Tag Archives: book review

ARC Review – Chaotic Good by Whitney Gardner

Title: Chaotic Good

Author: Whitney Gardner

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Cameron’s cosplay–dressing like a fictional character–is finally starting to earn her attention–attention she hopes to use to get into the CalTech costume department for college. But when she wins a major competition, she inadvertently sets off a firestorm of angry comments from male fans.

When Cameron’s family moves the summer before her senior year, she hopes to complete her costume portfolio in peace and quiet away from the abuse. Unfortunately, the only comic shop in town–her main destination for character reference–is staffed by a dudebro owner who challenges every woman who comes into the shop.

At her twin brother’s suggestion, Cameron borrows a set of his clothes and uses her costuming expertise to waltz into the shop as Boy Cameron, where she’s shocked at how easily she’s accepted into the nerd inner sanctum. Soon, Cameron finds herself drafted into a D&D campaign alongside the jerky shop-owner Brody, friendly (almost flirtatiously so) clerk Wyatt, handsome Lincoln, and her bro Cooper, dragged along for good measure.

But as her “secret identity” gets more and more entrenched, Cameron’s portfolio falls by the wayside–and her feelings for Lincoln threaten to make a complicated situation even more precarious. 

Huge thank you to Penguin Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Full disclosure: I am a D&D fan and a role-playing game fanatic. I live and breathe RPGs, so of course I was going to read a book about a girl who loves cosplay and geek culture.

Chaotic Good looks at Cameron, a cosplayer who gets into a bit of a nerd-fight when she cosplays Cloud from Final Fantasy VII and tells everyone she has never played the game, but loved his design. This starts flame wars and troll battles on her cosplay blog, and Cameron has to deal with the fallout. On top of all that, she is applying to a costuming department and has to create five original pieces of her own, and Cameron feels like this is impossible because she only knows how to craft characters she is familiar with.

What a mouthful! But seriously, this was a fun and easy read. It was a book I found myself relating to, especially in situations when Cameron would go to the comic book store and get told she was a “fake geek girl” (which honestly, whoever coined that needs to be slapped — hard). Whitney Gardner does an amazing job of showing and telling her readers about how toxic comic book and geek culture can be, or how it’s male dominance has always tried to keep women out. She also shows constructs for how we can change this perspective, which I thought was admirable.

Plus, it’s about Dungeons & Dragons! I love D&D, and I have so much fun playing it. I loved the artwork that was present, showing off how the campaign would be imagined. I also loved the characters, both in-game and in real life. I found them all to be flawed, but fun none-the-less. I really adored Cooper, as he made me laugh, and his storyline with Cameron’s is one I think many people may be able to relate to.

Anywho, Chaotic Good is a cheeky, sassy, fun read. It was a book I gobbled up because I am a sucker for books that look at gaming culture in any way, and this hit the sweet spot for me.


ARC Review – Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake

Title: Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World

Author: Ashley Herring Blake

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: When a tornado rips through town, twelve-year-old Ivy Aberdeen’s house is destroyed and her family of five is displaced. Ivy feels invisible and ignored in the aftermath of the storm–and what’s worse, her notebook filled with secret drawings of girls holding hands has gone missing.

Mysteriously, Ivy’s drawings begin to reappear in her locker with notes from someone telling her to open up about her identity. Ivy thinks–and hopes–that this someone might be her classmate, another girl for whom Ivy has begun to develop a crush. Will Ivy find the strength and courage to follow her true feelings?

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

Sam’s Review:

When I learned about the existence of Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World, I was intrigued. Middle grade has always been fantastic at teaching diversity, particularly it’s shown vast growth on LGBTQIA+ subject matters. This novel focuses on a twelve-year-old girl whose family home is destroyed by a devastating tornado, and how she begins to find herself.

A lot of this book looks at Ivy’s notion of what it means to be a lesbian in a construct where children are constantly told that “girls like boys” and “boys like girls.” She wants to challenge this given she has strong feelings for her friend June, and the fact that she wants to be treated normally. What I loved about this story is that we feel for Ivy and we see her ups and downs in both her feelings and understanding of the world around her. She behaves like many kids do when they feel different — they try to combat the feelings themselves instead of reaching out, and that makes sense given she has to make herself vulnerable to people she might feel could harm her.

This novel is very raw and heartbreaking. It’s also super hopeful as well. Ivy’s family accepts her for who she is, which is kind of wonderful and it was great to see them being present in the story, which doesn’t happen enough in middle grade or YA. They love her, they try to understand what she is going through and the want to help her in any way they can. I loved that aspect in the story because we just don’t see enough of it anymore.

Having Ivy’s narrative being the core focus, she is a character I know many readers will love and relate with. Ivy’s letter to the world sort-to-speak is powerful, it’s passionate, and most of all, it’s authentic to her experience. We need more middle grade novels like this that can teach great lessons about hope, friendship, sexuality, and personal growth. I cannot wait to read more by Ashley Herring Blake, because she is a fantastic storyteller.

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.


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! 🙂


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.


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


ARC Review – Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach by Kelly Robson

Title: Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach

Author: Kelly Robson

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Discover a shifting history of adventure as humanity clashes over whether to repair their ruined planet or luxuriate in a less tainted pass.

In 2267, Earth has just begun to recover from worldwide ecological disasters. Minh is part of the generation that first moved back up to the surface of the Earth from the underground hells, to reclaim humanity’s ancestral habitat. She’s spent her entire life restoring river ecosystems, but lately the kind of long-term restoration projects Minh works on have been stalled due to the invention of time travel. When she gets the opportunity take a team to 2000 BC to survey the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, she jumps at the chance to uncover the secrets of the shadowy think tank that controls time travel technology.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Walking around the Ontario Library Association Super Conference, I tend to pick up a lot of random titles. While I was stopping over at Raincoast, Kelly Robson was beginning to sign her latest, Gods, Monsters and the Lucky Peach. I had zero idea what it was about and I had to know what tis “lucky peach” was. I also didn’t realize that Kelly Robson was married to a sci-fi author I love, A.M Dellamonica.

This delightful piece of candy reading is about time travel, octopus, and an ecological crisis. Minh, our protagonist, is tasked with reclaiming humanity’s ancestral habitat, Earth. Earth is no longer as habitable as it once was, and her group of merry companions are the last hope in changing the world for the better. For such a short novel, I loved how it was written. It had a great pace, the characters were fairly entertaining given how little time is spent on each one. The story next felt confusing or bloated, and it moved at such a brisk pace.

I liked that there were two stories at work and I enjoyed how they both connected in the end. The story at the beginning of each chapter with the battle between gods and monsters was just so interesting, and part of me wishes we had that story on it’s own as well. The other half, Minh’s story is very technology focused, and Robson’s take on time travel is a lot of fun.

I am crazy glad I read this, and knowing that Robson has other short stories to check out as me very excited. There was a lot to love in this story given how short it was, and the journey to finding out “the lucky peach” was pretty fun in itself. I would highly recommend checking out this novella, especially if you like time travel stories, when it releases in March.


ARC Review – Speak: The Graphic Novel by Laurie Halse Anderson & Emily Carroll

Title: Speak: The Graphic Novel

Author: Laurie Halse Anderson & Emily Carroll

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: “Speak up for yourself-we want to know what you have to say.” From the first moment of her freshman year at Merryweather High, Melinda knows this is a big fat lie, part of the nonsense of high school. She is friendless–an outcast–because she busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops, so now nobody will talk to her, let alone listen to her. Through her work on an art project, she is finally able to face what really happened that night: She was raped by an upperclassman, a guy who still attends Merryweather and is still a threat to her. With powerful illustrations by Emily Carroll Speak: The Graphic Novel comes alive for new audiences and fans of the classic novel.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Speak is one of my all-time favourite young adult novels. It’s a book that has stuck with me for so many years, offering a raw and open look at what it means to be a victim of sexual assault and the challenges of speaking up. This graphic novel version by Laurie Halse Anderson and Emily Carroll transplants this powerful story using a whole new medium.

This graphic novel version of Speak has such breathtaking artwork throughout, and I feel like Emily Carroll did an amazing job capturing Melinda’s story through her art, showcasing the torture and sadness in a way that readers will easily be able to relate to. I loved the way the art captures the sections where Melinda is working on her trees for Mr. Freeman’s class, or how demonic Andy Evans is portrayed in the artwork. The artistic layering is woven perfectly with the story, and you can feel the passion of both the writing and the art working together.

I also appreciate how well the story translated into a graphic novel. I loved how well condensed the story was from the original. The writing was constantly on point, never missing a beat, and for such a large graphic novel, it’s not bloated in any way. You can sense all of Melinda’s emotions, you feel her pain, and that is why Speak is still relevant years later.

If you’ve never read Speak before, I implore you to do it. Read the original, watch the movie, read this version. Speak is such an important story that has continued to stay relevant, and I love that this graphic novel exists, if only to add a new layer to this already powerful story. Definitely check this out.