Shark Summer – Ira Marcks

SHARK SUMMER is a colourful graphic novel about three kids who have goals they wish to accomplish this summer on the Martha’s Vineyard island. Gayle wants to make some money since she and her mom are struggling right now. She then teams up with Elijah, an aspiring filmmaker who wishes to make a movie this summer and enter it in a competition that rewards the winner with 3000$. But they need a story to tell, and so they need Maddie who certainly has one she’d like everyone to be aware of.

As a side ‘‘story’’ or ‘‘event,’’ this summer on Martha’s Vineyard, there is a motion picture movie being produced that involves a shark and a whole lot of gore. The three kids sometimes get inspiration from the set, its props and the production team. But to be honest, while it’s a big deal to the residents of this island, it is not such a major part of the plot. I actually would have liked to see these kids be somewhat involved in the production of this movie, but the author/illustrator did not share my wish. Instead, he sends Gayle, Elijah and Maddie on basically a treasure hunt, the treasure being the memory and physical proof that the Captain, a legend of the island, truly existed.

I am not disappointed with this graphic novel. I definitely think that there were many paths to choose within the storyline and the author chose the one that spoke the most to his vision. As I said, I would have liked the characters to be involved with the movie, as I was personally curious about it. I also found the ending to be a little too cutesy, whereas the rest of the graphic novel is intense—drama, mystery and secrets—so I did not feel like there was a satisfying climax. I did, however, enjoy learning more about the Captain, discovering different aspects of the Martha’s Vineyard island and spending time with Elijah, who was adorable. It’s not a  ‘‘wow’’ book but it’s a decent afternoon read.

Thank you Hachette Book Group Canada for the copy in exchange for an honest review.

DNF Review: For the Wolf – Hannah Whitten

I’m going to be honest with all of you. I haven’t DNF’d a book in about 8 months. It’s not because I haven’t read any that have rubbed me the wrong way or whose reading experiences were negative. It’s because, with the pandemic and my mental health taking a toll, I’ve felt pretty bad about not forcing myself to find the good in every book I read and to adapt to its pacing and not-so-fun elements.

Before the pandemic, I would DNF a book out of ten, sometimes more, without giving it a second thought. But although I’m struggling with that right now, I do tend to put some books aside, weakly thinking I’ll pick them up another time. All of that to say that me choosing to not finish FOR THE WOLF is a little hard, and even now part of me wishes to find a way to finish it because I actually have nothing against these characters.

Red is the main one, the young woman who is sent to the woods, to the wolf, in hopes of being a good enough sacrifice that the old kings, who are believed to be prisoners of the woods, will be released. It’s a pretty dark tradition and these people don’t necessarily have a reason to believe that the woods will hear their prayers. It’s pretty much blind fate and unnecessary sacrifices, since the woods have made no promises, and besides, there’s something trickier going on.

It’s a perfectly intriguing premise, one that certainly drew me in. The problem with this book lies in the fact that the idea is better than the execution. It is quite unfortunate when that happens, because I can feel the potential of this story in every page, and yet it never truly morphs into the greatness that I know it can be. In other words, I think Red is a strong heroine, and if I was into the writing, I would have been quite excited about her and Wolf’s evolving relationship and somewhat curious about her sister’s plan to do something about Red’s disappearance. But the writing is not very enjoyable. It is thick. There is too much description for its own good. Not even very good one… There is too much emphasis on description of action and the world around, and too little on emotion and connection between people. Little to no lyricism. Because of that, I would not mind being summarized this story/book instead of reading it myself from start to finish, whereas I would NEVER want anyone to summarize and spoil, say, HURRICANE SUMMER which I’m also currently reading. (I was going to say HARRY POTTER or THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS, but that would not have been very fair.)

So I regret that I don’t have enough patience? interest? dopamine? inside of me to get through this one. I don’t recommend it, unless you’re a die-hard fantasy lover or you are not turned off by anything I mentioned above.

Thank you Hachette Book Group Canada for the copy in exchange for an honest review!

You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey – Amber Ruffin & Lacey Lamar

This is a book unlike any I’ve read before. I have, of course, read books—both fiction and non-fiction—about race relations and racism, but nothing quite like this. As Amber mentions, there is no clear storyline, and many of these stories are quite out-of-this-world. Quite insane, and yet I believe that they have happened. In this collection of personal stories, Amber is sharing many moments in her and her sister Lacey’s lives, but mainly her sister’s. These stories all have a common theme: racism. Some are more predictable than others. Some are short, others longer. Some are sad, others so terribly ridiculous that you have to laugh. You have to.

Lacey shares a little as well, but what I liked the most about these two sisters as writers was their back-and-forth: Amber teasing her sister and Lacey doing the same. It’s definitely one of the things that make this book unique. I could feel their connection through the pages, and although I had never heard any of them speaking before prior to reading this book, I could easily imagine what their voices would sound like. I’m happy to have found a new comedian to listen to and I feel honoured to have had the chance to understand Lacey Lamar’s life better.

I admire her courage, especially when it came to dealing with racism at her work places. At times, she said something. At other times, she would walk away. Mainly though, she spoke up… and got fired. Now, that is scary to me. I sometimes tolerate disrespect because I don’t want to rock the boat and because I don’t always trust how things will come out of my mouth and the reactions those words will engender in others. But Lacey’s bravery is inspiring me to speak up more often and to understand when enough is enough and not feel bad for leaving a place that did not value me as a whole human being.

Thank you Hachette Book Group Canada for the copy in exchange for an honest review!

Truly Madly Famously – Rebecca Serle

TRULY MADLY FAMOUSLY is the second book in the FAMOUS IN LOVE series. Is it the final book? I don’t know. I sure hope not. It is not the best YA romance series ever to be published, but it sure has an additive quality to itself that makes you want to turn the pages, even when doing so is a little painful.

Paige has made her choice. She thought she would be at peace with it, since it seemed like the more reasonable choice to make, but her heart certainly is not in agreement. Though she is happy—or perhaps ‘‘content’’ would be a better choice of words—she cannot help but miss someone else in her life, someone who has chosen to keep his distance and even start dating another girl. Paige becomes especially unsure of her love situation when her boyfriend begins to act a little distant at times as well.

In the beginning, it is slower but once the drama really starts, it moves faster. There are also way more emotions involved. More scenes. More reactions. More entertainment, of course. Frankly, Paige is a mess in this book. Yes, she is figuring celebrity out, so she is allowed to have her moments, but her feelings and thoughts all over the place. What I do like is that she does grow confidence, especially in her skills as an actress but also in herself. Love-wise, I’ll admit that at some point I had no idea what she would do or who she would ‘‘definitely’’ pick. I’m not unsatisfied with the ending (heh, it’s typical YA stuff), but to be honest I would not have been displeased if she had made a different decision as well. On the contrary, I would have admired her strength. I do so hope there is a third book, because I would love to follow Paige as she is catapulted even higher in the entertainment industry. I’m now curious to read this author’s adult stories.

Thank you Hachette Book Group Canada for the copy in exchange for an honest review!

Bamboozled By Jesus – Yvonne Orji

I feel like fate brought me to this book, which is oh-so-appropriate, considering this book’s premise and its many positive messages. I initially became interested in it because, for the past few months, I rekindled and further developed a relationship with God. I used to pray often when I was younger, and believe in God’s presence in my life, but somewhere along the way, I stopped believing and praying (unless I was alone at night and got really, really scared). My and God’s relationship is only at its beginnings though, so I thought that by reading this book, I would get to know Him and the author better. It’s only when I actually opened it that I realized that it was written by the actress who plays Molly’s character in the TV show Insecure, which is such an amazing series. Molly’s character spoke to me on so many levels that I knew before I even read the first page that I would really like this book.

I didn’t know, however, that it would become one of the best books I’ve read all year. From the get-go, Yvonne is candid, confident and a hella amazing writer. I am a little sorry to say that I’m surprised. It’s not that I assume all entertainers to be amateur writers or to use ghost-writers, but Yvonne not only uses vocabulary in a very appropriate way and shapes sentences that flow very well, she does that WHILE letting her personality shine through. Sometimes she’s more formal, other times a little more relaxed. Sometimes she shares professional stories, other times more casual or personal ones. She does all of this while being herself and speaking to us as though we are right in front of her and she already knows we are worthy of her time and wisdom. It started slow for me, as I haven’t read a Christian book in a long time, but by the end of it, I didn’t want to let it go. And maybe I don’t have to. I’ll definitely watch the author’s YouTube videos and pay closer attention to her presence on screen. Overall, I believe she did a really good job of connecting daily moments and Bible moments, so much so that I feel like buying a Bible today. I used to own one, and even started reading it, but I wasn’t so into reading it from start to finish. I think I will follow Yvonne’s advice and just read whichever parts speak to me in the moment, or open it at a random page and analyze whatever I stumble upon. All that to say that Yvonne Orji delivered here an absolute gem that I look forward to rereading in the future (this time with highlighters!)

Thank you Hachette Book Group Canada for the copy in exchange for an honest review!

The Inheritance Games – Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Try as I might, I can never predict Jennifer Lynn Barnes. You’d think that after reading between 300 and 500 mystery books, I’d become a pro at guessing who the ‘‘killer’’ is, or in this case, the attempted murderer (and other mystery-filled elements). This is, of course, a good thing, because it makes me think that I’m not ruined forever, regarding mystery plots, and it sure makes for enjoyable ‘‘wow, did not see that coming’’ moments.

Ah, Avery. She’s a tough one. She hasn’t had the best experience growing up and she’s pretty guarded. She’s especially reluctant to be involved with the Hawthorne family, the head of which has died and turned her into a billionaire, which no one saw coming. Now she’s got people following her around everywhere, and a couple of Hawthorne-signed daggers aimed at her back. Avery and most of the Hawthorne members think Tobias Hawthorne has made a grand mistake, and they are trying to figure out what crazy thoughts could have driven him to choose Avery. But for that to happen, they have to play by Tobias’s rules.

This is a relatively fast-paced mystery. Oftentimes, I prefer mystery-thrillers, because they just seem to have a little more intensity and to not be as slow, but although The Inheritance Games did not have a whole lot of ‘‘thriller’’ scenes, the author paced her clues and revelations so well that there is a lot of excitement throughout the storyline. I especially enjoyed Avery’s interactions with each of the Hawthorne brothers as well her reactions to being thrown into the spotlight. I do think that some scenes—most notably those regarding Emily—were over-the-top, so if you’re okay with characters who sometimes seem to ‘‘perform’’ for the reader, you will have a blast reading this. I personally did not particularly mind, but it does mean that I do not find this story, as enjoyable and curious as it is, all that believable.

Thank you Hachette Book Group Canada for the copy in exchange for an honest review!