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.