Friday, September 30, 2016

WE KNOW IT WAS YOU BY MAGGIE THRASH - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am here with another book review, We Know It Was You by Maggie Thrash. Thanks so much to Simon and Schuster for sending me a copy of this book for an honest review. As always, all opinions are my own.


To be completely honest, I'm not sure what to think of this book. It wasn't really a *thriller,* at least not in my mind. There wasn't a whole lot of suspense, because I found the storyline hard to follow.

Ok, so this is essentially a story about a girl who mysteriously jumps off a bridge in the middle of a school football game, wearing the mascot costume. There are a million questions being asked. Why would she jump? She didn't seem depressed, the police, however, are ruling it a suicide. Did someone make her? But why run to the bridge? Was it actually Brittany in the suit? Anyone can put on a mascot costume and pretend to be the mascot. Plus she's an identical twin, maybe Angie jumped instead?

The story itself is written in a way where you don't really connect with any of the characters. I guess the main ones are Benny and Virginia, but the perspectives jumped from them to random side characters into third person limited. Some of the perspectives were definitely not needed and almost took away from the story itself. I never really felt any connection to Benny or Virginia, due to a combination of writing style and the fact that they were kind of annoying. Virginia was smart when she wanted to be, but more often than not, she made dumb mistakes that could have been solved with a little bit of common sense. Like getting in a car with a creepy thirty-something year old guy who comes to find you at your boarding school where they don't allow visitors, but somehow he got through. Umm, are there not like 50 red flags here? It wouldn't be so bad if she wasn't constantly going on about how if a female doesn't feel safe, she should do something about it. How about not getting in a car with some creepy dude??

I did really want to love this book, it had all the makings to be great, but I think the biggest issue was the disconnect with the characters.

There were also a couple of times when some things were just, oh. There was a lot of talk about sexual assault, inappropriate filming, and just a lot of touchy subjects that weren't always handled in the most sensitive way. Even when the football coach was talking to the guys about how no means no, I felt so conflicted because I was glad he was addressing the issue, but at the same time, he was insensitive about it. Like how he was describing things, and just talking about woman was rubbing me the wrong way, even with the message he was trying to get across.

Things like this, that needed to be handled with a little bit more tact, were just kind of tossed around. There were racial issues and stereotyping, not to mention gender stereotyping. The guys were either jocks with no brain, or weirdos who had no friends. The girls were all obsessed with boys or cheerleading. I felt that things were a little too inflated, and not properly handled. Of the three "bad guys" in the story, every single one was a person of colour. I'm not sure if that was a direct plan or if that's just how things ended up, but in today's world, we need books that have POC, in both positive and negative roles, as we see *usually* white people (although let's be real, mainly positive), but having only POC in the negative roles of the villain is just not okay.

This was one of those books that was bizarre, but not in a good way. There wasn't really anything to bring it back to a clear ending. I get it's a series, but there was maybe one of a dozen issues that was resolved at the end of the book, and I'm not sure I can muster up enough energy to care about what happens in book two.

Another reviewer described this book as a car accident, and I agree it has that sort of train wreck sense, where you can't look away, so I did end up finishing it in the end, but not *really* enjoying it.

Overall, this was a weird book that, while held my attention, just kind of rubbed me the wrong way on too many levels.


Wednesday, September 28, 2016

VASSA IN THE NIGHT BY SARAH PORTER - BOOK REVIEW AND BLOG TOUR

Hello everyone!

I am back this week with a book review, as part of the Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter blog tour, hosted by Raincoast Books. Make sure you check out the other tour stops on the graphic below to see some Q&A's with the author, as well as some more excerpts.


I am so excited to be able to share an excerpt of the book with you, as well as my review. First the excerpt. This little snippet really shows the sass of the narration! Here it is:


And now for the review! Thanks so much to Raincoast Books for sending me a copy of this book for an honest review. As always, all opinions are my own.


I'm trying to think of a genre to place this book in, and I'm not too sure. It's not really a fantasy, at least, not high fantasy, but maybe an urban fantasy. At the same time, even though there's magic, its not well known, or really shared that there's magic in the city/world. Regardless of the genre, this was a unique and interesting book.

The story follows seventeen year old Vassa in a magical New York City where the darkness of night is long and takes over much of the days. One night, Vassa comes home to find all the light bulbs burnt out in the house she shares with her step-mother and sisters. Her two sisters, Chelsea and Stephanie share the same mother but different fathers, making them half-sisters, while Stephanie and Vassa have the same father and different mothers. Vassa and Steph are almost the same age, and their dad went back and forth between his two families, until Vassa's mother, an eclectic painter, passes away from an illness. Afterwards, the father marries Steph's mom and shortly there after leaves everyone stranded.

Anyways, so the lightbulbs are burnt out and the only store open is BY's. Unfortunately, Babs, the owner of the store has a tendency to behead shoplifters, and the occasional innocent shopper. Still, they need light in the dark, so Vassa ventures to the store. After being tricked, Vassa is forced to work at the store for three nights, working off her debt, otherwise hers will join the heads on steaks in front of the store.

The story itself is based on a Russian fairytale, Vassalissa the Beautiful. Although I am not familiar with the original story, I still appreciated the retelling.

There were lots of magical elements in the story, perhaps my favourite was Vassa's doll, Erg. She is a small, wooden doll who is animated and helps Vassa. She also eats way more than anyone her size. I loved the interactions between Erg and Vassa. While in the store, there isn't really anyone 'normal' she can trust, so I enjoyed her candid conversations with Erg. The doll herself is a sassy things, and while she seems to know more than she's letting on, I enjoyed her spirit.

This story also had a bit of an Alice in Wonderland feel, I'm not sure if it was because it was a fairytale retelling or what. There's also the fact that there's this magic in the everyday world that you didn't know existed, and now Vassa, like Alice, is thrown right in the thick of it. She didn't know who she could trust so she kept to herself. There were strange things happening that couldn't be explained, especially towards the end.

One aspect I didn't love, and part of the reason why I didn't give this one a full 5 stars is I found some parts hard to believe. Now, don't get me wrong, for the most part, I was caught up in the wonder and excitement of the story, but at the same time, part of me was wondering where the sisters were. Even though they were mad, why didn't they come looking for her sooner? I also felt like, while clever, I think having the heads of your shoplifters on spikes out front is a bit extreme. Surely this can't all be legal, are the police afraid of being beheaded as well?

I also felt like some of the chapters weren't super necessary. There were a couple of flashback chapters from "last year" or "twenty three years ago," etc. and while they were interesting, I'm not sure they added too much to the story itself. The ending of the story was also a little confusing for me, I'm still not 100% sure what happened. I got the gist, but I think I need to go back and re-read things, to clear up some stuff.

There is also just the hint of a budding romance. It's by no means overpowering, but even still, I don't think it was necessary for the plot. I felt no connection between Vassa and the love interest, and I'm not sure it added anything to the story.

I did love the uniqueness of the story itself, and the writing. Vassa is whip-smart, and her partner in crime Erg has some great quips. While the story is told in first person through Vassa, there was never any confusion with what was happening with other characters, especially Babs. Vassa seemed to be able to read her from the very beginning, whether through some sort of second-sense, or just her intelligence.

Overall, this was an intriguing read like nothing I've ever read before.


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Monday, September 26, 2016

A LITTLE TASTE OF POISON BY R.J. ANDERSON - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, today it is A Little Taste of Poison by R.J. Anderson. Thanks so much to Simon and Schuster Canada for sending me a copy of this book for an honest review. As always, all opinions are my own.


After reading the first book in this series last year, A Pocket Full of Magic, I was excited to pick up the sequel. Luckily, it didn't disappoint!

The story picks up pretty much where it left off in the first book, Isaveth has sold her tablet wrappers and has now been offered a scholarship to the elite college by the company. After clearing her father's name, she decides she can't turn down such a prestigous offer and begins her schooling.

While her one saviour is Esmond, she doesn't end up seeing him much, because he is a year older than she. However, she finds a fast friend in a girl, Eulalie, who helps her navigate the new world of the college. I don't really want to say too much about the plot itself, because it is a sequel, and it might end up spoiling the first book.

One thing that I really enjoyed was the girl power that was going on in this book. Isaveth is her usual energetic self, but there are many other female characters that also find there voice and ruffle some feathers. Esmond's sister Civilla shows that she is more than just a petty gossip, having formulated a plan from the very beginning. Isaveth's little sister Mirriam is sticking up for her family, albeit not in the best way, but her intentions are pure. And that epilogue, power to Lady Nessa. She showed she is not some delicate little flower that can be pushed around. There is some hinting at issues between her and the Sagelord, hopefully they will be addressed more in book three (I think there will be more to this series, not 100% sure though). Overall, they were all clever and intelligent, I'll even forgive the author for using the cliché of poison because they were just so powerful.

I think this is a great book, and series, for kids. It deals with a lot of issues that kids these days deal with (man that makes me sound old...), like bullying, following their family's ill-advised beliefs, and just standing up for yourself. I think any of the main characters would be excellent role models for kids to look up to, they support one another and fight for what is right.

The setting of the book helps too, set in an adventure in a magical world, this story enchant all who read it. I also loved the fact that this book is set in winter, so you get that cozy, snowy vibe that everyone starts to crave by the end of September.

I also loved the inclusion of the Moshite religion. While both the religions in this book are fictitious, one where the followers worship the Sages, and the other Moshites, with their own beliefs, often deemed radical, the inclusion helps relate the message that no one religion or group is better than the other, and that you cannot generalize all members of the religion just based on the actions of a select few. This message of tolerance and acceptance is especially vital today in a world where there are so many opinions and thoughts. It is great for kids to see that people can peacefully work together and thrive, one is not better than the other.

Even though this series is technically a middle grade read, I still enjoyed it as a mature YA to NA reader. There is something so fun about going back and reading a book that deals with simpler issues than relationships and high school and college prep. After reading so many heavy books, it is nice to lighten everything with such a fun read.

I'm not too sure if there are only going to be two books in this series, I haven't been able to find anything. The ending itself is fairly well contained, I suppose there isn't a ton to be added to the story, but this is such a fun series, I would love to see more of Esmond and Isaveth's adventures!

Overall, I very much enjoyed this book and series overall and I look forward to book three (if there is one).


Saturday, September 24, 2016

YOU BEFORE ANYONE ELSE BY JULIE CROSS & MARK PERINI - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, You Before Anyone Else by Julie Cross and Mark Perini. Thanks so much to Raincoast Books for sending me a copy of this book for an honest review. As always, all opinions are my own.


Going into this book, I didn't really know what to expect.

Basically, this story follows two characters, Finley and Eddie. Finley is your typical good girl. She cares too much for her ex, and after her mother died, she took over as big sister/mother for her twin little brothers. She has just gotten into modelling to save up some money to re-open her mother's dance studio and fill her dream of teaching ballet. However, this good girl look only gets her so far in the modelling world, so she tries to become more 'edgy.' Eddie is trying his hand at modelling, because he's going to need the money. He's got some secrets, although one is bigger than the rest. The two meet at a party and one thing leads to another. Fin is happy to shed her cute image, so she's declaring it a one night stand, but when the agency moves Eddie into Fin's building, they end up bumping into each other a bit more than she would have liked.

According to my status update, I figured out Eddie's secret 23 pages in. At least, I thought I did. I'm not sure if that was intentional or not, to make things a little more obvious, but I caught on. Still, it didn't detract from the storyline, because you don't find out exactly what's going on until a lot closer to the end of the book. But it kind of just stays in the back of your mind.

Both main characters were great, as well as the more background characters. You get Fin's roommates Summer and Elana, as well as Elana's mother, known only as French Mama. While the dynamic in the house was strained at times, I enjoyed their interactions and ability to support one another. There are also cameos of Alex and Eve, who are apparently from another book these two authors wrote, Halfway Perfect. I haven't read that book, so I can't really speak too much to it, but I will say that if you haven't read that book, you can still definitely read this one. They are just cameo characters, there's no real need to have their backstory, and they're not companion novels by any means.

I also loved the family dynamic for Fin especially. Her little brothers are adorable and I really loved seeing Eddie interact with the family. His family leaves a lot to be desired, but Ruby does show a bit more support in the end.

I won't talk specifically about Eddie's secret, although, if you've read the book, you'll get what I'm saying. I really liked how everything was handled. I can only imagine the unbelievable difficulty it was for Eddie and Caroline. I think this book dealt with this element very tactfully, and in an interesting way. Stereotypically, you get these roles reversed in situations like this one and I am very pleased with how the authors wrote it. A lot of times, this issue gets to be one sided, one camp divided and against another, typically with one being loud, and I think it was very brave of both characters involved to make their decisions. Anyways, that's all too vague, but you'll get it if you read it.

I am also classifying this book as NA, even though the characters are eighteen. It's kind of on that line where it could be YA but it could be NA. I just thought that some of the themes made it a bit more mature, even though there isn't anything explicit. I also really enjoyed how it was NA without being carried by the romance, especially the physical aspects. A lot of times, NA is just one steamy scene after another, and while that might be okay for a little bit, the storyline itself can get lost. This book, however, achieved the perfect balance of romance and character.

I will say that I didn't love the ending. I mean everything worked out, but I just felt like it worked out a little too well. I don't know if that would be a realistic ending, especially in those circumstances, although I suppose I would have been disappointed not knowing what happened.

Overall, a very good book that deals with a serious topic, definitely check this one out!


Friday, September 23, 2016

THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES BY MINDY McGINNIS - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with a book you MUST READ, otherwise known as The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis. Thank you to HarperCollins Canada for sending me a copy of this book to read for an honest review. As always, all opinions are my own.


*my apologies in advance for the shouty caps you are about to see*

OH MY GOSH THIS IS THE BOOK. THE BOOK OF THE MONTH. THE BOOK OF THE YEAR. THE BOOK OF THE LIFETIME. PLEASE, I AM BEGGING YOU, IF YOU ONLY MANAGE TO PICK UP ONE BOOK THIS YEAR, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE LET IT BE THIS ONE. THIS IS SUCH AN IMPORTANT BOOK, EVERYONE NEEDS TO READ IT.

*ahem*

Anyways, so yeah, this book, it's kinda perfect.

Do you ever get that feeling, when you're reading a book that you have to get other people to read it. Not necessarily because it is your favourite, or has a great romance, but because it's just something you want other people to have in their minds, to help them understand, to give them some common sense? I never really had that feeling until this book.

I've read all of McGinnis' previous books, and they were good, but nothing like this one. There is so much to talk about, where do I start?

Ok, the story itself isn't too crazy. At it's core, we are following three teenagers, Alex, Jack and Peekay.

Alex's sister Anna was kidnapped, abused and murdered three years ago. They arrested a suspect, but never had enough evidence to convict him, so he walked free. Alex, however, has a bit of a temper, which she got from her dad before he left, decides to take matters into her own hands. Sure, it's murder, but in that small town, everyone knew he was guilty, and knew he deserved it, so it was never investigated.

Jack is your all around typical smart athlete. He's good enough at sports to land himself a scholarship at the college of his choosing, and smart enough to be valedictorian and not lose his scholarship. However, he hasn't always been a stand up guy. He goes through girls like underwear and on the night everyone was supposed to be looking for Anna, he was well, indisposed. However, that doesn't stop him from being interesting in Alex.

Peekay, not her given name, just a nickname she got from being the preacher's kid, isn't a saint. When she and Alex end up working together at the local animal shelter, they become fast friends, and after Peekay's boyfriend, sorry, ex-boyfriend breaks up with her for Branley Jacobs, a girl who has looks and know how to use them, Alex is by her side, no matter what.

Each of these perspectives are woven together in a easy narration. Sometimes, the perspectives blurred a little bit, it was just a bit hard to differentiate, but things got back on track once you got further into the chapter.

This book dealt a lot with feminism and double standards. Some of the things, I knew about, but others, not so much. It was very eye opening to see the differences between what is acceptable for both genders. There was one particular scene where something a male did was just brushed off as "boys will be boys" but as Alex points out, if a female was doing that, it would be inappropriate and unacceptable. While it brought these issues to light, it wasn't overbearing or heavy handed. There was enough examples to get the point across, but not too many to make it, uncomfortable. Most of these examples happened from Alex's perspective, so you also get her weariness of men, but not so much as to her writing off half the population all together.

Another major topic this book dealt with was sexual assault. At a party, Peekay gets away from the group to refill her drink. She is cornered by a few local drop-outs who are a couple years older. Things get out of hand, and someone slips something in her drink. Alex, from the other side of the room, stops the party and intervenes. Soon everyone is watching. Alex blatantly calls them out on their intentions and gets physical. She saves Peekay, brings her home and takes care of her. Even Branley, the resident mean girl helps out. As terrifying as this situation is, it was brilliantly balanced by the sheer girl power. Later we find out Branley's cousin was a victim of sexual assault at her college, and she would have helped out no matter who was involved. Things could have just as easily gone sideways, very, very fast. I loved how all the girls, and most of the guys rallied together to save Peekay. They could have just as easily gone back to their party and forgotten about it, or maybe they wouldn't have scene it. For me, that was one of the most moving parts of the book. The ability, especially of women, to come together and fight back.

This book was very refreshing, offering a realistic portrayal of relationships, school and society these days. Even the police officer that came in to do a presentation on drugs was realistic. He knew what was going on, and urged those to help report things. He made every single student take out their phone and take a picture of his contact info, knowing full well that half the people who needed it, wouldn't come up to the front afterwards to get it.

This is why, I think, this is the one book people need to read. It is real, it is gritty, it is terrifying. But it also has a first love, tales of heartbreak, and guilt. It's one of those books you can't help but relate to, because you could so easily be in anyone of the character's shoes. It's terrifying to think you could be victimized, or even bullied, but there's also the balance of the good things. Finding someone to love you for who you are, being able to move past, to heal those old wounds.

I'm going to stop now, because honestly, I could probably go on for another couple paragraphs, but if I leave you with anything, it is please read this book. It is something you need to read, no matter your race, sexuality, history, gender, age, just read it. It is such an important story.

Overall, read this book!


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

MOTHERING SUNDAY BY GRAHAM SWIFT - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am here today with another book review, Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift. Thank you to Penguin Random House for sending me a copy of this book for participating in a book club discussion. A review was not requested, however I am providing one as a complimentary copy of this book was sent to me by the publisher. All opinions are my own.


Well, this was nothing, if not a charming little book.

I found this story to be a little peculiar, not in the plot line itself, but in the way it was written. On it's bare bones, this is a love story. Set in the mid 1920s, Jane Fairchild, a maid for a couple in England, and Paul Sheringham, a prestigious neighbour, have been secret lovers for over 6 years. While neither was married or in a relationship at the time, their meetings have been kept a secret because, presumably, of the social standing of Paul specifically. However, as Paul becomes engaged, as Jane assumes, by arrangement, it is clear that they will no longer be able to continue seeing each other.

One Sunday, Mothering Sunday, as it is known, when all the staff and servants of the homes leave their posts to spend time with their families, Jane and Paul meet at Paul's estate for one last time before Paul is to be married in two weeks time. Afterwards, Paul takes his time dressing for lunch with his fiancée and leaves Jane at his home, allowing her to wonder as she pleases.

Most of this book is spent after Paul leaves; there's a good chunk of Jane, just wandering the house, naked and alone, eating meat pie, reading books, etc. However, it never felt tedious or dragging, because of the writing.

Seeing as how this is such a short book, not even 200 pages, the writing itself has to carry most of the story, each word needs to portray the message accurately. Despite the fact that this is such a simple storyline, two lovers seeing each other for the last time, the writing draws you in. It had a very enchanting feeling, just very relaxed but still well-worded.

When Jane arrives home, it is clear that something is wrong. I won't say what happens, although the synopsis is pretty clear.

The story also jumped from present day 1924 to in the 1980s where we see Jane has made a career for herself as a writer; penning 19 novels, been married and widowed, and lived a fruitful life. These future tidbits were woven into the story in new paragraphs as well as being dropped in as future events like "however, she would never see him again." While I felt these were integrated well into the story and didn't cause a disruption of the flow, I found that they weren't really necessary. I liked the story just the same without wondering (and finding out) what happened to Jane when she was 80.

The writing and storyline was vaguely reminiscent of The Importance of Being Earnest, not necessarily in terms of subject matter and plot, but with the whimsical writing style and the way in which you don't necessarily know who is narrating, or what is going on on a deeper level, but you still keep reading because you are enraptured by the writing itself. The story itself is straight-forward, but the writing is more intricate, more complex. At the same time, it wasn't hard to follow, rather I found myself relaxed, and almost soothed by the storyline.

One review said that this book is perfect for a lazy afternoon read, and I completely agree! Its such a quick read with lyrical writing, and short enough that you won't put it down because you are 'just about' done.

I think this book also deals with some issues that are still prevalent today, that people reading this book now can relate to, woman, social standing and the intricacies of casually intimate relationships. In terms of speculating what happened to Paul, well some could say it was an accident, but others, the romantics and realists alike, they could say that he knew those roads like the back of his hand, and just couldn't bear to be without Jane. What started as, realistically, a prostitution agreement, developed into something more, I think, for both of them. While I tend to favour the pessimistic side of things, I do think that Paul just couldn't bear to be with Emma over Jane, but knew that that would never be possible. At the same time, this book also touches on woman as authors, and even the views that something as mundane as a young woman reading a "boys adventure" story was radical. Jane speaks to these concerns in her passages as an adult and a writer later on in life.

Overall, this was an enchanting, easy read that, while appears to be a basic story, has more nuances and elements than meets the eye.


Monday, September 19, 2016

NOSTALGIA BY M.G. VASSANJI

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, today it is Nostalgia by M.G. Vassanji. Thank you to Penguin Random House for sending me a copy of this book for an honest review, as always, all opinions are my own.


This was such an odd little book. It was vaguely reminiscent of 1984 by George Orwell (which I'll admit, I only read 2/3 of) and just a good YA dystopian from the adult/scientist's perspective.

It follows, mainly, a character named Dr. Frank Sina and takes place in our world, later on. I'm not sure the exact timeline, the only date we are given is 2032, and it's after that year so I would say anywhere from 16-20 years in the future. And humans have finally achieved the ultimate goal; immortality.

In this world, people are still born like they are today, but every once-in-a-while, if they become too old, or dissatisfied with their life, they undergo a process called rejuvenation, performed by doctors like Frank. They can change their physical appearances, but more importantly, their previous memories are tucked away and sealed off a la Sam Winchester style (10 points if you get that reference). After they old memories are 'gone,' a new story is imagined by the doctors, in conference with the patient, and is implanted into the mind. By law, the info from the old life is not held onto after the four week grace period, in case of course the client decides that they want their old life back. It's a fascinating idea, but sometimes, it doesn't work 100%. Sometimes, the old life, the old memories leak through, aptly named Leaked Memory Syndrome, or as it's more commonly known, Nostalgia. And this can be fatal if not fixed up quickly.

While the story loosely follows Frank and his patient Presley Smith, who is experiencing Nostalgia, we also see a world outside this near-utopia, the vaguely dystopic land across the Long Border, to the south. Because this society likes sealing things off, they decided to build a wall just above the Mexican border (sound familiar?). I'm still not clear on the reasoning, the less developed nation couldn't afford such fancy procedures to prolong life and therefore wrecked havoc on those in the north? Regardless of the reason for the wall, it has caused many issues on either side. In the south, warlords have become more powerful than ever, factions pitted against each other, resources limited to whatever the north is willing to send over, people starving to the point of canabalism.

One of the side storylines is about a woman who travels to the south for a news story. Upon arrival, she is attacked and held hostage by one of the groups. Although terrified, she begins to see that they are fighting for a united world, "One World for Every One" or OWEO as they've dubbed it. Most of the north thinks she is dead, but Frank seems to think other wise, writing his own narrative as to what is happening to her.

The writing is very much no-nonsense. It gets straight to the point fairly quickly, and Frank's journalling has an eery feeling, you don't quite know if he is making things up or if he actually knows something nobody else does. The author is able to do a decent story with a twist or two in less than three hundred pages, which in itself is applaudable.

I did have a few issues with the book, which ultimately resulted in a 3/5 star rating.

Firstly, while I enjoyed the world the author has built, there were a few fuzzy details that I felt like could have been explained a bit more. Somethings were minor, like the robot/disembodied voice that was in the computer/study every night when Frank went to look something up. I'm not sure if it was internal or external, a voice in the computer or an actual robot. But really, in the grand scheme of things, that didn't matter. Things like why was the border wall built, and just more info in general about the south. There wasn't much info on who was in charge, how it got that way, etc. I have a hard time believing that those in the north would have so much hatred towards those in the south that they would sentence them, essentially, to death in such horrific conditions. Even with the Caesar Flickerman style talk show (another 10 points if you get that one), I have a hard time believing that a group of people could be rallied that want to kill the people in the south, despite the poll suggesting that "91.5% of the citizens of the north want to 'Let Them Die'." Maybe that's just me having too much faith in the future world.

I also found that the pacing of the story was a little off. Some moments were dragging, then others went so fast I'm not sure what was happening. The writing style was to the point, but sometimes I felt it was lacking something for the reader to latch on to, and I found myself having a hard time getting into the story at some points.

In the end, I did enjoy this book, but it wasn't my favourite.


Saturday, September 17, 2016

EVERY HIDDEN THING BY KENNETH OPPEL - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, Every Hidden Thing by Kenneth Oppel. Thanks so much to HarperCollins for sending me a copy of this book for an honest review, as always, all opinions are my own.


This book is pitched as Romeo and Juliet meets Indiana Jones. Going in, I was a little skeptical on how that would turn out, I mean, R&J doesn't really have the most hopeful ending and my knowledge of Indiana Jones is just whatever snippets of the movies I happened to watch as I walked past the living room if someone in my house just happened to be watching it. However, I will say, after finishing this book, I think these are accurate descriptions (although, spoiler alert: no one dies in this star crossed romance ;))

So I've marked this book as historical fiction, although I'm not sure how fitting it really is. It was a little bit hard to grasp the time of the novel, truthfully I thought it was present day, until we got to the part where the female main character wasn't allowed to go to university, and then things started clicking. They were taking a train cross-country, and instead of driving a car, they were in horse and buggy. It wasn't until they started naming some of the dinos they found that I really saw how far back in time they were; brontosaurus was just being discovered, as well as a gigantic "rex" (I'll let you figure that one out). Once I got the groove of the timeline, everything made more sense.

The story is told in three parts, with alternating perspectives from the two main characters, Rachel Cartland and Samuel Bolt. Both of their fathers are sworn enemies, for reasons no one has bothered to tell Rachel and Sam. Cartland despises Bolt for his lack of formal schooling in the subject of palaeontology, and Bolt resents Cartland for always finding a way to humiliate him, always in front of an audience. The tension between the fathers is palpable, at one point they have an all-out brawl on the stage of a convention, when Cartland suggests that Bolt has the fossil's anatomy backwards.

It is at this convention that Rachel and Sam meet, ripping their fighting fathers way from each other. Sam is immediately smitten, but Rachel is more reserved. Both leave assuming they will never see each other again, especially if their fathers have anything to do with it. However, when they both get wind of a monstrous fossil in the North, they end up taking the same train, and journeying to the badlands together. What starts out as a spy mission for their fathers turns into a friendship, and then perhaps something more. I didn't find it too insta-lovey, but it definitely had a rushed feel towards the end. But most of that was situational. If they were courting in the 'real' world, and not out in the badlands, things would have been different. As well, if their fathers liked each other more, they wouldn't have to hid their meetings, adding a extra bit of exhilaration to the relationship.

The writing of this book was spot-on, I was enthralled in the adventure. There was a real sense of urgency to complete the mission, or at least find what they were looking for, because the Sioux Natives were coming to stop them. Cartland did some unspeakable things to their ancestor's graves and, understandably, they were not pleased. The pacing was wonderful, slow when it needed to be, and heart-racing when things were tense.

There were a couple awkward moments, physically, between Rachel and Sam. I thought they were a little out of place, and I feel because this book does feel like it would carter to middle grade as well as YA, so I'm not sure why that was thrown in there but...

For those of you reading this wondering if it is going to be too science-y or too dinosaur-y, don't worry, it's not. I'm not super into the whole dino thing, but I still really enjoyed this one. There was some Native folklore in there too, which added to the experience.

I also liked the ending. I don't want to spoil anything, but something happens to Sam, and I was concerned things were going to take a R&J turn. I was definitely surprised when things didn't and it wasn't cliche. I liked how he acknowledged the possibility, especially with what happened in R&J, but didn't follow that same path. The ending of R&J is probably the most annoying thing about the play, and I'm glad Oppel recognized it and didn't fall down that trap.

I am only giving this book 4/5 stars because I found that the romance, while plausible, felt a little forced sometimes, especially after the falling out with the fathers. I thought it was a bit rushed, things maybe would have progressed there later on in life, but not right away.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book, and highly recommend it, whether you like dinos or not!


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

SUNDAY'S ON THE PHONE TO MONDAY BY CHRISTINE REILLY - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, today it is Sunday's on the Phone to Monday by Christine Reilly. Thank you so much to the author and NetGalley for sending me an eARC of this book for an honest review. As always, all opinions are my own.



Going into this book, I didn't really know what to expect. I had heard good things, but nothing too specific to the plot or story itself. After reading the synopsis, I was excited. The premise sounded vaguely reminiscent of Everything I Never Told You, a story not necessarily about a couple falling in love, but rather the story of the love between a family.

The story was broken up into two parts, "parents" and "daughters." The first section was the story of Matilde and Claudio growing up and falling in love. There was a lot of 70s references, rock and roll, drugs, just that sort of 70s hippie vibe. I didn't find the elements overwhelming, they did indeed add to the story. The second part dealt more with the family once their daughters were born. Natasha and Lucy, born three years apart, and Carly, adopted from China, a year younger than Lucy. Each one of the girls are different, in their own unique ways. Because of her heart condition, Lucy, the middle girl is the main focus of the three, however.

The pacing of this book was fairly slow, but I think that was due to two things.

The first, was the writing. It is quite lyrical, but I'm not sure how it suited the story. I found some parts tedious, I was getting impatient and just wanted to see what was going on. The story was told in a way you would tell the story to someone else, orally, not written down. Perhaps that was in part of the third person perspective, you were being shown and told what was happening, as opposed to feeling what was happening first hand. This style, I think, suited more the first part of the book, almost looking back on the parents lives from teens onward, but I found it harder to get into when the timeline switched to a later period.

The other reason, I think, for the slow pacing was that I had a hard time figuring out what the main conflict was going to be. There were a couple different storylines to follow, and I couldn't figure out which was going to be the 'big' one. There were times when the story felt a little directionless. Looking back, I can see what was happening, what was meant to be the big event, but in the story, I couldn't and that made the story seem to drag a little. Maybe it was also because I read an electronic copy, but I couldn't tell as easily when the book was getting close to the end, so it felt slow going.

Along that same vein, I didn't feel very connected to the characters. The story, as I mentioned, is told in third person, so you were never inside a character's head, at least not really. There were a couple of glimpses, but not enough to feel fully involved.

The other issue I had with this book, was that I never really got a sense of the passage of time. The girls are born, so time then I got, but as they got older, they seemed to jump from 10, 7 and 6 to 20, 17 and 16 in a matter of chapters. I'm still not sure if this is what happened, but that's just how it felt. Granted, there were dates at the top of each chapter, but really, I wasn't paying attention to those, and if I was, I didn't remember the date by the time the next chapter came around. So I suppose there was an attempt to help guide you along the timeline, but I found it didn't really work for me.

Just one other tiny detail, another reviewer mentioned it, and I'm not sure if it was just in the ARC and fixed in the finished book, or it was meant to be that way, but whenever the word 'heart' appeared in the book, it was ALWAYS capitalized. Heart, Heart attack, Heartbreak, etc. At first I didn't mind it, but as the story went on, it just seemed odd. I'm not sure if it was a reference to Lucy's heart condition or what, but I just found it unnecessary.

The last thing I want to talk about is the ending. Specifically the death of a character. I don't know if I just didn't see how serious things were, or if it was down-played, but it was a little out of the blue for me. Everything is going good and then its downhill fast. Next thing you know, its the funeral. I had no idea it was coming, and unfortunately, I was more shocked than sad. I suppose it seems like the likely course of action, but I just felt like there was other stuff happening, and then all of a sudden someone's dead. I just couldn't feel anything other than confusion. Everything was relatively fine, things weren't fantastic, but they weren't portrayed as death-bed bad.

Overall, I did enjoy this book. It did have some heart-felt moments that redeemed it, but in the end, I just don't think I connected enough with it to love it.


Monday, September 12, 2016

MURDER AT THE HOUSE OF ROOSTER HAPPINESS BY DAVID CASARETT - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am here with another book review, today it is on Murder at the House of Rooster Happiness by David Casarett. Thanks so much to Hachette Books Canada for sending me a copy of this book for an honest review. As always, all opinions are my own.


This book was very different from any other book that I have read, well, ever.

It follows Ladarat, a nurse and ethicist in Thailand who, at the request of a family friend, who happens to be a police officer, does some investigating. It seems that a colleague at another hospital in Thailand was on duty when a woman brought her husband into the ER, only to have him be found dead upon arrival. Seems typical enough, until you factor in that the nurse on duty also saw this same woman, with a different husband come in a few months ago, with the same circumstances.

This book had a lot of different elements in it that I am not particularly familiar with. The main one was the Thai culture. There are references to sayings, greetings, even things as mundane as food, all different in this culture. I did enjoy it, however. Everything was always explained clearly, whether it was the dish Ladarat was making for dinner, or the specific way one smiled, and the meaning behind it. I never felt like it was over my head, and I never found it too heavy on references. There was just enough to show that the author had done his research, without losing the reader.

Now, while the main draw to the story is the possible murderer on the loose, the story also focuses on the goings on in the hospital where Ladarat works. The Royal Inspectors are coming in a weeks time, and she has to help get things organized. Not to mention there is an American couple who were injured on an elephant ride on their honeymoon, and the husband's parents, especially the father, are adamant that they get the best care possible. There's also the matter of the barefooted farmer who seems to be sleeping in the stairwell for no apparent reason.

This book was truly fascinating. It looked at both Thai and American culture, having the insight Ladarat gave in her third person limited narration of both cultures. After spending a year studying in Chicago, she is kind of the hospital's resident American. Through her work as an ethicist, she helps people at the hospital work with the Americans and better understand their culture. While this was a learning experience for the reader on the culture of Thailand, Ladarat's perspective also gave an eye-opening look at American, or really the Wester world's views. She seemed to have the uncanny ability to predict the outcome of the conversations they had with the Americans, a trait which also helped with her detective work. She put herself in the shoes of the murderer, understanding why she did what she did.

On another note, I will say this book isn't really the thriller I was expecting. Not necessarily in a bad way, but just not what I was expecting. I get that the hospital and her work were a major part of her life, but I think I was just expecting more emphasis on the murders. I felt like the story had two different plot lines and they didn't really go together. She is trying to solve the murders, but at the same time, she is translating charts for the Americans, and giving medical counsel. I just felt like, sometimes, you only needed one of the storylines. They were each interesting enough to carry themselves, but I don't know if they really went together.

Another reason why I didn't love this book was there wasn't really any sense of suspense. It was pretty much another week for Ladarat, with an investigation thrown in there. There was no climax, no exciting, heart-racing moments. And I found that while the one storyline is tied up, the other is just left. I don't know if things will come back to it in the next book, but I just felt like there was more finality in one plot than the other. Part of the problem with this lack of suspense may be because there are literally no suspects. At least none that the reader knows of. In most thrillers, there are other characters who you go back and forth with, trying to decide who the murderer is. In this book, there are no suspects, we know no one who it could be. And I think that was part of the books downfall.

The ending of this book sets things up for a sequel nicely, even in this ARC there is a chapter or two of the next book already printed, so I think it should be coming fairly soon after book one is released. In the final paragraphs, I knew exactly what the next book was going to be about, without even reading the synopsis for it. And I could guess what was going to happen with Ladarat.

There is just something about this book that I found, almost soothing. I don't know if it was the Thai culture or just the matter-of-fact narration, but I just felt calm and relaxed while reading it. A little unusual for a murder-mystery I suppose, but I enjoyed the feeling. I think part of it was that there was very little suspense, so there was no sitting on the edge of my seat, waiting. You know what is going to happen, at least, for the most part.

Overall, an interesting read, but not really a thriller/suspenseful story.


Saturday, September 10, 2016

UGLY BY ROBERT HOGE - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with a slightly different review today, it is of a memoir instead of a novel, Ugly by Robert Hoge. Thank you so much to Penguin Random House Canada for sending a copy of this book to me for an honest review. As always, all opinions are my own.


I don't really read a lot of memoirs. I think I've read one, maybe two, but technically the second one was a collection of essays. Regardless, I don't have a lot of experience reading them, or even reviewing them.

Typically, I talk about character and plot points, the stuff that makes up the story. But with things like memoirs, you can talk about it, but it won't change the fact that that's what actually (for the most part) what happened, in real life. You can look back and want change things, but they didn't happen that way, so you can't. I guess what I'm trying to say is that this review won't be as critical as it will be more of a commentary.

This is the story of Robert, who was born with a tumour on his face and twisted legs. After a few operations, doctors were able to give him a nose and help him walk more comfortably with prostheses. However, people still stared. Kids still made fun of him. But Robert was able to learn to ignore the names and live the life he wanted.

Going in chronological order from birth, we get the story from Robert's perspective. We see the heart-breaking first month of his life, when his mother refused to see him, almost didn't want to take him home. But as Robert says, as hesitant as she was at the beginning, her love grew fast and fierce. Both of his parents supported him from the beginning.

The story then follows Robert through his elementary school days to middle school. He talks of the friends he made, the devastation he felt when he wasn't allowed to play sports, having to apologize to a school principal for the way he looked, that right there made my blood boil. I cannot believe that anyone should have to apologize to another person for the way they look. But, I suppose it was the 1980s and that was before my time and perception of peoples ability to accepting.

Even throughout all his trials, Robert always seemed to take things in stride. While many of the nicknames to this day still hurt him, he always seemed like such a happy go lucky kid. He was thriving in spite of those who wanted him to fail, in spite of his disability.

Technically, this is a middle grade story, focusing on his childhood, capping out at the age of 14. I enjoyed reading about his life, and would have loved to see more. After he made that final decision, what happened? According to the front of the book, he is married with two daughters, I would love to see him from 14 to where he is now, perhaps he'll write a second memoir.

The writing itself was very well done. While he was writing this story many years later, I could really feel like he was narrating it as a child in grade five. He told a story, but it was never over-embellished or exaggerated. It was pretty cut and dry, this is what happened. And I appreciated that style, especially for this memoir. I think there was a very high potential for the writing to swing it so you spend most of the book feeling bad for Robert. While you do feel empathetic, there is never the "woe is me" vibe. Robert was brave, braver than I am and never wrote to make you feel pity. If anything, I felt like I was reading the adventures of a young boy who had some obstacles.

I was also treated to the lovely drawings of some of the events in the story. I'm assuming they were done by Robert himself, but I'm not sure. They really added to the story, when things needed a little clarification, like the support made for Robert to lawn bowl, or just to add a little something extra.

Overall, I really enjoyed this memoir, and loved Robert's message of perseverance.


Friday, September 9, 2016

SPONTANEOUS BY AARON STARMER - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer. Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for sending me an ARC of this book for an honest review. As always, all opinions are my own.


In this book, 23 people spontaneously combust. Possibly more, but from the list of people I have, at least 23 people exploded for no real reason.

This was such a strange but eloquent read. The story is told from the perspective of Mara Carlyle, an eighteen year old who just witnessed one of her classmates blow up. Basically, this story is exactly as it seems, people are exploding and no one can figure out why. The issue, it seems, is only effecting seniors at one Covington High School in New Jersey. After the first explosion, everyone freaks out (obviously) and the FBI are called in. Soon the number gets to 3 and its at epidemic stages. The federal government is involved at this point, and soon all the seniors are corralled and quarantined. They run tests, the president comes on via video and talks to everyone in their little tent house. Unsurprisingly, someone explodes and you are shown the foul mouth the president has.

The narration of this book was funny when it needed to be, and serious when it was required. It's written in almost a conversational tone, Mara is speaking directly to you so you get a very personal look at everything that is happening. There are some moments where Mara isn't the best person, but it's realistic, because a) when people start blowing up, you're not exactly looking at the bright side and b) real people aren't nice to everyone, all the time. It's just not possible. Mara is by far one of the most realistic character's I personally have ever read and I enjoyed her candor.

Obvisously, there is a bit of a deeper meaning to the story. I mean, it was an interesting story about exploding kids, but that's not really what it is about. The book ends in a way that I was mad about at first, but now I think is genius. The story wasn't about what was making kids explode, it was a metaphor (cue Augustus Waters). This story was about growing up, facing your fears, working towards something, whether that be and Ivy League school, or just getting up out of bed in the morning. Everyone had struggles and fears, and with this book, they are united. Everyone is struggling with the grief of losing their classmates, whether or not they actually liked them, and everyone is afraid they will be next. By the end of the story, you have half of the (remaining) student body claiming they are the Covington Curse. Everyone feels responsible because they thought something bad about someone once, or they did something and this is karma.

The story isn't about why people were combusting, although a lot of speculation occurs. It's about finding yourself, in the darkest, and strangest of times.

I loved the relationships Mara had with her parents and her best friend Tess. Her parents were actually present, a shock in many YA novels, and they were realistic. This book deals with more mature topics, drugs, sexual relations, etc. and her parents handled these things well, but realistically. They were understanding when they needed to be, but they also didn't let everything slide. Tess, while not always present in the story, was more on the straight and narrow, but she was there for Mara, even when she pushed her away.

One thing I didn't love about this book was the romance between Dylan and Mara. I just kinda felt like it came out of nowhere, like she thought he was this weird kid who she'd heard strange rumours about, but never actually talked to. And then all of a sudden, he sends her a text and boom, they were dating. I wouldn't call it insta-love, because there was never any chemistry, and while they said they loved each other, Mara didn't, not fully. So maybe this romance is okay, because it was meant to fail. But still, it felt like it was set up to succeed, so I had my hopes up. Truth be told, I'm not too sure a romance fit well in this book anyways, regardless of whether it was done well or not.

Overall, this was a very interesting read with a whip-smart, dark humoured narrator.  Highly recommend.


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

THE CABIN BY NATASHA PRESTON - BOOK REVIEW


Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, The Cabin by Natasha Preston. Thanks to NetGalley for providing me with an eARC for an honest review. As always, all opinions are my own.


Ok, so if you've seen the average rating for this book on Goodreads (2.59/5.00) or just read some of the reviews in general, you know that this book is a bit of a hot mess.

The basic premise is that a group of seven teens spend the weekend at a secluded cabin and wake up to find two of their friends dead. The police come and investigate, find no signs of forced entry, and decide that one or more of the five people left is the killer(s). This book *sounds* interesting, but once you get into it, everything starts to go downhill fast.

The book starts off with some tension, one of the group members, Josh, is kind of a jerk who no one really likes (we don't REALLY find out why everyone hates him until waaaaay later in the story, but you know, he said some mean stuff a little while ago so...), and he decides, out of the blue, to bring his estranged brother, Blake, along for the ride. Our main character and only perspective, Mackenzie, literally less than 20 pages in is pretty much in love with this new guy. Already I'm thinking to myself, why must we destroy this great idea with an insta-love romance? But anyways, they make it to the cabin, etc., etc. two people are dead.

Most of the story is actually Mackenzie trying to figure out who did it. She enlists the help of her boyfriend, I mean the brother, Blake. First, she thinks that there must be some mistake, it must be an outsider, none of her friends are killers, you get the idea. She's painfully optimistic and way too naive for an eighteen year old who just found her best friend murdered. After some sleuthing, they decide they've figured it out. Then it's someone else, then it's another person. I was so bored of the plot at this point, I was keeping a physical list, a la Steve (from Blues Clues) style, of every suspect and their motives. Part of me thinks this was the only reason I kept at the book.

Anyways, as I was keeping my list, the story progressed with a lot of really weird romance. Like it was after the funeral, and they wanted to make out. Or things got really emotional, and then they were talking about how they've fallen for each other. I get it was to lighten the mood with so much death and everything, but come on, read the room. I felt no connection between Mackenzie and Blake, there was no relationship there, other than some inappropriately placed flirting. Next thing you know, she's defending him as suspect and deciding that one of her non-killer friends that she's known since she was ten is the killer instead of the guy she's known for a week.

In terms of suspects, I was all over the place. It didn't help that Mackenzie's thought process was all over the place. I thought it was Blake, but that was the obvious choice. Then I thought it was Mackenzie, because it was her perspective. A murder-suicide was also an option. Everyone had motive. I do think though, the killer had the least amount of motive, at least, according to my handy list. They had motive, but I think it could have easily been someone else as well.

I felt like the ending was a bad cliche, they caught the killer, or so they thought! And then the real killer comes forward, but something bad happens, and we end at the highest amount of action we've seen all story.

I originally marked this book as a thriller, but I think I will be un-marking it as such. There was little suspense or thrill in the story. From the synopsis, we knew two people would turn up murdered, so no surprise there. Then finding the killer, there wasn't really a sense of urgency. The detective on the case certainly wasn't too keen on getting much done. There was some cryptic texts, but those weren't really scary, because nobody talked about them, and they were so infrequent, they seemed tacked on as an after-thought. Things didn't start building up to the suspense until probably 250 pages into the 336 page book. It was just getting exciting, and things ended. I don't know if the ending was supposed to set it up for a sequel, or just make the story seem more thrilling than it actually was, I don't know.

I am so sad that I didn't enjoy this one as much as I wanted to. I was so ready to love it, but I just couldn't. The writing style was choppy and confusing, and even though I haven't read it, I found myself comparing the romance to that in Twilight. Blake was this mysterious, 'macho' man and Mackenzie was an innocent, deer-in-headlights girl who hung on his every word. I think this story has good bones, but the romance just killed it for me. Without that distraction, I think I would have enjoyed it a little more, and given it a better rating.

Overall, not my favourite book.


Monday, September 5, 2016

AND THE TREES CREPT IN BY DAWN KURTAGICH - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, this time it is And The Trees Crept In by Dawn Kurtagich (or The Creeper Man in the UK). Thank you to Hachette Books Canada for sending me a copy of this book for an honest review. As always, all opinions are my own.


This book is genius. It took me a little bit after I finished it, to figure that out, but it is so well done.

This is the story of two sisters, Silla and Nori, who escape to their mother's childhood home, where their now Aunt Cath lives, in an effort to get away from their abusive father in the city. The house, or as it's official called "La Baume" isn't exactly what they imagined, a mansion hidden away in the woods in the middle of nowhere. And there's just something not right about Aunt Cath. Soon, a mysterious boy comes out of the forest, claiming to be one of the last people who Cath looked after in the La Baume Orphange, and things get weirder.

One day, Aunt Cath goes up to the attic, and never comes back down.

I don't really want to say too much to spoil anything, but I will say that this book is so well done.

The story itself is told in a similar way to her debut The Dead House, but instead of being all documents, files and excerpts, this book is written with a mix of regular text, enlarged words for emphasis, and notes and journal entries. And it was so well done, the different elements were a great little addition. Even just writing words out longer, like Creeeeeeeeaaaaak when Cath was pacing upstairs, you could hear it in your head.

I don't know if I would call this book a horror, it didn't terrify me as much as some of the other horror books I've read, but its definitely more than a thriller. You could feel everyone losing their sanity, and even as a reader, I was confused. There were no rational explanations, but I felt like there should be. Things just kept progressing and getting stranger and stranger. I couldn't tell if these things were actually happening, or if Silla was losing her mind. And then Gowan, the mysterious orphan shows up and sees them too and that was kind of the point where I thought these things had to be real, there's no way people could hallucinate the same thing.

When everything was revealed, I was shocked. I mean, there was no part of my mind that thought what actually happened would be remotely possible. But when I found out, everything became clearer, clicked into place, but also terrified me. Things made sense, now, but the reasoning was terrifying. Especially Aunt Cath up in the attic, pacing back and forth. When we found out what really happened, *shudder* I still get a little bit freaked out.

This book, deals a lot with repressed memory. And I don't really think that that is a spoiler, because it is kind of clear from the beginning that some bad stuff happens, and the characters aren't really dealing with those issues in a healthy way. It actually starts way back in Cath and the girls mother, Pamela's childhood. They experience a trauma and don't really deal with it at the time, or at any point really. That affects both of them growing up, and later, Silla represses her own bad memories as well. I'm not going to go into details, because I don't want to spoil it, but I will say that everything makes sense. And I can't help but feel terrible for all that Silla has gone through. There are some serious issues going on but she doesn't have the mental strength to deal with them.

The one aspect I didn't love was the concept of time, especially with the mentions of the war. Now, they meant WWIII, but I just kept thinking of the early WW's and it just made the story jump back into the 1900s. I see now that it was okay to have a confusing sense of time, but I just didn't think it added much to the story, other than the reason why there was no one left in the town when Silla finally got up the courage to explore a bit. The house itself is fairly archaic, running on generators and having one working toilet, eventually to the point where they only have candles to light the way, so that didn't help with the concept of time. I can see know, at the end, why time was so muddled, but at the time in the story, I found it a little bit annoying.

Overall, I very much enjoyed this book. It definitely makes you think, but I can guarantee, you'll understand everything in the end!


Saturday, September 3, 2016

LABYRINTH LOST BY ZORAIDA CÓRDOVA - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova. Thanks to Raincoast Books for sending this book my way for an honest review. As always, all opinions are my own.


I am hesitantly calling this book an urban fantasy, however, as a rule, I don't tend to enjoy UF. I'm more of a new world, high fantasy kinda person, if I'm going to pick up a fantasy, but I really liked this one, despite the fact that it was slightly more urban.

This is the story of Alejandra, or Alex. She is a bruja, or a witch, one of the most powerful of her kind. Except she hates magic, it made her father leave and it killed her aunt/godmother. So when her Deathday comes, essentially a bruja coming of age ceremony, similar to a bar mitzvah, she decides to preform a spell that will get rid of her magic. Except, no one has ever tried that before, and she ends up banishing her family to Los Lagos, the other realm with spirits and strange creatures. And the Devourer, an evil monster who wants to reenter the human realm.

With a fellow brujo, the mysterious Nova, who has secrets of his own, by her side, she journeys through the terrifying world of Los Lagos to save her family.

This story was enchanting and intriguing. The land of Los Lagos was reminiscent of a darker version of Wonderland, complete with a Mad Hatter-esque tea party. I think because most of the story takes place in this make believe world, and not in the 'real' world, I enjoyed it more than most UFs.

I'm not sure how, but I kinda missed the bisexuality aspect of Alex's character. I know she is close with her friend Rishi, but I wasn't aware that it was a love triangle between Alex and Rishi and Nova. It's probably way more noticeable to everyone else, but I think I was just so caught up in the adventure, I just didn't think about the romance that much. There were a could of moments where I guess I could have seen it more, but like I said, I wasn't really looking.

This story was reminiscent of Percy Jackson's adventures as well as obviously Alice in Wonderland. There was a group of teens, who eventually became friends, and went on a quest. There was a bit of mythology as well, the various stories and creatures added in were a nice touch.

Of course as well, there was some hilarious moments and more emotional ones as well. You learn about Nova's past, why he has the strange black markings, etc. and you can't help but feel for him. There's also the guilt Alex feels over her father leaving, she blames herself for it, and has to hold that guilt in because none of her family members know. I also loved the family dynamic, especially the sisterly bond. While Lula, Alex and Rose don't always see eye-to-eye, they love each other no matter what and things wouldn't be the same without the others.

I just found out recently that there are going to be two more books in this series, and apparently each one is going to focus on a different sister. I am interested to see how that will play out, I would have thought they would all focus on Alex and have snippets of her sisters.

I will say that, with any fantasy, there is a lot to remember. Different spells, people, myths, it was a lot to take in and I think there was so much that some of it got lost in the story. And as much as I didn't want this to be an UF, I found myself craving the relative normalcy of everyday life. The elements of Los Lagos sometimes were too much, and I wish things were a bit more broken up, with a flashback of something.

Overall, I would say this was a very unique book, and I look forward to the next ones.


Friday, September 2, 2016

OUR CHEMICAL HEARTS BY KRYSTAL SUTHERLAND - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, of a book I LOVED, Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland. Thank you to Penguin Random House USA for giving me a copy of this book. I received it at BookCon and while a review was not solicited, I felt I should still write one as this is an advanced readers copy. As always, all opinions are my own.


Ok, this review may be a bit biased because I loved this book. Like one of my favourite reads of the year, loved it a lot. Now that we got that out of the way, let's talk about the story.

In a refreshing change of pace, we get a male POV, our main character Henry Page. At first, I thought it was going to be alternating perspectives, but I was pleasantly surprised to see it was all Henry, all the time. If you follow me on Instagram (shameless plug) and saw my Instagram Story around the time I was reading this story, you would have seen the various pictures I took of the hilariousness that was Henry's perspective. He was funny without trying too hard, and I loved his inner thoughts. When he first met Grace, she ripped a page out of a book and he was "horrified that she'd injured a book." I found a kindred spirit in Henry and loved the story even more because of it.

Grace, the love interest is a pretty, well, strange. She dresses in boys clothes and has a cane. She transferred senior year from her old school, but Henry doesn't know why, and Grace isn't too keen on sharing. While one of Henry's best friends, Lola, claims Grace is a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, you can tell that whatever issues she has, they run deep. I won't say too much about Grace, because she is such an interesting, and truly broken character, that you have to experience her for yourself firsthand.

I don't think there was a "main" secondary character in this book I didn't like. Henry's friends Lola and Murray were great; Lola a tell-it-like-it-is kinda girl who doesn't take anything from anybody, but is always there for her friends, especially in time of heartbreak, and Murray, an Australian immigrant who plays up the stereotype to ridiculous levels and endless tries to win back his ex-girlfriend. Sadie, Henry's sister, older by about twelve years has just recently gone through a divorce and is spending more time at her childhood home with her son Ryan. Despite the fact that she had a rambunctious teen-life, she is a genius, now a 29-year old neuroscientist. She added some endearing sibling support, giving wisdom and relationship advice, although slightly cynical, a little more realistic than the gushy love their parents have.

I've talked briefly about the writing in terms of Henry's narration, but just in general it was spot on. His parents are hilarious, maybe because they've already had to deal with Sadie and her antics throughout high school, but they were always cracking up, and their interactions with Henry are literally laugh out loud funny.

I also want to address this concept of the MPDG and the comparison to John Green. I do think this was a fair comparison, both in terms of theme and the writing style on a general level. In both Paper Towns and Looking for Alaska, Green explores the idea that falling in love with an idea of a person, rather than the actual person, essentially the definition of a MPDG. This book follows a similar vein, Henry finds Grace's old Facebook page, before whatever happened to her happened, and he falls in love with the her a little more each day, getting glimpses of the person she used to be. Grace is a deeply broken girl, and I'm not sure she will ever be the same as she once was. I don't think, however, that Henry is only in love with the girl she could be, he obviously wouldn't still be around if he didn't like at least a small part of who she is know. But when things got tough, he would remind himself of who she was, and who she could be. I don't think he fell in love with the idea of her, I think he just didn't see how much was truly wrong inside her. Maybe that's the same thing.

Their romance was definitely a work in progress for most of the novel, she was so hot and cold, battling her own demons and he is such uncharted territory couldn't figure out her actions. In the end, this book truly was a bittersweet interpretation of first loves, both characters changed and grew by the end of the novel, Henry a little more realistic about love and Grace a little more optimistic about her future.

Overall, this book was genuine, hilarious and heartbreaking, a new favourite of mine. I cannot recommend it enough!

But get your tissues ready, because as Grace says;

"Stories with happy endings are just stories that aren't finished yet."