The Heart of Henry Quantum by Pepper Harding: Book Review

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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

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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

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Spontaneous

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

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Nutshell

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

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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.

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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

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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!

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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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

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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.

Event Recap: Fan Expo Canada 2016

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The end of summer is sad for most people, but for me, it’s my favourite time of year. Fall is starting, sure, but it is also FAN EXPO TIME. The last four years, the nerd in me has cried for four straight days as I prance around the Metro Toronto Convention Centre and buy a ton of geeky merch between scheduled photo ops and autographs. And this year’s Expo was just as exciting.

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Of course, with everyone having Poke-fever this summer, every booth had some sort of Pokemon-themed merchandise. My favourite booth every year is the Cakes Cove setup, as pictured above. This year I got a box of DC hero chocolates, as well as a white chocolate Serenity and milk chocolate storm trooper lollipop, but they also had nifty Pokemon treats!

I also picked up a stuffed Snorlax for my bed and a Cubone for Luke. (I don’t think I’ve introduced Luke on my blog yet, but he’s my boyfriend. So take note for any future reference). All the Pokemans!

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The first day I also got to see the one and only John Barrowman at his booth and take this selfie with him and my friend, Caitlin. Okay girls, duck face!

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Every time I go, there’s always one celebrity I am SUPER excited for – someone who when I approach their table I get butterflies in my stomach and I just want to hug them. Well, this year, that person was Jack Gleeson (better known for his role as Joffrey in Game of Thrones). I’ve been marathoning the show to catch up, and am so obsessed with how great of an actor he is. So getting the chance to talk to Jack and have him prove just how different he is from his character was just lovely.

Merch-wise, I bought an incredible Lannister sweater that I can’t wait to wear because wow it’s so soft, and also the GOT shirt I’m actually wearing in the photo above.

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Besides Jack Gleeson, the big draw for me this year was the three cast members of Firefly who would be in attendance – Alan Tudyk (Wash), Morena Baccarin (Inara), and Jewel Staite (Kaylee). I got a chance to meet Alan Tudyk my first year at Fan Expo in 2012, so this year I was able to add two more autographs to my collection. I was also happy to meet Morena because Deadpool was incredible and she was spectacular (as usual).

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I didn’t even end up going to the Sunday, because I was so exhausted. But it didn’t even matter, because I got to buy some cool new stuff, I got to meet some actors from my favourite shows (Doctor Who, Game of Thrones, Firefly), and have some great fangirl moments with some of my favourite nerds. Can’t wait to see what next year has in store!

Event Recap: A Peculiar Party with Penguin Random House

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Last night I had the fortune of being invited to the Penguin Random House Canada office for a lovely black and white party to celebrate the nearing release of Tim Burton’s adaptation of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. So I found my creepy black and white skull dress (which I didn’t have to dig far to find, honestly), met up with my fellow blogger friends, Christine and Michele, and prepared for a night of peculiarities!

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Upon arriving to the wonderfully decorated theme party, we were told how the night would work. There were various stations around the room where you could participate in an activity and earn raffle tickets that you could then enter to win one of four great prizes. But before I get into activities, I want to linger a bit on the “wonderfully decorated” part.

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The entire room was covered in eerie black and white-ness, creepy images from the book series, and tons of black and white food to match! Literally everything on the food table met the theme – dark Oreos, chocolate goodies, licorice, soda; white marshmallows, popcorn, rock candy, cream soda. It was fantastically on point, and okay maybe I’m just a food nut, but I thought it brought everything together and looked very beautiful.

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As for the activities, there was a photo wall, bean bag toss, guess the number of licorice candies in the jar, and tarot card readings! I quite enjoyed that the activities were very laid back and you could participate in whatever you wanted at your leisure. My favourite was probably the tarot card reading, because I’ve never done anything like that before and my reading was scarily accurate and relevant to what I’m going through right now, so that was a pretty cool experience.

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The evening would definitely not have been the same without our wonderful host, Miss Peregrine. I’m always one to appreciate a good cosplay, especially when they stay in character, and she kept everyone feeling peculiar throughout the night.

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Overall, I had an awesome time with Penguin Random House, Christine and Michele, and all of the other bloggers and book-lovers in attendance. It was a great theme party – one I will definitely remember!

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#StayPeculiar!

September: Currently Reading/TBR

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Guys, I’m not dead, I swear.

Things have been kind of busy in my personal life (yes, I have one of those) and my job (I have one of those, too), so I haven’t been keeping up on my reading recently.

But I do have some great books sitting in my to-be-read pile right now, and I wanted to let you know that I’m coming back strong with a ton of reviews in a week or so, so here are the books you can expect reviews for on the blog soon!

Three Years with the RatThe Kite and the String: How to Write with Spontaneity and Control--and Live to Tell the TaleMark of the Plague (The Blackthorn Key, #2)Mosquitoland

I’m also headed to a pretty awesome bookish event this week, which I’ll be posting a recap for! Hang tight, and my page will be full of new content again!