decided I need to get my life organized. Every month from December 2016 I would set monthly goals, as well as a two page spread for year goals. It wasn’t until recently, however, that I began to get a little more inspired and adventurous in my journal. I have no real artistic talent, but I am learning to be okay with how I create pages and constantly learning in the process. Today I thought I’d share some of the pages in my bullet journal and a little explanation why these pages exist.

This page is a map I’ve been slowly creating regarding breweries that I’ve been visiting in 2018. My husband and I love craft beer and craft brewing, and we decided to see how many we could hit throughout the year. So far, we’ve hit four (though Rogue River we go over at least once every two weeks to pick up the latest brews). I tried to draw different objects that represent each brewery and where in Ontario the brewery resides. Again, I have child-like drawing skillz, and yet I have been having so much fun expanding this page. Come summer, I feel like it will be fuller!

This is my page of movies I’d like to check out throughout the year. The coloured in triangles are movies I’ve already watched and knocked out for the year. I haven’t decided what I am going to do with the blank space at the bottom, but I am sure I will come up with an idea. There’s a mix of 2018 films, as well as older titles I meant to check out forever ago. I feel like this will for sure be filled by the end of the year.

This is my March tracker page. I’ve never done a tracker before and since I don’t use a dot-matrix style journal, it was a little harder to create boxes for filling in. Also, I decided I’d be a bit more creative and make doodles instead. I am tracking painting my mum’s house (since we are doing it ourselves), decluttering, water intake (because I noticed during the winter that fell off the map), blogging/writing (which I am trying to get back into and be more consistent about) and exercise. When this photo was taken it was the beginning of the month. We shall see what the end of the month will look like!

The last page I am going to show you is my decluttering list. I made a page with every room I need to declutter in the house and I am checking off what rooms are successfully completed. Pretty self-explanatory.

And there you have it! Here’s just a few unique pages in my journal. They aren’t anything special but I really do find them super helpful just to think about different aspects of my life and goals I want to achieve. Perhaps I’ll do a check-in post and maybe share what kinds of writing tools I use while I make my pages. We shall see!

 

ARC Review – Chaotic Good by Whitney Gardner

Title: Chaotic Good

Author: Whitney Gardner

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Cameron’s cosplay–dressing like a fictional character–is finally starting to earn her attention–attention she hopes to use to get into the CalTech costume department for college. But when she wins a major competition, she inadvertently sets off a firestorm of angry comments from male fans.

When Cameron’s family moves the summer before her senior year, she hopes to complete her costume portfolio in peace and quiet away from the abuse. Unfortunately, the only comic shop in town–her main destination for character reference–is staffed by a dudebro owner who challenges every woman who comes into the shop.

At her twin brother’s suggestion, Cameron borrows a set of his clothes and uses her costuming expertise to waltz into the shop as Boy Cameron, where she’s shocked at how easily she’s accepted into the nerd inner sanctum. Soon, Cameron finds herself drafted into a D&D campaign alongside the jerky shop-owner Brody, friendly (almost flirtatiously so) clerk Wyatt, handsome Lincoln, and her bro Cooper, dragged along for good measure.

But as her “secret identity” gets more and more entrenched, Cameron’s portfolio falls by the wayside–and her feelings for Lincoln threaten to make a complicated situation even more precarious. 

Huge thank you to Penguin Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Full disclosure: I am a D&D fan and a role-playing game fanatic. I live and breathe RPGs, so of course I was going to read a book about a girl who loves cosplay and geek culture.

Chaotic Good looks at Cameron, a cosplayer who gets into a bit of a nerd-fight when she cosplays Cloud from Final Fantasy VII and tells everyone she has never played the game, but loved his design. This starts flame wars and troll battles on her cosplay blog, and Cameron has to deal with the fallout. On top of all that, she is applying to a costuming department and has to create five original pieces of her own, and Cameron feels like this is impossible because she only knows how to craft characters she is familiar with.

What a mouthful! But seriously, this was a fun and easy read. It was a book I found myself relating to, especially in situations when Cameron would go to the comic book store and get told she was a “fake geek girl” (which honestly, whoever coined that needs to be slapped — hard). Whitney Gardner does an amazing job of showing and telling her readers about how toxic comic book and geek culture can be, or how it’s male dominance has always tried to keep women out. She also shows constructs for how we can change this perspective, which I thought was admirable.

Plus, it’s about Dungeons & Dragons! I love D&D, and I have so much fun playing it. I loved the artwork that was present, showing off how the campaign would be imagined. I also loved the characters, both in-game and in real life. I found them all to be flawed, but fun none-the-less. I really adored Cooper, as he made me laugh, and his storyline with Cameron’s is one I think many people may be able to relate to.

Anywho, Chaotic Good is a cheeky, sassy, fun read. It was a book I gobbled up because I am a sucker for books that look at gaming culture in any way, and this hit the sweet spot for me.

ARC Review – Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake

Title: Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World

Author: Ashley Herring Blake

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: When a tornado rips through town, twelve-year-old Ivy Aberdeen’s house is destroyed and her family of five is displaced. Ivy feels invisible and ignored in the aftermath of the storm–and what’s worse, her notebook filled with secret drawings of girls holding hands has gone missing.

Mysteriously, Ivy’s drawings begin to reappear in her locker with notes from someone telling her to open up about her identity. Ivy thinks–and hopes–that this someone might be her classmate, another girl for whom Ivy has begun to develop a crush. Will Ivy find the strength and courage to follow her true feelings?

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

Sam’s Review:

When I learned about the existence of Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World, I was intrigued. Middle grade has always been fantastic at teaching diversity, particularly it’s shown vast growth on LGBTQIA+ subject matters. This novel focuses on a twelve-year-old girl whose family home is destroyed by a devastating tornado, and how she begins to find herself.

A lot of this book looks at Ivy’s notion of what it means to be a lesbian in a construct where children are constantly told that “girls like boys” and “boys like girls.” She wants to challenge this given she has strong feelings for her friend June, and the fact that she wants to be treated normally. What I loved about this story is that we feel for Ivy and we see her ups and downs in both her feelings and understanding of the world around her. She behaves like many kids do when they feel different — they try to combat the feelings themselves instead of reaching out, and that makes sense given she has to make herself vulnerable to people she might feel could harm her.

This novel is very raw and heartbreaking. It’s also super hopeful as well. Ivy’s family accepts her for who she is, which is kind of wonderful and it was great to see them being present in the story, which doesn’t happen enough in middle grade or YA. They love her, they try to understand what she is going through and the want to help her in any way they can. I loved that aspect in the story because we just don’t see enough of it anymore.

Having Ivy’s narrative being the core focus, she is a character I know many readers will love and relate with. Ivy’s letter to the world sort-to-speak is powerful, it’s passionate, and most of all, it’s authentic to her experience. We need more middle grade novels like this that can teach great lessons about hope, friendship, sexuality, and personal growth. I cannot wait to read more by Ashley Herring Blake, because she is a fantastic storyteller.

Book Chat: Finding Time to Read When You Are Prepping to Move

As you may have noticed, the posts on this blog have been a bit lax lately. This is mostly due to the fact that my husband and I are prepping to sell my mother’s house starting in April. We’re doing all the painting and repairs ourselves (with a few exceptions of course) and we are trying to make sure that everything is ready to rock and roll by the first week of April. It is a lot of work and I know it’s definitely cut into my reading time.

The majority of my books are packed and what I have done for the time being is I’ve made myself a bag of books. It’s a bag that sits in my room filled with titles that I am interested in reading. I’ve been trying to cut back checking out items from work because I have this fear that I am going to lose the items in the process of moving. I even made a page in my bullet journal to give you an idea of what I am hoping to read while I am going through this process.

So what I have done is I drew a bag in my journal and then listed every book that is in my bag. At the bottom I created a star rating key, and effectively my goal is to color in each section based on the star rating that I have given the novel. As you can see, I haven’t coloured much in yet, and if I am being honest, it’s because my reading has definitely slowed down since we got into hardcore preparation mode. I am hoping once we move to put the Shelf of Shame (aka TBR Shelf) back up to give you an idea of how much I purged book-wise. I have been having strong urges since going through my mother’s stuff and my own that massive downsizing needs to happen.

Mainly, I’ve been listening to audiobooks, particularly on my way to and from work. Right now I am listening to The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer, which is a YA classic. It has definitely been interesting so far. I’ve also just been trying to make an hour a day to read, and some days that has worked and some days it hasn’t. Part of it is when I sit down to read or game, my mind feels guilty and I feel like I should be working on packing up the house. I recognize though that taking breaks is important and I am going to keep at it.

I hope at the end of the month to share if more of these quadrants have been coloured in or not. I’ll keep you updated. 🙂

Blog Tour – Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orïsha #1) by Tomi Adeyemi (Review + Giveaway)

One of the joys of doing blog tours is that you get the opportunity to try out new reads that have been gaining a lot of buzz. When I first heard about Children of Blood and Bone, I was memorized by the idea of reading a West African fantasy novel. I’ve read Caribbean fantasy for school back when I was an English Major nearly ten years ago, but African fantasy truly is a new concept for me.

Children of Blood and Bone is a unique spin on parts of the fantasy genre. It offers insight and intrigue in a variety of ways, giving us some wonderfully fleshed out characters each with such passion and strength. If I have convincenced you to read this book by the end of this post, consider trying your luck at my giveaway, as Raincoast Canada (bless them!) have offered up a copy of the book to CANADIAN RESIDENTS ONLY. Children of Blood and Bone releases today, March 6th!


Title: Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orïsha #1)

Author: Tomi Adeyemi

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zelie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls. 

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now, Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good. 

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers—and her growing feelings for the enemy.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I confess: I haven’t been reading as much fantasy as I once was. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been finding I haven’t been drawn to their premises or the fact that there is just too much of the same out there, I was starting to worry I wasn’t going to find a new fantasy novel that would click with me. Then I read Children of Blood and Bone, a six hundred page beast, and recognized that there is still fantasy novels out there that I will devour quite easily.

This book is a page-turner. There’s a lot of excellent world building, which in most novels usually tends to meander, but Adeyemi does a great job of giving the reader as much information as necessary , without the story feeling bloated. I will admit, the perspectives in this novel blurred for me at first, and I had to double check which character I was reading at first. I found though as the novel got it’s footing, each character’s point of view started to feel much more distinctive. I really liked Amari sections, and I feel like despite her stubbornness, she truly grows a lot through the story. She is just such an unexpected young lady to be a princess, y’know? I also loved Zelie, and I think her strength and determination holds no bounds. She’s fierce, head-strong, and yet she gave me a sense of hope throughout the novel. She really grows, much like Amari, is such a natural way.

Speaking of the story, it’s wonderfully crafted. These characters are ones you want to root for, you want to see them succeed with every fiber of their being, and yet the violence they face is discouraging throughout. This book looks at race, it looks at displacement, it looks at power being in the wrong hands and how it can corrupt absolutely. There is moments that feel so desperate and uncomfortable, yet you also feel a bit of hope as well.

Children of Blood and Bone is one of those books that feels so familiar, but has enough differences that make it feel fresh and original. I loved the premise and I cannot wait to read more set in this world. I loved these characters and the way this world was crafted. Despite being a big, honking brick of a book, it really truly does fly quickly, and I think if you love fantasy that Children of Blood and Bone will have so much to offer readers. I truly didn’t want this book to end.


GIVEAWAY!

Want to win a copy of Children of Blood & Bone? Well Raincoast Canada is offering up a copy of the novel to Canadian Residents (sorry US readers!). Please fill out my Rafflecopter below and you will be notified if you are the lucky winner! 🙂

ENTER THE GIVEAWAY


Once again I want to extend a heartfelt thanks to Raincoast Canada for allowing me this opportunity to share my thoughts on Children of Blood and Bone for this blog tour. While you are at it, consider checking out all the other tour stops for a chance to read some great reviews and perhaps win a copy of this amazing book. Children of Blood and Bone is out now!