Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Me on The Fourteenth Goldfish

Title: The Fourteenth Goldfish
Author: Jennifer L. Holm
Release Date: August 26, 2014
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers

Eleven-year-old Ellie has never liked change. She misses fifth grade. She misses her old best friend. She even misses her dearly departed goldfish. Then one day a strange boy shows up. He's bossy. He's cranky. And weirdly enough... he looks a lot like Ellie's grandfather, a scientist who's always been slightly obsessed with immortality. Could this pimply boy really be Grandpa Melvin? Has he finally found the secret to eternal youth?

The Fourteenth Goldfish is intriguing and thoughtful, a curious and clever look at change, at science, at family, and at possibility.

Ellie is a bright but somewhat lonely girl. She isn't the biggest fan of change, and change is happening all around her. And then her grandfather appears and looks pointedly younger than the last time she saw him. I like Ellie, she's curious about things. She wants to know reasons behind why things happen and change. And here comes science in the form of her bizarre, intelligent grandfather, opening the doors of possibility.

On the other side, away from science, are the clashes between her mother and her grandfather. Neither takes the other seriously. There's never any talk of compromise. Her grandfather thinks her mother is flighty, he doesn't see any merit or value in the arts, and he thinks she'd be better off as a scientist. Meanwhile, her mother sees a foolish man who's extremely inflexible and doesn't understand how the world works. Each one treats the other like a child. It's hard for Ellie, to be sure. Especially when she starts to show an interest in science. I got the feeling that every time that happened she was worried her mother would hate it. They're both different people, but very similar in the way they're both extremely stubborn.

I love how this book talks about science in terms of possibility. That anything is possible. That idea transcends science, art, math, geography, plumbing. But in terms of this book, in terms of science, it's great. It makes it seem so much more accessible. Away with the complicated formulas and tedious experiments. All you need to do is wonder, is observe, is question if it is possible, and go from there. Don't be afraid. Believe that it's possible and the world will open up in front of you.

I found this book fun and interesting and I had a hard time putting it down. It's a fun story, an honest story, and one that I would definitely recommend to anyone young or old.

(I borrowed an e-book copy of this title from the library.)

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Me on This Week's Book Week (122)

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 totally fall now. The rain was just POURING here the other day. It was raining so hard you couldn't see more than a few feet in front of you. But it was nice. There wasn't a lot of rain this summer so lots of things dried out. And it's still raining. Maybe I should finally buy some rain boots. Like, rain boots for adults. I imagine I had some as a kid.

I'm feeling overwhelmed by my review schedule, with all the ARCs and e-galleys I have. I feel like I'm cramming a lot in in October, maybe too much. I'll be thinking about it this week, debating whether or not to hold off on requesting and downloading off of NetGalley in terms of 2014 releases. I don't want to burn myself out, you know?

The other day on Twitter, someone jokingly asked if a book had to make sense. And I thought about it seriously. For me, it does and it doesn't. A book by no means has to make sense. It can have magic, dragons, werewolves, gryphons, gods, goddesses, aliens, zombies. In terms of its relation to reality, it doesn't have to make sense at all. But it does in terms of what is real and what is reality in the story. You can't have a book all about zombies, and then for no reason include a giant cupcake that saves the day. So it doesn't have to make sense, because fiction is fun, and it does have to make sense, in terms of context in the story and with plot.

Reviews going up this coming week will feature The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm (Tuesday) and The Spiritglass Charade by Colleen Gleason (Friday). :)
The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm (e-book borrowed from the library)
The Young Elites by Marie Lu (ARC from Penguin Canada)
The Walled City by Ryan Graudin (e-galley from Hachette Book Group Canada)
The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black (e-galley from Hachette Book Group Canada)

Friday, September 26, 2014

Me on The Island of Excess Love

Title: The Island of Excess Love
Author: Francesca Lia Block
Release Date: August 26, 2014
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (Macmillan imprint)

Pen has lost her parents. She’s lost her eye. But she has fought Kronen; she has won back her fragile friends and her beloved brother. Now Pen, Hex, Ash, Ez, and Venice are living in the pink house by the sea, getting by on hard work, companionship, and dreams. Until the day a foreboding ship appears in the harbor across from their home. As soon as the ship arrives, they all start having strange visions of destruction and violence. Trance-like, they head for the ship and their new battles begin.

The Island of Excess Love is a lyrical, magical, heart-breaking, impossible adventure.

This is certainly one of those books that I find hard to describe, where no words plucked from my head could do it justice. I had this problem once before with its predecessor. What is illusion? What is fate? What is love? The prose is lush and imaginative, painting a wondrous picture of magic and myth, but I was never really sure if I understood everything.

Perhaps if I'd read more of or about Virgil's Aeneid I would've understood the purpose of the journey more. From what I read, from what I understood, this story is about fate, about trials, about what it takes to become a hero. About love. What it is to love, to keep that love strong.

For all my potential misunderstandings, I hope that Pen's epic tale will continue as I'm curious as to what else was borne from the Earth Shaker.

(I received an e-galley of this title from Macmillan through Raincoast Books.)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Me on Waiting on Wednesday (194)

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

Title: This Shattered World
Author: Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner
Release Date: December 23, 2014
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

From Goodreads:

The second installment in the epic Starbound trilogy introduces a new pair of star-crossed lovers on two sides of a bloody war.

Jubilee Chase and Flynn Cormac should never have met.

Lee is captain of the forces sent to Avon to crush the terraformed planet's rebellious colonists, but she has her own reasons for hating the insurgents.

Rebellion is in Flynn's blood. Terraforming corporations make their fortune by recruiting colonists to make the inhospitable planets livable, with the promise of a better life for their children. But they never fulfilled their promise on Avon, and decades later, Flynn is leading the rebellion.

Desperate for any advantage in a bloody and unrelentingly war, Flynn does the only thing that makes sense when he and Lee cross paths: he returns to base with her as prisoner. But as his fellow rebels prepare to execute this tough-talking girl with nerves of steel, Flynn makes another choice that will change him forever. He and Lee escape the rebel base together, caught between two sides of a senseless war.

It feels like forever since I read the first book, but it's only been less than a year. Still. I'm looking forward to reading this. The background is all orange and pink and like a nebula or exploding star. Both the girl and the guy on the cover have guns. The description makes both of them sound like harsh badasses. I want to be torn between the sides, no knowing which side is the right one.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Me on Sisters

Title: Sisters
Author: Raina Telgemeier
Release Date: August 26, 2014
Publisher: Graphix (Scholastic imprint)

Raina can't wait to be a big sister. But once Amara is born, things aren't quite how she expected them to be. Amara is cute, but she's also a cranky, grouchy baby, and mostly prefers to play by herself. Their relationship doesn't improve much over the years, but when a baby brother enters the picture and later, something doesn't seem right between their parents, they realize they must figure out how to get along. They are sisters, after all.

Sisters is fun, funny, and realistic. Not necessarily continuing on from Smile but certainly continuing on telling stories from her years growing up in San Francisco, this book shows the highlights and lowlights of growing up with siblings.

Raina and Amara are sisters with about five years between them. When she was little, Raina had it all planned out. One day she'd have a sister and they'd play together, they'd enjoy doing the same things, and they'd hang out together. It would be awesome. But things didn't really work out as she'd hoped. Instead, what Raina gets is Amara, a stubborn girl who doesn't always sugarcoat what she says and loves gross things like snakes. You'd think they'd finally bridge the gap between them through drawing and art, but no.

I really like Raina's artwork. A fair amount of the story comes across in the different expressions on the faces of her and her siblings and parents. When they're excited, angry, sad, confused, worried. Everyone has depth. The travel backgrounds are also amazing, the glimpses of the Rocky Mountains and the hot desert her mom drives them through. And it was easy to tell which was their present day road trip and which was flashbacks to a younger Raina, how Amara came into her life, how their relationship developed over those early years.

I found this to be an honest and authentic look at Raina's relationship with her younger sister. As I read this I was reminded of my own childhood with my own sister. The fights we would have, the differences between us. Looking back now I realize a lot of that stemmed from us being different people, but you never think about that when you're younger. You just wonder why they don't like the same things you do. They're your sibling. You have the same parents. They're supposed to like the same things, right? This book is definitely a must read for fans of Raina's previous books and for anyone who's ever had to 'put up' with a troublesome sibling (or sibling-type person).

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

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Me on This Week's Book Week (121)

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. ;)

Hi all! Bit of a slow week this week so I don't have much to ramble on about. Maybe next week will be more exciting. :)

Reviews going up this coming week will feature Sisters by Raina Telgemeier (Tuesday) and The Island of Excess Love by Francesca Lia Block (Friday). :)
Willowgrove by Kathleen Peacock (advance copy from Kathleen)
Waistcoats & Weaponry by Gail Carriger (e-galley from Little, Brown through NetGalley)
The Iron Trial by Cassandra Clare & Holly Black (finished copy from Scholastic Canada)

Friday, September 19, 2014

Me on Firebug

Title: Firebug
Author: Lish McBride
Release Date: September 23, 2014
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co. (Macmillan imprint)

Ava is a firebug—she can start fires with her mind. Which would all be well and good if she weren't caught in a deadly contract with the Coterie, a magical mafia. She's one of their main hitmen... and she doesn't like it one bit. Not least because her boss, Venus, killed Ava's mother. When Venus asks Ava to kill a family friend, Ava rebels. She knows very well that you can't say no to the Coterie and expect to get away with it, though, so she and her friends hit the road, trying desperately to think of a way out of the mess they find themselves in. Preferably keeping the murder to a minimum.

Firebug is dangerous and exciting. It's a thrilling journey all about friendship, survival, and family, about keeping those you care about safe and doing whatever it takes to keep them alive. No matter who it pisses off.

Ava is an awesome anchor for the story. She's a curly-haired mess of sass, snark and fire, and she's loyal to a fault. It's all about family with her, after her mother's death. She fumbles a bit when it comes to normal, like boyfriends and a social life, but she's who you want in your corner. She's who you want in your life, caring about you, because she'll protect you. Even if it's something stupid like leaving, hoping they'll come after her instead.

The best part of this book for me is the Ava/Lock/Ezra friendship. It's just awesome. Sure, it's sort of built on an evil Coterie-shaped foundation, but it's still awesome. All three have their quirks, the chips on their shoulders, but that doesn't really matter. There's an understanding between the three of them. Affection. Companionship. The realization that they're all stuck in the same stupid ship with Venus as the evil captain sailing them to their doom. All three of them have very different personalities so there are those moments of clashing and crashing together, but it all still works.

There certainly is some interesting world building going on in this book like with the author's previous books. It's sort of like magical realism but maybe a bit more paranormal/horror with real life problems. Maybe being hitmen for a crime family-esque society doesn't count, but everything else does. Friends and family, pressure at work, romance and a social life. Loyalty and duty.

This book is patented Lish McBride. It's dark, it's full of snark. It's clever, exciting, and extremely dangerous, especially if you're the flammable type. It's a compelling combination of humour, horror, and punch-em-up action, and I'm desperate to find out what happens next.

(I received an e-galley of this title to review from Macmillan through NetGalley/an advance copy of this title to review from Raincoast Books.)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Blog Tour - Alice Kuipers

Surprise post today! It's a blog tour post for Alice Kuipers' newest YA novel The Death of Us. When asking if I'd like to take part in the blog tour, Alice mentioned my Letter to the Author posts, saying she could so something similar. I said yes because I'm curious as to what other people would say in those sweet gushing letter to authors they love and because I should really start doing that again. ;)

Bestselling author Alice Kuipers was born in London. She moved to Canada in 2003. Her first novel, Life on the Refrigerator Door, was published in 28 countries and won several awards. Since then, she has published two further award winning YA novels internationally (The Worst Thing She Ever Did, 40 Things I Want to Tell You), with a fourth, The Death of Us, coming out on September 2, 2014. Alice has three small children and she began writing picture books for them. Her first picture book Violet and Victor Write The Best Ever Bookworm Book will be published in December of this year. Alice's website is full of tips and hints for those of you who want to become writers too. You can find out more about Alice and her books on her website or find her on Twitter (@AliceKuipers). :)

Dear Emily St. John Mandel,

I preordered Station Eleven on my Kindle and felt surprising irritation that I couldn’t read it immediately. The description from Goodreads had me hooked: An audacious, darkly glittering novel about art, fame, and ambition set in the eerie days of civilization's collapse... 

When Station Eleven beamed into my eReader on launch day, I stopped reading everything else and began. Your novel is beautifully written. From the first page, the prose had me lulled into the story. I haven’t finished reading it yet, but I know that this is a book that will stay with me for years. The characters are clearly drawn, vivid, and I cannot stop reading. I’m in the state that I love when I both don’t want to put the book down, but I also want to savour it. I can’t wait to get to the end, but I don’t want your novel to finish.

The book is an adult novel but I think teen readers will love it too. I write YA fiction and Station Eleven will fall into the hands of smart, savvy teen readers who will find it beautiful. And frightening.

The story is of a world in a state of collapse, written through changing timelines and through many perspectives. I had bad dreams of my family suffering from a terrible plague just as you describe. As the mother of three children, the idea that this world isn’t permanent physically hurts. But of course it’s not permanent. Nothing is. Your stunning descriptions of our world before and after the Georgia Flu give me moments of grace and beauty as I hold onto my tiny children. I know I have to send them out into this big, blue world. I have to let them go, whatever the future holds. Your book, despite the death, the destruction, the darkness, gives me light too.

Apparently you’re Canadian. I moved to Canada eleven years ago. Now you live in New York City. You are someone who has transplanted themselves and I feel that in your story. There is a sense of searching for home, something I’ve been doing for years. Once someone moves away, I think there’s always a sense of what’s been left behind. Station Eleven is all about what’s been left behind. What is lost. Yet your book gives me faith that home is exactly where you are in the current moment rather than something to seek. There are passages in the book that I re-read or highlight just because the writing is so fine, or because it takes me somewhere new. The novel is a triumph. You must be so proud of it. 

I can’t wait to read your other books. There are three more and I’ve already ordered one. But I can wait to finish this one. I’m going to take each page slowly as I only have a few pages left. Thank you for writing it – I’m sure it was hard work, but so worth it. It’s a testament to the value of art in a scary planet. I love it.

Alice Kuipers

Thanks to much to Alice for the wonderful letter to Emily St. John Mandel. Go check out The Death of Us (and maybe Station Eleven as well)! :)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Me on Waiting on Wednesday (193)

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

Title: The Conspiracy of Us
Author: Maggie Hall
Release Date: January 13, 2015
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile (Penguin imprint)

From Goodreads:

To fight her destiny as the missing heir to a powerful and dangerous secret society, sixteen-year-old Avery West must solve an ancient puzzle in a deadly race across Europe. Forbidden love and code-breaking, masked balls and explosions, destiny and dark secrets collide in this romantic thriller, in the vein of a YA DaVinci Code.

Avery West's newfound family can shut down Prada at the Champs-Elysees when they want to shop in peace, and can just as easily order a bombing when they want to start a war. 

They are part of a powerful and dangerous secret society called the Circle of Twelve, and Avery is their missing heir. If they discover who she is, some of them will want to use her as a pawn. Some will want her dead. 

To thwart their plans, Avery must follow a trail of clues from the landmarks of Paris to the back alleys of Istanbul and through a web of ancient legends and lies. And unless she can stay one step ahead of beautiful, volatile Stellan, who knows she’s more than she seems, and can decide whether to trust mysterious, magnetic Jack, she may be doomed after all.

I just found out about this book, it sounds rather interesting. I'm curious/a bit confused about the missing heir/new family part (what new family??), but it still sounds like something I'll keep an eye out for. Not sure about the what sounds like a love triangle, though.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Me on In a Handful of Dust

Title: In a Handful of Dust
Author: Mindy McGinnis
Release Date: September 23, 2014
Publisher: Katherine Tegan Books (HarperCollins imprint)

Lucy's life by the pond has always been full. She has water and friends, laughter and the love of her adoptive mother, Lynn, who has made sure that Lucy's childhood was very different from her own. Yet it seems Lucy's future is settled already—a house, a man, children, and a water source—and anything beyond their life by the pond is beyond reach. When disease burns through their community, the once life-saving water of the pond might be the source of what's killing them now. Rumors of desalinization plants in California have lingered in Lynn's mind, and the prospect of a "normal" life for Lucy sets the two of them on an epic journey west to face new dangers: hunger, mountains, deserts, betrayal, and the perils of a world so vast that Lucy fears she could be lost forever.

In a Handful of Dust is a return to a dry future, a world where water is more valuable than gold. Instead of the glimpse of this rough world readers found previously, this is a journey across plains, rivers, and mountains, showing that danger is everywhere and few can be trusted.

Lucy, and of course Lynn, are older now, a good ten years or so older. They stayed in the house with the pond, living with a few close family members and friends. But then they leave. The discover what the world's become after the Shortage. What's beyond home, beyond the pond. What kind of people are out there and what their motives are. How hard it is to survive. Lynn is the same as she was, and I was glad for that. She's rough, she's practical, she rarely trusts strangers, and she often suspects the worst when she meets someone new. She's set in her ways, focused on survival. Lucy isn't. Her childhood was full of change and death but also love, love from Lynn and those around her. She isn't a carbon copy of Lynn, and so she thinks differently of people, sees friendship where Lynn sees weakness and possible betrayal. Lynn is the voice of reason while Lucy is hope and dreams of the future.

Nothing about this world is easy. Not the landscape, not the weather, not the people. You need to be strong to live in this world. Intelligent. Practical. Not unemotional but realistic. Good with a gun, preferably a rifle. All of the fluff and excess has been trimmed away until all that's left is survival, trust, and sacrifice.

After reading Not a Drop to Drink last year, I imagined this would be rather similar. And in certain ways is was. A harsh, brutal, hostile world, a story of strength and survival, of being pushed, of defending what is ours, who is ours, until our last breath. But in other ways it wasn't. The last book was Lynn's story, and this is Lucy's. Lucy sees the world differently, sees hope for the future, sees what could be beyond the dust and the death. For those who wanted more after reading the previous book, and for those looking for frighteningly realistic post-apocalyptic dystopian, I would definitely recommend this book.

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

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Me on This Week's Book Week (120)

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. ;)

Hello all! I had the first hint of fall coming this week. Remember that ankle I have that's full of metal bits (that somehow don't set off airport metal detectors)? It was aching this week, like how it ached all last winter. I wonder if it's predicting the future or something.

So, my review schedule's pretty tight and packed with ARCs and e-galleys to read, but sometimes, for whatever reason, I completely lose interest in one and decide not to. I wonder why that is. Maybe it's a shifting preference kind of thing. Or it's because I see some ratings on Goodreads that aren't so favourable. Or because it's about 600 pages long and looks like a freaking brick. *sigh* Well, I fully reserve the right to read it and hopefully review it at a later date.

Reviews going up this coming week will feature In a Handful of Dust by Mindy McGinnis (Tuesday) and Firebug by Lish McBride (Friday). :)
Sisters by Raina Telgemeier (from Scholastic Canada)
Drama by Raina Telgemeier (borrowed from library)
Amulet #6: Escape from Lucien by Kazu Kibuishi (from Scholastic Canada)
Seconds by Bryan Lee O'Malley (borrowed from library)
Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins (borrowed from library)

Friday, September 12, 2014

Me on Get Even

Title: Get Even
Author: Gretchen McNeil
Release Date: September 16, 2014
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins imprint)

Bree, Olivia, Kitty, and Margot have nothing in common—at least that's what they'd like the students and administrators of their elite private school to think. The girls have different goals, different friends, and different lives, but they share one very big secret: They're all members of Don't Get Mad, a secret society that anonymously takes revenge on the school's bullies, mean girls, and tyrannical teachers. When their latest target ends up dead with a blood-soaked "DGM" card in his hands, the girls realize that they're not as anonymous as they thought—and that someone now wants revenge on them. Soon the clues are piling up, the police are closing in, and everyone has something to lose.

Get Even is a classic revenge story with dangerous twists and turns. The level of tension is high, the level of drama is high, and the stakes are the highest they could be. Secrets surround the school like locusts, leaving barely any room for the truth to escape.

While they have the same over-arching goal, all 4 girls are very different. Bree, Olivia, Kitty, Margot. They have different personalities, different friends, different painful back stories. Different motives, different opinions. What I liked about their interactions and banter, the times when they were together, was that they never felt like friends. Instead, they felt like acquaintances, like co-workers. They're not friends, they couldn't be. Or else the entire school would know the truth behind DGM.

This book is all about revenge and consequences, both for the girls and those they target. The girls aren't immune to revenge. Everyone has secrets they wish were better hidden. Everyone has made mistakes. Everyone has lied and cheated. In the end, it's all about how far someone will go for payback, how much harm is caused, and how much is revealed.

Books like this, with revenge plots, certainly raise a number of questions when it comes to morals and condoning this kind of behaviour. In a way I'm torn on whether or not I believe that DGM is a good thing. Yes, I do believe that people should be punished if they do something wrong. Cheat, steal, assault, rape, murder. But do I believe that, if nothing is or can be done by police, revenge is the answer? When people we care about are hurt, in pain, or ruined, we would do anything to right those wrongs. But where do we draw the line between justice and vigilante? Is it all just black and white, or are there too many shades of grey for us to tell?

When the end came around, I had no idea who was going after the girls. There are possibilities, there can't not be possibilities, but there are so many and you only see so much of the story, only what the girls see. And even then, some are still keeping secrets. And what about the possibility that it's not one person, that some of the messages are from different people wanting their revenge on each of the girls? I won't deny the similarities to Burn for Burn, but I enjoyed this more. It was all about the girls and the mystery, about their secrets catching up on them and causing friction and distrust. I can't wait for the next book, for even more hints and clues.

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

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Me on Waiting on Wednesday (192)

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

Title: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
Author: Becky Albertalli
Release Date: April 7, 2015
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins imprint)

From Goodreads:

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn't play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone's business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he's been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon's junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he's pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he's never met.

The initial pitch I saw for this book was "starring gay teenage boys with good grammar" and my brain instantly went "I WANT THIS NOW." You all know I'm a genre girl, but I still love LGBTQ YA and more often than not it's in a contemporary setting. Which is fine, variety is always nice.

But I want this so much. I saw Jen over at Pop Goes the Reader reading this over the weekend and raving about it and I just wanted it more.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Me on Playing with Matches

Title: Playing with Matches
Author: Suri Rosen
Release Date: September 9, 2014
Publisher: ECW Press

When 16-year-old Raina Resnick is expelled from her Manhattan private school, she's sent to live with her strict aunt — but Raina feels like she's persona non grata no matter where she goes. Her sister, Leah, blames her for her broken engagement, and she's a social pariah at her new school in Toronto. In the tight-knit Jewish community, Raina finds she is good at one thing: matchmaking! As the anonymous "MatchMaven," Raina sets up hopeless singles desperate to find the One. A cross between Jane Austen's Emma, Dear Abby, and Yenta the matchmaker, Raina's double life soon has her barely staying awake in class. Can she find the perfect match for her sister and get back on her good side, or will her tanking grades mean a second expulsion?

Playing with Matches is funny, witty, and clever. This is one girl's unexpected journey through the hopeful single Jewish community of Toronto. It has its perks, but it also has it drawbacks, and Raina has to be careful or else everything will fall apart at her feet.

Raina's just trying to survive this new and unwanted life of hers. She's trying to survive her sister's sadness and anger, trying to figure out where she fits in. Trying to figure out how she's suddenly a matchmaker. She's the kind of girl who wants to help out, but most of the time it's because she's been roped into it. She has her negative qualities. She judges nearly everyone at face value, she has secrets in her past that she'd rather stay hidden. But when it comes to family, like Leah, she'll try as hard as she can to make it all better.

She certainly falls into matchmaking by accident. It's certainly not something she'd planned for herself in the future. And it's not easy. It doesn't take her long to realize that it's more than just matching up two single people and hoping they'll have something in common beyond not wanting to be single any longer. You have to know people in certain ways, know what they want and what they don't, know what they really need from a partner, and hope you know someone who will fill that role. Raina has it extra hard because she barely knows these people and because of all the pressure they've put on her to save them from being single. As she says, she's only sixteen. What does she know about dating and romance that they don't?

I thought the pacing was great. It was hard for me to put this down once I started reading. This book was just so much fun to read. The characters, Raina's friends and family, were interesting. They sounded like regular people with regular problems. The Orthodox Jewish community is one I'm not familiar with and I enjoyed reading about it (I'm not Jewish, so I don't feel I can comment on the accuracy of the customs and religion portrayed here). With a clever and trying heroine and a quirky cast of supporting characters, this is definitely a must-read for fans of contemporary stories and realistic fiction.

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

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Me on This Week's Book Week (119)

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. ;)

Hello! I'm back from Edmonton. And I'm still a bit tired. It's not like I was that far away, or that it took forever to get back. It's more the not a lot of sleep from sleeping on a couch.

I did read those 4 library e-books while I was away, which was good, but no review books. I did only take my Kobo with me so I was slightly limited. Now I'll be getting back into reading review books, which is good, but there sure are a lot to get through for review purposes for both this and next month.

Reviews going up this week will feature Playing with Matches by Suri Rosen (Tuesday) and Get Even by Gretchen McNeil (Friday). :)
My True Love Gave To Me: Twelve Holiday Stories edited by Stephanie Perkins (e-galley)
Meridian by Josin L. McQuein (borrowed from library)

Friday, September 5, 2014

Me on Winterkill

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

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.

Winterkill is atmospheric and chilling, secretive and haunting. It's a journey of discovery and self-discovery, what's beyond the walls out in the woods and what is inside Emmeline. What is she capable of? What will she discover? And how will the Settlement react?

Emmeline is curious. She has a number of questions about her life in and around the Settlement. Other people have questions as well. What are her plans? What does her future hold? Will she stay on the right path, or will she turn Wayward like her grandmother did? But Emmeline's questions go further. What's beyond the Settlement? Where are the Lost People? She wants to know more about what else is out there, she wants to know the truth, but no one else is interested in that. The Settlement is safe, so why would anyone leave or break the rules? She has moments of strength and weakness, moments of doubt and conviction. But she never gives up on searching for the answers to her questions.

Discovery is one of the main tenants of the Settlement, yes, but only the right kind of discovery. Only the kind that benefits everyone, the kind that will keep them alive during the long winter months. Not the kind that asks questions about the past. Nothing good comes from remembering old hurts and scandals. But sometimes you just have to know what else is out there.

As with most books I was intrigued by the world-building. It has a very pioneer/old-fashioned pre-electricity feel, the way they live off the land in a village-style of settlement, but it also felt like it could be set in the distant future, after civilization as we know it has crumbled. Also the mix of English and French spoken by the villagers was interesting. The book has a very historical feel with hints of an old world kind of magic. I found the setting to be chilling and suspicious, perfect for the story.

Going in, I wasn't sure if there would be more to follow. Then I found out this is the first in a trilogy and was instantly excited. I found that the story moved slowly, but it was the good kind of slowly. The right kind. I felt rushed when Emmeline felt rushed, when she was running, searching, panicking about what was chasing her and who would be waiting for her when she got back. I would definitely recommend this to fans of Sorrow's Knot by Erin Bow and The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan.

(I received an advance copy of this title from the author.)