Saturday, 3 December 2016

Holiday Gift Guide | "Grip-Lit" Edition!

Hi everyone. I'm back with another holiday gift guide. Many thanks on the amazing response on twitter from the last holiday gift guide. I'm so pleased to see many of you picking up those suggestions. For my next category, I want to focus on "Grip-Lit" aka Gripping Literature.. or rather Thrilling Reads. I feel like since the emergence of Gone Girl there has been an influx of thrilling reads and I'm all about that life. I love reading thrillers so much. They keep me on the edge of my seat and they aren't too far that they venture into horror (I'm still a bit of a chicken). They kind of venture into the mystery realm too. Anyways, I have a few older books on this list and some that came out this year, but I hope you will pick some up regardless.

Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson (✮✮✮✮ - 4/5 stars)
Publishing Date: September 17, 2013
Publisher: HarperCollins
Pages: 368

My pitch: At my store, we have a table titled "thrilling reads" - during a shift of fixing up books, I picked this up because I had seen a trailer for it and didn't realize it was a book first. I saw that the protagonist's name was Christine, so instantly I was intrigued. A woman wakes up with no memory of where she is, does not recognize the man she's in bed with, and when she looks in the mirror, she has aged. Christine wakes up every day not remembering and she is told by Ben, her husband, that she suffered memory loss from an accident. As Christine uncovers the truth about her past and what really happened, things get extremely complicated. It is one of those keep-you-constantly-guessing reads. It reminded me a lot of Marcela the TV series, and I think fans of that show will definitely enjoy this! I haven't watched the movie adaptation yet, but I definitely plan to!

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

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena (✮✮✮✮ - 4/5 stars)
Publishing Date: August 23, 2016
Publisher: Doubleday Canada
Pages: 320

My pitch: This story touches on a difficult subject and on a scenario that no parent ever wants to get in. Marco and Anne are next-door having dinner with their friends one evening and because their sitter canceled, they couldn't find anyone to watch their child. Instead of bringing the baby to the dinner, they left the baby next door and checked on the child every half hour and used the baby monitor. Of course, chaos struck the couple & the child goes missing. As a detective attempts to uncover the mystery and try and locate the child, more horrible truths start coming to light. The couple begins to doubt one another, they start to doubt their friends and family while the safety of their child is at the center of it all. I read this in one sitting and I could not put it down. I was so intrigued and I felt like I was watching an episode of Criminal Minds.. (I think you can tell now from my two suggestions that I have a thing for crime shows). I also really liked the character Anne and empathized with her throughout the entire story.

Available for purchase: Indigo/Chapters - Kobo - Book Depository
Disclaimer: A copy of this book was sent to me by PRHC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. 

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh (✮✮✮✮✮ - 5/5 stars)
Publishing Date: May 3, 2016
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Pages: 384

My pitch: Another book that tackles a dark subject again... during a dark night, a mother loses grasp of her child and her son dies in a tragic car accident. The hit-and-run is never solved and there are many dead leads and the mother attempts to move away to deal with the loss of her child. I really can't say too much more than that. But please listen to me when I say, this book is a must read. I picked it up after one of my friends raved about it and I have to tell you, it is the first time ever reading a book that I felt the author geniunely tricked the reader. I remember getting to a moment in the book and going "WAIT! WHAT?" and I had to flip back and re-read a few pages because I was astonished. The book is so incredibly clever and I love how the entire story unravels. I just could not put this book down and I enjoyed it so much. I can definitely see why it was a Staff Pick of the month book. If you are new to Gripping Lit, this is the one to start you off. It is simply amazing!! Can't say enough good things about it. (Also.. currently reading Mackintosh's new one and that is also really good.. full review to come ;))

Available for purchase: Indigo/Chapters  - Book Depository
Disclaimer: A copy of this book was sent to me by PRHC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Other books I'd like to mention but I already wrote full reviews on are:
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins - Full Review HERE!
With Malice by Eileen Cook (YA Grip Lit) - Full Review HERE

Let me know in the comments below what other holiday gift guides you'd like to see! 

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Holiday Gift Guide | YA Books Edition!

Hi everyone! I hope that you are all doing well. The holiday season is upon us! As some of you may know, I work in a bookstore and I'm constantly asked by customers for good books for the holidays. It is easy enough to recommend a new release, but so many books have been released this year and some are fantastic gems! I've compiled a mini list/batch review of some books I've read this year and loved. Some of I have full reviews for on my blog, which I'll link. Other books... I haven't gotten around to fully review yet, so, think of it as a mini-review! I'm going to sell you these books in a small paragraph. I've hit a wide range of YA books, from contemporary/romance, sci-fi, fantasy and dystopian! I don't really need more books myself, but if you think there's a book that is a MUST-READ, Perfect-gift, YA book.. please let me know in the comments & I'll add it to my ever-growing wishlist.

Replica by Lauren Oliver (✮✮✮✮ - 4/5 stars)
Publishing Date: October 4, 2016
Publisher: HarperCollins
Pages: 520

My pitch: I first fell in love with Lauren Oliver books when her Delirium series came out. I loved that series so much and ever since then, anything written by Oliver is a must read for me! This book was first pitched to me by the girls at HCCFrenzy and it comes in such a unique format. It has two stories: Lyra and Gemma, and you can choose to read one first, and then flip the book over and read the other side. You can also read them both at the same time with alternating chapters. The story follows Lyra and Gemma and they both search to discover the truth behind their identity in a world where replicas/human models are made. It is a thrilling read for those that are interested in clones and AIs. I definitely was reminded of Dollhouse. It was so intriguing and both characters stand-alone so strongly, you end up loving them both! This would make a great gift for the reader in your life who is a fan of dystopian/sci-fi fantasies.

Available for purchase: Indigo/Chapters - Kobo - Book Depository
Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was given to me at an HCCFrenzy event. All opinions are my own.

Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland (✮✮✮✮ - 4/5 stars)
Publishing Date: October 4, 2016
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Pages: 320 
Contemporary Romance 

My pitch: A few of my friends and co-workers had read this book before me and by the way they were raving about it, I instantly picked it up and I could not put it down. The story follows Henry and Grace, two people who are completely different who find themselves paired together because of a school newspaper project. Grace is a new student at the school and she brings with her a dark past and secrets, and Henry is a hopeless romantic. They both get tangled into a sweet and complicated romance that simply tugs at your heartstrings. It reminded me a lot of Paper Towns by John Green, in a sense, where falling in love can be complicated. Sometimes you fall in love with your expectations of a person and not the actual person. It's also a great story about friendship and highschool experiences. I think fans of John Green, Rainbow Rowell and Jenny Han will love this book! 

Available for purchase: Indigo/Chapters - Kobo - Book Depository 
Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was sent to me as a bookseller from Penguin Random House. All opinions are my own. 

Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi (✮✮✮✮ - 5/5 stars)
Publishing Date: August 30, 2016 
Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers
Pages: 416 

My pitch: I loved the Shatter Me series by Tahereh Mafi so much and when I heard she was writing something completely different for young readers (9-12.. but I'm sneaking it on here under YA), I was so on board! I later learned that it was an interesting take on Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland (one of my favourite classics) so that only solidified my love for it. Immediately, you are introduced to a very interesting narrator who introduces you to Alice and the world in which she occupies. In a world full of colour, Alice is colourless and she attempts to find her father who has long gone missing. It is a charming read that has a wittiness to it! I loved all the characters and the world building so much. It focuses on identity, family and friendship. I think readers of all ages would love this book. We love it so much at my store that my co-worker and I, share a staff-pick sticker for it! 

Available for purchase: Indigo/Chapters - Kobo - Book Depository
Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was sent to me as a bookseller from Penguin Random House. All opinions are my own. 

This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab (✮✮✮✮ - 5/5 stars)
Publishing Date: July 5, 2016
Publisher: HarperCollins
Pages: 464

My pitch: How could I write a holiday gift guide and not feature my favourite author? This book is this year's MUST.READ. I've been throwing it at everyone I know. It is a fantastic read. Schwab builds this world of monsters and chaos and gives us two opposing characters. We are given August, who is a monster and who is enticed by the human world and we have Kate, daughter of the man who will protect citizens from the monsters, and she wishes to be as ruthless as him. They are thrown together in a strange happenstance and they discover each other secrets. This is the first book in a duology and this story follows both of them as they figure their city out. This is a fantastic read because it does not push romance on you! These are two characters that have the potential to be together, but aren't. I really enjoy that. It is essentially Romeo & Juliet but without the romance, in a world of monsters! What more could you ask for. It is also written by Schwab who has amazing writing that just simply draws you in. I highly recommend picking this up as soon as possible!

Available for purchase: Indigo/Chapters - Kobo - Book Depository
Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was sent to me by HCCFrenzy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. 

When We Collided by Emery Lord (✮✮✮✮ - 4/5 stars)
Publishing Date: April 5, 2016
Publisher: Bloosmbury USA
Pages: 352 pages
Contemporary Romance

My pitch: I've seen Emery Lord books in the past, and I know people who absolutely love her, but I've never read anything by her until this book. I followed her on twitter and I absolutely love her personnality so I was a bit disappointed with myself that it took me this long to discover her. I will say, this book has fully converted me. I instantly went out and bought every book written by her after finishing this. I listened to it via Audible the first time and then I bought a hard copy. The book follows Vivi, a character who has bipolar disorder and Jonah, who is struggling with his five siblings after the death of his father, and his mother, who is experiencing deep depression. They both meet over the summer in Verona Cove and a magical romance begins. I don't want to get into details of it and spoil it, but as someone who suffers from mental illness, I found myself in many passages of this book. I empathized so much with Vivi and Jonah's mother. I felt like it was such an accurate depiction written by Lord. Nothing was exaggerated and especially the manic moments with Vivi, felt so vivid to me. I really enjoyed her writing and I just loved how the story unravelled. It is a beautiful story about falling in love, family and friendship. For those who love a good romance and are fans of complicated relationships, this one is for you! It focuses on mental health which is a great factor as well.

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

And because I usually like to save the best for last.... here is my NUMBER ONE recommendation for this year's YA books!: 

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas 
[Book #2 in ACOTAR series] - (✮✮✮✮ - 5/5 stars)
Publishing Date: May 3, 2016
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Pages: 640

My pitch: I know it is a bit unusual to be picking a second book in a series, but I loved this book so much that you could honestly start from here. I read the first book in the series earlier this year and really enjoyed it. It was a Beauty and the Beast retelling in a way, but with fairies. I read the second book and I was simply blown away. Maas introduces the reader to new courts, new political deceit and NEW romance. Oh my, oh my. I was simply blown away by this book and I don't think I've had such a bad book hangover as this one. When I finished, I was simply in a daze for days... I honestly functioned as if I was in the Night Court. Maas gives Feyre and Rhysand amazing character development and I honestly felt I was right there in the novel the entire time. Maas also introduces the reader to brand new characters at the Night Court and you simply fall in love with them. It is a massive book but it definitely didn't fell long, I couldn't get enough of it. When I finished, I was so sad because there wasn't more. If you are a fan of her other books, you will love this one. It was simply amazing! I can't say enough good things about it, but I also don't want to say too much without spoiling the book. Do yourself a favour and immediately get started on this series and read this book. It was beautiful, spell-binding and simply blew me away. I loved it so much (I love it so much, I immediately ordered ACOMAF merchandise and I am now a proud owner of two pillows with quotes from the book). Just please read it? And then message me so we can go fangirl over it ;)

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

Other books I'd like to mention but I already wrote full reviews on are: 
Scythe by Neal Shusterman - Full Review HERE!
Heartless by Marissa Meyer - Full Review HERE!

I hope to write a few more holiday gift guides in the coming weeks! Let me know in the comments below what you'd like to see next! :D 

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Blog Tour: Heartless by Marissa Meyer - Review & Book Excerpt

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Publishing Date: November 8, 2016
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends (An Imprint of MacMillan)
Pages: 464
Young Adult Fantasy/Classic Retelling

The Premise from the Publisher: "Long before she was the terror of Wonderland, she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love. Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next queen.
Then Cath meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the king and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship. Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans" (Feiwel & Friends).

My overall thoughts and review: As some of you may know, I'm a pretty big Marissa Meyer fan. I love The Lunar Chronicles so much and I even enjoyed the Queen Levana story she wrote in Fairest - where she gave the reader the villain's POV. For this stand-alone, Meyer does the same again, but this time with Lewis Caroll's Alice in Wonderland "Off-With-Their-Heads" villain: The Queen of Hearts. I love all things Alice and I continue to have a major fascination with that world. Regardless of how long it has been and how many times I've reread the story, I love finding new interpretations of the text. I have to say, giving a backstory, or rather, prologue to the Queen of Hearts, is definitely something new and unique. I'm super happy that Meyer took on the task because her writing is phenomenal. You are first introduced to the Queen, when she is pre-Queen, and simply, Catherine. A girl who resides in Wonderland, with strict parents who have ambitions to marry her off to the King of Hearts. Catherine simply wants to bake all day (I was so hungry for lemon tarts while reading! Lemon tarts are her specialty) and one day open up a shop with her best friend (who is also her maid, but she sees her as a friend and confidant). Things get complicated when the King attempts to court her and she meets the court joker, Jest. She begins to fall for Jest and she also gains more agency in wanting to speak up about her future to her parents. The reader is introduced to the history of Wonderland, the world of the mirror/Looking glass, the Jaberwocky and how the Red Queen and White Queen came to be enemies. I don't want to say much more to spoil things, but Meyer has said time and time again, and I will reiterate this too: Do. not. expect. a. happy. ending. You will find yourself hoping as I did, and I even cried a little while reading it, because I wanted so much for every character. That's the wonderful thing about the book, I grew to care and love almost everyone (yes! even her parents.. and the boring King of Hearts. Everyone was given such great backstory) and I loved the world so much. I was truly sad when the book ended and I only wanted more of Cath's story. This book was an easy 5/5 stars for me. I loved it so much! Please do yourself a favor and pick up a copy today!

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

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

Now as part of the blog tour, each stop will introduce you to a character in the book. I was given the Marchioness. I was quite intrigued to get her and although, she was incredibly difficult to deal with at times, I could see her point of view. I could see her reasoning behind her endeavors to want to see Catherine marry the King of Hearts. She loved her family in her own way, even if it wasn't the right way.

Excerpt from the Book - Introducing... The Marchioness

“Catherine!” The door swung open and the Marchioness floated in, her eyes saucer-wide and her face purple-red despite having been recently powdered. Catherine’s mother lived her life in a state of constant bewilderment. “There you are, my dear darling! What are you—not even dressed yet?”
“Oh, Mama, Mary Ann was just helping me—”
“Abigail, stop playing with that broom and get in here! We need your help! Mary Ann, what is she wearing?”
“My lady, we thought the white gown that she—”
“Absolutely not! Red! You will wear the red dress.” Her mother swung open the wardrobe doors and pulled out a full gown overflowing with heavy red velvet, an enormous bustle, and a neckline that was sure to leave little unexposed. “Yes, perfect.”
“Oh, Mama. Not that dress. It’s too small!”
Her mother picked a waxy green leaf off the bed and draped the dress across the covers. “No, no, no, not too small for my precious little sweetling. This is going to be a very special night, Catherine, and it’s imperative that you look your best.”
Cath traded a glance with Mary Ann, who shrugged.
“But it’s just another ball. Why don’t I—”
“Tut-tut, child.” Her mother scurried across the room and framed Cath’s face in both hands. Though her mother was bony as a bird, there was no sense of delicacy as she pinched and squeezed Cath’s face. “You are in for such a delight this evening, my pretty girl.” Her eyes glimmered in a way that made Catherine suspicious, before she barked, “Now turn around!”
Catherine jumped and spun to face the window.
Her mother, who had become the Marchioness when she married, had that effect on everyone. She was often a warm, loving woman, and Cath’s father, the Marquis, doted on her incessantly, but Cath was all too familiar with her mood swings. All cooing and delighted one moment and screaming at the top of her lungs the next. Despite her tiny stature, she had a booming voice and a particular glare that could make even a lion’s heart shrivel beneath it.
Cath thought by now she would have been used to her mother’s temperament, but the frequent changes still took her by surprise.

Be sure to check out the other stops on the tour to hear about the book & other character excerpts! 

Disclaimer: An advanced reader's copy of this book was sent to me by Raincoast Books and the excerpt was also sent over to me by Raincoast Books. The excerpt is written by Marissa Meyer and comes directly from the published book. All opinions are my own. 

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Review: Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Scythe by Neal Shusterman
(Book #1 of Arc of a Scythe

Publishing Date: November 22, 2016
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Pages: 400 pages
Young Adult Sci-Fi/Fantasy

The Premise from the Publisher: "Two teens are forced to murder—maybe each other—in the first in a chilling new series from Neal Shusterman, author of the New York Times bestselling Unwind dystology. In a world where disease has been eliminated, the only way to die is to be randomly killed (“gleaned”) by professional reapers (“scythes”). Citra and Rowan are teenagers who have been selected to be scythe’s apprentices, and—despite wanting nothing to do with the vocation—they must learn the art of killing and come to understand the necessity of what they do. Only one of them will be chosen as a scythe’s apprentice. And when it becomes clear that the winning apprentice’s first task will be to glean the loser, Citra and Rowan are pitted against one another in a fight for their lives" (SS).

My overall thoughts and review: I don't often post a review for a book prior to publication date and if I do, it is only for good reason and that is because I truly believe you should pre-order this book as soon as possible. I have to admit, this is my first time reading some by Neal Shusterman. I own most of his other works, but I never got around to reading them. When I was first pitched this book, I was instantly intrigued. It sounded like The Giver but with reapers. I was really curious about the world that was proposed to me, how disease has been eliminated and how professional reapers are chosen. I was actually supposed to be buddy-reading this with a friend (sorry again, Joey!) but I could not put this book down, I enjoyed it so much. You are first introduced to two characters: Citra and Rowan. They both become the apprentice to Scythe Faraday. In the beginning, it sounds like an interesting proposition, they both would compete and only one would be chosen as the final apprentice. The other will simply return to their life with all they have learned without the ability to do anything with it. Things over course get complicated because it ends up being a fight for their life when they are pitted against each other. I really enjoyed how many twists and turns there were, and I was constantly on the edge of my seat to find out who was really good and who was really bad. I particularly enjoyed the journal entries that were in between chapters from the journals of various Scythes. This is the first book in what I believe to be a series (not sure how long), but I'm already dying for the next book. If you want a good dystopian read, this is the one for you! It's been a while since I've read a dystopian novel and loved it. Shusterman offers great world building, strong characters and keep-you-always-guessing plots. So yes, please go out and secure your pre-order today for the book. You will not be disappointed.

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

Available for preorder at:
Chapters/IndigoKobo BooksAmazon and Book Depository (Free Worldwide Shipping)

Disclaimer: An advanced reader's copy of the book was sent by Simon and Schuster Canada in exchange for an honest review. All opinions of the book are my own. 

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

IFOA 2016 Blog Tour - "The Guest Cat" by Takashi Hiraide - Review

Hi everyone! So, I have a very exciting post for you all today. Today is my stop on the IFOA (International Festival of Authors) Blog Tour! I was contacted by the lovely Marcie to participate and I was so excited because I've attended a few IFOA events in the past and really enjoyed them. I am especially excited because the book I'm reviewing for you all today is a translated text from Japan! I love contemporary Japanese literature and poetry, so I instantly knew from the list of texts featured, this one was right up my alley. I'm going to follow the regular Padfoot's Library review structure and at the end, offer you some details about the festival! :D

The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide
(Translated by Eric Selland)

Publishing Date: January 14, 2014
Publisher: WW Norton
Pages: 140

The Premise from the Publisher: "A bestseller in France and winner of Japan’s Kiyama Shohei Literary Award, The Guest Cat, by the acclaimed poet Takashi Hiraide, is a subtly moving and exceptionally beautiful novel about the transient nature of life and idiosyncratic but deeply felt ways of living. A couple in their thirties live in a small rented cottage in a quiet part of Tokyo; they work at home, freelance copy-editing; they no longer have very much to say to one another. But one day a cat invites itself into their small kitchen. It leaves, but the next day comes again, and then again and again. Soon they are buying treats for the cat and enjoying talks about the animal and all its little ways. Life suddenly seems to have more promise for the husband and wife — the days have more light and color. The novel brims with new small joys and many moments of staggering poetic beauty, but then something happens…." (Publisher/Goodreads Premise)

My overall thoughts and review: As a graduate student, my current research interests include anime/manga, though occasionally, I like to dabble in a bit of Japanese contemporary literature. I was even considering making that my primary research at some point. I haven't read much Japanese contemporary literature as I would like to, but when I read that this book would be about the poet Takashi Hiraide's 'slice of life' piece, I was quite intrigued. To begin with, you do not have to be a cat person to enjoy this book. I used to have a cat and I'm definitely more of a dog person, but I will have to say that this book definitely tugged at my heart strings. I'm not going to spoil the book, but so many moments, I teared up a bit and had to put the book down, because it reminded me of my late cat but also, made me really miss my dogs. You really feel the gap and emptiness when they are not around. This is not a typical animal-loss narrative though, and in fact, the scenes are quite heartwarming. The scenes when the writer was interacting with Chibi, the guest cat, made my heart swell (especially when they explored the forest together). I also loved reading about how his wife was with the cat as well (how she would leave food out for Chibi). Chibi was the neighbouring family's cat and she often visited them unannounced. She was not to be tamed and she came and went as she pleased. She was described as quite the peculiar cat, who was cautious in her movements but also would show up to show off her wounds/battle scars. Although, the interactions with the cat takes centre stage for this text, the author weaves together narratives about marriage, working as a writer, life in Japan, history and finding oneself. I found myself reminded of Haruki Murakami's writing while I read the book (he is one of my favourite authors ever) and it definitely reminded me of an online question website he made earlier this year (he is also a big fan of cats), and he spoke about how cats are meant to be enjoyed for the time they are around, but not meant to be tamed.. and I really felt that come through in the text. Chibi was linked to everything and she affected everything in the couple's life. She was linked to their life as writers, their life as homeowners and their life as neighbours. I don't know much about Takashi Hiraide, but after reading this, I definitely want to pick up more of his texts. This was a beautiful, heartwarming, heartbreaking and charming read. I think readers who love animals but also love the Japanese atmosphere will definitely enjoy this read.

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

Now available for purchase at:
Chapters/IndigoKobo BooksAmazon and Book Depository (Free Worldwide Shipping)

For more information about IFOA: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram 

Disclaimer: A copy of this book was sent to me by IFOA for an honest review in exchange for my participation in the blog tour & attendance to IFOA. This does not affect my review. All opinions are my own. 

Monday, 17 October 2016

Blog Tour: The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa - Review & Preview Party Event Recap!

The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa

Publishing Date: October 18, 2016
Publisher: Atria Books
Pages: 368 pages
Historical Fiction

The Premise from the Publisher: "Before everything changed, Hannah Rosenthal lived a charmed life. But now, in 1939, the streets of Berlin are draped with red, white, and black flags; her family’s fine possessions are hauled away; and they are no longer welcome in the places that once felt like home. Hannah and her best friend, Leo Martin, make a pact: come what may, they promise to have a future together. A glimmer of hope appears in the form of the St. Louis, a transatlantic liner that can provide Jews safe passage to Cuba. After a frantic search to obtain visas, the Rosenthals and the Martins depart on the luxurious ship bound for Havana. Life on board the St. Louis is like a surreal holiday for these refugees, with masquerade balls, exquisite meals, and polite, respectful service. But soon ominous rumors from Cuba overshadow the celebratory atmosphere, and the ship that once was their salvation seems likely to become their death sentence. Hannah and Leo must make an impossible choice or risk losing everything that matters. Seven decades later in New York City, on her twelfth birthday, Anna Rosen receives a package from Hannah, a great-aunt she has never met but who raised her deceased father. In an attempt to piece together her father’s mysterious past, Anna and her mother travel to Havana to meet this elderly relative. Hannah tells them of her astonishing journey on the St. Louis and, for the first time, reveals how she and Leo honored the solemn pact they had made. By connecting the pain of the past to the mysteries of the present, Hannah gives her young great-niece a sense of their shared histories, forever intertwining their lives, honoring those they loved and cruelly lost" (Atria Books).

My overall thoughts and review: When I was first pitched this book, it was mentioned to me that if I loved The Nightingale, I would definitely enjoy this. I listened to The Nightingale in audiobook form earlier this year and I absolutely loved it. I don't read historical fiction often, but when I do I really prefer WWII era.I also love when books draw attention to events that are not widely spoken about.. and in this case it was about the MS St. Louis. Ruta Sepetys wrote Salt to the Sea (which I also loved) and it focused on MV Wilhelm Gustloff - another focus on ocean liners/ships. I love the idea of ships to begin with (I have to admit, I've never been on one!) and I just love reading about day to day interactions on-board. As the premise states, the narrative switches from Anna Rosen in present day New York (2014) and Hannah Rosenthal in Berlin in 1939. The reader learns the events of 1939, where Hannah and her family attempt to secure safe passage to Havana. I really enjoyed reading the scenes between Hannah and Leo. Those passages made me especially happy and just seeing how their relationship was, was really heartwarming. In present day, you see how Anna worries for her mother and attempts to learn more about her father. I really empathized with this story line because of how close Anna is with her mother. It reminded me of my relationship with my mother and my aunt. Overall, I can't say much without spoiling the book, but Armando weaves together a wonderful narrative about love, family, friendship and loss, all the while introducing the reader to an event that took place years ago that is only being formally acknowledged in the recent years. The records and documents have been ignored for years in the history of Cuba (classrooms and textbooks) and it was interesting to learn the role that Canada played in it all. After reading this, I definitely want to look further into the history of St. Louis. If you are a fan of The Nightingale, like me, you will definitely enjoy this read. Where The Nightingale highlights sisterly bonds, The German Girl focuses on mother/daughter relationships and friendship.

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

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

Preview Party Event Recap
On August 23, 2016, I was lucky enough to attend the Preview Party Event for the book downtown Toronto at Barsa Tabern. My good friend and fellow book blogger, Michele from JustaLilLost was also in attendance with me. When we first entered the venue, we were greeted by the lovely folks from Simon and Schuster, and I immediately recognized Armando from afar because of his red glasses from his twitter profile photo! xD I had only read half of the book by then, but I was really excited to learn about his influences. The party venue was actually decorated with artifacts that Armando collected during his research. There were old photographs, transcripts, magazines and photos blown up as portraits hung around the walls. I was also super excited to see menus from St. Louis. It was amazing what Armando had collected over the years. When we finally got to talk to Armando for a bit, we learned that he had even more at home and the collection on display was only a small faction!

Armando's editor spoke about the book and introduced him and Armando then went on to show us a slideshow of some photos of St. Louis and spoke about his inspiration behind the story. He was always fascinated with the events and wanted to explore that further. He also spoke about how he came to meet Ana Maria Gordon, who was one of the survivors of MS St. Louis, who now lives in Toronto. Ana was the special guest of honor that night and after Armando spoke, she spoke for a little bit as well. She is now 81 years old and she speaks about how it is difficult to recall most of the events because she was so young.. and unlike most people, she was able to live a happy and safe life after the events of World War II. It was so lovely seeing her and Armando together and it was great seeing a book come to life in a sense. I saw that night and I can also see in reading the book, how important the events are to Armando, and how he pays tribute to the victims and survivors of St. Louis. I had a great time at the event and I really hope Armando will do a book tour this fall in Canada. (I definitely am pushing for him to visit my local bookstore!)

(image from Simon & Schuster Canada) 

Be sure to check out the other stops on the blog tour! The other stops feature some amazing content and there is even a giveaway for a finished copy at one of the blogs! :)

Disclaimer: An advanced reader's copy of the book was sent by Simon and Schuster Canada in exchange for an honest review. All opinions of the book are my own. 

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Review: The Littlest Bigfoot by Jennifer Weiner

The Littlest Bigfoot by Jennifer Weiner

Publishing Date: September 13, 2016
Publisher: Aladdin - Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Pages: 304
Middle-Grade Fiction - Ages 8-12

The Premise from the Publisher: "Alice Mayfair, twelve years old, slips through the world unseen and unnoticed. Ignored by her family and shipped off to her eighth boarding school, Alice would like a friend. And when she rescues Millie Maximus from drowning in a lake one day, she finds one. But Millie is a Bigfoot, part of a clan who dwells deep in the woods. Most Bigfoots believe that people—NoFurs, as they call them—are dangerous, yet Millie is fascinated with the No-Fur world. She is convinced that humans will appreciate all the things about her that her Bigfoot tribe does not: her fearless nature, her lovely singing voice, and her desire to be a star. Alice swears to protect Millie’s secret. But a league of Bigfoot hunters is on their trail, led by a lonely kid named Jeremy. And in order to survive, Alice and Millie have to put their trust in each other—and have faith in themselves—above all else" (SS).

My overall thoughts and review: So before I start my review, I have a confession to make. This is my first ever Jennifer Weiner read. *hides* I've been meaning to pick up her books for a while now, I just never got around to it.. but after reading this, that fact will surely change ;) Since I started working in a bookstore, I made it a personal goal of mine to make sure I read more in every section, besides teen fiction, regular fiction and manga. I wanted to introduce more middle-grade and children's books to my repertoire and I have to admit that when I read this premise, and learned that one of the main characters had the same name as my boyfriend, I was pretty excited. Also throw in boarding schools, camping, exploring the unknown.. I was pretty much in. The reader is introduced to three point of views: Alice, Millie and Jeremy. I have to say, I wish there was more "Jeremy" in the book since the book primarily revolved around Alice and Millie, but that's ok because I enjoyed it nonetheless. When you first meet Alice and Millie, they both feel kind of lost, and not really accepted where they are. Alice feels like her family is ignoring her, whereas Millie feels like she is being consumed by her family and can't be her true self. Millie is also a Bigfoot and dreams of joining the No-Fur world. The two of them meet when Alice saves Millie from an accident and they bond immediately. I loved seeing their friendship unfold and seeing Alice finally being accepted and same with Millie. I especially enjoyed how Millie attempted some phrases and quoted the show "Friends" every now and then. This was a really enjoyable middle-grade read and it definitely has me intrigued to read more by Weiner. I also saw that it *might* be a series, which I really hope to be true because I really want the three of them to be really good friends *fingers crossed* - This was a lovely read and I think readers of all ages will surely enjoy it!

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

Now available for purchase at:
Chapters/IndigoKobo BooksAmazon and Book Depository (Free Worldwide Shipping)

Disclaimer: An advanced reader's copy of the book was sent by Simon and Schuster Canada in exchange for an honest review. All opinions of the book are my own. 

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Blog Tour: Speed of Life by J.M. Kelly - Author Guest Post!

Hi everyone! So I have something a bit different for today's post. I was asked to participate in the blog tour for the upcoming release of The Speed of Life by J.M. Kelly and so, for today you will be getting a special author guest post from the author! I will have a review up for this book separately, so be on the look out for that! For now, I hope you enjoy the guest post and be sure to check out the book! ;)

Guest Post – Cars & Research by J. M. Kelly

My father's an automotive mechanic and I grew up around old cars—mostly ones from the thirties that didn't run, but also others that did—like a 1948 Chevy Sedan Delivery. If you don't know what that that looks like, think of a cross between a min-van and a bread truck. The interior was completely torn out except for the driver's seat and a lawn chair on the passenger side. My brother and I rode on the floor in the back cargo area, sitting on blankets and being bounced around (I'm aging myself because no one would let their kids do that now!). The floorboards were so badly corroded that there were rust holes worn through and we could see the street below us as we drove along. We thought it was fun.

When I was in high school, my dad bought my brother a 1969 Mustang fastback, which was the inspiration for Crystal's car in Speed of Life. Like hers, the car was a project car. My brother got a job and funneled his wages and tips into the car while my dad rebuilt and restored it pretty much from the ground up. In the end, he had a really beautiful car—the one Crystal plans to turn hers into eventually.

I personally love the cars from the fifties and a few years ago, I owned a 1959 Studebaker Lark for a while. I'm still a bit heartbroken that we sold it when we moved to Canada, but we didn't have a garage to keep it and leaving it out in the elements is just not something someone who loves cars is willing to do. There's a line in the book where Crystal quotes her boss as saying something like, "We don't own these old cars. We just steward them for a while and then they go on to someone else." I got that from my dad and most of the "old car guys" will tell you the same thing.

The thing about writing books is that they require detail and preferably accuracy, so even with my general automotive knowledge, I had a fair amount of research to do. My father was a great source of information. I would call him up and ask something like, "I need a car repair that isn't too serious, but would cost Crystal around a hundred bucks." He'd immediately start giving me options, "How about a bad battery. She could spend a hundred on a good one. Or—" Then I would say, "That's great. Thanks. I have to go write now."

Those were the easy bits. Google and YouTube were a godsend to me for a lot of the research. I wanted a moment where Crystal's car surges while she's driving it. She had to fix it in the next scene, too. First I Googled "what makes a car's engine surge?" There were several answers, and I chose a dirty throttle valve. Then I went to YouTube and watched a video on how to clean a throttle valve. I did the same thing when she had to fill a dent, and change a tire. 

You can't always count on the internet though, and if you want to be sure you've got it right, that's when your experts come in. Whenever I write a book, I always have a whole slew of experts in various fields willing to help. And I make sure I get them for anything I'm not really familiar with. Sometimes I only need the answer to one simple question. Other times, we communicate over the whole course of the novel, making sure I'm not making changes that are erroneous. Generally, if it's important, I end up having the expert read either the whole book, or at least the scenes that apply to their area of expertise.

In Speed of Life, in addition to my father reading for my car facts, I also had a former high school teacher help me with all the Spanish. She was an ESL teacher, so she was able to help me figure out what words a native Spanish speaker would use when speaking English too. In other books I've written, I've had help with boating, fishing, septic tanks, fiddle playing, musical theatre, sewing, police procedure, film photography, guitar, piano, upright bass, mandolin, and many, many more areas. The internet is a great place to start, but you can't know for sure you've got it right without help from real people who know their stuff. 

Writing is a group effort and you should never shy away from asking for help. It will make your book stronger, and you'll have lots of people to than in the acknowledgements section which will make you look like you have loads of friends!

Thank you so much for this awesome post, J.M! I really enjoyed reading about how researching the old cars was helpful for your book and learning about the writing process! :) 

And that's all. I will update this post when the book review post is live! But in the meantime.. be sure to check out other stops on the blog tour as well!

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Blog Tour: Secrets in the Snow by Michaela MacColl - Review & GIVEAWAY!

Secrets in the Snow: A Novel of Romance & Intrigue by Michaela MacColl

Publishing Date: October 4, 2016
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Pages: 262 pages
Historical Fiction

The Premise from the Publisher: "Jane Austen's family is eager to secure her future by marrying her off. But Jane is much more interested in writing her novels, and finds every suitor lacking-until the mysterious Mr. Lefroy arrives. Could he be the one? Before Jane can find out, she must solve a murder, clear her family's name, and face a decision that might cost her true love" (Chronicle Books).

My overall thoughts and review: When I first read the premise for this book, my immediate thought was the 2007 film Becoming Jane, starring Anne Hathaway and James McAvoy. I've read a few historical accounts of Jane Austen's life but something about her relationship with Tom Lefroy has always intrigued me. And here came a book with the promise of looking at that, Jane's relationship with her family with a twist of a mystery.. I was pretty excited. I'm happy to say that this book did not disappoint. From the first page, I was already enjoying myself. I loved all the mini epigraphs before each chapter with a quote from one of Austen's works and I really enjoyed how readable the text was. In some ways, it reminded me a lot of Curtis Sittenfield's Eligible. It wasn't attempting to depict a different narrative, but rather it felt like meeting old friends again in a book. It was fantastic how MacColl wove the story with the history of Jane's family. I really enjoyed the passages between Jane and Eliza, and in some ways it reminded me of reading Austen's Pride and Prejudice, and the relationship between Lizzie and Jane. I don't wish to spoil this book, but I will say the "intrigue" in the title is definitely there with a mystery. I loved how everything unraveled in the end. Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was a real delight to read! I highly recommend it to fans of Jane Austen, but also those who are not quite familiar with her history because this book allows you to understand a bit more about one of the greatest literary writers ever. MacColl has also included an author's note (which I really appreciated), about the differences from her book and history & she's included a bibliography (yay!).

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

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

The lovely folks at Raincoast Books have offered to send a finished copy of this book to one of my readers. The giveaway will run for one week (Ends October 11/16). All you have to do is comment below saying why you want to win this book. You can earn additional entries by following Raincoast and myself on twitter. The giveaway is for CANADIAN RESIDENTS ONLY (sorry international friends!) Good luck!

Be sure to check out the other stops on the tour and show my fellow book lovers some love!
Disclaimer: A finished copy of this book was sent to me by Raincoast Books for my participation in the blog tour in exchange for an honest review. The giveaway prize is also sponsored by Raincoast Books. All opinions are my own. 

Monday, 19 September 2016

Blog Tour: Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter - Review & Book Excerpt!

Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter

Publishing Date: September 20, 2016
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Pages: 304
Young Adult Magical Realism/Fantasy

The Premise from the Publisher: "In the enchanted kingdom of Brooklyn, the fashionable people put on cute shoes, go to parties in warehouses, drink on rooftops at sunset, and tell themselves they've arrived. A whole lot of Brooklyn is like that now-but not Vassa's working-class neighborhood. In Vassa's neighborhood, where she lives with her stepmother and bickering stepsisters, one might stumble onto magic, but stumbling out again could become an issue. Babs Yagg, the owner of the local convenience store, has a policy of beheading shoplifters-and sometimes innocent shoppers as well. So when Vassa's stepsister sends her out for light bulbs in the middle of night, she knows it could easily become a suicide mission. But Vassa has a bit of luck hidden in her pocket, a gift from her dead mother. Erg is a tough-talking wooden doll with sticky fingers, a bottomless stomach, and a ferocious cunning. With Erg's help, Vassa just might be able to break the witch's curse and free her Brooklyn neighborhood. But Babs won't be playing fair...." (TDA).

My overall thoughts and review: For starters, one thing that I left out in the premise is that the book is based on an old Russian fairy tale/folktale called "Vasillisa The Beautiful" - if you haven't heard of it before, a quick google search gives you the premise, but essentially, it is more along the lines of "Grimm/Anderson" in terms of fairy tales instead of the "Disney" version we are used to. So I think that knowing that it is a modern interpretation on the original tale is important before you plunge into the book. That said, you can easily read it without knowing it, but I found it really helped me understand certain aspects of the book. The book follows Vassa and her wooden doll, Erg, as they go out searching for light bulbs from the terrifying Babs Yagg (Baba Yaga - in the original! I liked that Porter kept all the names close to the original source text) and from there, things get quite complicated. I would characterize this book as magical realism as its finest. I love reading magical realism books and I found that Porter did an amazing job incorporating an old fairy tale into modern day Brooklyn. The story does move quite quickly and sometimes, it can be quite hard to keep up with the weirdness that Vassa encounters, but I think that is what I enjoyed about it so much. I loved how it kind of reminded me of "Alice in Wonderland." I never read the old fairy tale in it's entirety but I knew bits about it and overall, it had that very topsy turvy feel that I enjoy in books. I like when you don't know where the text is going next because then it isn't predictable and that is exactly what Porter delivers. I also really enjoyed the relationship between Erg and Vassa.. so much so that sometimes, I forgot that Erg was a wooden doll in Vassa's pocket. My favorite parts were definitely the dialogue between the two. Overall, I would recommend this book for fans of magical realism who want a good YA read about friendship, family and loss.

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

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

And as part of the blog tour, some stops will have an excerpt from the book! I have the prelude to share with you all today. So give it a read! Hopefully along with my review.. that will be enough to nudge you to run out and pick up a copy! ;)

Excerpt from Vassa in the Night: "Prologue" 
When Night looked down, it saw its own eyes staring back at it. Two big black eyes, both full of stars. At first Night ignored them. Probably that strange gaze was its own reflection in a puddle, or maybe in a mirror left shattered in the street. Then it noticed something that made it curious: those eyes were full of stars, but the constellations inside them were unfamiliar. It was like gazing into the sky above another world. 
Night decided to investigate. It reached out tendrils of darkness to examine this odd phenomenon. The eyes nestled, as eyes often will, inside a human face, at the top of a strong man’s body. But how could night— another, different, unimaginable Night— live inside a human being? 
The man waited, unmoving, on a dark field ringed by houses. Between his widened lids stars flurried through expanding black. Planets circulated like blood. Night had never seen anything so much like itself before, and a terrible longing surged through it. Maybe, finally, it had found a companion; maybe it was saved from being forever alone! 
Night drew closer to him, and then closer still. The man waited, as rigid as death. He did not react in the slightest when Night came and perched on his cheekbones to get a better look. It breathed across his lashes and set them trembling. The man did not answer, not even with a blink. When Night shyly kissed him he felt very cold.  
All of that should have been enough to make Night wary. It should have drawn back in alarm, floated safely above the streetlamps. But Night had been lonely for too long, and it forgot all about caution. It did not even notice that the man’s face had peculiar coloring: pearly grayish white from the bottom of the nose down and coal black above. All that interested Night was what it saw inside his eyes. A meteor shot through their depths trailing brilliance after it. Night yearned, more than anything, to follow that streaking light. 
If only it had been honest with itself, it would have admitted that the situation was suspicious. But Night, which hides everything in folds of shadow, is not in the habit of honesty. Since the man did not react to its caresses, it decided to touch him more deeply. A bit nervously, it stroked between his eyelids. His skull seemed to be hollow. He wasn’t breathing. Night prodded again, curling a dark tendril through one empty socket. But the man still didn’t move or even smile. Didn’t he notice that Night was there? Didn’t he realize Night loved him? Having gone already so far, too far, Night lost all restraint and licked and coiled its way into those eyes. It tried to speak. To beg for some reply.
And then the eyelids snapped shut, slicing right though Night’s soft body.

Please be sure to check out the other stops on the blog tour for more content! ;) 

Disclaimer: An advanced reader's copy of this book was sent to me by Raincoast Books and the excerpt was also sent over to me by Raincoast Books. The excerpt is written by Sarah Porter and comes directly from the published book. All opinions are my own. 

Monday, 12 September 2016

Blog Tour: Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova - Review and Author Q&A!

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova

Publishing Date: September 6, 2016
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Pages: 336 pages
Young Adult Fantasy Adventure

The Premise from the Publisher: "Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives. Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation? and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can't trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange marks on his skin. The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland" (Sourcebooks).

My overall thoughts and review: I've always had a fascination with narratives that include Deathday celebrations/Day of the dead. I'm not completely familiar with all the components of it, but something about the Latin American tradition just immediately draws me in. I was quite curious to see how this story would unravel and let me say now that the premise does not do it justice. I went in expecting this book to be about Alex and Nova, but it was so much more than that. Firstly, Alex's relationship with her family plays a big role in the book. How she interacts with her mother and also her siblings is a big part. You get to see the dynamic within the family and I found myself really empathizing with Alex when she was dealing with her mom. This book reminds you that family is such an important part regardless of what tradition you follow. Also, another character (my favorite character tbh) that is quite important is Rishi! Rishi is Alex's bestfriend and you see in the beginning that Alex really struggles with wanting to tell Rishi about her powers. It is also very hard to be bestfriends with someone and keep such an important part of your life hidden from them. I won't spoil anything but I just loved how everything developed. The fact that friendship and family were the center of the book made my heart very happy. Onto the magic component.. I want to say a bit about this. I don't know much about brujas in general, but I really liked the concept of how magic was used. There is recoil for every time magic is used. For example, when Alex's sister Lula "heals" people, bruises form on Lula. But I really liked how the power comes from "who" they are. Lula is a healer by nature and how she wants to simply do good, and it reflects in her power. Overall, I thought this was a wonderful and fun read about traditions, magic, family, friendship and discovering one self. I would highly recommend it! I mention later (in this post) that this is apparently the first book in the series, and according to goodreads, the series will be called "Brooklyn Brujas" - I'm so excited for this. I really hope to see more of the secondary characters in the next book! I want to see more of Lula & Rose :D

My rating of the book:  (4/5 stars) 

And now it is time for the Author Q&A! For the blog tour, Zoraida has taken the time to answer a question for each blogger! Check it out: 

Author Question and Answer

1. Which character do you relate to most in the book?
I want to say that I relate to Alex Mortiz the most. When I was a kid, I felt just as lost as she does. I wanted to be normal, but didn’t feel that way. I rebelled in different ways than Alex. Instead of sending my family to another dimension, I did it through rock music and dressing in all black and spiked jewelry. Alex does not have an easy life. She has to swallow her emotions. She keeps her truth and fears hidden in a way that isn’t healthy. It gives her anxiety and stress. As her power becomes stronger, and she lets herself be herself, she changes. She becomes more confident. She learns to trust herself. Trusting your own judgement is something that she has to earn. In addition to all of this, I wanted to give Alex a very humble background. I grew up in a single parent home. My mom was a single mother, though I had my uncles and my grandmother to be part of my childhood. I never felt like I was missing anything, but Alex does. Alex and my mother are both hard working people. My mom worked hard. She moved to a country where she didn’t speak the language. She went to night school after working all day so she can  provide better for my brother and me. She’s my inspiration for everything I do and achieve. It takes Alex a big lesson and mistake to appreciate her family, but she gets there.
Thank you so much, Zoraida for answering my question. Alex's relationship with her mother was a storyline that I felt drawn to the most. I believe this is the first book in a new series and I honestly can't wait to pick up what Zoraida writes next! This was such an enjoyable book! I want to thank Zoraida again for answering questions for us bloggers. I also want to thank the lovely friends over at Raincoast for organizing this blog tour. Please be sure to check out the other bloggers on the tour!: 
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.