Tag Archives: paranormal

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.

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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.

ARC Review – Another Day (Every Day #2) by David Levithan

23923007Title:  Another Day (Every Day #2)

Author: David Levithan

Rating:  ★★

Synopsis: In this enthralling companion to his New York Times bestseller Every Day, David Levithan (co-author of Will Grayson, Will Grayson with John Green) tells Rhiannon’s side of the story as she seeks to discover the truth about love and how it can change you.

Every day is the same for Rhiannon. She has accepted her life, convinced herself that she deserves her distant, temperamental boyfriend, Justin, even established guidelines by which to live: Don’t be too needy. Avoid upsetting him. Never get your hopes up.

Until the morning everything changes. Justin seems to see her, to want to be with her for the first time, and they share a perfect day—a perfect day Justin doesn’t remember the next morning. Confused, depressed, and desperate for another day as great as that one, Rhiannon starts questioning everything. Then, one day, a stranger tells her that the Justin she spent that day with, the one who made her feel like a real person . . . wasn’t Justin at all.

Huge thank you to Knopf Books for Young Readers and Netgalley for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I am going to be in the minority here, but I didn’t want to see a Rhiannon story made. I thought Every Day was such a unique enough experience and that A’s perspective worked so well given it was about transformation. Still, I was curious about this and requested it any ways. As expected, it didn’t add very much toEvery Day, and while I get that it’s a companion, I didn’t feel like having events told from Rhiannon’s perspective were at all interesting, nor difference really.

I liked Rhiannon in Every Day, but in this novel she read so flatly, de-voided of any personality or any way to make a reader’s connection. I wanted to feel connected to her, but I couldn’t make it. Furthermore, I disliked her group of friends, and Justin once again drove me up the wall, but I feel like she stays with these people for really stupid reasons. These characters just lacked any sort of spark, and it made for such a tough reading experience because I feel like Rhiannon’s side of this story feels so empty and dull. There needs to be something that grabs the reader’s attention, and Rhiannon is just too shallow and bland a character for the story to feel like it has legs to stand on.

When the book was about her relationship with A and her meetings, those were still fascinating to read about. I still enjoyed the e-mail exchanges and the scene where A begs Rhiannon to come and help out this one girl still got me the way it did in Every Day. But I needed more of this and less about Rhiannon’s boring school adventures with crummy and uninteresting people, and that weighed more heavily than what I was wanting or expecting. At the end of the day even if I didn’t want this story, there’s a part of me that wishes it had been better than what I actually read — I didn’t want to be disappointed, just proven wrong.

Another Day was such a miss for me — it lacked the charm and presentation of Every Day that kept that book’s perspective unique and interesting to read. I generally love David Levithan’s stories, but Another Day was such a boring experience, and when it had highs of interesting moments, they were completely few and far between.

ARC Review – The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle

23346358Title:  The Accident Season

Author: Moïra Fowley-Doyle

Rating:  ★★★★

Synopsis: It’s the accident season, the same time every year. Bones break, skin tears, bruises bloom. 
The accident season has been part of seventeen-year-old Cara’s life for as long as she can remember. Towards the end of October, foreshadowed by the deaths of many relatives before them, Cara’s family becomes inexplicably accident-prone. They banish knives to locked drawers, cover sharp table edges with padding, switch off electrical items – but injuries follow wherever they go, and the accident season becomes an ever-growing obsession and fear.

But why are they so cursed? And how can they break free?

Huge thank you to Penguin/Random House for sending me an ARC of this book!

River’s Review:

The writing in this book is BEAUTIFUL guys. When I was reading it I kept having to pause and re-read parts because the rhythm of it all was just that wonderful. I had to stop after awhile or I never would have finished it. It’s poetic.

I am also discovering that I really enjoy magical realism. Earlier this year I read and LOVED Bone Gap, so when I saw people comparing the two I knew that I HAD to read this book. And while I did like this a lot, it wasn’t The Bone Gap for me. But I love how magical realism plays with my head. How I’m trying to figure out what’s real and what’s not. To try to place things and then to let them all go and fall as they’re meant to be.

This is a story about a family. With secrets. And mysteries. Every year at the end of October they all suddenly become accident prone. Bumps, bruises, torn flesh, broken bones. Some people die. Some things are accident. And some… are not. The accident season hides the intentional. One sister, Alice, doesn’t even believe there is an accident season. And when you find out what happened to her, what happens to her, it’s easy to understand why she thinks it’s a lot of shit. And it’s really left up to the reader to determine if the accident season is real or not.

This is also a story about a ghost. A girl remembered and not. A girl who haunts the family, our main character, and her friend. A girl who suddenly appears and disappears. Another mystery.

I loved the atmosphere of this book and think it would have been the BEST book to read in October. There’s a huge Halloween party and a scary old house and a ghost. A curse. Mischief and mayhem. I would have loved to have read this curled up in a hoodie some dark stormy night. So do that if you can. It’ll just add to the overall effect.

ARC Review – A History of Glitter and Blood by Hannah Moskowitz

24905359Title: A History of Glitter and Blood

Author: Hannah Moskowitz

Rating: ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Beckan and her friends are the only fairies brave enough to stay in Ferrum when war breaks out. Now there is tension between the immortal fairies, the subterranean gnomes, and the mysterious tightropers who arrived to liberate the fairies. But when Beckan’s clan is forced to venture into the gnome underworld to survive, they find themselves tentatively forming unlikely friendships and making sacrifices they couldn’t have imagined. As danger mounts, Beckan finds herself caught between her loyalty to her friends, her desire for peace, and a love she never expected. This stunning, lyrical fantasy is a powerful exploration of what makes a family, what justifies a war, and what it means to truly love.

Huge thank you to Raincoast Books for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I am a big fan of Hannah Moskowitz’s books based on the handful I’ve read. I feel like her writing is the equivalent of a chameleon — every book stylistically feels so drastically different, and yet there’s always a small part in the writing that reminds you it’s a Hannah Moskowitz book. I was super excited for A History of Glitter and Blood, and I enjoyed it, but not as much as I was hoping.

First off, this book has a very weird style to it. One of the main things I’ve noticed is all the DNF reviews on Goodreads, and a lot of them complain about the unique style. I don’t blame people for giving up based on the style, it’s very difficult to read at times, often because the narrative jumps around, breaks the fourth wall, and sometimes feels like you’re being pushed away. However, when I gathered that this novel was being written a “history,” the observations and narrative did start to gel with me. Part of this issue is that it’s not entirely obvious right away who is telling the story — we know it’s about Beckan, but she isn’t the narrator.

The story itself, when you get past the style, it’s really interesting. It focuses on a war between fairy and gnomes, and you’re given this sense at first that it’s like “fairies good, gnomes bad” and Moskowitz does this amazing job of turning that mentality upside down and showing how both sides are fault. Moskowitz leads the reader through this violent and destructive war, and it’s described in such a raw and vivid way. If you don’t particularly like gore or graphic description, than this book might turn your stomach. The push and pull of both sides really resonated with me, and I liked that I couldn’t pick a side and point a finger to who was right and who was wrong. The book even ends in a somewhat ambiguous way, which I thought worked.

I think the hardest part of this story for me was while I liked the overall narrative, I struggled somewhat with the characters. I didn’t feel a strong connection to them, nor did I feel like they had enough personality to really differentiate from each other. You learn a lot from who is narrating the story, but it’s from that character’s perspective alone, which works because you get a sense of who this narrator likes and who they dislike. However, it means you’re only given a very limited perspective on the other characters, so you don’t really know if they are as bad or good as the narrator makes them out to be.

And that’s just it: while this book has amazing tension and a twisting narrative, it can be a touch confusing to know what is going on at times. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially because parts that feel confusing do get re-examined and there isn’t loose ends needing to be tied up by the end. I enjoyed my time with A History of Glitter and Blood, but I feel like the narrative style will definitely be something that might be off putting for some readers. Which is a same really, because while the lack of characterization bothered me, I have to admit to the fact that I was so swept up in the war and tension that this novel presents. I feel like those who love fantasy and politics will likely appreciate what A History of Glitter and Blood has to offer.

ARC Review – Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty

24799093Title: Serafina and the Black Cloak

Author: Robert Beatty

Rating:  ★★★★

Synopsis: Serafina has never had a reason to disobey her pa and venture beyond the grounds of the Biltmore estate.There’s plenty to explore in her grand home, although she must take care to never be seen. None of the rich folk upstairs know that Serafina exists; she and her pa, the estate’s maintenance man, have secretly lived in the basement for as long as Serafina can remember.

But when children at the estate start disappearing, only Serafina knows who the culprit is:a terrifying man in a black cloak who stalks Biltmore’s corridors at night. Following her own harrowing escape, Serafina risks everything by joining forces with Braeden Vanderbilt, the young nephew of the Biltmore’s owners. Braeden and Serafina must uncover the Man in the Black Cloak’s true identity before all of the children vanish one by one.

Serafina’s hunt leads her into the very forest that she has been taught to fear. There she discovers a forgotten legacy of magic, one that is bound to her own identity. In order to save the children of Biltmore, Serafina must seek the answers that will unlock the puzzle of her past.

Huge thank you to Disney Hyperion and Netgalley for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

To be honest, I didn’t know what I was getting into when I requested Serafina and the Black Cloak. I figured it would be a much darker middle grade novel, except it was a lot darker than I originally anticipated. This novel is dark, on par with The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls in terms of eerie quality, and yet I found myself quite glued to this story.

Serafina is a young girl who never disobeys her father, but when children start to go missing at the Biltmore estate, she takes it upon herself to find them. What I loved about the novel is the way in which Beatty blends genres — the book feels like it embodies fantasy, adventure, mystery, thriller, and it does it all so seamlessly throughout the story. But seriously, there’s some creepy and dark moments in this book that made me go “Wow, this is middle grade?!” (In a good way, I swear!)

I also really enjoyed the relationship between Braeden and Serafina. It wasn’t like they instantly trusted each other or liked each other’s company, but I adored how their friendship grows in the novel. It’s quite magical! I mean, the ‘villain’ in this story was a little predictable, but I appreciated how Beatty wraps up the story, uncovers the mystery behind Serafina’s mother, and essentially does a great job of having the story come together in a very meaningful way.

Serafina and the Black Coat is a book that will keep you guessing, and is a thrilling ride from start to finish. It’s a great adventure story with two very wonderful and strong willed protagonists, and it offers such variety in its approach to genre. The writing is lovely, Serafina’s world is vivid, and it’s just a fun and engaging read that will remind you that middle grade can be a bit edgy too.