Creatures of the Night – Grace Collins

I have diaries. I’ve been writing them since middle school, on and off, and I took a 5-year break from sharing my most personal everyday thoughts on paper. But I got back to it a year ago and it’s been helpful. A few days ago, I started writing about things that I’m grateful for every single day. When I started this book, I wrote this: ‘‘I’m grateful for stories that I think I won’t enjoy but that end up surprising me.’’

There’s little very enticing about this book. I almost didn’t request it, because come on. Look at that unoriginal title, cover and premise. Hunters. Creatures. Secrets. Been there, read that about a hundred times.  The more I looked at it, the more I considered getting rid of my copy without even finishing the first page. But then I remembered that I’m a book blogger and that nothing and no one can force me to love a book or even finish it, so I opened it with the idea in mind that I would read enough of it to be able to review its negative aspects and then donate it.

Talk about pre-reading judgement. But admit it, we’re all guilty of it. Skipping over a cover that isn’t attractive enough or reading a premise and finding it too similar to past stories we’ve read and deciding that this thing is not worth our time. Well, I’m grateful for this book because it has reminded me that some people are able to surprise me and that sometimes the content of a book is much, much better than the way it is presented, marketed, publicized.

Grace Collins writes with a lot of intensity. This is as much a character-driven story as it is an action-driven one, my favourite combination in the entire world and something Sarah J. Maas excels at. Grace Collins may not be Miss Maas but she has delivered here a sympathetic and relatable heroine whose character-development is felt and makes me want to see what she’ll do next. The world-building she has created relies on its creatures – hollowers, wispers and shifters, oh and humans – more than its environment. The politics of the world are not heavily nuanced, but what Collins does share about the world is accessible. There is a war brewing between the hollowers and the others, who have been in conflict for a long time, mainly because hollowers kill stuff to stay alive. They ‘‘hollow’’ people out.

Milena thought they were the good guys, but she had no idea who she was living with until her 20th birthday, when her family and friends decided to murder her. She was rescued by shifters who enlightened her on the world she lives in and its real ‘‘creatures of the night.’’ What I like most about this story is that there is a lot going on. Milena doesn’t spend 5 chapters not doing anything. She’s constantly thinking, planning and moving forward. At first on her own, then with friends she’s made. The worst element is the romance, which confused the hell out of Milena. Her love interest is dealing with some stuff and does not have the capacity to be open and honest – two important qualities if you want a long-lasting and healthy relationship. But if you just want something dramatic to entertain the reader, sure, let your heroine and her love interest enter in some unhealthy push-pull type of dynamic.

So in some ways it is a cliché story, but in other ways it is surprising, super entertaining and simply a decent addition to the YA fantasy genre with a heroine who has a lot of growing up and learning to do.

Thank you Raincoast Books for the copy in exchange for an honest review.

Blood Like Magic – Liselle Sambury

I am so proud of Liselle Sambury. Not just because she wrote a wonderful dark debut novel here, but also because it’s so nice and motivating to see Canadian authors publishing fantastic stories. I’m Romanian-Canadian and one of my dreams if to one day publish a story that is meaningful to me as well. So reading this and taking in Liselle’s words felt particularly important to me.

This is not a commercial book. I think of those as stories that are written to be sold, written because that’s what’s trending and that’s what readers want to read. Though there is more emphasis on diversity in YA and stories with POC do sell more than 10 years ago from my understanding, everything in this book felt like it came from a place that truly believes that this content is worth sharing and has a place in the world.

It’s a big book—close to 500 pages—and it is slower than most fantasy books I read. I won’t deny that there is too much description for my usual liking. However, and this is important, Liselle does take the time to lay down the foundation for our understanding of the world-building, magic system and characters themselves. It quickly became clear to me that the author spent a lot of time thinking of and developing her characters—bringing them to life. They are each peculiar and human in their own way, even the magic-wielding ones. I especially enjoyed Voya’s interactions with her cousin Keis, whose magical ability is to read thoughts, and Luc (the love interest) certainly intrigued me.

Voya will only earn her powers if she completes a task given to her by one of her ancestors. The problem is that there is more at stake than just her power ascension, and she is not used to making decisions on her own. She must learn to trust herself better and embrace the path that her instincts direct her towards. It’s hard not to feel for Voya, since she is vulnerable and insecure but also caring and determined. She does not exist to entertain or please the reader. She really does have a story to tell, and I for one felt honoured to be privy to her storytelling.

Thank you Simon & Schuster for the copy in exchange for a review.

WolfWalkers: The Graphic Novel

I am not normally a fan of movie novelizations. I like original works. If a book came first, I like to start with that and if I really, really enjoyed it or want to know more about the characters and world, then I watch the movie and vice-versa. But in this case, I tried to watch the movie and that did not work out. While the graphics were absolutely stunning and unique besides, I simply could not take the slow-pacing. Perhaps it does pick up, as it does in the graphic novel, but I had to force myself to watch it and that never feels quite good. All of that to say that I was very pleased to learn that the movie was turned into a graphic novel, as I did genuinely want to know more about the story.

This is a very beautiful graphic novel. Unsurprisingly, the illustrations are gorgeous. Because I did watch a bit of the movie, I was already a little acquainted with the characters and was able to imagine their voices while I read, but it still felt very nice to learn more about them through paper. It’s quite convenient, I’d say, because with books you can generally read slower or faster. Of course, every story has its own pacing, but you can cheat a little if that allows you to have a better reading experience. With movies, not so much. I guess, in some cases, one can change the speed but it doesn’t feel that good or natural to me. So I absolutely loved being able to follow the story at a pacing more suited for me. It allowed me to feel comfortable reading this graphic novel and get through the storyline much quicker and easier.

To briefly summarize, this is the story of two girls – one human and one half-wolf. One lives in town and the other in the forest near the town. The new ‘‘protector’’ of the town wants to eradicate the forest and the wolves in it, but this puts the half-wolf and her family in danger. Robyn, the human girl, decides to help Mebh, the werewolf, be safe from human danger. The two are quite the pair. Robyn’s goal proves itself to be particularly challenging, since people of the town are scared and angry and think that they will only feel safe if they kill the wolves. Also, Robyn’s father is a hunter and he is especially hard to convince that wolves must be protected. It’s an emotional story with a touching beginning, middle and end. I do admit that I did not find the ending all that realistic, even for a fantasy story, and it was pretty quick besides, but the rest as they say in French chapeau!

Thank you Hachette Book Group Canada for the copy in exchange for a 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!

The Winter Duke – Claire Eliza Bartlett

51201758. sx318 sy475 The Winter Duke by Claire Eliza Bartlett

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Received: Hachette Book Group Canada
Published: March 3rd, 2020
Publisher: Little, Brown BFYR
Recommended Age: 13+
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, Fantasy, Politics, LGBTQIA+


REVIEW:

Better step back, because there’s nothing to see here.

Unless you like bland heroines that few people respect in positions of power, whose character developments are almost nonexistent or forced. Unless you like to see romantic pairs have little conversation and almost no romantic moments. Unless you like to hear conversations repeated over and over again. Continue reading

Bring Me Their Hearts – Sara Wolf

35144326Bring Me Their Hearts by Sara Wolf

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Received: Library
Published: 2018
Publisher: Entangled: Teen
Recommended Age: 12+
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Magic, Witches


REVIEW:

This is a pretty easy story to read, but maybe too easy. I finished the first hundred pages in no time, and yet when I pondered what I had actually read, I realized that there wasn’t much substance in those hundred pages. It’s a lot of the main character talking about things and constantly being her sarcastic self. I don’t mind sarcasm at all, if it’s in a witty conversation, but when someone is talking to themselves – thinking – and they’re being sarcastic all the time, I’m just like, ”Who are you performing for and why? Those are supposed to be your intimate thoughts that we just so happen to have access to and yet you’re thinking like you know someone is there to read your mind.” Continue reading

The Daughters of Ys – M.T. Anderson & Jo Rioux

46223363The Daughters of Ys by M.T. Anderson & Jo Rioux

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Received: Raincoast Books
Published: August 11th, 2020
Publisher: First Second
Recommended Age: 13+
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, Graphic Novel, Fantasy, Dark, Magic, Retelling, Siblings


REVIEW:

This was a much darker tale than I anticipated, both in atmosphere and content. It is not a story I recommend if you are looking for something to uplift your spirits but it is one I dare push you towards if you want to read something different, something that will shock you and maybe even repulse you while simultaneously intriguing you. Continue reading

The Shadows Between Us – Tricia Levenseller

35702241The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Received: Raincoast Books
Published: February 25th, 2020
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Recommended Age: 13+
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Royalty, Assassination, Plotting, Secrets, Feminism, Friendship


REVIEW:

Last semester, I took a theatre class. There was one specific scene that was very important in the play and it had to be done perfectly. When practicing, the actors started the scene with a lot of energy and really brought to life the characters and intensity of the story. But somehow, as the scene went on, the actors’ energy started fading slowly and the scene ended with a lacklustre atmosphere. Continue reading

All the Stars and Teeth by Adalyn Grace

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All the Stars and Teeth by Adalyn Grace

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Received: Raincoast Books
Published: February 4th, 2020
Publisher: Imprint
Recommended Age: 12+
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, Fantasy, Magic, Adventure, Romance, Pirates


REVIEW:

This is a book you’re either going to really enjoy or really dislike. That’s because the storyline is predictable for the most part so if you don’t connect to the main character and don’t enjoy following her adventures then you’re going to feel like reading this book is pointless. Continue reading

Havenfall – Sara Holland

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Havenfall by Sara Holland

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Received: Raincoast Books
Published: March 3rd, 2020
Publisher: Bloomsbury YA
Recommended Age: 12+
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, Fantasy, Hidden Worlds, Magic, Mystery, Romance


REVIEW:

I found Sara Holland’s debut—Everless—a very good kind of surprising. It was nothing I expected and yet everything I wanted both at the same time. While I didn’t fall in love with the heroine, I thought she had it in her to BE a heroine and that is something that kept me wanting to read more about her. Continue reading