Saturday, 13 April 2019

Blog Tour: In The Key of Nira Ghani by Natasha Deen - Review and Author Q&A

In The Key of Nira Ghani by Natasha Deen

Publishing Date: April 9, 2019
Publisher: Running Press
Pages: 304
Young Adult Contemporary

The Premise from the Publisher: "Nira Ghani has always dreamed of becoming a musician. Her Guyanese parents, however, have big plans for her to become a scientist or doctor. Nira's grandmother and her best friend, Emily, are the only people who seem to truly understand her desire to establish an identity outside of the one imposed on Nira by her parents. When auditions for jazz band are announced, Nira realizes it's now or never to convince her parents that she deserves a chance to pursue her passion. As if fighting with her parents weren't bad enough, Nira finds herself navigating a new friendship dynamic when her crush, Noah, and notorious mean-girl, McKenzie "Mac," take a sudden interest in her and Emily, inserting themselves into the fold. So, too, does Nira's much cooler (and very competitive) cousin Farah. Is she trying to wiggle her way into the new group to get closer to Noah? Is McKenzie trying to steal Emily's attention away from her? As Farah and Noah grow closer and Emily begins to pull away, Nira's trusted trumpet "George" remains her constant, offering her an escape from family and school drama. But it isn't until Nira takes a step back that she realizes she's not the only one struggling to find her place in the world. As painful truths about her family are revealed, Nira learns to accept people for who they are and to open herself in ways she never thought possible" (Running Press).

My overall thoughts and review: I was intrigued by the premise of this book when I first heard of it because I always enjoy a book about an individual who takes the risk and courage to chase after their own dreams. I find that as a child of an immigrant, there's a certain pressure that is present to always work hard and be the best. As someone who grew up with a parent who wanted me to pursue a medical degree, I found a lot of the pressure that Nira faced in the book relatable. I saw aspects of my own family in Nira's family, and I think a lot of readers reading this would find aspects that they can find similarities in as well. I will say, brace yourself to feel some frustration, similar to the kind youi would feel around those relatives that drive you up the wall at family events. At times, I wished I could reach into the book and shake characters like Nira's uncle Raj or Farah. They were incredibly frustrating, and I'm proud of Nira for always holding her ground with them and not letting them get the best of her. I liked that despite a lot of issues she faced with her parents, they were able to overcome them and come to a compromise. I will say that Nira's grandma was definitely my favorite character. I loved her interactions with other characters and just her overall fighting spirit. In addition to family dynamics, the book focuses a lot on friendship and cliques. Nira has a best friend named Emily, but things start to shift when Mac is introduced, and a possible love interest, Noah. It reminds you that first impressions can alter the way you look at someone in the long run, and how to not judge a book by its cover. Lastly, music is a big component in the book as it's the driving force for Nira. She finds herself in her passion for music and it was nice to see what a big role music played for her. The parts that I found frustrating were mostly certain characters. Like I said earlier, her uncle and cousin drove me absolutely bonkers. I understand that they added to the overall plot, but they were still frustrating. Overall though, despite frustrating characters, I really did enjoy the book. It's a good own voices story that focuses on finding yourself, family, and friendship dynamics. If you are looking for a YA diverse contemporary read, then this is the book for you!

My rating of the book: ✮✮✮½ - 3.5/5 stars

Available for purchase at:
Chapters/Indigo, Kobo Books, Amazon, and Book Depository

Author Q&A
What is your writing process?  
Is it too honest to confess my writing strategy consists of a lot (a lot!!) of staring at a blank page, inhaling tea, and eating way too many cupcakes?
Luckily, I also do a few other things. I re-read story-writing books (think of Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat, Robert McKee’s Story, and the like), then I go back to the reams and reams of writing outlines I have printed off from conferences.
I sketch out the characters, their arc, and plots. For me, writing a novel is like trying to cross the ocean—an impossible task if I try to do it in one jump. I find that having an outline breaks a big job into small, achievable goals.
Once I have my outline and scenes, I start in, and I give myself daily/weekly/monthly deadlines, as well as daily/weekly/monthly rewards for putting in a good-faith effort. (I concentrate on effort over output, because as writers know, sometimes you can try very, very hard, but at the end of the day, all you have is a sentence).
After the draft is completed, I let it rest, then it’s time for edits! And when that’s done, it’s beta readers, then off to my agent, then off to the publisher, then the world. :-) 
Were there any particular scenes you found really difficult to write?  
Truly, I find everything about writing difficult—and Nira was tricky because there’s a line where my growing up and her story blurred.
I really loved Nira’s story, I loved her and her eccentric family, and I think that’s important for writers. If we love the idea, the story, then it’s easy (easier) to remind ourselves that it’s okay if the story takes time to unfold, and it’s okay to take the breath and go slowly.
I think the ending was probably the most difficult because I had lived with these characters for so long, and now, it was time to say goodbye.   
What are some of your favorite scenes? 
Hands down, any time Grandma was in the scene. She is **so** based off my grandmothers. It was a joyful experience to imagine them talking and then shifting it to Grandma’s voice.
I also loved writing Emily’s scenes. She is such a great friend and I loved the slightly off-kilter way she filters life.
The other scenes I loved were the moments when Nira’s worldview shifts. It was a lot of fun creating those scenes, giving her a chance to grow and expand, and to see the world as a nuanced creation rather than a simple black-and-white experience.
Thank you so much, Natasha for stopping by today on the blog tour! Be sure to stop by the other stops for more reviews and content from Natasha! :D 


Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this book from Hachette Book Group for consideration/review and participation in the blog tour. All opinions are my own. 

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

[Cover Reveal] Pretty Reckless by L.J. Shen

PR - CR banner.jpg

Pretty Reckless, the first standalone in the highly anticipated All Saints High series from USA Today bestselling author L.J. Shen, is coming April 29th and we have the gasp-worthy cover!

Monday, 8 April 2019

Blog Tour: The Beauty of the Moment by Tanaz Bhathena - Review and Author Guest Post

The Beauty of the Moment by Tanaz Bhathena

Publishing Date: February 26, 2019
Publisher: PRH Canada Young Readers
Pages: 368
Young Adult Contemporary

The Premise from the Publisher: "Susan is the new girl -- she's sharp and driven, and strives to meet her parents' expectations of excellence. Malcolm is the bad boy -- he started raising hell at age fifteen, after his mom died of cancer, and has had a reputation ever since. Susan hasn't told anyone, but she wants to be an artist. Malcolm doesn't know what he wants -- until he meets her. Love is messy and families are messier, but in spite of their burdens, Susan and Malcolm fall for each other. The ways they drift apart and come back together are testaments to family, culture, and being true to who you are" (PRH).

My overall thoughts and review: If you look back over a year ago, I had read Tanaz's debut novel A Girl Like That, and it still remains one of my favorite reads to this day. To say I was excited to read more by Tanaz is an understatement. I still think about AGLT often, with how powerful the story was and just the beautiful way it was written. AGLT is mentioned a bit in this book which was nice to see! If you are curious for my review of that book, be sure to click here! This story takes place in Mississauga which isn't too far from me so it was nice to see some familiar sights mentioned. Susan is the new girl at school and she finds herself wanting to pursue art in her future, while also struggling with her parent's expectations. They want a different life for her, one that is either in medicine or engineering. She misses life back home, but she's also dealing with the fact that her parents may be separating. She finds herself becoming friends with Malcolm, who is a bit of a hellion. I really liked how they hit it off immediately, and even though it's first love, Tanaz wrote their relationship blossoming in a very authentic way, which didn't feel too insta-lovey for me. On paper and to their parents, they can and could never work, but I loved seeing them grow more comfortable with the other and bringing out the best in the other. The book tackles so many themes in terms of how family and relationships are presented. It also tackles senior year of high school struggles, in terms of doing well in your classes to get into post-secondary education, but also struggling to decide what you actually want to do when you get to post-secondary education. Tanaz nicely highlights the struggle that I'm sure a lot of students face, and that is deciding between what you want to do and love, and what you are expected to do by your parents. It's like a kind of limbo you are in, and I'm sure many people can relate to that moment many times over the course of their life. It was more than just Susan and Malcolm falling love, it was their individual stories and how they were able to move on from certain things in their lives. I would highly recommend it if you are looking for a YA contemporary read that's really well written, and highlights first love, family, and friendship!

"Nothing lasts forever. Not this snowflake. Not our homes, not our families. But it doesn't mean you can't live in the beauty of the moment" (221). 

My rating of the book: ✮✮✮✮ - 4/5 stars

Available for purchase at:
Chapters/Indigo, Kobo Books, Amazon, and Book Depository

Author Guest Post - Be a little stubborn by Tanaz Bhathena
Dedicated to my friends in THG Fandom (you know who you are) 
The greatest challenge I faced in my writing career happened in 2014-15. I had been working hard to get a book published for around 7 years. I had started off with a short story collection, which helped me find an agent, but the book did not sell. Short story collections by debut writers rarely ever do, and though people told me this in the past, I didn’t listen. You see, I can be a little stubborn at times. 
Predictably, publishers told me to write a novel instead. So I took a short story from the collection and expanded it to a novel for adults. As my agent submitted the book and new rejections began pouring in, I began working on another book...and came up blank.  
Ideas came aplenty, but executing them was a different thing altogether. For several months, I wrote myself into several dead ends. Turned off writing, I found refuge in reading The Hunger Games fan fiction and eventually was encouraged by fandom writers online to give it a try.  
I really loved it. (Putting a Bollywood twist on Peeta and Katniss and setting it in India may have something to do with that.) To my surprise, readers liked my story as well; strangers I didn’t know asked me to write more chapters. Fan fiction reminded me of how much I loved writing and how much I missed it.  
However, after a few months of writing fan fic, I grew dissatisfied again. There were certain rules you have to follow to write good fan fic and, when it came to writing, I always resisted following the rules. I knew that as fun and rewarding as it had been to explore fan fiction, I had to begin writing my own stories again.  
The day I decided to wind down my fan fic journey and begin working on my own fiction again, my agent called. “We have some interest,” she told me. “It’s from a YA editor and she wants you to revise your book for teens.” 
Hope battled with reluctance. I had heard such things from editors before only to be rejected later on. But then I decided to give my beaten up story one more shot.   
I revised the first three chapters and wrote a synopsis for the book and submitted it.  
In the summer of 2016, my agent called me. We had an offer for my first novel, now known as A GIRL LIKE THAT.  
A year later, I pulled out another short story from my old collection and wrote my second novel, THE BEAUTY OF THE MOMENT.  
It took fan fiction to remind me how much I love writing—and more so, writing my own stories. The greatest challenge we face as writers apart from rejection is self-doubt. Does my story matter? we wonder. Does anyone care? 
The answer, which took me a while to realize, is simple: If I don’t care about my story, no one else will.  
Have faith in yourself and your story, especially when it’s difficult to do so.  
Or if you’re anything like me, just be a little stubborn. 
Thank you so much, Tanaz, for stopping by the blog today and sharing about your writing process! 

We are only just kicking off the tour, so please be sure to go check out the other stops for reviews on the book and more special content from Tanaz! :D
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this book from Penguin Random House Canada for consideration/review. All opinions are my own. 

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Batch Reviews #12

Devil's Daughter (The Ravenels #5) by Lisa Kleypas  (✮✮✮✮✮ - 5/5 stars)
Publishing Date: February 19, 2019
Publisher: Harpercollins
Pages: 384

My Review: I haven't reviewed any of the other previous Ravenel books, but Lisa Kleypas is definitely one of my favorite historical romance authors ever. We were first introduced to Weston Ravenel in the first book of the series, Cold-Hearted Rake, as the brother of Devon. I immediately liked him then, and he pops up in the books that come after. He's definitely someone who has a dark past and indulged in a lot, but he starts working as the estate manager for his brother and he comes to just find a purpose in working the lands with the tenants. I loved seeing him grow over the course of the previous four books, so when it was announced that he was going to get his own HEA, I was so excited. Interestingly enough, the female lead is Phoebe, the daughter of Sebastian (who is a fan-favorite for Kleypas' male leads), and West, as a child, unfortunately bullied, Phoebe's late husband, Henry. When they first meet, Phoebe is determined to not like West because of how he was with her late husband as kids (they were kids, Phoebe!!), but despite that, she finds herself drawn to him. West is also immediately enticed by Phoebe, and I loved seeing them get to know one another. Both surprising the other and exceeding the other's expectations. I can't say enough good things about this book. It was just PERFECT. I actually found myself reading it super slowly because I wanted to savor it. I didn't want it to end. West IS my favorite historical romance hero and I just loved everything about the book. Phoebe also has two kids, so seeing him interact with them was definitely swoony. Phoebe is also a really good lead because she definitely refuses to be pigeon-holed into a role that is assigned to her. She does everything with her children in mind, and I loved how much she wanted to make sure she was learning as much as she could about her estate for her children's sake. You can definitely read this without having read the others and love it... BUT I'd recommend reading the others in the series first. You get to see some familiar faces and it's such a nice treat to see how far West has come as a character. I also am ashamed to admit that I haven't read the Wallflowers series, but upon finishing this, I immediately placed an order for all four of them. Also, I'm already dying for some down time so I can reread Devil's Daughter again! Absolute perfection!! <3 Please read it! You won't regret it!

Available for purchase:
Indigo/Chapters - Kobo - Amazon - Kindle - Book Depository


Passion on Park Avenue (Central Park Pact #1) by Lauren Layne (✮✮✮✮½ - 4.5/5 stars)
Publishing Date: May 28, 2019
Publisher: Gallery Books
Pages: 288

My Review: Lauren Layne's 21 Wall Street series is one of my favorite romance series. I love how she is able to incorporate a sweet and sexy romance, and also have the friend group component as a big part of the book. I was so excited to learn that she was coming out with a new series called the Central Park Pact. The three ladies (who will each get their own book) meet unexpectedly in Central Park one day because they all happened to be with the same guy, and avoiding his funeral LOL. The first book follows Naomi Powell, who has made a name for herself as the owner of a jewelry start-up. She was the daughter of a housekeeper, and she grew up on Park Avenue, but simply as the daughter of 'the help'. When her mother worked there, unfortunately, her mother had an affair with her boss/owner of the house, and their life was changed forever when they were thrown on the streets, and her mom had to make ends meet going from job to job. Naomi has worked incredibly hard to make a new name for herself (literally) and to move on from her past. But when she one day gets an application to live in the same building where everything went badly, she can't help but try and get some closure. She ends up being neighbors with Oliver, who was the boy who teased her when she was younger, and the son of the man who her mother cheated with. To say she has some resentment against Oliver is putting it lightly. They have an instant spark, and despite wanting to not like one another, they actually find themselves enjoying each other's company. Also add to the mix is the fact that Oliver's father is dealing with dementia which definitely makes things interesting. I don't want to spoil the book, so I'll try and keep it short. I loved Oliver and Naomi's story. I genuinely believe that they brought out the best in each other. I just adored Oliver as a boyfriend because he was incredibly attentive, sweet, and also the sacrifices he makes for his family were just above and beyond. I will say, I wish Naomi didn't conceal her identity for as long as she did, and I wish this book was sexier! The title does say passion, and it is unlike her other series because it felt really fade to black for the sex scenes. To conclude, I did really love the book and I look forward to reading the other two in the series, and seeing the other two females in the central park pact get their happy ending.

Available for purchase:
Indigo/Chapters - Kobo - Amazon - Kindle - Book Depository


Boyfriend for Hire by Kendall Ryan (✮✮✮½ - 3.5/5)
Publishing Date: February 19, 2019
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services LLC
Pages: 258

My Review: This was my first book ever by Kendall Ryan, and one of the #supersexybookclub reads. When I read the premise, I was definitely interested in it since it follows a male lead who works in an escort service. I was thinking that it may be more along the lines of Helen Hoang's The Kiss Quotient. You can see immediately how it will be a series because Nic works at an agency with a few friends. He initially got into this business just to make money, but he finds himself wanting to give it up when he is hired to be a wedding date for Elle. Elle has no clue that her friend and future-sister in law had hired someone, and despite it being a job, Nic finds himself falling for her. I do like Kendall Ryan's writing and I found the book to be incredibly readable. I also found the romance done quite well, and I will say, the will they or won't they kiss moments had me just grinding my teeth in anticipation haha. I think my biggest complaint with the book was the fact that Elle went on for so long without knowing the truth from Nic and her friend. I just wished they were upfront about it longer because although, both didn't mean any intentional harm, the longer it went on definitely led to problems. I'm glad to see Nic and Elle get their HEA and I'll definitely check out the other book in the series to see Case get his HEA. My fellow #supersexybookclub members also love other books by Kendall Ryan so I'm definitely going to check out her backlist and read some titles they have loved!

Available for purchase:
Indigo/Chapters - Kobo - Amazon - Kindle - Book Depository


The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez (✮✮✮✮✮ - 5/5 stars)
Publishing Date: June 11, 2019
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Pages: 384

My Review: Do you ever have the moment when you read an arc of a book, and just know immediately that you will be buying a physical copy to cherish on your bookshelves forever? I definitely had that moment with this book and only at a few chapters in. When I got an email from Forever about this book, the premise sounded really interesting with a slow-burn romance, and a female lead who had to deal with fertility issues and make a decision that could alter her life forever. The story follows Kristen and Josh, who happen to meet because they are the MoH and Best man for their best friends who are getting married (Sloan and Brandon - whose story isn't even the main one, but their story had me crying on the subway.. completely ripped my heart out and stomped on it). Josh is a firefighter and Kristen runs a small business for dog accessories and stairs. Kristen is also dating someone who is on deployment when they first meet, and Josh ends up helping her with her business to build the mini stairs. Also side note, I loved that Kristen's dog Stuntman Mike knew right away what kind of person Josh was. Kristen kept going on about how the dog didn't like her boyfriend at the time, and I'm like yes! dogs definitely can tell what kind of person a person is ;) Anyways, back to the review, they both find themselves hanging out with one another and just bonding over time. There's a clear attraction between the two, but they both don't act on it because Kristen isn't single. Along with all of this, Kristen has been having really bad periods her whole life, and she learns that her chances of having children are basically non-existent. She is faced with having to make a big decision about her future and what that can mean for her future relationships. I loved the rapport between Josh and Kristen. She has such a laid-back and straight-forward attitude that I just loved. She just says what she means, and Josh, he is just an all-around nice guy. I was rooting so hard for these two, and I just love stories that are built on friendship first. I don't want to say too much and give the book away, but I absolutely loved this book. It's one of those books that I wish I could go back and read for the first time again because that feeling of falling in love with a book is indescribable. This book is Abby's debut and I honestly cannot wait to see what else she writes. I am eagerly awaiting Sloan's story! Definitely going down as one of my favorite reads of 2019!! It's smart, funny, sexy, and absolutely heartbreaking, but soooo worth it. Please pick it up if you have a chance!

Available for purchase:
Indigo/Chapters - Kobo - Amazon - Kindle - Book Depository
Disclaimer: I received a digital advanced reader's copy from Forever Grand Central Publishing / Hachette Book Group in exchange for consideration/review. All opinions are my own. 

Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Blog Tour: Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan - Review

Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy #1) by Emily A. Duncan 

Publishing Date: April 2, 2019
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pages: 400
Young Adult Fantasy Fiction

The Premise from the Publisher: "A girl who can speak to gods must save her people without destroying herself. A prince in danger must decide who to trust. A boy with a monstrous secret waits in the wings. Together, they must assassinate the king and stop the war. In a centuries-long war where beauty and brutality meet, their three paths entwine in a shadowy world of spilled blood and mysterious saints, where a forbidden romance threatens to tip the scales between dark and light" (SMP).

My overall thoughts and review: I will say that in the beginning of the book, I found it a little hard to get into. You are immediately thrown into this world and while the character development is great, I would've liked some historical context ahead of time in an easier fashion for me to digest it all. That said, once I got about 100 pages into the book, I started to enjoy the perspectives of the characters a lot more. It's definitely a book that I would recommend taking your time reading because there is a lot to digest in terms of names and places, so it can get confusing. The book follows Nadya, who is an incredibly valuable cleric, because she has the gift of communication with the gods, and she wants to save Kalyazin from Tranavia. And in contrast, there's Serefin, who is the High Prince of Tranavia, and he is tasked with capturing her. However, Nadya finds some unlikely allies and makes a plan to assassinate the mad king to stop the war to save her country, while Serefin is called home suddenly because he needs to marry? I wasn't sure what to think of Nadya to begin with, and unfortunately, she wasn't what kept me reading the entire book. It's like she knows she's important, but can't help being a bit arrogant about that fact? On the other hand, the character of Serefin is definitely my favorite. I liked his voice, and just his overall approach to things. I found myself eagerly turning the pages so I could read more from his perspective. The book does well in terms of the fast moving plot that picks up in the 2/4 of the book and carries on until the end of the book. It also does well tackling some really dark themes while surprising the reader at every turn. It does make you think the bigger questions that can often come when discussing religion, like is this right or wrong? and the actions people sometimes do in the name of faith. It's definitely unlike any other fantasy YA I've read before, and I did like that it felt like some elements of the Middle East and Russia were kind of taken to build the world. I'm intrigued by what comes next in this series. If you are a fan of YA fantasy books, but you always wanted a darker element or aspect to the text, I would definitely recommend you pick this up.

For an exclusive excerpt from the book, click here!

Available for pre-order/purchase at:
Chapters/Indigo, Kobo Books, Amazon, and Book Depository
There's also an Indigo Book Box featuring the book: here!


Be sure to check out the other stops on the blog tour! :D 

Disclaimer: An advanced reader's copy of the book was provided by Raincoast Books for participation in the book tour. All opinions of the book are my own. 

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

[Blog Tour] Space by Penny Reid

SPACE_BT.jpg

Space, the second book in the all-new Laws of Physics Trilogy from Wall Street Journal and New York Times bestselling author Penny Reid, is available now!