Currently Reading: Summer 2017

I’ve got a lot on my reading plate this summer, and it’s honestly been sort of difficult to look at all the things I have to read without getting overwhelmed.

So I thought I’d share some of them with you and get excited about all these books!

When Dimple Met RishiMen Without Women: StoriesOn Edge: A Journey Through AnxietyThe Space Between the Stars

Zero Repeat Forever (The Nahx Invasions #1)Girl in SnowHow to Fall in Love with Anyone: A Memoir in EssaysThe Assassin's Curse (The Blackthorn Key, #3)

Reckless Years: A Diary of Love and MadnessSkin Flick

Are you looking forward to any of these titles? What are you reading this summer?

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Event Recap: Jeff Zentner, Susin Nielsen, and Danielle Younge-Ullman

I haven’t wanted to go to a book-related event in a while. (Kind of been enjoying the break from having to be “book blogger Michelle” all the time). But I told myself there were a handful of authors I’d 100% go see if given the chance. People I could not miss. So when Jeff Zentner was announced to come to Brampton, I marked off my calendar and started counting the days.

I arrived at my personal favourite bookstore, ordered a green tea frap, sat down near the Starbucks fireplace and cracked open Zentner’s new novel, Goodbye Days, to get ready. As people started to show up, I grabbed a seat in front of the panel table and got ready to see three amazing authors. Some context: I’ve read Susin Nielsen’s We Are All Made of Molecules and loved it. 5 stars. I’ve read Jeff Zentner’s Serpent King and it is one of my favourite books of all time. I’ve never read any of Danielle Younge-Ullman’s work, but I was very excited to purchase Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined. The three authors took the stage after greeting some familiar faces, and the panel began.

Each of the authors took their turn in front of the mic to talk a bit about their new books, and then read a small excerpt. As each author took centre stage, I could immediately feel their personality all the way from the second row. Susin, Danielle, and Jeff were all incredibly down-to-earth and were having just as much fun at the event as the people who came to see them, which made it all the more enjoyable.

Then it was time for audience questions, where each author took their turn discussing fan-prompted topics such as their writing process, how they come up with their characters, and why they all chose to write novels dealing with grief and coping with loss. It was very clear that Susin, Danielle and Jeff were answering the questions and discussing their writing as sincerely as possible. I’m not a fan of listening to authors who very obviously have answered questions so many times that they just recite answers from memory, and I was very captivated listening to this group.

Once there were no more audience questions, it was time for the book signing! When it was my turn, I first approached Susin, who asked if I was an optimist or a pessimist (a la her newest protagonist), and said that I must be an optimist if I was a blogger. (I am definitely not). (I’m an anxious little bean). (Optimists die first). Anyway! It was such a delight to talk to her.

Next I met Danielle. At the beginning of the event, she was introduced as having dabbled in the Toronto theatre scene, and for the rest of the afternoon I was trying to figure out why she looked familiar. (Some of you may recall my obsession with theatre). I’m very excited to be able to read Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined, and hopefully report back to all of you how amazing it is!

And finally, I got my chance to talk to Jeff. This was his first signing outside of the States (!!) which made it all the more exciting. He signed my books and told me he liked my “no day but today” tattoo, and I got to tell him how much I loved The Serpent King. So you can imagine, I left the bookstore feeling quite dazed.

This Chapters is the one I grew up with. It’s the bookstore my friends and I have visited regularly since I was 11 years old, going for coffee dates and browsing the shelves as wee little book addicts. And now it’s the Chapters where I got to meet three fantastic authors and have my day made. It’s an afternoon I don’t think a book event will live up to for a while.

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Confessions of a High School Disaster by Emma Chastain: Book Review

Confessions of a High School Disaster: Chloe Snow's Diary

Obtained: Simon & Schuster Canada, ARC
Pages: 352
Publish date: March 7, 2017
Rating: ★★★★

SUMMARY

Chloe Snow is just starting her freshman year of high school, and is still a kissing virgin. On top of joining extracurriculars, dealing with her drifting bestie, and the fact that her mom has gone to Mexico for 4 months to “work”, Chloe has a list of boys she’d like to kiss and has made it her personal mission to do so by New Year’s Eve. Because she gets so caught up with the idea of getting kissed, Chloe starts to lose sight of the other things that are going on around her.

WHAT I LIKED

Confession of a High School Disaster was one of the best young readers books I’ve read in a while on the topic of high school dating. The plot originally sounded fairly typical, but what I loved about this book was the fact that it’s so accurate. Chloe is fourteen. When a girl is just becoming a teenager, she is naive and selfish. And the way Chastain wrote from Chloe’s perspective was perfect – everything was about Chloe getting her kiss, or winning the guy, or getting a part in the school musical, that she just didn’t see anything else that was happening in her life.

I also loved the characters. There are only a handful of books where I finish and actually get sad because I feel like I can’t hang out with my friends anymore – the characters are so relatable and real to me. I feel that connection with Confessions. Not so much towards Chloe, honestly, but Tristan was my favourite, and I really loved Chloe’s dad. (I guess I relate more to the adults now, don’t I?)

AND WHAT I DIDN’T

There honestly wasn’t anything that really turned me off about this book. If there was one criticism, I’d say I felt like the antagonists could have been more dynamic, but again, the book was written from the perspective of a girl who would have thought these people to be evil, and not given them a second thought. Girls like Sienna and Bernadette do get their moments to flourish subtextually, but I wish I’d gotten to know them a little better.

RECOMMEND IF…

  • You like stories about growing up.
  • You want an easy, fun read that is also captivating.
  • You enjoy teen books about romance where the characters aren’t ridiculously mature for their age. (Pet peeve of mine – I hate when 14-year-olds talk like they’re 25).

Confessions of a High School Disaster is available online at Chapters Indigo, Book Depository, and Kobo.

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Running by Cara Hoffman: Book Review

Running

Obtained: Simon & Schuster Canada, ARC
Pages: 288
Publish date: February 21, 2017
Rating: ★★★★

Summary

Running brings together an ensemble of outsiders who get by as “runners”—hustlers who sell tourists on low-end accommodations for a small commission and a place to stay.

Bridey Sullivan, a young American woman who has fled a peculiar and traumatic upbringing in Washington State, takes up with a queer British couple, the poet Milo Rollack and Eton drop-out Jasper Lethe. Slipping in and out of homelessness, addiction, and under-the-table jobs, they create their own kind of family as they struggle to survive.

Goodreads

What I Liked

If you know me, you know that I read the summary of this book and jumped at the chance to read it. A cast of anti-hero characters in 1980s Athens? This book had me at ‘hello’! The story was so well-crafted and the poetic writing brought me directly into the setting. And honestly, I feel like the realism of the characters and the setting were my favourite things about reading this book.

As I began reading, I found it sort of hard to get into the book (because of my own reading slump, not because the writing was bad in any way), but once I started reading the dialogue written in Milo’s accent, or got a description of where the characters were, I got pulled right in. I think I read most of this book in one sitting – it was just very captivating.

And What I Didn’t

Like I said earlier, it took me a little bit of time to get into the book, so once I was finally drawn in, it took me some time to catch up. Otherwise, I didn’t really have anything I didn’t like about this book!

Recommend if…

  • You read the summary and went “this sounds right up my alley!”;
  • You enjoyed books like Trainspotting;
  • You want to read about anti-heroes and LGBT characters living in a place that isn’t North America (for once) (what, who said that).

Running is available online at Chapters Indigo, Book Depository, and Kobo.

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February: Currently Reading

Guys, I am actually so excited to share with you the books I’m reading right now. Obviously not all of them at once, but I have quite the TBR pile building up, and for the first time in a long time, I’m not intimidated by the number of books sitting on my shelf (or on my “to-buy-ASAP” list). I’m actually so excited to read everything!

So here are books you can expect me to post reviews for in the next couple of months:

Running  Optimists Die First  Confessions of a High School Disaster: Chloe Snow's Diary  The Fall of Lisa Bellow: A Novel

The Gauntlet  When Dimple Met Rishi   One Day We'll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter   Goodbye Days

  1. Running – Cara Hoffman
  2. Optimists Die First – Susin Nielsen
  3. Confessions of a High School Disaster – Emma Chastain
  4. The Fall of Lisa Bellow – Susan Perabo
  5. The Gauntlet – Karuna Riazi
  6. When Dimple Met Rishi – Sandhya Menon
  7. One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter – Scaachi Koul
  8. Goodbye Days – Jeff Zentner

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The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak: Book Review

The Impossible Fortress

Obtained: Simon & Schuster Canada, ARC
Pages: 304
Publish date: February 7, 2017
Rating: ★★★

Summary

The Impossible Fortress is about Billy Marvin, a 14-year-old boy growing up in the 1980s who is addicted to his Commodore 64. This game-coding kid and his friends discover that Playboy has released some scandalous photos of Wheel of Fortune‘s Vanna White, and they need to get their hands on a copy. The mission to buy a Playboy ends up getting a little bit out of hand, and in order to impress the guys, Billy has to steal a security code from the girl at the corner store by flirting with her. But when he learns about Mary’s mad game-coding skills and the two of them begin creating their own game, he starts to actually care about her.

What I Liked

I thought it was great how Rekulak was able to capture being a teenager in 1987 so perfectly. Billy and his friends were crude, made disgusting comments, casually bullied each other – and despite how uncomfortable it made me sometimes, it is very accurate to what it was like growing up at that time. Billy’s character felt very real to me.

I also really enjoyed reading about gaming and coding, because they’re two things I find really interesting. And while I may not be the best at either of them, I know enough to appreciate these hobbies, and it definitely kept me interested in the book.

and What I Didn’t

I honestly had a hard time staying interested in this book. If it weren’t for the plot involving Mary and the video game coding, I honestly would have put the book down. The main plot involving the group of boys trying to break into a store to steal and sell Playboys just wasn’t interesting to me – maybe because I couldn’t relate.

I was also sort of offended that this book was compared to Ready Player One when I was given a summary. That set my expectations pretty high and honestly, let me down a lot.

Recommend if…

  • You enjoy young adult books set in the 80s
  • You like reading about characters who love video games
  • You are looking for a new, light read

The Impossible Fortress is available online at Chapters Indigo, Book Depository, and Kobo.

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Nintendo Book Tag

So I was scrolling through the blogosphere and found this tag on Zezee with Books‘s blog who got it from the YouTube channel, Sam’s Nonsense. As someone who grew up on Nintendo systems, I was so excited to do a mash-up post of two of my favourite things! So here we go!

NES (Nintendo Entertainment System): A classic you want to read.

Lolita

I was supposed to read Lolita for my American Lit class in university (whoops), but since then I’ve regretted not actually getting to it. That’s probably the next classic I’m going to force myself to read.

SNES (Super Nintendo): A sequel you liked more than the first (can be a second book in a series).

Mark of the Plague (The Blackthorn Key, #2)

September: Currently Reading/TBR

Guys, I’m not dead, I swear.

Things have been kind of busy in my personal life (yes, I have one of those) and my job (I have one of those, too), so I haven’t been keeping up on my reading recently.

But I do have some great books sitting in my to-be-read pile right now, and I wanted to let you know that I’m coming back strong with a ton of reviews in a week or so, so here are the books you can expect reviews for on the blog soon!

Three Years with the RatThe Kite and the String: How to Write with Spontaneity and Control--and Live to Tell the TaleMark of the Plague (The Blackthorn Key, #2)Mosquitoland

I’m also headed to a pretty awesome bookish event this week, which I’ll be posting a recap for! Hang tight, and my page will be full of new content again!

The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp: Book Review

The Spectacular Now

Obtained: Borrowed
Pages: 294
Publish date: July 9, 2013
Rating: ★★★★★

This book kicked me right in the feels. It’s been a while since I’ve read a young adult book that I didn’t find totally over the top, with unrealistic characters. I’ve been putting down a lot of the YAs that I pick up recently, so when my sister pushed this book on me and said I had to read it, I was hesitant. But as you can see, the book got 5/5 stars from me, so you can already tell where I’m going with this review.

The Spectacular Now is about an eighteen-year-old boy, Sutter, who is the life of the party. He’s super fun, friends with everyone, and okay, maybe he’s not academically inclined, but he’s got more personality than anyone he knows. He adores his ultra-confident girlfriend, Cassidy, too. Then one day he meets Aimee – a total nerd who Sutter immediately sees is a push-over, and recognizes that Aimee’s push-over-ness is ruining her potential. Even though he loves drinking at 10AM, and she loves writing science fiction novels about horses abducting her and taking her to another planet, Sutter decides to take Aimee under his wing and help bring her out of her shell.

Favourite thing about the novel: the characters. There are so many typical high school moments in this book – prom, parties, girlfriends and ex-girlfriends, friends meeting friends, and everything in between – and not one of those moments results in the same typical teenage reaction you’d expect. There were a few moments I caught myself mid-eye-roll because I expected the typical teenage girl blow up, or the typical teenage boy fit of anger, at a situation, but Tharp did not write these reactions.

Every single character is real, multi-dimensional, and not just a plot point. They all have real motivations, real fears, real emotions. Which made my experience with the book that much more emotional. You want to hate a guy for stealing someone’s girlfriend, or hate a girl for breaking someone’s heart, but you can’t, because you see their side of the situation, and that creates more feels rather than uncomfortably forced conflict for the sake of story progression.

I could go on and on.

I also HEAVILY related to Aimee. As in, the minute I started reading about her, I could relate to everything she was going through and everything she did to cope, which made reading the book even more real for me.

If you’re looking for a good YA to pull you out of a reading slump, or to re-instate your love of young adult stories, I highly recommend this book. It’s incredible.

The Spectacular Now is available online at Chapters Indigo, Book Depository, and Kobo.

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch: Book Review

Dark Matter

Obtained: Penguin Random House Canada
Pages: 353
Publish date: July 26, 2016
Rating: ★★★★★

Are you a fan of action sci-fi? Because I most definitely am. And when I saw the title of this book, it drew me in, and then the summary, even more so. When I picked up Dark Matter and started to read, I wasn’t entirely sure what kind of story this would be, but once I started reading, I could not put it down.

Dark Matter sets the stage by showing you the lovely life of Jason. Married to a wonderful woman, teenage son, decent home, and their family dynamic is magically balanced. Wife, Daniela, always wanted to be a painter, and Jason himself was on his way to fame and fortune with his scientific research, but both chose this life over one of financial success. Until this night when we meet Jason – he leaves to grab a drink with a friend and is kidnapped by a man in a mask. “Are you happy?” he asks as he drugs Jason and takes him to a world far, far away from his own.

This book asks a lot of great philosophical questions: What is real? What is imagined? What is identity? What makes you, you? What is right or wrong when all of these other lines start to get blurred and you find yourself living your weirdest nightmares?

I loved this book. It was suspenseful, fast-paced, and had me questioning my existence – everything I truly appreciate when reading a good science fiction novel. It was so tense trying to follow Jason on his journey to figure out what had happened to him, and once we figured it out, it was a roller coaster ride to the finish.

If you’re the kind of person who’s so into Philip K. Dick novels (or the film adaptations), or truly loved the witty narration in The Martian, I think you’ll love this book.

Dark Matter is available online at Chapters Indigo, Book Depository, and Kobo.