Must Read Monday (76): YA from S.K. Ali, Kelly Jones, Mitali Perkins & more!

Welcome to another edition of Must Read Monday!

This feature is where I spotlight older, recent, or upcoming releases I am looking forward to. The lists will include all genres I like to read, everything from picture books to comics, children’s lit to adult fiction!

This week is another spotlight on young adult fiction! Six titles are on the docket this week, and it’s a great mix of genres. We have: Solo, from the award-winning, incredible author-poet Kwame Alexander and Mary Rand Hess; Saints and Misfits, the contemporary YA debut from Canadian author S.K. Ali; Mitali Perkins’ wonderfully-reviewed You Bring the Distant Near; Robin Benway’s award-winning Far from the Tree; Kelly Jones’ terrific-sounding historical YA Murder, Magic, and What We Wore; and Truly Devious, the long-awaited upcoming mystery from Maureen Johnson.

 

Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali
Publication: June 13, 2017 by Salaam Reads / Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Book Description:

How much can you tell about a person just by looking at them? Janna Yusuf knows a lot of people can’t figure out what to make of her…an Arab Indian-American hijabi teenager who is a Flannery O’Connor obsessed book nerd, aspiring photographer, and sometime graphic novelist is not exactly easy to put into a box.

And Janna suddenly finds herself caring what people think. Or at least what a certain boy named Jeremy thinks. Not that she would ever date him—Muslim girls don’t date. Or they shouldn’t date. Or won’t? Janna is still working all this out.

While her heart might be leading her in one direction, her mind is spinning in others. She is trying to decide what kind of person she wants to be, and what it means to be a saint, a misfit, or a monster. Except she knows a monster…one who happens to be parading around as a saint…Will she be the one to call him out on it? What will people in her tightknit Muslim community think of her then?

 

Solo by Kwame Alexander & Mary Rand Hess
Publication: July 25, 2017 by Blink
Book description:

When the heart gets lost, let the music find you.

Blade never asked for a life of the rich and famous. In fact, he’d give anything not to be the son of Rutherford Morrison, a washed-up rock star and drug addict with delusions of a comeback. Or to no longer be part of a family known most for lost potential, failure, and tragedy. The one true light is his girlfriend, Chapel, but her parents have forbidden their relationship, assuming—like many—that Blade will become just like his father.

In reality, the only thing Blade has in common with Rutherford is the music that lives inside them. But not even the songs that flow through Blade’s soul are enough when he’s faced with two unimaginable realities: the threat of losing Chapel forever, and the revelation of a long-held family secret, one that leaves him questioning everything he thought was true. All that remains is a letter and a ticket to Ghana—both of which could bring Blade the freedom and love he’s been searching for, or leave him feeling even more adrift.

 

You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins
Publication: September 12, 2017 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Book Description:

Five girls. Three generations. One great American love story. You Bring the Distant Near explores sisterhood, first loves, friendship, and the inheritance of culture–for better or worse. Ranee, worried that her children are losing their Indian culture; Sonia, wrapped up in a forbidden biracial love affair; Tara, seeking the limelight to hide her true self; Shanti, desperately trying to make peace in the family; Anna, fighting to preserve her Bengali identity–award-winning author Mitali Perkins weaves together a sweeping story of five women at once intimately relatable and yet entirely new.

 

Murder, Magic, and What We Wore by Kelly Jones
Publication: September 19, 2017 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Book Description:

The year is 1818, the city is London, and our heroine, 16-year-old Annis Whitworth, has just learned that her father is dead and all his money is missing. And so, of course, she decides to become a spy.

Annis always suspected that her father was a spy, so following in his footsteps to unmask his killer makes perfect sense. Alas, it does not make sense to England’s current spymasters—not even when Annis reveals that she has the rare magical ability to sew glamours: garments that can disguise the wearer completely.

Well, if the spies are too pigheaded to take on a young woman of quality, then Annis will take them on. She’ll follow the clues her father left behind and discover what befell him. She’ll prove she can sew an impenetrable disguise. She’ll earn a living without stooping to become a—shudder—governess.

It can’t be any harder than navigating the London social season, can it?

 

Far from the Tree by Robin Benway
Publication: October 3, 2017 by HarperTeen
Book Description:

A contemporary novel about three adopted siblings who find each other at just the right moment.

Being the middle child has its ups and downs. But for Grace, an only child who was adopted at birth, discovering that she is a middle child is a different ride altogether. After putting her own baby up for adoption, she goes looking for her biological family, including—

Maya, her loudmouthed younger bio sister, who has a lot to say about their newfound family ties. Having grown up the snarky brunette in a house full of chipper redheads, she’s quick to search for traces of herself among these not-quite-strangers. And when her adopted family’s long-buried problems begin to explode to the surface, Maya can’t help but wonder where exactly it is that she belongs.

And Joaquin, their stoic older bio brother, who has no interest in bonding over their shared biological mother. After seventeen years in the foster care system, he’s learned that there are no heroes, and secrets and fears are best kept close to the vest, where they can’t hurt anyone but him.

 

Truly Devious (Truly Devious #1) by Maureen Johnson
Expected publication: January 16, 2018 by Katherine Tegen Books
Book Description:

Ellingham Academy is a famous private school in Vermont for the brightest thinkers, inventors, and artists. It was founded by Albert Ellingham, an early twentieth century tycoon, who wanted to make a wonderful place full of riddles, twisting pathways, and gardens. “A place,” he said, “where learning is a game.”

Shortly after the school opened, his wife and daughter were kidnapped. The only real clue was a mocking riddle listing methods of murder, signed with the frightening pseudonym “Truly, Devious.” It became one of the great unsolved crimes of American history.

True-crime aficionado Stevie Bell is set to begin her first year at Ellingham Academy, and she has an ambitious plan: She will solve this cold case. That is, she will solve the case when she gets a grip on her demanding new school life and her housemates: the inventor, the novelist, the actor, the artist, and the jokester. But something strange is happening. Truly Devious makes a surprise return, and death revisits Ellingham Academy. The past has crawled out of its grave. Someone has gotten away with murder.

 

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Must Read Monday (72): YA Titles from Emily Bain Murphy, Heather Smith, Cynthia Hand & more!

Welcome to another edition of Must Read Monday!

This feature is where I spotlight older, recent, or upcoming releases I am looking forward to. The lists will include all genres I like to read, everything from picture books to comics, children’s lit to adult fiction!

This week is all about young adult fiction- I don’t think I’ve posted a teen-centred Must Read in a while now! There are five titles on the docket this week: a new title- a first foray into sci-fi!- from fave Canadian author Vikki VanSickle; favourite YA author, Cynthia Hand, has an intriguing-sounding paranormal title releasing in October; Emily Bain Murphy’s well-received- and fascinatingly-described- mystery The Disappearances has been on my radar since the start of summer; a new coming of age novel from Canadian author Heather Smith set in 1980s Newfoundland; and the much buzzed-about contemporary YA release Moxie from Jennifer Mathieu. A great mix of titles and genres here!

The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy
Publication: July 4, 2017 by HMH Books for Young Readers
Book Description:

What if the ordinary things in life suddenly…disappeared?

Aila Quinn’s mother, Juliet, has always been a mystery: vibrant yet guarded, she keeps her secrets beyond Aila’s reach. When Juliet dies, Aila and her younger brother Miles are sent to live in Sterling, a rural town far from home–and the place where Juliet grew up.

Sterling is a place with mysteries of its own. A place where the experiences that weave life together–scents of flowers and food, reflections from mirrors and lakes, even the ability to dream–vanish every seven years.No one knows what caused these “Disappearances,” or what will slip away next. But Sterling always suspected that Juliet Quinn was somehow responsible–and Aila must bear the brunt of their blame while she follows the chain of literary clues her mother left behind.

As the next Disappearance nears, Aila begins to unravel the dual mystery of why the Disappearances happen and who her mother truly was. One thing is clear: Sterling isn’t going to hold on to anyone’s secrets for long before it starts giving them up.

The Winnowing by Vikki VanSickle
Publication: September 1, 2017 by Scholastic Canada Ltd
Book Description:

Marivic Stone lives in a small world, and that’s fine with her. Home is with her beloved grandfather in a small town that just happens to be famous for a medical discovery that saved humankind — though not without significant repercussions. Marivic loves her best friend, Saren, and the two of them promise to stick together, through thick and thin, and especially through the uncertain winnowing procedure, a now inevitable — but dangerous — part of adolescence.

But when tragedy separates the two friends, Marivic is thrust into a world of conspiracy, rebellion and revolution. For the first time in her life, Marivic is forced to think and act big. If she is going to right a decade of wrongs, she will need to trust her own frightening new abilities, even when it means turning her back on everything, and everyone, she’s known and loved. A gripping exploration of growing up, love and loss, The Winnowing is a page-turning adventure that will have readers rooting for their new hero, Marivic Stone, as they unravel the horror and intrigue of a world at once familiar but with a chilling strangeness lurking beneath the everyday.

The Agony of Bun O’Keefe by Heather Smith
Publication: September 5, 2017 by Razorbill Canada
Book Description:

Set in 1980s Newfoundland, The Agony of Bun O’Keefe is the story of a 14-year-old girl who runs away to the city and is taken in by a street musician who lives with an eclectic cast of characters: a pot smoking dishwasher with culinary dreams; a drag queen with a tragic past; a Catholic school girl desperately trying to reinvent herself; and a man who Bun is told to avoid at all cost.

 

Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu
Expected publication: September 19, 2017 by Roaring Brook Press
Book Description:

MOXIE GIRLS FIGHT BACK!

Vivian Carter is fed up. Fed up with a school administration at her small-town Texas high school that thinks the football team can do no wrong. Fed up with sexist dress codes, hallway harassment, and gross comments from guys during class. But most of all, Viv Carter is fed up with always following the rules.

Viv’s mom was a tough-as-nails, punk rock Riot Grrrl in the ’90s, and now Viv takes a page from her mother’s past and creates a feminist zine that she distributes anonymously to her classmates. She’s just blowing off steam, but other girls respond. As Viv forges friendships with other young women across the divides of cliques and popularity rankings, she realizes that what she has started is nothing short of a girl revolution.

Moxie is a book about high school life that will make you wanna riot!

The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand
Expected publication: October 24, 2017 by HarperTeen
Book Description:

On Christmas Eve five years ago, Holly was visited by three ghosts who showed her how selfish and spoiled she’d become. They tried to convince her to mend her ways.

She didn’t.

And then she died.

Now she’s stuck working for the top-secret company Project Scrooge–as the latest Ghost of Christmas Past.

Every year, they save another miserly grouch. Every year, Holly stays frozen at seventeen while her family and friends go on living without her. So far, Holly’s afterlife has been miserable.

But this year, everything is about to change. . . .

Must Read Monday (64): YA from Vicki Grant, Alice Kuipers, Susan Juby & more!

Welcome to another edition of Must Read Monday!

This feature is where I spotlight older, recent, or upcoming releases I am looking forward to. The lists will include all genres I like to read, everything from picture books to comics, children’s lit to adult fiction!

This week: all young adult! There are new YA titles coming out from always-read Canadian authors (and personal favourites) Susan Juby and Alice Kuipers; Canadian author Vicki Grant has a fantastic-sounding contemporary YA called Short for Chameleon that has been recently released; Mackenzi Lee’s The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue– which is getting rave reviews- is coming out in June; and last, but not least, two new-to-me authors, Mary O’Connell and Karen McManus, have very intriguingly described titles coming out soon. Let’s take a closer look!

 

Short for Chameleon by Vicki Grant
Publication: March 7, 2017 by HarperTrophy

Embarrassed by your brother? Estranged from your uncle? Then you might need some help from Almost Family Surrogate Agency. Cam Redden and his dad are rent-a-relatives, available for hire to anyone looking to upgrade.

Cam’s job is all about being whoever other people want him to be. Then two new clients come along. Albertina is an old lady with a big mouth, a bigger wig and a serious mission. Raylene is a beautiful girl with a nose ring, a wonky eye and a painful secret. Now to get to the bottom of the tragic mysteries that fuel them both, Cam may finally have to be himself.

 

Me and Me by Alice Kuipers
Expected publication: April 11, 2017 by HarperTrophy

It’s Lark’s seventeenth birthday, and although she’s hated to be reminded of the day ever since her mom’s death three years ago, it’s off to a great start. Lark has written a killer song to perform with her band, the weather is stunning and she’s got a date with gorgeous Alec. The two take a canoe out on the lake, and everything is perfect—until Lark hears the screams. Annabelle, a little girl she used to babysit, is drowning in the nearby reeds while Annabelle’s mom tries desperately to reach her. Lark and Alec are closer, and they both dive in. But Alec hits his head on a rock in the water and begins to flail.

Alec and Annabelle are drowning. And Lark can save only one of them.

Lark chooses, and in that moment her world splits into two distinct lives. She must live with the consequences of both choices. As Lark finds herself going down more than one path, she has to decide: Which life is the right one?

 

Dear Reader by Mary O’Connell
Expected publication: May 9, 2017 by Flatiron Books

For seventeen-year-old Flannery Fields, the only respite from the plaid-skirted mean girls at Sacred Heart High School at is her beloved teacher Miss Sweeney’s AP English class. But when Miss Sweeney doesn’t show up to teach Flannery’s favorite book, Wuthering Heights, leaving behind her purse, Flannery knows something is wrong.The police are called, and Flannery gives them everything—except Miss Sweeney’s copy of Wuthering Heights. This she holds onto. And good thing she does, because when she opens it, it has somehow transformed into Miss Sweeney’s real-time diary. It seems Miss Sweeney is in New York City—and she’s in trouble.

So Flannery does something very unFlannery-like: she skips school and sets out for Manhattan, with the book as her guide. But as soon as she arrives, she meets a boy named Heath. Heath is British, on a gap year, incredibly smart—yet he’s never heard of Albert Einstein or Anne Frank. In fact, Flannery can’t help thinking that he seems to have stepped from the pages of Brontë’s novel. Could it be?

With inimitable wit and heart, Mary O’Connell has crafted a love letter to reading, to the books that make us who we are. Dear Reader, charming and heartbreaking, is a novel about finding your people, on the page in the world.

 

The Fashion Committee by Susan Juby
Expected publication: May 23, 2017 by Viking Books for Young Readers

Charlie Dean is a style-obsessed girl who eats, sleeps, and breathes fashion. John Thomas-Smith is a boy who forges metal sculptures in his garage and couldn’t care less about clothes. Both are gunning for a scholarship to the private art high school that could make all their dreams come true. Whoever wins the fashion competition will win the scholarship–and only one can win.

Told in the alternating voices of Charlie’s and John’s journals, this hilarious and poignant YA novel perfectly captures what it’s like to have an artistic drive so fierce that nothing–not your dad’s girlfriend’s drug-addicted ex-boyfriend, a soul-crushing job at Salad Stop, or being charged with a teensy bit of kidnapping–can stand in your way.

With black and white art custom-created by fashion and beauty illustrator Soleil Ignacio, the book is a collector’s item, perfect for anyone with a passion for fashion.

 

One of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus
Expected publication: May 30, 2017 by Delacorte Press

The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars, One of Us Is Lying is the story of what happens when five strangers walk into detention and only four walk out alive. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide.
Pay close attention and you might solve this.
On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.
Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.
Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.
Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose? Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.

 

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee
Expected publication: June 27, 2017 by Katherine Tegen Books

An unforgettable tale of two friends on their Grand Tour of 18th-century Europe who stumble upon a magical artifact that leads them from Paris to Venice in a dangerous manhunt, fighting pirates, highwaymen, and their feelings for each other along the way.

Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men. But as Monty embarks on his grand tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy. Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.

Witty, romantic, and intriguing at every turn, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is a sumptuous romp that explores the undeniably fine lines between friendship and love.

Blog Tour: Secrets in the Snow by Michaela MacColl

secrets-in-the-snow-blog-evite

 

Welcome to one of the stops on the Raincoast Books organized blog tour for Michaela MacColl‘s latest historical YA title, Secrets in the Snow: A Novel of Intrigue and Romance! Be sure to check out the other stops on the tour!

 

secretsinthesnow9781452133584Review: Secrets in the Snow: A Novel of Intrigue and Romance by Michaela MacColl
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: October 4, 2016 by Chronicle Books
Book Description:

Jane Austen’s family is eager to secure her future by marrying her off. But Jane is much more interested in writing her novels, and finds every suitor lacking-until the mysterious Mr. Lefroy arrives. Could he be the one? Before Jane can find out, she must solve a murder, clear her family’s name, and face a decision that might cost her true love.

Author Michaela MacColl has a number of well-reviewed historical teen titles to her name. Her latest novel, Secrets in the Snow, centers on a dramatic time in Jane Austen’s young life. Mixing biographical facts from Austen’s life with a fictionalized story of mystery and possible romance, Secrets in the Snow offers an engaging mystery with an iconic author as its protagonist.

With a strong and terrifically sharp and droll nineteen-year-old Jane Austen as our main character, readers are taken on an eighteenth century-set adventure full of deception, some dancing, and a murder. After eavesdropping on a charged conversation between her brother and a member from the War Office accusing one of their family cousins of being a spy for France, Jane becomes entwined in a life-changing chain of events. Altering her plans and returning to her family home, Jane takes it upon herself to approach her beloved, vivacious and widowed cousin, Eliza- the family member under suspicion of being a traitor to England. Back at home, Jane also finds herself mixed up in another drama- that of the possible attractions of a young, handsome man named Tom LeFroy, who appears, at first, to be a disagreeable and slightly haughty. MacColl easily blends Austen-esque attributes of character friction, witty banter, grand dances at halls, and pointed conversations of class and money with that of an unfolding mystery. While the murder mystery and suspenseful aspects of the story are well-done (if a tad hurried toward the end), I found that one of the most thoroughly enjoyable aspects of the novel is that of Jane’s voice. MacColl interestingly writes Jane from the third-person rather than first-person narrative, and she does a fantastic job in how Jane is presented and written as a thoughtfully-defined, energetic and wholly rooted character.

Overall, I found Secrets in the Snow to be a delightful and cozy read. A lovely surprise of a historical fiction title and very smoothly written, MacColl more than capably takes on what could be a daunting prospect and creates lively, well-imagined characters and a fun story with a dash of suspense. Any readers interested in an intriguing but not overly intensive look inside the imaginings of Jane Austen’s life, or have interest in a charming mystery might do well to check Secrets in Snow. MacColl also includes a generous Author’s Note section which divulges more about Jane Austen’s life, her family, her relationship with sister Cassandra and her history with Tom LeFroy. Readers who have enjoyed work by authors such as Katherine Longshore, Jennifer McGowan, Y.S. Lee or Sharon Cameron might especially enjoy this title!

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

Must Read Monday (49): The Memory of Light & Girl Mans Up…plus upcoming Blog Tour!

Welcome to another edition of Must Read Monday…with a preview of an upcoming blog tour I will be participating in this week! This feature is where I spotlight older, recent, or upcoming releases I am looking forward to. The lists will include all genres I like to read, everything from picture books to comics, children’s lit to adult fiction!

It’s been a few weeks since the last Must Read post, and it’s been a little quiet on the blog for a number of days…my last week was, to paraphrase from Lorelei and Rory Gilmore, more than nutty with extra nuts on top! Hardly any time for reading, let alone writing and editing. Anyhow! Back to this week’s Must Read Monday.

This week: The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork and Girl Mans Up by M-E Girard. These are two contemporary titles which I have been reading and hearing tremendous praise about, written by two authors whose work is new to me. Stork has penned critically acclaimed YA titles such as Marcelo and the Real World and others; there is just something about The Memory of Light’s description and snippets of Stork’s writing I have read that has me captivated. M-E Girard’s Girl Mans Up is a title that has slowly crept into my field of vision due to starred reviews and social media sharing, and now one that I am eager to read. Girard is not only a Canadian writer, but Girl Mans Up is also a contemporary fiction debut: two general features which immediately catch my attention as a reader.

 

memoryoflight25665016The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork Publication: January 26, 2016 by Arthur A. Levine Books

Vicky Cruz shouldn’t be alive. That’s what she thinks, anyway—and why she tried to kill herself. But then she arrives at Lakeview Hospital, where she meets Mona, the live wire; Gabriel, the saint; E.M., always angry; and Dr. Desai, a quiet force. With stories and honesty, kindness and hard work, they push her to reconsider her life before Lakeview, and offer her an acceptance she’s never had. Yet Vicky’s newfound peace is as fragile as the roses that grow around the hospital. And when a crisis forces the group to split up—sending her back to the life that drove her to suicide—Vicky must find her own courage and strength. She may not have any. She doesn’t know. Inspired in part by the author’s own experience with depression, The Memory of Light is the rare young adult novel that focuses not on the events leading up to a suicide attempt, but the recovery from one—about living when life doesn’t seem worth it, and how we go on anyway.

girlmansup28218947Girl Mans Up by M-E Girard Publication: September 6th 2016 by HarperCollins

All Pen Oliveira wants is to be the kind of girl she’s always been. So why does everyone have a problem with it? They think the way she looks and acts means she’s trying to be a boy—that she should quit trying to be something she’s not. If she dresses like a girl and does what her folks want, it will show respect. If she takes orders and does what her friend Colby wants, it will show her loyalty. But respect and loyalty, Pen discovers, are empty words. Pen makes tough choices, has her friends’s backs, and is done feeling bad about who she is. Old-world parents, disintegrating friendships, and strong feelings for other girls drive Pen to see the truth—that in order to be who she truly wants to be, she’ll have to man up.

Now a look at the blog tour coming up this week! I will participating in a tour, organized by the lovely folks at Raincoast Books, for Michaela MacColl’s newest historical YA fiction title Secrets in the Snow: A Novel of Intrigue and Romance. Secrets in the Snow is a story revolving around beloved author Jane Austen, intertwining facts of Austen’s real life with a fictionalized mystery. Take a look below at the tour schedule; the tour stops here this Wednesday, October 5th! Be sure to check out the other terrific stops on the tour as well! secrets-in-the-snow-blog-evite

Review: Julia Vanishes (Witch’s Child #1) by Catherine Egan

Julia-Vanishes_cvr-smReview: Julia Vanishes (Witch’s Child #1) by Catherine Egan
Source: ARC courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada via Goodreads First Reads. Thank you!
Publication: June 7, 2016 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Verdict: Very Good/Excellent
Book Description:

Julia has the unusual ability to be…unseen. Not invisible, exactly. Just beyond most people’s senses.

It’s a dangerous trait in a city that has banned all forms of magic and drowns witches in public Cleansings. But it’s a useful trait for a thief and a spy. And Julia has learned—crime pays.

Her latest job is paying very well indeed. Julia is posing as a housemaid in the grand house of Mrs. Och, where an odd assortment of characters live and work: A disgraced professor who keeps forbidden books and sends her to fetch parcels containing bullets, spiders, and poison. An aristocratic houseguest who is locked in the basement each night. And a mysterious young woman with an infant son who is clearly hiding—though from what or whom?

Worse, Julia has a creeping suspicion that there’s a connection between these people and the killer leaving a trail of bodies across the frozen city.

The more she learns, the more she wants to be done with this unnatural job. To go back to the safety of her friends and fellow thieves. But Julia is entangled in a struggle between forces more powerful than she’d ever imagined. Escape will come at a terrible price.

And even a girl who can vanish can’t walk away from her own worst deeds.

Sometimes it is wonderful to go into a book knowing only a little about what is to come. When I first read the description of Julia Vanishes, my interest was immediately piqued as I had not read, in recent memory, a young adult novel on the fantastical-historical spectrum. And readers, how delighted am I to say that Canadian author Catherine Egan absolutely surprises with the epic and engrossing Julia Vanishes.

With a strong mixture of skillful world-building, a compelling unique main character, a  well-drawn cast of main and supporting characters, and a wonderfully rich and darkly evocative atmosphere, Julia Vanishes is indeed a fascinating read. In chapters alternating between the first-person narrative of sixteen year-old thief Julia, and an omnipresent third-person view, readers are taken deep into an alternate world where witches are drowned, and magic is an evil word. When we meet Julia, she has been hired to pose as a housemaid to investigate the possibly illegal (magical, witch-related) activities happening in a wealthy household. The more Julia stealthily- and dangerously- uncovers about her place of hire and the people living there, the more she becomes inextricably linked to a mammoth, twisted magical machinations that date back centuries. Through her hired work, Julia also slowly begins to uncover more about her own deceased mother’s powers, her unhealthy fixation with watching witches drown in public Cleansings, and just what her strange ability to be ‘unseen’ might actually be linked to.

Julia Vanishes is extremely rich- rich in atmosphere, tone, setting, plot development, and character revelations. It is a testament to Egan’s impressive ability to write so fluidly, so capably, that Julia’s story- and the stories within the story- does not feel overwhelming or muddled. The last quarter of the novel in particular manages to pack another momentous journey with our main characters, filled with even more surprises and reveals. I must say while I had initially been dubious about the sheer volume of information uncloaked regarding Julia and her mother’s past, as well as the grand battle/fight scenes, I have come to appreciate how well Egan has prepared the reader (and excited interest!) for a follow-up. Leaving matters on quite a cliffhanger- but in an understandable rather than frustrating manner- there is much to look forward to and anticipate when we next meet with Julia. Julia Vanishes looks to be the first in a planned trilogy, and I absolutely intend to follow along with this wonderful story.

Overall, Julia Vanishes captivates from start to finish. The novel is an accomplished, sophisticated and surprising entry in the fantasy/witches sub-genre in young adult literature. Readers who enjoy the work of authors such as Jessica Spotswood, Sharon Cameron, Kevin Sands, Leigh Bardugo, or Jennifer McGowan, or any readers looking for a strong read blending historical fantasy and paranormalcy, might do very well to check out Julia Vanishes.

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

Must Read Monday (31): The Passion of Dolssa & Once Was a Time

Welcome to another edition of Must Read Monday!

This feature is where I spotlight older, recent, or upcoming releases I am looking forward to. The lists will include all genres I like to read, everything from picture books to comics, children’s lit to adult fiction!

This week: Julie Berry‘s The Passion of Dolssa and Leila Sales‘s Once Was a Time. I was absolutely enthralled by Julie Berry’s gripping young adult title All the Truth That’s In Me– the year I read it, it was a top YA read of year for me- so I am very much looking forward to read her latest, an historical fiction title. Tagged as medieval, dark and thrilling, with a number of terrific reviews already out there, I can’t wait to dive in. Popular YA author Leila Sales (a must-read author for me!) moves into the middle-grade/children’s genre with the upcoming Once Was a Time. Described as a time-traveling historical title, I am very curious to read what Sales does with this new genre foray! As I mentioned in my review of Janet B. Taylor’s Into the Dim, I have had a pretty wobbly relationship with time travel fiction. But! I really enjoyed Into the Dim, and given the fact that I am a fan of Sales’ writing, I think Once Was a Time holds great promise!

PASSIONOFDOLSSA25902198The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry
Expected publication: April 12, 2016 by Viking Books for Young Readers

Buried deep within the archives of a convent in medieval France is an untold story of love, loss, and wonder and the two girls at the heart of it all.

Dolssa is an upper-crust city girl with a secret lover and an uncanny gift. Branded a heretic, she’s on the run from the friar who condemned her mother to death by fire, and wants Dolssa executed, too.Botille is a matchmaker and a tavern-keeper, struggling to keep herself and her sisters on the right side of the law in their seaside town of Bajas.

When their lives collide by a dark riverside, Botille rescues a dying Dolssa and conceals her in the tavern, where an unlikely friendship blooms. Aided by her sisters and Symo, her surly but loyal neighbor, Botille nurses Dolssa back to health and hides her from her pursuers. But all of Botille’s tricks, tales, and cleverness can’t protect them forever, and when the full wrath of the Church bears down upon Bajas, Dolssa’s passion and Botille’s good intentions could destroy the entire village.

From the author of the award-winning All the Truth That’s in Me comes a spellbinding thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the final page and make you wonder if miracles really are possible.

 

ONCEWASATIME25777460Once Was a Time by Leila Sales
Expected publication: April 5, 2016 by Chronicle Books

In the war-ravaged England of 1940, Charlotte Bromley is sure of only one thing: Kitty McLaughlin is her best friend in the whole world. But when Charlotte’s scientist father makes an astonishing discovery that the Germans will covet for themselves, Charlotte is faced with an impossible choice between danger and safety. Should she remain with her friend or journey to another time and place?

Her split-second decision has huge consequences, and when she finds herself alone in the world, unsure of Kitty’s fate, she knows that somehow, some way, she must find her way back to her friend. Written in the spirit of classic time-travel tales, this book is an imaginative and heartfelt tribute to the unbreakable ties of friendship.

Must Read Monday (29): No Matter How Improbable & Jolly Foul Play

Welcome to another edition of Must Read Monday!

This feature is where I spotlight older, recent, or upcoming releases I am looking forward to. The lists will include all genres I like to read, everything from picture books to comics, children’s lit to adult fiction!

PrintFirst up is No Matter How Improbable, the third entry in the Portia Adams historical mystery series from Canadian author Angela Misri. I adored the first two titles in this Sherlockian-inspired world, and look very much forward to more of this beautifully written young adult series.

No Matter How Improbable (Portia Adams Adventures #3) by Angela Misri
Expected Publication: March 22, 2016 by Fierce Ink Press

Can Portia Adams right all that has happened in her brief absence in Italy or will she lose someone she loves to the gray London streets?

 

Second up is Jolly Foul Play, the fourth entry in the wonderful historical mystery series, Wells & Wong, from British author Robin Stevens. The Wells & Wong middle grade series is, like the Portia Adams series, rich in historical detail and features strong female protagonists. If you are on the lookout for British-set cozy mysteries in middle grade lit or young adult, then I would definitely recommend these series!

JOLLYFOULPLAY27030027Jolly Foul Play (Wells & Wong #4) by Robin Stevens
Expected Publication: March 24, 2016 by Puffin

Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong have returned to Deepdean for a new school term, but nothing is the same. There’s a new Head Girl, Elizabeth Hurst, and a team of Prefects – and these bullying Big Girls are certainly not good eggs. Then, after the fireworks display on Bonfire Night, Elizabeth is found – murdered.

Many girls at Deepdean had reason to hate Elizabeth, but who might have committed such foul play? Could the murder be linked to the secrets and scandals, scribbled on scraps of paper, that are suddenly appearing around the school? And with their own friendship falling to pieces, how will Daisy and Hazel solve this mystery?

Blog Tour: Janet B. Taylor’s Into the Dim!

Welcome to one of the last stops on the special blog tour for Janet B. Taylor‘s Into the Dim!

Into The Dim Blog Tour Evite

As part of the tour, I had the opportunity to ask the debut author herself a question! Read on for that Q&A as well as for my review!

Q:I am always fascinated by authors’ favourite characters or protagonists. As a teen and young adult, who were some of your most-loved or admired characters? Did that shape how your crafted Hope, your own leading heroine in Into the Dim?

A: Ha! In another blog post here, I mentioned Meg Wallace from ‘A Wrinkle in Time.’ Meg wasn’t a super-hero. She was smart, though. And cared about her family. She definitely had an influence on Hope’s character. .Also…I always seemed to connect more with some of the secondary characters in classic kids novels. For instance—I was a Mary Ingalls fan in the ‘Little House on the Prairie’ series. No joke, when I was in the fourth grade I even wrote a letter to Melissa Sue Anderson, who played Mary in the TV show, And she wrote me back!!!!! And even sent me an autographed photo! I also related more to (another) Meg. This time it was Meg March in ‘Little Women’. I think it was because I like the gentler, more level-headed characters—who used their brains—better than the ‘spunky’ characters who always got into trouble, like Jo March and Laura Ingalls.

And—of course—I related to every Judy Blume character EVER. Margaret, from ‘Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret,’ and Katherine, in ‘Forever’ to name a few.

Thank you, Janet!

INTOTHEDIM25897792

Review: Into the Dim (Into the Dim #1) by Janet B. Taylor
Source: ARC courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Expected publication: March 1, 2016 by HMH Books for Young Readers
Verdict: Very Good

Book Description:

When fragile, sixteen-year-old Hope Walton loses her mom to an earthquake overseas, her secluded world crumbles. Agreeing to spend the summer in Scotland, Hope discovers that her mother was more than a brilliant academic, but also a member of a secret society of time travelers.

Trapped in the twelfth century in the age of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Hope has seventy-two hours to rescue her mother and get back to their own time. Along the way, her path collides with that of a mysterious boy who could be vital to her mission . . . or the key to Hope’s undoing. Addictive, romantic, and rich with historical detail, Into the Dim is an Outlander for teens.

A taut and intriguingly wound story, Janet B. Taylor’s YA debut, Into the Dim, is a treat. Part historical fiction, part sci-fi/time travel, this novel successfully bridges multiple genres in a carefully structured story that boasts strong action and engaging characters. Through the first-person narrative of our protagonist, slightly prickly teenager Hope Walton, readers are taken on a whirlwind of incredible adventures. As the book description promises, we learn that Hope’s mom- thought by almost everyone to have died in an earthquake (except by Hope herself)- is most likely alive. But alive and trapped without any promise of escape in the twelfth century.

As someone who has had a bumpy go with reading time travel fiction (especially in YA), I am happy to say that I found this novel to be extremely entertaining and addictive. I think Taylor managed to keep the explanation behind the time traveling society grounded enough that it flowed and made sense within the context of this story. The world-creation of Eleanor of Aquitaine’s time period is done well: the ways in which Taylor crafts the particulars of the time- through sartorial elements, disease(s), sicknesses, prejudices and racism, pungent odours, lack of respect toward and lack of safety of women- all add to how smoothly the historical aspect of the novel works.

With respect to characters, I found myself growing more enthusiastic of Hope’s narrative- as the story unfolded. Her character took a little while to get into; she comes across as believably unhappy and lost, and fighting anxieties and demons but standoffish and judgmental. It was good to see her broaden her emotions and abilities as the story went on. On top of the sci fi angle, there is also a romance that starts to flourish as we reach major turns within the story. While a little bit on the ‘immediate attraction’ side of things, Taylor works this aspect out with a backstory (perhaps slightly rushed, but still cleverly done!) to make Hope’s intense romantic interest much more tenable and understandable.

Now, as someone who has not read any of Diana Gabaldon’s work nor watched Outlander, I cannot comment on the veracity of the comparison being drawn between Taylor’s work and Gabaldon. I absolutely see the appeal in having Gabaldon- a hugely popular author!- blurb the book and having the marketing promote Into the Dim as a YA Outlander…However! I would hope that readers who aren’t into Outlander or similar titles/genres not be turned away from Into the Dim as it stands on its own as a very well-developed and highly entertaining creation!

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Into the Dim and would recommend for readers interested in historical YA, time travel lit, or YA with a sci-fi angle. With intriguing characters, a tightly wound plot, and action to spare, Into the Dim is a great and much welcome surprise. Readers who enjoy everything from Jennifer McGowan’s Maid of Secrets series, Katherine Longshore’s historical YA, Kevin Sands’ The Blackthorn Key, or writers such as Maureen Johnson or Maggie Stiefvater might especially enjoy Into the Dim. I really look forward to what book two in this planned series will bring!

If you get a chance, be sure to check out the other posts on the Into the Dim Blog Tour!

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.

Must Read Monday (27): The Dark Days Club & Remembrance

Welcome to another edition of Must Read Monday!

This feature is where I spotlight older, recent, or upcoming releases I am looking forward to. The lists will include all genres I like to read, everything from picture books to comics, children’s lit to adult fiction!

This week: The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman and Remembrance, the seventh book in the Mediator series from Meg Cabot. First up is The Dark Days Club, which is a Regency-era novel- with demons. My interest in supernatural/urban fantasy historical fiction goes up and down, but there’s just something about Goodman’s novel which is calling my attention! I hope it lives up to its terrific description! Second is the long-awaiting finale to Meg Cabot’s supernatural Mediator series. I really enjoyed The Mediator series when it first came up- compulsive and fun reading as per Cabot’s usual. After completely loving Royal Wedding– which follows Mia Thermopolis, Micheal and the whole Princess Diaries group as adults- I have faith that Cabot has done a solid job with continuing (and completing) Suze and Jesse’s story.

 

DARKDAYSCLUB15993203The Dark Days Club (Lady Helen #1) by Alison Goodman
Publication: January 26, 2016 by Viking Books for Young Readers

London, April 1812. On the eve of eighteen-year-old Lady Helen Wrexhall’s presentation to the queen, one of her family’s housemaids disappears-and Helen is drawn into the shadows of Regency London. There, she meets Lord Carlston, one of the few who can stop the perpetrators: a cabal of demons infiltrating every level of society.

Dare she ask for his help, when his reputation is almost as black as his lingering eyes? And will her intelligence and headstrong curiosity wind up leading them into a death trap?

 

REMEMBRANCE25573701Remembrance (The Mediator #7) by Meg Cabot
Publication: February 2, 2016 by William Morrow Paperbacks

Fifteen years after the release of the first Mediator novel, #1 New York Times bestselling author Meg Cabot returns with a deliciously sexy new entry to a fan-favorite series. Suze Simon—all grown up and engaged to her once-ghostly soulmate—faces a vengeful spirit and an old enemy bent on ending Suze’s wedded bliss before it begins.

You can take the boy out of the darkness. But you can’t take the darkness out of the boy.

All Susannah Simon wants is to make a good impression at her first job since graduating from college (and since becoming engaged to Dr. Jesse de Silva). But when she’s hired as a guidance counselor at her alma mater, she stumbles across a decade-old murder, and soon ancient history isn’t all that’s coming back to haunt her. Old ghosts as well as new ones are coming out of the woodwork, some to test her, some to vex her, and it isn’t only because she’s a mediator, gifted with second sight.

From a sophomore haunted by the murderous specter of a child, to ghosts of a very different kind—including Paul Slater, Suze’s ex, who shows up to make a bargain Suze is certain must have come from the Devil himself—Suze isn’t sure she’ll make it through the semester, let alone to her wedding night. Suze is used to striking first and asking questions later. But what happens when ghosts from her past—including one she found nearly impossible to resist—strike first?