Tag Archives: reviews

ARC Reviews – Love and First Sight by Josh Sundquist

24921988Title: Love and First Sight

Author: Josh Sundquist

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: On his first day at a new school, blind sixteen-year-old Will Porter accidentally groped a girl on the stairs, sat on another student in the cafeteria, and somehow drove a classmate to tears. High school can only go up from here, right?

As Will starts to find his footing, he develops a crush on a charming, quiet girl named Cecily. Then an unprecedented opportunity arises: an experimental surgery that could give Will eyesight for the first time in his life. But learning to see is more difficult than Will ever imagined, and he soon discovers that the sighted world has been keeping secrets. It turns out Cecily doesn’t meet traditional definitions of beauty–in fact, everything he’d heard about her appearance was a lie engineered by their so-called friends to get the two of them together. Does it matter what Cecily looks like? No, not really. But then why does Will feel so betrayed?

Huge thank you to Hachette Book Group Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I loved Josh Sundquist’s non-fiction novel We Should Hang Out Sometime. It made me laugh, it educated me about disability, and I loved how open the author was about his life. This is Josh Sundquist’s debut YA novel, which focuses on Will, a boy who is blind and is going to a public school for the first time in his life. His parents are afraid of him being a part of the public school system considering he was transferring from a special school for the blind. He then falls for a girl he cannot actually see and decides to undergo a radical surgery that could potentially give him back his eye sight.

This book is so wonderful, so funny, and so heart-warming. Josh Sundquist has this crazy ability to be so inviting when he shares a story, and Will is just such a sweet protagonist who has such amazing intentions. He cannot see, but it doesn’t mean he doesn’t have aspirations, as he wants to be a journalist, a job that really is focused on sight. I felt invested in his story, his friendships, his family, and that’s the markings of a great main character. You can also feel the amount of research that Sundquist did to bring such an authentic story. I also love love loved Cecily, who is the love interest, and I ADORED the way Will and Cecily’s relationship develops given her own personal problems. They are such a sweet couple, and I actually love how long it took to get to that in the novel.

This is a book that can easily be read in a day. It is a sweet contemporary novel that offers a really unique perspective written by someone who understands disability lit. This book isn’t mind-blowing, but it just so funny and genuine and sometimes those are the kinds of books you need to make you smile. Even the research in regards to Will’s surgery was so well implemented, and I wanted to know more about it. I think readers will completely fall in love with Will when this book releases in January. Then while you are at it, read the Author’s Note, because it is so fascinating.

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ARC Review – Blood For Blood (Wolf By Wolf, #2) by Ryan Graudin

26864835Title: Blood For Blood (Wolf By Wolf, #2)

Author: Ryan Graudin

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: For the resistance in 1950s Germany, the war may be over, but the fight has just begun.

Death camp survivor Yael, who has the power to skinshift, is on the run: the world has just seen her shoot and kill Hitler. But the truth of what happened is far more complicated, and its consequences are deadly. Yael and her unlikely comrades dive into enemy territory to try to turn the tide against the New Order, and there is no alternative but to see their mission through to the end, whatever the cost.

But dark secrets reveal dark truths, and one question hangs over them all: how far can you go for the ones you love?

Huge thank you to Hachette Book Group Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

One of my favourite reads from last year was Wolf By Wolf. It just married everything I love in a story together: awesome action, great characters, a well developed and (in this case) researched story. I am also a sucker for alternative history stories, which was another reason why Wolf By Wolf won me over. I have been anticipating the sequel, Blood for Blood since I finished the first book, and I actually managed to hold off reading this until now.

And then I tore right through it. Much like Wolf By Wolf, Blood for Blood had the exact same addictive qualities. Yael is still an amazing heroine, and her thirst for revenge and vengeance for her people is much more violent in this book. The stakes also feel much higher, and there’s such an aggressiveness in Yael, Mariam and Luka’s cause. Even the scope of this story feels so much larger and terrifying, and at times I felt so afraid for these characters, but I also loved that even though they were in frightening situations, they managed to keep their eyes on the proverbial prize.

I also loved that we finally got to learn more about Yael and Mariam’s origins, as well as about skinshifting, and all the experimentation. Graudin has this real knack for giving the right amount of dealt without providing information overload, something which I feel like in the hands of an unskilled writer, would pose a major problem.

I cried, I cheered, I yelled, I threw my arms up reading this book. It took so many fantastic twists and turns and kept me on the edge of my seat. Whenever I had to put Blood for Blood down to go back to work, I was always waiting and thinking about what was potentially going to happen next and if the tables would be turned. There is a lot of real surprise in this book, and I am sad that this duology is over. I felt exhausted by the end, and yet I felt that this ending was just so satisfying and dynamic, ending the only way it could have. I STILL LOVED IT. This book is a wonderful conclusion, if you haven’t read Wolf By Wolf, get on that ASAP.

Fierce Reads Blog Tour! Reviews and Q&A with the Authors

Raincoast approached me to be a participant in the Fierce Reads Blog Tour, which I happily said yes to. I had the pleasure a few years back of going to the first time Toronto got to host Fierce Reads and it was such a fantastic event. Fierce Reads is back in Toronto on October 17th, and is featuring Leigh Bardugo, Leila Sales, Josephine Angelini, and Emma Mills! I was given the chance to review two of the books for the tour, and I got to ask the other two authors a question in regards to their works.

I received an advance reader’s copy of the following books thanks to Raincoast/Macmillan, and the thoughts and opinions expressed are purely my own.


22294935Title:  Six of Crows

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Rating:  ★★★★★

Synopsis:  Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone…

A convict with a thirst for revenge. A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager. A runaway with a privileged past. A spy known as the Wraith. A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums. A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes. Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz’s crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.

Review:

Those who know me, know I am a sucker for a good heist story. Needless to say when details started trickling out about Six of Crows, I knew I had to have it. I admit, I enjoyed the Grisha trilogy, even with all its flaws, but I feel like Six of Crows shows what a much stronger writer Leigh Bardugo has become over the years.

While this book has us following multiple perspectives, all of them are well intertwined. If you’ve read the Grisha Trilogy, than Six of Crows in terms of it’s world building will not feel foreign to you, including the series terminology. Even though there’s multiple perspective at play, each character in the story feels full developed and well realized, and each makes for an engaging point of view to read about. My favourite point of view to read, easily was Inej’s, if only because she’s a character who I easily gravitate towards when I read fantasy: mysterious, tough as nails, unafraid to be herself, but on the downside isn’t easy to warm up to others, and definitely has trust issues. She also easily gets some of the best lines in the story as well.

The additions to the Grisha world in this book is fantastic and so much more grittier than what the original series provided. I loved the grim, dark atmosphere, and I loved how Bardugo really plays with description in this novel. Everything about this novel is epic in scope, and you constantly feel like you’re being tossed around in a hectic storm. I admit, I was slow reading this at first, but once I hit parts four and five, I found I couldn’t put the novel down. I was invested in the heist, invested in the characters, and I needed to know that they were going to be okay.

I WAS NOT OKAY READING THIS BOOK. I was not, I admit it. I had moments where my heart was racing, I was panicking for the characters, and Bardugo is evil for that. She’s great at tugging on the reader’s heart strings and making her characters vulnerable. It makes for such a great reading experience. If you loved the Grisha trilogy, you’ll love how the world has been expanded with Six of Crows. However, if you want a starting point into Bardugo’s work, I strong recommend reading Shadow and Bone, if only to give yourself more familiarity to the world that’s crafted. Believe me, it’s one hell of a world, and one heck of an experience.

4575289Leigh Bardugo is the author of the New York Times-bestselling series The Grisha Trilogy. She was born in Jerusalem, grew up in Los Angeles, graduated from Yale University, and has worked in advertising, journalism, and most recently makeup and special effects. These days, she lives and writes in Hollywood, where she can occasionally be heard singing with her band.  leighbardugo.com / grishatrilogy.com


23310761Title: Tonight the Streets Are Ours

Author: Leila Sales

Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Arden Huntley is recklessly loyal. Taking care of her loved ones is what gives Arden purpose in her life and makes her feel like she matters. But she’s tired of being loyal to people who don’t appreciate her—including her needy best friend and her absent mom.

Arden finds comfort in a blog she stumbles upon called “Tonight the Streets Are Ours,” the musings of a young New York City writer named Peter. When Peter is dumped by the girlfriend he blogs about, Arden decides to take a road trip to see him.

During one crazy night out in NYC filled with parties, dancing, and music—the type of night when anything can happen, and nearly everything does—Arden discovers that Peter isn’t exactly who she thought he was. And maybe she isn’t exactly who she thought she was, either.

Review:

One of my favourite books in 2013 was This Song Will Save Your Life. I found the novel moving, something I could relate to in a strong way. Needless to say, I was thrilled that Leila Sales was putting out another novel, one I was hoping to have a much stronger emotional connection towards. I have to admit, however, that while I enjoyed parts of this novel, I struggled to suspend my disbelief in some situations.

I will concede that I loved the idea of this novel being an unexpected love story, and I loved the exploration around this concept. I think Sales does a great job of grabbing the reader’s attention to show obsessed Arden becomes with the blog and the man behind the words. It’s easy to become infatuated with someone else’s words or the way in which they tell their stories, but I admit, I disapproved of Arden’s actions in going to NYC and seeking Peter out in real life.

I just had such a hard time suspending my disbelief for that, and I feel uncomfortable with the idea that someone would go that far to stalk someone’s blog. I recognize that it happens, but my discomfort comes from the fact that it at first comes across quite unwelcomed? Perhaps there’s just a part of me that was confused by how this was supposed to be a romantic gesture of sorts — and like my co-blogger said, there’s that part of me that felt out and questioned how Arden could be so damn trusting towards Peter. I understand that she feels like she knows him, but on the other side of the coin does she really? Again, the level of trust and lack of discomfort really threw me for a loop, and admittedly, I’m surprised that Lindsey as her friend would go along with this (mind you, she’s the more adventurous type compared to Arden). I really enjoyed the reveal in regards to Peter, and I loved that Arden learns how one-sided everything is after confronting him about his relationship with Bianca. I kinda wish Arden had been more upfront with Chris, but I do like how Sales shows cheating as a learning experience, though I still wish she hadn’t done that!

I will say, I actually loved the friendship between Arden and Lindsey. For me, that was the best parts of this novel — the way they had each others back, the way they could call each other on their crap, the way in which they took care of each other was pretty admirable. I also loved Arden’s growth in terms of her family problems and how she eventually is able to speak out about it to her parents and others. For me, those were the more interesting parts of the novel since I struggled to buy into the Peter relationship and the blog stalking. I just found those aspects so hard to connect with mostly because I was screaming STRANGER DANGER every few seconds.

I think Tonight the Streets Are Ours is definitely an engaging read, especially if you can suspend your disbelief with how easy a lot of aspects fall into the place. I found I liked the novel, but was just also very disappointed in how simple and easy a lot of the situations were. I wish there had been more to the consequences, because that really did frustrate me. I’m disappointed that I didn’t enjoy this book the way I did This Song Will Save Your Life, but I do recommend it to those who can suspend their disbelief and enjoy the narrative for what it is.

Leila Sales (www.leilasales.com) is the author of the novels This Song Will Save Your Life, Mostly Goodleila Girls, and Past Perfect. This Song Will Save Your Life garnered two starred reviews, was included on the American Library Association’s Best Fiction for Young Adults list, was one of Bank Street College of Education’s Best Books of the Year, and was listed as one of the Best YA Books of 2013 by Buzzfeed.com. It has been published in ten foreign countries, and it has been optioned for stage and film development. 

Leila grew up outside of Boston, Massachusetts, and graduated with a degree in psychology from the University of Chicago. When she’s not writing, she spends her time thinking about sleeping, kittens, chocolate, and how to get more of all of them. Leila lives in Brooklyn, New York, and works in children’s book publishing. Follow her @LeilaSalesBooks.


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Q&A Time! Featuring Emma Mills and Josephine Angelini

Every participant got to ask a question to the authors about something they were interested in. My question to Emma Mills and Josephine Angelini was: “In your opinion, what makes a book a “fierce read” and how would you apply your definition to your novel?”

Emma Mills: For me, a “fierce read” is one that’s enthralling—a book that you just can’t quit! I hope that the relationships in FIRST & THEN—romantic, platonic, and familial— are able to draw people in and get them invested in the story!

Josephine Angelini: Strong characters.  High stakes.  A heartbreaking love story and a killer twist at the end.  That’s a fierce read to me.  I hope that’s what I delivered.

emmaEmma Mills is a debut author better known to her subscribers as vlogger Elmify. She is also co-creator and co-host of the “life skills” channel How to Adult. youtube.com/user/elmify

joseJosephine Angelini is the internationally bestselling author of Trial by Fire and the Starcrossed series. She is a graduate of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts in theater, with a focus on the classics. Originally from Massachusetts, Josie now lives in Los Angeles with her screenwriter husband, her daughter, Pia Marie, and three shelter cats. You can visit her on Facebook, her website josephineangelini.com, or follow her on Twitter @josieangelini.


I want to extend a huge thank you to Raincoast for giving me this opportunity, as well as the authors for taking time out of their busy schedule to answer my question! Make sure to stop by the other tour stops below, and I hope to see you on October 17th at the Fierce Reads Tour Stop! And don’t forget to use the hashtag  #FierceReadsTakesTO!

blog tour

ARC Review – Me Since You by Laura Weiss

mesinceyouTitle:  Me Since You

Author: Laura Weiss

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Before and After. That’s how Rowan Areno sees her life now. Before: she was a normal sixteen-year-old; a little too sheltered by her police officer father and her mother. After: everything she once believed has been destroyed in the wake of a shattering tragedy, and every day is there to be survived.

If she had known, on that Friday in March when she cut school, that a random stranger’s shocking crime would have traumatic consequences, she never would have left campus. If the crime video never went viral, maybe she could have saved her mother, grandmother, and herself from the endless replay of heartache and grief.

Finding a soul mate in Eli, a witness to the crime who is haunted by losses of his own, Rowan begins to see there is no simple, straightforward path to healing wounded hearts. Can she learn to trust, hope, and believe in happiness again?

River’s Review:

Huge thank you to the publisher for this ARC. I’m writing an honest review to say thank you.

Wow. This book is emotional. I can’t remember the last time I’ve cried MULTIPLE TIMES while reading a book.

On Goodreads there are two different synopsis for this, and if you read the one attached to the hardcover, you’ll get some of the story spoiled… the one attached to the kindle version doesn’t say exactly what happens… but there is death and this is the story of losing a parent and dealing with the grief that follows.

There’s also a sub-plot with a dog that utterly wrecked me.

And this book deals with suicide and the way it was handled was really good. I hate it when books use suicide as a gimmick or plot device and this… was not. It was deep and terrifying and so utterly sad.

If you’re up for a really, really emotional book, this is worth a read.

Sam’s Thoughts:

Huge thank you to MTV Books and Netgalley for an advance reader copy of this book.

I was dreading reading this book, if only because my co-blogger told me repeatedly to brace myself for a lot of what the subject matter was about.

No matter how much I prepared myself, I knew I wasn’t ever going to be ready. This novel deals with the death of a father, a daughter who attempts to cope with grief, and a family that attempts to cling to each other in their time of loss. This is the situation I lived in now for almost a year, and while my father didn’t commit suicide like Rowen’s, I found myself easily connecting to her because of what she was going through.

This novel does not sugarcoat death, grief or loss. In fact, it’s realistic and does an amazing job of dealing with the more complicated emotions that exist when someone is grieving. Every time Rowan wrote in her grief journal, I found myself nodding along with her pleas. She wanted answers. I often find myself talking to my dad, whether it be in decisions I am making, or when I’m having a good cry. It’s hard because you often wonder why someone has been taken from you. There’s a feeling of abandonment, frustration, and relief takes along time to achieve. Admittedly, I know for myself, that I am not there yet.

Watching Rowan’s mother cling to her daughter is how I feel with my own mother. While my mother and I don’t fight the way Rowan and her mother do, I understood their frustrations. There’s a suffocating feeling with grief, and one you can’t endure alone. Moreover, it can be harder to grieve with someone else around you, but you learn to find strength in each other to keep moving and going. Rowan also had that in Eli, thankfully, because let’s face it — when you’re grieving you need the biggest support system you can find and one that respects when you want their friendship and when you need time alone. This book tackles all of this emotions and feelings with such ease and yet…

I had to put it down so many times. Not because it was a bad book, but because sections of it always felt too close to home for me. One scene in particular, Rowan’s father’s funeral, was done almost identical to my father’s, right down to the man wearing his work clothes in his casket. That image alone made me think back to my father’s funeral, and I knew I had to put the book away for awhile. This book is emotional and raw, and it’s not the best read for those dealing with loss. It’s not a book you seek comfort in, but how Rowan goes through the motions, the whirlwind — I’ve been there and I am still living it. That’s why for me, as painful as this read was, it was important as well.

There’s nothing light about Me Since You. It’s one of those books that deals with loss and grief in the right way but doesn’t force emotion or beg for the reader’s sympathy. Rowan isn’t a likable person, and in a way that’s why a lot of this novel works so well. This is a book you also need to be in the right headspace for, because if you’re like me and weren’t, the amount of angry and sad tears that will be shed are many.

ARC Review – The Chaos of Stars, by Kiersten White

ImageTitle: The Chaos of Stars
Author: Kiersten White
Rating: ★★★★ 1/2
Synopsis: Isadora’s family is seriously screwed up.

Of course, when you’re the human daughter of Egyptian gods, that comes with the territory.

Isadora’s sick of living a life where she’s only worthy of a passing glance, and when she’s offered the chance to move thousands of miles away, she jumps on it. But as much as Isadora tries to keep her new world and old world apart, she quickly realizes there’s no such thing as a clean break when it comes to family.

 

River’s Review:

I received an ARC from the publisher and I’m writing this honest review to say THANK YOU!

I LOOOOOVE Kiersten White’s books so much and while this wasn’t my favorite, I enjoyed it a lot. I had some trouble getting into it, and found the first 15% to be painfully boring, but once Isadora moved to live with her brother, things picked up.

I loved the mythology, the modern setting, the characters, and THE ROMANCE. I love how White writes such interesting and hilarious, realistic characters. Isadora and Ry were so great! I also enjoyed how this is a standalone, it’s refreshing after all of the series that I read.

Honestly, after seeing all of the bad reviews and not really being sold on the blurb (it makes this book sound WAY different than it really is) I’m really happy that it exceeded my expectations.