Book Review

A Letter to Author Leigh Bardugo

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Dear Leigh,

Here we go again. This dance you and I have has become all too familiar. You know, the one where you make me anxiously await your next book release, and then I read it and you stomp all over my heart in the best possible way of course. Why do I keep coming back for this kind of emotional distress you may ask? I don’t know, I guess I like torturing myself or maybe you have a magic way of making sure I come back for more. Either way, I have a bone to pick with you.

How is it that you make me care so much about all these characters? How do you make them feel so familiar, like a long lost friend? I did not set out to like Alex Stern from your recent book “Ninth House”. In fact, I was so sure that she would be one of the characters that I would dislike. How naive I was to think such a thing. When have I not become emotionally attached to one of your characters? Answer: never. I did not even realize when I started liking Alex and when I started mentally applauding her and yelling out “YES QUEEN!”

Then you go and introduce me to Darlington. You have a way of making all the brooding men in your books vulnerable, layered and heroic. You also have a way of ripping out my heart and squeezing it but lets not get into that right away. I loved the dynamic between Alex and Darlington. Thank you for letting me accompany them on their creepy adventures.

I also have to thank you for the lack of sleep and all the times I jumped out of my skin when I heard a noise in the middle of the night. You basically took the thing that scares me the most and turned into something even more terrifying. How does one make ghosts scarier? Those “Grays” gave me chills and a few of them may have haunted my dreams. You made me want to sing those spells that cast away the Grays that might be lurking around (FYI those songs do not work for annoying humans unfortunately).

I wonder, have you ever thought of becoming a tour guide? No? It’s a shame because I thoroughly enjoyed the tour of your Alma Mater. I felt like I was one of those students in the background passing by the beautiful buildings of those secret societies, not knowing what magic lurked within. I feel as if I may never look at a school campus the same way again, thanks for that!

I must say that you approached truly devastating and all too common issues like drug abuse and sexual assault in such a powerful manner. My heart broke for Alex repeatedly and all I wanted to do was offer her a blanket, a cup of tea and a beautiful view from her window (preferably one without Mr. Bridegroom lurking around). You did a phenomenal job in giving me a look into Alex’s childhood and making me understand what lead her to become so angry and mistrusting. You also filled me with hope when Alex started knocking down her walls and letting people in.

You have outdone yourself once again Leigh. I feel like we are on a first name basis because of all the times your stories made me cry, cheer and shout in frustration. As I place Ninth House in my bookshelf next to your other books, I will not say goodbye to Alex Stern. I know we will meet again very soon. Looking forward to the next round of emotional turmoil.

Yours truly,

Shazia, mourning reader.

 

 

 

 

Book Review

Now Entering Addamsville Book Review

Thank you to HarperCollins Canada for giving me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I don’t know about you guys but the moment Starbucks unleashes the pumpkin spiced latte frenzy is the moment when the Halloween hype begins. Is it just me that drew up this correlation? Maybe I have too much time on my hands. Anyways, with Halloween around the corner I tend to lean towards books with a slight creep factor. I say slight because I’m a big chicken and cannot read anything that will lead me to suffer through nightmares about ghosts haunting me.

“Now Entering Addamsville” is a contemporary young adult book that is described as a mix of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Stranger Things. That description alone was enough for me to squeal once I was given this book at the HCC Frenzy event a couple of weeks ago. I finished this book in two days and it was a nice escape into the supernatural town called Addamsville.

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Synopsis:

Zora Novak is not liked by the people of Addamsville. So when someone murders the high school janitor by burning down his house, people immediately make Zora suspect number one. Zora acts suspicious as it is but that is mainly due to her secret job of hunting the creatures that are responsible for starting the fires. With everyone watching and recording her every move, Zora enlists the help of her historian cousin Artemis to clear her name. The only problem? A well-known ghost hunting show begins filming in Addamsville and interferes with Zora’s investigation. 

Spooky Ghosts and a Creepy Town

I’m not a fan of ghost stories, but I really enjoyed the way the author wrote this book. The supernatural part was not overdone, which allowed the author to explore and build on Zora’s relationships with her family and friends. I liked the idea of how some of these characters could see the ghosts, while others could only feel them. It was different from the ghostbuster stories I have read in the past. 

The ghost stories themselves were not terrifying, but they were quite creepy. The history and description of the small town definitely gave it an creepy feel. I loved the way the author described the eerie woods and and other areas in which the ghosts lingered. It made me feel like I was walking around the streets crowded by ghosts. The whole ghost hunter TV show storyline was also interesting to read. It really showed how the obsession with pursuing the supernatural can get out of hand. The arrival of a media crew also tackled the idea of tourists being drawn to small towns and how that impacts the town and its people.

Female friendships and family:

“When your mom disappears, your dad goes to jail, and the whole town hates you on sight, sometimes you get it in your head to start doing stupid things to ease that anger.
Stupid things like hunting firestarters alone.” – Francesca Zappia

I think the heart of this story is Zora navigating her feelings towards her family and friends. Zora spends a lot of the time feeling alone. Being practically raised by her sister and rejected by most of the town makes her feel lonely and unwanted. Seeing her reconnect with her family and form a friendship with her cousin was a heart-warming part of the book. You could clearly tell that behind all of Zora’s sarcasm and rebellious ways is a young girl who is lonely. I liked seeing her character develop along with all the secondary characters.

Overall, this book will get you in the mood for Halloween. While I know there are many of you out there who are braver than me and enjoy more of the scare factor, this book had a lot of heart and should be given a chance for that alone. It’s not easy to write a story that has supernatural elements, a mystery and focusing on the family dynamic. Somehow, the author managed to weave all of these themes into a fun story with a couple of action packed scenes that got my heart racing. Recommended for this Halloween season!

 

Happy reading bookworms,

 

Shazia.

Book Review

Our Stop by Laura Jane Williams

Thank you to HarperCollins Canada for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I never truly believe stories about meet cutes in the subway because of how much I despise being confined in a small, moving space with other humans. How is it possible to meet your soulmate when you are trying to master the art of staying balanced while summoning all the power not to karate chop the teenager whose schoolbag is lodged in your kidney? And don’t even get me started on the unpleasant odours. So I was pretty hesitant when I heard about this romance that starts off in a subway. However, this one line from the excerpt of “Our Stop” made me laugh and decide to read it:

To the cute girl with the coffee stains on her dress. I’m the guy who’s always standing near the doors… Drink sometime?

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Our Stop is a romantic comedy about an early morning commuter named Daniel who develops a crush on fellow commuter Nadia. The ever so shy Daniel keeps seeing Nadia on the 7:30 am subway and gathers the courage to leave her a message in the London newspaper section called “Missed Connections”. Nadia is curious about this mystery Train Guy and answers back creating a whole chain of events that neither of them saw coming.

Coincidence or Fate:

I am finding that rom coms are spending more time with the idea of fate bringing people together. This was especially true for “Our Stop” as it seemed the entire universe and its inhabitants were working together to have Nadia and Daniel meet. It was as if the universe was pointing big flashy arrows that the characters were not noticing.

Maybe it is my pessimism or cynical ways, but I found some of these coincidences to be a bit far fetched. I kept saying to myself “but really? This wouldn’t happen in real life”. I’m not complaining though. This was a feel good novel and such happy coincidences or serendipitous moments were fun to read. And lets be honest, who doesn’t love the whole stars aligning aspect of rom coms?

Vulnerability:

I think one of my most favorite aspects of this book was the fact that Daniel was not perceived as this macho man who was charming 90% of the time and had his way with the ladies. I loved that he was emotional, grieving and insecure. Many rom coms that I have read tend to paint a picture of the female lead being a hot mess but in a cute way. On the other hand, the male lead is portrayed as having it all together and finding the awkward ways of the female lead to be cute. In time you find out that the male lead does in fact have some insecurities, but they are still depicted as being stereotypically “manly”.

In “Our Stop”, Daniel is a man who is not afraid to admit that he wants to find his soulmate. He grieves for the loss of his father and struggles with panic attacks. He fears putting himself out there and worries his crush will reject him. It was such a breath of fresh air to read about a male character who is not afraid to get in touch with his emotional side and being unapologetic in his quest for love. The world of romance needs more Daniels.

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Overall, this was such a cute and refreshing summer read. I have to say that this book was great for a day of reading under the sun. I miss summer already!

Happy reading bookworms,

Shazia.

 

Book Review

The Turn of the Key Book Review

Thank you to Simon Schuster Canada for sending me an advanced ebook copy of The Turn of the Key in exchanged for an honest review. 

When it comes to books with the creep factor, I tend hesitate and think before reading because:

  1. I have an overactive imagination and begin wondering if that noise in the middle of the night is the same sound the character was hearing before he or she got bludgeoned. 
  2. I watch a lot of true crime drama so creepy fiction just makes me overly stimulated and go on extra high alert. 
  3. I scare very easily (just ask my friends who enjoy seeing me jump out of my skin when a bird flies too close to me).

Despite my hesitation with creepy books, anything written by Ruth Ware is on my automatic purchasing list. My all time favorite book by this author is “In a Dark Dark Wood”, but I can honestly say that “The Turn of the Key” may very well be her best work yet. I was completely hooked and found myself sitting down for a long stretch of reading time to unravel the whole mystery.

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Synopsis:

Rowan Caine is on a desperate job hunt. The universe seems to be on her side when she comes across a job listing for a live-in nanny with an extremely generous salary. She makes her way to meet her employers in a lavish and technologically savvy house in the Scottish Highlands. Rowan takes up the challenge to live in this home and care for the three kids. What she doesn’t realize is that she walked into what will soon become the biggest nightmare of her life as she is accused murder and sent to jail.

Nail biting suspense:

Ruth Ware has a way of writing that makes you sit on the edge of your seat. You feel something big is coming with the way she writes, just like how you would feel with dramatic music during movies. She gets into the character’s head and makes you understand how and why they are scared. It’s the kind of writing that makes the world around you go silent as you feel the suspense build up. You know those scenes where the character decides to investigate by walking alone into a dark room or attic. Meanwhile you’re sitting there thinking “Dude, DANGER! Abort mission! Turn around and run”. Well, Ruth sure knows how to write these scenes to raise your blood pressure and have you yelling at the character to stop being so curious. 

Ruth also has a gift of describing things in a way that makes you feel something is off. The way she spent a couple of pages describing the Heatherbrae House and all of it’s cameras and control panels made it extra unsettling. I immediately knew she was building towards something being wrong with this house and the people living in it. Every sound that Rowan would hear in the middle of the night made my heart race just a bit more. It was a superbly written suspense.

The Characters:

Nothing scares me more than creepy children. Let’s be honest, every horror movie with child ghosts are ten times scarier (at least that is the vibe I get from the trailers I “watch” though my hands that are covering my eyes). The children in this book are no different. Something as simple as a statement whispered by one of the kids gave me chills. It’s not that they were portrayed as being scary. You were just given a vibe that something was not right, which made them eerie.

Our main character is quite deceptive, and you learn this as the story progresses. I felt like I was getting more information about Rowan just based on her reactions to situations and her interactions with people. There is also quite a big surprise with this character towards the end that I did not see coming. I literally gasped, looked around and realized nobody else was reading along with me and therefore I could not discuss it. So got right back into reading but made a mental note to harass my friends into reading this book so I could freak out with them on a later date. 

Overall Thoughts:

I think what made this book enjoyable for me was that you go into it knowing what happened to the main character in the end. I love working our way back to how something happened and getting bits and pieces of information until you see the whole picture. The ending was quite different from any other of her books. I personally enjoyed it as it got me thinking and asking more questions about the outcome. If you like your thrillers being dark and suspenseful then this book is definitely for you. 

Happy reading bookworms,

Shazia.

Book Review

Daisy Jones and The Six Review

No matter how many times Google tells me that Daisy Jones and The Six are not a real band, I will go down with this ship believing they are real. Try to convince me otherwise. It boggles my mind that these incredibly flawed and talented characters are fictional. It just can’t be possible. Author Taylor Jenkins Reid does some kind of magic with her words because this is the second book I have read of hers that makes me turn to the internet to find proof of these characters existence in our world.

Daisy Jones and The Six was one hell of a ride. I did not know what to expect when I realized that this book was written entirely in an interview style narrative, but I was pleasantly surprised right off the bat. This book takes us into the glamorous and destructive world of a “fictional” 70’s rock and roll band (I swear I’m still in denial about this being a made up band). Read on for my spoiler free ramblings about this epic musical reading journey.

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Synopsis:

Daisy is a neglected and lonely girl sneaking into clubs, doing drugs and dreaming of becoming a singer/song writer. She has the look and the voice, so it is only a matter of time before she gets noticed by the right people and enters the music industry. The Six is a band lead by the talented and tortured Billy Dunne. The band is starting to make a name for themselves when Billy gets lost in the world of drugs and booze right after he finds out his wife is pregnant. History is made when Daisy and The Six come together and make an album that rocks the world. But nobody knows what happened behind the scenes of their success, until now.

This book is a chronicle of their time together in a band as each member and people close to them sit down for an interview revealing all the devastating and wonderful moments they shared under the spotlight.

I Really Love that Rock n’ Roll:

“Dancing Barefoot in the snow,
Cold can’t touch her, high or low
She’s blues dressed up like rock ‘n’ roll
Untouchable, she’ll never fold – Taylor Jenkins Reid. 

The way the characters described that rock and roll lifestyle felt so believable and real. I really enjoyed how each character was portrayed as being deeply passionate about their craft and how they described what the music meant to them. Everyone from the guitarist to the lead singer was connected to the music in a way that seemed so vulnerable. The act of writing a song based on past mistakes or hopes for a better future were really well described. There was also a lot of drama between the band members, as expected, but it was really well written and explored. You get to see the experiences through multiple perspectives and that is what makes for a great big picture.

“And, baby, when you think of me
I hope it ruins rock ‘n’ roll
Regret me, regretfully” – Taylor Jenkins Reid 

It blew my mind that the author actually wrote original songs for this book and how each song was like reading the personal diary of the characters. I’m convinced the author had to be some kind of rockstar before becoming a best-selling author. How else can you write such deeply moving songs? How? I have too many questions. There was so much emotion in the songs that I began wondering what it would actually sound like with the drums, guitar and keyboard. I also found myself wondering what Daisy and Billy would sound like together.

Major Themes and Characters:

“It’s very vulnerable, being an artist, telling the truth like that, like we’re doing now. When you’re living your life, you’re so inside your head, you’re swirling around in your own pain, that it’s hard to see how obvious it is to the people around you. These songs I was writing felt coded and secret, but I suspect they weren’t coded and secret at all” – Taylor Jenkin Reid.

You really get a sense of how high and low fame can take a person. Billy and Daisy’s struggle with addiction was a major theme of this book. While Billy goes wild and then works his way towards sobriety, Daisy falls deeper into the world of addiction. The interactions between Billy and Daisy were full of tension and I live for that kind of character relationship. Through that tension, these two come together to write and perform brilliant songs. They are both deeply flawed characters that make many mistakes, but I still found myself rooting for them to come to terms with their feelings and fears.

I also loved the relationships between the women in this book. Often times you come across female characters that compete and try to sabotage one another. I actually expected this in a book about musicians and fame. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised with female characters that support one another instead of tearing each other down. Besides Daisy, Karen and Camilla were two other female characters that shined in their own way. These three characters were strong, confident and unapologetic about the way they wanted to live their lives. The comradely between them was really refreshing.

My Thoughts:

I never imagined that a book written in interview style could make me feel all the emotions and keep me glued to the pages. I know readers like the whole “show instead of telling” type of narrative but in this case the telling really worked. I think its because I felt each character had a distinct voice in the transcript. When Daisy was interviewed, her answers were always heavy and filled with pain. When Billy was interviewed, there was something so apologetic in his answers. Like he just felt sorry for everything he was and did. I felt the same with the other band members. They all felt real to the point where I could almost picture them being interviewed. I cannot recommend this book enough and I really do hope that Daisy Jones and The Six reunite and put on a show (just let me continue believing they are real ok? Please let me have this).

I picked up this book while attending the Penguin Random House Ice Cream Social event at Bookcon earlier this summer and would like to send out a big thank you to them for bringing this book into my life. What an exciting ride!

Happy reading bookworms,

Shazia.

 

 

Book Review

Pride, Prejudice and Other Flavors Book Review

Here is a little fun fact about me: all you need to say is “Pride and Prejudice” and you will have my undivided attention. I’ll be ready to list all the reasons why I love awkward Mr. Darcy and discuss the antics of the Bennet sisters. I have read the book numerous times and I even keep my old copy on my nightstand. I have watched the movie so many times that I have lost count. While we are on the topic of the movie I just need to say that Matthew MacFadyen is the real Mr. Darcy for me. Sorry, not sorry to all the Colin Firth fans.

I have also read quite a few retellings of Pride and Prejudice and a good number of them have disappointed me, until Sonali Dev came around with her refreshing take on this classic. Pride, Prejudice and Other Flavors not only brought diversity into the story, but also a gender swap with the female lead having the personality of Mr. Darcy. These two changes were enough for me to pick up this book and dive right it.

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(picture from @khanlibrary)

Synopsis:

Dr. Trisha Raje is a renowned neurosurgeon. Despite her success, Trisha is the black sheep of her influential immigrant family after making a mistake that almost jeopardized her brother’s political aspirations. After years of standing on the family sidelines, Trisha has a chance to redeem herself as long as she plays by the family rules.

DJ is an aspiring chef who is new in town after dropping everything to come to the aid of his ill sister. The Rajes hire DJ as a chef for an important political event and it is there that he meets the beautiful and arrogant Trisha. DJ’s pride is immediately wounded during his first encounter with Trisha. While her arrogance is infuriating, DJ realizes she may be the only surgeon who can save his sister’s life.

Trisha and DJ:

“The truth was, he was right about many things—things she could change, like how she treated people. He was also wrong about a few—things she could not change, like who she was” – Sonali Dev

These two characters were so well developed and the author did a great job with the gender swap. It’s rare to read about a female character that embodies the personality of Mr. Darcy and I would say the author really knocked it out of the park with this one. Trisha is every bit awkward as our beloved Mr. Darcy. Her heart is in the right place and she is only ever truly herself around those she trusts. Making Trisha a doctor was perfect for this role as her confidence and pride in her job can come across as arrogance. I loved the character growth as we see Trisha bring down her walls and begin showing her true self. 

Just like our precious Lizzie Bennet, DJ has got a way of making quick judgments about people. He suffers from some serious tunnel vision around Trisha as he interprets everything she does and says as arrogance or coming from a place of privilege. I loved reading about him seeing the error in his ways and putting his prejudice aside to see the real Trisha. These two made me laugh out loud but they also made me feel frustrated most of the time. I wanted to mother them into being normal around each other. Thankfully they figured it out after a long, and sometimes hilarious battle. 

There is so much character development in this book, but what I also love is how we get a glimpse into the lives of other characters. We get the backstory of both Trisha and DJ’s siblings. I especially enjoyed reading DJ’s sister, Emma’s story as she battled with her illness and the difficult medical decisions she had to make. I was also thrilled to see that we had a villain named Wickham in this story! These little salutes to the original classic gave me life.

A Pride and Prejudice Remix:

You do not have to be a Pride and Prejudice fan to enjoy this story. It would be wrong to classify this book as just a retelling. It is so much more than that. This book has comedy, drama, a love story and a lot of flavor. Seriously, the foodie in me was drooling every time the author described one of DJ’s delicious dishes. The mark of a great author is when they make the reader hungry, not for actual food though it did happen in this case, but hungry for more from world they created. This is how I felt once I finished the book. I wanted to know what would happen with the secondary characters along with Trisha and DJ in the future. I was not ready to say goodbye to these characters or the story. I highly recommend this book that will surely add some flavor into your bookshelves. 

Happy reading bookworms!

Shazia.

65000168_2243365769262287_3012229447093846016_n(Cartoon of me by @maddie.bookish.art)

 

Book Events

Bookcon 2019: A Celebration of Storytelling

Question: How does one go back to regular life after experiencing a weekend of book heaven in New York City? Asking for a friend….ok fine, I am that friend. Help!

Bookcon 2019 was a dream come true. Over the past few years I have always watched videos and looked at pictures of this magical book convention held in New York and wished I was there. I’m not a spontaneous person, but this year I very quickly decided I wanted to experience this festival for myself and before I knew it my tickets for New York were booked. It was the best impulsive decision I have ever made. Spending the whole weekend with people who love books as much as I do made for an unforgettable trip.

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Bookcon is a two-day event held in the Jacob Javits Convention Center in Manhattan. Each year readers, authors, publishers and writers come together to celebrate the love of books. Attendees get to meet authors, have their books signed, snag some book merchandise, attend author panels and get their hands on advanced reader copies of highly anticipated books. There are booths selling books and merchandise and creative writing workshops. Most importantly, attendees get to meet and connect with the amazing people who share the same passion for reading.

The Crowd of Readers:

Walking into the Jacob Javits Convention Center was enough to get me excited. This place was huge and everywhere you turned you either saw a bookworm power walking/running to some location or authors faces on banners hanging from the high ceiling. The crowd was unlike anything I had ever seen in my life. There were so many people that at times it became a bit claustrophobic but you could also feel the collective excitement in the building. The lines were monstrous. I was walking for what felt like forever to find the end of the line that kept snaking and looping around corners. Half the time I could not even tell where the line began and ended. I found it mind blowing that people would chose to wait in line over two hours for a single book. That is dedication, but it also takes away time to see the other incredible things happening at Bookcon.

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As soon as the doors opened, I power walked to the booth that was having one of my favorite authors signing her new book. I got to the booth in literally three minutes and I was told their line was capped. I walked away deflated, but tried to shake it off and power walked to the next author signing which also ended up being closed. I was frustrated but then I reminded myself there was still so much to see and experience and so I roamed around without much plans for the next two hours.

Funny thing about letting go of control and plans: you stumble upon some pretty amazing things. Those two authors I missed out on in the morning? I randomly bumped into them when I was just walking around aimlessly on the showfloor and managed to have a conversation with them. I also ended up in the right place at the right time and managed to get in lines for advanced reader copies (ARCS) and meet a few authors to get my books signed. 

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(Meeting Stephanie Garber author of the Caraval series)

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Panels and Socials!

I think a lot of people get caught up with the possibility of getting new books and free stuff that they forget about the amazing panels that are offered. Watching authors talk about their writing process and what it was like for them to create the characters we fell in love with makes for an incredible session. It is also a nice way to catch your breath after the chaotic scene on the show floor. Sure getting free books and swag is fun, but the panels are so interactive and fascinating. 

I got a chance to see the amazing Leigh Bardugo in a panel as she discussed the release of her new book and answered questions from the audience. There is something great about seeing the author’s personality shine during these panels. Leigh was an absolute delight as she gushed about our favorite characters and her future books.

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A new friend I made informed a couple of us that Penguin Random House would be having an ice cream social event at Bookcon. We were given a warm greeting and offered flower necklaces as we socialized with other bookworms. There were stunning bookstagram displays at each table and cute photo ops. We were offered ice cream and popcorn and given generous swag bags. Again, this was a nice breather from the crowds and lines. For me, this was one of the best parts of the event as I got to meet so many nice people. Not ashamed to admit that I walked around for the rest of the event with my flower necklace on…and during the Uber ride to the hotel…and when I drank tea in the hotel lobby. I love flowers, ok?

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(Spotted: bookworm in her natural habitat. Seriously though, look at how happy I am)

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(All the swag bag up for grabs)

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Book Merchandise:

I was really proud of my taste in comfortable shoes because there were many booths at this event. I’m not the best with navigation so half the time I was spinning in circles and trying to imagine myself in the map I was holding. Needless to say, I was lost 90% of the time. Being lost was actually an advantage because I stumbled on many fun booths that were doing giveaways with games.

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There was so much cute merchandise that I had to remind myself that I would be travelling back to Montreal soon and did not have the space for more items. However, there are some things I could not leave behind. I could not say no to Hogwarts house lanyards, mugs with bookish quotes and journals. I mean how could you turn your back on these items? I stuffed them into my overly packed tote bag and backpack and moved on to the next booth. There are so many companies now that are adding a bookish touch to merchandise. I lost count of how many tote bags, t-shirts and socks that I saw with fun quotes from books printed on them. 

Bookish Friends:

The best part of Bookcon is meeting the incredibly kind people within our book community. I was so grateful to have met such amazing people over the weekend. It felt like I have known them for a while as we talked about our Bookcon experience. A couple of us were in a group chat together before the days leading up to the event. We kept each other posted on what we were doing throughout the day and I eventually met a few of them during panels and shopping at booths. It was great having a group to discuss and plan with but it was even better to meet them in person both at the event and after for dinner. I’m so happy to have met this lovely bunch. Thank you for making my Bookcon experience even better! 

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(Tired bookworms at the end of Day 1 of Bookcon)

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My First Bookcon Experience:

Overall, this past weekend was epic for me. I had only planned to attend day 1 of Bookcon, but I enjoyed myself so much that I returned for day 2. I’m really glad I decided to return because amazing things happened on the second day, but I will save that story for another blog post.

I was definitely in my element and managed to make a fool of myself in front of authors as I fangirled like a child. I have no regrets! Despite the long lines and the very enthusiastic and sometimes tumultuous crowds, I had the time of my life. At the end of the day, our love of books is what makes people become overly excited and eager. In general, everyone was really kind and I loved striking up conversations with people all around me. Bookcon was the highlight of my trip to New York and I’m definitely going back next year to experience it all over again and to be reunited with this incredible community.

Until next time bookworms,

Shazia. 

 

 

Book Events · Book Review

Montreal YA Book Festival 2019

Montreal: The city of festivals. Our city is known for the jazz, comedy and food festivals that take over the city during our lively summers. There seemed to be something special for everyone to enjoy, except for bookworms. In fact, the city was once a lonely place for people who loved books with a passion. This was the case until the Jewish Public Library hosted Montreal’s very first young adult (YA) book festival last year. This event was a game changer as bookworms came from around the city and beyond to celebrate their love of books. We were lucky enough to have the festival back for it’s second successful year on May 26th 2019.

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There is something truly special about being around people who share the same passion for books. Everywhere I turned I saw people of all ages hauling around their books to be signed, taking notes on advice authors were giving and flailing their hands around theatrically as they described their favorite scenes from books (yes, that was me). A conversation was easy to strike up with practically everyone since we were all awake early on a Sunday morning to talk about books and meet authors. However, what is truly wonderful is how behind the stories we read are the authors that were inspired to create these masterpieces from their experiences, something they were able to share with us. The author panels were the highlight of the festival for me and I feel like I walked out of each panel with more knowledge and insight into the world of storytelling.

Teen Tearjerkers Panel

Kagiso Lesego Molope – This Book Betrays My Brother

Shenaaz Nanji – Ghost Boys

Jeff Zentner – Rayne & Delilah’s Midnite Matinee

S.K. Ali – Love From A to Z

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Books that make me cry and really feel my emotions so deeply are the ones that stay with me long after I have closed the book and put it away. So I was very interested in understanding the process behind writing stories that evoke that kind of sadness. What I found interesting was how some of the authors on this panel revealed that they had not set out to write tearjerkers, but how in following and listening to their characters, the story took a life of its own. I loved the idea of how treating these characters like actual people, listening to them and letting them come to life on paper is what lead the story in the direction of becoming a tearjerker.

Coming of Age Panel:

Kagiso Lesego Molope – This Book Betrays My Brother

Natalie Blitt – The Truth About Leaving

Sabina Khan – The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali

Jeff Zentner – Rayne & Delilah’s Midnite Matinee

S.K. Ali – Love from A to Z

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It is incredible when authors become vulnerable and share their struggles and difficult memories with readers. This is something I truly admire because I know it cannot be easy to revisit painful memories. I felt a pang in my heart as S.K. Ali shared a scary story from her teen years of when she encountered an Islamophobic person in the subway. Sharing this experience from her teen years gave us more insight into the character from her book and how something so terrible could be used as fuel to educate the world on Islamophobia. I also loved hearing Sabina Khan talk about her teen years and the struggles of living with two cultures and Kagiso discussing her school years in a predominantly white school and black neighbourhood. All these different perspectives and experiences made for a very interesting talk.

Path to Publishing Panel:

Kim Turrisi – Carmilla

Monique Polak – I am a Feminist: Claiming the F-Word in Turbulent Times

Jeff Zentner – Rayne & Delilah’s Midnite Matinee

Tim Wynne-Jones – The Starlight Claim

Sabina Khan – The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali

JF Dubeau – A God in the Shed

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I think many people tend to reduce teenagers to self-obsessed social media addicts. However, this stereotype can quickly be diminished when you attend a book festival and see all the teenagers sitting eagerly in the “Path to Publishing” panel as they take notes and ask serious questions about the publishing process. It was so wonderful to see the teens jotting down advice from the authors. Jeff Zentner gave a very helpful rundown on the step-to-step process on how to move forward towards publishing. JF Dubeau hit the mark when he discussed the challenges of giving advice about publishing. He described the world of publishing to be a maze, and you make your way through it but when you try to show someone else the way through the maze you will realize the walls have moved (I’m paraphrasing but it was along those lines). I never really thought about it this way but it did make all of us pause and collectively nod our heads.

Why YA? Panel:

Ben Philippe – The Field Guide to the North American Teenager

JF Dubeau – A God in the Shed

Nicki Pau Preto – Crown of Feathers

Laura Sebastian – Ash Princess

Maurene Goo – Somewhere Only We Know

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There is this stereotype that YA books are meant for teen girls and that the content ranges from high school drama to boy problems. In short, teen girls are not taken so seriously and many believe you have to be a teenager to read these books. We can clearly prove this to be untrue by the amount of adults that were present during this panel. These authors discussed this myth and revealed how much YA books have evolved over the years to explore boundary pushing topics as well as dark content. I absolutely loved how the authors discussed their love for YA books and what made them fall into this genre. It’s always fun to backtrack and see how the authors entered into this world of YA and what made them stick around.

Author Signings:

Meeting Ria Voros:

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“The Center of the Universe” by Ria Voros was a book that I devoured in two days. My love for astronomy and family centered stories made this book so memorable that I was beyond excited to meet Ria and ask what inspired her to incorporate the stars and planets so beautifully in this book. It is always fun to meet someone who shares the same interests as you and discussing the cosmos with Ria was one of my favorite parts of this event.

Meeting S.K. Ali:

61467764_365210244137010_2254960402808963072_n“Love from A to Z” was a book that simply took my breath away. I was excited to meet the author to thank her for writing a book that I wish existed when I was a teen who was trying to make sense of the hate in the world. When I was a teen, there were barely any books with Muslim characters. I never opened a book and saw someone with a name similar to mine during my teenage years. It is thanks to authors like S.K. Ali that teenagers nowadays get to see the perspective of a Muslim character. My heart is full from the conversation I had with this incredible author.

Key Note Speech by Tim Wynne – Jones

“It is truly great to be with so many literary dreamers and doers” – Tim Wynne Jones

Hearing Tim Wynne Jones talk about storytelling was a truly beautiful experience. The way he talked about a story that starts out as a dream and becomes a story that is shared with the world was really inspiring. The room was completely still as he talked about the art of storytelling and the dreamers who create them. I think we all left that keynote speech feeling inspired to continue dreaming about the stories we have within us.

Inuit Throat Singing:

One of the truly great things about the Montreal Ya Fest was how there was a panel dedicated to Indigenous voices. While I sadly missed out on this panel, I got a chance to hear Nina Segalowitz put on a performance of Inuit Throat Singing. I had never heard throat singing before and I was amazed that there was a rich history behind it. How amazing is it to be immersed in cultural tunes and learning something new.

Final Thoughts: 

The Montreal YA Festival was everything we could have hoped for and much more. Being able to interact with the authors and hear them speak over a variety of panels was an incredible experience. The games, food and overall vibe of the environment made for a happy place for all bookworms.

I would like to thank the director of the Children’s Department of the Jewish Public Library and the founder of the Montreal YA Festival Talya Pardo for putting together such an incredible event with her dedicated committee. Montreal bookworms are truly grateful for this new community.

Until next year bookworms!

Shazia.

 

Book Review

The One by John Marrs Book Review

Hands up if you have recently sacrificed sleep to finish reading a book! For those of you raising your hands right now, welcome to my sleepless, book hangover club. I have been hearing a lot of buzz about this book called “The One” by John Marrs. I heard it being referred to as a dark thriller and compared to the Netflix series “Black Mirror”. That caught my attention right off the bat. I have been keeping my distance from thrillers these days because I feel like I’m seeing a common pattern amongst them (girl on a train/girl by a window/girl in a cabin/girl always somewhere doing something). I was looking for a unique thriller, and boy did I find the one, literally.

This book was the definition of a thriller. It had nail-biting suspense, twists at the end of almost every chapter, and an exhilarating plot. I’m not exaggerating when I say this was one of the best thrillers I have read in a long time. For that reason, there will not be any spoilers in this review. I really want all of you to read it and experience it the way I did. 

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Synopsis

Imagine if there was a DNA test that could determine who you should spend the rest of your life with? Imagine if you could find out with absolute certainty who is genetically made for you. Match Your DNA is a company that promises to help people find their soulmate and since then millions of people have been matched. So what can possibly go wrong? Well, pretty much everything as it turns out. The story follows five people who meet their genetic matches. Some characters are hiding massive secrets while others are being lured into something they did not sign up for.

Themes

The book explores the whole concept of the grass being greener on the other side. What if you were living a great life with the person you love, only to find out you are not genetically matched, and that your soulmate is still out there? What if you are matched with someone who lives across the globe? What if you are matched with someone carrying a dark secret? The author explores what happens when people take a peak behind the curtain of what could be and the consequences that follow. At times, this book did not seem like a far-fetched reality due to the abundance of dating websites and apps in our technologically advanced world.

The idea of perfection is another theme that stood out for me. Humans are always in search for perfection in some form or another. So what happens if a company uses science to prove that one single person is your perfect match? Will the idea of a perfect person cloud their vision and make them see only the things that fit with the illusion of perfection? Do they desperately cling onto the idea that this person is their only shot at happiness? I think the author did a fantastic job in showing how the idea of perfection can lead people to make radical decisions.

The Characters

I will not introduce you to the characters because I feel you need to meet them yourself. You may think it can get tiring to read the perspectives of five different people, but it was so integral to the storyline. It was easy to keep up with the characters while curveball after curveball was thrown their way. The characters are flawed, insecure and carrying some big secrets. Each character is thrown into an unexpected situation, when all they really wanted was to find their perfect half. While some may argue that there was not much character development for all of the characters, I really think the author was trying to give us a look into human behavior through these different perspectives. Some characters do have a lot of growth and others are shown experiencing what happens through a series of bad decisions. I think it worked well considering the context of the story.

Creep Factor:

There were times when I paused and thought, “How did the author come up with this twist?” Some of the surprises were downright creepy sending a chill down my spine. Sometimes the character’s motives left me on edge and new revelations of the characters added that extra creep factor. Almost all of the shocking scenes caught me off guard and had me pull some interesting facial expressions while I was reading on my lunch break and on the bus. I would think the author of a thriller did a great job when you are left gasping at the end of pretty much every chapter.

Overall, The One by John Marrs surprised me. There is no other way to put it. I’m very excited to watch this book come to life on Netflix as I feel the creep factor, the themes and the characters will all translate so well on screen. If you want to read a dark thriller that is a complete page-turner with unexpected twists, this is THE ONE!

Happy Reading!

Shazia.

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Book Review

Nocturna Book Review

Are you ready for a faceless thief and a grieving prince to make their way into your heart? You better be ready, because these two characters will find their way in and stay there. Trust me, they are currently renting a small corner of my heart. Nocturna was a book that was not on my radar. I’m extremely grateful to HCC Frenzy and HarperCollins Canada for giving me opportunity to read Nocturna and get lost in the incredible world the author created. This book was an insane ride filled with magic and tons of emotions. It made me sit at the edge of my seat, laugh at the witty dialogue and feel all the emotions the characters were feeling.

Synopsis:

Alfie is a prince, and next in line for the throne after his older brother is murdered in front of him. Unable to move on from his death and doubting his own future as king, Alfie goes on a hunt to find out about forbidden magic that may bring his brother back.

Fin Voy is a thief and a faceshifter. She has spent years running away from a dark past, wearing different faces as she sees fit and thieving her days away. When she is caught by a powerful mobster, she has two choices: steal a treasure from the royal palace or lose her face shifting magic forever.

Fin and Alfie’s lives are intertwined when they accidentally unlock an evil power while they are both trying to fulfill their missions. The dark magic is the strongest of its kind and threatens to extinguish all the light in the world as it seeks for bodies to spread the evil. Fin and Alfie must put their differences aside and work together to get rid of this magic once and for all.
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(picture from @khanlibrary this is the ARC I received. For the actual cover scroll down)

“Magic was free. It flowed through all living things and wasn’t something to be caged. Yet he could feel something holding back this black magic.”- Maya Motayne

You know the world building is good when you pause to reflect on how the author created all of it. It is definitely something I would love to ask this author because I found the setting, magic system and history so interesting and complex at the same time. The legends of the land were intriguing and the rules of magic were well explained. I also liked that the magic paid homage to the author’s Latin culture. The author used Spanish words for the magic spells, which I found was such a nice and unique touch. The writing was poetic, although there were times when I felt the dialogue could have been cut a bit short. Despite this, I thoroughly enjoyed the writing style and how the storyline progressed.

I think one of my favorite aspects of the book was the whole face shifting ability of the main character. I absolutely loved the idea behind it and why she had chosen to abandon her real face and constantly put on new ones. It gave me a real Arya Stark vibe from Game of Thrones, who happens to be my favorite character from the series so it really added an extra twist that I loved.

Only in her absence did he realize how part of him yearned for the sound of her voice curving with the punch of a joke – a sound that made her face bright in his mind’s eye even when she was hidden by the cloak” – Maya Motayne

I was so taken away but the magic and turmoil that I was really hoping a romance would not take over the storyline. I’m actually very pleased with the way the author handled the feelings the main characters had for each other. It was well developed and it did not take away from the plot. It was a very endearing connection between two characters afraid of vulnerability and facing other emotions. They brought out the best in each other and the sarcastic dialogue made me laugh numerous times. I was left with feeling that there was more in store for both of these characters.

If you are looking for a unique fantasy with tons of magic and a sprinkle of culture, then look no further! Nocturna was a fun ride and I’m looking forward to reading more from this author. Thank you to HarperCollins Canada for sending me a copy of this book to review. I am grateful to have discovered a new author and all the magic within the book.

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(Picture from Goodreads)

Happy reading!

Shazia.