Tag Archives: family

The Bonaventure Adventures by by Rachelle Delaney (Review and Q&A)

I love Rachelle Delaney’s The Metro Dogs of Moscow series. They were some of the cutest, most perfect middle grade reads, and they are books I always recommend when I am working with younger readers at the library. They are just plain fun! Rachelle’s latest book is a departure from that series, but it is equally amazing! Seriously, I cannot wait for more people to get their hands on The Bonaventure Adventures.

Penguin Canada approached me in regards to sharing both a review and a Q&A with Rachelle for you all. I hope you all enjoy my review, as well as the intriguing responses Rachelle has shared in regards to my questions. Make sure to check out The Bonaventure Adventures when it releases today, May 2nd!


Title: The Bonaventure Adventures

Author: Rachelle Delaney

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Sebastian Konstantinov comes from a long line of talented circus performers. Somehow, however, he has not inherited any of their acrobatic skill: he has no balance, he’s afraid of heights, he can’t even turn a somersault. But there’s one thing he does know: his father’s circus, which travels through Eastern Europe, is out of date and is fast running out of money.

Seb has a solution, though: if he can somehow get into the Bonaventure Circus School in Montreal, Canada, he might be able to learn something valuable to help his father. Seb secretly writes to the Directrice (an old friend of his father’s) and is accepted into the school. All he has to do is convince his father to send him away — oh, and keep his lack of talent a secret from all his teachers and classmates. Fortunately for him, he befriends two other students, who also don’t seem to quite fit in.

Seb is not the only one with secrets, it turns out. The school is literally crumbling beneath the feet of its students, and the directrice may be counting on Seb’s “talent” to save the day. Can he and his new friends figure out what’s really going on in the school that bills itself as the World’s Best Circus School?

Huge thank you to Penguin Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I loved Rachelle Delaney’s Metro Dogs of Moscow series. They were fun, quirky little adventures that warmed the heart and offered tons of excitement. Her latest effort The Bonaventure Adventures offers a similar feel for those familiar with her work, but I will say that this book is easily her most magical.

Sebastian has grown up in Europe as part of his father’s travelling circus. Everyone who works for the circus is a part of his family and when the circus starts to fall on hard times, Seb decides to find a means to keep the circus in business. One day his father is sent a letter from the Benventure Circus School, and Seb decides that even with his lack of skill, this might be the only way to save his father’s business and the only family he has ever know.

Seb is a wonderful protagonist. I love that given the setting for this novel is a circus school and our hero is hapless when it comes to performance. It makes for a great coming of age story! And Seb is lovable, and he his a strong desire to protect his family, his father’s business, and he wants to become someone worthy of of both those things. Seb is sweet, but determined, and I loved reading about him. I found I could relate to a lot of his desires. I also want to point out that his supporting cast in Sylvain, Frankie and Banjo were just utter perfection. They were hilarious, supportive, and I loved how they compliment both Seb and the story.

And truthfully, I simply loved this story. There wasn’t any point where I wasn’t enjoying myself. While I questioned the existence of Seb’s mother on more than one occasion, I got the sense that this was more about Seb’s desire to become someone better, someone worthy of himself and others. This book is so genuine, it’s funny, it’s quirky, it offers so much for every kind of reader. If you haven’t read her previous books, check them out. I really cannot wait for readers to get their hands on The Bonaventure Adventure, because you’re in for a magical treat of a story.


Q&A With Rachelle Delaney!

  1. Where did the inspiration for the The Bonaventure Adventures come from?

The idea came to me about five years ago, when I was teaching creative writing to some kids enrolled in circus arts classes. It struck me as such an interesting way to study art, sport, and performance at once, and so I started researching circus school as a potential setting for a novel. Through my research, I discovered that Montreal is not only home to a national circus school for young performers but also to a unique circus arts scene. So I spent some time there and quickly became enamoured with both the city and the circus world.

  1. I’ve been told that for research purposes you took some circus lessons. How did that help with the shaping of this novel?

I did indeed take some circus classes, which is kind of hilarious because I’m terribly uncoordinated and not at all acrobatic. But I wanted to know what it felt like to attempt all these amazing skills, like juggling and trapeze and aerial silks. Answer: it’s really, really hard. And painful! The day after my aerials class always involved a lot of whimpering. But that was helpful, because my main character, Sebastian, is a hopeless beginner with very few skills. So I was able to put myself in his place and understand what he might feel like.

I also mustered up the courage to take a parkour workshop, since one of my other main characters, Frankie, is a parkour expert (and also I have this little-known, inexplicable love of ridiculous parkour movies). That ranks up there with the most humbling days of my life. I can’t say I recommend taking up scaling walls in your mid-thirties.

  1. Speaking of your circus lessons, what was your favourite thing you learned?

Once I’d developed some strength, I came to love the aerial hoop. I only ever learned the most basic tricks (and my minor fear of heights will prevent me from ever progressing), but it felt amazing to find myself able to do them. Watching a professional performance never fails to blow my mind. If you haven’t ever seen one, get thee to YouTube.

  1. Sebastian is a young boy with no talent for the circus, but has a ton of heart when it comes to keeping his family together. Do you think younger readers will be able to identify with Sebastian?

I hope so! Seb adores the circus, but he’s had to come to terms with the fact that he’s not cut out to be a performer, at least not in the traditional sense. I think a lot of readers, young and old, have had the experience of realizing that they’ll never be an expert at something they love, whether that’s playing hockey or violin or juggling knives. And yes, I think Seb’s desire to keep the Konstantinov Family Circus together also makes him relatable. When we’re deeply ingrained in a family or community that’s in danger of falling apart, I think a lot of us are compelled to fight for it.

  1. One thing I noticed is that Sebastian’s mother is never really mentioned or revealed. What’s the story there?

She is a mystery! Seb’s mother left the Konstantinov Family Circus when he was very small, and Seb has given up trying to find out why, since his father always offers a different story. His father, as you know, is a giant narcissist, but inside he harbours a lot of guilt about her leaving. It’s easier for him to make up stories (like the one about her taking off to fulfil her dream of going to dental school) than admit that he and his travelling circus lifestyle were a big part of the problem. Seb’s mother decided that the caravan lifestyle wasn’t for her. I picture her living a quiet life someplace, maybe in a little flat in Paris or Barcelona.

  1. I love novels that take place in a boarding school. Why have this novel take place in a boarding school, and more specifically what prompted you to select Montreal as the location for The Bonaventure Adventures?

It was the idea of a boarding school for future circus stars that drew me in. I figured you’d have the usual boarding school antics, but with acrobatics and juggling pins! It’s like my dream. And I set the story in Montreal because it’s such a unique city culturally, and like no place else in North America in terms of its vibrant circus scene.

  1. Sylvian loves his candy, and in fact has candy for breakfast. I will admit that I like cookies for breakfast once in a blue moon. Have you ever had candy for breakfast?

I think the question should be: how often in any given week do you eat chocolate for breakfast? Answer: way more often than I should probably admit to.


Huge thank you to Penguin Canada and Rachelle Delaney for their time in answering my questions and sharing this wonderful book with me. Remember that you can pick your copy up at your favourite local bookstore!

ARC Review – Speed of Life, by Carol Weston

Title: Speed of Life

Author: Carol Weston

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Sofia wonders if 14 might be the worst possible age to lose your mom. Talking with her dad about puberty and s-e-x is super-awkward (even though he is a gynecologist). And when she wants to talk about her mom, her friends don’t know what to say and her dad gets sad.

When Sofia discovers Dear Kate, an advice columnist from Fifteen magazine, she’s grateful to have someone to confide in about everything from crushes to mourning—someone who is completely, wonderfully anonymous. It feels ideal—until Sofia’s dad introduces her to his new girlfriend, Katherine Baird, a.k.a., Dear Kate…

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

If I am being honest, I wasn’t prepared for Speed of Life. Having read and adored Carol Weston’s Ava and Pip series, Speed of Life feels vastly different in a lot of ways. I felt a lot for the heroine, Sofia, who spends a lot of this novel trying to cope with the loss of her mother and the fact that her father is dating someone new.

A lot of Sofia’s feelings regarding the loss of her mother really resonated with me. I lost my mother last April and I admit, I’m still feeling a lot of grief and sadness. When Sofia talks about her smell, her clothes, anything reminiscent of her, I admit, it left me feeling really emotional. A lot of her feelings, people telling her how to deal with her grief, she’s super justified in her feelings. While I wouldn’t be brave enough to confide in someone such as “Dear Kate,” I thought this was an interesting way to tell the first half of Sofia’s story, especially given that Kate becomes the love interest.

There’s good characters in this series, even if the writing has some awkward moments — preferably at the beginning when reader’s are introduced to Kiki, Sofia’s bestie and “Dear Kate.” The story does fall on the much younger spectrum of YA — it’s not a bad thing, but I admit given the amount of YA I read, this threw me off a bit at first (the beginning reads so much closer to a middle grade novel to me). However, I think Weston dos do a great job of showing the reader a story where transition during a period of grief is challenging, even terrifying at times.

I think the support characters in this story are really well done. Kiki kind of urked me at first, but as the story went on she started to really grow on me. Same with Alexa and Kate. Weston’s characters are flawed in a great way — they aren’t likable at first but they are constantly trying to redeem themselves. Even Sofia’s dad, who you can tell is constantly trying to stay strong for his daughter. There is so much character growth in this story, and I love the way the book tries to acknowledge to the reader that change isn’t always a bad thing. It can be scary, but you never know what may be in store for you.

Speed of Life is a great read and one that offers a lot of depth to its readers. There’s great characters with a lot of heart and humour. Sofia is someone who becomes so strong and thoughtful throughout the course of the story. I really enjoyed my time with this book, and definitely would recommend it to younger YA readers.

ARC Review – Look Out for the Fitzgerald -Trouts by Esta Spalding

25648162Title:  Look Out for the Fitzgerald-Trouts

Author: Esta Spalding

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Kim Fitzgerald-Trout took to driving with ease–as most children would if their parents would ever let them try. She had to. After all, she and her siblings live in a car. Meet the Fitzgerald-Trouts, a band of four loosely related children living together in a lush tropical island. They take care of themselves. They sleep in their car, bathe in the ocean, eat fish they catch and fruit they pick, and can drive anywhere they need to go–to the school, the laundromat, or the drive-in. If they put their minds to it, the Fitzgerald-Trouts can do anything. Even, they hope, find a real home.

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

Sam’s Review:

Once in awhile I get sent a random book in the mail. Sometimes I look at it and I’m like “I am not sure this is for me” and other times I get really excited. When I got this gem in the mail, I wasn’t sure if it was going to be my jam, but then it was endorsed by my Book Angel, and she’s usually never wrong when it comes to quirky middle grade.

Look Out for the Fitzgerald-Trouts is a middle grade adventure starring four children who live in a car. There are numerous occasions where they parent the adults in the novel, and sometimes crazy antics ensue. I love a middle grade novel that is both hilarious as it is heartfelt, and that’s what this book gave me. The Fitzgerald-Trouts kids are delightful and memorable, from Pippa’s parenting skills, Kimo’s kindness, Kim’s antics, and Toby’s sweetness, all make for a rich characters in a fun story about finding “home.”

The humor in this book is very tongue-in-cheek and quirky, and the writing is playful. What I loved about this novel was how invested I got in the children’s story, and how I found myself comparing it to a more humorous very of classic tales of what it means to be trapped on an island. The way this book ends I can only hope there is a sequel (TELL ME THERE’S A SEQUEL?!).

But seriously, if you love an adventurous middle grade romp with sweet characters and great humor, then you need to meet with Look Out for the Fitzgerald-Trouts . You will laugh until your face turns blue, and seriously, don’t mess with Pippa.

ARC Review – A Week Without Tuesday (Tuesday McGillycuddy #2) by Angelica Banks

25332036Title: A Week Without Tuesday (Tuesday McGillycuddy #2)

Author: Angelica Banks

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Something is broken in the land of story. Real and imaginary worlds are colliding—putting everything and everyone in grave peril. Tuesday and Baxterr, at the request of the Librarian, and with the help of Vivienne Small, venture to find the Gardener—the one person who can stop this catastrophe. On their way, they’ll meet friends and foes, and discover strengths they didn’t know they had. Will they be able to save the land of story?

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

I adored Finding Serendipty. I realize books about girls and their dogs aren’t getting the greatest wrap right now, but I’m a complete and utter sucker for them. This is only the second instalment of the Tuesday McGillycuddy series, and I hope it’s not the last because I love these characters and this world so so much.

Tuesday is just such a delightful heroine, full of crazy and curiosities. This time around she is writing her novel, and all of a sudden the novel world and the real world begin to collide. With the help from Vivienne Small and the Librarian, they state that only the Gardener can fix this calamity from happening. Once again this book is full of charm and humour. I found myself laughing out loud quite a bit on the train ride home as I was reading this because Tuesday and Baxterr are just such a delight.

This series is just full of creativity and imagination. It’s one of those middle grade series that has the ability to hook itself to the reader and keep them guessing. This particular instalment is quite the adventure, and I was so excited to see more of Tuesday’s parents in this novel. In fact, I don’t think there is a character I didn’t like in this novel!

If you haven’t read Finding Serendipity, do yourself a favour and read that. Then go straight out afterwards and read this book too. This is such a gem of a series that has these magical powers to delight and entertain readers. If you love middle grade, or have a middle grader in your life who loves grand adventures with cheeky characters, then you need to get them hooked to this series.

Can I have book three yet? There has to be more! Please let there be more. ❤

 

ARC Review – This Was Not the Plan by Cristina Alger

25111016Title: This Was Not the Plan

Author:  Cristina Alger

Rating:  ★★★★★

Synopsis: Charlie Goldwyn’s life hasn’t exactly gone according to plan. Widowerhood at thirty-three and twelve-hour workdays have left a gap in his relationship with his quirky five-year-old son, Caleb, whose obsession with natural disasters and penchant for girls’ clothing have made him something of a loner at his preschool. The only thing Charlie has going for him is his job at a prestigious law firm, where he is finally close to becoming a partner.

But when a slight lapse in judgment at an office party leaves him humiliatingly unemployed, stuck at home with Caleb for the summer, and forced to face his own estranged father, Charlie starts to realize that there’s more to fatherhood than financially providing for his son, and more to being a son than overtaking his father’s successes.

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

Sam’s Review:

If I’m being honest, I don’t review a lot of a adult novels. It’s not because I don’t enjoy them, it’s usually because our blog has such a higher focus on young adult and middle grade. That being said, when I received This Was Not The Plan in the mail, part of me was a tad confused why I was getting it. Then I read the note inside from who sent it to me and decided I needed to give it a shot.

There’s not a lot of books out there that focus on male widows, let alone ones who are single parents. Charlie is a lawyer who works insane hours while his sister, Zadie, takes care of this son. When Charlie has a drunkin’ meltdown at a cocktail meeting, his feelings of what it means to be a corporate lawyer “protecting the bad guys” goes viral on YouTube, costing him his job. Forced to leave his position, it gives Charlie a chance to reconnect with his family, more particularly his son, in what turns out to be one of the crazy family reunions I’ve ever read about.

I loved Charlie as a character. Despite being uptight and very corporate, you get a sense that when he loses his job that “it wasn’t the plan.” Furthermore, this lack of planning continues to spiral in the novel, as so much more of his life goes from being planned to unplanned in the blink of an eye. He was married to a woman who didn’t believe in planning. Everything we learn about Charlie’s wife Mira is just interesting, and you get a sense that both characters couldn’t be more opposite to each other and yet they worked so well. The overarching theme of what it means to plan versus life just happening was quite inspiring at times, and it made for an engaging reading experience.

My favourite character by far was Zadie, though. She’s much more free-spirited and has a strong desire to teach her older brother how to live a little. The fact that he behaves like he is afraid to is part of the issue, but Zadie gives so much insight in terms of how living your life versus life living you can ultimately destroy a person’s well being. I also loved her relationship with Caleb, and I loved that she allowed him to express himself in any way he desired. I thought it was great how she also taught Charlie about how to accept Caleb’s openness for pink tutus and Dora the Explorer. I enjoyed that there wasn’t a romance really in this novel. Not that it would have been bad, but the author does this fantastic job of showing how Charlie just isn’t ready yet. Even if he thinks he’s ready, there’s that part of his that still hasn’t grieved his wife, that hasn’t had time to be the kind of dad he wants to be.

This novel is a fantastic read, and one that grabbed me right from the get-go. The characters in this novel are imperfect, but loveable. This is for lovers of contemporary fiction, and those who love stories about family. This Was Not The Plan ended up being a surprise favourite for me, and I hope others check it out and enjoy the overall message it illustrates.

 

ARC Review – Joyride by Anna Banks

25082330Title: Joyride

Author: Anna Banks

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: It’s been several years since Carly Vega’s parents were deported. Carly lives with her older brother, studies hard, and works the graveyard shift at a convenience store to earn enough to bring her parents back from Mexico.

Arden Moss used to be the star quarterback at school. He used to date popular blondes and have fun pranking with his older sister. But now all that’s changed, and Arden needs a new accomplice. Especially one his father, the town sheriff, will disapprove.?

All Carly wants, at first, is to stay under the radar and do what her family expects. All Arden wants is to not do what his family expects. When their paths cross, they each realize they’ve been living according to the wishes of others. Carly and Arden’s journey toward their true hearts – and one another– is funny, romantic, and sometimes harsh. Just like real life.

Huge thank you to Feiwel & Friends and Netgalley for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Joyride‘s cover was very deceiving to me. It looked like it could have been a fluffy romance, and it wasn’t! Actually, I gotta hand it to Anna Banks, because Joyride‘s opening chapter is easily one of the most memorable and even quotable moments of the book.

Who doesn’t love a young Latina welding a shotgun to protect her cheesy Breezy Mart? And that’s just it, Carla is hard damn core, but that’s actually not even the reason to love her. Carla is one of those heroines who gets labeled by others as being a certain way and she’s anything butt. Her encounter in the beginning of the novel is an interesting one, as I admit, I didn’t care for Arden much. He grew on me though.

The roots of Joyride really are an old fashioned immigration story, the kind where some are fortunate to be in one place, wanting to bring the rest of their family over. Carla and Julio break their backs, and pour their blood, sweat and tears, to make it so their parents can cross the border, and let’s just say the siblings face far more obstacles than is easy to deal with.

And here’s the thing, there’s a romance in this story. However, it’s an insanely well developed, organic kind of romance where you see the tensions rise between Arden and Carla — they start off completely on the wrong foot! Yet, Banks develops their relationship into something you can cheer for. Arden and Carla’s relationship felt very real and it was tested in so many ways. I found myself turning the pages because I wanted to see how their relationship would grow and mature, and I feel like Banks nails it.

The characters in Joyride are fantastically well developed considering how short the novel is. You understand every character’s motive, their reasoning and rational for their behaviour, and while it isn’t always pleasant, Banks keeps you guessing when it comes to building a resolve for each one. You want to read about Carla’s successes and failures, you want to see Arden discover who he wants to become, and you care about Julio’s dreams and desires because it’s realistic.

The writing in Joyride is punchy, humorous, and Banks really knows how to balance the humour from the seriousness of the main storyline. If there’s any small criticism I have of the book, it took me awhile to deal with the going back and forth between first and third person, but Carla and Arden have very unique voices and descriptions, so as I eased into it, the more it started to work for me.

Joyride is the kind of book that starts off with a bang, and ends with an even bigger one. It’s a page-turner with well developed characters and an interesting story about love, family, and making tough decisions in a situation where you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. I absolutely fell in love with Carla, and she’s the kind of heroine that her flaws are as wonderfully well developed as her strengths. Joyride is a roller-coaster from beginning to end and the ride is crazy from the get go.