2016-02-08

Book Review: Worlds of Ink and Shadow

Worlds of Ink and Shadow by Lena Coakley
Release Date ~ January 5, 2016
Abrams Books ~ HarperCollins Canada
ISBN13: 9781419710346
ARC received from HC Canada for review

Goodreads Synopsis:
Charlotte, Branwell, Emily, and Anne. The Brontë siblings have always been close. After all, nothing can unite four siblings quite like life in an isolated parsonage on the moors. Their vivid imaginations lend them escape from their strict, spartan upbringing, actually transporting them into their created worlds: the glittering Verdopolis and the romantic and melancholy Gondal. But at what price? As Branwell begins to slip into madness and the sisters feel their real lives slipping away, they must weigh the cost of their powerful imaginations, even as their characters—the brooding Rogue and dashing Duke of Zamorna—refuse to let them go.


This richly conceived, haunting fantasy draws on the early writings of this most famous literary family to explore the deathless bonds between sisters and brothers, between writers and their creations.

Despite my longstanding love of literature,  I've never read any books by any of the Brontes. So I came into readings Worlds of Ink and Shadow with very few ideas or expectations for the story.

I didn't realize how much of the story is based on actual events in the Bronte family's life until I had finished the book. For that reason, I think Worlds of Ink and Shadow is likely more appreciated by avid fans of the Brontes, with plenty of appeal for those who are new to their stories (both real and fictional) as I am.


  1. The power of a rich imagination:

    The premise of the story is a fascinating one, and an idea which I'm sure many readers and writers have wished was true; how would you like to be able to enter into the world you've read about or created? What would you sacrifice in order to make that dream come true?
  2. Family dynamics:

    The relationship between the Bronte siblings was also interesting to read, as there's jealousy, rivalry, but also a strong sense of loyalty. I liked this flawed, realistic view of the Bronte siblings and the trials they encounter, and I particularly liked how Lena Coakley tied this into the historical facts we know about the Bronte family. 
I find that much of historical fiction has a different pace from other genres, and Worlds of Ink and Shadow is no exception. The story is gradual and I found it was a harder narrative to adapt to, and it took me a few chapters to really get into the story. Readers expecting something with a faster pace may be disappointed and find this a harder story to read.

But at the end of the book, I was left with a greater appreciation for the Bronte family and their stories (both real and imagined). I recommend Worlds of Ink and Shadows for readers who, like me, are new to the Bronte family and are looking for an enjoyable introduction.



2016-02-04

Book Review: The Masked Truth

The Masked Truth by Kelley Armstrong
Release Date ~ October 13, 2015
Doubleday Canada ~ Random House
ISBN13: 9780385684750
Review copy received from Penguin Random House Canada

Goodreads Synopsis:
Riley Vasquez is haunted by the brutal murder of the couple she was babysitting for.

Max Cross is suffering under the shadow of a life-altering diagnosis he doesn’t dare reveal.

The last thing either of them wants is to spend a weekend away at a therapy camp alongside five other teens with “issues.” But that’s exactly where they are when three masked men burst in to take the group hostage.

The building has no windows. The exits are sealed shut. Their phones are gone. And their captors are on a killing spree.

Riley and Max know that if they can’t get out, they’ll be next—but they’re about to discover that even escape doesn’t equal freedom.

The Masked Truth is a thought-provoking thriller, one which will appeal to those who crave action and mystery, but appreciate a challenging plot at the same time.



  1. A sensitive approach to mental health:

    I'm happy to see more books that tackle the subject of mental health, but I'm even happier to see books which are sensitive to the experiences of people who experience mental health issues. The Masked Truth is particularly good at this, while featuring a number of characters with various mental health diagnoses, yet treats them as respectfully as they should be. Their struggles are acknowledged and readers are given just a hint of some of the internal struggles one might experience.
  2. A complex, engaging mystery:

    I thought I had figured out what twists there would be in the story fairly early on, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I was wrong and the book wasn't as easy to figure out as I originally believed. The plot takes quite a few turns in different directions, which is important. I like a mystery that keeps me guessing for the length of the book. 
There were a few aspects of the storyline that I had a harder time with because they seemed too unlikely to be believable. They felt a little too convenient for the plot which made them feel forced and disrupted the flow of the story and left me with quite a few questions when I had finished reading. While the mystery was good, it didn't feel like it was wrapped up in a satisfying way.

But the real strength of The Masked Truth is its characters. I loved Riley and Max, both so different from each other and different from me. Even while struggling with incredibly difficult circumstances, all of the characters felt lifelike and genuine. I cared about their stories and what happened to them. And their relationships developed naturally, in a way that seemed very authentic.




2016-01-13

Book Review: Blood and Salt

Blood and Salt (Blood and Salt #1) by Kim Liggett
Release Date ~ September 22, 2015
G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers ~ Penguin
ISBN13: 9780399166488
ARC received from Penguin Canada for review

Goodreads Synopsis:
Romeo and Juliet meets Children of the Corn in this one-of-a-kind romantic horror.

“When you fall in love, you will carve out your heart and throw it into the deepest ocean. You will be all in—blood and salt.”

These are the last words Ash Larkin hears before her mother returns to the spiritual commune she escaped long ago. But when Ash follows her to Quivira, Kansas, something sinister and ancient waits among the rustling cornstalks of this village lost to time.

Ash is plagued by memories of her ancestor, Katia, which harken back to the town’s history of unrequited love and murder, alchemy and immortality. Charming traditions soon give way to a string of gruesome deaths, and Ash feels drawn to Dane, a forbidden boy with secrets of his own.

As the community prepares for a ceremony five hundred years in the making, Ash must fight not only to save her mother, but herself—and discover the truth about Quivira before it’s too late. Before she’s all in—blood and salt.

Blood and Salt is likely one of my most unexpected reads this year but in a very pleasant way. There's a little bit of horror, but a lot of magic which makes for a surprising and fun read - one that is ideal for the autumn season right before Halloween!


  1. A good horror read for those who don't typically read it:

    I think the fact that Blood and Salt is fairly light on horror is going to cut both ways; on one hand, it's great for people who are new to horror or don't particularly love to read it. This is a great book for them. On the other hand, those expecting a terrifying story likely won't find it here. Blood and Salt has some disturbing, eerie scenes but nothing that left me scared to turn the light off.
  2. A creative and unlikely mashup:

    Blood and Salt has been marketed as Children of the Corn meets Romeo and Juliet, which is one description I never imagined I would hear. And I have to say, it's an accurate description. The story is part star-crossed, fated lovers trapped in a bizarre and life-threatening (potentially supernatural) situation. The romance also has an important role to play, as its integral to the overall plot and why certain events are happening. 
But more importantly than simply a unique storyline, there's some interesting myths and magic behind the events unfolding in Blood and Salt. I'm a curious person, so I wanted to know precisely what was going on as Ash tries to figure out what happened to Katia and how that relates to Ash. 

The biggest disappointment to me was that Blood and Salt didn't feel like true horror which is what I was hoping to find in this book. Horror is a tricky genre to write, and while the story started strong, it didn't maintain the creepy atmosphere that it started with. 

The combination of horror and romance is a unique one, and I think it's the main reason why Blood and Salt is one of the more interesting books I've read. It stands out from others, and I loved seeing such a creative spin!




2016-01-12

Book Review: The Impostor Queen

The Impostor Queen (The Impostor Queen #1) by Sarah Fine
Release Date ~ January 5, 2016
Margaret K. McElderry Books ~ Simon & Schuster Canada
ISBN13: 9781481441902
ARC received from S&S Canada for review

Goodreads Synopsis:
Sixteen-year-old Elli was a small child when the Elders of Kupari chose her to succeed the Valtia, the queen who wields infinitely powerful ice and fire magic. Since then, Elli has lived in the temple, surrounded by luxury and tutored by magical priests, as she prepares for the day when the Valtia perishes and the magic finds a new home in her. Elli is destined to be the most powerful Valtia to ever rule.

But when the queen dies defending the kingdom from invading warriors, the magic doesn’t enter Elli. It’s nowhere to be found.

Disgraced, Elli flees to the outlands, the home of banished criminals—some who would love to see the temple burn with all its priests inside. As she finds her footing in this new world, Elli uncovers devastating new information about the Kupari magic, those who wield it, and the prophecy that foretold her destiny. Torn between the love she has for her people and her growing loyalty to the banished, Elli struggles to understand the true role she was meant to play. But as war looms, she must align with the right side—before the kingdom and its magic are completely destroyed.

The Impostor Queen reminded me a little bit of Disney's Frozen - now bear with me - but not in a way that felt overly familiar or predictable. The world of The Impostor Queen is a magical realm ruled by a young queen who is gifted with awe-inspiring fire and ice magic, in a world where magic isn't very common and the two types are not combined in such strength. And many of the characters struggle with themselves and their own identities. But that's where the similarities end.


  1. Strong character development:

    Ellie's demeanor changes drastically over the course of the story, as she leaves the only life she's known behind her. It's a pivotal moment for her, because while she has clearly always been a curious person it spurs her to action and to finally start making decisions for herself. It can be tricky to write a character who experiences such extreme changes in just one book, but it's done well here in a way that feels natural and crucial.
  2. A vibrant fantasy world:

    This is so important in fantasy books, but too often it's skipped over. Sarah Fine has put an incredible amount of thought and imagination into creating the world found in The Impostor Queen making it a captivating read in which it's easy to lose yourself as a reader. There are rules to magic and how it can be used, some of the politics are hinted at (and I'm hoping to learn more of later on in the series), along with secrets and mysteries.
  3. A story that doesn't disappoint:

    It's fairly often that I read a book which I enjoy, but disappoints me in some small ways. Usually, it's because I feel the book relies on cliches or overused plot twists. I loved that The Impostor Queen didn't rely on any of these to keep the story moving ahead. For example, instead of having a love triangle, the romance in the story changes and flows naturally. And instead of dragging out the story with a ridiculous and unnecessary fight, the characters learn to deal with their problems head on. These are minor details, but they make for a much more enjoyable story. 

I've written about another one of Sarah Fine's books before, but I have to repeat myself here: Sarah is an exceptional author. She's talented and writes beautiful books which hold your attention and flow beautifully. She instills emotion behind each and every word and truly sets the stage for her story with the language she uses.

The only thing I might add to the story is additional character development for some of the secondary characters. While Elli stands out as a lifelike character, I felt that some (Oskar and Sig, in particular) could have benefited from more backstory and more dimension. I'm optimistic that this is something that will come in the future, as they're able to engage more with the plot on their own instead of relying on revealing more about Elli's situation as The Impostor Queen needed to do.

The Impostor Queen is a lively book, one that will readily hook readers for a satisfying read and left me anxiously awaiting the next book to learn more about the future Kupari and its citizens.



2015-10-08

Cover Reveal: Holly Schindler's Spark

I'm excited to be a part of the cover reveal for Holly Schindler's upcoming release, Spark!

Fair warning... it's a snazzy one! I'm a fan of it :) I love the colours and dreamy look to it.

A bit about the book:

When the right hearts come to the Avery Theater—at the right time—the magic will return. The Avery will come back from the dead.

Or so Quin’s great-grandmother predicted many years ago on Verona, Missouri’s most tragic night, when Nick and Emma, two star-crossed teenage lovers, died on the stage. It was the night that the Avery’s marquee lights went out forever. 

It sounds like urban legend, but one that high school senior Quin is now starting to believe, especially when her best friend, Cass, and their classmate Dylan step onto the stage and sparks fly. It seems that magic can still unfold at the old Avery Theater and a happier ending can still be had—one that will align the stars and revive not only the decrepit theater, but also the decaying town. However, it hinges on one thing—that Quin gets the story right this time around.

Holly Schindler brings the magic of the theater to life in this tale of family ties, fate, love, and one girl’s quest to rewrite history.

Spark is set for a release date of May 17, 2016 from HarperTeen. 

I love the idea of an urban legend, which sounds like it has a rather important part to play in Spark (sorry, pun intended with that one)!

And now... the cover reveal!


So, what do we think? Are you a fan of this cover? I'm curious to see how the image here fits with the rest of the story!

You can currently pre-order Spark on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, and for my Canadian friends - Amazon Canada and Chapters Indigo :)

Don't forget to add it to your Goodreads TBR shelf! Spark


Holly Schindler is the author of three previous YA novels: PLAYING HURT as well as the critically acclaimed FERAL (starred PW review) and A BLUE SO DARK (starred Booklist review, ForeWord Book of the Year silver medal, IPPY gold medal). A writer of books for all ages, Schindler’s MG, THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY, has made the master list for children’s book awards in Illinois, South Carolina, and Alabama. She is also a hybrid author, having independently released comedic women’s fiction (FIFTH AVENUE FIDOS) and the forthcoming PLAY IT AGAIN, her adult follow-up to her YA PLAYING HURT. She can be reached through her author site, and hosts special sneak peeks and giveaways for subscribers of her newsletter.




2015-09-14

Book Review: The Wrath and the Dawn

The Wrath and the Dawn (The Wrath and the Dawn #1) by Renee Ahdieh
Release Date ~ May 12, 2015
G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers ~ Penguin
ISBN13: 9780399171611
ARC received from Penguin Canada for review

Goodreads Synopsis:
One Life to One Dawn.

In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad's dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph's reign of terror once and for all.

Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she'd imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It's an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid's life as retribution for the many lives he's stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?

Inspired by A Thousand and One Nights, The Wrath and the Dawn is a sumptuous and enthralling read from beginning to end.

The Wrath and the Dawn is a mesmerizing retelling of Arabian Nights.Renee Ahdieh's storytelling instantly captivated me with her beautiful writing and rich plot.



  1. Life-like characters:

    We know that humans are flawed, and the characters in The Wrath and the Dawn are no exception to this. But there is a fine line to writing flawed characters, because the reader still needs to be able to tolerate their flaws so as not to be terribly frustrated with the characters. All of the characters in this book have such distinct, strong personalities that this feels like a real story set in a real world, and really helps to develop the plot.
  2. Steady, gradual development:

    The book has a slower pace than other action-packed stories, but this works well because it allows the reader to see the extensive development which takes place. Khalid and Shahrzad have a complicated relationship (to say the least...) and it takes time for their feelings towards each other to change. And that, in turn, also propels the story in a new direction. I think this is also partially because Shahrzad has to practice patience with her plan, but as time goes on, she starts to uncover more secrets and the truth behind them.
  3. Captivating writing:

    Enough cannot be said for Renee Ahdieh's style of writing. I fell in love with it right away. She gives Shahrzad a strong voice and personality, and I loved reading about clever, brave, and risk-taking Shazi. She is deeply loyal, and yet so much of her personality was expressed with Renee's subtle writing. Renee somehow manages to describe both immensely painful scenes and very sexy ones. And most incredibly, the writing creates this mysterious and mystical ambiance which perfectly sets the mood for The Wrath and the Dawn. 

Khalid is particularly interesting to me, because it's rare to see a YA character with so much power. It isn't often that it is shown quite as explicitly nor that as much thought is given to the inner turmoil of such a powerful character. 

And it's interesting to see how the story seems to clash with itself; I spent most of the book changing my mind about who is the true heroine (or hero) and who is the true villain. There is so much to this story, that I can't even begin to touch on every aspect in one review. It truly is the type of book which you need to experience for yourself in its entirety. 





2015-09-11

Book Review: Court of Fives

Court of Fives (Court of Fives #1) by Kate Elliott
Release Date ~ August 18, 2015
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers ~ Hachette Book Group
ISBN13: 9780316364195
ARC received from HBG Canada for review

Goodreads Synopsis:
On the Fives court, everyone is equal.

And everyone is dangerous.

Jessamy’s life is a balance between acting like an upper-class Patron and dreaming of the freedom of the Commoners. But away from her family, she can be whomever she wants when she sneaks out to train for the Fives, an intricate, multilevel athletic competition that offers a chance for glory to the kingdom’s best competitors.

Then Jes meets Kalliarkos, and an improbable friendship between the two Fives competitors—one of mixed race and the other a Patron boy—causes heads to turn. When Kal’s powerful, scheming uncle tears Jes’s family apart, she’ll have to test her new friend’s loyalty and risk the vengeance of a royal clan to save her mother and sisters from certain death.

In this imaginative escape into an enthralling new world, World Fantasy Award finalist Kate Elliott’s first young adult novel weaves an epic story of a girl struggling to do what she loves in a society suffocated by rules of class and privilege.

Court of Fives is an exciting fantasy book, inspired in part by some characteristics of the Roman Empire. And not only is it an engaging story, but it tackles some issues which aren't often addressed in mainstream YA books - specifically, I was impressed by the inclusion of a biracial character.

All together, Court of Fives is one of my favourite books this year: a rich fantasy book with complex characters and a story I was drawn into.


  1. The thought-provoking depiction of a class system:

    The class system in Court of Fives is particularly intriguing because it is also clearly based on race. Jessamy's father is a Patron and her mother is a Commoner (terms used to describe the two main classes). These two classes also have different features so it's physically obvious to which class you belong. So in Jessamy's case, it's obvious to both groups that she shares features from both. The problem for her is that she never feels like she fully belongs to either group - this is highlighted by the many incidents in which she's isolated from one or both groups. Few books have written a character like this with struggles like this, and I can say that from experience, it is an accurate portrayal of the struggle to belong. It's an important aspect of diversity in books and I'm glad to see it depicted here.
  2. Complicated characters:

    There are a lot of characters in Court of Fives, but I was pleased to see how developed they were in one sense; they all felt like independent characters, with their own ambitions and fears. And while in some respects this is frustrating, it's nice to read about characters who feel realistic and human. The villains aren't as simple as being pure evil, nor are our heroes all good.
  3. Strong world-building:

    Fantasy done well should include a well-developed world for the story to take place in. Kate Elliott does this successfully in Court of Fives by including a number of areas to assist in developing the world she created; religion and customs are addressed, as is the class system within society. And furthermore, there are expectations and duties, which Jessamy struggles to reconcile. 
As much as I enjoyed the bulk of this book, it also features one of my biggest pet peeves. Too often books that I read force a character to make a choice; the problem is, that I often find that choice to feel too much like a plot device in order to add some angst and drama to the story. It's a fine line, because yes, hard choices must be made at times. But there are many times when I read this and I can think of a handful of other options available to the character, so their choice just feels like unnecessary conflict. It detracts from the story rather than enhancing it as it should.

Court of Fives is one of the richest fantasy worlds I've encountered lately, and it stands out from many others, particularly with its Roman Empire inspiration. It's a charming tale with a wonderful heroine, and engaging story.




 
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