Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Blog Tour: How It Ends by Catherine Lo - Review and Author Q&A!

How It Ends by Catherine Lo

Publishing Date: June 7, 2016
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books For Young Readers
Pages: 304
Young Adult Contemporary

The Premise from the Publisher: "How It Ends is an honest, heart-wrenching tale of a friendship from first meeting to breakup. Told through alternating points of view, it is about two best friends' tumultuous sophomore year of bullying, boys, and backstabbing and what can happen when friends choose assumptions and fear over each other" (HMH).

My overall thoughts and review: When I was asked to participate in this blog tour, I was instantly interested because the premise of the book sounded so interesting. Ever since I read With Malice by Eileen Cook (I also have a full review and author Q&A here), I've been really loving "friendship-centered" novels. I find that with a lot of YA contemporary reads, friendship takes the backseat and a love relationship takes driver seat. It was so nice again to read a novel that focuses on friendship, how to navigate high-school and how one deals with anxiety. I love books that shed a light on mental illness and not just depicting one point of view. We get Jessie's POV, her mother's POV, and how it affects Annie too. The story is told from two perspectives: Annie and Jessie. Jessie had a terrible time at highschool before Annie arrived because she was bullied by Courtney and her crew. When Annie arrives, Jessie feels stronger, more confident and they form a beautiful friendship. However, things change when Annie begins dating the guy that Jessie likes, and Annie attempts to give Courtney a chance to right the wrongs of the past. Without saying much more and spoiling the entire narrative, the story did take a few unexpected turns which surprised me. I also really appreciated the internal monologues from Annie and Jessie and getting an understanding of not only what they were saying, but thinking. It is a wonderful read about a highschool experience, I definitely could recall similar scenarios from my highschool days. It emphasizes the importance of trust in friendship and what can happen, when we assume the worst. I know many scenarios of problems that could've easily been solved if we simply asked for clarification instead of assuming. This seems to be a very straight-forward, common sense point, but sometimes we do forget and it was nice having that reminder again. Overall, I really enjoyed this read - it had everything I could ask for in a YA contemporary read: emphasis on friendship, family, mental illness and a bit of love. I would highly recommend it especially for fans of Morgan Matson and Jenny Han!

My rating of the book:  (4/5 stars) 

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

Author Question and Answer

1. What do you hope readers take away from the book?
My favourite books are the ones that challenge me to re-examine my own ideas and see things from a new perspective. More than anything, I hope readers will find something to connect with in How It Ends, and that the story will inspire them to look at their own friendships in a new way. I wrote How It Ends from the dual perspectives of both Annie and Jessie to highlight the ways that people can perceive the same events differently. Sometimes there is not so much a right and wrong in a conflict as there is differing points of view. Annie and Jessie interpret events in the novel differently, and that results in misunderstandings along the way.
Thank you so much, Catherine for answering that question. I really liked how you highlighted interpreting the same thing differently. This is Catherine's first novel and I can't wait to see what she writes next. I want to take a moment to thank Catherine again for taking the time to participate in the blog tour with bloggers.  I also want to thank the lovely folks at Raincoast Books for organizing another awesome blog tour! Please be sure to check out the other stops on the tour below: 
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. 

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Review: The Girls by Emma Cline

The Girls by Emma Cline

Publishing Date: June 14, 2016
Publisher: Random House
Pages: 368
Literary Fiction

The Premise from the Publisher: "Northern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, a lonely and thoughtful teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park, and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon. Soon, Evie is in thrall to Suzanne, a mesmerizing older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader. Hidden in the hills, their sprawling ranch is eerie and run down, but to Evie, it is exotic, thrilling, charged—a place where she feels desperate to be accepted. As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, and as her obsession with Suzanne intensifies, Evie does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence" (PRH). 

My overall thoughts and review: When I first read the premise of this book, it instantly reminded me of Jeffrey Eugenides' The Virgin Suicides, where certain characters fall for the allure of a group of girls. This novel instead takes place in 1960s as opposed to Eugenides' 1970s setting and it has been raved by critics for depicting a story about a protagonist (Evie), getting swept away by a Manson-family cult like group and in particular, one female member, Suzanne. I am a big fan of Eugenides' text and I quite enjoy dream-like narratives about freedom and coming of age. I really enjoyed how the narrative shift from present day to the past and it offers the reader an bigger inside look into Evie's mindset. We see Evie before meeting Suzanne and her group, we see Evie during her time with Suzanne, and we see Evie now after all has been said and done. I really enjoyed the chapters leading up to her meeting Suzanne, because her interactions with her bestfriend, her mother and even her bestfriend's brother, really shaped how the narrative was going to move forward. I felt like it was paced really well and it helped set the tone for the climax of the narrative.

I recently read this article about why the hype surrounding this book is worth it and I would highly recommend you check out that article after reading my review, because the author, Abby Schrieber, more accurately depicted my thoughts in a much more coherent way and how the novel depicts how women were treated in the 60s. There are societal expectations, because also those, like Suzanne who can be seen as complicit in that treatment. I liked that Cline showed the "grittiness" of what they went through and my only criticism would be that, I would've liked to read more about Suzanne and learn more about her because I found her to be the most intriguing character. At moments, you felt a real companionship between her and Evie, and other moments, not so much and I would've liked to learn more about what lead her to the farm. I loved Cline's writing style. The novel immediately drew me in and I really couldn't put it down. I would highly recommend this to readers that enjoy a strong coming of age story and a narrative that tackles the treatment of women.

My rating of the book:  (4/5 stars) 

Disclaimer: An advanced reader's copy of the book was sent by Penguin Random House in exchange for an honest review. All opinions of the book are my own. 

Monday, 6 June 2016

Blog Tour: With Malice by Eileen Cook - Review and Author Q&A!

With Malice by Eileen Cook

Publishing Date: June 7, 2016
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers
Pages: 320 pages
Young Adult Contemporary Thriller

The Premise from the Publisher: "Two friends, an exotic foreign location, the potential for revenge and jealousy, and an accident that looks like it might have been murder. It didn't matter what the truth was--what mattered was that it was fun to talk about. A gripping and addictive read that grabs the reader and yanks them into a world where nothing is what it seems and everyone is a suspect. You won't believe how it ends" (HMH).

My overall thoughts and review: When I was first pitched this book, I was told it was thriller-esque (in the same vein of novels like Gone Girl, Girl on the Train and more) and I was instantly intrigued. I don't know why, but I've been in such a thriller kick lately and this one was perfect. I actually finished this book in one sitting. I had a day off and I just spent the morning in bed reading this! I could not put it down (like the premise states, it is definitely addictive). The narrative is really interesting in a sense where the reader was learning the "events" of the vacation as Jill, the protagonist, was learning about it as well. The story begins after the events take place and Jill has no memory of what has happened. The events are then pieced together through interviews, blog posts, news posts, police reports and other interpretations. It was really interesting that Cook demonstrated how things can be twisted in the media. The center of the text is Jill and Simone's friendship and how certain components can be consuming. It reminded me a bit of some friendships I've had the past and how things were when I was younger, and how friendship can sometimes influence you to do things you are not necessarily ok with. It will make you think about "friendships" in general. I enjoyed that there wasn't a perfect picture painted of either girls and I liked not really siding with anyone. I just wanted more of the story to unravel and it was so amazing how it all ended. I find it really hard to write reviews sometimes for thriller books because you don't want to say too much that will give away the plot. Overall, I think me-finishing-it-in-one-sitting says it all. I LOVED this book and I think it is a perfect summer read. It has everything you'd want in a thriller book: a great mystery, well-rounded characters, friendship, family and a dash of love. I think fans of thrillers in general of all age groups (teens and adults), will definitely enjoy this read.

My rating of the book:  (5/5 stars) 

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

Author Question and Answer

1. What do you hope readers take away from the book?

Most of all I hope they turn the final page and then reach out immediately to a friend and say “Have you read this? We have to talk about it.”   I wanted to write a book that raised questions about friendship and how you know what you might be capable of doing if you were pushed far enough. I’m lucky to have some friends that have been close to me since elementary school. In that time we’ve changed a lot and our friendship has also changed. This hasn’t always been an easy process.  It made me interested in what keeps some people friends and others drift apart.  I wanted to explore how we deal with someone that had been closer to us than family—and suddenly the only thing you have in common anymore is that “we used to be friends.” Friendship can be a really powerful positive force—encouraging you to do more and picking you up when you need it, but it can also be dark. There aren’t any easy answers in this book, but there is plenty to talk about!

Thank you so much, Eileen for answering that question. I also want to thank the lovely folks at Raincoast Books for organizing another fun and awesome blog tour. The book comes out tomorrow, so be sure to go out and get your copy! Also, please check out the other stops on the blog tour and show some love to my fellow bloggers! <3 

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, 4 June 2016

My Life in May (2016)

Hi everyone! I hope you are all having a wonderful start to your weekend. So remember a few posts back when I mentioned that I was going to incorporate some more personal blog posts? Here we are! I decided to do ~lifestyle~ posts where I mention what I've been up to lately. If you follow me on instagram (@soufflegrl), you'll get snippets there, but I thought I could write a bit more with accompanying pictures here! May came and went so quickly. I got up to a lot though, so I'm glad about that! 

I went to go see The Amazing Tour is Not on Fire with my friend, Michelle! We had an amazing time and it was so cool to see my favorite youtubers on stage. Dan and Phil are just adorable and it was scary at first being in a room with a ton of fangirls, but it was a lot of fun! 

Later in the month, I went to another show at the Sony Centre for Performing Arts. My friends Matt and Tracey gifted me some tickets to see Hatsune Miku live (Miku Expo). I really did not know what to expect, since I'm more familiar with Miku's older titles and also, seeing a vocaloid live.. totally something I've never experienced before. It was the strangest experience ever, but I had a blast. I definitely think by the end of the night, I was a glow-stick pro. 

One of my friends, Tracey, celebrated her birthday at BCP this year and it was a murder mystery night. It was so much fun, we got to dress up in 20s costumes and we each had assigned character cards. I actually solved the murder mystery! So proud of myself for following along with the narrative. 
There were food stations and the food was just amazing. I also loved all the beautiful decor my friends put together. It was truly a wonderful birthday party! 

Me and the boy have had a fascination with terrariums for a while now and we've been meaning to make one since we moved into our place a month ago. We had some of the supplies but we never really got around until last Saturday. My aunt was over for the day and we decided to visit some nurseries and put our terrarium together! 
It is incredibly easy to make and we have a lot of supplies (soil and rocks) leftover, so I think this is only going to be the first of many terrariums that we make. I just love the look of it! (TIPS: If you are looking to make a terrarium yourself, lots of inspiration following the tag on instagram or searching on Pinterest) 

We had a housewarming party finally as well. I didn't take many photos of that night, so none will be pictured here sadly. But I want to just take a moment to thank friends and family (who read the blog), a tremendous thanks for coming out for such a fun and amazing night. The boy and me feel incredibly loved and grateful. <3 

Last week, I went to the Old Mill with my friend (it is my dream place for a wedding lol) and we had High Tea/Afternoon Tea as part of a birthday gift for her. It was so fancy and I just loved the area so much. The food was delicious and I got to try this Sencha Cherry tea that I've fallen in love with! 

And I ended the month attending a blogger event. I used to write recaps before but I decided to just include it in this post. It was a Trivia Night at Penguin Random House. There was many book sellers there (I'm technically one now!) and a few bloggers. We had so much fun even if we didn't get some of the answers right. It was a true test of our bookish knowledge and by the end of the night, I realized how much reading I still have to do in Canadian Lit! Many thanks to the folks at PRH for a terrific night (as always). You guys sure know how to make a book lover feel welcomed. 
Our team name was Blogwarts!! :D 

Anyways, that brings me to the end of my monthly update post. What did you get up to in the month of May? Let me know in the comments below! Also, let me know your upcoming plans for June! The weather is so nice now and I wasn't much of a summer person before, but I think this year is the year!