Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland: Book Review


Our Chemical Hearts

Obtained: Penguin Random House Canada, ARC
Pages: 320
Publish date: October 4, 2016
Rating: ★★★★★

It’s been a while since I’ve read a YA romance novel that completely wrecked me, so when I read the synopsis for this one, I figured I’d give it a shot. Being compared to the work of John Green and Rainbow Rowell helped pique my interest, too, but I did not expect to fall so hard for this book. I have to say, this is probably my new favourite YA of all-time.

Our Chemical Hearts is told from the perspective of Henry – a boy who has never had the misfortune of having a high school crush before. That’s when Grace Town gets transferred to his school and they both get stuck editing the school paper together. Grace is a little bit stiff and grungy and wears over-sized boy’s clothes all the time, but creeping her on Facebook proves to Henry that she has a side to her he’s never seen – a feminine beauty with a gorgeous smile. Henry wonders what had made her change, and begins to fall in love with this idea of the girl in her Facebook photo.

If anyone’s read Paper Towns by John Green, this book definitely has elements of that lesson: falling in love with an idea of a person rather than who that person is. But Our Chemical Hearts is so much more. I’ve never read a book that so accurately described what it was like to love someone who didn’t feel the same way, or to feel heartbroken, or to feel so entangled with someone and hating how much you loved and depended on them to be happy, knowing you’d get hurt anyway. I’d say it was very comparable to the film (500) Days of Summer, actually. It was utterly heartbreaking and beautiful to read.

Besides the fact that this book was so incredibly written with regards to the characters’ emotions, I have to say my favourite part was just the characters in general. They were all so real and honest and diverse (yay lesbian couples!) I also loved the immense amount of nerd culture Sutherland brought into the book. At times it felt a little forced, like she was trying to make it ultra-relatable, but at the same time, it did make it ultra-relatable. Henry and his friends casually describing opposing sports team members as “the Mountain from Game of Thrones“, or mentioning their Doctor Who merchandise. I also appreciated the more random references and quotes from pop culture that were a little more subtle (“You know nothing, Henry Page” was one of my favourites; or their discussion about not reading Harry Potter – “HOW DARE YOU STAND WHERE HE STOOD”; or there was a fun 10 Things I Hate About You quote that made me squee pretty good).

I could talk about this book for another few paragraphs, but I won’t bore you. Just please, if you loved (500) Days of Summer, or you wished Paper Towns was a little more in depth philosophically, or if nothing else, you want to read a book that will make you laugh out loud at the Harry Potter references and then sob yourself to sleep (which I totally did NOT do after reading this…), I think you need to read Our Chemical Hearts.

Our Chemical Hearts is available online at Chapters Indigo, Book Depository, and Kobo.

Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven: Book Review


Holding Up the Universe

Obtained: Purchased at Chapters
Pages: 400
Publish date: October 4, 2016
Rating: ★★★★

I love when bookstores do the thing when they stock the book before it’s technically released.

So last year, I fell in love with Jennifer Niven’s first book, All the Bright Places. When I found out she was writing another YA novel, it rose to the top of my “Want to Read” list. And then the other day (actually, yesterday), I found it sitting on the shelf at my favourite bookstore. Needless to say, I bought Holding Up the Universe and gobbled it up in a day.

Holding Up the Universe is about a girl named Libby who used to be America’s Fattest Teen; many people know her as the girl who got stuck in her own house and had to be rescued. Now that she’s lost a lot of the weight, she is ready to go back to school. The other protagonist, Jack, suffers from face-blindness – a disorder that means he cannot recognize faces, including his family, or even himself. He constantly feels as though he is in a crowd of strangers, even in his own home. But he compensates for that by remembering people’s identifiers and embracing the fact that his own identifier is often ‘douchebag’.

I was a little bit nervous going into this book due to the subject matter – if approached incorrectly, this story could have been offensive or cliche. But this novel is neither of those things (at least, to me). I actually found myself relating a lot to Libby. I never earned attention because I was too big, but I was often bullied by people who had simply decided upon first glance that they didn’t like me. And Niven captures those feelings really well.

The writing was very emotional, which I’m glad to see carried over from All the Bright Places. I loved reading about these two characters going through their own issues and finding comfort and support within each other. I also enjoyed the numerous references to nerd culture (Supernatural, Game of Thrones, Doctor Who)!

I could go on about this book, so I’ll stop here. But basically, if you were a fan of All the Bright Places, or if you like books by Rainbow Rowell or John Green, I highly recommend you dive into the world of Niven’s writing. Because she is incredible, and I can’t wait to see what she writes next.

Holding Up the Universe is available online at Chapters Ingido, Book Depository, and Kobo.

September 2016: Michelle Muses


Last month I wrote my first blog post in a series I call “Michelle Muses”, where at the end of each month, I will talk a little bit about some of the personal, un-book-related adventures I went on.

Let’s take a look at September!


Canada’s Wonderland: I went to Wonderland with my friend from work, because we were invited to celebrate Crystal Fountains’s 50th anniversary. So we got to see a gorgeous fountain show – that was expected. What I didn’t expect was that the food stands were all open, and a few of the rides, too! So me, a non-ride person, psyched myself up and finally went on the park’s biggest, scariest roller coaster. And once my queasiness settled a bit, funnel cake! Because that’s what you do at Wonderland.


Dave & Buster’s: Deciding to get out more often and try new activities together, my boyfriend Luke and I went to D&B – which is basically a restaurant/bar/arcade. I haven’t been there in so long, and it was so fun! We played so many games, and it was great because I’d win some and he’d win some, so it wasn’t all one-sided.

And then I noticed they have a CROSSY ROADS game where you can win tickets. For those who know me, know that I was addicted to this game on my phone for so long. So needless to say I kept scoring tickets until I hit the 1000 ticket bonus for getting the high score! I’m glad things like being good at Crossy Roads is good enough to impress my bae. (We’re saving up tickets to get a giant teddy bear next time).


The Lockhart: Toronto is pretty fortunate, in that we have a Harry Potter-themed bar that makes for a great hang out spot. Me and my friend, Seren, who I haven’t seen in forever caught up over some HP drinks (pictured below is a “Better Beer”, but I also had a “Gin Weasley”)! It was so nice to just sit and chat in that relaxed atmosphere. It was her first time going, so we’re definitely going back!


Paint Nite: If you’re signed up to Groupon, you know of Paint Nite. You go to a restaurant/bar. They provide the canvas, the paint, the brushes, the teacher. You have a few drinks and try to recreate the painting of the night. I’ve done it before, and it’s a lot of fun, so I thought it would be a good double date night idea! Me and Luke went out with our friends Maddie and Kristian, and had a great time putting our own personal spin on the picture.


So September was definitely a good one. Looking forward to all the fun October is going to bring! (Halloween!)

The Heart of Henry Quantum by Pepper Harding: Book Review


The Heart of Henry Quantum

Obtained: Simon & Schuster Canada, ARC
Pages: 288
Publish date: October 4, 2016
Rating: DNF

I was contemplating writing a “Did Not Finish” review for this book, and ultimately decided I should write at least a little something as to why I put the book down – I did think I’d like this one. I don’t typically write DNF reviews unless something particularly sets me off, but I found I did have some things to say about this one.

The Heart of Henry Quantum tells the story of Henry “Bones” Quantum (a name which in itself makes me angry – that’s like calling an optimistic character “Hope”). He decides two days before Christmas it’s time to get a bottle of perfume for his wife for Christmas, when he runs into an ex-lover and the wheels of “what if” start to turn in his head.

If anyone knows me, you know how annoyed I get with stories such as this. The “Boy is dating/married to girl. Girl gets villainized. Boy wishes he were dating/married to his best friend/ex-girlfriend/the one that got away/etc.”. It’s been done a million times, and frankly, as someone who loves love, I’m annoyed by people constantly telling this story. It’s gotten to the point where I am impressed by books where the main plot is supplemented by a couple who fight the antagonist together rather than fighting each other.

And maybe I would be less annoyed if the wife weren’t villainized so much. If this is going to be the story, at least maybe show everyone in it as rounded humans who bring both positive and negative to the table. It was 100 pages in when I gave up on this, and literally all I knew about Henry’s wife was that she was a snobby workaholic who criticized him about almost everything. Again, on the opposite end of  that spectrum, his ex-lover, Daisy. She shows up and is simultaneously one-dimensional, but she is super perfect.

Then it got to the point in Henry and Daisy’s conversation where he starts to think about his wife, and he describes her in comparison to Daisy, saying they’re both “smart, pretty, and funny”. That’s about where I gave up on this book. Those three words are pretty flat, aren’t they? It’s like a teenager describing what he likes about a girl when he doesn’t really know how he feels yet. Is there nothing else to the women in this novel besides who they are to Henry, their looks, and those three vague descriptors?

In its defense, the book does have two other parts to the novel from the two women’s points of view, which I didn’t read far enough to get into. I really hope that those sections allow Margaret and Daisy to flourish in a way that Henry’s part didn’t let them. I also quite liked the stream of consciousness narrative that the author wrote for Henry. I was just too annoyed by where the story was going to continue reading it. Maybe I just don’t like books that centre around a love conflict, I don’t know.

The Kite and the String by Alice Mattison: Book Review


The Kite and the String: How to Write with Spontaneity and Control--and Live to Tell the Tale

Obtained: Penguin Random House Canada, ARC
Pages: 256
Publish date: August 16, 2016
Rating: ★★★

The book’s full title is what got me interested – The Kite and the String: How to Write with Spontaneity and Control, and Live to Tell the Tale. I consider myself a writer because I think in writing. I see something happen and imagine how it would be described in a book. I capture moments in words as they settle in my mind. But it’s been quite a while since I’ve put pen to paper and written fiction. As a NaNoWriMo participant a couple of years ago, I got to stretch that skill, but recently, it’s been slipping through my fingers. Enter Alice Mattison and her book about helping writers to perfect their craft.

Firstly, Mattison begins by explaining that this book isn’t for people who want to learn how to write; it’s a book for writers who want to learn further technique – which I appreciated. She gives quite a lot of great tips that I have taken note of in my phone for now to explore as I write this year’s NaNoWriMo novel.

She explains that when building a character, the writer shouldn’t base them off of a person they know entirely. It’s best to stretch the imagination and create completely new characters and let them drive the plot (no, they’re not two separate things). She also brought up a lot of issues that I find myself stumbling into as a writer of fiction and how to overcome them, such as describing the fact that a character is thinking of something (unnecessary), or giving the okay to write sentences that are informative (they’re not boring if they’re about something you’d want to know).

One thing Mattison wrote that I didn’t agree with was that breaking chronology of the story distracts from the story itself and focuses too much on the writer and the medium of the book. As a reader, I don’t find myself getting distracted from a story because it isn’t told in a straight narrative from beginning to end. I quite like a style that isn’t too linear. I don’t write that way typically, but I really appreciate the writers that do.

Overall, I quite enjoyed this book. I got a lot of quality tips from it that I can use in my writing, and now I’m super motivated to write a great book for NaNoWriMo, avoiding all of the bad writing traps I often fall into.

The Kite and the String is available online at Chapters Indigo, Book Depository, and Kobo.

Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer: Book Review



Obtained: Penguin Random House Canada, ARC
Pages: 368
Publish date: August 23, 2016
Rating: ★★★★★

I was excited to read this book the moment I read the summary on the back cover – and was hooked after the first sentence. Spontaneous came into my life as a spontaneous surprise, and it was definitely a great one. I don’t remember the last time I was so captivated by a book I wasn’t already anticipating. I’ve been telling all my friends about this book, so now it’s your turn to listen to my raving.

Spontaneous begins with Mara in senior pre-calc, where all of a sudden, one of her classmates spontaneously combusts. She explodes all over her classmates. Everyone blinks, screams, flees the room. Thus begins the weird curse where senior students at Mara’s school are just randomly exploding. Pop. Gone. Is it drugs? Is it the atmosphere at the school? Is it magic? It is a government conspiracy? I guess you’ll have to read and find out.

This book was so amazing. Where do I begin. I guess I’ll start with the fact that I loved the tone of the novel. It’s sort of a ridiculous premise, so the mix of comedy and tragedy in this book is perfect. The plot can be strange, the characters can be funny, and yet the premise of what is happening to them can still be sort of dark and emotional, without it being an unbelievable story.

My favourite thing about Spontaneous was definitely the narrator. Honestly, I was really shocked when I saw a female protagonist in this story – I expected the dark comedy to star a male (as they so often do), but this protagonist made the entire story for me. Mara, along with all of her friends and family, are all so real. She’s funny; she experiments with drugs; she has strengths and faults; she’s the kind of girl who I can read about and imagine her as a friend I went to high school with, rather than some too-good-to-be-true female starring in my latest read.

If you’re looking for your next quality YA read that will make you laugh and still give you “All the Feels”, I highly recommend Spontaneous.

Spontaneous is available online at Chapters Indigo, Book Depository, and Kobo.

Nutshell by Ian McEwan: Book Review



Obtained: Penguin Random House Canada, ARC
Pages: 208
Publish date: September 13, 2016
Rating: ★★★★

When I heard what this book was about, I knew I had to get my hands on it. I’m into some weird stuff – experimental storytelling, if you will. And I can’t say that I’ve ever read anything from the perspective of a fetus.

Nutshell is about a woman named Trudy who is currently taking a bit of a break from her husband, and is having an affair with another man. The two of them concoct a plan to murder her husband. All seems sort of typical, until you become aware that the narrator of the story is, in fact, the baby that Trudy is carrying.

Suspend reality while you read, because obviously a baby could never know such poetic language as McEwan uses to write this tale. And once you let yourself fall into the story, you’ll stay captivated. I thought that using the baby as the narrator was a great way to turn a character that most people wouldn’t really consider part of the plot into a main player.

For me, it cast the focus onto the character that most people would forget existed while reading. The baby has stakes in this murder plot, same as any of the other characters, but by making the fetus tell the story puts emphasis on those stakes – and also puts emphasis on how little thought Trudy or her lover give to this little person inside of her.

I really enjoyed reading Nutshell, as it’s something like I’ve never read before. It’s a very short read, as well. If this review made you intrigued at all, I suggest you give the book a read.

Nutshell is available online at Chapters Indigo, Book Depository, and Kobo.

Nintendo Book Tag


So I was scrolling through the blogosphere and found this tag on Zezee with Books‘s blog who got it from the YouTube channel, Sam’s Nonsense. As someone who grew up on Nintendo systems, I was so excited to do a mash-up post of two of my favourite things! So here we go!

NES (Nintendo Entertainment System): A classic you want to read.


I was supposed to read Lolita for my American Lit class in university (whoops), but since then I’ve regretted not actually getting to it. That’s probably the next classic I’m going to force myself to read.

SNES (Super Nintendo): A sequel you liked more than the first (can be a second book in a series).

Mark of the Plague (The Blackthorn Key, #2)

August 2016: Michelle Muses


I know I’ve been a little MIA on the blog recently, but that’s just because for the first time in a long time I’ve been getting outside and doing things besides reading. So I’m going to start a new series on this blog where at the end of every month, I’m going to do more of a personal post and talk about all the things I’ve been up to – book related or not.

So here is what I’ve been up to in August!


Halsey: Me and one of my besties got to see Halsey in concert at TD Echo Beach, and okay, I didn’t really know who she was until earlier this year, but I fell in love with her album this summer and man, she puts on a great show! Incredible.


Wedding: No, not mine! Not yet! But me and Luke went to his cousin’s wedding this month. I had a great time getting to know his family a little better, and we got to get up and dance – for those of you who know me, know that I love to dance. And I’ve honestly never even been to a wedding before, so it was a cool experience. (Low key was taking notes so I had some ideas for my own big day.)


Blink-182: The day after the wedding, Luke and I got to see Blink-182 in concert! I have been a fan since I was in high school, and we got the tickets the day they went on sale. What a crazy awesome show. Everyone just screamed every word along with the band, and okay, it was different because Tom wasn’t there, but it was still a ton of fun to rock out with my bae.


My Chemical Romance Dance Party: I guess August was just full of fun music stuff, huh? There’s a cool restaurant/bar venue in Toronto that holds Emo Night every Friday (my people!), but one Friday they specifically played the entire MCR album – Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge. Which is one of my favourite albums ever. So I grabbed my sister and one of my besties and we got all emo’d up and danced and screamed along to some of my fave emo tunes.

I also was lucky enough to have a great time at Fan Expo, which okay, that was September, but it was part of a summer long weekend, so I’m counting it in this one – click here to read my event recap on that awesome time!

Basically, August was super busy and I can’t wait to see what September brings my way!

Mark of the Plague by Kevin Sands: Book Review


Mark of the Plague (The Blackthorn Key, #2)

Obtained: Simon & Schuster Canada, ARC
Pages: 544
Publish date: September 6, 2016
Rating: ★★★★★

I read and absolutely fell in love with Kevin Sands’s first book, The Blackthorn Key (click to visit my review), so when I heard there was going to be a sequel, I definitely let myself have a fangirl moment. This series for young readers is so much more than just a “kids book” – to me, I get so lost in the world and love following the characters along on their adventures, it’s almost how I felt when reading Harry Potter for the first time. Yeah, I’m going there.

Mark of the Plague continues to follow Christopher and his friend Tom on their wacky adventures in the 1600s. Christopher is an apothecary’s apprentice who is trying desperately, like everyone else during this time, to find a way to treat the plague. That’s when two new faces show up in town: one claiming to have the ability to predict who will die of the plague next, and one claiming to have the cure. Christopher,  Tom, and their old friend Sally come together to follow the clues these two leave behind in order to figure out if they’re bluffing – and hopefully they figure it all out before one of them gets sick.

What I love most about this series is the puzzles and clues – and that is the aspect that reminds me most of Harry Potter. These three young teenagers working to piece together any clues they can find, cracking word puzzles left in letters, and concocting “potions”, to understand what is going on with bad guys that seem far too intimidating to face at their age.

I also love Sands’s writing – not just the story he builds, but the fact that I can open the book and fall directly into the characters’ world. I was sort of in a reading drought recently, and Mark of the Plague made me want to read again. Like, a lot. Like, I finished a 500-page book in two days.

I could go on and on about how much I enjoyed reading this, but the best thing for you to do is pick it up yourself. Start with The Blackthorn Key, and move onto Mark of the Plague (though you don’t have to read the first book first, I recommend you do), and you’ll see how the series is only getting better.

Mark of the Plague is available online at Chapters Indigo, Book Depository, and Kobo.