DNF Review: Infinity Son

So my first fresh read of 2020 (meaning I didn’t start it in 2019) was meant to be Infinity Son by Adam Silvera. I’m a big fan of Adam’s contemporary work, so when he said he was releasing a fantasy novel I was so excited! However, I’m sad to say that this was not what I was hoping for at all and it’s also become my first DNF of the year.

Over the last several months I kept seeing tweets referring to it as an “epic fantasy novel” which I took to mean high fantasy (think Lord of the Rings) when it turns out the use of the word “epic” was meant to be used as a word for “cool” and in reference to the book rather than the genre. Part of this is my own fault for not looking more closely at the back of the ARC, but I’ve got to say I was disappointed at the “urban” level of the genre.

On a good day, I’m not a fan of urban fantasy. It takes a lot for me to be interested in a fantasy novel that is set in the real world, so that was already a mark against this novel. Strike two was that not only was it urban fantasy, it was a superhero story; yet another subgenre element that I’m not interested in. Had I known that’s what this book was going to be I wouldn’t have requested the ARC in the first place.

To me, the biggest problems were in the first two chapters. And by problems, I mean the entire plot of the book is so easily guessable. In this world, it seems that people have until their 18th birthdays to discover if they have superpowers or not. It is also mentioned that there are “villain” characters who do something with phoenix blood to force superpowers on themselves. Now, this is a decent enough concept (with more PG-rated Vicious vibes) but quickly becomes boring when you consider that the main characters are twin boys, one of which just wants to be a normal boy and the other who wants to be a hero. I didn’t even make it past 13 or so pages but I can basically guess that Normal Boy Twin gets powers on their birthday while Other Twin goes after phoenix blood to become a hero.

I’m so sad that this book is miles away from what I was hoping for, but as a result, I will be hosting a giveaway on my Instagram for this ARC. I’d really love if it went to a good home with a reader who would actually enjoy a book like this.


Giveaway post
(Giveaway open to North American residents only, see post for details)

REVIEW: The Widow of Pale Harbour

Thank you to Harper Collins Canada and Graydon House for providing me with a copy of the ARC.


Attention all Poe fans! Do I have a book for you!

The Widow of Pale Harbour is the second standalone novel from Hester Fox and follows Gabriel Stone – a man on the run from his past posing as a priest – and Sophronia Carver – a wealthy woman accused of murder and witchcraft – as they navigate their way through the puzzles left by a madman terrorizing Pale Harbour by way of Edgar Allan Poe’s twisted works.

I really enjoyed this topsy turvy mystery novel. I wasn’t sure what to expect from Hester Fox’s latest novel, but it was definitely a lot of fun. The mystery itself was well thought out and even with the limited cast of characters, I still had a hard time cracking the case before the end of the book. It was the right balance between an armchair mystery and a horror-inspired thriller, with the mystery itself being on the gruesome side while very clearly knowing where the line was in terms of the descriptions.

The romance plot wasn’t exactly a slow-burn, but it moved at a good speed as the characters unfolded on the pages. We really get to know Gabriel and his dedication to those he cares for as well as Sophronia and her fear of being hurt (emotionally and physically) by those she thinks she cares for.

This is definitely a great book for the upcoming Halloween season and is a good cozy read for a chilly autumn day. If you’re an older reader who enjoyed the Stalking Jack the Ripper series by Kerri Maniscalco, this would be a title I would certainly recommend.

 

 

The Ghost Collector Blog Tour

Allison Mills’s debut novel, The Ghost Collector, is a middle-grade contemporary novel with a hint of the paranormal. Shelly’s family can catch ghosts in their hair and help them find their way to the afterlife when ready. Using this talent as something of a job, Shelly’s grandmother often takes her ghost hunting as they free the ghosts of animals from homes the owners are convinced are the spirits of horrible people. When Shelly’s mom passes away, the girl needs to come to terms with what real loss feels like and how holding on to what’s meant to be let go of can be more destructive than you may think.

The Ghost Collector is meant for younger audiences but also doesn’t hold back in hitting hard with the feels. It’s a powerful novel for anyone struggling to deal with a loss and I know that it helped give me a bit more perspective on a recent loss in my life. I definitely thank Allison for that.

I really liked Shelly and her relationship with her family. Her grandmother reminded me of mine in so many ways which warmed my heart. Not to mention that I could understand the idea of struggling to make “real friends” like Shelly did. Growing up I considered fictional characters I read about to be more real friends than my classmates or any other kids I met, so her having a hard time connecting with her classmates was incredibly relatable.

Change is so difficult, and change because of loss is even harder. This novel captured all of that so wonderfully. While sad, it was satisfying.

With all of that being said, I was lucky enough to have the chance to ask author Allison Mills herself some questions about this exciting release.


Lucien: First off, congratulations on the release of The Ghost Collector! I’ve seen in another interview you’ve given as well as in the acknowledgements of the advanced copy of the book, that this novel was the result of expanding on a short story (If a Bird Can Be a Ghost) you’ve previously written. What was it about the story that made you want to expand upon it?

AllisonThank you! I’m really happy the release date is finally here. It feels like it’s been a long time in the making, especially if you take the short story that became The Ghost Collector as the starting point. The characters and world of If A Bird Can Be A Ghost—the short story that The Ghost Collector is based on—stuck with me after I finished the story. I kept going back and trying to do something else with them. I have two or three abandoned short stories set within the same world or using some of the same characters. I knew I wanted to expand on the story somehow, and then Claire Caldwell, my editor at Annick Press, approached me about the possibility of turning the story into a novel and it was kind of like the stars aligned. I was really fortunate to get a chance to play in this space again.

How did the experience of writing the novel differ from when you were working with it as a short?

The biggest difference is that I wrote them with different audiences in mind. The short story, although it’s still about Shelly, was written for adults. In writing the novel, I spent a lot of time thinking about how to frame discussions of death and grief for a younger audience—and especially for younger Indigenous readers. As a kid, I read a lot of fantasy books that, when they had an Indigenous character in them, treated them as an archetype more than a person, and it was always really alienating for me. I didn’t want The Ghost Collector to feel like it played into stereotypes. I wanted to write a paranormal story about an Indigenous family that grounded the characters in the modern world, that framed Indigenous peoples as present. I know from experience that it’s easy for non-Indigenous people to historicize us and to romanticize some mystical version of us and our cultures. With that in mind, I tried to be deliberate about the way I wrote the ghosts in the book and to have the characters push back against stereotypes other characters try to apply to them.

Writing a novel was also a chance to spend more time with the characters. Scenes with Joseph and Shelly talking to each other were my favourite thing to write when I was working on the short story, and I got to add a lot more of that when I expanded the story into a novel. Getting to add more scenes with Shelly’s mother was also great. She didn’t get much screen time in the short story, but I wrote it knowing exactly who she was and what her relationship with Shelly was like, so putting more of it down on the page was honestly kind of cathartic.

There are several instances of music being important in describing who the characters are. Where The Cure and Siouxsie and the Banshees are important to Joseph, what band would you say best fits you?

This is a really hard question. I think it changes week to week, but right now, I’d say I’m alternating between Hozier and Carly Rae Jepsen as musical artists that fit me best.

Does music often play a role of its own in your writing?

It definitely does! I like writing with background noise. I’ll make playlists for certain moods I want to hit in my writing or music that I think is really emblematic of a certain character or story or moment—Joseph and his connection to post-punk/goth is a good example of that. Having music in the background helps me focus on what I’m doing, although it also means that sometimes a song becomes a symbol of a story or characters and is no longer something I can listen to for the sake of listening to it.

Throughout the book, Shelly collects ghosts of several kinds, from people to animals. If you could keep a ghost of someone (or something) would you? If so, what ghost would you keep?

I’m going to be honest, I spent a lot of my childhood really obsessed with ghost stories, but also terrified of ghosts conceptually. Even if my book didn’t focus on the importance of not letting your ghosts linger, I don’t think I’d want to keep one around. That said, there is part of me that definitely sees the appeal of a ghost pet. Cheap, with no clean up required, but you still get the companionship offered by a living pet and you never have to worry about them getting sick! It’s kind of the ideal.

The Ghost Collector is a story of learning to let go and live life the way it is meant to be lived. But it is also a story of grief, especially the grief of a young girl. Were you every concerned about the content being too much for the younger readers who may be drawn to it?

That was definitely a concern I had while I was writing. Some things changed between the short story and the novel because of the shift in audience. I talked about some of that in relation to Indigenous readers already, but more generally one of the things I tried to do when I wrote the book was balance the darkness of Shelly’s grief with moments of lightness, either through humour or by having other characters reach out to Shelly—adding in something to alleviate the tension in the book so that the grief never gets too heavy for the reader to carry.

That being said, grief is a very important emotion to learn about and even learn from when we face it. Is there a reason why you wanted to tackle that lesson by using a ghost story as the basis?

I’ve always had an affinity for ghosts and ghost stories. When I was writing the short story The Ghost Collector is based on, I liked the concept of someone who can see and interact with the dead suddenly not being able to find the one ghost they want to interact with. It seemed like an interesting way to show someone grappling with the realities of loss and grief.

You’ve said that your Ililiw/Cree and settler Canadian heritage has played a part in your love of ghosts and ghost stories, are you able to elaborate on that?

Yeah! It’s kind of a two-fold thing. Part of it is that when I think about ghosts I think about them as manifestations of the liminal—they’re not alive, but they’re not quite gone either. They occupy this boundary space that I really like exploring and am fascinated by. I’m Indigenous, but because I have settler Canadian family too, I’m white-passing and have a lot of white privilege. I spend a lot of time grappling with the complex—at least to me—reality of that so I think part of me liking ghosts so much is that I feel like I exist in a liminal space too.

Less tied to my multiple identities and thoughts about the ways I interact with the world, I also just grew up hearing stories about my great-grandmother Louisa finding bodies for the RCMP in Chapleau, where our band is from and where my grandfather grew up. And, you know, there were plenty of other stories told about her too—like, Louisa really liked the Mary Poppins movie and would watch it whenever she visited when my mom was a kid—but that’s not as sensational as an uncanny knack for discovering missing persons, so it didn’t implant itself in my brain the same way stories about the RCMP coming knocking on the door did.

If there was one thing you hope reader’s take away from The Ghost Collector, what do you hope it is?

The importance of our connections to other people. I think allowing yourself to be known by others—making yourself vulnerable by expressing your feelings instead of bottling everything up inside—can be an incredibly difficult thing to do, but our relationships with one another are what get us through our darkest moments. I really hope that’s something readers of The Ghost Collector will be left with.


I would like to thank Annick Press and Allison Mills for allowing me to be a part of this blog tour and for providing me with a copy of the ARC.

The Ghost Collector is set to be available everywhere on September 10th, 2019.

Who is G.O.?

today i sneezed
so hard
i shook my brain
inside my head.

ever thought about your brain before?
try it.
now your brain             is thinking
about   itself


I received a rather mysterious post card from the wonderful team at Tundra Books. But what could it mean?

I think it means an even bigger mystery is on it’s way to my mailbox and I’m definitely looking forward to it.

Stay tuned!


The Collected Works of Gretchen Oyster by Cary Fagan, coming fall 2019.

 

REVIEW: A Megabat Double Feature

Thank you to Penguin Canada and Tundra Books for providing me with copies of these books


MEGABAT

Megabat is a book about friendship in unlikely places and the importance of helping those you care about wrapped up in a funny premise full of amazing illustrations.

_MG_6519Daniel Misumi has just moved away from his friends in Toronto into a strange old house where his bedroom is not only leaking but is in the attic. Miserable and lonely, Daniel discovers that what he believes to be a ghost is actually a talking! Learning the bat has be mistakenly taken from his home, Daniel does his best to help Megabat get reunited with his family with the help of another new friend across the street.

This first book is wonderful. It’s funny, fun, and full of goofy Star Wars references to make any level of geek happy. Given the young age demographic and reading level this is meant for, I enjoyed the light-heartedness of the story and the lower-end stakes. There are also plenty of vocabulary words that would make great practice for young readers as well as several “topics” that could be used for just-for-fun research and learning (such as the different kinds of bats or general geography).

The illustrations are absolutely wonderful in this book and not only help break up the chapters but add an extra layer of humour to the story. Especially when the Star Wars references come in or Megabat is doing something silly with his tongue. While black and white, they still feel vibrant and Kass Reich’s style definitely adds to the quaint feeling of Anna Humphrey’s narrative.

Non-violent and full of life, I really had a good time with this despite being a 24-year-old book blogger. It certainly would have been a good book to have when I used to babysit.

MEGABAT MEETS FANCY CAT

The second Megabat book focuses this time on mistakes and misunderstandings as well as second-child syndrome. It’s also told from Megabat’s perspective rather than Daniel’s providing a different level of goofy humour.

_MG_6518It’s Christmas, and Daniel has been surprised with a new cat! Priscilla has been adopted from an old lady who has developed allergies, and she is very fancy. Megabat and Priscilla don’t exactly get off on the right foot, causing more than bit of mayhem in the Misumi household.

Much like the first one, this book was a bucket of fun. Having Megabat’s thoughts be the main narrative was so cute and entertaining especially with the “language barrier” Megabat deals with. However, this one seems to have more of a message in it, and despite all of the confusion and meanness, Megabat learns to apologize for his mistakes. Not to mention that Daniel explains to Megabat how a family getting larger doesn’t mean the amount of love shares get smaller, even if that new addition is getting a lot of attention. As someone who is an older sibling, it’s definitely a relevant topic to discuss with kids even if they’re only children since it can happen even in friend groups, not just in families.

Another solid hit from author Anna Humphrey and illustrator Kass Reich. I certainly look forward to more Megabat in the future.


Both Megabat and Megabat Meets Fancy Cat are available now wherever books are sold!

The Matchmaker’s List Blog Tour!

dityjorvqaa1mmcSonya Lalli’s debut novel, The Matchmaker’s List, follows Raina as she struggles with the pressures of her family and her culture in regards to getting married. Her best friend is set to be married on Raina’s 30th birthday and with her ex-boyfriend still looming in her mind, Raina is having a hard time handling the stress of her crazy busy investment job on top of all the blind dates her grandmother is setting her up with. I was lucky enough to have a chance to ask Sonya a few questions regarding her amazing book!


Lucien: Congratulations on the North American release of The Matchmaker’s List! Have there been many new experiences between the UK release of The Arrangement back in 2017 and now releasing over here?

 Sonya: Thank you so much! Both experiences have been incredible and I’m so thankful to the wonderful people who have made it happen, and the writing and book bloggers community who have been so supportive. The big difference has been that my book is now being released in my home country. Walking into a bookstore and seeing my book on the shelf for the first time was priceless — it was at the WH Smith in Liverpool Street Station, by the way! — but it’s going to be absolutely overwhelming when I go home to Saskatoon and see it on shelves there.

You have such a strong writing voice. Was pursuing writing always a goal of yours?

 That’s really nice of you to say. And I think so, even though it wavered in terms of priority. During law school for example, I don’t think I wrote at all. I actually don’t think I even read anything that wasn’t a textbook.

What drew you to writing romance?

I don’t think I intended to write in a certain genre. Before, I didn’t even think about genre when I wrote. But in retrospect the fact that I ended up here makes perfect sense. I am a complete sucker for romance.

What’s harder, law school or writing a novel?

Writing a novel. One hundred percent. Yes, law school was hard but everything was concrete. You had the text books, the classes, the exams — you knew what you needed to study and when the tests would be scheduled for and what the passing mark was. Writing a novel… everything is up in the air. There is no set path or right or wrong. You just have to go for it, stick at it, and hope for the best.

From Canada to the States to England and back again, which was your favourite city to live in?

Hmmm. I absolutely loved London, but part of the reason I loved it so much was that I knew being there was temporary. So I think my answer is Toronto. It’s diverse and buzzing and vibrant, and it also is where I see myself spending the rest of my life. Saskatoon will always be home to me, but now Toronto is too.

In the novel I loved the comparison of “modern arranged marriage” to online dating and dating apps. When did that idea come to you in terms of explaining how things work?

While I was writing the book. Some of my friends use dating apps where you can be matched with people who are similar to you, and I thought: well, that’s just like if one of their auntie’s set them up with a guy they thought was similar.

You tackle the social issue of coming out to an unwelcoming community. What drew you to that plot line? Have you ever witnessed something so polarizing in your own social/family circle?

A good thing about my culture is the importance of family, but that also means that our choices in that respect — relationships, marriage, children — can be heavily scrutinized. It can be difficult for the older generations especially to come to terms with choices that don’t meet their family values. As the book shows, these values are changing and modernizing, but the process is slow and every family and community is different.

There have been instances in my community where somebody does something ‘different’ for the first time — and it draws attention, sometimes negative attention– but then eventually it stops being a big deal. Often, no one bats an eyelid the next time that same thing happens.

You also get into the sexism issues of more tradition Indian culture. Do you think that sexism is an issue that is getting better or worse?

I think it depends on the family and community. In my experience, yes, it has gotten a lot better. (A tiny example: thirty-five years ago when my mom didn’t give up her maiden name, people talked; when I didn’t change my name after my wedding, nobody cared.) But I can’t speak for everyone. I know that in general we still have a long way to go.

I loved Raina’s friendship with Shay, even when they were fighting. You’ve said that Nani was inspired by your own grandmother. Was Shay drawn from any real-life friendships?

Shay is a composite of a few of the strong, funny, amazing women in my life: my cousin, who is like a sister to me, and a few of my closest friends.

At its core, The Matchmaker’s List seems to be about finding your place in the world. Whether that’s fitting in with expectations or demolishing them entirely. What kind of advice would you give someone struggling with finding themselves?

Thank you. Even though this is a romance, you’re right, it’s also about Raina’s journey to becoming who she is, and respecting herself enough to be in the ‘right’ romance. I can’t remember who said this — it’s probably been said in a number of iterations — but we first need to love and know our true selves before we can allow another person to love us. That’s easier said than done. So I guess I would say don’t be too hard on yourself. Don’t try and stick to some timeline.  Believe in yourself and your choices, and you’ll come out the other end stronger.

I’ve got to ask, what’s next for you?

I have another book coming out with Berkley in 2020. It’s not a sequel, but another standalone rom com. I hope there will be more after that. I will continue to work in publishing by day, and write by night!

Thank you, Sonya, for taking the time for the interview. I’m sure I’m not the only one looking forward to your future work and wish you all the best!


And now it’s time for the review!

What I loved about this book was that it wasn’t what I was expecting. I went in looking for a girl going on dates as she’s told to do and finding the perfect guy. Very Hallmark. Cute and simple.

What I got was a story about not just finding love with someone else, but with yourself and your community. It’s about breaking down expectations within Raina and her community as she struggles with her life, as Shay fights against a traditional marriage rituals, as others within their community struggle against homophobic views.

Raina’s character really grows across the year the novel takes place and it was a touching story. Inner strength is powerful, and a lot of us are far stronger than we believe. That’s the reminder The Matchmaker’s List brings to us. Definitely worth picking up under either of it’s publication titles!


I would like to thank Penguin Random House Canada, Berkley Publishing, and Sonya Lalli, herself, for providing me with a copy of this book and for talking the time to allow this blog tour post to happen. 

REVIEW: Strange Days

Thank you Penguin Random House Canada and G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers for providing me with a finished copy of the book to review.


I live by a strong motto when it comes to the books that I read and that is “Life’s too short for books you don’t like”. However, considering I received this debut novel in exchange for a review, I felt the need to push through and really give it a change to redeem itself.

Strange Days is a debut novel by Constantine Singer that follows Alex Mata as he fights to save the world from an alien invasion after being blamed for the murder of his parents (who were killed by said aliens).

When I first heard of this book it made me think Ready Player Go with a little bit of District 9 and a touch of Enders Game. I was expecting action packed scenes of a group of teens time traveling and saving people. Sadly, what I got was…nothing.

While the narrative voice is strong, I had a hard time relating to Alex or even any of the other characters. While the cast is wonderfully diverse, I had a problem with the way the one gay character was portrayed. To get into specifics, Paul is tubby, speaks in a feminine stereotype, and the subplot of his life comes across as more homophobic as Alex is 100% uncomfortable with it and then doesn’t understand why Paul gets upset.

The biggest issue for me, though, is that it doesn’t really go anywhere. Alex witnesses the same person’s future (rather than actual time travel) and we don’t really learn any new information from it. By the time I finished the book I was just waiting for it to get to the point which is unfortunate.

At the end, it really just feels like a book for 15-year-old boys who don’t read. And that’s not always a bad thing. Everyone should have a book for them and let’s be real this is a quick read despite being 400 pages long. I’m just not someone I think this book was directed towards. I do hope Constantine Singer keeps writing because, as I said, his narrative voice is strong. His plotting just needs to be a bit stronger.