Thursday, January 30, 2020

Madly by Amy Alward

Madly by Amy Alward
Release Date - September 29, 2015
Publisher Website - Simon and Schuster Canada
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages -  384 pages
My Rating - 3/5
**borrowed from the library**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
When the Princess of Nova accidentally poisons herself with a love potion meant for her crush, she falls crown-over-heels in love with her own reflection. Oops. A nationwide hunt is called to find the cure, with competitors travelling the world for the rarest ingredients, deep in magical forests and frozen tundras, facing death at every turn.

Enter Samantha Kemi - an ordinary girl with an extraordinary talent. Sam's family were once the most respected alchemists in the kingdom, but they've fallen on hard times, and winning the hunt would save their reputation. But can Sam really compete with the dazzling powers of the ZoroAster megapharma company? Just how close is Sam willing to get to Zain Aster, her dashing former classmate and enemy, in the meantime?

And just to add to the pressure, this quest is ALL OVER social media. And the world news.

No big deal, then.
Magic. A daring hunt. Romance. Madly has plenty of things that will draw in a reader and keep their attention. It's a mix of fast paced adventure with a fluffier tone. It's a quick read that manages to be both an action packed adventure and a zany comedy at points. It is a story where everything that can go wrong will absolutely go wrong, but it feels like everything will be okay in the end all at the same time.

Samantha, a young alchemist, is thrown into adventure when a hunt for a cure to a love potion is called. She's brave, driven, and proud of her talents. Her loyalty to her family is admirable, as is her resourcefulness. Her desire to win comes from wanting to help the Princess, but the prestige that it would bring her family is a very welcome bonus. I liked that her motivation was a bit of both. It rang true and still ensured that the reader liked Samantha. She was ambitious, and kind which is something that girls are not often shown to be at the same time.

The treasure hunt style of the plot makes for quickly turning pages. Following Samantha on her journey collecting potion ingredients means plenty of different locations, and magical creatures to discover. It kept my interest in the story going as I could not wait to see what came next and what Samantha would need to collect to save the day.

There is a bit of a forbidden romance going on that is just as sweet as the rest of the book. Most of it is fairly predictable, but it just adds to the sweetness of the rest of the book.  It felt paced properly, and offered a few surprises that kept that element of the story moving just as quickly as the rest of the story. Love, and love potions, are a big part of the book. As is humour. The humour of this book is something that really worked for me. The comedy of errors that plagues Samantha's journey is part of this books charm. It's not just this that provides some comedic moments. The Princess' condition, at first, is quite laughable. She's obsessively in love with herself to the point of absurdity. While the reality of her situation does grow increasingly more dire, it is the earlier moments that set the tone of the book.

This book would be one that I would give a younger reader who is wanting something in between a middle grade and an upper young adult novel. It really is a bridge between the two and I predict that kids that age would devour this book. It's tailor made to appeal to them, and offers a chance for them to expand their reading horizons. It is certainly one that I want to introduce my niece to.

This book is part of a series, but it feels very self contained. Those weary of cliffhangers and dangling plot points should rest assured that this book stays away from those. It feels more like the series will just follow the same characters on a different adventure with some overlapping plot points threading it together. The main story arc of this story has a definitive ending, which I personally enjoyed.

This book was a lot of fun to read. Its enjoyable, entertaining quest will keep readers engaged and offers a lighter introduction to the fantasy genre for those readers who may just want to test the waters. I can certainly appreciate this book for what it is, and encourage anyone who is looking for exactly the kind of read this book offers to pick it up.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Waiting On Wednesday .... None Shall Sleep

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking The Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pick is None Shall Sleep by Ellie Marney

Here is the Goodread synopsis
The Silence of the Lambs meets Sadie in this riveting psychological thriller about two teenagers teaming up with the FBI to track down juvenile serial killers.

In 1982, two teenagers—serial killer survivor Emma Lewis and US Marshal candidate Travis Bell—are recruited by the FBI to interview convicted juvenile killers and provide insight and advice on cold cases. From the start, Emma and Travis develop a quick friendship, gaining information from juvenile murderers that even the FBI can't crack. But when the team is called in to give advice on an active case—a serial killer who exclusively hunts teenagers—things begin to unravel. Working against the clock, they must turn to one of the country's most notorious incarcerated murderers for help: teenage sociopath Simon Gutmunsson.

Despite Travis's objections, Emma becomes the conduit between Simon and the FBI team. But while Simon seems to be giving them the information they need to save lives, he's an expert manipulator playing a very long game...and he has his sights set on Emma.

Captivating, harrowing, and chilling, None Shall Sleep is an all-too-timely exploration of not only the monsters that live among us, but also the monsters that live inside us.
This book is pretty much everything I want to read in a book right this second. It, obviously, appeals to the Murderino in me and it just sounds like a fantastic thriller.

I'll be out just in time to kick of the spooky season and I predict it is going to be perfect choice of a fall read.

Expected release date - September 1, 2020

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Chosen by Kiersten White

Chosen by Kiersten White
Release Date - January 7, 2020
Publisher Website - Simon and Schuster Canada
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages -  353 pages
My Rating - 4/5
**received from publisher in exchange for an honest review**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
Nina continues to learn how to use her slayer powers against enemies old and new in this second novel in the New York Times bestselling series from Kiersten White, set in the world of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Now that Nina has turned the Watcher’s Castle into a utopia for hurt and lonely demons, she’s still waiting for the utopia part to kick in. With her sister Artemis gone and only a few people remaining at the castle—including her still-distant mother—Nina has her hands full. Plus, though she gained back her Slayer powers from Leo, they’re not feeling quite right after being held by the seriously evil succubus Eve, a.k.a. fake Watcher’s Council member and Leo’s mom.

And while Nina is dealing with the darkness inside, there’s also a new threat on the outside, portended by an odd triangle symbol that seems to be popping up everywhere, in connection with Sean’s demon drug ring as well as someone a bit closer to home. Because one near-apocalypse just isn’t enough, right?

The darkness always finds you. And once again, it’s coming for the Slayer.
A continuation of a series you loved is always a conflicting situation. You are excited to be part of that world again, but fear that the new addition to the story could not possibly measure up to what you remember. I think that Kiersten White manages to avoid this with her Slayer series. She gives fans something that both works with and sits along side the original series.

A large part of what worked about both Slayer and Chosen for me is that we are following brand new characters set in the same world. We can take what we love about the original and remember it fondly without irreversibly breaking it. The new characters keep the story feeling new while still feeling known.

Nina reminded me a lot of Faith. Nina struggles with being a slayer and, in particular, the darkness inside her. She makes a lot of really bad choices. She also has things in common with Buffy though. She relies on her friends to help her through, and really does what to make the right choice even if that isn't always possible.

The side characters are some of the most easily loved. Doug, a demon who loves Coldplay, was a personal favourite. Nina's friends become important to the plot in a similar fashion to the Scoobies and that enriched the story for me.

The love story was one of my favourite elements of this series. It has the same epic scope that made me love the Buffy and Angel relationship so fiercely. There are many love stories being told and all of them resonated with me in their own way.

My only real issue as I was reading was the character of Artemis. I felt like I understood Nina's motivations and character. I did not feel that Artemis was fleshed out in the same way. I wanted more from her and a deeper insight into what was driving her in this book. I did appreciate that the sister relationship was a central part of the story arc but I just didn't feel as connected to Artemis.

Nostalgia is baked into the premise of this series and the way it is used it masterful. There are some cameos that had me entirely losing my cool. Kiersten White captures the essence of these beloved characters that it felt like coming back home in a way. My emotions were always in the surface and that is because of the respect and care that was shown to the story and characters I love completely. I do not want to ruin any if the surprises but rest assured that fans of the television show will be satisfied. The amount of inside jokes (with a brilliant one included towards the end) warmed my heart and delighted me to no end.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans should immediately pick up this series. It is like returning to Sunnydale in a way but through the perfect means. It allows those perfect memories of the show to remain untainted while still giving us more of the world we love. It is exactly what I hoped it would be, I am just sad we have to leave these new characters so soon.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Tweet Cute by Emma Lord

Tweet Cute by Emma Lord
Release Date - January 21, 2020
Publisher Website - Raincoast Books
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages -  368 pages
My Rating - 4/5
**received from publisher in exchange for an honest review**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
A fresh, irresistible rom-com from debut author Emma Lord about the chances we take, the paths life can lead us on, and how love can be found in the opposite place you expected.

Meet Pepper, swim team captain, chronic overachiever, and all-around perfectionist. Her family may be falling apart, but their massive fast-food chain is booming ― mainly thanks to Pepper, who is barely managing to juggle real life while secretly running Big League Burger’s massive Twitter account.

Enter Jack, class clown and constant thorn in Pepper’s side. When he isn’t trying to duck out of his obscenely popular twin’s shadow, he’s busy working in his family’s deli. His relationship with the business that holds his future might be love/hate, but when Big League Burger steals his grandma’s iconic grilled cheese recipe, he’ll do whatever it takes to take them down, one tweet at a time.

All’s fair in love and cheese ― that is, until Pepper and Jack’s spat turns into a viral Twitter war. Little do they know, while they’re publicly duking it out with snarky memes and retweet battles, they’re also falling for each other in real life ― on an anonymous chat app Jack built.

As their relationship deepens and their online shenanigans escalate ― people on the internet are shipping them?? ― their battle gets more and more personal, until even these two rivals can’t ignore they were destined for the most unexpected, awkward, all-the-feels romance that neither of them expected.
If you have ever wanted a young adult contemporary novel based off of the rom-com You've Got Mail I have the perfect book for you. Tweet Cute sweetly pays homage to the rom-com classic and offers up a 'cheesy' love story all its own.

The first thing you should know about this book is that it is filled with amazing sounding food. You'll immediately want to devour a grilled cheese once you are done (along with so many other baked goods). Food is such a part of this novel that it seeps into various other aspects of the story. There are plenty of cheesy (and cheese related) jokes to be found. The main characters names are Pepper and Jack, which should immediately tell you about the level of cuteness you are dealing with. It's all really fun and leaves the reader with a feeling of contentment.

The family elements and dynamics are some of my favourite parts of this story. Pepper and Jack both have siblings that they struggle to connect with for various reasons. They both feel the weight of being compared to the sibling and this book delves into the strain those expectations could put on those relationships. The different relationships that they each had with their parents was also just as important to the story being told. The family story arcs provided something entirely outside of the romance for each character. It made it so that both were not just a love interest. It rounded out the characters in a way that added some depth to them.

This book is filled with snarky wit, excellent banter, and yet also has a real sweetness to it. The 'Twitter war' between the two company accounts is written perfectly. You could easily imagine something like that on Twitter. Emma Lord captured the required tone and balance perfectly.

The romance is one that blooms a little slower. It starts from a place of begrudgingly working together, to a friendship, to something more. This is, at least, what the characters are aware of. The extra layer of them falling for each other via online messages as they begin to get to know each other in real life was what made this romance as engaging as it was. They both think they are interested in other people so they can't even see that they are falling for the person right in front of them (who just happens to be the person they were already falling for anyway). It's exactly why I love You've Got Mail. You want them to just find out already so they can get together, but that torture is part of what makes the chemistry work so well. This is just as equally true in Tweet Cute.

Those in search of a well written, light and bubbly read, I highly recommend Tweet Cute. It has pretty much everything you could hope for from a young adult rom-com. Its got both humour and heart.  This may have been Emma Lord's debut novel, but I predict many will be eagerly awaiting whatever she serves up next.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

#2020PopCultureResolution - A Place In The Sun

A Place In The Sun

Director: George Stevens

Length:  122 minutes

Cast: Elizabeth Taylor, Montgomery Clift, Shelley Winters

Release Date: August 14, 1951

Synopsis: In this film, handsome young George Eastman goes to work in a relative's factory. He has a brief rendezvous with assembly-line worker Alice Tripp, but he forgets all about her when he falls for dazzling socialite Angela Vickers. Alice can't forget about him, though: she is pregnant with his child.

** Spoilers for real life events and the movie**

It's a tale that any Murderino has heard a million times before: a woman is murdered because her very existence is deemed an inconvenience to a man. A Place In The Son is based off of a novel called An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser. The novel is a fictional account of a real murder that took place in July of 1906. Chester Gillette killed his pregnant girlfriend Grace Brown as he was not interested  owning up to his responsibilities like she was asking him to. He certainly wasn't interested in marrying her. He, it was said, had higher ambitions of marrying a wealthy woman. There was even another woman, Harriet Benedict, that he was involved with. One summer day, he took Grace out on a lake in the Adirondack mountains area, hit her over the head with a tennis racket, and let her drown in the water. He was quickly arrested after her body was found and found guilty and sentenced to death by electric chair.

The real events are only loosely accounted for in both the book, and the movie made from it. We do have the main participants in Montgomery Clift's George Eastman (Gillette), Elizabeth Taylor's Angela Vickers (Benedict) and Shelley Winters' Alice Tripp (Brown). The events that unfold are showcased as not quite as sinister and malicious as the ones in real life, but it still offers a harrowing look at what someone will do for love, and their own selfish desires.

All three actors, Elizabeth Taylor, Montgomery Clift, and Shelley Winters, turn in mesmerizing performances. Clift's George oozes enough charisma and charm to have the audience conflicted about the events that unfold. He's ambitious in a lot of ways, but there is a vulnerability that comes through because of the way Clift plays this character. Taylor is luminous and beguiling as Angela. The chemistry between the two is undeniable, and it paints the story in a much more romantic light that it perhaps should be. Shelley Winter's Alice is shown as a woman who is broken, betrayed and discarded by a man who only seems to think about himself.

The romance really is the central part of the story. The events that happen later can only work if you believe in the romance that is being spun. The audience has to believe that George would do anything to keep not only Angela, but the world she represented to him. She's a wealthy, high class lady versus the working woman Alice offers. It's this fact, and their connection, that spurs his motivations.

The movie makes the choice to not paint George as an outright villain. The death is one that paints George as a coward, selfish, and opportunistic. His hands may not directly murder her, but he is still responsible for her death. What starts out as an accident turns into a choice, and that is what ultimately makes the audience no longer root for the man who had previously presented as our romantic hero. He's definitely not a saint, but he isn't quite the monster you want him to be either.

The movie's back half is tense and well constructed. The ramping up of the tension and pressure on George is felt through the score, and ringing telephones that sound like alarms. That tension continues right through to the end. It's a fantastic directing choice, and makes the movie compelling from start to finish.

A Place In The Sun is a tragic story, and one that feels all too familiar. It is a story that could easily be set in modern times with little change. It's filled with haunting performances that I certainly will be thinking about for quite a long time.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Waiting On Wednesday ... The Ravens

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking The Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pick is The Ravens by Kass Morgan and Danielle Paige

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
Kappa Rho Nu isn’t your average sorority. Their parties are notorious. Their fundraisers are known for being Westerly College’s most elaborate affairs. But beneath the veil of Greek life and prestige, the sisters of Kappu Rho Nu share a secret: they’re a coven of witches. For Vivi Deveraux, being one of Kappa Rho Nu’s Ravens means getting a chance to redefine herself. For Scarlett Winters, a bonafide Raven and daughter of a legacy Raven, pledge this year means living up to her mother’s impossible expectations of becoming Kappa Rho Nu’s next president. Scarlett knows she’d be the perfect candidate — that is, if she didn’t have one human-sized skeleton in her closet…. When Vivi and Scarlett are paired as big and little for initiation, they find themselves sinking into the sinister world of blood oaths and betrayals.
Witches are definitely having a moment in young adult literature right now. There are so many amazing sounding witchy reads coming out within the next year.

The Ravens is witches in a sorority which I am very much here for. It doesn't come out for almost an entire year but I am already eagerly awaiting its release.

Expected release date - January 5, 2021

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Tweet Cute Blog Tour - Q and A with Emma Lord

I was thrilled to be invited to take part in the blog tour for Emma Lord's Tweet Cute. A modern twist on the classic rom-com You've Got Mail that mixes in delicious baked goods was immediately something I needed to read. I am even more excited to help celebrate the book's release date as you can officially pick up Tweet Cute in stores as of today.

Here is the book's official jacket copy which will immediately make you melt.
Meet Pepper, swim team captain, chronic overachiever, and all-around perfectionist. Her family may be falling apart, but their massive fast-food chain is booming — mainly thanks to Pepper, who is barely managing to juggle real life while secretly running Big League Burger’s massive Twitter account.

Enter Jack, class clown and constant thorn in Pepper’s side. When he isn’t trying to duck out of his obscenely popular twin’s shadow, he’s busy working in his family’s deli. His relationship with the business that holds his future might be love/hate, but when Big League Burger steals his grandma’s iconic grilled cheese recipe, he’ll do whatever it takes to take them down, one tweet at a time.

All’s fair in love and cheese — that is, until Pepper and Jack’s spat turns into a viral Twitter war. Little do they know, while they’re publicly duking it out with snarky memes and retweet battles, they’re also falling for each other in real life — on an anonymous chat app Jack built.

As their relationship deepens and their online shenanigans escalate — people on the internet are shipping them?? — their battle gets more and more personal, until even these two rivals can’t ignore they were destined for the most unexpected, awkward, all-the-feels romance that neither of them expected.
Adorable, right? Even the names are punny. It is seriously as cute as it sounds and perfect for young adult romance fans.

Emma kindly agreed to answer a few questions about her book. I got her to spill on what an ice cream based off her book might taste like, and what her own must watch rom-coms are.

What gif do you feel best describes Tweet Cute? 
I don’t know if this is a meme or a GIF, really, but the Elmo fire one comes to mind. I think it’s sort of come to represent a weird intersection of joy/pain/chaos/hilarity, and I think Tweet Cute’s got all of that in the mix. 

If a signature ice cream were to be made for Tweet Cute what might be included?
OOOOH. I think the base would be a classic vanilla, but it would be stuffed to the gills with Rolos, Reese’s, Oreos, and rainbow sprinkles like Monster Cake from the book, and have ribbons of caramel and a healthy pinch of salt and oh my god I am so hungry now, BYE. 

Tweet Cute is inspired by You've Got Mail. What are some of your other favourite rom-coms?
I love About Time above all, I think, but I’m also a fan of Crazy Rich Asians, The Proposal,  27 Dresses, Bride Wars, Love, Rosie, and the woefully underrated period rom-com, Mrs. Pettigrew Lives For A Day. I’m sure I am missing about a gazillion that I also love.

Be sure to go grab your copy of Tweet Cute today. It's available at all major book retailers today and stop by Twitter to wish her a Happy Book Birthday!

Emma Lord is a digital media editor and writer living in New York City, where she spends whatever time she isn’t writing either running or belting show tunes in community theater. She graduated from the University of Virginia with a major in psychology and a minor in how to tilt your computer screen so nobody will notice you updating your fan fiction from the back row. She was raised on glitter, grilled cheese, and a whole lot of love. Her sun sign is Hufflepuff, but she is a Gryffindor rising. TWEET CUTE is her debut novel. You can find her geeking out online at @dilemmalord on Twitter.

"Sweet and fun! An adorable debut that updates a classic romantic trope with a buzzy twist." - Jenn Bennett, author of Alex, Approximately and Serious Moonlight

“A witty rom-com reinvention for the Twitter age, Tweet Cute pairs delicious online rivalry with deeply relatable insights on family pressure and growing up. This fresh, funny read had us hitting ‘favorite’ from page one.” - Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka, authors of Always Never Yours and If I’m Being Honest 

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Infinity Son by Adam Silvera

Infinity Son by Adam Silvera
Release Date - January 14, 2020
Publisher Website - Harper Collins Canada
Publisher Social Media - Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/Frenzy
Pages -  368 pages
My Rating - 3.5/5
**received from the publisher for an honest review**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
Balancing epic and intensely personal stakes, bestselling author Adam Silvera’s Infinity Son is a gritty, fast-paced adventure about two brothers caught up in a magical war generations in the making.

Growing up in New York, brothers Emil and Brighton always idolized the Spell Walkers—a vigilante group sworn to rid the world of specters. While the Spell Walkers and other celestials are born with powers, specters take them, violently stealing the essence of endangered magical creatures.

Brighton wishes he had a power so he could join the fray. Emil just wants the fighting to stop. The cycle of violence has taken a toll, making it harder for anyone with a power to live peacefully and openly. In this climate of fear, a gang of specters has been growing bolder by the day.

Then, in a brawl after a protest, Emil manifests a power of his own—one that puts him right at the heart of the conflict and sets him up to be the heroic Spell Walker Brighton always wanted to be.

Brotherhood, love, and loyalty will be put to the test, and no one will escape the fight unscathed
They Both Die At The End teased how Adam Silvera might create a fantasy world. I expected a familiar urban setting with the magical world built around it. That is exactly what you get in Infinity Son. It also feels a touch familiar which, for me, added a level of comfort to reading this story.

The world building is pivotal to any fantasy story and the foundation is being built here. I just don't feel like it was fully fleshed out. Silvera has taken a world we know and overlaid a world of magic, mythical creatures, and fate. The way modern technology is woven in with all of the fantasy elements worked for me. It felt natural that the online world would capitalize on knowing people with magical abilities exist and use it as a means to gain clout and followers. The various ways power can be obtained and the consequences of that are each so unique and yet tied together by other elements in the story and the various factions who want that power. I, however, do hope that the actual fantasy elements are further fleshed out and explored in the sequels. It has a lot of potential and I hope it expands and answers some of the questions I am left with as it is the aspect I most wanted more from.

The sibling connection between Emil and Brighton reads as entirely authentic. They love each other but also have moments of conflict. There is a hint of sibling rivalry and competition as well. They don't always agree or see things the same way and that is part of what motivates both of them. You never doubt their love for each other but also recognize there is underlying friction there.

The brothers are basically polar opposites which often causes any friction they do have. Emil is the more serious, more reserved brother. He doesn't want to be part of this war that seems determined to pull him in. Brighton on the other hand is outgoing, impulsive, reckless, and would love nothing more than to jump into the fight. One wants the worries of the world on their shoulders while the other just wants to be left in peace. It makes for an interesting butting of heads when they clash because both of them have a point if you view it from their perspective.

One of my favourite elements is a ship that develops during the course of the novel. The way it is built and teased as the story progressed ensured a delightful tension. It is one of my favourite tropes (the telling of which would spoil the experience of seeing this relationship unfold) and I ended up becoming very invested in what happens to these two characters.

This book boasts a large cast of characters and not all of them get enough page time to flesh them out as fully as I would have liked. The emotional beats did not always land as deeply as they should have because I didn't feel as attached to certain characters. The characters are there for a reason and do serve a purpose, I just don't know if they will resonate with readers as much as the story hopes they do.

The ending is tailor made to make you immediately want to go grab book two. It is the kind of ending that leaves a reader in awe and desperate to return to the world they were just pulled out of. It sets the stage for an even more complex and tense sequel and promises lots of action.

Fans of Silvera's previous work will find plenty of the elements he is known for within these pages. It has the writing, pacing, and emotional core that you have come to expect. It may have more magic than you are used to but I predict even those not used to reading fantasy will fall under this book's spell.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Waiting On Wednesday .... The Comeback

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking The Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pick is The Comeback by Ella Berman

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
A deep dive into the psyche of a young actress raised in the spotlight under the influence of a charming, manipulative film director and the moment when she decides his time for winning is over.

At the height of her career and on the eve of her first Golden Globe nomination, teen star Grace Turner disappeared.

Now, tentatively sober and surprisingly numb, Grace is back in Los Angeles after her year of self-imposed exile. She knows the new private life she wants isn't going to be easy as she tries to be a better person and reconnect with the people she left behind.

But when Grace is asked to present a lifetime achievement award to director Able Yorke--the man who controlled her every move for eight years--she realizes that she can't run from the secret behind her spectacular crash and burn for much longer. And she's the only one with nothing left to lose.

Alternating between past and present, The Comeback tackles power dynamics and the uncertainty of young adulthood, the types of secrets that become part of our sense of self, and the moments when we learn that though there are many ways to get hurt, we can still choose to fight back.
My choice this week seems very timely as it fits into the current #metoo conversation. I am drawn to Hollywood set stories so this one naturally caught my attention.

With how currently relevant this book's premise is, and how incredible the synopsis sounds, I could easily see this being one of the big books of the summer.

It sounds like a perfect choice for book clubs, beach bags, and summer vacations.

Expected release date - August 18, 2020

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

American Predator by Maureen Callahan

American Predator by Maureen Callahan
Release Date - July 2, 2019
Publisher Website - Penguin Random House Canada
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages -  285 pages
My Rating - 4/5
**borrowed from library**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
A gripping tour de force of investigative journalism that takes us  deep into the investigation behind one of the most frightening and enigmatic serial killers in modern American history, and into the ranks of a singular American police force: the Alaska PD.

Most of us have never heard of Israel Keyes. But he is one of the most ambitious, meticulous serial killers of modern time. The FBI considered his behavior unprecedented. Described by a prosecutor as "a force of pure evil", he was a predator who struck all over the United States. He buried 'kill kits' - cash, weapons, and body-disposal tools - in remote locations across the country, and over the course of fourteen years, would fly to a city, rent a car, and drive thousands of miles in order to use his kits. He would break into a stranger's house, abduct his victims in broad daylight, and kill and dispose of them in mere hours. And then he would return home, resuming life as a quiet, reliable construction worker devoted to his only daughter.

When journalist Maureen Callahan first heard about Israel Keyes in 2012, she was captivated by how a killer of this magnitude could go undetected by law enforcement for over a decade. And so began a project that consumed her for the next several years - uncovering the true story behind how the FBI ultimately caught Israel Keyes, and trying to understand what it means for a killer like Keyes to exist. A killer who left a path of monstrous, randomly committed crimes in his wake - many of which remain unsolved to this day.

American Predator is the ambitious culmination of years of on-the-ground interviews with key figures in law enforcement, and in Keyes' life, and research uncovered from classified FBI files. Callahan takes us on a journey into the chilling, nightmarish mind of a relentless killer, and the limitations of traditional law enforcement, in one of America's most isolated environments - Alaska - when faced with a killer who defies all expectation and categorization.
The first thing I feel you should know before diving into American Predator is that it will enrage you. It both tells you everything and nothing about serial killer Israel Keyes while providing a quick and well researched read.

The frustrating part about anything written about Israel Keyes is that so much about him and his crimes remains unknown. He was arrogant, smug, and felt he was smarter than the people investigating his crimes. He refused to answer questions and was often vague when he did answer anything. His suicide ensured that many lingering questions will be that much harder to answer and that some may never have answers at all. The amount of unknown details in this case, as someone whose interest in true crime stems from the whys, only made me more infuriated at an already exasperating Keyes.

The investigation into this case is, at times, mishandled. The interrogation being the main aspect that fell apart. Other elements showcase brilliant police work that ended up catching an evasive killer. Certain things allowed for Israel to make the investigators look ridiculous which only served to add to his arrogance. He, not them, had control of the interrogation. He gave only what he was willing to provide, and those asking the questions made it easy for him to do so. To be fair, Keyes really had no interest in negotiating with those tasked with finding out what happened. He wasn't looking for fame and saw no reason to make their jobs easier. This fact, combined with some political jockeying by certain investigators, made for a unsuccessful interrogation. There was great police work here, but it was often hindered by others and left those who were competent with their hands tied and scrambling to do the best they could.

Maureen Callahan's writing and pacing makes you feel like you are following the investigation in real time. You're learning about the various crimes committed by Keyes at the same as law enforcement. By the time that Keyes is apprehended the reader feels a tight tension that really doesn't get any relief from the tense, and rage inducing, interrogation. She also makes the most out of what is known about the case. She does her best to provide a detailed accounting of events but you can sense her frustration as times that so much still remains unanswered.

Much is often made about the perpetrator rather than the victims. The killer gets the book written about them, or a Netflix documentary. Even the way Keyes is talked about feeds into this narrative of spotlighting the killer. There are only a few known victims in this particular case but the author is careful to provide details about who they were and made it so they were not just a footnote of a name in the book. The focus is on Keyes, but not just on him.

American Predator is a bone-chilling account of a serial killer who not only was a  meticulous planner, but one capable of flying under the radar for years. The lingering question, thanks to his extensive travel, of how many victims remain unknown is what I found most haunting. I highly recommend this for those with an interest in true crime. Just expect to be both horrified, and angry when you finish.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Weekly Obsessions

The awesome Kelly at KellyVision started posting a weekly post highlighting whatever she happened to be obsessed with that week. I LOVE this idea, so much in fact that I will be doing it myself every Saturday.


Cover for The Ravens by Kass Morgan and Danielle Paige (goodreads)

Paranormal, particularly in young adult, is back and I could not be happier. Witches seem to be part of the upcoming trend and I am here for all of it. I am especially looking forward to this modern take on witches set in a sorority.

The colour scheme of this novel is what immediately caught my eye. The splashes of pink on the black fit the witches in a sorority vibe perfectly in my opinion. This one doesn't come out until January of 2021 so we have a bit of a wait but the cover certainly got my attention.


Trailer for Locke and Key

I recently devoured the Locke and Key series and fell in love. It's a story of grief and childhood that plays against a sort of horror backdrop. I was hesitant about the television series after reading it, but the trailer has brought me fully on board.

Bode's casting is PERFECTION and so much of the tone of the story seems to have been captured here. I am cautiously optimistic.

Promising Young Woman Trailer

I have not been able to stop thinking about this trailer since I first saw it. It's smart, biting, and already causing a lot of discussion.

Carey Mulligan looks to be giving a goosebumps giving performance in this and the subject matter could not be more timely.

What are you obsessed with this week? Let me know in the comments.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Locke and Key Volumes #1-6 by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez

Locke and Key Volumes #1-6 by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
Release Date - published from 2003-2013
Publisher Website - IDW Publishing
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
My Rating - 5/5

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
Locke & Key tells of Keyhouse, an unlikely New England mansion, with fantastic doors that transform all who dare to walk through them. Home to a hate-filled and relentless creature that will not rest until it forces open the most terrible door of them all...
When I heard that Netflix was turning the popular Locke and Key series into a television show I immediately wanted to read it. I have only read a few graphic novels/comics and have enjoyed some more than others. I wasn't sure what to expect going in, but figured I would be in for one heck of a ride with Joe Hill writing the story.

Locke and Key has an atmospheric, well written, meticulously plotted story and uses the incredible artwork to deepen the story being told. I've struggled with previous graphic novels not giving me the fleshed out plot that I want and not having characters that feel fully developed. None of that is an issue with Locke and Key. The characters grow and change over the course of the story. I felt like I got to know them. I felt the story was rich and complex and filled with twists and turns. It's the sort of story that you easily get lost in because you become so infested in what is happening.

The Locke family is easy to love. They're all struggling in their own ways with grief, and their lives being uprooted in the midst of that grief. Bode, the precocious youngest child, is the clear standout. His reactions to Keyhouse and the magic there are so pure and innocent. He's curious and gets into mischief. This curiosity is the catalyst for the start of the events at Keyhouse and seeing it through Bode's eyes helps capture that child wonderment.

 I adored Kinsey who tries to appear tough on the outside but is broken on the inside. Tyler is so serious and stoic that you just want to remind him to be a kid. The three siblings, and their love for each other, are the heart of this story. It is through them that the connection to the story, and any emotional impact is felt.

Villains, particularly in stories that have paranormal/fantasy elements to them, are often what can make or break the story. The villain in this is exactly that you want them to be. The world, and the villain within it, are not black and white. This villain is way more complex than that and I was impressed with how well crafted and detailed the entire story of the villain turned out to be. It hit all of notes I wanted it to and managed to be a good mix of both scary and heartbreaking.

Grief pulses through every single part of this story. It resonates so deeply, and is felt so keenly that the emotional punch that is served up at the end is undeniable. These characters come to mean something to you, and their grief is something you come to care about. The story is already steeped in sadness and darkness from the beginning and that just continues. It manages to have little moments of brightness but even those are twinged with a bit of sadness.

This is a story filled with magic, wonder, death, grief, and hope. It, like Keyhouse, reveals its secrets to you slowly, and opens doors at the exact time it needs to. It has changed what I expect from graphic novels, and the stories within them. It's made me want to seek out more that are like this because of how much I enjoyed my time at Keyhouse.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams

The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams
Release Date - November 5, 2019
Publisher Website - Penguin Random House Canada
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages -  352 pages
My Rating - 5/5
**received from publisher for an honest review**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
The first rule of this book club:
You don't talk about book club.

Nashville Legends second baseman Gavin Scott's marriage is in major league trouble. He’s recently discovered a humiliating secret: his wife Thea has always faked the Big O. When he loses his cool at the revelation, it’s the final straw on their already strained relationship. Thea asks for a divorce, and Gavin realizes he’s let his pride and fear get the better of him.

Welcome to the Bromance Book Club.

Distraught and desperate, Gavin finds help from an unlikely source: a secret romance book club made up of Nashville's top alpha men. With the help of their current read, a steamy Regency titled Courting the Countess, the guys coach Gavin on saving his marriage. But it'll take a lot more than flowery words and grand gestures for this hapless Romeo to find his inner hero and win back the trust of his wife.
The Bromance Book Club immediately sounded like a fun, cute, humourous read that offered up a unique sounding romance read. I was delighted to find out that it was just as fun, and funny, as I anticipated it being, and just as sweet.

This is the kind of read that leaves you feeling light and bubbly. You'll be grinning your way through most of this, and that is in large part to the breezy feel of the writing. It's a story that feels effortless and I expect a lot of effort went into making it read that way.

Thea's character is one that I found myself liking easily. She is someone who kind of got caught up in this whirlwind and is finding herself untethered. Faking it is a large part of Thea's story in many ways and her journey of rediscovering herself tied into that theme perfectly. She and Gavin both have issues to work through that stem from baggage that both are carrying around and I found this element to be one of the strongest parts of the story.

Gavin is a character with a stutter. A part of his character that I felt was perfectly written into the story. His stutter is not the biggest part of his character. There are so many other aspects of his character that would come up first when describing him. He is athletic, determined, and caring for example. It is portrayed as part of who he is instead of all that he is. It is simply another part of him like anything else.

Gavin's stutter is part of what I loved the most about the love story being told in this one. Thea doesn't treat him differently because of his stutter and that has not always been the case for Gavin with people that he meets. We all want someone who loves us fully and completely and that is exactly what exists here. I loved how Thea didn't push him or rush whatever he was saying. It made Gavin comfortable which is such a huge part of a relationship.

It is not just the two main characters who shine in this novel. The other members of the book club are just as delightful. They are the kind of side characters that you hope books get written about. They not only provide a lot of humour but a lot of the heart as well. The book club itself provides plenty of laughs but is also rather feminist. I loved that they discussed toxic masculinity, and how to be better partners. I predict many romance readers will appreciate the book clubs insights and banter.

This is a must read for any romance fans out there. It's exactly what you are looking for from a romance and more. It is a sweet, charming read that is basically made for book clubs and pairing with a glass of wine.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Waiting On Wednesday ... The Damned

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking The Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pick is The Damned by Renee Ahdieh


Here is the Goodreads synopsis
Following the events of The Beautiful, S├ębastien Saint Germain is now cursed and forever changed. The treaty between the Fallen and the Brotherhood has been broken, and war between the immortals seems imminent. The price of loving Celine was costly. But Celine has also paid a high price for loving Bastien.

Still recovering from injuries sustained during a night she can’t quite remember, her dreams are troubled. And she doesn’t know she has inadvertently set into motion a chain of events that could lead to her demise and unveil a truth about herself she’s not quite ready to learn.

Forces hiding in the shadows have been patiently waiting for this moment for centuries. And just as Bastien and Celine begin to uncover the danger around them, they learn their love could tear them apart.
I love paranormal stories, especially ones that feature vampires. The Beautiful delivered in a big way for and set up what I hope is an epic sequel by kicking the paranormal elements into high gear at the end of the novel.

This is perfectly timed as a summer release and I cannot wait to devour this one sitting by the pool.

Expected release date - June 9, 2020

Monday, January 6, 2020


We all have pop culture blind spots. It might be that genre you barely read, or that movie you have been meaning to get to. I have been thinking about the books I read and what my own pop culture blind spots are.  I am going to make an effort each year to help fill some of those blind spots and hopefully make my reading choices more varied and diverse than what I currently consume in the process.

With this goal in mind I decided to launch my #2020PopCultureResolution. I am going to pledge to read 12 nonfiction books throughout 2020, and watch 12 classic movies that I have not yet seen. I also want to encourage anyone who wants to take to part to join me in your own way. You can pledge to read/watch/listen to/etc whatever you want to help fill some of your own pop culture blind spots. I am excited to see what everyone has on their own lists. Please feel free to tag me in your posts, or use the hashtag so that I can see them!

My twelve nonfiction books are:

My schedule looks like this (and if anyone wants to read any of these as well, I am happy to chat about them). Each of them links to their Goodreads pages for more details.

December - TBD - hoping to fill this spot with a 2020 release I am not aware of yet

Here are the movies I am going to watch for this event:

The schedule for this will be as follows (and again, if anyone else wants to watch and chat just let me know).

January - A Place In The Sun
February - A Streetcar Named Desire
March - An Affair To Remember
April - Sabrina
May - Niagara
June - Rear Window
July - Penny Serenade
August - Humoresque
September - It Happened One Night
October - Gaslight
November - Pillow Talk
December - It's  A Wonderful Life

What are your own pop culture blind spots? Have you read any of the books, or seen any of the movies that I am going to tackle this year? Let know in the comments. 

You Might Also Like

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...