Monthly Archives: April 2019

ARC Review – Hurricane Season by Nicole Melleby

Title: Hurricane Season

Author: Nicole Melleby

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Fig, a sixth grader, wants more than anything to see the world as her father does. The once-renowned pianist, who hasn’t composed a song in years and has unpredictable good and bad days, is something of a mystery to Fig. Though she’s a science and math nerd, she tries taking an art class just to be closer to him, to experience life the way an artist does. But then Fig’s dad shows up at school, disoriented and desperately searching for Fig. Not only has the class not brought Fig closer to understanding him, it has brought social services to their door.

Diving into books about Van Gogh to understand the madness of artists, calling on her best friend for advice, and turning to a new neighbor for support, Fig continues to try everything she can think of to understand her father, to save him from himself, and to find space in her life to discover who she is even as the walls are falling down around her.

Huge thank you to Thomas Allen & Sons for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Hurricane Season was a book I grabbed on a whim while I was at the OLA Super Conference early this year. It totally sounded like the kind of middle grade read I would love: a young girl trying to figure herself and her family out, while also learning to deal with large scale change. Fig is a sixth grader who at her tender age, is forced to become a caretaker to her father, a famous pianist, who has had a mental break down. In order to understand her father’s breakdown, Fig enlists in the help of her local library and begins to research Vincent Van Gogh, one of the world’s most well-known painter’s, but is equally known for his decent into madness.

This is a beautiful debut story, and Fig is such a kind, slow, quiet protagonist, making her very different from a lot of the characters you encounter in popular middle grade. She is placed in an uncomfortable position for a younger child, and yet she is determined to both support her father and understand his condition. This is not a fast paced story by any stretch of the imagination, it’s very quiet and thoughtful. Fig also has so much so support in this story, even if most of it comes from unlikely sources such as Hannah, who works at her local library.

I think what I love the most about Hurricane Season is that it’s a book all about taking risks, and how even if they don’t pay off or pay off unexpectedly, they are still worth attempting. There’s a positive message throughout this story that children can find and muster amazing and profound strength when they need to, and it’s very apparent in this story as Fig does this repeatedly, each time more difficult, but she in turn grows stronger for it.

Hurricane Season is beautiful and quiet, and it’s a book that offers so much to its reader, while being somewhat small in size. I highly recommend this book if you love tougher middle grade stories that offer opportunities to reflect on what it means to be a caretaker and how one’s life can easily be transformed in the blink of an eye.

The Scott Challenge – March & April Selections

Welcome back to the “Scott Challenge” where my husband is challenging me to read some of his favourite books and I provide some commentary. The two books this month couldn’t be more radically different, as one is a science fiction collection from 1997, the other a sweet fantasy story about immigration. Let’s dive in, shall we?

March Pick:

The Callahan Chronicals
(Callahan’s #1-3)
by Spider Robinson (Published: Published October 15th 1997 by Tor)

I have a love-hate relationship with Spider Robinson’s writing. Often I love his characters, but the writing is too dry for me, lacking any sort of oomph. That is exactly the problem with The Callahan Chronicles, on top of it being a short story collection at as well. I do love books that involve space bars and weird patrons, and my favourite story in the book was one full of puzzles, which then Robinson at the end had to write a lengthy author’s note about how people were sending him solutions to this one puzzle, but he himself for the answer! I weirdly want to play the Callhan video game that was made in 1997, and I still might. Just wish I loved this more. 2.5/5 Stars.

April Pick:

The Golem and the Jinni
(The Golem and the Jinni #1)
by Helene Wecker (Published April 23rd 2013 by Harper)

The Golem and the Jinni was a book I heard a lot about when it released and one admittedly I just never got around to when it released. This beautiful fantasy novel is one I devoured on my weekend in Thunder Bay, because both the Golem and the Jinni were loveable characters just trying to blend into the world around them. This is a wonderful and different take on the immigration story, and even if you don’t like fantasy, this is still a book I’d recommend people give a whirl. It’s sweet, touching, heartbreaking, and more hopeful than one would image. 4/5 Stars.

Middle Grade March Wrap Up – Part 2

On Monday, I shared with you all three of the five books  I read during Middle Grade March. If you haven’t seen that post, consider checking it out. Let’s see what the last two reads ended up being for me, shall we?

No Fixed Address
by Susin Nielsen

If you are a Canadian, than Susin Nielsen is likely a household name you know, whether its from her DeGrassi writing days, or her large contribution to middle grade or young adult fiction in Canada. I’ve now read every single one of her middle grade books and I’m never disappointed. I think No Fixed Address might be my favourite book from her. It’s about Felix and his mother who are homeless, and they are trying to do everything that they can to survive in B.C. Felix has a love of trivia and wants to go onto a kids trivia show in hopes of winning money so he and his money can pay off the debts they owe others and start fresh. Oh my god, I ugly cried through this one. It’s sweet, but oh so sad, but also very hopeful. I yelled at the ending. Repeatedly, actually. Susin Nielsen knows how to punch her reader in the feelings and this book was no exception. 5/5 Stars

Nothing but Trouble
by Jacqueline Davies

This book started out a bit slow for me, but as I read on, I laughed quite a bit. Lena and Maggie are clever and cheeky! This book is about Latin, pranking, and what it means to grow up and create friendships. The writing in this book has such a great energy to it, and I would definitely recommend it as a great middle grade read for those who wants a more of a quirky and silly reading experience. 3.5/5 Stars

Thanks for reading! I hope next Middle Grade March sees me some more fantastic middle grade books to read and recommend.

Middle Grade March Wrap-up – Part 1

Over the month of March, I decided to try and read a lot of middle grade. It was inspired by a lot of Booktubers who were doing similar, but also by the first book I finished in the month, All The Ways Home by Elise Chapman (which I keep hinting at and there will be a review closer to its release). Split into two posts, I thought it would be fun to share with you all the middle grade reads I checked out and some quick thoughts. I ended up reading six books, but will only be discussing five between the two posts.

The War I Finally Won
(The War That Saved My Life #2)
by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

I ADORED the first book in this series, but if I am being honest, I don’t feel like Ada’s story necessarily needed a continuation. This sequel has Ada and her brother Jamie with a legal guardian while World War II rages on. This is a hard one to talk about if you’ve never read the first book (which I highly recommend you do), but this one was a surpisingly slow sequel where I feel like it took its sweet time to get to the story it truly wanted to tell. I gave the first book a five star when I read it, but this one wasn’t the same spark for me. 3.5/5 Stars

The Golden Door
(The Three Doors Trilogy #1)
by Emily Rodda

I wanted to love this book so badly and I had a hard time with it. It’s likely more me than the book because I’ve been in such a weird fantasy slump and just not picking up fantasy books that spark joy in me. This one is such an old school sword, sorcery and dragon story for a middle grade audience and its fabulous in that regard for making that old school genre accessible. I thought the plot was very D&D and the characters just didn’t excite me. However, having since read it, I have recommended it a lot at work, especially for reluctant male readers! But yeah, this sadly wasn’t a hit for me. 2.5/5 Stars

To Night Owl from Dogfish
by Holly Goldberg Sloan &  Meg Wolitzer

A friend of mine described To Night Owl from Dogfish as “The Gap Parent Trap” and it 100% is. This addictive little book about two girls going away to a sleepover camp while trying to keep their dads in a relationship so that they get to become sisters is both funny, heartbreaking, and just charming all around. Avery and Bett will make you grin from ear to ear that’s how wonderful this story was. I think about it a lot and how much fun I had reading it, or how much I thought Bett’s grandmother was just the absolute best grandmother in a book ever. This sweet contemporary book knocked my socks off and I hope more folks check it out. 5/5 Stars

That’s it for part one! I hope you stay tuned because on Friday, I’ll share the other two wonderful reads I checked out for Middle Grade March!

ARC Review – You Must Not Miss by Katrina Leno

Title: You Must Not Miss

Author: Katrina Leno

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Magpie Lewis started writing in her yellow notebook the day her family self-destructed. That was the night Eryn, Magpie’s sister, skipped town and left her to fend for herself. That was the night of Brandon Phipp’s party.

Now, Magpie is called a slut whenever she walks down the hallways of her high school, her former best friend won’t speak to her, and she spends her lunch period with a group of misfits who’ve all been socially exiled like she has. And so, feeling trapped and forgotten, Magpie retreats to her notebook, dreaming up a place called Near.

Near is perfect–somewhere where her father never cheated, her mother never drank, and Magpie’s own life never derailed so suddenly. She imagines Near so completely, so fully, that she writes it into existence, right in her own backyard. It’s a place where she can have anything she wants…even revenge.

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

Sam’s Review:

I adore Katrina Leno’s writing, and You Must Not Miss reminded me of the level of versatility that she has when creating stories. While a lot of Leno’s books have a magical or fantastical element, they are still deeply rooted in the real world and often its the overall tone that provides a uniqueness to each and everyone one of her books.

Magpie is wonderfully intense and destructive as a character. Her overall suffering and deep hatred of herself places the reader in a difficult position when reading this book. There’s a lot of anger, there’s so much venom being spouted throughout this story from both those that surround our heroine, but also Magpie herself. I won’t lie, trying to be supportive of Magpie is challenging in this story, especially given some of the “decisions” she makes, but I think it’s a great deconstruction of dealing with mental illness or dealing with immediate crisis even.

The suffering and self-sabotage by Magpie’s character in this story is oddly a draw. Leno has this amazing way of dragging the reader into the minds of her heroines — sometimes you feel like you are steps ahead of them, and others, like Magpie make you feel lost or question what will happen next. This reminded me a lot of Leno’s first novel, The Half Life of Molly Pierce where I was so emotionally exhausted but equally invested in what was happening.

I recognize that I am being purposely vague about the plot in You Must Not Miss and it’s with good intention. It’s one of those books where the twists and turns feel weird, crazy, and often you’ll ask yourself what the heck you read — but that is actually what makes this story so appealing in my eyes. I got completely lost in it, but didn’t feel a compulsive need to rush through the story. It’s a difficult read, no questions asked, but it’s equally a rewarding, twisty, mess of a story that keeps you guessing from the get-go.

Fave of the Month – March!

March was such an up and down month for me. I didn’t feel like I accomplished as much as I had hoped, but my bullet journal reminded me otherwise. I went on some adventures, I worked and worked out, I’m in the process of digitizing a lot of my old paper files because the clutter is getting to me (more in a different blog post). However, as always, with the end of a new month comes a favourite book. My favourite book of the month was All The Ways Home by Elsie Chapman, which doesn’t release until May. Let’s just say, it is one of the best middle grade books I’ve read this year outside of Ruby in the Sky. Both those are worth putting on your TBR if you love middle grade.

My favourite book of the month was an adult literary novel. The book itself was a pleasant surprise from an author I fell in love with last year. Let’s reveal it, shall we?

Forever, Interrupted by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Published July 9th 2013 by Washington Square Press)

This is the story of a woman who asks her husband to by her Fruity Pebbles and he ends up not coming home because he is killed by a truck driver. Elise has barely been married to her husband and he is sudden taken. This book is an amazing look at grief and how we cope. I found myself understanding Elise’s actions all too well, if I’m being honest. I also loved the bits that were set in the past where Elise and Ben met and how they fell for each other. I’m somewhat of a closeted romantic, but bits of this book did have some swoon, but mostly I cried my eyes out. This is my second Taylor Jenkins Reid book and I know I am smitten with he writing now after this one and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo.

Let’s see what April brings me!

ARC Review – Megabat and Fancy Cat (Megabat #2) by Anna Humphrey & Kass Reich

Title: Megabat and Fancy Cat (Megabat #2) b

Author: Anna Humphrey & Kass Reich

Rating: ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Daniel Misumi has just moved to a new house. It’s big and old and far away from his friends and his life before. AND it’s haunted . . . or is it?

Megabat was just napping on a papaya one day when he was stuffed in a box and shipped halfway across the world. Now he’s living in an old house far from home, feeling sorry for himself and accidentally scaring the people who live there.

Daniel realizes it’s not a ghost in his new house. It’s a bat. And he can talk. And he’s actually kind of cute. Megabat realizes that not every human wants to whack him with a broom. This one shares his smooshfruit. Add some buttermelon, juice boxes, a lightsaber and a common enemy and you’ve got a new friendship in the making!

Huge thank you to Penguin Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I have not read the first Mega Bat book, but now I kinda want to. This is a chapter book series that I’m positive you don’t need to read in order, but considering how fun this book was, I wanna check out the first book. I can totally see why kids would love this chapter book series — it’s funny, clever, and super duper sweet.

This is a quick read, and Daniel, our main hooman character is wonderful. This book has a wonderful lesson teaching what it means to be different and how to love comes in different forms. Mega Bat and the cat’s relationship is funny and I love how the author teaches these lessons through the two characters. Also I LOVED the artwork in this book and I think it reflects the characters and story well. It’s cute, detailed, and very soft looking.

I look forward to sharing this series with parents and kids looking for chapter books that are great for beginner readers moving into that realm. It’s so so so so adorable!