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Late to the Party ARC Review – Tiny Infinities by J.H. Diehl

Title: Tiny Infinities

Author: J.H. Diehl

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: When Alice’s dad moves out, leaving her with her troubled mother, she does the only thing that feels right: she retreats to her family’s old Renaissance tent in the backyard, determined to live there until her dad comes home. In an attempt to keep at least one part of her summer from changing, Alice focuses on her quest to swim freestyle fast enough to get on her swim team’s record board. But summers contain multitudes, and soon Alice meets an odd new friend, Harriet, whose obsession with the school’s science fair is equal only to her conviction that Alice’s best stroke is backstroke, not freestyle. Most unexpected of all is an unusual babysitting charge, Piper, who is mute—until Alice hears her speak. 

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

This book was very much a slow burn for me as far as middle grade reads are concerned. This is a book about loss, change, friendships, and swimming. When Alice’s father leaves her family, she decides to take refuge in his old Renaissance tent in the backyard. Her summer is showing constant change, as she meets a new girl who loves science, but is a bit odd. She meets a girl who is a mute that she attempts to befriend, and she spends her days learning that perhaps difference and change isn’t such a bad thing.

Alice’s story is one I think a lot of readers will be able to relate to. She’s learning to deal with her family getting a divorce, she’s determined to try and stop her world for changing. Alice is lovable as a heroine — she’s stubborn, determined, and a bit shy. She’s a character I think a lot of readers will connect with because she goes through events in her life that are challenging, and there is such an unknown feeling to the changes she encounters.

I also really liked the writing in this book, even if the story was a tad slow. I did find Harriet, Alice’s newfound friend, to be a bit of a difficult character. At times she read very robotically, though that may stem from the fact that she is very intelligent and somewhat socially awkward. I think she’s a character kids may have some trouble with just because her vocabulary is so advanced compared to other children in the story, but I think given how she is portrayed, it makes a lot of sense.

I enjoyed my time with Tiny Infinities. I loved it’s message about how adapting to change can be wonderful and rewarding, and I loved that as a middle grade story, it had subject matters that kids could relate to, but they were still complex enough to be challenging. I definitely look forward to recommending this to more patient middle grade readers. I don’t recommend this for readers looking for a fast paced adventure, because that doesn’t exist here.

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Late to the Party ARC Review – Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young

Title:  Sky in the Deep

Author: Adrienne Young

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Raised to be a warrior, seventeen-year-old Eelyn fights alongside her Aska clansmen in an ancient rivalry against the Riki clan. Her life is brutal but simple: fight and survive. Until the day she sees the impossible on the battlefield — her brother, fighting with the enemy — the brother she watched die five years ago.

Faced with her brother’s betrayal, she must survive the winter in the mountains with the Riki, in a village where every neighbor is an enemy, every battle scar possibly one she delivered. But when the Riki village is raided by a ruthless clan thought to be a legend, Eelyn is even more desperate to get back to her beloved family.

She is given no choice but to trust Fiske, her brother’s friend, who sees her as a threat. They must do the impossible: unite the clans to fight together, or risk being slaughtered one by one. Driven by a love for her clan and her growing love for Fiske, Eelyn must confront her own definition of loyalty and family while daring to put her faith in the people she’s spent her life hating.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I was so excited when Raincoast sent me Sky in the Deep. I haven’t read a lot of novels featuring vikings, let alone one where the lead is a female warrior. Eelyn story is wonderfully compelling, and this book read like candy.

I won’t lie, this book is not to most ground-breaking or well-written. It’s a debut, and it makes a lot of the mistakes debuts have by giving so much in a story without properly providing necessary aspects such as strong world building or deep and developed characters. This is true for Sky in the Deep and yet, I didn’t care. I was having so much fun reading this book, and while I didn’t read it quickly, I appreciated what an easy read it was.

Eelyn is a fun heroine. She’s strong, difficult, and she stands out. She takes to tasks and wants to get the job done, making her quite the boss. She’s also wonderfully flawed, which made me happy given I like a heroine to have flaws that the reader can relate to. This is a heroine who is tough, she mows people down, she has a sense of justice and duty and yet she’s a fighter. I just, I loved her so.

I just had such fun with all the action in the book. I also liked the political aspects between the viking groups, though I wish it had been more developed. I also appreciated that the romance wasn’t the forefront in this story mostly because I found it to be very phoned in. I still say I loved the issues involving the clans (well, any bit of information we received).

I can’t really explained why I liked this book. There’s a lot of action, politics and an awesome heroine, but there’s equally enough problems such as a lack of world-building and characterization among the secondary cast. But I found this to be such an enjoyable page-turner and even with the lack of information at times I was still loving the book, flaws and all. I wish we had more YA viking fantasy, and even with the book’s problems, I am still so happy it exists in the world and I cannot wait to start recommending it.

ARC Review – Breakout by Kate Messner

Title: Breakout

Author: Kate Messner

Rating: ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Nora Tucker is looking forward to summer vacation in Wolf Creek–two months of swimming, popsicles, and brushing up on her journalism skills for the school paper. But when two inmates break out of the town’s maximum security prison, everything changes. Doors are locked, helicopters fly over the woods, and police patrol the school grounds. Worst of all, everyone is on edge, and fear brings out the worst in some people Nora has known her whole life. Even if the inmates are caught, she worries that home might never feel the same.

Told in letters, poems, text messages, news stories, and comics–a series of documents Nora collects for the Wolf Creek Community Time Capsule Project–Breakout is a thrilling story that will leave readers thinking about who’s really welcome in the places we call home.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Breakout wasn’t what I thought it would be for a middle grade novel. It is a mixed media novel filled with comics, letters, text messages, and documents that are collected. It’s also based on a jail breakout that occurred in 2015 and the grinding halt it put a town into.

This book took me awhile to read. The first half moved so quickly, to the point where I was pretty swept up in the story. Then I hit the middle and the book came to this weird, grinding halt for me. I mixed media style wasn’t engaging me anymore and if I am being honest, the main fault of this book is that it’s actually a bit too long for it’s own good, and I feel like parts of it could have easily been edited down.

That being said, I loved the social activism in this book. Nora, Elidee, and Lizzie, are very engaged young adults who are trying to understand fear mongering, depression, discomfort, and alienation. The Wolf Creek Community is shocked to its core when two inmates break out of the nearby prison. Nora, Elidee and Lizzie talk about how the adults project onto them, while also writing to a future generation who may not realize what this situation has done to the community.

What I like about Kate Messner’s novels is that they always have an element of excitement to them. They are engaging, exciting, and they have such a consistent flow for readers. This book has all that, but it’s interesting seeing the level of discomfort in the story, and that felt new here. I will also point out, I love the recommendations that Messner put into the back of the book and I definitely want to check out all the books on those lists that I haven’t read yet.

While I didn’t enjoy Breakout as much as The Exact Location of Home, I still think this is going to be a great middle grade novel for readers who love stories that are different. I think this book will kindle the interest of middle graders who are interested in social activism and understanding justice. I think it will spark great conversation as well, and I look forward to recommending it to many of my middle grade readers at the library!

ARC Review – Bob by Wendy Mass & Rebecca Stead

Title: Bob

Author: Wendy Mass & Rebecca Stead

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: It’s been five years since Livy and her family have visited Livy’s grandmother in Australia. Now that she’s back, Livy has the feeling she’s forgotten something really, really important about Gran’s house.

It turns out she’s right.

Bob, a short, greenish creature dressed in a chicken suit, didn’t forget Livy, or her promise. He’s been waiting five years for her to come back, hiding in a closet like she told him to. He can’t remember who—or what—he is, where he came from, or if he even has a family. But five years ago Livy promised she would help him find his way back home. Now it’s time to keep that promise.

Clue by clue, Livy and Bob will unravel the mystery of where Bob comes from, and discover the kind of magic that lasts forever.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I read Bob in one sitting while I was waiting for work to be done on my car. Written by two middle grade titans, Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead, Bob follows the story of a little zombie creature who has been hiding in a closet for over five years, having been left behind by a little girl named Livy, who has recently returned to Australia to visit her grandmother’s house.

This book is charming and very gentle. It’s the kind of book that shows warmth, friendship, teaching younger readers about the value of forgiveness. This is a story is also about Livy trying to help Bob get home, because while she failed him once before, she doesn’t want to fail him again. Livy and Bob are just so cute and they have such a sweet friendship. The dual-perspective in this story also adds just another wonderful layer, making you want to cheer for Bob to get home.

Bob is a sweet read that will appeal to sensitive readers who love stories of friendship. While the story isn’t ground-breaking, it’s enjoyable and easy to snuggle down with. If you love Wendy Mass or Rebecca Stead’s writing, you’ll definitely love this joint effort.

ARC Review – Rebound (The Crossover 0.5) by Kwame Alexander

Title: For Every One

Author: Jason Reynolds

Rating: ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Before Josh and Jordan Bell were streaking up and down the court, their father was learning his own moves. In this prequel to Newbery Medal winner The Crossover, Chuck Bell takes center stage, as readers get a glimpse of his childhood and how he became the jazz music worshipping, basketball star his sons look up to.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I loved The Crossover when I read it last year, and it was the second novel by Kwame Alexander that I’ve read. Rebound is a prequel novel that focuses on Charlie Bell, father to Josh and Jordan Bell. Charlie’s story looks at growing up, what it means to come from nothing but demanding to be someone.

I will say I really did enjoy this book, though it didn’t hook me the way Alexander’s other books have. While I loved some of the poems, others didn’t click as well with me. The other issue is I wasn’t often fond of Charlie or his decisions in the story, and I found him much more difficult to connect with compared to Josh. I still say though that I did love the themes that were present in Charlie’s story, and it was interesting to read his thoughts and feelings known how he was presented in The Crossover. There is still a sense of hope, to be a better person, to want to do better and be successful — all messages that anyone can relate to, and especially growing up in the 1980’s which this book takes place in, as the 1980’s ever an interesting period of self-discovery.

I do think if you loved The Crossover that Rebound is completely worth checking out. While I didn’t have the same emotional investment, I still loved seeing Charlie’s transformation even if I couldn’t connect with him the same way I did Josh. As always, I love reading Kwame Alexander’s books, especially about sports given he always makes me feel as a reader like I can accomplish anything with sports metaphors.

Blog Tour – Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orïsha #1) by Tomi Adeyemi (Review + Giveaway)

One of the joys of doing blog tours is that you get the opportunity to try out new reads that have been gaining a lot of buzz. When I first heard about Children of Blood and Bone, I was memorized by the idea of reading a West African fantasy novel. I’ve read Caribbean fantasy for school back when I was an English Major nearly ten years ago, but African fantasy truly is a new concept for me.

Children of Blood and Bone is a unique spin on parts of the fantasy genre. It offers insight and intrigue in a variety of ways, giving us some wonderfully fleshed out characters each with such passion and strength. If I have convincenced you to read this book by the end of this post, consider trying your luck at my giveaway, as Raincoast Canada (bless them!) have offered up a copy of the book to CANADIAN RESIDENTS ONLY. Children of Blood and Bone releases today, March 6th!


Title: Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orïsha #1)

Author: Tomi Adeyemi

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zelie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls. 

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now, Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good. 

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers—and her growing feelings for the enemy.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I confess: I haven’t been reading as much fantasy as I once was. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been finding I haven’t been drawn to their premises or the fact that there is just too much of the same out there, I was starting to worry I wasn’t going to find a new fantasy novel that would click with me. Then I read Children of Blood and Bone, a six hundred page beast, and recognized that there is still fantasy novels out there that I will devour quite easily.

This book is a page-turner. There’s a lot of excellent world building, which in most novels usually tends to meander, but Adeyemi does a great job of giving the reader as much information as necessary , without the story feeling bloated. I will admit, the perspectives in this novel blurred for me at first, and I had to double check which character I was reading at first. I found though as the novel got it’s footing, each character’s point of view started to feel much more distinctive. I really liked Amari sections, and I feel like despite her stubbornness, she truly grows a lot through the story. She is just such an unexpected young lady to be a princess, y’know? I also loved Zelie, and I think her strength and determination holds no bounds. She’s fierce, head-strong, and yet she gave me a sense of hope throughout the novel. She really grows, much like Amari, is such a natural way.

Speaking of the story, it’s wonderfully crafted. These characters are ones you want to root for, you want to see them succeed with every fiber of their being, and yet the violence they face is discouraging throughout. This book looks at race, it looks at displacement, it looks at power being in the wrong hands and how it can corrupt absolutely. There is moments that feel so desperate and uncomfortable, yet you also feel a bit of hope as well.

Children of Blood and Bone is one of those books that feels so familiar, but has enough differences that make it feel fresh and original. I loved the premise and I cannot wait to read more set in this world. I loved these characters and the way this world was crafted. Despite being a big, honking brick of a book, it really truly does fly quickly, and I think if you love fantasy that Children of Blood and Bone will have so much to offer readers. I truly didn’t want this book to end.


GIVEAWAY!

Want to win a copy of Children of Blood & Bone? Well Raincoast Canada is offering up a copy of the novel to Canadian Residents (sorry US readers!). Please fill out my Rafflecopter below and you will be notified if you are the lucky winner! 🙂

ENTER THE GIVEAWAY


Once again I want to extend a heartfelt thanks to Raincoast Canada for allowing me this opportunity to share my thoughts on Children of Blood and Bone for this blog tour. While you are at it, consider checking out all the other tour stops for a chance to read some great reviews and perhaps win a copy of this amazing book. Children of Blood and Bone is out now!

Blog Tour – A Girl Like That by Tanaz Bhathena (Review + Q&A)

A Girl Like That was a book that caught my eye at the latest #TeensReadFeed preview hosted by Raincoast Books Canada. It was a book that piqued my interest given the bright pink cover and the fact that it dealt with tougher issues. This is a book that explores prejudice, religion, slut shamming, and it’s tied together in a beautifully written package. I was sad that I missed out on having the chance to chat with Tanaz Bhathena at the OLA Super Conference back at the beginning of the month, but I was so happy when Raincoast approached me to ask Tanaz a question and review her book.

So without further ado…


Title: A Girl Like That

Author: Tanaz Bhathena

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Zarin Wadia is many things: a bright and vivacious student, an orphan, a risk taker. She’s also the kind of girl that parents warn their kids to stay away from: a troublemaker whose many romances are the subject of endless gossip at school.  You don’t want to get involved with a girl like that, they say. So how is it that eighteen-year-old Porus Dumasia has only ever had eyes for her? And how did Zarin and Porus end up dead in a car together, crashed on the side of a highway in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia? When the religious police arrive on the scene, everything everyone thought they knew about Zarin is questioned. And as her story is pieced together, told through multiple perspectives, it becomes clear that she was far more than just a girl like that. 

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

This was a difficult book to read. It has a very unique set up and one I feel like readers might have a hard time with at first. I want to say, very clearly: STICK WITH THIS STORY. Zarin’s story is heartbreaking, hurtful, and it will make you angry. I found myself feeling a roller-coaster of emotions going through this book, and I think it’s because it reminds me how cruel people can be.

In a lot of ways, this book reminded me of Jennifer Mathieu’s The Truth About Alice, except we actually get the points of view from the deceased characters. Many of the perspectives we get talk in depth about Zarin and Porus during their time alive and even in death. As the reader you start to question what is fact and fiction from many of the perspective characters. Reading from certain characters at times were so uncomfortable, because you get a sense of ugliness that is hiding in them. You also see how much of a role family can play in fact and fiction as well.

Zarin’s story is hard to read because it looks at not only a girl who may be breaking cultural practices, but she wants to be her own person and everyone has assumed the worst about her. That she is a slut, that she’s unpredictable, that she has the wrong agenda. A lot of my favourite chapters were when I got to be inside Zarin’s head and get a sense of what she was thinking and feeling. She takes so much abuse in this story, and yet she is so strong at the same time.

And the topics discussed hurt. You see religious prejudice, you see sexism, you see displacement, but there is also hope in this story. It’s a twinkle, but it’s there, and it feels so unexpected and so important. There are just so many complicated parts to A Girl Like That, and I feel not knowing too much about this story is what makes it such a compelling read. Beautifully written, heartbreaking and painful, this is a must read debut that offers so much insight into one girl’s existence, and if you can juggle the points of view, it’s a rewarding novel.

Note: A Girl Like That released on February 27th, so it is out now as of this post!


Q&A with Tanaz Bhathena!

Thanks to the wonderful folks at Raincoast, I was given a chance to ask Tanaz a question regarding A Girl Like That.  Here’s her response to my question!

SM: Zarin, like many women, face a lot of discrimination. Based on what happens to Zarin in the story, are these issues based on your own personal experience fighting discrimination or are her issues encompassing a lot of different issues on a whole?

TB: A few of the issues Zarin faces are my own—coming from a minority religion in a Muslim majority country, and the hypocrisy and double standards with which women are treated compared to men. But Zarin also encompasses a lot of different issues based on things I saw happen to people around me—Muslim and non-Muslim—and stories I heard that were swept quietly under the rug.

I began A Girl Like That by writing what I knew, and eventually discovered that there was a lot that I didn’t. I began researching by reading the Arab News and the Saudi Gazette again. I also read candid first-person blogs by people who lived in Riyadh and Jeddah, and reports by organizations like Human Rights Watch, MEMRI and Amnesty International. I watched videos. You can live for fifteen years in a country, but sometimes you need to have that physical and mental distance to really make sense of the things that happened to you while you lived there.


I want to thank Tanaz for stopping by and answering my question on this stop of the blog tour. I also want to extend a thank you as well to Raincoast Canada for allowing me to be a participant! A Girl Like That is out NOW! And while you’re at it, please check out the rest of the stops on the blog tour!