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Book Riot’s Read Harder 2017 Challenge – May Reads

With May winding to a close, I can safely say, YAY! And by that I mean, I read more books for my Book Riot Read Harder challenge than I did in the month of April. How wonderfully unexpected, am I right? Plus, I liked the majority of what I read for the challenges as well. Let’s see how May faired.


The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Completes Challenge #7: Read a book published between 1900 and 1950.

Note: This book was originally published in 1911.

Thoughts: So hilariously, I never read this book as a child. I remember owning an “easy-reader” version, but somewhere a long the line this was just a book I never bothered to pick up. Which is a real shame that I am doing it so late in life given how much I love A Little Princess. I found The Secret Garden to be a really enchanting book, and I found myself very invested in all of the characters and the mystery behind the garden itself. I oddly loved Mary, even when she was being a brat (and I am not always fond of the “bratty child”). It’s funny too because I often find classics fairly difficult to read, but this one I was compulsively turning pages because I felt so absorbed in the story. So glad I finally gave this one a go!


Difficult Women by Roxane Gay

Completes Challenge #22: Read a collection of stories by a woman.

Thoughts: Difficult Women is one of those short story collections that is incredibly raw from story to story. Many of what Gay’s heroines portray are women who are “difficult” in the sense that they are unconventional, not following specific female binaries, and they are intense. Some of the stories are very heartbreaking, tragic, others are hopeful. There’s an honesty in Gay’s writing that makes each story compulsively readable. If you like short story collections, this is a great read.

My favourite stories were: La Negra Blanca, Difficult Women, and I Am a Knife. Though seriously, every story is pretty captivating.


Neither Here Nor There by Bill Bryson

Completes Challenge #8: Read a travel memoir.

Thoughts: I adore Bill Bryson and he’s one of the few non-fiction writer’s I actually try to keep up with. I usually find his brand of humour coupled with being informative to be something that gels with me easily. However, Neither Here Nor There is so far my least favourite Bill Bryson book to date that I’ve read. I usually love his travel memoirs because I feel like he does this great job of making the reader feel like they are there with him, but this one, likely due to how old it is, lacked in that department for me. I found Bryson’s antics a little frustrating, and he does more complaining than he does sharing anecdotal information. This book did have some glimmering moments that I personally enjoyed, but overall I found this book to be lacking in the fun-informative department.

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Book Riot’s Read Harder 2017 Challenge – April Reads

April was a slow month for my Read Harder Challenge. In fact, I only completed one challenge for the challenge, which is pretty damn pitiful if you ask me. Usually I try to knock out two or three, but I got very into just reading what I felt like during the month and it was good to do that.


Here’s the only challenge I completed:

 The Sound of Water: Haiku by Basho, Buson, Issa, and Other Poets by Sam Hamill

Completes Challenge #23: Read a collection of poetry in translation on a theme other than love.

Thoughts: This was a surprisingly difficult challenge to complete given I’m not the biggest poetry reader, and the majority of published poetry is often about love or relationships. Then I remembered I had a background in East Asian Studies and was like “I could read Basho again!” Through my work I found this tiny little collection of haiku from the greats such as Basho, Busan and Issa. A lot of the poems focused on meditative states and the evolution of life. This was a very quick, easy, and thoughtful collection of relaxing poems to read!


Here’s hoping May is a better month for completing challenges! However, I am really glad to have knocked this one out giving how much trouble it was giving me at first.

Five Books I Want to Read This April By New To Me Authors

One of the reading challenges that was provided to me by a friend for the month of April was to read more books by authors who were new to me. I own so many books by authors I’ve never read before but having been dying to check out for years. I thought I’d share with you guys five books I hope to tackle this month but authors who are definitely new to me, or who may be debut authors who I may want to read more of in the future.

I Believe in a Thing Called Love
by Maurene Goo (Release Date: May 30th 2017 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)

I saw this book while I was at OLA back in Feburary, and had been at Raincoast Books booth. The cover really caught my attention, and when I read th back, I knew it would be the kind of contemporary story I’d adore. This book is for the Kdrama fans, and those who love fun romance fluff. I also like that the heroine feels like Kdramas are going to be the way to understanding romance and dating. I am very excited to read this book, and isn’t the cover adorable? IT’S ADORABLE.

When Dimple Met Rishi
by Sandhya Menon (Release Date: May 30th 2017 by Simon Pulse)

This is an upcoming debut that I have been so excited to read since it appeared on my doorstep. If I am being honest, part of me wished I had read it as soon as I had gotten it, while the other half of me kept saying “No, wait until closer to release.” I’ve only heard positive things about When Dimple Met Rishi both as a romance novel and as a comedy. While I am not always the biggest romance lover, books like this one come along and they basically scream “SHUT UP YOU LIKE ROMANCE NOW READ ME.” Also I love reading about other cultures and this comes from the perspective of two Indian-American teens whose families want to instill parts of their culture that don’t necessarily work nicely with American culture. I feel like this is going to be a very fun read.

Short
by Holly Goldberg Sloan (Released on January 31st 2017 by Dial Books)

So I am going to point out that I actually own two books by this author (the other being Counting By 7s) and somehow I haven’t read anything by her yet? Many of my friends who I trust and who love middle grade adore Holly Goldberg Sloan’s books. Short definitely caught my eye because it’s focuses on The Wizard of Oz, which I LOVE. Regardless, this month I am going to read one of her books. The ultimate question really will be which one!

Prep School Confidential (Prep School Confidential #1)
by Kara Taylor (Released on July 30th 2013 by St. Martin’s Griffin)

Over the years, Molly my amazing co-blogger has sent me lots of books. This particular series is one she sent me her extra copy of and told me it was a fun and quick read. I’ve been needing more fun and quick in my life, and I feel like this is the kind of silly teen mystery novel that will just pass the time and be delightfully entertaining. It’ll be good to get some non-ARCs off my TBR this month!

The Girl with All the Gifts (The Girl With All The Gifts #1)
by M.R. Carey (Released on June 19th 2014 by Orbit)

So I have had my copy of The Girl With All the Gifts since last summer and still haven’t read it. Story of my life. The worst part is that this book has insane hype behind it, every friend who has read it has loved the living crap out of it, and I’ve been told it’s just one of those highly originally stories that seems to stick with you long after the story is over. I need to get back into reading more adult fiction, and clearly I need to make time to read this beloved novel. I feel like this book is totally up my alley and I keep going “I’ll get to it later!” Real answer however: NEED TO READ SOONER NOT LATER.

So these are five books by five authors I’ve never read that I’d like to tackle soon. Have you read any of these books? If so, please let me know in the comments of what you thought of any of them. I am always happy to hear varying opinions.

Book Riot’s Read Harder 2017 Challenge – March Reads

March is almost over, and much like February, I didn’t complete as many of the challenges I would have liked. Truthfully I got way too obsessed with some of the personal reading challenges I gave myself this month, and my husband’s silly challenge of reading as many blue books (blue on the cover, on the spine, just blue) as I could. I read quite a few, not going to lie. Still, I managed to complete two more challenges on my read harder journey. Here’s what I read in March!


King Baby by Kate Beaton

Completes Challenge #9: Read a book you’ve read before.

Thoughts: I recognize that picking a picture book may seem like cheating, but my goal this year is to read books I own and haven’t read, so I knew this challenge would be challenging given my own reading goals for the year. However, I ended up rereading King Baby for an interview I did where I had to perform storytime. I sadly didn’t get the position, but I will admit how much fun it was to reread this book to adults during the interview process. This book is still so funny, quirky, and I need one of those King Baby plushies that exist. Or a Queen Baby plushie. I maintain that my husband reads this book out loud better than I do. Seriously if you have wee ones, this is a must read!


Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War by Mary Roach

Completes Challenge #14: Read a book about war.

Thoughts: For this Book Riot Challenge, I decided to read a non-fiction book about war, and one that was more science-based than historical. I love Mary Roach’s writing, and adored Packing for Mars, but Grunt feels like a very different book. It has Roach’s humour and her methodical breaks downs for how different things work, but this was definitely a much more challenging read to get through. For starters, I am not really interested in books about war, and two: there’s some stuff in this book is really not for the faint of heart. Roach describes things like penis transplants, diarrhea, and others aspects of the military that are unique and challenging to say the least. I learned not to eat while reading this book. It’s very informative and very accessible, and I liked it given it gave me a different perspective on war that I didn’t think was actual possible.


When Everything Feels Like the Movies by Raziel Reid

Completes Challenge #21Read a book published by a micropress.

Note: This book is published by Arsenal Pulp Press.

Thoughts: This book is a very difficult read, and it’s a book that doesn’t shy away from anything. It’s vulgar, it’s raw, and it doesn’t pull any punches. I both enjoyed and found this book frustrating. I really found myself disliking how Jude treated any friends he had in the story, but I weirdly loved his self-absorbed world where he was the movie star and everyone else the players. I feel like Reid nails that voice and nails that presentation throughout the story, to the point where it is so believable to both Jude and the reader. I also found the ending to be so difficult and given some of the hints in the story it was bound to happen. The writing had some awkward moments for me though. This book is definitely not for everyone, and if you can’t stomach sexual content or vulgarity, I would advise not touching this book with a ten foot pole.

 

Five Books I Am Jazzed About Thanks to #FrenzyPresents

Last Sunday I had the amazing opportunity to visit the Harper Collins Canada main office in Toronto. The Harper Collins Frenzy team focuses on YA fiction, especially promoting new and up-and-coming Canadian YA titles as well. This event that they hosted focused on Spring and Summer releases, and they have quite an exciting crop of titles coming out in 2017. I thought I’d share with you all the five I am most jazzed about.25752164

That Thing We Call a Heart
by Sheba Karim (Release Date: May 9th 2017)

When Suman, our MC for the afternoon began discussing That Thing We Called Heart, I was immediately intrigued. This book tells the story of Shabnam Qureshi, a young Pakistani-American who attends a private school in New Jersey. When her best friend, Farah, starts wearing the headscarf, it begins to change their friendship forever. This a book about racism, race, cultural clash, family, and self-discovery. I have an ARC of this book and it is surprisingly small looking, but given all the things I’ve mentioned above, I’m excited to see the kind of punch it’s going to pack when I get the chance to read it.

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Fireworks
by Katie Cotugno (Release Date: April 18th 2017)

I loved Katie Cotugno’s debut How to Love, but I admit my indifference towards 99 Days. However, Fireworks has me reaaaaaally excited given it is written for the boy/girl band geek in all of us. I won’t lie: I am complete and utter trash for books about pop bands, as they were and have been a large guilty pleasure of mine for years. I still maintain that “Backstreet’s Back” has one of the best music videos of all time! (Seriously, come at me bro if you disagree). But seriously, this book sounds like it has Cotugno’s signature style, and I expect at least one moment of ugly crying out of me once I read it.

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The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue
by Mackenzi Lee (Release Date:  June 27th 2017)

So according to every person I know, I need to read this book. Apparently it is the most delightful romp ever, with absolutely delightful characters. Molly swears by this book (but that also might be because she and Mackenzi are friends), but I’ll be honest, this just sounds like a book I would adore. Apparently this book has gay romance, swashbuckling pirates, and streaking. What more do you want from a fun historical read? I definitely can’t wait to devour this one. It’s a chunky book, but I bet it reads fast!

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Ramona Blue
by Julie Murphy (Release Date: May 9th 2017)

So there’s a lot of positive and negative buzz surround Julie Murphy’s latest. Frankly, I am already in enough trouble given how much I loved Murphy’s debut, but somehow have not read the infamous Dumplin’ (a book that I was stoked for and it somehow slipped off my radar. I suck, you guys). I feel like Ramona Blue is going to have a lot of what I already love about Julie Murphy’s books: strong heroine, tough situations, and I think the way this book is premised is partially why it’s getting the negative reaction that it is. Truthfully, I love seeing bi-rep in books, and I’m curious to see how this story will unfold once I read it.

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The Upside of Unrequited
by Becky Albertalli (Release Date:  April 11th 2017)

Of course this book is on the list. I want it. Give it to me now. NOW. NOW. NOW. NOW. The wait is so hard for this one. I need more fun that is a Becky Albertalli book in my life RIGHT NOW.

And no, I’m not going to write something cohesive in regards to the book. I just want it. Or I can just reread Simon until it releases. Whichever.

And these are the five books I cannot wait to star reading or get my paws on. There was a lot of interesting titles being shown, but I really found myself gravitating towards the contemporary line up (are we surprised?). A huge thank you again to Harper Collins Canada for the invite, the wonderful company, and of course, the swag. I cannot wait to check all the above and below books out, though I swear I am going to need another book shelf with the way 2017 is looking for book releases.

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Book Riot’s Read Harder 2017 Challenge – February Reads

With February having just recently ended, it’s time to check in on the Book Riot Read Harder 2017 Challenge. This month I only managed to complete two challenges, which isn’t as much as January, but I am still happy with the results all the same.

Let’s see what was read, shall we?


30102870History is All You left Me by Adam Silvera

Completes Challenge #15Read a YA or middle grade novel by an author who identifies as LGBTQ+.

Thoughts: I read History is All You Left Me in the course of a day. When I wasn’t reading it, I was constantly thinking about it. This is a beautifully written book about a boy who loses his first love at a young age and it alternates between present time and the past. Griffin and Theo’s friendship-turned-relationship is organic, it’s vibrant, and you see how they bring the best out of each other. Silvera has this knack for making you laugh on one page, and then gut punching you on the next. This is a great LGBT romance novel, and I highly recommend it.


17296690He Said, She Said by Kwame Alexander

Completes Challenge #24Read a book wherein all point-of-view characters are people of color.

Thoughts: Okay, so I am really heartbroken about this. I have been loving the hell out of Kwame Alexander’s books, but this one I am sad to say fell short for me. Which sucks because this is his first novel that I’ve read that isn’t in verse. The romance in this book was grating, corny, and I struggled so much with Omar’s character. On the opposite, I adored Claudia to pieces and I loved how important the cause in the story was to her. I think Alexander does a great job handling topics like abortion, teen pregnancy, but the characters and writing in this book fall short of what I feel he is better capable of. I found the side characters to be very flat (also I hated the way Fast Freddie was written). But yeah, there’s great ideas and the political side of this book is great. It’s just too bad it’s the smaller part of this novel.

Still love ya, Kwame Alexander. I still think you’re prose is beautiful.

Why You Should Read Company Town by Madeline Ashby (A Not Review!)

20447745I have been an avid follower of the CBC’s Canada Reads program for the last couple of years. For those who are unfamiliar, Canada Reads is a “Battle of the Books” in which Canadian celebrities, entrepreneurs and personalities champion a book that they feel all of Canada should read. This year’s event begins on March 27th with five contenders:

The Right to Be Cold by Sheila Watt-Cloutier
Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis
Company Town by Madeline Ashby
The Break by Katherena Vermette
Nostalgia by M.G. Vassanji

Today, I want to focus a bit on why you should read Company Town by Madeline Ashby, and why it’s an important book to be included in this year’s Canada Reads.

  1. It’s SCIENCE FICTION! In the case of most literary awards that are out there, science fiction tends to often get snubbed because it’s not considered “literary.” What people forget is that science fiction has the power to provide “what ifs” that could become potential dangerous realities. Don’t believe me? Consider why George Orwell’s 1984 is selling so hotly right now.
  2. It focuses on the Maritime provinces, and even though the book is science fiction, the feeling of how the Maritime provinces are represented here feel very authentic. There is a feeling of isolation, hard work, loneliness, and discomfort that is common throughout the novel, and Ashby does an amazing job of evoking these emotions and having it play on the readers sense of both New Arcadia and the character of Hwa.
  3. It stars a bad-ass, non-augmented Korean woman named Hwa. She will kick your ass. No really. To be fair to Hwa’s character, she’s incredibly compelling as a heroine, and Ashby does an amazing job of making her feel so vibrant and alive in a world that feels so phony on the outside.
  4. It’s a page-turner. I literally blew through this book in a day because I found the writing style and the story so engaging. The themes are really easy to grasp, but Ashby does an amazing job of getting readers to question reality and the Lynch Family who basically have New Arcadia in the palm of their hands. There’s an amazing amount of back-and-forth and this is on top of a series of murders that Hwa somehow gets roped into investigating.
  5. There is wonderful social commentary about Canadian economics and politics, masquerading in this high octane story. Like I said, I found myself moving swiftly through this book and long after I was finished, I was still thinking about a lot of what happened in the story, and how it can potential relate to now.
  6. There is augmented people. Augmentation is fascinating.

There’s a my fangirlish ramblings on why you should check out Company Town. I hope to read and share some thoughts about some of the other Canada Reads nominees as I read them, but if they are anything like Company Town, they will be easy to recommend. I am definitely looking forward to checking out more of Madeline Ashby’s books, and if you love science fiction, this book really is worth checking out. It left an amazing impression on me!