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Books I Reviewed For the Library – Issue #1

One thing I now have to do as part of my job is review and curate our Fave Books of the Month lists. I do reviews for both our middle grade selections and young adult, and it’s easily one of the more interesting parts of my job because essentially I am reviewing titles that I want to see succeed in the library’s collection. I’ve also actively been picking titles I don’t have ARCs for or items that have already released so our customers can enjoy them right away. Here’s two reviews I did for our collection maintenance. 🙂


Tilly and the Bookwanderers (Pages & Co. #1) by Anna James – Have you ever wanted the ability to travel into your favourite books? Anna James’ “Tilly and the Bookwanderers” is a bookworm’s dream! Tilly is a young girl who lives in her grandfather’s book shop, spending her days reading and devouring stories. When she accidentally meets Anne Shirley from “Anne of Green Gables,” shenanigans begin, and Tilly must come to terms with the fact that her favourite stories have come to life and that perhaps, there’s a larger mystery afoot. “Tilly and the Bookwanders” is filled with magic on every page, and is one of those books that feels like a nice warm hug when you read it. One of my favourite elements of this story was anticipating who Tilly would meet next! This is a love-letter to bookworms everywhere, and is a complete must read for those who love to dream about their favourite stories.


Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki & Rosemary Valero-O’Connell – Freddie and Laura have a routine – they fight, the break up, they kiss and then they make up. At least, that was the story for awhile. When Freddie catches Laura in the act of cheating, she begins to question the healthiness of their relationship and what kind of a friend it makes her. This book is an emotional roller-coaster, especially for anyone who has dealt with a toxic relationship. Freddie is forced to question her actions and determine the kind of person she wants to be, which I think many readers will be able to relate to. The artwork in this graphic novel is gorgeous and flows beautifully with the story as well. “Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me” is about finding your support networks and reminding yourself that you don’t have to put up with people treating you like crap.

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Late to the Party ARC Review – Caterpillar Summer by Gillian McDunn

Title: Caterpillar Summer

Author: Gillian McDunn

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Cat and her brother Chicken have always had a very special bond–Cat is one of the few people who can keep Chicken happy. When he has a “meltdown” she’s the one who scratches his back and reads his favorite story. She’s the one who knows what Chicken needs. Since their mom has had to work double-hard to keep their family afloat after their father passed away, Cat has been the glue holding her family together.

But even the strongest glue sometimes struggles to hold. When a summer trip doesn’t go according to plan, Cat and Chicken end up spending three weeks with grandparents they never knew. For the first time in years, Cat has the opportunity to be a kid again, and the journey she takes shows that even the most broken or strained relationships can be healed if people take the time to walk in one another’s shoes.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Caterpillar Summer was a total cover grab for me. There’s something about two adorable children and fishing that just screams a summer read. This book is a gentle look at sibling relationships, grief, and learning to walk in someone else’s shoes, even if it’s for a little while. There’s also a lot about fishing in this book, which definitely gave me fond memories of my childhood at my parent’s cottage.

Cat and Chicken are lovable characters, each with the ability to control each other. It’s very clear that Cat, in particular, has had to grow up very quickly and become responsible for Chicken at such a young age, so it was nice to read a narrative where the author takes that concept and offers the character an opportunity to be a child again. There is such a reluctance from Cat’s character at times, almost as though she is afraid of having the rug swept from under her feet.

There is a kindness and curious nature in that book that makes it a slow, but compelling story. This is very much a character focused story, and one where you are watching both Cat and Chicken grow. I loved their grandparents, and I also appreciated in the story how they were okay with the hesitation from Cat and Chicken given the estrangement. There’s a lot of growing and learning in this story, and I love that both cat and Chicken wear their flaws on their sleeves.

Caterpillar Summer is a lyrical book about childhood and grief, but it’s full of gentleness and hope. Coupled with some beautiful illustrations throughout, if you are someone who loves a softer middle grade story, this one is easily for you.

ARC Review – The Revolution of Birdie Randolph by Brandy Colbert

Title: The Revolution of Birdie Randolph

Author: Brandy Colbert

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Dove “Birdie” Randolph works hard to be the perfect daughter and follow the path her parents have laid out for her: She quit playing her beloved soccer, she keeps her nose buried in textbooks, and she’s on track to finish high school at the top of her class. But then Birdie falls hard for Booker, a sweet boy with a troubled past…whom she knows her parents will never approve of.

When her estranged aunt Carlene returns to Chicago and moves into the family’s apartment above their hair salon, Birdie notices the tension building at home. Carlene is sweet, friendly, and open-minded–she’s also spent decades in and out of treatment facilities for addiction. As Birdie becomes closer to both Booker and Carlene, she yearns to spread her wings. But when long-buried secrets rise to the surface, everything she’s known to be true is turned upside down.

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

Sam’s Review:

Brandy Colbert has yet to disappointment. Her stories are have such raw portrayals of teens coping with difficult issues, and it’s why I always keep coming back to them. The Revolution of Birdie Randolphlooks at a disjointed relationship between sisters, a girl who is forced to study and has no means of blowing off steam, and a boy who’s been to juvie and is trying to make amends for his actions.

If there is one thing Colbert is a master of, it’s writing family dynamics in such a realistic way. Birdie’s home-life and her relationship with her parents has moments of discomfort, but also moments of joy. I think the book also has some fantastic twists and turns in terms of large scale secrets, and I think Colbert gives the right amount of bread crumbs to get those conclusions. I found myself very engaged by the family plotline (as I usually do), but I actually also liked the relationship storyline between Birdie and Booker (our boy outta juvie) as well. Romance isn’t normally my bag, but this one worked for me most of the time.

I think what I loved about Booker’s character in particular is that he recognizes the kind of harm he caused in his past and he wants to atone and become a better person. I also appreciate how sex-positive this book is, in that he never pressures Birdie into anything either. I feel for Booker through, simply because he gets pigeon-holed by so many people in the story and it takes awhile for people to warm up to him due to his past.

If I am being honest, I really loved all the characters in The Revolution of Birdie Randolph, and I like that the majority of them grow with the story, each with their own flaws. The flaws feel true to the nature of the story and don’t feel shoe-horned in any way. If you’ve read and enjoyed Colbert’s novels in the past, then this book is a no brainer. However, if you’ve been meaning to read Brandy Colbert’s works and haven’t, this one is a pretty good place to start.

A Late Fave of the Months – June & July

Hi everyone! I am not dead! But Summer Reading Club is out to kill me and I come home happy and tired every night. So much so, that I haven’t been turning my computer on when I get home from work. It’s funny for me, as someone who loves to surf the web or play PC games that all of a sudden I come home from my full-time job and go “No thanks.”

Despite it being quite here on the blog, I’ve been reading A LOT. I just haven’t had the energy to post. You are going to see me try to get active again, and come fall I feel like that will be a million times easier when I have less programs on my plate and more time to focus on my collection work.

For now, let’s play catch up with two faves of the month!

June

Ghost Boys
by Jewell Parker Rhodes (April 17th 2018 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
One of the last books I read in June, but easily the most important, Ghost Boys looks at two entwined lives: the ghost of a recently murder 12 year old boy, Jerome, and the ghost of Emmett Till, the famous boy who was killed by white men for supposedly cat-calling a white woman. The parallels between Jerome and Till’s life are super important in this story, as the author, Jewell Parker Rhodes reminds readers that white cops are still killing young black people and this shit needs to stop. I want to stress how heartbreaking this book is, as well as the constant anger I felt towards the cop who “just felt like he was doing his job” but still insisted on killing a young black boy. The audiobook for this is phenomenal and highly worth the listen, and I feel this middle grade gem is going to continue to be important for generations to come.
July
Tilly and the Bookwanderers
(Pages & Co. #1)
by Anna James (Published September 18th 2018 by HarperCollins)
This adorable, funny, clever, book. I had to write my first middle grade book review for work and this ended up being my selection. I kept passing it every time I was helping customers and finally decided one afternoon to take the plunge.
I read it very quickly.
Tilly and the Bookwanders is a book lover’s book. It focuses on adventure, with gentle and sweet characters, and offers a sense of wonder in the familiar. Tilly is able to wander through her favourite books such as A Little Princess or Anne of Green Gables and she befriends the characters and helps solves their problems. I am beyond excited for the sequel when it releases, because Tilly and fairy tales is going to make for an interesting adventure.

Late to the Party ARC Review – Watch Us Rise by Renée Watson & Ellen Hagan

Title: Watch Us Rise

Author: Renée Watson & Ellen Hagan

Rating: ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Jasmine and Chelsea are sick of the way women are treated even at their progressive NYC high school, so they decide to start a Women’s Rights Club. They post everything online—poems, essays, videos of Chelsea performing her poetry, and Jasmine’s response to the racial macroaggressions she experiences—and soon they go viral. But with such positive support, the club is also targeted by online trolls. When things escalate, the principal shuts the club down. Jasmine and Chelsea will risk everything for their voices—and those of other young women—to be heard.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

The premise of Watch Us Rise had me curious. I love books that focus on activism, and I appreciate discussions on larger topics such as body shaming, LGBTQIA+ issues, and what it means to be a woman of in our modern world. Watson and Hagan’s novel explores all these topics and more in a fresh take on school activism and how students deserve to take stands when necessary.

I appreciate all the messages that are woven into this story, though I will say it’s a lot and at times I felt the book was a bit unfocused. I really liked the friendship between Jasmine and Chelsea, and I loved how they both lifted each other up, while also using their platform to try and empower women and make them see that they are valuable. That they matter. I also appreciate that the book tries to be inclusive as well, as a lot of the commentary focuses on what can be done now and how we should want to help others.

Even with what I’ve written above, I think having so much jammed into this book is what made me “like it” but not be “in love” with it. I wanted to lovelovelove this given I have adored every book I’ve read by Renee Watson. I think the writing is good, but for a book about activism, I didn’t find myself cheering as much as I wanted to, or highlighting important phrases. I think a lot of young adult readers will enjoy this book and will gain a lot of interesting and inspiring knowledge. I think my issue came from moments of disconnect, mainly from the poetry sections, which I found to be a bit hit-or-miss.

Watch Us Rise is a great introduction for young adults who want to learn about activism. I do wish this book focused more on Jasmine, as I thought her story by far was much stronger than Chelsea’s, but I appreciate Watson and Hagan’s efforts to show two different girls going through both different and similar challenges. There’s definitely some value in this book that I think readers will definitely connect with, and that makes it worth recommending. If you are looking for a fictional book that is much deeper in terms of understanding feminism, this one might not be what you’re looking for.

#YearofLess Update 3 – Life & Low Waste Goals

In the month of May, I started a full-time job in a new library system. It meant retraining myself on a lot of library practices and un-training (it’s not a word but lets roll with it) myself from the policies of the old system I worked for. Since moving to a new library system, I’ve had the freedom to create my own programs as well as be a participant in current programming as well.

In the month of May, my work did a twenty-five day butterfly observation program where we had children come up with twenty-seven names for our Painted Lady butterflies. It was a great way to teach children about how butterflies are valuable to the environment, and their life cycle. Here’s a photo I took of our first butterfly, “Benson”, after she was born.

I’ve also gotten back into the swing of implementing low waste practices at work, the big one being using Staples Terracycle program in order to ensure that writing utensils do not end up in landfill when they can be recycled properly. Here’s a photo of the last run I did at my old job! It’s a lot of markers!

Lastly, throughout the months of March to May, I had been working on the first version of a large scale project that I plan to present to the library association that I am apart of. It looks at the idea of can libraries move to a low waste life-style and can we create more environmentally-friendly and sustainable programming for our clients who wish to find out what they can do for the environment. My new manager is very supportive of my current programming ideas and projects, so it was wonderful to do a dry run of my presentation at my old work!

Aren’t I adorable in my Captain Marvel shirt and pink running shoes? Yeah, I thought so too.

As of right now, I am doing my best to catch up with the blog to the best of my ability. Learning a new job and crafting new programs takes a lot of energy and come July begins our summer programming extravaganza, which it’s going to take a lot of me. If the blog seem empy-ish during July and August (which I hope it won’t be), this is likely why. I still have a few more #YearofLess posts plotted, but they require a bit more work, so I am sorry I haven’t gotten there yet.

Anywho, have a great summer and I hope to jump back into the blogging fray soon!

ARC Review – The Miraculous by Jess Redman

Title: The Miraculous

Author: Jess Redman

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Eleven-year-old Wunder Ellis is a miracologist. In a journal he calls The Miraculous, he records stories of the inexplicable and the extraordinary. These miracles fill Wunder with the feeling that he is not alone, that the world is magical, that he is part of something brighter than he can imagine.

But then his newborn sister dies, at only eight days old. If that can happen, then miracles don’t exist. So Wunder gets rid of The Miraculous. And he stops believing.

Then Wunder meets Faye—a cape-wearing, outspoken girl with losses of her own. Together, they find an abandoned house by the cemetery and the old woman who lives there—and who might be a witch. The old woman asks for Wunder and Faye’s help. She asks them to go through graveyards and forests, to townhalls and police stations, by bike and by train. She asks them to believe. And together, they go on a journey that leads them to friendship, to healing—and to miracles.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Jess Redman’s debut The Miraculous starts with a hard punch to the gut. It’s seldom that middle grade novels look at the death of a sibling, and even worse an infant. Our main character, Wunder, has stopped believing in miracles, and is convinced that miracles are not real.

That snippet of information should immediately tell you what a rough ride The Miraculous is going to be. Wunder meets Faye, a girl who has also suffered extreme loss, and the two become friends, creating an understanding that grief strikes when it wants to. I could easily connect with this story, especially as someone who has lost people who are valuable to me. Faye’s responses to her trauma are much more aggressive and even vocal, which admittedly, was also something I connected with.

Despite its over arching theme of grief and loss, I want to stress thatThe Miraculous is a hopeful read, and one filled with a lot of magical realism. There’s so many fantastical elements in the story that create such a rich reading experiences, and the larger themes (both positive and negative) are highlighted in interesting or magical ways. What I equally love about this book is that its such a fast-paced read, so much so that I read it in two one hour lunch breaks because I needed to know what was happening to Wunder and Faye throughout the story.

I do think those who love story-driven magical realism will definitely love this book. I won’t lie though, as I do think the harshness of Wunder’s trauma may be difficult for some younger readers to understand or even bear. Even with that in mind, The Miraculous is a beautiful story that will fill readers with both hope and “wunder”!