Tag Archives: harper collins canada

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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ARC Review – The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

32075671Title: The Hate U Give

Author: Angie Thomas

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful and gripping YA novel about one girl’s struggle for justice.

Huge thank you to Harper Collins Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Finishing The Hate U Give left me quite emotional. It left me thoughtful. It left me angry. Throughout the novel I found myself so angry and emotional for Starr and her family. I felt so much sadness and empathy for Khalil. I hate that this is a reality in a lot of ways. We are living in a culture of assumption, and Angie Thomas showcases in a lot of ways how evil this really can be. Khalil is unarmed and killed by a police officer. He never has the chance to give his side of the story and it kills me inside that this keeps happening.

Starr’s is a beautifully written heroine for this story. Thomas does an amazing job of developing her so organically throughout the story, as we see her transform from someone who was unable to speak up, to someone who becomes so strong willed and full of conviction. I really loved her relationship with Chris, her boyfriend, as I thought that the way in which Thomas handles their differences was done quite impeccably (and their love of the Fresh Prince was hilarious and awesome). I also like how Thomas showcases how friends can fallout due to a lack of understanding. Not going to lie, but there were numerous times where I just wanted to scream at Hallie for her ignorance. Hallie made me angry, but it’s because she felt so realistic. Her ignorance made me scream.

I also loved Starr’s relationship with her siblings and I thought that was wonderfully organic in the story. I also loved how close she was with her extended family members (I really loved Uncle Carlos), and I loved how she portrays Garden Heights. In a lot of ways, where Starr lives feels like it’s own character as she gives you this portrait of such a run-down, yet well loved neighborhood that yes, has it’s share of crime, but it also has such a wonderfully devoted community (and this is shown beautifully in the book’s ending). Starr has so many people she wants to protect, but more importantly she is wrestling with her own personal demons because she is fighting to figure out what the best course of action is. Khalil is not the first person she watched die, and yet she fights to figure out what she can do to make a larger difference.

We need more stories like this. More stories that show how love can fight corruption. There’s a reason why groups like Black Lives Matter HAVE TO EXIST, and it’s situations like Khalil’s where we have to fight even harder because it’s inexcusable. I loved towards the end of the novel when they are protesting and sharing “A hairbrush is not a gun!” because it shows how people make assumptions and in the end people get hurt or worse, killed because we assume and react.

I loved The Hate U Give. I loved the story, I loved the characters, I felt for these people, which shows how good a book this truly is. Not only is it an emotional debut, but it will leave you thoughtful and angry at the world and how it’s changing for the worse. We need to change it for the better, we need to be stronger, and I can only wish that more of us were like Starr. I was glued from page one, and when I wasn’t reading The Hate U Give, I was still constantly thinking about it. This book is powerful, and I can only hope that many readers will love it as strongly as I have.

ARC Review – The Valiant (The Valiant #1) by Lesley Livingston

30320008Title: The Valiant (The Valiant #1)

Author: Lesley Livingston

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: The youngest daughter of a proud Celtic king, Fallon has always lived in the shadow of her older sister Sorcha’s legendary reputation as a warrior. But when Fallon was a young child, the armies of Julius Caesar invaded the island of Britain and her beloved older sister was killed in battle.

On the eve of her seventeenth birthday, Fallon is excited to follow in her sister’s footsteps and earn her rightful place in her father’s royal war band. But she never gets the chance. Instead, Fallon is captured by a band of ruthless brigands who sell her to an exclusive training school for female gladiators—and its most influential patron is none other than Julius Caesar himself. In a cruel twist of fate, Fallon’s worst enemy, the man who destroyed her family, might be her only hope of survival.

Now, Fallon must overcome vicious rivalries, chilling threats and the dangerous attention of Caesar himself to survive the deadly fights that take place both in and out of the arena—and claim her place in history among the Valiant.

Huge thank you to Harper Collins Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I am so excited that this is becoming a series, because daaaaaaaaamn The Valiant is a fun read. I’ve read nearly every book Lesley Livingston has written, but I swear she continues to up her game with each new book she writes. This book is about badass lady gladiators, and that alone makes me pretty amazing, let me tell you.

I adored Fallon as a heroine, and I thought she was just amazing. She’s strong, she has conviction, she demands the best of herself. She has such a strong will, making her someone I think that a lot of women can relate to or aspire to. I loved the politics in Livingston’s version of the Roman Empire, and I think the book shows that a lot of research was done for the sake of historical accuracy. The world that Fallon lives in feels so hopeless, filled with hardship and terror. It makes the reader feel as though they are a part of Fallon’s world.

Also some of the twists and turns in this book? They were so awesome. They didn’t feel predictable, they didn’t feel out of place, and these moments really showed how great of a storyteller Livingston is. I just found myself so connected to Fallon and her world. I really also found myself disliking a lot of the male characters in the novel, because they were just dreadful human beings. Though, I did like the romance in this story, even if it felt a bit conventional at times. Can I also say I loved Nyx? Because I kinda loved her even if she was kind of malicious. She also just screamed badass woman with intense raw power.

The sisterhood, the glory, the area, the characters, the history — The Valiant really feels like a complete package. There is just so much action and suspense topped with excellent characterization. I seriously cannot wait for the arrival of book two given how this novel ended, and I can only image how much more fierce of a world of Rome will be. Seriously, if you love history and awesome ladies, pick up The Valiant ASAP.

Five 2016 Middle Grade Novels that Deserve Your Attention

It’s been awhile since I’ve really focused on middle grade, even though it is my bread and butter. While I’ve posted a lot of reviews for middle grade titles, I will say that 2016 was an exceptionally solid year for this age group, with some absolutely fantastic titles that really stole my heart given what an emotionally draining year it’s been for me. Here’s five middle grade titles that came out in 2016 that you really should make some time for.

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The Wild Robot by Peter Brown

This is the miraculous tale of Roz, a robot who gets lost in the wildness and is forced to survive, despite the fact that she is a robot with no survival instincts. Trapped on a remote island, Roz must figure out how to survive given her own limitations. This novel is beautifully written, very descriptive, and Roz is such a wonderful heroine. Yes, she’s a robot, but she is a robot who I felt great sympathy towards throughout this novel, and I think Peter Brown does an amazing job capturing her limited emotions in a way that makes the reader really grow to love Roz.

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Pax by Sara Pennypacker

This book is a gut-punch of emotions. It’s the story of a boy who raises a fox kit and is forced by his father to set it back in the wild. Both the boy and the kit need one another, and it’s the story of how they are lost and then found. This book has left me an emotional mess at times, and I think it’s why I read it as slowly as I did. Coupled with Jon Klassen’s beautiful illustrations, Pax is one of those reads that you need to make sure you have a Kleenex box handy for.

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Finding Perfect by Elly Swartz

Finding Perfect is an amazing debut middle grade novel. Molly is a heroine that lovable and I think she is someone readers will also be able to relate to regardless of age. More importantly, I am glad this novel exists given that it does an amazing job depicting what life is like with OCD, let alone for a young girl who has suffered a lot of loss and disappointment in her life. However, despite all the sadness she faces, Molly’s kindness is admirable and her journey is wonderful, yet hard. This is definitely one of those middle grade novels that leaves you thinking once the story is long over.

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The Magnificent Mya Tibbs and the Spirit Week Showdown by Crystal Allen

This gem was a random surprise I received from an associate at Harper Collins Canada who found out my mother had died and wanted to send me a pick-me-up. Mya Tibbs is now one of my most recommended middle grade novels at the library I work at. Why? Because Crystal Allen’s amazing heroine teaches so much to her readers and does it with humour, kindness and a lot of sass. Mya is fun, and I keep hoping she’ll receive more books in her future. This book is amazing and it does a great job of showing how different people can be, and how we can work with each other’s differences to do unstoppable things.

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Mighty Jack by Ben Hatke

Ben Hatke is one of my favourite writer’s and artist’s out there. He often has this amazing ability to tell a story and craft some very genuine characters on top of his amazing and well-defined artwork. This story is not only a retelling of Jack and the Beanstock, but it also discusses disability, friendship, and it takes the tale and spins it on its head. The only downer? The nasty cliffhanger which still has be going “I NEED BOOK TWO NAAAAAO.” This is an amazing graphic novel, and easily one of the best that came out in 2016.

Seriously, it was hard to narrow down a lot of the best 2016 middle grade reads, but I feel like these ones are all winners. Here’s hoping 2017 has some amazing and equally thoughtful middle grade reads. 🙂

ARC Review – Every Hidden Thing by Kenneth Oppel

28374370Title: Every Hidden Thing

Author: Kenneth Oppel

Rating:  ★★★

Synopsis: Somewhere in the Badlands, embedded deep in centuries-buried rock and sand, lies the skeleton of a massive dinosaur, larger than anything the late nineteenth-century world has ever seen. Some legends call it the Black Beauty, with its bones as black as ebony, but to seventeen-year-old Samuel Bolt, it’s the “rex,” the king dinosaur that could put him and his struggling, temperamental archaeologist father in the history books (and conveniently make his father forget he’s been kicked out of school), if they can just quarry it out.

But Samuel and his father aren’t the only ones after the rex. For Rachel Cartland this find could be her ticket to a different life, one where her loves of science and adventure aren’t just relegated to books and sitting rooms. And if she can’t prove herself on this expedition with her professor father, the only adventures she may have to look forward to are marriage or spinsterhood.

As their paths cross and the rivalry between their fathers becomes more intense, Samuel and Rachel are pushed closer together. Their flourishing romance is one that will never be allowed. And with both eyeing the same prize, it’s a romance that seems destined for failure. As their attraction deepens, danger looms on the other side of the hills, causing everyone’s secrets to come to light and forcing Samuel and Rachel to make a decision. Can they join forces to find their quarry, and with it a new life together, or will old enmities and prejudices keep them from both the rex and each other?

Sam’s Review:

Huge thank you to Harper Collins Canada for this ARC!

As a Canadian, I am insanely embarrassed to say that this is my first book by Kenneth Oppel. I work in a public library, and he is beloved by Canadian middle graders and teens and yet somehow I just never got around to reading his novels. That was until I was handed a copy of Every Hidden Thing, his latest YA release, and this is one of the rare cases where the book’s blurb is actually quite spot on.

This book is basically Romeo and Juliet, if it were in theIndiana Jones-verse. We have two star-crossed lover teens whose fathers are bitter rivals in the archaeology business. Convinced that their fathers are both jerks, the two begin to take comfort in each other and romance ensues. The pitch is PERFECT and I will say, Oppel knows how to weave together a story that borrows from so many different genres and make it work.

I will say though, I love Indiana Jones, but despise Romeo and Juliet, and yet this book worked in a lot of ways. I think the story beats were really well thought out, but the characters were definitely lacking for me and I struggled to get attached. I will say, I appreciated the way in which Oppel hands Sam and Rachel’s sexual encounter, as it’s very thoughtfully done, but it’s also very Romeo and Juliet-esque.

I think the main thing I struggled with was the method of how the story was told. Two different fonts work simultaneously through out the story, one representing Sam, and one Rachel. Sometimes I found their voices a bit too similar, and found I had to really pay attention to the font to ensure that I understood which character’s mind I was in. I wish the book had broken up the POVs in a way where it didn’t read so confusingly, and while I think some will like the style, it didn’t jive with me a lot of the time. I enjoyed the story though and that is what kept me going.

Every Hidden Thing is a very interesting read given the genre mashup that it is. While I wasn’t in love with this book, it did make me curious in wanting to check out some of Kenneth Oppel’s other works because there’s definitely a sense of uniqueness that felt undeniable.

 

ARC Review – This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

23299512Title: This Savage Song

Author:  Victoria Schwab

Rating:  ★★★★ / ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: The city of Verity has been overrun with monsters, born from the worst of human evil. In North Verity, the Corsai and the Malchai run free. Under the rule of Callum Harker, the monsters kill any human who has not paid for protection. In the South, Henry Flynn hunts the monsters who cross the border into his territory, aided by the most dangerous and darkest monsters of them all—the Sunai, dark creatures who use music to steal their victim’s souls.

As one of only three Sunai in existence, August Flynn has always wanted to play a bigger role in the war between the north and the south. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate Harker, daughter of the leader of North Verity, August jumps on it.
When Kate discovers August’s secret, the pair find themselves running for their lives and battling monsters from both sides of the wall. As the city dissolves into chaos, it’s up to them to foster a peace between monsters and humans.

Huge thank you to Greenwillow Books / Harper Collins Canada for this ARC!

Molly’s Review:

TBH this is a low 4 stars. Not quite 3.5. Idk. I liked this but at the same time I felt like I’d already experienced this story and these characters somewhere else. The closest I can get is that it’s a mix of two Japanese anime; D.Gray Man & Tokyo Ghoul. But even then I feel like I’m missing another title or movie that I’ve already seen.

The characters are cliche but enjoyable. There’s not a lot going on for the first half of the book. If you want solid explanations on the HOW and WHY you aren’t really going to get it. If you’re okay with vague ideas then you’ll be set.

This is also a super quick read despite the length (big font and short lines on the page). It is compelling, but didn’t live up to the OMG hype for me. It also didn’t disappoint but that might be because, for me, Schwab isn’t an OMG FAV, but just another author who’s work I enjoy.

Sam’s Review:
I adore Victoria Scwab’s books. They are often very imaginative and easy to get sucked into when it comes to story and characters. Here’s the thing, I LOVED This Savage Song but read it reminded me a lot of watching anime. It’s an exciting, crazy read, but it feels like something I have, admittedly, encountered before.

This Savage Song explores a world that is divided by humans and monsters. Both struggle to exist together, and this also gives us our two protagonists: Kate and August, one human and one monster, and their common goals. This idea of humans and monsters co-existing is nothing new, but I actually loved our heroes and thought they were a lot of fun to follow around, even if they were a touch cliche. Part of the issue with this book is that the world does take a long time to develop, and there’s a lot of vagueness. Sometimes I don’t mind that, but in this case, having a lot of the world be more fleshed out would have been a bit more of a benefit.

Despite the the vagueness, which sometimes made me feel a bit lost, this book was compulsively readable and it was like reading candy. I kept turning the pages, wanting to read and know more, and when I didn’t get more, I still didn’t seem to mind because I was just so glued to trying to understand anything and everything that was going on. I do hope some of the vaguer aspects of the world gets explored in the sequel, because I WANT TO KNOW MORE. The ending worked so well for me, and around the two hundred page mark, I was really glued to trying to figure out the story.

I do think there’s a lot of action and fun with This Savage Song, but for me it wasn’t perfect. In fact, it was far from perfect because even though I was so glued to the pages, there was a lot of cliches and vagueness that just felt there and needed a bit more explaination. The characters are fun, cheeky, and that ending does have me sold to see where things go. Plys the lack of romance in this novel worked insanely well to its advantage and will say that watching Kate and August’s friendship blossom was an absolute delight. I still wanted more about the monsters, more about the world, more about the Harkers.

If you are a die-hard Victoria Schwab fan, I still think you will find merit here, but it’s not a book I would recommend as a starting point. It did, inevitably leave me wanting more information, and I think if more had been explained, this would have been a slam dunk for me.

Late to the Party Review – The Magnificent Mya Tibbs: Spirit Week Showdown by Crystal Allen

25081701Title: The Magnificent Mya Tibbs: Spirit Week Showdown

Author: Crystal Allen

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Nine-year-old Mya Tibbs is boot-scootin’ excited for the best week of the whole school year—SPIRIT WEEK! She and her megapopular best friend, Naomi Jackson, even made a pinky promise to be Spirit Week partners so they can win the big prize: special VIP tickets to the Fall Festival!

But when the partner picking goes horribly wrong, Mya gets paired with Mean Connie Tate—the biggest bully in school. And she can’t get out of it.

Huge thank you to Harper Collins Canada for this finished copy!

Sam’s Review:

Mya Tibbs is going to be one of those series that I am going to relish for next installment as I complete each book. There is this genuine quality to Crystal Allen’s story of a young black girl who wants to be herself but also be friends with those in her class. Mya wants to be a cowgirl. Mya wants to win Spirit Week for her “best friend” Naomi. Mya wants to do the right thing, and she wants to be appreciated.

I loved this story and I could identify with Mya’s troubles in elementary school because they happened to me. Mya’s best friend Naomi is so problematic as a character and it makes her a wonderful foil. Naomi wants to be the most important person in all her friend’s lives, she wants to be the star, and if she is betrayed, she takes it pretty personally. This begins a lot of Mya Tibbs’ story, along with her being paired with the school bully for Spirit Week, hence the “Showdown.”

What I adored about this novel is that Mya’s problems, her resolve, and her kindness felt so realistic, and I love the way she is written such tenacity. She’s a sweetheart, and every time she got into trouble I completely felt for her. I also loved the relationship that blossoms between Mya and Connie as it felt very organic in the story, and not forced in the slightest. I loved Connie’s secret and the way in which Mya fell in love with it as well.

There is just so much so adore about Mya Tibbs, and I cannot wait to see what new friendships and adventures she will have. I think this is the start of a fantastic middle grade series!