Blog Tour Stop: Jennifer Honeybourn’s Wesley James Ruined My Life!

Welcome to the last stop on the Raincoast Books blog tour for Jennifer Honeybourn‘s contemporary YA debut, Wesley James Ruined My Life! Read on for my thoughts on the book as well as a short Q & A with Jennifer!

Wesley James Ruined My Life by Jennifer Honeybourn
Source: ARC courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: July 18, 2017 by Feiwel & Friends
Book Description:

Sixteen-year-old Quinn Hardwick’s having a rough summer. Her beloved grandmother has been put into a nursing home, her dad’s gambling addiction has flared back up, and now her worst enemy is back in town: Wesley James, former childhood friend and life ruiner.

So when Wesley is hired to work with her at Tudor Tymes, a medieval England-themed restaurant, the last thing Quinn’s going to do is forgive and forget. She’s determined to remove him from her life and even the score for once and for all-by getting him fired.

But getting rid of Wesley isn’t as easy as she’d hoped. When Quinn finds herself falling for him, she has to decide what she wants more: to get even, or to get the boy.

Jennifer Honeybourn’s debut novel, Wesley James Ruined My Life, is a contemporary young adult title that blends teen romance and comedy with some more serious issues. From the first-person narrative of sixteen-year-old Quinn, readers are taken into her world, where her once-best-friend/crush and now mortal enemy, Wesley James, has returned to town.

Quinn, as we learn, already has enough on her plate: trying to save up money for a band trip to her dream city- London, England- Quinn is balancing work at a medieval England-themed restaurant, dealing with the aftermath of her parent’s separation, her father’s gambling addiction, and her beloved grandmother’s seriously declining health. Into all of this walks Quinn’s once-upon-a-time former best friend and perhaps crush, Wesley James. Back in town after a few years, and suddenly everywhere Quinn turns, Wesley James is infuriatingly inescapable- and charming, sweet, kind, and stirring up feelings that Quinn does not want to have. In an intriguing turn, readers learn that Quinn’s now years-long despisement of Wesley stems from her holding him responsible for the break-up of her parent’s marriage. As the book description hints, Quinn turns her focus to try and make Wesley pay – somehow- for the perceived damage he has caused her; but, as we can guess, things don’t quite work out or reveal themselves the way Quinn anticipates!

While on the whole a lighter, often frothy and fun (and very cute) read, Honeybourn fortifies and freshens the more traditional rom-com story in a few ways. Namely, with a genuinely likable and cognizant protagonist/narrator in Quinn (Wesley is also very likable); weightier storylines in terms of family matters; and a peculiar, funny, and memorable story point with the themed Tudor Tymes restaurant. Likely to appeal to readers who enjoy YA rom-coms, and those who like the writing of authors such as Leila Sales, Jessica Brody, Sarah Ockler, or Huntley Fitzpatrick, Wesley James Ruined My Life makes for fun, yet rooted YA reading. Overall, Jennifer Honeybourn has done a very good job with her debut YA, crafting an endearing and self-aware protagonist with a sweet romantic element and thoughtful story.

Question & Answer with Jennifer!

Q: One aspect of the novel I really appreciated- and think made the novel stronger!- was the combination of fun and romance with more serious issues. Was there ever a version of Wesley James that did not include more serious subject matter- i.e. Quinn’s father’s gambling addition or declining grandparents? Or did you always set out to write a rooted, real contemporary YA romance that delved into some harder issues?

A: The bones of WESLEY JAMES RUINED MY LIFE were always there, even from the first draft. I don’t think I set out to write about specific issues, they just sort of presented themselves along the way, as I was drafting and learning more about the characters. I wanted romance to play a large role, but not be the only focus of the story, because I felt like there was more to Quinn’s life, things she was grappling with, and that made her more real to me.

 

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. Q & A organized by Raincoast Books. Thank you!

Recently Read: Great Picture Books from Lucy Cousins, Mary Sullivan, Aaron Blabey & more!

Another spate of recently read wonderful picture books- with a board book tossed in for good measure! Everything from the new and terrifically vibrant, active read alouds, to cheeky and funny rhyming stories to the quietly gorgeous and interactive picture books. As ever ,I am in awe of the talent and innovation in picture books (and board books). I’ve starred the ones which I have used (and were a big hit!) at one of my storytimes.

Hooray for Birds! by Lucy Cousins*
Publication: March 28, 2017 by Candlewick Press

Treat by Mary Sullivan
Publication: March 1, 2016 by HMH Books for Young Readers

Pig the Pug by Aaron Blabey*
Publication: July 1, 2014 by Scholastic

Hello, Mr. Dodo! by Nicholas John Firth
Publication: January 31, 2017 by Arthur A. Levine Books

Not Quite Narwhal by Jessie Sima*
Publication: February 14, 2017 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Tree: A Peek-Through Picture Book by Patricia Hegarty, illus. Britta Teckentrup
Publication: February 9, 2016 by Doubleday Books for Young Readers (this edition)

Chicken Story Time by Sandy Asher, illus. Mark Fearing*
Publication: December 13, 2016 by Dial Books

Charlotte and the Rock by Stephen W. Martin, illus. Samantha Cotterill
Publication: March 14, 2017 by Dial Books

Bunnybear by Andrea J. Loney, illus. Carmen Saldana*
Publication: January 31st 2017 by Albert Whitman Company

Tickle My Ears by Jörg Mühle (board book)*
Publication: September 2016 by Gecko Press (this edition)

Review: Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham

Review: Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada via First Reads. Thank you!
Publication: March 25, 2014 by Ballantine Books (Trade Paperback edition)
Book Description
:

It’s January 1995, and Franny Banks has just six months left of the three-year deadline she set for herself when she came to New York, dreaming of Broadway and doing “important” work. But all she has to show for her efforts so far is a part in an ad for ugly Christmas sweaters, and a gig waiting tables at a comedy club. Her roommates―her best friend Jane, and Dan, an aspiring sci-fi writer―are supportive, yet Franny knows a two-person fan club doesn’t exactly count as success. Everyone tells her she needs a backup plan, and though she can almost picture moving back home and settling down with her perfectly nice ex-boyfriend, she’s not ready to give up on her goal of having a career like her idols Diane Keaton and Meryl Streep. Not just yet. But while she dreams of filling their shoes, in the meantime, she’d happily settle for a speaking part in almost anything—and finding a hair product combination that works.

Everything is riding on the upcoming showcase for her acting class, where she’ll finally have a chance to perform for people who could actually hire her. And she can’t let herself be distracted by James Franklin, a notorious flirt and the most successful actor in her class, even though he’s suddenly started paying attention. Meanwhile, her bank account is rapidly dwindling, her father wants her to come home, and her agent doesn’t return her calls. But for some reason, she keeps believing that she just might get what she came for.

You know when you consider yourself a fan of someone’s oeuvre- whether they are a singer, author, activist, actress, etc.- you tend to approach any new work with equal amounts delirious excitement and major trepidation? This is how I feel about Lauren Graham and her work. I will be honest here: Gilmore Girls is one of my all-time favourite shows, thus I have adored Lauren Graham (and her portrayal of character Lorelai Gilmore) for years now. I actually held off reading Someday, Someday, Maybe when it first came out because: excitement + trepidation. But when the opportunity came up recently to read Graham’s debut novel recently, I was finally ready to dive in.

As per the book’s description, Someday, Someday, Maybe tells the story of aspiring actress Franny Banks, who is on the last six months of her self-imposed deadline to make something of herself as an actress. Taking place in New York in the mid-90s, the novel is told in Franny’s  loquacious and witty first-person narrative. Similarly to her Gilmore Girls‘ character- known for making extensive and esoteric pop culture references- Graham crafts the character of Franny as a knowledgeable, educated, highly verbose and analytical person. Franny, however, is trying to forge into the entertainment world, and that strange, illogical and often insincere world (as portrayed in the book) does not often jibe with Franny’s heart or expectations. As readers go through the whirlwind of Franny’s six month countdown, we get to meet and know three major secondary characters: her roommates Jane (a production assistant) and Dan (struggling screenwriter), as well as fellow aspiring actor (and crush) James Franklin. Jane and Dan act as the sounding board/conscience to Franny’s moments of crazy and brushes with celebrity; James becomes the voice of sincere pretension and ‘I’m an AC-TOR‘- a character that you sincerely hope Franny doesn’t become enamored of. Dan is an especially lovely, supporting character, well-written and maintained, who grows more integral to the story as Franny’s impending deadline looms.

Graham spends much of the novel (as one would expect) exploring the sometimes truly bizarre processes of auditioning, working on stage, filming shows and commercials, working with actors, agents, and more. As a well-known actress with a solid stage/theatrical background herself, Graham likely has a treasure trove of entertainment stories and unbelievable experiences: I feel as though some were carried over, if not adapted, to fit directly into Franny’s story here. Additionally, I really appreciate that Franny’s story was not one of instant success or quickly fought minor setbacks. A winning story, and one full of comedy to be sure, but Franny’s story here is also one of struggle and persistence. Of small yet tremendous feats, and of crushing lows and major doubt. Someday, Someday, Maybe is also a story that interestingly shows so much love and respect to theatre and the study of acting, yet is simultaneously wary (if not loathing) of aspects regarding celebrity and fame.

Overall, a funny and thoughtful, appealing contemporary fiction read. Franny is an effervescent, deprecating yet sincere voice- a character to adore and root for. Readers who like their reads on the side of entertaining and/or packed with fascinating insight into ‘the business we call show‘, then Someday, Someday, Maybe might especially be your cup of tea. Fans of Graham’s work, or those who have enjoyed her non-fiction title Talking As Fast As I Can (great as an audiobook), have likely already read this title, but if you haven’t yet, I would give a whirl! A note that this trade paperback version includes a conversation between Lauren Graham and Parenthood costar (and terrific actress) Mae Whitman, and is quite delightful.

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

Review: If This Is Home by Kristine Scarrow

9781459736504Review: If This Is Home by Kristine Scarrow
Source: ARC courtesy of Dundurn Press. Thank you!
Canadian Publication: January 28, 2017 by Dundurn Press
Book Description:

When her mom is diagnosed with terminal cancer, Jayce searches for her estranged father, hoping he can fix everything.

Jayce Loewen has had to take on a lot of responsibility over the years. Her single mom works two jobs and long hours, leaving Jayce in charge of her four-year-old sister most of the time. When her mom is diagnosed with cancer, Jayce decides to track down her long-absent father in the hope that he will be able to make everything okay again.

Looking for her dad was one thing, but when she actually finds him, Jayce is in for a real shock. When everything in her life seems to be going wrong, Jayce has to figure out who her family really is, and how to live with the possibility of losing the person she loves most.

Canadian author Kristine Scarrow’s sophomore young adult novel, If This Is Home, is a contemporary story covering everything from terminal illness, complex teen friendships, sibling love and difficult family history. Taking place in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Scarrow’s compact novel embraces much of what I personally love about Canadian YA: the overwhelmingly fluid, uncluttered, quiet yet potent writing; rooted protagonists and secondary characters that read as genuine and free of veneer; and the presentation of unidealized concepts of teenagers and ‘the teenage years’.

In If This Is Home, we follow the first-person narrative of sixteen year old Jayce Loewen- known as J.J.- as she and her four year-old sister Joelle deal with beyond devastating news: their mother is sick with lung cancer. A tight-knit family of three, with a long-absent father and long-estranged grandparents, J.J.’s mom has been her everything. When a doctor gently states an unspeakable prognosis, J.J. is overwhelmed but determined that she and Joelle stay strong and stay together. In the midst of high school chaos with her less-than-considerate best friend, and worried about what might happen if they lose the only parent they’ve ever known and had, J.J. goes in search of her father. With the help of a boy she meets in detention, a teen named Kurt, J.J.’s life begins a complicated roller coaster of major revelations and disappointments.

In a plot move I really appreciate, Scarrow grows the relationship between J.J. and Kurt as platonic and heartfelt. Perhaps due to the more serious nature of the crux of the story- that of J.J.’s intense love and protectiveness for her sister and mom and the threat of it being torn apart- Scarrow decided to keep that story element more neutral. Arguably a more unconventional route to take in a teen novel, yet one that works so well here with the direction the story takes. Scarrow also writes and develops the relationship between J.J. and her mom and sister, and- later- another family member very well. I would have appreciated more by way of introduction and background to J.J. herself, Kurt (I feel he was introduced and then suddenly so involved with the family), and more about the Loewen’s family history. Certain aspects of the story came across as rushed or a little surprising, or in need of elucidation: as a whole, If This Is Home is absolutely moving and interesting, but I feel as though more detail would have been of benefit to add even further richness and depth to the story.

Overall, If This Is Home is a moving read, deftly written, propelled by a solid, well-written protagonist. As noted above, I would have liked more exposition about Kurt, as well as background exploration into J.J.’s mom and grandmother to add more foundation to the story, but in all, I truly enjoyed this read. Readers who enjoy contemporary Canadian YA lit, or readers who enjoy authors such as Susin Nielsen, Robin Stevenson or Sarah N. Harvey (all write so beautifully on family and serious subject matters), might especially appreciate this lovely book. Scarrow has published one YA title prior to If This Is Home called Throwaway Girl; it is one title I’ve seen in local bookshops and am now inspired to pick up.

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Dundurn Press in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

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:

lizzie-lovett-blog-evite

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.

Review: The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

the-woman-in-cabin-10-9781501151774_lgReview: The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
Source: ARC courtesy of Simon & Schuster Canada. Thank you!
Publication: January 3, 2017 by Simon & Schuster
Book Description:

From New York Times bestselling author of the “twisty-mystery” (Vulture) novel In a Dark, Dark Wood, comes The Woman in Cabin 10, an equally suspenseful and haunting novel from Ruth Ware—this time, set at sea.

In this tightly wound, enthralling story reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s works, Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. The sky is clear, the waters calm, and the veneered, select guests jovial as the exclusive cruise ship, the Aurora, begins her voyage in the picturesque North Sea.

At first, Lo’s stay is nothing but pleasant, but as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the desk, gray skies fall, and Lo witnesses what she can only describe as a dark and terrifying nightmare: a woman being thrown overboard. The problem? All passengers remain accounted for—and so, the ship sails on as if nothing has happened, despite Lo’s desperate attempts to convey that something (or someone) has gone terribly, terribly wrong…

With surprising twists, spine-tingling turns, and a setting that proves as uncomfortably claustrophobic as it is eerily beautiful, Ruth Ware offers up another taut and intense read in The Woman in Cabin 10—one that will leave even the most sure-footed reader restlessly uneasy long after the last page is turned.

While I have yet to read Ruth Ware’s debut mystery In a Dark, Dark Wood (it is on my must-read!), the author’s books are ones that I have been reading much buzz and acclaim about over the last year or so. When the opportunity came up to read and review Ware’s latest, The Woman in Cabin 10, I was definitely intrigued. Unsettling and eerie, with a claustrophobic air pervading the entire read, The Woman in Cabin 10 is a twisted mystery with some shockers.

Our protagonist and narrator is early-thirties Lo Blacklock, a journalist who is hoping to break out of the rut with her latest assignment: reporting and covering the maiden voyage of the premier, first class, ridiculously swank cruise ship the Aurora Borealis. Lo, from the get-go of the story, is someone who’s muddied by chaos. Dealing with the direct aftermath of a traumatic event in her home, she drinks too much, takes pills, doesn’t and can’t sleep well- in other words, has all the makings of an unreliable narrator. As more reveals come to light about Lo and her history, though, she becomes less of an unreliable and unlikable narrator- making the utterly terrifying situation she gets into all the more compelling.

As we learn from the description, there is indeed an incident that arises on the Aurora- an incident in which Lo, from the vantage point of her cabin veranda, witnesses someone from the cabin next door- cabin 10- being thrown overboard the ship. Lo is utterly terrified- what’s happening and where is the dark-haired woman from cabin 10 who lent her mascara earlier in the day? While raising alarm and trying to convince the tightly-knit ship staff of murder, Lo is thwarted in every attempt to convince everyone what she saw. No blood, no physical evidence…no individuals unaccounted for…no sign of anyone ever inhabiting cabin 10. But how is this possible? And had Lo really seen a woman in cabin 10? Lo, though, does not give up and begins an increasingly desperate, frantic search for the missing woman- the woman she knew she saw. Save for the brief unexpected terror at the story’s opening, Ware takes her time letting the story build. While slow on building plot tension and a little rough with easing into Lo’s voice, Ware does a super job with setting the atmosphere. She creates and builds that uneasy, confined, claustrophobic experience of being trapped in a moving vessel so well, one really feels that bilious, queasy discomfort that Lo has on the Aurora. Moreover, Ware quite makes up for a slower, bumpy beginning by taking Lo and the story into psychological terror and suspense worthy of a Paul Greengrass-directed film. No spoilers, but there are some shocking and slightly crazy moves that Ware pulls toward the end of story, making for one exhausting yet satisfying thrill-ride.

Overall, despite a slightly unevenly paced beginning and some bumps in flow, The Woman in Cabin 10 is good, thrilling fun. I love it when a mystery makes you gasp- when an author throws out a surprise or two you did not see coming- and kudos to Ware who made me gasp a few times with regard to the direction the novel took. Mystery readers who have previously enjoyed Ruth Ware’s debut will likely be much looking forward to this! Readers who enjoy the mystery/suspense work of authors such as Megan Miranda, Tana French, Gillian Flynn, Paula Hawkins, or Megan Abbott might especially enjoy The Woman in Cabin 10.

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Simon & Schuster Canada in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

Picture Book Fun with Pigloo and Peppa Pig!

From Olivia to Miss Piggy, Wilbur to Piglet and beyond, I have long adored and had a soft spot for literature or entertainment starring or featuring piggies. (Our elderly guinea pig is even named Wilbur!). This post spotlights two fun picture books that star adorable piggies: Pigloo and Peppa Pig and the Little Train!

piglooandpeppa

 

piglooPigloo by Anne Marie Pace, illus. Lorna Hussey
Hardcopy courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: October 18, 2016 by Henry Holt and Co.
Book Description:

Pigloo is an explorer. His destination? The North Pole. Big sister Paisley has doubts about Pigloo’s plan, but Pigloo knows that explorers have to be patient as well as brave. When Pigloo takes his sled to the top of a hill, he sets off on his expedition – with a little unexpected help.

This sweet, expressively illustrated story shows that sometimes the greatest adventures are the ones that happen in your own backyard.

Pigloo is a perfect-for-the-wintertime picture book featuring a darling young pig. Little Pigloo wants nothing more than to be a great explorer and bravely trek through the cold and snow to get to the North Pole. While his mom, dad, and especially his big sister all have their qualms, concerns and notes about his plans, Pigloo tries to remain hopeful about it all.  One thing Pigloo has carefully considered and prepared are his special explorer snacks- his ‘stores’ as we learn; but the one thing he has not considered is just how much patience it requires to be an explorer- especially when one is waiting for a big snowfall!

The adorable Pigloo!

When it finally snows enough, Pigloo makes it outside and ‘considers the best way to get to the North Pole and back before lunch’.  In a lovely story curve, readers get to see Pigloo’s big adventure come to happy fruition as he is- unbeknownst to him- carefully helped by his big sister, Paisley. While Paisley had initially been a little downcast on Pigloo’s big plans, it turns out that she comes through with a little magic to make Pigloo’s dreams of exploration come true. What starts out as a seemingly straightforward story about a little pig’s wintertime adventure ends up being an altogether very sweet story about kindness between siblings, and about just how much fun a grand imagination and believing in the impossible can be.

Anne Marie Pace, author of the Vamperina Ballerina books, and Lorna Hussey, illustrator of Not This Bear, have created a gentle and amiable story here that will likely go over well with kids during the winter season. Pigloo is an adorably illustrated pig with a big heart; kids and adult alike might appreciate his imagination and open, trusting nature. Readers who enjoy stories on the genial side- topped with a little lesson- think along the lines of Karma Wilson’s Bear series, Greg E. Foley’s Don’t Worry Bear, the Chester Raccoon series, or the Llama Llama books– might particularly enjoy this sweet story.

 

peppatraincover

Peppa Pig and the Little Train based on the TV series created by Neville Astley and Mark Baker
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada/Candlewick Books. Thank you!
Publication: August 2, 2016 by Candlewick Entertainment
Book Description
:

All aboard! Peppa Pig and her brother, George, are ready to chug, chug, chug all through the town on Grandpa Pig’s little train.

Peppa Pig and George are visiting Granny and Grandpa Pig, and Grandpa Pig has a surprise for them. Toot, toot! Chug, chug! Grandpa drives a little train out of the garage, and Peppa and George hop on board. Who will they meet as they ride the train all around town? And when Miss Rabbit’s bus gets stuck in the mud, who might help them save the day?

Before having a child, I had really only heard of Peppa Pig and her brother George in passing at the library. Mostly it was when getting questions such as: why don’t you have more Peppa Pig books? Or: where are all of your Peppa Pig books? I was always curious about this pig- one with an English accent no less!- and have now, thanks to having a toddler, become well-versed in the delightful and funny world of the charismatic Peppa Pig. For those unfamiliar with Peppa, this book and its world might seem a little nonsensical or peculiar- but for those more aware of it (…or those who have fans in their household), this might be a real treat.

Cover removes and becomes a colouring poster!

Peppa Pig and the Little Train is a picture book based upon the television series and episodes. In this particular adaption, the story revolves around Peppa Pig’s grandfather building a very special little train (named Gertrude): a train that Grandpa Pig can proudly conduct, with room for Peppa, her brother George, and other friends to ride in. While in the train, singing a little song about her grandpa’s little train going ‘chug chug chug’, Peppa and company meet folks who keep asking about Grandpa’s toy train. Each time, they must explain that Gertrude is actually NOT a toy but a real, working, sturdy ‘miniature locomotive’. A problem arises when Miss Rabbit’s bus gets stuck in mud; despite some doubts about the little train’s abilities, Grandpa Pig’s miniature locomotive comes to the rescue!

A happy, fun, and irreverent story- as is the wont of Peppa Pig’s stories and television episodes- Peppa Pig and the Little Train is sure to delight new or avid fans of the popular series. Readers who have enjoyed series such as Olivia by Ian Falconer, Charlie & Lola by Lauren Child, or Pete the Cat by James Dean might especially adore muddy-puddle-jumping Peppa and her imminently likable and funny world.

I received a copy of Pigloo courtesy of Raincoast Books and Peppa Pig and the Little Train courtesy of Random House of Canada in exchange for honest reviews. All opinions and comments are my own.

Halloween Fun with Curious George & Little Master Conan Doyle

curiousgeorge_hoorayforhalloweenReview: Hooray for Halloween, Curious George by Margret & H.A. Rey (illus. in the style of H.A. Rey by Martha Weston)
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: July 19, 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Book Description:

It’s Halloween! When George and his friend the man with the yellow hat go to a party at Mrs. Gray’s house, George is excited to find out that it is a costume party. After seeing his friends dressed up as astronauts, mummies, witches, and more, George gets to pick out his own costume. But George accidentally wraps himself up in a tablecloth and gets mistaken for a ghost! Will everyone enjoy George’s Halloween trick, or will he scare away the party guests? Each hardcover gift book comes with festive Halloween stickers.

 

In Hooray for Halloween, Curious George, our titular character goes to a Halloween party at Mrs. Gray’s with the man in the yellow hat. When the two arrive at the party, though, they discover that it is a costume party- and neither of them are wearing costumes! George, of course, wants to find a costume to join in on the fun, and searches for something perfect among the dress-up clothes at Mrs. Gray’s house. It wouldn’t be a Curious George adventure without a small stumble or misunderstanding, and there is a fun Halloween one here: involving George, a fall, a tablecloth and the sudden appearance of a…ghost?!

Hooray for Halloween, Curious George is a sweet and gently fun Halloween read; perfect for any fans of Curious George or for readers who would like to read or share something that isn’t scary for Halloween. Martha Weston’s illustrations here are lovely and absolutely keep with the cozy and warm aesthetics of Magret and H.A. Rey’s work. Reading Hooray for Halloween, Curious George made me think back to my own childhood where I was a big reader of Curious George books! The addition of a page of Curious George stickers (all with images from Hooray for Halloween) will certainly only add to the appeal of this book!

I received a copy of Hooray for Halloween, Curious George courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

 

 

soundsprimerhoundofbaskervilles17841553Review: Sherlock Holmes in the Hound of Baskervilles: A Babylit Sounds Primer by Jennifer Adams, illus. Alison Oliver
Source: Board Book
Publication: September 1, 2013 by Gibbs Smith
Book Description:

Delight your little one with the sounds and sights of a mysterious night in Sherlock Holmes in the Hound of Baskervilles: A BabyLit® Sounds Primer. Alison Oliver’s bold illustrations correspond with Jennifer Adams’ clever, simple text to create pairings little bibliophiles will love to have read to them, such as “hounds howl,” “gates screech,” and “stairs creak.

HOWL! SCREECH! CHIME! RUSTLE!

If you have ever wondered how an adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles might look if adapted adorably and cleverly in board book form, then look to this title from the popular BabyLit series!

Focusing on a slew of sounds, as imagined from Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous work, this BabyLit Sounds Primer features ten objects and their respective sounds. For example: we have wheels that ‘clatter’, leaves that ‘rustle’, and fire that ‘crackles’. Each page of the board book features one object and the facing page features the sound of the object. What I especially like about this particular BabyLit addition is how it takes something as iconic as this Sherlock Holmes case and cheekily formats and restyles it into something so enjoyable and so exactly RIGHT. Alison Oliver’s illustrations are, as ever, cuter than cute- but in this book they are little bit spookier and darker in colour palette to match the adapted work. Oliver’s imagining of Holmes and Watson is so great in this book! This is a board book title that while, of course, will be enjoyed by babies and toddlers (my daughter loves trying the sounds with me!), adults (and Sherlock fans!) might also get a big kick out of this and want to add it to their own library collection for the pure joy and fun of it. If you end up enjoying this BabyLit entry, you might also want to check out the Dracula and/or Frankenstein adaptations!

Review: The Book You’re Not Supposed to Have (Timmy Failure #5) by Stephan Pastis

timmyfailure528686922Review: The Book You’re Not Supposed to Have (Timmy Failure #5) by Stephan Pastis
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada/Candlewick Press. Thank you!
Publication: September 27, 2016 by Candlewick Press
Book Description:

Banishment from his life’s calling can’t keep a comically overconfident detective down in the latest episode by New York Times bestseller Stephan Pastis.

This book was never meant to exist. No one needs to know the details. Just know this: there’s a Merry, a Larry, a missing tooth, and a teachers’ strike that is crippling Timmy Failure’s academic future. Worst of all, Timmy is banned from detective work. It’s a conspiracy of buffoons. He recorded everything in his private notebook, but then the manuscript was stolen. If this book gets out, he will be grounded for life. Or maybe longer. And will Timmy’s mom really marry Doorman Dave?

“Do you love others, Timothy?”

“I dunno. Do you?”

Oh, Timmy.

Five books into the eccentric and comical Timmy Failure series by Stephan Pastis and mysteries and misunderstandings are still running amok. In a previous post, I talked about my love of the series- the weirdness, laughter and strange sweetness of Timmy’s world. The aforementioned mix of traits are still alive and well with The Book You’re Not Supposed to Have; but in this title, we meet a few new great characters that show just how helpless, in denial (and extremely obstinate!) Timmy can be.

In The Book You’re Not Supposed to Have, a big change is looming for Timmy: his mom is set to marry Doorman Dave. Now, those familiar with Timmy’s great skill in avoiding big, personal issues, will know that Timmy will focus his attention on everything but the major issue at hand. Rather than face the impending wedding and life changes,  Timmy turns his attention on continuing detective work (surreptitiously) in the midst of being banned from doing any detective work. Throwing further wrenches into his plan to operate his spy work on the sly are cousins Merry and Larry- staying with the Failures and in Timmy’s room- before the big wedding. So, Timmy does the rational thing and decides to take over a garden shed at the Home Despot to continue his operations… Of course, being Timmy, he is waylaid by focusing on spurious dead-end cases and by the fact that his best friend Rollo Tookus is becoming chummy with (gasp!) Merry and Larry. Standing fierce by Timmy’s side through all of his mistakes (both small and…HUGE), though, is Molly Moskins- the tangerine-scented girl who loves Timmy. Pastis throws in a little surprise courtesy of Molly at the end, which I especially adored, as Molly Moskins has become a series favourite for me!

Overall, the Timmy Failure series, five books in, continues to surprise with Pastis’ particular brand of offbeat, very funny writing, and new characters who prove to be a real hoot. While Timmy himself is an ongoing puzzle, sometimes infuriatingly stubborn and oblivious, Pastis manages to balance those less-than-beguiling characteristics by matching Timmy against family and friends who push Timmy to show his vulnerabilities. Any readers who have enjoyed the previous titles in the series or Pastis’ other work with comic Pearls Before Swine will likely enjoy The Book You’re Not Supposed to Have. Readers who like series such as Diary of a Wimpy Kid, The Terrible Two, Big Nate, or Tom Gates, might especially be interested in giving Timmy Failure a read.

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada/Candlewick Press in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

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

speed-of-life-blog-evite1
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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