10 Perfect Halloween Reads

Happy Halloween! Today I’m sharing 10 incredible books that are perfect for reading on Halloween – or any occasion! Definitely add these to your TBR and request them at your local library. I’d love to know what books you’re reading this Halloween?


31371752Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard

HarperTeen | July 24, 2012

Buy: Amazon | Book DepositoryChapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

New York Times bestselling author Susan Dennard adds a “never before in print” e-novella and a gorgeous new cover to the first book in the Something Strange and Deadly trilogy. Perfect for fans of Cassandra Clare’s Infernal Devices series.

Sixteen-year-old Eleanor Fitt’s brother is missing. After discovering the Dead are rising and wreaking havoc in Philadelphia, she knows that her brother is involved.

So Eleanor enlists the help of the Spirit-Hunters. This motley crew, hired to protect the city from supernatural forces, is after the necromancer who has been reanimating corpses. Their skills can save her brother. Yet as Eleanor spends time with the Spirit-Hunters and their handsome inventor, Daniel, the situation becomes dire. Now not only is her reputation at risk, but her very life hangs in the balance.

In Something Strange and Deadly, Susan Dennard weaves together beautifully imagined scenes of action, adventure, and vivid Victorian life to create an entertaining steampunk tapestry of humor, horror, and romance. Readers will be intrigued from the start.

This is the debut novel of one of my favourite authors and let me tell you, this book is an excellent Halloween read. It has steampunk and necromancers and zombies! I will forgive you for not having this on your shelf, so long as you add it immediately.


36952594A Blade So Black by L.L. McKinney

Imprint | September 25, 2018

Buy: Amazon | Book DepositoryChapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

The first time the Nightmares came, it nearly cost Alice her life. Now she’s trained to battle monstrous creatures in the dark dream realm known as Wonderland with magic weapons and hardcore fighting skills. Yet even warriors have a curfew.

Life in real-world Atlanta isn’t always so simple, as Alice juggles an overprotective mom, a high-maintenance best friend, and a slipping GPA. Keeping the Nightmares at bay is turning into a full-time job. But when Alice’s handsome and mysterious mentor is poisoned, she has to find the antidote by venturing deeper into Wonderland than she’s ever gone before. And she’ll need to use everything she’s learned in both worlds to keep from losing her head . . . literally.

This is pitched as Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Alice in Wonderland – what’s not to love? I’ve been dying to read this!


34198648The Brilliant Death by Amy Rose Capetta

Viking | October 30, 2018

Buy: Amazon | Book DepositoryChapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

For Teodora DiSangro, a mafia don’s daughter, family is fate.

All her life, Teodora has hidden the fact that she secretly turns her family’s enemies into music boxes, mirrors, and other decorative objects. After all, everyone in Vinalia knows that stregas—wielders of magic—are figures out of fairytales. Nobody believes they’re real.

Then the Capo, the land’s new ruler, sends poisoned letters to the heads of the Five Families that have long controlled Vinalia. Four lie dead and Teo’s beloved father is gravely ill. To save him, Teo must travel to the capital as a DiSangro son—not merely disguised as a boy, but transformed into one.

Enter Cielo, a strega who can switch back and forth between male and female as effortlessly as turning a page in a book. Teo and Cielo journey together to the capital, and Teo struggles to master her powers and to keep her growing feelings for Cielo locked in her heart. As she falls in love with witty, irascible Cielo, Teo realizes how much of life she’s missed by hiding her true nature. But she can’t forget her mission, and the closer they get to the palace, the more sinister secrets they uncover about what’s really going on in their beloved country—and the more determined Teo becomes to save her family at any cost.

I’ve been wanting to read this for a long time, but every time I hear someone talking about it, THE BRILLIANT DEATH gets higher and higher on my TBR.


36671146Hidden Pieces by Paula Stokes

HarperTeen | August 28, 2018

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

Embry Woods has secrets. Small ones about her past. Bigger ones about her relationship with town hero Luke and her feelings for someone new. But the biggest secret she carries with her is about what happened that night at the Sea Cliff Inn. The fire. The homeless guy. Everyone thinks Embry is a hero, too, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Embry thinks she’ll have to take the secret to her grave, until she receives an anonymous note—someone else knows the truth. Next comes a series of threatening messages, asking Embry to make impossible choices, forcing her to put her loved ones at risk. Someone is playing a high stakes game where no one in Embry’s life is safe. And their last move…is murder.

This twisty thriller from Paula Stokes should be at the top of your TBR pile! Filled with secrets, high stakes and murder, HIDDEN PIECES is the perfect Halloween read.


Certain Dark Things HC Mech.inddCertain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Thomas Dunne Books | October 25, 2016

Buy: Amazon | Book DepositoryChapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Welcome to Mexico City… An Oasis In A Sea Of Vampires…

Domingo, a lonely garbage-collecting street kid, is busy eking out a living when a jaded vampire on the run swoops into his life.

Atl, the descendant of Aztec blood drinkers, must feast on the young to survive and Domingo looks especially tasty. Smart, beautiful, and dangerous, Atl needs to escape to South America, far from the rival narco-vampire clan pursuing her. Domingo is smitten.

Her plan doesn’t include developing any real attachment to Domingo. Hell, the only living creature she loves is her trusty Doberman. Little by little, Atl finds herself warming up to the scrappy young man and his effervescent charm.

And then there’s Ana, a cop who suddenly finds herself following a trail of corpses and winds up smack in the middle of vampire gang rivalries.

Vampires, humans, cops, and gangsters collide in the dark streets of Mexico City. Do Atl and Domingo even stand a chance of making it out alive?

I started reading CERTAIN DARK THINGS and it is incredible – this should be on everyone’s TBR! I love the cover and the characters just draw you in.


27414411Pitch Dark by Courtney Alameda

Feiwel & Friends | February 20, 2018

Buy: Amazon | Book DepositoryChapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Set against a future of marauding space scavengers and deadly aliens who kill with sound, here is a frightening, fast-paced YA adventure from the author of the acclaimed horror novel, Shutter.

Tuck has been in stasis on the USS John Muir, a ship that houses Earth’s most valued artifacts—its natural resources. Parks and mountains are preserved in space.

Laura belongs to a shipraiding family, who are funded by a group used to getting what they want. And they want what’s on the Muir.

Tuck and Laura didn’t bargain on working together, or battling mutant aliens who use sound to kill. But their plan is the only hope for their crews, their families, and themselves.

In space, nobody can hear you scream . . . but on the John Muir, the screams are the last thing you’ll hear.

I’m almost finished my binge of Riddick movies and this will be the perfect book to read afterwards. I love anything to do with space and aliens. Definitely add this to your TBR!


23168806Seriously Wicked by Tina Connolly

Tor Teen | May 5, 2015

Buy: Amazon | Book DepositoryChapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

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?

I loved the humour and heart in SERIOUSLY WICKED! I read this last year and I really liked the author’s take on witches and magic.


27414389A Darkly Beating Heart by Lindsay Smith

Roaring Brook Press | October 25, 2016

Buy: Amazon | Book DepositoryChapters/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’ve heard so many incredible things about A DARKLY BEATING HEART and it’s everything I love to read in a book. A must-have for Halloween.


35068650Contagion by Erin Bowman

HarperTeen | July 24, 2018

Buy: Amazon | Book DepositoryChapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

It got in us.

After receiving an urgent SOS from a work detail on a distant planet, a skeleton crew is dispatched to perform a standard search-and-rescue mission.

Most are dead.

But when the crew arrives, they find an abandoned site, littered with rotten food, discarded weapons…and dead bodies.

Don’t set foot here again.

As they try to piece together who—or what—could have decimated an entire operation, they discover that some things are best left buried—and some monsters are only too ready to awaken.

Erin Bowman is another fave of mine so I was super excited to read this. I love sci-fi and this just sounds so intriguing. Also, this cover is to die for!


BONUS BOOK:

39863277Bloodwitch by Susan Dennard

Tor Teen | February 12, 2019

Buy: Amazon | Book DepositoryChapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Fans of Susan Dennard’s New York Times bestselling Witchlands series have fallen in love with the Bloodwitch Aeduan. And now, finally, comes his story.

High in a snowy mountain range, a monastery that holds more than just faith clings to the side of a cliff. Below, thwarted by a lake, a bloodthirsty horde of raiders await the coming of winter and the frozen path to destroy the sanctuary and its secrets.

The Bloodwitch Aeduan has teamed up with the Threadwitch Iseult and the magical girl Owl to stop the destruction. But to do so, he must confront his own father, and his past.

Bloodwitch doesn’t come out until February, but this is the perfect Halloween read and I just had to share some preorder links. I love this fantasy series so much (this is book #4!) and you can check out my reviews of Truthwitch, Windwitch, and Sightwitch.

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Goodreads Choice Awards 2016: Final Round

The final round for the 2016 Goodreads Choice Awards has begun! If you remember, I posted about my favourite books and authors that made it into the semifinal round here. Some of them made it and others didn’t, so I’m sharing that below. Voting ends November 27, 2016.

Best Historical Fiction:

Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien didn’t make it to the final round, I’m a bit sad about that. These four did and I think I’m voting for Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. All sound good though.

Best Fantasy:

A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab made it to the final round! I’m so happy about that, I hope you all vote for it. Or if you haven’t read it, add it to your TBR along with the first book A Darker Shade of Magic.

Best Poetry:

princess

 

 

 

 

The Princess Saves Herself in this One by Amanda Lovelace made it to the final round! I haven’t read it, but have only heard good things.

Best Debut Goodreads Author:

Three of the four books I was rooting for made it! I’m sad The Reader by Traci Chee didn’t make it, but am super glad about the other three. I’ve been really rooting for The Girl from Everywhere, so I hope you vote for that one, or at least add it to your TBR.

Best Young Adult Fiction:

The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis didn’t make it this round, but I knew it’d be tough – a lot of great books were selected. I’m also sharing a book I didn’t mention last time: A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro. This is a Sherlock Holmes retelling set in present day. The main character, Charlotte is actually the great-great-great-granddaughter of Sherlock. I haven’t had the chance to read it, but it sounds really entertaining.

Best Young Adult Fantasy:

My Lady Jane and Ivory & Bone didn’t make it 😦 This category is basically overrun by super popular or overhyped books. I knew ACOMAF would still be in the running and I’m voting for it this time. It is my favourite book of 2016 – yes, the year isn’t over but I doubt any other book will top it.

Thanks for reading and please vote here! Did any of your favourites make it to the final round?

Book Review: Queen Song by Victoria Aveyard

 

25005214Queen Song (Red Queen #0.1) – prequel novella to the Red Queen series

Victoria Aveyard

3.5/5 stars

Release Date: September 1, 2015

Publisher: Harper Teen

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

Synopsis on Goodreads:

Queen Coriane, first wife of King Tiberias, keeps a secret diary—how else can she ensure that no one at the palace will use her thoughts against her? Coriane recounts her heady courtship with the crown prince, the birth of a new prince, Cal, and the potentially deadly challenges that lay ahead for her in royal life.

Review:

Victoria Aveyard’s writing is superb in this prequel novella to Red Queen. Queen Song tells the backstory of Queen Coriane, from her life before the Royal Court to her friendship with the crown prince as well as the heartache and despair that comes with being a Silver daughter. Although the writing was strong, the main character was not.

I think Coriane’s personality didn’t fully get across to me and her troubles came across as a pity party. She seemed like she’d make a great mechanic or engineer and a big reader, but she doesn’t really fight for those things. As well, she talks about these things, but we don’t really see her doing them. It should be show, don’t tell. She also observes and thinks about the Reds and the Silvers. I did like that and I felt like she could’ve made strong strides as the Queen. She acknowledges that the Reds have it so much worse than the Silvers, but the focus remains on what the Silvers can’t do (like fight cancer or death). The irony is that she’s told multiple times to get a backbone and is written as weak and underwhelming.

I read Red Queen over a year ago so I don’t remember every skill/talent that the Silver houses are known for, never mind remember what a Singer can do. I wish the author had mentioned Coriane’s ability earlier (rather than near the end) and maybe explained it a bit more. I was actually starting to think Coriane didn’t even have one. Elara’s ability was mentioned earlier and in greater detail.

Maybe my main issue was that, I the reader know the fate of this character, having read Red Queen and wished for a character who fights up until the last moment, despite their fate. Coriane did act but it didn’t feel significant. It seemed to place her deeper into the hole. If you liked the Red Queen series or want to read about the backstory of this character, this is a quick read – just don’t expect a great YA heroine.

Nefarious Tales: Disney Villains & their Backstories

Nefarious Tales - Villain week

Hi everyone! Welcome to my stop on the Nefarious Tales Blog Event, hosted by Mishma from Chasing Faerytales. This week is all about celebrating our favourite villains. I was so happy to be chosen for this because I love villains (who doesn’t 😉 ). Be sure to check out the stops below as well as a special giveaway. A villain inspired mystery pack will be given away and it’s open international.

I’ve already mentioned that I love villains but I also love all things Disney so:

Villains + Disney = Pure Gold!

Recently it seems like there’s a market, whether in books, film, or television for telling the backstories or POV’s of villains and anti-heroes. Here are some disney villains that I’d love backstories of. I feel like learning a villain’s back story helps so much more with the character – sometimes you even feel sympathetic towards them.

Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty

Sleeping-beauty-disneyscreencaps.com-791

Maleficent_poster

I first became interested in Maleficent’s back story when the 2014 film Maleficent starring Angelina Jolie released. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a re-imagining of the 1959 animated film Sleeping Beauty. I definitely recommend watching it because it’s such a gorgeous portrayal of Maleficent and her side of the story. Jolie is a perfectly terrifying villain. Anyways, I really want to know why the other fairies had an issue with Maleficent and why King Stefan decided to involve himself in this fairy feud. I’m not an expert on this matter, but I’ve heard the worst thing you could do is invite every fairy but one.

 

 

 

Ursula from The Little Mermaid

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Ursula is another favourite of mine. If you don’t remember, Ursula is known as the sea witch by the merfolk and looks a lot like an octopus. In The Little Mermaid, Ursula mentions that she used to live in the palace, before her banishment which has always intrigued me. Who was she, what sort of role did she have and why was she banished? Most importantly, was she always an octopus? I think the fact that she turns every merperson she catches into tiny plants reinforces that idea – a sort of revenge for having lost her own tail. Plus, Poor Unfortunate Souls was one of the best songs in the movie – it’s both thrilling and a cautionary tale.

Hades from Hercules 

I’ve always loved Greek mythology and the various myths surrounding Hades definitely captivate. Add in a bit of Disney magic and you get a villain that, despite his unpleasant place in the pantheon, is still able to see the humour in life (pun intended). Actually, when I started writing this post I realized Hades is pretty much funny all the time, even when he’s losing – of course, I doubt Hades is amused by this but the viewer definitely gets a laugh. So what I’d love to know is how does a greek god who got the short end of the stick find the time to be both mad and witty?

*spoilers for The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis below

Jadis, the White Witch from The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe

The-Chronicles-of-Narnia-film-series-images-5ecbfa4b-ab52-4b31-a62c-0fa296f11ec

I’m cheating a bit with this one as the Witch Witch is technically half-disney – the book series by C.S. Lewis inspired the 2005 movie. When I read The Magician’s Nephew, I immediately wanted to know more about Jadis. She came from a world separate from both Narnia and our own, called Charn; a world that started out good, but soon fell to evil. Jadis was a powerful sorceress who battled with her sister for control of their world. The White Witch reigned terror over Narnia for 100 years but before that, destroyed her own world rather than be defeated. Now imagine TWO of these villainous queens battling for control of Charn – sister against sister, villain vs. villain. That makes for a pretty incredible book.


Nefarious Tales Blog Stops:
Monday April 18:
Wren @ Bookmato Chronicles – Ten Reasons why all Victors want to be Victor Vale
Holly @ The Fox’s Hideaway – Villains I’d Join the Dark Side for
Maha @ Younicorn Reads – Why Villains Actually Make the Decisions They Make
Tuesday April 19:
Lisa @ Lost in Literature – Favourite Villains
Emily @ Paperback Princess – Villains of Harry Potter
Maryam @ Once Upon a Story – What if villains rule the world
Crini @ It’s all about Books – Why we love villains
Wednesday April 20:
Cee @ The Novel Hermit – The older I get, the more I appreciate villains
Lila @ The Bookkeeper’s Secret – Evil Edits: How I imagine villains to look like

Zoe @ Stories on Stage – Favourite Villains

Thursday April 21:
Erica @ The Novel Ink – President Snow
Emily @ Emily Reads Everything – People We Love to Hate
Lynette @ Charmingly Simple – Fancasting of Disney Villains
Crini @ It’s all about Books – Favourite and Least Favourite Villains
Friday April 22:
Nicole @ Quality Fangirls – Villain Aesthetics
Emz @ Paging Serenity – Why I Love Anti-heroes
Denise @ The Bibliolater – Why Do We Need Villains
Saturday April 23:
Alyssa @ The Devil Orders Takeout – 11 Common Villain Tropes as Pokemon Moves
Sophia @ Bookwyrming Thoughts – Awesome Villain Powers
Nova @ Out of Time – The Darkling Formula
Sunday April 24:
Meleika @ Endless Pages – Why Everyone Needs a Villain in their Life
Adriyanna @ Life Writings of a Reader – Disney Villains & their Backstories
Ava @ Bookishness and Tea – Favourite Villains and Why I Love Them
Monday – My ultimate list of favourite fictional villains
Tuesday – Let’s talk about antiheroes!
Wednesday – Disney Villains (Jillian)
Thursday – Types of Villains
Friday – Villain Songs
Saturday – Why YA needs villain protagonists

Sunday – Favourite movie villains


Contest:

One person will win a villain inspired mystery pack, open INT. Enter through the rafflecopter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

March Wrap-Up Post

IMG_0002I started going into April thinking I’d only read three books, which made me a bit sad, but I actually read five so yay for that! It’s almost like randomly finding money you forgot you had. I’d ended up reading three books in February, so it’s progress. I’m aiming for ten books this month and I’m really confident about that because I’ll have a lot more free time.

Here are the books I read:

A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston

Vampire Knight Vol. 4 by Matsuri Hino

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

The Impostor Queen by Sarah Fine

Vampire Knight Vol. 5 by Matsuri Hino

A Thousand Nights was my favourite March read; the author presents an interesting twist on the original story, A Thousand and One Nights. Albeit confusing at first, the lack of names gives a sense of mystery. The ending is absolutely beautiful and I would definitely recommend! You can read my full review of this and the other books I read using the above links.

ICYMI:

I had the chance to interview Kate (E.K.) Johnston this month on the blog

I also made art inspired by The Crown’s Game for the Tsar’s Guard Parade Blog Tour

My favourite March moment: meeting Alison Goodman, Sabaa Tahir, Rachel Hawkins, Alwyn Hamilton and April Genevieve Tucholke at the Penguin Teen Tour. Honestly, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw they’d be stopping in Toronto. Meeting Alison, the author of one of my favourite series of all time, Eon was phenomenal! Alwyn is also super nice and I’m loving Rebel of the Sands so far.

How did everyone do with their reading goals? Will you be participating in ARC April?

Book Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

20560137An Ember in the Ashes

Sabaa Tahir

3.5/5 stars

Release Date: April 28, 2015

Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group

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

Synopsis on Goodreads:

Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

Review:

I rated it 3 stars on Goodreads, but my actual rating is 3.5 stars; the first half was a 3 for me, the last half a 4. It’s a good book – not the best – but still good. I do believe it’s overhyped. I really liked the writing, but it took me awhile to like the characters and world to the same degree. The first 75 pages were hard to read because I didn’t like Laia and things didn’t seem to get interesting until that point. I liked both perspectives Laia and Elias provided, but I still don’t 100% connect with Laia like I did Elias – I just find her character annoying and tedious. Every time Laia would beat herself up for being a coward, for not being like her mother, here’s me saying it’s okay to run away and be a coward – I’m sure her brother wanted her to be safe, not get locked up like him. So what if you’re a coward? Accept it, move on and work on freeing your brother, not dwelling on the past.

The romance between Elias and Laia as well as Laia and Keenan wasn’t really believable because they didn’t spend a lot of time together. There’s actually this love square? going on so Laia has two love interests and Elias has two. Helene and Elias made sense together because they’ve known each other for years, it’s the best-friends-fall-in-love trope that Tahir makes work. The same cannot be said for Laia’s love interests. The reader gets more time with the characters than they do with each other. That paints an illusion, so it seems like they’ve had enough time together, but I’m sure if you add it up it’s lower than expected. I predict in the sequel they’ll be spending more time together so that’s when I’d actually expect romance to happen.

I really liked the way the author made the past surrounding Laia’s parents and the Commandant so mysterious – I can usually predict things like this, but I’m still thinking through theories about them! The nervousness surrounding Cook was especially interesting. All those secrets is the main reason I’ll be reading the sequel – Tahir makes me want to know.

I really liked the trials – the third trial was especially hard to read, so I commend the author for being able to create such an impact. I could imagine these scenes so well and they were fantastic to read. I’m not as in love with the world as I’d like to be – I always need magic and fantastical elements, so only seeing a hint in the last half wasn’t enough for me. The world is dystopia and fantasy, which is an interesting mix, but I still need that extra bit of fantasy. World-building is a big thing for me, so I wish the author had shared a bit more of where the Martial Empire came from along with details of the 500-year old rule over the Scholars. The Tribes were also a bit confusing – are they bound by Martial rule, can they be made slaves like the scholars? The world-building is strong though so I’m excited to read more about that in the sequel.

Finally, something I feel really strongly about is how casually rape was mentioned. It felt like just a four-letter word, not something that has a deep impact on people. Yes, the author’s world is meant to be cruel and is inspired by the Roman Empire, but you still need to show that things like rape are more than a four-letter word. It’s said and insinuated too much, without the impact and discussion that should follow.

I’m planning to read the sequel, but it might take awhile for me to get to it. For those who have read it, I’d love to know your thoughts!

Book Review: A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston

21524446A Thousand Nights

E.K. Johnston

4/5 stars

Release Date: October 6, 2015

Publisher: Disney Hyperion

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

Synopsis on 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.

Review:

A gorgeous, magical story! Johnston’s words are beautiful and powerful, and in that respect similar to her protagonist – her storytelling becomes her power. There were some lines that were so poetic, in that I could see so much in just one sentence.

Although confusing at first, I liked that the reader wasn’t privy to the majority of the characters’ names, except for Lo-Melkhiin and a couple secondary characters (though I think the reader was given their titles, not their actual names). It made me think of when legends and stories are passed down through generations, and told far and wide, the names change but the stories remain the same (just look up the similarities of Mesopotamian myths to biblical stories). Adding to that, this is a retelling of A Thousand and One Nights, and while Johnston keeps the essence of the story the same, she brings to life her own characters.

The lack of names also creates a sense of mystery – this could be our world but it could also be some other fantasy world, one that only Johnston knows and can share all of its mysteries and secrets. The reader is given a small glimpse of this world – we know there’s something beyond the horizon, but the possibilities are limitless.

There’s not a lot of romance, but I didn’t mind that. The protagonist marries the king to save her sister – and she’s really a prisoner, trying to find some power to defeat the demon that is the king. Adding romance to that wouldn’t work and I couldn’t see that being published in the YA section.

One of my only dislikes was that sometimes I would drift off and get bored. At times the plot moved too slow for me and had me wondering if the author had enough room to wrap everything up. Although enjoyable, it wasn’t quite what I’d imagined.

The ending was really beautiful and completely satisfying! I’ve heard there’s a companion novel to this book and am looking forward to reading that. Johnston is a talented writer and so far I’ve enjoyed all the books I’ve read by her.

Review: All The Broken Things by Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer

CBCbooks-CanadaReads-2016-longlist

One of my goals for 2016 is to read the entire Canada Reads 2016 Longlist and with this post, I’m sharing my thoughts on the first one: All The Broken Things by Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer. I’m sure you’re asking yourself, what is Canada Reads? It’s basically an annual “battle of the books” competition, organized and broadcast by CBC. Five Canadian panellists champion novels based on a specific theme. This year’s theme is ‘starting over’ and you can read more about that and the panellists here.

I’d also love to invite you to read one, some or all of the books, from either the shortlist or longlist. It’d be great discussing these books with others and deciding which one deserves to win Canada Reads 2016!

2016 Shortlist (top 5 books that will be part of the debate):

shortlist
Birdie | Bone and Bread | Minister Without Portfolio | The Hero’s Walk | The Illegal

2016 Longlist:

The Outside Circle by Patti LaBoucane-Benson & Kelly Mellings

Swamp Angel by Ethel Wilson

All The Broken Things by Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer

Birdie by Tracey Lindberg

Bone and Bread by Saleema Nawaz

Buying on Time by Antanas Sileika

Landing Gear by Kate Pullinger

Minister Without Portfolio by Michael Winter

Niko by Dimitri Nasrallah

Sitting Practice by Caroline Adderson

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Sweetland by Michael Crummey

The Amazing Absorbing Boy by Rabindranath Maharaj

The Hero’s Walk by Anita Rau Badami

The Illegal by Lawrence Hill


17834903All The Broken Things by Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer | 4/5 stars

Release Date: January 14, 2014

Publisher: Random House CA

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

Synopsis on Goodreads:

A novel of exceptional heart and imagination about the ties that bind us to each other, broken and whole, from one of the most exciting voices in Canadian fiction.

September, 1983. Fourteen-year-old Bo, a boat person from Vietnam, lives in a small house in the Junction neighbourhood of Toronto with his mother, Thao, and his four-year-old sister, who was born severely disfigured from the effects of Agent Orange. Named Orange, she is the family secret; Thao keeps her hidden away, and when Bo’s not at school or getting into fights on the street, he cares for her.

One day a carnival worker and bear trainer, Gerry, sees Bo in a streetfight, and recruits him for the bear wrestling circuit, eventually giving him his own cub to train. This opens up a new world for Bo–but then Gerry’s boss, Max, begins pursuing Thao with an eye on Orange for his travelling freak show. When Bo wakes up one night to find the house empty, he knows he and his cub, Bear, are truly alone. Together they set off on an extraordinary journey through the streets of Toronto and High Park. Awake at night, boy and bear form a unique and powerful bond. When Bo emerges from the park to search for his sister, he discovers a new way of seeing Orange, himself and the world around them.

All the Broken Things is a spellbinding novel, at once melancholy and hopeful, about the peculiarities that divide us and bring us together, and the human capacity for love and acceptance.

Review:

I think Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer is a fantastic storyteller; her writing has a very lyrical aspect to it. She’s able to combine several important issues without overwhelming the reader. When it comes to All The Broken Things, everything is connected and flows really well. Kuitenbrouwer brings out a very emotional response from the reader and presents two ways of looking at things.

I instantly liked Bo and thought the author did a very good job of pushing the reader to be sympathetic towards him. Fourteen year old Bo is a very lonely person – he deals with bullying and prejudice on a daily basis, so his home life is mainly made up of his four year old sister, Orange, when their mother is at work. Orange was born severely disfigured from the effects of Agent Orange, a herbicide used during the Vietnam War. The reader witnesses what seems like Bo’s most confusing time of his life and being in his head, reading what he’s observing, is very fascinating. For one, Bo is extremely frustrated at his mother. She’s not home a lot and is trying to adopt a Canadian lifestyle. Bo doesn’t recognize it, but his mother seems to have depression. When she came to Canada, she didn’t expect for her husband to die on the journey and for Orange to be born disfigured – for her, this is shameful to live with. Ultimately, she doesn’t have a positive outlet. This pushes Bo to accept a job in the bear wrestling circuit – if his mother can be home with Orange, all the better for his family.

There was one thing I disliked about Bo: he’s a bit juvenile for his age and I don’t think the author has a complete picture of how a teenager acts. Bo is portrayed as smart and observant; even when he doesn’t understand something, he still gets a good or bad feeling from it. This is an adult book with a fourteen year old protagonist and the one reason it wouldn’t work as a YA book is because the author doesn’t fully believe in Bo the teenager. There were moments when Bo didn’t understand something that I feel a teenager would. Make no mistake, I loved Bo and thought he was a great character, but I question the author’s idea of a teenager.

Kuitenbrouwer illustrates important issues of 1983 Toronto and I found myself in disbelief at the sort of things that were happening. When you learn new things like this, it paints a whole new perspective. There were issues ranging from discrimination and animal abuse re: circus/entertainment to poverty and suicide. The only thing I disliked about this was the author never seemed to focus on just one. When there are issues like these, I feel the author should create a solid discussion and not rely on the reader to start it. I also found troubling the lack of police action and the author doesn’t make clear if this was common in the 80’s.

I loved the relationship between Bo and his bear, Bear. It’s one of those things where you end up wishing for the same (yet different) deeply, connected bond with an animal. Even better, it makes me want to write about such a bond between human and animal (Life of Pi), or animal and animal (Two Brothers, The Lion King). Adding to that, the plot is fantastic and never fails to draw you in. I think I came off more harsh than my rating would suggest, but I really enjoyed this novel. I whole-heartidly believe you can both love a book and question it. Kuitenbrouwer is a beautiful writer and I definitely recommend this book!

January Wrap-Up Post

IMG_9400I can’t believe it’s already February! I read a total of seven books last month and according to Goodreads I’m one book ahead of schedule 🙂 so January was a great reading month. As I explained in my 2016 Goals & Resolutions post, I’m trying to stick to four different categories. Here are the books I read:

Category Two: Books added to my TBR pile in 2015 – it’s so easy clicking that “Want to Read” button on Goodreads.

 

  • Alice in Wonderland High by Rachel Shane
  • The Burning Hand by Jodi Meadows
  • Rabbit Ears by Maggie de Vries
  • All The Broken Things by Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer
  • The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
  • Vampire Knight Vol. 2 by Matsuri Hino

Category Three: Books added to my TBR pile before 2015 – I seriously have so many!

  • The Assassin’s Blade by Sarah J. Maas => I finished the first two novellas in December and only had to read the last three

What books did you get to last month? Did you meet or exceed your expectations?

Book Review: Vicious by V.E. Schwab

13638125Vicious 

V.E. Schwab

5/5 Stars

Release Date: September 24, 2013

Publisher: Tor

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

Synopsis on Goodreads:

Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong. Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end?

Review:

Vicious by V.E. Schwab is a fresh take on the superhero subgenre. I loved trying to figure who was the villain and who was the hero. Victor Vale and Eli Cardale meet at university and it’s when Eli’s theoretical research into ExtraOrdinary (EO’s) people catches Victor’s interest that things go wrong. This is a case of an unreliable narrator because villains don’t believe they’re villains. Vicious is a new original classic that carries suspense to the very last page.

Time is an interesting concept here. Every other chapter would take place in the past, namely 10 years before the novel begins, but near the end, the ‘past’ could also be 10 hours before the present timeline. This present then past then present format helped carry the suspense of what exactly went down between Victor and Eli. The reader knows something really bad happened between the two, but Schwab leaves that valuable information right out of our reach. It’s up to us to follow the breadcrumbs.

Schwab’s take on the superhero genre is well done because I went into the novel trying to figure out who’s the bad guy, who’s the good guy and there’s really no ‘good guy’. In the beginning, I was confident that Victor himself was the villain. He somewhat admits this and the way his mind works just screams ‘super villain’, but then Schwab switches up the POV and BAM! self doubt settles in. The author is also good at creating these grey characters and you end up rooting for this villain to win, or that villain to lose. Her characters are cunning and manipulative, and the reader is not immune to that power. You learn to love it haha 😉

Vicious is made up of morally complex characters, but it’s up to the reader to decide which ones are ‘good’. A very hard task to do! This is a story of one great super villain versus another great super villain, but both wouldn’t be anywhere without their allies. I loved reading about Mitch, Sydney and Serena, and how they became involved with EO’s. Mitch is the only non-EO, but he’s very good with hacking computer systems, a talent that stood out to Victor.

Science plays a large and important role in Vicious. Schwab has a story to tell because two very intelligent students use science to achieve superhuman powers. This made the storyline all the more realistic to me. I enjoy superhero-type novels, but I love them even more when science plays a significant part in the plot. When you take the time to show how a person’s power exists, it helps the reader envision it in the real world. Schwab invents the term ‘ExtraOrdinary’ and I’d say in the world of Vicious, it’s a noun that carries the same meaning as superhero. Having the science there gives it added weight. I wouldn’t mind being an EO myself – hopefully I’d have some cool powers!

The writing is phenomenal! I was never bored with the dialogue or the plot. I somewhat expected the ending because of a certain character’s power, but it was still a page stopper. Vicious is a very entertaining read and I loved being in the heads of Schwab’s fantastically, dark characters. This is one super villain story you don’t want to miss out on!