Monthly Archives: March 2019

ARC Review – The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick by Mallory O’Meara

Title: The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick

Author: Mallory O’Meara

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: As a teenager, Mallory O’Meara was thrilled to discover that one of her favorite movies, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, featured a monster designed by a woman, Milicent Patrick. But for someone who should have been hailed as a pioneer in the genre there was little information available. For, as O’Meara soon discovered, Patrick’s contribution had been claimed by a jealous male colleague, her career had been cut short and she soon after had disappeared from film history. No one even knew if she was still alive.

As a young woman working in the horror film industry, O’Meara set out to right the wrong, and in the process discovered the full, fascinating story of an ambitious, artistic woman ahead of her time. Patrick’s contribution to special effects proved to be just the latest chapter in a remarkable, unconventional life, from her youth growing up in the shadow of Hearst Castle, to her career as one of Disney’s first female animators. And at last, O’Meara discovered what really had happened to Patrick after The Creature’s success, and where she went.

Huge thank you to Harper Collins Canada for this ARC!

San’s Review:

I love Mallory O’Meara on the Reading Glasses podcast. She’s crass, sassy, and just very entertaining when it comes to the discussion of reading and writing. She’s a very passionate individual and her first book The Lady from the Black Lagoonnot only focuses on the life of Milicent Patrick, who crafted monsters for a living, but O’Meara also parallels Patrick’s struggles of being a woman in Hollywood with her own personal struggles as a young genre film producer.

I was to first comment on how personal the writing felt in this book. It’s very conversational, very open-faced and honest. Reflecting on Milicent Patrick’s life and trying to uncover who she was, O’Meara goes through great lengths to learn about how Patrick survived in male dominated Hollywood as a woman who worked in Disney’s animation Department (she was responsible for “Night on Bald Mountain” and Chernabog design in Disney’s Fantasia!) to what it was like designing the suit for The Creature from the Black Lagoon. O’Meara shares her discovery of Patrick’s lack of credit for her various accomplishments and the toxic culture that unfortunately, still exists in Hollywood today.

I think what I loved about this book was just reading Mallory’s experience is doing research about someone who was fairly elusive. It was amazing to read about the lengths she went from doing specialized research with the L.A Library, to situations involving special collections, to even just stepping foot on Disney property to uncover as much as she could about Milicent Patrick. The library nerd in me was very into the deep dive of what it meant to go into an intense research frenzy. You feel O’Meara’s highs and lows while reading this book. Learning about the horror industry as well was very fascinating as someone who is fairly unfamiliar. Learning about how the horror industry is fairly sexist and misogynistic was of course, known, but reading about both O’Meara and Patrick’s experiences definitely made my blood boil at times.

I love when I get to read a book that is all about uncovering new truths about someone or something. Not only was Lady from the Black Lagoon a very approachable read, but it was one that allowed me to learn so much about an industry and a genre that I’m not the most familiar with. All in all Lady from the Black Lagoon was an enjoyable romp into uncovering the bright and darksides of what it means to be a female in the film industry.

ARC Review – The Beauty of the Moment by Tanaz Bhathena

Title: The Beauty of the Moment

Author: Tanaz Bhathena

Rating: ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Susan is the new girl—she’s sharp and driven, and strives to meet her parents’ expectations of excellence. Malcolm is the bad boy—he started raising hell at age fifteen, after his mom died of cancer, and has had a reputation ever since.

Susan’s parents are on the verge of divorce. Malcolm’s dad is a known adulterer.

Susan hasn’t told anyone, but she wants to be an artist. Malcolm doesn’t know what he wants—until he meets her.

Love is messy and families are messier, but in spite of their burdens, Susan and Malcolm fall for each other. The ways they drift apart and come back together are testaments to family, culture, and being true to who you are.

Huge thank you to Penguin Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I really enjoyed this book! Did I love it as much as Bhathena’s debut? No, but to be far her sophomore book is such a delicate book compared to A Girl Like That. This book looks at immigration, parental expectations and forbidden romance. This book looks at Malcolm and Susan, two teens who fall for each other despite their religious backgrounds. Susan dreams of being an artist, while Malcolm is still trying to figure out who he wants be and hasn’t thought that far regarding his own future.

My favourite aspect of this book was easily the family dynamics of both Malcolm and Susan’s families. They couldn’t be more different in terms of their beliefs. The discussion of immigration is very key to this story, especially when we are reading Susan’s perspective and learning about their parent’s struggles of adapting to Canadian society, and how certain professions don’t transfer over the same way. As someone who works in a library that is populated by newcomers, this is something I learn about from my clientele every day. Canada is a place of opportunity and safety to a lot of new immigrants, and it’s unsurprising that Susan’s family is very strict when it comes to wanting her to have the best opportunities possible. Malcolm’s family has similar ambitions for him as well, but Malcolm is very much of a case of “finding himself.”

I struggled with our main characters somewhat when reading this. Perhaps it’s because I found the beginning a bit slow, but Susan in particular is a difficult character for me: she’s a bit of a doormat through a lot of this book and it isn’t until towards the end that we see her grow into someone with a lot more insight into themselves. I did find myself yelling at the book being like “Stop being so passive! Stop being afraid!” and I had to remember that I was very fortunate growing up that my parents were supportive of anything I wanted to do and that is not Susan’s situation at all. Malcolm at times for me was too much of a stereotypical bad boy, which I know for some folks is swoon-worthy, but he’s not my taste.

I think The Beauty of the Moment will appeal to a lot of readers, especially those who love family stories and romance. While this book is no Girl Like That, I will say that I think this is a much more accessible follow-up novel, and one where I believe many readers will easily connect with.

#YearofLess Update 2 – Small Changes, Part 1

2019 has been an interesting year so far. I am finding myself to be more environmentally conscious these days, especially in the time of rising and excessive plastic consumption. Ever since I moved out of my childhood home and into a rental, I’ve been trying to become more focused on how I spend my money and I’m fixated more on having experiences over having new things. My goal is to work towards a low waste lifestyle, so I thought I would share my journey from time to time here on the blog, and this first post is looking at some small changes I’ve made in the last year and a bit,

Reusable Stainless Steel Bottle and Reusable Ceramic Tea Cup

I was never a huge fan of takeaway cups, but when I was grieving, or stressed out I often found myself opting into the convenience of a takeaway cup. I also grew up in a household with a parent who was obsessed with the idea that bottled water was better for you (it wasn’t), but again convenience was a large thing when taking care of a cancer patient. After my mother passed away in 2016, my husband and I broke free from some of her bad habits and decided enough was enough. We weren’t really people who went out to Tims or Starbucks for coffee, and we got into the habit of making a lot of things at home (more on that in a different, upcoming post).

The big and obvious thing here is that if your tap water is considered drinkable, DRINK IT. If you are afraid to drink it, boil it, store it in the fridge and then drink it. Consider getting a filter for your tap or water pitcher if that’s something you are concerned about. For me, I am content filling up my bottle wherever I am, and I keep it on me at all times in my backpack. My stainless steel bottle came from my work (I did a presentation and it was a nice gift). It’s a little beat up, but I love it just the same as it keeps cold drinks cold and hot drinks hot. Also, gasp! You now know I work for a library!

My tea cup came from David’s Tea on an occasions where I needed to restock my tea pile (I had Frequent Steeper points to play with!) and it was a gift for spending over a certain amount. I used to use a cup that I got from my work, but since my husband got his full time job, that cup goes along with him some mornings, so I use my flamingo one when needed and it does the trick. Remember you don’t need to invest in something if it can already be found at home.

Soda Stream

I used to be a heavy pop drinker. I blamed a lot of it on the where I was emotionally given I spent my entire twenties taking care of two cancer patients on and off. Although my parents were super self-sufficient, this was another item that we always had in our house because mum liked her pop. I don’t fault her, pop can be tasty, and I would go through periods of pure excess. Towards the end of 2018, after talking with two of my favourite girlfriends, I realized I already had an item in my house that would satisfy the need for carbonation — my Soda Stream!

I decided to cut out pop cold turkey in 2018 and did so. Hilarious, I don’t have a taste for pop anymore. I remember getting a Dr. Pepper a few weeks ago when I had to work extra hours at my job and didn’t have a lunch. I took a sip and realized I didn’t have the taste for it anymore. I won’t lie and say it’s perfect because once in a blue moon, I do have a ginger ale, but even so, I live almost entirely on water, soda water and tea. The Soda Stream came in handy because I was craving carbonation, not necessarily the sugar or the caffeine. You can also make your own syrups for the machine as well to add a flavour boost!

If you’re like me and just want carbonation, this is the most economical way of doing it than going out and buying bottled carbonated water or pop. It means less goes to landfill and the bottles can be reused over and over again. While mine doesn’t have a glass carafe, the PET bottles on my machine last up to three years and can be recycled once they can no longer handle the job anymore. Again, it’s not the greatest, but I am finding this change has definitely helps me consume less plastic and be more thoughtful about ways in which I was consuming.

Soda Streams do go on sale a fair bit so it’s worth shopping around, or check out second hand markets and see if anyone is willing to sell or trade for one.

There you have it! These are two changes I’ve made that have had a better impact on both my finances and the planet. I hope to share more with you all as I continue to work my way through this journey and my goals list.

ARC Review – The Mighty Heart of Sunny St. James by Ashley Herring Blake

Title: The Mighty Heart of Sunny St. James

Author: Ashley Herring Blake

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: When Sunny St. James receives a new heart, she decides to set off on a “New Life Plan”: 1) do awesome amazing things she could never do before; 2) find a new best friend; and 3) kiss a boy for the first time.

Her “New Life Plan” seems to be racing forward, but when she meets her new best friend Quinn, Sunny questions whether she really wants to kiss a boy at all. When the reemergence of her mother, Sunny begins a journey to becoming the new Sunny St. James.

This sweet, tender novel dares readers to find the might in their own hearts. 

Huge thank you to Hachette Book Group Canada!

Sam’s Review:

On my way to Montreal in February I decided I needed to read a new Ashley Herring Blake book. Both Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the Word and Girl Made of Stars got five stars from me because they left me an emotional train-wreck. Her books are challenging but they also give me hope, and The Mighty Heart of Sunny St. James is no exception.

The Mighty Heart of Sunny St. James follows Sunny, a girl who got a recent heart transplant. Having a new heart, Sunny believes that she feels different about herself, that she wants life to be something different. When her biological mother comes back into her life a new girl begins to challenge her perceptions of the world, Sunny’s world is turned upside down. Sunny’s story is beautiful and I felt a lot of sympathy for her. Sunny spends a lot of this book feeling confused about who she is, who she loves, and what kind of a person she is allowed to be. Her adoptive mother shelters her because of her transplant, but even in that situation, there’s clearly more to it.

The writing in this book is stunning and Sunny’s voice is one that will definitely capture readers. I spent my last morning in Montreal tearing up simply because there is such a huge emotional punch throughout the story, and it doesn’t stop. I love when a book gives me so many emotions from start to finish, and there were parts of this book where I felt my heart beat faster and faster. This smart middle grade book will teach so many people about empathy and what it means to get a second lease on life, even at a young age.

I cried during The Mighty Heart of Sunny St. James and I am not afraid to admit that. What I hope is that more people open their minds to more queer middle grade. Stories should transform our lives, and I think this book offers a transformation that readers will never forget.

The Scott Challenge – January and February Selections

My husband Scott is as much an avid reader as I am. He’s always encouraging me to try different kinds of books, while also picking buzzwords for items that he knows I will read and likely love. This year, I asked him to pick a book each month that he wants me to read, whether it’s a science or fantasy novel that he knows I’ve been meaning to get to, or something he’s recently loved and wants to share. Every two months, I’ll share with you my experience of reading books my husband selections for me.

January Pick:

Red Country
by Joe Abercrombie (Published: October 23rd 2012 by Orbit)

I LOVE Joe Abercrombie’s First Law series, though hilariously I managed to skip this book and accidentally read Sharp Ends first. Red Country is, in a lot of ways, a weird Western, which I am a complete sucker for in a fantasy setting. Shy South may be my new favourite protagonist in the series (and her short story was my favourite in Sharp Ends), as she is full of gumption and grit. All the elements of a good Western are present in the story, from lawless cowfolk to gold rush fever. This book did take me awhile to get into just due to setting and style, but overall I quite loved it. 4/5 Stars.

February Pick:

Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell
by David Yaffe (Published: June 13th 2017 by Sarah Crichton Books)

My husband knows I am a huge Joni Mitchell fan. I’ve read a few books regarding her bio information in the past, but Yaffe’s book seems to be the definitive text when it comes to creating a portrait of who Mitchell was over the years. Strong in personality, her songs are a reflection of her past and the world around her. She also comes across bratty, stubborn and even callous at times, which made this book all the more interesting to read. There was so much I didn’t know regarding her illness, her depression, and even reading about her marriages was fascinating stuff. I’m really glad my husband gifted this to me two years ago and only made me read it now! 4/5 Stars.

And that’s it for now! Next update will be in May when we find out what March and April’s reads are!

ARC Review – Chicken Girl by Heather Smith

Title: Chicken Girl

Author: Heather Smith

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Poppy used to be an optimist. But after a photo of her dressed as Rosie the Riveter is mocked online, she’s having trouble seeing the good in the world. As a result, Poppy trades her beloved vintage clothes for a feathered chicken costume and accepts a job as an anonymous sign waver outside a restaurant. There, Poppy meets six-year-old girl Miracle, who helps Poppy see beyond her own pain, opening her eyes to the people around her: Cam, her twin brother, who is adjusting to life as an openly gay teen; Buck, a charming photographer with a cute British accent and a not-so-cute mean-streak; and Lewis a teen caring for an ailing parent, while struggling to reach the final stages of his gender transition. As the summer unfolds, Poppy stops glorifying the past and starts focusing on the present. But just as she comes to terms with the fact that there is good and bad in everyone, she is tested by a deep betrayal.

Huge Thank You to Penguin Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Chicken Girl is a tiny book with a big punch. The story involves Poppy and her brother Cam, as they navigate growing up. When a picture of Rosie the Riveter is posted online, Poppy feels shammed and can no longer see good in the world. Her twin brother, Cam, is learning to be “out” and Poppy wants to show her support. Poppy also meets six-year-old, Miracle, who shows her how wonderful the world can really be.

What I loved about this book is how it normalizes so many aspects of LGBTQIA culture. There’s fantastic and frank discussion of what transgendered teens deal with, how homophobia comes in different (and awful) flavours, and how supportive people can be as well. Nothing in this book felt out of place and the conversations between characters felt so raw and true. My favourite parts were the interactions between Poppy and Cam, as well as Poppy and Miracle. I think these conversations about life, optimism, and finding strength will be so relevant to so many readers.

I think the only negative about this book for me, is that it’s too short. Everything ties up a bit too nicely, and there is a huge part of me that wishes Smith had delved more into the characters further. That being said, I still think what we do know about the cast of characters is wonderful and heartfelt.

There is such an honesty in these pages, which is why I hope more people will pick up Chicken Girl. The story is well-paced, genuine and raw, and while it never goes to Baygirl (Smith’s debut) levels of darkness, Chicken Girl offers readers a wonderful glimmer of hope that makes it a memorable read.

Fave of the Month – February!

It’s the beginning of March, which means it’s time to check in with what I read. I would say that hands down the best book I read in February was Ruby in the Sky, but given I did a full review on it, I thought I’d share a different read worth noting as well.

On the Come Up by Angie Thomas (Published February 5th 2019 by Balzer + Bray)

I feel like this book isn’t getting the same level of hype that The Hate U Give did. This book is fantastic, focusing on family and rap music. Bri creates a song that ends up going viral for the wrong reasons, and she goes on an internal journey of understanding the reactions she receives. I love this book because it’s rare in a YA book for a female character to have the level of anger that Bri does and get away with it. She’s furious, raw, and when she screws up, she’s allowed to make the mistakes and worth on self-reflection and forgiveness. Her song is also hella catchy, and I cannot wait until the film is made to hear what Bri’s song is actually going to sound like. I also loved her family, her desire to want to help her family in any way that she can. Garden Heights continues to be such a memorable place, and I cannot wait to see who Angie Thomas introduces readers to next.