Book Jar Recs: Winter

Book Jar Recs is a weekly feature where I recommend three books based on an idea, theme, or random word. Each theme has been randomly pulled out of a jar (inspired by a TBR jar). If you have any ideas you’d like me to put in the jar, feel free to share them in the comments below. You can also read my introduction post on this feature here.

This week’s theme is ‘winter’. Here are some of my favourite books based around that.


tumblr_nq9dt92m0Y1sefywro1_400I unexpectedly fell in love with Snow Like Ashes last year. When a novel has been on your TBR for so long you worry it won’t live up to your expectations. I was originally wary of kingdoms named after seasons, but Raasch makes it work. The protagonist, Meira comes from the county of Winter, which has been enslaved by Spring – and so Meira’s small band of survivors are determined to save their people. I usually find ‘winter’ or ‘cold’ the antagonist in stories so I loved that things were switched up here. Raasch is an incredibly, talented writer, particularly when it comes to first POV; everything Meira sees and feels is written down. This fantasy debut truly embodies ‘a hero in the making’. My full review of this title is here.

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61-Trapped-In-IceTrapped in Ice by Eric Walters is a childhood favourite of mine. I immediately fell in love with the main character, Helen and the author’s writing. It’s really a fantastic adventure; a mix of fact and imagination. With the recent death of her father, Helen’s mother is hard pressed to find work, and is forced to take up a job on Karluk, a ship headed on an Arctic expedition. When the ship is unexpectedly trapped in ice, the crew and Helen’s family need to decide on a course of action – stay or leave.

I definitely recommend this for the usual middle grade reader, but also feel whatever your age, this makes for a fast, enjoyable read. Walters bases his story on true events [Canadian Arctic Expedition of 1913] and people, and found he does a great job of imagining personalities. It’s all the more intriguing having a story told in the POV of Helen, someone with little to no experience in this type of situation and I loved that she wasn’t afraid of asking critical questions. Walters novels are either a hit or miss for me, so I’m glad it was the former.

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15850937Frozen by Melissa De La Cruz and Michael Johnston is set in a post-apocalyptic world frozen by ice. What really sold me was the mix of magic and dystopian themes. Set in New Vegas, Natasha Kestal is a blackjack dealer trying to earn enough for passage to “the Blue”, a mythical land free of cold and snow. Nat has a deep, dark secret and when trying to run from it, meets up with Wes who agrees to take her to the Blue, or as close as possible. Together, Nat, Wes, and his crew start on an adventure full of secrets while battling terrible creatures, rotten from the misuse of magic. I love myths so having the authors include some of my favourite ones as the basis of their world-building was awesome! If you’re afraid of getting stuck with a stereotypical, dystopia novel, fear not, De La Cruz and Johnston blend fantasy and post-apocalyptic themes in an ingenious way.

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Book Jar Recs: Time Travel

Book Jar Recs is a weekly feature where I recommend three books based on an idea, theme, or random word. Each theme has been randomly pulled out of a jar (inspired by a TBR jar). If you have any ideas you’d like me to put in the jar, feel free to share them in the comments below. You can also read my introduction post on this feature here.

This week’s theme is ‘time travel’. I’ll be sharing some books that are based around that concept.

23310784Trial by Fire by Josephine Angelini has to be one of my favourite reads of 2015. The main character, Lily Proctor has been sick for most of her life, diagnosed with more allergies than she can count. This in turn prevents her from living life like a normal teenager. Then a humiliating event has her wishing she could disappear and Lily is suddenly sent back in time to a different Salem – brought by her other self Lillian, the strongest and cruelest witch of all.

What I loved most was the world-building. Angelini gives us an alternate Salem that has been shaped by witches and magic. It’s not made clear about the rest of the world, but America hasn’t advanced very far due to the terrifying monsters that roam the land. The only safe places are walled cities like Salem, all connected and ruled by the Thirteen Colonies. I also loved that magic worked in conjunction with technology, and science played a big role in explaining things, like how Lily got here, or the stones/gems that are a Crucible’s [witch] source of power.

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Winds of Salem is the third book in Melissa De La Cruz’s Witches of East End series and a fantastic end to the series. Freya Beauchamp is sent back in time to 1692 Salem (yes, another Salem book!) with no idea of who she is. Her mother, Joanna, and sister, Ingrid are stuck in the 21st century, trying to figure out how to rescue her. I’ve always loved the way the author took witches and Norse mythology, and brought them together.

In the book, the reader gets a first-hand look at a Salem witch trial along with other historical details like marriage and inheritance. I’ve found all of De La Cruz’s books to be fast reads and the Witches of East End series seems tailored for an adult or new adult audience. While delving into witches and myth, these books have a magical realism feel to it rather than urban fantasy. I recommend Witches of East End for a first time reader of De La Cruz’s works.

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14288198Writing up this post had me realizing I haven’t read a lot of time travel books, so I’m cheating with this last rec (a non-fiction) where the reader travels through multiple times and experiences instead. Intolerable by Kamal Al-Solaylee is a memoir that details the author’s life experiences living in the Middle East from the 1960’s all the way to his life in the 2000’s living as a gay man in Toronto, Canada.

I rarely read non-fiction, unless it’s a required reading for school and probably only read this because it was on the Canada Reads 2015 Shortlist. The author has an incredible story to tell and I loved the last half of the book more than the first. What’s most interesting is the author realizing, as a young adult, the steps he needs to take if he wants to live somewhere more tolerant. I also loved that not only does the author touch on his own experiences and realizations, but he also delves a bit into the history of his parents and from times as a child that he wouldn’t remember, but his older siblings do. I personally found the writing ordinary and didn’t enjoy the introduction but this a great, short read for both the fiction and non-fiction reader. It’s a book that sheds a lot of light on the Middle East and great for informing the reader on things they might not have known or were ignorant of.

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Book Jar Recs: Alternate Reality

Book Jar Recs is a weekly feature where I recommend three books based on an idea, theme, or random word. Each theme has been randomly pulled out of a jar (inspired by a TBR jar). If you have any ideas you’d like me to put in the jar, feel free to share them in the comments below. You can also read my introduction post on this feature here.

This week’s theme is ‘alternate reality’. I’ll be sharing some books that take place in alternate worlds or an alternate version of our own world.

18296016Melissa De La Cruz has always been an all-time favourite of mine and it only made sense to pick this up. The Ring and the Crown is a rather fast read, but enjoyable nonetheless. This is an alternate version of our own world where the British Empire never fell and remains the most powerful in the world. The current ruler, Queen Eleanor the Second has remained ruler for centuries with the help of magic and her Head Merlin, Emrys.

Now her daughter, Princess Marie-Victoria is trying to figure out where she fits in the grand scheme of things. With the help of her friend, Aelwyn (Emrys’ daughter) they come up with a plan to switch places. The two meet new and old friends and learn some important lessons. While I did feel as a book with five POV’s, it should have been longer, I’d still recommend it, particularly if you’re a fan of De La Cruz.

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23655201Mad Miss Mimic by Sarah Henstra can be described as Sherlock Holmes meets Jane Austen. This takes place in London, England 1872 and is a slightly, alternate version of London, but remains mostly true to the time and place. Seventeen year old Leonora Somerville should have no issues finding a husband – she’s beautiful and soon-to-be very rich. There’s just one issue: her speech disorder which causes her to stutter and mimic other people’s voices. Behind her back she’s called Mad Miss Mimic and her sister is determined to get her married before Miss Mimic has all of Leo’s potential suitors running off.

I loved Leo! She’s a funny character who is both determined to make her sister happy (conforming to society) and listening to her Aunt Emma by doing what makes Leo happy. I definitely enjoyed reading this sort of conflict. The slightly alternative reality comes in as Black Glove, a terrorist group using street urchins to set off explosives around the city – their goal, have the ban lifted off of opium. Then there’s the charming Francis Thornfax, a potential husband for Leo and the ruggedly, handsome Tom Rampling, a working-class boy under Leo’s brother-in-law. When it seems like Tom is connected to Black Glove, Leo decides to do her own detective work and figure out the truth. This is one fantastic thriller you don’t want to miss out on!

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An old-time classic, The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis is my favourite of the Narnia series. Polly meets Digory, the nephew of her next door neighbour, and while Polly has always considered Digory’s uncle odd, she never expected to be sent to the Wood between Worlds. It’s there that Digory and Polly discover other worlds, like the one that holds a powerful sorceress and the recently born Narnia.

I found Digory’s uncle Andrew to be a very interesting character. He creates these rings from dust said to come from Atlantis; the dust inherited from a woman he met several years ago. I love exploring alternate worlds, so this Wood between Worlds was a compelling element to read about. The book carries the same sort of charm as the rest of the series, but also works as a standalone, so you can read it without feeling the pressure of investing in six other books.

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Book Jar Recs: Only Standalone

Book Jar Recs is a weekly feature where I recommend three books based on an idea, theme, or random word. Each theme has been randomly pulled out of a jar (inspired by a TBR jar). If you have any ideas you’d like me to put in the jar, feel free to share them in the comments below. You can also read my introduction post on this feature here.

This week’s theme is ‘only standalone’. I took that to mean books that are written as standalones with characters you’d love to hear about again, but deep down inside know their story is over and wouldn’t work beyond that one book.

saint anything

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen has been one of my favourite reads of 2015. The way it discussed feeling invisible spoke to me on so many levels and for that I’m glad it was my first Dessen novel. Sydney has always felt invisible, living in the shadow of her older brother, Peyton. At the beginning, Peyton is sentenced to jail for a drunk driving accident, and when her parents continue to hold Peyton in that golden light, Sydney feels she has to shoulder the guilt of what happened to the victim of the accident.

Dessen has created characters who can appeal to different kinds of readers. They all have different stories about feeling invisible as well as being visible in the ways we don’t want to be. This is a book that speaks to you, whether you’re a contemporary reader or a fantasy reader; whether you’ve had that feeling of invisibility or not. I saw experiences of several characters not only in myself, but also in people I know. That’s the sort of thing I value in a book.

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10914After reading My Sister’s Keeper, Jodi Picoult became an instant fave of mine and I just had to read more of her books. I mainly picked up Songs of the Humpback Whale because I saw the title and thought oh! something about humpback whales (I was going through this humpback-obsessed phase at the time). Even though it was not directly about humpback whales (one of the main character’s studies them so it’s a central aspect of the plot), I still loved it!

Jane and Oliver Jones have had a rocky marriage and when Oliver chooses career over family yet again, Jane decides enough is enough and leaves with her daughter, Rebecca for her brother’s apple farm. Character development is huge and Picoult lays out all this emotion in the same way that had me falling in love with My Sister’s Keeper. The one thing I strongly disliked – maybe even hated – about the novel was the ending. I personally didn’t agree with Jane’s choice at the end; I felt like that choice made all the growth gained throughout the novel all for nothing. All in all, it’s interesting to think about what I’d do differently because in that way I’m somewhat in Picoult’s head. If you’ve read this book, I’d love to know if you agreed with the ending.

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*Side Note: The cover above is the edition I own and even though there’s a lot of covers around, this one doesn’t seem to be in print anymore (or readily available in the above retailers).

21943246Black Ice by Becca Fitzpatrick was a somewhat surprisingly, enjoyable read for me. I was familiar with her popular Hush, Hush series (still on my TBR) but having never read her, I didn’t have any expectations. I was actually a bit nervous of how that shift from urban fantasy to contemporary went for her. Fitzpatrick understands the contemporary genre really well. I’m not a big contemporary reader, so becoming a new fan of Fitzpatrick through Black Ice was a big thing for me. I don’t know when I’ll get to her Hush, Hush series, but I will be making time for her recent release, Dangerous Lies (especially since I won an arc!).

In Black Ice, the main character is Britt Pheiffer and I took an instant liking to her. She’s been training for a hiking trip to the Teton Range with her best friend for the past year. Things take a turn for the worst when the two of them get lost in a major snowstorm and are forced to shelter in a cabin with two dangerous strangers. Britt also needs to watch out for the serial killer, who may or may not be involved with these strangers. The mystery surrounding the serial killer was well-played; I didn’t figure it out until very close to the end – and I’m great at figuring out those things! The entire survival aspect, and Britt needing to rely on what she’s learned in the past year was well-researched. I’d without a doubt recommend this thrilling novel!

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Disclaimer: I won a finished copy from a Simon and Schuster CA giveaway. This has in no way altered my honest opinion of the book.



New Feature: Book Jar Recs


Hi everyone! I’m excited to share with you this new feature I’m starting called Book Jar Recommendations (recs for short). What exactly does this mean? I was inspired by the idea of a TBR jar – you write down books you want to read on a scrap of paper and put them into a jar. For the Book Jar Recs, I’ll write down random themes or ideas on paper, put it into the jar, and once a week, pull one out and use that idea to recommend three books.

Each idea/thought will only be one or two words so that I can be really flexible with how I interpret those ideas. Examples of ideas/things could be something like “2015”. For “2015” I could talk about a book published in 2015 or one I read in 2015, but not necessarily published that year. With the three books I’ll write a mini review and try to keep each one a paragraph or less. I hope to make this a weekly feature.

What’s this weeks Book Jar Recs?


Duologies! I’ve decided to talk about three books that are part of a duology. I hope you enjoy my recommendations and if you have any ideas I should put into the jar, let me know in the comments below. If you happen to read and enjoy one of my recommendations, I’d love to hear about it!



Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Hartman presents us with a world where dragons and humans have been at war with each other for a long time. In the novel, the two have enjoyed 40 years of peace, but some would prefer war. Dragons can take human shape and act as ambassadors in the human court.  The protagonist, Seraphina has a very dangerous secret – she is half-human half-dragon, which is something both dragons and humans forbid. I loved Hartman’s take on dragons – very logic-based, mathematical beings who don’t believe in emotions like love. It can actually be very deadly for a dragon to feel love. I also loved that Hartman gave Seraphina a gift for music and had her join the court – probably the worst place for a half-human half-dragon to be. Be sure to check out this fascinating take on dragons and its sequel Shadow Scale.

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Avalon by Mindee Arnett

I love sci-fi, particularly the space opera genre where there’s advanced technological devices and space travel is a very real thing. In Avalon, Jeth Seagrave and his group of teenage mercenaries make their living stealing metatech – devices that allow people to travel great distances faster than the speed of light. Jeth is constantly dreaming about that day when he can buy back his parents spaceship, Avalon from his boss and get himself and his sister, Lizzie, out of this crime-riddled world. Arnett gives us an interesting band of characters and I loved the references to the Arthurian legend of Avalon. This was an excellent addition to the YA space genre and great if you’re a fan of Sherrilyn Kenyon’s The League series, but want something in the Young Adult category. The sequel, Polaris is also currently available.

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Chanda’s Wars by Allan Stratton

So this is the sequel to Chanda’s Secrets, but I’ve decided to talk about it because in my opinion it can be read as a standalone (which I’ve done). I came across Stratton’s works through the Forest of Reading program and each time I’ve found him to capture very real-life, experiences and bring up deep emotions in the reader. In Chanda’s Wars, Chanda struggles to take care of her little brother and sister while avoiding General Mandiki, who steals children at night to turn into child soldiers. I read this back in high school and the way Stratton wrote about civil war, child soldiers, and hope still has me remembering it to this day.

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