Friday, 23 June 2017

The New Disney Princess Book Tag

I haven't done a book tag in what feels like forever, so it was a nice surprise when the lovely Flavia of Flavia The Bibliophile Blog tagged me in a Disney Princess Book Tag. I'm a big Disney fan and this book tag is simply amazing. I love seeing everyone's unique answers and seeing the newer princesses included in the content. 

The Rules 
1) Mention where you saw the tag/thank whoever tagged you (Thanks, Flavia!) 
2) Tag Zuky’s and Mandy’s posts so they can check out the wonderful Princess fun throughout the blog world (Mandy @ Book Princess Reviews & Zuky @ Book Bum)
3) Play a game of tag at the end!

The Tag: 

Favorite Debut Book From an Author 

This is really hard for me to choose because I've read so many incredible debut books from various authors. So is it ok if I list more than one? I definitely loved Saints & Misfits by S.K. Ali, which I have a full review of here! I also really loved Our Little Secret by Roz Nay, which I also wrote a full review for here! Both were simply amazing debut novels and I'm honestly so excited to see what both actors write next! 

Just Like Cinderella, You Either Didn’t Expect Much Out of This Character in the Beginning But Turned Out to Be a Total Gem 

I've got to say Kitty Pong from the Crazy Rich Asians series. I was not in love with her when she was first introduced, but I loved how much her character grew in the second book. I kind of flip-flopped with her again in the final book, but in the end, she did turn out to be a total gem and did something  redeeming which I admire! Full review for: China Rich Girlfriend & Rich People Problems

A Book That Makes You Sleepy or Just Could Not Hold Your Attention

This book is definitely going to be The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara. I did not enjoy this book one bit. It made me so sleepy and bored at a lot of moments, but also made me incredibly angry. I listened to it on audiobook and I definitely slogged through it for months. I do not recommend this book at all. It's a shame. I do hope that Yanagihara's other books are better. 

A Book With a Water/Ocean Setting

I'm going to say Salt to The Sea by Ruta Sepetys. This book takes place on a boat and is incredibly heartbreaking. I had all the emotions and more while reading this book. It takes place in WW2 setting and introduces the reader to a story that many are not familiar with. I loved it so much and I  immediately went out to buy Sepetys' other books.Would highly recommend if you are looking for something historical fiction.

Name a Book With the Best Bookworm/Book Lover

Ok, I think this one is obvious, but how could I not choose Hermione from J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series? She is the obvious choice and heck, Emma Watson went on to play Belle in the new live-action version which is some inception if you ask me ;) She made reading cool again, and I loved that she always had her head in a book. Another would be Henry in Words in Deep Blue

Name Book with an Unlikely Love Story (Either in Terms of Romance or a Book You Didn’t Expect to Love So Much)

For this one I'm going to say Taylor Jenkins Reid's The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. I won't say too much but this book definitely fulfills both categories: there is an unlikely love story which I did not see coming at all and I absolutely loved. I also knew that her books were popular, but I did not know just how much I would love it. I'm still swooning over it and I'm itching to sit down and reread it this instant! 

Name a Book that is Based on a Real Life Person You Want to Read/Have Read

I read a ton of Non-Fiction and I always love a good memoir/biography. I often pick up these usually knowing a bit about them before hand. My most recent one that I've read and loved is digital influencer/Youtuber: Anna Akana's So Much I want to Tell You: Letters to my little sister. I knew I wanted to get it right away because I've been a fan of Anna's for a long time and reading this only reaffirmed my admiration for her as a human being and content creator. 

Name the Fiercest Heroine You Know

This one is easy! I will definitely say Celaena Sardothien from the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas - she is so incredibly badass and I just love how fierce she is. She's a train assassin and does not back down easily. Another character created by Maas is definitely Feyre in the A Court of Thorns and Roses series. I loved her seeing her come into herself and really transform into a strong individual.

Name a diverse book whether it is a diverse set of characters (like Tiana’s group of Naveen, Louis, Ray, and more) or just diverse in general

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas! This book is not only incredibly diverse, but just such an important read for our time. The characters are amazing and I just love the dynamic of the entire group. There's Starr (the protagonist), Chris (the boyfriend), Maya (one of the bestfriends), Seven (her brother).. and more! I loved those characters in particular but the other family members were also really lovely and made a huge part of the book.

Name the Longest Book You’ve Ever Read

I really can't name the longest book I've ever read off the top of my head, and I don't have my full book collection with my currently. From what I can remember, I believe Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is the longest one, coming in at 816 pages and for school, I've read James Joyce's Ulysses a few times, and that is about 1056 pages (depending on which edition). For more recent, going on what I've read in the past few years, Sarah J. Maas' A Court of Mist and Fury was quite long, coming in at 656 pages. 

A Book Where There is No Love Story/Interest or Isn’t Needed

So I have two Victoria Schwab titles for this category. First is Vicious, there isn't a love story in this book at all. It is simply about two incredibly evil individuals and their rivalry with one another. Sure, you can ship characters, but it isn't explicit in canon. I really liked that it focused more on the questions of good and evil, and did not force a love story in there somewhere. Another book by Schwab that follows this is This Savage Song. Imagine Romeo and Juliet, but without the romance. The boy and girl are from opposite sides and it's really interesting to see the dynamic between the two. There's a possibility for romance, but the narrative does not hinge on that and can stand on it's own. I really admire Schwab's writing because she doesn't require a love story to make her books. She is so amazing at character building and world building that it is simply all you need and all you want.

A Book in a Winter/Cold Setting

This one was quite hard. I believe one of the Tahereh Mafi books took place in the winter and if I'm remembering correctly, it was Unravel Me? I also think of The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman, which I read growing up, and C.S. Lewis' The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I also think of holiday & Christmas books when I think of a Winter setting so basically any book that mentions Christmas or snow ever :P

A Character That Goes on a Journey

For this one, I'm going to choose Stephanie Garber's Caraval. In this book, the main character, Scarlett, and her sister, Tella go on a journey to Caraval, a once-in-a-lifetime performance/experience. They have to go on a boat and once there, it is like another journey throughout Caraval itself. This trip really allows Scarlett to explore her strengths as a character but also uncover the hidden secrets of the mysterious Legend. I loved following along with both characters as they embarked on their journey and make through this strange wonderland/circus world. I found myself wanting to travel to Caraval as well as I was reading and I think that is a sign of a good journey in the book, if the reader wants to come along as well on the trip ;) 

Well, we've reached the end! Thanks for sticking around and reading all my picks for each category. It was definitely hard to choose for some of these, so I hope you don't mind that I may have put multiple answers for some categories. I definitely feel like I need to go sit down and watch Disney movies on loop for a while now after doing this tag and I must admit, I haven't watched Moana yet, so I must rectify that situation. Thanks again to Flavia for tagging me! It was a ton of fun. And before I go, I just want to play the game of tag, so.... 

I'm tagging: 

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Review: Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

Publishing Date: June 6, 2017
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Pages: 288
Young Adult Contemporary

The Premise from the Publisher: "Years ago, Rachel had a crush on Henry Jones. The day before she moved away, she tucked a love letter into his favorite book in his family’s bookshop. She waited. But Henry never came. Now Rachel has returned to the city—and to the bookshop—to work alongside the boy she’d rather not see, if at all possible, for the rest of her life. But Rachel needs the distraction. Her brother drowned months ago, and she can’t feel anything anymore. As Henry and Rachel work side by side—surrounded by books, watching love stories unfold, exchanging letters between the pages—they find hope in each other. Because life may be uncontrollable, even unbearable sometimes. But it’s possible that words, and love, and second chances are enough" (RHCB).

My overall thoughts and review: I was definitely intrigued by the premise of the book because I love stories that take place in a bookshop. Howling Books is quite unique in that it is a second hand bookstore, but so much more than that. It is a place that is home to Henry and his sister, George. It used to be a flower shop, and it is a place that many people have fallen in love. The bookshop also has a letter library which is particularly special because letters are a big part of the book.
"It's called the Letter Library because a lot of people write more than a note in the margin--they write whole letters and put them between the pages of books. Letters to the poets, to their thief ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend who stole their copy of High Fidelity. Mostly people write to strangers who love the same books as them--and some stranger, somewhere, writes back" (27)
The story is told from two perspectives: Henry & Rachel. Rachel moved away three years ago, but before that, she wrote Henry a letter professing her love for him and saying how he deserves better than his current girlfriend, Amy. Flashforward to the present, Rachel finds herself returning to Gracetown after the sudden death of her brother, Cal. She is in deep depression and her life plans have simply fallen apart. Life in general is difficult for Rachel, as her and Cal were extremely close, and this death has shaken not only her, but her mother as well. She finds herself moving in with her aunt Rose to find a job for the year because she has failed year 12. She knows that coming back to Gracetown means seeing Henry again, but she is sure that she is in fact over him and angry about him not acknowledging her letter years back. Henry, on the otherhand, has just recently been dumped by Amy, soon after they made promises to travel the world together. His parents are also thinking of selling Howling Books because it is not making enough, and he's determined to befriend Rachel once again. I really liked how their story developed. Crowley wove together their past in a really nice way, and I loved their dynamic. I will say that Henry did drive me insane a bit for how hung up and whiny he was when it came to Amy. But I really liked Henry as a brother to his sister, George, and just how he was in general to other characters. He was quite sweet and tried his best. Rachel, I just loved. I empathized with her so much in her grieving and mourning, since I know what it feels like to lose a loved one. You feel cheated in time and memories, and she really conveyed that. I loved seeing her not overcome her grief, but coming to terms with it, and learning to live with it.

The part of the book that I loved the most is definitely George's story. She started receiving letters from this mysterious 'Pytheas' and a beautiful friendship blossomed from that. It was so pure and special and it made me swoon reading the letters. I really loved George as a character and seeing how she has built up a shield overtime, but it was slowly breaking as she found herself opening up to Pytheas, Rachel, and even Martin. I don't want to say more than that because of spoilers, but I cried my eyes out at some parts. In the words of my co-worker Kim, it was the big tears and ugly crying that happened. The book touches on memory, and how one's memory lives on in the margins and this just reaffirms how special books are for me as a reader. I am one of those readers that will occasionally underline things, and I love when people address the first page to me when giving me a book as a gift, and more. This book is about the relationship we have with words. I loved that so much, but most importantly, it's a great book about memory and life/death. This gave me a different outlook on how to approach grief, and that death is not the end but rather a form of transmigration: "..the transmigration of memory that happens all the time--saving people the only way we can--holding the dead here with their stories, with their marks on the page, with their histories. It's a very beautiful idea.." (232). It also touches on how there will be things in life that will hurt, and completely break us, but that it can also be what makes us: "It will be fine and it won't be. It will be terrible and good" (269). The immense strength that these characters have in this book is simply outstanding and an inspiration. I can't say enough good things about this book. It is a short read, but it just hits all the notes. Please go pick up a copy and annotate the passages you love, and pass it on. It's the kind of book that will make you fall in love with characters, but also making you fall in love with reading all over again.

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

Available for purchase at:

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

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Review: Romancing The Throne by Nadine Jolie Courtney

Romancing the Throne by Nadine Jolie Courtney

Publishing Date: May 30, 2017
Publisher: HarperCollins
Pages: 400
Young Adult Contemporary

The Premise from the Publisher: "For the first time ever, the Weston sisters are at the same boarding school. After an administration scandal at Libby’s all-girls school threatens her chances at a top university, she decides to join Charlotte at posh and picturesque Sussex Park. Social-climbing Charlotte considers it her sisterly duty to bring Libby into her circle: Britain’s young elites, glamorous teens who vacation in Hong Kong and the South of France and are just as comfortable at a polo match as they are at a party. It’s a social circle that just so happens to include handsome seventeen-year-old Prince Edward, heir to Britain’s throne. If there are any rules of sisterhood, “Don’t fall for the same guy” should be one of them. But sometimes chemistry—even love—grows where you least expect it. In the end, there may be a price to pay for romancing the throne...and more than one path to happily ever after" (HC).

My overall thoughts and review: So when I first heard about this book, people were saying it was inspired by Kate and Pippa, and it takes place in a boarding school setting. I was quite interested since I have to admit, I have a small fascination with the royals. So a book about fictional royals? I'm in! The story is told from Charlotte's POV, so I feel like already you are kind of meant to empathize more with her character. It was cool to see someone talk about their love for participating in sports (in Charlotte's case, it was hockey), but I will say some moments when she was talking about "perfecting your looks" and constantly instagramming/snapchatting selfies, I was a bit 'blegh' about it all. I understand that is the culture we live in today, but it just felt like overkill with how obsessive Charlotte was with it. So I did not immediately take to her and I was more fascinated to hear about Libby's character. One of my favorite scenes was when Libby first meets Edward and just speaks her mind. Things get complicated when both sisters have feelings for the same person, and personally, I wasn't too keen on the narrative of Edward going from sister to sister. The way both of the sisters ended up acting over a guy was really disappointing because they let that come between their relationship. I understand that it was the author's intention to demonstrate that the sisters can overcome that, but even when they did, I still felt like in many ways that their characters were defined by a romantic interest. It was nice to see Charlotte find her footing even after Edward, but then another love-interest is thrown into the loop, which in my opinion, downplays her other achievements (like doing well in school, sports, and even developing an app). Sure the new romantic interest is sweet, but it felt predictable, and I feel it would've meant more if she simply didn't have another relationship. With Libby on the other hand, although she comes to terms with Edward in regards to tradition and fame, I really feel like the Libby we initially met was lost towards the end of the book. Every time Libby or Charlotte moved one step forward, it also felt like they were taking two steps backwards. There was also some diversity, as one of the characters, India, identified herself as LGBTQ. But I really felt like we barely got any of India's story at all. Overall, it was a decent read, but I feel like I spent most of the book being annoyed with certain characters. Some moments with Flossie had me rubbing my temples because she was just so awful! I will say it was fun to read a boarding school setting book, and dive into the world of royalty for a bit. So if you are looking for something light and fluffy, then this is definitely the read for you!

My rating of the book: ✮✮✮ (3/5 stars)

Available for purchase at:

Disclaimer: An advanced reader's copy of the book was provided by HCC Frenzy/HarperCollins Canada in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Review: Twisted by Joseph Jomo Pierre & Charlotte Corbeil Coleman

Twisted by Joseph Jomo Pierre & Charlotte Corbeil Coleman

Publishing Date: June 19, 2017
Publisher: Playwrights Canada Press
Pages: 96

The Premise from the Publisher: "Growing up, Nancy believed in magic despite a hand-me-down life in a small town. So it’s no wonder the buzzing excitement of Toronto and its allure of freedom was a likely choice for her new home, the place she finds herself years later selling her body for drugs. Nancy is further from freedom than ever under the wings of Sikes, a drug dealer and pimp. When she meets Oliver, a seventeen-year-old who lands at Sikes’s feet after a life of foster care and shelters, the two find unlikely solace in each other. As text messages are exchanged by the instant, and truths are revealed, Nancy and Oliver form an unbreakable bond in order to write a new story together" (PCP).

My overall thought and review: This play has been pitched as "part Dickens, part Drake," both which I like. It was nice seeing some Drake aspects pop up, and seeing the setting of Toronto. In this play, Dicken's Oliver is re-imagined as Ollie and he becomes intertwined with Nancy, who sells her body for drugs. They find a connection together and what the viewer sees is a series of text messages. Apparently when the play is performed live, the text messages are shown on screen, which is a nice touch and I would definitely like to see live. I liked these text messages because they seemed as if Ollie and Nancy inhabited a world where it was just the two of them. They both want to 'escape' this life of drugs and pimps, and they want more to life, together. Things change when Nancy asks Ollie to help her 'save' someone and start a new beginning. Things get complicated because of Sikes and Dodger, who do not take kindly to snitches. Both playwrights each took to writing one character, and I liked seeing that each character was quite distinct in their voices and actions. They stood on their own. However, where this play falls short for me is that it didn't feel quite cohesive. I didn't feel like it was Dicken's Oliver Twist being re-imagined, but rather just a character named Ollie. I actually found Nancy to have more OT characteristics. The play does touch on addiction with Nancy, and as the viewer/reader, you really see towards the end of the play how much it controls her. That being said, I didn't feel like it was fully explored and I would've liked to see more about that. This is really Nancy's story in my opinion, and I personally would've liked to see more about Nancy than Ollie. Overall, it was a nice play, but it touches on big topics ever so slightly. I would be curious to see if seeing it performed live would have a different effect as opposed to reading the play.

My rating of the book: ✮✮✮ (3/5 stars)

Available for purchase at:
Playwrights Canada Press, Chapters/Indigo, and Amazon

Disclaimer: A copy of the play was sent by Playwrights Canada Press in exchange for an honest review. All opinions of the book are my own. 

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Review: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Publishing Date: June 13, 2017
Publisher: Atria Books/Simon & Schuster Canada
Pages: 400

The Premise from the Publisher: "Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now? Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career. Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late 80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds—revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love—Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways" (Atria).

My overall thoughts and review: I have been seeing so many people raving about this book recently and it was on offer, so I decided to finally pick it up. I am ashamed to admit that this is my first read by Taylor Jenkins Reid, which is awful since I know a lot of people have been pushing me to read them. After I finished this one, I immediately downloaded all her other books onto my kobo at 2:00am the other night. This book absolutely BLEW ME AWAY. I honestly could not put it down and I was so immersed in it. I went in expecting a bit of Hollywood glam, and I had heard from others that it was inspired by Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe. The reader learns about the seven husbands that Evelyn Hugo had and her life story. I immediately fell in love with Reid's writing style because I felt as if I was in that world, experiencing everything first hand. The reader is introduced to two characters: Monique and Evelyn. Monique has been chosen specifically by Evelyn to record her life story. Monique is determined to get up the ladder at her job, but she is also struggling with the failure of her marriage and pending divorce. Monique's anxieties surrounding being alone really spoke to me and I really enjoyed seeing how Evelyn influenced her and pushed her to stand her ground.

Evelyn, on the other hand, is such a remarkable character. The book described various men falling in love with her for her body, but I fell in love with her as a reader simply because of her personality. Evelyn knows she has faults and that she has made mistakes, and the way she acknowledges it is quite impressive. She decides to finally break free of the stories of her and what the press has built up over the years and finally speak HER truth: "Everyone I loved is dead now. There's no one left to protect. No one left to life for but me. People have so closely followed the most intricate details of the fake story of my life. But it's not... I don't... I want them to know the real story. The real me" (38). For every thing we 'think' we know about Evelyn, there always seems to be another layer. It was quite nice that Reid included newspaper articles alongside the chapters. She really hit home how the media can misinterpret content sometimes: "The truth had been there for them to grab if they'd paid attention... But of course, they got it wrong. They never did care about getting it right. The media are going to tell whatever story they want to tell. They always have. They always will" (357). It is incredibly hard to write this review or even go into great details about the people in Evelyn's life without spoiling major things, but I will say, I loved how distinct every character was in their voice and their actions. You saw how every character influenced Evelyn and you got an inside look into the movie-making business and how cutthroat it could be. My favorite characters are definitely Evelyn, Harry, and Celia (despite all their faults). I was honestly so sad when the book came to an ending and I definitely cried at a few moments. Reid presents such a raw representation of someone recounting everything that has happened in their life, regardless of good or bad. I love that regardless of the content, Evelyn makes it incredibly clear in her meetings with Monique that she does not regret her past one bit: "...of all the things I did to protect my family, I would do every one again. And I would have done more, would have behaved even uglier, if I thought it could have saved them" (362). I'm honestly so impressed with Evelyn's strength and tenacity. This book has the setting of Hollywood glam, but it is so much more than that. It is seriously one of my favorite books from this year. It tackles identity, family, friendship, love, and sexuality. and Reid's writing is simply divine. Please pick up this book, you won't regret it. I loved it so much and I'm already itching to re-read it (and if you know me, re-reads are rare so that's saying something!)

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

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

Friday, 16 June 2017

Review: So Much I Want to Tell You - Letters to My Little Sister by Anna Akana

So Much I Want to Tell You - Letters to My Little Sister by Anna Akana

Publishing Date: June 13, 2017
Publisher: Ballantine Books / Random House Publishing Group
Pages: 208
Non-Fiction/Personal Memoir
Self-Help & Humor

The Premise from the Publisher: "From Internet sensation Anna Akana comes a candid and poignant collection of essays about love, loss, and chasing adulthood. Anna opens up about her own struggles with poor self-esteem and reveals both the highs and lows of coming-of-age. She offers fresh, funny, hard-won advice for young women on everything from self-care to money to sex, and she is refreshingly straightforward about the realities of dating, female friendship, and the hustle required to make your dreams come true. This is Anna’s story, but, as she says, it belongs just as much to Kristina and to every other girl who must learn that growing up can be hard to do. Witty and real, Anna breaks things down in a way only a big sister can" (Ballantine Books / Random House Publishing Group).

My overall thoughts and review: I have been a subscriber of Anna's for quite some time now. I remember when I first found one of her videos, I immediately was in awe because I related so much to what she was talking about and also, I was obsessed with BlackMilk leggings back then (which was constantly featured in her videos). She was honest and incredibly candid with her content and I really admired that she did not beat around the bush, regardless of the subject matter. I also began to really enjoy her shorts that she produced (also girl was featured in ANT-MAN! YAAS!). Anna spoke about her sister, Kristina's suicide quite early on in her videos and I really loved that she was a strong advocate for mental health and suicide prevention. She spoke honestly about how this affected not only her, but also her family. We also learn as the reader that this shapes her career choice and her decision to go into comedy and stand-up. When I found out that she was coming out with a book, I knew I had to get it. I opted for the audiobook version since Anna narrates it herself and it was definitely a nice treat. This book is Anna giving a series of "lessons" to her younger sister in which she talks about her past, growing up, life in the industry, and lessons on love, self-care, and more. I feel like Anna differentiates herself from other youtubers by saying she is a digital influencer which I definitely feel is a lot more accurate in this case. She works across many platforms and through her book, she definitely encourages her readers to get out there and try, in terms of your aspirations. It was inspiring to hear her words but she also speaks about failure and how that can be a good thing. She was talking about reading things over multiple times before signing, and I just related so much to this. I was beating myself up a lot over things I made mistakes with, but looking back after many years of self-reflection, I can now see my experiences as blessings in disguise because life has a way of working out. Lastly, one more point I want to touch on is: Anna speaks openly about seeing a therapist too which I really appreciated because I've attended therapy for many years, and I honestly feel like it is something that has changed my life dramatically. She is an advocate for self-love and self-care and there should be more of that in digital influencer books. She also acknowledges that she does come from a position of privilege. Overall, I really enjoyed this book by Anna. She has a way of conveying things in a way that is incredibly relatable but also that reflects her down to earth personality. She has a wide range of stories and even if you don't know about her, I highly recommend picking it up. She talks about so many things that can be applied to every day life, regardless of what stage you are at in your life. Definitely one of my favorite memoirs with the perfect dash of humor laced with it.

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

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

Find Anna on the internet: Website | Youtube | Twitter | Instagram 

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Review: Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan

Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan
(Book #3 in The Crazy Rich Asians series) 

Publishing Date: May 23, 2017
Publisher: Doubleday Canada
Pages: 416
Asian American Fiction / Contemporary

** This is the sequel to the second book China Rich Girlfriend, which you can read my review for here. You can read this book as a stand-alone if you wish, but I recommend reading the first two books in the series beforehand to have more context and background to certain characters **

The Premise from the Publisher: "When Nicholas Young hears that his grandmother, Su Yi, is on her deathbed, he rushes to be by her bedside--but he's not alone. It seems the entire Shang-Young clan has convened from all corners of the globe, ostensibly to care for their matriarch, but truly to stake claim on the massive fortune that Su Yi controls. With each family member secretly fantasizing about getting the keys to Tyersall Park--a trophy estate on 64 prime acres in the heart of Singapore--the place becomes a hotbed of intrigue and Nicholas finds himself blocked from entering the premises. As relatives claw over heirlooms, Astrid Leong finds herself at the center of her own storm, desperately in love with her old sweetheart Charlie Wu, but tormented by his ex-wife--a woman hell-bent on destroying Astrid's reputation and relationship. Meanwhile Kitty Pong, married to billionaire Jack Bing and determined to raise their son more lavishly than a future king, finds a formidable opponent in his fashionista daughter, Colette.  A sweeping novel that takes us from the elegantly-appointed mansions of Manila to the secluded private islands in the Sulu Sea, from a schoolyard kidnapping to a gold leaf dancefloor spattered with blood, Kevin Kwan's gloriously wicked new novel reveals the long-buried secrets and rich people problems of Asia's most privileged families" (Doubleday). 

My overall thoughts and review: It honestly feels like we've been waiting a lifetime for Kevin Kwan's final installment of the Crazy Rich Asians series and when it finally arrived, I must admit, I took my sweet time reading it because I wanted to live in denial that it was not going to be over. I have loved the characters so much over the course of the last two books, and even more so as we get casting news for the upcoming movie adaptation. What I love most is that you really don't have to re-read the previous books to remember things. Kwan's writing is incredibly immersive and you find yourself back in the world, not missing a beat. Similar to his other books, Kwan includes the same format of news articles, text messages, and my favorite: footnotes! I really loved this component and I wish more authors did it because it felt like Kwan was engaging with the reader directly. It still has the same style of writing where you feel you are in settings and sitting right next to the characters.

This book explores the entire family at the news of Su Yi's sickness and essentially everyone's thoughts of what will happen to her will/estate and most importantly, Tyersall Park. Since the previous book, Nick has not spoken to his grandma and they had a falling out because of his marriage with Rachel. This book still had Nick and Rachel relationship components in it, but I loved how it expanded to include flashbacks about Su Yi's life. I really felt like this book was about Su Yi and learning about her past really gave me a new appreciation for her character. You got to really learn how important she was to Nick when he was growing up and how the space of Tyersall Park, played a big role. I think the story wrapped things up quite nicely in terms of relationships. But at the end of the day, what Kwan has stressed again and again is that at the heart of it, his books speak about wealth in this particular culture and society. I was really happy to see great developments for Astrid (my favorite character). I felt like so many of her quotes perfectly encapsulate the concept of wealth in the book. Particularly: "The problem is that they all have too much money, and it's come so easily to them that they think they're bloody geniuses and so they are always right" (344)  and "To me, it's our wealth that puts us in the fortunate position of being able to do an enormous amount of good in the world, not hide from the world!" (382). We see a different range of how the characters approach the money and what they choose to do with it. From Eddie (who is incredibly frustrating but goodness, his scenes are hilarious), who plays up the good grandson act to ensure a future for not only his wife and children, but his parents too, to Kitty who drops millions at a time on specific art pieces to represent her status and value in society, and finally, to Alistair, who is simply happy to be left a small portion from Su Yi. Sure money definitely made things easier for certain characters in the book, but what I really admired was that Kwan showed us, sometimes money does not fix everything and it comes down to figuring yourself out, or in Su Yi's case, getting by on charm and luck. I'm incredibly sad to say goodbye to these characters that I have loved for this entire trilogy, but I'm excited for what is on the horizon. We have the movie adaptation coming up (who else is so ecstatic about the casting for Astrid and Charlie?) and I honestly cannot wait to see what Kwan writes next. If you are a fan of the series, you will not want to miss this finale. If you haven't started the series yet, what are you waiting for? A rollercoaster of a book that draws you into the wonderful world of Asia, good food, and couture is waiting!

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

Available for purchase at:

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

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Blog Tour: Saints and Misfits by S. K. Ali - Review and Author Q&A

Saints and Misfits by S. K. Ali 

Publishing Date: June 13, 2017
Publisher: Salaam Reads / Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Pages: 336
Young Adult Contemporary

The Premise from the Publisher: "Janna Yusuf knows a lot of people can’t figure out what to make of her…an Arab Indian-American hijabi teenager who is a Flannery O’Connor obsessed book nerd, aspiring photographer, and sometime graphic novelist is not exactly easy to put into a box. And Janna suddenly finds herself caring what people think. Or at least what a certain boy named Jeremy thinks. Not that she would ever date him—Muslim girls don’t date. Or they shouldn’t date. Or won’t? Janna is still working all this out. While her heart might be leading her in one direction, her mind is spinning in others. She is trying to decide what kind of person she wants to be, and what it means to be a saint, a misfit, or a monster. Except she knows a monster…one who happens to be parading around as a saint…Will she be the one to call him out on it? What will people in her tightknit Muslim community think of her then?" (SS).

My overall thoughts and review: I've had a lovely pleasure of meeting S.K. Ali a few times now (with bookish events at Simon), and one thing she has said about her book really stuck with me: "It is a Muslim girl power book, but it isn't "the" Muslim girl power book." I just loved that so much. For those of you that don't know, Saints and Misfits is the first YA contemporary read with a female protagonist in Simon and Schuster's newest imprint 'Salaam Reads' - what this imprint is attempting to do is incredibly moving and we really need more voices like that in literature today. When the team was pitching it to me at a blogger preview, I was instantly intrigued and knew I wanted to read it immediately. I love books that incorporate more diversity and offer the reader an authentic depiction of different cultures. I took a South Asian Womanhood grad course that introduced me to various religions, but in terms of Muslim culture, I still have a lot to learn. Ali's text was a nice introduction into that and Ali answered so many questions about certain cultural practices that I always wondered about.

The text follows Janna Yusuf who is a hijabi teenager (Ali touches on the meanings of the hijabi which I really appreciated learning more about) and some of the struggles she is dealing with. She was sexually assaulted by someone that the community sees as a saint (Farooq) and everywhere she turns, she is finding herself faced with him when all she wants to do is forget and move on. Ali mentioned that she handles this in a bit more of a lighthearted way, in comparison to how other texts may tackle this topic. Even though she doesn't offer incredibly raw and vivid details, I found it incredibly authentic in terms of how she wrote about Janna's inner struggle. You can see that this event really broke her in some moments and Ali touches on the important aspect of shame that victims can sometimes feel after an event like this. I liked how Ali handled getting Janna justice and having her face him. This part of the text introduced a character that I absolutely loved: Sausun, who helps Janna plan a way to confront Farooq. Sausun's character wears a niqab and she is incredibly colorful character who is not afraid to tell you how it is. I learned about the abaya and niqab and overall, I just loved how clothing was such an important component to the text. The text also mentions the birkini at the beginning when Janna is visiting her father.

The text has a really fun component and that is the advice column which Janna helps with filtering questions. Readers write in with their questions to Iman/Amu and he writes back (Janna's uncle), I loved how this part really answered some misconceptions some may have about Muslim culture but also gave Janna an opportunity to find answers in a manner that felt safe to her. Janna develops a crush on a non-Muslim boy at school named Jeremy (sidenote: my boyfriend's name is Jeremy so this was a nice little connection I had with the book, because we are from different cultures and as a biracial couple, there were some things I really empathized with) and she writes to Iman asking what to do when you fall for someone from a different culture. I just loved the way Amu handled each question and this component was placed in a bunch of chapters. Overall, I can't say enough good things about the text. It is a wonderful coming of age story that gives you a look into Muslim culture and it tackles issues of consent, family, friendship, and community. I'm so excited to see what Ali writes next!

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

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

Author Question & Answers
1. What was the inspiration for Saints & Misfits? 
One of the inspirations was the diversity inherent in our everyday lives (not just cultural diversity but diversities in personalities, tastes etc.) and the diversity in the Muslim community, in particular. I wanted to tell a story with nuance because that’s what was missing in many of the news stories featuring Muslims. I also knew my story had to be a girl-power story because I love reading those myself and because we need more intersectional girl-power books. 
 2. Which character would you say, you are most like? 
In some ways, I’m like Janna in that I’m observant of what’s going on around me but I don’t really show it completely. I also understand Janna’s mom too too much as I was a single mom raising kids on my own as well – someone who forgot to make time for herself. I wish I could say I was like Sausun! (But I’m content to know a lot of Sausuns!)
3. Can you talk a bit about writing about assault and the difficulties you may have found navigating that area? 
True, the assault scene was difficult to navigate but I found myself writing it in a stream-of-consciousness style. It made sense for such an emotional scene but I was worried it wouldn’t make sense (especially since it was a change in style) so I had a few friends read it before I moved on with the story. The input I got was that it really got across the chilling nature of what had occurred, so I decided to keep it that way.
Also, originally the scene was later on (closer to the middle) and I had Janna alluding to it…but then I didn’t want the actual assault to be the focus (with readers being compelled to read only to see what had happened to her) so I moved it earlier, to the second chapter. I wanted the focus to be on Janna’s journey to finding her voice.
4. If you could ask Iman/Amu a question right now, what would it be?
I would ask him if he could answer all my questions at the best cupcake cafe in town, Soliloquy’s, over masala chai. Then I’d barrage him with my Can Muslims…? queries while he answered in proper diction wearing a huge cupcake mustache.
5. What are you currently working on post-Saints & Misfits? 
LOVE. A YA contemporary featuring Muslim love set during a grad trip abroad is what I’m working on right now. It’s so much fun because the characters are one of a kind and I’m already in love with each one. 
Thank you so much for answering these questions, S.K. Ali! Be sure to check out the other stops on the blog tour for more content about for Saints & Misfits

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.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Blog Tour: Our Little Secret by Roz Nay - Review and Author Q&A

Our Little Secret by Roz Nay 

Publishing Date: June 6, 2017
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Pages: 256
Psychological Thriller / Mystery

The Premise from the Publisher: "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).

My overall thoughts and review: To begin with, I like to pride myself on the fact that I read quite a lot of psychological thrillers. Whatever is new and released, I usually pick it up. I love a good thrilling read and I also love guessing the "outcome" of the text. I will have to admit, the last few thrillers I've read this year, have been a bit lack luster, since I've been able to figure out the outcome and "villain" so to speak, quite early on. I also wasn't dazzled by any turns in other thriller books I've read recently, so when a book comes along like this one, that completely blows me away... I'm incredibly impressed. I also watch a ton of crime television, so I think my deducting skills are quite good at this point :P and when a book just is able to "trick" me in a certain way, and have me thinking I know what's going on and pull the rug from under my feet, I'm just in awe. That is what happened with this book. I've already recommended it to a handful of people and I immediately staff-picked it at work. For a small book, it packs a big punch! It follows the character Angela, who is being held in an interrogation room by Detective Novak. They have a bit of a cat and mouse dynamic which is reminiscent of Luther and Alice in the TV series, Luther. The crime isn't quite clear from the beginning so it builds the suspense, and to understand the real narrative, Angela tells Novak that she must start at the beginning. The beginning of her story with her ex, HP. What the reader learns is that HP and Angela had an incredibly intense first-love romance. It was an all consuming kind of love and as the reader, I really felt like they were endgame. Nothing could come between them. Obviously that isn't the case. In some moments, you really feel for Angela and the situation she's in, but other moments, it's really hard to feel sorry for her. It is such a twisty narrative because you flip back and forth with feeling empathy and rage for certain characters. But the way Nay wrote about highschool relationships and friendships felt so real to me, and incredibly authentic, which I really appreciated. So many secrets are revealed and just learning how things got to a certain point is fascinating. I honestly could not put the book down because I was so intrigued. I know I always say this, but I find it really hard to write reviews for books I really loved. I can't say enough good things about it, but at the same time, I don't want to say too much without spoiling it. It is a short book which is impressive since Nay is able to build a really strong sense of character and world-building in 256 pages. I also got the lovely opportunity of meeting Nay at a book event where she shared with us readers that the book had a different victim and different crime to begin with, which is super cool. All in all, I LOVED this book. I'm so impressed with it and I'm already sitting at the edge of my seat waiting to see what Nay writes next. Please do yourself a favor and pick up this book. Whether you are a fan of psychological thrillers or not, you will not regret it. It is a truly wonderful debut!

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

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

A jar of manifestations that was sent along with the book by Simon & Schuster. 

Author Questions and Answers

1) What was the inspiration behind Our Little Secret?
I wanted to write a tender love story, set at a golden time, and blend it with the kind of obsession that can come from getting stuck in the past, or being aggrieved in the present. I used to teach high school, so I think a lot of the inspiration came from the powerful sense of potential that all eighteen-year-olds have. I wanted to turn that and make it darker.
2) Which character would you say, you are most like?
I’m quite laid-back like HP; I like the finer things in life like Freddy; I try to be kind and grateful like Saskia. But honestly, I’m probably mostly Angela. With one obvious exception.
3) What do you hope your readers take away from the book?
I hope I’ve twisted and turned them, and made them question everything they thought they’d understood. It’s a little book, but my hope is it presents a world that readers can get lost in for a few days.
4) Since your book falls into the category of thrillers... what thrilling books have you read recently and loved?
I’m a huge Harriet Lane fan—I think she writes so well. I read Her recently and still think about it. I loved Jessica Knoll’s Luckiest Girl Alive, Emma Cline’s The Girls and Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven. I’ll read everything these writers create.
5) Roz, this is a fantastic debut novel. What advice do you have for aspiring writers who hope to publish one day?
I think the key is just to keep writing and not worry about who is going to like it or not like it or read it or criticize it. The best, purest stage of writing a novel is when it’s just you and your laptop and you don’t have to worry about all the other stuff. I think if you hold yourself to high standards and write because you’re enjoying the language of it, the rest will come. You have to believe!
Thank you so much, Roz, for stopping by and answering the questions! Be sure to stop by the other blogs for more blog tour content! :D 

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

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Review: The Fish Eyes Trilogy by Anita Majumdar

The Fish Eyes Trilogy by Anita Majumdar; Illustrated by Maria Nguyen

Publishing Date: February 22, 2016
Publisher: Playwrights Canada Press/Banff Centre Press
Pages: 128

The Premise from the Publisher: "Fish Eyes is the story of Meena, a classically trained Indian dancer who, despite being obsessed with Bollywood movies and her dance career, just wants to be like the rest of her high-school friends. When she develops a massive crush on Buddy, the popular boy at school, Meena contemplates turning down an incredible opportunity to pursue him, even if he barely notices her. Boys With Cars follows Naz, also a classically trained Indian dancer, who dreams of getting out of small town Port Moody to attend the University of British Columbia. But when Buddy causes a stir over Naz at school, Naz’s university plans begin to crumble quickly. Let Me Borrow That Top centres on Candice, a girl who appropriates Meena’s Indian dance skills and bullies Naz after a nasty rumour spreads through the halls of their high school. But like her two enemies, Candice shares a passion for Indian dancing, and has just been accepted to the Conventry School of Bhangra. Will she leave behind the comforts of home to pursue her dreams?" (PCP)

My overall thoughts and review: I was browsing BookExpo at Congress 2017, and I came across the Playwrights Canada Press booth, where my lovely friend, Jessica, was working. We got to talking about my research interests since I was there presenting a paper. For those of you that don't know, I've worked on a few projects looking at consent and trauma. Authors that address it and handle it in a good way have a special place in my heart. I've always believed that we should draw attention to issues regarding consent and bring it into discussion so that we can prevent issues like that. Jess recommended this trilogy of three plays which follows three different female characters and one of the plays has a case of sexual assault and consent. The stories incorporate Indian dance which is something I'm unfamiliar with and was glad to learn about and there are illustrations done by Maria Nguyen. The illustrations were a nice touch to go alongside the play because some of them include the dance moves. I'm going to review them in the other that they appear in the text.

Fish Eyes was definitely my favorite of the three. I found myself relating to Meena a lot, with the struggle of doing what you want and what you have to do. She has a crush on Buddy which gets in the way of her relationship with her dance teacher, Kalyani Aunty. It was really nice to see the parallels between Meena and Kalyani and how they both experienced love and disappointment. In the end, it wrapped up quite nicely. One aspect that definitely made me cringe and uncomfortable was the character of Candice and how she would appropriate Indian-culture. What Majumdar presents is real and there are people that appropriate different cultures and that is extremely problematic. I liked that Meena did not stand for that. I'll get back to the Candice character shortly.

Boys With Cars follows Naz who wants to escape to UBC, but falls in love with a character named Lucky along the way. What Majumdar does that is incredibly unique is that across the three plays, the characters stay the same? Whereas, the next play is about a character that runs in the same circle, so to speak. Lucky is best friends with Buddy, who is Candice' boyfriend. The story follows Naz after an event that rocks her to the core. At a dance event, while Candice is performing, Buddy grabs Naz's hand and places it on himself during an event. What happens after is Candice bullying Naz for "going after Buddy" and Lucky lashes out and does not want to hear Naz's side of the story. The play once again gives us a series of events that feel really "real" and authentic to the situation. Naz takes control of the situation in the end and fights back in her own way which I really appreciated. But the feelings of self-doubt in her apology to Lucky, about how she should've done more felt incredibly authentic because the victim in some cases may often blame themselves which is really unfortunate. It definitely made me sad to see how Lucky reacted to the situation and it pissed me off even more that Buddy faced no consequences for his actions.

Let Me Borrow That Top follows Candice, the girl who was trying to appropriate dance culture and also bullied Naz incessantly. There's an authors note that states this play should never be performed in isolation and I would say the same can be said for when reading it. You have to read it in order to get a full sense of each and every character. I know that this play was meant to give some ~humanity~ to Candice and show her struggles as a character. You see her presenting a make-up tutorial for her youtube viewers while talking about the events. She is holding up a pregnancy test while telling her viewers that she broke up with Buddy and has aspirations to attend the Coventry School of Bhangra dance. The reader learns a few things regarding Candice's sister and Buddy, and you see her struggle between choosing her future, or if it is already chosen for her. I did not like Candice even by the end of this, but I did appreciate the way she handled Buddy and stuck it to him at the dance.

Overall, I really did enjoy this trilogy of three plays. I liked how it was done in a unique way, where it wove together various narratives within the same environment. I liked that you really got a sense of a character's voice through every play. Each play explores the struggles each girls face in terms of future and love. Also, I really appreciated how the author handled the issue of consent and sexual assault in the second play. If you are a fan of female coming-of-age stories, I would definitely recommend this trilogy of plays!

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

Available for purchase at:
Playwrights Canada PressChapters/IndigoKobo Books, and Amazon 

Disclaimer: A copy of the play was sent by Playwrights Canada Press in exchange for an honest review. All opinions of the book are my own.