Book Review: The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

ghostbrideThe Ghost Bride

Yangsze Choo

4/5 stars

Release Date: August 5, 2014

Publisher:  William Morrow Paperbacks

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis on Goodreads:

Yangsze Choo’s stunning debut, The Ghost Bride, is a startlingly original novel infused with Chinese folklore, romantic intrigue, and unexpected supernatural twists.

Li Lan, the daughter of a respectable Chinese family in colonial Malaysia, hopes for a favorable marriage, but her father has lost his fortune, and she has few suitors. Instead, the wealthy Lim family urges her to become a “ghost bride” for their son, who has recently died under mysterious circumstances. Rarely practiced, a traditional ghost marriage is used to placate a restless spirit. Such a union would guarantee Li Lan a home for the rest of her days, but at what price?

Night after night, Li Lan is drawn into the shadowy parallel world of the Chinese afterlife, where she must uncover the Lim family’s darkest secrets—and the truth about her own family.

Reminiscent of Lisa See’s Peony in Love and Amy Tan’s The Bonesetter’s DaughterThe Ghost Bride is a wondrous coming-of-age story and from a remarkable new voice in fiction.

Review:

I absolutely loved THE GHOST BRIDE by Yangsze Choo. I ended up listening to the audiobook, read by the author. The writing is really lovely, I couldn’t stop reading/listening to the story and the author did a fantastic performance re: reading the book. Audiobooks are usually a hit or miss for me, but this was probably my best experience yet. Another great thing about the author reading the book, I got to hear how the characters sound to Yangsze, which was pretty cool.

Li Lan was a very interesting protagonist. Sometimes things would happen to her and she’d act totally calm or she’d go do things she probably shouldn’t. Half of it was probably bravery and if she didn’t do them the plot wouldn’t move along but the other half was like curiosity or something. So I’d be like “no don’t do that” but also “why are you doing this *very confused*”. So I liked the protagonist but I also had mixed feelings re: her actions. Li Lan doing certain things that were obviously a bad idea didn’t create suspense but confusion.

I’m torn between giving this a 4 or 4.5/5 stars. I would also categorize this book as historical fiction with fantastical elements. The story was very captivating and I didn’t want to stop listening to the audio. My favourite part was probably part 2 or 3, when the MC was exploring the afterlife. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the ending – it kind of ended on a cliffhanger. This may be an effect of listening to the audiobook so I plan to check out a physical copy; I might get a sense of closure that way.

The book does use the slur c*olie a few times and while technically accurate (the book is set in 19th century colonial Malaysia) I think the author should have acknowledged it’s a slur. I’m not 100% sure if it was necessary, considering the MC doesn’t think of those in a different class as below or less than her.

This book is also told from the POV of an upper class Chinese woman (I think she’s around 18?) living in colonial Malaysia. The family have fallen on hard times, so they aren’t exactly rich but have been able to (mostly) hide their debt and still have a good name. It should’ve probably been acknowledged the sort of privilege the MC has over other classes of people living in 19th century colonial Malaysia.

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Book Review: Windwitch by Susan Dennard

29939390Windwitch (sequel to Truthwitch)

Susan Dennard

5/5 stars

Release Date: January 10, 2017

Publisher: Tor Teen

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis on Goodreads:

Sometimes our enemies are also our only allies…

After an explosion destroys his ship, the world believes Prince Merik, Windwitch, is dead. Scarred yet alive, Merik is determined to prove his sister’s treachery. Upon reaching the royal capital, crowded with refugees, he haunts the streets, fighting for the weak—which leads to whispers of a disfigured demigod, the Fury, who brings justice to the oppressed.

When the Bloodwitch Aeduan discovers a bounty on Iseult, he makes sure to be the first to find her—yet in a surprise twist, Iseult offers him a deal. She will return money stolen from him, if he locates Safi. Now they must work together to cross the Witchlands, while constantly wondering, who will betray whom first?

After a surprise attack and shipwreck, Safi and the Empress of Marstok barely escape with their lives. Alone in a land of pirates, every moment balances on a knife’s edge—especially when the pirates’ next move could unleash war upon the Witchlands.

Review:

WINDWITCH by Susan Dennard was incredible from start to finish. Filled with action, heartache and some of the greatest moments of character development I’ve ever read, this book is sure to become a favourite of 2017. The world-building is so rich, it practically leaps off the page. Enemies become allies and allies become enemies in this stunning sequel to TRUTHWITCH.

I want to take a moment to talk about the writing. It was so beautiful that I’d take the time to analyze every paragraph, every sentence, and every word. I feel like, in a way, Dennard’s writing can be compared to the gorgeous, imagery-like writing of Laini Taylor. I’ve never really considered this before, but the world-building and character development is so complex, so rich, it’s reached that level. This is the best Dennard book to date.

Like in TRUTHWITCH, this novel is told in 3rd person, multiple POV’s. We have characters already familiar to us: Merik, Safi, Iseult, and Aeduan. However, Dennard adds a 5th voice: Vivia Nihar, Merik’s older sister. Having this many voices in one book can go really wrong, but Dennard is flawless. In fact, WINDWITCH is one of the best examples of a book told in multiple POV’s. The transitions were so smooth, that when character A’s POV ended, even though I wanted to know more about character A, I was satisfied enough to continue on with character B. There have been times when I’m reading a book with only two different POV’s and the voices weren’t different enough. I understood that these two characters had different personalities, traits and ambitions, but the voices sounded too similar; as if I were reading a book with 1.5 POV’s rather than 2. I’m really astounded at how flawlessly Dennard pulls this off.

Moreover, Dennard usually followed a specific pattern that helped make these transitions smooth. The first couple chapters had only 1 POV per chapter but eventually a POV would change mid-chapter. These POV “pairings”, as I’m calling it, were usually Merik and Vivia, Iseult and Aeduan, or Merik and Safi. Merik and Vivia, and Iseult and Aeduan were usually in the same location or general vicinity, so it made sense to have pairings like these. Like I said, this is one of the best books with multiple POV’s and if you’re writing a book like this or planning to, I’d recommend you study Dennard’s style. I think it’d be really helpful for writers to see why this style worked for Dennard and whether or not it could work for you.

The character development is so amazing, along with the sort of relationships we see between different characters. This book is Merik’s arc and the focus is mostly on him. He has so much rage and grief and regrets, that it’s funnelled into a new identity: the Fury. There’s also a focus on Vivia, and Merik & Vivia’s relationship as siblings/rivals. This relationship was the most prominent and I loved every moment of it!

Iseult/Aeduan fans will be very happy with this book. These two create a temporary alliance and start traveling together in the Contested Lands. Their chapters ended up being my favourite, mainly because Aeduan is my all-time favourite character! There was the makings of a slow burn romance and I mean slowww, but this book starts them off as could-be-friends and allies, which is something I’m really happy about.

Some readers might be a bit disappointed because, in a way, that strong friendship between Safi and Iseult, the one that drew readers to TRUTHWITCH isn’t as prominent. Safi and Iseult are definitely fighting to reach each other in WINDWITCH but it ends up more about how these two fight for survival without the other. These two characters are so strong together, but how do they fare without the other to lean on? Some very tough and heartbreaking decisions are made in this book. The reader ends up seeing a different side of the relationship we first encountered in TRUTHWITCH and I really liked that. WINDWITCH takes the characters we loved from the first book and has them forging new, exciting and sometimes difficult paths.

I was slightly confused at the beginning because a character death (that happened in TRUTHWITCH) is mentioned and I honestly couldn’t remember it happening. This was more on me than the book. I did read book #1 about 1.5 years ago.

The last couple of chapters, the POV’s would change three or four times in one chapter and my heart was actually racing. All I could think about was getting to the end, it was so good! I’m very excited for book #3 BLOODWITCH – which happens to be Aeduan’s arc 🙂 – and now plan to re-read TRUTHWITCH. I cannot recommend this series enough.

Also, because of something that happened near the end of the book I feel like I know what book #4 will be called. Okay, I’m not totally sure on the exact title but I kind of felt a foreshadowing of events to come in book #4. Dennard mentioned in a chat I think, one of the Witchlands novels was supposed to be called THREADWITCH (Iseult’s arc) but B&N wouldn’t accept that title so she had to change her plans. This ended up worrying me because I started thinking “Oh no! Everyone gets a book named after them except Iseult?!”. However, I am not worried anymore 🙂

Book Review: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

5983694Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

Grace Lin

4.5/5 stars

Release Date: July 1, 2009

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis:

Grace Lin, author of the beloved Year of the Dog and Year of the Rat, returns with a wondrous story of happiness, family, and friendship. A fantasy crossed with Chinese folklore, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is a timeless adventure story in the classic tradition of The Wizard of Oz.

In the Valley of Fruitless Mountain, a young girl named Minli spends her days working hard in the fields and her nights listening to her father spin fantastic tales about the Jade Dragon and the Old Man of the Moon. Minli’s mother, tired of their poor life, chides him for filling her head with nonsense. But Minli believes these enchanting stories and embarks on an extraordinary journey to find the Old Man of the Moon and ask him how her family can change their fortune. She encounters an assorted cast of characters and magical creatures along the way, including a dragon who accompanies her on her quest.

Review:

WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON by Grace Lin is the story of Minli, a young girl who lives with her Ma and Ba in the Village of Fruitless Mountain, who decides to find the Old Man of the Moon and change her fortune. This was a beautiful fantasy novel, filled with Chinese folklore and illustrations (by the author I believe) that every middle grade reader should have on their shelf.

This book is filled with stories and that really spoke to the past child-me who wanted to learn about every myth, legend and historical event of a book’s world. INKHEART by Cornelia Funke will forever be my favourite childhood book for this reason. To clarify, there would be the story of Minli, what I’d call the main text and then there were the stories the characters would tell each other. These stories were given a different format – italicized font, a title separating it from the main text – so it felt like a story within a story. These stories would either be inspired by Chinese folklore and the author’s imagination or were only slightly embellished (Lin 294). What I loved most about these stories, they were all connected in one way or another. For example, a main character of one story might be a minor character in another. After a story has been told, a character of it might be mentioned in passing, so you start picking up on that. How these stories were connected with each other and the main text really depended on the character telling it and where that character lived. Truly stunning!

I loved every character in this book – from Minli to her parents to the minor characters and even the villains/antagonists in the stories the characters told to each other. However, the characters aren’t as impressive as the characters of other middle grade books. This is not to say the characters are underdeveloped but this book is basically a book of fairytales, so the characters aren’t meant to be that complex. I’m worried a MG reader might get bored, when thinking about characters of other books. I would also say this book might be a hit or miss for people that don’t usually read middle grade. I loved this for the stories, but if you don’t enjoy them, I’m not sure if the characters can tide you over.

I was never bored with the plot and I think Lin is a born storyteller. The things the author would come up with and how Minli & other characters overcame those odds were incredible. I found myself being able to easily guess what would happen next, but that didn’t deter from the story for me. I think this was done on purpose and fit with the whole fairytale format. I wasn’t familiar with any of the folktales but being able to still guess what would happen in most cases helped me connect with those stories and characters. I also loved that Ma and Ba regularly had chapters told in their POV. Usually in fairytales, the parents are absent but this was a nice and realistic change.

I would 100% recommend this book. The originality of the stories and the people and creatures Minli meets on her journey was absolutely amazing! Talking fish, dragons, beautiful illustrations and greedy monkeys?! What more could you ask for? I can’t wait to read more of Lin’s works.

Book Review: Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

21414439Truthwitch

Susan Dennard

5/5 stars

Release Date: January 5, 2016

Publisher: Tor Teen

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis on Goodreads:

In a continent on the edge of war, two witches hold its fate in their hands.

Young witches Safiya and Iseult have a habit of finding trouble. After clashing with a powerful Guildmaster and his ruthless Bloodwitch bodyguard, the friends are forced to flee their home.

Safi must avoid capture at all costs as she’s a rare Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lies. Many would kill for her magic, so Safi must keep it hidden – lest she be used in the struggle between empires. And Iseult’s true powers are hidden even from herself.

In a chance encounter at Court, Safi meets Prince Merik and makes him a reluctant ally. However, his help may not slow down the Bloodwitch now hot on the girls’ heels. All Safi and Iseult want is their freedom, but danger lies ahead. With war coming, treaties breaking and a magical contagion sweeping the land, the friends will have to fight emperors and mercenaries alike. For some will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.

Review:

I love reading an author’s second series because of books like TRUTHWITCH. Dennard’s writing is gorgeous, and her characters fresh and original. The world of TRUTHWITCH is huge and it’s because of Dennard’s experience as a writer that the reader is never overwhelmed by it all. This is the book that will be talked about for years to come, a book that deserves every bit of hype.

TRUTHWITCH is the tale of two threadsisters and Dennard is able to perfectly balance their stories, so that it never feels like one is more significant than the other. This is a multi-POV book; told in the POV’s of Safi (our Truthwitch), Iseult (Threadwitch), Merrik (Windwitch), and Aeduan (Bloodwitch). In a lot of cases, this is a big undertaking because there needs to be enough space given to each character. Dennard is absolutely perfect when it comes to this. The switch between POV’s is smooth and I felt like I got enough time with each and every character.

I loved all four of our main characters. Safi was funny and ambitious, someone who acts before she thinks. Iseult was my favourite, mainly because I felt our personalities were very similar. She was introverted and calm, and I felt like she was very selfless, in the sense that she’d give up everything if it meant her friends and family were happy. Merrik is someone who would do anything for his country and is desperately fighting for its survival. He also has a lot of rage, which fits so well with his witchery. Then there’s Aeduan, the infamous Bloodwitch. Like Iseult, he was another favourite and I can’t wait to find out more about him. He’s very mysterious and a bit of an anti-hero, but that kind of makes me love him more haha. The characters go through some serious character development and I especially loved the actions of Safi at the end – it showed her growth.

I usually mention this in my reviews, but world building is my absolute favourite and Dennard did not disappoint. If you’ve seen a map of this world, you might have noticed that it looks like an alternate version of Europe. I loved that! Dennard is so strong when it comes to giving the reader a good visual of her world. There are so many different cultures, but again we are never overwhelmed. We’d glimpse the world through the characters actions, through music and poetry, myths and legends. It was also great seeing both the good and bad of the world. For example, we experienced the discrimination of the Nomatsi through Iseult, which is her ethnicity.

I actually think if you liked Avatar: The Last Airbender, you’ll like this. The world is based upon elemental magic and the scale of the world (very big!) is about the same. I also sensed a bit of Zuko in Aeduan, which was great.

Dennard is truly a Wordwitch when it comes to writing. With magic and suspense at every corner, TRUTHWITCH is a must-read. The writing is visually stunning and the world equally so. Dennard has created a beautiful start to a fantastic, new series.

Disclaimer 1: I won an advanced readers copy from the author, this has in no way altered my honest opinion of the book.

Disclaimer 2: I wrote this review about a year after reading it, but I based it on notes written immediately after finishing it, so everything in my review is accurate.

 

Back to School & New Books

If you’re like me, it’s that time of the year again and you’re going back to school. I’m starting a new semester of university and in honour of that I decided to create a bookish back to school post. So whether you’re going back to school or it’s the same, old routine, here’s some books releasing in the next couple of months that I’m super excited for. You can read them during your daily commute, between breaks, and before/after school. Be sure to add these to your Goodreads/50 Book Pledge shelves! If you decide to preorder any, keep a watch on the author’s Twitter/Goodreads/Website – a few of these books have or will have preorder campaigns.

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A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess

Release Date: September 20, 2016

Publisher: Random House

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

I am Henrietta Howel. The first female sorcerer. The prophesied one. Or am I?

Henrietta Howel can burst into flames. When she’s brought to London to train with Her Majesty’s sorcerers, she meets her fellow sorcerer trainees, young men eager to test her powers and her heart. One will challenge her. One will fight for her. One will betray her. As Henrietta discovers the secrets hiding behind the glamour of sorcerer life, she begins to doubt that she’s the true prophesied one. With battle looming, how much will she risk to save the city—and the one she loves?

This one sounds absolutely phenomenal! Magic and monsters and Victorian London, what’s not to love? I think if you liked The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare or The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman, you’ll like this.

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The Reader by Traci Chee

Release Date: September 13, 2016

Publisher: Putnam/Penguin

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

A stunning debut set in a world where reading is unheard-of, perfect for fans of Inkheart and Shadow and Bone

Sefia knows what it means to survive. After her father is brutally murdered, she flees into the wilderness with her aunt Nin, who teaches her to hunt, track, and steal. But when Nin is kidnapped, leaving Sefia completely alone, none of her survival skills can help her discover where Nin’s been taken, or if she’s even alive. The only clue to both her aunt’s disappearance and her father’s murder is the odd rectangular object her father left behind, an object she comes to realize is a book—a marvelous item unheard of in her otherwise illiterate society. With the help of this book, and the aid of a mysterious stranger with dark secrets of his own, Sefia sets out to rescue her aunt and find out what really happened the day her father was killed—and punish the people responsible.

With overlapping stories of swashbuckling pirates and merciless assassins, The Reader is a brilliantly told adventure from an extraordinary new talent.

I’ve heard so many good things about this book! I’m a huge fan of Inkheart, so it being compared to that has me really excited.

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28220826When the Moon was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

Release Date: October 4, 2016

Publisher: Thomas Dunne (St. Martin’s Press)

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees, and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town.
But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.

I absolutely loved McLemore’s debut novel The Weight of Feathers, so I’ll pretty much buy any future work of hers. You should definitely pick up this and The Weight of Feathers, which was a gorgeous, stunning piece of magical realism.

27414389A Darkly Beating Heart by Lindsay Smith

Release Date: October 25, 2016

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

A time-travel story that alternates between modern day and 19th century Japan as one girl confronts the darkness lurking in her soul.

No one knows what to do with Reiko. She is full of hatred. All she can think about is how to best hurt herself and the people closest to her. After a failed suicide attempt, Reiko’s parents send her from their Seattle home to spend the summer with family in Japan to learn to control her emotions. But while visiting Kuramagi, a historic village preserved to reflect the nineteenth-century Edo period, Reiko finds herself slipping back in time into the life of Miyu, a young woman even more bent on revenge than Reiko herself. Reiko loves being Miyu, until she discovers the secret of Kuramagi village, and must face down Miyu’s demons as well as her own.

I am so, so excited for this, it’s one of my most anticipated books of the year!

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Flashfall by Jenny Moyer27414369

Release Date: November 15, 2016

Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Orion is a Subpar, expected to mine the tunnels of Outpost Five, near the deadly flash curtain. For generations, her people have chased cirium—the only element that can shield humanity from the curtain’s radioactive particles. She and her caving partner, Dram work the most treacherous tunnel, fighting past flash bats and tunnel gulls, in hopes of mining enough cirium to earn their way into the protected city.

But when newcomers arrive at Outpost Five, Orion uncovers disturbing revelations that make her question everything she thought she knew about life on both sides of the cirium shield. As conditions at the outpost grow increasingly dangerous, it’s up to Orion to forge a way past the flashfall, beyond all boundaries, beyond the world as she knows it.

Eeee! I’m so thrilled for this one. It kind of has a The 100 feel to it, which is a fantastic show by the way, incase you’re looking for something new to watch. It’s based on a book series, but I’ve never read it so I can’t comment on that. Anyways, Moyer’s world sounds dangerous and unique and action-packed.

25164304Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst

Release Date: November 22, 2016

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Betrothed since childhood to the prince of Mynaria, Princess Dennaleia has always known what her future holds. Her marriage will seal the alliance between Mynaria and her homeland, protecting her people from other hostile lands. But Denna has a secret. She possesses an Affinity for fire—a dangerous gift for the future queen of a kingdom where magic is forbidden.

Now, Denna must learn the ways of her new home while trying to hide her growing magic. To make matters worse, she must learn to ride Mynaria’s formidable warhorses before her coronation—and her teacher is the person who intimidates her most, the prickly and unconventional Princess Amaranthine (called Mare), sister of her betrothed.

When a shocking assassination leaves the kingdom reeling, Mare and Denna reluctantly join forces to search for the culprit. As the two work together, each discovers there’s more to the other than she thought. Mare is surprised by Denna’s intelligence and bravery, while Denna is drawn to Mare’s independent streak. Soon their friendship is threatening to blossom into something more.

But with dangerous conflict brewing that makes the alliance more important than ever, acting on their feelings could be deadly. Forced to choose between their duty and their hearts, Mare and Denna must find a way to save their kingdoms—and each other.

I’ll be honest, when I first read the summary I thought it would go something like this: MC is a princess betrothed/has an arranged marriage with a prince from a neighbouring land, but then falls in love with a mysterious guy, maybe the best friend of the prince or a secret rebel. Then the summary goes: falls in love/starts having feelings for the sister of her betrothed. I paused, re-read the summary and my excitement basically went through the roof. There’s nothing particularly wrong with the previous trope, I’ve just seen it a bit too much in fantasy lately.

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28375641Spindle by E.K. Johnston

Sequel to A Thousand Nights, read my review here

Release Date: December 6, 2016

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

The world is made safe by a woman…but it is a very big world.

It has been generations since the Storyteller Queen drove the demon out of her husband and saved her country from fire and blood. Her family has prospered beyond the borders of their village, and two new kingdoms have sprouted on either side of the mountains where the demons are kept prisoner by bright iron, and by the creatures the Storyteller Queen made to keep them contained.

But the prison is crumbling. Through years of careful manipulation, a demon has regained her power. She has made one kingdom strong and brought the other to its knees, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. When a princess is born, the demon is ready with the final blow: a curse that will cost the princess her very soul, or force her to destroy her own people to save her life.

The threads of magic are tightly spun, binding princess and exiled spinners into a desperate plot to break the curse before the demon can become a queen of men. But the web of power is dangerously tangled–and they may not see the true pattern until it is unspooled.

I loved the first book, A Thousand Nights and was thrilled to learn the author wrote a sequel/spin off companion book. This takes place 1500 years after ATN, but it’s still recommended you read the first. Johnston’s writing is really superb.

24846331Ever the Hunted by Erin Summerill

Release Date: December 27, 2016

Publisher: Harcourt Childrens Books

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Seventeen year-old Britta Flannery is at ease only in the woods with her dagger and bow. She spends her days tracking criminals alongside her father, the legendary bounty hunter for the King of Malam—that is, until her father is murdered. Now outcast and alone and having no rights to her father’s land or inheritance, she seeks refuge where she feels most safe: the Ever Woods. When Britta is caught poaching by the royal guard, instead of facing the noose she is offered a deal: her freedom in exchange for her father’s killer.

However, it’s not so simple.

The alleged killer is none other than Cohen McKay, her father’s former apprentice. The only friend she’s ever known. The boy she once loved who broke her heart. She must go on a dangerous quest in a world of warring kingdoms, mad kings, and dark magic to find the real killer. But Britta wields more power than she knows. And soon she will learn what has always made her different will make her a daunting and dangerous force.

I love fantasy, so this is exactly the sort of thing I’ll read. I’m also getting a Robin Hood feel from it, which has boosted my interest. Also, wouldn’t that cover make the perfect colouring page?! ❤

Interview with Courtney Summers | All the Rage

Today on the blog I’m sharing an interview I did with Courtney Summers, author of several  books, including ALL THE RAGE. All the Rage was one of my favourite novels of the year and I was thrilled when Courtney agreed to do an interview with me.


21853636All the Rage

Courtney Summers

Release Date: April 14, 2015

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis on Goodreads:

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

With a shocking conclusion and writing that will absolutely knock you out, All the Rage examines the shame and silence inflicted upon young women after an act of sexual violence, forcing us to ask ourselves: In a culture that refuses to protect its young girls, how can they survive?

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Q: The thing that stands out most about All the Rage is Romy’s voice. It’s brutally honest and Romy herself seems like an unlikable character (I of course loved her!). How did you develop her voice?

C.S: I’m so glad you loved her! Thank you. Romy’s voice was developed over the course of several drafts. I feel like a big part of developing a character’s voice is just standing back and letting it happen on the page. I try not to get in the way of it by worrying too much about how it will be received. My general rule of thumb for writing all my female characters, Romy included, is to not shy away from emotions and actions that might come across as unlikable to readers and to state them plainly, even if they’re uncomfortable or hard to read about.

Q: I want to discuss a quote from All the Rage that had a deep impact on me:

“So you never said if you’re having a boy or girl.”

“We won’t know until it’s born.” I hope it’s not a girl (61).

Roy is really surprised by this. Can you tell me what you were feeling when you wrote this? Like Romy, were you surprised to find yourself writing this?

C.S: Romy is (understandably) having a really hard time dealing with her rape–she’s not dealing with it. I wanted to show how deep that trauma and hurt runs, the impact it has. I also wanted to show that even Romy can be surprised by how pervasive her trauma is and how much it has and continues to take over her life. It’s an upsetting scene and it needed to be. I wanted to be sure Romy’s pain was being clearly expressed to the reader.

Q: It’s really important for Romy to be wearing red lipstick and nail polish, and for me I saw this as a sort of armor. What was the inspiration behind this?

C.S: Romy views it as armor too. I wanted her to have something that was in her control. Everyone in town thinks Romy’s a liar. They have no problem re-traumatizing her by bringing up her rape because they don’t believe it’s true. When they see her, they see The Girl Who Cried Rape. By wearing the bright red lipstick and nail polish, Romy is, in her own way, controlling what people see–if only for a moment. 

Q: Do you have any book recommendations for after finishing All the Rage?

C.S: If anyone hasn’t read Speak before they read All the Rage, they should definitely pick it up. Pointe by Brandy Colbert. Every Last Promise by Kristin Halbrook.

Q: Can you share with us any projects you’re working on?

C.S: I’m working on something new, but that’s all I’m willing to say about it right now. 🙂 

Q: Can you tell me about what you’ve been reading lately?

C.S: I have been working my way through the Supernatural tie-ins! I love the show and they’re a lot of fun.


About the Author:

courtney2014hiresCOURTNEY SUMMERS was born in Belleville, Ontario, Canada in 1986 and currently resides in a small town not far from there. When she was around 10 years old, her local theatre’s production of Man of La Mancha (directed by her father) sparked her dream of telling stories that would move people the same way Don Quixote’s had moved her. At age 14, and with her parents’ blessing, Courtney dropped out of high school to pursue her education independently. During this time, she explored various creative mediums in search of the one that would best serve the tales she wanted to tell. At age 18, she wrote her first novel and never looked back. Her first book, Cracked Up to Be, was published in 2008, when she was 22. To date, she has authored five novels and is best known for her unapologetic, difficult female protagonists. When Courtney is not writing, she enjoys playing video games, watching horror movies, Supernatural, and planning for the impending zombie apocalypse. In 2016, she was named one of Flare Magazine’s 60 under 30. Visit her website and on Twitter @courtney_s

July Wrap-Up Post

IMG_1391I read a total of 16 books this month. Even though most of them were novellas, I’m still feeling very accomplished. I was able to reach the 50 books read mark before the end of July. One of the books I read, The Bane Chronicles, I started over a year ago so I’m glad I finally finished it. I also started Rebel of the Sands back in March, so I’m happy I finished that too!

Books Read:

Steel Scars by Victoria Aveyard

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

Naruto Vol. 3-4 by Masashi Kishimoto

Morrighan by Mary E. Pearson

The Bane Chronicles by Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan and Maureen Johnson

Nil Remembered by Lynne Matson

Welcome to Shadowhunter Academy by Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan

The Lost Herondale by Cassandra Clare and Robin Wasserman

The Whitechapel Fiend by Cassandra Clare and Maureen Johnson

Nothing but Shadows by Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan

The Evil We Love by Cassandra Clare and Robin Wasserman

Pale Kings and Princes by Cassandra Clare and Robin Wasserman

Bitter of Tongue by Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan

The Fiery Trial by Cassandra Clare and Maureen Johnson

The Sin Eater’s Daughter by Melinda Salisbury

Rebel of the Sands would have to be my favourite book of July. Hamilton’s writing is gorgeous and I loved the slow-burning romance between the main character, Amani and Jin, a mysterious stranger she meets in the beginning of the novel. I am super excited for the sequel Traitor to the Throne. I hope you guys all check it out! Some books I liked but ultimately underwhelmed were Nothing but Shadows by Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan and The Sin Eater’s Daughter by Melinda Salisbury. For the first, it was basically a story within a story and very boring. The second one was also very boring for the first half of the book and there wasn’t a lot of action.

I’d love to know what everyone read in July and what they plan to read in August? Are you taking part in the ARC August challenge?

Click on the links above to read my reviews.

ICYMI:

The Mid-Year Book Freakout Tag

ARC August Challenge

Book Review: Queen Song by Victoria Aveyard

Book Review: The Drowning Eyes by Emily Foster

Book Review: Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

24934065Rebel of the Sands

Alwyn Hamilton 

5/5 stars

Release Date: March 8, 2016

Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis on Goodreads:

She’s more gunpowder than girl—and the fate of the desert lies in her hands.

Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mystical beasts still roam the wild and barren wastes, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinni still practice their magic. But there’s nothing mystical or magical about Dustwalk, the dead-end town that Amani can’t wait to escape from.

Destined to wind up “wed or dead,” Amani’s counting on her sharpshooting skills to get her out of Dustwalk. When she meets Jin, a mysterious and devastatingly handsome foreigner, in a shooting contest, she figures he’s the perfect escape route. But in all her years spent dreaming of leaving home, she never imagined she’d gallop away on a mythical horse, fleeing the murderous Sultan’s army, with a fugitive who’s wanted for treason. And she’d never have predicted she’d fall in love with him… or that he’d help her unlock the powerful truth of who she really is.

Review:

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton is a gorgeous, gorgeous book! I’m in awe of how beautiful the writing is. Not only does Hamilton create a world I’d love to live in, but she also creates a protagonist who I’d love to be friends with, who I might aspire to be like & who I wouldn’t mind being enemies with because I know that battle would be phenomenal. I strongly recommend everyone read this, it’s not a book I’ll be forgetting anytime soon.

The world building was my absolute favourite. I loved the legends and stories Hamilton would weave into her world. They were so enchanting; I really need some kind of legends/mythology book that lists them all. Hamilton combines two very different cultures and I wasn’t sure how that’d work, but it actually goes really well. Although the first couple chapters only seemed to have a Wild West feel, once I got into the novel, the combination was quite flawless. There are high-speed train heists and djinni and ghouls!

Amani has to be one of my favourite protagonists of all time. I liked her, but I also liked that she’s not completely likeable (if that makes sense haha). Reading this, I got a “The Mummy” feel from it. Jin was also a fantastic and very swoon-worthy character. The chemistry between the two was like this slow-burning romance – exactly like the desert. I loved that the romance wasn’t immediate – the two are strangers in the desert, and both have their secrets.

One of the only things that I was confused about was the geography of the world. I was a little unsure of which countries were against which and which countries had a part to play in the war. I think a map would have helped as I’m more of a visual person, but I know no map isn’t the fault of the author.

Another thing I loved was the reveals! Jin being a bit of a stranger, I was so focused on trying to figure out who he was that when Hamilton revealed some things about other characters I was totally and completely surprised. I did end up being half-right when it came to figuring out who Jin really was. One of these reveals was really interesting and opens up a thousand possibilities! I’m excited about that.

Rebel of the Sands is one of my favourite debuts of 2016 and I expect a lot of good things from Alwyn Hamilton in the future. I’m still not over the gorgeousness of this book! Be sure to check this one out as well as it’s sequel Traitor to the Throne, coming in 2017.

The Mid-Year Book Freakout Tag

I was tagged by Aimal @ Bookshelves & Paperbacks and Maria @ Big City Bookworm. This tag was created by Chami @ ReadLikeWildfire and Ely @ Ely Jane.

Best Book You’ve Read So Far in 2016

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All The Rage by Courtney Summers – I’m a huge fan of Courtney Summers so I’m glad her latest book didn’t disappoint. This book is so important when it comes to rape culture and I strongly recommend you all pick it up.

Best Sequel You’ve Read So Far in 2016

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A Court of Mist & Fury by Sarah J. Maas – I really liked the first book in the A Court of Thorns and Roses series but ACOMAF blew me away! Full review here.

New Release You Haven’t Read Yet But Want To

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The Shadow Hour by Melissa Grey – I loved the first book The Girl at Midnight and I can’t wait to dive into its sequel!

Most Anticipated Releases for the Second Half of the Year

Frost Like Night by Sara Raasch | Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas | Something In Between by Melissa de la Cruz – I’m a huge fan of all of these authors, so it’s no surprise I’m widely anticipating their latest books.

Biggest Disappointment

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The Impostor Queen by Sarah Fine – this book was so underwhelming! It’s such a disappointment, considering I always see people recommending this author online.

Biggest Surprise

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Rabbit Ears by Maggie De Vries – I absolutely loved this book! This is a surprise because when I first started it I originally set it back down, a little taken aback by the writing style. It’s in 2nd POV, which can go really wrong if not done right. However, I’m glad I picked it back up, it’s a fantastic book! Full review here.

Favourite New Author

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Emily Skrutskie – this author impressed me with her sci-fi debut, so I’m excited to see what she comes up with next. Full review here.

Favourite New Crush

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Jin from Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton – Jin is such a swoon-worthy character!

Favourite New Characters

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ACOMAF: Rhys’ inner circle – Morrigan, Azriel, Cassian, & Amren

Book That Made You Cry

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All The Rage by Courtney Summers – and also made you angry and throw the book across the room! Seriously, you need to read this book.

Book That Made You Happy

The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale – the cover on the right is the new one, which will be on paperbacks next summer. Isn’t it stunning?!

Most Beautiful Book You’ve Bought So Far This Year

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The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey – This was one of my favourite books of 2015 and when I saw it was on Book Outlet, I had to snag a copy. There’s still lots of copies for sale, I definitely recommend you get it.

What Books Do You Need To Read Before The End of the Year

 

Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas – I bought this book last year and still haven’t found time to read it! I really need to read it soon, as I’m sure once Empire of Storms comes out there’ll be lots of spoilers online.

Now I tag Sasha & Sarena @ The Pendant Trilogy, Genissa @ Story Diary, and Rebecca @ Intrepid Pages, and anyone else who wants to do it! If you’ve done this tag before, I’d love to see your posts.

Book Review: Steel Scars by Victoria Aveyard

25362018Steel Scars (Red Queen #0.2) – prequel novella to the Red Queen series

Read my review of Queen Song (Red Queen #0.1) here

Victoria Aveyard

4/5 stars

Release Date: January 5, 2016

Publisher: Harper Teen

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis on Goodreads:

In this digital prequel novella set in the Red Queen world, Captain Farley exchanges coded transmissions with the resistance as she travels the land recruiting black market traders, smugglers, and extremists for her first attempt at an attack on the capital. She was raised to be strong, but planting the seeds of rebellion in Norta is a tougher job than expected—until she stumbles upon a connection that may prove to be the key to the entire operation: Mare Barrow.

Review:

In this prequel novella to RED QUEEN, STEEL SCARS tells the story of Farley, a secondary character from RQ & a captain of the Scarlet Guard – a group rebelling against the Silvers in power. I absolutely loved this book! Farley is a fantastic character and I wouldn’t mind reading a full-length novel in her POV. I also wouldn’t have minded if RQ had been told in Farley’s POV instead of Mare’s. Obviously it wouldn’t have been called RQ, but it’d be way more entertaining (to me).

I think I like Farley a bit more than Mare because she isn’t a special snowflake. She’s worked very hard to get where she is and her strength is human. I don’t mind characters who end being a special snowflake – I mean, who doesn’t imagine themselves as heir to the throne or having magic powers or finally getting their Hogwarts letter. However, I don’t always like it when everything about the protagonist is self-made, human strength and then suddenly we find out they’re a special snowflake & everything that made them human is left in the dust. It’s easier to identify with a character if their strength seems somewhat realistic & obtainable to us.

I also loved the behind the scenes feel we got from this. Reading decoded messages sent to and from Farley was great (although sometimes hard to read). Overall, it was really exciting! We also saw a bit of Shade Barrow, Mare’s brother and I loved the chemistry between him and Farley. Another reason why a full-length novel in Farley’s POV would have been great.

Something I did dislike about the novella, it was one big book, no parts or chapters to separate it. It made it hard to decide when and where would be a good place to pause. Sure, I can bookmark it at the beginning of the page but it seemed like pausing in the middle of the action.

I find you don’t need to read Queen Song to read this but you should read Red Queen beforehand – you’ll understand things a bit more.