Tag Archives: book review

ARC Review – Check, Please!: #Hockey by Ngozi Ukazu

Title: Check, Please!: #Hockey

Author: Ngozi Ukazu

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: A collection of the first half of the megapopular webcomic series of the same name, Check, Please!: #Hockey is the first book of a hilarious and stirring two-volume coming-of-age story about hockey, bros, and trying to find yourself during the best four years of your life.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review: 

I didn’t even know I needed Check Please! in my life until I started reading it. It was a webcomic that I saw being discussed over on Cece @ ProblemsofaBookNerd’s channel, and every time she mentioned it, the more intrigued I was. Hockey? Baked goods? Vlogging? What more can you ask for?

Eric “Bitty” Bittle is the smallest player on his college hockey team. He’s also openly gay, and kinda sorta maybe has the hots for Jack, a French-Canadian teammate. The romance between the two is SO DARLING. It is so cute, and I love how organic it feels in the story. Eric and Jack are just so awkward and sweet! I kept rooting for them from start to finish even though yes, I knew they would end up together. THAT’S NOT THE POINT. POINT IS IS LOVED IT, OKAY?!

I also adored the artwork, and just how well-researched it is. anytime hockey is discussed I just found myself being like “I KNOW WHAT THAT IS!” or “I know who they are talking about!” I recognize how silly that may sound, but I love learning about sports even if I don’t necessarily like playing them. I also loved any section of the story that focused on Eric and his former figure-skating career! Those panels are so pretty!

I honestly can gush forever about Check Please! and honestly I am so excited to have discovered this comic series. I cannot wait for the next part to be bundled together just so I scan squeal at the top of my lungs over just how freakin’ cute it is.

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ARC Review – Sadie by Courtney Summers

Title: Sadie

Author: Courtney Summers

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: A missing girl on a journey of revenge and a Serial-like podcast following the clues she’s left behind.

Sadie hasn’t had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she’s been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water.

But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie’s entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister’s killer to justice and hits the road following a few meager clues to find him.

When West McCray—a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America—overhears Sadie’s story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie’s journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it’s too late.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I have adored every book Courtney Summers has put out. I find the moment I have one of her books I tend to devour it quickly because I get so engrossed in her stories and characters. Sadie is one of those books that keeps you on the edge of your seat, and is unafraid to look at complicated issues regarding sexual conduct and runaway teens.

First off, I loved the dual perspective in this novel. The reader is introduced to West McCray, who has a podcast in the style of Serial as he tries to uncover why Sadie ran away from home, as well as what truly happened to her sister, Mattie. We also have Sadie’s perspective, which shows us just how far a young woman can go when trying to seek her own kind of personal justice. Sadie is a character you root for, get frustrated by, but constantly find yourself empathizing with. I felt like when I was reading this book I was constantly her shadow — looking overhead and trying to see what she would do next. Both these perspectives draw from each other so well, and it makes this thriller have all the more impact.

This story though… it’s an uncomfortable one. Sadie’s reasons, West McCray’s desire to help, all converge in such a troubling way, and I loved it for that. I loved guessing what was happening in the story, I loved getting the perspectives of all the interviewees and trying to figure out if they were telling the truth, and I love how convoluted a lot of the investigation feels. I also loved getting Sadie’s backstory, learning about her mother and Mattie — a lot of it is so heartbreaking and yet, the reader is constantly asking why.

Sadie is a fantastic, unflinching novel that will keep you guessing. The conclusion is satisfying, and it’s one of those books where I would love to hear an audio-version in the future. If you loved raw, angry novels, please check out Sadie, and I promise you won’t regret it.

ARC Review – After Zero by Christina Collins

Title: After Zero

Author: Christina Collins

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Elise carries a notebook full of tallies, each page marking a day spent at her new public school, each stroke of her pencil marking a word spoken. A word that can’t be taken back. Five tally marks isn’t so bad. Two is pretty good. But zero? Zero is perfect. Zero means no wrong answers called out in class, no secrets accidentally spilled, no conversations to agonize over at night when sleep is far away. But now months have passed, and Elise isn’t sure she could speak even if she wanted to―not to keep her only friend, Mel, from drifting further away―or to ask if anyone else has seen her English teacher’s stuffed raven come to life. Then, the discovery of a shocking family secret helps Elise realize that her silence might just be the key to unlocking everything she’s ever hoped for… 

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

After Zero is a book with an interesting premise: Elise is a young girl with selective mutism and her school questions why this is the case. They are frustrated by her lack of speaking, but don’t necessarily go about things in the most positive of manners. This is a middle grade book that is very emotional, and one I flew through in nearly a day.

I loved Elise and I loved being in her mind. While this book doesn’t have a lot of dialogue or conversations, it’s interesting to see how a character with selective mutism interacts with their fellow classmates, family members and school faculty. Elise writes her feelings out, she is still emotionally a very expressive young girl, and the author makes Elise’s story all the more interesting because we are only given such a limited scope of details. As the reader, it’s like you have to build friendship and trust with Elise before she even opens up to you and I appreciate that tone of voice and distance in a story like this. In that regard, it creates a great mysterious atmosphere.

This book is a intriguing look at children’s mental health issues. This book is written with passion, tenderness, and and tons of empathy. This book shows how Elise’s actions affect others and those around her. I think this book will be a fantastic tool to teach kids about empathy and how mental illness affects children during traumatic and difficult times. This is a fantastic debut, and one I hope many will share with this kids.

ARC Review – The Broken Vow (Spill Zone #2) by Scott Westerfeld & Alex Puvilland

Title: Spill Zone: The Broken Vow

Author: Scott Westefeld & Alex Puvilland

Rating: ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Only the very brave or the very desperate dare enter the Spill Zone—Addison Merritt is a little of both. In exchange for a suitcase full of cash, she made one last to the Zone. She survived the encounter, but came back changed.

Addison is not alone. In a remote village in North Korea, a young man named Jae was touched by the unholy fire of the Spill Zone. He made it out alive—alive, but also changed.

Now bestowed with uncanny powers, Addison and Jae may be the only ones strong enough to face a new threat that has risen in the Spill Zone. This deadly entity is searching for his runaway bride—and his hunt is bringing him closer and closer to Addison and her little sister. 

Huge thank you to Raincoast books for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I really enjoyed the first volume of Spill Zone, and I will admit, I think I enjoyed this sequel a little less. The story has definitely taken some interesting twists and turns, especially now that we are introduced to Jae, a North Korean boy who has similar powers to Addison. This novel explores what happens to those who have been touched by the spill and how drastically they transform.

I won’t lie, I still found parts of this graphic novel a bit confusing. The plot of the first book was a lot more steady, but here I found myself lost at times regarding some of the elemental plots. It’s interesting to see what the spill is doing worldwide, and this book is genuinely far creepier than the first. I still hate the creepy-doll, but this book takes this element to a different level and one I was unnerved by — which means the book did it’s job. I do think the pacing was much slower for this installment than the first, but I appreciated that the stakes truly felt higher in Broken Vow compared to Spill Zone.

I still think the artwork is quite a unique mashup of styles and colours. I love that they puke every colour of the rainbow and it suits so much of what is happening in the story. I still love the relationship between Addi and Lexa, though the ending did leave a bit to be desired. This volume really felt like it was playing with a lot of different science fiction and horror tropes, which I appreciated. Vespertine the doll still gives me nightmares. I didn’t think it would be possible, but she was scary in book one and in the sequel… lets just say she shook me at times.

I think Broken Vow is a good sequel, and perhaps I am at fault for having not reread the first book just for a refresher. I think fans of the first book will definitely enjoy this volume, and I think maybe for me I just had the wrong expectations as I was reading this of what I thought was going to happen. A good, but not great conclusion for me.

Late to the Party ARC Review – Invisible Ghosts by Robyn Schneider

Title: Invisible Ghosts

Author: Robyn Schneider

Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: Rose Asher believes in ghosts. She should, since she has one for a best friend: Logan, her annoying, Netflix-addicted brother, who is forever stuck at fifteen. But Rose is growing up, and when an old friend moves back to Laguna Canyon and appears in her drama class, things get complicated.

Jamie Aldridge is charming, confident, and a painful reminder of the life Rose has been missing out on since her brother’s death. She watches as Jamie easily rejoins their former friends–a group of magnificently silly theater nerds–while avoiding her so intensely that it must be deliberate.

Yet when the two of them unexpectedly cross paths, Rose learns that Jamie has a secret of his own, one that changes everything. Rose finds herself drawn back into her old life–and to Jamie. But she quickly starts to suspect that he isn’t telling her the whole truth.

Huge thank you to Harper Collins Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I have loved all of Robyn Schneider’s books that she has published. I figured given her track record and my enjoyment, Invisible Ghostssurely was going to be a new favourite. I was expecting to love this, and it was just okay. Saying that it was just okay breaks my heart a little bit, but that is the truth.

When this book was being pitched to me, I was told it was an exploration of grief. That statement is true to an extent, given this is a story about Rose believing that she can see the ghost of her best friend and brother, Logan. The parts of the story where Rose and Logan interacted were easily some of the best parts of the story, and I really enjoyed those moments.

Where I struggled with this book was the romance between Jamie and Rose. I just couldn’t connect with it, I felt very hollow at times, and frankly, I was bored. I know part of Jamie’s story is that he is helping Rose through her grief, but I felt like at times the book made this element a bit too easy, undermining what it means to feel a sense of loss. I think what frustrated me more is that Robyn Schneider has explored the topic of grief before, and I think it was done much better in her other books than Invisible Ghosts.

While I love Robyn Schneider’s writing style, I found that this book and I just didn’t connect the way I was hoping. Perhaps I put too high an expectation on this book given past experiences, or maybe I just wanted something with a lot more depth on a topic that I connect with than this book provided. I think there will be plenty of readers who will love Invisible Ghosts and not much the surface level discussion of grief, but I won’t lie, my expectations were just a bit too high.

ARC Review – Finding Yvonne by Brandy Colbert

Title: Finding Yvonne

Author: Brandy Colbert

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Since she was seven years old, Yvonne has had her trusted violin to keep her company, especially in those lonely days after her mother walked out on their family. But with graduation just around the corner, she is forced to face the hard truth that she just might not be good enough to attend a conservatory after high school.

Full of doubt about her future, and increasingly frustrated by her strained relationship with her successful but emotionally closed-off father, Yvonne meets a street musician and fellow violinist who understands her struggle. He’s mysterious, charming, and different from Warren, the familiar and reliable boy who has her heart. But when Yvonne becomes unexpectedly pregnant. 

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

Sam’s Review:

Finding Yvonne is a book I would have accidentally avoided if it hadn’t been for the fact that it is penned by Brandy Colbert. I am generally not a huge fan about books that involve teen pregnancy or pregnancy in general. However, I think what drew me to this book is that it is a portrait of a girl well on her way to a successful career, how he life gets thrown off course, and how she ends up making one of the most difficult decisions of her life.

This book is intense. I felt so much reading this book because Yvonne felt like a girl whom you’d chat with, seeming so down to earth, and very kind. Her feelings for the men that she gives herself to is also so genuine. The discussion of sex and sexuality is well captured in this book, and this is a very sex-positive book. This book also has a fantastic discussion supporting pro-choice as well. I also loved the family dynamics in this book, especially between Yvonne and her father. Her family relationships felt so realistic as well.

Finding Yvonne is an amazing book with a lot of loaded discussion questions. I think adults and teens can relate to a lot of what happens in this story, and Yvonne is just such a lovable character. If you don’t mind character studies or books focusing on teen pregnancy, please read this book. It’ll spark fantastic discussion.

Late to the Party ARC Review – Tess of the Road (Tess of the Road #1) by Rachel Hartman

Title: Tess of the Road (Tess of the Road #1)

Author: Rachel Hartman

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: In the medieval kingdom of Goredd, women are expected to be ladies, men are their protectors, and dragons can be whomever they choose. Tess is none of these things. Tess is. . . different. She speaks out of turn, has wild ideas, and can’t seem to keep out of trouble. Then Tess goes too far. What she’s done is so disgraceful, she can’t even allow herself to think of it. Unfortunately, the past cannot be ignored. So Tess’s family decide the only path for her is a nunnery.

But on the day she is to join the nuns, Tess chooses a different path for herself. She cuts her hair, pulls on her boots, and sets out on a journey. She’s not running away, she’s running towards something. What that something is, she doesn’t know. Tess just knows that the open road is a map to somewhere else–a life where she might belong.

Huge thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I should have read this book sooner. Seraphina is one of my favourite fantasy novels, and I was beyond thrilled to find out that Rachel Hartman finally had a new book coming out set int he same universe. I also haven’t been reading as much fantasy lately, so it was so nice to pick this up and fly through it. Plus, this book has dragons, and dragons are A+ in my books.

This is a rich and character driven fantasy novel. Tess is a fantastic, snarky, lovable heroine and I loved being on this journey with her. I loved how sassy and take charge she is! And she wasn’t even my favourite character! That crown goes to Pathka, who just made this book everything I wanted it to be and more. But in all seriousness, this book is about Tess’ growth as a character, and it looks at her life in alternative perspectives in how she’s grown and her connection with the dragons. Tess goes through some horrific things in her life, yet you cannot help but root for her.

Also some of the deaths in this book ruined me. RUINED ME. No spoilers, but they were so heartbreaking and I may have yelled at the book for it. I recognize the book cannot talk back to me (and if it did, it would tell me it’s feeding on my tears).

I think for a lot of fantasy readers Tess of the Road might be too much of a slow burn. Personally, I love fantasy novels that gradually build to its climax. This book lacks a lot of the fantasy tropes that people love — there’s no complicated magic systems or intalove — just a story about a girl out on the open on the road, forging a new path for herself. What’s not to love?