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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.

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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.

#FearlessWomen – THE FATED SKY

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The Fated Sky

On the moon, I eat in the cafeteria with the rest of the colony, but at home, I cook. Sometimes, I stress cook. Sometimes, I stress cook an entire kosher dinner.  After talking to Clemons, I also made pie. By the time Nathaniel got home, the apartment was muggy and smelled of chocolate, rosemary, beef, and red wine. I sat in front of the fan, leaning forward so that the air could go down my cleavage, and regretted my decision to cook dinner while also wondering if I should make another dish.

My regret faded when Nathaniel stopped in the door-way, head tilted up. He inhaled and smiled. “Is that your beef bourguignon?”

“And baked potatoes. And a salad.” I stood up, flipping the fan back to oscillate. “And biscuits.”

He set his briefcase down by the door, and put his hat on the rack. “Have I mentioned how much I’ve missed you?”

“I told Clemons I’d go.” I bit my lips. Well, crap. I’d planned on talking to him over dinner. “Sorry.”

Nathaniel crossed the room and took my hands in his.  Gently, he squeezed each of them, looking down as if they were something rare. He sighed, but a smile softened his cheekbones. “Well . . .  I knew you were going to go.”

“I’m sorry.  There’s still time to back out.”

No. Elma . . .” He looked up and his eyes were wet. I went all over trembles. He brought my left hand up and kissed my ring finger. “I was pretty sure you wanted to go, but was waiting for you to come around to it on your own. In case I was wrong.”

“But—”

My husband shook his head, still smiling at me, even though his eyes were reddened. “I don’t want you stuck on Earth, wishing you were in the stars. That’s no sort of marriage.”

THE FATED SKY:
Mary Robinette Kowal continues the grand sweep of alternate history begun in The Calculating Stars, The Fated Sky looks forward to 1961, when mankind is well-established on the moon and looking forward to its next step: journeying to, and eventually colonizing, Mars.
Of course the noted Lady Astronaut Elma York would like to go, but there’s a lot riding on whoever the International Aerospace Coalition decides to send on this historic—but potentially very dangerous—mission? Could Elma really leave behind her husband and the chance to start a family to spend several years traveling to Mars? And with the Civil Rights movement taking hold all over Earth, will the astronaut pool ever be allowed to catch up, and will these brave men and women of all races be treated equitably when they get there? This gripping look at the real conflicts behind a fantastical space race will put a new spin on our visions of what might have been.
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About Mary Robinette Kowal:
Mary Robinette Kowal is the author of the historical fantasy novels Ghost Talkers and the five books in The Glamourist Histories series. She is also a multiple Hugo Award winner. Her short fiction has appeared in Uncanny, Tor.com, and Asimov’s. Mary, a professional puppeteer, lives in Chicago with her husband Robert and over a dozen manual typewriters.
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About #FearlessWomen:

Women are shining in every genre of speculative fiction, and it is no longer enough to say “Women are here.” Instead, #FearlessWomen everywhere are taking a stand to say “Women will thrive here.”

Highlighting major titles from bestselling authors V.E. Schwab, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Jacqueline Carey as well as titles from acclaimed and debut authors such as Mary Robinette Kowal, Tessa Gratton, Sam Hawke, and Robyn Bennis, #FearlessWomen will be a coordinated social media celebration encouraging fans to start a dialogue about women in publishing, their worlds, their voices, and their unique stories.

Tor Books’ handles across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (@torbooks) will be using the hashtags #FearlessWomen (and #FearlessFantasy and #FearlessSF) to promote excerpts, exclusive content, quizzes and giveaways beginning in May. There will also be exclusive giveaways at BookCon, San Diego Comic-Con, and New York Comic Con. Follow Tor Books online, join the conversation – and get reading!

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.

Late to the Party ARC Review – Invictus by Ryan Graudin

Title: Invictus

Author: Ryan Graudin

Rating: ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Farway Gaius McCarthy was born outside of time. The son of a time-traveling Recorder from 2354 AD and a gladiator living in Rome in 95 AD, Far’s birth defies the laws of nature. Exploring history himself is all he’s ever wanted, and after failing his final time-traveling exam, Far takes a position commanding a ship with a crew of his friends as part of a black market operation to steal valuables from the past. 

But during a heist on the sinking Titanic, Far meets a mysterious girl who always seems to be one step ahead of him. Armed with knowledge that will bring Far’s very existence into question, she will lead Far and his team on a race through time to discover a frightening truth: History is not as steady as it seems.

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

Sam’s Review:

So, epic fail on my part. I got this book last year around the time it released and somehow only got to it this year. I LOVED Wolf by Wolfand it’s sequel by Ryan Graudin, and I was so excited to read this and yet it slipped my mind. What’s not to love about a story that focuses on time travel and being a space pirate?

Invictus is such a different beast from Graudin’s other books, especially given that a lot of her previous titles were historical fiction. I admit, this book took me a lot longer to get into because it was science fiction, and I found the first hundred pages to be a bit on the slow side. There’s a lot being explained and developed, which normally I don’t mind, but in this case I found it challenging given I was expecting a similar style of writing that wasn’t here. It’s the same with the characters — I didn’t enjoy them right off the bat and it took pages upon pages before I truly found myself engaged with them as people.

I will say, I did enjoy the science fiction elements a lot. I think what I enjoyed the most was Graudin’s treatment of Invictus, giving the ship such a wonderful personality. I loved the way in which the cast was over protective of her, and even in times of crisis it was all about the damn ship. I liked that! I appreciate and love space stories where the ship feels like a character and one with great importance. Made me think of Firefly in some ways. I also loved the jumping through history element of the novel. I think it was done in such an accessible and approachable way for readers who may not entirely be history buffs.

I am happy I finally read Invictus. It’s no Wolf by Wolf and it was ill of me to expect the same caliber of work. I think this is novel that stands well on its own, and it’s definitely for lighter science fiction fans. I think this is a rough first “space” science fiction novel, but I am still so curious if Graudin will come back to this universe or attempt science fiction again. There’s a lot of good in this novel, and I think for me the issue I had were more my own than the book itself.