Monday, January 30, 2017

CARAVAL BY STEPHANIE GARBER - BOOK REVIEW & AUTHOR INTERVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am here with a very special post today. I have my review of one of the most anticipated books of 2017, Caraval by Stephanie Garber as well as an interview where she answers some of my questions about the book!





First I will share my review. Thank you so much to Raincoast Books for sending me a copy of this book for an honest review. As always, all opinions are my own.

This book is so hyped. Going into it, I was a little nervous, because a lot of the time, when it's a book everyone is talking about and seemingly loving, it doesn't live up to the extraordinarily high standards set by early reviews and publishers. I am happy to report, however, that this book more than lives up to the hype.

The first in a new fantasy series, this book follows Scarlett and her sister, Donatella. They've never left the small island where their father rules as governor, he would never allow it. However, as Scarlett's wedding to a mysterious count in a neighbouring land approaches, she finally gets a response from Caraval's leader, Legend, inviting both her, her fiancé and her sister to participate in this year's games. Caraval is a magical game where nothing is what it appears, but the players must remember that it is all a game, or else they may go mad. Following a situation with a sailor, Scarlett and Tella decide it is time to escape to Caraval, experience it all, and be back in time for Scarlett's wedding. As they journey to the magical island where this year's Caraval games are held, Tella gets kidnapped by Legend. This year's event focuses on the mystery of Donatella, and you have to find her in order to win the prize, one wish.

Even though he was only meant to get the girls to the island, the sailor, Julian, poses as Scarlett's fiancé and joins her in the game. But Scarlett knows she can't trust anyone, least of all the sailor she just met.

I think my favourite part of this book was the witty dialogue, especially between Julian and Scarlett. They would banter back and forth, Julian giving insight to the game he's played before, and Scarlett explaining that she didn't need his babying. They were so great together, and I really liked how their relationship transformed.

Characterwise, Scarlett starts out very hopeful for her arranged marriage, her fiancé seems like a decent man, at least from his letters. Her father would never allow them to meet before hand, and Scarlett tries to resist Julian. At the same time, you, as the reader, are just waiting for her to realize that the count could be even crueler than her father, and just be with Julian already. She's not a traditional lady, but she's not an early feminist either. And I enjoyed that. She isn't looking to start a rebellion, but she's not complacent.

Julian, oh Julian. He was such a great character. I was getting a strong Flynn Rider womanizer vibe from Tangled mixed with Captain Thorne from The Lunar Chronicles (who, by the way, is my favourite character in that series). He was seductive and flirty, but he also genuinely cared about Scarlett, especially towards the end, and he stood up for her when she needed someone to. I kind of figured out what was going to happen with him in the end, but it didn't deter from the story at all. Plus, he called Scarlett "Crimson" which, I guess isn't the most unique nickname, but I loved it.

The world-building in this book was spectacular too. In my ARC there wasn't a map yet, but I could see everything nicely in my mind. The magical land where the games are held, the shops where you pay with your greatest fear, or your last lie, instead of coin.

Most importantly, this story is about Scarlett finding her sister. There is a romance interwoven, but it doesn't take centre stage. Scarlett never forgets her mission to save her sister, she fights every day looking for her. I was really glad this didn't turn into a story where she forgets all about her sister, falls madly in love and then is like "oh yeah, my sister is here somewhere." But they work together beautifully, there's never a harsh jump from Caraval, to the romance, to finding Tella. Everything is seamlessly connected.

For the most part, this story wasn't predictable. There were a few very minor things that I thought might happen, but I could not predict the enormity of the situation, and how deep things actually went.

Because this book is the first in a series, I was a little concerned about the ending. Would Scarlett find Tella, or would that be a cliffhanger ending to get you to read the next book? Without spoiling anything, I will say that the ending of this book is very satisfying but still, opens up for the next book. I need to read book two because there is more to the story than meets the eye.

Overall, read this book. It definitely lives up to the hype and has a great cast of characters.

And now for the Q&A that Garber was kind enough to do for me!

What was your inspiration behind the idea for Caraval?
Caraval was inspired by a number of things. I’m tempted to say it started with the Fall Out Boy song Centuries, which first inspired me to create Legend’s character. The lyrics start out with, “Some legends are told. Some turn to dust or to gold. But you will remember me. Remember me for centuries.” 
I had the idea for the game of Caraval before I heard this song, but when I heard it I knew that I wanted to create a character that embodied this—I also knew I wanted to name him Legend. So even though the story revolves around Scarlett and Tella and the game, it really began with Legend.

The world in Caraval is so different from anything I’ve read before. What is your process for creating such an elaborate and unique world?
I had the idea for the game portion of Caraval long before I started writing the book. I knew I wanted to create a game that blurred the lines between fantasy and reality. But for a long time I didn’t actually know what that looked like until I figured out who Legend (the master of the Caraval) was. Once I sketched out his character, I then spent time trying to figure out the rules of the world, which I tried to keep pretty simple, because I wanted to create a world that would be accessible for people, even if they aren’t typically fantasy readers. I also knew I wanted to create a world that people would enjoy spending time, so as I thought about each location I tried to make them all as appealing and magical as possible.


I really loved how this book was focused mainly on Scarlett trying to find her sister, and not all about her relationship with Julian. Why was this an important element of the story for you, and how did you ensure you kept the balance between both elements?
Oh, this was definitely an important element for me. I have a younger sister, and she is my very best friend. I didn’t base Tella’s character on my sister, but I did want to create an authentic and loving sister relationship, so I definitely pulled elements from our relationship and put them into the book—I may or may not have been an extremely overprotective sister growing up.

As far as balance goes, when I write romance I really try to let my characters decide who they want to become involved with, rather than forcing relationships to happen. As I wrote, I honestly didn’t know where Scarlett and Julian’s relationship was going, I just knew that for Scarlett, no matter what happened, her sister would always come first in this book.
When I was reading the story, I really loved Julian’s character; I definitely got some Flynn Rider (from Tangled) and Captain Thorne (from The Lunar Chronicles) vibes from him. Who/what was your inspiration for Julian’s character?
Thank you! Julian was actually kind of an accident. He wasn’t originally meant to be a significant character in the book. As far as inspiration goes, rather than thinking about anyone I knew, or characters I liked, I tried to think of what I thought Scarlett needed, which was a character who would push all of her buttons, which Julian does.


What is your favourite part about the book? Any specific scene, element or character?
My favorite part of the book is actually kind of a spoiler, but since that is a terrible answer, I’ll say that my favorite characters are probably Julian and Tella—I had so much fun writing both of them. They both say things that I would never dream to say, and they’re both much braver than I am as well.

And finally, without giving too much away, I saw on Twitter the other day that you’ve finished the first draft of book 2 (yay!). I know things will probably change, but is there anything you can tell me to help hold me over until book 2 comes out? 
I wish I could talk about book two right now, but since it’s still in the early stages, I’m afraid that anything I might say could change drastically before it comes out. Though, I do think it’s safe to say readers will get to meet some new characters and some new exciting places in book 2, and I’m really excited about both these things!

And there you have it! Special thanks to Stephanie Garber for taking the time to answer all my questions as well as to Raincoast Books for setting every thing up.


Saturday, January 28, 2017

HOW TO BREAK A BOY BY LAURIE DEVORE - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, How to Break a Boy by Laurie Devore. Thank you 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 knew from the beginning of this book that I was going to enjoy it. There is just something about a toxic relationship that sucks me in and doesn't let go.

This is the story of Olivia - and her sort-of best friend Adrienne. They, along with their other friend, Claire, are your typical mean girls running the school. One day, Olivia goes over to Adrienne's house and finds her in bed with her boyfriend, Ethan. Olivia secretly decides to wage a war. Olivia thinks she can beat Ade at her own game. Soon she meets Whit, an all-around good guy, flies under the social radar, great athlete and smart. Just who Olivia can use to help tutor her and do well enough on the SATs to get out of the dumpy town that killed her brother. And if a fake romance along the way is in the cards, Olivia will use that to her advantage.

I think, based on the synopsis and cover of this book, I was expecting something cliched and very dramatic. But this book is actually a lot deeper than that. It deals with real issues that affect the characters a lot.

Firstly, let's talk about the characters, specifically Olivia. This is a very character driven story, we get a lot of depth in the characters lives. I loved Olivia because she was so flawed. She is broken by the death of her brother (he committed suicide) and she feels responsible for his death. Her father is long dead and her mother doesn't seem to see that there is anything seriously wrong. I think it was important that Devore shows that Olivia hasn't always been this way, and doesn't really want to be this way. She is angry at everything and takes it out on those around her. Devore also makes it clear multiple times that no one is born this horrifically bad - that is something circumstance and environment creates.

I also wanted to say something about the romance between Olivia and Whit. I have been really enjoying the fake-relationship turned maybe-real lately, so this was right up my alley. I definitely liked Whit more than Ethan, I think he was funny and just a great guy. I really liked as well how he wasn't immediately on board. I think that showed a lot about his character and the type of person he is. I think they had great chemistry, and the slow burn of the relationship really worked for the storyline.

Some of the things that Ade and Olivia did were so horrific - and made me super uncomfortable and just so sad that they had to resort to dragging people down just so they could be a little higher up. That being said, I think that speaks to Devore's abilities as a writer, especially in a debut novel. She really gave each character a distinctive voice and made the things they said or did unique to them. I don't know if I've ever read such vicious characters - or characters that had so much pain in them.

I will also say that this book is definitely for a more mature YA reader, there is some mature subject matter, so just be prepared. I think the cover doesn't really speak to the darkness within the story, don't go into it thinking you are getting a fluffy romance - because you are definitely not. There is shaming, bullying, threats, a lot of dark things that many cannot or will not read about.

This book also touches on toxic relationships and the effects of that toxicity on both those in the relationship and those outside it. Part of the reason Ade and Olivia are friends is because they cling to each other in this social struggle. But Ade is really the kingpin of the operation and I feel like that speaks to most toxic relationships I've read. One calls the shots and the other follows, all the while reassuring each other.

Overall, don't be fooled by the cutesy cover and you'll love it.


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

THE CROWN BY KIERA CASS - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, today I am finishing off the Selection series with my review of The Crown by Kiera Cass.


Part of me feels like it's my fault that I don't like this book as much as I could or should have. That I waited too long to finish the series, that I didn't remember enough about the previous book. But then another part of me looks at this book, and everything that happens and I think, ok, my disappointment is justified.

I think my biggest problem with this book was that I just didn't care anymore. I didn't really like Eadlyn and this book was so all over the place, I wasn't invested in the story anymore.

Plot-wise, a lot happens in this book. There's tension over whether or not the queen will recover, Ahren has taken off, Eadlyn is not well liked by the people of Illea, there's some palace intrigue and of course, the Selection is still happening. But none of these issues get fully unpacked and talked about. It was kind of like Cass remembered that this was technically a dystopian novel and was trying to get in some of those elements instead of just a child-bride version of The Bachelorette.

There were a lot of problems in the story that came up, but were never really addressed properly. For example, Eadlyn meets with some people who are upset with the society, but this meeting doesn't really have much affect on things. There is a villain figure who is outsmarted and shut down within two days.

I guess my main problem with this book was that the cutesy, fun bubble that was the main trilogy has popped. The story was just dragging on and I was just kind of tired of it.

I definitely appreciated the feminist elements of the story, how Eadlyn's reign is questioned because she is a woman - at one point even being asked if her decision making was perhaps clouded by her emotions. She stood up for herself and proved that she can do "the king's work" just as well as he could. But these elements were far and few between, and unfortunately didn't help the main story that much.

I think another issue I had with this book was that it wasn't really about the Selection. There were so many other things happening, there was little time for the part I came for. And the suitors were so flat! Even now, I'm not sure I could tell you their names and one thing about them. In general, I found the characters throughout the book were easily confusable and I'm not even sure how half of them fit into the story anymore.

And the guy she ended up with - I totally saw that coming but I really don't see how the reactions she got would be realistic. And I'm sorry, but Maxon explaining how everyone in the family commits treason all the time does. Not. Make. Me. Feel. Better. Like what? The mentality of "we all commit crimes so you can too" is just too much.

I feel like this book was way too short to fully flesh out the story, but also these last two books were totally unnecessary. If you want a decent story, just stick with the main trilogy - these last two books aren't worth it.

Overall, ugh.


Monday, January 23, 2017

WE SHOULD HANG OUT SOMETIME BY JOSH SUNDQUIST - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, today it is a memoir We Should Hang Out Sometime: Embarrassingly, A True Story by Josh Sundquist.  Thanks so much to Hachette Canada for sending me a finished copy of this book for an honest review. As always, all opinions are my own.


Do you ever just start a book and have it hit you in a way no other book has? That was this memoir for me.

Now, typically, I'm not the biggest fan of non-fiction, but I do sometimes make an exception for memoirs/biographies. There is just something so raw about these types of books that you don't often see in fiction.

Basically, this is the story of Josh Sundquist's love life and the reasons why his previous girlfriends didn't work out. I liked the plot line itself, and they way each section was set up. He would introduce a girl, give a bit of a backstory, explain why he thought things didn't work out, and then relay his conversations with the women a decade later.

The little romances were really interesting, and I loved the reality of going back and saying, "hey, what went wrong here?" but I think my favourite element of the book was the fact that was such a refreshing change of pace from the trope-heavy YA romances I read. Being awkward not to create a relatable character, but because that's who you are. Not saying the right thing because real life isn't scripted. Having things not work out because it's reality, not a chick flick where the couple gets together 10 years later after realizing that they still had feelings for each other.

Reality is not the same as fiction, and just because the first person someone dates is the one they marry IN A BOOK, doesn't mean that is at all what happens in real life. And I think Sundquist captured that brilliantly.

This book was hilarious, I really enjoyed Sundquist's sense of humor - something I really enjoyed in his YA fiction novel Love and First Sight - and I was laughing along the way.

I think it could be easy to read this book and mistake it for fiction, the writing style is very similar to that of fiction in that he is telling a series of stories. But don't get too caught up in finding closure with each girl, make no mistake this is reality and there aren't always happy endings. I will say, however, if you are wanting to test the non-fiction/memoir waters, this is a great book to test the waters with. It gives a realistic spin while still being easy to read.

I also really loved how this book was about a lot more than just Sundquist's quest for love. It was also about his self-acceptance - coming to terms with himself as a person and as an amputee. There were many insightful moments throughout the book that talked about how he deals with his disability and it helped give a better understanding of his life.

Also, just to briefly touch on something I've seen mentioned, perhaps it might be weird to look up people from your past but I don't think in this level or context, it goes into creepy. And this story isn't about how difficult it is for a guy to get a girlfriend, it's about taking a look at your life and figuring out what is and isn't working out. Stories like these, about the one who got away, are wildly popular for obvious reasons and I think this portrayal gives a fresh, modern and realistic take to that concept.

Overall, I really enjoyed this memoir and definitely recommend it if you are looking for something a little different.


Saturday, January 21, 2017

HER EVERY FEAR BY PETER SWANSON - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, today it is Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson. Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this book for an honest review. As always, all opinions are my own.


This book was insane. I cannot remember the time I read a book and had my heart pound as much as it did while I read this one.

The synopsis is pretty vague and simple: Kate, a young woman has decided to do an apartment swap with her second cousin, whom she's never met, Corbin. He will stay at her place in England and she will live in his apartment in Boston for six months. Kate, having lived through a horror struggles with the decision, but upon arriving in America beings to see this as an opportunity for her to start fresh. However, this certainty quick evaporates when she arrives at Corbin's apartment to find the woman in the flat next door has been unresponsive to her friends. The next day, Kate finds out the woman, named Audrey, has been murdered. Soon the police show up, taking statements from the whole building, but Corbin/Kate's apartment is the only one they search. Corbin denies a relationship with Audrey, even though Alan, a peeping-tom neighbour from across the building had seen him enter Audrey's apartment a number of times.

Corbin continues that he is innocent, and Kate tries to trust him. But things aren't what they seem. She remembers sending the apartment's cat out at night, yet in the morning he is back in her room. And the sketches that she has done are smudged like someone rubbed their finger across the page. Is someone messing with her? Or are these blank spots in her memory a result of her paranoia?

I will leave the synopsis there, there is so much more I could say but I don't want to spoil anything.

Firstly, I want to start off by mentioning the similarity between this book and Caroline Kepnes' book YOU. This book also deals with murder and stalking - something that book does as well. Alan basically confesses to spending hours watching Audrey through his window, and some of the other characters do some cyber-stalking. I think both of these books bring up an interesting message of what happens when a simple Facebook search or glance out a window turns into something more. There is also something fascinating about the way in which the characters rationalize their actions. There is a difference between watching someone innocently, something that just happened, and the obsession that the characters have.

The plot itself was really well done. There was mainly Kate's perspective, but there was also some moments where it switched to Corbin or other characters, giving background information and filling in gaps where the storyline was lagging. Most of the time, I enjoyed this switch, but there were times when things were getting really intense where I just wanted to get back to the main storyline.

I think I got about 180 pages before I was able to guess the true identity of one of the characters, Jack. When things came out and the twist was revealed, I got the outcome I was expecting, but there were other, deeper, elements within the identity that were shocking. Especially everything that happened with Kate towards the end, I was terrified for her - I'll definitely be checking under beds if you know what I mean!

The one aspect I didn't love about this book was when things were coming out, we got the POV of the 'bad guy' and he revealed everything he had done, and why. Part of me was glad that these things were explained, I'm not sure I would have gotten everything figured out myself, but I think it was a little too well wrapped up. A good magician doesn't reveal his secrets because it takes away from the show. I think getting all the explanation was almost too fulfilling. I would have preferred things be a little more open, even the reasoning as to why the 'bad guy' was the way he was, that just seemed a little too scripted.

Overall, I did really enjoy this book and would highly recommend it for a thriller fan!


Friday, January 20, 2017

THE DINNER BY HERMAN KOCH - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, The Dinner by Herman Koch.


*My apologies in advance, this isn't the most coherent review I've ever written, but this book just was so difficult to write about.*

I don't really know how I feel about this book. There were some parts I really liked, and others I wasn't a fan of.

Firstly, the premise. The whole book is told from one man's POV at a restaurant dinner table. In theory, this sounds really interesting. There were some moments I really liked, the introduction of each course, the claustrophobic setting of the table, and the fact that the characters were kind of stuck at one location. I didn't love when there were flashbacks and scenes that took place outside of the restaurant, I felt that even though it gave background info, it took away from the flow of the story.

I can't really talk too much about the plot or synopsis because I'm not sure what to say. The main element is the two couples going to dinner, but there is more to it than that. However, the deeper meaning brings about spoilers.

This book deals a lot with the idea of fighting for the ones you love and standing up for them no matter what. I think while the sentiment is there, the characters in this book took that idea a little too far, showing what happens at that extreme. I think Claire especially embodies this sentiment, but I think she also has the best explanation, her mother-bear instincts kicking in strong.

I really don't know how I feel about this book. I think it isn't great, there are some memorable moments and it definitely had potential, but it wasn't anything that I loved. I waffled between 2 and 3 stars, but because if how much I liked the restaurant aspect, I am going with 3 stars.

The whole thing with Paul, him having some sort of illness, but it never being fully explained and the possible hereditability of it just seemed a bit much for me. And the fact that Claire was okay, even preferred the 'old' Paul (read: unmedicated/unstable) rubbed me the wrong way.

There was also some parts that felt tedious and unnecessary.

This review is all over the place because this book is all over the place. I feel like I have no idea what this book was trying to say, and I really don't know how I feel about it.

BAH.


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

PRETTY LITTLE WORLD BY ELIZABETH LaBAN AND MELISSA DePINO

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, today it is Pretty Little World by Elizabeth LaBan and Melissa DePino. Thank you so much to the publisher Little Bird for sending me a copy of this book for an honest review. As always, all opinions are my own.


Going into this book, I was really excited. The premise sounded really unique and I loved the idea of three families combining their small homes into one larger one. I just think that the story wasn't really so much about that element as it was about the marital/everyday problems of the families.

Basically, there are three families who live in 3 separate, tiny row houses. One of the families decides that their home is too small for their family of 5 and are planning to put the place up for sale. However, before they can do that, one of their pipes burst, leaving a small flood and damaged drywall. Taking this as a sign, the three couples decide to take down their main floor walls and create one large living space, a gourmet kitchen and a playroom for their collective 5 children. Then life gets in the way and the families begin to question whether or not they made the right decision.

I was most excited by the communal living aspect of this novel, and less about the characters themselves, but I guess the two go hand in hand. I was happy with how the first part was going, the families getting along, working out the logistics of the concept. But then as the story progressed, things got uncomfortable. One of the husbands has an affair; one husband and wife from two separate couples basically have an emotional affair. There was a lot of raging teenage hormones in grown men and women that just felt weird, especially because they were all living together.

The part I was most looking forward to was soon overshadowed by marital problems and angst. I felt like I was reading a whole other book. I didn't want a book about these issues, I wanted a book about modern-day communes.

I suppose, in a way, I did get a book like that, and it just showed how that sort of thing doesn't work in today's world. They gave it a solid try but it just wasn't working the way they wanted it to, and I think that took away from the story because I wasn't expecting it to not work out.

The characters themselves were fairly flat and typical. I could never keep couples straight, with the exception of Celia and Mark, I could never remember if Leo or Chris was married to Hope or Stephanie. Plus, their relationships blurred so much into the more close and intimate that they all felt married to each other. The kids were forgettable, they were too young to really have their own personality, though.

For the most part, this book just reminded me of summer vacations with my cousins, where we'd all rent a cabin and stay together. It was fun, but by the end of the two weeks, we were ready to go back to our own homes. After reading this story, I don't think I could imagine living with two other families under one roof.

The authors did do a really good job of creating feeling throughout the story, especially towards the end when everyone was sick. Hope was losing her mind and I was right there with her.

I think this story had a lot of potential, however, there were a lot of elements that just didn't work for me.

Overall, an interesting read, but not what I wanted.


Monday, January 16, 2017

FROST BLOOD BY ELLY BLAKE - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

 I am back with another book review, today it is Frostblood by Elly Blake. Thank you so much to Hachette Canada for sending me an ARC of this book for an honest review. As always, all opinions are my own.


It has been a while since I just generally enjoyed a book so much. I got about 7 pages in and was so in love with the writing style, I knew I would fly through this book.

The story follows a girl named Ruby, in a world of Firebloods and Frostbloods. The concept is pretty self-explanatory, the Firebloods have fire in them and can control it. The Frostbloods, alternatively, can wield cold. The two groups once lived peacefully together, but after the death of a Fireblood queen a few generations ago, the Firebloods have been hunted and eradicated. In case you couldn't guess, Ruby is a Fireblood. The Frostblood king's soldiers are hunting for her, and end up capturing her, killing her mother in the process. She is then brought to a prison where she spends about 6 months being tormented by the guards. Eventually, she is rescued by an order of Frostblood monks who believe she may be able to kill the king and the darkness that drives him mad. Within the monks, there is a refugee named Arcus, a Frostblood about Ruby's age who has a badly scarred face and a temper. Together they create a plan to kill the king. However, before anything can be accomplished, Ruby is captured and forced to fight in the arena as a king's champion.

I'll leave things at that, I don't want to say too much more.

First off, I want to talk about Ruby, because she was such a great character. After her mother was killed, all she wanted was to avenge her death. No matter what happened, she didn't lose sight of that goal. She was headstrong and fierce, but not in the stereotypical strong female lead way. She broke down, she sobbed for those she unwillingly killed - even those she killed on purpose affected her. She was weak and strong all at the same time, and I think that made her a relatable and likable narrator.

I also really loved Blake's writing style, I don't know exactly what it was about it that struck me, but I really enjoyed it. She was able to portray the span of time very well, sometimes stories that are meant to take place over months or weeks feel as though they happen in just days - but Blake was able to create the feeling of time passing, while still keeping the story interesting.

I really enjoyed the interactions between Arcus and Ruby. I think the way their relationship formed was very well done and well paced - not really insta-love. As they come to know each other, they begin to become friends and then something more. But it was never an, "I've known you a week, I love you, and I will die for you," situation.

Also, even though I predicted the whole thing with Arcus, I was still appreciative of how Blake wrote that element in, leaving vague clues and questions. Even though I saw it coming, the whole arena thing was crazy!

I'm still not 100% sure about the extent of the abilities of Firebloods and Frostbloods, I think that element could have been a little better explained. I understand on a fundamental level how they got their powers, etc. but I think Blake could have developed what kind of powers they had, or a little bit more on their abilities - some are more powerful than others, but there isn't a lot of clarification as to why. There was a lot emphasis on other things and, for better or for worse, such explanation kind of took a back seat.

Finally, I just want to touch on the similarities/comparison of this book to Red Queen. Both have the element of two different types of blood, a tyrant, etc. I think there are a lot of similarities, yes, but this book has a different feel. It is more about doing what is right, and less about the politics. Ruby doesn't really work with the king, she is just a pawn. I think also because Ruby is one of the last Firebloods, she's not just one that chose to fight. She is one of the strongest of her kind and is kind of forced to fight. I also think the writing styles are vastly different, so it doesn't feel the same.

Overall, I really loved this book and cannot wait for the next one!


Saturday, January 14, 2017

CARVE THE MARK BY VERONICA ROTH - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, today it is the highly, HIGHLY anticipated new novel from Veronica Roth, Carve the Mark. Thanks so much to HarperCollins for sending me this book for an honest review. As always, all opinions are my own.


Going into this book, I had some concerns. Firstly, I was worried as to whether or not Roth would be able to follow her previous series after it blew up so enormously. I think it is difficult to write something new when you are known as "the bestselling author of x." Things get compared without merit and assumptions are made. But I think Roth did a great job of not only writing a good book that can stand on its own, not shadowed by the Divergent legacy but also a book that was really well done. I could really tell how much Roth has grown as a writer and how she is able to tell a story much different than her debut.

The story itself follows two characters, Akos and Cyra. Akos is a Thuvhe, a peaceful group of people on the planet. His mother is an oracle, sharing the fates of the fate-favoured with other oracles. Those who are fate-favoured have a currentgift - basically an ability that stems from the current, a power that is found in all things. Akos's gift is that he can interrupt the current. His chapters are told in a third-person POV, beginning at his time in Thuvhe and then later when he is kidnapped and brought to Shotet with his brother. The other POV we get is Cyra's. She is a Shotet noble, the daughter of the unofficial sovereign nation's leader. Her currentgift manifests itself as having the ability to cause and hold pain, either within herself or on whoever she puts it. After he is kidnapped, Akos is Cyra's servant, used to reduce her pain.

There is a lot of things going on in the book, after the death of Cyra's father, her brother Ryzek takes control. Controversies between the nations on the planet crop up and Cyra is forced to do her brother's bidding. I won't go into too many details as to what happens because that would spoil the book.

Before I go any further with my review, I want to talk about a key element that a lot of other people are mentioning in this book, and that is racism. Now, going into the book, I had heard this would be an issue, so I was hyper-aware. I analyzed comments, looked at the way people were treated, etc. And I don't really think you can call this book racist. Before you get the pitchforks, let me explain. There are two nations on the planet. They have been fighting for years. It started because one group wanted to hold power over the other - something that might be the beginnings of racial tensions. But the other group was strong and not willing to give in. They both fought back. Even in the time the story takes place, both nations are fighting each other. You need to give a little room for hate between nations. That doesn't mean racism, that means a differing of opinions. I don't think you can point out one person, or group of people who is severely against the other - they are equally matched in that regard. There is some reference to skin colour in the book, as to who the Shotet nation are and who the Thuvhe people are, but it was so fleeting I didn't really take notice. I think there is definitely some racial tension, and a division between the groups, but I really don't know if I would say it is outright racism. It's just two cultures, both equally good and bad for different reasons. However, these are just MY personal opinions, feel free to disagree with me, but this is just what I thought.

Ok, moving on to some things I didn't love about this book, the world building. I think the creation of new words and concepts was really interesting, and I liked the concept of the current, but in terms of this book being set in space, I thought it was a little lacking. I kept forgetting that aspect, I felt like there was just a bunch of outsider planets that could have been brought into the story a bit more. The characters go to one other planet, but I felt like it was just another day on land. I think this aspect could have been played with a bit more.

I was also really bummed with the romance between Cyra and Akos. I figured it would happen eventually, so I was prepared, but at the same time, it was just like someone flipped a switch and they decided they liked each other. I wouldn't even call it insta-love because they didn't realize it until like 200 pages in. I was hoping for Tris and Four chemistry, but I just got a 'oh well we spend a lot of time together, I guess I like you.' And that kinda ruined everything the characters did out of 'love' for one another.

This book did take a bit to get into, I didn't really care for Akos POV as much as I did Cyra's, but the story starts off with him, so just keep going until you get to Cyra. I think part of it might be that Akos is in third person and Cyra is in first, making her a little more relatable.

I did really like the overall darkness and the tone of this book. There were a lot of things I wasn't expecting but really enjoyed. Cyra is portrayed to the public as this evil villain who will kill you in a minute, but she is so much more fragile on the inside. But there is a darkness in the Shotet society that was reminiscent of The Young Elites. For each life a Shotet takes, they carve a line in their arm, recognizing that lost life. There is a brutality to killing, but then the marking gives a human-like quality to these supposed killers.

I also liked the fact that the typical gender roles were reversed. Akos was gentler, and Cyra was more aggressive. Akos was skilled in medicines and poison (going back to Shakespearean times, a woman's weapon) and Cyra is skilled with fighting.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and I think it will genuinely surprise a lot of people.


Friday, January 13, 2017

THE WOMAN IN CABIN 10 BY RUTH WARE - BLOG TOUR, REVIEW AND Q&A

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review of The Woman in Cabin 10, as well as a Q&A with author Ruth Ware! 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, and for setting up this blog tour.

Make sure you check out the other stops for their questions to Ruth as well as some other reviews!



To start off this tour, the book's synopsis as well as my reivew!


This story was said to be told in the vein of Agatha Christie, and even though I've only read her short story "The Herb of Death", I could definitely see the comparisons.

Basically, the novel tells the story of Laura or Lo, a travel journalist who at the last minute is sent on a luxury cruise ship's maiden voyage. The senior editor is off on maternity leave, so Lo jumps at the opportunity. A few days before Lo is set to leave, her home is burgled and she is left paranoid and shaken. On her first night on the boat, Lo briefly runs into her 'neighbour' on the yacht, a woman in staying in cabin 10. However, when the woman doesn't show up for dinner, and when she asks around about her, she is confused. She convinces herself that she's a random stowaway or a member of the crew who is using the vacant cabin against regulation. It isn't until later that night that she lays awake, and hears a splash off the balcony. The splash of a body hitting the water.

Lo is frantic, she doesn't know what is going, but it can't be good. Convinced that she has to seek justice for what happened because something could have easily happened to her the night she was burgled, she contacts security. While skeptic, the head of security goes around with Lo to try and identify the woman. Along the way, Lo tells more people of what happened, but also receives threatening notes; someone wrote "Stop Digging" in the steam on her mirror while she was in the spa. No one seems to know the woman, and no one seems to care. Lo begins to doubt what happened. She was drinking that night and paranoid from her break in.

I'll leave it at that because I don't want to spoil anything.

I really liked Lo's character, the story focuses more on the alleged crime than her personally, but I feel like we still got a good understanding of her morals and character in her trying to find out what happened to the woman.

I think the mystery was really well done. There were quite a few red herrings, but when the major twist came, I only guessed half of it (you'll understand if you read the book). There are also little snippets between the chapters of what is going on in the story with current events, missing person report in the newspaper, an online forum discussing what actually happened on the boat. You know something happens to Lo, but you don't really know what. Each of these elements gives more and more suspicion to the story and creates a tension between the 'present day' events on the boat and 'present day' events after the end of the trip.

There were a few things that I didn't love, mainly because the purpose of them was unclear. Maybe it was just to show that things weren't what they seemed, but some elements seemed out of place. Chiefly, the break in at the beginning of the novel. I felt like this didn't really do much for the story. Even if it was a targetted attack, when Lo gets to the boat, the events that occur don't really link to her. Still, I suppose it gives a sense of paranoia to the reader and to Lo herself. Are they connected? Was whatever happened to the woman in cabin 10 meant for her? Just some things like this that I guess were meant to throw us off the track but didn't seem to lead anywhere.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I read Ware's debut, In a Dark, Dark Wood before it came out and didn't love it as much, but I think she has redeemed herself with this story.

And now the Q&A section!

A luxury boat is such a unique and interesting setting for a story, especially one where a mysterious crime takes place. Why did you choose to write the story in this setting and what does it lend to the story that a typical 'land' setting doesn't?

I think a large part of it was that I was writing the book at the same time In a Dark, Dark Wood was coming out, and so many of the reviews made reference to Agatha Christie and her famous closed room murders. It got me thinking about her amazing settings – like the dahabiya on the Nile in Death on the Nile and of course most famously Murder on the Orient Express. A cruise has some of the same ingredients in that it's a beautiful, luxurious setting – but you can't get away.

How did you come up with the storyline for this book? Was it based on a real event that you had heard about, or was it more of a fictitious account of something that could have happened?
The plot itself is completely fictional. The first scene that came to me was the one where Lo is lying asleep in bed and hears the veranda door sliding stealthily back, followed by a splash. From that point onwards I knew I had to work out what had happened... and why.
But the legal grey area surrounding cruise ships and deaths at sea is unfortunately very real, and I have read accounts of some really tragic disappearances at sea that were never solved. They didn't feed into the main plot, but the idea that someone could go missing at sea without any explanation is unfortunately based in reality.

This is your second novel, still a mystery/thriller but obviously a very different story. What did you learn from writing your debut that you applied to the writing of this novel?
Um... gosh, that's a question I've never been asked before! I don't honestly know. I'm sure I did learn stuff – I mean I hope I did. As a writer you always hope you're improving and growing with each book. But I don't really analyse my writing in that way – it comes from quite an instinctive place for me. I guess it's a little bit like cooking? You get better at tasting and more practiced at using certain techniques, but it's hard to put your finger on exactly what you've learned.

And finally, while I enjoyed the ending, I've seen others wanting a more cut and dry option. What made you leave the ending a little more ambiguous?

I don't think the ending is that ambiguous – if you go back over what happened in the preceding chapters the clues are there to explain what happened. However I do appreciate it's not exactly spelled out – and there's still uncertainty over what happens after the final page. Personally as a reader I like that – life very rarely wraps things up in a neat bow, and so it always feels pat and unrealistic to me when books manage to tie up every single story line in a conclusion. Of course it's annoying when a book poses a question and then doesn't answer it – but I think the answers to all Lo's questions are there, if you look for them. The question over what happens next is something else of course – and I do agree that's not answered. Personally I like open ended books. I hope the reader will decide for themselves!

Thank you so much to Simon and Schuster as well as Ruth Ware for making this blog tour and Q&A possible! Don't forget to check out the other tour stops as well!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

HELLO, GOODBYE, AND EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN BY JENNIFER E. SMITH - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am here today with a book review of Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between by Jennifer E. Smith.


Gah! I can always count on Smith for a great romance! Of all her books, I think this one might be my favourite.

The book follows Clare and Aiden, two teens on their last night before they leave for college. They've been dating for two years, but they're going to school on two different sides of the country and have to decide if they will break up or try the long distance thing. Armed with a list of special places, the two spend their last 12 hours together wandering around their hometown saying goodbye and trying to decide what to do with their relationship.

I really loved this book. The storyline was simple enough, but everything was tinged with the bittersweetness of the possibility of the breakup, along with the anxiety of going to college. There comes a point when they reach a decision but the whole book there is a background feeling of sadness. They didn't want to be the couple who went to the same school, just because they were a couple. They had made their own choices and were going to have to decide how to move forward. Smith did a great job of portraying their emotions in the situation, as well as making the reader experience those feelings as well.

I really liked Clare and Aiden's relationship, despite the fact that Clare annoyed me for some of the book. She was a little too whiney and for a part, only really cared about herself. But together they were super cute and well matched. Despite Clare's fears of committing, they were a good couple. It was also nice to see the guy wanting to continue the relationship and being more of a hopeless romantic than the girl, a lot of the time the girl is dramatically in love and the guy is more blase. In this case, it was more the opposite.

I also really loved the family portrayals in this book. Typically, if you get one family as being really supportive, the other is too, or sometimes is absent. I thought that both sets of families were well represented and I appreciated the diversity of their interactions with both Aiden and Clare. Her parents were super supportive and happy for her, his parents, especially his dad, were more against the school he had chosen. But both sets of parents showed love to their children, despite their differences.

Even thought this book was fairly short, as are most of Smith's books, this one felt longer and had more depth than the other books she's written. As contemporaries go, this book wasn't all that deep, but it did deal with some issues that generated a decent amount of conflict. The story not only dealt with the romance between Clare and Aiden, but also their friendships with other people, their relationships within their families, as well as the effects of growing up and moving away from home. Smith really was able to capture the fears many teens have (or at least I had) going into post-secondary and that added depth to the story and made it less focused on solely the romance.

In the end, I did agree with the decision they made, it was the best thing for everyone. But then with the "prologue" ending, I was really pleased. I won't say what happened exactly, but I will say that Smith did a great job of creating a realistic situation and developing their characters months after leaving. I really appreciated, however, how she left things, it was super sweet.

Overall, this is a great romance that deals with the bittersweetness that is going off to college, not just within a relationship, but also as a new experience and finding yourself.


Monday, January 9, 2017

YOU DON'T KNOW MY NAME BY KRISTEN ORLANDO - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, You Don't Know My Name by Kristen Orlando. 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 don't normally judge a book based on its publisher, but going into this book, I was skeptical. The vast majority, if not all the books I've read that SwoonReads has put out were romances. Typical, lovey-dovey, high school romances. So when I saw the synopsis for this book as a spy/ninja/secret service type deal, I was intrigued.

This story follows Reagan, a teen who has been groomed from the time when she was little to strategize, shot a gun and protect herself. She was meant to be the next big member of the Black Angels, a super secret agency that the president doesn't even know about. After jumping from state to state with her parents, Reagan had finally built a life for herself. It was senior year, she had a great group of friends and a cute boy next door. Everything was great. Except for the grey van following her around. And the mysterious janitor who seemed to be watching her.

Things get intense, and just as she begins to fall for Luke, her neighbour, her parents come back from a mission, and Reagan knows it won't be long until they move again. I'll leave it there because there is so much going on, I don't want to give any of it away.

Firstly, I want to talk about the romance. Because this was a SwoonReads book, I knew this aspect would be good. And I was right. There is something to be said about a romance just briefly started before it is shattered. I really liked Luke, he was a super sweet guy and I could tell he really liked Reagan. I think that made things even more heartbreaking and bittersweet. You know they can't really be together, if she tells him what's really going on, they will both be in danger. But the little snippets we do get are adorable as expected.

There is also a lot of family drama in this story, something I think a lot of people will be able to relate to. Not everyone's parents may be secret agents, but the way they have shaped Reagan and their expectations of her will likely hit home for many. They expect her to follow in their footsteps unquestioningly - even if that isn't what she wants to do. Plus, that ending. Oh man, that ending.

I also assumed going into this book that it would be a standalone. I was surprised to see it was the first in a series, but upon finishing it, I can see where there is room for a continuation. The ending was intense, not cliffhangery but wild enough that I am anxious to see where things go.

I do want to talk about the ending a bit more because I think it was unexpected and very brave. A lot of times, when faced with tough decisions, especially at the end of a book, authors will take an easier path, where there are fewer casualties. I was impressed by Orlando's ability to defy those norms and do something drastic. Books that have integral people killed always stick with me, because the author had the guts to push the envelope. And I am glad Orlando had those guts.

The pacing in this book was great, it was just fast enough for me to whip through it in a couple of hours, but slow enough for the chemistry of Luke and Reagan's relationship to stew.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and I cannot wait to see what happens next!


Saturday, January 7, 2017

LADY RENEGADES BY RACHEL HAWKINS - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with another series conclusion review, Lady Renegades by Rachel Hawkins, the final book in the Rebel Belle trilogy.


After reading the second book in this series, Miss Mayhem, I wasn't sure if I wanted to continue with the series. I, like I think many others, had loved the first book and was deeply disappointed with the second one.

I am very relieved to tell you that this final book was much better than book two, and if you were disappointed with that one, don't give up just yet.

This concluding book continues to follow Harper on her Paladin adventures. Hawkins does a really good job of reminding the reader of what things mean, what had happened in the last two books and what is important to know going into this book. This may get a bit spoilery - it is book three, after all, so just be warned.

Anyways, David has run off, trying to protect Harper, but soon more Paladins show up trying to kill her. Harper teams up with her friend Bee, and their sort-of-but-maybe-not-enemy Blythe and the trio goes on a cross-country road trip, fighting more Paladins and trying to find David.

I think a major part of why I loved this book as much as I did was because Hawkins was able to bring back some of the Southern sass that made Harper so great in the first book. I think book two just had so much going on, it was easier to leave out seemingly less important details, like her Southern charms. The first book was great for that, and I was glad Hawkins was able to bring it back in the finale.

I also really loved the road trip aspect of this book, but really, who doesn't? For me, a book will be a million times better if it has a road trip. Nothing shows a character's true personality like being stuck in a car together for an extended period of time. Add in the fact that they don't really get along, there are crazed girls after them at every turn, and their powers are weakening, and you've got gold.

One thing I didn't love about this book, that was kind of the opposite of the problem book two had was that it felt like there needed to be a little bit more. Something was missing to bring the whole thing together. I don't know if maybe one of the evil grown ups from the second book should have been alive to continue to tyrannize, but there was just a lack of true conflict. Sure the girls David was sending were out for blood, but that never seemed real enough to actually make me concerned.

Book two had way too much going on, and book three tried to backpedal by having not much happen. Honestly speaking, I'm not sure we needed this book. It felt more like an extended epilogue story than a sequel. I don't think it was as strong as it could have been, but personally, I don't think that's a terribly bad thing.

I will say, if there is one thing Hawkins can do well, it's a fight scene. Maybe it's just because it's Harper - high-heeled Southern Belle, but the fights are always so great. Not just because they are intense, but because of Harper's inner commentary throughout. She has grown a lot over the series, and you can really see that in these moments.

The ending to me was bittersweet, I pretty much knew Harper was going to do what she needed to do, especially after the flea market, but that last chapter, when he walks in, that killed me. I won't say more about it, and I'm happy with how everything happened, but thinking of all they lost.

Overall, this was a sassy, hilarious conclusion to a series that had some rocky moments. I think if you made it through book two, you will enjoy the reprieve this book gives.


Friday, January 6, 2017

A MILLION WORLDS WITH YOU BY CLAUDIA GRAY - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am here today with a review of the anticipated conclusion to the Firebird trilogy, A Million Worlds With You by Claudia Gray.


I have decided that this was the year that I am going to finish off all the unfinished series I have sitting on my shelf. And since I got this book for Christmas, I decided it would be a part of my rampage.

Anyways, back to this book.

Let me start off by saying I loved this trilogy from the start. I had never read any books with parallel universes or inter-dimensional travel before and this series was a great introduction to those types of books. When the second book came out, I jumped on it - loving it even more than book one. So you can see how going into the finale, I had extremely high hopes. And maybe that was why I was a little bit disappointed.

The story starts off pretty quickly after the second book ended, and Gray did a great job of recapping the important info and events that happened in the series thus far. I really appreciated this because it had been a while since I had visited the series and was a little unsure of how things had ended off. The story got back into things and reminded me of what had happened, which I enjoyed.

Then there was more travel, more romance, and more grieving. I would say these were the three main things that moved this series.

I liked seeing what was happening in different times, where Marguerite ended up after jumping from one person to the next. I liked seeing things progress with Paul and finally getting a clear answer on what was in store with Theo. But I think there were times when it got a little tedious. For a book over 400 pages, I think there could have been a lot more development of the story and not just time travel. I guess these jumps were necessary for more info about what was happening, and I really enjoyed some of the worlds, particularly Moscowverse, but I think there were some that were thrown in just as a place to go.

Marguerite is still a great character, she is strong willed and fierce, but I found sometimes she was a bit preoccupied with her relationship with Paul and less so on, I don't know, saving the universe? The core of this book is about doing such, but I will recognize and accept that the romance is also a very integral part of the story. For some reason, though, it bothered me more in this book. Paul kept saying how unstable he was and how Marguerite should walk away, but she kept standing with him. Part of me is happy with that, I loved their relationship in the other books, but I just thought it was uncharacteristic of her. She even talks about how she knows he's not good for her, and she's scared she won't ever get the old him back, but she sticks with him. If nothing else, this really annoyed me and that annoyance took away from the story as a whole.

Part of me also feels like the major conflict was resolved way too easily. There was so much going on, I found it really hard to believe that everything turned out the way it did.

I guess in the end, I disliked this book more than I originally thought.

I don't know if that was because of the other books, I just had such high expectations, when this one came out I was hoping for so much more, it couldn't deliver.

Overall, I have no unanswered questions, but part of me is left wanting a little bit more.


Thursday, January 5, 2017

STARS ABOVE BY MARISSA MEYER - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with another review, Stars Above by Marissa Meyer, the collection of short stories that goes with The Lunar Chronicles. (side note: if you haven't read that series, get on it!)


Gah. I so did not want to see this series officially end, but I am really happy with these stories, especially that last one!

I think I'm going to break each story down a little bit and then talk about the collection as a whole.

The Keeper 4/5 stars
This story was about both Scarlet and Cinder's childhoods. There was both interesting back story on Cinder's early years as well as Scarlet's home life. Most of the info we got about Cinder was a bit repetitive from the novels, but I appreciated the details of how she ended up there, and I really liked seeing Scarlet grow up with her grandmother.

Glitch 4/5 stars
The second story depicts Cinder's early days on Luna, her first introduction to her new family, and of course, her stepmother Adri. There were also interactions with her stepfather before he dies, and I think, based on what happened, he could have been really good to Cinder. He understood his responsibilities and he was fully prepared to fulfill them.

The Queen's Army 3/5 stars
This story was that of Ze'ev's origins. For those of you like me who apparently don't seem to remember anything about the books, Ze'ev is later known as Wolf. This story makes much more sense and is much more significant when you know who it is about. You can see how Wolf is forced to become something he doesn't want to be, and how that affects him and many others later in the books.

Carswell's Guide to Being Lucky 4/5 stars
I was so excited to see a story about Thorne in this collection, he is definitely one of my favourite characters. This story wasn't too important, but it showed that his charming days started very early on, and I was definitely not upset by this story basically just him in pubescent form, conning and charming people at school. Not upset at all.

After Sunshine Passes By 3/5 stars
This story gives the background information about Cress's beginning on the satellite and why she was put there. I don't know if it gave a lot of new information, but it was interesting to see her reactions and her abilities from the beginning.

The Princess and the Guard 4/5 stars
A super cute story about Winter and Jacin in the palace. The story also dealt with Winter's decision to not use her gift, giving the background story that I believe is alluded to in the novels but not actually told, if I remember correctly, as well as her relationship with Jacin. Jacin was never my favourite character, but this story helped sympathize with him.

The Little Android 2/5 stars

This was the only story I think I could have lived without. It was the story of the android Cinder helped in the first book. There is some background info on things like cyborg/human relationships and the cyborg draft, but I didn't find it all that necessary or appealing. The character wasn't one we had met (I don't think) and it just felt like it was added without being needed.

The Mechanic 4/5 stars
The story of Kai and Cinder's first meeting from his perspective. Even though we already got this from Cinder's perspective in the first book, it was so cute to see things from Kai's POV. Especially with knowing how things turn out, I was grinning the whole time I read this. We even got some sassy Iko in there too!

Something Old, Something New 5/5 stars
This was by far my very favourite of the stories! There was a wedding - I won't say who - and it was so adorable. Like seriously grinning from ear to ear with cuteness. It was the perfect ending to a fantastic series, I am so happy with how it turned out. Everyone was back together again, gah, it was just too cute.

Overall, this book was great. Some stories were better than others, but I was expecting that. They are a great addition for background info throughout the series, and if nothing else, the final story made the whole thing worth it.

Highly recommend if you are a fan of this series!


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

LOVE AND FIRST SIGHT BY JOSH SUNDQUIST - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, this time it is Love and First Sight by Josh Sundquist. Thanks so much to Hachette Canada for sending me an ARC of this book for an honest review, as always, all opinions are my own.


This year, I want to read more diverse books, and one of the major categories of diverse books I don't have a lot of experience with is those that deal with physical disabilities. I was unsure, going into this book, how it would be, reading a perspective of a blind person. I was very pleasantly surprised by the depth of Sundquist's writing style, I really felt as though I was in the main character's head.

The basic premise of this book revolves around Will, a teenager who was born blind and had previously gone to a school for the blind. He has decided, however, that he is going to attend a mainstream school. On his first day, he encounters an overbearingly helpful vice principal, accidently gropes a girl going down the stairs, and sets another girl off crying. Eventually, he finds a group of people to sit with at lunch and they become fast friends. One girl, Cecily gets paired up with Will for a project and the two become fast friends.

A few weeks into the semester, Will gets the opportunity for an experimental surgery that could give him sight. But he soon learns that the world he knew is different than the one in front of him. After a major setback and an event that shakes his and Cecily's friendship to the core, Will begins to question not only his decisions but also the trustworthiness of those around him.

Firstly, I want to talk about Will's narration and his voice. He is hilarious. I'm not sure what I was expecting from a blind narrator, but Will was not it at all - in the best way possible. I was laughing from the first page and I was immediately alerted to my own preconceived notions I didn't know I had. I was shocked at how laid back Will was. In my mind, I was expecting his narration to be filled with the thoughts sighted people take for granted. I was expecting him to be concentrating on remembering how many steps it was to the bathroom, not making blind-person jokes with the VP. And I immediately felt horrible about that. From the very first page, I was already asking questions about how these ideas got put in my head. I have never met a blind person before, but I should have been more open-minded. Will's humour shouldn't be any different from any other narrator I've read just because he is blind.

Even know, after finishing the book, I am struck by how unfamiliar I am with those who are blind, and how my assumptions are so off.

A lot of the book deals with this prejudice of sighted people and an insensitivity to the blind. Even Will's well-intending friends struggled with this. They would describe something in relation to something Will has no perception of. Will goes to a restaurant and asks for a menu, even though the waitress had already placed it in front of him. After snapping back asking if he was blind, the waitress felt instant regret. But this got me thinking about how we treat people. Even if Will wasn't blind, that's still an insensitive comment to make. This book looks at both sighted and unsighted people, and how they are treated, as well as how they treat each other.

I went into this book having read the synopsis a while ago, knowing it was about a blind person but not remembering that the narrator was blind. So when I started it, I was momentarily thrown by the emersion into Will's world. He was describing little things that I, a sighted person, take for granted every day. Shaking someone's hand, something Will can recognize by sound and conversational cues, but something that is presumed he cannot understand. Will relies on his other senses to help him, but he also relies on memory and technology. He counts his steps, he uses his phone to record, play back and memorize information. There was one point where he was being shown the school and was told to just backtrack in his mental map. Except he didn't have a mental map because he has no idea what the school looks like, just the number of steps it takes to get somewhere.

I think as sighted people, we often don't realize how much we rely on sight. And there is a certain about of terror in knowing that without sight, I'm not sure, personally, I would be able to do the things I do every day. This book does a great job of creating an environment where, without my sight, I would be lost.

The romance in this book was good, I pretty much knew going in that there would be a connection between will and someone, and once things got going it made sense. But I'm not sure it was an integral part of the story, I didn't get as deep of a connection as Will seemed to feel, but I appreciated it nonetheless. There is also a mini-road trip (squeee), which I loved and that make everything more romantic.

Overall, a great story that I think everyone should read.


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

THE HUNDRED LIES OF LIZZIE LOVETT BY CHELSEA SEDOTI - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, today it is The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett by Chelsea Sedoti. Thank you so much to Raincoast Books for sending me an ARC/NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this book for an honest review. As always, all opinions are my own.



This book is so much more than it appears. From the synopsis, one will see this as a book about a missing girl and the town that rallies to find her. And it is that book, but like the characters inside it, the book has so many more layers.

When Lizzie Lovett goes missing, the main character of the story, Hawthorn (named after the tree, not the author), doesn't really see what the big deal is. Her brother, Rush is freaking out - sure, they graduated together, but it's not like they were super close - and Hawthorn doesn't get why. To her, Lizzie is fine; she didn't run away, she wasn't kidnapped or killed, those things don't happen to people like Lizzie.

Sedoti gives a unique perspective on an overdone trope of a small town missing girl. We've all read that book, where the whole town is out looking for the beautiful girl gone missing, not wanting to assume the worst. Sedoti writes Hawthorn's reaction as realistic, a little abrasive, but not necessarily negative. And I think that is more than okay. Just because someone goes missing, they don't become a saint that everyone loved. Hawthorn is the only one to grasp that at the beginning. In fact, while the town searches, Hawthorn concocts this crazy theory about what happened to her and jumps headfirst into Lizzie's world. She fills her job at the diner Lizzie worked at, she starts hanging out with Lizzie's boyfriend, Enzo, who is more deeply broken than anyone thinks.

There is, however, so much more to this book than just the mystery of Lizzie Lovett. Hawthorn struggles with her own life, facing problems at school and the impending future of college life. These elements add a dose of harsh reality that proves inescapable for both reader and character. I think this book will resonate with a lot of readers - whether they are starting college or just looking to change something in their life. Hawthorn explores this aspect of the book with very realistic commentary.

Another major element that this book speaks to is the MPDG or Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope. If you've read Looking for Alaska or Paper Towns by John Green, you will know what this is. A sort of infatuation with a person and your perceptions of who they are and not the person they really are. The whole town seems enthralled with Lizzie, Hawthorn gets to the point where she is unconsciously becoming Lizzie. But no one really knows her.

Hawthorn begins to discover a girl that is very different from the peppy cheerleader she knew when she talks to Enzo, and another girl altogether when she talks to her brother's friend Connor, who was also in that circle. Lizzie is far from perfect and not at all the person Hawthorn believes her to be. I think Sedoti develops this idea and critique of the MPDG ideal very well throughout the book. She does a good job of showing what happens when we idealize an individual, and how harmful those assumed perceptions can be.

While there were many sad and bittersweet moments in this book, there were a lot of great, hilarious elements that helped to balance the sadness. I found myself heartbroken one minute and laughing out loud at Hawthorn's snarky comments the next. Her mother, called Sparrow, was part of a hippie movement when she was a teen and her old group comes to visit unannounced. These hippie elements added some much needed hilarity as well as some decent advice when Hawthorn needed it and had no one else to turn to.

I also really enjoyed the family dynamic in the story. Hawthorn's father is a university professor and is constantly on her case about applications, her mother is a Tofurky wielding vegan who is more focused on living in the now than anything else and her older brother Rush is an ex-high school football star who is stuck at home teaching football to kids and taking classes at a community college. No one in Hawthorn's family is perfect, but they were all there and they all tried - something you don't often see in YA.

Overall, I think this book is a great, unique story that will capture the hearts of many.


Monday, January 2, 2017

QUEEN OF HEARTS BY COLLEEN OAKES - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

Happy New Year! I am so excited to share my very first read of 2017, Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes. 


I think it's no secret that I love a good retelling. While I don't have much experience with them, they are always such fun to read. This Alice in Wonderland retelling was no exception!
This book inspired by the classic follows Dinah, Princess of Wonderland and future Queen of Hearts. After her mother died, she is set to rule with her father on her eighteen birthday. He will stay king until she marries, at which point he will step down and allow her husband kingship. While the story is set in Wonderland, there are a few differences from this story to the original.

Dinah's father, the King of Hearts is a ruthless leader who despises Dinah and her brother, Charles. Charles was born mad, and the only thing that has soothed him since the death of his mother was making hats for the kingdom (thus, the Mad Hatter). Dinah's tutor is Harris, a portly, white-haired man concerned with timeliness, and the various levels of guards and officials are called Cards, Heart Cards guard the palace, Spade Cards are reformed criminals who survived the tortures of the prison system. Within the first chapter, we are introduced to Dinah's half-sister, the king's illegitimate child, a girl named Vittore who has beautiful blue eyes and golden hair, vaguely reminiscent of an Alice figure. And of course, the king's trusted advisor, Chesire.

The story pretty much just follows Dinah and her various life events in the months leading up to her coronation. Her father is seeming less and less likely to give up his crown and Dinah struggles to accept her new sister.

I would have to say, plot-wise, this book isn't super strong. But I didn't think that really took away from the story. I was enchanted by the day-to-day and magical atmosphere Oakes creates. I could see how some individuals find this story a bit lacking, but I thought it was fun and light-hearted. I am also reading this on the heels of a massive high fantasy novel, so I welcomed the simpler storyline with open arms.

I will say that Dinah's father was really intriguing to me. This past year I have read a lot of stories about villains and how they've come to be who they are, and I think the level of anger and just downright resentment he had for his daughter was really well done. I hope we get a bit more information on his past as to why he is the way he is, as I'm sure Dinah will have some things to say to him.

In terms of retellings, I thought Oakes did a great job. She included all the beloved characters of the classic, and I really enjoyed the spin she gave on them, especially Charles, the Mad Hatter. I think in terms of AIW retellings, it was lukewarm. I didn't really see a lot of development of Dinah, who is the main character - especially into the hardened tyrant she is in the original. There were glimpses, but I think things could have gone a little further. I think if you are looking for a decent retelling, this is a good one, but if you want a more gripping and developed retelling of the classic story, you should check out something along the lines of Heartless by Marissa Meyer.

Even with the flaws of this book, I still very much enjoyed it. It was a quick read and the ending left me ready for book two. I don't know if it's too much of a cliffhanger, I think we can pretty much assume what will happen.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this book as a fun twist on the classic, but not necessarily for its plot. Either way, I really enjoyed it and cannot wait to pick up the next book.