Tag Archives: Sam

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 – Who’s Who When Everyone Is Someone Else by C.D. Rose

Title: Who’s Who When Everyone Is Someone Else

Author: C.D. Rose

Rating: ★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Fleeing heartbreak, an unnamed author goes to an unnamed city to give a series of lectures at an unnamed university about forgotten books…only to find himself involved in a mystery when it turns out the professor who invited him is no where to be found, and no one seems quite sure why he’s there.

Huge thank you to Penguin Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

This pains me, but I struggled with this book. I picked it up on a whim at this year’s Ontario Library Super Conference after reading the blurb. I love the “Who’s Who” series, and I think that’s entirely where my brain was going when reading this novel.

It was partially that, and partially something harder to describe. This is a book that features “lectures” (or rather, waxings) on particular novels, and as well as the story of an unnamed author and journey through an unnamed Middle-European city. No one in this novel really has a name or even a role persay — bur rather, this is a novel that feels very meditative and thoughtful, but nothing really happens either.

That’s ultimately what I struggled with. I don’t mind a novel that feels aimless, let alone one that is poetic and thoughtful, but the writing in this book felt so dense at times that for every beautiful line or passage, there was something hard or difficult to navigate through in terms of the writing.

This is a book lover’s book for sure, and it’s a love letter to readers and that is abundantly clear. I just wish I had connected more with it or had been in a better head space to appreciate a lot of what C.D Rose was attempting to accomplish here.

ARC Review – Flor and Miranda Steal the Show by Jennifer Torres

Title: Flor and Miranda Steal the Show

Author: Jennifer Torres

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Miranda is the lead singer in her family’s musical band, Miranda y Los Reyes. Her family has worked hard performing at festivals and quinceañeras. Now, they have a shot at the main stage. How will Miranda make it a performance to remember? Flor’s family runs the petting zoo at Mr. Barsetti’s carnival. When she accidentally overhears Mr. Barsetti and Miranda’s dad talk about cutting the zoo to accommodate Miranda y Los Reyes’s main stage salary, she knows she has to take action. Will she have the heart for sabotage once she and Miranda actually start to become friends? 

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

Sam’s Review:

Flor and Miranda Steal the Show was a book I didn’t even have on my radar. Going to HGBC ARC list, I read the synopsis and decided to give it a whirl because it felt like something children at my library branch would enjoy. For such a such book, it took me awhile to read — not because it was bad, but because it was rich in entertainment and meaningful discussion.

Miranda is the lead singer in her family’s ranchera band, while Flor is a girl who works in her family’s petting zoo. When the carnival states that they are losing funds, Flor over hears that the petting zoo is in danger and that the money will go towards Miranda’s ranchera band, which is growing in popularity. This premise tells you a lot about the story on the surface, but what it doesn’t show is just how intense Miranda and Flor’s friendship is.

This is a book about family trials and tribulations and how desperate stakes can affect a friendship, and this element is done so well. You feel for both Flor and Miranda, you see how their friendship is in jeopardy, but you also see how the girls work to try and show value for each other and their families. The book also shows the level of sacrifices the girls are willing to make to take care of each other, which is crazy unheard of in middle grade.

Flor and Miranda Steal the Show is a wonderfully crafted middle grade story that focuses on so many different topics, and does it with humour and heart. It’s a story that shows how friends can work together to overcome difficult challenges, and even how they can advocate for each other. I adored this carnival tour, and I cannot wait to share this book with younger readers.

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.

Cramathon TBR!

I lovelovelovelove readathons and of course they always seem to fall during my busy weeks for work. However, it never seems to stop me from participating! Cramathon is a seven day long readathon, from June 10th to the 17th. It’s being hosted by quite a few booktubers and you can check out their intro video here.

There is seven challenges to complete (if you choose to do so). I haven’t selected a 7th book to read yet, but it’ll likely be whatever I choose to pick up. Here’s the challenges I have plotted out:

  1. A Predicted 5 Star Read – Sadie by Courtney Summers (I love Courtney Summers, all her books make me so happy that they exist in the world)
  2. Book Out of Your Comfort Zone – Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi
  3. A Book That Has Been On Your TBR A Long Time – The Dust Devils by Sean Williams
  4. LGBTQIA+ Ownvoices Book – Wide Awake by David Levithan
  5. Something That is Not a Standard Novel – Dear Martin by Nic Stone
  6. Book With Your Favourite Colour on it – Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now by Dana L. Davis

I don’t think I will get through all of these books, but believe me, I am determined. Here’s hoping for some success!

Four Feminist Reads You Should Check Out

I have had a new obsession lately: it’s reading books about prominent women and their accomplishments. There are so many great microhistory reads out there regarding women and how they have changed the world for the better, how they fought for their rights or created something to better the world. I find this books so thoughtful, educational, and I think they are great introductions to women that you may not have heard of. Here’s five that I recently enjoyed, and I encourage you to check out.

She Persisted
by Chelsea Clinton & Alexandra Boiger

This is such a beautifully written picture book that looks at the accomplishments and can-do attitude of thirteen American women and how they were told they couldn’t do something, and they persisted. The women portrayed in this book are ones who spoke out about injustice, prejudice, who believed in kindness and strength. The illustrations in this book are so beautiful, and there’s also sequel that just released looking at women worldwide. This book features such amazing women as Harriet Tubman,  Nellie Bly, and Sally Ride!

Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World
by Pénélope Bagieu

This fantastic graphic novel provides a wonderful short story for each of the thirty-ish women portrayed in the book. Bagieu’s art is absolutely delightful and expressive, and she chooses a lot of women who have either been neglected for their accomplishments, or ladies who just didn’t give a flying hoot about being recognized because for them it was about empowering others. These short biographical comics showcase the power and strength that women posses, and that’s pretty bad ass.

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Tales of Extraordinary Women by Elena Favilli & Francesca Cavallo

I discovered Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls from a friend of mine who had backed the Kickstarter for this series. I love the way this book is laid out, with over a hundred women, each with their own unique story. Each story is also written like a bedtime story, so if you’re a parent reading this book to a child, you could read a story a night with ease. There’s a heroine for every kind of reader in this book, and if you can’t find one to connect with, there’s even a sequel!

Bygone Badass Broads: 52 Forgotten Women Who Changed the World
by Mackenzi Lee & Petra Eriksson

Bygone Badass Broads was a Twitter project started by author, Mackenzi Lee, who commented that there were far more amazing and forgotten women who in the world who made major contributions to society. One of my favourite ladies to learn about was Stagecoach Mary. She was such a badass and she was a favourite of the US Postal Service. Who knew, right? This book of fifty-two ladies offers women of all races, gender identities, and socio-economical backgrounds. It’s very informative and sports some gorgeous illustrations by Petra Eriksson!

If you want to learn more about female contributions and empowerment, I highly recommend reading all of the above. There’s so much diversity in each text, and it’s been so wonderful to learn about what women have accomplished over the years. Let’s continue to celebrate women more and what I hope is more books like the ones above, get into the hands of those who need them. Support women, believe women, we need more of these stories.

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!