Book Birthdays: June 2020

City Buildings Facebook Cover

Book Birthdays is a monthly feature where I list my Top 5 book releases of the month.

A lot of incredible books came out this month, with some still to release. Here are a few of my most-anticipated! Be sure to add these to your to-be-read shelf and request them at your local library.


y648All the Things We Never Knew by Liara Tamani

Greenwillow Books | June 9, 2020

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

Synopsis:

“Tamani masterfully bounces and slams two hearts up and down a shrouded court of first love and revelations. A hard-to-put-down backboard-breaker.”—Rita Williams-Garcia, National Book Award Finalist and New York Times–bestselling author

From the moment Carli and Rex first locked eyes on a Texas high school basketball court, they both knew it was destiny. But can you truly love someone else if you don’t love yourself? Acclaimed author Liara Tamani’s luminous second novel explores love, family, heartbreak, betrayal, and the power of healing, in gorgeous prose that will appeal to readers of Nicola Yoon and Jacqueline Woodson.

A glance was all it took. That kind of connection, the immediate and raw understanding of another person, just doesn’t come along very often. And as rising stars on their Texas high schools’ respective basketball teams, destined for bright futures in college and beyond, it seems like a match made in heaven. But Carli and Rex have secrets. As do their families.

Liara Tamani, the author of the acclaimed Calling My Name, follows two Black teenagers as they discover how first love, heartbreak, betrayal, and family can shape you—for better or for worse. A novel full of pain, joy, healing, and hope for fans of Elizabeth Acevedo, Jacqueline Woodson, and Jenny Han.


y648-2A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown

Balzer + Bray | June 2, 2020

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

Synopsis:

The first in an fantasy duology inspired by West African folklore in which a grieving crown princess and a desperate refugee find themselves on a collision course to murder each other despite their growing attraction.

For Malik, the Solstasia festival is a chance to escape his war-stricken home and start a new life with his sisters in the prosperous desert city of Ziran. But when a vengeful spirit abducts Malik’s younger sister, Nadia, as payment into the city, Malik strikes a fatal deal—kill Karina, Crown Princess of Ziran, for Nadia’s freedom.

But Karina has deadly aspirations of her own. Her mother, the Sultana, has been assassinated; her court threatens mutiny; and Solstasia looms like a knife over her neck. Grief-stricken, Karina decides to resurrect her mother through ancient magic . . . requiring the beating heart of a king. And she knows just how to obtain one: by offering her hand in marriage to the victor of the Solstasia competition.

When Malik rigs his way into the contest, they are set on a course to destroy each other. But as attraction flares between them and ancient evils stir, will they be able to see their tasks to the death?


HBTS_CVR_FINAL_ARTHunted by the Sky by Tanaz Bhathena

Penguin Teen | June 23, 2020

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

Synopsis:

A riveting story of discovery, forbidden romance and idealism against all odds, set in a fantasy world inspired in part by Indian history and myth. For fans of Sabaa Tahir and Tomi Adeyemi.

Gul has spent her life running. She has a star-shaped birthmark on her arm, and in the kingdom of Ambar, girls with such birthmarks have been disappearing for years. Gul’s mark is what caused her parents’ murder at the hand of King Lohar’s ruthless soldiers and forced her into hiding to protect her own life. So when a group of rebel women called the Sisters of the Golden Lotus rescue her, take her in, and train her in warrior magic, Gul wants only one thing: revenge.

Cavas lives in the tenements, and he’s just about ready to sign his life over to the king’s army. His father is terminally ill, and Cavas will do anything to save him. But sparks fly when he meets a mysterious girl–Gul–in the capital’s bazaar, and as the chemistry between them undeniably grows, he becomes entangled in a mission of vengeance–and discovers a magic he never expected to find.

Dangerous circumstances have brought Gul and Cavas together at the king’s domain in Ambar Fort . . . a world with secrets deadlier than their own. Exploring identity, class struggles, and high-stakes romance, Hunted by the Sky is a gripping adventure set in a world inspired by medieval India.


forestofsoulscover-jlgForest of Souls by Lori M. Lee

Page Street Kids | June 23, 2020

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

Synopsis:

Danger lurks within the roots of Forest of Souls, an epic, unrelenting tale of destiny and sisterhood, perfect for fans of Naomi Novik and Susan Dennard.

Sirscha Ashwyn comes from nothing, but she’s intent on becoming something. After years of training to become the queen’s next royal spy, her plans are derailed when shamans attack and kill her best friend Saengo.

And then Sirscha, somehow, restores Saengo to life.

Unveiled as the first soulguide in living memory, Sirscha is summoned to the domain of the Spider King. For centuries, he has used his influence over the Dead Wood—an ancient forest possessed by souls—to enforce peace between the kingdoms. Now, with the trees growing wild and untamed, only a soulguide can restrain them. As war looms, Sirscha must master her newly awakened abilities before the trees shatter the brittle peace, or worse, claim Saengo, the friend she would die for.


50160619._SX0_SY0_You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson

Scholastic Press | June 2, 2020

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

Synopsis:

Liz Lighty has always believed she’s too black, too poor, too awkward to shine in her small, rich, prom-obsessed midwestern town. But it’s okay — Liz has a plan that will get her out of Campbell, Indiana, forever: attend the uber-elite Pennington College, play in their world-famous orchestra, and become a doctor.

But when the financial aid she was counting on unexpectedly falls through, Liz’s plans come crashing down . . . until she’s reminded of her school’s scholarship for prom king and queen. There’s nothing Liz wants to do less than endure a gauntlet of social media trolls, catty competitors, and humiliating public events, but despite her devastating fear of the spotlight she’s willing to do whatever it takes to get to Pennington.

The only thing that makes it halfway bearable is the new girl in school, Mack. She’s smart, funny, and just as much of an outsider as Liz. But Mack is also in the running for queen. Will falling for the competition keep Liz from her dreams . . . or make them come true?

Spotlight: A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow

9781250315328A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow

Tor Teen | June 2, 2020

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

A captivating fantasy for today’s readers, Bethany C. Morrow’s debut YA, A Song Below Water, is about two sister-friends discovering their magical identities against the challenges of misogynoir.

Tavia is already at odds with the world, forced to keep her siren identity under wraps in a society that wants to keep her kind under lock and key. Nevermind she’s also stuck in Portland, Oregon, a city with only a handful of black folk and even fewer of those with magical powers. At least she has her bestie Effie by her side as they tackle high school drama, family secrets, and unrequited crushes.

But everything changes in the aftermath of a siren murder trial that rocks the nation; the girls’ favorite Internet fashion icon reveals she’s also a siren, and the news rips through their community. Tensions escalate when Effie starts being haunted by demons from her past, and Tavia accidentally lets out her magical voice during a police stop. No secret seems safe anymore―soon Portland won’t be either.

I am so excited that Bethany C. Morrow’s debut novel is finally out in the world! The moment I read the synopsis for A SONG BELOW WATER, I knew it needed to be on my to-be-read shelf. I’ve heard incredible things about this book from trusted friends, so I will definitely not be missing out and neither should you.

Blog Tour: Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia

I’m so excited to be part of the Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky blog tour! I had the incredible honour of interviewing the author, Kwame Mbalia. The moment I heard about this book, it was an instant add for me. Check out my interview below and then preorder or request TRISTAN STRONG at your local library. Every one of the books from the Rick Riordan Presents imprint have been standout so far; you won’t be disappointed.


imageTristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky

Kwame Mbalia

Release Date: October 15, 2019

Publisher: Rick Riordan Presents

Buy: Amazon | Book Depository

Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N |  Kobo

Synopsis:

Best-selling author Rick Riordan presents Kwame Mbalia’s epic fantasy, a middle grade American Gods set in a richly-imagined world populated with African American folk heroes and West African gods.

Seventh grader Tristan Strong feels anything but strong ever since he failed to save his best friend when they were in a bus accident together. All he has left of Eddie is the journal his friend wrote stories in. Tristan is dreading the month he’s going to spend on his grandparents’ farm in Alabama, where he’s being sent to heal from the tragedy. But on his first night there, a sticky creature shows up in his bedroom and steals Eddie’s notebook. Tristan chases after it–is that a doll?–and a tug-of-war ensues between them underneath a Bottle Tree. In a last attempt to wrestle the journal out of the creature’s hands, Tristan punches the tree, accidentally ripping open a chasm into the MidPass, a volatile place with a burning sea, haunted bone ships, and iron monsters that are hunting the inhabitants of this world.

Tristan finds himself in the middle of a battle that has left black American folk heroes John Henry and Brer Rabbit exhausted. In order to get back home, Tristan and these new allies will need to entice the god Anansi, the Weaver, to come out of hiding and seal the hole in the sky. But bartering with the trickster Anansi always comes at a price. Can Tristan save this world before he loses more of the things he loves?

interview2

Q: What inspired TRISTAN STRONG? What made you go ‘This is it. This is the story I’m writing now’?

A: Tristan Strong was written a few months after my father died, and my daughters were really struggling with this idea of grief. Along with that, I’ve always wanted to write a story retelling the folklore I grew up reading and listening to, so when the opportunity presented itself, I had to jump on it.

Q: Tristan is struggling with the grief of losing his best friend and the disappointment of losing his first fighting match. What do you hope readers will gain from the battles Tristan goes through – both internet and external?

A: Above all, I want to convey the idea that it is okay to grieve, to express grief, and that process can take anywhere from a month to forever. It’s natural. Tristan gradually learns what it means to lose something, whether it’s a match or a person you loved, and to continue through life.

Q: What has writing TRISTAN STRONG taught you? What’s your favourite part of the book?

  1. It’s my debut book so it taught me how to write, lmaoooo. A lesson I’m still learning and will continue to learn into the future. 
  2. My favorite part of the book is probably the ending scene when everyone’s on the page at the same time. I really got to put folktales and gods on the page. That makes me happy. 

Q: Your book is based on Western African gods and African-American legends. What kind of research did you do? Was there anything you wanted to include in the book but couldn’t?

A: Have you seen how large the book is? 496 pages. What didn’t I put in the book. No, but seriously, there are plenty more folktales and stories I couldn’t incorporate, but that’s what sequels are for, right? As for research, Zora Neale Hurston, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and other historians who collected folklore in their travels were of immense help.

Q: What were the challenges of creating a magical world with a modern setting?

A: Everything. Worldbuilding is hard, yo.

Q: If Tristan existed in our world, what would he be reading and watching right now?

A: He’d be reading everything from Read Riordan Presents… and watching replays of the Spence/Porter boxing match, YouTube compilations of old Vine clips, and Steven Universe. 

aboutauthor

DSC_1811Kwame is a husband, father, writer, and pharmaceutical metrologist in that order.  His debut middle-grade novel, TRISTAN STRONG PUNCHES A HOLE IN THE SKY (October 15, 2019) is published by Rick Riordan Presents/Disney-Hyperion.  A Howard University graduate and a Midwesterner now in North Carolina, he enjoys impromptu dance sessions and Cheezits.

 

 

 

 


TRISTAN STRONG PUNCHES A HOLE IN THE SKY_Blog Tour (1)

Be sure to check out the other blog tour stops as well as the host, Cake Literary.

Top 5 March Releases

Today I’m sharing the March book releases I’m most excited for! I’ve heard great things about them so definitely add these to your TBR pile. A friendly reminder, if you end up reading any of these make sure to write a review on book retailer sites – they help authors so much! You can learn more about my Top 5 Releases feature here.


36233085Once & Future by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy

Little, Brown and Company | March 26, 2019

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

Synopsis: 

I’ve been chased my whole life. As a fugitive refugee in the territory controlled by the tyrannical Mercer corporation, I’ve always had to hide who I am. Until I found Excalibur.

Now I’m done hiding.

My name is Ari Helix. I have a magic sword, a cranky wizard, and a revolution to start.

When Ari crash-lands on Old Earth and pulls a magic sword from its ancient resting place, she is revealed to be the newest reincarnation of King Arthur. Then she meets Merlin, who has aged backward over the centuries into a teenager, and together they must break the curse that keeps Arthur coming back. Their quest? Defeat the cruel, oppressive government and bring peace and equality to all humankind.

No pressure.


38167114Internment by Samira Ahmed

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers | March 19, 2019

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

Synopsis: 

Rebellions are built on hope.

Set in a horrifying near-future United States, seventeen-year-old Layla Amin and her parents are forced into an internment camp for Muslim American citizens.

With the help of newly made friends also trapped within the internment camp, her boyfriend on the outside, and an unexpected alliance, Layla begins a journey to fight for freedom, leading a revolution against the internment camp’s Director and his guards.

Heart-racing and emotional, Internment challenges readers to fight complicit silence that exists in our society today.


36165054The Waking Forest by Alyssa Wees

Delacorte | March 12, 2019

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

Synopsis: 

The waking forest has secrets. To Rhea, it appears like a mirage, dark and dense, at the very edge of her backyard. But when she reaches out to touch it, the forest vanishes. She’s desperate to know more—until she finds a peculiar boy who offers to reveal its secrets. If she plays a game.

To the Witch, the forest is her home, where she sits on her throne of carved bone, waiting for dreaming children to beg her to grant their wishes. One night, a mysterious visitor arrives and asks her what she wishes for, but the Witch sends him away. And then the uninvited guest returns.

The strangers are just the beginning. Something is stirring in the forest, and when Rhea’s and the Witch’s paths collide, a truth more treacherous and deadly than either could ever imagine surfaces. But how much are they willing to risk to survive?


33299465You Asked for Perfect by Laura Silverman

Sourcebooks Fire | March 5, 2019

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

Synopsis: 

Senior Ariel Stone is the perfect college applicant: first chair violin, dedicated community volunteer, and expected valedictorian. He works hard – really hard – to make his life look effortless. A failed Calculus quiz is not part of that plan. Not when he’s number one. Not when his peers can smell weakness like a freshman’s body spray.

Figuring a few all-nighters will preserve his class rank, Ariel throws himself into studying. His friends will understand if he skips a few plans, and he can sleep when he graduates. Except Ariel’s grade continues to slide. Reluctantly, he gets a tutor. Amir and Ariel have never gotten along, but Amir excels in Calculus, and Ariel is out of options.

Ariel may not like Calc, but he might like Amir. Except adding a new relationship to his long list of commitments may just push him past his limit.


37868558Mahimata (Asiana #2) by Rati Mehrotra

Harper Voyager | March 5, 2019

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

Synopsis: 

A young female assassin must confront the man who slaughtered her family, risk her heart, and come to terms with her identity as a warrior and as a woman in this thrilling fantasy from the author of Markswoman.

Kyra has returned to the caves of Kali, but her homecoming is bittersweet. Her beloved teacher is dead and her best friend Nineth is missing. And gone, too, is Rustan, the Marksman who helped her train for the duel with Tamsyn–and became far more than a teacher and friend.

Shaken by his feelings for Kyra and the truth about his parentage, Rustan has set off on a quest for answers. His odyssey leads him to the descendants of an ancient sect tied to the alien Ones–and the realization that the answers he seeks come with a price.

Yet fate has plans to bring Kyra and Rustan together again. Kai Tau, the man who slaughtered Kyra’s family, wages war on the Orders of Asiana. Hungering for justice, Kyra readies herself for battle, aided by her new companions: the wyr-wolves, who are so much more than what they seem. And determined to keep the woman he loves safe, Rustan joins the fight to ride by her side.

But will this final confrontation ultimately cost them their love…and their lives?

Top 5 October Releases

October is officially the best month – a ton of books were released! It was so hard choosing my top 5 picks so I decided to split this feature in two. For part one, I’m sharing five standalones by five incredible authors! Don’t be disappointed if your favourite book isn’t here, my next post will be about sequels. Definitely check these out and don’t forget, leaving a review on book retailer sites and making library requests help authors so much. You can learn more about this feature here.


36952596Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore

Feiwel & Friends | October 9, 2018

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

Synopsis: 

The biggest lie of all is the story you think you already know.

The del Cisne girls have never just been sisters; they’re also rivals, Blanca as obedient and graceful as Roja is vicious and manipulative. They know that, because of a generations-old spell, their family is bound to a bevy of swans deep in the woods. They know that, one day, the swans will pull them into a dangerous game that will leave one of them a girl, and trap the other in the body of a swan.

But when two local boys become drawn into the game, the swans’ spell intertwines with the strange and unpredictable magic lacing the woods, and all four of their fates depend on facing truths that could either save or destroy them. Blanca & Roja is the captivating story of sisters, friendship, love, hatred, and the price we pay to protect our hearts.


34842042The Light Between Worlds by Laura Weymouth

HarperTeen | October 23, 2018

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

Synopsis: 

Five years ago, Evelyn and Philippa Hapwell cowered from air strikes in a London bomb shelter. But that night took a turn when the sisters were transported to another realm called the Woodlands. In a forest kingdom populated by creatures out of myth and legend, they found temporary refuge.

When they finally returned to London, nothing had changed at all—nothing, except themselves.

Now, Ev spends her days sneaking into the woods outside her boarding school, wishing for the Woodlands. Overcome with longing, she is desperate to return no matter what it takes.

Philippa, on the other hand, is determined to find a place in this world. She shields herself behind a flawless exterior and countless friends, and moves to America to escape the memory of what was.

But when Evelyn goes missing, Philippa must confront the depth of her sister’s despair and the painful truths they’ve been running from. As the weeks unfold, Philippa wonders if Ev truly did find a way home, or if the weight of their worlds pulled her under.

Content warnings are available at www.lauraeweymouth.com/books


36430924Beneath the Citadel by Destiny Soria

Amulet | October 9, 2018

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

Synopsis: 

In the city of Eldra, people are ruled by ancient prophecies. For centuries, the high council has stayed in power by virtue of the prophecies of the elder seers. After the last infallible prophecy came to pass, growing unrest led to murders and an eventual rebellion that raged for more than a decade.

In the present day, Cassa, the orphaned daughter of rebels, is determined to fight back against the high council, which governs Eldra from behind the walls of the citadel. Her only allies are no-nonsense Alys, easygoing Evander, and perpetually underestimated Newt, and Cassa struggles to come to terms with the legacy of rebellion her dead parents have left her — and the fear that she may be inadequate to shoulder the burden. But by the time Cassa and her friends uncover the mystery of the final infallible prophecy, it may be too late to save the city — or themselves.


38720939A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

HarperTeen | October 16, 2018

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

Synopsis: 

It’s 2002, a year after 9/11. It’s an extremely turbulent time politically, but especially so for someone like Shirin, a sixteen-year-old Muslim girl who’s tired of being stereotyped.

Shirin is never surprised by how horrible people can be. She’s tired of the rude stares, the degrading comments—even the physical violence—she endures as a result of her race, her religion, and the hijab she wears every day. So she’s built up protective walls and refuses to let anyone close enough to hurt her. Instead, she drowns her frustrations in music and spends her afternoons break-dancing with her brother.

But then she meets Ocean James. He’s the first person in forever who really seems to want to get to know Shirin. It terrifies her—they seem to come from two irreconcilable worlds—and Shirin has had her guard up for so long that she’s not sure she’ll ever be able to let it down.


39848512Odd One Out by Nic Stone

Crown Books for Young Readers | October 9, 2018

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

Synopsis:

From the New York Times bestselling author of Dear Martincomes this illuminating exploration of old friendships, new crushes, and the path to self-discovery.

Courtney “Coop” Cooper
Dumped. Again. And normally I wouldn’t mind. But right now, my best friend and source of solace, Jupiter Sanchez, is ignoring me to text some girl.

Rae Evelyn Chin
I assumed “new girl” would be synonymous with “pariah,” but Jupiter and Courtney make me feel like I’m right where I belong. I also want to kiss him. And her. Which is . . . perplexing.

Jupiter Charity-Sanchez
The only thing worse than losing the girl you love to a boy is losing her to your boy. That means losing him, too. I have to make a move. . . .

One story.
Three sides.
No easy answers.

Aug/Sept. Wrap Up Post

32182684I can’t believe it’s already October! Last month went by so fast. I was a little busy with school and work so I didn’t get to read as much as I wanted to in September. I did read two incredible books I’ll be adding to my favourites shelf:

The Blazing Star – an #OwnVoices, time travel book set in ancient Egypt with incredible characters and a captivating plot! I am so, so excited to read its sequel, The Falling Star.

Me (and) Me – a dark YA thriller exploring parallel lives and the split-second decisions that can change your life, for better or worse. This book never stopped surprising me!

Definitely check these out!

August Books Read:

The Blazing Star by Imani Josey

September Books Read:

Pemmican Wars by Katherena Vermette, Scott B. Henderson, and Donovan Yaciuk

Ms. Marvel Vol. 1 by G. Willow Wilson

Me (and) Me by Alice Kuipers

Coyote Tales by Thomas King

ICYMI:

Book Review: The Blazing Star by Imani Josey

Top 5 August Releases

Pemmican Wars by Katherena Vermette, Scott B. Henderson, and Donovan Yaciuk

Book Review: Pemmican Wars by Katherena Vermette, Scott B. Henderson, and Donovan Yaciuk

35545695A Girl Called Echo Volume 1: Pemmican Wars

Katherena Vermette, Scott B. Henderson, and Donovan Yaciuk

4.5/5 stars

Release Date: December 5, 2017

Publisher: HighWater Press

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

Synopsis on Goodreads:

Echo Desjardins, a 13-year-old Métis girl adjusting to a new home and school, is struggling with loneliness while separated from her mother. Then an ordinary day in Mr. Bee’s history class turns extraordinary, and Echo’s life will never be the same. During Mr. Bee’s lecture, Echo finds herself transported to another time and place—a bison hunt on the Saskatchewan prairie—and back again to the present. In the following weeks, Echo slips back and forth in time. She visits a Métis camp, travels the old fur-trade routes, and experiences the perilous and bygone era of the Pemmican Wars.

Pemmican Wars is the first graphic novel in a new series, A Girl Called Echo, by Governor General Award–winning writer, and author of Highwater Press’ The Seven Teaching Stories, Katherena Vermette.

Review:

PEMMICAN WARS is the first graphic novel in the A GIRL CALLED ECHO series by Katherena Vermette, Scott B. Henderson, and Donovan Yaciuk. Echo, a young Métis girl, finds herself slipping back in time as she learns about the Pemmican Wars in school (1812-1821, Saskatchewan). The incredible artwork tells Echo’s story; a young teen struggling with her own identity and culture, and adjusting to a new school with a foster family. Traveling to the past allows Echo to learn about her family and culture in her own unique way. There are not a lot of words, even for a graphic novel, which has the reader focusing on the artwork instead. PEMMICAN WARS is such an important book and should be picked up by everyone.

As I said, there are not a lot of words (even for a graphic novel), which originally took me by surprise. I don’t read graphic novels very often, so I was going in with a certain expectation of word count. However, I did like that this made you focus on the illustrations. If you wanted to understand the story, you needed to see what Echo was doing. This did lead to confusion a few times. I was unsure how often Echo traveled back in time and whether she was more of an observer or a main player. I think having a few more words would’ve prevented this. Reading the graphic novel’s synopsis before the book itself prevented some confusion, but I don’t consider that a good thing. A reader shouldn’t be relying on the synopsis to understand the book.

I immediately connected with Echo and her struggle with loneliness. I was a really lonely person in high school, even while surrounded by “friends” and I think Echo will help a lot of young readers. I loved that she was always on her iPod, music seemed to be one of the few things Echo was interested in, at least before her trips to the past. I really want to listen to Echo’s playlist.

PEMMICAN WARS was really short and I think this also caused some of the confusion I had. Echo’s story needed to be told in 50 or so pages. I’m not sure if this was done on purpose or shortened due to cost (this sometimes happens in the publishing industry). Future instalments in this series could be longer, if PEMMICAN WARS does really well.

I also liked that a minor character, a teacher, was referred to as Mx rather than Miss/Ms/Mr. I think it’s really important for readers to see this, even if it doesn’t directly relate back to the plot.

PEMMICAN WARS is an important, OwnVoices book that needs to be in our schools, libraries, and homes. The artwork was so incredibly gorgeous and I wish I had read the physical copy instead of the ebook, to view PEMMICAN WARS in all its glory. Please consider picking up this fabulous series by Katherena Vermette, Scott B. Henderson, and Donovan Yaciuk. I am avidly awaiting the next instalment, RED RIVER RESISTANCE.

Book Review: The Blazing Star by Imani Josey

32182684The Blazing Star

Imani Josey

5/5 stars

Release Date: December 6, 2016

Publisher: Wise Ink

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

Synopsis on Goodreads:

Sixteen-year-old Portia White is used to being overlooked—after all, her twin sister Alex is a literal genius.

But when Portia holds an Egyptian scarab beetle during history class, she takes center stage in a way she never expected: she faints. Upon waking, she is stronger, faster, and braver than before. And when she accidentally touches the scarab again?

She wakes up in ancient Egypt—her sister and an unwitting freshman in tow.

Great.

Mysterious and beautiful, Egypt is more than they could have ever imagined from their days in the classroom. History comes alive as the three teens realize that getting back to the present will be the most difficult thing they’ve ever done. Stalked by vicious monsters called Scorpions, every step in the right direction means a step closer to danger.

As Portia and the girls discover that they’re linked to the past by more than just chance, they have to decide what it truly means to be yourself, to love your sister, and to find your way home.

Review:

*Quotes have location instead of page number because I have the ebook.

THE BLAZING STAR by Imani Josey is an entertaining, well-written fantasy about strong female characters facing a dark force in ancient Egypt. This was a fresh take on time travel and goddess-given magic, and once I started reading I couldn’t stop. With strong messages of sisterhood, Josey has created a breathtaking debut.

The protagonist, Portia travels the Rivers of Time to ancient Egypt with her twin sister, Alex and freshman Selene, and must protect Egypt from a power-hungry priest and humanoid monsters. Not to mention, learning to control her own new-found magical abilities called Heka. I absolutely loved Portia’s character! In the beginning, she’s shy and introverted, struggling to break out of her sister’s shadow. As the book progresses, we see her breaking free and becoming a stronger, bolder person. Alex is this super smart genius, who doesn’t understand why her sister would want to do things differently from her. I haven’t read many books where the MC is a twin, so it was interesting to read about these conflicting personalities. Portia doesn’t want to live in her sister’s shadow anymore and doesn’t completely hate the idea of staying in ancient Egypt. Alex just wants to go home and for everything to go back to normal. Selene is new to Portia’s school, so she and Alex are getting to know Selene at the same time as the reader.

The first couple chapters were a bit rocky, it started off with Alex being given an academic award and I was a little confused. I definitely understood why the author chose to start the novel there – Portia had just cut her hair, it was the start of her breaking out of her sister’s shadow. After that, I was totally into the book. TBS starts off in the modern era, to set the scene a bit, but the parts set in ancient Egypt were completely captivating! The descriptions were incredible and I felt like I was actually there. It was almost like reading a diary or another primary source, just because of how real it felt. The reader almost forgets the MC is from the modern era, but every now and then Portia compares something from the ancient world to the modern. I loved these references, mainly because of the humour; Portia is such a funny character. Some of my favourites:

“Most women I knew changed their names after marriage, but no one changed their full name unless they joined the Witness Protection Program.” – Location 1688

“The procession left the temple in an excursion like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.” – Location 1734

“Every eye was on the mysterious Hyksos monarch, a Hollywood Star glittering on the red carpet.” – Location 1873

There’s some romance but the focus is definitely on Portia’s character as well as the bonds of sisterhood. The romance hits a bit harder halfway through and boy I was not disappointed. I loved Prince Seti and I also loved the mysterious Merenptah, who we met earlier in the novel. There were some plot twists I saw coming and others I didn’t, but I loved them all! Especially the one surrounding Selene, which I won’t share because of spoilers.

At first I was a bit disappointed about the romance being on the back burner but I started thinking about this book as a whole. It’s so original and fresh, and it breaks tropes. I started reading THE BLAZING STAR with the expectation that the protagonist would have this incredible romance with a prince (as is usual with some other time travel books I’ve read) and I loved that that didn’t happen, at least not right away. There are not a lot of well-written time travel books set in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, so it’s hard not to expect something that’s been done in every other book you’ve read.

One last thing I loved about this book: Portia doesn’t let anyone undermine another woman, even if letting it happen would help her out. At one point Prince Seti makes fun of his betrothed, Princess Tuya for needing Portia’s help even though she has a lot of other servants, and Portia doesn’t let him get away with that. NO WOMEN BASHING IN THIS BOOK.

THE BLAZING STAR is a fresh, original take on the time-traveling-to-the-ancient-world books we’ve seen before. I loved the emphasis on sisterhood and Portia is a protagonist I’m unlikely to forget in the near future. Definitely check out this star studded masterpiece.

Favourite quotes:

“People don’t expect me to fail. People don’t expect me to do anything at all.” -Location 2633

“You aren’t here to rid us of trouble. There is no world of only light, Portia, or darkness.” -Location 2857

“This is the first time I mean something,” I said, my voice cracking before I could get all of my words out. “You’ve always meant something to me,” she said. “But I didn’t mean anything to me, Alex,” I replied. “I didn’t mean anything to me.” -Location 3059

“Though stripped of my lightening, I was a deadly warrior. But the goddess gave talent, not control. I would have to discover that for myself.” -Location 3169

“To him, I was still a strange girl in the Temple of Isis’s keep, the daughter of a foreign princess who was entangled with powerful enemies of his kingdom.” -Location 3563

“For you, I will wait for one day,” he said through now shock-less kisses. “For you, I would wait everyday.” -Location 3623

Top 5 May Releases

I’m really enjoying this May weather and the incredible books that just came out or are coming out soon! Here are my most anticipated May releases. I’m so excited for these and hopefully you are too. Make sure to buy or request these at your local library, if you can. You can learn more about this feature here.


twinkleFrom Twinkle with Love by Sandhya Menon (companion book to When Dimple Met Rishi)

Simon & Schuster | May 22, 2018

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

Synopsis: 

Aspiring filmmaker and wallflower Twinkle Mehra has stories she wants to tell and universes she wants to explore, if only the world would listen. So when fellow film geek Sahil Roy approaches her to direct a movie for the upcoming Summer Festival, Twinkle is all over it. The chance to publicly showcase her voice as a director? Dream come true. The fact that it gets her closer to her longtime crush, Neil Roy—a.k.a. Sahil’s twin brother? Dream come true x 2.

When mystery man “N” begins emailing her, Twinkle is sure it’s Neil, finally ready to begin their happily-ever-after. The only slightly inconvenient problem is that, in the course of movie-making, she’s fallen madly in love with the irresistibly adorkable Sahil.

Twinkle soon realizes that resistance is futile: The romance she’s got is not the one she’s scripted. But will it be enough?

Told through the letters Twinkle writes to her favorite female filmmakers, From Twinkle, with Love navigates big truths about friendship, family, and the unexpected places love can find you.


onyxOnyx and Ivory by Mindee Arnett 

 Balzer + Bray | May 15, 2018

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

Synopsis: 

They call her Traitor Kate. It’s a title Kate Brighton inherited from her father after he tried to assassinate the high king years ago. Now Kate lives as an outcast, clinging to the fringes of society as a member of the Relay, the imperial courier service. Only those most skilled in riding and bow hunting ride for the Relay; and only the fastest survive, for when dark falls, the nightdrakes—deadly flightless dragons—come out to hunt. Fortunately, Kate has a secret edge: she is a wilder, born with magic that allows her to influence the minds of animals. But it’s this magic that she needs to keep hidden, as being a wilder is forbidden, punishable by death or exile. And it’s this magic that leads her to a caravan massacred by nightdrakes in broad daylight—the only survivor her childhood friend, her first love, the boy she swore to forget, the boy who broke her heart.

The high king’s second son, Corwin Tormane, never asked to lead. Even as he waits for the uror—the once-in-a-generation ritual to decide which of the king’s children will succeed him—he knows it’s always been his brother who will assume the throne. And that’s fine by him. He’d rather spend his days away from the palace, away from the sight of his father, broken with sickness from the attempt on his life. But the peacekeeping tour Corwin is on has given him too much time to reflect upon the night he saved his father’s life—the night he condemned the would-be killer to death and lost the girl he loved. Which is why he takes it on himself to investigate rumors of unrest in one of the remote city-states, only for his caravan to be attacked—and for him to be saved by Kate.

With their paths once more entangled, Kate and Corwin have to put the past behind them. The threat of drakes who attack in the daylight is only the beginning of a darker menace stirring in the kingdom—one whose origins have dire implications for Kate’s father’s attack upon the king and will thrust them into the middle of a brewing civil war in the kingdom of Rime.


35721194Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne 

HMH Books for Young Readers | May 1, 2018

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

Synopsis: 

Seventeen-year-old Stella Ainsley wants just one thing: to go somewhere—anywhere—else. Her home is a floundering spaceship that offers few prospects, having been orbiting an ice-encased Earth for two hundred years. When a private ship hires her as a governess, Stella jumps at the chance. The captain of the Rochester, nineteen-year-old Hugo Fairfax, is notorious throughout the fleet for being a moody recluse and a drunk. But with Stella he’s kind.

But the Rochester harbors secrets: Stella is certain someone is trying to kill Hugo, and the more she discovers, the more questions she has about his role in a conspiracy threatening the fleet.


trueAll Of This Is True by Lygia Day Peñaflor

Harper Teen | May 15, 2018

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

Synopsis: 

Miri Tan loved the book Undertow like it was a living being. So when she and her friends went to a book signing to meet the author, Fatima Ro, they concocted a plan to get close to her, even if her friends won’t admit it now. As for Jonah, well—Miri knows none of that was Fatima’s fault.

Soleil Johnston wanted to be a writer herself one day. When she and her friends started hanging out with her favorite author, Fatima Ro, she couldn’t believe their luck—especially when Jonah Nicholls started hanging out with them, too. Now, looking back, Soleil can’t believe she let Fatima manipulate her and Jonah like that. She can’t believe that she got used for a book.

Penny Panzarella was more than the materialistic party girl everyone at the Graham School thought she was. She desperately wanted Fatima Ro to see that, and she saw her chance when Fatima asked the girls to be transparent with her. If only she’d known what would happen when Fatima learned Jonah’s secret. If only she’d known that the line between fiction and truth was more complicated than any of them imagined. . . .


stoneSong of Blood and Stone by L. Penelope

 St. Martin’s Press | May 1, 2018

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

Synopsis:

A treacherous, thrilling, epic fantasy about an outcast drawn into a war between two powerful rulers. 

Orphaned and alone, Jasminda lives in a land where cold whispers of invasion and war linger on the wind. Jasminda herself is an outcast in her homeland of Elsira, where her gift of Earthsong is feared. When ruthless soldiers seek refuge in her isolated cabin, they bring with them a captive–an injured spy who threatens to steal her heart.

Jack’s mission behind enemy lines to prove that the Mantle between Elsira and Lagamiri is about to fall nearly cost him his life, but he is saved by the healing Song of a mysterious young woman. Now he must do whatever it takes to save Elsira and it’s people from the True Father and he needs Jasminda’s Earthsong to do it. They escape their ruthless captors and together they embark on a perilous journey to save Elsira and to uncover the secrets of The Queen Who Sleeps.

Thrust into a hostile society, Jasminda and Jack must rely on one another even as secrets jeopardize their bond. As an ancient evil gains power, Jasminda races to unlock a mystery that promises salvation.

The fates of two nations hang in the balance as Jasminda and Jack must choose between love and duty to fulfill their destinies and end the war.

Top 5 February Releases

Some incredible books were released this month! I read and loved SIGHTWITCH by Susan Dennard and can’t wait to start these other ones. You should definitely buy or request these at your local library, if you can. Once you’ve read them, don’t forget to leave a review on Amazon, Goodreads and other book retailer sites – long, short, positive, negative, it all counts. You can learn more about this feature here.


91QrCSFmO3LSightwitch by Susan Dennard (companion novella to Truthwitch and Windwitch)

Tor Teen | January 13, 2018

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

Synopsis: 

From New York Times bestselling author Susan Dennard, Sightwitch is an illustrated novella set in the Witchlands and told through Ryber’s journal entries and sketches.
Before Safi and Iseult battled a Bloodwitch…

Before Merik returned from the dead…

Ryber Fortiza was a Sightwitch Sister at a secluded convent, waiting to be called by her goddess into the depths of the mountain. There she would receive the gift of foretelling. But when that call never comes, Ryber finds herself the only Sister without the Sight.

Years pass and Ryber’s misfit pain becomes a dull ache, until one day, Sisters who already possess the Sight are summoned into the mountain, never to return. Soon enough, Ryber is the only Sister left. Now, it is up to her to save her Sisters, though she does not have the Sight—and though she does not know what might await her inside the mountain.

On her journey underground, she encounters a young captain named Kullen Ikray, who has no memory of who he is or how he got there. Together, the two journey ever deeper in search of answers, their road filled with horrors, and what they find at the end of that road will alter the fate of the Witchlands forever.

Set a year before TruthwitchSightwitch is a companion novella that also serves as a set up to Bloodwitch, as well as an expansion of the Witchlands world.


37913374Web of Frost by Lindsay Smith

Eventide Press | February 13, 2018

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

Synopsis: 

A too-young queen must learn to control her powers in order to save her empire, but can she trust the only person who’s taught her to use her gift?

Russalka is a proud empire, frozen and vast, protected for centuries by a royal family who works miracles from the saints. But rebellion stirs in the streets, and its war-hungry neighbors threaten to invade. The young princess Katza has been tormented by visions of her bloodied hands destroying Russalka—a clear message from the saints that she must never rule. So when tragedy places her next in line to the throne, Katza fears their warnings are on the verge of coming true.

Then she meets Ravin, a mysterious young prophet with visions of his own: visions of Katza as a regal empress with unimaginable power. All she has to do seize upon the holy magic of her bloodline. But the more Ravin whispers in her ear, the more Katza begins to wonder whether he has her best interests at heart. With a revolution boiling over and war looming at the border, the greatest threat to Russalka may be Katza herself.


23197837The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton 

Disney-Hyperion | February 6, 2018

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

Synopsis: 

Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orléans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orléans, the people are born gray, they are born damned, and only with the help of a Belle and her talents can they transform and be made beautiful.

But it’s not enough for Camellia to be just a Belle. She wants to be the favorite—the Belle chosen by the Queen of Orléans to live in the royal palace, to tend to the royal family and their court, to be recognized as the most talented Belle in the land. But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favorite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that the very essence of her existence is a lie—that her powers are far greater, and could be more dangerous, than she ever imagined. And when the queen asks Camellia to risk her own life and help the ailing princess by using Belle powers in unintended ways, Camellia now faces an impossible decision.

With the future of Orléans and its people at stake, Camellia must decide—save herself and her sisters and the way of the Belles—or resuscitate the princess, risk her own life, and change the ways of her world forever.


35297380American Panda by Gloria Chao 

Simon Pulse | February 6, 2018

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

Synopsis: 

An incisive, laugh-out-loud contemporary debut about a Taiwanese-American teen whose parents want her to be a doctor and marry a Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer despite her squeamishness with germs and crush on a Japanese classmate.

At seventeen, Mei should be in high school, but skipping fourth grade was part of her parents’ master plan. Now a freshman at MIT, she is on track to fulfill the rest of this predetermined future: become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, produce a litter of babies.

With everything her parents have sacrificed to make her cushy life a reality, Mei can’t bring herself to tell them the truth–that she (1) hates germs, (2) falls asleep in biology lectures, and (3) has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is decidedly not Taiwanese.

But when Mei reconnects with her brother, Xing, who is estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if all the secrets are truly worth it. Can she find a way to be herself, whoever that is, before her web of lies unravels?


32618983The Serpent’s Secret by Sayantani DasGupta 

Scholastic | February 27, 2018

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

Synopsis: 

MEET KIRANMALA: INTERDIMENSIONAL DEMONSLAYER

(But she doesn’t know it yet.)

On the morning of her twelfth birthday, Kiranmala is just a regular sixth grader living in Parsippany, New Jersey… until her parents mysteriously vanish later that day and a rakkhosh demon slams through her kitchen, determined to eat her alive. Turns out there might be some truth to her parents’ fantastical stories—like how Kiranmala is a real Indian princess—and a wealth of secrets about her origin they’ve kept hidden.

To complicate matters, two crushworthy Indian princes ring her doorbell, insisting they’re here to rescue her. Suddenly, Kiran is swept into another dimension full of magic, winged horses, moving maps, and annoying, talking birds. There she must solve riddles and slay demons all while avoiding the Serpent King of the underworld (who may or may not want to kill her) and the rakkhosh queen (who definitely does) in order to find her parents and basically save New Jersey, her entire world, and everything beyond it…