Thursday, March 30, 2017

STRANGE THE DREAMER BY LAINI TAYLOR - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, today it is the glorious Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor. Thanks so much to Hachette Canada for providing me with a copy of this book for an honest review. As always, all opinions are my own.


Despite the fact that it took me waaay too long to finish this book, I loved it.

The story follows two main perspectives, Lazlo Strange and Sarai. Lazlo is a library in a magical town who is fascinated by the seemingly lost city of Weep. Sarai is half-human, half-god who lives in Weep and was never supposed to survive the attack that killed most of the gods 15 years ago. I'm not going to get too into a synopsis because the story is too intricate to boil down to a quick synopsis.

This book was what I wanted Daughter of Smoke & Bone to be. If that one wasn't an urban fantasy, I would have liked more than I did. And in this one, Taylor pulls off everything I hoped she would. The writing is so lyrical and well-done, it made me wish I liked urban fantasy to pick up DoSaB. Going into this book, I was weary, because I wasn't such a fan of DoSaB like every other person in the world seemed to be. But after finishing it, I am so glad I picked it up.

Taylor made it so easy to love this book. There is romance, adventure, myths and tales, just everything I hoped it would be.

Firstly, let's talk about the relationship between Lazlo and Sarai. Taylor crafts an amazingly slow-burning romance between these two. Normally, I'm not a fan of the drawn out romance, but for this book, it works so well. And the way she integrates the dreaming into the relationship made it feel even more magical, pun intended.

The world building in this book is phenomenal. Everything is so beautifully and intricately described, I felt like I was really there. I was following Lazlo on his journey and I was in the citadel with Sarai and the others. It was just fantastic.

I think that the pacing of this book is decent, I had a little trouble getting into it at the beginning because it was a new world and there were terms and things that were a little confusing. But once I got into it, I was hooked. Like the romance, the whole story has a bit of a slow-burn that builds up to a dramatic ending.

And speaking of that ending, oh my gosh! What was that? I need book two NOW!

I'm not sure if this review is coherent or not because honestly, this book moved me for the first time in a while. There are a million things I could talk about, but I will just tell you that you need to pick this book up for yourself because it is magnificent.


Monday, March 13, 2017

THE FALL OF LISA BELLOW BY SUSAN PERABO - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, The Fall of Lisa Bellow by Susan Perabo. 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.



This was not the book I was expecting it to be, but I think I'm okay with that.

The synopsis sets the book up to be a fairly typical thriller, I suppose partly to draw in a larger audience, but this book was unique (at least to me) in terms of the story.

Walking home from school one day, thirteen-year-old Meredith decides to treat herself to a root beer after her big algebra test. She goes into a sandwich shop called the Deli Barn and sees her enemy, Lisa Bellow. Lisa is ahead of Meredith and is ordering two sandwiches. An armed gunman walks in, demands cash from the employee and ends up taking Lisa with him. Meredith is frozen on the floor, unable to move, call for help, do anything. She's eventually found and the search for Lisa begins.

But this book was about more than just the abduction and Meredith, the girl who was left behind. It describes Meredith's family, her brother, Evan, who was injured in a baseball accident and told he would never play again, and her parents, Claire and Mark, both dentists but very different people.

The story is told, I would say, in fairly equal parts, third person perspective of Meredith and Claire. I think this is where this book differentiates itself from the rest. We see into these two women's lives, who both broken in different ways. Claire was my preferred perspective. She told it how it was, biting back her attitude and relief that hers is the daughter left behind. She definitely has some very dark thoughts, so much so I almost got some psychopathic tendencies from her, she seemed almost emotionless at times. I liked Claire's darkness, I don't want to say it was a refreshing change of pace, but it was definitely different from mothers I'm used to reading about.

Meredith had a more fragmented perspective, she presented herself as a more unreliable narrator. It was hard to distinguish between whether or not she was actually telling the truth with what was happening. She also had some darker qualities, reminiscent of her mother, but they were both their own person with unique narrations.

I think this story was different because while it was about a kidnapping, there isn't a lot of insight into the investigation, and there is a greater focus on healing and moving forward as a family than just Meredith's chance encounter. Mark and Claire have issues, and after Evan's injury, no one really addressed anything. This book tells a story less about finding Lisa, and more about coming together as a family again.

If you go into this book hoping for a thriller, I'm not sure you will like it. You'd probably be disappointed - there's little 'thrilling,' however the story and these two women are fascinating. I think the ending will bother some people, but I think it fits perfectly. The story isn't about Lisa anymore, that was just the hook, the pivotal moment that got the ball rolling. This book is really about a family. And the ending proves that. There is no need for a finite conclusion for one storyline because it is not the important one.

Overall, I loved this one - highly recommend!


Sunday, March 12, 2017

SURVIVING ICE BY K.A. TUCKER - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, Surviving Ice by K.A. Tucker. In working towards my goal of completing all my started series by the end of this year, I have finished the Burying Water series!


It's been over a year since I first started this series and I am happy to say I have completed it, and really enjoyed it!

This story follows Ivy, a young woman working with her uncle at his tattoo shop. One night, she comes into the shop to find two men threatening her uncle, and they end up murdering him. After losing the only family she's come to love, Ivy decides to sell the shop and her uncle's home and move on. Enter Sebastian, an ex-Navy SEAL who isn't all he seems. He actually works for a private company that works to 'remove' dangerous people all over the world. His next assignment is to get the videotape that could destroy the company and take out anyone who knows about it - maybe even Ivy.

Like I said, it's been a while for this series, so I was glad when I started reading and was able to jump back in easily. Tucker writes the background where you get the necessary background info, but you don't really need to remember all the details from the other books because they are more companion novels then sequels.

I really liked Ivy's character. She was so refreshing to read - fierce and headstrong. But she didn't have some tragedy to make her that way, it's just who she is. Often times we get either one of two tropes in these kinds of books: the meek, shy girl who is afraid of her own shadow and the macho man will swoop in and save her, or we get the traumatized, hardened girl who trusts no one. Ivy was her own beast altogether. She was strong in her abilities, but that's because that's who she is, not who she had become.

This book was a great blend of tension and romance. Sebastian is always on edge, and you never know when or if Ivy will find out about what really happened to her uncle. I appreciated that there was more to this story, or really the story of any of the other books in this series than just a romance.

I thought the pacing was a little slow at times, there was never a dull moment, but parts of the book seemed like they could have been cut down. While I enjoyed the day-to-day aspects, I think some weren't really beneficial to the story. Part of me just wanted to get back to the action with the Sebastian storyline.

Overall, I have enjoyed this series and this book.


Friday, March 10, 2017

GOODBYE DAYS BY JEFF ZENTNER - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone,

I am back with another book, Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner. Thank you so much to Penguin Random House and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book, as always, all opinions are my own.


This was my first Zentner novel and it was absolutely phenomenal, I adored it!

The story follows Carver in the wake of his three best friends' deaths - they were recently killed after plowing into the back of a semi-truck. The driver, Mars, was texting at the time, which many believe to be a main cause of the accident. But he is texting Carver back, they find a half written response to his asking where they were. So not only does Carver feel grief for his friends, but also guilt for his part in their deaths. To make matters worse, Mars's dad is thinking about taking legal action and holding Carver officially responsible for the accident. The story goes on to show Carver's journey through guilt, panic attacks, and acceptance. He also goes on a "goodbye day" with one of his friend's grandmother, providing her with closure and "one last day."

As I mentioned, this was my first Zentner, so I didn't really know what to expect, but I think he did a great job.

One of the major elements of the book is Carver's grief and I think it was done really well. There is no right way to grieve, but I think Carver is portrayed accurately and very well in terms of emotions. The writing is so well done that I felt like there was a weight on my chest while I was reading the book, I could feel Carver's grief and guilt throughout the story myself.

This is also an amazingly diverse book: there are people of colour, Mars is African-American and Eli's girlfriend, Jesmyn, is adopted from the Philipines, one of the friends is gay, Jesmyn also has synesthesia (basically the ability to hear colours), and Carver suffers from anxiety and panic attacks as a result of the accident. The story also looks at non-traditional families, Blake is taken in by his grandmother after his mother had him as a teenager and gave up on him, as well as families with higher and lower incomes. And the best part was that these details were a part of the story but in a way that doesn't make them just another plot point. The diversity is woven in seamlessly and perfectly.

I also really appreciated the relationship between Jesmyn and Carver. There were times when they experienced survivors guilt, and other times it was unclear if there was something more between them. But their relationship was handled really well, both respectful to Eli, but also not treating Jesmyn like a possession that should be willed to whichever friend was left.

The chapters of the book were filled with flashbacks to other milestones in the boys' lives, the first day of school, etc. and I thought these were really great additions. You get to learn more and more about Mars, Blake, and Eli, and the more you learn, the more you grieve their absence. Zentner does a great job of creating characters that, despite not even being alive during the main story, are well rounded and give the reader a good sense of who they were.

This book is more than just the goodbye days - although, don't get me wrong, those were emotional. It's about moving on after a horrific accident. Not taking a second for granted because you never know when your last one will be. This book was hard to get through some of the time and the parts that were a little lighter, I still felt drained.

I really loved the male perspective as well, especially coming from a book with such emotional depth. We don't see a lot of male POVs and I loved Carver's voice.

Overall, I devoured this one in less than a day and cannot recommend it enough!


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

CHLOE SNOW'S DIARY: CONFESSIONS OF A HIGH SCHOOL DISASTER BY EMMA CHASTAIN - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone,

I am back with another review, Chloe Snow's Diary: Confessions of a High School Disaster by Emma Chastain. Thanks so much to Simon and Schuster Canada for providing me with this book for an honest review. As always, all opinions are my own.


** Just a fair warning, this review is more of a rant - perhaps directed more at aspects of society itself than the book - but consider yourself warned **

I really wanted to like this book. I really, really really wanted to like this book. It had all the makings of a perfect story, a cute maybe romance, told in the form of diary/journal entries, with a promising parent figure and one who is going after her dreams. It could have been so good... but no matter where the story goes, everything hinges on the narrator.

And let me tell you, Chloe was probably one of the most annoying narrators I've ever read. At least in recent memory.

I genuinely think that this story is not bad - but Chloe's narration is just so annoying I could barely get through the story. I almost DNF'd this one a handful of times because of her voice.

I think the biggest problem with Chloe is that she is too young. I was expecting an energetic 16/17-year-old, and what I got was an ambitious 14-year-old. Yup. Starting her freshman year of high school. Double yup. Most of her issues with life came across as irritating because she (is) sounds so young. If these were the thoughts of someone a little older, I'd be okay with it, but it was just annoying and sometimes a little uncomfortable.

Like there's this guy, Mac Brody. Chloe likes him. But this is problematic for many reasons but I'll stick with two. 1) He has a girlfriend. Now say what you want about teenagers, but if you aren't mature enough to understand what cheating is, maybe you shouldn't be doing it, mmkay? And 2) He's eighteen years old. 18. YEARS. OLD. I'm not one to talk about 'proper' age gaps, but this is wrong on so many levels. And like no one in the book sees it as problematic. Chloe's dad doesn't like Mac - but that's because he's rude, not because he's old enough to have a crime stay on his permanent record.

Maybe I'm putting too much pressure on a 14-year-old, surely she doesn't really know what she's doing. BUT NO ONE STOPS HER OR HIM. Sure, rumours go around, but does that deter, you can bet the farm it doesn't.

Okay, so let's look at Chloe as a product of her parents. Her mom is a 'free-spirit' artist who decided that she needed to be in another country in order to work on her novel. Her dad is a lawyer, painted as a boring penny-pincher by her mother, but otherwise a decent guy. The real problem lies, I believe, with her mother. Not only does she abandon Chloe when she needs her most - life struggles, puberty, guys, etc. but she isn't exactly the best role model romantically either. We find out pretty early on that she's probably not coming home anytime soon, and if she does, she might bring her friend, the matador. Ok, so Chloe doesn't exactly have a good role model for monogamy. Her dad's not perfect either, he spends a little too much time with Chloe's drama teacher.

BUT WHEN CHLOE COMPARES THESE ACTIONS OF HER PARENTS WITH WHAT SHE IS DOING, SHE SEES NO PROBLEMS.

And this, I think, is what irritated me the most about Chloe. She was a major hypocrite. She knows Mac has a girlfriend, but she decides she's too pretty to be affected by him cheating. What? How does that even make sense? Chloe just keeps telling herself that it's fine, Sienna doesn't matter, doesn't care, doesn't exist. It takes her 288 pages (of a 338 page book) to see that what she is doing is the same as what her parents are and that it's not okay. And I wanted to rip my hair out for 288 pages.

I almost put this book down twice. The first time was closer to the beginning when Chloe and Mac are doing shots together at a party. Yes, you read that right. The second time was the first time that Chloe rationalized her relationship with Mac. But I kept going because I hoped that it would turn around.

I suppose in putting aside my personal feelings, this book was okay. If you can handle Chloe's whining, the books not terrible. But for me, I couldn't overlook those things that made me uncomfortable and her narration.

Overall, some may find it cute, but I was not a fan.


Monday, March 6, 2017

WONDERFUL FEELS LIKE THIS BY SARA LÖVESTAM - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, Wonderful Feels Like This by Sara Lövestam. Thank you so much to Raincoast Books for sending a copy of this book my way for an honest review. As always, all opinions are my own.


I am apparently continuing this week's trend of not finishing books, I think this is my second or third DNF.

The story, or what I'd read so far focuses on a girl named Steffi. She is bullied at school and one day, walking home hears her favourite song playing from an open window. She then meets Alvar, an elderly man living in a nursing home. The two become quick friends, bonding over their love of music and jazz. Alvar tells Steffi of his time as a bassist in World War II era Sweden and his time in Stockholm where he played in a jazz band.

Now, it's not that I didn't like this book because of a specific element of the book, it is more that the story itself is not really that interesting to me. There is a lot of music talk that goes right over my head and made the book less enjoyable. I think if you are a major music/jazz fan, you would love this book. But for me, I just couldn't connect that well.

I did like Alvar's sidebar chats about his time as a teenager in the 40s - I've never really learned about WWII from the perspective of someone in Sweden, so it was interesting to see it from someone on that side. His stories were interesting to me, and I think they are the reason I kept reading for so long. Steffi's life didn't really have a lot going on in it - the most fun she had was hanging out with Alvar, and those were the parts I enjoyed the most as well.

This book does touch on the issue of bullying - there is name-calling and just general harassment. As I didn't finish the book, I'm not sure if it gets resolved/addressed in a proper way.

I wasn't a huge fan of Steffi's voice, she sounded very young to me. I think she's supposed to be at least 16 years old, but her narration sounded like it was more suited to a middle-grade novel than young adult.

I actually liked the writing style of the book, I know others have mentioned that it was choppy, I didn't find it too jarring. Sometimes I would forget that we jumped into Alvar's story, because there isn't really a new chapter for his perspective then, just a new paragraph, but for the most part, I was able to differentiate the timelines.

I think this book could be really great for someone who is well-versed in music but for myself, not my cup of tea.

Overall, great potential, just not for me.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

STRANGER THAN FANFICTION BY CHRIS COLFER - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, today it is Stranger Than Fanfiction by Chris Colfer. 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 story sets itself up to be a light-hearted road trip with a group of friends before college - and I guess it is, but there is a much deeper undertone to the book.

The story follows a group of 4 friends who go on a road trip from Illinois to California before parting ways and heading to college. The group originally became friends because of a TV show called Wiz Kids, essentially the teen version of Doctor Who meets sci-fi. Topher is the trip's coordinator and after on the night before the trip, he writes an email to the star of the show Cash Carter. He's been writing him for years since the show started and has never gotten a response. However, after telling Cash about the road trip, Topher gets a response - Cash is tagging along.

The group travels across the country and comes to terms with their inner conflicts. Each character has a secret, and each ends up telling Cash. I won't spoil anything, but I will say there was a great diversity among the group. I really liked reading a book about a diverse group of people, without it being a book about a diverse group of people. You know? Like it was a major part of the book and it was recognized and done well. But the diversity was integrated so well you almost didn't notice it - if that makes any sense.

The writing style of the book felt very movie-like, it was told in third person, but each chapter focused on one character's inner feelings. This gave a unique narration that makes the reader both an observer of the storyline, as well as a participant.

I think it goes without saying that I was ready to love this book for the road trip alone. I don't know what it is about them, but they suck me into even the most boring stories. This one had just the right amount of breakdowns, errors, and issues to create a realistic story without being too perfect. A lot of the places they went to see were kind of let downs. They were old, abandoned and disappointing. There were a few good places - but mostly they weren't anything special. And I think that was okay because it left a lot of room for the character growth. They discovered a lot about themselves and I think if there was a lot of flashy attractions in the background, it would have overwhelmed the story.

I didn't see the twist at the end coming, maybe it was predictable for some people, but not me. I was heartbroken for Cash, he had no one to share it with, so he ended up going on a road trip with four people who he's never met. I think I was just so sad that he had gotten into a position, either by circumstance or his own volition, and spends those few weeks with a group of strangers instead of anyone who cares about the real him.

This book looks at a lot of issues, and not just the obvious one, like the fact that Cash is a TV star. There were some moments where he told of the more sinister side of fame and fortune, but the book also talks about issues such as sexuality, racism, and even just being the person you want to be, and not the person others (i.e. your parents) want you to be.

The ending of the book makes it easy to feel bad for Cash, but I'm not sure I really liked him throughout the book. I understand he had his reasons, but he didn't have to be a jerk about it. He crashed their road trip and sometimes made it seem like they were inconveniencing him.

Overall, I enjoyed this book and look forward to more from this author.


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

PIPER PERISH BY KAYLA CAGAN - BLOG TOUR + BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with another blog tour! I am so excited to work with Raincoast Books and share a little Q&A for the book Piper Perish by Kayla Cagan!


First, the review. Thank you so much to Raincoast Books for sending me an ARC of this book for an honest review, as always, all opinions are my own.


Going into this book, I was expecting it to be about a pretentious art student, but what I got was so much better - so much deeper.

The story follows a girl named Piper in her senior year of high school. She lives in Houston with her parents and painfully annoying older sister. Focusing on her goal of leaving her hometown far, far behind, Piper channels her energy into her art. In the synopsis, it says she "inhales air and exhales art," which I think is a bit of a stretch - there's no magical realism, and Piper struggles to create a masterpiece more than she breathes. She is good, though - good enough to get her teacher's recommendation to a conservatory program in New York City. But when her sister moves home from college, Piper has to face the idea that even if she is good enough to get into the program, her family may not be able to afford it.

Like I said, when I first started the book, I was expecting some snotty teenaged hipster who is decent at art and expects the world handed to her on a silver platter. But what this book actually is so different. Piper does have her diva moments, but for the most part, she's pretty down to earth.

A major part of the story deals with Piper's family, and I was really (pleasantly) surprised to see how well developed they were. Even her friend's "absent" parents were around some of the time. Piper's family is fairly typical - struggling to make ends meet, but making it. However, Marli, Piper's older sister moves home  and the family has to stretch themselves even thinner. I liked that the parents didn't try to hide their problems from Piper, and that when there was something they didn't like, they called her out on it. This was a refreshing break from the usual YA parents who let their kid do whatever they want. They had some genuine concern for Piper.

Of all the characters, my least favourite was Marli. I'm not sure what behavioural disorder she has - there was some speculation in the book, but she is so mean, and really, for no reason. Yes, little sisters can be annoying sometimes, but I'm not sure Marli ever said one nice thing to Piper the whole book. That's just such a strange concept to me, sisters who literally hate each other's guts, that I didn't like it at all. I know Marli has her issues, but there were times when enough was enough and I was exhausted just reading about the conflicts.

This story does take a good chunk to get into the rhythm, I'm not sure if it is because it is told in journal entry forms (with some art and emails thrown in) or what. I think you also have to get into the groove of being told more than seeing firsthand what is happening - that adds a layer of disconnect to the story. I liked the journal entry style because it is something different, and I can definitely see Piper sitting around, writing in a journal, but I'm not sure what it added to the book as a whole.

After you get into the swing of things, and get over how annoying some of the characters are, the story gets better. I did want to put it down a couple of times, but I was able to push through, and I'm glad I did.

I only wish we got some sort of epilogue or something after the ending - I'm happy with how it ended, but I think things could have been stretched a little bit further.

Overall, I enjoyed this book - it was better than what I expected.

Now, the Q&A. We each got to ask Kayla Cagan one question - make sure you check out the other blog tour stops to see their Q&A's as well, but her is mine:

Why did you decide to write the book in the form of journal entries instead of the “traditional” novel format?

I’ve been journaling since I was 10 years old and I always wanted to write a story using a journal structure. Journals are the safe places where most of us can be our true, unguarded and somewhat unedited selves. I love reading fiction, and what better way to know a character than through her own words? I also like having some flexibility. Obviously, like a traditional story, a novel structured like a journal still needs some basic storytelling elements – namely a beginning, middle, and end – but I just wanted to take a chance and see if I could do it. So, I allowed myself to try it. I also wanted to read what was in the mind of a young Picasso or a young Warhol or young Dickinson or young Plath. I wanted to see who they were before the world had an idea of who they were and should be, how they should act etc… the journal format helped me do that for Piper!

Thanks again to Raincoast Books and Kayla Cagan - definitely check this one out, it just published yesterday!