Thursday, 23 March 2017

Review: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them - Hogwarts Library Book by J.K. Rowling

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them - Newt Scamander - Hogwarts Library Book by J.K. Rowling

Publishing Date: March 14, 2017
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pages: 144
Juvenile Fiction/Science Fiction, Fantasy, Magic

The Premise from the Publisher: "A brand new edition of this essential companion to the Harry Potter stories, with a new foreword from J.K. Rowling, an irresistible new jacket by Jonny Duddle, illustrations by Tomislav Tomic and six new beasts! An approved textbook at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry since publication, Newt Scamander's masterpiece has entertained wizarding families through the generations. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is an indispensable introduction to the magical beasts of the Wizarding World. In this comprehensively updated edition, eagle-eyed readers will spot a number of new beasts and an intriguing new author's note. Scamander's years of travel and research have created a tome of unparalleled importance. Some of the beasts will be familiar to readers of the Harry Potter books - the Hippogriff, the Basilisk, the Hungarian Horntail ... Others will surprise even the most ardent amateur Magizoologist. Dip in to discover the curious habits of magical beasts across five continents" (Bloomsbury).

My overall thoughts and review: I own the first edition of this book and I really loved it! I enjoy all the Hogwarts Library Books because it offers more context for the Wizarding World, and I love all the little easter eggs inside. When I heard that they were releasing a new edition, at first, I was a bit confused as to why. But the brand new edition has a new foreword from Newt, there are some beautiful new illustrations by Tomislav Tomic, a beautiful hardcover and dust jacket, and to top it all off, SIX NEW BEASTS! Also, can we please take a moment to appreciate the cover? It is adorable and I love how cute the dragon looks. The foreword is definitely interesting and I love how it links to the context of the film that was recently released. It was like additional context for the film. It's also been a few years since I read the previous edition so the introduction into magical creatures was a nice refresher and I felt like I was reading it with fresh eyes. There are small remarks throughout which are fun to find, like Newt's comment for muggles: "Editor's note: for Muggle edition, usual guff: 'obvious fiction - all good fun - nothing to worry about - hope you enjoy it!'" (xiii). The A-Z of the beasts was a great part too and with the new additions, it seemed more complete this time around. I am in love with the illustrations and I think that alone, is reason enough to pick this up. The illustrations are stunning and some of my favorites include the ones for Kelpie and the Niffler! For potterheads, this is an easy purchase and something that is required reading & for your library. I like these new editions because it allows the new generations that are falling in love with HP something to get excited about. I remember freaking out on new HP content, and I think the same excitement still exists today. Also, all the proceeds go to Comic Relief and Lumos, which is another great reason to pick this up!

My rating of the book: ✮✮✮✮ (4/5 stars)

Available for purchase at:
Chapters/IndigoKobo BooksAmazon and Book Depository (Free Worldwide Shipping)

Disclaimer: An advanced reader's copy of the book was provided by Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions of the book are my own.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Review: My (Not So) Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella

My (Not So) Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella 

Publishing Date: February 7, 2017
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Pages: 448
Fiction / ChickLit

The Premise from the Publisher: "Everywhere Katie Brenner looks, someone else is living the life she longs for, particularly her boss, Demeter Farlowe. Demeter is brilliant and creative, lives with her perfect family in a posh townhouse, and wears the coolest clothes. Katie’s life, meanwhile, is a daily struggle—from her dismal rental to her oddball flatmates to the tense office politics she’s trying to negotiate. No wonder Katie takes refuge in not-quite-true Instagram posts, especially as she's desperate to make her dad proud. Then, just as she’s finding her feet—not to mention a possible new romance—the worst happens. Demeter fires Katie. Shattered but determined to stay positive, Katie retreats to her family’s farm in Somerset to help them set up a vacation business. London has never seemed so far away—until Demeter unexpectedly turns up as a guest. Secrets are spilled and relationships rejiggered, and as the stakes for Katie’s future get higher, she must question her own assumptions about what makes for a truly meaningful life" (RH).

My overall thoughts and review: I've been reading Sophie Kinsella books for many years now. I remember being in first year university and binge reading all the Shopaholic books. I just love her quirky characters and hilarious story lines. Every character is so down to earth. When I heard she was coming out with a new book and with this kind of premise, I was instantly excited. I decided to go for the audible version since I was looking for a new read on my commute to work and school. The audible version is fantastic! The voice actor/reader did a fantastic job, so I would highly recommend checking out the audible version. Fiona Hardingham did a great job switching back and forth from various accents. So about the book! First off, I loved the protagonist, Katie, so much! Her life on a daily basis, while depressing at times, is hilarious and she has such drive and determination that you can really admire as a reader. Her "perfect life" on instagram, does not reflect what actually happens to her. Fired from her job, a potential romance that sizzles out before it even begins, Katie finds herself retreating to her family home to help her dad and step-mom set up a glamping business. I've looked at a few glamping websites and I've seen some photos on pinterest and goodness.. reading this book has made me want to go glamping myself! If only Anster Farms was a real place ;) At her family home, she attempts to hide the secret of what happened in London from her parents, while trying to find a new job, but things become messy when her ex-boss shows up, and soon, that potential romance love-interest also shows up. I don't want to get into what happens after that because of spoilers, but let me tell you, it was a fantastic read! I loved seeing how much Katie grew and how she came to realize certain things on her own. She was able to realize her own potential which was amazing to see. The story also touches on how things may not seem as they are, like her instagram posts, but also, characters like Demeter as well. I loved that each character was so well-rounded. I loved Katie's parents especially because they were so down to earth and supportive of Katie. The love-interest story line is also done really well, and appears realistic. Overall, I loved this book. I found myself laughing a lot and even crying at some points. There is a strong emphasis on self-love, family, and friendship and I think fans of Kinsella in general, will not be disappointed! :)

My rating of the book: ✮✮✮✮ (5/5 stars)

Available for purchase at:
AudibleChapters/IndigoKobo BooksAmazon and Book Depository (Free Worldwide Shipping)

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Blog Tour: The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Sáenz - Review & Book Excerpt

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Publishing Date: March 7, 2017
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Pages: 464
Young Adult Contemporary

The Premise from the Publisher: "Sal used to know his place with his adoptive gay father, their loving Mexican American family, and his best friend, Samantha. But it's senior year, and suddenly Sal is throwing punches, questioning everything, and realizing he no longer knows himself. If Sal's not who he thought he was, who is he? This humor-infused, warmly humane look at universal questions of belonging is a triumph" (HMH).

My overall thoughts and review: When I was first emailed about this blog tour opportunity I was seriously jumping up and down in my kitchen. I haven't reviewed it, but I've sung my praises online and in person for Sáenz's other book: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets to the Universe. I absolutely loved that book and it wasn't just the the story and the characters but I fell in love with Sáenz's way of writing. So this book was definitely a treat because it brought me right back a few years ago, sitting and reading, absolutely in awe of the writing and wanting to savor every page. What I love most about this book is that a romantic relationship was possible, but was not the sole focus of the text. The book was more focused on Sal coming to terms with himself and who he is, and the importance of family. Family was a big part of the text because as Sal enters senior year, his adoptive father gives him a letter from his dead mother and he learns that his Mima is sick with cancer. You see Sal questioning how life isn't fair in regards to his Mima and also becoming curious of his biological father. The scenes with Mima were so incredibly sweet and you can just feel the love between the two of them coming out of the pages of the book. The relationship with Mima reminded me a lot of my relationship with my aunt and I have to admit, I did tear up at some pages. I also loved Vicente, his adoptive father. Sometimes, I felt that Vicente was too good to be true with just how understanding and supportive he was. He was so kind to Sal's friends: Sam & Fito. And he said such beautiful things. I also really liked that Sáenz didn't simply make the adults/parents background characters in the text. They were an integral part of the narrative and the text focused on how they had flaws as well. I know I say this every time, but when I really love a book, I have such a hard time writing a review for it because I find myself just saying "I liked this! I liked that! I liked everything!" but it is really true. Bottom line: I loved how this book made me feel and think about life. For as much YA as I read, it isn't very often a book strikes such a chord with me. This was a very beautifully written text that emphasized identity, family, friendship, and grief. I don't want to say too much without spoiling and I feel like I'm already rambling a bit, but this was an amazing read. I felt serious sadness when I turned the last page because I was saying goodbye to such beautiful characters, but I also felt quite proud with how far the characters came. Absolutely beautiful book that will tug at your heartstrings. If you aren't familiar with Benjamin Alire Sáenz and his beautiful writing... what are you waiting for? You will not be disappointed.

My rating of the book: ✮✮✮✮ (5/5 stars)

Available for purchase at:
Chapters/IndigoKobo BooksAmazon and Book Depository (Free Worldwide Shipping)

Book Excerpt
Enrique Infante had come up behind us as Sam and I were walking. And all of a sudden he jumped in front of me and he was in my face. He looked right at me, pushed his finger into my chest, and said, “You’re dad’s a faggot.”
Something happened inside me. A huge and uncontrollable wave ran through me and crashed onto the shore that was my heart. I suddenly lost my ability to use words, and, I don’t know, I’d never been that angry and I didn’t know what was really happening because anger wasn’t normal for me. It was as if I, the Sal I knew, just went away and another Sal entered my body and took over. I remember feeling the pain in my own fist just after it hit Enrique Infante’s face. It all happened in an instant like a flash of lightning, only the lightning wasn’t coming from the sky, it was coming from somewhere inside of me. Seeing all that blood gush out of another guy’s nose made me feel alive. It did. That’s the truth. And that scared me.
I had something in me that scared me.
The next thing I remembered was that I was staring down at Enrique as he lay on the ground. I was my calm self again, well, not calm but at least I could talk. And I said, “My dad is a man. He has a name. His name is Vicente. So if you want to call him something, call him by his name. And he’s not a faggot.”
Sam just looked at me. I looked back at her. “Well, this is new,” she said. “What happened to the good boy? I never knew you had it in you to punch a guy.”
“I didn’t either,” I said.
Sam smiled at me. It was kind of a strange smile.
I looked down at Enrique. I tried to help him up, but he wasn’t having any of it.
Sam and I watched as he walked away. I was a little stunned. I looked at Sam. “Maybe we don’t always know what we have in us.” 
Be sure to check out the other blog tour stops for more excerpts from the book! :D 
Disclaimer: An advanced reader's copy of this book and the book excerpt was sent to me by Raincoast Books. The excerpt is written by Benjamin Alire Sáenz and comes directly from the published book. All opinions are my own. 

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Review: The Education of Margot Sanchez By Lilliam Rivera

The Education of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera

Publishing Date: February 21, 2017
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Pages: 304
Young Adult Contemporary

The Premise from the Publisher: "Things/People Margot Hates:
Mami, for destroying her social life, Papi, for allowing Junior to become a Neanderthal,. Junior, for becoming a Neanderthal, The supermarket and Everyone else. After “borrowing” her father’s credit card to finance a more stylish wardrobe, Margot Sanchez suddenly finds herself grounded. And by grounded, she means working as an indentured servant in her family’s struggling grocery store to pay off her debts. With each order of deli meat she slices, Margot can feel her carefully cultivated prep school reputation slipping through her fingers, and she’s willing to do anything to get out of this punishment. Lie, cheat, and maybe even steal… Margot’s invitation to the ultimate beach party is within reach and she has no intention of letting her family’s drama or Moises—the admittedly good looking but outspoken boy from the neighborhood—keep her from her goal" (SS).

My overall thoughts and review: I have a small confession: when I first requested this as an arc to read, I have to admit that what drew me in first was not the premise but the cover. Goodness, the cover is stunning. The artwork is so beautiful. Anyways, onto the review, the premise of the book also intrigued me because I love friendship and family dynamics in a book. I love reading romance books, but I need there to be a good substantial amount of world building and other dynamics at play. In the beginning, the reader is introduced to Margot AKA "La Princesa" (what her family calls her), who has to spend the summer working off the money she spent on her father's credit card at their family grocery store 'Sanchez & Son Supermarket.' This poses as a problem because Margot had plans to hang out in the Hamptons with her friends Serena and Camille. She had finally gotten them to 'accept' her and they are also the ones who encouraged her to "borrow" her father's credit card, but now she was stuck daily at the grocery store working, away from all the fun and away from her chances with a guy named Nick. Margot thinks that she will spend the summer having it easy at the supermarket, but little does she know what her father has in store for her. They have her lifting boxes, cleaning up aisles and even working the deli counter at some point. It is in front of her parent's supermarket that she meets Moises, a boy who is attempting to get signatures for a cause, but her family warns her about because of his dark past. The moments when Margot spoke about Serena and Camille really empathized with me and the whole desire of wanting to be accepted. I also liked that the story touched on Margot's previous friendship: Elizabeth. Margot was a different person around Elizabeth and you see how Elizabeth still attempts to have a friendship with Margot. I really liked seeing how all of that unfolded. I wasn't too blown away with the romance that occurs in the text, it seemed quite straight forward, but I will say, I appreciated seeing the vulnerability in Moises and Nick. I will say, my favorite part of the book was that Margot gets an 'education' on family. How families aren't perfect and sometimes, they'll disappoint you and do things that don't seem right, simply out of love for you. I loved what a big role Margot's parents and brother, Junior, played in the book. Overall, I think this was a great read about accepting who you are, friendships, and family.

My rating of the book: ✮✮✮✮ (4/5 stars)

Available for purchase at:
Chapters/IndigoKobo BooksAmazon and Book Depository (Free Worldwide Shipping)

Disclaimer: An advanced reader's copy of the book was provided by Simon and Schuster Canada in exchange for an honest review. All opinions of the book are my own.

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Review: What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan

What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan 
(AKA Burnt Paper Sky

Publishing Date: January 3, 2017
Publisher: Harpercollins
Pages: 496

The Premise from the Publisher: "Rachel Jenner is walking in a Bristol park with her eight-year-old son, Ben, when he asks if he can run ahead. It’s an ordinary request on an ordinary Sunday afternoon, and Rachel has no reason to worry—until Ben vanishes. Police are called, search parties go out, and Rachel, already insecure after her recent divorce, feels herself coming undone. As hours and then days pass without a sign of Ben, everyone who knew him is called into question, from Rachel’s newly married ex-husband to her mother-of-the-year sister. Inevitably, media attention focuses on Rachel too, and the public’s attitude toward her begins to shift from sympathy to suspicion. As she desperately pieces together the threadbare clues, Rachel realizes that nothing is quite as she imagined it to be, not even her own judgment. And the greatest dangers may lie not in the anonymous strangers of every parent’s nightmares, but behind the familiar smiles of those she trusts the most. Where is Ben? The clock is ticking. . . ." (HC).

My overall thoughts and review: I've been on such a thrilling reads kick for a while now. I don't know what it is... but I love seeing how the mystery unravels for the reader. This is my first time picking up something by Macmillan and I was not disappointed. I listened to this book via audible and there were two voice actors who did the voices of Rachel and the DI. I thought they did a pretty good job narrating the story. The premise is incredibly chilling where a child goes missing one afternoon because his mom lets him run ahead on their walk with their dog Skittle. I had a few ideas of who it could have been and what had happened and I will say, I was genuinely surprised right up until the very end. There was quite a few twists and turns that I did not expect and I really enjoyed those aspects. I think what I enjoyed most is seeing how conflicted Rachel was feeling and seeing how she kept replaying various moments and scenarios. You got to see her grieve as a mother during this period in her life and as the reader, you really empathized with her. I found myself liking the DI a lot too and seeing how this one case kind of "rocked" his world a bit. It affected every aspect of his life and it is a good example of "taking the job home." He is truly a conflicted character with a lot of flaws and I liked seeing his vulnerability in some scenes. You can't say too much in these reviews for thriller books without giving too much away. I'll say that fans of I Let You Go, Girl on the Train, and The Widow, will surely enjoy this one. It is a clever and heart-wrenching thriller about a parent/child relationship. I really enjoyed it and I've already pushed it on a few friends to read! It reminds me of a good British crime TV show!

My rating of the book: ✮✮✮✮ (4/5 stars)

Available for purchase at:
AudibleChapters/IndigoKobo BooksAmazon and Book Depository (Free Worldwide Shipping)

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Review: I Am For You by Mieko Ouchi

I Am For You by Mieko Ouchi

Publishing Date: October 20, 2016
Publisher: Playwrights Canada Press
Pages: 80
Asian Canadian Theatre

The Premise from the Publisher: "Fighting words . . . Lainie and Mariam have it out for each other, so it’s no surprise when they finally come to violent blows in the middle of their high school’s drama room. That’s when Caddell Morris, an ex-professional actor and newly minted student teacher, steps in. By teaching the girls the art of stage combat, he hopes to help them understand more about the roots and costs of violence. But when he convinces the drama teacher to let them play Mercutio and Tybalt in their school production of Romeo and Juliet, swords, words, and egos battle and clash. Can they find a way to work together?" (PCP).

My overall thoughts and review: I believe this is my first play review ever on the blog which is quite exciting! I read quite a few plays in my undergrad and I've picked up a few here and there, but I haven't really read much in terms of Canadian theatre. When I read the premise of this and saw that it incorporated elements of Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet, I was instantly intrigued. As many problems as that play had, I found that after reading what Ouchi created, I had a new found appreciation for the play Shakespeare wrote. Ouchi touched on elements of how violence plays a big factor and it isn't simply about violence over love, but violence within friendships and family as well. The premise is incredibly interesting, there are two classmates that end up fighting: Mariam and Lainie, and when their student teacher breaks them apart, he decides to have them spend a day with him to learn stage combat. The parts where the learning of the stage combat is done is incredibly intricate. I could see it unfolding in my mind and it truly is an 'art' - every movement is carefully crafted and calculated. The girls end up showing quite a lot of promise that Caddell decides to put them in the school production of Romeo & Juliet as Mercutio and Tybalt. I really liked that through their experiences and their acting, they were able to look at one another differently. I really enjoyed reading this play by Ouchi and I definitely want to look into other plays that she has written. I think fans of YA literature would definitely enjoy this because there's a strong emphasis on themes of bullying and friendship.

My rating of the book: ✮✮✮✮ (4/5 stars)

Available for purchase at:
Playwrights Canada PressChapters/IndigoKobo BooksAmazon and Book Depository (Free Worldwide Shipping)

Disclaimer: An advanced reader's copy of the book was sent by Playwrights Canada Press in exchange for an honest review. All opinions of the book are my own. 

Monday, 27 February 2017

Blog Tour: Piper Perish by Kayla Cagan - Review and Author Q&A

Piper Perish by Kayla Cagan

Publishing Date: March 7, 2017
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Pages: 416
Young Adult Contemporary

The Premise from the Publisher: "Piper Perish inhales air and exhales art. The sooner she and her best friends can get out of Houston and get to New York City, the better. Art school has been Piper's dream her whole life, and now that senior year is halfway over, she's never felt more ready. But in the final months before graduation, things are weird with her friends and stressful with three different guys, and Piper's sister's tyrannical mental state seems to thwart every attempt at happiness for the close-knit Perish family. Piper's art just might be enough to get her out. But is she brave enough to seize that power when it means giving up so much? Debut author Kayla Cagan breathes new life into fiction in this dynamic, utterly authentic work featuring interior art from Rookie magazine illustrator Maria Ines Gul. Piper will have readers asking big questions along with her. What is love? What is friendship? What is family? What is home? And who is a person when she's missing any one of these things?" (Chronicle Books).

My overall thoughts and review: For those of you don't know, I've always had an interest in art and art history. I wrote my masters on paintings and I've always had a big fascination with art in general. When I read the premise of this book, I was interested but also immediately reminded of myself when I was in my last year of high-school. I had a big fascination with New York City, Andy Warhol, and his factory. I knew that art would be a big component of the book but what I did not expect was how much the physical book would be fused with art. I had an arc copy, but I can't wait to see how the finished copy looks. The book featured authentic artwork from a magazine illustrator, Maria Ines Gul, and I felt like the entire book itself was an art piece. It kind of felt like it was Piper's big heart being handed to the reader. The book is written in first person narrative, but done in a way that felt like reading journal entries of Piper. You are thrown into Piper's world immediately and learn that her New Years did not start off well, with her boyfriend Enzo breaking up with her. Which also ruins her plans for New York since the plan was that she, her boyfriend and their bestfriend, Kit, all go together. The book has sections for every month of Piper's final year. You get to see how Piper deals with the year ending, the stress of waiting around for university acceptances, breaking up, friendships and most of all, family. Piper has an extremely tough sister, Marli, to deal with. I would say that passages with Marli were my least favorite because I just found her so difficult to deal with. We are given some explanation as readers as to why she is the way she is, but because I empathized so much with Piper, I found it really hard to do the same with Marli. Marli is an incredibly difficult character and my only critique would be that some more explanation for why she is the way she is, would be helpful to readers? Other than that, I loved Piper's parents so much. They had so much depth and the parts where they admittedly mentioned their struggles as parents financially and emotionally felt so raw to me. I loved how much depth Cagan gave each character and how many thematic points she was able to hit with this book. There was a strong emphasis on self-growth and identity for Piper, Kit, and Enzo. But mostly, what drew me most to this book and what I think most readers will enjoy is the art component. This was without a doubt a very artistic and unique book. I loved how mature it felt and I loved how art and various artists played such a big role. I highly recommend checking it out! Now.. if you'll excuse me, I'm going to wait anxiously until March 7, 2017 to go get my hands on a physical copy to see all the artwork in it's true glory! :D

My rating of the book: ✮✮✮✮ (4/5 stars)

Available for pre-order at:
Chapters/IndigoKobo BooksAmazon and Book Depository (Free Worldwide Shipping)

Author Question and Answer

1. The book has a large emphasis on art and you write that art and artists are quite significant. Who is your favorite artist and what is your favorite art piece? 
Picking one favorite artist?!?!? I have so many art crushes. The artists I love usually have a very strong sense of humor and wit in their work.   My current favorite is the photographer and filmmaker Cindy Sherman. Lifetime favorite is Rene Magritte. He was my introduction into surrealism and his work opened my brain at a very young age. My current favorite art piece is by Glenn Ligon and it’s called Double America 2. I can’t think of a piece of art that better represents the current divisions in the United States.  Here’s a link if you want to see it: LINK HERE!  (It blinks on and off in the museum.)
Thank you so much, Kayla! I am a big fan of Magritte as well and I actually wrote a conference paper on him a few years back. His art is just fantastic! The Double America piece looks really cool! And I will be sure to check out Cindy Sherman. Thanks so much for sharing that with us :D

Kayla has also very kindly answered questions for other bloggers at the other stops on the blog tour. So be sure to head on over to their blogs and show some love!
Disclaimer: An advanced reader's copy of the book was provided by Raincoast Books for participation in the book tour. All opinions of the book are my own.