Exit, Pursued by a Bear – E.K. Johnston

Exit, Pursued by a Bear – E.K. Johnston

26790913Veronica Mars meets William Shakespeare in E.K. Johnston’s latest brave and unforgettable heroine.

Hermione Winters is captain of her cheerleading team, and in tiny Palermo Heights, this doesn’t mean what you think it means. At PHHS, the cheerleaders don’t cheer for the sports teams; they are the sports team—the pride and joy of a tiny town. The team’s summer training camp is Hermione’s last and marks the beginning of the end of…she’s not sure what. She does know this season could make her a legend. But during a camp party, someone slips something in her drink. And it all goes black.

In every class, there’s a star cheerleader and pariah pregnant girl. They’re never supposed to be the same person. Hermione struggles to regain the control she’s always had and faces a wrenching decision about how to move on. The assault wasn’t the beginning of Hermione Winter’s story and she’s not going to let it be the end. She won’t be anyone’s cautionary tale.

It feels weird to say that a book about rape was good, but this book about rape was good. It’s a hard topic to deal with, and I can’t say I’ve read any other YA that talks about rape so openly, but I think it’s important that this book exists (plus that cover is gorgeous).

That being said, I had some issues with it.

I’ve read reviews that talked about how “easy” this book was, how Hermione’s support system was so perfect and, apart from some nasty rumours early on, she was never treated differently. And it did, for the most part, seem too “perfect” – everyone knew what to say and how to act, and Hermione herself was so well put together, it was hard to believe she was a teenager, nevermind a teenager who had been drugged and raped and – MINI SPOILER ALERT – had an abortion. Just one of those things should have been enough to push her over the edge, but she was remarkably calm, almost robotic, in the way she described her thoughts and feelings.

While Hermione herself mentions that she feels disconnected from the event because she can’t remember what happened, it’s hard, as a reader, to even begin to understand her when the narrative feels so disjointed, more like a checklist of events and moments that had to happen before the climactic scene at the end (which lasted all of two pages) than a real story. I know I liked E.K. Johnston’s writing style when I read A Thousand Nights, so maybe it was Hermione’s character that I couldn’t connect with? I did like her best friend, Polly, though, and I liked Polly’s sideplot, though it did feel like it came out of nowhere.

…if I were dead, they could just bury me…and move on. Broken is harder to deal with.

One thing I absolutely did not get was Hermione’s relationship with Leo. Leo proves himself to be a jealous dick who basically victim-blames Hermione because she dared to speak to other guys at their cheerleading camp, and she dumps him (and rightfully so!). But she never really seemed interested in him in the first place, so why were they together at all? What purpose did he play apart from being the jealous ex who turns around in the end? Literally anyone else could have taken the role of victim-blamer and it wouldn’t have made a difference to the overall story.

You’re okay with asking a girl who was wearing a pretty dress and had nice hair, who went to the dance with her cabin mates, who drank from the same punch bowl as everyone else – you’re okay with asking that girl what mistake she made, and you wouldn’t think to ask a boy how he would avoid raping someone?

 

E.K. Johnston does get props for setting it in Canada – northern Ontario, no less – with a brief mention of my hometown (Amy, another girl at the cheerleading camp, is from Mississauga), not to mention the fact that Polly decides to attend my alma mater (McMaster represent!). I never realized cheerleading was a big deal in Canada, to be honest, since I don’t think my high school even had a squad. And I also don’t get why Hermione needed to ace calculus to get into a Humanities/Social Science based program, but it’s also been a while since I had to apply to university, so maybe that’s a thing now?

I haven’t read The Winter’s Tale yet (I’ve always wanted to), but now I might have to, to see if I can catch all the Shakespeare references in this book.

Rating:

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Book Blitz: The Warrior Prophet – Lisa Voisin

The Warrior Prophet
Lisa Voisin
Published by: Inkspell Publishing
Publication date: April 13th 2016
Genres: Urban Fantasy, Young Adult

Mia Crawford is a prophet.

She can see angels. She also sees demons. Everywhere.

The angels are preparing for war to get her fallen angel boyfriend, Michael, back. A war that could take years.

Haunted by visions of Michael’s soul being tortured, Mia can’t rest until she knows he’s safe.

To save him, she must make an impossible journey through Hell with the one person she prayed she’d never see again.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Kobo

Previous books in the series:
Watcher AngelKiller

Grab book 1 – The Watcher – for only $0.99 for a limited time!


EXCERPT:

He tucks his wings into himself, but they are still so close I could touch them. He walks a small circle around me. Still a dance.

“That’s very different,” he says.

“I don’t see how. I am human. They are my people.”

He bends forward until his face is inches from mine. “Your mother had passed. You needed me. We’re allowed to appear when we are needed.”
His breath warms my cheek and it’s all I can do not to lean closer.

“Really?” My eyes search his for a sign—any sign—of feelings for me. “She died ten moons ago.” Did only pity bring him? “Why did you stay?”
A light breeze ruffles the leaves overhead. It’s warm but welcome. Michael backs away, the tops of his cheeks lit with pink. He swallows and his Adam’s apple jumps in his throat. “Perhaps I needed you.”

His voice is music, and his energy hums through me, making me bold. I couldn’t imagine him needing anyone, least of all me. With a smile, I glance at him and hold up the feathery filament. A small piece of his magic, its light sparkles and plays along my hand, the lines of his throat and jaw, the front of his tunic.

“If I return this,” I say. “What will you give me in exchange?”

“Well.” He frowns and thoughtfully strokes his chin, but his eyes are still smiling. “What do you want? Riches and jewels aren’t mine to command. I am but a humble servant.”

“Can you make it rain? It would be good for my father’s crops.”

“You know I cannot,” he scolds. “Doing so would be interfering.”

I do know, but enjoy the game, the way he looks at me as though he sees something hidden deep inside me, the secret of who I am.

“How about a kiss?” I ask.

He casts his gaze to the ground and bows his head. “Of course. A blessing.” He rests his hands on my shoulders, and even that light touch scorches me. White-hot like the sun.

Closing his eyes, he leans in to kiss my forehead, but I want a real kiss. Not the kiss of an angel, but of a lover. I rise to my toes, lifting my chin, and press my lips to his.

Author Bio:

A Canadian-born author, Lisa Voisin spent her childhood daydreaming and making up stories, but it was her love of reading and writing in her teens that drew her to Young Adult fiction.

Lisa is a technical writer, a meditation teacher, and the leader of the Lynn Valley Literary Society’s Young Writer’s Club, a writing group for teens. A self-proclaimed coffee lover, she can usually be found writing in a local café. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her meditating or hiking in the mountains.

Though she’s lived in several cities across Canada, she currently lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her fiancé and their two cats.

More about Lisa can be found on her web site: http://www.lisavoisin.com.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Fairytale Retellings

toptentuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

This week’s prompt is Ten Fairytale Retellings I’ve Read/Want To Read. I absolutely love fairytale retellings, and there are a ton on my TBR list, so I’ve split the list into five that I’ve read and five that I want to read.

Note: I’ve definitely read more than these five, but they’re the first ones I could think of!

Five Retellings I’ve Read

1) Ella Enchanted – Gail Carson Levine (retelling: Cinderella) (aka one of my favourite books EVER)
2) Another Pan – Daniel & Dina Nayeri (retelling: Peter Pan) (you can read an old review here!)
3) Snow – Tracy Lynn (retelling: Snow White)
4) Spinners – Donna Jo Napoli (retellling: Rumpelstiltskin)
5) Masque of the Red Death – Bethany Griffin (retelling: Edgar Allan Poe’s Masque of the Red Death) (you can read my review here!)

Five Retellings I Want to Read

1) A Court of Thorns and Roses – Sarah J. Maas (retelling: Beauty and the Beast) (actually, I want to read all of her books, but this cover kills me)
2) Cinder – Marissa Meyer (retelling: Cinderella) (I’m including the rest of the Lunar Chronicles in this list, of course!)
3) Mechanica – Betsy Cornwell (retelling: Cinderella)
4) Splintered – A.G. Howard (retelling: Alice in Wonderland)
5) Dorothy Must Die – Danielle Paige (retelling: The Wizard of Oz)

Bonus: Five Retellings I’ve Reviewed on this blog

1) Spelled (ARC) – Betsy Schow (retelling: The Wizard of Oz and others)
2) A Whole New World (ARC) – Liz Braswell (retelling: Aladdin)
3) A Curse of Ash and Iron (ARC) – Christine Norris (retelling: Cinderella)
4) Dust City – Robert Paul Weston (retelling: Little Red Riding Hood and others)
5) The Fairest of Them All – Carolyn Turgeon (retelling: Rapunzel/Snow White)

What are some of your favourite fairytale retellings? Which ones should I check out?

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I’ve Read So Far In 2015

toptentuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

This week’s prompt is Top Ten Books I’ve Read So Far In 2015. I’ve read a lot of great books so far this year, so it was hard to pick 10, but here we go (as always, it’s not in any particular order). Most are linked to my reviews, but the Ellie Marney ones link to Goodreads.

1) Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda – Becky Albertali
2) Nimona – Noelle Stevenson
3) The Lovely and the Lost – Page Morgan
4) The Wondrous and the Wicked – Page Morgan
5) Every Word – Ellie Marney
6) Every Move – Ellie Marney
7) Mad Miss Mimic – Sarah Henstra
8) The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches – Alan Bradley
9) The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen – Susin Nielsen
10) The Little Prince – Antoine de St-Euxpéry

What are some of your favourite books that you’ve read in 2015 (so far)?

Fiction Friday Round-Up – June 5th, 2015

This was a pretty busy week; among other things, Jane and I launched our new pop culture website, Mind the Gap (which you should totally check out because we have a lot of great content!). But I also managed to completely catch up on the Flavia de Luce series, and finished a couple of ARCs. As always, please click the titles for the full review!

  • As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust – Alan Bradley: “The series is no longer simply a collection of unrelated mysteries; it started to hint at the bigger picture and Flavia’s role within that larger narrative.”
  • Devil’s Daughter – Hope Schenk de-Michele and Paul Marquez: “It had a great plot and some interesting moments but, while it had an open ending, I’m not tearing down the house in anticipating for the sequel. Definitely a good change from most of the other angel-based YA out there, though.”
  • Grunge Gods and Graveyards – Kimberly G. Giarratano: “If I was trying to pitch this book, I’d say it was a combination of Melissa Marr’s Made for You and Elizabeth Chandler’s Kissed by an Angel but with more ghosts and, well, grunge (those are all good things, by the way).”

Last week, I read a truly disappointing ARC:

  • Beyond Clueless – Linas Alsenas: “I’m sure there’s an audience for it, but this is one of those rare cases where I feel too old to read this and I think it would be better received by readers aged 12-14”.

But I also read a great female-centric comic book, so it sort of evened out!

  • Rat Queens Vol 1: Sass & Sorcery – Kurtis J. Wiebe: “There are also light, funny moments in between all the fighting; whether it’s Betty packing candy and drugs for dinner again or Dee being anti-social i.e. reading a book at a party, you get a good glimpse at the queens’ personalities.”

As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust – Alan Bradley

As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust – Alan Bradley

21874813Hard on the heels of the return of her mother’s body from the frozen reaches of the Himalayas, Flavia, for her indiscretions, is banished from her home at Buckshaw and shipped across the ocean to Miss Bodycote’s Female Academy in Toronto, her mother’s alma mater, there to be inducted into a mysterious organization known as the Nide.

No sooner does she arrive, however, than a body comes crashing down out of the chimney and into her room, setting off a series of investigations into mysterious disappearances of girls from the school.

I’m finally caught up on all the Flavia de Luce books!! Which leaves me feeling bittersweet because I really enjoy hanging out with her and now I have to wait for the next book like everyone else!!

Fun fact: this is the only Flavia book I have in hardcover and (I’m sorry, I have to brag here), it’s signed by Alan Bradley who is an absolutely adorable man. Flavia’s voice and personality are so strong and so girlishly realistic, you wouldn’t think her creator was a man in his seventies.

This book takes us out of jolly ol’ England and into Canada – Toronto, in fact. I was intrigued by the setting since I live just outside of Toronto and I’ve been in the Danforth area, so I had fun trying to imagine where Miss Bodycote’s school could be.

Of course, the only problem with it taking place outside of Bishop’s Lacey is that a lot of the characters you’ve come to know and love are mentioned in passing, but don’t actively play a role. There are many new intriguing characters – Mrs. Bannerman, the acquitted murderess, for one – and it’s fascinating to see Flavia interact with a bunch of girls in her age group (previously, we’d seen her interact with mostly adult figures), but I missed her volatile relationship with her sisters.

Another shift in this installment is the story line. I think the sixth book, The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches (which was my personal favourite), marked a transition. The series is no longer simply a collection of unrelated mysteries; it started to hint at the bigger picture and Flavia’s role within that larger narrative. So while it makes sense that this book continued along that path of pheasant sandwiches, it was also a little frustrating. Flavia asks a lot of questions but doesn’t get a lot of (solid) answers. It does do a great job at setting up future adventures (there’ll be a total of ten books once the series ends), and I’m eager to see where Flavia ends up.

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Fiction Friday Round-Up – May 22nd, 2015

Here are some books I’ve been reading/finishing over the past week or so. Please click the links for full reviews!

  • The Blooming Goddess Trilogy – Tellulah Darling: “I really enjoyed this series: it was fluffy at times but still had a strong plot. The writing was funny and compelling, and if you like contemporary takes on Greek mythology, you’ll love Sophie’s world.”
  • Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda – Becky Albertali: “I loved this book. It’s a character-driven novel, so the plot is relatively simple, but in this case, it worked because I enjoyed getting to know Simon and the world around him.”
  • The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches – Alan Bradley: “Flavia’s personal journey is what makes this book my favourite, and I can’t wait to get started on her next adventure.”

This week, I attended the book launch for Sarah Henstra’s fabulous debut, Mad Miss Mimic. Read my recap here!

Because it was #IreadYA week, you can see some of the YA books that I’m excited about here!

What have you read recently?

Until next week, happy reading!

The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches – Alan Bradley

The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches – Alan Bradley

17834904On a spring morning in 1951, eleven-year-old chemist and aspiring detective Flavia de Luce gathers with her family at the railway station, awaiting the return of her long-lost mother, Harriet. Yet upon the train’s arrival in the English village of Bishop’s Lacey, Flavia is approached by a tall stranger who whispers a cryptic message into her ear.

Moments later, he is dead, mysteriously pushed under the train by someone in the crowd…

Who was this man, what did his words mean, and why were they intended for Flavia? Back home at Buckshaw, the de Luces’ crumbling estate, Flavia puts her sleuthing skills to the test.

Following a trail of clues sparked by the discovery of a reel of film stashed away in the attic, she unravels the deepest secrets of the de Luce clan, involving none other than Winston Churchill himself.

Surrounded by family, friends, and a famous pathologist from the Home Office – and making spectacular use of Harriet’s beloved Gypsy Moth plane, Blithe Spirit – Flavia will do anything, even take to the skies, to land a killer.

I know I said this about the fourth book, but I think this is my favourite Flavia de Luce novel.

I’m afraid I have to get a little spoiler-y to tell you why I loved this one the most, so consider this your SPOILER ALERT

In this novel, we get SO MUCH BACK STORY. I love back story. I love learning about the characters before this particular moment in their lives. In this case, I loved learning about Dogger’s past (he’s my favourite character, after Flavia herself), and hearing about her parents’ lives was just a bonus (plus Aunt Felicity is more hardcore than I would have thought).

The thing I loved the most, though (again, SPOILER ALERT) was Flavia’s main goal through the first half of the book. The fact that someone so scientifically-minded would think that she could “resurrect” her mother was heart-breaking. I think Flavia – and her readers – learned more about her personality during this adventure, and she seems to be “growing up”, becoming more aware of who she is as a person outside of her chemistry obsession.

Her relationships with her sisters continue to develop too, and the introduction of Undine – who is essentially a younger version of Flavia – changes the dynamic at Buckshaw. At the same time, some of the adults seem to treat Flavia on a more adult level, especially Inspector Hewitt and Aunt Felicity, so it’s an interesting contrast between how her sisters see her and how the adults treat her.

I also have to mention the fact that Winston Churchill shows up. He has all of three lines, but it’s a great cameo.

Like I said, Flavia’s personal journey is what makes this book my favourite, and I can’t wait to get started on her next adventure.

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Mad Miss Mimic Book Launch Recap

mad miss mimic launch

I’m not sure how, but I’ve somehow gone almost a year in publishing without actually attending a book launch (I’m terrible, I know). But yesterday I finally broke that streak by attending the launch for Sarah Henstra’s debut novel, Mad Miss Mimic.

I gave this book a glowing review when I read an ARC a couple of weeks ago, so that was partially what made me want to attend. Also the fact that the invitation encouraged attendees to wear their “fanciest hat”, and that’s pretty much the greatest instruction I’ve ever been given.

I didn’t win for best hat, but Sarah said she liked it, and isn’t that all that matters?

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It was inspired by the Mad Hatter, of course.

The launch was held at the High Park Tennis and Curling Club, which is in a very pretty neighbourhood. The room we were in was spacious and delightfully decorated with bunting and flowers, and teacups filled with all sorts of treats.

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I’m only going to eat food out of teacups from now on.

Sarah was really sweet and, after signing my book, we briefly discussed the writing process. She also read the prologue out loud and the choir she’s in, Cantores Celestes, performed three songs. It was lovely!

Mad Miss Mimic came out on May 5th and you can find it in your local bookstore! I highly recommend it!

Fiction Friday Round-Up – May 15th, 2015

Here are some books I finished over the past week and a bit (I’m currently unemployed, so I’ve had time to read). As always, please click the link for a full review!

  • Speaking From Among the Bones – Alan Bradley: “Part of this book felt like filler, but since spending any amount of time with Flavia is always a delight, it wasn’t a chore to read. It just wasn’t very memorable.”
  • A Great and Terrible Beauty (re-read) – Libba Bray: “I was still hooked by the first few paragraphs, the writing was just as evocative as I remembered, and there were even a couple of creepy moments that sent a small shiver up my spine.”
  • The Rearranged Life (ARC) – Annika Sharma: “This book read like a cross between Bend it Like Beckham and My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and it was definitely interesting to read the descriptions and think about the differences between cultures…a cute summer read.” *includes a giveaway!**
  • Endless Nights – Neil Gaiman: “This is both a good and a bad way to be introduced to the world of the Sandman. On the one hand, you get a story starring each Endless sibling, which gives you an idea about them […] On the other hand […], I had no idea what to expect.”
  • Nimona – Noelle Stevenson: “I highly recommend this one for anyone looking for a strong, badass female villain/shapeshifter […] whose default form is a “pudgy” girl.”

And I’m also helping to host a giveaway!

Last week, I read a new adult ARC and was sorely disappointed:

  • Sing for Me – Gracie Madison: “I have complicated feelings about this book. It wasn’t bad per se, I just didn’t really enjoy it. I read the whole thing, though admittedly I started skimming at about 30%.”

Also, I got an Indigo giftcard so I bought some books I’ve been meaning to buy for a while, and it’s all terribly exciting.

bookhaul

Obviously, I’ve already finished Nimona, but I’ll have reviews for the other three at some point, hopefully this month or next.

What have you read this week?