Saturday, May 30, 2015

Me on This Week's Book Week (156)

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 there! I think summer has arrived. *melts while pushing the mower* I didn't really get any books this week, but I figured I'd show you all the comic and art goodness I picked up last weekend.

I had a great time wandering around VanCAF last weekend, talking to artists and picking up comics and art cards. It was great to see people I'd met last year, meet new people, wander around two rooms instead of just the one last year (which meant double the art and creative people), and wander around with Yash. She's lots of fun. :)

Reviews going up next week will feature Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan (Tuesday) and Hidden Huntress by Danielle L. Jensen (Friday). :)

Comics and art cards and stickers and buttons all bought at VanCAF last weekend. If you're curious about something pictured, let me know in the comments and I can tell you who the artist is so you can find them online. :)

Friday, May 29, 2015

Me on The Cage

Title: The Cage
Author: Megan Shepherd
Release Date: May 26, 2015
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins imprint)

When Cora Mason wakes in a desert, she doesn't know where she is or who put her there. As she explores, she finds an impossible mix of environments—tundra next to desert, farm next to jungle, and a strangely empty town cobbled together from different cultures—all watched over by eerie black windows. And she isn't alone. Four other teenagers have also been taken: a beautiful model, a tattooed smuggler, a secretive genius, and an army brat who seems to know too much about Cora's past. None of them have a clue as to what happened, and all of them have secrets. As the unlikely group struggles for leadership, they slowly start to trust each other. But when their mysterious jailer—a handsome young guard called Cassian—appears, they realize that their captivity is more terrifying than they could ever imagine: Their captors aren't from Earth. And they have taken the five teenagers for an otherworldly zoo—where the exhibits are humans. As a forbidden attraction develops between Cora and Cassian, she realizes that her best chance of escape might be in the arms of her own jailer—though that would mean leaving the others behind. Can Cora manage to save herself and her companions? And if so... what world lies beyond the walls of their cage?

The Cage is mysterious, puzzling, and dangerous. Trapped in an impossible place, will Cora and the others learn the truth of where they are, why they're there, and what's wanted from them? Will they even want to know the truth?

Cora is a bit rough, smart and practical but wary of everything and everyone, which makes sense, considering where she was before the book started. She wakes up lost, confused, wondering why she's no longer with her brother. It doesn't take long for her to realize she's in a place that shouldn't exist, and it doesn't take her long to realize she's not alone. But she never really trusts any of them completely. She's learned not to trust people. Until Cassian.

I worry about the romance between Cora and Cassian. On her side, she's wary, yes, but also confused, in near constant pain from her headaches, desperate to get out, to return home. She's strong but vulnerable in a number of ways. On his side, he seems obsessed with her. He's focused on keeping her alive, keep her her safe, leaning from her. Which leads to her trusting him and him gaining more and more control over her. It doesn't seem healthy to me, seems rather manipulative on his part. I wonder what will happen between them in the next book.

The reason for the teens' abduction is chilling. Captured by aliens, settled in an enclosure to be watched. Their purpose is simple now, according to their captors, but not to them. Their rebellion is human resistance at its best. It's our refusal to be controlled, to have someone in charge of our basic needs like where we sleep, where we live, what we eat, and who we must be with. When Cora and the group realize that they're caged like animals, to be observed in a zoo for the rest of their lives, the primal instinct to flee and find freedom takes over. But it's not that simple. It never is.

This book is rather strange. It went from me thinking it was going to be about finding an escape to some kind of dark and twisted science fiction tale to an exploration of human defiance, risk, challenge, and the strength of our emotions. It's intriguing, yes, but the possibilities of what could happen, what has happened to humans taken previously by the aliens, is disturbing. I'm curious as to how the rest of the trilogy will play out, what other secrets about the aliens will be revealed. What is happening to Cora and the others. I do wonder if everything will end with Cora strong and confident, not taking any lies from anyone, completely in charge and in control, but only time will tell.

(I downloaded an e-galley of this title from Edelweiss through HarperCollins.)

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Me on Waiting on Wednesday (228)

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

Title: Six of Crows
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Release Date: September 29, 2015
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co. (Macmillan imprint)

From Goodreads:

Game of Thrones meets Ocean's Eleven in this brand-new book in the world of the Grisha by New York Times-bestselling author Leigh Bardugo.

Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can't pull it off alone...

A convict with a thirst for revenge.

A sharpshooter who can't walk away from a wager.

A runaway with a privileged past.

A spy known as the Wraith.

A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums. 

A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes. 

Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz's crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don't kill each other first.

I still haven't read Ruin & Rising (I know, I know) but I'm looking forward to this. The heist part interests me a bit more than the set in the Grisha world part, but overall I'm interested.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Me on Extraordinary Means

Title: Extraordinary Means
Author: Robyn Schneider
Release Date: May 26, 2015
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins imprint)

At seventeen, overachieving Lane finds himself at Latham House, a sanatorium for teens suffering from an incurable strain of tuberculosis. Part hospital and part boarding school, Latham is a place of endless rules and confusing rituals, where it's easier to fail breakfast than it is to flunk French. There, Lane encounters a girl he knew years ago. Instead of the shy loner he remembers, Sadie has transformed. At Latham, she is sarcastic, fearless, and utterly compelling. Her friends, a group of eccentric troublemakers, fascinate Lane, who has never stepped out of bounds his whole life. And as he gradually becomes one of them, Sadie shows him their secrets: how to steal internet, how to sneak into town, and how to disable the med sensors they must wear at all times. But there are consequences to having secrets, particularly at Latham House. And as Lane and Sadie begin to fall in love and their group begins to fall sicker, their insular world threatens to come crashing down.

Extraordinary Means is an intriguing look at disease, at the different ways we live, at the different definitions we have for living, and at the second chances we get when it looks like our first is about to run out.

Lane is new to Latham House, a tuberculosis sanatorium for teens. He doesn't want to be there, doesn't want to be sick, and he doesn't understand the doctor's orders. Think of Latham as a vacation? as time away from school to rest? Lane has plans. College, summer internships, business or law school. There's no time for him to be sick, to take nature walks or long naps. He can't be left behind. He can't stay there. He needs to get back to his life.

Sadie is sarcastic, creative, and fearless, but more than a year in Latham House has changed her. If she was sent home, would she know how to life? She acts like her life is on hold, like it will always be on hold. Like she's now living this alternate life of sneaking out, sneaking in contraband, and never taking anything seriously. But then she meets Lane, someone who wants out, someone who wants to go back to their life outside of sickness, and Sadie realizes that life inside Latham House isn't life.

I found the disease, the completely fictional completely drug resistant tuberculosis, rather intriguing. TB attacks the lungs, attacks young people, settles in them and halts their lives. And then what? Lane and Sadie's lives are stuck on pause, waiting. Waiting for anything. To get better, to get worse, a cure. But until then, all they can do is wait. What about their lives? They're stuck not moving forward, not learning, not experiencing all the crap that teens experience. Instead of something, there's nothing but a narrow bed, a wait, and a tissue to cough blood into.

I think a lot of this book is about second chances, about what we do in order to feel like we're alive. At the beginning, Lane's attempts at normal wear him down. He has to keep up with school, he just has to, but it makes things worse. Sadie sneaks out and sneaks contraband into Latham House in order to make it feel like the outside world, but it never really does. There are still alert bracelets and nurses, still confining walls and well-meaning doctors. It's not living, but Lane and Sadie try and make the best of it. Until everything changes. I do think fans of the author's previous book will enjoy this as well as contemporary YA fans looking for something a little serious.

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

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Me on This Week's Book Week (155)

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 there! The warm summer weather is starting to pick up. *wilts under the sun*

On Saturday I'm off to VanCAF, the Vancouver version of Toronto's big comic festival weekend only not as big, with the wonderful Yash of The Book Wars. I'll possibly be tweeting pictures, but who knows? I might instead be talking to actual people about comics and upcoming anthologies and other fun things. ;) Any pics of what I get will probably go up on Twitter & Instagram.

It looks like a bunch of bloggers are headed to NYC soon for BEA. Wear comfy shoes, stay hydrated and cool (it sounds like the weather is supposed to be muggy and gross), stay calm, and have fun! :)

Reviews going up this coming week will feature Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider (Tuesday) and The Cage by Megan Shepherd (Friday). :)
Deception by Emily Lloyd-Jones (ARC from Hachette Book Group Canada)
Alive by Chandler Baker (ARC from Hachette Book Group Canada)
Tangled Webs by Lee Bross (ARC from Hachette Book Group Canada)
A-Force #1 by Marguerite Bennett, G. Willow Wilson, Jorge Molina, & Laura Martin (Bought)

Friday, May 22, 2015

Me on Seriously Wicked

Title: Seriously Wicked
Author: Tina Connolly
Release Date: May 5, 2015
Publisher: Tor

The only thing worse than being a witch is living with one. Camellia's adopted mother wants Cam to grow up to be just like her. Problem is, Mom's a seriously wicked witch. Cam's used to stopping the witch's crazy schemes for world domination. But when the witch summons a demon, he gets loose—and into Devon, the cute new boy at school. Now Cam's suddenly got bigger problems than passing Algebra. Her friends are getting zombiefied. Their dragon is tired of hiding in the RV garage. For being a shy boy-band boy, Devon is sure kissing a bunch of girls. And a phoenix hidden in the school is going to explode on the night of the Halloween Dance. To stop the demon before he destroys Devon's soul, Cam might have to try a spell of her own. But if she's willing to work spells like the witch... will that mean she's wicked too?

Seriously Wicked is magical, funny, and complicated. Cam's trying as hard as she can to be normal, but it's not working out anymore, and now she's scrambling to keep everything from exploding.

Camellia's distrust and dislike of 'the witch,' as she calls her adopted mom/possible kidnapper, is very obvious. She doesn't agree with her slightly evil plans. She doesn't want to be a witch. What she wants is to be normal, to not get up at 5:30 every morning to care for the dragon or the werewolf pup or hunt down goat's blood. Keeping secrets from her friend Jeneh and everyone at school, she's trying to balance being a teen and knowing everything witch-related. The trying, and the failing, at balancing brings out Cam's clever snark and sass. There are times when she wants to give up, but she has a good heart in her, and so she soldiers on.

Cam's relationship with Sarmine, 'the witch,' is filled with frustration. Cam refuses to be a witch, to research spells. She doesn't want anything to do with the plot to take control of the city, but Sarmine doesn't listen to her. She drills witchery knowledge into Cam, she makes sure to give her spells to research. It's classic child/parent head-butting. I could easily say that Sarmine is at fault for never listening to Cam, but Cam's just as guilty. They butt heads because they're both so stubborn, both refusing to back down. But it's not quite fair of Sarmine to do spells on Cam, like trapping her in a pumpkin field or stealing her senses, when she doesn't listen to her witchy demands.

The way the author has woven in the witch-related backstory and lore into the modern world is interesting. The different ways they use phones and the internet, the spells and their secret codes. I found it amusing and clever.

I think this book is more about Cam waging war against fate than anything else. She's trying to stay same by not mixing the two halves of her life, the witchery side and the normal teenage girl side. But now with Sarmine's newest plan, it's difficult to keep the two apart. The wall she carefully built between the two is crumbling, and Cam's scrambling to solve everything without going too far into maybe actually being a witch. If you're looking for some humour to go along with your witchery, then give this book a read.

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

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Me on Waiting on Wednesday (227)

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

Title: A Pocket Full of Murder
Author: R.J. Anderson
Release Date: September 8, 2015
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (Simon & Schuster imprint)

From Goodreads:

In the spell-powered city of Tarreton, the wealthy have all the magic they desire while the working class can barely afford a simple spell to heat their homes. Twelve-year-old Isaveth is poor, but she’s also brave, loyal, and zealous in the pursuit of justice—which is lucky, because her father has just been wrongfully arrested for murder. 

Isaveth is determined to prove his innocence. Quiz, the eccentric eyepatch-wearing street boy who befriends her, swears he can’t resist a good mystery. Together they set out to solve the magical murder of one of Tarreton’s most influential citizens and save Isaveth’s beloved Papa from execution.

But each clue is more perplexing than the next. Was the victim truly killed by Common Magic—the kind of crude, cheap spell that only an unschooled magician would use—or was his death merely arranged to appear that way? And is Quiz truly helping her out of friendship, or does he have hidden motives of his own? Isaveth must figure out who she can trust if she’s to have any hope of proving her Papa’s innocence in time. . .

Whenever E.K. Johnston talks up a book, I know I have to read it. Kate has become my barometer for things like movies and books and smart people to follow on Twitter. ;)

This sounds really interesting. Magic and mystery and murder. I'm looking forward to reading this in the fall. :)

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Me on Illusionarium

Title: Illusionarium
Author: Heather Dixon
Release Date: May 19, 2015
Publisher: Greenwillow (HarperCollins imprint)

Jonathan is perfectly ordinary. But then—as every good adventure begins—the king swoops into port, and Jonathan and his father are enlisted to find the cure to a deadly plague. Jonathan discovers that he's a prodigy at working with a new chemical called fantillium, which creates shared hallucinations—or illusions. And just like that, Jonathan is knocked off his path.

Illusionarium is magical and mysterious, a journey to a new and dangerous world, one Jonathan might not be able to escape.

Jonathan is a clever young man with good intentions. It's clear that he's never faced danger like this before in his life, the dangers he face in the illusions. He has a very strong sense of right and wrong. He's consistently shocked when someone does something 'wrong' and they aren't apologetic, unused to people without morals, people who act on their own best interest as opposed to acting in order to help others. At times he can be sarcastic and witty, some amusing quips are thrown at certain characters when they're being jerks to him. It lightens the mood at times.

There's some very lush world building going on in this book. First comes Jonathan's world with its aerial cities and airships, the country taking its name from Arthurian legend. Then comes the new world, the world filled with impossible illusions, imaginative illusionists, dangerous foes and almost zero allies. It's a place where Jonathan must stay awake and be light on his feet if he wants to return home.

It took me a little while to get into the story, I kept wondering who the villain was and what Jonathan's motivation was. There was a time or two that, because of the illusions, I was confused as to what was really going on. Was it an illusion, or what it real? Was any of it real? When I got into it I did enjoy it, enjoy watching Jonathan figure out what to do and how to illusion it into being. And the cover is rather misleading. Please don't go into this expecting an epic romance, there's barely any romance to be found here. I imagine fans of impossible illusions and clever, well-meaning heroes will enjoy this.

(I downloaded an e-galley of this from Edelweiss through HarperCollins.)

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Me on This Week's Book Week (154)

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 certainly seems like it's heading into summer, doesn't it? Well, it does here. It's been rather sunny lately.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by during the Canadian YA Lit Event. The giveaway is still going on, so make sure you enter soon. It's open to everyone, so don't worry too much about not entering because of where you live. Well, don't worry if Book Depository ships for free to where you live.

Reviews going up next week will feature Illusionarium by Heather Dixon (Tuesday) and Seriously Wicked by Tina Connolly (Friday). :)
To Walk the Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson (e-galley from Edelweiss)
This Monstrous Thing by Mackenzi Lee (e-galley from Edelweiss)
Dreamland by Robert L. Anderson (e-galley from Edelweiss)
A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis (e-galley from Edelweiss)
Gotham Academy Volume 1: Welcome to Gotham Academy by Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher, & Karl Kerschl (e-galley from NetGalley)

Friday, May 15, 2015

Me on Made You Up

Title: Made You Up
Author: Francesca Zappia
Release Date: May 19, 2015
Publisher: Greenwillow Books (HarperCollins imprint)

Alex fights a daily battle to figure out the difference between reality and delusion. Armed with a take-no-prisoners attitude, her camera, a Magic 8-Ball, and her only ally (her little sister), Alex wages a war against her schizophrenia, determined to stay sane long enough to get into college. She's pretty optimistic about her chances until classes begin, and she runs into Miles. Didn't she imagine him? Before she knows it, Alex is making friends, going to parties, falling in love, and experiencing all the usual rites of passage for teenagers. But Alex is used to being crazy. She's not prepared for normal.

Made You Up is quirky, entertaining, exciting, and different. A surprising look at being a teen, at attending high school, when you're not sure what's real and what isn't. When you're not sure if you're insane or if you're the only sane one in the room. When you're not sure if your classmates are real or if your brain made them up.

I think Alex provides an honest view of life that's enhanced by her paranoid schizophrenia, if such a thing is possible. She's the most unreliable of narrators, readers are never sure what's real and what isn't because Alex is never sure, but that makes this book so interesting. It's a bit raw and unfiltered, it's truth alongside impossibility. Alex is a bit bold, unpredictable, intelligent. Cautious, which I think comes from the paranoia. She has a way of seeing through some people, seeing what they're hiding, what they're lying about. It's so easy to believe everything she says, to see everything she does, until you find out it might not be there.

I can't speak as to how accurate the portrayal of Alex's paranoid schizophrenia is, but I hope it's accurate. It's an illness that isn't often seen in YA. Depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, cancer. Rarely schizophrenia. There are moments when the medication Alex takes is described as greying her world, making everything fuzzy, making her sad, but there are also moments when Alex acknowledges that she needs help, that what she sees isn't always real or normal.

I found this book to be so interesting, so compelling, that I was unable to stop reading. I was desperate to know what happened next, to know what was real and what wasn't. I expected everything Alex saw and heard to be real and to not be real. In the end, in terms of what was real and what wasn't, well... who's to say? A definite must-read for those looking for a brand new flawed heroine.

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

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Day 13 - The Epic Journey

It's day 13! Today's the last day of the Canadian YA Lit Event (even though it's the 13th so hopefully you'll forgive me). I hope everyone's enjoyed the posts, the reviews and the Q&A's. And thank so much much to the authors who took part this year. :)

As with past years, I wanted to talk about something that's part of Canadian lit or perception of Canadian YA, and so I've settled on something I've discovered in so many books over the years.

The epic journey.

Canada is a pretty big place, and we've just about got it all, climate and ecosystem-wise. Mountains, prairies, plains, grasslands, shield, forests, taiga, arctic, maritimes. And our history is full of explorers, of people traversing mountain pathways and striding across endless fields in order to get from the east coast to the west. It's a big, wide, open space we have, and who among us hasn't ever gotten the urge to travel it? To see it all?

Journeys pop up so regularly in books. Quite often in YA it's internal, taking in what's around you, what's happened to you and others near you, and learning something from that experience. But a number of times in Canadian lit, it's an external journey. It's a mission to get from place to place. And the reasons for the journey often vary. Sometimes, to find someone or something that was lost. Sometimes, to hide something that must stay hidden. And sometimes, to find ourselves, to listen closely in the silence of nature.

One example that comes to mind so quickly is The Oathbreaker's Shadow by Amy McCulloch. Raim must travel so far, across an endless desert under the brutal heat, in order to discover the truth about his broken oath and the shadow that follows him. It tests him, tests his strength and his will, his faith in those he once kept close to him. And when that journey ends, another begins. And another. And another. Raim stumbles along the way, he falls and falters, he wonders what it would be like if he have up, but he never does. He continues because he must.

Kate Boorman talked about this last year in relation to her book, Winterkill. How, to her, "[t]his land, while heart-breakingly beautiful, is incredibly harsh. It is something to admire and survive. The first people here knew that: they developed an intense understanding of the landscape and climate in order to flourish. The arriving immigrants had to learn—the hard way... A landscape that can sustain life and take it in dramatic ways fascinates [her]."

We often look at Canada in a kind of subdued awe. We see the paintings done by the Group of Seven, we read the poetry and the short stories, we listen to the true tales of harsh winters before Canada was called Canada. And we attempt to embrace it, to understand it. It gives to us and it takes away. It's bitter cold in the winter and blazing hot in the summer. It pushes and pulls at us as we do to it. How can we not want to explore it, to attempt to uncover its secrets, its hidden gems, as it picks away at the shields we've wrapped around ourselves after years of city living?

I wonder what it is about journeys that still tug at me. They're everywhere in Canadian lit, so much so that I grow tired of them, but there's still something about them. Perhaps it's because of a book I read as a kid. It's about a girl who, after losing her father and gaining a secret message, heads off through the wilds of rural Upper Canada in order to find a general to give the message to. I think it's set around 1812, when Canada was at war with America. I can't remember the title, though, but I remember reading it over and over again. Her perseverance stuck with me.

Here are some other Canadian-authored YA novels that I could think of (there are many, many more that I either haven't read or can't remember) with some kind of epic journey, in case you're looking for more: Blood Red Road by Moira Young, Dark Inside by Jeyn Roberts, The Lives We Lost by Megan Crewe, and Stone in the Sky by Cecil Castellucci.

The epic journey sticks with you after you read it. Sometimes it gives you a sense of wanderlust, gives you the desire to see what those characters saw, see if the sunrises look the same, if the trees and the rocks are still there. I think the epic journey pushes us to have our own, to see what we can't in the city, to experience something different. To travel without knowing who you'll meet along the way or how long it'll take you to get there. Or if, at the end, you'll even want to go back.

It's not just Canadian lit, of course. The journey is everywhere, because we're all human beings. We all have those same drives to create and explore and experience. I don't think it'll ever go away. There will always be places to go people to meet. Stars to discover, sunrises to watch. It will always be part of us.

What do you think about 'the epic journey?' What books with epic journeys have you enjoyed?

Me on Waiting on Wednesday (226)

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

Title: Darkthaw
Author: Kate A. Boorman
Release Date: October 13, 2015
Publisher: Amulet Books (Abrams imprint)

From Goodreads:

For as long as Emmeline can remember, she’s longed to leave the isolated world of the settlement and explore the wilderness that calls to her in her dreams. And now that the Brotherhood has fallen, she will finally, finally get that chance. With First Peoples guide Matisa at her side, Emmeline rallies a brave group to join her on her quest into the unknown, including her beloved Kane and his two younger brothers.

But the journey soon proves far more dangerous than Emmeline anticipated—with warring clans, slavers, colonists, disease, and natural disasters, seemingly at every turn. After putting so many lives in danger, she starts to doubt everything she once knew. Did she make the right choice to leave the settlement—and can her relationship with Kane survive the ordeal? Matisa insists that to set things right and to fight the evil that is bringing all of this danger and turmoil to the forest, Emmeline must journey to the land of the First Peoples—even if that means leaving Kane behind.

I really enjoyed the first book, it's rather stark and atmospheric, and it was clearly the beginning of a journey for Emmeline. She must have some purpose that stretches beyond her home and out into the world.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Day 12 - E.E. Cooper

It's day 12! And it's the last Q&A of the event. I hope you've enjoyed these. :)

E.E. Cooper lives in Vancouver, BC with her husband and a rather spoiled dog. You can find her on her website or on Twitter at @eecooperbooks where she spends far too much time.
Q: The summary/premise of Vanished is something I've sort of seen once before (Far From You by Tess Sharpe), a psychological thriller/mystery featuring a lesbian/bisexual POC as the main character. Where did the idea for this book come from?

A: Inspiration from this book came from two long term passions of mine.  The first is friendships. I am drawn to exploring  by them- how they work, how they don't, how they can be toxic, how they evolve over time, how they can make a huge difference in your life etc.  I wanted to write about a group of three friends because interaction between three versus two can make things very interesting. I wanted to put the main character, Kalah, in a situation where she was trying to navigate an unequal friendship with her own confusing feelings about one of the people in that group.  My second obsession is psychological thrillers.  I have stacks of them in my house. I find people, and what they are capable of doing, fascinating. I wanted to write a dark book that hopefully leaves readers wanting to read one more chapter to see if they can figure out what is happening. 

And I've been working on the sequel to VANISHED and having fun seeing if I can twist all those ideas once again! 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Day 11 - SuperMutant Magic Academy

It's day 11! Time for a review of a book that's a little outside the box. It's not strictly YA but it is about teenagers. Teenagers, the soul-destroying hell that is high school, life, and the universe. And maybe a cat.

Title: SuperMutant Magic Academy
Author/Illustrator: Jillian Tamaki
Release Date: April 28, 2015
Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly

Enter the not-so-hollowed halls of SuperMutant Magic Academy and let the teenage apathy wash over you. Wendy, Marsha, Cheddar, Frances, and the other students will be your guides through the D&D games, performance art, unrequited crushes, and spell-class tests that are the staples of life at a school for paranormal teenagers.

SuperMutant Magic Academy is intelligent, compelling, and bizarre. It's absurd and impossible while being true to the absurdity and impossibility of high school life. Yes, they all have some kind of magical ability, but all of that takes a backseat to the angst and the worry that teenagers face every day. Tests, dating, the future. It's all here in black and white, and sometimes red.

It's hard to describe this book, this collection, beyond what it is overall. There's sort of a set story line, the characters' lives while in high school, both inside and outside of class. Having lunch, doing homework, dating, breaking up, crushing on, fighting. Worrying about life post-high school, worrying about what the future might hold. Worrying about everything. Each page is its own separate story. It's a collection of moments, glimpses in time, until the newly drawn ending that follows more of a set story.

This is the most true to real life I've ever seen fantasy/paranormal characters be. There's Marsha keeping her crush on best friend cat-eared Wendy a secret. There's lizard Trixie trying so hard to fit in, to find a boyfriend, to be pretty. There's bold performance artist Frances and her friend with a large head Gemma. There's magical Trevor, angry and misunderstood, who's possibly just waiting for someone to finally call him on all his crap. And there's Everlasting Boy, who lives and dies and lives again. The moments they have are sometimes impossible to understand, like Frances' performance art, and sometimes so familiar it hurts, like when one boy brings another to his dorm room and acknowledges that while it is a mess, it's his mess. It's something that belongs to him. Finally, something that's all his. What teenager hasn't ever desperately craved something that was their own, and rejoiced when they finally found it?

This book is at times bold, weird, and unflinchingly honest. The moments of existentialism alternate with the moments of humour, the moments of how all teen boys can think about is sex, as seen in a number of their D&D games. A must-read for comic fans, for fans of so much reality in their fiction, for fans of storytelling.

(I received a finished copy of this title from Raincoast Books.)

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Day 10 - A Canadian YA Reading List

It's day 10! This is something a little different.

Last month I asked for Canadians, be they bloggers or authors, to send me their suggestions for which Canadian YA novels they would recommend to those looking to read more Canadian-authored YA and the reason why. I wanted others to suggest books because I knew that they would have different reading tastes than me.

And so here's the list I have with some of my picks thrown in (because while people did respond with their picks, it wasn't as many as I'd hoped).
  • Above by Leah Bobet
  • Half World by Hiromi Goto (suggested by the awesome Yash from The Book Wars)
  • Ultraviolet by R.J. Anderson
  • Quicksilver by R.J. Anderson
  • Sorrow's Knot by Erin Bow (suggested by Kate)
  • Witchlanders by Lena Coakley (suggested by Kate)
  • Stolen Songbird by Danielle L. Jensen (suggested by Kate)
  • The Story of Owen by E.K. Johnston (suggested by Kate)
  • Prairie Fire by E.K. Johnston
  • Little Brother by Cory Doctorow (suggested by Kate)
  • For the Win by Cory Doctorow (suggested by Kate)
  • All the Rage by Courtney Summers
  • Live to Tell by Lisa Harrington (suggested by Cormorant Books)
  • The Beckoners by Carrie Mac
  • Winterkill by Kate Boorman (suggested by Salom)
  • The Never series (Once Every Never, Every Never After, and Now and For Never) by Lesley Livingston
  • Dark Inside by Jeyn Roberts
  • The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten
  • Audacious by Gabrielle Prendergast
  • The Darkest Powers trilogy (The Summoning, The Awakening, and The Reckoning) by Kelley Armstrong (suggested by Roxanne)
  • Sam Cruz's Infallible Guide to Getting Girls by Tellulah Darling (suggested by Roxanne)
  • Alice, I Think by Susan Juby (suggested by Roxanne)
  • Drummer Girl by Karen Bass
  • How I Lost You by Janet Gurtler
  • The Knots Sequence duology (The Oathbreaker's Shadow and The Shadow's Curse) by Amy McCulloch
And here are two suggestions from the wonderful Robin Stevenson (Hummingbird Heart, Record Breaker, The World Without Us) complete with reasons why.
  • Alice, I Think by Susan Juby. Set in the small northern town of Smithers, BC, this is Susan Juby's first novel, and the first of three books about the wonderfully unique Alice McLeod. Alice is a brilliant mixture of naivete, endearingly tangential thinking and razor sharp observations. A witty, satirical and often moving novel-- I rarely laugh out loud when I read, but I did when I read this, many times. Read in public at your own risk.
  • The Droughtlanders by Carrie Mac. This is the first book in the dystopian Triskelia trilogy, and it is epic. Secrets, complex characters and even more complex family relationships, dangerous journeys, and a vivid, disturbing and utterly believable futuristic world- plus beautifully handled issues of power and oppression. I found it impossible to put down. Fans of Patrick Ness should absolutely check this one out.
Thanks so much to everyone who recommended books. There are lots more Canadian-authored YA novels that weren't mentioned and that doesn't mean you should just read these. Read whatever you're interested in. But perhaps these will be the jumping off point for discovering more Canadian YA.

Is there a book missing that you thought would be on here? What would you suggest?

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Day 9 - Quicksilver

It's day 9! Time for a review! I'm kicking myself because I read the first in this duology years ago but somehow delayed reading this. Like an idiot. For those looking for more sci-fi in their YA and some awesome LGBTQIA+ representation, check this out.

Title: Quicksilver
Author: R.J. Anderson
Release Date: March 1, 2013
Publisher: Carolrhoda Lab

Back in her hometown, Tori Beaugrand had everything a teenage girl could want—popularity, money, beauty. But she also had a secret. A secret that could change her life in an instant, or destroy it. Now she's left everything from her old life behind, including her real name and Alison, the one friend who truly understood her. She can't escape who and what she is. But if she wants to have anything like a normal life, she has to blend in and hide her unusual... talents. Plans change when the enigmatic Sebastian Faraday reappears and gives Tori some bad news: she hasn't escaped her past. In fact, she's attracted new interest in the form of an obsessed ex-cop turned investigator for a genetics lab. She has one last shot at getting her enemies off her trail and winning the security and independence she's always longed for. But saving herself will take every ounce of Tori's incredible electronics and engineering skills—and even then, she may need to sacrifice more than she could possibly imagine if she wants to be free.

Quicksilver is intriguing, intelligent, and mysterious. Tori's waiting, waiting to have a normal life again, then waiting for the other shoe to drop. But she doesn't stand still, she takes change and does what she has to in order to save herself.

Tori is a rather interesting character. Compared to most female characters in YA, she's atypical, which is great. It makes her stand out, makes her interesting to me. The idea that girls who are considered "beautiful" or "pretty" can also be intelligent and skilled when it comes to mechanisms and technology is still something that confuses people. Which is shouldn't. Since when can't "pretty" girls be interested in makerspaces? Since when can't they want to study engineering in university? Tori is driven, foucsed, and intense. All those parts of her make her a compelling person to read about. And she's still scared about what could happen to her, scared of who might be coming for her, and that's fine. Tori's not the kind of girl who's just going to sit around. She'll try and do something about it.

Tori's asexuality is another of those rarely seen in YA topics, and it's so well-written, so well done. What Tori says to Milo about friendship is true, that "[t]here's no such thing as just a friend" (pg. 126). Sometimes it's about companionship. Sometimes we need relationships that aren't about sex or romance, that aren't filled with that kind of pressure. And sometimes, for people who are asexual, that's all there is, and they need it. Tori misses Alison like mad.

There's a mixture of contemporary and science fiction in this book. There's Tori being who she is, dealing with homework and worried parents, missing her friends, needing someone to talk to and be around. And there's Tori hiding from the relay, there's Faraday suddenly appearing in her life, there's Mathis not wanting to lose the data he's collected from Tori since she was a baby he dumped on Earth in order to experiment on. And all the Canadian references, from the food and shops to the perception of what the police can do in Canada and in the US.

I love how there's a layer in this book that challenges our perceptions of people around us based on their looks. Not every gorgeous blonde teen girl is flirty and flighty. Not every teen guy of Asian descent (Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Taiwanese, etc.) is excellent at math and science. Not every teen is a mass of raging hormones ready to have their sexual awakening. Not every teen is human. The story is great, the characters are complicated, and while a small part of me wonders what would happen in a third book, the ending was solid. A must-read for those looking for something a little different, for an amazing asexual main character, and for a lot of humanity in sci-fi.

(I borrowed a copy of this book from the library.)

Me on This Week's Book Week (153)

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 much spring. So much mowing. *falls over onto the grass and naps forever* So much sinus pain from grass and pollen.

Hi! There wasn't a post last week because I didn't get any books last week and these posts aren't as popular when it's just me rambling.

I hope everyone's been enjoying the Canadian YA Lit Event this year. There's more reviews than previous, but there's a lot of Canadian YA out right now. :) Reminder that the giveaway is still going on, so go here to enter. It's international/open to where Book Depository ships for free, so please please enter. :)

Have people seen the pictures of the hardcover ARCs of Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff? Whoa. It certainly looks like Random House wants this book to do well, considering the expense of hardcover advance copies and the rumours of huge piles of them at BEA at the end of the month.

The Canadian YA Lit ends on May 13th this year, but if you're more interested in the regularly scheduled format here at Me on Books, then come back on Friday for a review of Francesca Zappia's Made You Up. :)
The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey (Bought)
A History of Glitter and Blood by Hannah Moskowitz (ARC from Raincoast Books)
Seriously Wicked by Tina Connolly (ARC from Raincoast Books)
Secrets of Selkie Bay by Shelly Moore Thomas (ARC from Raincoast Books)

Friday, May 8, 2015

Day 8 - Holly Bodger

It's day 8! Time for a Q&A with a debut author! :)

Holly Bodger is a long-time resident of Ottawa and has been working in publishing since graduating from the University of Ottawa. She is also a finalist for the 2013 RWA Golden Heart Award (YA category). Her first book, 5 to 1, comes out on May 12, 2015, is is published by Knopf (Penguin Random House). You can find her on her website or on Twitter at @HollyBodger. :)
Q: 5 to 1 has such an intriguing premise. Set in a country where boys outnumber girls 5 to 1, where boys must compete in order to be chosen as husbands. Where men have next to no power or purpose beyond giving their wives daughters. Where did the initial idea for this book come from? From the past? From the present?

A: The idea was sparked by a journal article I read about the consequences of son preference and sex-selective abortion in China and other Asian countries. This article was discussing what future life might be like for the boys who will not be able to marry or have children, and that got me thinking about how this might change the dynamics of gender relations. When I considered it, I realized that life might be a lot like it is for the girls of today but in complete reverse. 

Q: As I read your book I tried to figure out who was in control. If it was the women of Koyanagar, who wrote the laws and decided on the Trials. If it was Sudasa, because she must make the final decision. If it was Kiran, because of his actions, his going against the norm during the Trials. Even now after finishing, I'm not sure. Is anyone ever in control, or is it all about the illusion of control, of acting like they're in power when no one is?

A: This book is primarily about what happens when you attempt to control someone else’s right to choose. There are many people trying to do this throughout the book, but in the end, the only real control is that which the characters have over their own destinies.

Q: Both Sudasa and Kiran have strong voices, they have hopes and dreams and fears. They yearn for something more than what the future holds for them. But with the world around them, the customs around them, the rules around them trapping them, I'm not sure if the book is more character-driven than plot-driven? Do you find it's more of one than the other, or was it being a little of both on purpose?

A: I chose a somewhat strict plot because I wanted to show the different outcomes produced by different characters in the same situation. I suppose this would make it plot-driven for the most part, although I believe the end is definitely character-driven.

Q: With Sudasa's voice in verse and Kiran telling his story in prose, was one easier or harder to write than the other? Or was it more than each point of view presented its own set of challenges?

A: I’d definitely say that each had its own challenges. Sudasa’s voice allowed me to float in the clouds and ponder the world in a very artistic manner, however she did not give me much room to lay out the hard facts of the world. Kiran’s voice allowed me to do exactly this, however I had to be very careful to always keep his feet firmly placed on the ground. I’ve always considered myself to have a little bit of both of these character traits so it wasn’t a challenge to write them, but it was a challenge to keep them separate.

Q: With the book being set in India, I can only imagine the amount of research you had to do. How much research did you have to do into India's culture and customs, their laws and values? With the ongoing push and support for diverse books in non-North American settings, how important was it to portray Sudasa, Kiran, and their country as accurately as possible?

A: The research was definitely the hardest part about writing this book. There were three main things required: 1) researching the country itself (everything from landscape to weather), 2) researching the people (this included religious customs, holidays, caste system, clothes, language, history and politics), and 3) creating a realistic new world from the two. Koyanagar is a fictional country with a history rooted in India, so it needed to maintain many of the elements of India, but it also needed to break off onto its own the way many newly-formed countries often do. There are many customs of Koyanagar that are intentionally different from India because the country was formed with the purpose of initiating change and thus I believed its leaders would want to discard those things that had caused India's problems. Unfortunately, I could not just say, "we're not going to have arranged marriages" without doing in-depth research first. All of this is to say that 95% of my many months of research did not end up on the page.

Thanks so much to Holly for answering my questions and to Random House Canada for sending me an ARC. 5 to 1 comes out on May 12! :)

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Day 7 - We Are All Made of Molecules

It's day 7! The event is half over! Remember to enter the giveaway!

Title: We Are All Made of Molecules
Author: Susin Nielsen
Release Date: May 12, 2015
Publisher: Tundra Books

Thirteen-year-old Stewart Inkster is academically brilliant but "ungifted" socially. Fourteen-year-old Ashley Anderson is the undisputed "It" girl of grade nine, but her marks stink. Their worlds are about to collide when Stewart and his dad move in with Ashley and her mom. "The Brady Bunch" it isn't. Stewart is trying to be 89.9% happy about it, but Ashley is 110% horrified. She already has to hide the truth behind her parents' divorce; "Spewart" could further threaten her position at the top of the social ladder. They are complete opposites. And yet, no matter their differences, they share one thing in common: they--like the rest of us--are all made of molecules.

We Are All Made of Molecules is a thoughtful book, a look at change, at perception, at moving on. At the fact that we all have something in common, no matter how different we are.

Stewart is smart and practical, always hoping for the best. He's gifted academically but not socially, which means navigating this new world called high school is a bit of a struggle for him. Which means being in a new environment is a struggle for him. As time passes he learns, he grows. He's hit by some of the more painful and complicated bits of high school but he doesn't let it weigh him down. It helps that he has some very supportive friends to lean on.

His complete opposite, Ashley is bitter and frustrated. She hates the idea of Stewart and his father moving in, her own father divorcing her mother. She over-dramatizes everything and blames everyone. While yes, there are some teen girls who act this way, who love fashion and struggle in school, Ashley's flaws are so overblown she feels like a cliché. She has some depth, I thought her repressed anger towards bother her mother and father needed to be expressed beyond her screams or her silence, but it's hard to find any redeeming qualities. As the book goes on, she does get better, nicer. She learns her lesson, but I'm not so sure that the way it comes about was really the right way.

I think this book says a number of good things about family and friendship, about supporting other people, about working through problems and keeping those you care about close, or in your memories if they're no longer with you. My issue is that most of those moments appear in Stewart's point of view and rarely in Ashley's. I did find some parts of Ashley problematic, as well as some parts of a rather serious near-assault that happens near the end. Perhaps other readers will see her growth more than I can. I do think that some kids will read this and see themselves, or see parts of themselves, and relate to it.

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

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Day 6 - Some Kind of Normal

It's day 6! Time for another review. :) Some of you might remember my review of Boys Like You during last year's event. If so, then you might enjoy this review of the companion novel.

Title: Some Kind of Normal
Author: Juliana Stone
Release Date: May 5, 2015
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire (Sourcebooks imprint)

For Trevor normal was fast guitar licks, catching game-winning passes and partying all night. Until a car accident leaves Trevor with no band, no teammates and no chance of graduating. It's kinda hard to ace your finals when you've been in a coma. The last thing he needs is stuck-up Everly Jenkins as his new tutor—those beautiful blue eyes catching every last flaw. For Everly normal was a perfect family around the dinner table, playing piano at Sunday service and sunning by the pool. Until she discovers her whole life is a lie. Now the perfect pastor's daughter is hiding a life-changing secret, one that is slowly tearing her family apart. And spending the summer with notorious flirt Trevor Lewis means her darkest secret could be exposed.

Some Kind of Normal is a look at two teens trying to figure out how to get their lives back on track, back to normal, because they don't feel like what they have now is anywhere close. But what is normal?

Trevor is trying to get back to where he was before the accident. Before the traumatic brain injury, the coma, and the seizures. Everly is wishing her family was back the way it used to be. Before she discovered a secret of her father's, before she realized he wasn't who she thought he was. Both wish they could go back to before but they can't, and they're struggling to keep from falling under the waves of sadness and frustration. There's hope in their voices but it's drowned out by sorrow and anger. And they're just hoping it will all fix itself, they're keeping everything else inside and not relying on anyone for help. Not talking about it. Pretending it didn't happen and things can be normal again. But that never works.

What is normal? Normal is a lie, there is no normal. It's just seeing how put together everyone else looks and wanting to be like that. It's not wanting to stand out, to be stared at and pointed at, to be talked about behind out backs. It's wanting to blend in. We spend out lives searching for something that doesn't exist. Being "normal" is impossible so stop searching for it. Instead, just be you. Be happy, be healthy. Be around those you care about who also care about you. And talk about what's worrying you.

I found that Trevor's post-coma struggles were rather realistic, similar to Trina St. Jean's Blank. He wouldn't just bounce back once he woke up. There would've been a good amount of rehab, of setbacks, of new conditions and hurdles to climb over. It wasn't simple. I do think this book highlights the stress that some teens put themselves through by keeping all their concerns and problems locked away, the struggle that teens go through to put up a façade so they look "normal." It isn't healthy, it rarely works out, because it all gets exposed sooner or later. I would definitely recommend this to fans of the author's previous YA novel as well as fans of contemporary romance.

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

Me on Waiting on Wednesday (225)

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

Title: A Thousand Nights
Author: E.K. Johnston
Release Date: October 6, 2015
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

From Goodreads:

Lo-Melkhiin killed three hundred girls before he came to her village, looking for a wife. When she sees the dust cloud on the horizon, she knows he has arrived. She knows he will want the loveliest girl: her sister. She vows she will not let her be next.

And so she is taken in her sister's place, and she believes death will soon follow. Lo-Melkhiin's court is a dangerous palace filled with pretty things: intricate statues with wretched eyes, exquisite threads to weave the most beautiful garments. She sees everything as if for the last time. But the first sun rises and sets, and she is not dead. Night after night, Lo-Melkhiin comes to her and listens to the stories she tells, and day after day she is awoken by the sunrise. Exploring the palace, she begins to unlock years of fear that have tormented and silenced a kingdom. Lo-Melkhiin was not always a cruel ruler. Something went wrong.

Far away, in their village, her sister is mourning. Through her pain, she calls upon the desert winds, conjuring a subtle unseen magic, and something besides death stirs the air.

Back at the palace, the words she speaks to Lo-Melkhiin every night are given a strange life of their own. Little things, at first: a dress from home, a vision of her sister. With each tale she spins, her power grows. Soon she dreams of bigger, more terrible magic: power enough to save a king, if she can put an end to the rule of a monster.

I'm so excited for this because it's a chance to read more of Kate's words. Kate words are like Tessa Gratton words and Maggie Stiefvater words to me, they mean different things at different angles and they're all about people. They tell magical and heartbreaking stories, and they jab be right in the heart. And the sibling part, the idea that it's just as much, if not more, about the girl and her sister than it is about the girl and Lo-Melkhiin. That's what hooked me.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Day 5 - E.K. Johnston

It's day 5! It's time for a Q&A with one of my favourite internet people. :) Seriously, if you haven't read her books or you're not following her on Twitter, you're doing it wrong.

E.K. Johnston is a forensic archaeologist by training, a book seller and author by trade, and a grammarian by nature. She spends a great deal of time on the internet because it is less expensive than going to Scotland. She can probably tell you, to the instant, when she fell in love with any particular song, but don't ask her, because then it will be stuck in both of your heads. Her first book, The Story of Owen (March 2014, Carolrhoda Lab), was a finalist for the William C. Morris YA Debut Award (2015), a YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults (Top Ten) (2014), and a Kirkus Prize Nominee for Young Readers' Literature (2014). Next came the sequel, Prairie Fire (March 2015, Carolrhoda Lab), and coming later this year is A Thousand Nights (October 2015, Disney*Hyperion). You can find her on her website or on Twitter at @ek_johnston.
Q: For those who've been living under a rock and haven't yet read your awesome books, what is Prairie Fire about? Because it's not just about being a dragon slayer, is it? It's so much more layered and complicated than that.

A: PRAIRIE FIRE is the sequel to THE STORY OF OWEN, so it's still about music and dragons and Canada, but I've sent them on quite a road-trip, so it's a larger scale. Basically, Owen and Siobhan have finished high school, which means Owen has to join the Oil Watch, and Siobhan isn't going to let him do it alone. It seems like a pretty straightforward decision, but everything gets complicated pretty much right away.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Day 4 - Mad Miss Mimic

It's day 4! Time for another review. :)

Title: Mad Miss Mimic
Author: Sarah Henstra
Release Date: May 5, 2015
Publisher: Razorbill Canada (Penguin Canada imprint)

London, 1872. Seventeen-year-old heiress Leonora Somerville is preparing to be presented to society -- again. She's strikingly beautiful and going to be very rich, but she has a problem money can't solve. A curious speech disorder causes her to stutter but also allows her to imitate other people's voices flawlessly. Servants and ladies alike call her "Mad Miss Mimic" behind her back... and watch as Leonora unintentionally scares off one potential husband after another. London in 1872 is also a city gripped by opium fever. Leo's brother-in-law Dr. Dewhurst and his new business partner Francis Thornfax are frontrunners in the race to patent an injectable formula of the drug. Friendly, forthright, and as a bonus devastatingly handsome, Thornfax seems immune to the gossip about Leo's "madness." But their courtship is endangered from the start. The mysterious Black Glove opium gang is setting off explosions across the city. The street urchins Dr. Dewhurst treats are dying. And then there is Tom Rampling, the working-class boy Leo can't seem to get off her mind. As the violence closes in around her Leo must find the links between the Black Glove's attacks, Tom's criminal past, the doctor's dangerous cure, and Thornfax's political ambitions. But first she must find her voice.

Mad Miss Mimic is mysterious and dangerous. Set in a time of progress and a growing dependency on the mind-numbing effects of opium, this is the story of a young woman who must discover who she truly is before everything crumbles around her.

Leonora, for all her beauty and money, is a lonely young woman. Her sorrow uncovered and expressed through memories of her childhood. Trapped by a voice and a tongue she can't control, she's unable to get out more than a few words without stuttering. Or words in her own voice, before someone else's takes hold and commands her tongue. She's pitied and ridiculed by society. Leonora's bursts of curiosity lead her down an unsteady path straight into danger. She's not weak, not by any means, but fear and worry grips her more often than not. She has to find the strength to push past that, to finally take complete control. She must find the courage to yell and scream at the top of her lungs.

The research done by the author is clear on every page. The period details of polite society's chat and snobbery at the lower classes, the slums and the opium dens and the hopeful souls who lived there, the advances in medicine and in drug-trafficking. The sights and smells and sounds Leonora finds are all what I would expect to see.

This is an intriguing book set around events I haven't yet come across in YA. Historical, yes. Mysteries, yes. Lonely, broken girls trying to find their power and agency, yes. It's the centering of the plot around the opium trade, around its dangers and opportunities for doctors and criminals alike that sets it apart. Perhaps for me it takes a little while for Leonora to fully fall into the mystery, to finally ask herself what is going on. Still, I found this to be a great read with a rather intriguing narrator.

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

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Day 3 - Quick Reviews

It's day 3! Time to kick off the reviewing of all the books with a little something different. I know that you're about to be inundated with reviews, as well as Q&A's, over the next couple of weeks, but there were some that I just couldn't squeeze in. Which is where this come into play.

Here are some reviews of three books whose authors I've interviewed for this year's event. :)

Blank by Trina St. Jean (April 1, Orca Books): Blank is a powerful look at memory, at identity, and at anger. Jessica is trapped in a life that doesn't feel like hers. It doesn't feel like anything, and it confuses and scares her. Her memories gone because of a freak accident on the family farm, she now has to piece together who she was while discovering who is around her and who she is now. Her anger at not knowing is quite visceral. She doesn't know who anyone is, she doesn't know who she is. She doesn't know how to act around them. It leaves her floundering, trying to keep hold of anything that's in any way the least bit familiar. But can she go back to who she was before the accident? Will she ever be able to find the old Jessica? After reading her diary and talking to her friends, does she even want to go back to who she was? Her journey through memory and life is honestly told.

5 to 1 by Holly Bodger (May 12, Knopf/Random House): 5 to 1 is a structured dystopia where one girls fears a cage and one boy longs to escape possible death. The book alternates between their point of view, giving us both sides of the trials that could make him her husband. It's an intriguing imagining of a future where male children outnumber female children by a dangerously high ratio, where women hold all of the power but cannot choose their own husbands. Through verse we see the girl living a life of luxury, not wanting to choose a husband, not wanting to be a pawn of her grandmother's. And through prose we see the boy, a simple farm boy with a desire to escape, to be free, and a plot to make sure he is not picked. They both want the same thing but their unspoken assumptions about the other keep them from knowing that. Each sees the other as full of opportunity, while they are trapped. Can they move away from this and finally work together? This book is intriguing and rather possible, given how many countries currently value male children over female.

Vanished by E.E. Cooper (May 12, Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins): Vanished is an intense mystery, one girl's search for her runaway friend and the secrets and lies left uncovered in the empty space she left behind. Kalah is a very compassionate girl, a girl caught in her feelings for her friend and her boyfriend. But when Beth disappears? Kalah feels lost, like the rug has been swept out from underneath her feet, and scrambles to find her after realizing she cares for Beth more than she thought. What follows is an increase in tension and suspicion as hidden truths are revealed, as another friend disappears, and as Kalah becomes unsure as to who's really missing and who's hiding, waiting to come back. This book delves into the darkness of friendship, into how far some will go, and how far some go in order to uncover the truth.

Hopefully, these have piqued your interest. Blank is out now and 5 to 1 and Vanished are both out of May 12! And many thanks to the authors and publicists who sent me copies of these to read. :)

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Day 2 - Trina St. Jean

It's day 2! And we're kicking off with a blog tour stop for a debut novel!

Trina St. Jean grew up in a small town in northern Alberta, Canada, but left in pursuit of degrees in psychology and education. During a decade out east, she picked up a husband with a cute accent and an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College. She now lives in Calgary, where she teaches ESL and tries to stay out of trouble with her husband and two daughters. Blank, out April 1 with Orca Books, is her first novel. You can pay Trina a visit at her website or on Facebook. :)
Q: At the start of the book, Jessica's voice is rather distant and confused. She feels numb, lost in a fog of missing memories. Lost in a fog of a missing identity. She's actually caught between two identities, who she was and who she is now. How difficult was it to write Jessica, to write from the point of view of someone who sort of knows the world around her but doesn't know herself? How hard was it to fit her different identities together, the mundane but happy girl and the confused, broken girl?

A: I was very aware from the beginning that it was going to be a huge challenge to get Jessica's voice down on paper, specifically because she was so broken and confused. I wanted to get that across but not sink the reader into a pit of despair, and I also wanted to show glimpses of Jessica being a "good" person even if she couldn't remember what that meant exactly. In an early draft of the story, I remember a reader saying that they weren't sure they liked Jessica very much, that she was sarcastic and sad. I had to really tread carefully in my rewrites, to make sure that through the sarcasm and anger there were some hints of joy. Although it wasn't calculated to happen that way, I think the interactions she has with Stephen, her little brother, show a softer, more playful side of Jessica.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Day 1 - Canadian YA Lit Event 2015

Hello! It's May, which means it's time for the Canadian YA Lit Event! It's back! :)

I hope you're all looking forward to two weeks of reviews of Canadian-authored YA books and Q&A's with Canadian authors, because that's what I have lined up. It's about 50/50 this year with reviews and Q&A's.