2015-08-18

Blog Tour: For the Love

For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards by Jen Hatmaker
Release Date ~ August 18, 2015
Thomas Nelson ~ HarperCollins
ISBN13: 9780718031824
ARC received from publisher to participate in launch team

Goodreads Synopsis:
The popular writer, blogger, and television personality reveals with humor and style how Jesus' extravagant grace is the key to dealing with life's biggest challenge: people.

The majority of our joys, struggles, thrills, and heartbreaks relate to people, beginning first with ourselves and then the people we came from, married, birthed, live by, live for, go to church with, don't like, don't understand, fear, struggle with, compare ourselves to, and judge. People are the best and worst thing about the human life.

Jen Hatmaker knows this all too well, and so she reveals how to practice kindness, grace, truthfulness, vision, and love to ourselves and those around us. By doing this, For the Love leads our generation to reimagine Jesus' grace as a way of life, and it does it in a funny yet profound manner that Christian readers will love. Along the way, Hatmaker shows readers how to reclaim their prophetic voices and become Good News again to a hurting, polarized world.

Full disclosure: I've long appreciated Jen Hatmaker's writing, and I eagerly applied to be a member of the launch team for her latest book, For the Love. Happily, I joined 499 others to come together to celebrate this book as it releases!

Because this is a special book to me, and a little bit different from the types of books I normally review, I'm going to structure my review a little differently and skip my formal list of reasons why you should read this book and tell you a little bit about my experience reading it.

The first thing you need to know about Jen Hatmaker is that she's hilarious, and it comes across so well in her writing. I giggled my way through many chapters in this book! The second thing you need to know is that Jen is a Christian and loves Jesus. So yes, this could be classified as a Christian book but it doesn't feel like many that I've read. It is so much more than that!



But it's also so much more than that. For the Love is a book about life and living well; and her primary concern is about loving others well. I've loved Jen's focus because for her, it's all about people and how we need to be kind and respectful towards others. I love seeing her passion for helping others, and she's critical about areas that need to change (see the chapter on poverty tourism as a great example of this).

And she explores this idea in For the Love by talking about everyday things we encounter in life, with her own heavily sarcastic perspective on them. Whether she's talking about fashion, marriage, children, or just sharing some of her favourite recipes - it's all something we can relate to.

Most importantly, I love that For the Love is not a book that simply talks at you. Jen wants to see people change, she wants to see the world change for the better. I mean, what good is a book like this if it doesn't impact my life?

Something truly special happened with this book and this launch team. While 500 of us bonded together over reading this book early and sharing our favourite quotes from it, we started to share more of ourselves with one another. And it has come to a point where it's like we're one big, happy family of good friends. We started living together in a community where all we wanted to do was care for each other and encourage everyone else. And this? This is exactly what I hope to see happen when others read this book. That they will have others to share it with and that it will bring them closer together so that we can live life in community with others.


Also - make sure to check out the For the Love website!



2015-08-10

Book Review: Mad Miss Mimic

Mad Miss Mimic by Sarah Henstra
Release Date ~ May 5, 2015
Penguin Canada
ISBN13:  9780143192367
ARC received from publisher for review

Goodreads Synopsis:
London, 1872. Seventeen-year-old heiress Leonora Somerville is preparing to be presented to society -- again. She's strikingly beautiful and going to be very rich, but Leo has a problem money can't solve. A curious speech disorder causes her to stutter but also allows her to imitate other people's voices flawlessly. Servants and ladies alike call her "Mad Miss Mimic" behind her back...and watch as Leo unintentionally scares off one potential husband after another.

London in 1872 is also a city gripped by opium fever. Leo's brother-in-law Dr. Dewhurst and his new business partner Francis Thornfax are frontrunners in the race to patent an injectable formula of the drug. Friendly, forthright, and as a bonus devastatingly handsome, Thornfax seems immune to the gossip about Leo's "madness." But their courtship is endangered from the start. The mysterious Black Glove opium gang is setting off explosions across the city. The street urchins Dr. Dewhurst treats are dying of overdose. And then there is Tom Rampling, the working-class boy Leo can't seem to get off her mind.

As the violence closes in around her Leo must find the links between the Black Glove's attacks, Tom's criminal past, the doctor's dangerous cure, and Thornfax's political ambitions. But first she must find her voice.

Mad Miss Mimic is a really fun, engaging story which blends a few different elements together to create its own unique feel. It's a little bit of historical fiction, with a thrilling mystery, and a heroine who stands out because of her speech disorder. This is a great book for readers who like thoughtful stories and remarkable heroines!

Also this book cover? So pretty and one of my favourites! It suits the book really well.


  1. Leonora's brave and fascinating character:

    Leo stands out among other book characters for a few different reasons. The most obvious is her speech disorder; this isn't addressed in very many books, but I love that Sarah Henstra included this in Mad Miss Mimic and made it an integral part of the story. You can see how Leo struggles with it, yet she refuses to allow it to become her entire life and learns how to work with her mimicry. The development of her character is remarkable given the shorter length of the book, and it's inspiring to see how she doesn't let anyone else define her or box her in.
  2. Leo's speech disorder:

    Leo's speech disorder is a fairly obvious trait of hers. It's hard to ignore and no one fails to notice it unless she simply doesn't speak. Which brings up another interesting part of the story - she's regularly encouraged by some characters to sit and look pretty, which wasn't at all an uncommon attitude in Victorian times but it's so poignant with Leo. Importantly, there are other characters who don't see or treat her as lesser because of it (some are better than others, however). And I think it is realistic to see the varying reactions of other characters to Leo's manner of speaking, yet all the while it is balanced by Leo's own feelings towards it.
  3. The cast of secondary characters:

    I like characters who aren't reduced to being two-dimensional and Sarah wrote her other characters in Mad Miss Mimic really well. No one is truly good nor evil, and you can see that there is a sense of a gray area when it comes to their actions and decisions. There are many people who mean well, but fall short, or who are simply looking out for their own interests, yet at the expense of others. I appreciate this complexity in books and their characters, and it really impressed me to find it here.
The biggest issue for me is that this is a well-developed plot and one that is very complex with so many details to be uncovered, yet the book itself is on the shorter side. There were some parts of the story which I felt could have been fleshed out more had the book been longer. On the other hand, this book moves at a slower pace compared to others so that may be a good thing to keep readers more accustomed to action-packed books engaged with the storyline here. 






2015-08-05

Book Review: Charmed

Charmed (The Witch Hunter #2) by Michelle Krys
Release Date ~ May 26, 2015
Delacorte Press ~ Random House
ISBN13: 9780385743396
Review copy received from Random House Canada for review

Goodreads Synopsis:
Indie has spent the last few weeks frantically searching for Paige. She's tried every spell imaginable, but witchcraft has gotten her nowhere, and she's going crazy with guilt. Despite what her warlock boyfriend, Bishop, tells her, Indie knows it's her fault her best friend was kidnapped by the Priory. And with the Priory destroyed, finding Paige feels more hopeless than ever-especially when Indie discovers that Paige isn't even on Earth. She's trapped in Los Demonios, an alternate dimension of Los Angeles filled with evil paranormals. No one who has gone there has ever come out.

Fueled by terror and loyalty, Indie is desperate to find a way into the underworld prison. She'll worry about getting out later. But facing the dark world's most dangerous witches and warlocks on her own means keeping her plan hush-hush-and forging alliances with some sketchy people, including a seriously sexy sorcerer.

Sometimes a witch must keep secrets from the people she cares about most. And sometimes she isn't the only one with secrets…

I had a lot of fun reading Michelle Krys' debut, Hexed, which came out last year, so needless to say I was looking forward to reading the sequel!

Indie is a great character, and one who stands out to me from most other YA heroines. She's a little bit sassier, and it's also interesting to me to see a character who (at one point) was considered one of the cool, popular girls rather than the more common, bookish type. And it's precisely that attitude and spunk that leads Indie to continue on her journey in Charmed.


  1. Indie's loyalty:

    One of Indie's remarkable character qualities is the loyalty she exhibits towards those she cares about. And the events in Charmed show just how far Indie is willing to go to help others... and it's pretty darn far! She isn't the type of person to back away from a challenge or anything difficult. Instead, she tackles those problems head on and tries her hardest to find a solution. It's an admirable quality and one that will endear her to readers.
  2. A closer look at this world of witches and warlocks:

    Hexed was our introduction to the world of magic that Michelle had created, and while it was mysterious and interesting, we didn't get to learn that much about it in the first book. Charmed is a much closer look at what's going on here, and we also get to visit Los Demonios with Indie, which is a whole new experience and very eye-opening for her. And with this new world comes new secrets, of course...

The beginning of Charmed moved along at a slower pace than I like and particularly so given the immediate problems. The stakes are incredibly high, yet Indie is forced to run through the motions to appease her aunt and act more like a normal teenager. And I get it - I can understand why Penny would insist that Indie obey the rules, but it didn't seem to fit the story and it didn't really seem to fit Penny's character either. And overall, that made this a slower read for me.

As well, as much as I loved learning more about Los Demonios and the people who are trapped there, I also felt like there wasn't too much attention paid to them. There's a lot going on in this world, and not much of it is dealt with nor solved by the end.

But Indie's story is told and it's told well. Michelle has a talent for writing, as evidenced by Indie's clever thinking and feisty attitude. And the action in the story is very well-told.



2015-08-04

Book Review: Jesse's Girl

Jesse's Girl (Hundred Oaks) by Miranda Kenneally
Release Date ~ July 7, 2015
Sourcebooks Fire
ISBN13: 9781492622239
ARC received from Raincoast Books for review

Goodreads Synopsis:
Practice Makes Perfect.

Everyone at Hundred Oaks High knows that career mentoring day is a joke. So when Maya Henry said she wanted to be a rock star, she never imagined she’d get to shadow *the* Jesse Scott, Nashville’s teen idol.

But spending the day with Jesse is far from a dream come true. He’s as gorgeous as his music, but seeing all that he’s accomplished is just a reminder of everything Maya’s lost: her trust, her boyfriend, their band, and any chance to play the music she craves. Not to mention that Jesse’s pushy and opinionated. He made it on his own, and he thinks Maya’s playing back up to other people’s dreams. Does she have what it takes to follow her heart—and go solo?

Miranda Kenneally's Hundred Oaks books have a similar structure to them, yet it's remarkable how each of them continue to stand on their own as enjoyable books with interesting characters.

Whereas most of her previous books have featured characters who are more athletically inclined, Jesse's Girl stands out for its two main characters (Jesse and Maya) who are serious musicians. Perfect for readers who love Miranda Kenneally's other books or music.


  1. Watching Jesse and Maya's relationship develop:

    I love a relationship that has room to grow and change over the course of a book, and Jesse and Maya are a perfect example of how to do this exceptionally well. They take their own sweet time to grow closer, and you can see how well they get to know each other. This isn't a case of insta-love, nor is it overriden with angst. Most importantly, I was impressed by how much Maya and Jesse respected one another. This was not a shallow relationship, and it's refreshing to see one like it.
  2. Appearances from other Hundred Oaks characters:

    For readers who have already read some of the previous Hundred Oaks books, it's a special treat to get to see how some of our beloved characters have grown since we last read about them and to see what they're up to now! It also helps to ground the story since I recognize the place and the people,
  3. A great appreciation of music:

    Music is a big part of both Jesse and Maya's lives, and while their tastes in music share some similarities, they are also very different. And it's really interesting to see how far they take it. While Jesse bears more of a burden when it comes to his musical career, it's interesting to see that contrasted with Maya's drive and ambition to see her dreams succeed. And from this, they're able to learn from each other. 
I also loved Maya's family and how supportive they were of her. You could really see just how tight-knit they were, and how much that benefited Maya. And I'm always a fan of great families. 

A very minor issue for me was that Jesse's Girl seemed to have less conflict than some of the previous Hundred Oaks books, so I'm not sure there was as much development as I would have liked to have seen. I was impressed, however, by how well Jesse and Maya dealt with the conflict that they did encounter. 




2015-06-30

Book Review: The Witch Hunter

The Witch Hunter (The Witch Hunter #1) by Virginia Boecker
Release Date ~ June 2, 2015
Little Brown Books for Young Readers ~ Hachette Book Group
ISBN13: 9780316327008
ARC received from HBG Canada

Goodreads Synopsis:
The magic and suspense of Graceling meet the political intrigue and unrest of Game of Thrones in this riveting fantasy debut.

Your greatest enemy isn't what you fight, but what you fear.

Elizabeth Grey is one of the king's best witch hunters, devoted to rooting out witchcraft and doling out justice. But when she's accused of being a witch herself, Elizabeth is arrested and sentenced to burn at the stake.

Salvation comes from a man she thought was her enemy. Nicholas Perevil, the most powerful and dangerous wizard in the kingdom, offers her a deal: he will save her from execution if she can break the deadly curse that's been laid upon him.

But Nicholas and his followers know nothing of Elizabeth's witch hunting past--if they find out, the stake will be the least of her worries. And as she's thrust into the magical world of witches, ghosts, pirates, and one all-too-handsome healer, Elizabeth is forced to redefine her ideas of right and wrong, of friends and enemies, and of love and hate.

Virginia Boecker weaves a riveting tale of magic, betrayal, and sacrifice in this unforgettable fantasy debut.

I happened to read The Witch Hunter while playing through Dragon Age 2 for the first time. So maybe it shouldn't be as much of a surprise that this book reminded me of that game? Needless to say, I loved both of them.

The Witch Hunter is fantasy YA with an emphasis on politics and political intrigue, which is one of my favourite things to read about. Although this usually ends up with a slower-paced book, it certainly doesn't take away from the excitement or how engaging a book is provided a reader can handle a slower pace.



  1. The political intrigue:

    I loved how the world in the Witch Hunter was set up with conflict between mages and non-mages. It's understandable, if you think of how much power a mage would have and the advantages of having magic. So I'm grateful to see that there's a book series which took this into consideration and included this type of conflict in the plot.

  2. Elizabeth's focus and determination:

    I also liked how Elizabeth focused on the task at hand and wasn't easily distracted. You could see how she would make a good witch-hunter, despite some poor choices at times. Most importantly, Elizabeth experiences significant character development throughout the story as everything she has known and taken for granted is tested.
  3. Interesting system of magic:

    This was one of my favourite parts of the book but I loved how magic was presented. Not only was it far from perfect, and potentially dangerous, but readers can easily see how it complicates matters as well. It isn't as simple as most of us would imagine, and it creates problems for some of the characters, most notably Elizabeth after she's accused of being a witch. 
Some parts of the story were fairly predictable and I could have used a few more twists. After a while, I found the story progressed in a way that I was expecting and yet I was so engrossed in the book that it hardly mattered. I'm hoping to see a few more surprises as the series continues, though. 

There were so many things I loved about this book - the character dynamics and the world building included! It was a complex story that really appealed to my love of good fantasy stories. 



2015-06-29

Book Review: The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things

The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things by Ann Aguirre
Release Date ~ April 7, 2015
Feiwel & Friends ~ Macmillan
ISBN13: 9781250047502
ARC received from publisher for review

Goodreads Synopsis:
Sage Czinski is trying really hard to be perfect. If she manages it, people won’t peer beyond the surface, or ask hard questions about her past. She’s learned to substitute causes for relationships, and it’s working just fine… until Shane Cavendish strolls into her math class. He’s a little antisocial, a lot beautiful, and everything she never knew she always wanted.

Shane Cavendish just wants to be left alone to play guitar and work on his music. He’s got heartbreak and loneliness in his rearview mirror, and this new school represents his last chance. He doesn’t expect to be happy; he only wants to graduate and move on. He never counted on a girl like Sage.

But love doesn’t mend all broken things, and sometimes life has to fall apart before it can be put back together again…

The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things was an engrossing read for me, as it quickly captured my attention with Sage's personality and internal struggles. I really liked her character and wanted to find out more about her - bu unfortunately, it wasn't a book that left a lasting impression on me.



  1. Sage's intentional kindness:

    Sage makes a conscious effort to be kind and encourage those around her. And while this should not be uncommon, it is both in real life and in books. It's uplifting to read about a character who desires so strongly to see the best in those she meets in life and to encourage them when they need it most. It's more than the fact that Sage shares kind words with others - it's that she witnesses their pain and acknowledges it. And then she takes that a step further by meeting them where they hurt and trying to turn it into something good.
  2. The depth of the characters:

    Yet Sage is more than a one-dimensional kind person. She also harbours her own pain and struggles to come to terms with her past. It's interesting to see how this plays out in her life, as she chooses to be kinder to those around her. But she still has her own issues. Similarly, Shane and Ryan also have their own problems and I appreciated that their stories were also given time and thought and played a role in the story. 
The main problem for me is that the story didn't seem to have an impact on me. I came back to write this review later and found I couldn't recall much of the story or the details. I admire Sage's character, but the story lacked some of the excitement I typically look for in books. So in that sense, it wasn't the best fit for me. I think much of that comes from the fact that we really only see the other characters from Sage's perspective and Sage is so willing to simply accept people as they are. So there was less struggle and development there than I think the story could have used. 

I really liked that this book wasn't over the top, and felt very realistic. It's a story that many readers will likely be able to relate to, which I feel is particularly important for a contemporary book. 




2015-06-25

Book Review: Joyride

Joyride by Anna Banks
Release Date ~ June 2, 2015
Feiwel & Friends ~ Macmillan
ISBN13: 9781250039613
ARC received from publisher for review

Goodreads Synopsis:
A popular guy and a shy girl with a secret become unlikely accomplices for midnight pranking, and are soon in over their heads—with the law and with each other—in this sparkling standalone from NYT-bestselling author Anna Banks.

It’s been years since Carly Vega’s parents were deported. She lives with her brother, studies hard, and works at a convenience store to contribute to getting her parents back from Mexico.

Arden Moss used to be the star quarterback at school. He dated popular blondes and had fun with his older sister, Amber. But now Amber’s dead, and Arden blames his father, the town sheriff who wouldn’t acknowledge Amber's mental illness. Arden refuses to fulfill whatever his conservative father expects.

All Carly wants is to stay under the radar and do what her family expects. All Arden wants is to NOT do what his family expects. When their paths cross, they each realize they’ve been living according to others. Carly and Arden’s journey toward their true hearts—and one another—is funny, romantic, and sometimes harsh.

For me, contemporary books are the exact type of book I need when I'm in certain moods and Joyride fulfilled my need for a compelling story with characters that I liked and cared about. It's a good book, although it didn't satisfy me completely.

Joyride is largely about overcoming adversity, and this was highlighted particularly well in the story.



  1. Two different perspectives:

    Carly and Arden have lived completely different lives, so they each bring their own unique perspective to the story. It's interesting to see how differently they perceive the same events. And the way the book is set up, we end up with two characters who come together and the contrast between them is so stark. But that's what makes it so great watching them grow closer together. It's especially neat since they truly start off as friends first, and that really develops over time into something more.
     
  2. Arden's Uncle Cletus:

    It might seem strange to include Uncle Cletus as a reason to read Joyride, but it's absolutely true because Cletus is such a fantastic character. He's interesting and both a litle bit sad and amusing. But I really loved seeing how much he cared about both Arden and Carly, and how far he was willing to go to care for them. It's rare to see a secondary character with so much detail like this, but it was done really well and endeared his character and this book to me!
Carly is a standout character. She's honest and down-to-earth, and she's used to getting her hands dirty. I loved all of these things about her, and she was a great protagonist. 

It's rare to have a story where the two main characters face such significant obstacles. But these are real issues that people experience in real life, so Joyride's also an important book in that sense. 

But there was just something lacking for me. For such serious issues, they weren't addressed very seriously. And the climax, while exciting, didn't strike me as a probable or likely solution given Carly's character. I tend to be pickier with contemporary books so it takes an extraordinary book to really stay with me, and while I enjoyed Joyride it isn't one that stayed with me after I finished reading it. 




 
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