Tag Archives: paranormal

Blog Tour – Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova (Review and Q&A)

Labyrinth Lost is a book that wasn’t on my radar until I had gone to the #TeensReadFeed event hosted by Raincoast back in May. The book was in my goodie bag, and though it had been mentioned at previous events, the release date kept getting pushed back. I have friends who love Zoraida Cordova’s novels, but I admit I wasn’t too familiar with her work.

Labyrinth Lost is a joy. It’s sassy, it’s adventurous, and it gives you a sense of appreciation for otherly worlds and other people’s culture. Once again I am super grateful to Raincoast for inviting me on this blog tour, and a huge, huge thank you to Zoraida Cordova for taking time out of her busy schedule to do some Q&A.


27969081Title: Labyrinth Lost

Author: Zoraida Cordova

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives.

Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can’t trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange marks on his skin.

The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland…

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I generally am not big on paranormal YA, like, at all. I was hesitant then that I would enjoy Labyrinth Lost, and you know what? It was a pleasant surprise for all the right reasons. It didn’t have the usual trope-yness of YA paranormal, and I think because a lot of this novel is rooted in Latin culture, that was what gave it a lot of appeal that made me fall in love with it.

I have never read any paranormal that is rooted in Latin-American culture. I am Canadian so my knowledge of Latin-American culture is fairly flimsy at best. However, I LOVE to read about other cultures and learn new things I never knew about. And this book is such a fun, fun read. The characters are very well developed, the story is fast-paced and quick witted, and I never felt bored reading Labyrinth Lost. There was always just so much happening, and my goodness when the action was on, it wad turned way up.

I think what I loved about this novel the most was how well developed the world of both Brooklyn and Los Lagos was. Cordova breaths so much life and makes both places so vivid, and watching Alex go between both places made the novel all that more interesting. She faces so many struggles because of powers she never wanted and is forced to embrace something she was fearful of. Forbidden power and family history play such a large, playful role in this story, and I found myself just turning the pages, needing to know what was going to happen next… and then the book ends on a cliffhanger — not cool Zoraida Cordova! (Except it is, because I adored this book).

But seriously, the cast of characters in this story is love: Alex is wonderful, she’s strong, and her head-space is just an interesting place to be in. I also loved Rishi and thought she was great as well. Nova took awhile to grow on me, and frankly it wasn’t until the end when I finally realized that he wasn’t too bad of a character.

I love books like Labyrinth Lost that drop you into a story and then offers so much more than meets the eye. This novel offers a fantastic adventure, with a fun cast of characters. I am very grateful that books like this exist where I can enjoy cultures that I am unfamiliar with and make them super accessible. I am excited and scared to read book two when it releases!


Q&A With Zoraida Cordova!

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Q: One of my favourite aspects of Labyrinth Lost was being allowed to learn more about
Latin culture and how you used it to create a paranormal experience for Alex. Are there
any Latin stories or myths that you love and would perhaps want to transform into a story?

ZC: There’s one story of La Llorona that used to scare me as a kid. It isn’t uniquely
Ecuadorian. There are lots of Latin American countries that have a similar story. It’s
about a weeping woman who steals children who are bad. I used to want to write a story
about her, but I don’t think I’d do it justice. There is a book called Summer of the Mariposas by Guadalupe McCall that does this wonderfully. Maybe one day!


Huge thank you to Raincoast for allowing me this chance to participate in the blog tour, and huge thank you to Zoraida for taking time out of her busy schedule to answer my question! Want to see where the blog tour is heading next? Check out all the tour stops and don’t forget to check out Labyrinth Lost, which released on September 6, 2016. 🙂

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Late to the Party ARC Review – The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman

15993203Title: The Dark Days Club

Author:  Alison Goodman

Rating:  ★★★

Synopsis: London, April 1812. On the eve of eighteen-year-old Lady Helen Wrexhall’s presentation to the queen, one of her family’s housemaids disappears-and Helen is drawn into the shadows of Regency London. There, she meets Lord Carlston, one of the few who can stop the perpetrators: a cabal of demons infiltrating every level of society. Dare she ask for his help, when his reputation is almost as black as his lingering eyes? And will her intelligence and headstrong curiosity wind up leading them into a death trap?

Huge thank you to Razorbill Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I am insanely torn with how I feel about The Dark Days Club. This was a book adored by so many of my friends, and it hard everything I should have loved in a story: regency era politics, paranormal magic fun times, and in depth, gorgeous world-building.

And yet, I was bored for large chunks of this novel. It seemed like Goodman had so much she wanted to build in this story, so there would be these periods where I was completely in love and engaged with the story, and other moments where I found myself screaming “GET ON WITH IT!” It’s a book that just felt like such a mixed bag — if the world building was on and awesome, then the characters felt flat. If the world building was boring, the characters oddly seemed more engaging. I feel like this book is just too difficult to describe, but it made my emotions flip flop all over the place.

For me, there are chunks of this novel that are just perfectly described, and then other moments where I found myself slogging through the text to get to the good bits. I loved the last hundred pages of the story, while the middle just felt like it carried on too long. I admit, I think so much was just built up in this story that the characters were just missing the spark for me. I wanted more from them, and I wanted to have a strong connection… but it never quite happened. The pacing is slow and deliberate, but even then I felt like I was missing something a lot of the time.

I feel like The Dark Days Club is going to be a polarizing read for a lot of folks. This was my first Alison Goodman book, and I do plan on giving her another shot given that I have Eon sitting on my shelves. I’m unsure as to whether or not I will continue with this series, as it’s interesting, but it didn’t quite keep my attention. This is great for lovers of paranormal, as well as historical fiction, and I do think it’s worth the shot if you can handle a slower burn read.

Book Review – Dead Endings by Jessica Chavez & Irene Flores

23363286Title: Dead Endings

Author:  Jessica Chavez & Irene Flores

Rating:  ★★★★★

Synopsis: In the city that never sleeps, spirits are equally restless and vie for the attentions of those who can sense them. Cailen Delaney, grad student and long-suffering ghost magnet, would rather spend her break getting reacquainted with her pillow, but is instead dragged into the aftermath of a strange series of murders by Everett Jung. Join Jessica Chavez (author) and Irene Flores (illustrator) through the streets of modern New York in this darkly comedic mystery about the connection between life and death…and how sometimes, literally, the separation is razor-thin.

Sam’s Review:

This review may seem a tad bias since I am friends with the author, but screw it, even if I wasn’t friends with her I probably still would have loved this book.

This book. Oh lord this book, did I laugh, cry and have all the feelings. Jessica Chavez, if you aren’t familiar with her work in video games, is a fantastic localization writer, but if I’m frankly, she’s just a fantastic writer writer (and she would kill me for the multiple uses of ‘fantastic’ and ‘writer’, on the other hand, I have stoked her ego as well!)

Dead Endings follows grad student who is a ghost magnet Cailen Delaney, and her alcohol-fueled misadventures in dealing with the undead who are refusing to rest. She’s sassy, snarky, and really just wishes you’d leave her the hell alone. Along with the head of her roommate, Gabriela and the quirky Everett, together they attempt to engage the spirits so regular folk don’t have to.

The story is this great blend of snark and seriousness. Chavez really knows how to play to her strengths in writing, mainly in her skill of writing witty character banter. There’s strong character interaction as well, and it makes for a real delight when the trio are together. Couple this with Irene Florez’s beautiful illustration work, and it just makes for an awesome experience. Seriously, they are gorgeous and they really being Chavez’s words to life in a way that makes for a great reading experience.

If you love snark, booze humour, paranormal adventures, and quirky characters, Dead Endings will delight from start to finish. I look forward to whatever else Jessica writers in the feature, and I can only hope there will be much more in the Dead Endings universe.

ARC Review – Riders (Riders, #1) by Veronica Rossi

23430471Title: Riders (Riders, #1)

Author:  Veronica Rossi

Rating:  ★★ 1/2 /  ★★★

Synopsis: For eighteen-year-old Gideon Blake, nothing but death can keep him from achieving his goal of becoming a U.S. Army Ranger. As it turns out, it does. Recovering from the accident that most definitely killed him, Gideon finds himself with strange new powers and a bizarre cuff he can’t remove. His death has brought to life his real destiny. He has become War, one of the legendary four horsemen of the apocalypse.

Over the coming weeks, he and the other horsemen–Conquest, Famine, and Death–are brought together by a beautiful but frustratingly secretive girl to help save humanity from an ancient evil on the emergence. They fail.

Now–bound, bloodied, and drugged–Gideon is interrogated by the authorities about his role in a battle that has become an international incident. If he stands any chance of saving his friends and the girl he’s fallen for–not to mention all of humankind–he needs to convince the skeptical government officials the world is in imminent danger. But will anyone believe him?

Huge thank you to Raincoast/Tor Teen for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I seem to have a weird love-hate relationship with Veronica Rossi’s writing. I remember reading Under the Never Sky on the recommendation of my friends and not being impressed by it. Then I read the sequels that followed, adored them, and was still confused why I didn’t connect with that first book. I feel like this might be the same thing with Riders.

That’s not to say Riders is a bad book, but once again I feel insanely distanced by the writing, and I really didn’t like our hero, Gideon. I just found him to be such a flat protagonist, someone whose thoughts didn’t always feel that engaging or interesting to read about. Worse off is the fact that we meet tons of other characters, but they are barely developed in any way. I just didn’t feel like I knew them very well, and part of that really steams from just only being trapped in Gideon’s mind.

However, I loved the concept of this story, and when the action was on, it was fantastic. I just found myself turning pages, needing to know how things were going to go. I’ll also give this to Rossi — the ending of this book is quite the cliffhanger, and despite all my problems with Gideon as a character, she left this book on such a mean note that I STILL will likely end up reading the sequel because I need to know.

But this book is both interesting as it is frustrating. There’s so many ideas being thrown about, there’s a lot of world-building, it almost felt like too much at times. With Gideon’s perspective not always being engaging, I found it hurt the experience for me somewhat and Rossi’s writing didn’t always carry it for me the way it did in the Under the Never Sky series.

Still, I don’t think this is a bad book, but I just didn’t have the same level of engagement that I was hoping for. I do think, like with Under the Never Sky that I am going to check out the sequel, just to see if it’s the same kind of situation or if it really is the case that this series doesn’t work for me.

Also, not enough horses. Needs more horses!

River’s Review:

Soooooooo I LOVED Rossi’s other books. And this sounded so kick ass and HORSES. I was down. And so excited for this.

Sadly it didn’t live up to my expectations.

Oddly I think this would make a much better movie than book.

There were parts of this that I LOVED. The horses, the action, the idea of the characters. Scenes that I could picture so perfectly in my mind.

But the characters were all under developed. I never felt any chemistry between Gideon and Daryn. The back story was very vague and not fleshed out enough. And I kinda hated that this was all told in flashback.

I found most of the first half of this kinda slow and boring. Things weren’t always explained and too much time was spent gathering the four guys. I didn’t feel like anyone was really reacting properly to their situation.

The second half was so much stronger. The training and horses is what I’d be expecting from the start!!!

And the last chapter really should have been an epilogue.

Overall not the strongest Rossi book, but I’ll def pick up the next one to see what’s going to happen!

ARC Review – The Girl from Everywhere (The Girl from Everywhere #1) by Heidi Heilig

21979832Title:  The Girl from Everywhere (The Girl from Everywhere #1)

Author: Heidi Heilig

Rating: ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Heidi Heilig’s debut teen fantasy sweeps from modern-day New York City to nineteenth-century Hawaii to places of myth and legend. Sixteen-year-old Nix has sailed across the globe and through centuries aboard her time-traveling father’s ship. But when he gambles with her very existence, it all may be about to end. The Girl from Everywhere, the first of two books, will dazzle readers of Sabaa Tahir, Rae Carson, and Rachel Hartman.

Nix’s life began in Honolulu in 1868. Since then she has traveled to mythic Scandinavia, a land from the tales of One Thousand and One Nights, modern-day New York City, and many more places both real and imagined. As long as he has a map, Nix’s father can sail his ship, The Temptation, to any place, any time. But now he’s uncovered the one map he’s always sought—1868 Honolulu, before Nix’s mother died in childbirth. Nix’s life—her entire existence—is at stake. No one knows what will happen if her father changes the past. It could erase Nix’s future, her dreams, her adventures . . . her connection with the charming Persian thief, Kash, who’s been part of their crew for two years. If Nix helps her father reunite with the love of his life, it will cost her her own.

Huge thank you to the publisher for sending me an advanced copy for review!

River’s Review:

I am afraid this book was over-hyped for me. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t as mind blowing as I’d been expecting.

The biggest issue I had with this book was that it felt like something was missing… like a whole other book perhaps that explained how things worked, what was going on… because a lot of this was just left up to the reader to infer and figure out. I wanted WAY more backstory (especially about Kash! Like we find out how he came to be on the ship, and a little about why he ended up there, but I wanted SO much MORE! And like how did he react when he found out that he was basically stowing away ON A TIME TRAVELING SHIP?! How was this explained to him?! To any of them?!) I felt like there were little hints dropped here and there as to how things worked, but nothing was every fully explained. And I’m not talking about info dumps. But I would have liked more mechanics. Especially when it came to the actual time traveling. I also would have liked more world building in the sense of how they GET AWAY with all the time traveling they do. There is a mention about how they dress and speak for the time, but how did they learn about that? How did they learn anything about the different times they’re going to? And just wearing the clothes and trying to talk the talk was enough to fool everyone? This stuff I felt was just kinda glossed over and I was sitting there saying I WANT MORE INFORMATION!!!

The writing in this is very good. I don’t think it’s the best writing ever, but it’s not horrible. I think that Heilig can only improve and in another book or two she’ll be a force to reckon with. The characters could have used a bit more characterization, but I did enjoy Kash (he was my favorite character) and I liked the relationship that Nix had with her father. Blake was kinda okay, and I would have liked a little more from the side characters on the ship because they seemed really interesting! Also… Swag was the cutest and I am concerned about his fate at the moment…

The time travel in this was really cool for me at first! The way it’s done (with the maps) is very clever! But then we got into paradoxes and loops and I got lost and confused and I really hate that kind of time travel because then it just doesn’t make sense and makes me think too much about how it DOESN’T work and it hurts my head. I’m not a time travel fan (did I mention this yet? I guess I should have from the start). So that might have been part of what put me off a little bit. And also the lack of actual pirates (they pretend to be? But aren’t really? But they live on a pirate ship?) was a little disheartening as well.

Overall if you can get past the issues I had you’ll probably love this book. It seems to be THE book for 2016 and I know it’s going to do well despite how I feel about it… so enjoy!

ARC Review – These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker & Kelly Zekas

23688792Title: These Vicious Masks

Author:  Tarun Shanker & Kelly Zekas

Rating:  ★★★★

Synopsis: England, 1882. Evelyn is bored with society and its expectations. So when her beloved sister, Rose, mysteriously vanishes, she ignores her parents and travels to London to find her, accompanied by the dashing Mr. Kent. But they’re not the only ones looking for Rose. The reclusive, young gentleman Sebastian Braddock is also searching for her, claiming that both sisters have special healing powers. Evelyn is convinced that Sebastian must be mad, until she discovers that his strange tales of extraordinary people are true—and that her sister is in graver danger than she feared.

Huge thank you to Raincoast Books/Swoon Reads for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

When I heard the pitch for These Vicious Masks, it just sounded too ridiculous to be true. Jane Austen meets X-Men? What kind of crack is that? While I went into this with rather low expectations, I can’t get over how much fun this book was on a whole.

First off, let me talk to you about how awesome and badass the heroines, Evelyn and Rose. Despite all their hardships, these two women really know how to stand up for themselves and show how strong and capable they are. I also loved how they respond to their abilities, how they try to rationalize the good, the bad, and the ugly that comes with them. The writers did a fantastic job making them characters that you can not only root for, but who are actually fun and engaging to read about.

I admit, I’m not a big romance person, but I even found the romance in this novel pretty good. It didn’t over power the way I was worried it would, considering a lot of young adult romance novels are very cliché in its approach to romance. A lot of the time I generally don’t like the romance itself or the characters, but here I found it worked very well.

In a lot of ways the book does a great job of taking the reader by the hand and whisking them into this weird pseudo-Western, steampunkish novel. The world building is great, it’s vivid, and then there’s the ending. Lord, that ending is really good. If I have any complaints about this book, it’s that sometimes I found the writing hard to get into, so it felt like a rollercoaster for me writing wise, moving up and down in terms of my enjoyment. While I liked the characters, the story had its moments for me where it dragged in spots.

Overall, These Vicious Masks reads like delicious ridiculous candy. Sometimes you just want a book that grabs at your attention and does it in a way that is just plain fun. This book is definitely worth checking out if you enjoy supernatural abilities and kick ass heroines.

Blog Tour – The Fading Dusk by Melissa Giorgio (Double Review)

unnamedTitle: The Fading Dusk (Smoke & Mirrors #1)

Author: Melissa Giorgio

Rating:  ★★★★ 1/2 / ★★★★

Release Date: July 19th, 2015 (Add to Goodreads )

Synopsis: In the gritty city of Dusk, seventeen-year-old Irina makes her living as the street magician Bantheir’s assistant. The job isn’t glamorous, but she loves the crowds, the shows, and most of all, the illusion of magic. But Irina’s world is shattered the night she is arrested and charged as Bantheir’s accomplice to murder—murder by magic.

Real magic, the kind that’s been forbidden since the old wars.

Irina finds the idea of flashy showman Bantheir using actual magic to kill someone laughable, but she’s the only one who sees how ridiculous the claim is. But how can she convince everyone Bantheir is innocent when they’ve already made up their minds? Desperate, Irina must decide who she can trust to help her win her freedom. Is the surly, handsome Captain Leonid telling the truth when he says he believes Irina is innocent, or is he just using her to get to Bantheir? What about Aden, the sweet soldier and longtime fan of Irina’s who claims he’s on her side?

Irina said she wanted to know the truth, but when she stumbles across a dark secret that changes everything, will she be strong enough to survive?

Huge thank you to Xpresso Reads Book Tours for having us as a tour stop!

Sam’s Review (4.5 Stars):

I admit, I haven’t finished Melissa Giorgio’s Silver Moon Saga, but what I have read, I’ve completely adored. You’d wonder then why I’d start her new series, as opposed to finishing a previous one, and the answer is quite simple: I love a deep and rich fantasy world.

The world of Dusk is wonderfully fleshed out for the reader, and in a lot of ways, feels like a character in the story. There’s a foreboding atmosphere that surrounds the world, one that changes and expands as the actual characters grow within the story. I loved that street performance was something that was heavily integrated into the story, and I love the way in which Giorgio describes magic in this world as being something dangerous, but also something with the power to entertain and delight.My favourite character easily embodied those traits, which was Bantheir. I LOVED him. I found him to be both smarmy, and reviling, and yet he aims to entertain in ways that make you chuckle and feel a bit uncomfortable.

If I’m being honest, I really enjoyed how everything in this story is described. I love the character growth and development, especially for Irina, who becomes quite the unlikely heroine (in that, she really doesn’t want to be). I appreciate how much of a softer heroine she is in comparison to Gabi from The Silver Moon Saga, as Irina is a much more methodical, unsure, heroine who grows so gradually throughout.

I loved how unpredictable a lot of the story was, and I liked the way in which many of the plot twists were developed. The ending was fantastic, and it leaves a great lasting impression on the reader, showing how strong and more confident Irina becomes with herself. I also appreciate that the love triangle in this book didn’t turn out to be a love triangle really, and I ended up rooting for Leonid with ease. He’s a pretty grumpy guy, but I like the cut of his jib.

Overall, I think The Fading Dusk is a solid start to a new fantasy series. Considering how the book ended, I’m looking forward to see what is in store for Irina and her companions, as they have a difficult road ahead of them. If you love a rich and well developed fantasy novel, this book is definitely worth investigating.

River’s Review (4 Stars):

If you’re a fan of YA fantasy then you’ll really love this! As we all know I adored this author’s previous series, and I was very excited to read more of her stuff. This book (and series) is going to be very different from The Sight Seer and I think that’s great! Sadly I missed my Gabby-sassy-pants a little too much. Okay no I’m joking. I just don’t think that the city of Dusk is going to be knocking Gabby out of the top spot in my heart anytime soon.

First I’ll just say what didn’t work for me. And it was really only two things. First was that it was a bit repetitive at times in some of the words used for descriptions. “The burly man” and “The street magician” were two of the phrases that I got real sick of reading after awhile. I know that Giorgio is a good writer and I know that she can give us description (hello creepy as FUCK demons in TSS!). And second, the romance was just a little too quick for me. I would have liked to have seen a little more courting, a little more falling. And while there is a hint of a love triangle, don’t despair! Things turn out much better than expected.

What did I love? THE FREAKING MAGIC! THE SETTING. THE CITY OF DUSK. IRINA! CAPTAIN GRUMPY PANTS! For real the characters were really good. I liked how sure of herself Irina was. I liked how she took charge and did what needed to be done. I also loved how damn loyal she was (magic or not). My favorite part was how she was using her bangle bracelets to torment Leonid. I was all you go girl!

The city of Dusk is beautiful. I love the map in the front and I love the way it’s described and how damn alive it is in the book. In fantasy a strong world and a setting that lives as much as a character on the pages does is important. And the world building in this is very strong.

The whole cast of characters is great. Sometimes you fear that they’re going to fall into typical YA tropes and then Giorgio pulls the rug out from under us. I loved how she did this in TSS and I loved how she did it in this new series.

And the magic was so awesome. I loved how it started out as just for fun, a way to make a living, and then evolved into something read, dangerous and deadly.

Despite what I said about not liking some of the ways things were described, there were just a few isolated cases (that unfortunately happened enough that they bugged me), and overall the writing is really good. I loved the action! I loved all the movement. And I really enjoyed how there were times when I was laughing and then with a turn of the page was feeling some deep things.

I’m really excited to see what’s to come for these characters! Definately give this a chance!

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Want to win a signed paperback copy of the book? You have your chance to in this giveaway!! (US/Canada Only)

To Purchase The Fading Dusk:

unnamed (1)AUTHOR BIO:
Melissa Giorgio is a native New Yorker who graduated from Queens College with a degree in English. She’s always dreamed of being a writer and has been creating stories (mostly in her head) since she was a little girl. Also an avid reader, Melissa loves to devour thick YA novels. When not reading or writing, she enjoys watching animated films, listening to music by her favorite Japanese boy band, or exploring Manhattan. She is also the author of the Silver Moon Saga.

Author links:

 

 

Check out the other stops on the tour! See a list of the full blog tour!

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ARC Review – The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

23830990Title:  The Rest of Us Just Live Here

Author: Patrick Ness

Rating:  ★★★★ / ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: What if you aren’t the Chosen One? The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death? What if you’re like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.

Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life. Even if your best friend is worshipped by mountain lions.

Huge thank you to the publisher for letting me read an advanced copy of this book!

River’s Review:

This book was SO MUCH FUN! I’ve actually never read a Ness book before (I know, sue me, but they’re LONG…) and I need to fix that soon. I really enjoyed this book. I liked the way it was written, I liked the magical realism and all of the characters were really awesome.

This is a story about the people that are NOT involved with saving the world. The Harrys, the Buffys, the Sam & Deans. Those guys, they save the world. And they’re pretty awesome at it. But what about the guys who aren’t saving the world? The regular old guys that just have to sit by and watch those other awesome dudes save the world? Sure, the muggles in The Chosen One stories don’t always know about the conflicts, the vampires, the witches, but they do have some sense of the fall out (gas leaks, water mains bursting, random never-before-heard-of-illnesses killing off the local folks). I loved that in this book they KNEW about the zombies and ghosts and vampires that were invading the world.

And they knew that they couldn’t do anything about it because it wasn’t THEIR story.

In this book there’s The Chosen Ones (refereed to as the Indie kids, which cracked me the HELL up because I was kinda an indie kid in college even though I would NEVER have admitted it) and then The Rest of Us. The main characters are The Rest of Us: Mikey (who has OCD), his older sister Mel (who’s recovering from an eating disorder), his younger sister Meredith (who just struggles with being 10 years old and wanting to go to her favorite boy band concert), his neighbor and best friend Henna (who struggled with her super religious parents), and his other best friend Jared (who is half god and worshiped by cats. And also gay). Everyone has their faults, they deal with them in strange ways, and help each other out. They live, laugh, fight, love and wonder wtf is going on in their town THIS time.

I think what I loved the most about this was how it was at times just a normal contemporary dealing with issues that a lot of teens face (and are just becoming things that are “okay” to talk about and seek help with) but then in the background there’s the freaking end of the world! And Indie kids are dying and saving the world and the sections that were about the Indie kids just SLAYED ME. I loved the writing and the mix of mystical with the contemporary and how it was all just so normal. A lot of it made me laugh, a lot of it felt like an inside joke that I was IN on and I loved it.

Overall I’m not sure how this compares to Ness’ other books, but for me this was a great introduction to him.

Sam’s Review:

I admit, I haven’t read a lot of Patrick Ness’ works, and the ones I have read I’ve either absolutely adored or been completely ‘meh’ on. I took a gamble with The Rest of Us Just Live Here after hearing about it at Frenzy Presents (hosted by HarperCollins Canada) and I can honestly say I thought this was quite the fun book! Patrick Ness is fantastic at immersion in his stories, crafting weird and wonderful scenarios, and this book was no different.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here focuses on those who are not “The Chosen One.” The ones who have to suffer the consequences and actions of “The Chosen One” as they fight to protect the world around them. Some days are more catastrophic than others, and this idea is done with a lot of humour. You can also tell Ness is a huge Buffy nerd, because there are some references in the novel that just prove that point and drive it home!

Although I’ve given you a small glimpse on what the book is about, it’s hard to really categorize what it is supposed to be. Is it fantasy? Paranormal? Contemporary? The Rest of Us Just Live Here really is a mish-mash of genres rolled into one engaging package. I admit, the use of genre bending threw me off once in awhile, and I’d have to reread parts to make sure I understood what Ness’ intention was. I admit, I did find parts of the novel dragged, but for me it was this weird level of rollercoaster enjoyment, where it felt very up and down. Ness’ has a very unique writing style, and it’s definitely not for everyone (hence why some books have worked for me and others haven’t).

It’s weird to say, but I actually loved the plotline with the indie kids more than I did the Unchosen Ones. There was so much satire and humour in those moments, and when the indie kids plot mixed together with the Unchosen Ones plotline, that was when I found the book the most enjoyable and entertaining. The bit with the Finns? Absolutely genius. But when it was just about the day-to-day with the Unchosen Ones, I did find at times that the book wasn’t always as gripping as I wanted it to be. I also didn’t find the main characters to be as interesting compared to the Chosen Ones, and again that could have been more me than the book given that I was more interested in the satire side of the novel.

That being said, I think that this might be one of Patrick Ness’ most unique books to-date, but it did not top A Monster Calls, which still remains my favourite book of his. I think that if you’re a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Joss Whedon style humour, you’ll find a lot to enjoy in this novel, but the story part I think will be quite hit-or-miss for some readers depending on what kind of expectations that have for this book. Truthfully, this to me isn’t the Patrick Ness book to start with (I still say The Knife of Never Letting Go or A Monster Calls really is where to start), however, I think this book will be quite the hit with those can appreciate the playfulness that Patrick Ness infuses into this world. I just wish I had liked the characters a lot more.

ARC Review – A Curious Tale of the In-Between by Lauren DeStefano

20499923Title: A Curious Tale of the In-Between

Author: Lauren DeStefano

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Pram Bellamy is special—she can talk to ghosts. She doesn’t have too many friends amongst the living, but that’s all right. She has her books, she has her aunts, and she has her best friend, the ghostly Felix.

Then Pram meets Clarence, a boy from school who has also lost a parent and is looking for answers. Together they arrive at the door of the mysterious Lady Savant, who promises to help. But this spiritualist knows the true nature of Pram’s power, and what she has planned is more terrifying than any ghost.

Huge thank you to Bloomsbury Kids for sending me an advanced copy of this book!

River’s Review:

When I found out that DeStefano was writing a middle grade novel I was a little apprehensive. I’m a huge fan of her prose and was worried that things might be a little… lacking in that department since she was writing for a younger crowd. But this book did not disappoint. I was actually quite surprised at how dark it was from the first page!

This is a story about a girl named Pram who can see ghosts. She can speak with them and even touch them. She makes friends with the ghosts around her, and there are a lot since she lives with her Aunts in their elderly care home. Pram is considered to be an unusual girl, but she is well loved and well cared for. Her mother died before Pram was born (she died with Pram still, uh, inside her) and Pram misses her mother and unknown father very much. What little she does know about the two makes her wish to know more.

Pram is sent to school where she meets a boy and they become fast friends. I was actually surprised at the slight romantic undertones of their friendship. I mean, I remember being in Elementary school and having ‘boyfriends’, but this isn’t something I’ve seen in the few middle grade books I’ve read before. I liked that this showed Pram’s maturity (because she was a very mature young girl).

Pram’s new friend, Clarence, lost his mother too, but he can still remember her and he misses her very much. He’s convinced that his mother’s ghost is haunting their house and Pram confesses that she can speak with ghosts. Clarence is actually quite believing and he drags her off to meet a woman who can commune with the spirits, a Lady Savant. Lady Savant can sense that there’s something special about Pram and bespells her, forcing Pram to come back to her, where she then whisks Pram away to suck away her powers for herself.

I love how reading DeStefano’s books is like being in a fever dream. Quiet often her characters aren’t always lucid and they do things both in reality and outside of it. There’s a beautiful sense of what is real and what should be make believe juxtaposed against each other with themes of friendship, depression, love, and family mixed together. I loved all of Pram’s relationships, especially her friendship with Felix the ghost. And I loved how Pram pieced together her own mysterious past as well as the driving force behind Lady Savant’s ambitions.

As much as I would love for this to be a stand alone, it appears there might be more to come? And I am okay with that.

ARC Review – Switch (Savvy #3) by Ingrid Law

24611857Title:  Switch (Savvy #3)

Author: Ingrid Law

Rating:  ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Gypsy Beaumont has always been a whirly-twirly free spirit, so as her thirteenth birthday approaches, she hopes to get a magical ability that will let her fly, or dance up to the stars. Instead, she wakes up on her birthday with blurry vision . . . and starts seeing flashes of the future and past. But when Momma and Poppa announce that her very un-magical, downright mean Grandma Pat has Alzheimer’s and is going to move in with them, Gypsy’s savvy—along with her family’s—suddenly becomes its opposite. Now it’s savvy mayhem as Gypsy starts freezing time, and no one could have predicted what would happen on their trip to bring Grandma Pat home  . . . not even Gypsy.
Huge thank you to Penguin Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

This was an unexpected title that came in one of the packages I had received. If I’m being frank, I didn’t know about Ingrid Law’sSavvy series, so I felt a bit odd reading this third instalment. However, I was assumed that I should be okay reading this without having read the first to, and that statement is quite true. However, for me, having not read the prior books, there were a few things I felt like I was missing out on.

The heroine in this story, Gypsy, can see both the past and future. It’s a pretty terrifying ability for a young girl, especially one as free-spirited and kind as Gypsy is. Furthermore, she has a grandmother who is not exactly friendly and is scarred by something in her past. Gypsy and her siblings don’t particularly care for the grandmother because she’s quote, “mean” and I get that considering her behaviour in the story.

While there’s a larger adventure at play in this story, the best parts of it were Gypsy trying to come to terms with her grandmother’s behaviour. It’s kind of rough and sad to read at times because Gypsy understands where her siblings are coming from in their dislike of their grandmother, and yet there’s also a part of her that feels like the behaviour is inexcusable. I’ll give Gypsy credit, she doesn’t let her grandmother get away with her behaviour for very long, but she also becomes very empathetic when she starts to put the pieces together. I also really dug the savvy (magical) elements of the story, and I thought they were a nice touch given the setting is a real world story with magical elements.

Overall, I really liked the characters and thought the story was very cute and entertaining. However, I did feel lost at times because I felt like there were parts of the world building that were already established and since this is my first book I’m reading in the series, it left me a little confused. However, given the content here, it does make me want to check out the first two books, because I do think Ingrid Law’s writing is quite delightful. If you have a middle grader who has a love of magic and digs a fun adventure, this may be for you.