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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.

ARC Review – The Unquiet by Mikaela Everett

22595271Title: The Unquiet

Author: Mikaela Everett

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis:  For most of her life, Lirael has been training to kill—and replace—a duplicate version of herself on a parallel Earth. She is the perfect sleeper-soldier. But she’s beginning to suspect she is not a good person.

The two Earths are identical in almost every way. Two copies of every city, every building, even every person. But the people from the second Earth know something their duplicates do not—two versions of the same thing cannot exist. They—and their whole planet—are slowly disappearing. Lira has been trained mercilessly since childhood to learn everything she can about her duplicate, to be a ruthless sleeper-assassin who kills that other Lirael and steps seamlessly into her life.

An intricate, literary stand-alone from an astonishing new voice, The Unquiet takes us deep inside the psyche of a strong teenage heroine struggling with what she has been raised to be and who she really is. Fans of eerily futuristic and beautifully crafted stories such as Never Let Me Go, Orphan Black, and Fringe will find themselves haunted by this unsettling debut.

Huge thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy of this for review!

River’s Review:

THIS. BOOK. WAS. SO. GOOD. It’s def in my top ten for the year. I went into it not sure what was going to happen… I’d heard it was slow and didn’t do a very good job of executing what it promised.

Uh, nope and nope. This book wasn’t FAST paces but it was well paces. It moves along and draws you in. It’s… oddly quiet. There’s a lot of backstory (which is so good and so needed) a lot of present time and then when the war hits things spin out and then draw back in and it’s just so damn good. And yes, it’s a little confusing in the beginning and I guess the ONLY world building problem I had was that I didn’t know what time period it took place in. It feels a little bit 1950’s but then they talk about laptops and I think it’s modern. But then you find out some other stuff at the end and I guess it doesn’t REALLY matter but still.

So there are two Earths. There have always been two Earths. They exist in parallel universes. If you’ve ever seen Fringeimagine the other dimension. Duplicates of everyone, similar technologies, but things are off, different. And the one Earth starts to die. People start to vanish. And they get scared. And as humans do, they want to persevere themselves. So they start to send people over to kill their duplicates and take over their lives.

OH. Before I get any further, do NOT rely on the synopsis for your info. It sounds like ONE girl is being trained to kill her duplicate but it’s not only her, it’s EVERYONE. Children are taken from their parents and the streets and sent to the living Earth to train for years before they take an exam that will deem them ready to take over their duplicate’s life and then they’re sent out at ripe age of 14 to kill their alternate and assume their life. It’s not just ONE girl. That was something else that kinda made me hold off on this book because I was like wtf is so special about one girl?

This book is dark. The MC, Lira, has so much trouble doing what she was trained for. She’s good at it, but it’s hard. Not only does she live her alternate’s life (which is a MUCH better life than the one she’d been living on the dying Earth) she also has to carry out missions. She is constantly examining her morals and struggling with her sense of loyalty.

There are some of the most heartbreaking moments in this book too. People die. People suffer. People live and it’s hard. There’s betrayal and broken hearts. I was gut punched more than once.

And the writing, my god, the writing is rich and lush and anytime I would read it I just wanted to sink into the pages and live in the words they were so beautiful.

This book is also incredibly bittersweet.

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!

Five Books I Am Hyped For After #TeensReadFeed

On Saturday, I had the opportunity to go to an event hosted by Raincoast Canada. For those of you who don’t know, Raincoast is the distributor for publishers such as Macmillan, Sourcebooks, and many others. At this event, we were introduced to over twenty titles for the upcoming Winter and Spring season. Let me tell you — there’s some great looking stuff coming. I thought it would be fun to share the top five books from the event I am most excited for.

#1: Gena/Finn by Kat Helgeson & Hannah Moskowitz (Release Date: February 23rd 2016 by Chronicle Books)

Sooooo… my most anticipated book from the event doesn’t actually have a cover yet. However, that is OK! Want to know why this my most anticipated read? Because it focuses on friendship, fandoms, fanficition and it’s going to be written in a multimedia format. I love stories about friendship, and I equally love how fandoms how the power to bring people together. Needless to say, this was the book I came out of the event wanting the most!

#2: The Art of Being Normal
by Lisa Williamson (Release Date: May 31st 2016 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)

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I’m always looking for new and interesting LGBTQIA reads, and this one sounds like something I’d completely adore. It focuses on a young boy who wants to be a girl, and the unlikely friendship it sparks when he is saved from the school bully. This book looks like it will tackle a lot of different issues, and a message of what it means to be true to yourself. Looks wonderful and heartfelt, and I cannot wait!

#3: How It Ends
by Catherine Lo  (Release Date: June 7th 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

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Another book that just sounds sad and mysterious. Written by a Canadian author, this book looks like it will focus on secrets, friendship, how secrets can affect a friendship in ways that might tear it apart. Really excited to see how this book is going to go down, because itis vague premise really has me intrigued.

#4: Riders (Riders #1)
by Veronica Rossi (Release Date: February 16th 2016 by Tor Teen)

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It is so great to see a new Veronica Rossi YA novel. I was a slow convert to her Under the Never Sky series. It was one of those situations where the first book didn’t impress me and then all of a sudden I chose to kept going and it turned out to be a much more rewarding series than I initially gave it credit for. This book is about the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse, and that alone makes me want it. UNDEAD PONIES.

#5: These Vicious Masks
by Tarun Shanker & Kelly Zekas (Release Date:  February 9th 2016 by Swoon Reads)

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Jane Austen meets X-Men? Yes, you heard me, that alone piqued my interest during yesterday’s discussion. Not only did it confuse the heck out of me, but the book sounds utterly ridiculous and charming. Due to those two factors, I feel like my expectations might be way too high on this one, BUT JANE AUSTEN MEETS X-MEN YOU GUYS. ALL THE HYPE!

And then here’s what I got in my swag bag! (Minus the Kate Beaton book, I admit, I bought that)

books

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

In Real Life by Jessica Love

Honestly, I didn’t know much about either, and ended up trading with some other bloggers at the event for these. Excited to see if I’ll like either of them (both look like something I’d enjoy).

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Everyone who attended! (Photo curtsey of Vanessa Di Gregorio from Raincoast Books & ampersand inc)

Once again I want to thank to Raincoast Canada for allowing me the opportunity to see all their new upcoming titles. I want to thank all the bloggers I met for great conversation, and also Melissa Pellegrin for being a standup hostess for the events in both TO and Vancouver. I seriously cannot wait for all these upcoming titles, because even though I only focused on five, there’s a ton worth checking out.