Tag Archives: fairy tales

Author Interview – Q&A with Melissa Albert, Author of The Hazel Wood

Back in September during Raincoast’s last #TeenReadsFeed event, I had actually won the grand prize: an interview with debut author, Melissa Albert. The Hazel Wood is a book that is getting so much buzz, and rightful so. It’s dark, creepy, and full of intrigue and discomfort. During this interview I had a chance to discuss portal fantasy, inspiration for the book, and other cheery things.

If you want to know more about my thoughts regarding The Hazel Wood, please check out my review. The Hazel Wood arrives on January 30th, 2018. Huge thank you again to Raincoast Canada for this amazing opportunity.

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Book Chat: Why I Love (and Why You Should Read) the Whatever After Series by Sarah Mlynowski

16043628As you all know, I work in a public library. Working in a public library you get a huge sense of what is hip and in with the middle graders. While I can’t for the life of me get the appeal of Geronimo Stilton (he’s just too perfect), there’s one middle grade series that has really sunk its claws into me. I am, of course, talking about the Whatever After series by Sarah Mlynowski.

Those who might be unfamiliar, Sarah Mlynowski is a Canadian author who has written a plethora of novels ranging from middle grade to YA. Her books are beloved in Canada and this series in particular gets a lot of love from middle graders. I will tell you why that is as well: it has to do with the heroes of this series, Abby and Jonah.

First off, Abby and Jonah are Jewish, and every so often Abby or Jonah will teach the readers about Jewish customs, Hebrew words, and holidays and she does this in a way that feels organic to the story. Second of all, both Abby and Jonah are VERY well fleshed out and flawed as characters, and to the point where in each novel shows a bit more of personalities. Truthfully, I adore Jonah, and that is because he goes beyond the annoying little brother stereotype and often he’s the one suggesting to Abby how they can solve the mysteries in the fairy tales! I also adore Abby, and I love that her life’s goal is to become a Judge. What girl says that at her age? Not many.

The last thing about this series is that it is a fun twist on traditional fairy tales. From Rapenzel 18527499losing all her hair because of Jonah’s sports cleats to Beauty and the Beast just not being compatible for each other, I love the creativity that  Mlynowski throws into each of these books. It really makes you think about how the original fairy tales are, but how easily one can flip them upside down.

I feel like more folks need to check this series out because not only does it have the depth that some middle grade lacks, but it adds pure fun to a genre that can often feel stale. Sure the covers are pretty cheesy, but don’t let them fool you — these stories are funny, light-heated and they and just plain fun. I say this as a person who has whipping through all the books that are currently out in less than a year. Definitely check this series out if you have a middle grader in your life or if you just love middle grade!

ARC Review – Mighty Jack (Mighty Jack #1) by Ben Hatke

25648247Title: Mighty Jack (Mighty Jack #1)

Author: Ben Hatke

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Jack might be the only kid in the world who’s dreading summer. But he’s got a good reason: summer is when his single mom takes a second job and leaves him at home to watch his autistic kid sister, Maddy. It’s a lot of responsibility, and it’s boring, too, because Maddy doesn’t talk. Ever. But then, one day at the flea market, Maddy does talk—to tell Jack to trade their mom’s car for a box of mysterious seeds. It’s the best mistake Jack has ever made.

What starts as a normal little garden out back behind the house quickly grows up into a wild, magical jungle with tiny onion babies running amok, huge, pink pumpkins that bite, and, on one moonlit night that changes everything…a dragon.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this book!

Sam’s Review:

I am mad at myself for putting this book off. Why? Because it was one I was crazy excited to get my hands on and then life took over and it fell by the wayside. I say this given that in a lot of ways this is how Mighty Jack begins. Jack wants to sleep in, he wants to be able to get a job to help support his mother who is already working two jobs to support the family, and he has an autistic sister, Maddy, who doesn’t speak. This beginning proves my point about life trying to escape past you.

However, in true Ben Hatke form, this is a wonderful friendship oriented story, retelling the tale of Jack and the Beanstalk. I’ll admit, as a child I never really liked that story, and often found it to be a frustrating narrative for one thing. However, there is something so fresh about Hatke’s take on the story that it makes up for my distaste of the original tale. It is so easy to love the characters in this story: Jack, Lilly, Maddy, their mother, and they are characters that Hatke does a great job providing empathy towards. I really, in particular, loved Maddy’s portrayal, and after the cliffhanger of an ending at this book, I NEED to see what will happen next.

This is a great start to a series, and Ben Hatke’s artwork continues to be so vibrant and delightful that I always enjoy my time with his books. There is a lot of great commentary and ideas in Mighty Jack and I can’t wait to see where the next book goes. There’s so much to love in Ben Hatke’s stories, and he does a good job of showing us how strong humans can be when they are faced with crisis. I really loved this story, and definitely check out if you love fairy tale retellings or just awesome comics.

Summer Contemporary Fling – The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler

Title: The Summer of Chasing Mermaids22840182

Author:  Sarah Ockler

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: The youngest of six talented sisters, Elyse d’Abreau was destined for stardom—until a boating accident took everything from her. Now, the most beautiful singer in Tobago can’t sing. She can’t even speak.

Seeking quiet solitude, Elyse accepts a friend’s invitation to Atargatis Cove. Named for the mythical first mermaid, the Oregon seaside town is everything Elyse’s home in the Caribbean isn’t: An ocean too cold for swimming, parties too tame for singing, and people too polite to pry—except for one.

Christian Kane is a notorious playboy—insolent, arrogant, and completely charming. He’s also the only person in Atargatis Cove who doesn’t treat Elyse like a glass statue. He challenges her to express herself, and he admires the way she treats his younger brother Sebastian, who believes Elyse is the legendary mermaid come to life.

Huge thank you to Simon Pulse and Edelweiss for this ARC!

River’s Review:

I fell in love with Sarah Ockler’s writing when I blew through #Scandal last year, and was SO excited when I got approved for this! I was a little worried that #Scandal might have been a one-hit-wonder for me (I wasn’t the biggest fan of Twenty Boy Summer, another one of Ockler’s books) but nope! This book was so good and I flew through it in less than two days.

The little mermaid retelling aside (but let me just say that I loved all of TLM references!) this was a solid book about finding you voice. Almost everyone in this book is oppressed somehow. Elyse literally cannot speak because of an accident that damaged her vocal chords. Christian is oppressed by his father. Sebastian is shoved into a box and nobody will listen to him. Lemon is outside of the norm. Even the fathers can’t speak due to their pride. I loved that there WERE characters that could speak though. Vanessa was loud and outspoken, her mother killed me when she took a stand for Sebastian, and Kirby is always talking, about everything and everyone. In one sense Kirby is everyone’s voice.

Elyse is from the twin islands of Trinidad and Tobago. I know very little about these Caribbean islands and their culture, but I never once felt that Ockler was making things up. And she’s an author I trust to do her research. I enjoyed how Elyse was familiar with the USA, but at the same time had her difficulties with the culture and customs. Since I don’t know how different her homeland is, it’s hard for me to judge, but I felt that her situation was very realistic. People often commented about how she was so withdrawn from everyone and not only was she dealing with the loss of her voice, the trouble with her sister, but she was also living in a new country. Her behavior seemed legit.

I loved all of the characters in this. Kirby and Vanessa were perfect friends. Christian was swoony and sweet and sexy. Sebastian stole my heart. Lemon was so unique and quirky. And Elyse was so smart and insightful. I’ve never read a book where the MC literally cannot speak, and it was very interesting to see the ways she communicated. Sure we were in her head, but dialogue is huge for me!

There were so many times this book made me smile too. I was just reading along, smiling and it hit me that there aren’t THAT many books that make me ACTUALLY PHYSICALLY SMILE. And I loved it.

This book is just… perfect. It hits all the right notes and addresses a lot of issues in the current world and in current YA. It’s the perfect blend of diverse and swoony and touches on a lot of subjects that I really feel are important to open up dialogues about. And I hope that this book will get people talking.

Sam’s Review:

Oh my goodness, if this is what reading a Sarah Ockler book is like, sign me up for more. Yes, this is my first Sarah Ockler book, and I can honestly say without a doubt that I am going to be diving into her back cataloguing this summer. The Summer of Chasing Mermaids is the perfect beach read. I realize it’s silly to say that since this is a book about mermaids, beaches and summer, but honestly, there was something so relaxing about this novel. It might also be because it’s based off of The Little Mermaid, a tale near and dear to my heart, that I gravitated to this book with such ease.

Elyse is a brilliant heroine, and I absolutely adored her character. She’s clever, curious, and a lot smarter than she initially lets on. This book focuses on the theme of finding your inner voice and having the courage to speak up. Elyse spends a lot of the novel trying to find herself and her strength, though she’s quite unsure of herself throughout the story. This overlaying message that Ockler puts in the novel is very thought provoking throughout. Heck, I generally don’t like playboy characters, but I admittedly adored Christian, if only because his curiosity sometimes borderlined on nosey, and yet there are so many parts of the story where he means so well.

My favourite character, interestingly enough was Kirby. She’s one of those overprotective friends who wants what’s best for everyone yet doesn’t realize that it’s not always the best approach to have when dealing with people. The more I read the book, the more I loved a lot of the secondary characters, which doesn’t always happen with me, but everyone in the story is quite lovable or interesting. It made for a real page turner.

Plus, I want to share the fact that I loved Ockler’s Acknowledgements that were at the back of the book. I loved who this story was for, why she wrote it, and who she in way wanted to represent. Furthermore, I loved her depictions of Trinidad and Tobago, and I felt like when she was description the islands that I felt like I was truly there. Also, can I also just say how much I loved Elyse and Christian’s romance? Because it was totally believable and adorable and I loved it so much.

Let’s be honest here, this book is very emotional to read and it’s the kind of emotions that are hard to hide in public (I was reading this book at a bus station, yeaaaah). Still, The Summer of Chasing Mermaids is just one of those stories that is not only emotionally gripping, but it keeps you guessing in unexpected ways. Plus the ending completely wrecked me, and I mean that. It just destroyed me emotionally. I highly recommend this book, not only as a fantastic summer read, but just one that will keep you thinking even after it’s over.

ARC Review – Poisoned Apples by Christine Heppermann

20359699Title: Poisoned Apples

Author: Christine Heppermann

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: A devious poetry collection by  author Christine Heppermann. 

Huge thank you to Greenwillow Books and Edelweiss for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

So I have to say, Poisoned Apples was a pleasant surprise. The poems attempt to blur the lines between fairy tales and reality and have to say, a lot of them the poems do a good job in justifying this. I think poetry collections can be a real tough sell, but the poems weave into each other surprisingly well that you felt like you were reading one large poetic narrative.

Also it’s feminist poetry. That’s an area I can say I completely approve of. I loved that Heppermann poked fun at tampon commercials, beauty, fashion, body images, things that are supposed to “make a woman.” A lot of the poems argue that none of these things make you a “true woman” and if anything it’s silly to even consider it. There’s a very dark and playful tone to a lot of the poems — in fact, I even found humor in a lot of them. There’s quite the cleverness in this collection, and no you don’t have to be well versed in fairy tales to appreciate it.

There’s a lot to like in this poetry collection, and I think the poems coupled with the photography and artwork is a great touch. I definitely want to see how a finished version of this book will look like when it releases in September. Honestly, check it out — there’s so fun and trouble to be found here.