Saturday, May 31, 2014

Me on This Week's Book Week (105)

This Week's Book Week is rather similar to Stacking the Shelves hosted by Tynga's Reviews only with far more rambling and a less witty title. ;)

Yay, I'm back! :) I feel better than I did at the end of last week. I might not have read the whole week like I wanted to, but I do feel better.

VanCAF was really cool. It was fun meeting the artists behind the comics and webcomics I like. I only ended up going on the Saturday. I would've loved to go back for the Sunday and wander around again, but then I would've wanted to buy lots more prints and comics. *sigh* But now that I've been, I've already made the decision to go back next year. :) If you've at all interested in what I picked up at VanCAF, I posted pictures of my haul over of Tumblr.

Reviews for the coming week will feature While We Run by Karen Healey (Tuesday) and The Strange Maid by Tessa Gratton (Friday). :)
Idols by Margaret Stohl (from Hachette Book Group Canada)
Illusive by Emily Lloyd-Jones (from Hachette Book Group Canada)
Hexed by Michelle Krys (from Random House Canada)
Rain by Amanda Sun (from Harlequin through NetGalley)
Crushed by Eliza Crewe (from Strange Chemistry through NetGalley)
City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare (bought)
While We Run by Karen Healey (e-book borrowed from the library)
Royally Lost by Angie Stanton (e-book borrowed from library)
The Cabinet of Curiosities by Stefan Bachmann, Katherine Catmull, Claire Legrand, & Emma Trevayne (e-book borrowed from library)

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Me on This Week's Book Week (104)

This Week's Book Week is rather similar to Stacking the Shelves hosted by Tynga's Reviews only with far more rambling and a less witty title. ;)

So, it might be the weird tired feeling or the migraine that popped up on Friday, or maybe just blogger's burnout, but there won't be any new posts next week. I need to have one of those 'read a book every day' weeks to make me feel better, and to build up my review buffer, so I'll be taking next week off.

In happier news, I'm going to be all social this weekend and head out to VanCAF, the Vancouver Comic Arts Festival. It's like TCAF, but smaller and in Vancouver. I'm excited because a bunch of comic and webcomic artists that I like will be there, with comics to sell of course, but I'm also nervous like with any social thing where I'm meeting people for the first time. But I'm going and that's that. ;) Maybe I'll do some kind of write-up thing over on Tumblr. With pictures. You all know how rubbish I am at taking pictures at events.
Unravel by Imogen Howson (from Simon & Schuster Canada)
Extraction by Stephanie Diaz (from St. Martin's Griffin through NetGalley)

Friday, May 23, 2014

Me on Guy in Real Life

Title: Guy in Real Life
Author: Steve Brezenoff
Release Date: May 27, 2014
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins imprint)

It is Labor Day weekend in St. Paul, Minnesota, and a boy and girl collide on a dark street at two thirty in the morning. Lesh, who wears black, listens to metal, and is new to MMOs; and Svetlana, who embroiders her skirts, listens to Björk and Berlioz, and dungeon masters her own RPG. They should pick themselves up, continue on their way, and never talk to each other again. But they don't. This is a story of two people who do not belong in each other's lives, who find each other at a time when they desperately need someone who doesn't belong in their lives.

Guy in Real Life is entertaining and thoughtful, filled with great characters and a fair amount of gamer culture. But hopefully that doesn't scare away any non-gamers.

In this book the reader meets Lesh, maybe a little withdrawn, but maybe that's all the black clothes and the heavy metal. The reader also meets Svetlana, vaguely hippie-ish but extremely creative and artistic and comes across as random who a lot of people don't understand. They have their similarities, mostly that their parents don't quite understand them and want them to be not who they currently are. Their collision starts something, starts this weird journey through forests and graveyards. I liked that there was so much character development, that I could see them changing in different ways, figuring things out, figuring themselves out as the book went on. I also liked the chapters narrated by Lesh's RPG character, it was an interesting glimpse into the game.

The book isn't all about gaming, not completely packed with MMO terms and 20-sided dice jokes, but it is about two characters who game, one online and one with an in-person group. It's something they're interested in, something they're passionate about. Something they look forward to after a long day of school, parents, and real life pressure. And I love that. It doesn't have to be games, it could be art or music or sports. It's the enjoyment they get out of taking part it in that makes them feel realistic.

Roleplaying is a curious thing. It gives us the chance to be someone else, to live a different life, often a life filled with magic and monsters, with quests and heroes and dragons hoarding gold in dark caves. But it's not just in games that we put on a costume and pretend to be someone else. We do it at school, at work, in the grocery store, at the mall. We do it constantly in order to portray a role in front of others. It's who we want to be, or who we think we want to be, or who others want us to be. But showing people who we really are? That's so much harder.

I think this book says a lot about identity, about the ways in which we figure out who we want to be at different times. About the little things we see in other people that make us think about who we want to be instead of who we are at that moment. I hope that people who aren't into gaming, video or tabletop, give this book a read. I found this interesting, a little more serious than I was expecting, and a great book about two teens meeting by chance and what follows. The good and the bad, the raiding and the trolls. The adventure.

(I received an advance copy of this title to review from HarperCollins Canada.)

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Me on Waiting on Wednesday (179)

Waiting on Wednesday is a bunch of weekly fun hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. :)

Title: Fan Art
Author: Sarah Tregay
Release Date: June 17, 2014
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins imprint)

From Goodreads:

When the picture tells the story…

Senior year is almost over, and Jamie Peterson has a big problem. Not college—that’s all set. Not prom—he’ll find a date somehow. No, it’s the worst problem of all: he’s fallen for his best friend.

As much as Jamie tries to keep it under wraps, everyone seems to know where his affections lie, and the giggling girls in art class are determined to help Jamie get together with Mason. But Jamie isn’t sure if that’s what he wants—because as much as Jamie would like to come clean to Mason, what if the truth ruins everything? What if there are no more road trips, taco dinners, or movie nights? Does he dare risk a childhood friendship for romance?

This book is about what happens when a picture reveals what we can’t say, when art is truer than life, and how falling in love is easy, except when it’s not. Fan Art explores the joys and pains of friendship, of pressing boundaries, and how facing our worst fears can sometimes lead us to what we want most.

This sounds so sweet and hopefully fun. :)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Me on Since You've Been Gone

Title: Since You've Been Gone
Author: Morgan Matson
Release Date: May 6, 2014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

The Pre-Sloane Emily didn't go to parties, she barely talked to guys, she didn't do anything crazy. Enter Sloane, social tornado and the best kind of best friend, the one who yanks you out of your shell. But right before what should have been an epic summer, Sloane just disappears. No note. No calls. No texts. No Sloane. There's just a random to-do list. On it, thirteen Sloane-selected-definitely-bizarre-tasks that Emily would never try, unless they could lead back to her best friend. Apple Picking at Night? Ok, easy enough. Dance until Dawn? Sure. Why not? Kiss a Stranger? Wait... what? Getting through Sloane's list would mean a lot of firsts. But Emily has this whole unexpected summer ahead of her, and the help of Frank Porter (totally unexpected) to check things off. Who knows what she'll find? Go Skinny Dipping? Um...

Since You've Been Gone is a summer of experiences and excitement, of learning and loss and love, of friendship. In the beginning, Emily is lost, unsure of how to navigate life after years of Sloane dragging her around, providing fun and support, but thankfully, Sloane has a plan for her.

At the beginning of the book, Emily has almost no personality. Without Sloane, the best friend she's ever had, she's aimless, drifting, and unsure of what to do next. It seems that Emily only knows how to define herself by being with Sloane, and without her, without that security blanket her best friend provides, Emily isn't much of anything. But then the list arrives. But then the whole summer happens. The whole point of Sloane's list for Emily seems to be to pull her out of herself and experience life. Not that she never did with Sloane, but on her own. Actually experiencing and not just witnessing.

Friendships can make or break your teenage years. Without having someone close to you, someone always by your side in your corner for when things get rough (and vice versa), those years of high school, of awkwardness and angst and crushes can be lonely. Emily is lucky to have has Sloane as a friend, and after she disappears, she still has her. Only now she's a list of daring and frightening tasks for Emily to complete. So it's like she's still there, talking with Emily when things are hard, laughing with her, but it's not enough. Fortunately for Emily, she comes across some others who are like her, teens spending the summer drifting, trying to figure things out. Being alone sucks, but friends will always make it better.

I don't read a lot of contemporary YA, but when I do this is what I turn to. It's a fun book, it explores that weird part of teenage life that's discovering who you are, challenging yourself, making friends, searching for what's familiar while experiencing what's new. It wasn't heavy or depressing (not that I'm putting down dark and depressing contemporary YA, they're just not what I'm into). This is a summer of self-exploration for Emily, one I enjoyed more than I thought I would.

(I received an advance copy of this title to review from Simon & Schuster Canada.)

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Me on This Week's Book Week (103)

This Week's Book Week is rather similar to Stacking the Shelves hosted by Tynga's Reviews only with far more rambling and a less witty title. ;)

I hope everyone enjoyed the Canadian YA Lit Event this year. :) There's still a giveaway going on so make sure you enter before the end of Tuesday for a chance to win a Canadian-authored YA title of your choice.

Not exactly YA- or book-related, but I'll be checking out VanCAF next weekend. It's kind of like the Toronto version, TCAF, in that it's all about comic artists and creators and a chance for people to come by and support them and their work by buying books and prints, but it's not like TCAF in that it's not affiliated and is not as big and famous. But it's nearby and a bunch of artists whose webcomics I like will be there, so that's fun. :)

Reviews for the coming week will feature Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson (Tuesday) and Guy in Real Life by Steve Brezenoff (Friday). :)
(Don't You) Forget About Me by Kate Karyus Quinn (from HarperCollins Canada)
Rabbit Ears by Maggie deVries (from HarperCollins Canada)
Idols by Margaret Stohl (e-galley)
Fearsome Dreamer by Laure Eve (borrowed from library)

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Day 14: My Thoughts

Day 14. It's almost over, but, as always, I leave you with some thoughts cobbled together from the pieces of my rather book-centric brain. :)

I wanted to talk about something practical this year, something important. Something that made me think. Something rather recent. Diversity in YA would've been a great topic, it is a great topic, we need diverse books to be read more and discussed more and published more and promoted more. But I felt that if I talked about diversity, I would be talking while everyone around me is screaming. So many other bloggers and authors have discussed the desire for diversity far more eloquently and passionately than I ever could, and so I would suggest you go read their words (like those of Malinda Lo, Cindy Pon, Ellen Oh, #WeNeedDiverseBooks on Twitter, and many many others).

This year, I thought about the practice of banning books. Which is curious because it's just not done here.

Except for recently, when a father from Kamloops, BC went to his teenage son's school district and demanded they ban The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky because "students in Grade 10 shouldn't be reading a book with contents this vulgar" (quoted from this article by the CBC, March 26 2014). The article ends with the news that the man's son was given a different book to study.

I remember Twitter sort of exploding (because it's Canada) when this story broke. It just sounded so ludicrous. Banning books? In Canada? In 2014? Really?? There were more than a few tweets from people who said something along the lines of "but it's a great book" or "this guy's nuts" or "no Bible for his family, then" or "no way, that book saved me in high school."

Apparently, on April 28, a decision was made by the Kamloops School District in regards to the request (read, demand) to have The Perks of Being a Wallflower banned. I discovered yesterday in a new article that they decided not to ban the book, good for them, but that the father won't stop and will consider legal action. He considers Perks to be pornography. ... I think he needs someone to define pornography for him, because I don't think this book is it.

In Grade 11, my English class read Show Falling on Cedars by David Guterson, because my English teacher didn't like Lord of the Flies. It was fine with me, Flies didn't sound interesting. Have you read Snow Falling on Cedars? There's swearing, there's violence (both in and out of war), there's racism, and there's a fair amount of sex. But I don't remember it being a big deal. It was a novel study. It just was. Like reading Shakespeare, or that short story The Lottery where the woman gets stoned at the end.

I just find book banning to be so outdated, like we've traveled back in time to the Middle Ages. It's so restrictive and filled with fear and hatred and bigotry. I don't think I was ever told to not read a book because it might contain violence, swearing, sex, rape, or drug abuse. I think it was because my parents knew me, and they knew that I knew that, while whatever happened in the pages of a book wasn't real, some of the events could happen, and it was up to me to learn from that.

I don't know how I would've felt if I'd been told to not read a book because of its contents. I think I would've been really confused and sad, and asked why. Book are meant to share, to teach, to escape and experience through a different pair of eyes, touch through a different pair of hands. Banning books feels like cutting off a limb.

I'm sure most of you have heard of the recent banning of Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian in Idaho and the subsequent absolutely awesome actions of local teens to hand out free copies of the book only to get tattled on to some rather confused cops. Those teens were awesome to do that. And those parents who called the cops? I have to wonder what else they would take offence to.

There is a page on Wikipedia titled "Book censorship in Canada." It says, quote, "Banning books is not a common practice in Canada at the current time." It is then followed by a list of seven books once banned at one point by various levels of Canadian government. SEVEN. I'm surprised it got all the way up to seven, really. I checked and I think one of those books is still banned, classified as "hate literature" by the government.

In Canada, we have Freedom to Read Week. This year it ran from February 23 to March 1. 2014 was the 30th year of Freedom to Read Week. Banning books isn't done a lot in Canada, but I love that we still speak out against it.

I think that's why I always get confused when I heard about a book being challenged or banned in the US or in a different country, because it just doesn't happen here. And when it does come up in the news, it just sounds wrong, like it's a news story about a pig learning to fly a spaceship. It just doesn't make sense to me.

What are your thoughts on banning books? What do you think about how it's very rarely done in Canada?

Me on Waiting on Wednesday (178)

Waiting on Wednesday is a bunch of weekly fun hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. :)

Title: Winterkill
Author: Kate A. Boorman
Release Date: September 9, 2014
Publisher: Amulet Books (Abrams imprint)

From Goodreads:

Emmeline knows the woods outside her settlement are forbidden. The mysterious enemy that wiped out half her people lurks there, keeping them isolated in an unfamiliar land with merciless winters. 

Living with the shame of her grandmother's insubordination, Emmeline has learned to keep her head down and her quick tongue silent. When the settlement leader asks for her hand in marriage, it's a rare opportunity to wash the family stain clean--even if she has eyes for another. But before she is forced into an impossible decision, her dreams urge her out to the woods, where she finds a path she can't help but follow. The trail leads to a secret that someone in the settlement will kill to protect. Her grandmother went down that path and paid the price.

If Emmeline isn't careful, she will be next.

Slightly cheating because Kate was wonderful and send me a review copy, but I wanted to feature this because it's only sort of described in Kate's guest post from yesterday.

This sounds rather haunting and creepy, and I'm really curious as to what Emmeline will come across. It sounds a bit like Sorrow's Knot and a bit like The Forest of Hands & Teeth but I don't know what the dead people quotient will be.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Day 13: Kate A. Boorman

Day 13. Today's post is like a sneak-peek into an upcoming book, because it's not out until September. :)

Kate A. Boorman is a writer from the Canadian prairies. She was born in Nepal and grew up in the small town of Rimbey, where she developed a fondness for winter. Kate has a MA in Dramatic Critical Theory and a resume full of an assortment of jobs from florist to qualitative research associate. She lives in Edmonton, Alberta with her family, and spends her free time sitting under starry skies with her friends and scheming up travel to faraway lands. WINTERKILL is her first novel. You can find her on her website or on Twitter (@KateBoorman).

I've read that a distinguishing motif in Canadian literature is our relationship with our physical environment. If it's true that Canadians have a preoccupation with our landscape and climate, I have to assume it has something to do with us knowing, deep down, that we are at its complete and total mercy. 

Does that sound melodramatic? Maybe a bit. Actually, as I sit here in my t-shirt, staring out the window at the snow-caked streets, eating a pineapple from Hawaii, that statement feels totally over the top. It's pretty easy to convince myself that my existence relies mostly on my internet provider.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Day 12: Capricious

Day 12. It's a review day. If you haven't read this and its predecessor Capricious, and you have an undying love of verse novels, then you should really read this. ;)

Title: Capricious
Author: Gabrielle Prendergast
Release Date: April 1, 2014
Publisher: Orca Book Publishers

Ella's grade eleven year was a disaster, but as summer approaches, things are looking up. She's back together with her brooding boyfriend, Samir, although they both want to keep that a secret. She's also best buddies with David and still not entirely sure about making him boyfriend number two. Though part of her wants to conform to high school norms, the temptation to be radical is just too great. Managing two secret boyfriends proves harder than Ella expected, especially when Samir and David face separate family crises, and Ella finds herself at the center of an emotional maelstrom. Someone will get hurt. Someone risks losing true love. Someone might finally learn that self-serving actions can have public consequences. And that someone is Ella.

Capricious is honest, expressive, and emotional. This is what I imagine when I think of the hardships and terrible times, the jealousies and slurs of the teenage years. This is the struggle to find the balance between who we want to be and who the world wants us to be, straddling the line and trying to keep from falling to the ground.

Ella, Raphaelle, is explosive, controversial, and opinionated, and I would have her no other way. Her individuality is what breathes life into this book. Her desires, her sadness, her fears, her dreams and nightmares. She is the explosion at the centre, painful and impossible to look away from. She continues to try and find her place in life, continues to test bits and pieces in order to piece together who she is. Her family continues to not understand her, her classmates continue to find her overwhelming, and the boys in her life continue to find her appealing. But she thinks that having two boyfriends could be interesting, could be just the thing to do now after everything blew up in her face in the previous book.

By keeping both Samir and David and secret kind of maybe boyfriends, Ella receives a number of things. With them, she can be different. She can be closer to who she wants to be. But life is never easy like that. Life does not often forgive those who choose to be audacious.

What I love about verse novels is how they are both sparse and expressive. Every word has a purpose, has meaning, but only so many words are given to the reader in order to tell the story. Less words for such a large story. And it works as it did with Audacious. Ella's pain and confusion coat each and every page.

What does it mean to be capricious? To be subject to an odd notion or unpredictable change, to be erratic. But what can we be as teenagers if not capricious, if not audacious? Are we supposed to know, by glorious miracle, how to act what to wear how to speak where to work so we don't make mistakes? No, we're not. This book is filled with experiences good and bad, lovely and painful, and it's supposed to be. Ella is supposed to be audacious, capricious, adventurous, impudent, daring, foolish. Because Ella can do anything.

(I received an e-galley of this title from Orca Book Publishers.)

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Day 11: Michelle Krys

Day 11. More Q&A's with debut authors! :) And this time, witches! :)

Michelle Krys lives in Northwestern Ontario with her husband and son and works part-time as a NICU nurse. She loves reading (duh), is a massive celebrity gossip junkie, loves music she can dance to and bad reality television, belly laughing, baby-breath, rainy days, and driving with the windows down (except on rainy days). She also loves smart humor but still laughs at fart jokes. Her debut YA, Hexed, comes out on June 10, 2014 with Random House, with the currently untitled sequel and separate standalone book Dead Girls Society set to follow in the future. You can find her at her website or on Twitter (@MichelleKrys). :)

Q: With Hexed coming out in June, do you think you're leaning more towards excited or nervous these days? Or is it more of a bizarre mixture of both? Do you have plans for release day or will it be just another normal day?

A: Definitely a bizarre mixture of both. After nearly two and a half years since signing the book deal, I'm overjoyed that the waiting is almost done. But at the same time, after all that build-up, there's a lot of pressure for the book to be incredible. That's nervous-making!

I'm traveling to Toronto for two days during release week to meet up with bloggers, which I'm really, really excited about. I don't have any plans for release day in particular, but judging by my missing ARCs and chapter samplers and my husband's sneaky smiles, he's definitely up to something.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Day 10: The Opposite of Geek

Day 10. Another review. :) This is actually set in the Lower Mainland/Vancouver-ish area, so a book to check out if you're looking for more YA authored by Canadians and set in Canada.

Title: The Opposite of Geek
Author: Ria Voros
Release Date: September 1, 2013
Publisher: Scholastic Canada

Gretchen Meyers doesn't know exactly what went wrong, but life in the eleventh grade is beginning to suck. As if having a semi-nudist, food-obsessed family wasn't awkward enough, she has lost her best friend to the fanatical school swim team, and her chemistry grade is so close to negative digits that only emergency tutoring can save it. So far, so high school. Then James/Dean rolls into her life, also known as her zit-faced chemistry tutor James and his slightly less zit-faced cousin Dean. Kind-hearted rebels without a cause, they draw Gretchen out of classroom hell, and briefly the world seems full of possibility. But everything changes over the course of one awful night. Bewildered by harsh new emotions of grief and love, Gretchen realizes she must now decide who she wants to be and what it means to be loyal.

The Opposite of Geek is emotional, rough, and complicated, all about what it means to be a friend to someone and what it means to be you. To be brave enough to stand up and be the person you want to be and not who others want you to be. To be brave enough to be different.

When the book starts, Gretchen feels her life is spiraling into a big pit of nothing, brought down by her strange family, her growing distant best friend, and her failing chemistry grade. In turn she becomes angry, maybe a little depressed, and she doesn't understand why this is happening to her. She's hit that spot, the one where you start figuring out what you want to do after high school, after college, and what you want doesn't necessarily match up with that plans you had before. Or your parents' plans for you. Or what your teachers are pushing you towards.

It doesn't help Gretchen's tumble into frustration with her parents over her future that her best friend suddenly (to Gretchen) has other interests. Has new friends. Would rather hang out with them. Friends come and go, it's one of those painful parts of life that we just can't avoid. But then James and Dean enter her life, two guys rather different from anyone she knows, two weird guys who give her the chance to escape. And she needs to escape. She needs fresh air, away from the pressure. In a way, they save her.

I found the writing style of the book, the mixture of poetry and prose, to be rather lyrical and expressive. Gretchen's voice is clear, honest, filled with her disappointment, sadness, and happiness. Everything she feels is there on the page for the reader to see. Maybe there were times when Gretchen headed towards whiny and annoying, when her teen angst felt over-done and exaggerated, but then isn't everything over-done and exaggerated when you're a teenager? Doesn't it always feel like the world will end when something doesn't work out? I would recommend this to contemporary YA readers looking for a little poetry with their prose and a lot of reality.

(I received a copy of this title from Scholastic Canada.)

Friday, May 9, 2014

Day 9: Danielle L. Jensen

Day 9. Are you a fan of instant fantasy with trolls and a couple who hates each other at the beginning? Then this is the first in a series for you. ;) And remember to read the whole post because Danielle is giving away a signed copy of her book! :)

Danielle L. Jensen was born and raised in Calgary, Alberta. At the insistence of the left side of her brain, she graduated in 2003 from the University of Calgary with a bachelor's degree in finance. But the right side of her brain has ever been mutinous; and in 2010, it sent her back to school to complete an entirely impractical English literature degree at Mount Royal University and to pursue publication. Much to her satisfaction, the right side shows no sign of relinquishing its domination. Her debut YA novel, Stolen Songbird, came out on April 1, 2014 from Strange Chemistry. The sequel Hidden Huntress is due to follow in 2015. You can find her at her blog or on Twitter (@dljensen_). :)

Q: Cécile is educated and trained as a singer, but she comes off as a bit average and not necessarily special. What I mean is, after she's inside the mountain with the trolls, the thing (in an attempt to avoid spoilers) they thought would happen didn't and she's left to struggle and work her way out of her situation. Was that your plan for Cécile from the start?

A: Gosh, doesn't it seem like everyone is special these days, both in life and in literature? As an adult reader that annoys me to no end, but I read some survey results the other day (don't ask me to find the link!) that indicated teens preferred to read about characters who are special. IMHO, I think that is a function of how western society values innate or natural gifts (beauty, genius, extreme talent) over that which is achieved by hard work and dedication. I think there is the idea out there that in order to achieve something extraordinary you yourself must be unique or special. Which is *&^%. Normal people accomplish incredible things everyday because they have good hearts and lots of determination. 

When I created Cécile, I wouldn't say I set out to make her average (she is certainly quite pretty & talented), but it was my intention to make her relatable. She has skills, attributes, and her own magic, but her successes are the result of pluck, bravery, and tenacity.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Day 8: Caroline Pignat

Day 8. And now you get the second part in today's two-part Unspeakable blog tour posting. Here, Caroline has provided a thoughtful post on what it means to be Canadian and what makes a story Canadian.

Caroline Pignat was born in Ireland but calls Canada home. Her first novel, Egghead, was shortlisted for the 2009 CLA Book of the Year and is recommended as a bullying resource by Kids Help Phone. Her second, Greener Grass, won the Govenor General's award in 2009. It was followed by Wild Geese and Timber Wolf. When not writing books, she's either still writing or teaching Writer's Craft. Her most recent book, Unspeakable, came out on May 6, 2014, with The Gospel Truth to release later this year. You can find her at her website or on Twitter (@CarolinePignat). :)

Who we are, what we have to say, and how we say it are all shaped by the cultures that have shaped us. For me, born in Ireland and raised in Canada, those experiences flavour every story I tell. And just like any flavour steeped into the whole, it can be hard to isolate. To be honest, I’ve never tried.

I am Irish. That voice is surely in my writing. I hear it in my Irish characters like Kit in GREENER GRASS or Ellie in UNSPEAKABLE as clearly as I hear it in my mother's voice. They sound just like Mom or Granny with their sharp wit or lilting laments. That flavour is as strong as Granny's tea.

But what flavour is Canadian, exactly?

Is there one?

Day 8: Unspeakable

Day 8. Both of today's posts are sort of doing double duty. As well as being part of this event, these posts are part of Penguin Canada's blog tour for Caroline Pignat's newest book, Unspeakable, the story of a young girl and her life after surviving the sinking of the Empress of Ireland in 1914. First, my review.

Title: Unspeakable
Author: Caroline Pignat
Release Date: May 6, 2014
Publisher: Razorbill Canada (Penguin Canada imprint)

On her first voyage as a stewardess aboard the Empress of Ireland, Ellie is drawn to the solitary fire stoker who stands by the ship's rail late at night, often writing in a journal. Jim. Ellie finds it hard to think of his name now. After their wonderful time in Quebec City, that awful night happened. The screams, the bodies, the frigid waters. She tries hard to tell herself that he survived, but it's hard to believe when so many didn't. So when Wyatt Steele, journalist at The New York Times asks her for her story, Ellie refuses. But when he shows her Jim's journal, she jumps at the chance to be able to read it herself, to find some trace of the man she had fallen in love with, or perhaps a clue to what happened to him. There's only one catch: she will have to tell her story to Steele and he'll "pay" her by giving her the journal, one page at a time.

Unspeakable is haunting, mysterious, and enchanting, anchored by a tragic historical event and a young woman's search for many things. This book is about survival, about moving on and standing tall, about finding your place, writing your story, even when life is hard and the future is bleak.

After it sinks, Ellie wants to forget her time aboard the Empress. She doesn't want to remember the pain of losing those she cared about. And she certainly doesn't want to talk about the circumstances which lead her to her employment on the ship, either. She's strong in that she's survived all these hardships and terrible times, but she seems tired. Tired of having to fight, of being alone, of being tossed aside. But she doesn't want to remember. She doesn't really want to do anything, until Wyatt Steele shows up and asks for her story.

Steele is relentless in his search for Ellie's story. He's as desperate as the reader, wanting to know the truth of what happened that night, how she survived, what she saw, and how she got there. Steele is like a conduit for the reader. It's only with his prodding and dealing with Ellie, their trades, that the reader discovers the truth. About the crash. About Jim. About Ellie and her mysterious past.

It's true that Jim's journal holds some secrets, revealing more pieces of a young man Ellie barely knew, but this book is all about Ellie. Her search for everything, really, and as the book goes on the story evolves, focusing more and more on what she was never ready to speak about until she was pushed in the right way.

I will admit to not knowing the story of the Empress of Ireland before reading this. Considering the story behind its last voyage, how more people died than on the Titanic, I'm surprised it's not talked about more. Perhaps because it wasn't the first sailing, or that it wasn't as grand, or any number of other reasons.

The moments in the past are often filled with heartache and sorrow but also with discovery and strength. We learn from hardship, even when we don't want to, when we're ready to give up. We learn how to pull ourselves up out of the darkness and back into the light, how to find our own paths to follow. That's what this is for Ellie. This is her chance to survive, to move on, to finally live her life. I would certainly recommend this to any historical YA fans or anyone looking for an emotional story.

(I received an advance copy of this title to review from Penguin Canada.)

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Day 7: E.K. Johnston

Day 7. More Q&A's! This time with dragons. Because dragons are cool. :) Also, we've reached the halfway point. Hopefully you've been enjoying the posts this year. Feel free to comment on the Q&A posts and reviews. And maybe comment on the intro/giveaway post with any suggestions for next year's event. :)

E.K. Johnston lives in the magical city (perhaps, you never know) of Waterloo, Ontario. She wears many hats, some of which include archaeologist, writer, reader, bookseller, wanderer, dreamer, Christian, and internet junkie. And frequent Tumblr-reblogger of The Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit, Iron Man/Captain America/Avengers, and Doctor Who gifs. Her debut YA, The Story of Owen, came out on April 1, 2014 from Carolrhoda Lab. You could find out more about Kate at her blog, but more often than not you can find her on Tumblr and on Twitter (@ek_johnston). :)

Q: One of the things I noticed most in The Story of Owen were the Canadian references, mainly because they would make me chuckle to myself every time. It feels like a very Canadian book. Was that your intention? As a Canadian author, is there pressure to write books set in Canada?

A: It was quite deliberate! I knew I wanted to set the book in Canada right out of the gate, and as I was writing what is now Chapter 2 (originally it was Chapter 1), and Siobhan and Owen have their O Canada! dilemma, I decided I was going to make it as Canadian as I possibly could. I didn't feel pressured to do that (in fact, I was a little worried that an editor might make me take out some of the Canadian things), but I do think that it's important to have teen books set in Canada. Often when I read an alternate history or a dystopia, I spend a lot of time wondering what's going on in Canada. I wanted more than crumbs and shout-outs in my book (much as I love crumbs and shout-outs, don't get me wrong!).

Me on Waiting on Wednesday (177)

Waiting on Wednesday is a bunch of weekly fun hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. :)

Title: The Shadow's Curse
Author: Amy McCulloch
Release Date: June 24, 2014
Publisher: Doubleday Canada (Random House Canada imprint)

From Goodreads:

A sequel to the action-packed The Oathbreaker's Shadow by debut Canadian YA author Amy McCulloch.

Raim is no closer to figuring out the meaning of the broken vow that sentenced him to exile for life. But with his former best friend now a tyrannical Khan who is holding the girl Raim loves captive, he finds it hard to care. Every day, he and Draikh learn more about their powers, but it quickly becomes clear that he will never be able to stop Khareh and free Wadi unless he can free himself from the ultimate taboo of his people. Reluctantly, Raim begins the long journey down to the dangerous South, to find the maker of his oath.

In Khareh's camp, Wadi is more than capable of devising her own escape plan, but she's gradually realizing she might not want to. The more she learns about Khareh, the more confused she becomes. He's done unquestionably bad things, horrific even, but he's got big dreams for Darhan that might improve their dire situation. What's more, rumours of a Southern king massing an army to invade Darhan are slowly gaining ground. Only if the Northern tribes can come together under a single ruler will they have the strength to fight the South - but what if that ruler is an impulsive (albeit brilliant) young man, barely able to control his ever-growing power, and missing the one part of him that might keep him sane?

Whoever conquers the desert, wins the war. And the secret to desert survival lies in Lazar, which is set to become the heart of a great battle once again.

I'm really looking forward to this. Usually, epic fantasy is hit or miss with me, and this is epic, but I found the first book really interesting, both the setting and the magic around oaths and promises. :)

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Day 6: Amy McCulloch

Day 6. Remember, not all Canadian YA authors currently live in Canada. :)

Amy McCulloch currently lives in the UK. Born in Kingston-upon-Thames, she and her family moved to Ottawa, Ontario when she was 11. There, she developed a love of all things geeky like science fairs, yearbooks, RPGs, and The Lord of the Rings. After graduating from the University of Toronto and traveling around the world, she headed back to London to work in publishing. She now works as an editorial director at Puffin UK. Even though she's now in the UK, she's still a proud Canadian. Her debut YA novel, The Oathbreaker's Shadow, came out in June 2013 in Canada and the UK, and is set to come out in the US in 2015. The second in The Knots Sequence duology, The Shadow's Curse, comes out June 24, 2014. You can find her at her blog and on Twitter (@amymcculloch). :)

Q: Your debut novel The Oathbreaker's Shadow came out almost a year ago, and now The Shadow's Curse releases some time this spring/summer. Is the excitement still there, seeing your name on books in stores and in reader's arms?

A: Oh my gosh, it's still so exciting! I hope that feeling never goes away. I think second books are always a bit nerve-wracking, as they’re often written on a very different timeline to your debut. This time I only had a year to pull it all together, whereas I had 7 years for the first! Although, that being said, the story had been percolating in my mind for a lot longer than a year – and it was so much fun to get it out of my head and onto the page.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Day 5: Boys Like You

Day 5. It's a review day today. And don't forget about the two week long giveaway. :)

Title: Boys Like You
Author: Juliana Stone
Release Date: May 6, 2014
Publisher: Sourcebooks

For Monroe Blackwell, one small mistake has torn her family apart, leaving her empty and broken. There's a hole in her heart that nothing can fill. That no one can fill. And a summer in Louisiana with her Grandma isn't going to change that. Nathan Everets knows heartache first-hand when a car accident leaves his best friend in a coma. And it’s his fault. He should be the one lying in the hospital. The one who will never play guitar again. He doesn't deserve forgiveness, and a court-appointed job at the Blackwell B&B isn't going to change that.

Boys Like You is an emotional tale of two broken teens and the pain that lingers in them. Both are searching but also avoiding, wallowing in the shadows, wishing they could turn back time and fix their mistakes.

Monroe is a bit rougher than I expected. I knew she would be sad, upset, filled with avoidance and weighed down by tragedy, but she doesn't feel fake. She's depressed and she's still mourning, but it felt believable. And she has attitude. Her sorrow, while being a big part of her story, doesn't overwhelm her completely. But she still runs from her pain, escaping New York and hiding in Louisiana

Nathan is in a similar situation but his feels more immediate. Instead of leaving and spending the summer away like Monroe, Nathan is in the same place, with the same people, unable to escape the pain he feels over the accident that left his friend in a coma. Escape is not an option for him, so he turns to avoidance, turns to anything that doesn't remind him of what happened, and conveniently there's Monroe who has that same pained look.

A lot of this book seems to be about mistakes and regret, about grief and blame. Both Monroe and Nathan have made mistakes, the dangerous, deeply emotional, will change your life forever kind of mistakes. And it weighs heavily on them. What they wouldn't give to go back and change that one moment when everything came crashing down. When they meet, when the realize that they've been through something similar, they don't quite jump at the chance to connect because they don't want to be in that same spot again. But they need each other, they need emotional support from someone both connected and distant, and that is what will help them accept and move on instead of stay in the same place.

There were times when I felt that things were a bit off, like how they kept focusing on what clothes the other was wearing, or how at the beginning it sounded like a look back into the past, but I still enjoyed this. It felt fresh and exciting, and the heat of the Louisiana summer came alive. I would certainly recommend this for contemporary fans looking for emotional characters and an intense romance.

(I received an e-galley of this title to review from Sourcebooks through NetGalley.)

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Day 4: Alyxandra Harvey

Day 4. I hope everyone's been enjoying themselves. :)

Alyxandra Harvey lives in a stone Victorian house in Ontario, Canada with a few resident ghosts who are allowed to stay as long they keep company manners. She loves medieval dresses, used to be able to recite all of The Lady of Shalott by Tennyson, and has been accused, more than once, of being born in the wrong century. She believes this to be mostly true except for the fact that she really likes running water, women's rights, and ice cream. Her previous YA books include My Love Lies Bleeding/Hearts at Stake, Blood Feud, Out for Blood, Bleeding Hearts, Blood Moon, Blood Prophecy, Haunting Violet and Stolen Away. Her most recent book, A Breath of Frost, came out January 7, 2014, and Whisper the Dead is set to follow this fall. You can find her at her website or on Twitter (@AlyxandraH). :)

Q: All of your books have paranormal elements, vampires in The Drake Chronicles, witchcraft in The Lovegrove Legacy, ghosts in Haunting Violet, and Faeries in Stolen Away. What is it about the paranormal that interests you so? Is it a life-long love? Or is it the creepy Victorian house?

A: It’s definitely a life-long love! My agent once dared me to write something without supernatural elements and I said “Okay! Fun! I’ll do time-travel!”. she had to remind me that’s not exactly un-supernatural. ;)  It’s just where my brain goes!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Me on This Week's Book Week (102)

This Week's Book Week is rather similar to Stacking the Shelves hosted by Tynga's Reviews only with far more rambling and a less witty title. ;)

The Canadian YA Lit Event kicked off this week! Yay! Go here for the intro post and event-long giveaway. :)

I hope everyone will stop by every day for a new post from now until the 14th for the Canadian YA Lit Event. I hold this event because I'm sure that some of the books and authors I'll be featuring are ones that some of you haven't heard about, might even be ones you want to check out because they sound interesting. So, hopefully that'll happen again this year. :)

There will be reviews, as well as Q&As and a guest post, but you'll have to come back every day to find out what they are. ;)
In the Shadows by Kiersten White & Jim DiBartolo (bought)
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz (bought)
Winterkill by Kate A. Boorman (ARC from the author)
Child of a Hidden Sea by A.M. Dellamonica (e-galley from Macmillan through Raincoast)
Midnight Thief by Livia Blackburn (e-galley from Disney-Hyperion through NetGalley)
Real Mermaids Don't Sell Sea Shells by Helene Bodreau (e-book borrowed from library)

Day 3: Sea of Shadows

Day 3. And it's another review today. :)

Title: Sea of Shadows
Author: Kelley Armstrong
Release Date: April 8, 2014
Publisher: Doubleday Canada (Random House Canada imprint)

In the Forest of the Dead, where the empire's worst criminals are exiled, twin sisters Moria and Ashyn are charged with a dangerous task. For they are the Keeper and the Seeker, and each year they must quiet the enraged souls of the damned. Only this year, the souls will not be quieted. Ambushed and separated by an ancient evil, the sisters' journey to find each other sends them far from the only home they've ever known. Accompanied by a stubborn imperial guard and a dashing condemned thief, the girls cross a once-empty wasteland, now filled with reawakened monsters of legend, as they travel to warn the emperor. But a terrible secret awaits them at court. One that will alter the balance of their world forever.

Sea of Shadows is mysterious and curious. It begins in a dark and misty world that slowly fills with death and dangerous creatures, and it's up to two sisters destined to calm the souls of the dead to uncover the secrets. But how much will their journey cost them?

Moria and Ashyn are like two sides of the same coin. While one watches over the Forest of the Dead, the other ventures into it to find the souls that need quieting. While they are similar in looks, they differ in personality. Moria is more outspoken, more business-like. She is the warrior of the pair, determined and strong, willing to do battle but kept back by custom. Ashyn is calmer, like a healer. The desire to fix problems and help is strong with her, and often her emotions get the best of her.

Instead of a feud between the sisters there is understanding. There is no evil between them, only their purpose and their journey. It's rather refreshing to come across siblings in an epic fantasy that aren't at war with each other. I imagine that as the series goes on, they will be pulled apart only to come back together stronger than before.

The world-building is interesting. There isn't a lot of info-dumping at the beginning. Instead, it appears in the form of stories or legends as the plot progresses, revealing the secrets that hide in the shadows and the mystical creatures the sisters and their companions face. Over the course of the book I could see how some parts of the world were Asian-inspired.

Epic fantasy is often hit or miss with me. I found this interesting enough to keep me reading, I wanted to know what happened to Moria and Ashyn, where they were headed when they were separated and who they would come across. It reminded me of Soulbound and Graceling. It felt a bit slow in some spots, but I imagine fantasy fans will enjoy the start of this new trilogy.

(I received an e-galley of this title to review from Random House Canada through NetGalley.)

Friday, May 2, 2014

Day 2: Amanda Sun

Day 2. The first Q&A of the event features a returning author! :)

Amanda Sun currently lives in Ontario with her husband and daughter. When she's not busy writing YA, she's either reading YA, watching Japanese dramas, making fun geek crafts or sewing costumes for anime and fantasy conventions. Her Twitter profile pic used to claim she's Fluttershy from My Little Pony (but I've seen her without the pink hair). Her debut YA novel, Ink, came out June 2013, following the prequel e-novella Shadow. The second in the Paper Gods series, Rain, comes out June 24, 2014. You can find her at her blog and on Twitter (@Amanda_Sun). :)

Q: Considering how Ink ended, what Katie and Tomo discovered about the ink and Tomo's kami abilities, I imagine Rain will answer some but ask even more questions. Not a question, I know, but... *serious face* please say there will be questions answered.

A: Yes! RAIN is the book of many answers. More will be explained about Katie, Tomo, and Jun's abilities, as well as the Kami throughout Japanese history. I can't say too much, but I think it should answer a lot of the questions that INK poses. There are explanations coming, I promise! :D

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Day 1: This One Summer

Day 1. This year's event is kicking off with a review!

Title: This One Summer
Author: Mariko Tamaki
Illustrator: Jillian Tamaki
Release Date: May 6, 2014
Publisher: First Second Books (Macmillan imprint)

Every summer, Rose goes with her mom and dad to a lake house in Awago Beach. It's their getaway, their refuge. Rosie's friend Windy is always there, too, like the little sister she never had. But this summer is different. Rose's mom and dad won't stop fighting, and when Rose and Windy seek a distraction from the drama, they find themselves with a whole new set of problems. It's a summer of secrets and sorrow and growing up, and it's a good thing Rose and Windy have each other.

This One Summer is a moment in time, one summer in the lives of Rose and Windy where some harsh truths about the world intrude and change things. People come and go, lessons are learned, and the girls grow older during a summer that isn't like the others.

Rose is a quiet, watchful girl. It was clear to see the moments when she grows up, when she comes face to face with life and how much pain it causes. Like the growing distance between her parents. Her father's playful nature, his acting as if everything is normal, is at odds with her mother's harsh lines and sharp tone, her inability to connect with her spouse or daughter caused by a secret she keeps. And the teenagers in town, mysterious and oddly appealing. Is that what being older is like?

Windy is sort of seen through Rose's eyes, a free spirit kind of girl a year younger. She's playful and loud, curious about the adult world like Rose but also not quite ready to grow up. Everything is fun to her, but only when she's happy. She doesn't join in on watching or listening to a conversation when she's uncomfortable or not interested.

I feel that this is a rather authentic look at the personalities of young girls, how they view themselves and the world around them right before they hit those teenage years filled with angst and hormones. They're childish at times, watching scary movies in secret and eating candy, but they're slowly growing up. The world is slowly creeping into their space.

The artwork is wonderful, realistic and at times whimsical. Each character has a distinctive expression, no one looking too similar, their personalities coming through in the ways they moved and looked. The moments of transition were my favourite, when the pages were filled with the nature around them. The milkweed pods and seeds, the sand on the beach, the darkness of the ocean.

I found this to be an enchanting coming of age tale of two young girls, their summer encounter with the harsh wake-ups and realities of adult life. A must-read for graphic novel fans and those with feelings of nostalgia towards summers at the beach.

(I received an e-galley of this title to review from First Second through NetGalley.)

Day 1: Canadian YA Lit Event 2014

It's back! Like it would ever stay away. :)

2014's Canadian YA Lit event kicks off today with this post. Like always, the next two weeks will be filled with guest author posts, Q&A's, and reviews featuring Canadian YA authors and their books. It's my hope that, during those two weeks, those who stop by will discover a new author or book to check out, and then share with others and so on. :)
There are a lot more reviews this year than last year, but I think that's good. There are still authors answering my silly questions, but it's also about the books they write, the stories and characters they create. I've tried to cover a number of genres, spread it out a bit, so hopefully there will be one that catches someone's attention.
As always, different authors are taking part. Some returnees from previous years, some new. Some debuts, which is awesome. I love debut authors.
And as always, the first post of the event means a giveaway. This year's giveaway is no different than previous years. The winner will get the Canadian-authored YA novel of their choice. So scroll down to the Rafflecopter form and fill it out as best as you can. :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway