Small Hours

Title: Small Hours
Author: Jennifer Kitses
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Release Date: June 13, 2017
Rating: ★★★★

Tom starts his day by taking his three-year-old daughters to see the sunrise. Then he goes into the office, where he is a news editor. His mind isn’t on his work though. He’s thinking about the other three-year-old daughter he has with his former boss and mistress in the city. Meanwhile, his wife, Helen, picks up their twin daughters from preschool, where their tuition is late. She then has an altercation with some teenage girls, which frightens her daughters. She spends the rest of her day in fear of the teenagers retaliating in some way, while also working from home. Tom and Helen live their lives full of secrets told in this hour by hour story.

This story was a little slow at the beginning. It was describing the mundane activities of their lives, such as Tom’s commute into work and Helen’s workout in the gym. Also, the story wasn’t just about what was happening during that day. There was a lot of background of Tom’s past relationship, so it wasn’t all told in the present. I think this information could have been given in a different way, so that it didn’t have to flash back to years ago, but could stay within the 24 hours of the story.

This story was well written. The hourly account of the couple’s lives is a unique form. I really liked the tension at the end. However, it was left on a cliffhanger which could have been more dramatic.


Saints and Misfits

Title: Saints and Misfits
Author: S.K. Ali
Genre: Young Adult
Publisher: Salaam Reads
Release Date: June 13, 2017
Rating: ★★★★

Janna Yusuf says there are two kinds of people: Saints and Misfits. The girl her older brother likes, Sarah, is a Saint. She spends lots of time organizing activities at the mosque and being a “good Muslim girl.” Janna is a Misfit. She is torn between being Muslim (and being the only girl to wear a hijab at school) and being part of the non-Muslim community (by liking a white boy). However, there is also a Monster. The Monster is her friend’s cousin, Farooq. Everyone thinks he is a Saint because he has memorized the Qu’ran. One day he tried to rape Janna, so she knows he isn’t as nice as everyone thinks. But since everyone from his family to Janna’s family thinks Farooq is the perfect Muslim boy, Janna can’t say anything against him. Janna must find her inner strength to stand up for herself.

The conflicts that Janna faces are very realistic. It’s hard for Janna to go to a non-Muslim school and follow her religion by wearing her hijab, when the other girls in her class don’t wear it. The mean girls at her school also don’t understand what it stands for, because they post pictures of Janna without it. Janna’s other Muslim friends go to a Muslim school so they don’t face this problem.

Janna also has the dilemma of liking a boy who her family wouldn’t approve of. I think most girls have had this problem before too. However, Janna’s problem is unique because Farooq, who tried to rape her, is friends with the boy she likes and he tries to come between them.

I would have liked the relationship between Janna and her father to have been explored more. The first half of the novel shows him not approving of her wearing a hijab and being completely covered at the beach. He has a new wife who isn’t Muslim so he thinks Janna should be more open like her. This would have been an interesting aspect to explore, since part of Janna’s family also didn’t accept her Muslim beliefs.

This is a very good YA book. I hope there are more to come that put Muslim characters at the forefront. It’s important for everyone to have role models in literature, especially young adults.

Kill Shakespeare – Past is Prologue: Juliet (Issue #1)

Title: Kill Shakespeare – Past is Prologue: Juliet
Author: Conor McCreery
Genre: Comic
Publisher: IDW
Release Date: April 5, 2017
Rating: ★★★★★

This new series is the prologue to the Kill Shakespeare comic series.

Juliet Capulet is still alive. She survived her cut from Romeo’s dagger. Now she is living with her mother and her mother’s new husband Shylock. Her mother wants Juliet to go live with her new husband and the new Lord Montague, Benvolio. Juliet feels that she is being passed from one supervisor to another. No one wants to leave her alone because she wants to kill herself to join her beloved Romeo. Juliet ends up escaping and running through Verona, only to be met by a mysterious joker character that talks her into staying alive.

The premise of the Kill Shakespeare comics is that Shakespeare’s characters band together to kill their creator, Shakespeare. I loved this series! When I saw this comic, I knew I had to start this series too!

This was a very good introduction. I liked that it blends characters from different Shakespeare plays, like Romeo and Juliet and Measure for Measure. It also had a cliffhanger at the end. I’m excited to read the next issue.

China Rich Girlfriend

Title: China Rich Girlfriend
Author: Kevin Kwan
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Doubleday Canada
Release Date: June 16, 2015
Rating: ★★★★★

The Crazy Rich Asians return in the sequel to Kevin Kwan’s bestseller. It’s two years later, and Nick and Rachel are engaged. They plan to get married in California, excluding his mother. Nick still hasn’t forgiven her for the spectacle she made involving Rachel’s possible father. But you can’t keep Eleanor Young out of the loop for very long! When she finds out about the wedding, she makes a grand entrance, bringing along a new family for Rachel. Nick and Rachel go to China to meet her new family, and they get caught up in the wild life of Colette Bing and Carlton Bao which ends in the hospital. Meanwhile, the excessive Kitty Tai is trying to make a name for herself in Hong Kong society by splashing hundreds of millions of dollars all around. But everyone is asking one question about her: where is her husband and daughter?

This is an awesome sequel! I loved the first book. I couldn’t put this one down either. The characters are so funny. They’re extremely extravagant but they don’t realize it. My favourite quote is “Bernard has no money. He only gets about ten million a year to live on.” In their world, ten million is pocket change.

The story wouldn’t be as good without Kevin Kwan’s amazing writing. He artfully juggles the many characters, without missing a beat. Each character is distinct. The story also comes full circle at the end in a subtle way. All the loose ends were tied up, all questions I had were answered. There is even a little mystery near the end, and the solution was shocking!

This is a great story, and I can’t wait to read the next book!

My review of Crazy Rich Asians can be found here.

The Circle

Title: The Circle
Author: Damon Clark
Genre: Graphic Novel
Publisher: Action Lab Entertainment
Release Date: June 13, 2017
Rating: ★★

Christian and his father move to a new town to be closer to his grandparents after his mother dies. He gets into some fights with other kids on the first day at his new high school. Another group of kids notice him and invite him to go to their hangout in the forest. They say they need one more person to join their group to complete the ritual. They proceed to perform rituals, which involves killing people from their school.

This is a strange story. It was very unpredictable.

The art was confusing at times because of the dark colours. The style reminded me of Tim Burton. However, many of the characters looked alike so I couldn’t differentiate between them.

There was a lot of unnecessary profanity in the story. The feelings of the characters could have been displayed in a more emotional way if there wasn’t as much swearing.

Some parts of the story were inconsistent too. On one page, Christian’s father tells him he doesn’t have school because it’s Sunday, but in the next frame he is heading out the door for school. I couldn’t tell if he was dreaming, if his father was wrong, or it was a mistake in the comic.

I think this story could have been much more successful with some more editing.

Two Times A Traitor

Title: Two Times a Traitor
Author: Karen Bass
Genre: Middle Grade, Historical Fiction
Publisher: Pajama Press
Release Date: May 15, 2017
Rating: ★★★★

Lazare Berenger is very unhappy on his family vacation in Halifax. He still hasn’t forgiven his parents for moving from Ottawa to Boston while he was staying with his grandmother. He has big fights with his father too. After one of their big arguments, he runs into the ruins of a citadel, and falls into a tunnel, being knocked out. When he wakes up, he is taken as prisoner by sailors. At first he assumes it’s a camp his father has sent him to as punishment. But he soon learns that he has travelled back in time to 1745. The British assume he is a spy because he has a French name and a French accent. However, his French background also makes him a perfect spy for the British, so he can infiltrate their town without suspicion. Laz has to endure a lot on his time in the past until he can figure out how to return to 2017.

This is a great story. The historical aspects are really good for middle-grade students. Canadian history isn’t taught as much as it should be in school, so this story would be a great supplement for kids.

Though Canada’s 150th anniversary is being celebrated this year, this story demonstrates how Canada’s history goes far beyond 150 years.

The character of Laz is relateable to kids today because he sees things through modern eyes. For example, whenever something happens to him, he thinks of what he would text his best friend back home in 2017. This drifts off a little after he becomes more comfortable in 1745.

I wish we had seen the reunion of Laz and his parents at the end of the story. It would be interesting to see how Laz has changed in relation to his family. Also, I would have liked to see how his dad treats him after their many months apart.

This is a great story for middle grade readers!

The Royals: Masters of War

Title: The Royals: Masters of War
Author: Rob Williams
Genre: Graphic Novel
Publisher: Vertigo
Release Date: December 16, 2014
Rating: ★★★★

The British royals are not supposed to get involved in WWII. The King doesn’t want his sons to fight. This is because all of the royals in the world have special powers. This includes the Emporer of Japan and the Tsar of Russia. Princess Rose of England can read minds and her brothers can fly, as well as shoot lasers from their eyes. The royals end up joining the fight, which leads to many deaths.

I really liked the art in this graphic novel. It is very realistic. The pictures of Winston Churchill were especially good, since I could recognize what he looked like.

The story had a twist on a traditional WWII story since the royal families intervened with their magic powers. I enjoyed this unique story!

Rejected Writers Take The Stage

Title: Rejected Writers Take the Stage
Author: Suzanne Kelman
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Release Date: June 6, 2017
Rating: ★★★★

The women of the Rejected Writers Book Club are back! The writers gather in a club where they collect the rejection letters that they receive from publishers. In the first novel, they go on a mission to get a rejection letter from a publisher who accepted them. In this story, one of the members, Annie, is facing foreclosure on her house. She owns a farm where she boards dogs. The leader of the Book Club, Doris, comes up with a plan to put on a play to raise money for Annie. They each pitch in to write a portion of the play called The Merlin of Ooze. Janet works in a library, and she is given the job of director. She also has a daughter who is pregnant with twins, who comes to visit her. Meanwhile, Flora met her new boyfriend, Dan, on their last adventure. But he doesn’t live in town, so they have a long distance relationship. He surprises Flora with a visit to Southlea Bay, but he brings more than himself. And of course, with the ladies of the Rejected Writers Book Club, nothing goes as planned!

I loved this sequel! I was so excited when I heard about it. This one was a little different because it didn’t focus as much on writing. Since the characters were introduced in the last novel, their lives could be explored more deeply in this novel.

I really like the titles of the chapters. Each one is named after a funny image or metaphor in the chapter.

One aspect that was a little confusing was the narration. Sometimes Janet narrated, if she was present in the scene. But if she wasn’t there, it was a third person narration. There were also a couple of consistency issues, like someone being introduced twice in a chapter.

I love how these stories have an open ending, leaving the possibility for a sequel. I hope the Rejected Writer’s Book Club goes on another adventure soon!

The End of Temperance Dare

Title: The End of Temperance Dare
Author: Wendy Webb
Genre: Thriller
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Release Date: June 6, 2017
Rating: ★★★★★

When Eleanor Harper is fired from her job as a crime reporter, she applies to be the director at Cliffside Manor. Cliffside was originally a Tuberculosis sanitarium but the owner, Chester Dare, turned it into a retreat for artists. His daughter, Penelope now runs it but she has decided to retire and pass the reins off to Eleanor. However, the day Eleanor arrives, after learning the basics of how the building is run, Penelope Dare is found dead in her room with an apparent suicide note on her chest. After the initial shock, Eleanor finds a letter from Penelope that says she has left a puzzle for her to solve. Once the writers and artists arrive for the four week retreat, Eleanor soon finds out that all of the fellows have prior connections to Cliffside which led Penelope to choose them to come. Eleanor is left with the mystery of why all those fellows were chosen to come to this haunted manor.

I loved this book! It was so spooky. It reminded me of The Shining, because a new person has come to run this old building, but they discover it is somehow haunted.

I really liked how everything was explained at the end. I figured out some of the twists just before they happened. But they were still exciting.

This story is also a little mysterious because you have to figure out the connection between the people at the manor right along with Eleanor.

This is a really good story, but I don’t recommend reading it at night!

Be Ready For The Lightning

Title: Be Ready For The Lightning
Author: Grace O’Connell
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Release Date: June 6, 2017
Rating: ★★★★

Veda’s life changes when she is trapped on a hijacked bus in New York City. She reflects on her life growing up in Vancouver. Her brother got into many fights. She blames herself for starting them because his first fight was to defend her. Veda would always look after him following these fights, until she gets involved herself. Then she decides to leave Vancouver and get a fresh start in New York. She never expected it would lead to this hostage situation. Veda has to use a strength that she didn’t know she had to get off the bus.

This story is very character driven. It follows Veda’s life before and after the hostage situation. Each of the eight parts of the book begins with a chapter about Veda’s time on the bus.

Usually I prefer plot-driven novels but I liked this one. It kept returning to the life changing moment in Veda’s life when she was trapped on the bus. I kept expecting something very dramatic to happen, but when there was a major plot twist, it was soon resolved. The “lightning” wasn’t as big a flash as I thought it would be. However, I liked the image of lightning and how it kept coming back up in the story.

This is a good story and it’s very well written!