Tag Archives: Margaret K. McElderry (Simon & Schuster)

ARC Review – The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

24885634Title:  The Scorpion Rules

Author: Erin Bow

Rating:  ★★★★★

Synopsis: A world battered by climate shift and war turns to an ancient method of keeping peace: the exchange of hostages. The Children of Peace – sons and daughters of kings and presidents and generals – are raised together in small, isolated schools called Prefectures. There, they learn history and political theory, and are taught to gracefully accept what may well be their fate: to die if their countries declare war.

Greta Gustafsen Stuart, Duchess of Halifax and Crown Princess of the Pan-Polar Confederation, is the pride of the North American Prefecture. Learned and disciplined, Greta is proud of her role in keeping the global peace — even though, with her country controlling two-thirds of the world’s most war-worthy resource — water — she has little chance of reaching adulthood alive.

Enter Elián Palnik, the Prefecture’s newest hostage and biggest problem. Greta’s world begins to tilt the moment she sees Elián dragged into the school in chains. The Prefecture’s insidious surveillance, its small punishments and rewards, can make no dent in Elián, who is not interested in dignity and tradition, and doesn’t even accept the right of the UN to keep hostages.

What will happen to Elián and Greta as their two nations inch closer to war?

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

Sam’s Review:

Last year at the INSPIRE Bookfair held in Toronto, I met Erin Bow. We got into a conversation about her novels when I asked if she had anything new in the pipeline. She grinned at me and said, “Wait and see.” The Scorpion Rules might actually surpass Plain Kate as my favourite book by her, which is hard to believe because I am a mad fangirl for Plain Kate.

The Scorpion Rules drips a unique premise: royal children held hostage, if there country goes to war, they die. Bow does an amazing job crafted the rules of the world, while providing a unique blend of futuristic world-building with medieval ideologies. It’s really a unique blend, and the book does an amazing job of pushing the boundaries of the world-building further and further as you read on. Can I just say I squealed because Greta is a Canadian princess? I did squeal over that.

This book is disturbing on so many levels and that’s what makes it a compulsive read. There’s brainwashing, torture, and I swear I cringed any time the cider press came up. Greta takes an absolutely beating in this story, and yet she is such a strong individual who attempts to accept the circumstances and challenges them. She makes some tough decisions and I easily found myself so nervous for her. The tesnion in this novel is insane, and I found myself so uncomfortable at times.

The characters in this novel have their limits tested and pushed, and I found them all to be characters I could sympathize with. Except for Talis. Talis scared the crap out of me. Smarmy, intelligent, full of himself, he is an AI who totally will kill you if given the chance. My co-blogger kept picturing James Spader’s Ultron voice when reading Talis’ character and I 100% totally see what she’s talking about, because after she said that I found myself picturing it as well. I just found him so creepy and freaky and any time he made an uncomfortable suggestion, I found myself shuttering.

Of all of Erin Bow’s works, this might be my favourite. It left me emotionally wrecked, uncomfortable a good chunk of the time, and I found myself panicking and worrying for the safety of the characters. This book was so much more than I was expecting and wanting, from the complex relationships, to the romantic elements even. I loved everything about The Scorpion Rules and it’s totally worth the emotional torture it will put you through.

River’s Review:

This book was perfection! This is my second book by Bow and just wow. I read Sorrow’s Knot last year and really loved it. I love Bow’s writing, I love how she just pulls you under and then rips you apart before you even know it because everything is so damn beautiful and horrifying at the same time.

I went into this book with high expectations and they were met and then some. I was not prepared for the evil AI, or the complex relationships. I was not prepared for Greta’s strength and the choices that she would make.

My husband is an AI research scientist getting his PhD at MIT currently. I constantly ask him to NOT create terminators. To not created THIS type of AI. He’s given me many many lectures and reassurances on how robots wont take over, but damn. I’ve read about and watched videos about Transcendence. And the AI in this book is way more on the transcendence side than the ‘evil robots take over’ side. It’s less Skynet and more Ray Kurzwell style crazy. The machines wont take over, they’ll just stop us out unless we join them. And a future like this, a future where an AI that was not even a machine to begin with, but a MAN, is terrifying. And to know that this is real life research makes the intentions behind this book even more terrifying.

I loved the characters in this book. I loved that even the secondary characters had depth and surprising strengths. I almost cried multiple times and the ending was so bittersweet. Greta’s love for her friends and family was so strong, and I loved the complex relationship between her, Xie and Elian.

And let me take a moment to talk about the goats. Evil AI and GOATS?! I loved how essential the goats were to this story. They added comedy, they were catalysts for pivotal moments and they were just damn cute!

This book is getting a lot of buzz and I’m glad for it. Check it out, and make sure to check out Bow’s other books. I know that I’m going to have to hunt down a copy of Plain Kate ASAP!

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Ten Comics & Graphic Novels You Should Check Out

I find I binge on comics and graphic novels. I can’t help it! I have always been one of those people who loves images and words as a combination. Graphic novels are my comfort food, something I devour the moment I start reading. Today, I thought I’d share ten of my recent favourites. I’m going to exclude capes (Batman, etc) and focus on them in another blog post, at another time. Shall we get started?

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El Deafo by Cece Bell

This is one of the most honest portrayals of living with disability that I’ve ever read about. Cece’s story is thoughtful and incredibly genuine from start to finish. I love the way she wishes to become a superhero (like Batman!), but I equally adored reading about how she overcame so many obstacles! It’s such a charming read, and one that I feel deserves a bit more attention because subject matters, like disability often go completely overlooked and are often not written in such an uplifting or humorous manner.

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Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

I have gushed on the blog previously about this book, but I feel this gushing needs to be reiterated. Through the Woods is an uncomfortable, dark, and unnerving read. Each story within this collection is fantastically plotted, creepy to the bone, and will leave chills down your spine. The artwork is absolutely amazing, if very graphic, and definitely not for those who make get squicked easily. That being said, I loved how haunting each story is, and I plan to reread it again come Halloween, just so I can scare myself silly.

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Saga by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

While Brian K. Vaughan has tons of amazing works (The Runaways, Y: The Last Man, so so good), Saga somewhat beats out all his other works for me. If you haven’t read Saga, I question what rock you’ve been hiding under. This series has amazing characters, a fantastic plot, and some of the most stunning artwork I’ve seen in comics. This world is scary, yet you gotta love a star-crossed lover’s storyline that also in turn makes fun of the classics (In your face, Romeo & Juliet!). Here’s the other thing: I love ALL the characters. Very seldom when I read books or graphic novels can I say that I love the whole cast, but Saga makes me love the cast so damn hard.

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Smile by Raina Telgemeier

I have read all of Raina Telgemeier’s work in the span of a year, but of all the books she’s done, Smile seems to be the story I look back at the fondest. There’s something about getting braces for the first time that I think a lot of us can relate to, and all the stigmas that we dream up in having them. Smile is a very honest portrayal of wanting to fit in without feeling like your a freak because you’ve got metal on your teeth. I think all of Telgemeier’s stories are fantastic, and yet this is the one I recommend because Raina’s journey is one I could relate to. Admittedly, I equally love her adaptations of the Babysitter’s Club, which I totes recommend clearly for nostalgia purposes!

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In Real Life
by Cory Doctorow & Jen Wang

Outside of reading, my other major hobby is gaming. I’ve worked in the games industry as a journalist for over five years and the issues that this book tackles completely breaks my heart. It saddens me that gold farming is still a thing and that people have to suffer in the name of video games. This book has a wonderful portrayal of friendship, identity, while also looking at socio-economical issues within the virtual world. Plus, Anda is an amazing protagonist and I love her crusade against issues of gold farming. This book is incredibly smart and very well done. Plus the art? Amazing.

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The Shadow Hero
by Gene Luen Yang  & Sonny Liew 

I said no capes at the beginning of this post, but I will make the exception for The Shadow Hero because it’s a bit different from a lot of the cape comics out there. First off, it’s an origin story for a superhero many may not be familiar with: The Green Turtle. It’s the story of a man who doesn’t want to become a superhero, but his mother *demands* that he must (for reason which I will not spoil, but there’s some humour in it). Gene Luen Yang writes amazing graphic novels (and his artwork is pretty rad too). I always find myself strongly connecting to his work because of how he writes people and makes social issues accessible to all audiences. While I LOVE The Shadow Hero, Boxers & Saints and American Born Chinese are equally worth your attention.

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Seconds by Brian Lee O’Malley

I am going to cheat a little on this one and suggest you listen to this podcast where I discuss this book with my husband, Scott Wachter and the amazing Kiki. Let’s just say we super hearted this book and even if you didn’t like Scott Pilgrim, this one is still worth checking out. Beautiful artwork, hilarious characters, awesome GIRL FRIENDSHIPS. The book has it all in spades.

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Zita the Spacegirl 
by Ben Hatke

Hello, graphic novel fans out there? You really should get on it and read Zita the Space Girl. There’s something insanely magical about Ben Hatke’s writing, his characters, and the world that Zita finds herself in. He made me care about a rock monster and a giant rat! Also, this series is too short and when I finished the last volume, I may have screamed a little bit about wanting more. Seriously, Zita is fun and she needs to be read. GO DO IT.

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Sex Criminals by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky

Yes, the title seems super inappropriate. No, it’s actually not as inappropriate as one would think (though there are sexy timez so you have been warned). So Sex Criminals,, is a wonderful series with some really messed up people. There’s a lot of dark humour afoot in this series, and it’s definitely not for everyone. This series is colourful, crazy, and wonderfully messed up. It’s like your brain is on a euphoric trip that doesn’t let up until it’s over. Now if only volume 2 would come out faster, that’d be great.

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Rat Queens by Kurtis J. Wiebe  & Roc Upchurch 

I admit, this is the series I’m having the hardest time waiting for trades for. Rat Queens instantly hooked it’s claws into me, and I was completely addicted to reading it. I admit, I do not like reading single issues of comics, and I’d rather read them when they are bound up. The characters in this series are sexy, sassy and absolutely bonkers. How can you not love a group called “The Rat Queens” and how can you not enjoy their antics? This series is girl power all the way, and the women are bad ass. Rat Queens takes elements of Dungeons & Dragons and mashes it up with sass and class. I seriously cannot wait for volume 2, and I can’t wait to see what adventures are in store for the Queens!

Have some graphic novels or comics you want to share? Let me know in the comments — I love recommendations!

Late to the Party ARC Review – Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine

17303139Title: Of Metal and Wishes

Author: Sarah Fine

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: There are whispers of a ghost in the slaughterhouse where sixteen-year-old Wen assists her father in his medical clinic—a ghost who grants wishes to those who need them most. When one of the Noor, men hired as cheap factory labor, humiliates Wen, she makes an impulsive wish of her own, and the Ghost grants it. Brutally.

Guilt-ridden, Wen befriends the Noor, including their outspoken leader, a young man named Melik. At the same time, she is lured by the mystery of the Ghost and learns he has been watching her … for a very long time.

As deadly accidents fuel tensions within the factory, Wen must confront her growing feelings for Melik, who is enraged at the sadistic factory bosses and the prejudice faced by his people at the hand of Wen’s, and her need to appease the Ghost, who is determined to protect her against any threat—real or imagined. She must decide whom she can trust, because as her heart is torn, the factory is exploding around her … and she might go down with it.

Huge thank you to Margaret K. McElderry Books and Edelweiss for this ARC!

River’s Review:

While I feel bad for missing the deadline on this, I’m also really happy that I read it now, right before Halloween. PERFECT CREEPY FALL READ. This is a re-telling of The Phantom of the Opera and I LOVED that, and I loved this. I loved that it took place in a slaughterhouse, that there was a ‘ghost’ and that it was a mix of what felt like a dystopian world with steam punk elements. It actually never says when or where this takes place, but I kept picturing a future China after having some huge technological crash. They do have some modern conveniences in here, but then there’s also a lot of things that feel very historical.

I really liked the characters in this. Some I LOATHED. And I love that I loathed them. A lot of them got what they deserved, and others broke my heart. I loved Wen, loved her relationship with her father (even the bad parts) and her relationships with both Melik and the ‘ghost’.

The writing in this is beautiful and parts of it are just down right savage. There’s a lot of blood, a lot of death, a lot of killing. There’s also quite a handful of social commentary, which I thought was woven in quite well and didn’t come across as preachy at all.

I can’t wait for the next book! Super excited to see how everyone’s fates turn out.

ARC Review – The Offering by by Kimberly Derting

12631527Title:  The Offering
Author: Kimberly Derting
Rating: ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: True love—and world war—is at stake in the conclusion to The Pledge trilogy, a dark and romantic blend of dystopia and fantasy.
Charlie, otherwise known as Queen Charlaina of Ludania, has become comfortable as a leader and a ruler. She’s done admirable work to restore Ludania’s broken communications systems with other Queendoms, and she’s mastered the art of ignoring Sabara, the evil former queen whose Essence is alive within Charlie. Or so she thinks.

When the negotiation of a peace agreement with the Queendom of Astonia goes awry, Charlie receives a brutal message that threatens Ludania, and it seems her only option is to sacrifice herself in exchange for Ludanian freedom.

But things aren’t always as they seem. Charlie is walking into a trap—one set by Sabara, who is determined to reclaim the Queendoms at any cost.

River’s Review: 

Huge thank you to the publisher for providing me with an ARC of this book. I wrote this honest review to say thank you!

3.5 because I did the enjoy the ending and those few swoon-worthy scenes with MAAAAAX.

So I originally really enjoyed the first book in this series and I LOVE Derting’s writing. But the second book was a pretty big letdown and this book had it’s good and bad moments. As the last book in the series I expected WAY more to happen and I got to about 60% and felt that NOTHING was happening (minus some making out with MAAAAAAX, some political stuff and a really boring trek through the forest). Thankfully around 70% the action kicked in but man, all of that could have been SO much sooner if the stupid journey through the forest had been cut out… that was just so pointless! She ended up in the same place regardless! Ugh, so I hate it when it feels like the book is just wasting time until it gets to the good stuff.

There were a few gut-punches and I teared up over a death. I also enjoyed some of the new characters, but feel like there could have been SO much more done with them (Sage was so cool! I would have LOVED more Sage trekking through the forest than the other boring forest journey).

The jumps between POV’s was random and a bit annoying (as I’ve always disliked in the past book), and Niko still grosses me out beyond reason.

But the ending was good and I was satisfied with it.