#TBRTakedown 5.0 Results

Sooooooo…. #TBRTakedown 5.0 happened back at the beginning of February and I never did share my results with you guys on how I did. It ran from Feb 6-12 and was hosted by Shannon @ Leaning Lights, who if you’ve never watched her booktube channel, you should, she is a treasure. I was hoping to complete all five books and challenges, and sadly only completed three (though I read the other two books I missed this month as well). Here’s a picture of my TBR:

c3yabjkxuaa9zts The Challenges! (* indicates it was completed during that week)

1) TBR Shelf for Over a Year – The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
by E. Lockhart (3.5/5 Stars)

2) Most Recent Book Haul – The Crossover by Kwame Alexander* (4/5 Stars)

3) First Book in a Series – A Spy in the House (The Agency #1) by Y.S. Lee* (3/5 Stars)

4) Sequel in a Series – Windwitch (The Witchlands #2) by Susan Dennard (3.5/5 Stars)

5) Out of Your Comfort Zone – The Season of You & Me by Robin Constantine (romance)* (1/5 Stars)

So the only two book I didn’t get to were The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks and Windwitch. However, I did make time this month to finish them and I am glad that I did. If you ever have the chance to participate in this readathon, you absolutely should make the time. It’s a ton of fun to do the challenges and come up with a workable TBR for the event. Hopefully Shannon runs another one soon!

ARC Review – The Other F-Word by Natasha Friend

29102849Title: The Other F-Word

Author:  Natasha Friend

Rating: ★★

Synopsis: A fresh, humorous, and timely YA novel about two teens conceived via in vitro fertilization who go in search for answers about their donor.

Milo has two great moms, but he’s never known what it’s like to have a dad. When Milo’s doctor suggests asking his biological father to undergo genetic testing to shed some light on Milo’s extreme allergies, he realizes this is a golden opportunity to find the man he’s always wondered about.

Hollis’s mom Leigh hasn’t been the same since her other mom, Pam, passed away seven years ago. But suddenly, Leigh seems happy—giddy, even—by the thought of reconnecting with Hollis’s half-brother Milo. Hollis and Milo were conceived using the same sperm donor. They met once, years ago, before Pam died.

Now Milo has reached out to Hollis to help him find their donor. Along the way, they locate three other donor siblings, and they discover the true meaning of the other F-word: family.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:
This book gets a resounding “ugh” out of me. I had high hopes for this book given it’s about a topic that interests me (vitro fertilization), and it was a snoozer. I found myself pushing through the book because I kept hoping I would enjoy it more, but I found myself never entirely connecting with this book at all. It’s not a bad book either, it just did a lot that didn’t work for me personally.

The main issue with this book falls on the main character Hollis, who is just awful. I generally don’t mind characters who can be a bit mean or cruel, but I really despised how Hollis’ treats her mother Leigh, especially given the recent loss of her wife (and Hollis’ other mother) Pam. Hollis is so malicious, so cruel, and very inconsiderate. Sadly, she stays that way for the majority of the book and never feels like she has a lot of feelings towards others. Even her treatment of the other protagonist, Milo, whom she shares a sperm donor with, at times she’s is downright dreadful to him, and again, without truly a good reason why. I feel like it takes her too long to grow in the book, so much so that I found her chapters to be so difficult and infuriating to read.

On the other side of it, I liked Milo. I thought he was kind of darling at times, though the fact that he is so persistent with someone as dreadful as Hollis baffled me. I think unlike Hollis, Milo is a much better developed character and I think his reasons for wanting to connect with his biologic father are very sound — he wants to know his medical history in case he may be allergic to different things. I think that is more than fair, no? I found his chapters so much more engaging, but I think the issue here is that Friend’s writing is a little flat on Milo’s side. In fact, at times it felt like I was reading two very different books given how the chapters read out. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it is a bit jarring.

If I am being honest, the characters I felt for and enjoyed the most were Milo’s parents and Leigh (Hollis’ mother). I found that I was most engaged when they were on the pages, and again my heartbroke with how little attention they get. I think even the search for the bio-logic father wasn’t even that particularly well done, and when the connection was made, it just read so flatly. That’s the larger mystery in that story and it just felt like it was being strung along at times.

I really wanted to like The Other F Word, and I like the title and it’s many interpretations. I just wished I had connected more with the characters and the story, but I just found myself more angry and frustrated just by the lack of potential that this story had. I think there will be people who will love and gravitate to this story, I just wish I had been one of them.

Five Books I Am Jazzed About Thanks to #FrenzyPresents

Last Sunday I had the amazing opportunity to visit the Harper Collins Canada main office in Toronto. The Harper Collins Frenzy team focuses on YA fiction, especially promoting new and up-and-coming Canadian YA titles as well. This event that they hosted focused on Spring and Summer releases, and they have quite an exciting crop of titles coming out in 2017. I thought I’d share with you all the five I am most jazzed about.25752164

That Thing We Call a Heart
by Sheba Karim (Release Date: May 9th 2017)

When Suman, our MC for the afternoon began discussing That Thing We Called Heart, I was immediately intrigued. This book tells the story of Shabnam Qureshi, a young Pakistani-American who attends a private school in New Jersey. When her best friend, Farah, starts wearing the headscarf, it begins to change their friendship forever. This a book about racism, race, cultural clash, family, and self-discovery. I have an ARC of this book and it is surprisingly small looking, but given all the things I’ve mentioned above, I’m excited to see the kind of punch it’s going to pack when I get the chance to read it.

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Fireworks
by Katie Cotugno (Release Date: April 18th 2017)

I loved Katie Cotugno’s debut How to Love, but I admit my indifference towards 99 Days. However, Fireworks has me reaaaaaally excited given it is written for the boy/girl band geek in all of us. I won’t lie: I am complete and utter trash for books about pop bands, as they were and have been a large guilty pleasure of mine for years. I still maintain that “Backstreet’s Back” has one of the best music videos of all time! (Seriously, come at me bro if you disagree). But seriously, this book sounds like it has Cotugno’s signature style, and I expect at least one moment of ugly crying out of me once I read it.

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The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue
by Mackenzi Lee (Release Date:  June 27th 2017)

So according to every person I know, I need to read this book. Apparently it is the most delightful romp ever, with absolutely delightful characters. Molly swears by this book (but that also might be because she and Mackenzi are friends), but I’ll be honest, this just sounds like a book I would adore. Apparently this book has gay romance, swashbuckling pirates, and streaking. What more do you want from a fun historical read? I definitely can’t wait to devour this one. It’s a chunky book, but I bet it reads fast!

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Ramona Blue
by Julie Murphy (Release Date: May 9th 2017)

So there’s a lot of positive and negative buzz surround Julie Murphy’s latest. Frankly, I am already in enough trouble given how much I loved Murphy’s debut, but somehow have not read the infamous Dumplin’ (a book that I was stoked for and it somehow slipped off my radar. I suck, you guys). I feel like Ramona Blue is going to have a lot of what I already love about Julie Murphy’s books: strong heroine, tough situations, and I think the way this book is premised is partially why it’s getting the negative reaction that it is. Truthfully, I love seeing bi-rep in books, and I’m curious to see how this story will unfold once I read it.

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The Upside of Unrequited
by Becky Albertalli (Release Date:  April 11th 2017)

Of course this book is on the list. I want it. Give it to me now. NOW. NOW. NOW. NOW. The wait is so hard for this one. I need more fun that is a Becky Albertalli book in my life RIGHT NOW.

And no, I’m not going to write something cohesive in regards to the book. I just want it. Or I can just reread Simon until it releases. Whichever.

And these are the five books I cannot wait to star reading or get my paws on. There was a lot of interesting titles being shown, but I really found myself gravitating towards the contemporary line up (are we surprised?). A huge thank you again to Harper Collins Canada for the invite, the wonderful company, and of course, the swag. I cannot wait to check all the above and below books out, though I swear I am going to need another book shelf with the way 2017 is looking for book releases.

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ARC Review – The Pants Project by Cat Clarke

26828816Title: The Pants Project

Author: Cat Clarke

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: A Transformer is a robot in disguise. Liv is a boy in disguise. It’s that simple. Liv knows he was always meant to be a boy, but with his new school’s terrible dress code, he can’t even wear pants. Only skirts.

Operation: Pants Project begins! The only way for Live to get what he wants is to go after it himself. But to Liv, this isn’t just a mission to change the policy- it’s a mission to change his life. And that’s a pretty big deal.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

The Pants Project is one of those books I knew I had to read when I first discovered it. It is the story of Liv who is transgendered, but goes to a uniformed school that has some strict policies regarding gender and the clothing that must be worn. Liv launches “The Pants Project” in an attempt to show that gender norms shouldn’t be the norm, and since Liv is a boy, he feels that he shouldn’t be subjected to wearing a skirt if he doesn’t identify as female.

This book is an amazing little gem that offers big discussion about being transgendered, as well as rights for those who are transgendered. Liv is a great hero who often discusses with the reader what his identity is like (he states it’s like a Transformer, which I can totally see), what people see on the surface and why people need to dig a bit deeper. Liv’s narration is a wonderful tour de force, showcasing in such simple but powerful ways the kinds of discussion that needs to be had at schools regarding students who are transgendered. Liv’s quest in providing this knowledge doesn’t come without challenges, but he has great support in Jakob, who is just an amazing and sharply written character. Seriously, he and Liv are a delight when they are on the page together.

Also I loved that Liv had two moms. In fact, if I am being honest, the moms were my favourite characters in the story because I love how different their personalities were, but the joke of the story is that they are called “The moms.” I love how their personalities differed on somethings, but they always come together. If anything I wish their had been more of them in the story because they were seriously delightful.

The Pants Project is a fantastic discussion about transgender identity told through a fantastic and clever hero. Much like George before it, Cat Clarke weaves a courageous tale about a young boy who wants to be treated properly, and at the end of the day isn’t that what anyone wants? If you loved George then The Pants Project should easily be your next go to book, as it is both touching as it is smart.

Blog Tour – Fish Girl by Donna Jo Napoli & David Wiesner (Review)

I’m going to be frank: I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into when I was approached by Raincoast to host this stop on the Fish Girl blog tour. If I am being even more honest, I was worried about how I would feel about the book as well. I love when a book proves my feelings wrong, and that is exactly what Fish by Donna Jo Napoli & David Wiesner has done.

Plus, check out this artwork:

fishgirlcomic

Looks dreamy, doesn’t, it?

Once again, huge thank you to Raincoast for allowing me to share my thoughts on this blog tour stop, and I do hope you check out Fish Girl when it releases on March 7th, 2017.


30971730Title: Fish Girl

Author: Donna Jo Napoli & David Wiesner

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: In this graphic novel, a young mermaid, called Fish Girl, living in a boardwalk aquarium has a chance encounter with an ordinary girl. Their growing friendship inspires Fish Girl’s longing for freedom, independence, and a life beyond the aquarium tank.

Sam’s Review:

I’m going to be completely honest: I wasn’t sure I was going to like Fish Girl. In fact, when I received it in the mail I did that dreaded thing you sometimes shouldn’t do: judge a book by it’s cover. I wasn’t sure I was going to like the artwork, and the story sounded merely all right. I was colourfully surprised by how much I enjoyed Fish Girl

However, I say this with an air of caution: Fish Girl is a misleading book. While it’s aimed at middle grade audiences, it does shed light on themes of abuse and abduction in a way that is creepy, and seeing it from that point of view can make it a tough read. On the other side of it, this book reads like a fairy tale as well, sharing both consequences and the potential for a positive outcome. It’s a rough read all around, and I think it definitely offers some interesting discussions that can be had with younger readers on these topics.

I actually do think Mira, our Fish Girl, is a wonderful character. She longs to not be an aquarium attraction and wishes to be like the people on the land who come to see her. She wants legs, and adventures, and yet she’s trapped in a fish bowl by a man who wants nothing more than to gain profit from her existence. It’s a solid story, and it shows that people can take destiny into their own hands. Or in this case, also escape abuse. I like the message that this book presents, and I think the ending does a great job of highlighting ways in which people need to stir a course towards what they truly want from life.

I admit, at times I did have a heart time with the artwork, but it did grow on me as I read on. There’s a lot of very realistic looking artwork, the use of pastel colours is really pretty, and there are moments where the artwork is breathe-taking. There are also moments where it doesn’t fit either, which I found somewhat disappointing. That being said, once I got over my initial feelings, I found myself really digging the art style and coming to the consensus that it actually does a great job fitting the story that is being told.

Fish Girl is definitely not for your average middle grader, and that is okay. I think it teaches a lot to the reader, and it doesn’t feel heavy handed in its approach either. I will say I don’t think the art style will be for everyone, but I do believe there is a very special story being told in this book.


Huge thank you to Raincoast for organizing and allowing me the opportunity to participate in the blog tour. Still curious about Fish Girl? Please check out the other tour stops, and consider purchasing the book when it releases this March!
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Book Riot’s Read Harder 2017 Challenge – February Reads

With February having just recently ended, it’s time to check in on the Book Riot Read Harder 2017 Challenge. This month I only managed to complete two challenges, which isn’t as much as January, but I am still happy with the results all the same.

Let’s see what was read, shall we?


30102870History is All You left Me by Adam Silvera

Completes Challenge #15Read a YA or middle grade novel by an author who identifies as LGBTQ+.

Thoughts: I read History is All You Left Me in the course of a day. When I wasn’t reading it, I was constantly thinking about it. This is a beautifully written book about a boy who loses his first love at a young age and it alternates between present time and the past. Griffin and Theo’s friendship-turned-relationship is organic, it’s vibrant, and you see how they bring the best out of each other. Silvera has this knack for making you laugh on one page, and then gut punching you on the next. This is a great LGBT romance novel, and I highly recommend it.


17296690He Said, She Said by Kwame Alexander

Completes Challenge #24Read a book wherein all point-of-view characters are people of color.

Thoughts: Okay, so I am really heartbroken about this. I have been loving the hell out of Kwame Alexander’s books, but this one I am sad to say fell short for me. Which sucks because this is his first novel that I’ve read that isn’t in verse. The romance in this book was grating, corny, and I struggled so much with Omar’s character. On the opposite, I adored Claudia to pieces and I loved how important the cause in the story was to her. I think Alexander does a great job handling topics like abortion, teen pregnancy, but the characters and writing in this book fall short of what I feel he is better capable of. I found the side characters to be very flat (also I hated the way Fast Freddie was written). But yeah, there’s great ideas and the political side of this book is great. It’s just too bad it’s the smaller part of this novel.

Still love ya, Kwame Alexander. I still think you’re prose is beautiful.

ARC Review – Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruined by Danielle Younge-Ullman

30375777Title: Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruined

Author: Danielle Younge-Ullman

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Then: Ingrid traveled all over Europe with her opera star mother, Margot-Sophia. Life was beautiful and bright, and every day soared with music. Now: Ingrid is on a summertime wilderness survival trek for at-risk teens: addicts, runaways, and her. She’s fighting to survive crushing humiliations, physical challenges that push her to her limits, and mind games that threaten to break her. Then: When the curtain fell on Margot-Sophia’s singing career, they buried the past and settled into a small, painfully normal life. But Ingrid longed to let the music soar again. She wanted it so much that, for a while, nothing else mattered. Now: Ingrid is never going to make it through this summer if she can’t figure out why she’s here, what happened to Margot-Sophia, and why the music really stopped.”

Huge thank you to Penguin Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

When I received Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruined in the mail, the synopsis had me instantly intrigued. This is a story about family, self-discovery, and how people can transform after a difficult event. Readers will spend a lot of this time wondering who Ingrid is writing to, what has actually happened to her mother, and why she is on this crazy wilderness retreat.

I absolutely loved this book. I found Younge-Ullman’s writing so beautiful and very gripping. Ingrid’s voice is crass, it’s raw, and I found myself always wanting to know more about her and her situation. I absolutely loved her relationship with her “father” and I loved that he wanted to accept Ingrid and her mother, flaws and all. There’s not a lot of people out there who are willing to go that extra mile when joining a family. Having these flashback sequences were so beneficial in telling this story, because when you go back to the bits with Ingrid in the wilderness, you begin to see all the cracks in her facade.

I also loved Ingrid’s adventures in the Canadian wilderness. As a young woman who spent the majority of her life traveling around the world with her opera singer mother, it’s intriguing to see Ingrid’s responses to nature, particularly right at the beginning of the book when all her supplies are taken from her and disposed. I feel like I would have had the same traumatic reaction. Furthermore, I love her transformation during the excursion, because she goes from being pampered and disgruntled to someone with intense drive and purpose. I also loved Ingrid’s letters as well and I found them to be a wonderful touch in the story.

Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruined is a story that grows on you. Ingrid is an amazing protagonist and she’s accompanied by such an amazing cast of support characters. I found myself compulsively reading, needing to know what happened between Ingrid and her mother, and the payoff was worth it. Emotional and raw, this book will continue to resonate with you long after it’s been completed.