Tag Archives: historical fiction

Five Titles from #FrenzyPresents That I Need to Get My Paws On!

Over the weekend I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Harper Collins Canada for their Spring #FrenzyPresents event. This event happens every few months to showcase what upcoming YA titles are on their way out to the shelves. I always love these events if only because the Frenzy crew really shows such amazing enthusiasm and passion for the titles that they are publishing. They showed us a variety of titles, from high fantasy to gripping contemporary, and I thought it would be fun to share the five titles I’d love to get my paws on!

Monday’s Not Coming
by Tiffany D. Jackson (Expected Release:  May 22nd 2018 by Katherine Tegen Books)

This book sounds like it’s going to be a rough and gripping ride. Missing persons stories are easily some of the most uncomfortable stories out there. When someone is missing there’s the fear they’ve been brutally hurt, raped,  or even murdered. There’s a discomfort and unnerving feeling that comes from stories like this — a best friend has gone missing, no one seems to pay it any mind then the one person who strongly notices. Claudia’s story sounds like one that is going to be a tough read, but I’m here for it.

 Invisible Ghosts
by Robyn Schneider (Expected Release: June 5th 2018 by Katherine Tegen Books)

It has been awhile since we’ve gotten a new Robyn Schneider book. I find what I love about Robyn Schneider’s novels is there’s always an unpredictable element to them. In the case of her new novel, it has ghosts! I feel like this is going to be a story that hits me hard given it’s mainly about moving forward and trying to let go of the past. Believe me, I can relate, and I feel like this one is going to punch me hard in the feelings.

The Bird and the Blade
by Megan Bannen (Expected publication: June 5th 2018 by Balzer + Bray)

I admit, I am not the biggest historical fiction buff. I will say, however, that if a historical fiction novel focuses on East Asia, I will pay attention. Asian culture has always fascinated me, and while the author isn’t Asian, I’m willing to see where he story goes. This book has MONGOLS. MONGOLS PEOPLE. That alone had me yelling in my chair during the event! Plus, Maeve, being the doll that she is endorsed it, and given how well-researched I’ve heard this book is, I need to get my claws on it.

Leah on the Offbeat
by Becky Albertalli (Expected publication: April 24th 2018 by HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray)

Hi, my name is Sam, and I am addicted to Becky Albertalli books. Yes, yes, I am. I am SO EXCITED FOR LEAH ON THE OFF BEAT. SO MUCH SO THAT I AM USING ALL CAPS TO EXPRESS MY JOY AND HAPPINESS. YAS YAS YAS YAS YAS YAS YAS.

But seriously, I am here for this book. Feelings and flailing are going to happen.

Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now
by Dana L. Davis (Expected publication: May 1st 2018 by Harlequin Teen)

Hello family drama? I am in it. I’ll admit, this was one of the few books I hadn’t heard of during the event, but the synopsis sounded like it was going to be an emotional roller-coaster.  This book looks at a girl with two potential fathers and the possibility of feeling like she’s never going to fit in with a family. While I hope it isn’t Maury (‘You are not the father!’), I feel like there’s just going to be such an intense back and forth in this story. I look forward to reviewing it for you all very, very soon!

There you have it! These are the five titles I am beyond thrilled about it. I want to express a huge thank you to Harper Collins Canada for the invitation to see their new titles, and extend a thank you tot he special guest Hadley Dyer, who was so genuine and funny, and while you are all at it, go pick up here latest Here So Far Away (which I’ll have a review for on the blog super soon for — spoiler alert: I ADORED IT).

I cannot wait to share these new titles with the teens at my work, and I am living for these releases.

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ARC Review – Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough

Title: Blood Water Paint

Author: Joy McCullough

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Her mother died when she was twelve, and suddenly Artemisia Gentileschi had a stark choice: a life as a nun in a convent or a life grinding pigment for her father’s paint.

She chose paint.

By the time she was seventeen, Artemisia did more than grind pigment. She was one of Rome’s most talented painters, even if no one knew her name. But Rome in 1610 was a city where men took what they wanted from women, and in the aftermath of rape Artemisia faced another terrible choice: a life of silence or a life of truth, no matter the cost.

Huge thank you to Miss Print’s ARC adoption for this review copy.

Molly’s Review:

This is probably going to be one of my top favorite books of 2018. I cannot describe how this book made me feel and I somehow have to for this review.

This book is horrifying.

This book is empowering.

This book is not shocking and shocking at the same time.

This book is timely and relevant and historical.

Blood Water Paint first got on my radar when I saw the cover and read the synopsis. I’m not usually into books written in verse, but wow, WOW, this book was beautifully written. I could have read pages and pages more. (for those of you who aren’t super into verse, there ARE sections that are written in traditional prose)

I think books about rape are important. Growing up I lived in a place that perpetuated rape culture and I was taught that women need to be responsible for not getting themselves raped. I was taught that girls ask for it, and that they cry rape after they do something they regret. I wish, oh how I wish, I had been exposed to books that taught otherwise. I wish that I had learned at a much earlier age that women are not to blame, that rape happens BECAUSE RAPISTS. And that is the end of it. So this book is important.

I also loved that I learned about a historical woman that I had never heard of before. I’ve really been into learning more about hidden ladies of the past recently, and this was such a nice addition to my shelf.

I so hope that McCullough writes more books like this.

Please read this book. Please sink into the beautiful writing, please feel all of the rage and sorrow and hope and fight that soak through these pages. Please see what a woman can do.

Blog Tour – The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

I love stories about gender. I think there are such a wide variety of stories that still need to be told, and I think Jen Wang’s The Prince and the Dressmaker fills a void. There a lot of deconstruction of gender, there’s cross dressing, romance, and Sebastian and Frances will easily win your heart over. I was so happy to be approached by First Second to talk about this title with all of you, from doing a review, to sharing my favourite panel from the graphic novel. I sincerely hope that many of you reading this blog post will check out this heartwarming book.

And while you’re at it, consider checking out the rest of the blog tour hot spots for more goodies related to The Prince and the Dressmaker!


Title: The Prince and the Dressmaker

Author: Jen Wang

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Paris, at the dawn of the modern age:

Prince Sebastian is looking for a bride―or rather, his parents are looking for one for him. Sebastian is too busy hiding his secret life from everyone. At night he puts on daring dresses and takes Paris by storm as the fabulous Lady Crystallia―the hottest fashion icon in the world capital of fashion!

Sebastian’s secret weapon (and best friend) is the brilliant dressmaker Frances―one of only two people who know the truth: sometimes this boy wears dresses. But Frances dreams of greatness, and being someone’s secret weapon means being a secret. Forever. How long can Frances defer her dreams to protect a friend? Jen Wang weaves an exuberantly romantic tale of identity, young love, art, and family. A fairy tale for any age, The Prince and the Dressmaker will steal your heart.

Huge thank you to First Second for this ARC!

This graphic novel is important and wonderful. It offers an amazing discussion regarding gender identity, labels, and what it means to stand up and be who you are. It’s heartwarming, fun, but it is also very dark and emotional.

The story follows two characters: Prince Sebastian, a young prince whose parents want him to get married to a princess, and Frances who dreams of making beautiful gowns and one day having a fashion show. Their lives collide when Prince Sebastian sees one of Frances’ designs and hires her on to be his dressmaker. Frances and Sebastian form a beautiful friendship, and it’s one that is memorable as it is sweet. Frances accepts Sebastian for who he is, and in turns tries to help him gain the courage to tell his parents that he enjoys wearing dresses.

There is so much beauty in Jen Wang’s artwork and storytelling. Her characters are expressive, gentle, and have such strong desires to be loved and accepted by others. Sebastian and Frances are characters that are easy to love, you want them to succeed and be loved, and you want them to see worth in themselves. They get such fantastic growth throughout the story, and I found myself getting emotional during certain parts given their was such shocking moments.

The Prince and the Dressmaker is a wonderful graphic novel full of heart. It’s a read where you’ll cheer the characters on, fall completely in love with them, pick them up when they fail, and give them all the encouragement to keep going. This is one beautiful story that deserves to be read, and reread. I can only hope more people love and give this book a chance, because it will warm your heart and shatter it at the same time.


A BIT ABOUT MY FAVOURITE PANEL:

Part of this blog tour required participants to choose a favourite panel in The Prince and the Dressmaker. One aspect I love about this graphic novel is the transformation of Sebastian’s family after they learn his secret. This panel shows his father embracing his inner sexy at Frances’ fashion show. It’s a wonderful scene because it shows the change of heart that Sebastian’s family goes through, and their desire (in their own way) to support the person he wishes to become.


Jen Wang is a cartoonist and illustrator currently living in Los Angeles. Her works have appeared in the Adventure Time comics and LA Magazine. She recently illustrated Tom Angleberger’s Fake Mustache.  Her graphic novels Koko Be Good and In Real Life (with author Cory Doctorow) were published by First Second. jenwang.net

ARC Review – Blood and Sand by C.V. Wyk

Title: Blood and Sand

Author: C.V. Wyk

Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: Roma Victrix. The Republic of Rome is on a relentless march to create an empire―an empire built on the backs of the conquered, brought back to Rome as slaves.

Attia was once destined to rule as the queen and swordmaiden of Thrace, the greatest warrior kingdom the world had seen since Sparta. Now she is a slave, given to Xanthus, the Champion of Rome, as a sign of his master’s favor. Enslaved as a child, Xanthus is the preeminent gladiator of his generation.

Against all odds, Attia and Xanthus form a tentative bond. A bond that will spark a rebellion. A rebellion that threatens to bring the Roman Republic to its end―and gives rise to the legend of Spartacus…

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I wasn’t sure what to make of Blood and Sand when I started reading it. I loved the idea that it was a lady!Sparticus story, but if I am being honest, this one took me awhile to get into. The writing wasn’t my cup of tea from the start and I had a hard time connecting with Attia, which I recognize was somewhat the point at the beginning.

This is a book that needs to build, so there’s a lot of information at the start about the world that Attia inhabits. Once she’s in the arena, this book turns on in a great way. The action sequences are clearly this book’s strong suit, as Attia is quite the lady badass. However, I couldn’t stop drawing parallels to Lesley Livingston’s The Valiant as I was reading this book, and I’ll admit, I liked that one a bit better just because the pacing and writing in Livingston’s book had a good push to it. I recognize that this and The Valiant have their differences, but at times I couldn’t stop thinking about what made them similar.

I will say that I wasn’t fond of the romance between Attia and Xanthus. A lot of the time Xanthus’ behaviour just rubbed me completely the wrong way. Again, I don’t mind a romance formed by an unlikely bond, but there I just couldn’t get into their romance and found myself skimming those sections because I really just wanted to go back to the political intrigue and the battle scenes.

Blood and Sand is a decent debut, but not without its ups and downs. I think once the world was established, the book truly hit its stride for me and I was enjoying the politics and struggles that Attia had to overcome, but parts of the book just fell short for me. I think this will appeal to readers who love bad ass ladies (which I do love) and who don’t mind a slower build up. The mix of fantasy and historical fiction is interesting, but I don’t think I’ll be continuing on with the series.

ARC Review – Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein by Jennifer Roy & Ali Fadhil

Title: Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein

Author: Jennifer Roy & Ali Fadhil

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: At the start of 1991, eleven-year-old Ali Fadhil was consumed by his love for soccer, video games, and American television shows. Then, on January 17, Iraq’s dictator Saddam Hussein went to war with thirty-four nations lead by the United States.

Over the next forty-three days, Ali and his family survived bombings, food shortages, and constant fear. Ali and his brothers played soccer on the abandoned streets of their Basra neighborhood, wondering when or if their medic father would return from the war front. Cinematic, accessible, and timely, this is the story of one ordinary kid’s view of life during war.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I was intrigued by Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein when I heard about it during Raincoast’s Fall #TeensReadFeed preview. It’s a story about living through bombings, yet still trying to live life despite constant fears. This book takes place during 1991 when Saddam Hussein goes to war with the United States. Ali Fadhil, an eleven year old boy, who just wants a normal life of loving soccer, video games and American television.

This was an interesting read since it’s grounded in historical events. Ali is such a sweet main character who seeks normalcy with his friends and family. His siblings Ahmed, Shirzad and Shireen are also such wonderful characters. You learn so much about their family life and how as children they have to cope with a war that is surrounding them. I felt so many feelings read this book, from sadness to laughter. There’s a lot of emotion in this very short read and a lot of Ali’s feelings truly pack a punch.

Overall, I really enjoyed Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein. It’s a very compelling read, and the author’s note is really intriguing given Ali’s life situation and who he becomes much later in life. I wish there had been a bit more characterization to all the other characters as they did feel a touch one note, but since this book is more about an event and a family’s connection to it, I can be forgiving. This is a great story and an absorbing read.

Late to the Party ARC Review – The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe & Lilit Thwaites (Translator)

Title: The Librarian of Auschwitz

Author: Antonio Iturbe & Lilit Thwaites (Translator)

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Based on the experience of real-life Auschwitz prisoner Dita Kraus, this is the incredible story of a girl who risked her life to keep the magic of books alive during the Holocaust. Fourteen-year-old Dita is one of the many imprisoned by the Nazis at Auschwitz. Taken, along with her mother and father, from the Terezín ghetto in Prague, Dita is adjusting to the constant terror that is life in the camp. When Jewish leader Freddy Hirsch asks Dita to take charge of the eight precious volumes the prisoners have managed to sneak past the guards, she agrees. And so Dita becomes the librarian of Auschwitz. 

Out of one of the darkest chapters of human history comes this extraordinary story of courage and hope.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

The Librarian of Auschwitz is a novel based on the life of Dita Kraus, a young woman who risked her life to protect literature in a Nazi death-camp. Dubbed “The Librarian of Auxchwitz,” Dita made it her priority to protect the books that were found on the grounds, while also helping those in need during a period of turmoil.

This book is depressing, but important. There is so man sad and horrifying moments that remind you how truly dreadful human beings are. This book reminds readers of the horrors of the Holocaust and how difficult that event truly was. I loved Dita’s courage in the story and I appreciate that as someone as young as she is, she decides to be brave in a place where bravery could potential mean death. There’s a vividness in this translation that gives the reader the sense of tragedy and foreboding. There is discomfort, fear, and sadness in these pages, and I found myself truly feeling for people represented in this story.

This book shows so much hope in the darkness, and while I don’t read a lot of historical fiction, I appreciate the learning opportunities that come from a well researched book. The Librarian of Auschwitz is a slow read, but a thoughtful one throughout.

ARC Review – Berserker (Berserker #1) by Emmy Laybourne

Title: Berserker (Berserker #1)

Author: Emmy Laybourne

Rating: ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Her brother Stieg swears their powers are a gift from the old gods, but Hanne Hemstad knows she is truly cursed. It’s not Stieg’s fault that their father is dead, their mother has left, and their brother Knut has been accused of a crime he didn’t commit.

No, the fault lies with Hanne and her inability to control her murderous “gift”–she is a Berserker. When someone she loves is threatened, she flies into a killing state. The siblings must leave Norway for the American frontier or risk being brought to justice.

Aided by a young cowboy who agrees to be their guide, Hanne and her siblings use their powers to survive the perilous trail, where blizzards, wild animals, and vicious bounty hunters await.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Emmy Laybourne writes some fast-paced novels, and her latest,Berserker is not exception. I’d even argue it’s her most unique book to date given it is a Western-meets-Norse Mythology-meets-Historical Fiction. It’s a cluster of so many genres, a mish-mash that is though very fun, doesn’t entirely work together as well as it could.

I’m all for a genre mash-up, but Westerns tend to be always a difficult genre to mash given it has very specific tropes that it follows. Weirdly, I loved the Western-y bits of this story, but mixing it with Norse Mythology is a bit of an odd choice given how rich Viking culture is. This book has so much in it and at times it can feel very overwhelming, and yet it is also such a compulsively readable book where you want to know what is going on. There’s so much action and insanity, it makes for an entertaining read. Laybourne is great at bringing fun and disaster to her stories and Berserker doesn’t disappoint in this regard.

While I loved the action, gore and just utter insanity of the story, I wish I had enjoyed the characters more. Henne is a fun character who is troubled by her powers of murder, but if I am being frank, a lot of the characters felt very interchangeable for me and didn’t feel too distinctive on their own. Mind you, I’ve always felt that as a writer, Laybourne’s characters are not always the starring attraction (unless we are talking Max from Monument 14 aka the best character), but it’s the worlds that she creates which are truly the draw.

Berserker is a book where I need to explain to readers going into it before hand to just “go with the flow.” It’s a fun, delightful romp, but it’s also messy in that it’s trying to do a lot at once creating sensory overload. I still think it’s a great read for those who love a fast-paced story full of crazy and murder. I definitely am still curious as to where the next book in the series is going to go as well.