Tag Archives: canadian author

ARC Review – The Explorers: The Door in the Alley (The Explorers #1) by Adrienne Kress

Title: The Explorers: The Door in the Alley (The Explorers #1)

Author: Adrienne Kress

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Featuring a mysterious society, a secretive past, and a pig in a teeny hat, “The Explorers: The Door in the Alley” is the first book in a new series for fans of “The Name of This Book Is a Secret” and “The Mysterious Benedict Society. “Knock once if you can find it but only members are allowed inside.   This is one of those stories that start with a pig in a teeny hat. It s not the one you re thinking about. (This story is way better than that one.) This pig-in-a-teeny-hat story starts when a very uninquisitive boy stumbles upon a very mysterious society. After that, there is danger and adventure; there are missing persons, hired thugs, a hidden box, a lost map, and famous explorers; and there is a girl looking for help that only uninquisitive boys can offer. “The Explorers: The Door in the Alley” is the first book in a series that is sure to hit young readers right in the funny bone.

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

Sam’s Review:

Ever read a book that made you laugh out loud because how quirky it was in nature? I find the best middle grade reads always offer a combination of humour, adventure, and cheeky characters. This is exactly what you will find in Adrienne Kress’ The Explorers: The Door in the Alley — a whimsical, hilarious romp with delightfully funny characters and adventure lurking in each and every chapter.

The Explorers focuses on Sebastien and Evie, two children from very different backgrounds being flung into what seems like an unexplained adventure. Seb is very logical, narrow and stiff, where as Evie is clever and no nonsense. These characters couldn’t be more different and yet the way they work together is something to applaud. I think younger readers will definitely be able to connect to the two protagonists. Also can we discuss the pig in the hat? I loved any time that darn pig showed up!

The writing in this book is chockful of humour and wit. Kress’ writing is sharp as it is funny, and the way in which she is able to describe many of Seb and Evie’s encounters is often very entertaining. The writing is fast, it pops along the pages, and its very upbeat… until the ending. I would argue the ending is the roughest part of this book, and admittedly it left me a tad cold (which is why I want more from this series!). It’s not a bad ending, but it did leave me feeling somewhat unsatisfied.

I am glad that this book is becoming a series, because I feel like these characters have the potential grow into household favourites. Kress is a talented writer with a lot to offer younger readers, and I won’t lie when I say it was so thrilling to be back in one of her worlds again after such a long hiatus. The Explorers is a delightful middle grade story that offers a lot to young readers. While parts of this book feel a bit cliche, I won’t deny how much fun I had reading this book, and I can only imagine how much fun this book will be once it’s in the hands of children everywhere.

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Blog Tour – A Daughter of No Nation (Hidden Sea Tales #2) by A.M. Dellamonica (Review and Q&A)

A.M Dellamoncia is an author I’ve actually had the pleasure of meeting a few years back. During Fan Expo (?), we bonded over being Italo-Scotches, people who are half Italian, half Scottish. I had purchased a copy of Indigo Springs, which I’ve since read and enjoyed (really nifty stuff there!). She’s a very funny individual with a good sense of humour, and if you live in the Toronto area when she’s doing an event, I urge you to go and see her — she’s a great person. Her latest series Hidden Sea Tales, is a series I became smitten with last year, so when Raincoast approached me to be a part of the blog tour for the second book, how could I resist?

Below you will find my review of the second book and a short Q&A with A.M Dellamonica, where she discusses Bram (aka my gay book boyfriend) and her inspiration for this series. Enjoy! And make sure to check out A Child of the Hidden Sea (out in both hardcover and paperback) and then the sequel, A Daughter of No Nation which released in hardcover on December 1st.


25543928Title:  A Daughter of No Nation (Hidden Sea Tales #2)

Author: A.M. Dellamonica

Rating:  ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: As soon as Sophie Hansa returned to our world, she is anxious to once again go back to Stormwrack. Unable to discuss the wondrous sights she has seen, and unable to tell anyone what happened to her in her time away, Sophie is in a holding pattern, focused entirely on her eventual chance to return.

With the sudden arrival of Garland Parrish, Sophie is once again gone. This time, she has been called back to Stormwrack in order to spend time with her father, a Duelist-Adjudicator, who is an unrivaled combatant and fearsome negotiator. But is he driven by his commitment to seeing justice prevail, or is he a sociopath? Soon, she discovers something repellent about him that makes her reject him, and everything he is offering. Adrift again, she discovers that her time spent with her father is not without advantages, however, for Sophie has discovered there is nothing to stop her from setting up a forensic institute in Stormwrack, investigating cases that have been bogged down in the courts, sometimes for years. Her fresh look into a long-standing case between two of the islands turns up new information that could get her, and her friends, pulled into something bold and daring, which changes the entire way she approaches this strange new world. 

Huge thank you to Raincoast Books/Tor for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Let me preface this review by stating how much I adored Child of the Hidden Sea. I WAS IN LOVE WITH IT! I found it just a unique and refreshing take on both time slip fantasy and pirates. Just the fact alone that pirates are such a dying breed in literature make me depressed considering how much fun and roguish they can be.

And here’s the kicker: I was so excited about a sequel for Child of the Hidden Sea because I loved the world, I thought the characters were a ton of fun (BRAM!) and because at the end of the day, I liked how Dellamonica gave the reader a lot to think about. Sophie is wonderful as a heroine who is delectably flawed, but charming nonetheless. Something about A Daughter of No Nation did not grip me right away the way the first book did. I struggled with the majority of this book, and if I’m being honest, I can’t really explain why given that everything I liked about the first book was definitely still here and if anything there was moreof it.

But I struggled, and realized it wasn’t the book: it was me. I was trying to force myself to read this book when I wasn’t in the mood, and as a result my enjoyment suffered. This is not a bad sequel by any stretch of the imagination, but rather it didn’t hook me the way the first book did. The writing is still quite stellar and vivid, and while I enjoyed it, I felt a bit more lost considering I hadn’t reread A Child of the Hidden Sea, and I think I should have.

What I will say, however, is the last hundred pages are what did it for me. I was completely glued the story, turning the pages and demanding the need for more. All of a sudden the book had this grip on me that refused to let go until I had gotten to end. I won’t spoil this book, but for those who loved the first one, those last hundred pages will keep you so invested and remind you of why the first book worked so well.

So while this sequel was a bit slow for me and didn’t really work for me mood-wise, I still plan on reading book three when it releases. I think sometimes a second book can suffer from a middle book syndrome and sometimes that is okay too. I just admit, I wish there had been more Bram. Any time Bram was around, the book had my fullest attention because darn it, he’s just so damn delightful.

A. M. DELLAMONICA is the author of Indigo Springs, winner of the
Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic, and its concluding sequel, Blue
Magic. Her short stories have appeared in a number of fantasy and science fiction
magazines and anthologies, and on Tor.com.

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Q&A on A Daughter of No Nation (and why you should join the Bram train!)

The amazing folks at Raincoast gave me the chance to ask A.M Dellamoncia a few questions about the Hidden Sea Tales, and she was awesome enough to answer them! Here’s the results:

Bram is my favourite character in the series. He’s delightfully sassy. Where did the inspiration for his character come from?

I don’t think there was ever a point where I didn’t know Sophie would have a brother.My siblings (a category that includes inlaws who’ve been part of my life for almost
thirty years as well as my sister and stepsibs) are a crucial thread within the fabric of
my life.

The Hidden Sea Tales are about microclimates, as well as a hundred other things, and I
believe that families are social microclimates. By this I mean that the only person whose
experience of growing up can ever be remotely like your own is that of a kid who’s grown
up in the same household. Even then, of course, two different children can come away with
completely different perspectives on what happened in their shared past, and this is
pretty much true of Sophie and Bram. They have very different takes on their dad in
particular. Even so, they are close–there’s a scene in A Daughter of No Nation where
they’re each so determined to protect the other from physical harm that they’re
practically stumbling into each other, and thereby putting themselves in more danger
rather than less.

As someone who is queer, I also have some familiarity with the experience of building
your own family from the close-knit circle of people with whom you share many experiences
but no actual DNA. Bram is definitely inspired by many of the smart and thoroughly
wonderful gay men I have come to know over the years.

One aspect I love about this series is the time-slip nautical/pirate theme that you have   working through the story. What made you decide to blend so many different genres to craft this series?

I am very proud of my first two books, Indigo Springs and Blue Magic, but they are
somewhat somber and the latter, in particular, has a shockingly high body count. When I
set out to write a Child of A Hidden Sea, I wanted to have fun. I started by making a
list of everything I love: sailing ships, Sherlock Holmes, biodiversity, portal fantasy,
sea monsters, wildlife biologists, crime procedurals, nature documentaries, photography,
pirates, magic, volcanoes… okay, I admit it was something of a nerdy list.

The sensible thing at that point would have been to pare down that initial brainstorming
session, choosing a few absolute favourites and saving the rest for the next book. But I
wanted to go at it like a kid attacking a pile of birthday gifts, by keeping everything
on the list that I possibly could. I had a lot of fun writing these novels, and I think
it shows.


Huge thank you again to both A.M Dellamonica and Raincoast for all their time and effort in this blog tour. Both Child of the Hidden Sea and Daughter of No Nation are out NOW!

Wanna see where the tour is heading next? Check out the tour stops below!

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ARC Review – The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

24885634Title:  The Scorpion Rules

Author: Erin Bow

Rating:  ★★★★★

Synopsis: A world battered by climate shift and war turns to an ancient method of keeping peace: the exchange of hostages. The Children of Peace – sons and daughters of kings and presidents and generals – are raised together in small, isolated schools called Prefectures. There, they learn history and political theory, and are taught to gracefully accept what may well be their fate: to die if their countries declare war.

Greta Gustafsen Stuart, Duchess of Halifax and Crown Princess of the Pan-Polar Confederation, is the pride of the North American Prefecture. Learned and disciplined, Greta is proud of her role in keeping the global peace — even though, with her country controlling two-thirds of the world’s most war-worthy resource — water — she has little chance of reaching adulthood alive.

Enter Elián Palnik, the Prefecture’s newest hostage and biggest problem. Greta’s world begins to tilt the moment she sees Elián dragged into the school in chains. The Prefecture’s insidious surveillance, its small punishments and rewards, can make no dent in Elián, who is not interested in dignity and tradition, and doesn’t even accept the right of the UN to keep hostages.

What will happen to Elián and Greta as their two nations inch closer to war?

Huge thank you to Simon & Schuster Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Last year at the INSPIRE Bookfair held in Toronto, I met Erin Bow. We got into a conversation about her novels when I asked if she had anything new in the pipeline. She grinned at me and said, “Wait and see.” The Scorpion Rules might actually surpass Plain Kate as my favourite book by her, which is hard to believe because I am a mad fangirl for Plain Kate.

The Scorpion Rules drips a unique premise: royal children held hostage, if there country goes to war, they die. Bow does an amazing job crafted the rules of the world, while providing a unique blend of futuristic world-building with medieval ideologies. It’s really a unique blend, and the book does an amazing job of pushing the boundaries of the world-building further and further as you read on. Can I just say I squealed because Greta is a Canadian princess? I did squeal over that.

This book is disturbing on so many levels and that’s what makes it a compulsive read. There’s brainwashing, torture, and I swear I cringed any time the cider press came up. Greta takes an absolutely beating in this story, and yet she is such a strong individual who attempts to accept the circumstances and challenges them. She makes some tough decisions and I easily found myself so nervous for her. The tesnion in this novel is insane, and I found myself so uncomfortable at times.

The characters in this novel have their limits tested and pushed, and I found them all to be characters I could sympathize with. Except for Talis. Talis scared the crap out of me. Smarmy, intelligent, full of himself, he is an AI who totally will kill you if given the chance. My co-blogger kept picturing James Spader’s Ultron voice when reading Talis’ character and I 100% totally see what she’s talking about, because after she said that I found myself picturing it as well. I just found him so creepy and freaky and any time he made an uncomfortable suggestion, I found myself shuttering.

Of all of Erin Bow’s works, this might be my favourite. It left me emotionally wrecked, uncomfortable a good chunk of the time, and I found myself panicking and worrying for the safety of the characters. This book was so much more than I was expecting and wanting, from the complex relationships, to the romantic elements even. I loved everything about The Scorpion Rules and it’s totally worth the emotional torture it will put you through.

River’s Review:

This book was perfection! This is my second book by Bow and just wow. I read Sorrow’s Knot last year and really loved it. I love Bow’s writing, I love how she just pulls you under and then rips you apart before you even know it because everything is so damn beautiful and horrifying at the same time.

I went into this book with high expectations and they were met and then some. I was not prepared for the evil AI, or the complex relationships. I was not prepared for Greta’s strength and the choices that she would make.

My husband is an AI research scientist getting his PhD at MIT currently. I constantly ask him to NOT create terminators. To not created THIS type of AI. He’s given me many many lectures and reassurances on how robots wont take over, but damn. I’ve read about and watched videos about Transcendence. And the AI in this book is way more on the transcendence side than the ‘evil robots take over’ side. It’s less Skynet and more Ray Kurzwell style crazy. The machines wont take over, they’ll just stop us out unless we join them. And a future like this, a future where an AI that was not even a machine to begin with, but a MAN, is terrifying. And to know that this is real life research makes the intentions behind this book even more terrifying.

I loved the characters in this book. I loved that even the secondary characters had depth and surprising strengths. I almost cried multiple times and the ending was so bittersweet. Greta’s love for her friends and family was so strong, and I loved the complex relationship between her, Xie and Elian.

And let me take a moment to talk about the goats. Evil AI and GOATS?! I loved how essential the goats were to this story. They added comedy, they were catalysts for pivotal moments and they were just damn cute!

This book is getting a lot of buzz and I’m glad for it. Check it out, and make sure to check out Bow’s other books. I know that I’m going to have to hunt down a copy of Plain Kate ASAP!