Really enjoyed this fun time travel adventure. There were a few things I wish had been fleshed out a bit more - like Lydia and Wes's relationship but...moreReally enjoyed this fun time travel adventure. There were a few things I wish had been fleshed out a bit more - like Lydia and Wes's relationship but other than that I enjoyed the strong focus on the importance of family. Rachel Carter also did a great job transporting you back into 1940s America in the middle of the war effort. Looking forward to diving into book #2.(less)
I liked this one. There were some really good twists and plot developments. However I didn't like Hallowed quite as much as Unearthly. The love triang...moreI liked this one. There were some really good twists and plot developments. However I didn't like Hallowed quite as much as Unearthly. The love triangle was alright in book one because it wasn't *really* a love triangle. It seemed to grow legs and take over more in this book and while it was still interesting at times it was a bit much.
Still I loved that Clara slowly but surely seems to be growing as a character. And there was a certain part that made me heart hurt.
Earlier this year I read In One Person by John Irving – the story of Billy Abbot who has crushes...moreThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
Earlier this year I read In One Person by John Irving – the story of Billy Abbot who has crushes on the wrong people. I think Billy and Allison Lee would have a lot to talk about.
You Set Me on Fire is one of those books that manages to be both dark and funny at the same time. There’s a dry sort of humour at work here, and there were a number of times when I caught myself laughing even though the scenario I was laughing at was cruel, or sad – or a bit of both. There’s this sort of spiral of darkness going on here, and it made the book extremely compelling. You wanted everything to turn out ok for Allison, but a part of you also wanted to see how bad things can get.
Though Allison is only seventeen she is in her first year of college and I found I could relate to that experience a lot. I think college – at least the first year of it – can be a bit of a dark time for a lot of people. I never understood those people who seemed to adjust to this massive change in their life with such perkiness and ease. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my time at university, but it did take some getting used to. People experience homesickness, many break up with their high school boyfriends, classes are a lot harder. There’s a lot of identity crisis going on and it’s easy to lose track of yourself, or make a few too many poor decisions. I think a lot of people will easily be able to relate to Allison and the other characters in this book.
Further more Allison is an incredibly sympathetic character. She has been through a lot. She’s bitter and lonely and in way too deep with Shar. This is a toxic friendship if I ever saw one, but I appreciated how complicated Mariko Tamaki made it as these things are almost never purely black and white. There was a bit of a romantic angle to it. But I actually think it was more about relationships in a more general sense. I think Tamaki made a strong point about the inequality of certain relationships and how damaging they can be – both mentally and physically. As a result I think LGBTQ or not will find traces of their own past relationships in this story.
Recommendation: You Set Me on Fire is a dark yet comical novel about toxic friendships, being on your own and finding the strength to be yourself. Overall this is a compelling and dangerous story that doesn’t pull any punches. Recommended for anyone who’s ever been made to feel small or insignificant by a partner or friend and those who remember the good old days of trying to find yourself after high school.(less)
Oh Steampunk how I love you. It’s like fantasy and science fiction had a love child and horror an...moreThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
Oh Steampunk how I love you. It’s like fantasy and science fiction had a love child and horror and historical fiction had a love child and then those two love children came together to form this smart and sexy subgenre.
I’m standing by that definition. I dare you to tell me steampunk doesn’t fit that description. I. Dare. You.
Anyway we’re not here to talk about Steampunk as a whole (future post maybe?). We’re here to talk about The 7th of London by Beau Schemery. A fun and incredibly detailed steampunk adventure.
The 7th of London is the story of a boy named Seven. A boy who seems to find trouble where ever he goes. Or rather trouble seems to find him. The story opens with him investigating a mysterious stranger – Mr Kettlebent but the plot quickly unfolds to reveal a much deeper and darker conspiracy, involving the queen of England! Seven soon finds himself knee-deep in the fight to save his Queen and Country.
I loved the plot of this story. It had everything a good steampunk novel should. Action, adventure, mystery and lots and lots of cool gadgets. It even featured a young Tesla! I loved trying to figure out what twist the story was going to take next and how everyone was all connected to one another. I think this was a really well plotted book and that Beau Schemery really took the time to build in all the little details that make a story stand out.
I also found Seven himself an extremely like-able character. He’s faced his share of adversary. Forced to work in a factory when he was just a child, branded and tortured by his cruel boss, living on the streets, in love with a boy who doesn’t love him back. I don’t think anyone would blame Seven if he just curled up into a ball and gave up on the world. But he doesn’t. He keeps fighting. He keeps standing up for those who can’t stand up for themselves. If I had to describe him in a sentence, he’s a bit like Oliver Twist mixed with Robin Hood. What’s not to like about that?
However, as much as I liked The 7th of London it wasn’t perfect. The dialogue felt a bit too clunky and formal and as a result it took me a lot longer than I expected to really get into this book. I also thought the characters got over traumatic events really fast. Or any events really. Everyone (except the antagonists) was so incredibly emphatic and understanding. I would have liked it better if some characters had greater emotional ranges – or at least maintained their emotions for more than a scene. I also thought there were a few scenes near the end that were a little too violent/extreme - but that is totally a personal preference.
Recommendation: Overall The 7th of London is an interesting read. A mixture of Oliver Twist and Kady Cross’s Steampunk Chronicles.(less)
General advisory: Do not read this book in public. Doing so will result in public displays of sni...moreThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
General advisory: Do not read this book in public. Doing so will result in public displays of sniffling, escaping tears and general bouts of despair. You will be able to cope much better from the comfort of your own home.
Now I don’t want you to get the wrong idea. This is not an all out depressing book. It’s an inspiring and touching story about family and grief, so of course it’s emotional. But it also encouraging and hopeful. It’s everything you would want a book about these themes to be.
See You At Harry’s does a fantastic job exploring the family dynamic. It’s all told from Fern’s perspective but we get to explore the family from all angles. Fern and her older and younger siblings, siblings with parents, parents with one another. I liked that we saw this family at their best and worst. They felt so real I think they could have been anyone’s family. Sometimes they were strong, and they worked together, but sometimes they were quite cruel to one another. I thought this was a really honest account of how a family would deal with tragedy and I really appreciated that Jo Knowles touched on such a delicate topic.
Similarly, I really liked how realistic the reactions to Holden’s coming out (or pre-coming out) were. There was such a huge variety of reactions/opinions. Some were accepting right away, where as others were more resistant. It showed how even in a more welcoming environment, coming out can be a really difficult, and nerve wrecking experience and I loved how patient and supportive Fern was with Holden through it all.
See You At Harry’s is a really quick read. I flew through this book. Once you start reading it you’ll find yourself so wrapped up in the story you won’t be able to put it down. I liked that it was this compelling but I was also sad that it was over so quickly. Makes the whole experience kind of bittersweet.
Recommendation: An incredibly moving story of grief, family and forgiveness, that will almost certainly make you cry. But it absolutely worth it. (Be sure to have something happy lined up to read afterwards to cheer you up.)(less)
First off -Huge thanks to Brenna (Esther’s Ever After) without whom I would have never heard of t...moreThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
First off -Huge thanks to Brenna (Esther’s Ever After) without whom I would have never heard of this fabulous book.
To sum it up in one sentence it’s BBC-esque Sherlock meets steampunk with a dash of Doctor Who. I didn’t believe it until I read it but that is the most accurate description I can think off. So then knowing my love of all three of those things it should be no surprise that I adored The Lazarus Machine.
Since this is a steampunk novel, I think it is only right I talk about that element first. I really liked the way Paul Crilley used steampunk technology. He took real inventions with actual historical figures (like Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage) which is always fun to read about and shows me that you’ve done your homework. But then he took it to the next level with computers, security systems and sonic guns that all spawned from that original tech. So this is not just surface steampunk with a few clockwork powered machines and zeppelin thrown in. This is a richly imagined, beautifully detailed, alternate world that I think fans of the genre will really appreciate.
But it’s not just the atmosphere that makes The Lazarus Machine worth reading. It’s that it’s filled to the brim with awesome characters. Starting with our leads - Sebastian and Octavia (Tweed and Nightingale respectively). They’re both such strong, independent personalities but they worked really well together as a team. Yay teamwork! They’re partnership was one built out of respect for one another and they played off each other’s strengths to achieve what they thought was the best possible outcome. There were simmerings of romantic interest but the story didn’t go there – focusing instead on the more important matters at hand. I wish more male-female partnerships could be like this. Not just in YA novels. But all novels.
I love an author who doesn’t neglect their secondary characters. There’s nothing more disappointing when the rest of the cast feels flat and one dimensional. But Paul Crilley has crafted an extraordinary cast of secondary characters. I was just invested in what happened to them as I was Sebastian and Octavia. Carter and Jenny – the professional thieves, who love each other more than anything – and Barnaby - Sebastian’s con man father, with some secrets of his own – are a few that really stood out for me. They all felt well-developed and were fun to read about even if they didn’t get the same “page time” as Sebastian and Octavia.
My one criticism of The Lazarus Machine is that I would have liked a little more Sherlock Holmes and Moriarity stuff. Whether it was more detail into their presence, or more actual interaction with the characters because they are repeatedly referenced and make an important cameo. It seems a shame to introduce these two famous and brilliant characters and then not make full use of them.
Recommendation: Great for fans of Steampunk, Sherlock Holmes and the BBC. Also for those looking for a YA with a male-female pairing that doesn’t devolve into insta love or a love triangle.(less)
It’s hard to write this review because I absolutely adored this book. I truly believe that it’s J...moreThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
It’s hard to write this review because I absolutely adored this book. I truly believe that it’s John Irving’s best work to date. I’ve been reading John Irving’s books ever since they made us watch Simon Birch in ninth grade, so I feel as thought I’m semi-qualified to make this declaration. Or at least as qualified as the next person.
One thing about this kind of novel is that we really get to know the protagonist – Billy Abbot. Though this book tracks Billy’s life from childhood to his golden years, the real stand out parts are his time as an adolescent (the 1950s) and his adult years during the early days of AIDS (1980s). In regards to the 1950s, I think Irving does a great job illustrating Billy’s “coming of age” and how he learns about himself and begins to understand his own sexuality. It’s hard enough for kids/teens now-a-days to come to terms with the huge spectrum of sexual identity there is. I can only imagine (through books like In One Person) how difficult it would have been back then.
Thankfully Billy has some great people around him to help him get through this time, and form a healthy attitude about himself. His cross-dressing grandfather, his life long friend Elaine, her mother and the transsexual librarian – Miss. Frost. I think this is a great example of how having the right kind of people around you (a.k.a the supportive kind) when you’re coming out/exploring your sexuality doesn’t need to be an absolutely terrifying or painful thing. I don’t think every “coming out” story needs to be dark and depressing because that’s not reality for every person. It’s also not very encouraging. That’s not to say it was a walk in the park for Billy. He faced a lot of resistance from his mother and others in the town and I think this kept Irving from sugar coating it too much.
So while Billy’s teen years focus on self identity, the time in the 1980s focuses more on the greater community. From what I understand, previous to the AIDs epidemic, there wasn’t a huge LGBTQ community like there is now. There was a lot of stuff going on in secret and behind closed doors* but AIDs really brought everything out into the forefront and the public spotlight. Though Billy escapes infection himself, he see’s a lot of his friends and acquaintances die and through his eyes we see how that affects their family and loved ones. We see some people hide from it and some people rally and throw themselves into doing everything they can. One part that really got to me was when an old school mater of Billy dies and the desperate and heart breaking actions of his mother when it happens. This part of In One Person, was haunting and disturbing and really shed a light on a period of recent history we really don’t see much about.
Above all I like that John Irving does an amazing job exploring how sexuality is fluid and it breaks down a lot of the ridiculous barriers that our society has constructed. He puts sexuality in a larger historical construct and demonstrates that LGBT doesn’t even begin to cover the multitude of ways people experience love, attraction and themselves. If there was one thing to take away from this novel I think these ideas would be it. Sexuality doesn’t fit into neat little boxes and Billy Abbot proves it doesn’t need to.
Recommendation: An absolutely brilliant and moving book that touches on a lot of issues and ideas that are important/interesting to me. If you enjoy Irving’s other works this one will appeal to you and if you like books that deal with questions of sexuality and identity, In One Person is definitely one you want to check out.
*clarification: I’m not saying this was universal but I think this was the case for a lot of people.(less)
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is the story of two unique, but totally...moreThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is the story of two unique, but totally relatable boys. Ari. A quiet, average Mexican-American boy. His older brother is in jail and he feels the weight of the pressure from his parents to be a “good boy.” He’s reserved and isn’t a big sharer. Except when it comes to his best friend, Dante. Dante on the other hand is full of life and full of questions. Always asking why and trying to learn everything he can. Fiercely loyal and guided by his emotions. You wouldn’t think they would be friends. But they compliment each other so well!
This is a fantastic book about the power of friendship. Both boys challenge each other. Because they have different personalities and home lives they force each other to look at the world in different ways and take risks they otherwise wouldn’t. And I really appreciated that it wasn’t always easy to be friends with one another. Every friendship is going to have its ups and downs no matter how close you are. Ari and Dante have to work at maintaining their friendship but in the end I think it’s worth it. They end up better people – and better friends – on the other side.
It’s not just the friendship that makes this story special, but the role of family as well. Both Ari and Dante have strong relationships with both of their parents – though very distinctive relationships. I really liked that you could feel the love in both households. So many YA books have absent parents or neglectful parents so it was nice to see more positive familial relationships. And it was nice to see different representations of how families might interact with one another (Dante’s more affection family vs Ari’s more quiet household).
Esentially this book is about two boys in that time of life between being children and men. They’re having a bit of identity crisis, gaining more responsibility as the book goes on, but not always able to cope effectively with these changes. A lot of this books raises questions of identity. Their age. Their sexual orientation. Their ethnicity. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is a story of coming to terms with yourself and embracing love in all its forms. It’s an absolutely beautiful book with simple but touching prose. If you’re like me and you like to mark/sticky note your favourite passages make sure you have lots of Post-Its ready when you start reading. Some noteable examples:
“Words were different when they lived inside of you.”
“Another secret of the universe: Sometimes pain was like a storm that came out of nowhere. The clearest summer could end in a downpour. Could end in lightning and thunder.”
“And it seemed to me that Dante’s face was a map of the world. A world without any darkness.”
Recommendation: I highly recommend this book to all readers. Young and old alike. Beautiful prose, fantastic characters, universal themes. What’s not to love?(less)
Stealing Parker is a complicated book – and that’s putting things lightly. But it is because of t...moreThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
Stealing Parker is a complicated book – and that’s putting things lightly. But it is because of those complications that the novel can explore a variety of themes, and the characters can experience a lot growth and self discovery.
Parker’s life has been a bit of a mess ever since her Mom came out of the closet. It’s not that Parker is against homosexuality. She’s pretty sure her best friend is gay. What affects her more is the way the rest of her community began to treat her after they found out about her Mom. Girls who were once her friends began to tease her, members of her congregation shun her family, and her and her father and brother are left to deal with it alone. I can’t even imagine how difficult their situation would have been. I never felt any ill will towards Parker’s mother – she needed to be honest about herself – but you also really feel for Parker. Most YA books (that I’ve read) which feature LGBTQ parents, generally show a positive relationships between parent and child. It was interesting to see how Parker struggles with the fallout of her Mom’s sexual orientation and the reactions of a small town community.
On the heterosexual side of things, I also really appreciated how honest this story was when it came to Parker’s relationships. She got herself into some really unhealthy situations. I think it’s safe to say she was definitely taken advantage of at certain points but I also think it’s safe to say she made a lot of poor, reckless choices. But that wasn’t it for Parker. She also has some really healthy well adjusted relationships and I think that was more realistic. Parker wasn’t a bad person, she wasn’t a broken person. She was just a girl trying to figure things out. And that led her down both positive and negative paths. I think we’ve all be there.
I could go on and on exploring the complexities of all of Parker’s relationships but I think that would be redundant. Let’s just say that Stealing Parker is an excellent and thoughtful contemporary read about exploring your own values, needs and limits. This was my first Miranda Kenneally book but it won’t be my last.
Recommendation: Stealing Parker is a gripping, authentic story. A must read for YA contemporary fans and those interested in books with realistic parent-child relationships.(less)
I wanted to like this book so badly. I mean ghosts on Canada's east coast? I was so sold. But this book needs so major work/editing. The characters fe...moreI wanted to like this book so badly. I mean ghosts on Canada's east coast? I was so sold. But this book needs so major work/editing. The characters feel unrealistic and two dimensional and the dialogue is forced and awkward (and sometimes just weird).
"So you want to be a mechanic someday?" "It's definitely where I'm leaning. The community colleges have some good courses, and they're so much cheaper than university. If I can get my course and do well at the work placement, who knows, maybe I'll luck into a job."
After walking in to find his brother looking at swimsuit models on the internet: "Isn't that the same chick on your poster over there?" I asked as the woman in a string bikini, nipple just barely covered with little yellow triangles of materials appeared on the screen. "Yup that's her. Man what I wouldn't give to nail her. I'm on MSN with Jordan. He gave me the link to this awesome site. Nothing by bikini babes." "I'm glad I didn't wait too long to come down here. You might have been preoccupied," I joked. Blake chuckled. "You might be right."
Who are these people?!
Other things just didn't make sense. Like the family was ok living ten minutes away from town but fifteen minutes was an absolute deal breaker? Or why a previous owner who never intended to set foot in the house again would bother to fix the interior basement door. Or why no one even teased this kid for having a New Moon poster hanging in his bedroom.
One Boy's Shadow was a book with a lot of potential but it wasn't quite there. (less)
Defiance is a whirl wind of a fantasy adventure. I was late to the party with this one, it didn’t...moreThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
Defiance is a whirl wind of a fantasy adventure. I was late to the party with this one, it didn’t even hit my radar until after it was already published. But once I heard about it, I had to get my hands on a copy. And I am glad I didn’t waste any time, because Defiance ended up being one of my favourite books of the year.
C J Redwine writes beautifully. She has a captivating style, that drew me in right away. I became enamoured to the world, the characters and everything she had created. The world of Baalboden, in particular was fascinating. It took all the best parts of fantasy and combined it with elements of science fiction (Logan’s inventions, giant worms that made me think of Dune), horrible tyrants as leaders, a rebellious under current, and a hint of magic at play. It was a world I loved and a world that I wanted MORE of. I have so many questions, so many theories and I can’t wait to read the rest of the series to find out the answers.
Defiance is told in alternating points-of-view. Logan and Rachel’s. I thought this worked extremely well for this story. It allowed me to fall in love with both characters and I didn’t have to second guess anyone’s intentions. I could trust both protagonists and I didn’t need to be distracted by second guessing their motivations. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes the mystery is nice, but other times I just want to like the people I’m invested in.
Not only were Logan and Rachel great characters, I whole heartedly approve of how their relationship was developed. They didn’t just meet each other during the timeline of the story. Instead they grew up together and had a whole complicated, layered relationship before the story even began. It made their dynamic much more interesting and much more believable. And it made me much more likely to root for them as a couple.
Recommendation: An absolute must read for high fantasy fans and for those who love their relationships well developed rather than the all too common insta love fare.(less)
This book came out last year and I can’t believe it flew under my radar for so long. It’s bold an...moreThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
This book came out last year and I can’t believe it flew under my radar for so long. It’s bold and beautiful and heart-wrenching and I absolutely loved every minute of it. Honestly, it oozed amazing out of every page.
Did you ever feel like a book was written just for you? Like all it’s themes and ideas had been plucked right from your head? Because that’s what I felt the entire time I was reading Kiss the Morning Star.
There are four main reasons why you should read this novel.
1) Road Trip. I know a lot of people love road trip novels. Myself included. Kat and Anna set out on the road with a vague idea of where they’re going and what they what to accomplish. They discover so much about themselves and each other on the way. I always wish I had taken a trip like this when I was younger. Maybe one day…
2) Jack Kerouac. I can’t say I’m a huge Kerouac fan (my own copy of On the Road is still lying unread on my bookshelf) but I have enjoyed what little I have read from him and the other Beats. The girls set off on this road trip with only a copy of Dharma Bums as their guide. I think this would be an amazing and liberating experience. And I think that Elissa Janine Hoole did a fabulous job blending in some of his philosophy with the journey of Anna and Kat. It never felt over the top or in your face. And it added an extra layer to the novel that gave it a more literary feel.
3) Religion/Belief. Anna’s father is a minister, so religion – specifically belief in a Christian God – has always been a part of her life. But when her mother dies that belief is shaken. Really shaken. She once found it easy to strike up a conversation with God. Now she’s not sure if he’s/she’s even there. As part of their voyage Anna and Kat make of list of different places one might find God – nature, sex, love, drugs etc. And then they start looking. This leads to some really, interesting theological conversations. I think this element of the novel will appeal to anyone who is or has ever questioned their faith.
“It would not be fair to say that the fire stole my faith, since in truth it has been slipping away from me all my life, flipping between my fingers like a shiny little minnow–such a far cry from the trophy salmon that dangled from my father’s fist.”
4) Loss of a Parent. This is where this novel really hit home for me. Anna is suffering from the semi-recent loss of her mother. And I was about Anna’s age when I lost my father. The circumstances were different and I didn’t experience everything Anna did. But the grief? The sense of anger and guilt and numbness all rolled into one? I found that dead on. Kiss the Morning Star is a very raw, emotional read.
Recommendation: Kiss the Morning Star is a smart, funny, thoughtful and heart breaking literary novel. It’s everything I want in a contemporary story and I need to get my own copy ASAP so I can read it again. That being said however, I don’t think it will be for everyone. Those who don’t care for religious elements in their reading (even if those elements consist of someone questioning their faith) may want to keep this one off their to-read list.(less)