Tag Archives: raincoast books

Why You Should Read Company Town by Madeline Ashby (A Not Review!)

20447745I have been an avid follower of the CBC’s Canada Reads program for the last couple of years. For those who are unfamiliar, Canada Reads is a “Battle of the Books” in which Canadian celebrities, entrepreneurs and personalities champion a book that they feel all of Canada should read. This year’s event begins on March 27th with five contenders:

The Right to Be Cold by Sheila Watt-Cloutier
Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis
Company Town by Madeline Ashby
The Break by Katherena Vermette
Nostalgia by M.G. Vassanji

Today, I want to focus a bit on why you should read Company Town by Madeline Ashby, and why it’s an important book to be included in this year’s Canada Reads.

  1. It’s SCIENCE FICTION! In the case of most literary awards that are out there, science fiction tends to often get snubbed because it’s not considered “literary.” What people forget is that science fiction has the power to provide “what ifs” that could become potential dangerous realities. Don’t believe me? Consider why George Orwell’s 1984 is selling so hotly right now.
  2. It focuses on the Maritime provinces, and even though the book is science fiction, the feeling of how the Maritime provinces are represented here feel very authentic. There is a feeling of isolation, hard work, loneliness, and discomfort that is common throughout the novel, and Ashby does an amazing job of evoking these emotions and having it play on the readers sense of both New Arcadia and the character of Hwa.
  3. It stars a bad-ass, non-augmented Korean woman named Hwa. She will kick your ass. No really. To be fair to Hwa’s character, she’s incredibly compelling as a heroine, and Ashby does an amazing job of making her feel so vibrant and alive in a world that feels so phony on the outside.
  4. It’s a page-turner. I literally blew through this book in a day because I found the writing style and the story so engaging. The themes are really easy to grasp, but Ashby does an amazing job of getting readers to question reality and the Lynch Family who basically have New Arcadia in the palm of their hands. There’s an amazing amount of back-and-forth and this is on top of a series of murders that Hwa somehow gets roped into investigating.
  5. There is wonderful social commentary about Canadian economics and politics, masquerading in this high octane story. Like I said, I found myself moving swiftly through this book and long after I was finished, I was still thinking about a lot of what happened in the story, and how it can potential relate to now.
  6. There is augmented people. Augmentation is fascinating.

There’s a my fangirlish ramblings on why you should check out Company Town. I hope to read and share some thoughts about some of the other Canada Reads nominees as I read them, but if they are anything like Company Town, they will be easy to recommend. I am definitely looking forward to checking out more of Madeline Ashby’s books, and if you love science fiction, this book really is worth checking out. It left an amazing impression on me!

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Late to the Party ARC Review – You Were Here by Cori McCarthy

25679559Title: You Were Here

Author: Cori McCarthy

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: On the anniversary of her daredevil brother’s death, Jaycee attempts to break into Jake’s favorite hideout—the petrifying ruins of an insane asylum. Joined by four classmates, each with their own brand of dysfunction, Jaycee discovers a map detailing her brother’s exploration and the unfinished dares he left behind.

As a tribute to Jake, Jaycee vows to complete the dares, no matter how terrifying or dangerous. What she doesn’t bargain on is her eccentric band of friends who challenge her to do the unthinkable: reveal the parts of herself that she buried with her brother.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

THIS BOOK EMOTIONALLY MESSED ME UP.

Okay, that’s a bit of a stretch, but it did make me very emotional as I read it. This is a book about friendship, it’s about reconnecting with someone you’ve lost (in this case who has died). There is a huge mystery surrounding Jake’s death, and Jaycee wants to recreate his death-defying stunts so that she can connect to him in another way. She and her group of friends, who are all going through different problems, accompany her on this journey, sometimes trying to talk her out of things, other times to be supportive and it’s just, wow.

Grief makes you feel and do strange things. In Jaycee’s case, there’s this strong desire to find connection in her brother’s death. It’s heartbreaking, but totally something I could understand and sympathize with, having recently dealt with the death of my own mother. You miss someone to the point where you wish them back into existence — you want them to still be flesh and bone yet the world has taken them from you.

The friendship in this story is one of my favourite aspects, and I thought every character was strongly written. Natalie’s plotline was particularly engaging, and I actually loved how some of the prespective was told in different formats. There’s poetry, an ongoing comic, artwork, and it all fits into this story. It doesn’t feel out of place or strange, it’s just perfect actually. I loved these additions because it gave us so much insight into each character. Heck, I generally am not huge on the romance, but Mik and Jaycee’s romance was really well developed. I also liked Zach and Natalie as well, and my heart went out to Zach a lot throughout the novel.

This book is one that needs to be talked about more. It offers an insightful look to dealing with grief, while also weaving so many exceptional smaller stories along the way. Easily one of my favourite reads this year, and one that I hope others will try because there’s just so much going on in this novel, and it’so good at making the reader feel like they are a part of this story. The emotional investment I had felt so real, and I felt really connected to this story and its characters.

ARC Review – Grayling’s Song by Karen Cushman

26312968Title: Grayling’s Song

Author:  Karen Cushman

Rating:  ★★★

Synopsis: Like all Karen Cushman’s gorgeous novels, “Grayling s Song”delves into the past to let us know what we must ask of our future. Lena DunhamIt s time for Grayling to be a hero. Her mother, a wise woman a sort of witch has been turned into a tree by evil forces. Tangles and toadstools! Lacking confidence after years of being called Feeble Wits by her mother, Grayling heads off dubiously into the wilds in search of help, where she finds a weather witch, an aromatic enchantress, a cheese soothsayer, a slyly foolish apprentice, and a shape-shifting mouse named Pook!A fast-paced and funny coming-of-age odyssey from a Newbery medalist.” 

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I read Grayling’s Song in a day. While that is a positive in the book’s favour, it’s definitely not a new middle grade favourite for me. This definitely one of those novels where I feel like adults wouid have a deeper appreciation for the language and the story itself, and that makes it harder to recommend for younger readers.

There is a rich fantasy world in this novel that resembles medieval England. I really loved the setting and the way in which it captures the story. Cushman’s writing is very vivid, almost dreamlike, and she definitely challenges readers with her use of language. As an adult reading this novel, I can appreciate the use of language and the way in which it captures the world and the characters, but at the same time I feel like if I was a middle grader reading this book, I’d have a bit of a hard time with this book.

I admit though, I really did struggle at times with the characters. For me, the characters in this novel were missing a spark for me. They didn’t have the same kind of layering that I generally like in middle grade, so I found it hard to fall in love with them. For me the most memorable character was Pookia, whom I adored. I just thought he was such a delightful character!

Grayling’s Song is beautifully written and I do think it will have an audience with fantasy fans, especially older ones. There’s beautiful writing and a rich world in need of exploring. I just wish that I had personally enjoyed it more than I did.

ARC Review – If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

23947922Title:  If I Was Your Girl

Author: Meredith Russo

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Amanda Hardy is the new girl in school. Like anyone else, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is keeping a secret. She’s determined not to get too close to anyone.

But when she meets sweet, easygoing Grant, Amanda can’t help but start to let him in. As they spend more time together, she realizes just how much she is losing by guarding her heart. She finds herself yearning to share with Grant everything about herself–including her past. But Amanda’s terrified that once she tells him the truth, he won’t be able to see past it. Because the secret that Amanda’s been keeping? It’s that she used to be Andrew. Will the truth cost Amanda her new life–and her new love?

Huge thank you to Macmillan/Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

If I Was Your Girl has the potential to be a must read novel that looks at trans-issues written by a trans woman. There’s a lot in this novel that gives so much insight into trans issues, and I felt it to be a very eye-opening reading experience, even though I’ve read plenty of YA novels that focus on being trans. This one, however, I think provides an authenticity that really does make it stand a part.

My favourite aspects of this novel were the flashbacks during Amanda’s time as Andrew, and her growing into her transition. These were the parts of the novel that I felt to ring the most true in terms of understanding what it means to transition and the desire for people to accept transition as well. This felt so heartbreaking and truthful, and watching Amanda deal with her family at the beginning of the journey just hurt so much. When it moves into current time and we see more of how the parents accept Amanda, it brings a lot to the story, providing the before and after than I think many trans novels sometimes lack.

There was one glaring issue with this book though: I didn’t entirely buy how accepting everyone was of Amanda. It just didn’t feel realistic at all, and if anything part of me struggled with how easy a lot of her friendships felt. Everyone barely knows her and yet they confide all their deepest secrets to her. It just seemed very strange at times and it actually took me out of the story on several occasions. However, I will say that it does do a great job of showing positive friendships, which still seems so unheard of in YA.

I will say, however, that everything with Grant felt quite realistic. I wasn’t really into the smoopiness of the romance at first, but it did work and grow on me and I understood why the author portrayed the relationship as she did. There’s a very nice sense of building in the relationship and the issues that Amanda and Grant face do feel like realistic and challenging. I loved the way in which Grant handles Amanda being trans and how scared he was at first but grows into a mature way of understanding. It’s really something special how a lot of their relationship is portrayed and it did win me over in the end.

If I Was Your Girl is so smart in its depiction, and brave in its execution. I loved Amanda and reading her journey was such an inspiring and engaging experience. There’s definitely nothing out there quite like this book, and if you are interested in trans issues, particularly in YA, then this is a must-read for sure.

Huge thank you to Flatiron Books for sending me a copy for review!

River’s Review:

I first heard about this book last fall and was very curious about it. I kept missing out on chances to grab a copy or borrow it and I was THRILLED when a copy finally showed up at my house. I was in the middle of THE RAVEN KING and knew that this book would be a balm on my soul for when THAT was over. And I read this in a little less than 48 hours. It is engaging and eye opening and I couldn’t put it down.

The me from before 2007 would probably never have touched this book. The me from pre-2007 was a conservative Republican-by-default living in backwoods Michigan with a vague notion that God and Christianity might be an okay thing and that there were a lot of Wrong things going on in the world. I would publicly support things like Bush and anti-Queer rhetoric. Then I moved to Tokyo and got away from the bible thumpers and closed minded white people and saw a whole new world. My mind opened, my heart changed, and I started to read way more than Vampire YA books. And I grew and my mind expanded and I met people from different walks of life and I am no longer that girl from 2007.

I hope this book will do for some people what leaving my secluded, closed minded town did for me. I hope that people who are cisgendered will read this book or books like it and understand that we’re all people, we all struggle with feelings that we don’t understand, with feelings that other people don’t accept, and we all just want to be loved. I hope that other transpeople (teens and adults alike) can connect with this story and find themselves in this. I LOVE that this book was written by someone with the experiences being written about in this book. I believe that for true DIVERSE books to be out there that they need to be written by people who have EXPERIENCED the things they are writing about. Research can only go so far.

Story and writing wise I think that Russo has a nice voice for YA and that her writing will grow with time. There were a few places in this book that I would have liked to have seen more fleshed out, and there were times when the pace was a little off for me. Amanda was a relateable character because she’s felt things that we’ve all felt growing up and even as adults. Her struggles feel real and her voice was clear. I enjoyed the side characters, but they all felt a little flat and I would have liked to have had more depth in them. The parents were wonderful in the fact that they were both there and not there for Amanda. They had their own struggles with her choices, but in the end they were good, honest people who just did their best.

This is an important book and I hope that lots of people will read it and enjoy it or learn from it or have their minds changed and their minds challenged. I can’t wait to see what more Russo will come up with.

ARC Review – Once Was a Time by Leila Sales

25777460Title:  Once Was a Time

Author: Leila Sales

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: In the war-ravaged England of 1940, Charlotte Bromley is sure of only one thing: Kitty McLaughlin is her best friend in the whole world. But when Charlotte’s scientist father makes an astonishing discovery that the Germans will covet for themselves, Charlotte is faced with an impossible choice between danger and safety. Should she remain with her friend or journey to another time and place? Her split-second decision has huge consequences, and when she finds herself alone in the world, unsure of Kitty’s fate, she knows that somehow, some way, she must find her way back to her friend. Written in the spirit of classic time-travel tales, this book is an imaginative and heartfelt tribute to the unbreakable ties of friendship.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I adore Lelia Sales’ writing, though last year I admit my disappoint when it came to Tonight the Streets Are Ours. However, when I heard she was writing a middle grade novel, I had high hopes, and even higher expectations. I loved this book! In fact, I loved it so much I read it in a day.

This is a novel about time travel and friendship. More particularly can a friendship transcend through time and still survive. When Lottie jumps through a portal during a critical moment in time, she is transported to 2013. She spends a lot of time blaming herself into believing that the Nazi’s had murdered her best friend Kitty, and father. Interestingly, however, beyond this premise, this book has more to do with how a time traveler adapts to a new environment.

Lottie struggles a lot in this novel in regards to who she thinks she is, and who she perhaps wants to become in the “future.” I felt for her in the story, because trying to feel apart of a world that isn’t your own, it’s awkward and uncomfortable. There’s so much loneliness and isolation in this book as well, and even when Lottie makes friends, it never feels comfortable or “right.” I loved the relationship that Lottie forms with Miss Timms, the town’s librarian, and anytime she discussed funding cuts, and budget issues, my heart sank (as a library worker anytime you hear those words your heart sinks). But I loved their friendship and I loved how genuine it was, especially since Miss Timms encourages Lottie to try and find herself through the library. I also loved Lottie’s desire to read the whole Children’s Collection — a girl of my own heart.

I wanted to smack Dakota and friends throughout this book. Especially anytime they would coarse Lottie into bullying Jake. I was so sad Lottie kept caving to the peer-pressure, but I also loved how much of a wonderful friendship she strikes up with Jake! He’s such a darling character, full of energy and life, and being a kid like Jake who was bullied, I felt for her a lot during the story. The latter half of the novel where they are together in the search for Kitty was priceless, and I loved his level of encouragement. The ending made me cry like a baby, because it’s just so bittersweet and wonderful.

Once Was A Time is just such an enchanting novel that will tug at your feelings and hang on for dear life. It’s emotional, thoughtful, and very much a book-lover’s book as well. If you can suspend your disbelief and enjoy the small science fiction aspects within the story, then you’ll find a lot to enjoy here. I can’t wait to re-read this one in the future!

Blog Tour – Gena/Finn by Hannah Moskowitz & Kat Helgeson (Review and Q&A)

Gena/Finn is one of those books where if you grew up loving a fandom so hard with your friends, you’ll appreciate it from head to toe. When I learned about its existence during the #TeensRead event hosted by Raincoast, I knew I had to get my paws on this book. If I’m being honest, this book brought up a lot of great memories and was everything I hoped it would be.

Huge thanks for Raincoast, as well as the authors, for letting me in on this blog tour, and into their worlds. Even if it’s only a little bit.


19254725Title: Gena/Finn

Author: Hannah Moskowitz & Kat Helgeson

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Gena (short for Genevieve) and Finn (short for Stephanie) have little in common. Book-smart Gena is preparing to leave her posh boarding school for college; down-to-earth Finn is a twenty-something struggling to make ends meet in the big city. Gena’s romantic life is a series of reluctant one-night-stands; Finn is making a go of it with long-term boyfriend Charlie. But they share a passion for Up Below, a buddy cop TV show with a cult fan following. Gena is a darling of the fangirl scene, keeping a popular blog and writing fan fiction. Finn’s online life is a secret, even from Charlie. The pair spark an unlikely online friendship that deepens quickly (so quickly it scares them both), and as their individual “real” lives begin to fall apart, they increasingly seek shelter online, and with each other.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:
Gena/Finn is a book that brought up a lot for memories for me. The majority of my university years were spent with people loving and worshiping fandoms. From cheesy Canadian televisions shows such as The Collector to the fantastically aged video game series Suikoden, the majority of the friends that I have came from being a part of a fandom.

This book is told in a mixed media format: chat logs, e-mails, text logs, blog posts, litter the pages this book from beginning to end. It’s actually perfect given how this story is being told. Gena is a young girl who has a secret identity, while Finn is a twenty-five year old recent college grad who is trying to find where she fits into the world. She has the perfect boyfriend, but he doesn’t seem as interested in her fannish life.

The story of Gena/Finn hit so close to home as I was reading it. It reminded me of my university days where I would spend hours looking through message boards (we didn’t have tumblr when I was growing up), I ran a successful Suikoden role-playing community over on Livejournal, and I even shared that love with my friends. We all felt as though we were sharing all our loves and passions, and that is totally reflected in both heroines, Gena and Finn.

When fandom and real life begin to collide and feelings become apart of the equation, this novel loses a bit of the fannish edge in favour of pushing the larger parts of the narrative forward, while still inserting fannish aspects when possible. It’s delightful, heartbreaking, emotional, and I found I could identify with both heroines a lot of the time. The only character I couldn’t identify with was Charlie, seeing as my husband has been a large influence in my life when it comes to fandoms as well. However, I could totally understand and even empathize with him and his personal feelings through the novel.

Fandom often gets such a tough rap and treated as something to be misunderstood. Gena/Finn remind us that fandom came bring people together in remarkable ways. There’s so much love and attention to detail in this novel, and I loved the positive memories that it reminded me of as I was reading it. This story just gave me all the feels, and it’s a book I plan on buying for all my fannish ladyfriends because dammit fandom friendships are rad.


Q&A with Hannah Moskowitz & Kat Helgeson!

As always, Raincoast has allowed all the blog tour participants to ask the authors a question or two in regards to their novel. Here’s what I asked to Hannah and Kat in regards to Gena/Finn!

What is your favourite fannish memory? What fandom do you feel defines a lot of your
personality?

KAT: Before Gena/Finn was a thing, Hannah and I used to write fanfiction together on
occasion. So there was this one night when we’d come up with a project we wanted to start
together. We were up all night hashing out the details – creating a place to host the
stories, making art, outlining what was going to happen. We had a few nights like that
when we were working on Gena/Finn, but I think working on this fanfiction project was the
first. It was the kind of epic all-nighter you can only have with your best friend.

HANNAH: My favorite fannish memory is when I met the stars of Degrassi on their mall
tour. I made them shirts with quotes their characters said on the show. I’m sure Drake
still wears his all the time. (Sam’s Note: We can only hope so, Hannah!)


And that’s a wrap for this blog tour! Huge thank you to both Hannah Moskowitz and Kat Helgeson for taking time out of their schedules to answer some questions, and an equally large thank you to Raincoast for allowing me the chance to participate on the tour. If you’d like to see where the Gena/Finn blog tour is heading to next, check out the tour schedule below. Remember: fandom is delightful, and some of the best folks you will ever meet, will be because you loved the same thing so damn hard. 🙂

blogtour

ARC Review – Tru and Nelle by G. Neri

25897850Title: Tru & Nelle

Author:  G.Neri

Rating:  ★★★★

Synopsis: Long before they became famous writers, Truman Capote (In Cold Blood) and Harper Lee (To Kill a Mockingbird) were childhood friends in Monroeville, Alabama. This fictionalized account of their time together opens at the beginning of the Great Depression, when Tru is seven and Nelle is six. They love playing pirates, but they like playing Sherlock and Watson-style detectives even more. It’s their pursuit of a case of drugstore theft that lands the daring duo in real trouble. Humor and heartache intermingle in this lively look at two budding writers in the 1930s South.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I admit, my knowledge of both Harper Lee and Truman Capote is quite limited. I’ve read both their acclaimed works and enjoyed them, but I never knew the true extent of their friendship until I had read Tru & Nelle. I had not watched Capote (though I’m starting to think I should check it out), but taught me more about the pair then I knew prior.

This is a fictionalized book based on the friendship of Truman Capote and Harper Lee during their time in Monroeville, Alabama. This is a middle grade novel, though I question how many middle graders would know who either of these famous writer’s are. Still, it reads like what you would expect for a historical middle grade novel — it’s a tale of two best friends getting into a lot of mischief and mayhem, and having a glorious summer doing it. Both Tru and Nelle are delightful characters, and if I’m being honest, they made me laugh out loud quite a bit!

This book looks at issues of racism and does so thoughtfully. Especially in the ending section with Truman’s birthday where the KKK end up picking on a young boy. It reminded me of another book I had read in how it handled this issue, Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper. Issues of racism are shared in a thoughtful and intelligent way, without making younger reader feel as it’s not something they’d be able to understand. There’s a delightful simplicity in the storytelling in Tru & Nelle, and I really liked that about the story. It felt laid back and homey, and it made for a fun experience.

The novel itself is quite short with additional short stories tucked in at the end. I wasn’t as in love with the short stories at the end, but I did love the additional historical information that G.Neri included at the end of the text involving the depth of research, and the biographical information surrounding his protagonists. I found it to be very fascinating to read right after completing the novel.

Tru & Nelle is a delightful middle grade read with a lot of heart and soul. It’s fun, hysterical and thoughtful. I couldn’t put it down once I started reading it, and while I wasn’t huge on the short stories, the core novel shines from beginning to end. This novel is both great for middle grade lovers, as well as adults who are interested in the lives of Truman Capote and Harper Lee.