Monday, 21 May 2018

Book Bloggers Recommend Summer Reads | 2018 Edition

Hi everyone! I'm back again with another collaboration post with some lovely bookish friends of mine. Since we are basically nearing summer, I thought it'd be a good idea to do what I did last year and put together a post of recommended reads for the summer/beach reads. If you want to see what was featured last year, take a look here! Those recommendations still stand ;) Let's get started!

Wendy at A Cupcake and a Latte recommends... 
"Rachel Hawkins is the brilliant mind behind one of my favorite paranormal YA series with a school setting. The Hex Hall series had completely blown me away, and it was a series that I, too, binged during the summer holidays. So when I think of summer reading, I definitely think of Rachel Hawkins'  latest, ROYALS. Royals, the first of a new series by Rachel Hawkins, focuses on Daisy Winters, your average 16 year old girl with a sister who's nearly engaged to a crown prince. Daisy immediately finds the new found publicity unwelcome, and is forced to join her sister in seclusion at the castle.  Royals features snarky characters, handsome love interests, and all the teen drama one could possibly ever want. Additionally, it's arrival is perfectly timed with the upcoming royal wedding of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle!  It's the perfect breezy read for a warm day under the sun, and one I can certainly see becoming a much beloved teen series." 

Tiff at Mostly YA Lit recommends...
"This year, my perfect beach read is Stay Sweet by Siobhan Vivian. It's got everything you would want in a summer read - ice cream, girl friendships, a romance - plus tons of feminist themes! It's the story of Amelia, a girl boss who manages an all-female staffed ice cream stand during the summers, and what happens when the owner dies and leaves the stand to her great nephew. What I love about this book is that it seems fluffy and light, but it's not at all predictable. The ice cream descriptions are delectable, the friendships complicated, and the work ethic inspiring. It's extra in the best possible way - I felt both happy and empowered by the end of the book, and you will, too!"

Jenn at Lost in a Great Book recommends... 
"I loved this book because it immediately brought back all the old feelings and emotions (good, bad and ugly) that I used to have about attending summer camp, but with a much more somber outcome. This book is about five girls who slowly begin to bond at camp, doing all the usual camp things, until the day they set out on their very first overnight kayaking trip. Something goes horribly wrong, and the girls are left without adults to guide them or to help them to survive. Told in alternating PO and in flash forwards and flashbacks, the reader slowly begins to piece together what exactly happened on that fateful night, and just how profoundly one formative memory can affect several people so differently over their life. The combination of the familiar sense memory identifiers of summer, mixed with the suspenseful storyline and alternating POVs may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it will definitely spark discussion around the campfire."

Eden at The Required Reading List recommends...
"The Wedding Date was so incredibly enjoyable & fun. On top of that, the heroine is a badass taking names, but still has those niggling self doubts that even the most confident women can. The Wedding Date shows it’s okay to be both. And the hero is flawed in such an incredibly realistic and lovely way. I laughed, chuckled, sighed, and screamed at the book. Got a beach bag? Put this book in it. Got a backpack? Put this book in it. Got a briefcase? Put this book in it. Got a moderately sized purse? Put this book in it. Got a tiny purse? Get a bigger purse so you can put this book in it." 

Lynne at Words of Mystery recommends... 
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"I rarely get asked to be part of blogger collaborations, so I was happy to join in on to this one, especially since it's for a summer/beach read recommendation. My pick is pretty obvious for anyone who knows me even a bit, and it's Kevin Kwan's Crazy Rich Asian series! The movie of the first book is out on August 17th of year, which makes it an even more perfect read for the summer. For those of you looking for some deeper plot or a thought-provoking story, Crazy Rich Asians may not be for you. Instead Crazy Rich Asians is pure escapism at its best as we follow all the crazy spending, drama and juicy gossip of the some of Singapore's wealthiest (fictional) families. Of course at its heart, Crazy Rich Asians is also a love story and who doesn't love a good rom-com during the summer months?" 

Marina at A Makeshift Library recommends...
"Hello all! This is Marina from A Makeshift Library. I'm excited to recommend you a quick but powerful summer read! Exit West by Mohsin Hamid will be a great companion for an afternoon under the sun. The story follows a young couple displaced from their home country by a senseless civil war as they cope with the loss of family, their sense of identity, and mementos from simpler times. Hamid infuses the story with beautiful love anecdotes and presents this heart-wrenching journey in a world where a simple doorway may transport you across the globe. Great for fans of Khaled Hosseini and Neil Gaiman (this book was a wonderful mix of the two!). A beautiful book if you're in the mood for something a bit more dense but don't want to commit to a door-stopper. An incredibly beautiful, raw, and magical story."

Ambur at Burning Impossibly Bright recommends...
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"I'm terrible at limiting myself when it comes to book recommendations, but I managed to cut my list of summer beach read recs down to two of my favourite romances! These recs aren’t really beachy or super summery, but they do take place (at least partially) in California, and for a Canadian girl that’s usually beachy enough for me. :P 

#1 for romance readers who like lighter rather than steamier reads: #STARSTRUCK by Sariah Wilson — Oh my! I read #Starstruck a couple of months ago and loved it! Zoe and Chase’s Twitter meet-cute was utterly adorable! I loved how their relationship bloomed, and I really loved all of their interactions on Twitter. Soooo cute! :D This book gave me all the feels and had me giggling like crazy! 

#2 for romance readers who like their books racy: VICIOUS by LJ Shen — Vicious is on the darker side romance-wise and it’s super steamy. Sometimes you need a book that’s going to wrench at your heart and tear at your feelings, and sometimes the summer is the best time to read books like that…so if you’re in the mood for a book that’s going to make you super conflicted about your feelings and that’s going to probably make you blush and maybe even make you cry…then it’s time for you to meet Vicious and Emilia. ;) Vicious was my favourite book from 2017, and I’m still absolutely obsessed with it to this day! Read it, read it, read it!

I’m always up for chatting about romance books, so thank you for letting me share some of favourites on your blog, Christine! Happy summer reading everyone! ;)" 

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I just want to take a quite moment and thank all the great bloggers for participating this time around. I've added quite a few of these books to my TBR and I was pleased to see some books I've read in the past and loved as well on the list. Please be sure to jump over to their social media pages and show them so love.

Let me know in the comments below what books are your favorite for this summer time? Or if you are not one for re-reading, what would be your most anticipated read this summer? 

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Review: A Prom to Remember by Sandy Hall

A Prom to Remember by Sandy Hall

Publishing Date: April 24, 2018
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Pages: 320
Young Adult Contemporary

The Premise from the Publisher: "Love it or hate it, you'll never forget it. In this heart-warming novel, Swoon Reads star, Sandy Hall, explores a classic high school celebration, capturing every relatable and hilarious teen milestone along the way. A Prom to Remember is a funny and cinematic look at the biggest dance of every high schooler's life" (F&F).

My overall thoughts and review: Prom is a huge milestone whether you love it or not, and I feel like a lot of it occupies your senior year of high-school. Even though I had my prom ten years ago and way before prom-posals were a thing, I remember the stress of finding a dress and how it just consumed my thoughts for months. When I saw that this book was going to tackle multiple perspectives (7 in total!), I was definitely intrigued. I've read YA books before where prom happens in the book at some point because it takes place in senior year, but it isn't the focal point that links everything together. I was a bit worried in the beginning that I would get confused by the multiple perspectives, but it quickly became easy to identify who was who, and how their stories linked together. I loved that there were a lot of anxieties expressed in the book. Cameron and Lizzie have been talking to each other via a shared laptop over the course of the year and don't know each others real identities and the book explored the anxieties of both preparing to meet in real life. But the portrayal I enjoyed most was Henry's  because he has social anxiety and the whole prospect of prom itself is nauseating to him. I believe he demonstrated the most growth out of all the characters because at the end, he realizes that he can go to things for however long he feels comfortable and he can leave whenever he wants. I just loved that self-realization that happened at the end. Other story-lines that I really enjoyed were Cora and Jamie's. Here, Hall tackles the notion of high-school sweethearts and what happens when you go to college. I remember being of the same mindset and thinking that high-school romances were meant to be forever. Sometimes it works for some people, but other times, it only puts constraints on the individuals to not fully explore and learn more about themselves. There was also great LGBTQ+ representation in the book which I'm pleased with. Overall, this was a really fun read and I loved all the different perspectives. I would definitely recommend this if you are looking for a feel-good book that you can read with the lovely weather outside.

My rating of the book: ✮✮✮✮ (4/5 stars)

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

Disclaimer: I received an advanced readers copy of this book from Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Monday, 23 April 2018

Batch Reviews #4

Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart (✮✮✮ - 3/5 stars)
Publishing Date: September 5, 2017
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Pages: 288

My Review: I read We Were Liars a few years back and really loved that book. I was so excited to hear that Lockhart was coming out with a new book. I'll be honest, it took me a few times to really get into this book and read a chunk of it. I wasn't enjoying it from the beginning and one of my co-workers convinced me that it was really good and to give it another shot. I really wanted to like it and while the premise is interesting, and with elements of The Talented Mr. Ripley, I didn't love it. I didn't find it shocking the way I did WWL, and at times, I found Jules and Imogen really difficult to empathize with. I will say Lockhart's writing is wonderful and she's great at writing the unreliable narrator. I just didn't love this one like WWL. In short, if you aren't familiar with the original story of Mr. Ripley, you might really enjoy this because there will be twists and turns that you don't see coming, and if you are a fan of Lockhart's writing in general, you'll enjoy this!

Available for purchase:
Chapters/Indigo, Kobo, Amazon, and Book Depository
Disclaimer: An advanced reader's copy of the book was provided by Penguin Random House Canada in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.


I Have Lost My Way by Gayle Forman (✮✮✮✮✮ - 5/5 stars)
Publishing Date: March 27, 2018
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Pages: 272

My Review: What a stunning book. I have read a few books in the past by Gayle Forman and they always hit me right in the feels and made me cry. This one did the same thing but I think this is my favorite one by hers yet! It follows three perspectives: Freya, Harun, and Nathaniel, and how three broken people come together and find each other at the right time in New York one day. Freya is a singer who has lost her voice, Harun is a boy who lost the boy he loved, and Nathaniel has nothing to lose. I just loved how they came together and I loved how their back stories were slowly revealed to the reader. This book touches on so many topics like family expectations and doing what others want you to do, instead of what you want, and how loving someone/something can really hurt, but it's worth it? There's just so much in this book and I would highly recommend you pick it up. There's something in it for everyone!

Available for purchase:
Chapters/Indigo, Kobo, Amazon, and Book Depository
Disclaimer: An advanced reader's copy of the book was provided by Penguin Random House Canada in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Batch Reviews #3 - Poetry Edition

Hi everyone! I'm back again with another batch reviews. This time I've decided to feature some poetry books I've read recently. I've always been a fan of poetry since I took many poetry classes in my undergrad and I've dabbled a bit with writing my own poetry too. I also am the poetry editor for Rambutan Literary. I also feel like in the past six months, poetry has really exploded and I love seeing so many debut releases. Let's get started! 

Dreampad by Jeff Latosik (✮✮✮ - 3/5 stars)
Publishing Date: March 27, 2018
Publisher: McClelland & Stewart
Pages: 128

My Review: I liked learning that the title of the book and the epigraph for the poem by the same name was inspired by a customer review of the Dreampad item; since when I first heard of this book, I was like 'is he talking about the pillow?' haha. When I was reading Latosik's poems, I definitely felt like they inhabited liminal and ephemeral spaces, he touches on the in-between and the thoughts that linger there. Latosik's pieces get into detail and I'm not always a big fan of poetry that does that. I much prefer pieces that tell the story, but allow the reader to locate a connection in a much broader way. That being said, there were some pieces that I really enjoyed. In particular, I enjoyed "The Bright Note" and "Dear Listener."

Available for purchase:
Chapters/Indigo - Kobo - Amazon - Book Depository
Disclaimer: I received a finished copy of this book from Penguin Random House Canada. All opinions are my own.


I Left Nothing Inside on Purpose by Stevie Howell (✮✮✮ - 3/5 stars)
Publishing Date: March 27, 2018
Publisher: McClelland & Stewart
Pages: 80

My Review: Howell's collection focuses on many topics such as love, identity, and relationships. There were some poems in particular that I found incredibly timely and easy to relate to: "Talking w/ humans is my only way to learn" and "Life is not about what you learn, really, but what you remember" -- the both stress the significance of human relationships and learning, and the anxieties surrounding it. I also want to highlight "Notes on not being able to have a baby" - which was an incredibly beautiful, tragic, and heart-wrenching poem. Overall, Howell's type of poetry isn't something I would usually gravitate towards, but I was pleasantly surprised with the pieces and I'm keen to check out the first poetry collection Howell has out.

Available for purchase:
Chapters/Indigo - Kobo - Amazon - Book Depository
Disclaimer: I received a finished copy of this book from Penguin Random House Canada. All opinions are my own.


On Blank Pages by Giuliano Enciso (✮✮✮✮✮ - 5/5 stars)
Publishing Date: December 2, 2017
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Pages: 238

My Review: I have the great pleasure of knowing the author IRL and when he mentioned that he was going to be publishing his poetry collection, I couldn't be happier for him! He started sharing some of his pieces on instagram @GiulianoEnciso and it's so nice to see the collection as a whole. The collection is divided into seven sections and for the most part, the focus is on relationships, falling in love, heartbreak, and putting yourself back together again. There are many sweet pieces in the collection, such as "Kings", "Origami Love", and "Queen of Hearts II" which are incredibly romantic. However, my favorite pieces  are the ones that simply linger with you long after you finish reading. The ones that make you ponder for more, but also the ones that Enciso so perfectly encapsulates with words you wish you had yourself. Those ones for me are: "Celestial Envy", "Giants", and "Fear" - these three are definitely the strongest pieces in his collection and you should buy a copy just so you can read those ones. I'm proud of Enciso for his lovely collection and I can't wait to see what else he writes next.

Available for purchase:
Amazon


The Witch Doesn't Burn in This One by Amanda Lovelace (✮✮✮✮✮ - 5/5 stars)
Publishing Date: March 6, 2018
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Pages: 208

My Review: I'm ashamed to say that I haven't read Lovelace's first book, but I did immediately buy it upon completion of this one (so review for that to come soon)! I loved each and every single poem in this collection, and I really want to highlight the coven rules poems. The book touches on so many topics from abuse, assault, toxic relationships, to independence, identity, and more.  I felt so many emotions reading this collection, ranging from all over the spectrum. I even cried at some parts, but it only reminds me of how much work still needs to be done as a woman. Her words are a rallying cry and incredibly timely. This collection is perfect with all the latest #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. Lovelace's second book is one of my favorite feminist reads of this year. It burns a fire in me. It reminds me to always stand up for myself. It makes me damn proud to be a woman.

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

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Blog Tour: Emergency Contact by Mary H. K. Choi - Review & Author Written Piece

Emergency Contact by Mary H. K. Choi 

Publishing Date: March 27, 2018
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Pages: 400
Young Adult Contemporary

The Premise from the Publisher: "For Penny Lee high school was a total nonevent. Her friends were okay, her grades were fine, and while she somehow managed to land a boyfriend, he doesn’t actually know anything about her. When Penny heads to college in Austin, Texas, to learn how to become a writer, it’s seventy-nine miles and a zillion light years away from everything she can’t wait to leave behind. Sam’s stuck. Literally, figuratively, emotionally, financially. He works at a café and sleeps there too, on a mattress on the floor of an empty storage room upstairs. He knows that this is the god-awful chapter of his life that will serve as inspiration for when he’s a famous movie director but right this second the seventeen bucks in his checking account and his dying laptop are really testing him. When Sam and Penny cross paths it’s less meet-cute and more a collision of unbearable awkwardness. Still, they swap numbers and stay in touch—via text—and soon become digitally inseparable, sharing their deepest anxieties and secret dreams without the humiliating weirdness of having to see each other" (SS).

My overall thoughts and review: I absolutely loved this book and brace yourself for an incredibly swoony review. When I read the premise, I knew I had to have it; it was an instant add to my TBR.  I've been absolutely loving all the amazing YA that has come out recently with female Asian protagonists. This makes my heart swell, because finally, I can see myself in a story. This story is particularly special to me because I empathize so much with Penny in so many ways. The way that Penny and Sam meet is quite peculiar. She finds Sam having a panic attack on the side of the road and they exchange numbers and become each others Emergency Contacts. They begin talking and while the conversation is great, it inhabits the world of the cellphone only. I love how they come to navigate seeing each other in real life again and just getting to know one another. I loved their text messages so much and I really liked that it wasn't an insta-love narrative. I love relationships that are originally built on friendship first. 

Penny's relationship with her mother was one part of the story I really enjoyed. There's that moment where your parent becomes a friend, and that can always be difficult waters to navigate. I loved that their relationship wasn't perfect but they were able to find a happy compromise, and I especially liked how it wrapped up in the end with them coming to understand one another. Penny's relationship with her mother contrasts Sam's relationship with his mother, because Sam has such a difficult one with his mother. It's just bad and he comes from a terribly broken home. It was nice that despite his difficulties with his mother, he was able to find solace and an ally in Penny, and I'm so glad he was able to talk about his problems with her.

The book also takes place in college which I can definitely empathize with more. I remember being like Penny and having that weird moment of getting to know your roommate. I really liked Jude as a secondary character too. She was nice and quirky and I love just how much an effort she made constantly. I also really liked hearing about Penny's creative writing class and seeing her story unravel. The story she focused on was so strange with the Anima, but I loved how it was reflective of what she was dealing with in her own life.

The biggest takeaway for me was how to deal with toxic people in your life and this was the case for Sam. He had to learn to come to terms with how things were with Lorraine and how to deal with his mother. We often put ourselves in scenarios with people that simply aren't good for us time and time again, because of guilt, but also loneliness. I loved that this book touched on how despite being lonely, you don't have to settle. I also love that it touched on how relationships can change as well. In the beginning, I wasn't a huge fan of Mallory, but she definitely grew on me towards the end. This is by far my favorite book of this year. It had everything I love about young adult contemporary reads. It focused on family, friendship, and love, but with a heavy emphasis on loneliness. If you are a fan of Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor and Park, I definitely think you would enjoy this one! Please do yourself a favor and pick it up, you won't regret it (and also once you are done, please tweet at me so we can swoon over it).

My rating of the book: ✮✮✮✮✮ (5/5 stars)

Available for purchase at:
Chapters/Indigo, Kobo Books, Amazon, and Book Depository (Free Worldwide Shipping)

Author Written Piece
Topic/Question: If you could cast your book for a TV show or movie, who would you cast as the main characters and why?
OMG I love this game. Okay, had I my druthers, like total, pie-in-the-sky Emergency Contact would be a TV show. Preferably prestige TV since they’re into experimental formats. I particularly loved the way Netflix did End of the F**king world. The way it’s this chunk of story that would be a bit longer than a regular movie—that’s about the size of a BBC miniseries—where each episode is just a hacked off piece and a continuation of the last. I thought that was revolutionary and totally in keeping with how most of us binge-watch everything anyway.  
As for casting, the whole reason why I write and will continue to write is to incite conversations around the minorities I write about. Not to say that whatever this becomes will win an Oscar (ALTHOUGH WHO KNOWS) but the fact that zero Asian or Latinx actors were nominated this year does say something about the lack of representation so I hope inclusion riders continue to be a topic. 
But to answer your question (finally; sorry, I’m super longwinded as a human) another reason why I love TV is that there are so many gutsy decisions about casting too. Like I’d love if, whatever, a Timothée Chalamet would deign to play Sam alongside Kelly Marie Tran who crushed as Rose Tico in the Star Wars movies but I would be so pumped if we could find someone completely unheard of who’d get a chance to shine.  
Like, who’s the next Finn Wolfhard from Stranger Things? Also, who’s to say that Sam has to be white? I’m obsessed with LaKeith Stanfield from Atlanta and Get Out and Steven Yuen from the Walking Dead, Mayhem and the upcoming Chew. This seems random but I’d also want Rich Brian, the rapper, to read for Sam as well. As for Penny there’s Anna Akana from YouTube Red’s Youth & Consequences who plays a mean girl but has a streak of sweetness in interviews but I’d love if Josephine Lee who’s a Korean model that’s Instagram famous as “Princess Gollum,” would give it a go. She has such a beguiling and particular energy that would be incredible for Penny and I’m convinced she can act. There’s also of course Nora Lum a.k.a. Awkwafina or Yaeji who’s an amazing Korean DJ and artist. There’s so much charisma and talent available if you wander outside the lines of expectation. I know we’d find someone amazing. I would also obviously have to executive produce because I can imagine people being like, Ugh, stop, pick a “real” actor to “attach” to the “project.” I’d have to be hanging around with a scepter, gavel and itchy Instagram finger to make sure things don’t get too predictable and safe. 
Thank you so much, Mary, for stopping by and answering this question. I would totally love to see Timothée as Sam and Kelly Marie as Penny. But overall, I just want this book to be optioned for a TV show or movie! ;) 

Be sure to stop by the other stops on the blog tour for more content about #EmergencyContact and for tomorrow's post for a chance to win a copy of the book! 

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