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Book Review: Eliza and her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

Eliza and her monsters

Eliza and her Monsters

Release date: May 30th 2017

4.5 stars

In the real world, Eliza Mirk is shy, weird, and friendless. Online, Eliza is LadyConstellation, anonymous creator of the wildly popular webcomic Monstrous Sea. Eliza can’t imagine enjoying the real world as much as she loves her digital community, and has no desire to try.
Then Wallace Warland, Monstrous Sea‘s biggest fanfiction writer, transfers to her school. Wallace thinks Eliza is just another fan, and Eliza begins to wonder if a life offline might be worthwhile. But when Eliza’s secret is accidentally shared with the world, everything she’s built—her story, her relationship with Wallace, and even her sanity—begins to fall apart.

I loved Made You Up by this author so I was really excited to see a second novel. I thought the way the story was told using illustrations from the character’s webcomic and screenshots of her online chats and the fan forums made for a very unique reading experience. I’ve read books that involve seeing characters’ text messaging before but with the online world being so important to Eliza, it felt like an extra way to connect with her.

I absolutely loved Eliza. I could definitely relate to how she felt about finding solace in online fandoms in a way that she couldn’t in the real world. The online world was just so much easy to navigate for her. The real world had so many people and variables that were out of her control and social interactions/cues that she didn’t get. She was a quiet bookworm with anxiety in a family full of loud, seemingly confident athletes. It was an interesting dynamic to see them all try to relate to each other but it was clear there was a lot of love in that family. I could understand why she kept her webcomic such a secret from everyone expect a few select people and why she didn’t reveal too much about how big it had become to her parents – who she didn’t feel wanted to know or hear about her online life.

The relationship between Eliza and Wallace was really interesting. There were many times I would be cringing in sympathy for Eliza because I knew there was no way keeping her identity as Monstrous Sea’s creator a secret would end well but I could understand why she did it. There were other times I actually felt proud of her for doing something outside her comfort zone – like meeting Wallace’s friends or going to a Halloween party. Their relationship was sweet and they understood each other in ways only they could.

I also thought the author did a great job in showing Eliza’s anxiety and panic attacks through the books. It was a very realistic portrayal of a young woman living with a mental illness and how much it can affect your life and how it doesn’t magically go away just because you might be happier or more confident. This ended up being one of my favourite reads so far this year.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: One of Us Is Lying by Karen M McManus

one-of-us-is-lying

One of Us is Lying

Release date: May 30th 2017

4 stars

Pay close attention and you might solve this.
On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.
Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.
Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.
Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?
Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.

I really enjoyed this Breakfast Club vibe meets Pretty Little Liars mystery. It had some interesting twists, great characters, and it really drew me right into the story. Putting a Breakfast Club vibe into a book is a sure way to get me to pick it up and I was not disappointed.

The book was told in many POVs as we followed the four main characters trying to figure out who was framing them for Simon’s death. I liked all four pretty equally. Maybe Bronwyn and Cooper edged out the other two but not by much. Even with the book being less than 400 pages and very fast paced, there was still a lot of growth for all four characters. The story was as much about their growth as it was about the mystery and I really enjoyed that.

I wasn’t a fan of how the cops handled the whole case but I could see why they were so short-sighted. They had four teens in the room with the victim, all who were about to be exposed and all who had access to Simon and to the epi-pens in the nurse’s station. With all the publicity the case was getting, of course they wanted to solve it quickly, but they just ended up looking a bit incompetent. I thought the book did a good job showing how their narrowed focus affected the case and the teens and using some outside media sources to call them on their dropping the ball.

The mystery held my interest and I was looking for clues everywhere. It was the type of mystery where the reader could simply read to enjoy it and hopefully be surprised at the twists, or they could try to pick up the clues and solve it. It made it a book that was impossible to put down.

*I received an advanced reader copy of this book from Indigo Books & Music Inc. in exchange for an honest review*

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Book Review: Windfall by Jennifer E Smith

Windfall

Windfall

Release date: May 2nd 2017

3.5 stars

Alice doesn’t believe in luck—at least, not the good kind. But she does believe in love, and for some time now, she’s been pining for her best friend, Teddy. On his eighteenth birthday—just when it seems they might be on the brink of something—she buys him a lottery ticket on a lark. To their astonishment, he wins $140 million, and in an instant, everything changes.
At first, it seems like a dream come true, especially since the two of them are no strangers to misfortune. As a kid, Alice won the worst kind of lottery possible when her parents died just over a year apart from each other. And Teddy’s father abandoned his family not long after that, leaving them to grapple with his gambling debts. Through it all, Teddy and Alice have leaned on each other. But now, as they negotiate the ripple effects of Teddy’s newfound wealth, a gulf opens between them. And soon, the money starts to feel like more of a curse than a windfall.
As they try to find their way back to each other, Alice learns more about herself than she ever could have imagined . . . and about the unexpected ways in which luck and love sometimes intersect.

This book was very typical Jennifer E Smith, in the best ways possible. It was a light read with quirky characters and that familiar writing style that has me reading until the last page. It dealt with a lot of topics other than just focusing on an eighteen-year-old winning a massive lottery and it changing his life. It dealt with death, survivor’s guilt, first love, heartbreak. I thought the book did a wonderful job showing how different people would react to winning and how they would choose to spend the money, which Jennifer E Smith was able to do by having her main character be the friend who bought the lottery ticket instead of the person who won.

Alice was a character I found myself both relating to and not quite understanding. Loving seeing her friend happy, worried he would change with all that money, worried people would use him, not wanting to confess her feelings, all those I got. Even being afraid of accepting some of the money in fear it would change her I could understand. The part I had a hard time with was that she could be very judgemental but that was part of her growth arc. With Teddy, we got to see his growth arc through Alice’s eyes and he had to learn what having all that money meant to the people who were suddenly appearing in his life. I couldn’t blame him for going a little crazy with it all at first. Even the adult in me knows I would too.

I love the friendship between Alice, Teddy, and Leo. They were a perfect balance to each other. Leo was very practical and seemed a lot more mature than the other two. Alice was a good girl, trying to make her late parents proud with her volunteer work but still looking to find who she really was. Teddy was the more brash and impulsive of the three of them and was the one often reminding the other two to have fun. The friendship was strong between these three, even with the feelings between Alice and Teddy. I liked that Leo wasn’t easily shoved to the side the second something started to develop between Alice and Teddy.

The plot went pretty much where I was expecting it to go but it was still a fun reading journey. It did a good job balancing the more fun aspects of the story like an eighteen year old suddenly having so much money and going a little crazy with it to and the more serious tones like Alice still dealing with the deaths of her parents and the downside to having all that money. It was a quick read and I would definitely say this is one of my favourite Jennifer E Smith books so far.

*I received an advanced reader copy of this book from Indigo Books & Music Inc. in exchange for an honest review*

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Waiting on Wednesday

New WoW

This is a feature started on Breaking the Spine that puts the spotlight on upcoming books.

This week’s pick is:

The Color Project

The Color Project

Release date: July 18th 2017

Goodreads: Bernice Aurora Wescott has one thing she doesn’t want anyone to know: her name. That is, until Bee meets Levi, the local golden boy who runs a charity organization called The Color Project.
Levi is not at all shy about attempting to guess Bee’s real name; his persistence is one of the many reasons why Bee falls for him. But while Levi is everything she never knew she needed, giving up her name would feel like a stamp on forever. And that terrifies her.
When unexpected news of an illness in the family drains Bee’s summer of everything bright, she is pushed to the breaking point. Losing herself in The Color Project—a world of weddings, funerals, cancer patients, and hopeful families that the charity funds—is no longer enough. Bee must hold up the weight of her family, but to do that, she needs Levi. She’ll have to give up her name and let him in completely or lose the best thing that’s ever happened to her.

Why I’m excited: The synopsis goes on to say for fans of Stephanie Perkins and Morgan Matson, two of my auto-buy contemporary authors. Here’s hoping it lives up to that praise.

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Book Review: Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy

Ramona Blue

Ramona Blue

Release date: May 9th 2017

2.5 stars

Ramona was only five years old when Hurricane Katrina changed her life forever.Since then, it’s been Ramona and her family against the world. Standing over six feet tall with unmistakable blue hair, Ramona is sure of three things: she likes girls, she’s fiercely devoted to her family, and she knows she’s destined for something bigger than the trailer she calls home in Eulogy, Mississippi. But juggling multiple jobs, her flaky mom, and her well-meaning but ineffectual dad forces her to be the adult of the family. Now, with her sister, Hattie, pregnant, responsibility weighs more heavily than ever.The return of her childhood friend Freddie brings a welcome distraction. Ramona’s friendship with the former competitive swimmer picks up exactly where it left off, and soon he’s talked her into joining him for laps at the pool. But as Ramona falls in love with swimming, her feelings for Freddie begin to shift too, which is the last thing she expected. With her growing affection for Freddie making her question her sexual identity, Ramona begins to wonder if perhaps she likes girls and guys or if this new attraction is just a fluke. Either way, Ramona will discover that, for her, life and love are more fluid than they seem.

So far Julie Murphy has been pretty hit or miss with me. I wasn’t a fan of Side Effects May Vary but I loved Dumplin’. Ramona Blue had the potential to be on either side and, unfortunately, the more I read, the more I found myself thinking it belonged with Side Effects May Vary in terms of enjoyment. The pacing was slow, it felt like it was really dragging in the middle, and so many characters had very little development.

I think this will be one of those books that ends up dividing readers. Ramona was a girl who had always identified as a lesbian who started to have confusing feelings for a childhood friend who’d come back to town – and that friend was male. Her journey of exploring what those feelings meant and what it meant for it is not something I feel like I have a right to comment on, even with it being a fictional character. I did enjoy her relationship with her sister and her two friends Ruth and Saul, and the dynamic between Ramona and Freddie’s grandmother was something I wish we’d gotten a lot more of.

The supporting characters were where this book lost me the most. None of them were very developed. There were a lot of them but they could have been condensed into two more well-rounded characters. They were fun and I liked them but they were mostly just there and had very little to do with the plot except for when Ramona needed a sounding board. I do wish we’d gotten more of Adam in some fashion, whom I got very attached to even with his limited page time.

I did expect swimming to play more of a role in the book, based on the synopsis. It was present and it was something Ramona loved but for the most part it was in the background compared to her arc and her family. The swimming and the training was another thing I wish we’d gotten to see more of during the book. Overall, I think the book tried to focus a little on too much instead of choosing a few things to focus a lot on.

*I received an advanced reader copy of this book from Indigo Books & Music Inc. in exchange for an honest review*

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Book Review: Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore

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Wild Beauty

Release date: October 3rd 2017

4.5 stars

For nearly a century, the Nomeolvides women have tended the grounds of La Pradera, the lush estate gardens that enchant guests from around the world. They’ve also hidden a tragic legacy: if they fall in love too deeply, their lovers vanish. But then, after generations of vanishings, a strange boy appears in the gardens.
The boy is a mystery to Estrella, the Nomeolvides girl who finds him, and to her family, but he’s even more a mystery to himself; he knows nothing more about who he is or where he came from than his first name. As Estrella tries to help Fel piece together his unknown past, La Pradera leads them to secrets as dangerous as they are magical in this stunning exploration of love, loss, and family.

Part of me feels like the only thing to say about this book is Anna-Marie McLemore does it again. I loved her debut The Weight of Feathers. There’s something absolutely magical about her writing and where it transports the reader. I wanted to visit La Pradera, maybe never leave it. It was described so perfectly that it was easy to picture it in my head.

This is one of those types of books where I worry about saying too much in a review because I don’t want to give away even the tiniest plot hint. I loved the characters, I loved the romance, I loved the setting. I didn’t think I would enjoy this one as much as The Weight of Feathers because that one was amazing, but somehow, this one ended up being my favourite of the two. I went in with really high expectations based on The Weight of Feathers and Anna-Marie McLemore managed to not only exceed them, she pole-vaulted over them.

It’s still very early in the year but I have a feeling this one will land on my top ten of 2017.

*I received an advanced reader copy of this book from Indigo Books & Music Inc. in exchange for an honest review*

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Book Review: Maud by Melanie L Fishbane

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Maud

Release date: April 25th 2017

4 stars

Fourteen-year-old Lucy Maud Montgomery — Maud to her friends — has a dream: to go to college and become a writer, just like her idol, Louisa May Alcott. But living with her grandparents on Prince Edward Island, she worries that this dream will never come true. Her grandfather has strong opinions about a woman’s place in the world, and they do not include spending good money on college. Luckily, she has a teacher to believe in her, and good friends to support her, including Nate, the Baptist minister’s stepson and the smartest boy in the class. If only he weren’t a Baptist; her Presbyterian grandparents would never approve. Then again, Maud isn’t sure she wants to settle down with a boy — her dreams of being a writer are much more important.
But life changes for Maud when she goes out West to live with her father and his new wife and daughter. Her new home offers her another chance at love, as well as attending school, but tensions increase as Maud discovers her stepmother’s plans for her, which threaten Maud’s future — and her happiness forever.

At first, I admit, it was a little strange reading a YA version of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s life since I grew up on PEI and Anne and Emily were a huge part of my childhood, as was visiting Green Gables and all the sights. It didn’t take long to get over it and become completely absorbed into the story.

The book was very well researched and it was easy to see the connections between Maud, Anne, and Emily. It focused more on her childhood in PEI and her teenage years in Saskatchewan, before the huge success of Anne. After finishing this book I wanted to go back and re-read the Anne of Green Gables series. This book worked as a standalone for anyone interested in reading a well-researched fictionalized version of LMM’s life but it also would work well as a prelude to the Anne and Emily series.

Maud was a very relatable character. It could be I found it so easy to relate since I’m from the same area and grew up on her writing, but I do think I would have found her relatable without that. It was also easy to see parts of Anne and Emily in her, where she may have drawn inspiration from her own experiences and given her characters some happiness she wished she could have had.

The book was very character-driven so there were a few times it was slow, but not in a way that made me enjoy it less. It was that the plot focused on Maud’s growth, her goals, her dreams and her survival in a time when women were not encouraged to go to college. It meant there wasn’t a lot of action in the plot but I do love character growth so I really enjoyed that the plot was so character driven.

Overall, a great fictionalized telling of LMM’s life and one that fits in wonderfully with her series.

*I received an advanced reader copy of this book from Indigo Books & Music Inc. in exchange for an honest review*

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Book Review: Geekerella by Ashley Poston

geekerella

Geekerella

Release date: April 4th 2017

4 stars

Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic sci-fi series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a new Starfield movie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball, and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. With savings from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck (and her dad’s old costume), Elle’s determined to win…unless her stepsisters get there first.
Teen actor Darien Freeman used to live for cons—before he was famous. Now they’re nothing but autographs and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Carmindor is all he’s ever wanted, but Starfield fandom has written him off as just another dumb heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, Darien feels more and more like a fake—until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise. But when she disappears at midnight, will he ever be able to find her again?
Part romance, part love letter to nerd culture, and all totally adorbs, Geekerella is a fairy tale for anyone who believes in the magic of fandom.

There has been quite a few books out recently that highlight geek culture and fandoms in a way that has been really fun to read. Geekerella does a great job of blending fandom with the fairy tale Cinderella, giving the reader a fun plot and characters that I easily fell in love with.

Elle, our main heroine, was especially easy to relate to. Her love for an old sci-fi show called Starfield, her excitement over an announced reboot, and her anger over the casting of Hollywood’s up-and-coming “it” actor landing the role of her beloved Prince Carmindor. To stay true to the fairy tale, Elle lived with her step-mother and step-sisters and they were terrible. All she wanted was to attend ExcelsiCon and enter the CosPlay contest. Darien was hoping Prince Carmindor would be his chance at being taken seriously as an actor and shared a love for Starfield with Elle. I loved seeing them bonding over their love of the fandom and they were really cute together.

There were many, many fandom references and each one put a smile on my face. The Starfield fandom that was created for this book had a familiar feel to it, like it was one I would be a part of if it were real. The romance was cute and it was easy to spot the Cinderella-ness of their relationship.

It was a quick read that was really cute and a great addiction to the fandom-related books already released.

*I received an advanced reader copy of this book from Indigo Books & Music Inc. in exchange for an honest review*

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Book Review: The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

upside-of-unrequited

The Upside of Unrequited

Release date: April 11th

4 stars

Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love. No matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.
Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. If Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.
There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker, Reid. He’s a chubby Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him.
Right?

I absolutely loved Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda so a companion novel to that was a must read. Even with completely different characters in a completely different city, it still had the same feel I remember from reading Simon. It had great family dynamics, a wonderful and complex sisterly bond, characters that were easy to relate to, and writing that flowed to make for a book I wanted to keep reading even if I really should have been asleep.

Molly was a character I could really find myself relating to. Her fear of rejection stopped her from putting herself out there too much, even when it seemed like the guy was perfect for her. It made her feel like her more confident twin was growing up and away from her, leaving her behind. She had many crushes but never any boyfriends. I liked the contrast between her interactions with Will, who her sister Cassie wanted her to date, and Reid, her co-worker who was fun and threw out geeky references mid-conversation. What got me the most though, was the whole family aspect, especially the relationship between Molly and Cassie. It was great, it was perfect.

I really enjoyed the slow burn relationship between Molly and Reid. Their banter was fun and natural and Molly felt more like herself around him, more relaxed, and she ever seemed around Will. Will was an interesting character as well, and definitely not a bad guy. I just preferred the scenes where Molly was having fun with Reid. I also loved the family aspect of the book. Molly and Cassie’s moms were amazing and fun, supportive and involved. And their little brother was too precious.

One of my favourite things was that so many of the issues in this book could have been solved by one of the characters taking a minute, taking a step back, and then speaking up about their feelings, but actually doing that was so much more difficult. For Molly, it would never be as easy as opening her mouth and speaking up or putting herself out there, and I thought Becky Albertalli did a great job conveying that.

This was definitely a great companion to Simon. It can be read as a standalone but I would highly recommend them both.

*I received an advanced reader copy of this book from Indigo Books & Music Inc. in exchange for an honest review*

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Book Review: The Hidden Memory of Objects by Danielle Mages Amato

hidden-memory-of-objects

The Hidden Memory of Objects

Release date: March 21st 2017

4 stars

Megan Brown’s brother, Tyler, is dead, but the cops are killing him all over again. They say he died of a drug overdose, potentially suicide—something Megan cannot accept. Determined to figure out what happened in the months before Tyler’s death, Megan turns to the things he left behind. After all, she understands the stories objects can tell—at fifteen, she is a gifted collage artist with a flair for creating found-object pieces. However, she now realizes that her artistic talent has developed into something more: she can see memories attached to some of Tyler’s belongings—and those memories reveal a brother she never knew.
Enlisting the help of an artifact detective who shares her ability and specializes in murderabilia—objects tainted by violence or the deaths of their owners—Megan finds herself drawn into a world of painful personal and national memories. Along with a trusted classmate and her brother’s charming friend, she chases down the troubling truth about Tyler across Washington, DC, while reclaiming her own stifled identity with a vengeance.

I really love when an author takes a plot I’ve seen quite a few times before and adds a very unique spin to it. In this case, a girl dealing with her brother’s death and not accepting the answers the police were giving because, to her, it didn’t sound like her brother. There were plenty of twists, a great friendship, a slow burn romance, and a lot of historical facts added to the overall story.

Megan loved scrap-booking, always taking random papers from places she’d been to remember or to add to a collage later. By going through her brother’s belongings, she discovered an ability to see memories attached to certain objects and it was a way for her to investigate the circumstances of his death. Her abilities seemed to be a form of psychometry which I found interesting, especially as she learned more about what she could do. Her investigation led her to get closer to her brother’s best friend and to get re-acquainted with an older friend of her own. Another thing I liked was getting to see the flashbacks and the memories where Megan and Tyler were together. They were obviously close.

I really liked the supporting characters, especially Nathan and Eric. Nathan was a strong presence that was protective and calming, most of the time, while Eric added humour and support. Megan’s parents also play important roles in the story. They’re grieving for their son and trying to protect their daughter from what the police are telling them as truth. There were many times Megan would notice changes in her parents’ behaviours.

I also enjoyed the addition of the historical aspect to the plot. The assassination of Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth played a big role in the story. Tyler had a book about him, her mother worked at the Ford’s Theater Museum, and there were many artifacts that linked to the night of the assassinations, objects that had memories attached that Megan could see. The deeper Megan’s investigation went, the more memories she saw, the more it felt like she was so close to figuring everything out. That meant I had to keep reading because I didn’t want to stop and have a huge clue be right in the next chapter.

Overall, it was a really addicting read. I was sucked into the mystery and I loved the characters.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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