Coming up: Blog tour for Internet Famous & other things

I have been away on a brief blogging hiatus due to a myriad of factors and life being generally frenetic, and perhaps unsurprisingly am behind on reading and writing reviews. But somehow- mysteriously!-  more books have made their way onto my must-read list! Besides reading comics- which is my go-to comfort reading when things are bumpy- there are a few books I have managed to start in the last week. The first is a graphic novel called Invisible Emmie by Terri Libensen- I’m about halfway through and really enjoying it. Great mix of humour with aches and pains of middle school…This is a perfect read to recommend to any Raina Telgemeier and Victoria Jamieson fans out there! The second is a contemporary YA title by Canadian-based author Jennifer Honeybourn called Wesley James Ruined My Life. Due out in July, this is, so far, a delightful, frothy read, reminiscent of Lindsey Leavitt and Jessica Brody. I haven’t talked much lately about contemporary/romantic YA- it is unfortunately a genre that has fallen a bit off my radar. But having had the chance meet Jennifer at a recent event and getting to hear more about her writing, Wesley James, and her process to publication really cinched it for me as a YA title I wanted to dive into.

Also coming up this week- more YA! The Raincoast Books blog tour for Canadian author Danika Stone‘s young adult novel Internet Famous stops here on Friday, June 16th. You can take a look at the blog tour postcard to see which awesome bloggers/reviewers are participating and when!

Coming up: Blog Tour for Fish Girl by David Wiesner and Donna Jo Napoli!

Next week, I am participating in the Raincoast Books organized tour for Fish Girl, a graphic novel by multiple Caldecott winner David Wiesner and Donna Jo Napoli! I am delighted to be taking part as I am a huge fan of David Wiesner’s illustrative work (Sector 7, Flotsam, Mr. Wuffles) and Donna Jo Napoli’s work (Zel, Sirena, and many more!). Take a look below to check out the terrific lineup of bloggers; the tour stops here on Friday, March 3.

Look forward to the Fish Girl tour coming up as well as some new reviews!

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Blog Tour Stop: The Playbook by Kwame Alexander!

Welcome to one of the stops on the Raincoast Books blog tour for Kwame Alexander‘s latest, The Playbook!

Read on for my thoughts on the book as well as a special excerpt from the book!

the-playbook-coverThe Playbook: 52 Rules to Aim, Shoot, and Score in This Game Called Life by Kwame Alexander, photos by Thai Neave
Source: ARC courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Expected publication: February 14, 2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Book Description:

You gotta know the rules to play the game. Ball is life . Take it to the hoop. Soar. What can we imagine for our lives? What if we were the star players, moving and grooving through the game of life? What if we had our own rules of the game to help us get what we want, what we aspire to, what will enrich our lives?

Illustrated with photographs by Thai Neave, The Playbook is intended to provide inspiration on the court of life. Each rule contains wisdom from inspiring athletes and role models such as Nelson Mandela, Serena Williams, LeBron James, Carli Lloyd, Steph Curry and Michelle Obama. Kwame Alexander also provides his own poetic and uplifting words, as he shares stories of overcoming obstacles and winning games in this motivational and inspirational book just right for graduates of any age and anyone needing a little encouragement.

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Author, poet, and educator Kwame Alexander is a Newbery Medal winning recipient- for The Crossover– and highly regarded author with such titles as the stellar Booked and picture book Surf’s Up to his name. With The Playbook, Alexander approaches the non-fiction children’s/teen genre with his genuinely inspiring and impassioned voice.

Starting with a section called ‘Warm up’, and moving on through four quarters and into ‘Overtime’, The Playbook is divided up into manageable chapters with accompanying and relevant rules, quotes (from accomplished professionals in and out of sports) and personal stories, poems and/or notes from Alexander himself. I think it can be tricky navigating and creating a non-fiction title for children and teens that aims for inspiring; the audience/readers are a tough and discerning crowd who can easily suss out insincerity or try-hard. In Alexander’s hands though, The Playbook only ever reads as genuine: from an author who himself comes from an authentic place of meaning what he says, who has lived through what they are talking about and sharing, and who practices what they advocate.

I personally found The Playbook to be candid and encouraging as well as grounded; a book of terrific application for a huge children’s and teen audience. The use of quotations from highly respected athletes as well as leaders (in literature and beyond) are wonderfully effective and meaningful here; readers who might not be into sports and worried about connecting with ‘sports’ content need not worry as everything in The Playbook is all analogous to life. One component of The Playbook I especially adore (as I am a huge fan of Alexander’s work) is the sections which include Alexander’s personal stories- talking about his own struggles in sports, trying to measure up to his incredibly athletic and celebrated father, and how he made it through wins and losses and major struggles.

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Overall, The Playbook is a great non-fiction title that makes for a wonderful addition to any children’s/teen collection. An uplifting read with spirit and heart, The Playbook is an inspiring read that sings with authenticity through Alexander’s electrifying and effortless way with words. Readers who appreciate and enjoy reading non-fiction, or reading more true-to-life stories, or personal stories from authors might especially want to check out The Playbook. Those who have already read and loved Kwame Alexander’s previous work might also be interested in checking this one out as well!

Interested in reading more reviews and excerpts from this awesome book? You can check out the other great blogs participating in the tour:

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I received a copy of this title courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review and for the purposes of this blog tour. All opinions and comments are my own.

Coming Up: Blog Tour for The Playbook by Kwame Alexander!

Sometimes, one can feel a little bit like poor Charlie Brown up there getting duped yet again by Lucy and the football! I’m not getting all maudlin or dramatic, I promise, it’s just been yet another bit of a bumpy stretch with health issues and a genuine lack of time for reading or reviewing! Some really awesome bookish bits in the midst of everything, though: new books I’ve bought include Adam Silvera’s History Is All You Left Me and Lisa Lutz’s The Passenger; I received lovely books from Penguin Canada including Lauren Graham’s Someday, Someday, Maybe, Kyo Maclear’s Birds Art Life; and I also received some stunning picture book goodies from Raincoast Books including Tony by Ed Galing and Erin E. Stead (a favourite illustrator).  Mr. Fab and I also finished (the original) Broadchurch series, season 2. Holy smokes, terrifically acted and put together- and intense. I would argue that it was even sharper, even better than the already stellar season one. We’re back to making our way through Psych now as I needed something a bit lighter to watch!

Next week, I am participating in the Raincoast Books organized tour for award-winning author, educator and poet Kwame Alexander‘s latest book The Playbook! Thrilled to be part of the tour as I am a BIG fan of Kwame Alexander’s work! Take a look below to check out the lineup of bloggers; the tour stops here on January 26th. Look forward to that coming up as well as a few new reviews I’ve got cooking!

 

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Blog Tour Stop: The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett by Chelsea Sedoti!

lizzielovett9781492636083Welcome to one of the stops on the Raincoast Books blog tour for Chelsea Sedoti’s contemporary YA debut, The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett!

Read on for my thoughts on the book as well as a special Q & A with Chelsea!

The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett by Chelsea Sedoti
Source: ARC courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: January 3, 2017 by Sourcebooks
Book Description:

Hawthorn wasn’t trying to insert herself into a missing person’s investigation. Or maybe she was. But that’s only because Lizzie Lovett’s disappearance is the one fascinating mystery their sleepy town has ever had. Bad things don’t happen to popular girls like Lizzie Lovett, and Hawthorn is convinced she’ll turn up at any moment-which means the time for speculation is now.

So Hawthorn comes up with her own theory for Lizzie’s disappearance. A theory way too absurd to take seriously… at first. The more Hawthorn talks, the more she believes. And what better way to collect evidence than to immerse herself in Lizzie’s life? Like getting a job at the diner where Lizzie worked and hanging out with Lizzie’s boyfriend. After all, it’s not as if he killed her-or did he?

Told with a unique voice that is both hilarious and heart-wrenching, Hawthorn’s quest for proof may uncover the greatest truth is within herself.

My relationship, if you will, to young adult novels- and contemporary YA especially- has been on a bit of a bumpy journey over the last five years or so. At one point in my life, it was a genre that I read almost exclusively- then drastically dropped to a minimal amount when I felt as though tropes and themes had been too often retread. Nowadays, my reading of YA titles is…careful…cautious…sometimes apprehensive. Thanks to authors such as Jeff Zentner, Kathryn Ormsbee, Lisa Moore, Jane Ozkowski, and J.M. Kelly as of late though, I’ve found much to love and look forward to in YA. Chelsea Sedoti is, I am happy to say, another new YA author that I can add to that refreshing roster.

In The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett, we follow the sometimes meandering, unexpected and unusual first-person narrative of teenager Hawthorn Creely. At the centre of the story is Hawthorn’s fixation with the disappearance of a former high school classmate of her brother’s- the supposedly perfect Lizzie Lovett. To Hawthorn, Lizzie is many things. Perhaps too many things. The girl she remembers as always gorgeous, always popular, forever having other girls look up to her and forever having guys want to be with her. The older, amazing girl who let Hawthorn down years before. When Hawthorn learns that Lizzie has disappeared during the course of a camping trip- possibly murdered by her boyfriend, possibly run away, possibly killed by wild animals in the woods- she gets drawn in further and further into conducting her own investigation…and offering her arguably bizarre, mythical theory as to what happened to Lizzie. As she learns that the Lizzie Lovett she remembers, obsessed over and sometimes (or often) hated was not quite who she thought, Hawthorn becomes even more strangely enmeshed with Lizzie Lovett as she befriends Lizzie’s boyfriend- possible murder suspect- Enzo Calvetti.

Sedoti has, in Hawthorn, created quite an interesting young protagonist and narrator- one of those utterly compelling and exasperating, highly introspective yet oblivious teen characters that I have a tendency to appreciate. Readers may fall in love with Hawthorn, they may like her a lot or a little bit- they could even grow very frustrated with Hawthorn, especially as her friendship with Enzo heaves some major ups, major downs and moments of WHY. However you find Hawthorn, though, her voice is so terrifically imperfect and odd that you might find yourself quite hooked. I especially appreciate how Chelsea writes Hawthorn’s voice as the story leads to the discovery of what actually happened to Lizzie Lovett (we do indeed find out), the fallout from discovery, the manner(s) in which Hawthorn reacts and how the strange trajectory of Lizzie, Enzo and Hawthorn culminates before the close of the story.

Overall, a solid, thoughtful and offbeat read with genuinely felt moments of insight. Readers who have previously enjoyed the work of YA authors such as Jasmine Warga, Julie Halpern, Jessica Martinez or Leila Sales and enjoy contemporary teen reads featuring a stand-out and unusual voice might do very well to check out The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett.

Question Time with Chelsea Sedoti

Bloggers participating in The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett tour had, thanks to the awesomeness of Chelsea and Raincoast Books, the opportunity to ask one question of the author. I had a few brewing here and there but tried to narrow it down to one bigger question that kept percolating as I read the story…

Q: The idea of a ‘Lizzie Lovett’- that person that we think or assume is perfect, is adored, has an easy life, and thus someone we envy deep down- is something that I think most all of us can relate to. Did you have a Lizzie Lovett in your life growing up– and did your relationship to or understanding of that person ever change in surprising ways as you got older?

A:I have this bad habit where I compare myself to other people, then decide I don’t measure up.

The result: I haven’t had one Lizzie Lovett. I’ve had a million of them.

For example, my cousins. It’s an unlucky fact of my life that I’ve grown up with cousins who are basically superhuman. They’re smart. They’re attractive. They’re athletic which, in my sports-obsessed family, is maybe the biggest deal of all. (I should note that I was the kid who got picked last for teams and spent most of PE hiding.)

My cousins are easy-going. In school, they were popular—or at least generally well-liked. They were outgoing, unlike shy, quiet me. They weren’t “weird.” They weren’t “nerds.”

Eventually these cousins grew up and went to college where they quickly and successfully got degrees without bouncing between majors and wondering “But what do I really want to do with my life?” They got great jobs. They married people as awesome as them. They had beautiful kids.

It’s safe to say, I grew up feeling inferior. Constantly. That’s what happens when your family is perfect.

Except my cousins aren’t perfect, not really. I listed their successes, but didn’t bother mentioning their personal struggles. I cut out all the bad stuff that’s happened to them and made generalizations about their lives.

Recently one of these cousins commented to me that it’s amazing I’m getting a book published. That I actually accomplished what I always said I wanted to. That I get to spend my life doing what I’m passionate about.

And yeah, that is amazing.

It drives home the fact that you can spend your whole life envying another person, and never realize that maybe that person envies you too.

It’s hard to keep that in mind sometimes. But I try to remind myself that there’s always more going on with a person than what you see publicly. Even the people who are the most talented, the most beautiful, and the most successful, have struggles and flaws and times of deep unhappiness.

No one is perfect. And sometimes it’s our imperfections that make us the most fascinating.

Thank you so much for your time, Chelsea! It has been a pleasure, and so fascinating and interesting reading your thoughtful answer.

Interested in reading more Q&A’s with Chelsea and more on Lizzie Lovett? You can check out the other great blogs participating in the tour:

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I received a copy of this title courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review and for the purposes of this blog tour. All opinions and comments are my own.

Coming up: Blog Tour for The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett!

What a week, folks! The New Year started off brilliantly with a dinner out and a trip to the theatre to see the gorgeous and moving La La Land and then…cue sad trombone music. I’ve been trying to recuperate from a dragging-on illness and then our little one got sick as well. It was a rare week in which I was barely able to read – save for some comic book reading (a good medicine)- and unable to post.

However! Next week on the site there are some good things planned, one of which is stop on the Raincoast Books hosted blog tour for Chelsea Sedoti‘s YA novel The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett!

Below is more information on the when’s and where’s of the tour. I hope you stop by here on the 12th to read my review and find out what I asked the author!

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Blog Tour: Speed of Life by J.M. Kelly

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Welcome to one of the stops on the Raincoast Books blog tour for J.M. Kelly’s contemporary YA title, Speed of Life!

Read on for my thoughts on the book as well as a special excerpt from the novel!

speedoflife9780544747821Speed of Life by J.M. Kelly
Source: ARC courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: October 11, 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Book Description:

Twins Crystal and Amber have the same goal: to be the first in their family to graduate high school and make something of their lives. When one gets pregnant during their junior year, they promise to raise the baby together. It’s not easy, but between their after-school jobs, they’re scraping by.

Crystal’s grades catch the attention of the new guidance counselor, who tells her about a college that offers a degree in automotive restoration, perfect for the car buff she is. When she secretly applies-and gets in-new opportunities threaten their once-certain plans, and Crystal must make a choice: follow her dreams or stay behind and honor the promise she made to her sister.

 

You may already be familiar with author J.M. Kelly, a Canadian writer, as she has authored a few books under her name Joëlle Anthony! Her newest YA novel, Speed of Life, has been well-reviewed and received in journals ranging from Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly to School Library Journal, and it is indeed a terrific addition to the genre of realistic young adult lit.

Speed of Life is told through the strong, candid and revealing first-person narrative of Crystal Robbins, a high school senior in Portland, Oregon. Crystal and her twin sister Amber live in substandard conditions with their mom and step dad (both of whom are arguably ineffective as parental figures and providers). Not only is their money, or lack-thereof, an ever-present consideration and worry in everything that the girls do- including juggling school, homework, working their part-time jobs as much as they can- Amber and Crystal also have a daughter to look after. Sharing responsibilities as moms to a bright and gorgeous baby girl named Natalie, Crystal and Amber do everything together and have planned to live together and co-parent Natalie after high school. That changes, however, when Crystal finds that her passion in life- the restoration of vintage muscle cars- might actually be a career that she can pursue with education beyond high school. While Amber is content to stay in Portland and work at a family-owned tavern full-time after graduation, Crystal starts feeling the push and pull of stepping out from Portland and her family’s name.

Crystal’s first-person narrative is such a great surprise: a memorable, wonderfully-defined voice, blunt and guarded yet full of reflexiveness and care. Kelly certainly puts her characters through multiple emotional and physical wringers throughout the course of the novel; you can’t help as a reader but to root like crazy that Amber and Crystal (and Natalie) find some kind of better-after for themselves. While the teen mom/teen pregnancy component is a major aspect of the novel, Kelly rather fascinatingly leaves the reveal of which of the twin sisters actually gave birth to Natalie until a late point in the novel. Another significant topic which Kelly broaches in Speed of Life is that of class and poverty, as narrated through Crystal’s uncompromising eyes. The introduction of a character named David, who becomes a co-worker and classmate of Crystal’s, and is from a relatively wealthy family, works especially to highlight the severe discrepancies that Crystal faces: not only as a young mom trying to pursue a non-traditional career but also as a young woman who is held back by financial limitations and missing parental support.

Overall, Speed of Life is a solidly written, thoughtful and weighty contemporary YA novel. It is a compelling read with well-developed protagonists that places characters in arduous, serious (and real-life) situations, but a read that ultimately proffers a lot of hope. Readers who tend toward the more uncompromising realistic YA novels, or who appreciate the writing of authors such as Sara Zarr, Jessica Martinez, Holly Goldberg Sloan, or C.K. Kelly Martin might especially enjoy J.M. Kelly’s Speed of Life.

Read on for an exclusive excerpt from Speed of Life!…

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Blog Tour: Everton Miles is Stranger Than Me by Philippa Dowding

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Welcome to one of the stops on the Dundurn Press blog tour for Canadian author Philippa Dowding’s Everton Miles is Stranger Than Me!

philippa_dowdingI am delighted to present a detailed interview I had the wonderful chance to do with Philippa, as well as a review of Everton Miles is Stranger Than Me, Philippa’s latest middle grade read!

Welcome to Fab Book Reviews, Philippa! I am so delighted to have you here! Let’s dig right into the questions I have for you…

Q: When you first started creating Gwendolyn’s world and the concept of the Night Flyers for The Strange Gift of Gwendolyn Golden, were you already thinking ahead to the possibility of a follow-up story involving Everton Miles? 

A: The truth is, I really thought that The Strange Gift of Gwendolyn Golden would be a perfect stand-alone book. At the end of the story, I left Gwendolyn sitting on a swing pondering her future, and it was a wonderful ambiguity that I liked. To fly or not to fly? Who knows what we will become when we are fourteen? But once the book was nominated for an OLA Red Maple award in 2015 (thank you!), I met with a lot of readers who really wanted to know what happened next. I started to think about that, and on re-reading the first book, the boy Everton Miles from the Midsummer Party jumped out at me. He was my way into the sequel.

Q. I was absolutely fascinated by the characters of Abilith, the Rogue Flyer and Celestine, the Spirit Flyer. How do you go about creating such unearthly, intangible characters? What kind of research goes into building a character such as a fallen angel or a spirit?

A: Thank you! I’m glad you liked them!

The forces for good are immortal Spirit Flyers, Celestine and her older brothers and sisters, who watch over Gwendolyn and the other human Night Flyers. They’re benevolent overlords, a bit haughty, smart, useful in their way and well-meaning enough, but endearingly clueless most of the time. They were quite fun to write! I’m a lifelong Star Trek fan, so think early Vulcans from Enterprise, with a touch of Karellen from Childhood’s End (without the menace).

The antagonist, the tragic, fallen anti-hero, Abilith the Rogue, has much darker influences. To breathe life into him and his netherworld, I re-read Milton’s Paradise Lost, Dante’s Inferno, and Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book for his Silas character, and Bod’s trip to the underworld. I went back to Mary Shelley, and H. P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness for his bleak, alien landscape. I revisited the final chapters of Captain Ahab’s tale, as he tried too late to reconnect with his mutinous crew.

What made these characters and stories so beguiling? Personally, I think a great antagonist needs a touch of humanity, a quirk or flaw that we can recognize in ourselves. Although Abilith’s actions over time are monstrous and eventually he becomes a bitter, cruel, sociopathic outcast, his descent began with a single mistake: he fell in love with the wrong creature. Tragic!

Q. Everton Miles is Stranger Than Me is quite a bit darker than the first book of Night Flyers: even more fantastical, heartbreaking, with terrifying elements in the last quarter of the novel. I find most of the best children’s literature has those darker, deeper, elements! What works or characters or worlds were you inspired by while working on Everton Miles? Were these inspirations any different from your work on The Strange Gift of Gwendolyn Golden?

A: The short answer is, while I didn’t have a direct road map of inspiration for the series, I think everything an author reads influences them, and I’ve always loved fantasy.

As a child, I had terrific neighbours, a family of creative geniuses, next door. I highly recommend it! They gave me classic children’s books to read for my birthday. I’ll never forget finishing the first book in the Narnia series when I was about nine, The Magician’s Nephew, and thinking, what IS this? But I couldn’t put the series down. Then they handed me The Hobbit (which is still one of my favourite books of all time), then The Lord of the Rings trilogy, then books by Carlos Castaneda, Philip K. Dick and on and on. After that early love of books, I went on to study English at university, and read everything I could.

I learned early in life that I loved fantasy. So if I had to say what books have inspired me, and what you might find hints of in Everton Miles is Stranger than Me, they’d be an eclectic mix of Milton’s Paradise Lost, E.B. White, C.S. Lewis, Neil Gaiman, Tolkien, a little J.K. Rowling, Philip Pullman, Ian McEwan, plus an unconscious literary stew of other writers.

Q: Given the ages of Gwendolyn and Everton, did you ever consider aiming this series for a teen audience? How might that have- if at all- changed your approach to the story or characters? 

A: Oh, that’s an interesting question. I hadn’t really thought of that, but I did deliberately try to avoid writing really romantic stuff, which seems to be a largish proponent of teen writing. I didn’t want Everton and Gwendolyn’s to necessarily be a love story because there was so much else to cover, although there is a deep friendship and connection there that could one day develop into a romance, which is hinted at.

Also, although Gwendolyn is indeed a little older and wiser than she is in the first book, I couldn’t age her too much. I can tell you, though, that in the first draft of this book, Everton came to life a bit darker than his final self. He smoked, he carried a hip flask, he swore a little. All that had to go in the second draft considering the audience, which was a bit of a shame. I liked that bad boy!

Q: Let’s talk about the genre of magic realism. It is a genre that I often hear about, or read books being described as such but seems a hard genre to define. How would you best describe it in just a few sentences? Beyond Gabriel Garcia Marquez- whose work is widely considered the epitome of magic realism- which authors or works do you think have best captured the magic realism genre in children’s or teen lit?

A: It’s maybe a bit of a literary chameleon. Based purely on my own reading (okay, and a graduate paper on it forever ago), here’s my definition of magic realism: a sub-genre of fantasy, in which one magical element exists in an otherwise completely realistic world, and which does not require further explanation. The magical element simply exists, unquestioned by the characters, and readers must engage in a “willing suspension of disbelief” to read the story.

So to me, magic realism isn’t high fantasy set in a different time and place like Lord of the Rings/Game of Thrones etc, and it’s not an entire fantasy universe like Harry Potter. Magic realism has a realistic, here-and-now setting, with a single magical element that goes unexplained and accepted by the characters and the reader. It’s also the single most important element that moves the story forward.

Examples?

Folk tales are great at this. Think Jack and the Beanstalk. How on earth did three beans turn into an enormous beanstalk with a giant at the top of it? And why didn’t Jack think twice about that?

If you look at classical literature, I’d say Sir Gawain and the Green Knight has all the elements of magic realism. Big green guy bursts into Camelot on Christmas Eve, gets his head chopped off, then picks it up, and calmly sends Gawain on a quest to find him. Since when did severed heads send knights out on quests? And why didn’t anyone think to ask that?

Moving into more recent children’s literature, I’d say one of the most perfect examples of magic realism might be E.B. White’s Stuart Little. Sure he was adopted, but no one questions the fact that he’s a mouse. Or even Natalie Babbitt’s, Tuck Everlasting, where the fountain of youth exists in a ho-hum little every day town.

I recently read Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies by Lindsay Ribar. I’d say that’s a teen magic realism title: boy discovers his family has a magical connection to a dangerous, overhanging cliff and no one questions it.

That’s a start, but there are probably a lot more excellent examples.

Now for some slightly shorter questions…

Q: What were some of your most beloved stories or characters growing up?

A: I loved the Narnia series, The Hobbit, all of Lord of the Rings. But my first book love was Charlotte’s Web. When I first read the book at age eight, I finished it, put it in my lap and looked down at the illustration of Wilbur and Fern. I was so transported and moved, that I knew then and there that I wanted to write stories, too.

Q: What have been some of your favourite reads of the year- anything from adult fiction, to YA, to children’s!

A: My reading is always a year or two (or 10) behind everyone else! Here are the five books that made the biggest impression on me this year:

A Tale for the Time Being, Ruth Ozeki
The Rest of Us Just Live Here, Patrick Ness
The Blackthorn Key, Kevin Sands
The Chrysalids, John Wyndham
The Gargoyle, Andrew Davidson

Q: And I have to ask, will we ever get to visit with Gwendolyn or Everton again?

A: I’ve been toying with a few ideas! My publisher, Dundurn Press, would be happy to have another book in the series, and I’d be happy to write one. So nothing on the screen yet, but stay tuned!

Thanks Michelle, great questions and this was a lot of fun!

Thank you so much for your time, Philippa! This was fantastic and enlightening. I loved hearing all of your answers!

…Read on for my thoughts on the book…

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Upcoming Blog Tours: Everton Miles is Stranger Than Me & Speed of Life

This week I have two blog tours I am participating in, and I wanted to share some information about the tours as well as the books!

The first tour, coming up on October 13th, is courtesy of Dundurn Press for Philippa Dowding’s middle grade title Everton Miles is Stranger Than Me. Canadian author Philippa Dowding has a number of well-received children’s fiction titles to her name, most of which are a mixture of fantasy and magical realism. Everton Miles is Stranger Than Me is the sequel in the Night Flyers series to the award-nominated The Strange Gift of Gwendolyn Golden – a wonderfully unique read. You can follow along on Twitter with #NightFlyers!

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The second tour, coming up on October 14th, is courtesy of Raincoast Books for J.M. Kelly’s Speed of Life. J.M. Kelly has published other titles under Joelle Anthony: you may recognize her from authoring the YA title Restoring Harmony, and the upcoming middle grade title A Month of Mondays! Speed of Life is a contemporary young adult title from Canadian-based author, a grittier, hard-hitting YA title about two inseparable  sisters trying to survive their final year of high school. Joelle very awesomely shared the trailer link with me, and I am delighted to share it out here!

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Hope you’re able to join me for the tours and get a chance to stop by some of the other stops!

Blog Tour Stop: Natasha Preston’s The Cabin

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The Cabin by Natasha Preston
Source: ARC courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Expected publication: September 6, 2016 by Sourcebooks Fire
Book Description:

There may only be one killer, but no one is innocent in this new young adult thriller from Natasha Preston, author of The Cellar, a New York Times Bestseller, and Awake.

They think they’re invincible.
They think they can do and say whatever they want.
They think there are no consequences.
They’ve left me no choice.
It’s time for them to pay for their sins.

A weekend partying at a remote cabin is just what Mackenzie needs. She can’t wait to let loose with her friends. But a crazy night of fun leaves two of them dead…murdered.

With no signs of a forced entry or struggle, suspicion turns to the five survivors. Someone isn’t telling the truth. And Mackenzie’s first mistake? Assuming the killing is over…

Welcome to a special spotlight post for Natasha Preston‘s latest YA thriller, The Cabin! Today’s stop is but one of the week-long tour that the lovely people at Raincoast Books have organized for The Cabin- be sure to check out some of the other bloggers! Today, I will be talking about Preston’s latest novel, as well as sharing an exclusive excerpt from The Cabin.

Did you ever hide away in a cozy corner, relishing your reading of R.L. Stine’s Fear Street, Diane Hoh’s Nightmare Hall or anything by Christopher Pike? Well, if you did (or do!), then Natasha Preston’s The Cabin might just be the murder-filled teen read for you.

At once blood-soaked, teen-love-fueled and all kinds of twisted, The Cabin makes for retro kind of slasher read- along the lines of an 80s Lois Duncan or Caroline B. Cooney thriller. While not the strongest in terms of structure or character development- The Cabin unfortunately suffers a bit from repetitive conversations, some heavy explication, and lightly-defined characters- the book does meet its marks in being an easy to consume, hard to stop, pulpy and fun kind of creepy read. I have a soft spot for mysteries, whodunits and suspense titles, and there was definitely some strangely nostalgic in my reading of The Cabin; I was zooming my way through the book once I picked it up!

At the root of The Cabin: the back story of Mackenzie’s strangely cursed circle of friends, their previous traumas and losses, and the concept of the weekend murder at the cabin is intriguing- there are kernels of a solid suspense story. Preston fares well in cultivating the gore and paranoia, in keeping the fast clip of the story, and in the actual whodunit reveal. There is a one-two-punch of a surprise (or surprises) toward the conclusion that was well-done, if not, shocking- I actually had a moment of flipping the very last page, exclaiming ‘no!’, expecting and hoping to read just a bit more. (I wonder if Preston will ever return to Mackenzie and Blake’s story in a future follow-up?).  As Wes Craven-ish as The Cabin is, however, I do think Preston’s work here could have benefited from some modifications to make the entirety of the story stronger. Cutting down character interactions (mostly in forms of dialogue) that became redundant as the story went on; creating a less than obviously terrible investigator (who makes Stephen Fry’s bumbling Gosford Park detective look masterly); and adding some more genuine delineations of characters- or perhaps even multiple character narratives- to add some overall traction to the story.

Readers who have enjoyed Natasha Preston’s previous YA offerings might especially flock to The Cabin to read what the author has done in her latest outing! Relatively light on content but super enjoyable in terms of bloodiness, teen drama (and YA romance), readers and fans of who have enjoyed any of the authors mentioned above, or who are keen on pure candy in a YA mystery, might really enjoy Preston’s latest release.

 

Read on for an excerpt!

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