Monthly Archives: August 2020

Beer & Book Club Review – Brother by David Chariandy

Welcome to the first installment of reviews for Dominion City Brewing Co’s Beer and Book Club releases. This was July’s pick, and I will also share my thoughts on the beer as well!


Title: Brother

Author: David Chariandy

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Coming of age in The Park, a cluster of town houses and leaning concrete towers in the disparaged outskirts of a sprawling city, Michael and Francis battle against the careless prejudices and low expectations that confront them as young men of black and brown ancestry–teachers stream them into general classes; shopkeepers see them only as thieves; and strangers quicken their pace when the brothers are behind them. Always Michael and Francis escape into the cool air of the Rouge Valley, a scar of green wilderness that cuts through their neighbourhood, where they are free to imagine better lives for themselves.

Sam’s Review: I thought this was a fantastic book to read! As a Scarborough native, reading this book was like coming home in a lot of ways. The descriptions of the neighbourhood that Michael and Francis lives is not far from where I was born and grew up. This is a book about family, bad choices, forgiveness, and growing up. There’s instances of racism, carding, and the book looks at what it means to grow up as Trinidadian immigrants whose father has disappeared and mother is taking on both parental roles. This book was super sad, very heartbreaking, and there was one part that had me in complete tears. I read this book in a day, in two sittings, because Chariandy weaves such a compelling story in such a short amount of pages. I highly recommend this book!


The Beers

Earl Grey Marmalade Saison – A favourite that I have had before. Will buy a case of it providing it’s available the next time I am in Ottawa.

People Need People Light Beer – Absolutely crisp and refreshing.

Shed No Tears Tropical Stout – Not a stout drinker and sadly this didn’t convert me. I liked the idea of the topical stout, but it just didn’t work for me.

ARC Review – The Radium Girls: Young Readers’ Edition: The Scary but True Story of the Poison that Made People Glow in the Dark

Title: The Radium Girls: Young Readers’ Edition: The Scary but True Story of the Poison that Made People Glow in the Dark

Author: Kate Moore

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: The Curies’ newly discovered element of radium makes gleaming headlines across the nation as the fresh face of beauty, and wonder drug of the medical community. From body lotion to tonic water, the popular new element shines bright in the otherwise dark years of the First World War. Meanwhile, hundreds of girls toil amidst the glowing dust of the radium-dial factories. The glittering chemical covers their bodies from head to toe; they light up the night like industrious fireflies. With such a coveted job, these “shining girls” are the luckiest alive — until they begin to fall mysteriously ill.

But the factories that once offered golden opportunities are now ignoring all claims of the gruesome side effects, and the women’s cries of corruption. And as the fatal poison of the radium takes hold, the brave shining girls find themselves embroiled in one of the biggest scandals of America’s early 20th century, and in a groundbreaking battle for workers’ rights that will echo for centuries to come. (From the adult edition)

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I have been enjoying Young Reader’s editions of books as of late, if only because I am curious as to how an author transplants their content for a different age group. Radium Girls by Kate Moore was a very important and difficult book when it released in 2017, and I won’t lie when I was confused to have received a copy of a Young Readers edition for it in my mailbox. I never had the chance to read the original book, so I gave this version a go.

This is an amazing work on non-fiction that looks at the dial painters, all who were infected with radium, and were slowly transforming or dying because of it. It looks at the work conditions the women faced, as well as the court cases. Many of the women in this book died at very young ages due to radium poisoning, and it took many years later for legal action to have occurred. This YRE does an amazing job of telling the story of these women without dumbing it down or talking down at the reader. The language is very clear and direct, while also evoking a lot of empathy for women who lost their lives.

This book is gripping from the first page, and what happened to these women is horrific and unacceptable. The fact that there is still radium clean-up in this day and age in Ottawa, IL is problematic in itself. This book is uncomfortable, dark, and a little scary at times, but the information and the story being told is important and valuable. Definitely check out this book, YRE or otherwise, because the story is out of this world.

Late to the Party ARC Review – Prairie Lotus by Linda Sue Park

Title: Prairie Lotus

Author: Linda Sue Park

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Prairie Lotus is a book about a girl determined to fit in and realize her dreams: getting an education, becoming a dressmaker in her father’s shop, and making at least one friend. Hanna, a half-Asian girl in a small town in America’s heartland, lives in 1880. Hanna’s adjustment to her new surroundings, and the townspeople’s prejudice against Asians, is at the heart of the story.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I am not a big historical fiction fan, nor I am I a huge fan of Little House on the Prairie. What I am a fan of, is reimaginings or retellings of popular stories, which is what drew me to Linda Sue Park’s Prarie Lotus. This is the story of Hanna, a young Asian girl who dreams of getting an education during the 1880’s. Hanna must endure racism, prejudice, while also tackling what it means to have a dream that others who are privileged might not understand.

Hanna’s story is very powerful, and reading it, I felt so sad that she had to constantly deal with being labelled as different or strange. It’s heartbreaking to be a kid who constantly is being “othered” by those who choose not to educate themselves or even risk a conversation. In the Author’s Note, Linda Sue Park talks about how this novel is based off of actual experiences she faced growing up, and the frustrations of not seeing Asian representation in middle grade fiction that wasn’t racist in some way. She states that part of the reason Hanna has so much strength and courage to speak out about her situations, is because Park has stated she didn’t know how to do it when she was a kid.

I really loved this story, and Hanna’s strength really is admirable. She constantly defends herself and tries to educate others even though she shouldn’t have to. Hanna wants to show people her dressmaking skills, and she wants people to see in her little Dakota town how valuable she is as a person. Poor Hanna constantly has to justify her existence, which is so wrong! Since this is the story of new immigrants moving from their home in China where people were being murdered to America where their difference is seen as “othering.” Hanna and her family constantly show courage in this story, and they show that tenacity in a new place where they refuse to be mistreated.

Prairie Lotus is an intelligent, heartfelt story about finding strength and courage, but also dealing with issues such as racism head on. There are many difficult and powerful moments in this story, and it definitely has its place in being a very important story about loving yourself regardless of what the rest of the world thinks.

Late to the Party Arc Review – We Hunt the Flame (Sands of Arawiya #1) by Hafsah Faizal

Title: We Hunt the Flame (Sands of Arawiya #1)

Author: Hafsah Faizal

Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: Zafira is the Hunter, disguising herself as a man when she braves the cursed forest of the Arz to feed her people. Nasir is the Prince of Death, assassinating those foolish enough to defy his autocratic father, the king. If Zafira was exposed as a girl, all of her achievements would be rejected; if Nasir displayed his compassion, his father would punish him in the most brutal of ways.

Both are legends in the kingdom of Arawiya—but neither wants to be.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I am super torn on We Hunt the Flame. On one hand, there is some fantastic world-building and some kick ass visual language at work here. There is an interesting premise, but then it goes to macguffin town (which is fine), and also just misses a spark for me in terms of its characters. I am a character reader, so while the plot had great peaks and valleys, the characters left a lot to be desired for me.

And really, that is just on Nasir. I don’t dig the passive assassin trope mainly because I find it to be such a weird oxymoron. Compassionate assassin is a neat idea, but given how this book is set up, it just didn’t gel with me. I think one of the other elements I struggled with was that both characters stories read a bit too similarly for me. I loved Zafira’s story and I think hers was easily the stronger of the two and I feel like she got to be a protagonist who gave a crap about her people, who was willing to sacrifice herself for her people, and her motivations just make so much more sense compared to Nasir.

I think there is great ideas in this book, but I wish there had been a bit more action and a little less angst. I found the angst didn’t help this story either. I really loved the world and the relationships that Zafira forges in the story, and I thought the writing was decent too! It’s just one of those fantasy novels where I don’t know if it will stick with me long term, sadly.

ARC Review – All Together Now (Eagle Rock #2) by Hope Larson

Title: All Together Now (Eagle Rock #2)

Author: Hope Larson

Rating: ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Middle-schooler Bina is having the best time playing in her new band with her friends, Darcy and Enzo. But both the band and her friendships begin to crumble when Darcy and Enzo start dating, effectively relegating Bina to third-wheel status.

To make matters worse, Bina’s best friend, Austin, starts developing a crush on her . . . one she is not sure she reciprocates. Now Bina must follow her heart. Can she navigate its twists and turns before the lights come up and the music starts playing?

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I really enjoyed All Summer Long, but I think its sequel All Together Now might actually be the stronger of the two books in the series. In this sequel, Bina has definitely grown, her first are interested in romantic relationships and moving towards becoming “high schoolers.” Bina would rather continue to play music, and given all the changes within her friend group, she has to deal with writer’s block and overcoming creative differences with her friends and band-mates.

Bina grows so much in this story. From her best friend taking an “interest” in here, to Darcy leaving her band and getting a boyfriend, Larson tackles so many issues in this book and does with a lot of fineness. Bina still has frustrating moments in this story where her immaturity definitely shows, but her growing pains are also super apparent and you can’t help by feel for everything she seems to think she is losing.

All Together Now is a fun sequel to this great story about music and friendship. I’d be curious if Larson has another book up her sleeve for this series, as I’d be curious to see Bina grow even more. Definitely read the first book before considering read this one, as it’s a direct continuation. This has a great summer spirit and will make a fun outdoor read!