Speed of Life

Title: Speed of Life
Author: Carol Weston
Genre: Middle Grade, Young Adult
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Release Date: April 1, 2017
Rating: ★★★★★

Sofia Wolfe lives in New York with her father. Her mother died from a brain aneurysm a year ago. She goes to an all-girls private school. One day, Dear Kate goes to her school to do a presentation. Dear Kate is an advice columnist for Fifteen magazine, and Sofia’s best friend Kiki is obsessed with her. They sneak into the presentation for parents at night, which both girls convinced their parents to attend. Kiki hopes that her mother and Sofia’s father will start dating. As Sofia deals with confusing issues about growing up, and without a mother figure to speak to, she starts emailing Dear Kate her questions. When Sofia’s dad starts dating someone, she doesn’t want to hear about it, but she emails Dear Kate asking for advice. This all derails when she meets her father’s new girlfriend. Then Sofia not only has to think about the loss of her mother, but also her dad’s new girlfriend, his girlfriend’s teenage daughter, having her first boyfriend, and the possibility of moving and starting at a new school.

I couldn’t put down this book! I liked that the age level for it is between middle-grade and young adult. I don’t think there are enough books for this in between age, which is important to have. Sofia’s perspective is more middle-grade since she is just graduating from middle school and starting high school. However, she has to face many teenage issues when it comes with her dad’s girlfriend’s daughter.

This book also talked about many issues that teens face but may be afraid to ask. This comes out in the questions that Dear Kate is asked in her column. Girls, such as Sofia, feel more comfortable asking her questions through email, rather than speaking to someone in person about these awkward topics.

Sofia also mourns her mother and faces the possibility of her father remarrying, which is a real issue for many young girls. I like the way this story deals with these difficult parts of life in a positive way.

This is a great book for both young readers and parents alike!

Sense and Sensibility: Manga Classic

Title: Sense and Sensibility
Author: Stacy King, Po Tse
Genre: Graphic Novel, Manga
Publisher: UDON Entertainment
Release Date: August 10, 2017
Rating: ★★★

When their father dies, the Dashwood sisters and their mother are displaced by their half-brother, John Dashwood. Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret Dashwood move to a relative’s house in the country along with their mother. Marianne meets the dashing Willoughby and falls in love almost immediately, despite Elinor’s warnings to be cautious. Marianne wears her heart on her sleeve, so when Willoughby’s secrets are revealed, she is publicly humiliated. Elinor also has a romantic interest, though she is more sensible in the way she hides it. This story a study in sense and sensibility, with characters displaying both traits.

This is my least favourite Jane Austen novel. I love her other books so much, but I just couldn’t get into this one. Likewise, I wasn’t as crazy about this graphic novel.

The story was told very well. It is more straightforward than the novel, especially since it is able to demonstrate what is happening through pictures. However, I found that a lot of the characters looked alike. Since there are many girls around the same age in the story, they ended up looking very much alike. Even the three sisters were difficult to distinguish between sometimes, though they had slightly different hairstyles.

Though this isn’t my favourite graphic novel in the Manga Classics series, I would still recommend it for anyone looking for an introduction to the classics.

The Heirs

Title: The Heirs
Author: Susan Rieger
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Crown Publishing
Release Date: May 23, 2017

The patriarch of the Falkes family dies in 2000, leaving behind his wife and five sons, Henry, Will, Sam, Jack, and Tom. A few months after Rupert Falkes dies, a woman sues his estate, claiming to have had a relationship with him and to be the mother of two of his sons. The Falkes sons fight with her in court, but their mother is suspiciously not surprised with this turn of events and even suggests that they should pay off the woman. The story follows these new events in their lives, as well as jumping back to things that happened to the Falkes boys’ parents and grandparents.

The beginning was very good, and I was excited to read the story. However, the storyline jumped to different times between paragraphs so I was always confused as to when things were happening. It would jump from the lives of the youngest generation, to the affairs of their parents, to an affair of a distant friend.

I found this story very confusing. Each chapter is named after a different character, and somewhat follows that character’s perspective of events. At the beginning of each chapter I was very disoriented and I had to figure out who was in this part of the story and when it was happening. It really slowed the story down.

I was very disappointed in this book. It had an intriguing premise, but it was poorly executed.

Based On A True Story


Title: Based on a True Story
Author: Elizabeth Renzetti
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: House of Anansi
Release Date: June 5, 2014
Rating: ★★★★

Based on a True Story by Elizabeth Renzetti is about a former UK soap star, who struggles with alcoholism and drug abuse. It opens on Augusta Price leaving rehab, having completed another round. Her memoir is coming out on paperback so she has to do some press for it. She meets Frances Bleeker, an American journalist working in London, who interviews Augusta for a tabloid article to publicize the new paperback edition of her memoir. Frances is fired from her position soon after the interview and Augusta hires Frances to help her write a new memoir. Their first task is to fly to California to prevent Augusta’s former lover from publishing his own book about love, which Augusta assumes is about their romance. Frances has to support Augusta along their trip across the pond.

This book was a great and funny read. The duo of wild Augusta and sensible Frances make for some funny situations that they have to dig their way out of. Their relationship resembles the pairing of Miranda Priestly and Andrea Sachs in The Devil Wears Prada. I recommend this book for some funny, relaxing entertainment.


Shoebox Funeral

Title: Shoebox Funeral
Author: Elizabeth Voltz
Genre: Memoir
Publisher: Animal Media Group
Release Date: April 25, 2017
Rating: ★★★

Elizabeth Voltz grew up on a farm in Wolf Creek. She is one of ten kids. She is the second youngest. She often made her own fun by playing with the animals on the farm, particularly the cats. However, this also meant she had to bury her beloved friends starting from a young age. This memoir tells of her experiences with these animals.

I could relate to a lot of what she talked about in regards to the pet cats. She distinguished between the house cats and the barn cats. At my house, we feed a lot of stray cats. I like to play with some of the kittens and they all have names. I understood the emotional attachment she got to them, even when they weren’t really her pets. Often this attachment leads to heartbreak when they get sick or injured beyond recovery.

This is a well written book. I enjoyed a lot of it, but the heartbreaking stories of having to bury pets were too much for me. I’ve had to do that before and it dredged up too many unhappy memories. This is a good book, but too emotional for me.

The Hockey Saint

Title: The Hockey Saint
Author: Howard Shapiro
Genre: Graphic Novel, Young Adult
Publisher: Animal Media Group
Release Date: Oct. 14, 2014
Rating: ★★★★

Tom Leonard is a hockey player and a sophomore in university. His coach made him assistant captain for the team and he may get a full scholarship for his next year at school. He lives with his grandmother because his parents were killed in a car accident when he was a kid. He loves hockey and his favourite player is Jeremiah Jacobson. When he finds out where Jeremiah lives, he goes and sits outside his house, just to think about the problems in his life. Jeremiah goes outside and starts talking to Tom. Jeremiah tells Tom that he lost his father as a child too, so he understands what Tom is feeling. He invites Tom to go out with him the next day.

When Tom meets him the next day, they go to a food bank where Jeremiah volunteers every week. Tom assumed that Jeremiah went there to sign autographs but he wants to help people. Then he takes Tom to his next stop at a hospital to visit with veterans and children with cancer. Jeremiah continues to defy Tom’s expectations of who a stereotypical athlete should be.

Tom learns that his idol is very generous. Jeremiah is a famous hockey player who uses his status to help people who are less fortunate. Tom is shocked when he does this without asking for recognition. There are some celebrities that do this in the real world. Celebrities, whether they are athletes, singers, actors, or another profession, have a lot of influence over large portions of the population so they could make a positive impact on the world if they use their influence in a good way. However, many don’t use their power to make positive changes.

This is a really good graphic novel because of the way it looks at helping people who are less fortunate. Tom’s assumptions of Jeremiah looking for recognition of his good deeds are also knocked down. I like this positive message in the story. It is the third graphic novel in a trilogy from Howard Shapiro. The first one is called The Stereotypical Freaks. You can find my review of it here.

The Book of Summer

Title: The Book of Summer
Author: Michelle Gable
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: May 9, 2017
Rating: ★★★★

Bess Codman has returned to her family’s summer home in Nantucket. Her father asked her to go there to help her mom move out of their house. The cliff that the house is built on has been eroding away and the house is in danger of being destroyed. However, her mother, Cissy, refuses to leave. Instead, Cissy keeps asking the city council for help in building barriers between the ocean and the house so it can be saved. Bess was planning on going back to her family’s home for her cousin’s wedding. Bess is divorcing her husband, but she hasn’t told her mom the real reason why.

Bess’s narrative is interspersed with excerpts from the Book of Summer. The Book of Summer is a guest book that her grandmother started for people to write about their experiences at Cliff House every summer. The narrative returns to Bess’s grandmother Ruby’s young adulthood during World War II. Bess’s and Ruby’s lives are parallel in many ways as they get married and mature.

This is a great summer read, since the story follows multiple summers at Cliff House over a span of about seventy years. The multiple narratives are great and each chapter has a cliffhanger, which made me want to read more. There are also some newsletters from the town in it too, giving the town’s perspective of Cissy’s dilemma.

Though it mostly shows the summers that these family members spent at Cliff House, it gives a full picture of their lives. Some of the most pivotal moments in their lives happened at Cliff House, including marriages and deaths.

I really liked the drama in this book. There were lots of unpredictable plot twists that were really exciting. It’s a perfect read for this upcoming summer!

Just Jen

Title: Just Jen: Thriving Through Multiple Sclerosis
Author: Jen Powley
Genre: Memoir
Publisher: Roseway Publishing
Release Date: May 1, 2017
Rating: ★★★★★

Jen Powley was diagnosed with Mulitple Sclerosis at the age of 15. Now she is in her late 30s and has written a memoir about living with MS.

Jen grew up in Alberta and later moved to Halifax, where she has earned multiple degrees. Despite the many challenges she has faced since her diagnosis, Jen never gave up. Rather than dismissing her dreams, she adapted them to her new situation. For example, since she is now in a wheelchair, it would be impossible for her to go rockclimbing like she always dreamed of doing. Instead, she had a colleague strap her to his back while he propelled down the side of a building, making her feel like she was rock climbing.

Jen’s story highlights how inaccessible the world is. When she attended a lecture, she noticed that the wheelchair ramp only led to the seats on the end of the aisles rather than the front podium. This shows that the architect imagined someone in a wheelchair attending a lecture in that room but not actually giving the lecture.

Jen has a great sense of humour. This came across in her narrative. She dictated her book with the help of her assistants because she does not have the use of her hands anymore. It’s amazing that this technology allowed Jen to tell the story of her life.

I had the pleasure of seeing Jen speak at the Festival of Literary Diversity. She is truly inspiring. She has faced many challenges but she never let them stop her. Jen is also very talented, as demonstrated through her poignant, humourous, and touching narrative.

New Release: Ocean of Secrets Vol. 1

Title: Ocean of Secrets Vol. 1
Author: Sophie Chan
Genre: Graphic Novel, Manga
Publisher: Tokyopop
Release Date: May 16, 2017
Rating: ★★

When Lia, an orphan, falls into the ocean during a storm, she is rescued by Moira and Albert. Not only did she fall into the sea, but she fell into a different world. Moira and Albert are runaways who stole their ship. They show Lia the secrets of their mysterious world, and solve the mystery of the King’s long lost daughter.

This story is simple. It moved very slowly. There could have been more details to make it more exciting.

I liked the twist at the end, when they discover the identity of the lost princess. However, the story was so short, I wasn’t really invested in the characters. The idea behind the plot was good. However, if it was more detailed, I would have felt more of a connection to the story and the characters.

Seven Days in May

Title: Seven Days in May
Author: Kim Izzo
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Harper 360
Release Date: May 2, 2017
Rating: ★★★★★

The year is 1915. Sydney is a fighter for women’s rights in New York. Her sister Brooke is focused on getting married so she will have a title. They inherited fortunes from their father. Brooke gets engaged to Edward Thorpe-Tracey, whose family owns an estate in England. However, the estate is falling apart so his family need a fortune to save it. Edward goes over to New York to escort the sisters to England for the wedding. Meanwhile in London, Isabel works in Room 40, deciphering messages pertaining to the war. She learns that the ship called the Lusitania is now a target for the Germans. But she also finds out that the First Lord Churchill wants to allow a ship with American passengers to be attacked so the Americans will join the war. Isabel is determined to stop this from happening. Just before Edward, Sydney, and Brooke board the Lusitania in New York, everyone sees an ad in the newspaper from the Germans that says the Lusitania is being targeted and warning them not to get on it. Despite this warning, the passengers get on. They all head out on the seven day journey across the Atlantic.

This story followed multiple perspectives: Sydney, Edward, and Isabel. I liked that two sides of the situation were demonstrated, the passengers and the English who were trying to prevent the attack.

All of the characters also had their own problems that they had to deal with as well as facing the problem of a possible attack from the Germans. This reflects the actual war, since everyone faced an imminent threat, but they still had to deal with their own lives.

This story is based on true events. Some of the characters were real people, though the main characters are fictional. I love when authors are able to blend fact and fiction to create a beautiful story. This author also has personal ties to the story which are revealed at the end.

I chose to read this book because I liked The Jane Austen Marriage Manual by Kim Izzo. Though this novel is very different from that one because it is historical fiction, I really enjoyed it! I learned about an impactful attack in World War I that I wouldn’t have known otherwise.