Author Archives: samcmar

ARC Review – Path to the Stars: My Journey from Girl Scout to Rocket Scientist by Sylvia Acevedo

Title: Path to the Stars: My Journey from Girl Scout to Rocket Scientist

Author:  Sylvia Acevedo

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: A meningitis outbreak in their underprivileged neighborhood left Sylvia Acevedo’s family forever altered. As she struggled in the aftermath of loss, young Sylvia’s life transformed when she joined the Brownies. The Girl Scouts taught her how to take control of her world and nourished her love of numbers and science.   With new confidence, Sylvia navigated shifting cultural expectations at school and at home, forging her own trail to become one of the first Latinx to graduate with a master’s in engineering from Stanford University and going on to become a rocket scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

This was an unexpected read that ended up on my door step. Someone who’s opinion I highly trust said it was a non-fiction book that I would likely adore. She was 100% right about that, as Path to the Stars explores the life of Sylvia Acevedo and her story of being a girl scout who loved science and wanted it to become a part of the Girl Scouts mandate.

I loved this book. I think Sylvia Acevedo’s story is one a lot of young women can easily relate to. She was lucky to have so much support from her loved ones, and trying to fit all the things that she loves into the world and giving it to those who may not have that opportunity, she wants to make that a reality for young girls everywhere. I loved learning about her traditional upbringing and I liked how this book covered her childhood right up to her first few years at college.

Having a background to her life and seeing what she has accomplished is so inspiring, and what I love is that this book teaches the value of moving from a lack of privilege, to a place of privilege, and being able to use it to give back to those who lack opportunities or are denied chances to be included because of family life and socio-economical issues. I think Path to the Stars is a thoughtful memoir that I hope any younger readers check out, and hopefully they will feel inspired by Acevedo’s life as much as I did reading this book.

 

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ARC Review – On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden

Title: On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden

Author: Rachel Hartman

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Throughout the deepest reaches of space, a crew rebuilds beautiful and broken-down structures, painstakingly putting the past together. As Mia, the newest member, gets to know her team, the story flashes back to her pivotal year in boarding school, where she fell in love with a mysterious new student. When Mia grows close to her new friends, she reveals her true purpose for joining their ship—to track down her long-lost love.

An inventive world, a breathtaking love story, and stunning art come together in this new work by award-winning artist Tillie Walden.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I loved the heck out of Tillie Walden’s Spinning. When I heard that more of her comics were being published, I decided to keep my eye out for them. On a Sunbeam focuses on a female-female relationship that transcends to the deepest edge of the universe.

This book was beautiful. I loved Walden’s artwork and the colour choice of muted tones throughout the story. There’s a sense of loneliness, foreboding, and discomfort throughout On a Sunbeam, and that is reflected in the artwork through and through. What I loved about the story was the relationship between Mira and Grace. It felt very genuine and raw, right down to the moments where there was heartbreak. Mia is an interesting character in that she’s very strong and smart, but she’s not necessarily the most comfortable in her own skin. I found she was very easy to connect with.

There is also so much going on in this story. I think what I loved was how disjointed parts of it felt. Nothing entirely felt straight-forward and I found myself constantly questioning what was going on. Furthermore, there’s some interesting discussion regarding language usage, family dynamics, and even though this story takes place in outer space, space itself feels like it’s own character.

I loved reading On a Sunbeam, from its wonderful lady-driven romance, to its portrayal of family (and how family doesn’t have to be blood). I think Tillie Walden is a talented storyteller who gets readers attached to her characters and often lets the reader feel a strong connection to them. This story is dark, yet hopeful, and I think it will gel with readers who want stories that they feel they can be closely connected to.

ARC Review – Check, Please!: #Hockey by Ngozi Ukazu

Title: Check, Please!: #Hockey

Author: Ngozi Ukazu

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: A collection of the first half of the megapopular webcomic series of the same name, Check, Please!: #Hockey is the first book of a hilarious and stirring two-volume coming-of-age story about hockey, bros, and trying to find yourself during the best four years of your life.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review: 

I didn’t even know I needed Check Please! in my life until I started reading it. It was a webcomic that I saw being discussed over on Cece @ ProblemsofaBookNerd’s channel, and every time she mentioned it, the more intrigued I was. Hockey? Baked goods? Vlogging? What more can you ask for?

Eric “Bitty” Bittle is the smallest player on his college hockey team. He’s also openly gay, and kinda sorta maybe has the hots for Jack, a French-Canadian teammate. The romance between the two is SO DARLING. It is so cute, and I love how organic it feels in the story. Eric and Jack are just so awkward and sweet! I kept rooting for them from start to finish even though yes, I knew they would end up together. THAT’S NOT THE POINT. POINT IS IS LOVED IT, OKAY?!

I also adored the artwork, and just how well-researched it is. anytime hockey is discussed I just found myself being like “I KNOW WHAT THAT IS!” or “I know who they are talking about!” I recognize how silly that may sound, but I love learning about sports even if I don’t necessarily like playing them. I also loved any section of the story that focused on Eric and his former figure-skating career! Those panels are so pretty!

I honestly can gush forever about Check Please! and honestly I am so excited to have discovered this comic series. I cannot wait for the next part to be bundled together just so I scan squeal at the top of my lungs over just how freakin’ cute it is.

Hiatus! (And Japan!)

Hi guys,

As you can see the blog has been a bit all over the place. The reason for that being that I recently moved, still am settling in and, I’m heading to Japan this month. I hope to have a proper blogging schedule set up again once I am home in October. Not sure what I will be doing yet, but regardless, the blog is going silent for a bit. Plus, ya know, a reading slump hit me. The joys.

I look forward to sharing my trip with you all, and my reading adventures!

Love,

Sam

ARC Review – Sadie by Courtney Summers

Title: Sadie

Author: Courtney Summers

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: A missing girl on a journey of revenge and a Serial-like podcast following the clues she’s left behind.

Sadie hasn’t had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she’s been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water.

But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie’s entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister’s killer to justice and hits the road following a few meager clues to find him.

When West McCray—a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America—overhears Sadie’s story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie’s journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it’s too late.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I have adored every book Courtney Summers has put out. I find the moment I have one of her books I tend to devour it quickly because I get so engrossed in her stories and characters. Sadie is one of those books that keeps you on the edge of your seat, and is unafraid to look at complicated issues regarding sexual conduct and runaway teens.

First off, I loved the dual perspective in this novel. The reader is introduced to West McCray, who has a podcast in the style of Serial as he tries to uncover why Sadie ran away from home, as well as what truly happened to her sister, Mattie. We also have Sadie’s perspective, which shows us just how far a young woman can go when trying to seek her own kind of personal justice. Sadie is a character you root for, get frustrated by, but constantly find yourself empathizing with. I felt like when I was reading this book I was constantly her shadow — looking overhead and trying to see what she would do next. Both these perspectives draw from each other so well, and it makes this thriller have all the more impact.

This story though… it’s an uncomfortable one. Sadie’s reasons, West McCray’s desire to help, all converge in such a troubling way, and I loved it for that. I loved guessing what was happening in the story, I loved getting the perspectives of all the interviewees and trying to figure out if they were telling the truth, and I love how convoluted a lot of the investigation feels. I also loved getting Sadie’s backstory, learning about her mother and Mattie — a lot of it is so heartbreaking and yet, the reader is constantly asking why.

Sadie is a fantastic, unflinching novel that will keep you guessing. The conclusion is satisfying, and it’s one of those books where I would love to hear an audio-version in the future. If you loved raw, angry novels, please check out Sadie, and I promise you won’t regret it.

ARC Review – After Zero by Christina Collins

Title: After Zero

Author: Christina Collins

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Elise carries a notebook full of tallies, each page marking a day spent at her new public school, each stroke of her pencil marking a word spoken. A word that can’t be taken back. Five tally marks isn’t so bad. Two is pretty good. But zero? Zero is perfect. Zero means no wrong answers called out in class, no secrets accidentally spilled, no conversations to agonize over at night when sleep is far away. But now months have passed, and Elise isn’t sure she could speak even if she wanted to―not to keep her only friend, Mel, from drifting further away―or to ask if anyone else has seen her English teacher’s stuffed raven come to life. Then, the discovery of a shocking family secret helps Elise realize that her silence might just be the key to unlocking everything she’s ever hoped for… 

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

After Zero is a book with an interesting premise: Elise is a young girl with selective mutism and her school questions why this is the case. They are frustrated by her lack of speaking, but don’t necessarily go about things in the most positive of manners. This is a middle grade book that is very emotional, and one I flew through in nearly a day.

I loved Elise and I loved being in her mind. While this book doesn’t have a lot of dialogue or conversations, it’s interesting to see how a character with selective mutism interacts with their fellow classmates, family members and school faculty. Elise writes her feelings out, she is still emotionally a very expressive young girl, and the author makes Elise’s story all the more interesting because we are only given such a limited scope of details. As the reader, it’s like you have to build friendship and trust with Elise before she even opens up to you and I appreciate that tone of voice and distance in a story like this. In that regard, it creates a great mysterious atmosphere.

This book is a intriguing look at children’s mental health issues. This book is written with passion, tenderness, and and tons of empathy. This book shows how Elise’s actions affect others and those around her. I think this book will be a fantastic tool to teach kids about empathy and how mental illness affects children during traumatic and difficult times. This is a fantastic debut, and one I hope many will share with this kids.

ARC Review – The Broken Vow (Spill Zone #2) by Scott Westerfeld & Alex Puvilland

Title: Spill Zone: The Broken Vow

Author: Scott Westefeld & Alex Puvilland

Rating: ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Only the very brave or the very desperate dare enter the Spill Zone—Addison Merritt is a little of both. In exchange for a suitcase full of cash, she made one last to the Zone. She survived the encounter, but came back changed.

Addison is not alone. In a remote village in North Korea, a young man named Jae was touched by the unholy fire of the Spill Zone. He made it out alive—alive, but also changed.

Now bestowed with uncanny powers, Addison and Jae may be the only ones strong enough to face a new threat that has risen in the Spill Zone. This deadly entity is searching for his runaway bride—and his hunt is bringing him closer and closer to Addison and her little sister. 

Huge thank you to Raincoast books for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I really enjoyed the first volume of Spill Zone, and I will admit, I think I enjoyed this sequel a little less. The story has definitely taken some interesting twists and turns, especially now that we are introduced to Jae, a North Korean boy who has similar powers to Addison. This novel explores what happens to those who have been touched by the spill and how drastically they transform.

I won’t lie, I still found parts of this graphic novel a bit confusing. The plot of the first book was a lot more steady, but here I found myself lost at times regarding some of the elemental plots. It’s interesting to see what the spill is doing worldwide, and this book is genuinely far creepier than the first. I still hate the creepy-doll, but this book takes this element to a different level and one I was unnerved by — which means the book did it’s job. I do think the pacing was much slower for this installment than the first, but I appreciated that the stakes truly felt higher in Broken Vow compared to Spill Zone.

I still think the artwork is quite a unique mashup of styles and colours. I love that they puke every colour of the rainbow and it suits so much of what is happening in the story. I still love the relationship between Addi and Lexa, though the ending did leave a bit to be desired. This volume really felt like it was playing with a lot of different science fiction and horror tropes, which I appreciated. Vespertine the doll still gives me nightmares. I didn’t think it would be possible, but she was scary in book one and in the sequel… lets just say she shook me at times.

I think Broken Vow is a good sequel, and perhaps I am at fault for having not reread the first book just for a refresher. I think fans of the first book will definitely enjoy this volume, and I think maybe for me I just had the wrong expectations as I was reading this of what I thought was going to happen. A good, but not great conclusion for me.