Oct/Nov/Dec. Wrap Up Post

46777I’ve just started blogging again after an unexpected hiatus, which means I never posted an end-of-the-year wrap up. I only read one book in November but it was so great I finished it in a day or two. Tithe by Holly Black is a fantastic start to her Modern Faerie series and I definitely recommend it!

I’m really excited for all the upcoming 2019 book releases and I can’t wait to share them with all of you!

October Books Read:

None 😦

November Books Read:

Tithe by Holly Black

December Books Read:

None 😦

ICYMI:

Spotlight: Bloodwitch by Susan Dennard

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Top 10 Reads of 2017

Today I’m sharing my top 10 reads of 2017! I read a lot of great books last year, so this list was extremely hard to narrow down. I couldn’t pick my absolute favourite book of 2017; it came down to two: Windwitch by Susan Dennard and Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton. These books were so incredible! They completely captivate the reader, from the plot and the world-building to the characters and the writing.

Of course, I had eight other favourite books, which are listed in the order I read them in. Definitely add these to your TBR. I’d also love to know your favourite reads of 2017!


29939390Windwitch by Susan Dennard (sequel to Truthwitch)

Tor Teen | January 10, 2017

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

Synopsis: 

Sometimes our enemies are also our only allies…

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

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

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


18710209Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton

HarperTeen | May 26, 2015

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

Synopsis: 

Black Swan meets Pretty Little Liars in this soapy, drama-packed novel featuring diverse characters who will do anything to be the prima at their elite ballet school.

Gigi, Bette, and June, three top students at an exclusive Manhattan ballet school, have seen their fair share of drama. Free-spirited new girl Gigi just wants to dance—but the very act might kill her. Privileged New Yorker Bette’s desire to escape the shadow of her ballet-star sister brings out a dangerous edge in her. And perfectionist June needs to land a lead role this year or her controlling mother will put an end to her dancing dreams forever.

When every dancer is both friend and foe, the girls will sacrifice, manipulate, and backstab to be the best of the best.


29282402Beyond the Red by Ava Jae

Sky Pony Press | March 1, 2016

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

Synopsis: 

Alien queen Kora has a problem as vast as the endless crimson deserts. She’s the first female ruler of her territory in generations, but her people are rioting and call for her violent younger twin brother to take the throne. Despite assassination attempts, a mounting uprising of nomadic human rebels, and pressure to find a mate to help her rule, she’s determined to protect her people from her brother’s would-be tyrannical rule.

Eros is a rebel soldier hated by aliens and human alike for being a half-blood. Yet that doesn’t stop him from defending his people, at least until Kora’s soldiers raze his camp and take him captive. He’s given an ultimatum: be an enslaved bodyguard to Kora, or be executed for his true identity—a secret kept even from him.

When Kora and Eros are framed for the attempted assassination of her betrothed, they flee. Their only chance of survival is to turn themselves in to the high court, where revealing Eros’s secret could mean a swift public execution. But when they uncover a violent plot to end the human insurgency, they must find a way to work together to prevent genocide.


25802922Mirror in the Sky by Aditi Khorana

Razorbill | June 21, 2016

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

Synopsis: 

For Tara Krishnan, navigating Brierly, the academically rigorous prep school she attends on scholarship, feels overwhelming and impossible. Her junior year begins in the wake of a startling discovery: A message from an alternate Earth, light years away, is intercepted by NASA. This means that on another planet, there is another version of Tara, a Tara who could be living better, burning brighter, because of tiny differences in her choices.

As the world lights up with the knowledge of Terra Nova, the mirror planet, Tara’s life on Earth begins to change. At first, small shifts happen, like attention from Nick Osterman, the most popular guy at Brierly, and her mother playing hooky from work to watch the news all day. But eventually those small shifts swell, the discovery of Terra Nova like a black hole, bending all the light around it.

As a new era of scientific history dawns and Tara’s life at Brierly continues its orbit, only one thing is clear: Nothing on Earth–and for Tara–will ever be the same again.


30269126Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza

Razorbill | February 7, 2017

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

Synopsis: 

Crown Princess Rhiannon Ta’an wants vengeance.

The only surviving heir to an ancient Kalusian dynasty, Rheehas spent her life training to destroy the people who killed her family. Now, on the eve of her coronation, the time has finally come for Rhee to claim her throne – and her revenge.

Alyosha is a Wraetan who has risen above his war refugee origins to find fame as the dashing star of a DroneVision show. Despite his popularity, Aly struggles with anti-Wraetan prejudices and the pressure of being perfect in the public eye.

Their paths collide with one brutal act of violence: Rhee is attacked, barely escaping with her life. Aly is blamed for her presumed murder.

The princess and her accused killer are forced to go into hiding – even as a war between planets is waged in Rhee’s name. But soon, Rhee and Aly discover that the assassination attempt is just one part of a sinister plot. Bound together by an evil that only they can stop, the two fugitives must join forces to save the galaxy.


30256109American Street by Ibi Zoboi

Balzer + Bray | February 14, 2017

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

Synopsis: 

The rock in the water does not know the pain of the rock in the sun.

On the corner of American Street and Joy Road, Fabiola Toussaint thought she would finally find une belle vie—a good life.

But after they leave Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Fabiola’s mother is detained by U.S. immigration, leaving Fabiola to navigate her loud American cousins, Chantal, Donna, and Princess; the grittiness of Detroit’s west side; a new school; and a surprising romance, all on her own.

Just as she finds her footing in this strange new world, a dangerous proposition presents itself, and Fabiola soon realizes that freedom comes at a cost. Trapped at the crossroads of an impossible choice, will she pay the price for the American dream?


25164304Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst

Balzer + Bray | November 22, 2016

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

Synopsis: 

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

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

When a shocking assassination leaves the kingdom reeling, Mare and Denna reluctantly join forces to search for the culprit. As the two become closer, Mare is surprised by Denna’s intelligence and bravery, while Denna is drawn to Mare’s independent streak. And soon their friendship is threatening to blossom into something more.

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


31706524How Dare the Sun Rise: Memoirs of a War Child by Sandra Uwiringyimana and Abigail Pesta

Katherine Tegen Books | May 16, 2017

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

Synopsis:

This profoundly moving memoir is the remarkable and inspiring true story of Sandra Uwiringyimana, a girl from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who tells the tale of how she survived a massacre, immigrated to America, and overcame her trauma through art and activism.

Sandra was just ten years old when she found herself with a gun pointed at her head. She had watched as rebels gunned down her mother and six-year-old sister in a refugee camp. Remarkably, the rebel didn’t pull the trigger, and Sandra escaped.

Thus began a new life for her and her surviving family members. With no home and no money, they struggled to stay alive. Eventually, through a United Nations refugee program, they moved to America, only to face yet another ethnic disconnect. Sandra may have crossed an ocean, but there was now a much wider divide she had to overcome. And it started with middle school in New York.

In this memoir, Sandra tells the story of her survival, of finding her place in a new country, of her hope for the future, and how she found a way to give voice to her people.


33282947See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng

Dial Books | February 28, 2017

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

Synopsis:

11-year-old Alex Petroski loves space and rockets, his mom, his brother, and his dog Carl Sagan—named for his hero, the real-life astronomer. All he wants is to launch his golden iPod into space the way Carl Sagan (the man, not the dog) launched his Golden Record on the Voyager spacecraft in 1977. From Colorado to New Mexico, Las Vegas to L.A., Alex records a journey on his iPod to show other lifeforms what life on earth, his earth, is like.

But his destination keeps changing. And the funny, lost, remarkable people he meets along the way can only partially prepare him for the secrets he’ll uncover—from the truth about his long-dead dad to the fact that, for a kid with a troubled mom and a mostly not-around brother, he has way more family than he ever knew.


30312547Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan

Salaam Reads / Simon Schuster Books for Young | March 14, 2017

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

Synopsis:

Amina has never been comfortable in the spotlight. She is happy just hanging out with her best friend, Soojin. Except now that she’s in middle school everything feels different. Soojin is suddenly hanging out with Emily, one of the “cool” girls in the class, and even talking about changing her name to something more “American.” Does Amina need to start changing too? Or hiding who she is to fit in? While Amina grapples with these questions, she is devastated when her local mosque is vandalized.

ICYMI: Top 5 June Releases

I meant to write a post like this back in June, but life just got in the way and I never ended up doing one 😅 Even though it’s July I still wanted to feature some June books I was super excited for, so this is more of an in-case-you-missed-it post. If you’re not familiar with this feature, you can read more about it here; I basically share my top 5 releases of the month that I’m just dying to read. So, add these June releases to your TBR and buy or borrow them from your local library (if you’re able to). If you’ve read any of these, I’d love to know what you thought!


29387853Want by Cindy Pon

Simon Pulse | June 13, 2017

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

Synopsis:

Jason Zhou survives in a divided society where the elite use their wealth to buy longer lives. The rich wear special suits that protect them from the pollution and viruses that plague the city, while those without suffer illness and early deaths. Frustrated by his city’s corruption and still grieving the loss of his mother, who died as a result of it, Zhou is determined to change things, no matter the cost.

With the help of his friends, Zhou infiltrates the lives of the wealthy in hopes of destroying the international Jin Corporation from within. Jin Corp not only manufactures the special suits the rich rely on, but they may also be manufacturing the pollution that makes them necessary.

Yet the deeper Zhou delves into this new world of excess and wealth, the more muddled his plans become. And against his better judgment, Zhou finds himself falling for Daiyu, the daughter of Jin Corp’s CEO. Can Zhou save his city without compromising who he is or destroying his own heart?


32075664Obsidian and Stars by Julie Eshbaugh (sequel to Ivory and Bone)

HarperTeen | June 13, 2017

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

Synopsis: 

In the sequel to Ivory and Bone—the prehistoric fantasy novel that New York Times bestselling author Amie Kaufman described as a “richly crafted world of life-and-death stakes”—the story shifts to Mya’s viewpoint as vengeful adversaries force her to flee the life she once knew.

After surviving the chaotic battle that erupted after Lo and the Bosha clan attacked, now Mya is looking ahead to her future with Kol. All the things that once felt so uncertain are finally falling into place. But the same night as Kol and Mya’s betrothal announcement, Mya’s brother Chev reveals his plan to marry his youngest sister Lees to his friend Morsk. The only way to avoid this terrible turn of events, Morsk informs Mya when he corners her later, is for Mya to take Lees’ place and marry him herself.

Refusing to marry anyone other than her beloved, and in an effort to protect her sister, Mya runs away to a secret island with Lees. And though it seems like the safest place to hide until things back home blow over, Mya soon realizes she’s been followed. Lurking deep in the recesses of this dangerous place are rivals from Mya’s past whose thirst for revenge exceeds all reason.

With the lives of her loved ones on the line, Mya must make a move before the enemies of her past become the undoing of her future.


31123249Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali

Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster | June 13, 2017

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

Synopsis: 

Saints and Misfits is an unforgettable debut novel that feels like a modern day My So-Called Life…starring a Muslim teen.

How much can you tell about a person just by looking at them?

Janna Yusuf knows a lot of people can’t figure out what to make of her…an Arab Indian-American hijabi teenager who is a Flannery O’Connor obsessed book nerd, aspiring photographer, and sometime graphic novelist is not exactly easy to put into a box.

And Janna suddenly finds herself caring what people think. Or at least what a certain boy named Jeremy thinks. Not that she would ever date him—Muslim girls don’t date. Or they shouldn’t date. Or won’t? Janna is still working all this out.

While her heart might be leading her in one direction, her mind is spinning in others. She is trying to decide what kind of person she wants to be, and what it means to be a saint, a misfit, or a monster. Except she knows a monster…one who happens to be parading around as a saint…Will she be the one to call him out on it? What will people in her tightknit Muslim community think of her then?


32912370The Broken Ones by Danielle L. Jensen (prequel to Stolen Songbird)

Angry Robot | June 6, 2017

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

Synopsis:

A prequel to the USA Today bestseller and Goodreads Choice finalist Stolen Songbird (The Malediction Trilogy).

Below Forsaken Mountain, a revolution stirs with the aim to overthrow the tyrant king of Trollus, and Marc is the right hand of its leader. It’s a secret more than one troll would kill to possess, which is why he must keep it from everyone, even the girl he loves.

Since a tragic accident revealed her affliction and ruined her sister’s chance at the throne, Pénélope is an anathema to her father, the Duke d’Angouleme. Deeming her life worthless, he gives her one chance to survive: find proof that the boy she loves is a leader in the sympathizer revolution.

Marc and Pénélope must navigate the complex politics of Trollus, where powers on all sides are intent on using them as pawns, forcing them to risk everything for a chance at a life together.

Except being together might be the greatest risk of all.


32075448Thief’s Cunning by Sarah Ahiers (sequel to Assassin’s Heart)

Harper Teen | June 13, 2017

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

Synopsis:

The companion novel to Assassin’s Heart—an action-packed fantasy that Printz Award winner Laura Ruby said “will keep you turning the pages all night long”—Thief’s Cunning picks up eighteen years later and follows Allegra Saldana as she uncovers the secrets about the line of killers she descends from.

Allegra has always had to look over her shoulder. As the niece of the infamous assassin Lea Saldana, Allegra is used to hiding from people who want her dead. Once the strongest clipper family in the Kingdom of Lovero, the Saldanas—or what’s left of them—are now the most hunted. Their number one enemy is the Da Vias, whose thirst for retaliation is almost two decades in the making.

But lately Allegra’s getting fed up with everything being kept from her—including her parents’ identity. When she finally learns the truth about her family, though—that she’s a Da Via—her world crumbles. Feeling betrayed by the people she trusted the most, Allegra turns to Nev, a Traveler boy whose presence makes her feel alive in ways she’s only dreamed of.  But getting caught up in Nev’s world has consequences Allegra never saw coming.

In this dark and enthralling fantasy that fans of Sarah Maas and Leigh Bardugo will devour, one girl must decide if she’s destined to pay for the wrongs of her family’s past—whether Saldana or Da Via—or if the future is hers for the taking.

Blog Tour: Owl and the City of Angels + Interview

Owl and the City of Angels by Kristi Charish

Release Date: Ebook – October 5, 2015 | Trade Paperback – March 1, 2016

Publisher: Gallery Books (Simon and Schuster CA)

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

Synopsis on Goodreads:

The wild second adventure for unforgettable antiquities thief Owl—a modern-day “Indiana Jane” who reluctantly navigates the hidden supernatural world—from the pen of rising urban fantasy star Kristi Charish. For fans of Kim Harrison, Jim Butcher, Jennifer Estep, Jenn Bennett, and the like.

Alix Hiboux, better known as Owl, international antiquities thief for hire, is settling into her new contract job for Vegas mogul Mr. Kurosawa, a red dragon with a penchant for ancient, supernatural artifacts. And now he has his sights set on some treasures of the mysterious Syrian City of the Dead that are sitting in a recluse’s private collection.

There’s just one wrinkle. To stop the resurrection of an undead army that could wreak havoc on Los Angeles, Owl must break into a heavily guarded archaeological sight in one of the most volatile regions in the world. A detour through Libya and a run-in with Somali pirates sends the clock ticking hastily toward total paranormal disaster.

Meanwhile, Alexander and the Paris vampires have stopped stalking Owl’s apartment, but they have by no means forgotten their death grudge against her. To top everything off, Owl finds out the hard way that there is nothing heavenly about the City of Angels…

Welcome to the next stop on the Owl and the City of Angels blog tour. To celebrate the March 1st paperback release, I did an interview with author Kristi Charish. This is the sequel to Owl and the Japanese Circus, which is absolutely amazing. You can read my review of Owl 2 here and be sure to check out the other blog tour stops!

interviewlogo

1. In Owl and the City of Angels, Mr. Kurosawa tasks Alix with the job of recovering artifacts from the Syrian City of the Dead. How did you come across this site and what made you want to incorporate it into the novel?

K: Well, for Owl 2 I wanted to send Alix somewhere outside the box – and while putting the story together I settled on Los Angeles as one of the locations. Since I already had The City of Angels in there, I figured I should toss a City of the Dead in there as well- for balance. After searching I found the very cool Dar Musa, also known as The Monastery of Moses the Abyssinian. I thought the history going back to the stone age was so interesting that I had to use it.

2. Owl readers are introduced to a new character: Artemis Bast. Can you tell us a bit about him and the inspiration behind him?

K: Hmmm. Well, I don’t want to give too many spoilers away, especially for anyone who hasn’t read the first book, but Artemis is a rockstar living in LA who may just be known more for his antics than his music. He’s also necessary to get Owl into the private collection of a LA recluse so she can steal something for Mr. Kurosawa…Or that’s the plan anyway. Artemis is also related to one of the other characters in the series.
He was a riot to write. The inspiration came from the glam and debauchery that went with all the 80s bands.

3. When working on Owl and the City of Angels, did your writing process differ from writing Owl and the Japanese Circus? Did you worry about how much recap to include? (i.e. is it too much, too little).

K: It was a little different, but not so much concerning how much to recap- that was one of the easier parts as the great thing about writing a sequel is you have an editor there to tell you when you needed to fill in more background or pull back, so I didn’t obsess about it while writing.
The part that was different and definitely harder about writing City of Angels was in the nature of writing a sequel – I knew what story I wanted to tell but I had no idea whether people who read the first book would like the second. They’d already been introduced to Owl so in my mind, book two had to go somewhere new and that’s tricky to do.

4. Are you a plotter or pantser?

K: Pantser, all the way – But that doesn’t mean I don’t plan out the novel. I think that’s a major misunderstanding with pantsers is this idea that there is no plan. There is always plan- I’m absolutely in charge as the rodeo show happening on paper. I have a target (usually an ending I’ve decided on) and a couple of key scenes that have to happen. The ‘pants’ing part comes from filling in the blanks. I know where I’m going, I’ve got a couple of landmarks, I’m just not entirely sure how I’m going to get there.

5. What’s a day in the life of Kristi like? How much time will you spend on writing, book research, promotion, non-book things?

K: Ha! It’s an entertaining question right now as I’m currently working on two novels- Owl and the Electric Samurai and the second book in my Kincaid Strange series. The answer is that at the moment, everything I do is writing related 🙂 – or almost.
Most of my day is spent writing or reading. Typically, I work for a few hours on a manuscript in the morning after handling emails and any business related stuff, then around lunchtime I’ll take a break and usually read a bit over lunch, before getting back to a manuscript. When I find myself getting a block I give my brain a break and switch to another manuscript or project I have on the go. Late afternoon/early evening is yoga class to get some exercise, and then in the evenings I’ll often get reading in over dinner and before bed, and get any promotion/articles done.

The other thing I try to do a few days a week is head downtown to hit the local library and write (the VPL has great desks for working and lots of places to grab lunch) or go to a local coffee shop. It’s a nice break from working at my kitchen table at home.

6. Are there any books you’ve recently read and would recommend?

K: For urban fantasy lovers I highly recommend Faith Hunter’s Jane Yellowrock series. It’s a straight out urban fantasy mystery with a very cool character – Jane who is a Cherokee shapeshifter that hunts rogues vampires down for a living. The series starts off when business changes and the head vampire of New Orleans wants to hire Jane’s services.
The other book I’ve read recently and highly recommend is a sci-fi by Peter Clines (Ex Heroes and 14) called The Fold. It’s about a science team developing a door to anywhere by folding space and time. Of course things start to go wrong and Mike, a man with a pedantic memory is hired to investigate. The science was woven into the story deftly and it’s true sci-fi- a real what if about technology.


About the Author: 

Kristi+FB+HS

Kristi is the author of OWL AND THE JAPANESE CIRCUS (Jan 13th, 2015, Simon and Schuster Canada/Pocket Books), an urban fantasy about a modern-day “Indiana Jane” who reluctantly navigates the hidden supernatural world. She writes what she loves; adventure heavy stories featuring strong, savvy female protagonists, pop culture, and the occasional RPG fantasy game thrown in the mix. She’s also a co-host for the Adventures in Sci-Fi Publishing Podcast.

The second installment in the Owl series, OWL AND THE CITY OF ANGELS, is scheduled for release Oct 5th 2015. Her second urban fantasy series, KINCAID STRANGE (Random House Canada), about a voodoo practitioner living in Seattle, is scheduled for release mid 2016.

Kristi is also a scientist with a BSc and MSc from Simon Fraser University in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry and a PhD in Zoology from the University of British Columbia. Her specialties are genetics, cell biology, and molecular biology, all of which she draws upon in her writing. She is represented by Carolyn Forde at Westwood Creative Artists. Visit her website.

Book Jar Recs: Only Standalone

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

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


saint anything

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

 

 

Owl and the City of Angels: Review, Interview & Giveaway

For today’s stop on the OWL 2 blog tour, I’ll be sharing my review of Owl and the City of Angels and an interview I did with the author, Kristi Charish. There’s also a giveaway to win both books in The Adventures of Owl series, so be sure to check that out!


1435524220523Owl and the City of Angels

Kristi Charish | 4/5 Stars

Release Date:

Ebook – October 5, 2015 | Trade Paperback – March 1, 2016

Publisher: Gallery Books (Simon and Schuster CA)

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

Synopsis on Goodreads:

The wild second adventure for unforgettable antiquities thief Owl—a modern-day “Indiana Jane” who reluctantly navigates the hidden supernatural world—from the pen of rising urban fantasy star Kristi Charish. For fans of Kim Harrison, Jim Butcher, Jennifer Estep, Jenn Bennett, and the like.

Alix Hiboux, better known as Owl, international antiquities thief for hire, is settling into her new contract job for Vegas mogul Mr. Kurosawa, a red dragon with a penchant for ancient, supernatural artifacts. And now he has his sights set on some treasures of the mysterious Syrian City of the Dead that are sitting in a recluse’s private collection.

There’s just one wrinkle. To stop the resurrection of an undead army that could wreak havoc on Los Angeles, Owl must break into a heavily guarded archaeological sight in one of the most volatile regions in the world. A detour through Libya and a run-in with Somali pirates sends the clock ticking hastily toward total paranormal disaster.

Meanwhile, Alexander and the Paris vampires have stopped stalking Owl’s apartment, but they have by no means forgotten their death grudge against her. To top everything off, Owl finds out the hard way that there is nothing heavenly about the City of Angels…


  1. Alix Hiboux aka Owl is this strong, female protagonist who never fails to entertain me. I’ve actually never read a character quite like her! What inspiration lies behind your extraordinary MC?

KC: I love the old Indiana Jones movies and growing up. Over the years, I was always disappointed that in most of the action genre movies, there is a stereotype of an acceptable female protagonist. Unlike Indy, Han Solo, and Rick in The Mummy (another all time favourite) the women never really get to be as bad and selfish as them, partly because the traits that make them such fun are not considered acceptable traits in a woman. Women in film and TV- especially the protagonists are supposed to be likeable (or we’ve been conditioned to think of them that way), and by likeable I mean a woman who shows very specific traits- she can be tough, carry guns, but at the end of the day most of the characters we see are nurturing, empathetic, and often have a character arc that involves finding a suitable romantic partner.

Indy, Rick, and Han didn’t have to do that. In fact, they’re outright scoundrels. They’re not likeable people at all. Folks often say that Indy wasn’t a thief- Are you nuts? He was the worst kind of thief! Often the plots revolved around stealing artefacts from their rightful countries and indigenous populations to give to an American museum (though in some cases he is convinced to leave them as a plot arc- see Temple of Doom) If that’s not tomb raiding under an altruistic guise, I don’t know what is!

The thing is as an audience we accept them as characters because it’s considered acceptable for a man in a story to behave that way. We’ve only recently seen female protagonists breaching that role, to mixed acceptance by audiences. I want to see more females protagonists who aren’t being rescued by Indy- they are Indy.

Owl is also a huge blast to write because she’s a woman who has recently lost everything, despite playing by societal rules that women should be nice and follow the pack (in her case, following the rules in grad school), and in response has said ‘to hell’ with societal expectations. Why should she go out of her way to make herself likeable? It’s never gotten her anything before except scapegoated. For the very first time in her life is embracing her unabashed self and the fact that she doesn’t have to be nice, she can tell people to ‘Fuck off’. Granted, it often leads to some problems, and you’ll probably see Owl testing and finding her limits in future books, but she’s rejecting the idea that a woman needs to be ‘nice’ spectacularly.

So in short, Owl is inspired by wanting to write a female Indy who didn’t fit the ‘typical, likeable, female mould.’

  1. In Owl 2 we get to travel to incredible locations like Syria, Egypt and the City of Angels. What sort of research goes into this? Do you draw back from first-hand experience?

KC: I have six letters for you. Google. Travelling is one of my favourite things to do but oddly enough I haven’t been to any of the locations in the Owl series. Yet. I very much plan on going to Japan and Bali one day.

  1. Trouble always seems to find Owl, whether she goes looking for it or not. As the unseen goddess of your book world, does it entertain you, getting Owl into trouble?

KC: Hmmm. Does it entertain me to get Owl into trouble…yes, but it’s more along the lines that I like writing her reactions to situations that befall her more than anything, so it’s a two parter answer. The more trouble I put her in, the more fun I have writing her reactions.

  1. Did you find any differences when writing Owl 2, versus Owl 1 when you hadn’t yet entered the publishing world?

KC: Well, I had already entered the publishing world- I didn’t write book two until the series was picked up by my publisher, Simon and Schuster (Good advice for aspiring writers out there- don’t write book 2 until you manage to sell book 1). However, I did have to write Owl 2 and hand it in before book 1 came out, so in a lot of ways I was writing in a vacuum. There are advantages and disadvantages to that- On one hand reviews aren’t going to influence your choices, but on the other hand you have NO idea whether the choices you do make will appease fans of the first book.

  1. I see a lot of the time, aspiring writers are studying or have studied science and want to know about that switch from science to writing. How has science influenced your writing? How do you juggle a career in science with a career in writing?

KC: I think more than anything my science background has influenced the way I write. I’ve written before about the similarities between plotting a story or novel and designing and executing an experiment, and I still think it holds true. I think my years in research has given me an edge in plotting- like my experiments, I have most of the plot set out in my head before I sit down to write the book. In writing urban fantasy I think my science background also makes me more aware of fitting my fantastical elements into the modern world- a trickier task than a lot of people think because the masters of the genre- Jim Butcher, Kim Harrison, Faith Hunter, and Patricia Briggs – make it look easy and seamless.

As far as my science career goes? Haha- it’s actually on hold as I now have a schedule of ~3 books a year for the next couple years. Having said that, who knows what will happen with the series and my career in the future so I may very well be back in a lab one day. 

  1. You also have a second urban fantasy series, Kincaid Strange releasing from Random House Canada in May 2016. What’s it like having two different series by two different publishers at the same time?

KC: Short answer: it’s awesome! I love switching between series when I’m writing it means that when I get fed up with one character and plot, I can go off and work on the other one. There is certainly a lot of time juggling involved when writing two series but I think once you reach a certain level in writing and publishing you really do have to treat it as a career and not a hobby. I sit, set a timer, and write.

  1. I heard you’ve contracted two more OWL books: Owl and the Electric Samurai and Owl and the Tiger Thieves. Congratulations! Can you tell us about your experience with this? Did you query these two novels at the same time?

KC: I have! And Thanks! I did query both novels at the same time (meaning I had synopsis written out that my agent passed on to my editors), but that is incredibly common in a series like Owl. It helps my editors know that I know where the series is going for the next few books and that I have a plan (I do!).

  1. Now that we’re on the subject, what’s next for Owl? I’m dying to know about this “electric samurai”.

KC: Here is the tentative back cover blurb for The Electric Samurai;-)

The International Archaeology Association (IAA) is responsible for keeping all things supernatural under wraps. They’re also responsible for ruining the promising archaeology career of one Alix Hiboux. Needless to say she’s still a little sore on that.

In keeping with their goal to derail Owl’s life, the IAA has opened a bounty on World Quest, the online RPG that uses supernatural dig sites in game and is much, much more than it seems. Strong-armed into joining the hunt, Alix needs to find the notorious gaming duo before the rest of the bounty hunters pick up the trail, one of whom is already two steps ahead of her. And if you think for one second he isn’t a supernatural, Owl has a bridge to sell you.

Finding the gamers won’t be easy since every clue points to them hiding out in the legendary lost city of Shangri-La… well, that and the last time Owl and the game designers spoke the conversation didn’t exactly end on a great note…

Meanwhile, undercurrents of supernatural politics are running amok in Tokyo, dragging Owl, Rynn, and Nadya into a deadly game of wits with an opponent who calls himself the Electric Samurai. The cost of loosing? All out civil war between two powerful supernatural factions.

Not only does Owl need to save the World Quest designers from themselves she needs to stop the Electric Samurai from unleashing the supernatural in all its unabashed, violent glory onto the streets of Tokyo. And then there is the small matter of her online friend Carpe and a certain spell book…

AZ: I love that “Owl has a bridge to sell you” bit. I cannot wait to read this.


Review:

I first came across The Adventures of Owl in a Simon & Schuster CA Tumblr post of the cover [Owl 1]. I stopped scrolling for a moment and went, “interesting cover”. Later on, I came across it again on social media and decided I better check it out from the library. Months later when I finally got to read it (it took awhile to come in at my library), I felt like Owl and the Japanese Circus was written for me! I’m a huge The Mummy fan so it had everything I liked in an adventure novel – strong heroine, action-packed scenes and supernatural creatures. Side note: the naga is a new favourite of mine thanks to Charish.

I was extremely excited to receive an advance copy of Owl and the City of Angels and am happy to say it was just as entertaining as Owl 1. There’s something about the writing, maybe it’s the dialogue, that has me feeling like I could read it again and again, and never get bored. Most of the places Owl visits I’m unlikely to go, at least in the same context so I love that I can picture everything perfectly in my mind. The reader experiences an epic adventure through Owl.

In Owl 1 Charish showed the reader strong, compelling characters and it’s no different here. Most of the characters are consistent with how they were portrayed in Owl 1, but there’s still character development going on. Alix (Owl) and Rynn are together before the novel begins, but they’re still working out issues in their relationship. They used to date in the past, before Owl 1, but these same issues were some of the reasons they broke up. Alix doesn’t necessarily lie about what assignments she’s on for Mr. Kurosawa, but she doesn’t exactly tell the truth either – especially if she doesn’t follow the original plan. This is extremely frustrating for Rynn, and I think these trust issues stem from Alix’s days as an archaeology grad student. Then there’s Nadya, Alix’s best friend, who’s kind of like that voice of reason. I love this balance of a love interest and a best girlfriend – both characters are equally important to Alix. I can’t stand when there’s a female protagonist without one good female friend she can call on for advice etcetera.

The world-building is phenomenal! When it comes to the supernatural world, you can always expect Charish to create some sort of original twist. I think my favourite examples are the vampires. They use pheromones to attract their victims (and get them addicted) and smell like rotting lily of the valley. Alix has known a vampire named Alexander (and his Paris vamps) since she entered the supernatural world and not on pleasant terms. Alexander is always an amusing character and I love when Alix’s cat/sidekick Captain – a vampire-hunting cat breed – comes into the equation. Along with the action, there’s plenty of humour in Owl 2.

We see old characters from Owl and the Japanese Circus as well as meet new characters, which makes for a fascinating group. The moment I started reading Owl 2, I was waiting for an appearance from Alexander because like I said, he is hilarious! Captain plus Alexander equals a priceless moment! A new character Owl readers will love is Artemis Bast, introduced by Rynn to Alix to help with her new assignment – finding a treasure of the Syrian City of the Dead. He’s a very carefree, laid back character – in a way the opposite of Rynn. I love when Alix interacts with him because of the contrast of personalities.

I absolutely loved that Alix’s past, particularly her days as an archaeology grad student, were brought up and weaved into the plot. I always got the sense that although Alix had moved on from the past, she’d never had closure. She was always running from her past. Owl 2 gives Alix the opportunity to confront her past and move on without regret. Charish did a similar thing in Owl 1 re: Rynn, but here I felt like it happened on a bigger scale. Another intriguing thing about the plot, Charish doesn’t give her protagonist an easy way out. When the going gets tough, Alix fights back, no matter how human she is. The great thing about the plot, the reader see’s just how human Alix is and how easy it is to forget about important details.

There were a couple of things I disliked. I went into Owl 2 with really high expectations (loved Owl 1!) so when I didn’t immediately get into it, that was upsetting for me. When I did get into it, it was smooth sailing but I kept thinking about how easy it was to get into Owl 1. Furthermore, I loved the plot and thought it was original and engaging, but ultimately enjoyed the plot of Owl 1 slightly more.

All in all, Owl and the City of Angels is a compelling sequel and I can’t wait to read the next couple of books in the series! I recommend anyone with a craving for adventure to pick up this series, you won’t regret it. When you’re traveling to places like Egypt, Syria, and the City of Angels through Owl and thinking how can it get better? BAM! Charish surprises you with a plot twist or a very charming, vampire-hunting cat. P.S. Captain is my favourite character.

I received an eARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.


About the Author: 

Kristi+FB+HS

Kristi is the author of OWL AND THE JAPANESE CIRCUS (Jan 13th, 2015, Simon and Schuster Canada/Pocket Books), an urban fantasy about a modern-day “Indiana Jane” who reluctantly navigates the hidden supernatural world. She writes what she loves; adventure heavy stories featuring strong, savvy female protagonists, pop culture, and the occasional RPG fantasy game thrown in the mix. She’s also a co-host for the Adventures in Sci-Fi Publishing Podcast.

The second installment in the Owl series, OWL AND THE CITY OF ANGELS, is scheduled for release Oct 5th 2015. Her second urban fantasy series, KINCAID STRANGE (Random House Canada), about a voodoo practitioner living in Seattle, is scheduled for release mid 2016.

Kristi is also a scientist with a BSc and MSc from Simon Fraser University in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry and a PhD in Zoology from the University of British Columbia. Her specialties are genetics, cell biology, and molecular biology, all of which she draws upon in her writing. She is represented by Carolyn Forde at Westwood Creative Artists. Visit her website.


Giveaway:

Kristi has been kind enough to offer one copy each of Owl 1 and Owl 2 (physical or digital). This giveaway is US/Canada only and ends November 6, 2015 at midnight EST. Winner must respond within 48 hours of being contacted or a new winner will be chosen. Do not take entries for something you haven’t done, you will be disqualified. Good luck!

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