Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Blog Tour: The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood - Review and Author Q&A!

The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood 

Publishing Date: May 3, 2016
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Pages: 304 pages
Young Adult Contemporary

The Premise from the Publisher: "This is what it means to love someone. This is what it means to grieve someone. It's a little bit like a black hole. It's a little bit like infinity. Gottie H. Oppenheimer is losing time. Literally. When the fabric of the universe around her seaside town begins to fray, she's hurtled through wormholes to her past: To last summer, when her grandfather Grey died. To the afternoon she fell in love with Jason, who wouldn't even hold her hand at the funeral. To the day her best friend Thomas moved away and left her behind with a scar on her hand and a black hole in her memory. Although Grey is still gone, Jason and Thomas are back, and Gottie's past, present, and future are about to collide-and someone's heart is about to be broken. With time travel, quantum physics, and sweeping romance, The Square Root of Summer is an exponentially enthralling story about love, loss, and trying to figure it all out, from stunning debut YA voice, Harriet Reuter Hapgood" (Roaring Brook Press). 

My overall thoughts and review: When I was first asked to participate in this blog tour, I was definitely intrigued by the premise of the book. As some of you may know, I'm a pretty big whovian so I quite like the time travel theme. This was a YA contemporary (one of my favorite genres) and it had time travel? I was in! This story follows Gottie who has experienced quite a lot in her past, the death of her mother, the death of her grandfather, Grey and also heartbreak with her brother's best friend, Jason. I loved learning about Grey and how important he was to Gottie and Ned. Family was a huge factor in the book and it was just nice having that as a focal point of a book. For example, Gottie's relationship with her father and Gottie's relationship with her brother. It tackled themes like the death of a loved one, but also in Gottie's case, what happens when an older sibling moves away. I also really enjoyed how the story handled the concept of "firsts" but also introduced, first, seconds and thirds and so on, and the order in which you do them (I thought this was super cute). I loved the romantic part of the story. I wasn't too interested in the story of Jason (tbh, when I read the premise of him not holding her hand at the funeral, I was already "meh" about him. But then when I read the book, I was even more "meh" haha). I LOVED Thomas, and it was so cool to learn that he was previously in Toronto and to have mentions of Toronto sprinkled throughout the text. He is such an interesting character and I loved how he challenged Gottie and questioned her at times. He is also a baker which is super cute. The only thing that kind of went over my head at times was all the science/math. Physics was never my strong suit, so quantum physics was a little difficult for me to grasp. It was nice to see a character who actually did some homework in a book and mention of schoolwork however. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and I think it is a great summer read about love, loss and growing up. :)

My rating of the book:  (4/5 stars) 

And now for part of the book tour where Harriet took the time to answer a question for us book bloggers! :D Thank you so much, Harriet for taking the time to answer! 

Author Question and Answer 

1. What do you hope readers take away from the book?
Time. To take their time with everything – from making decisions about the future (even when school and parents and deadlines are putting the squeeze on you) to understanding that grief and healing, whether that’s a romantic heartbreak, or a friendship falling apart, or bereavement, can take a really long time. Not to beat yourself up about that, or feel you should be over it by a certain timeframe. But by the same token, life is short – I look back at myself when I was younger and wonder what I was afraid of, why I was unhappy or hesitant or unkind to myself a lot of the time, what a lot of time I wasted. So: be bold. Be fearless. Say yes.
 And that's a wrap! Many thanks to the lovely folks at Raincoast Books for organizing a blog tour. Be sure to check out the other stops on the blog tour because Harriet also answered questions on everyone's blog! :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. 

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Participating in Bout of Books 16!

Happy Saturday everyone! :) I just wanted to put together an update post to let you all know that I'm participating in Bout of Books 16! I've participated in the past and I really enjoyed it. I also think that this time around I'll have a lot more time to read. I am working a lot this week, but most of them are morning shifts and I plan on bringing a book to work everyday. I've been getting so many ARCs lately and I really need to make a dent in that pile ;) So expect a TBR list post coming either later tonight or tomorrow before the kick-off begins. 

I'm still undecided if I will have update posts daily or just a wrap-up post on the blog. I will most likely be tweeting about it as well, so please follow me over on twitter @padfootslibrary!

For those of you wondering what on earth Bout of Books is? 

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, May 9th and runs through Sunday, May 15th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 16 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team

Bout of Books

Are you participating in Bout of Books this round? Let me know in the comments below! 

Monday, 2 May 2016

Blog Tour: Kay's Lucky Coin Variety by Ann Y. K. Choi - Review & Author Exclusive Behind The Story!

Hi everyone. I hope that you are all having a great start to your week. I have a super exciting post for you all today and that is a review for Ann Y. K. Choi's Kay's Lucky Coin Variety and at the end of the review, an exclusive from the author herself: a written piece on "behind the story"! :D I had the opportunity to meet Ann at Simon and Schuster's Spring Fiction Launch a few months back and she was the absolute sweetest. The premise of her novel sounded right up my alley and I loved chatting about it with her!

Kay's Lucky Coin Variety by Ann Y. K. Choi 

Publishing Date: May 3, 2016
Publisher: Touchstone
Pages: 288 pages
Canadian Lit / Contemporary

The Premise from the Publisher: "Mary--or Yu-Rhee, as her Korean parents named her--doesn't always agree with her determined, traditional mother, who knows what is best for her daughter. In the first novel about the contemporary Korean experience in Canada, Ann Y.K. Choi brings our attention to the timely issue of immigration, and the hopeful sacrifices of starting over" (SSC).

My overall thoughts and review: When I first heard about the premise of the book, I was really excited. Being the daughter of someone who immigrated to Canada and growing up hearing stories, I felt like this story would offer me a look into my mother's experiences in a way. Also, my mom is a single mom and we are super close and I'm always drawn to Mother/Daughter stories. Ann did not disappoint. This has got to be one of my favorite reads from 2016. I loved this book so much! To begin with, Mary is such a strong protagonist and I really identified with her. The internal conflict of following one's desire and also wanting to please one's parents was something I really identified with. She is strong-willed, determined (like her mother), but also perfectly described as a teenager going through the motions. I loved moments when she stood up for herself and also the self-reflexive moments. Mary's family was also an integral part of the novel that I really enjoyed. Her mother, reminded me a lot of my mother: also strong-willed and determined.  The book tackles the issue of immigration from all perspectives. We see it especially in the scenes where the family temporarily returns to Korea and how hard immigration can be. To embrace the new life but also incorporate traditional values was a big point of the book. I found the story of how Yu-Rhee's "western" name was put in place really interesting and it made me think about how much people who immigrate to new places change of themselves to adopt to the new setting. I'm glad that Ann mentioned this because it is the true reality of things.

I also loved the setting of the book. I grew up in Toronto when I was younger and I only recently moved back. I loved all the references to places and areas that I've visited. I also chuckled about how her parents believed University of Toronto to be the only university option because I struggled with this growing up as well ;)

The book also tackles really taboo and dark topics such as: sexual assault, falling in love with a teacher and also destructive relationships. I found her betrayal of a manipulative individual (no spoilers) so accurate and how that leads to a very destructive relationship. Choi does such a fantastic job of touching on these topics and also speaking about the consequences of each. I loved that she did not sugar coat anything. Overall, this was a wonderful coming of age read that spoke about the struggles of immigration, the difference between wanting to please your parents and doing what is best for yourself, and family. I loved this book because I identified with it so much as an individual - I felt like it spoke to me on a personal level and I definitely had a new perspective on immigration and the struggles of it upon closing the book. I am going to share this book with my mom (who does not read often), because it is such a realistic account of events and emotions. I think all readers will enjoy this because it brings together questions of identity and home, and Choi has such a lovely style of writing that immediately draws you in. Highly recommend!

My rating of the book:  (5/5 stars) 

Author Exclusive: Behind the Story of Kay’s Lucky Coin Variety By Ann Y.K. Choi
Set in the 1980s, a decade made memorable by its music, fashion, and pop culture, my protagonist Mary grows up watching movies like The Breakfast Club and listening to songs like “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” Queen Street, west of Yonge, was undergoing major changes with the gentrification of the area, although Queen near Trinity Bellwoods Park, where the novel’s variety store is, was still lined with cheap restaurants and small independent businesses. The customers were an interesting blend of immigrant families, local artists and musicians, prostitutes, and the homeless. Besides the usual cigarettes and milk, neon bracelets and locker-sized posters of Wham! and Duran Duran were best sellers.
Few people understand how demanding life that revolves around a variety store is for the family. Our convenience store was open seven days a week, from 7:00 a.m. till 11:00 p.m. This meant that, as a family, we never ate meals together – someone always had to mind the store, and we lived with the constant threat of being robbed or assaulted, both verbally and physically.
As young children, my brothers and I laboured at school because our parents demanded academic excellence. They were convinced that education was the only means of climbing the social ladder. At the same time, we were expected to help out with the store; and when we weren’t at school or doing homework, we were stocking shelves or tending the cash register.
It wasn’t until I studied sociology and psychology at the University of Toronto that I started to wonder about the possible impact this experience could have. I was curious enough to informally interview thirty-nine Korean female students. Common themes surfaced. Many of us were unhappy. Angry. We felt burdened by our parents’ expectations, trapped between two cultures, and we struggled with our sense of identity and belonging. And, not surprisingly, most of us were battling with some sort of mental health concern, depression and anxiety being the two most common. It never dawned on us that we had a right to be happy and that we had a right to our own voice.
My sociology studies provided me with some powerful insights. They allowed me to understand the connections between my personal experiences and the larger society I lived in. But I found that I didn’t want to think critically about the immigrant experience. I didn’t want to spend long hours drafting research questions and then analyzing the data. Instead, I wanted to write poems, maybe even a novel. I wanted to tell stories.
The idea to write this book emerged in 1991. However, it wasn’t until 2007, when I went back to the University of Toronto to take a creative writing course, that I first wrote the story in the form of a short story. It took another five years to become a novel. In retrospect, it was a good thing that I waited. When the idea for the book first came in the nineties, I was an angry young woman, determined to write a book that reflected my inner chaos. Back then, writing only led to greater frustration because I was afraid to delve into the things that I truly wanted to explore – family conflicts, mental health, discrimination, and prejudices.
Having my daughter changed me as a person. While I grew up feeling embarrassed and at times even ashamed to be Korean, I became determined that my own child would be proud of her Korean heritage. She needed to know her grandparents and her mother’s struggles when they first settled in North America. I wish I could say that the store and its demands, as well as the early years of immigrant struggles, seemed like distant memories, but they continue to live close to my heart. They spill easily onto paper now that I’ve finally found my voice. Beyond my daughter, I feel compelled to share stories with others, which capture on paper what is now slowly becoming a thing of the past as the second and third generation of immigrants leave the life of the family-run business behind.

Thank you so much, Ann! This was a lovely piece and it was great to learn the inspiration and history for the book :) 

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

Disclaimer: I was sent a review copy of the book by Simon and Schuster Canada in exchange for an honest review and my participation in the blog tour.