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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!

Book Review – The Accidental Highwayman by Ben Tripp

20519011Title: The Accidental Highwayman

Author: Ben Tripp

Rating: ★ 1/2

Synopsis: In eighteenth-century England, young Christopher “Kit” Bristol is the unwitting servant of notorious highwayman Whistling Jack. One dark night, Kit finds his master bleeding from a mortal wound, dons the man’s riding cloak to seek help, and changes the course of his life forever. Mistaken for Whistling Jack and on the run from redcoats, Kit is catapulted into a world of magic and wonders he thought the stuff of fairy tales.  Bound by magical law, Kit takes up his master’s quest to rescue a rebellious fairy princess from an arranged marriage to King George III of England. But his task is not an easy one, for Kit must contend with the feisty Princess Morgana, gobling attacks, and a magical map that portends his destiny: as a hanged man upon the gallows….

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this finished copy!

Sam’s Review:

I wanted to love this book so badly. I love stories of highwaymen, swashbuckling, and being a servant who dons a hero’s mantle. However, a lot of this book just didn’t work for me personally.

Frankly, for all those things I mentioned above, this book is very dull. More problematic is the fact that the language feels almost too challenging for the audience is it being geared towards. Tripp borrow’s Pratchett’s signature, using footnotes to convey more pieces of the story while also using it to define words being used and its context, but even that feels very bogged down and boring. The footnotes are not interesting to read at all, and while I enjoyed the additional words I could add to my vocabulary, it added nothing to the story for me on a whole.

The Accidental Highwayman is also bogged down by the story’s romance. The romance is boring. Boring, boring, boring. It’s also so cliched and uninspired and if I’m being frank, I kind of found it a little on the suffoicating side. Everyone in the story outside of Kit feels too one-dimensial (the women, omg the women are painful), and there’s too much info-dumping at times to keep the story interesting. If anything, the story parts are bogged down by so much unnecessary information that it made me cry “get on with it!”

If I am saying that, there’s a problem.

For a middle grade swashbuckling adventure, there is way better out there. If you don’t mind being bogged down by tons of information or the flat characters, you could find some enjoyment here. While the adventure had it’s moments, they felt few and far between, making The Accidental Highwayman a tough book to recommend in the end.

ARC Review – A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic #2) by V.E Schwab

A Gathering of Shadows FinalTitle: A Gathering of Shadows  (Shades of Magic #2)

Author:  V.E Schwab

Rating:  ★★★★★

Synopsis: Four months have passed since the shadow stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Rhy was wounded and the Dane twins fell, and the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift, and into Black London. In many ways, things have almost returned to normal, though Rhy is more sober, and Kell is now plagued by his guilt. Restless, and having given up smuggling, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks like she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games—an extravagant international competition of magic, meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries—a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.

But while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life, and those who were thought to be forever gone have returned. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night reappears in the morning, and so it seems Black London has risen again—meaning that another London must fall.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I devoured A Darker Shade of Magic when it released last year. I got completely sucked into the worlds that Schwab had crafted, and adored the cast of characters she created. Victoria Schwab has a knack for great characters, interesting world-building, and her books offer so much tension and intrigue that it’s hard not to love them. A Gathering of Shadows is no different.

Obviously, this book is a sequel and definitely requires that you have read A Darker Shade of Magic. This book occurs four months after the main events of ADSOM, and basically the book takes off from there. Kell and Rhy are in new positions, Lila’s taken up a life on the sea, and then there’s a magic tournament and a whole lot of other shenanigans. A lot of the new characters that are introduced in this novel are fantastic as well, and I quite enjoyed reading their stories. I’m interested to see where Schwab will take them in the next book since some of their narratives felt a unfinished.

I feel like reviewing a sequel is difficult, because at the end of the day, you don’t want to give away any spoilers for those who have yet to read the first book. I think if you love character driven stories full of wonder and enchantment, then A Darker Shade of Magic is sure to delight. A Gathering of Shadows is a worthy sequel that offers fantastic development of Schwab’s world and her characters. The ending left me quite surprised, and I can only hope that the sequel answers more questions that have presented themselves in this novel.

Basically what I am saying is: I need the next book now.

River & Sam’s Fave Books of February

At the beginning of each new month, River and I decided we wanted to share with you guys our favourite read (or reads in the case of February) for that month. Why? Because sometimes its awesome to showcase favourites! February was an odd month for River and I as we both experienced reading slumps up the yin-yang, so it’s was impressive for both of us to have two favourites for the month of February. Without further ado, here’s our picks.

River’s Book(s) of the Month:

tease18820442

Tease by Amanda Maciel & (Don’t You) Forget About Me by Kate Karyus Quinn

So neither of these books are out yet and our reviews for them won’t go live until closer to their release dates, but these two are definitely books to watch I think. River expressed how Tease is one of those books where it’s “crappy people doing crappy things” and not understanding repercussion, and I have a bizarre love for those types of stories because I suppose it baffles me that there are people out there who behave that way. (Don’t You) Forget About Me by Kate Karyus Quinn sounds as creepy and intriguing as her debut Another Little Piece, which I still haven’t read yet (story of my life, huh?). Needless to say, these books should be on your radar.

Sam’s Picks:

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Vicious by V.E Schwab and The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu

Ah, Vicious, the book that sunk its teeth into me and refused to let go. To be honest, I wasn’t sure how much I was going to love Vicious considering I am still fairly new to Victoria Schwab’s work, but her characters are so wonderfully crafted that it was so easy to fall into the world and its evils. I spent a good chunk of this book yelling at the characters because dammit, they were totally listening to me (no, no they weren’t) and I was just completely engaged. Also for the record, I am totes Team Victor even though the whole team thing is overrated.

My second choice, which almost gave Vicious a run for its money was The Truth About Alice which, like I mentioned above with Tease, is about crappy people being crappy, but where it works here is that you get everyone else’s perspective from the party, but Alice’s POV is non-existent. The reader is forced to put the pieces together in a wonderfully intriguing mystery where you don’t know who is telling the truth and who is crafting a new lie. I was glued to this book, so much so that I was bitter when my Kindle died while I was reading it. I had to know all the answers! Our review for this book will be coming up very soon  even though this book does not release until June.

So there you have it! What was your favourite book(s) you read in the month of February? Please share in the comments — we’d love to know!