Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Event Recap: Simon & Schuster Canada Spring Fiction Lunch 2017

Hi everyone! I haven't done an event recap in what feels like decades, but I attended a really special event yesterday and I feel like it definitely warrants a recap post. The lovely folks over at Simon and Schuster Canada invited me to the 2nd Annual Spring Fiction Lunch. I was lucky enough to attend the previous year, so when Adria emailed me again, I was over the moon excited. The event took place at Biff's Bistro and I've been there a few times now. I just love the aesthetic of the place and also the amazing service. Oh, and of course, the food is amazing. 

I got the Organic Greens, Beef Bourguignon, and the Classic Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee. All were simply divine.  

They brought in three lovely authors to talk about their upcoming books (yay for all female authors)! There was Lisa See, author of The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane; Roz Nay, author of Our Little Secret; and S.K. Ali, author of Saints and Misfits. They spoke a bit about their book and the synopsis and the writing process and also were incredibly humble when speaking about the book industry. We had musical chairs at lunch and I got to speak with all of them for quite a bit which was nice. Roz shared a nice tidbit that in the beginning, it was a different victim and a different crime :O and that changed in the editing process. I find learning about that just fascinating and it's amazing how much work goes into the editing process before release date. 

Going clockwise: Lisa See, Roz Nay, and S.K. Ali talking about their books. 

So about the books... I've already read 2/3 of the books mentioned and every book will be getting their own full review, so be on the lookout for that, but I wanted to share quick synopses: 

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa Sea
Release Date: March 21, 2017
Pages: 384 
Asian American Literary Fiction

Premise: "Li-yan and her family align their lives around the seasons and the farming of tea. There is ritual and routine, and it has been ever thus for generations. Then one day a jeep appears at the village gate—the first automobile any of them have seen—and a stranger arrives. In this remote Yunnan village, the stranger finds the rare tea he has been seeking and a reticent Akha people. In her biggest seller, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, See introduced the Yao people to her readers. Here she shares the customs of another Chinese ethnic minority, the Akha, whose world will soon change. Li-yan, one of the few educated girls on her mountain, translates for the stranger and is among the first to reject the rules that have shaped her existence. When she has a baby outside of wedlock, rather than stand by tradition, she wraps her daughter in a blanket, with a tea cake hidden in her swaddling, and abandons her in the nearest city. After mother and daughter have gone their separate ways, Li-yan slowly emerges from the security and insularity of her village to encounter modern life while Haley grows up a privileged and well-loved California girl. Despite Haley’s happy home life, she wonders about her origins; and Li-yan longs for her lost daughter. They both search for and find answers in the tea that has shaped their family’s destiny for generations" (Scribner). 

Full Review: COMING SOON! 
Available for Purchase: Chapters/Indigo, Kobo, Amazon, Book Depository 

Our Little Secret by Roz Nay
Release Date: June 6, 2017 
Pages: 256
Psychological Thriller/Mystery

Premise: "The detective wants to know what happened to Saskia, as if I could just skip to the ending and all would be well. But stories begin at the beginning and some secrets have to be earned. Angela is being held in a police interrogation room. Her ex’s wife has gone missing and Detective Novak is sure Angela knows something, despite her claim that she’s not involved. At Novak’s prodding, Angela tells a story going back ten years, explaining how she met and fell in love with her high school friend HP. But as her past unfolds, she reveals a disconcerting love triangle and a dark, tangled web of betrayals. Is Angela a scorned ex-lover with criminal intent? Or a pawn in someone else’s revenge scheme? Who is she protecting? And why?" (SS). 

Full Review: COMING SOON (Blog Tour)! 
Available for Pre-Order: Chapters/Indigo, Kobo, Amazon, Book Depository

Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali 
Release Date: June 13, 2017 
Pages: 336
Young Adult Contemporary 

Premise: "There are three kinds of people in my world: 1. Saints, those special people moving the world forward. Sometimes you glaze over them. Or, at least, I do. They’re in your face so much, you can’t see them, like how you can’t see your nose. 2. Misfits, people who don’t belong. Like me—the way I don’t fit into Dad’s brand-new family or in the leftover one composed of Mom and my older brother, Mama’s-Boy-Muhammad. Also, there’s Jeremy and me. Misfits. Because although, alliteratively speaking, Janna and Jeremy sound good together, we don’t go together. Same planet, different worlds. But sometimes worlds collide and beautiful things happen, right? 3. Monsters. Well, monsters wearing saint masks, like in Flannery O’Connor’s stories. Like the monster at my mosque. People think he’s holy, untouchable, but nobody has seen under the mask. Except me" (Salaam Reads). 

Full Review: COMING SOON! 
Available for Pre-Order: Chapters/Indigo, Kobo, Amazon, Book Depository

Again, be on the lookout for my reviews. Spoilers: I loved what I've read so far. I'm seriously blown away by the releases Simon and Schuster have been pushing out. Top-notch stuff here. Thanks again to the lovely folks at Simon and Schuster for having me for a lovely Monday afternoon treat. I had a fantastic time chatting with fellow book lovers and the authors! 

Disclaimer: I was not asked to write a post about the event I was invited to. I had such a fantastic time and I decided to write an event recap to share my love for the books. All opinions are my own. 

Monday, 24 April 2017

Review: The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli 

Publishing Date: April 11, 2017
Publisher: HarperCollins
Pages: 352
Young Adult Contemporary

The Premise from the Publisher: "Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love. No matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful. Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly's totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie's new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. If Molly can win him over, she'll get her first kiss and she'll get her twin back. There's only one problem: Molly's coworker, Reid. He's a chubby Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there's absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. Right?" (HC).

My overall thoughts and review: THIS BOOK.THIS BOOK!! Everyone, it is so hard for me to not simply write in giant caps locks and squee throughout this entire review. I loved this book so much. Ok, but first, confession time: I know everyone loves Albertalli because of Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda.. I own it and I know exactly where it is at my mother's house, but! I haven't read it yet... *hides* I will rectify the situation immediately. I knew that I wanted to pick this up because a few of my co-workers have been raving about it (thanks, Jen!) and to my luck, it was the book that arrived in this month's Owlcrate! Since reading it, I've already pushed it on a few friends and co-workers. I honestly was grinning the entire time reading this book. Ok, so my thoughts and onto the actual review. The story follows Molly Peskin-Suso who has had many crushes whereas her twin sister, Cassie, has kissed many girls and acted on those crushes. Molly and Cassie are quite close but when Cassie falls in love with Mina, Molly starts to feel like her sister is drifting away from her. I loved how their mom, Deenie's realtionship with her sister, Karen. also played a big role and juxtaposed nicely with Molly and Cassie. As an only child, it was hard for me to really get what Molly was feeling, but Albertalli is such a good writer that the way she conveys feelings, I honestly felt like Cassie was my sister at some moments. I loved the family dynamic with their two moms, Patty and Nadine, and their brother, Xav. Ì also really liked that some of their friends were practically family as well (Olivia and Abby). The text really emphasizes the importance of family and friendship.

Ok, so the main thing I would say that the book does really well is focusing on body-image. Albertalli mentions that she had the help of many sensitivity readers which I`m really glad to see authors going the extra mile to ensure that they are conveying content in an authentic way. As someone who has always had an up and down relationship with their body and weight, Albertalli perfectly conveys what I have thought many times looking in the mirror. I`ve also had many moments where loved ones spoke to me like Molly`s grandma and those moments stung. To have loved ones be hard on you for your weight is definitely something that is hurtful and it is hard to see the intention at times. Albertalli really affirmed the importance of self-love for me after reading this book. I loved that Molly felt beautiful in a moment in the morning with unbrushed hair, pajama pants and toothpaste in the corner of her mouth (321). Don`t get me wrong, the romance is incredibly swoonworthy in this book and I would read a book about Middle-earth Reid entirely, but Molly is not defined by this romance which I really enjoyed. It was coming to terms with who she was, her strengths and her weaknesses. It came down to Molly feeling like "herself" and being happy with who she is. I can't say enough good things about this book. It just has the right amount of everything: friendship, family, romance, sisterhood, body-image and self-love. Like I've said to other people already: The book is simply SO. GOOD. So go run out to your local bookstore and grab a copy immediately (And then message me on twitter so we can squee about it).

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

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

Friday, 21 April 2017

Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Publishing Date: February 28, 2017
Publisher: HarperCollins
Pages: 464
Young Adult Contemporary

The Premise from the Publisher: "Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr. But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life" (HC).

My overall thoughts and review: When I first read the premise of this book, I knew that I wanted to read it at some point. It sounded really interesting and was relate-able to what was going on in the media (still is). A few of my co-workers also raved about it, so I decided to check out the audiobook version. I want to take a moment in my review to applaud the amazing narrator, Bahni Turpin, who brought the story to life for me. She perfectly narrated each and every character and I can honestly say, it is my favorite audio book to date. The story is just all kinds of amazing. It is one of those stories that is completely gut-wrenching and heartbreaking, but also incredibly funny, charming, and down to earth. I loved the Carter family so much and learning about their history and seeing the dynamics in all their interactions. Some small things were with one another, how they ran their family business and just the way they went about their daily life... for example, every time Starr's father swore, he owed Starr's younger brother a dollar and hearing him shout out "Daddy! $1" were some of my favorite moments.

The story deals with the heavy topic of witnessing a friend get gunned down by a police officer. The reader experiences Starr's trauma and pain as she is experiencing it. This isn't the first incident that Starr witnesses a friend dying. It is quite a traumatic experience for her and I have to commend her for getting up and going to school. She tries her best to prevent her two worlds from colliding so she hides the fact that she was the witness in the car with Khalil. The reader sees Starr's struggle between wanting to be pro-active and use her voice in Khalil's case, between doing certain things out of safety. I really loved how her boyfriend, Chris, and best friend, Maya, were great pillars of support for Starr, along with her family. Lots of diversity in the book because Maya was Asian and the book focused on how Chris and Starr were an interracial couple. I loved seeing how she interacted with her brother Seven as well. The book addresses important questions of using our voice as a weapon and not an actual weapon, how the media can often misconstrue narratives, and the harsh reality of police brutality. I really want to get into more details of my favorite parts but I don't want to spoil the book.Even though the subject matter is quite dark, Thomas finds a way to demonstrate the importance of family and friendship throughout the entire text. What makes the book is the characters. For example, even though we lose Khalil at the beginning of the text, Thomas finds a way to build his narrative throughout the book and it only hits home the fact that what happened to him was unfair. I just honestly think everyone should pick up this book. As much as it hurt to read certain passages, it also had me laughing out loud while listening to it on transit and smiling a lot too. Go pick up this book immediately. It is a MUST READ.

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

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

Saturday, 15 April 2017

What I've Been Loving | Spring 2017 Edition

Hi everyone! Happy Spring! I wanted to put together a post of my current favorites and what I've been loving recently. It is a nice way to compile everything in one shot and I'm thinking of doing this for every season? There would be a great variety of things I would include from bookish stuff to lifestyle bits. I finally feel like the warm spring weather is finally here to stay in Toronto, and hopefully no more surprise cold weather attacks (like snow.. go away please). Spring is like a time of rejuvenation and change. You are able to swap out closet basics for warmer choices and even turn to things to get you in the mood for warmer weather. Here's what I've been loving lately:

Games - I've been playing a ton of games lately. I recently finished Fire Emblem Fates (Conquest only so far) on my 3DS and that has gotten me really excited for the upcoming release of Fire Emblem Echoes! I've already pre-ordered the limited edition and I can't wait to play it next month! There is also Fire Emblem Heroes which is for your phone and I've been really enjoying playing that. It is nice to see characters I recognize from previous versions and they also had a really cute Easter/Spring Festival special. Also, I downloaded Pokemon Go again... I deleted it in November but with the nice weather and lots of walking down by my house, it doesn't hurt to have this again.

Podcasts - It was right around this time last year that I really got into podcasts. With my long commutes to school and walking occasionally, a podcast definitely helps pass the time. Some of my old favorites include: Serial and Lore. I recently finished S-Town which I loved!  It followed a man named John from Alabama who despised his town. He reaches out to the host, Brian Reed, to investigate a murder that allegedly happened but was covered up. What Brian soon discovers is an interesting story about John. All 7 chapters are available now and I definitely recommend checking it out if you were a fan of Serial. It's a strange story about a peculiar individual and gives you a lot to think about life/death, climate change, and depression. // My boyfriend and I also decided to pick a podcast to listen together when we are in the car, and we landed on Up and Vanished, which was recommended to him by a friend. It is told by Payne Lindsey, an amateur investigator and documentary maker. He admits in the first episode that he is not a regular podcaster, so those who have been spoiled by mixing from This American Life & Serial, may not find it perfect to begin with. But so far, the case about the missing teacher & beauty queen, Tara Grinstead, is really interesting. We are about two episodes in and can't wait to listen to more! 

Television - So if you haven't heard (so you must live under a rock)... Jay Asher's famous novel Thirteen Reasons Why has been adapted into a Netflix Series. I read the book many years ago and I'm rereading the anniversary edition now (I plan on writing a review post for both the book and tv series - be on the look out for that!). The trailer looked promising and I decided to give the series a go. I'm usually pleased with adaptations but not blown away by them. This is another case entirely. I want to save the full details for my main review, but it was so well-done. It is definitely triggering and I cried non-stop from episodes 6-13, so brace yourself. It is such a powerful show! // My boyfriend and I finally found an anime that he enjoyed. I'm the big anime fan and it isn't often that we find one that he likes. We landed on One-Punch Man which is funny and a lot of fun! It follows the very anti-hero, Saitama and his adventures with his friend, Genos. We finished the series and I'm slowly picking up the manga. I really hope it gets a second season because it was so good! // one of my favorite CW tv shows also returned recently: iZombie! Definitely one of my favorite shows and it is so good to see them all back together and solving cases. 

Music - I usually listen to music only when I'm sitting at my desk working on blog posts or marking. I have spotify premium and sometimes one of the curated playlists is just good enough for me (some favorites include: Evening Chill & Indie Pop Chillout). But... there are some songs that I've been in love with lately: Green Light by Lorde - such a fun song and I find myself wanting to dance about whenever I hear it & Sign of The Times by Harry Styles - how could I not mention this? His first debut single and it is a slow pop-rock single. His voice is magnificent! 

(c) photo by me. 

- Warm weather means lots of walks and hikes with Jeremy. We live pretty close to the water so it's been so nice to go down for a walk. I leave to Tokyo, Japan in about three weeks and while I'm there, I have a lot of hikes planned so must prep for that. Other than that, I've been enjoying the warm weather a lot and I'm hoping it gets warmer so I can set up the balcony nicely. The couch we have for our patio is my go-to-summer reading spot so I can't wait for that to be up and ready! 

What have you been loving recently? Let me know in the comments below! 

Monday, 10 April 2017

Review: The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda

The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda 

Publishing Date: April 11, 2017
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Pages: 352
Psychological Suspense

The Premise from the Publisher: "Confronted by a restraining order and the threat of a lawsuit, failed journalist Leah Stevens needs to get out of Boston when she runs into an old friend, Emmy Grey, who has just left a troubled relationship. Emmy proposes they move to rural Pennsylvania, where Leah can get a teaching position and both women can start again. But their new start is threatened when a woman with an eerie resemblance to Leah is assaulted by the lake, and Emmy disappears days later. Determined to find Emmy, Leah cooperates with Kyle Donovan, a handsome young police officer on the case. As they investigate her friend’s life for clues, Leah begins to wonder: did she ever really know Emmy at all? With no friends, family, or a digital footprint, the police begin to suspect that there is no Emmy Grey. Soon Leah’s credibility is at stake, and she is forced to revisit her past: the article that ruined her career. To save herself, Leah must uncover the truth about Emmy Grey—and along the way, confront her old demons, find out who she can really trust, and clear her own name. Everyone in this rural Pennsylvanian town has something to hide—including Leah herself. How do you uncover the truth when you are busy hiding your own?" (SS). 

My overall thoughts and review: Megan Miranda is also the author of All The Missing Girls, which I haven't read yet but I definitely plan to at some point. I knew a lot of my fellow co-workers were excited for this new book by her and so here we are! I decided to check it out. The premise sounded interesting enough and I really found the tag line "When your best friend becomes your worst nightmare" quite intriguing. You are immediately thrown into Leah's world in Pennsylvania where she just learns of a woman being attacked close by, and someone who kept calling her was picked up as a possible suspect. Leah escaped her previous life in Boston and you don't learn right away what exactly happened, but she escapes with an old friend and previous roommate, Emmy. The reader learns of Emmy from Leah's memories of her and it becomes clear that Emmy is quite a mystery. Leah only knows minor facts but not actual things you would need to tell a police officer when filing a missing persons report. With not seeing Emmy for a few days, it seems normal at first to Leah because of their divergent schedules. However, she quickly becomes worried for her roommate and does some investigation. What the reader untangles is two mysteries: what happened to Emmy and who was responsible for the woman that was assaulted. They seem to be separate cases, but soon they begin to come together. It was quite a good mystery and had me guessing at some main points. My biggest gripe with the book though and why it doesn't earn a full four stars from me is that I found the characters, even Leah, so unlikable. I've read books before where none of the characters were likable, but this was a different case entirely. I began to simply not care about Emmy or Leah, and the mystery of Emmy wasn't really something I was highly invested in. Towards the end, I found it quite predictable as well and the climax was.. well anti-climatic in my opinion. It didn't surprise me when it was done and I was anticipating an even bigger twist at the very end. There were moments of suspense but I found that was more in Leah's past and what happened that led to her leaving Boston. Where Leah's memories of Emmy would've built a stronger sense of betrayal for the reader, it simply left me not caring about her. I did like the character of Kyle quite a lot and I found Miranda's writing of some of the students down right creepy; so kuddos for that! Overall, it is a decent psychological suspense read. I think fans of The Widow by Fiona Barton and The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware will definitely enjoy this.

My rating of the book: ✮✮✮ (3.5/5 stars)

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

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

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Review: Unfiltered: No Shame, No Regrets, Just Me by Lily Collins

Unfiltered: No Shame, No Regrets, Just Me by Lily Collins

Publishing Date: March 7, 2017
Publisher: HarperCollins
Pages: 240
Audiobook Version: 3 hrs and 31 mins
Teens Memoir / Life & Relationships

The Premise from the Publisher: "In this groundbreaking debut essay collection, featuring never-before-seen photos, actress Lily Collins, is opening a poignant, honest conversation about the things young women struggle with: body image, self-confidence, relationships, family, dating, and so much more. For the first time ever, Lily shares her life and her own deepest secrets, underlining that every single one of us experiences pain and heartbreak. We all understand what it’s like to live in the light and in the dark. For Lily, it’s about making it through to the other side, where you love what you see in the mirror and where you embrace yourself just as you are. She's learned that all it takes is one person standing up and saying something for everyone else to realize they’re not alone. By turns hilarious and heartbreaking, Lily’s honest voice will inspire you to be who you are and say what you feel. It’s time to claim your voice! It’s time to live your life unfiltered" (HC).

My overall thoughts and review: I've been a fan of Lily Collins for quite some time now. I was over the moon when I found out she was cast as Clary Fray for The Mortal Instruments movie. I even got to meet her when they were filming in Toronto. She is such an incredibly sweet individual and I got to see just how hard she worked. She would take time in between takes to say hi to her fans which was so nice. I was also devastated when the series moved to Netflix and they recast Clary. I thought Lily was absolutely perfect for the role, but since then, it's been nice to see her soar in other acting pursuits and also as the face of Lancome. I don't know much about Lily's personal life so when I heard that she was writing a book, I was definitely intrigued. I decided to go for the audiobook version because I always feel reading memoirs in audiobook versions is a lot better? You get to hear the author's voice which is a nice touch and it feels like they are directly telling you the story on a whole other level? The book is a series of essays and letters where Lily talks about her experience in love relationships, family, her eating disorder, and coming to terms with accepting herself. I really found that the chapters about love relationships struck a chord with me. Lily mentions at one point that she always felt that a bad relationship was meant to teach her a lesson or prepare her for what's to come next, but she's broken free of that mold to let a relationship define her. This really got to me, because as a teenager, I truly believed that. Her thoughts on her relationships and especially when she speaks quite openly about her experiences in an abusive relationship, really made me reevaluate all my previous relationships in a new light. I also personally have always had a bit of a struggle and a strange relationship with food, so I definitely empathized with the sections where Lily spoke about her eating disorder. I found that she got it so right and I even felt like she was explaining my previous situations at times. I really liked how open Lily was and one thing that I really appreciated was that, not only did Lily speak about the difficult moments in her life, she also spoke about really good moments, like learning to cook and embrace the kitchen. Overall, I really loved this read. Lily speaks so honestly about everything and it is so clear why she is such a role model to many people. She doesn't skirt around the messy stuff, nor does she apologize for things. She encourages the reader to embrace yourself (in all capacities) and to truly love yourself. Even if you aren't a fan or even familiar with Lily Collins, this is definitely a book worth reading.

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

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

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Blog Tour: But Then I Came Back by Estelle Laure - Review and Author Q&A

But Then I Came Back by Estelle Laure

Publishing Date: April 4, 2017
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Pages: 320
Young Adult Contemporary

The Premise from the Publisher: "Eden: As far as coma patients go, Eden's lucky. She woke up. But still, she can't shake the feeling that she might have dragged something back from the near-afterlife. Joe: Joe visits the hospital every day, hoping that Jaz, his lifelong friend, will wake up. More than anything, he wants to hear her voice again. But he's not sure anyone can reach her. Eden & Joe: Even though she knows it sounds crazy, Eden tells Joe that they might be able to talk to Jaz. Opening themselves up to the great unknown-and each other-Eden and Joe experience life: mysterious and scary, beautiful and bright" (HMH).

My overall thoughts and review: When I first read that this book would be similar to Gayle Forman's If I Stay (a book I really enjoyed and reviewed here!), I was really intrigued. The greatest thing about this book was that I instantly liked Eden. She is like the perfect YA novel protagonist. There's vulnerability (due to her near-death experience and coma of course) but also a kind of honesty that is quite refreshing. I liked when she first meets Joe and Jaz, she names them in her head and gives them a sort of narrative. I feel like a lot of us do that prior to really meeting someone. As their relationship blossoms and she moves into Joe's world, I really liked how she came to handle things like her relationship with her twin, Digby, her best friend, Lucille, and her parents. Eden was in a coma for such a long time and when she finally woke up, there was a lot of adjusting. She spoke of the "In Between" and a lot of the people around her, although incredibly supportive, were also dealing with the aftermath of what happened. The moment in the book when she kind of "reconnects" with her mom really tugged at my heartstrings. I don't want to say much without spoiling what happens in the book, but this book gave me a lot to think about. I mean, I already have thought about what happens after death. We have all speculated at one time or another. Is it someplace better or is it simply a void? Or do we simply restart? There are some accounts in the novel which was a nice touch and I really enjoyed all the quotes throughout. But at the end of the day, we simply don't know what comes after and this existence of the whole "In Between." I also really liked that the book swayed around from the typical narrative of "I-had-a-near-death-experience-so-now-I-will-live-recklessly" - it was more so Eden coming to terms of what happened and reintegrating to the way her life is now. It felt realistic and raw and I really appreciated that every character had depth, regardless of their role to play in Eden's story (the nurses: Rita and Sally & Madame). There is a strong emphasis on family, friendship, and love, but also touches on thoughts on the afterlife, and grief. I really enjoyed Laure's writing style and I've already downloaded her first novel This Raging Light to read on my upcoming trip ;)

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

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

Author Question and Answer

1. Which part of the text was most difficult for you to write?
Is “all of it” an acceptable answer? I think it’s really true what they say about the second book. You know how the rabbits in Watership Down go tharn in the face of danger? That was me for quite a while, and ironically it was because I was trying to skirt the subject matter. Writing about life and death and choices on that level was both exhilarating and daunting and I think putting forth some sort of an afterlife hypothesis was the most challenging. Also, because the coma patients I spoke to talked about their confusion in the first days waking up, that was tough from first person. I didn’t want to exhaust my audience with a fractured reality. But really, all of it.
Thank you so much, Estelle, for taking the time to answer my question and other blogger's questions. I can definitely see how "all of it" would be difficult considering the subject matter. I also find it incredibly fascinating and amazing that you spoke to coma patients to configure Eden's experience of waking up after a coma. Thanks again for participating! I can't wait to pick up your other novel ;) 

Be sure to stop by the other stops on the blog tour and show my fellow blogger friends some love!
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. 

Friday, 31 March 2017

Review: The List by Jennifer Tremblay; Translated by Shelley Tepperman

The List by Jennifer Tremblay; Translated by Shelley Tepperman

Publishing Date: April 1, 2012
Publisher: Playwrights Canada Press
Pages: 80
Drama, Quebec Writers, Women Writers

The Premise from the Publisher: "A woman invites us into her life of compulsive lists and endless chores. Despite her meticulousness, a task goes unfinished with tragic consequences. Is she to culpable for her neighbour's death? A riveting story of everyday to-do lists in which the essential and the ordinary are inextricably entwined" (PCC).

- Winner of the 2008 Governor General's Literary Award for French Drama

- Finalist for the 2012 Governor General's Literary Award for Translation

My overall thoughts and review: When I first read the premise of this book, I immediately felt a connection with the protagonist because of her compulsion to make lists. I always make lists and I find even for the smallest tasks, I still put it on my list. There is a big sense of satisfaction that comes with completing something on the list. The story follows and unnamed woman who speaks to the audience about how not finishing one "task" on her list leads to the death of her neighbor. Even though, I don't think she was directly to blame, the woman takes all the blame upon herself. It is quite an interesting dynamic because the play touches on themes of negligence, responsibility, and motherhood. I'm not a mother myself, but I found myself really empathizing with the main character and also, Caroline. There was one line in the play that really got to me and that was: "With children love is so easy" (26) and I feel like it speaks volumes. I really enjoyed the style of the play as well. It is written in free-verse (list-style in a sense), but there is so much feeling in the smallest of passages. It gives you a lot to think about how small things play a role in a bigger outcome. It also questions the notion of responsibility as a mother, a wife, a neighbor, and a friend. I really enjoyed reading this and I think it would be fantastic to see it on stage. Apparently Tremblay published a sequel to this text, so I'm definitely keen on picking it up and other things written by Tremblay.

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

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

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

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Review: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them - Hogwarts Library Book by J.K. Rowling

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them - Newt Scamander - Hogwarts Library Book by J.K. Rowling

Publishing Date: March 14, 2017
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pages: 144
Juvenile Fiction/Science Fiction, Fantasy, Magic

The Premise from the Publisher: "A brand new edition of this essential companion to the Harry Potter stories, with a new foreword from J.K. Rowling, an irresistible new jacket by Jonny Duddle, illustrations by Tomislav Tomic and six new beasts! An approved textbook at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry since publication, Newt Scamander's masterpiece has entertained wizarding families through the generations. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is an indispensable introduction to the magical beasts of the Wizarding World. In this comprehensively updated edition, eagle-eyed readers will spot a number of new beasts and an intriguing new author's note. Scamander's years of travel and research have created a tome of unparalleled importance. Some of the beasts will be familiar to readers of the Harry Potter books - the Hippogriff, the Basilisk, the Hungarian Horntail ... Others will surprise even the most ardent amateur Magizoologist. Dip in to discover the curious habits of magical beasts across five continents" (Bloomsbury).

My overall thoughts and review: I own the first edition of this book and I really loved it! I enjoy all the Hogwarts Library Books because it offers more context for the Wizarding World, and I love all the little easter eggs inside. When I heard that they were releasing a new edition, at first, I was a bit confused as to why. But the brand new edition has a new foreword from Newt, there are some beautiful new illustrations by Tomislav Tomic, a beautiful hardcover and dust jacket, and to top it all off, SIX NEW BEASTS! Also, can we please take a moment to appreciate the cover? It is adorable and I love how cute the dragon looks. The foreword is definitely interesting and I love how it links to the context of the film that was recently released. It was like additional context for the film. It's also been a few years since I read the previous edition so the introduction into magical creatures was a nice refresher and I felt like I was reading it with fresh eyes. There are small remarks throughout which are fun to find, like Newt's comment for muggles: "Editor's note: for Muggle edition, usual guff: 'obvious fiction - all good fun - nothing to worry about - hope you enjoy it!'" (xiii). The A-Z of the beasts was a great part too and with the new additions, it seemed more complete this time around. I am in love with the illustrations and I think that alone, is reason enough to pick this up. The illustrations are stunning and some of my favorites include the ones for Kelpie and the Niffler! For potterheads, this is an easy purchase and something that is required reading & for your library. I like these new editions because it allows the new generations that are falling in love with HP something to get excited about. I remember freaking out on new HP content, and I think the same excitement still exists today. Also, all the proceeds go to Comic Relief and Lumos, which is another great reason to pick this up!

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

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

Disclaimer: An advanced reader's copy of the book was provided by Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions of the book are my own.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Review: My (Not So) Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella

My (Not So) Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella 

Publishing Date: February 7, 2017
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Pages: 448
Fiction / ChickLit

The Premise from the Publisher: "Everywhere Katie Brenner looks, someone else is living the life she longs for, particularly her boss, Demeter Farlowe. Demeter is brilliant and creative, lives with her perfect family in a posh townhouse, and wears the coolest clothes. Katie’s life, meanwhile, is a daily struggle—from her dismal rental to her oddball flatmates to the tense office politics she’s trying to negotiate. No wonder Katie takes refuge in not-quite-true Instagram posts, especially as she's desperate to make her dad proud. Then, just as she’s finding her feet—not to mention a possible new romance—the worst happens. Demeter fires Katie. Shattered but determined to stay positive, Katie retreats to her family’s farm in Somerset to help them set up a vacation business. London has never seemed so far away—until Demeter unexpectedly turns up as a guest. Secrets are spilled and relationships rejiggered, and as the stakes for Katie’s future get higher, she must question her own assumptions about what makes for a truly meaningful life" (RH).

My overall thoughts and review: I've been reading Sophie Kinsella books for many years now. I remember being in first year university and binge reading all the Shopaholic books. I just love her quirky characters and hilarious story lines. Every character is so down to earth. When I heard she was coming out with a new book and with this kind of premise, I was instantly excited. I decided to go for the audible version since I was looking for a new read on my commute to work and school. The audible version is fantastic! The voice actor/reader did a fantastic job, so I would highly recommend checking out the audible version. Fiona Hardingham did a great job switching back and forth from various accents. So about the book! First off, I loved the protagonist, Katie, so much! Her life on a daily basis, while depressing at times, is hilarious and she has such drive and determination that you can really admire as a reader. Her "perfect life" on instagram, does not reflect what actually happens to her. Fired from her job, a potential romance that sizzles out before it even begins, Katie finds herself retreating to her family home to help her dad and step-mom set up a glamping business. I've looked at a few glamping websites and I've seen some photos on pinterest and goodness.. reading this book has made me want to go glamping myself! If only Anster Farms was a real place ;) At her family home, she attempts to hide the secret of what happened in London from her parents, while trying to find a new job, but things become messy when her ex-boss shows up, and soon, that potential romance love-interest also shows up. I don't want to get into what happens after that because of spoilers, but let me tell you, it was a fantastic read! I loved seeing how much Katie grew and how she came to realize certain things on her own. She was able to realize her own potential which was amazing to see. The story also touches on how things may not seem as they are, like her instagram posts, but also, characters like Demeter as well. I loved that each character was so well-rounded. I loved Katie's parents especially because they were so down to earth and supportive of Katie. The love-interest story line is also done really well, and appears realistic. Overall, I loved this book. I found myself laughing a lot and even crying at some points. There is a strong emphasis on self-love, family, and friendship and I think fans of Kinsella in general, will not be disappointed! :)

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

Available for purchase at:
AudibleChapters/IndigoKobo BooksAmazon and Book Depository (Free Worldwide Shipping)

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Blog Tour: The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Sáenz - Review & Book Excerpt

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Publishing Date: March 7, 2017
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Pages: 464
Young Adult Contemporary

The Premise from the Publisher: "Sal used to know his place with his adoptive gay father, their loving Mexican American family, and his best friend, Samantha. But it's senior year, and suddenly Sal is throwing punches, questioning everything, and realizing he no longer knows himself. If Sal's not who he thought he was, who is he? This humor-infused, warmly humane look at universal questions of belonging is a triumph" (HMH).

My overall thoughts and review: When I was first emailed about this blog tour opportunity I was seriously jumping up and down in my kitchen. I haven't reviewed it, but I've sung my praises online and in person for Sáenz's other book: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets to the Universe. I absolutely loved that book and it wasn't just the the story and the characters but I fell in love with Sáenz's way of writing. So this book was definitely a treat because it brought me right back a few years ago, sitting and reading, absolutely in awe of the writing and wanting to savor every page. What I love most about this book is that a romantic relationship was possible, but was not the sole focus of the text. The book was more focused on Sal coming to terms with himself and who he is, and the importance of family. Family was a big part of the text because as Sal enters senior year, his adoptive father gives him a letter from his dead mother and he learns that his Mima is sick with cancer. You see Sal questioning how life isn't fair in regards to his Mima and also becoming curious of his biological father. The scenes with Mima were so incredibly sweet and you can just feel the love between the two of them coming out of the pages of the book. The relationship with Mima reminded me a lot of my relationship with my aunt and I have to admit, I did tear up at some pages. I also loved Vicente, his adoptive father. Sometimes, I felt that Vicente was too good to be true with just how understanding and supportive he was. He was so kind to Sal's friends: Sam & Fito. And he said such beautiful things. I also really liked that Sáenz didn't simply make the adults/parents background characters in the text. They were an integral part of the narrative and the text focused on how they had flaws as well. I know I say this every time, but when I really love a book, I have such a hard time writing a review for it because I find myself just saying "I liked this! I liked that! I liked everything!" but it is really true. Bottom line: I loved how this book made me feel and think about life. For as much YA as I read, it isn't very often a book strikes such a chord with me. This was a very beautifully written text that emphasized identity, family, friendship, and grief. I don't want to say too much without spoiling and I feel like I'm already rambling a bit, but this was an amazing read. I felt serious sadness when I turned the last page because I was saying goodbye to such beautiful characters, but I also felt quite proud with how far the characters came. Absolutely beautiful book that will tug at your heartstrings. If you aren't familiar with Benjamin Alire Sáenz and his beautiful writing... what are you waiting for? You will not be disappointed.

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

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

Book Excerpt
Enrique Infante had come up behind us as Sam and I were walking. And all of a sudden he jumped in front of me and he was in my face. He looked right at me, pushed his finger into my chest, and said, “You’re dad’s a faggot.”
Something happened inside me. A huge and uncontrollable wave ran through me and crashed onto the shore that was my heart. I suddenly lost my ability to use words, and, I don’t know, I’d never been that angry and I didn’t know what was really happening because anger wasn’t normal for me. It was as if I, the Sal I knew, just went away and another Sal entered my body and took over. I remember feeling the pain in my own fist just after it hit Enrique Infante’s face. It all happened in an instant like a flash of lightning, only the lightning wasn’t coming from the sky, it was coming from somewhere inside of me. Seeing all that blood gush out of another guy’s nose made me feel alive. It did. That’s the truth. And that scared me.
I had something in me that scared me.
The next thing I remembered was that I was staring down at Enrique as he lay on the ground. I was my calm self again, well, not calm but at least I could talk. And I said, “My dad is a man. He has a name. His name is Vicente. So if you want to call him something, call him by his name. And he’s not a faggot.”
Sam just looked at me. I looked back at her. “Well, this is new,” she said. “What happened to the good boy? I never knew you had it in you to punch a guy.”
“I didn’t either,” I said.
Sam smiled at me. It was kind of a strange smile.
I looked down at Enrique. I tried to help him up, but he wasn’t having any of it.
Sam and I watched as he walked away. I was a little stunned. I looked at Sam. “Maybe we don’t always know what we have in us.” 
Be sure to check out the other blog tour stops for more excerpts from the book! :D 
Disclaimer: An advanced reader's copy of this book and the book excerpt was sent to me by Raincoast Books. The excerpt is written by Benjamin Alire Sáenz and comes directly from the published book. All opinions are my own. 

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Review: The Education of Margot Sanchez By Lilliam Rivera

The Education of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera

Publishing Date: February 21, 2017
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Pages: 304
Young Adult Contemporary

The Premise from the Publisher: "Things/People Margot Hates:
Mami, for destroying her social life, Papi, for allowing Junior to become a Neanderthal,. Junior, for becoming a Neanderthal, The supermarket and Everyone else. After “borrowing” her father’s credit card to finance a more stylish wardrobe, Margot Sanchez suddenly finds herself grounded. And by grounded, she means working as an indentured servant in her family’s struggling grocery store to pay off her debts. With each order of deli meat she slices, Margot can feel her carefully cultivated prep school reputation slipping through her fingers, and she’s willing to do anything to get out of this punishment. Lie, cheat, and maybe even steal… Margot’s invitation to the ultimate beach party is within reach and she has no intention of letting her family’s drama or Moises—the admittedly good looking but outspoken boy from the neighborhood—keep her from her goal" (SS).

My overall thoughts and review: I have a small confession: when I first requested this as an arc to read, I have to admit that what drew me in first was not the premise but the cover. Goodness, the cover is stunning. The artwork is so beautiful. Anyways, onto the review, the premise of the book also intrigued me because I love friendship and family dynamics in a book. I love reading romance books, but I need there to be a good substantial amount of world building and other dynamics at play. In the beginning, the reader is introduced to Margot AKA "La Princesa" (what her family calls her), who has to spend the summer working off the money she spent on her father's credit card at their family grocery store 'Sanchez & Son Supermarket.' This poses as a problem because Margot had plans to hang out in the Hamptons with her friends Serena and Camille. She had finally gotten them to 'accept' her and they are also the ones who encouraged her to "borrow" her father's credit card, but now she was stuck daily at the grocery store working, away from all the fun and away from her chances with a guy named Nick. Margot thinks that she will spend the summer having it easy at the supermarket, but little does she know what her father has in store for her. They have her lifting boxes, cleaning up aisles and even working the deli counter at some point. It is in front of her parent's supermarket that she meets Moises, a boy who is attempting to get signatures for a cause, but her family warns her about because of his dark past. The moments when Margot spoke about Serena and Camille really empathized with me and the whole desire of wanting to be accepted. I also liked that the story touched on Margot's previous friendship: Elizabeth. Margot was a different person around Elizabeth and you see how Elizabeth still attempts to have a friendship with Margot. I really liked seeing how all of that unfolded. I wasn't too blown away with the romance that occurs in the text, it seemed quite straight forward, but I will say, I appreciated seeing the vulnerability in Moises and Nick. I will say, my favorite part of the book was that Margot gets an 'education' on family. How families aren't perfect and sometimes, they'll disappoint you and do things that don't seem right, simply out of love for you. I loved what a big role Margot's parents and brother, Junior, played in the book. Overall, I think this was a great read about accepting who you are, friendships, and family.

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

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

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

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Review: What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan

What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan 
(AKA Burnt Paper Sky

Publishing Date: January 3, 2017
Publisher: Harpercollins
Pages: 496

The Premise from the Publisher: "Rachel Jenner is walking in a Bristol park with her eight-year-old son, Ben, when he asks if he can run ahead. It’s an ordinary request on an ordinary Sunday afternoon, and Rachel has no reason to worry—until Ben vanishes. Police are called, search parties go out, and Rachel, already insecure after her recent divorce, feels herself coming undone. As hours and then days pass without a sign of Ben, everyone who knew him is called into question, from Rachel’s newly married ex-husband to her mother-of-the-year sister. Inevitably, media attention focuses on Rachel too, and the public’s attitude toward her begins to shift from sympathy to suspicion. As she desperately pieces together the threadbare clues, Rachel realizes that nothing is quite as she imagined it to be, not even her own judgment. And the greatest dangers may lie not in the anonymous strangers of every parent’s nightmares, but behind the familiar smiles of those she trusts the most. Where is Ben? The clock is ticking. . . ." (HC).

My overall thoughts and review: I've been on such a thrilling reads kick for a while now. I don't know what it is... but I love seeing how the mystery unravels for the reader. This is my first time picking up something by Macmillan and I was not disappointed. I listened to this book via audible and there were two voice actors who did the voices of Rachel and the DI. I thought they did a pretty good job narrating the story. The premise is incredibly chilling where a child goes missing one afternoon because his mom lets him run ahead on their walk with their dog Skittle. I had a few ideas of who it could have been and what had happened and I will say, I was genuinely surprised right up until the very end. There was quite a few twists and turns that I did not expect and I really enjoyed those aspects. I think what I enjoyed most is seeing how conflicted Rachel was feeling and seeing how she kept replaying various moments and scenarios. You got to see her grieve as a mother during this period in her life and as the reader, you really empathized with her. I found myself liking the DI a lot too and seeing how this one case kind of "rocked" his world a bit. It affected every aspect of his life and it is a good example of "taking the job home." He is truly a conflicted character with a lot of flaws and I liked seeing his vulnerability in some scenes. You can't say too much in these reviews for thriller books without giving too much away. I'll say that fans of I Let You Go, Girl on the Train, and The Widow, will surely enjoy this one. It is a clever and heart-wrenching thriller about a parent/child relationship. I really enjoyed it and I've already pushed it on a few friends to read! It reminds me of a good British crime TV show!

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

Available for purchase at:
AudibleChapters/IndigoKobo BooksAmazon and Book Depository (Free Worldwide Shipping)

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Review: I Am For You by Mieko Ouchi

I Am For You by Mieko Ouchi

Publishing Date: October 20, 2016
Publisher: Playwrights Canada Press
Pages: 80
Asian Canadian Theatre

The Premise from the Publisher: "Fighting words . . . Lainie and Mariam have it out for each other, so it’s no surprise when they finally come to violent blows in the middle of their high school’s drama room. That’s when Caddell Morris, an ex-professional actor and newly minted student teacher, steps in. By teaching the girls the art of stage combat, he hopes to help them understand more about the roots and costs of violence. But when he convinces the drama teacher to let them play Mercutio and Tybalt in their school production of Romeo and Juliet, swords, words, and egos battle and clash. Can they find a way to work together?" (PCP).

My overall thoughts and review: I believe this is my first play review ever on the blog which is quite exciting! I read quite a few plays in my undergrad and I've picked up a few here and there, but I haven't really read much in terms of Canadian theatre. When I read the premise of this and saw that it incorporated elements of Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet, I was instantly intrigued. As many problems as that play had, I found that after reading what Ouchi created, I had a new found appreciation for the play Shakespeare wrote. Ouchi touched on elements of how violence plays a big factor and it isn't simply about violence over love, but violence within friendships and family as well. The premise is incredibly interesting, there are two classmates that end up fighting: Mariam and Lainie, and when their student teacher breaks them apart, he decides to have them spend a day with him to learn stage combat. The parts where the learning of the stage combat is done is incredibly intricate. I could see it unfolding in my mind and it truly is an 'art' - every movement is carefully crafted and calculated. The girls end up showing quite a lot of promise that Caddell decides to put them in the school production of Romeo & Juliet as Mercutio and Tybalt. I really liked that through their experiences and their acting, they were able to look at one another differently. I really enjoyed reading this play by Ouchi and I definitely want to look into other plays that she has written. I think fans of YA literature would definitely enjoy this because there's a strong emphasis on themes of bullying and friendship.

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

Available for purchase at:
Playwrights Canada PressChapters/IndigoKobo BooksAmazon and Book Depository (Free Worldwide Shipping)

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

Monday, 27 February 2017

Blog Tour: Piper Perish by Kayla Cagan - Review and Author Q&A

Piper Perish by Kayla Cagan

Publishing Date: March 7, 2017
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Pages: 416
Young Adult Contemporary

The Premise from the Publisher: "Piper Perish inhales air and exhales art. The sooner she and her best friends can get out of Houston and get to New York City, the better. Art school has been Piper's dream her whole life, and now that senior year is halfway over, she's never felt more ready. But in the final months before graduation, things are weird with her friends and stressful with three different guys, and Piper's sister's tyrannical mental state seems to thwart every attempt at happiness for the close-knit Perish family. Piper's art just might be enough to get her out. But is she brave enough to seize that power when it means giving up so much? Debut author Kayla Cagan breathes new life into fiction in this dynamic, utterly authentic work featuring interior art from Rookie magazine illustrator Maria Ines Gul. Piper will have readers asking big questions along with her. What is love? What is friendship? What is family? What is home? And who is a person when she's missing any one of these things?" (Chronicle Books).

My overall thoughts and review: For those of you don't know, I've always had an interest in art and art history. I wrote my masters on paintings and I've always had a big fascination with art in general. When I read the premise of this book, I was interested but also immediately reminded of myself when I was in my last year of high-school. I had a big fascination with New York City, Andy Warhol, and his factory. I knew that art would be a big component of the book but what I did not expect was how much the physical book would be fused with art. I had an arc copy, but I can't wait to see how the finished copy looks. The book featured authentic artwork from a magazine illustrator, Maria Ines Gul, and I felt like the entire book itself was an art piece. It kind of felt like it was Piper's big heart being handed to the reader. The book is written in first person narrative, but done in a way that felt like reading journal entries of Piper. You are thrown into Piper's world immediately and learn that her New Years did not start off well, with her boyfriend Enzo breaking up with her. Which also ruins her plans for New York since the plan was that she, her boyfriend and their bestfriend, Kit, all go together. The book has sections for every month of Piper's final year. You get to see how Piper deals with the year ending, the stress of waiting around for university acceptances, breaking up, friendships and most of all, family. Piper has an extremely tough sister, Marli, to deal with. I would say that passages with Marli were my least favorite because I just found her so difficult to deal with. We are given some explanation as readers as to why she is the way she is, but because I empathized so much with Piper, I found it really hard to do the same with Marli. Marli is an incredibly difficult character and my only critique would be that some more explanation for why she is the way she is, would be helpful to readers? Other than that, I loved Piper's parents so much. They had so much depth and the parts where they admittedly mentioned their struggles as parents financially and emotionally felt so raw to me. I loved how much depth Cagan gave each character and how many thematic points she was able to hit with this book. There was a strong emphasis on self-growth and identity for Piper, Kit, and Enzo. But mostly, what drew me most to this book and what I think most readers will enjoy is the art component. This was without a doubt a very artistic and unique book. I loved how mature it felt and I loved how art and various artists played such a big role. I highly recommend checking it out! Now.. if you'll excuse me, I'm going to wait anxiously until March 7, 2017 to go get my hands on a physical copy to see all the artwork in it's true glory! :D

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

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

Author Question and Answer

1. The book has a large emphasis on art and you write that art and artists are quite significant. Who is your favorite artist and what is your favorite art piece? 
Picking one favorite artist?!?!? I have so many art crushes. The artists I love usually have a very strong sense of humor and wit in their work.   My current favorite is the photographer and filmmaker Cindy Sherman. Lifetime favorite is Rene Magritte. He was my introduction into surrealism and his work opened my brain at a very young age. My current favorite art piece is by Glenn Ligon and it’s called Double America 2. I can’t think of a piece of art that better represents the current divisions in the United States.  Here’s a link if you want to see it: LINK HERE!  (It blinks on and off in the museum.)
Thank you so much, Kayla! I am a big fan of Magritte as well and I actually wrote a conference paper on him a few years back. His art is just fantastic! The Double America piece looks really cool! And I will be sure to check out Cindy Sherman. Thanks so much for sharing that with us :D

Kayla has also very kindly answered questions for other bloggers at the other stops on the blog tour. So be sure to head on over to their blogs and show some love!
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.