Tag Archives: blog tour

Blog Tour & Review – Ninth House (Ninth House Series #1) by Leigh Bardugo

There’s something to be said about writer’s like Leigh Bardugo, who storm onto the young adult scene and create one of the most memorable universes in recent memory. It also takes a lot for young adult authors to then transform their work into something more “adult.” I am very excited to be a part of Raincoast’s blog tour for Ninth House, as I think Leigh Bardugo does an amazing job of bridging her reign as Queen of YA and moving into the realm of adult fiction.


Title: Ninth House (Ninth House Series #1)

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?

Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I have been waiting forever for this book. When it was originally announced I remember how excited I was over a new Leigh Bardugo book that also focus on Ivy League Secret Societies. Ivy League schools often have such rich histories surrounding them, with some having more “cult-like” behaviours than others.

Alex Stern is a woman who has been granted a full-ride to Yale. Given her horrific upbringing of losing her family and being hospitalized, Alex questions the choice, but decides that she’s going to accept her new life on Yale’s terms. But why her? And what is secretly going on behind the scenes?

Ninth House is a wonderful mixture of fantasy and mystery clashing together. Bardugo has crafted a fantastic urban fantasy setting with the use of Yale and the other Eight Houses, and there’s something to be said about how she has masterfully crafted so much in a world that feels both unfamiliar and familiar at the sametime. Alex is also just an intriguing protagonist to follow as well — she’s difficult, unhinged, and pretty fearless to be honest. Darlington is another wonderful character who made me feel so much together out the story, and I am glad his POVs were included to add another layer to the story.

My main complaint with this book is that it starts out very slow and it’s a slow-burn overall. It’s the kind of book that builds layers and put down a lot of foundation, but once the story has it’s momentum, it’s not fast-paced, it still meanders at a pace that is only giving you tidbits of information at a time. For it being a story of dark magic and secret societies, I think the pace works well in its favour, but I wish it had built just a wee bit quicker. My other complaint is also I think I like as well – the ending is a tad abrupt, kinda rude, and is a bit of a smack in the face. I have to wait for the next book, and the last hundred pages of this book were just SO GOOD.

If you are expecting something like the Grishaverse, you will be disappointed in The Ninth House. This book has it’s own unique vibe, with characters who are not easy for readers to attach onto. By the other side of it, The Ninth House has a lot of great twist and turns for both fantasy and mystery lovers alike, and I think it’s weirdiness works completely in its favour. You won’t find anything like Ninth House out there, and that makes it a wonderfully devilish read.


Please check out these other stops on our blog tour!

Girl Power Graphic Novels – Kicking Butt & Taking Names – Blog Tour

When I was growing up in the 90’s, there wasn’t a lot of female-led comics or graphic novels. A lot of the comics were geared towards boys, often making it feel like comics were for boys and girls were excluded. I still found myself reading and rereading The Adventures of Tintin by Herge and when I could find Wonder Woman in issues of the Justice League I was thrilled.

I still felt like comics were a boys club.

Then I discovered manga, and it was something I constantly devoured. Marmalade Boy, Fushigi Yuugi, NANA, Hellsing… I read anything and everything I could get my hands on. Even better, I had made friends who loved manga as much as I did and we would constantly trade back and forth with each other.

It wasn’t until towards the end of high school and early into my university career that I fell back in love with comics. My then-to-be-husband was constantly introducing me to a variety of graphic novels and comics, He helped me fall back in love with Wonder Woman, and taught me so much about Marvel comics. We shared our manga collection and both cried when we found out that NANA wasn’t being completed.

Girls are much more fortunate now than I was growing up. There are so many inspirational female characters in comics, from Cleopatra in the Cleopatra in Space series, or Zita from Zita the Space Girl. First Second has constantly been pushing the boundaries for young girls being able to see themselves in comics and graphic novels more and more. I thought I’d share with you why you should check out some of their girl powered graphic novels!

Cucumber Quest Vol 1: Doughnut Kingdom by Gigi D.G

Why You Should Read It: This series is about a boy named Cucumber who simply wants to be a magician, go to school and just not get into any trouble. However, with world domination inbound, Cucumber and his best friend Almond set out to help everyone in Dreamside to keep them safe.

While Cucumber is a cute main character, the star of this graphic novel series is easily Almond. She’s funny, stubborn, tough-as-nails, and constantly fighting baddies with a smile on her face. Almond is crazy, but has such a good heart, and will do everything she can to protect the people she cares about, and from Cucumber making himself look bad.  I laughed a lot reading the first two volumes of Cucumber Quest, and I easily cannot wait to continue with this series and share it with the middle graders at the library!

Giants Beware! (Chronicles of Claudette #1) by Jorge Aguirre & Rafael Rosado

Why You Should Read It: Brave, yet completely crazy, it’s hard not to love Claudette. Finding a magical sword that always her to slay anything is amazing when you are a tiny little girl with aspirations of being a defender.

I mean seriously, LOOK AT CLAUDETTE’S GRIN. The girl is fearless and has no problem beating baddies into submission. In all honesty though, what I loved about the three volumes in this series is Claudette has such a sense of justice about her, and when she punishes the bad guys it’s never malicious… if anything she even will try a friendship tactic! Claudette would do anything for the people she cares about, and that alone makes her an admirable heroine to love.

Scarlett Hart: Monster Hunter by Marcus Sedgwick & Thomas Taylor 

Why You Should Read It: Let me introduce you all to Scarlett Hart. Monster Hunter by trade, Scarlett is cunning, clever, and intelligent, using more than just brawn to deal with mummies, monsters, and ghouls. Scarlett is an inquisitive heroine, which makes her a lot different from Almond or Claudette. Scarlett needs to think situations through, and needs to be able to calculate an outcome in her head before simply jumping blindly into a problem. She’s the kind of heroine who is serious, but you’d want her on your team because you know she’ll have your back.


I hope you enjoyed my stop on the blog tour. Please consider checking out these great comics published by First Second, be it buying them from your local bookstore or borrowing them from your local library. Remember: comics were never a boys club, and there are so many amazing and inspiring ladies not only creating great comics, but wonderful heroines to fall in love with.

If you want more out of this blog tour, consider checking out all the other stops and see what other bloggers consider to be girl powered graphic novels!

Blog Tour – Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orïsha #1) by Tomi Adeyemi (Review + Giveaway)

One of the joys of doing blog tours is that you get the opportunity to try out new reads that have been gaining a lot of buzz. When I first heard about Children of Blood and Bone, I was memorized by the idea of reading a West African fantasy novel. I’ve read Caribbean fantasy for school back when I was an English Major nearly ten years ago, but African fantasy truly is a new concept for me.

Children of Blood and Bone is a unique spin on parts of the fantasy genre. It offers insight and intrigue in a variety of ways, giving us some wonderfully fleshed out characters each with such passion and strength. If I have convincenced you to read this book by the end of this post, consider trying your luck at my giveaway, as Raincoast Canada (bless them!) have offered up a copy of the book to CANADIAN RESIDENTS ONLY. Children of Blood and Bone releases today, March 6th!


Title: Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orïsha #1)

Author: Tomi Adeyemi

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zelie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls. 

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now, Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good. 

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers—and her growing feelings for the enemy.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I confess: I haven’t been reading as much fantasy as I once was. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been finding I haven’t been drawn to their premises or the fact that there is just too much of the same out there, I was starting to worry I wasn’t going to find a new fantasy novel that would click with me. Then I read Children of Blood and Bone, a six hundred page beast, and recognized that there is still fantasy novels out there that I will devour quite easily.

This book is a page-turner. There’s a lot of excellent world building, which in most novels usually tends to meander, but Adeyemi does a great job of giving the reader as much information as necessary , without the story feeling bloated. I will admit, the perspectives in this novel blurred for me at first, and I had to double check which character I was reading at first. I found though as the novel got it’s footing, each character’s point of view started to feel much more distinctive. I really liked Amari sections, and I feel like despite her stubbornness, she truly grows a lot through the story. She is just such an unexpected young lady to be a princess, y’know? I also loved Zelie, and I think her strength and determination holds no bounds. She’s fierce, head-strong, and yet she gave me a sense of hope throughout the novel. She really grows, much like Amari, is such a natural way.

Speaking of the story, it’s wonderfully crafted. These characters are ones you want to root for, you want to see them succeed with every fiber of their being, and yet the violence they face is discouraging throughout. This book looks at race, it looks at displacement, it looks at power being in the wrong hands and how it can corrupt absolutely. There is moments that feel so desperate and uncomfortable, yet you also feel a bit of hope as well.

Children of Blood and Bone is one of those books that feels so familiar, but has enough differences that make it feel fresh and original. I loved the premise and I cannot wait to read more set in this world. I loved these characters and the way this world was crafted. Despite being a big, honking brick of a book, it really truly does fly quickly, and I think if you love fantasy that Children of Blood and Bone will have so much to offer readers. I truly didn’t want this book to end.


GIVEAWAY!

Want to win a copy of Children of Blood & Bone? Well Raincoast Canada is offering up a copy of the novel to Canadian Residents (sorry US readers!). Please fill out my Rafflecopter below and you will be notified if you are the lucky winner! 🙂

ENTER THE GIVEAWAY


Once again I want to extend a heartfelt thanks to Raincoast Canada for allowing me this opportunity to share my thoughts on Children of Blood and Bone for this blog tour. While you are at it, consider checking out all the other tour stops for a chance to read some great reviews and perhaps win a copy of this amazing book. Children of Blood and Bone is out now!

Blog Tour – A Girl Like That by Tanaz Bhathena (Review + Q&A)

A Girl Like That was a book that caught my eye at the latest #TeensReadFeed preview hosted by Raincoast Books Canada. It was a book that piqued my interest given the bright pink cover and the fact that it dealt with tougher issues. This is a book that explores prejudice, religion, slut shamming, and it’s tied together in a beautifully written package. I was sad that I missed out on having the chance to chat with Tanaz Bhathena at the OLA Super Conference back at the beginning of the month, but I was so happy when Raincoast approached me to ask Tanaz a question and review her book.

So without further ado…


Title: A Girl Like That

Author: Tanaz Bhathena

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Zarin Wadia is many things: a bright and vivacious student, an orphan, a risk taker. She’s also the kind of girl that parents warn their kids to stay away from: a troublemaker whose many romances are the subject of endless gossip at school.  You don’t want to get involved with a girl like that, they say. So how is it that eighteen-year-old Porus Dumasia has only ever had eyes for her? And how did Zarin and Porus end up dead in a car together, crashed on the side of a highway in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia? When the religious police arrive on the scene, everything everyone thought they knew about Zarin is questioned. And as her story is pieced together, told through multiple perspectives, it becomes clear that she was far more than just a girl like that. 

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

This was a difficult book to read. It has a very unique set up and one I feel like readers might have a hard time with at first. I want to say, very clearly: STICK WITH THIS STORY. Zarin’s story is heartbreaking, hurtful, and it will make you angry. I found myself feeling a roller-coaster of emotions going through this book, and I think it’s because it reminds me how cruel people can be.

In a lot of ways, this book reminded me of Jennifer Mathieu’s The Truth About Alice, except we actually get the points of view from the deceased characters. Many of the perspectives we get talk in depth about Zarin and Porus during their time alive and even in death. As the reader you start to question what is fact and fiction from many of the perspective characters. Reading from certain characters at times were so uncomfortable, because you get a sense of ugliness that is hiding in them. You also see how much of a role family can play in fact and fiction as well.

Zarin’s story is hard to read because it looks at not only a girl who may be breaking cultural practices, but she wants to be her own person and everyone has assumed the worst about her. That she is a slut, that she’s unpredictable, that she has the wrong agenda. A lot of my favourite chapters were when I got to be inside Zarin’s head and get a sense of what she was thinking and feeling. She takes so much abuse in this story, and yet she is so strong at the same time.

And the topics discussed hurt. You see religious prejudice, you see sexism, you see displacement, but there is also hope in this story. It’s a twinkle, but it’s there, and it feels so unexpected and so important. There are just so many complicated parts to A Girl Like That, and I feel not knowing too much about this story is what makes it such a compelling read. Beautifully written, heartbreaking and painful, this is a must read debut that offers so much insight into one girl’s existence, and if you can juggle the points of view, it’s a rewarding novel.

Note: A Girl Like That released on February 27th, so it is out now as of this post!


Q&A with Tanaz Bhathena!

Thanks to the wonderful folks at Raincoast, I was given a chance to ask Tanaz a question regarding A Girl Like That.  Here’s her response to my question!

SM: Zarin, like many women, face a lot of discrimination. Based on what happens to Zarin in the story, are these issues based on your own personal experience fighting discrimination or are her issues encompassing a lot of different issues on a whole?

TB: A few of the issues Zarin faces are my own—coming from a minority religion in a Muslim majority country, and the hypocrisy and double standards with which women are treated compared to men. But Zarin also encompasses a lot of different issues based on things I saw happen to people around me—Muslim and non-Muslim—and stories I heard that were swept quietly under the rug.

I began A Girl Like That by writing what I knew, and eventually discovered that there was a lot that I didn’t. I began researching by reading the Arab News and the Saudi Gazette again. I also read candid first-person blogs by people who lived in Riyadh and Jeddah, and reports by organizations like Human Rights Watch, MEMRI and Amnesty International. I watched videos. You can live for fifteen years in a country, but sometimes you need to have that physical and mental distance to really make sense of the things that happened to you while you lived there.


I want to thank Tanaz for stopping by and answering my question on this stop of the blog tour. I also want to extend a thank you as well to Raincoast Canada for allowing me to be a participant! A Girl Like That is out NOW! And while you’re at it, please check out the rest of the stops on the blog tour!

Blog Tour – The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

I love stories about gender. I think there are such a wide variety of stories that still need to be told, and I think Jen Wang’s The Prince and the Dressmaker fills a void. There a lot of deconstruction of gender, there’s cross dressing, romance, and Sebastian and Frances will easily win your heart over. I was so happy to be approached by First Second to talk about this title with all of you, from doing a review, to sharing my favourite panel from the graphic novel. I sincerely hope that many of you reading this blog post will check out this heartwarming book.

And while you’re at it, consider checking out the rest of the blog tour hot spots for more goodies related to The Prince and the Dressmaker!


Title: The Prince and the Dressmaker

Author: Jen Wang

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Paris, at the dawn of the modern age:

Prince Sebastian is looking for a bride―or rather, his parents are looking for one for him. Sebastian is too busy hiding his secret life from everyone. At night he puts on daring dresses and takes Paris by storm as the fabulous Lady Crystallia―the hottest fashion icon in the world capital of fashion!

Sebastian’s secret weapon (and best friend) is the brilliant dressmaker Frances―one of only two people who know the truth: sometimes this boy wears dresses. But Frances dreams of greatness, and being someone’s secret weapon means being a secret. Forever. How long can Frances defer her dreams to protect a friend? Jen Wang weaves an exuberantly romantic tale of identity, young love, art, and family. A fairy tale for any age, The Prince and the Dressmaker will steal your heart.

Huge thank you to First Second for this ARC!

This graphic novel is important and wonderful. It offers an amazing discussion regarding gender identity, labels, and what it means to stand up and be who you are. It’s heartwarming, fun, but it is also very dark and emotional.

The story follows two characters: Prince Sebastian, a young prince whose parents want him to get married to a princess, and Frances who dreams of making beautiful gowns and one day having a fashion show. Their lives collide when Prince Sebastian sees one of Frances’ designs and hires her on to be his dressmaker. Frances and Sebastian form a beautiful friendship, and it’s one that is memorable as it is sweet. Frances accepts Sebastian for who he is, and in turns tries to help him gain the courage to tell his parents that he enjoys wearing dresses.

There is so much beauty in Jen Wang’s artwork and storytelling. Her characters are expressive, gentle, and have such strong desires to be loved and accepted by others. Sebastian and Frances are characters that are easy to love, you want them to succeed and be loved, and you want them to see worth in themselves. They get such fantastic growth throughout the story, and I found myself getting emotional during certain parts given their was such shocking moments.

The Prince and the Dressmaker is a wonderful graphic novel full of heart. It’s a read where you’ll cheer the characters on, fall completely in love with them, pick them up when they fail, and give them all the encouragement to keep going. This is one beautiful story that deserves to be read, and reread. I can only hope more people love and give this book a chance, because it will warm your heart and shatter it at the same time.


A BIT ABOUT MY FAVOURITE PANEL:

Part of this blog tour required participants to choose a favourite panel in The Prince and the Dressmaker. One aspect I love about this graphic novel is the transformation of Sebastian’s family after they learn his secret. This panel shows his father embracing his inner sexy at Frances’ fashion show. It’s a wonderful scene because it shows the change of heart that Sebastian’s family goes through, and their desire (in their own way) to support the person he wishes to become.


Jen Wang is a cartoonist and illustrator currently living in Los Angeles. Her works have appeared in the Adventure Time comics and LA Magazine. She recently illustrated Tom Angleberger’s Fake Mustache.  Her graphic novels Koko Be Good and In Real Life (with author Cory Doctorow) were published by First Second. jenwang.net

Blog Tour – Robots & Repeats (Secret Coders #4) by Gene Luen Yang & Mike Holmes

I was asked to participate in the blog tour for Robots & Repeats (Secret Coders #4) by Gene Luen Yang & Mike Holmes. One of the things I was asked to do was show you my coding skills! Huge thank you to First Second for allowing me this opportunity, and if you are interesting in learning to code, I have provided a link to the suggested tutorials.

Without further ado, let’s see how I did with coding!


SAM LEARNS TO CODE!

I am admit, I am not great when it comes to math and science. I am a huge supporter of STEM and STEM activities, and I even run programs related to this at the public library where I work. My knowledge of coding really steams from basic HTML and I know a little bit of Scratch, which I teach to children during Canada Learn to Code Week. Otherwise, my experience is very limited!

However, I decided I wanted to rise to the challenge that came with this blog tour and learn to code using Turtle Academy. Gene Luen Yang uses Logo to teach coding in Secret Coders, but I decided to go the Turtle route if only because I love having step-by-step instructions.

It’s a lot of fun to see the turtle move in different directions and curl around. Being able to easily put commands in and seeing success is pretty wonderful. What’s great about using Turtle Academy is that it’s very user friendly, encouraging (you get badges!) and it will provide you with hints and solutions if you are unsure of what you need to do next.

As I progressed through the tutorials, it got to the point where I could hide my turtle, and then re-show him. LOOK! MY TURTLE IS MISSING! NO!

Overall, I really loved these coding activities and it’s definitely something that I am going to incorporate for the next Canada Learn to Code Week. It’s a lot of fun, and I appreciate the simplicity of the program given my skills in coding are very basic. This was very engaging and I think for a lot of kids, they will take to this program like fish to bait.


ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Gene Luen Yang is the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. He has written and drawn many graphic novels, including American Born Chinese, which was a National Book Award finalist, as well as the winner of the Printz Award and an Eisner Award. His graphic novel set Boxers and Saints won the Los Angeles TimesBook Prize. He has also written for  the hit comics Avatar: The Last Airbender and Superman.

Mike Holmes has drawn for the comics series Bravest Warriors, Adventure Time, Secret Coders, and the viral art project Mikenesses. His books include the True Story collection, This American Drive, and Shenanigans. He lives with a cat named Ella, who is his best buddy.

 

 


CHECK OUT THE SECRET CODERS SERIES

Secret Coders

Paths & Portals

Secrets & Sequences

Robots & Repeats


Want to see how other Kitlit bloggers fared with the coding challenge? Check out the rest of the blog tour! Thank you again to First Second for allowing me this chance!

Check out how everyone did!

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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Blog Tour – Caraval by Stephanie Garber (Review & Excerpt)

tourbanner

Welcome to the world of Caraval, I am your hostess with the mostess, Sam, and I will be the guide to all things Caraval on this stop of the blog tour.

Charmed to meet you all, I’m sure.

I want to introduce you all to the amazing world of Caraval.  Stephanie Garber has crafted a beautiful, mysterious, and terrifying world with this novel. It will move you, captivate you, and make you want to dig a little deeper. How far are you willing to go to save someone you love? It’s an important question, here, after all. Get ready to enter a world of intrigue.


27883214Title: Caraval

Author: Stephanie Garber

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

THIS DAMN BOOK. I swear I spent so much of it guessing what was going on, who was who and what the bigger mystery was. I just, it left me exhilarated and exhausted at the same. There was just something so addictive with this book where when I put it down I was angry and upset (usually because I’d have to go back to work), and there would be times where I didn’t want to pick up the book because I felt like Garber was going to present me with my worst fears realized.

Needless to say, you want this book. I recognize the hype is big on this one, but trust me, this book is an experience that will leave you constantly guess what is real, what is magic, and what is everything in between. There were so many times where I was so genuinely surprised by the outcome of events, and other times where I guessed the outcome correctly but was still freaking out about what was happening. I had feelings, and my feelings left me an utterly wrecked mess.

And I loved every second of that.

It’s also important to point out that you want to go into this book blind. I find the synopsis doesn’t give a lot of information and that really is for the best when following Scarlett’s journey. What I also love is how Garber instills the reader with a sense of melancholy, dread, fear, panic, and she ties this back to Scarlett, the game and her circumstances in such a way where you feel for her in the story. Sometimes she does frustrating things, but it is always with the best intentions. The writing and story filled with me those emotions, and I spent a lot of time concerned for Scarlett’s safety in the game of Caraval.

I also came out of this book madly in love with Legend. He is horrific mastermind in all of this, and I love that even though he’s not a huge character in this story, his presence and what people know about him is largely important and I loved the sense of discomfort that Garber fused into his character and what we learn about him throughout. I also loved the ending and his correspondence that is constantly a large part of this story. He kept me guessing as much as the main plot.

The hype on this book is legit in every way, and it’s definitely earned it. This story offers so much intrigue and mystery, and I found myself constantly thinking about it as I was reading it and when I finished it. This book will leave you emotionally charged and drained at the same time (in other words, the sign of a great book). Definitely put Caraval on your radar, and get invested. This is definitely one of the most entertaining fantasy novels I’ve read in a long while, and I seriously cannot wait based on that ending so see where the sequel is going to go.

Legend. ❤ ❤ ❤


Huge thank you once again to the amazing crew at Raincoast for allowing me the chance to participate in this blog tour. Make sure to check out every stop on the Caraval blog tour, as you can read a different excerpt at every tour location.

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Blog Tour – The Playbook: 52 Rules to Aim, Shoot, and Score in This Game Called Life by Kwame Alexander (Review & Excerpt)

Kwame Alexander, though not a new name for middle grade, is a new name for me. I had the pleasure of reading his short story in the collection Flying Lessons & Other Stories edited by Ellen Oh, and his was easily my favourite. Kwame Alexander has an amazing way with words, and I found his hero in that particular story be so honest and funny, it made me want to explore more of his work.

Raincoast approached me to share a review of The Playbook: 52 Rules to Aim, Shoot, and Score in This Game Called Life, which is a book of mixed media. In it contains Kwame’s beautiful words alongside Thai Neave’s stunning photography. Please enjoy my review, an excerpt, and some wonderfully wise words from Kwame Alexander.

Huge love to Raincoast again for allowing me to participate in this blog tour. Your friendship and kindness is always appreciated.


31193387Title: The Playbook: 52 Rules to Aim, Shoot, and Score in This Game Called Life

Author: Kwame Alexander

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: You gotta know the rules to play the game. Ball is life. Take it to the hoop. Soar. What can we imagine for our lives? What if we were the star players, moving and grooving through the game of life? What if we had our own rules of the game to help us get what we want, what we aspire to, what will enrich our lives?  Illustrated with photographs by Thai Neave, The Playbook is intended to provide inspiration on the court of life. Each rule contains wisdom from inspiring athletes and role models such as Nelson Mandela, Serena Williams, LeBron James, Carli Lloyd, Steph Curry and Michelle Obama. Kwame Alexander also provides his own poetic and uplifting words, as he shares stories of overcoming obstacles and winning games in this motivational and inspirational book just right for graduates of any age and anyone needing a little encouragement.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I am very new to Kwame Alexander’s work, and I am not going to deny that. When I was asked to help promote The Playbook: 52 Rules to Aim, Shoot and Score in This Game Called Life, I wasn’t entirely sure what I was going to be getting into. I admit, I’m not the biggest sports fan, which was my first worry, but I actually loved the way in which sports were used in this beautiful piece of non-fiction.

imageFirst off, I adore the writing in this book. Kwame Alexander is a true poet, and I think there is a wonderful simplicity in his poetry that allows for a lot of extra thinking in terms of multiple meanings. I also love that his poems are inspirational, confident and will inspire confidence in others. This book is filled with passion, kindness, and strength. I also loved the way the inspirational quotes were woven into the text, featuring the likes of Babe Ruth, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippin. I think the quick anecdotes about different athletes and their rise to fame framing each section of the book was also fantastic, as learning about Lebron James and the William sisters was very interesting.

Second, I want to praise the use of photography in this book. I think that Thai Neave’s photographs do a stunning job of complimenting the poems and adding support to the text. I love photography and some of the images in this book are just so beautiful, and the way in which they match the text is often quite spot on. When Alexander is writing about the key feelings for the playbook of life such as passion, motivation, determination, etc, the photographs do an amazing job reflecting these emotions and the poem that is written to coincide it. While the writing in this book is stellar, just flipping through it for the breath-taking photographs is equally worth your time.

After reading The Playbook, I am very much a newfound Kwame Alexander fan, and I cannot wait to read more of his books. I love how even though this is considered middle grade there is so much wisdom in these pages for anyone or any age group. I think this book would be helpful for parents, teachers, librarians as well, as I feel like they can use this book to help teach some of these “rules” that Alexander shares with his readers. There is so much beauty in these pages, and even if you aren’t a sports fan, the metaphors that are present are completely universal. If you are looking for some inspiration or need some confidence, then check out The Playbook because it will give you with hard truths and a pick-me-up that you didn’t realize you needed.


About the Author

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Kwame Alexander is a poet, educator, and New York Times Bestselling author of 21 books, including THE CROSSOVER, which received the 2015 John Newbery Medal for the Most Distinguished Contribution to American literature for Children, the Coretta Scott King Author Award Honor, The NCTE Charlotte Huck Honor, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, and the Passaic Poetry Prize. Kwame writes for children of all ages. His other works include SURF’S UP, a picture book; BOOKED, a middle grade novel; and He Said She Said, a YA novel.


A huge thank you to Raincoast for providing me with this opportunity to share more about The Playbook, as well as Kwame Alexander for writing this wonderful book. If you are curious to learn more about The Playbook, make sure to check out the other stops on the blog tour!

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Blog Tour – Speed of Life by J.M Kelly (Review & Excerpt)

Speed of Life is a book that came in my grab bag during one of Raincoast’s #TeenReadFeed events. The moment I pulled it out of the bag and read the back I had a feeling that this was a Sam!Book. I love tough contemporary novels and I love books that look at family dynamics. This novel in particular focuses on two twins, poverty, a baby, and big dreams. I loved Crystal and Amber’s story, and since reading the book, have recommended it for purchase at my library that I work at. It’s such a beautiful story that I think so many teens and adults would easily be able to read and gravitate towards.

If you haven’t checked Speed of Life out, you’re missing out. Especially if you love contemporary YA, you need to check this book out. Check out my review below if you don’t believe me, then read the excerpt provided by Raincoast to see if it might be up your alley.

But seriously, GO READ THIS BOOK.

And as always, huge thank you to Raincoast for having me on this blog tour and supplying me with a copy of this book. They are book angels.


28114594Title: Speed of Life

Author: J.M Kelly

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Twins Crystal and Amber have the same goal: to be the first in their family to graduate high school and make something of their lives. When one gets pregnant during their junior year, they promise to raise the baby together. It’s not easy, but between their after-school jobs, they’re scraping by.

Crystal’s grades catch the attention of the new guidance counselor, who tells her about a college that offers a degree in automotive restoration, perfect for the car buff she is. When she secretly applies—and gets in—new opportunities threaten their once-certain plans, and Crystal must make a choice: follow her dreams or stay behind and honor the promise she made to her sister.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

It upsets me how much this book isn’t being talked about. This is one of those contemporary gems that has no buzz behind it, and it’s just such a genuine and thoughtful read. Speed of Life is about two twin sisters who share everything, are dirt poor, and are looking to get out of their backwater town and make real lives for themselves and the child that one of them has had out of wedlock. While this doesn’t sound like the most original plot line, there is something so engaging about the way in which Kelly shares this story.

What I loved about this novel is Crystal’s narrative. She’s very thoughtful, has a huge sense of pride in herself and her abilities as a mechanic, and she wants to be able to rescue herself, her sister, and the baby they are raising from the poverty that they face. I love the way the author establishes the sister’s relationship to both each other and their friends and family. The writing and looking at the world through Crystal’s eyes are just so vivid. She has aspirations, she has goals, and she hopes that Amber will share those goals with her. When the fall out in the story occurs, it just really broke my heart into several pieces because I just connected so deeply with the sisters conflict, despite not having experienced it personally.

I think the author does such a great job of sucking the reader into the story and making the reader connect with the girls and connect with their story. I think what I also loved about Speed of Life is that there is such a larger mystery going on with who is Natalie’s parents, why are the girls caring for her, and I think Kelly does an amazing job keeping the reader looking for these answers.

I wish more folks would read this wonderful novel, especially those who love contemporary. Speed of Life is raw, heartfelt, and it asks the reader to open themselves up to a situation that is just so emotionally exhausting. I hope when this novel releases that more readers consider checking this one out. Everything about it just left me emotionally drained in the best kind of way.


An Excerpt from Speed of Life

Raincoast was kind enough to send an excerpt from the novel. I think the bit that they sent over will give you a good indication of what one can expect from this novel, and especially the kind of character our narrator, Crystal, is.

~*~

I’m pretty sure our school’s new guidance counselor’s got a college degree in perky with a minor in enthusiasm. Even her green sweater is bright and cheerful, like spring grass. Except so soft looking, I kind of want to pet it.

“So,” Ms. Spellerman says. “Miss Robbins, isn’t it?”

I want to say, “No, actually, it’s Crystal. I’m eighteen, not thirty.” But I nod instead. In the middle of our sophomore year we got a new principal, and he decided that as a matter of respect, all teachers and staff would refer to the students by their last names prefaced with Mr. or Miss. You can imagine how much more respect is flying around now. It obviously never occurred to anyone in charge that last names like Cochran and Dykster are so much easier to make fun of than Robert or Ashley. But whatever.

Ms. Spellerman holds out her hand to me. “Nice to meet you.” She’s got long fingers and perfectly pink nails. When we shake, all I feel are skin-covered bones.

She shuffles through some papers for a while, the huge diamond on her engagement ring catching the fluorescent light and hypnotizing me. I wonder if we’re ever going to get to the reason I’m here. I’ve made it through three years of high school without seeing a guidance counselor, so I can’t imagine why they called me in when I’m almost done. As far as I know, I’m doing fine in my classes. I’m even doing okay in Amber’s classes. Not that anyone knows about that.

I hide a yawn behind my hand — I’m super tired and missing the little nap I usually take in English. Ms. Spellerman holds up a sheet of paper and squints at it. Then she slips on a pair of square pink-framed glasses and smiles. “Don’t look so worried, Miss Robbins. I just want to talk to you about your college plans.”

Is she kidding me?

“Now that I’ve joined forces with Mr. Akerman, we’re not so short on guidance counselors,” she explains. “So I’m working my way through a list of those of you who haven’t previously requested an advisor.”

Maybe not asking was a clue that we didn’t want one. I don’t say anything, though. I don’t think she expects me to.

“Now,” she says, “you might be wondering how your name came up so early in the school year. Well, I’ll tell you a little secret.” She leans in across her desk and practically whispers, “I started at the end of the alphabet instead of the beginning!”

I wonder if I’m supposed to clap or something.

“So,” she continues, “what are your plans for college? Where are you going to apply? What’s your dream school?”

“Umm . . . I don’t have one?”

“No dream school? Well, that’s understandable. There are so many choices! Do you think you want to stay in Oregon, or go somewhere out of state — get away from it all, that sort of thing?”

Is this where I tell her I’m not going to college?

“You must’ve thought about it,” she says when I sit there speechless.

“Umm . . . not really.”

“Not at all?”

“I’m not going to college,” I finally admit.

Her eyebrows shoot up. “What? Why not?”

I’m thinking I was wrong about her minor being enthusiasm. It must’ve been stupidity. Does she think she’s somehow landed at a private school? Or maybe one of Portland’s fancy high schools? This is Sacajawea High, and half the kids can’t even spell the name of it by the time they graduate. If they graduate. College is not part of the plan here.

I try to keep it simple for Ms. Spellerman. “I’m gonna . . .you know . . . get a job.”


A huge thank you to Raincoast for providing me with this opportunity to share more about Speed of Life, as well as J.M Kelly for her beautiful words and fantastic novel. If you are curious to learn more about J.M Kelly’s debut, why not check out the other stops on the blog tour! 🙂

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