Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Me on None of the Above

Title: None of the Above
Author: I.W. Gregorio
Release Date: April 7, 2015
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins imprint)

When Kristin Lattimer is voted homecoming queen, it seems like another piece of her ideal life has fallen into place. She's a champion hurdler with a full scholarship to college and she's madly in love with her boyfriend. In fact, she's decided that she's ready to take things to the next level with him. But Kristin's first time isn't the perfect moment she's planned--something is very wrong. A visit to the doctor reveals the truth: Kristin is intersex, which means that though she outwardly looks like a girl, she has male chromosomes, not to mention boy "parts." Dealing with her body is difficult enough, but when her diagnosis is leaked to the whole school, Kristin's entire identity is thrown into question. As her world unravels, can she come to terms with her new self?

None of the Above is intense, compelling, emotional, and powerful. It's about the changes in one girl's life when she discovers she's intersex. The changes in her body, the changes in the people around her. The changes in her own thoughts and feelings about who she is and what it means to be a girl. Or a guy. Or neither. Or both.

Kristin is smart, personable. A bright girl with a clear voice. A bright future ahead of her, but then her world shifts and falls out from under her. For her, this is an impossible situation. Never would she have ever imagined this to happen. Her sadness, her floundering, her attempts at trying to cope and move on. All are written with such honesty and believability.

This book raises a number of questions regarding, sex, gender, and identity. Sex is biological while gender is a social construct. How we define each when it comes to ourselves makes up part of our identity. How we see ourselves alone, in public. But what happens when who we are biologically suddenly conflicts with how we see ourselves socially? Kristin's disconnect between the two is visceral. Nothing feels right, nothing feels 'normal.' Everything feels wrong. But nothing is wrong with her. It's hard for her to move past that in the beginning, past the 'male or female please pick one' gender binary that's been drummed into our heads for centuries. It's hard for her to understand that she can still be a girl. It's hard for her to understand that it's all up to her. It's her decision on who she wants to be and not anyone else's.

When Kristin's peers take the knowledge of her being intersex and turn it against her, it's horrifying and smacks of prejudice. It's a fear of the other, of the unknown. Suddenly she's different in their eyes, she's not the same person. It's not about them, even though they make it about them. Every time they joke about it, every time they catcall her with slurs and names. What right do they have to take this big change and make it bigger, darker, more painful? They act like she did this on purpose. It's frightening, knowing how cruel people can be, how their opinions can change so quickly because of something they can't see. Ignorance is rampant. It ruins lives. It must be stopped.

This is an honest, eye-opening, heartfelt look at identity, at gender identity, at what makes us think we're male or female, or neither, or both. I wanted to reach into the book and hug Kristin at every speed bump, every moment she felt like she was less than a girl. Less than human. Nothing is wrong with her and she struggles to remember that every day. She shouldn't have to.

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

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Blog Tour - Courtney Summers

Hi there! Welcome to the blog tour for All the Rage by Courtney Summers. :) You need to read this book. I know, it's harsh, it's hard, it's sad, it reeks of disbelief and hopelessness and adults dismissing the anger and sorrow of a teen girl, but it's a book that needs to be out there for everyone to read.
There was something I couldn't escape, couldn't ignore, as I read All the Rage, and that was Romy and her nail polish. The following is a question that I posed to Courtney.

What intrigued me right from page one of All the Rage was the nail polish, was Romy's in-depth application process of it and the lipstick. In her own words, it's a form of armour. It builds her up, it makes her feel stronger. She relies on it to get through each day. But it's also rather flimsy. It takes nothing to wipe off lipstick, to pick at nail polish. Why the nail polish and lipstick? As armour, like mentioned before? As a coping mechanism? As a clear message to others that she wasn't going to take their crap, their dismissive attitude, their slurs, anymore?

Romy primarily thinks of her lipstick and nail polish as armour, but it's more than that. It's also a way she reclaims herself, little by little. She's unable to process her rape, and putting on her lipstick and nail polish helps her to compartmentalize the girl the rape happened to, until she's ready, emotionally, to come to terms with it. This is why she panics when her make-up is compromised; she's afraid it makes her trauma more visible to others. It's also a visual representation of her anger over what happened to her, as red is often a colour we associate with rage.

And finally, it's an element of control she has over her peers. By wearing bright red nail polish and lipstick, Romy is directing focus in a way she control--she is essentially telling people who they are looking at, so she can survive the way they're looking at her. It's fragile, but it's the only thing she feels she has. The lipstick and nail polish are all about emotional survival.

Romy's nail polish, her lipstick, the vivid colour. I couldn't escape it as I read All the Rage. It was always there, just Romy was, just like her rape was, just like the town's indifference and disdain was. For those who've read it, what did you think of Romy's routine, her attempt at armour? For those who haven't, what are you expecting to discover when you finally read it?

Thanks so much to Courtney for the guest post, and to Raincoast Books for the blog tour. Make sure you check out All the Rage when it comes out on April 14th! And check out the other stops on the tour! :)

Me on All the Rage

Title: All the Rage
Author: Courtney Summers
Release Date: April 14, 2015
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin (Macmillan imprint)

The sheriff's son is not the golden boy everyone thinks he is, and Romy Grey knows that for a fact. Because no one wants to believe a girl from the wrong side of town, the truth about him has cost her everything—friends, family, and her community. Branded a liar and bullied relentlessly by a group of kids she used to hang out with, Romy's only refuge is the diner where she works outside of town. No one knows her name or her past there; she can finally be anonymous. But when a girl with ties to both Romy and the sherrif's son goes missing after a party, and news of him assaulting another girl in a town close by gets out, Romy must decide whether she wants to fight or carry the burden of knowing more girls could get hurt if she doesn't speak up. Nobody believed her the first time, and they certainly won't now, but the cost of her silence might be more than she can bear.

All the Rage is about the dark, secret things kept tucked away, swept under rugs, that should be discussed. It's about the heavy things out in the open for all the world to see that shouldn't be. It's a harsh view of the world centered around, unfortunately, a common occurrence that is rarely awarded the value and importance it deserves.

Romy is in pain, suffering in silence, trying to move on from what happened but few will let her. Many adults, many classmates, they all assume the worst about her. That she's a liar. That she wasn't raped. But she isn't, and she was. Her anger and sorrow are woven together, filling each page with her rage, her hopelessness. Everyone asks everything and nothing from her. They believe her to be a liar but offer no opportunity for her to present her side. They don't care about her. She isn't the kind of girl they care about. But Penny, gorgeous and missing Penny, is.

Part of this book is about Romy speaking out against what happened to her, about what's happening in Grebe. She has the power to speak out against her rapist, but at the same time she doesn't. Any power she once had was stripped from her, by the police, by her peers. By her rapist. Because that's what rape is. It isn't about sex, it's about power. Without it, what's left for Romy? How can she speak up, speak out, when she has nothing? When they've reduced her to nothing?

Girls are treated terribly, both here and in real life. The ways we judge, the ways we're judged. All because we look a certain way or act a certain way, because of who our parents are/were or what part of town we live in. We're believed or we aren't because of things we have no control over. There's the truth, there's what people think happen, and there's those who turn a blind eye because they'd rather believe something else. But with so many people knowing what happened to Romy, what's the point? Money? Ruining a business or someone's "good" name? And why condemn Romy but search high and low for Penny? Double standards rule the world.

Is this what the future holds, what the present currently holds, for young women who say they were raped? Ignorance. Slurs. Taunting. Abuse. Should we tell young girls that this is how the world works? That if they're ever raped, it's possible that no one will believe you? That they'll blame you for ruining the life of a young man who had everything going for him? Why is the girl always blamed? This is horrifying. Instead of telling women to be careful, to not wear certain clothes, to not act a certain way, we should be telling men not to rape. Why is all the effort to not be raped placed on the woman? She's not the only person in the situation. Someone else is there, the one who actually causes all the pain and suffering.

This book is a work of fiction, but it's so much closer to reality for many girls. Having fun at parties, drinking too much because there aren't any adults around, unable to know where they are or who they're with, unable to say stop when there's a hand up her shirt or down her pants, when there's a hand over their mouth or an arm pressed into their throat to silence their cries. This should be required reading for everyone. Teenage boys as well as girls. Grown men as well as women.

(I received an advance copy of this title to review from Raincoast Books.)

Me on This Week's Book Week (148)

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. ;)

It's that time of year when you wonder how 3 months have gone by so quickly and when you think about getting new shoes to mow the lawn in. Which is weird, buying new shoes when you're going to get them all grass-stained and possibly muddy if the ground is all soft from the rain and the shade.

Blog tour! Today! For Courtney Summers and her upcoming really painful but so so wonderful All the Rage! Here's my review and Courtney's guest post, as well as the tour schedule. :)
I've got a 2 week review buffer so I'm trying to get a start on review books for the Canadian YA Lit Event. As always, some are new and some are a couple of years old, but hopefully you'll find something you like and give it a read. :)

Reviews going up this coming week will feature None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio (Tuesday) and Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (Friday). :)
Quicksilver by R.J. Anderson (borrowed from the library)
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman (borrowed from the library)
Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal by G.Willow Wilson & Adrian Alphona (borrowed from the library)
5 to 1 by Holly Bodger (ARC from Random House Canada)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Me on Waiting on Wednesday (219)

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

Title: Glittering Shadows
Author: Jaclyn Dolamore
Release Date: June 16, 2015
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

From Goodreads:

The revolution is here. 

Bodies line the streets of Urobrun; a great pyre burns in Republic Square. The rebels grow anxious behind closed doors while Marlis watches as the politicians search for answers—and excuses—inside the Chancellery. 

Thea, Freddy, Nan, and Sigi are caught in the crossfire, taking refuge with a vibrant, young revolutionary and a mysterious healer from Irminau. As the battle lines are drawn, a greater threat casts a dark shadow over the land. Magic might be lost—forever. 

This action-packed sequel to Dark Metropolis weaves political intrigue, haunting magic, and heartbreaking romance into an unforgettable narrative. Dolamore's lyrical writing and masterfully crafted plot deliver a powerful conclusion.

After how the first book ended, I'm very curious as to where this book will go and what will happen to everyone. Also, the new covers are gorgeous. :)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Me on The Truth About Us

Title: The Truth About Us
Author: Janet Gurtler
Release Date: April 7, 2015
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire (Sourcebooks imprint)

The truth is that Jess knows she screwed up. She's made mistakes, betrayed her best friend, and now she's paying for it. Her dad is making her spend the whole summer volunteering at the local soup kitchen. The truth is she wishes she was the care-free party-girl everyone thinks she is. She pretends it's all fine. That her "perfect" family is fine. But it's not. And no one notices the lie... until she meets Flynn. He's the only one who really sees her. The only one who listens. The truth is that Jess is falling apart – and no one seems to care. But Flynn is the definition of "the wrong side of the tracks." When Jess's parents look at him they only see the differences-not how much they need each other. They don't get that the person who shouldn't fit in your world... might just be the one to make you feel like you belong.

The Truth About Us is smart and honest, the story of a teen girl coming to terms with her mistakes, her imperfect perfect family, and with finding the one person who makes everything feel better.

Jess is smart but reckless. Compassionate, understanding. Trying to escape the unspoken words that fill her house. The soup kitchen isn't somewhere she wants to be at the beginning, but it shows her another side of living, the less privileged side. The side that needs a helping hand more often than not. She learns from being there, but a number of people don't see that. They constantly see her as flighty and foolish. They don't think she understands. They think she's just playing with Flynn, trying him out like he's a sweater or a pair of shoes she can return if she gets tired of it fast enough. Maybe she doesn't know everything about the world, but she's not as clueless as some people think.

This book says a lot about privilege, both racial and financial. Jess has a lot. Her family lives in a big house in a nice neighbourhood. Her and her sister share a nice car. Her mother can afford not to work (when you take away the reason why she's currently not working, it's not that she doesn't work but that she can't work). On the other side in Flynn, whose mother works constantly to pay the bills, who lives where it isn't the nicest or the most crime free, who relies on the soup kitchen for healthy meals for he and his brother. Jess is white. Flynn is biracial, his mother Asian. Because of where they live, what they look like, people assume a lot about them. That Jess is spoiled, that she doesn't understand hardship. That Flynn is trouble, that he'll only drag Jess down. Working at the kitchen makes Jess realize a number of things. That she's lucky. That the people who use soup kitchens and shelters aren't bad people. That you can't judge people so easily. There's no perfect solution, though, but this book does highlight the start of something for Jess.

Like Janet Gurtler's previous books, this doesn't pull its punches. No one has it easy and everyone needs to learn something after making mistakes. This also says a number of things about female friendship and family dynamics, about speaking up and speaking out. About being honest when you're tired of living surrounded by lies and denial. A definite must-read for fans of contemporary YA.

(I received an advance copy of this title from Raincoast Books.)

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Me on This Week's Book Week (147)

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. ;)

Get with the times, people. It's been spring for ages, not just since yesterday. ;)

I had an awesome reading spurt this week of reading a book a day for a few days. Hopefully I can keep it up through the weekend and into next week.

Looking for an awesome comic anthology to read? If you're sad you missed out on Valor (a few people have mentioned that they wish they'd known about it before, it is up on the editors' site so you can order it), which I reviewed last Friday, then head on over to Kickstarter and check out the Beyond anthology. It's not technically the same, Beyond is all sci-fi and fantasy comics with LGBTQ characters while Valor was female-led fairy tale retellings with straight and LGBTQ characters, but it's still really cool. :) If you want I can let you know when I back something, in case you think you'd also be interested.

Reviews going up this coming week will feature The Truth About Us by Janet Gurtler (Tuesday) and All the Rage by Courtney Summers (special Saturday review and blog tour guest post). :)
Hidden Huntress by Danielle Jensen (e-galley from Angry Robot through NetGalley)
Trust the Focus by Megan Erickson (e-book) (I don't generally read new adult (too many books about "good girls" with "secrets in their pasts" falling for "bad boys with motorcycles and hearts of gold" that I'm not interested in), but I made an exception for this because it's LGBTQ. And apparently there'll be a second book in the summer. So... more LGBTQ new adult, please.)

Friday, March 20, 2015

Me on The Walls Around Us

Title: The Walls Around Us
Author: Nova Ren Suma
Release Date: March 24, 2015
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers

On the outside, there's Violet, an eighteen-year-old dancer days away from the life of her dreams when something threatens to expose the shocking truth of her achievement. On the inside, within the walls of a girls' juvenile detention center, there's Amber, locked up for so long she can't imagine freedom. Tying these two worlds together is Orianna, who holds the key to unlocking all the girls' darkest mysteries. We hear Amber's story and Violet's, and through them Orianna's, first from one angle, then from another, until gradually we begin to get the whole picture—which is not necessarily the one that either Amber or Violet wants us to see.

The Walls Around Us is dark, mysterious, and enthralling. It's about truth and lies, guilt and innocence. It's about the ways we blame other people. It's about the ways girls love and hate each other and themselves.

Amber is locked away, philosophical after her years separated from the outside world. Violet is on the outside, exposed, leading a charmed life. Between them, their stories, their memories, their actions, we find Ori. We find the ways they're connected. Through Ori, we discover the truth.

The book itself is deep and poetic, the language rich, like it's been narrated, retold. From Amber comes years of imprisonment, years of relection on the past, of knowing those around her by their names and their crimes. Knowing them but not knowing them. It sounds more like a hive mind, the number of times Amber uses 'us' instead of 'them.' On the other side is Violet, a dichotomy. An extremely skilled ballerina, a young woman with a bright future ahead of her. Someone whose opinion of those around her is no where close to positive. The chip on her shoulder is there, massive, revealed in childhood memories, and it's warped her into someone who respects little beyond herself.

Who we are on the inside, who is seen on the outside. The ways we look at people when we only see what's on the outside. We never know the sadness, the anger, the beauty that's on the inside. We never know the truth.

Girls are kind, are supportive, are vicious. Relationships, friendships, connections, between girls are volatile. We support as we talk behind their backs. We love as we hate. We vilify as we rise up and speak out as a group. Where is the line drawn between friend and enemy? How does it start? Why do we do this to ourselves? Inescapable jealousy? The overwhelming desire to not be alone, to always have someone nearby telling us we're good, even when we're tired of her being better?

This book is haunting, vivid with description, heavy with stories and tales, truths and memories. This is about the girls we praise and the girls we ignore, the girls we believe and the girls we condemn. A must-read.

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

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Blog Tour - Angela Misri

Hi there! Welcome to today's stop for the blog tour for Angela Misri's Thrice Burned, the second in the Portia Adams Adventures trilogy. If you like mysteries and historical fiction, and clever heroines who are keen on problem-solving, then look this series up. Thanks so much to Fierce Ink Press for the blog tour and thanks so much to Angela for answering my rambling question. :)
One of the things you notice, or that I notice, when reading a mystery is how the author weaves in all the clues. They're left like breadcrumbs for the reader to snatch up and piece back together to form an entire loaf for bread. But you still have to keep an eye out for red herrings. The author can't make it too easy or else the reader is left unsatisfied. They also can't make it too hard and leave the reader frustrated. How difficult is it to write a mystery that reveals just enough as the detective investigates? Do you go in knowing how it will all end? Or can you piece it together along the way? Apologies if I'm asking you to reveal any mystery writer trade secrets. ;)

A good question! I don't know how other mystery writers construct their stories, but I start with the crime and work outwards from there. So if I decide my crime is a series of arsons (like in Thrice Burned) then I pull out from there to who would benefit from lighting fires and who would suffer. That helps me identify my victims and perpetrators. From there I come up with the evidence left behind at this particular crime - so in the case of arson, the burned remnants of the victim, perhaps hints of an accelerant, that kind of thing. Then the key part - I decide which of these pieces of evidence are obvious (these are found by the police and revealed to the reader), and which are only discovered by my detective. Only then do I wrap my story around the mystery.

I made a video about my process: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cm93_Cjmylc

But this isn't a foolproof process. That's why you need beta readers and editors to read through your story before it goes out to the public. Often the clues seem obvious to me as the writer, but someone else reading it is able to actually tell me if I've given them enough. In my writing I find that I seem to err on the side of not making it easy enough, so I usually have to bring more clues onto the page. I don't think I've ever written a mystery where a reader comes back complaining that I’d made it too easy. Trust me, if I make it easy, I mean it to be and that wasn't the real mystery in my story. A good example is Mrs. Jones in Jewel of the Thames. That she was actually Irene Adler from the original canon was not a mystery I was trying to keep from my readers, I wanted them to figure that out as soon as they could. It was a mystery for Portia because she isn't a Sherlock Holmes aficionado - she's just an orphaned girl who has been handed the keys to 221 Baker Street. The real mysteries in Jewel were who was stealing the jewels, and why Elaine Ridley had become a recluse, and where the missing girl on the train went. Irene Adler/Jones and her big reveal is a story-arc that reverses the norm: where my reader actually knows more than my detective.

Thanks again to Angela. Go check out Jewel of the Thames and Thrice Burned! :)

Me on Thrice Burned

Title: Thrice Burned
Author: Angela Misri
Release Date: March 25, 2015
Publisher: Fierce Ink Press

Portia is still reeling from finding out that her guardian, Mrs. Jones, is actually the infamous Irene Adler and her grandmother. As if finding that out wasn't shocking enough, the revelation that Sherlock Holmes is her grandfather has Portia feeling betrayed by her mother, who took the secrets of Portia's lineage to the grave. As a diversion Portia throws herself into work and continues to consult with Scotland Yard on their hard-to-crack cases. While on the case of an arsonist who's plaguing London she meets Annie Coleson, a disgraced reporter who has clues that can help Portia solve the mystery. The women strike up a friendship and Annie starts to report on "P.C. Adams", the consulting detective helping to keep London safe, with the promise to keep Portia's true identity secret. As the press starts to show an interest in P.C. Adams, an impostor comes forward claiming to be the consulting detective and Portia must choose between remaining anonymous and letting the world know who the real P.C. Adams is.

Thrice Burned is a continuation of young Portia Adams' adventures in London, her days spent uncovering clues and investigating serious crimes.

Readers discovered who Portia was in the previous book. Intelligent, practical, at times unemotional but often supportive of those she considers important to her. She's rather analytic. There isn't necessarily anything new to learn about her, which is fine. She's still attempting to fit all the pieces of her life together so everything works. Her law school studies, her on-the-side investigations with the police, her personal relationships. But can they all fit together like the pieces of a puzzle, or is she fated to have the thrill of solving a mystery consume her like nothing else can?

Instead of discovering who Portia is, this book is more about Portia figuring out her relationships with the people around her. Like Mrs. Jones, who in actuality is Irene Adler. Like Brian Dawes, her downstairs tenant and good friend. Like Annie Coleson, a bubbly and loud young reporter looking for a good story to write about. They can be impulsive, unpredictable. They make her feel things she's not used to feeling. Considering the direction of her thoughts towards one of them at the end of the book, it will be interesting to see what happens between them. If anything happens between them.

The mysteries have been carefully crafted by the author and carefully picked and pulled apart by Portia. As the book it told through her eyes, the reader sees what she sees. They can't see anything until Portia finds it intriguing or important enough to consider. And they can't always piece it together as quickly as Portia can.

Like the first book, here is an interesting story with mysteries to solve and suspects to discover. I'm curious as to what the third book will bring, if Portia will ever have to confront an unsolvable case or wage a war of wits against a nemesis.

(I received an e-galley of this title to review from Fierce Ink press.)

Me on Waiting on Wednesday (218)

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

Title: The Clouded Sky
Author: Megan Crewe
Release Date: May 5, 2015
Publisher: Razorbill Canada (Penguin Canada imprint)

From Goodreads:

Skylar never imagined that she'd end up helping a boy from another planet search through Earth's history for a way to end his people's secret control over her world. But now that she's been drawn into Win's group of rebels, she can’t walk away until their mission is completed.

Whisked to the immense space station that Win and the rest of the Kemyates call home, Skylar discovers that even the rebels don’t see her as an equal. Determined to prove herself amid her homesickness in the alien environment, she throws herself into the work to free Earth. Her keen attention to detail and skill with numbers start to earn her colleagues' respect, but that doesn't make her position any less precarious. As the Enforcers escalate their attempts to capture the rebels, it becomes clear that someone within the resistance is leaking information to the enemy. And Skylar may be in the best position to uncover the traitor.

With each step toward the truth, Skylar is pulled deeper into the lives around her and the full horrors of her planet's imprisonment. To see her mission through, she must risk her life, her heart, and the future she's worked so hard to preserve.

As I rather enjoyed the first book, all sci-fi and time travel and patterns and consequences, I'm looking forward to this. :)

Monday, March 16, 2015

Me on Enchantment Lake

Title: Enchantment Lake
Author: Margi Preus
Release Date: March 15, 2015
Publisher: University of Minnesota Press

A disturbing call from her great aunts Astrid and Jeannette sends seventeen-year-old Francie far from her new home in New York into a tangle of mysteries. Ditching an audition in a Manhattan theater, Francie travels to a remote lake in the northwoods where her aunts' neighbors are "dropping like flies" from strange accidents. But are they accidents? On the shores of Enchantment Lake in the woods of northern Minnesota, something ominous is afoot, and as Francie begins to investigate, the mysteries multiply: a poisoned hot dish, a puzzling confession, eerie noises in the bog, and a legendary treasure that is said to be under enchantment—or is that under Enchantment, as in under the lake? At the center of everything is a suddenly booming business in cabin sales and a road not everyone wants built. To a somewhat reluctant northwoods Nancy Drew, the intrigue proves irresistible, especially when it draws her closer to the mysteries at the heart of her own life: What happened to her father? Who and where is her mother? Who is she, and where does her heart lie—in the bustle of New York City or the deep woods of Minnesota?

Enchantment Lake is mysterious and fast-paced, where danger lurks and no one is sure about what's going on or who might die next.

Francie isn't a detective, but she did once play one on TV. She's keen on being an actor. It's what she wants to do. But that doesn't stop her from asking questions and getting to the bottom of things around Enchantment Lake. She's rather practical, everything needs to have an answer or a solution, and I think that's why she sticks around and 'pretends' at being a detective.

The mystery is intriguing, anchored by a mysterious lake, a clever heroine, and a town full of eccentric residents. The small town and the people make the mystery. Their oddities, their personalities, their laissez-faire attitude about certain things like murder.

The book moves along rather quickly. I think this comes from it being more plot driven than character driven. There were times when I expected a bit of Francie's internal monologue to pop up, to see the directions she was thinking in, but instead the story continued. It feels like it's so much more about the mystery than Francie. But the secrets in her past, I wanted to know more about those. If her father's death really was an accident. Where her mother is. What caused the rift between her and her brother, someone mentioned for only a few pages. It seems to read like a young YA, so it could work for readers transitioning from middle grade. There are deaths, but nothing so serious or graphic that it would frighten younger readers.

(I received an e-galley of this title to review from the University of Minnesota Press through NetGalley.)

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Me on This Week's Book Week (146)

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 warm! It's so spring-like these days it feels like April or May, but without the rain. Can you say predicted water shortage this summer? ;)

Another slow reading week. This time around, it's a mix of now necessarily wanting to read an e-galley and getting over a short string of books I thought were ok but not great. I imagine it's a preference thing I've hit right now, wanting to read print instead of digital, wanting to read something I know I'll absolutely love instead of something I'm not sure if I'll like. Or something that'll make me think I'm not smart enough or young enough to uncover all the messages and subtext and metaphors.

It's a three review week this coming week! Check back on Monday for Enchantment Lake by Margi Preus, on Wednesday for Thrice Burned by Angela Misri (plus a blog tour post), and Friday for The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma. :)
The Weight of Stars by Tessa Gratton (e-book) (Bought, because it's finally on the Kobo site)
The Body Electric by Beth Revis (e-book) (Bought last weekend during the $1 deal period)

Friday, March 13, 2015

Me on Valor

Title: Valor
Editors: Isabelle Melançon & Megan Lavey-Heaton
Artists & Writers: Isabelle Melançon, Megan Lavey-Heaton, Jayd Aït-Kaci, Elena "Yamino" Barbarich, Ash Barnes, Morgan Beem, Cory Brown, Ran Brown, Meaghan Carter, Nicole Chartrand, Kadi Fedoruk, Tim Ferarra, Sara Goetter, Emily Hann, Megan Kearney, Michelle "Misha" Krivanek, Justin Lanjil, Angelica Maria Lopez, Laura Neubert, Alexandra Singer, Katie Shanahan, Steven "Shaggy" Shanahan, Annie Stohl, Joanne Webster

Valor is a comic anthology of re-imaged fairy tales showcasing the talent of some of the top creators in the field of digital comics. The purpose of this book is to pay homage to the strength, resourcefulness, and cunning of female heroines in fairy tales. Some of these are recreations of time-honored tales. Others are brand new stories, designed to be passed to future generations.

Valor is fun, adventurous, different, wonderful. All the positive adjectives I can think of. Bright, colourful, expressive artwork combined with rich storytelling. Each story is anchored by a heroine who fights monsters, stands up for herself in dangerous times, or rescues loved ones. Because there are 23 stories, comic and prose, it's a bit hard for me to review each one. All are anchored by heroines going off on quests, taking matters into their own hands. There are white, black, Asian, and even metal heroines. There are straight and gay heroines. They can and do rely on others for support, but these are their stories. Their adventures. Their time to kick butt and take names, if the situation calls for it. As always with anthologies, there are some stories I liked more than others.

There's Prunella by Isabella Melançon and Megan Lavey-Heaton, where Prunella's scowl is captured perfectly, where she toils away for a witch that cursed her, where she keeps on working for the witch because she pays well. Prunella is grouchy and stubborn but fiercely loyal.

There's Bride of the Rose Beast by Michelle Krivanek, the story of Kari, forced to marry a monster made from a queen's greediness, and the plan to keep the monster from devouring her on their wedding night.

There's Crane Wife by Alex Singer and Jayd Aït-Kaci (text by Ariana Maher), with soft, gorgeous artwork accompanying a heartbreaking story about an injured crane lost in a snow storm and the gift she gave to the hunter who saved her.

There's The Flower in the Gravel by Angelica Maria Lopez, bright with colour, about an abandoned tower of treasure guarded by a dragon and a young girl who doesn't believe in any of that foolish talk. Instead, she races headfirst into a tower filled with dangerous traps to find the greatest treasure of all.

There's Lady Tilda and the Dragon by Sara Goetter, a wordless, emotional tale of Lady Tilda and the dragon she meets in a dark, creepy cave. The artwork is sweet and expressive. I loved how the characters and the setting told the story, making words useless. The ending always leaves me teary-eyed.

And there's Winter's Gift by Joanne Webster and Isabelle Melançon (letters by Megan Lavey-Heaton), about a rabbit travelling through the seasons, using her clever mind and clever wit to outsmart three of them on her journey to the fourth to ask for the rabbits' gift. Bunny never says no, just talks her way around and out of traps, showing that those who look weak aren't necessarily weak.

If you ever get a chance to read this, read it. It's fun and smart, filled with strong and clever female characters who take matters into their own hands.

(I received an e-book copy of this anthology after backing the project on Kickstarter.)

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Me on Waiting on Wednesday (217)

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

Title: Deceptive
Author: Emily Lloyd-Jones
Release Date: July 14, 2015
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (Hachette Book Group imprint)

From Goodreads:

Don't miss this thrilling, high-stakes sequel to Illusive.

You don’t belong with us. These are the words that echo through the minds of all immune Americans—those suffering the so-called adverse effects of an experimental vaccine, including perfect recall, body manipulation, telepathy, precognition, levitation, mind-control, and the ability to change one’s appearance at will.

When immune individuals begin to disappear—in great numbers, but seemingly at random—fear and tension mount, and unrest begins to brew across the country. Through separate channels, super-powered teenagers Ciere, Daniel, and Devon find themselves on the case; super criminals and government agents working side-by-side. It’s an effort that will ultimately define them all—for better or for worse.

I'm really looking forward to this. I really liked the first one, it was complicated and mysterious with a bunch of flawed characters, and so when I heard there was going to be more I was thrilled (it's hard to know with some books these days). :)

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Me on Fragile Bones

Title: Fragile Bones: Harrison & Anna
Author: Lorna Schultz Nicholson
Release Date: March 15, 2015
Publisher: Clockwise Press

Meet Harrison and Anna. One is a fifteen-year-old boy with an uncanny ability to recite every bone in the skeletal system whenever he gets anxious ― and that happens a lot. The meaning of "appropriate behaviour" mystifies him: he doesn't understand most people and they certainly don't understand him. The other is a graduating senior with the world at her feet. Joining the Best Buddies club at her school and pairing up with a boy with high-functioning autism is the perfect addition to her med school applications. Plus, the president of the club is a rather attractive, if mysterious, added attraction.

Fragile Bones is intriguing and eye-opening, a look into the lives of two teens and the struggles they face daily. A look into autism and not only how it impacts Harrison but the people around him.

Harrison is an interesting character with his honest no nonsense voice, his rituals and routines, his breakdowns. His family, as supportive as they can be, with their gentle nudges towards trying new things. His is a very clear view of the world. Black and white, no shades of grey. Ordered. The world is chaotic, changing, unpredictable, and Harrison's brain can't quite process that the way someone's without autism can.

Anna is bright and cheerful. She tries so hard to get her mother's approval, to get her to understand it's not all about going to university on the east coast or in the UK. She tries so hard in school. She tries so hard to make things work with Harrison, not just going through the motions but genuinely interested in getting to know him better. But she doesn't need to try so hard all the time. The answers aren't always found in a textbook. There's no shame in not being perfect, in not knowing everything.

Harrison's family tries to help, they try to understand him. I didn't always like them, though. I'm torn between supporting them as they support him, as they try to break him out of his shell, and disliking them for putting too much pressure on him to mature and one day get a girlfriend. That he'll have to get over his phobia of germs if he's ever going to kiss a girl one day. I'm not sure if he'll ever be interested in girls that way.

This is a very interesting and relevant kind of book. It's not overwhelmed by the young romance Anna has, there's a good mix of friendship and learning along with it. It's all about Harrison and Anna learning from each other. Harrison's growth is slow, but I expected that. Baby steps. If the series continues, I imagine I'll continue reading it.

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

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Me on This Week's Book Week (145)

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. ;)

People are mowing their lawns. *hides from spring and summer*

I didn't read as much this week. I think I'm half in a slump. I've got a bit of a buffer but not enough of one. I blame modded Minecraft.

I read All the Rage this week. It made me angry at the world for a couple of days. My review will be up closer to the release date but it's definitely a book everyone should read. Be prepared for a strong, angry, harsh creature of a book that will slap you in the face with reality and some people's indifference.

Reviews for the coming week will feature Fragile Bones by Lorna Schultz Nicholson (Tuesday) and the Valor anthology edited by Megan Lavey-Heaton & Isabelle Melançon (Friday). :)
Wonder at the Edge of the World by Nicole Helget (ARC from Hachette Book Group Canada)
Scarlett Undercover by Jennifer Latham (ARC from Hachette Book Group Canada)
Half Wild by Sally Green (ARC won from Indigo Teen)
The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski (Bought)

Friday, March 6, 2015

Me on The Sin Eater's Daughter

Title: The Sin Eater's Daughter
Author: Melinda Salisbury
Release Date: February 24, 2015
Publisher: Scholastic Press

Seventeen-year-old Twylla lives in the castle. But although she's engaged to the prince, Twylla isn't exactly a member of the court. She's the executioner. As the Goddess embodied, Twylla instantly kills anyone she touches. Each month she's taken to the prison and forced to lay her hands on those accused of treason. No one will ever love a girl with murder in her veins. Even the prince, whose royal blood supposedly makes him immune to Twylla's fatal touch, avoids her company. But then a new guard arrives, a boy whose easy smile belies his deadly swordsmanship. And unlike the others, he's able to look past Twylla's executioner robes and see the girl, not the Goddess. Yet Twylla's been promised to the prince, and knows what happens to people who cross the queen. However, a treasonous secret is the least of Twylla's problems. The queen has a plan to destroy her enemies, a plan that requires a stomach-churning, unthinkable sacrifice.

The Sin Eater's Daughter is mysterious and dangerous, but unfortunately for me, another familiar story in another familiar setting.

Twylla has a sad, lonely, imprisoned voice. No illusions are made that she is in control of her situation, her being the gifted one. The embodiment of a Goddess. She's very much a tool of the queen's, very much under her thumb and obeying her every command. She was trapped there years ago through her own naivete and the queen's persuasive tactics. Now that she's older, and knows a bit better, it's much harder to escape. But does she want to? If she did, she'd return to her mother, become the next Sin Eater, but is that really what she wants? Does she want either of the futures laid out before her?

There's hopelessness in her tone, there's acknowledged fear and hatred, but because that's all there is for so long it falls flat. She keeps her thoughts locked up tight, but they don't change. She's always lonely, trapped, angry. I was missing some real passion in her voice. Perhaps I was wanting Twylla to be more overt in her anger and hatred of the queen, of her current life. Perhaps I was wanting Twylla to discover the truth behind her situation on her own.

It's a very familiar fantasy world setting. Kingdoms at war with each other. Lands with different customs and beliefs. What's not interesting but is intriguing (if that is possible) is the practice of sin Eating. The Eating itself, the meanings behind certain foods. It's by no means a glamourous position, but it plays a big part in every character's life, and their death. Considering the title, that Twylla is the Sin Eater's daughter, I thought it would be a main part of the story, but it isn't. It's referenced more in her memories of when she lived with her mother.

I think this is another book where I've read too many in a similar setting, where the characters are too familiar, where the decisions are too familiar. I didn't enjoy it as much as I hoped I would. I think I was looking for a different kind of heroine, an angry girl who took action instead of sad Twylla who recognized her trapped position but did never to nothing to escape or subvert it. As always, though this wasn't the book for me, I'm sure that some will enjoy it.

(I received an advance copy of this title from another blogger.)

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Me on Waiting on Wednesday (216)

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

Title: Ungodly
Author: Kendare Blake
Release Date: September 22, 2015
Publisher: Tor Teen

From Goodreads:

As ancient immortals are left reeling, a modern Athena and Hermes search the world for answers in the final Goddess War novel by the acclaimed author of Anna Dressed in Blood

For the Goddess of Wisdom, what Athena didn't know could fill a book. That's what Ares said.

So she was wrong about some things. So the assault on Olympus left them beaten and scattered and possibly dead. So they have to fight the Fates themselves, who, it turns out, are the source of the gods' illness. And sure, Athena is stuck in the underworld, holding the body of the only hero she has ever loved.

But Hermes is still topside, trying to power up Andie and Henry before he runs out of time and dies, or the Fates arrive to eat their faces.

And Cassandra is up there somewhere too. On a quest for death. With the god of death.

Just because things haven't gone exactly according to plan, it doesn't mean they've lost. They've only mostly lost. And there's a big difference.

The ending is going to be so painful but I don't care. I'm so curious as to how this is all going to end.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Me on Everything Leads to You

Title: Everything Leads to You
Author: Nina LaCour
Release Date: May 15, 2014
Publisher: Dutton Books (Penguin imprint)

After being entrusted with her brother's Los Angeles apartment for the summer as a graduation gift, Emi Price isn't sure how to fulfill his one condition: that something great take place there while he's gone. Emi may be a talented young production designer, already beginning to thrive in the competitive film industry, but she still feels like an average teen, floundering when it comes to romance. But when she and best friend Charlotte discover a mysterious letter at the estate sale of a Hollywood film legend, Emi must move beyond the walls of her carefully crafted world to chase down the loose ends of a movie icon's hidden life, leading her to uncover a decades' old secret and the potential for something truly epic: love.

Everything Leads to You is sweet and fun, an unexpected adventure into the behind the scenes world of movie-making and young love.

Emi is intelligent, a creative young woman with a lot going for her in terms of a career in film. She has supportive parents, an awesome brother, and a wonderful best friend. But when it comes to girlfriends? Not so much. Which is fine, in theory, but not when her on-again/off-again girlfriend can't make up her mind. Then comes Ava, gorgeous and broken Ava, and Emi's heart lights up. As she's working on the film that could give her young career a massive boost, she's drawn in more and move by Ava. At times it feels like Emi romanticizes Ava a bit too much, making her seem larger than life when she's just as young and struggling as Emi is. But all of this is a learning experience for Emi, so she's bound to learn something along the way.

I found the production design aspect rather interesting. It's creating but in a different way. Not creating the story but still bringing it to life. The actual tables and chairs that will make up a character's kitchen. The contents of the shelves in a bathroom. But what an assistant pictures might not be what their boss or the director pictures. They're creating the world, yes, but it's someone else's world. Emi gets a bit of tunnel vision when she puts together some rooms and sets. She pictures what would be perfect, but perfect for her interpretation, and that differs from what her boss is going for. It's okay that she doesn't see that at the beginning. She's already passionate about her work, but she's young. She has her whole career in front of her. She can take this time to learn.

What's refreshing about this book is it isn't a coming out story. It isn't even the main part, and so it just appears, effortlessly. This is a finding yourself story for Emi, and she already knows who she is when it comes to being a lesbian. It's just the rest of her life she's trying to sort out.

This book was an unexpected discovery. I wasn't sure if I'd like it when it started, but it didn't take long to join Emi and Charlotte on their summer adventure. Designing sets, uncovering Holloywood mysteries, discovering new people and places. A definite must-read for fans of contemporary YA, behind the scenes movie secrets, and sweet love stories.

(I purchased a copy of this book.)