Thursday, March 15, 2018

BLOG TOUR: A Possibility of Whales by Karen Rivers

Title: A Possibility of Whales
Author: Karen Rivers
Genre: Middle Grade - Contemporary
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Release Date: March 13, 2018
Acquired: Sent by publisher for review
Goodreads: ADD
Purchase: Amazon/Indigo

The story of a girl who—thanks to her friends, her famous single dad, and an unexpected encounter with a whale—learns the true meaning of family.

Twelve-year-old Natalia Rose Baleine Gallagher loves possibilities: the possibility that she’ll see whales on the beach near her new home, the possibility that the trans­gender boy she just met will become her new best friend, the possibility that the paparazzi hounding her celebrity father won’t force them to move again. Most of all, Nat dreams of the possibility that her faraway mother misses her, loves her, and is just waiting for Nat to find her.

But how can Nat find her mother if she doesn’t even know who she is? She abandoned Nat as a baby, and Nat’s dad refuses to talk about it. Nat knows she shouldn’t need a mom, but she still feels like something is missing, and her questions lead her on a journey of self-discovery that will change her life forever.


The author of this novel is Canadian. This novel is SET in Canada. I'm not sure if you get where I'm going with this but my heart was already spilling over with giddy anticipation when I found out those two facts, and I hadn't even read the synopsis yet. A Possibility of Whales promised heartwarming moments of family, friendship and large marine mammals, and it delivered on all fronts.

Natalia Rose has moved, yet again, and this time to the land of polite and excessive "sorrys," and into an Airstream home that can barely fit one, let alone Natalia and her (literally) larger than life father and actor XAN GALLAGHER. But she knows the drill, and she is more than willing to start at her new school, and scope out prospects for a new BFF. All the while, Natalia's absent mother sits in her mind like a superglued daydream. Where is this mysterious woman who birthed her and abandoned her? How does she get closer to finding out who she really is...and when she does, will she be ready for the answer?

A Possibility of Whales was the stream-of-conscious narrative of a not-so-typical 12-year-old girl, coping as best she can in a world that many may envy, but very little know the struggles of. Karen Rivers dug deep into her own mind, or researched quite well, the seemingly thousands of crises a tween might face on a daily basis. Her writing was fluid and beautiful, and went places that I wasn't expecting but found to be both hilarious and entertaining. For example, Natalia is obsessed with foreign words, words that mean whole THOUGHTS in other languages, like the Hindi word "viraag", which means "the pain you feel when you are separated from someone you love". Natalia randomly throws out these words and their meanings thorughout the book, and I thought it was a spectaculary clever addition to the plot. And even MORE spectacular was the arrival of an LGBT character. I cannot even express how important it is, and will continue to be, to have this representation in a middle grade novel, and I want to meet Karen myself to shake her hand and thank her for giving us Harry.

At times Natalia lost me, at times I wish the storyline would stay more grounded and linear, but that would have taken away from the chaotic beauty that the author so clearly wanted to impose on her readers. I finished this novel feeling a little less confined to one place. I took Natalia's hand and I let her show me the worlds she's traveled, the emotional strain on her young heart, and the conclusion to a story, her story, that began with a whale, and ended just as big.

Read if you liked:  
Better Nate than Never by Tim Federle, 
any middle grade fiction by Holly Black. 

Key themes: 
family love, friendship, loss, acceptance, coming-of-age




Judy Blume is the grand dame of our industry, but how does Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret stand up? Why did I want to write another puberty book? How did it inspire me to write APOW?

ARE YOU THERE GOD came out in the same year that I was born, which was both not that long time ago and a very long time ago.  (Longer than I like to think!)  So much has changed in terms of products, for example.  But some things, of course, never change.   Kids go through puberty in much the same way:  Still (always) some of them can’t wait to get there while others are putting on the brakes and are afraid of the changes puberty brings.   In many ways, puberty brings to mind childbirth for me:  It’s something you can read about, understand from a biological perspective, and be technically prepared for, but until it happens, you can’t really know how it will feel for you.

ARE YOU THERE GOD became invaluable to so many girls because it provided some insight into those feelings, it made it okay to acknowledge that beyond the technicalities of menstruation, there were a lot of things that go hand in hand with puberty.  How do you know when you’re leaving childhood behind?   What’s it like when your body starts changing into a different shape?   Will it be scary?   Does everyone else know something that you don’t? 

I wanted to take on the task of writing a book where puberty featured, but wasn’t necessarily the main plot line, similarly to how ARE YOU THERE GOD’s major plot line had to do with Margaret’s relationship with God.  As such, APOW is largely about Nat’s relationship to her best friend Harry, her (absent) mother and her (present) father.  It’s about what she has, what she’s lost, and also about what she yearns for and who she is becoming.   

I wanted to make the book accessible for both boys and girls.   Why is it, I wonder, that as soon as menstruation is in a book, it becomes necessarily a “girl” book?  Wouldn’t it be nice if menstruation wasn’t an “ew, yuck” for boys, a secret that girls had to keep?

I made Nat’s best friend a boy, partly for that reason.   Here are a girl and a boy who are best friends, to whom something big and adventurous and scary happens, while simultaneously both are fighting battles to be seen, recognized for who they are, and to deal with the changes their bodies are undertaking.   Harry is a big part of Nat’s journey and the story anchors itself on their adventure in Mexico.  He happens also to be trans, so his journey has its own obstacles.

Is APOW a puberty book?   I don’t know that it is, necessarily. I think at its heart, APOW is a book about relationships and defining yourself. It’s about taking care of each other and about mothers and mothering, fathers and fathering, friends and being a friend.

I truly loved writing this book.   Every day I spent with it was a joy.   The characters of Nat and Harry and XAN GALLAGHER feel like people I met, people who I now know, people I was lucky to spend time with.  I hope audiences feel the same way. 


Karen Rivers’s books have been nominated for a wide range of literary awards and have been published in multiple languages. When she’s not writing, reading, or visiting schools, she can usually be found hiking in the forest that flourishes behind her tiny old house in Victoria, British Columbia, where she lives with her two kids, two dogs, and two birds. Find her online at and on Twitter: @karenrivers.



The winner will receive: 

1 signed hardcover copy of A Possibility of Whales by Karen Rivers Details: 

- Canada Only (full rules found in the T&C on Rafflecopter) 
- Giveaway ends Mon. Mar. 19th @ 12AM EST 
- Winner will be drawn randomly through Rafflecopter, contacted via email and will have 24 hours to claim their prize 



A huge thank-you to Vicky and Algonquin Young Readers for providing a paperback copy of this book for review.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

REVIEW: Bonfire by Krysten Ritter

Title: Bonfire
Author: Krysten Ritter
Genre: Adult - Psychological Thriller
Publisher: Hutchinson (PRH Imprint)
Release Date: November 7, 2017
Acquired: Print copy sent by publisher
Goodreads: ADD

Should you ever go back?

It has been ten years since Abby Williams left home and scrubbed away all visible evidence of her small town roots. Now working as an environmental lawyer in Chicago, she has a thriving career, a modern apartment, and her pick of meaningless one-night stands.

But when a new case takes her back home to Barrens, Indiana, the life Abby painstakingly created begins to crack. Tasked with investigating Optimal Plastics, the town's most high-profile company and economic heart, Abby begins to find strange connections to Barrens’ biggest scandal from more than a decade ago involving the popular Kaycee Mitchell and her closest friends—just before Kaycee disappeared for good.

Abby knows the key to solving any case lies in the weak spots, the unanswered questions. But as Abby tries to find out what really happened to Kaycee, she unearths an even more disturbing secret—a ritual called “The Game,” which will threaten the reputations, and lives, of the community and risk exposing a darkness that may consume her.

With tantalizing twists, slow-burning suspense, and a remote, rural town of just five claustrophobic miles, Bonfire is a dark exploration of the question: can you ever outrun your past?


Ah, the good ol' actor turned author bit. I'd like to say I have more books of it's kind to compare it to, but Bonfire was my first foray into this type of work, so all I have left are genres. This narrative is being sold as a psychological thriller and while it definitely delivered the thriller portion, it failed somewhat in the brain toying department. 

You've read it before: small town, looming "big-deal" corporations, secrets wrapped in smiles, and the return of someone who "made it out". Abagail Williams thought she had washed her hands of hometown Barrens, but her job brings her right back into the center of its irregularly beating heart. Her target of investigation: Optimal Plastics, the towns seemingly top provider of wealth, happiness, and, if Abagail can prove it, a series of health issues plaguing Barrens residents. But this wasn't just a storyline to sate the minds of environmental buffs, no, it was a catalyst you see, for much darker scandals and truths untold. We follow our main lead down an unexpectedly disturbing rabbit hole and come back up wondering when Krysten Ritter will start working on her next novel.

Reading this was like finding out your car is actually a transformer, but it was just biding its time before it unveiled its MASSIVE upgrade. Like many others, I know Krysten Ritter, the actor, not Krysten Ritter, the seemingly seasoned thriller author. Needless to say, I was consistently surprised with every chapter I read. I know she writes for TV, so this wasn't a far cry, but STILL, novels can be a whole separate beast, and readers, an entirely different breed of humans to please. But pleased I was, with the fast pace of the narrative, and the cliff-hangers at every chapter end. There was enough intrigue to ensure that this book was read in two days, and JUST enough character development to make it believable. 

Here's hoping that Bonfire still finds its way to prime time television  *fingers crossed*.

Read if you liked:  
The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld 
Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
The Girl Before by Rena Olsen

Key themes: 
corruption, scandal, betrayal, corporate greed, friendship



credit: (author page)

KRYSTEN RITTER is well known for her starring roles in the award winning Netflix original series, Marvel's Jessica Jones, and cult favorite, Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23, as well as her pivotal role on AMC’s Breaking Bad. Krysten’s work on film includes Big Eyes, Listen Up Philip, Life Happens, Confessions of a Shopaholic and She’s Out of My League. She is the founder of Silent Machine, a production company which aims to highlight complex female protagonists. Ritter and her dog Mikey split their time between New York and Los Angeles.

Goodreads Page


A huge thank-you to Penguin Books for providing a hardcopy of this book for review

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

REVIEW: Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin

Title: Young Jane Young
Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Genre: Adult Contemporary
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Release Date: August 22, 2017
Acquired: Print ARC sent by publisher
Goodreads: ADD

From the bestselling author of the beloved The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry comes another perfect fable for our times--a story about women, choices, and recovering from past mistakes.

Young Jane Young's heroine is Aviva Grossman, an ambitious Congressional intern in Florida who makes the life-changing mistake of having an affair with her boss‑‑who is beloved, admired, successful, and very married‑‑and blogging about it. When the affair comes to light, the Congressman doesn’t take the fall, but Aviva does, and her life is over before it hardly begins. She becomes a late‑night talk show punchline; she is slut‑shamed, labeled as fat and ugly, and considered a blight on politics in general.

How does one go on after this? In Aviva’s case, she sees no way out but to change her name and move to a remote town in Maine. She tries to start over as a wedding planner, to be smarter about her life, and to raise her daughter to be strong and confident. But when, at the urging of others, she decides to run for public office herself, that long‑ago mistake trails her via the Internet like a scarlet A. For in our age, Google guarantees that the past is never, ever, truly past, that everything you’ve done will live on for everyone to know about for all eternity. And it’s only a matter of time until Aviva/Jane’s daughter, Ruby, finds out who her mother was, and is, and must decide whether she can still respect her.


I think it's important to note that I was quite young and ignorant to politics when the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal exploded, so reading Young Jane Young didn't feel as reminiscent to me as it did to many others. What it felt like, was a beloved author creating magic, yet AGAIN. What it felt like was the exploration of a topic that should never cease to be discussed: what it's like to be a woman in a world where we're handed rulebooks before our first breaths.

Told in the narrative style I favour the most, multiple perspectives, Young Jane Young becomes whole through the eyes of four women: Rachel (Jane's mother), the congressman's wife, Ruby (Jane's daughter), and Aviva (a young Jane). It begins as a broken thing though, as we learn of scandals, and consequences of impulsive decisions, and the people who are affected in the worst ways by it all. 

Young Aviva Grossman has fallen in the kind of love that only loves you back in hushed voices and away from public eyes. She's begun a sordid love affair with a local Congressman, and numerous attempts on her mother's part cannot persuade her to still her heart--or her sexual rendezvous with this very married man. After the inevitable crash and burn, Aviva relocates out of shame and in the hopes of beginning anew. With a new baby to consider (and feed, and clothe and generally ensure the safety of), Aviva/Jane trades in her political robes for a much more low-key set and starts her own wedding planning business in Maine. She soon decides that her initial calling was the right one, and runs for Mayor of her town. It's around this time that Jane's daughter, Ruby, stumbles upon a much-regretted copy of the blog Aviva/Jane kept while schmoozing with the Congressman, and now Jane has to re-live nightmares and win back the respect of her only child.

Young Jane Young was such a far cry from the whimsical setting of The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, and a million kudos to Ms. Zevin for that. Not many authors can separate genres in a way that stays true to their talent, yet differs greatly from their surrounding works. The voices in this novel begged to be heard, and there wasn't a single one I didn't want to hear. It was the perfect blend of scandal, family bonds, and comedic relief. And for the love of all that is perfect, there is a CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE section that I cannot even begin to describe the genius of. Long-time readers of this author will find themselves at home here, and because of Young Jane Young's brilliant relevancy, I think many new readers of hers will pick it up as well.

Read if you liked:  Where'd You Go Bernadette? by Maria Semple (my review here), Sophia Kinsella, Marian Keyes, Women's Fiction
Key themes: family values, scandal, betrayal, self-discovery




Gabrielle Zevin is a New York Times bestselling author whose books have been translated into more than thirty languages. Her eighth novel, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry, spent more than four months on the New York Times Bestseller list, reached #1 on the National Indie Bestseller list, and has been a bestseller all around the world. She has also written books for children and young adults, including the award-winning Elsewhere.



A huge thank-you to Algonquin Books for providing a print ARC of this book for review.

Monday, September 4, 2017

REVIEW: Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

Title: Words in Deep Blue
Author: Cath Crowley
Genre: Young Adult - Contemporary
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Release Date: June 6, 2017
Acquired: Print copy sent by publisher
Goodreads: ADD

Love lives between the lines.

Years ago, Rachel had a crush on Henry Jones. The day before she moved away, she tucked a love letter into his favorite book in his family’s bookshop. She waited. But Henry never came.

Now Rachel has returned to the city—and to the bookshop—to work alongside the boy she’d rather not see, if at all possible, for the rest of her life. But Rachel needs the distraction and the escape. Her brother drowned months ago, and she can’t feel anything anymore. She can’t see her future.

Henry’s future isn’t looking too promising, either. His girlfriend dumped him. The bookstore is slipping away. And his family is breaking apart.

As Henry and Rachel work side by side—surrounded by books, watching love stories unfold, exchanging letters between the pages—they find hope in each other. Because life may be uncontrollable, even unbearable sometimes. But it’s possible that words, and love, and second chances are enough.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

REVIEW: The Leaf Reader by Emily Arsenault

Title: The Leaf Reader
Author: Emily Arsenault
Genre: YA Mystery
Publisher: Soho Teen
Release Date: June 13, 2017
Acquired: E-arc acquired via Edelweiss
Goodreads: ADD

Maybe, occasionally, some of the pictures I saw in teacups were not for the tea drinkers. Maybe some of them were for me.

Marnie Wells knows that she creeps people out. It’s not really her fault; her brother is always in trouble, and her grandmother, who’s been their guardian since Mom took off is…eccentric. So no one even bats an eye when Marnie finds an old book about reading tea leaves and starts telling fortunes. The ceremony and symbols are weirdly soothing, but she knows—and hopes everyone else does too—that none of it’s real.

Then basketball star Matt Cotrell asks for a reading. He’s been getting emails from someone claiming to be his best friend, Andrea Quinley, who disappeared and is presumed dead. And while they’d always denied they were romantically involved, a cloud of suspicion now hangs over Matt. But Marnie sees a kindred spirit: someone who, like her, is damaged by association.

Suddenly the readings seem real. And, despite the fact that they’re telling Marnie things about Matt that make him seem increasingly dangerous, she can’t shake her initial attraction to him. In fact, it’s getting stronger. And that could turn out to be deadly.