2017 Wrap-Up

I am writing this while in the bathroom battling my first UTI in two years, so I want to instead reflect on the good that came from this blog in 2017. It was the year that I found the time to return to blogging regularly and exceeded my reading goals (goal was to read 40 books; I finished 2017 off having read 45). I also explored new genres, found new favourite authors, and went to my first ever book signing with the amazing Maggie Stiefvater for her equally amazing novel All the Crooked Saints. In celebration, I’m sharing with you my top 5 books of 2017, and the books I’m most looking forward to reading in 2018.

All the Crooked Saints

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As I wrote in my review, I realized while reading this book that I was experiencing something special. It was the same feeling I’d had reading Harry Potter or The Fault in Our Stars. At some point I stopped, took a breath, and realized that no other book would be able to compare, and it was true. For the rest of the year, every book fell short of the joy and enrapture that captivated me during this book. It was poignant and eye-opening in a year where I think everyone needed to focus on self-reflection and self-improvement. I will forever recommend this book one hundred times over and believe me when I say that you are missing out on the experience of a lifetime if you haven’t read this yet.

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The Storyteller

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Before reading this book I had sworn against Jodi Picoult. I found her novels to be too formulaic and repetitive, but something made me take a chance on this one. Perhaps the cover, which I was drawn to instantly. But the description on the back also suggested more than her usual troubled and/or sick child and a court case. I’m so glad I took that chance. I was sucked into this novel in such a way that I lived and breathed it even when my nose wasn’t between the pages. A story of the holocaust that I haven’t seen since Schindler’s List. It is heartbreaking and bloody and messes with your head but it is worth every second of torment, sadness, empathy, understanding, and joy. This novel is a wild ride that I would take again and again.

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I Hate Everyone But You

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Not only has this audiobook deepened my love for Allison Raskin and Gaby Dunn but it’s given me a better understanding of how amazing audiobooks can be and why people love them so much. Raskin and Dunn’s performance of their novel has definitely set the bar for all future audiobooks that I’ll listen to and it was truly a privilege to experience this one. I would urge anyone interested in this novel to listen to it rather than read it, as I think you get more from the authors’ performances that you might miss reading it and interpreting it on your own. I love, love, love it and plan on listening to it again in 2018.

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There’s Someone Inside Your House

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I believe this novel has introduced a new sub-genre of YA Horror that we haven’t seen before: slasher-horror YA. And as someone who hates horror movies and slasher films because they get too real for me, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. It definitely had its faults, as I outlined in my review, but I can’t deny that it kept me hooked right to the very end. It also served the redeem Stephanie Perkins in my eyes after I read (and hated) Lola and the Boy Next Door. The writing of There’s Someone Inside Your House isn’t on par with Anna and the French Kiss or Isla and the Happily Ever After, which I think are her best novels so far, but there is certainly potential for her to develop this slasher voice more and make something truly epic out of it.

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Bad Girls Throughout History

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Hands-down one of the most inspiring books I’ve ever read. I borrowed this from the library as an ebook and can’t wait to own a physical copy in full colour! Ann Shen is an amazing artist and in this book she managed to pare down each woman’s history to what was most important and interesting so that I never felt like anything was lacking or biased. I learned things that I never had the opportunity to during my history major at the University of Toronto (hate that school, don’t go there!) and it reignited my love for feminist history and discourse. I can’t wait to read her next book and see more of what she has to offer.

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And in 2018…

Here is a gallery of the books I’m most looking forward to reading in 2018.

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Review | There’s Someone Inside Your House | Stephanie Perkins

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There’s Someone Inside Your House

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Scream meets YA in this hotly-anticipated new novel from the bestselling author of Anna and the French Kiss.

One-by-one, the students of Osborne High are dying in a series of gruesome murders, each with increasing and grotesque flair. As the terror grows closer and the hunt intensifies for the killer, the dark secrets among them must finally be confronted.

International bestselling author Stephanie Perkins returns with a fresh take on the classic teen slasher story that’s fun, quick-witted, and completely impossible to put down.


There’s Someone Inside Your House is the perfect book to read in the week leading up to Halloween, but don’t expect to get too scared by this book. Until the final quarter, TSIYH is more love story than it is horror story. You’ll be more grossed out than anything, with really gruesome and gory murders serving as the backdrop for the romance that blooms between Makani and Ollie.

I love Stephanie Perkins, but she does try too hard to point out the diversity in her books. She writes diversity in such a way that it’s like she’s inserted a flashing neon sign pointing it out, which bugs me. It’s great that we have such a diverse cast, and not so great that Perkins underlines it five times with a red pen.

It seemed to me that this book was marketed as a horror story and I found that misleading. Thriller is a more appropriate word. Romantic thriller is a more accurate genre for it to fit into. I expected to be put on the edge of my seat the entire time I was reading it, and I definitely was not. I was also disappointed that the killer is revealed halfway through the book. It takes part of the surprise out of it. However, I was very pleased with the motives Perkins created and thought that the reasoning behind the killings was very realistic. Given that this is a story about a teenage killing rampage, it fits that the motivation the killer had was simplistic and maybe a little attuned to someone who hadn’t experienced very much of the world, or of life, yet.

Loved—the setting. What is it about the countryside that is so creepy? And the backdrop of the seasons being on the verge of shifting from fall to winter made the stark setting feel even more bleak and hopeless. I also loved Stephanie Perkins’ ability to make you care about characters that only get a few pages before they’re murdered; in a limited number of words she has created a fully realized character with a history and a future, both of which are erased in seconds, and that really got to me towards the end. Especially with KK’s death (initials to try to avoid spoilers)—that one really got to me. Also, please see the image below for my biggest love in this book: the fact that Perkins wrote about a girl peeing and having to change her tampon. #Godbless

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Dislikedthe abrupt ending. Holy crud, it feels like the last part of the book is missing. Are we getting a sequel? Was there an editing error? I mean, WHAT? It really irritated me to turn that final page and suddenly be faced with the word “Acknowledgements”. Exqueeze me? No, ma’am. We deserve more resolution than that.


A Bit of Housekeeping

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Purchase Links

Indigo.ca     Amazon.ca    B&N

Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for providing me with a review copy.

Review | Lola and the Boy Next Door | Stephanie Perkins

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Lola and the Boy Next Door

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Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion… she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit – the more sparkly, more wild – the better. And life is pretty close to perfect for Lola, especially with her hot rocker boyfriend.

That is, until the Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket return to the neighbourhood and unearth a past of hurt that Lola thought was long buried. So when talented inventor Cricket steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally face up to a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door. Could the boy from Lola’s past be the love of her future?

Fall in love with the international bestseller from queen of young adult fiction, Stephanie Perkins.


THIS BOOK DOES NOT TAKE PLACE IN PARIS.

I mean, c’mon. That’s what I loved about Anna and Isla. There’s nothing more romantic than the Eiffel Tower with a snowy winter backdrop, or a sexy weekend getaway to Spain. I didn’t even know that Lola would be different in that regard; for the first fifty pages I kept waiting for her to get shipped off to Paris and was très disappointed.

And yes, the lack of the romantic setting definitely affects the plot. Cricket didn’t become a viable interest for me as the reader until probably the last two or three chapters. I didn’t buy any of the so-called “chemistry” before that. Also, while it’s clear we’re supposed to root for Cricket, Stephanie Perkins doesn’t give the reader a legit reason to root against Max until they’re pretty deep into the book… Bearing in mind that I’m a girl born out of a marriage between a couple who has a ten-year age gap between them and they started dating when my mom was 16. So I don’t see age as an issue.

Lola lacks the maturity that Anna and Isla had too, which had me rolling my eyes at her way too often. The way she carries on about Cricket’s “betrayal,” you’d think she was raped. I honestly thought that was the turn this book would take, what with her dropping and breaking a dish at the sight of him and everything. But no, she simply didn’t get invited to his party.

…What? You’ve been nursing a broken heart for two years because you didn’t get invited to a party? Please get over yourself.

But the biggest let-down of the whole book? The homophobic and racist slurs.

“At the mention of ice, Andy pauses. My dad loves figure skating. It is–and I don’t use this expression lightly–the gayest thing about him.” -pg. 116

Exsqueeze me? You shouldn’t use that expression at all. Why? Because being gay and liking figure skating have absolutely nothing to do with each other. 

“I stop by New Seoul Garden, and Lindsey packs a bag of takeout, which causes the entire car–on both of the trains it takes to get to Barkeley–to smell. Whoops.” -pg. 293

ARE YOU KIDDING ME. Here’s the thing. It’s not as if Perkins wrote that the whole train ended up smelling like her food and she felt badly for the other passengers for making them smell her delicious food. She basically says this: I went to my Asian friend’s family’s restaurant and then the whole train smelled like Asian food. Whoops.

That “Whoops” speaks volumes. It suggests that filling the train with the smell of specifically Asian food is a bad thing. And I can’t even.

I’m very disappointed in Stephanie Perkins with this book. Why does she even get 3 and a half stars? Because towards the end she remembered how to write with the same tone and spark that Anna and Isla were written with, and kudos for having the parents be a gay couple. But that’s it. Give me back Isla and Anna, please, and let’s pretend Lola never existed.

ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS by Stephanie Perkins

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4 ½ out of 5

When Anna is sent to the School of America in Paris, she doesn’t expect it to be the time of her life. She’s homesick and she is, quite literally, the only new student to be attending that year. Everyone already has their group of friends, and Anna, who doesn’t even speak French, knows she’ll have a hard time fitting in.

But when Meredith brings Anna into her group of friends, things start to change. Anna meets Josh, Rashmi, and the stunningly handsome Étienne St. Clair—an American boy with a British accent who lives in Paris and has a French first name. This group of friends, and Étienne especially, introduce Anna to Paris and, with the help of a little Canadian flag pin, help her to feel less like a foreigner and more at home. The problem? Étienne is taken.

The first of three novels that take place at the School of America, Anna and the French Kiss is an exciting story of travel and discovery, and a good introduction to Stephanie Perkins’s trilogy.

I’ll be honest—I read Isla and the Happily Ever After (Book 3) first and thought it was better [review here]. In comparison, Anna lacked the same level of steaminess and I longed for more one-on-one time between Étienne and Anna. Even still, I thought this was a really great love story and an excellent way to start off the trilogy. For those who read this book first, I’m sure they will have no complaints and enjoy the build up to the third and final novel.

Two things I loved: I loved how Anna’s dad was essentially Nicholas Sparks. It cracked me up because everything Perkins was saying about him is so true! She actually writes a really interesting commentary deeper into the book about how the character of Anna’s dad is cashing in on stories of tragedy when there are people out there who are actually living it. I guess that that’s true for most fictional stories, but I think there’s a right and wrong way to do it, and it really got me thinking. I also loved how vividly Perkins creates Paris for the reader. This book is such a great travel story. I just wish the characters had left the school more often and experienced lesser-known facets of Parisian and French culture.

As a side note, Étienne reminded me of my own boyfriend a bit, minus some of the less savoury aspects, which I think helped me to like it.

All in all, I really hope you guys liked this review and check out this book for yourselves! It was a really enjoyable read.

-Ember Book Reviews xxoo

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**Reminder** There is a giveaway happening! Check out the post here.

MOST LIKELY TO SUCCEED by Jennifer Echols

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3 ½ – 4 out of 5

[ARC provided to me in paperback format in exchange for an honest review. Date to be released: August 4, 2015. Imprint: Simon Pulse. Release information: Paperback, $9.99 US/$11.99 CAN; Hardcover, $17.99 US/$21.99 CAN.]

Kaye and Aidan have always been competing with each other to succeed. Whether it’s becoming valedictorian or getting into Columbia, this competition has driven their entire relationship. But Kaye is starting to realize that that’s really all there is to their relationship, and that in her mind, Aidan was just another credit on her résumé.

Sawyer has been trying to get Kaye’s attention for a while, and she’s noticing. It doesn’t matter whether Aidan is out of the picture yet or not: Sawyer brings a thrill to Kaye’s life that she hadn’t known could exist before. The only thing is that Sawyer is known for trouble: his dad was in jail and Sawyer has had flings with half the female population at their school. As Kaye’s attraction for him grows, she wonders if any of that is really a problem. In her last year of high school, she wouldn’t mind a little fling…

In Jennifer Echols’s Most Likely to Succeed, Kaye heads through the steamy last months before graduation trying to accomplish it all.

First off, I’m going to divide my review into two parts: my reactions for the beginning and then for the middle-onwards. I found that my opinion flipped back and forth, so this helps to set things on a more linear path.

The Beginning

My first opinion was that Kaye is immature for her age, and her emotional flipping back and forth as she tries to balance the guys in her life is annoying. In a related vein, I hate that the book starts off with Kaye essentially toying with the idea of cheating on her boyfriend, Aidan, and then acts all upset when Aidan breaks up with her (not because she’s thinking of cheating, just FYI). Aidan is a dick, yes, but I found Kaye to be a little two-faced and hypocritical. Like, in her mind, Aidan has to treat her right but she is literally all over another guy (Sawyer) while she’s with Aidan. I hated that double-standard. Also in relation to Kaye’s immaturity is that she complains about how unfair her life is because her mom puts so much pressure on her, but it just makes her sound spoiled. I really think anyone else reading this book will agree, and it actually made me laugh that Kaye had the nerve to complain about that when Sawyer’s life is so screwed up.

The conversations often jump around in a way that doesn’t make sense. For example, Kaye’s friends will say one thing to her, and she will internally come to the conclusion that they’re actually saying something else and she will answer in kind, when really, they didn’t say that at all. It’s really hard to find the connection between what they actually said and what Kaye claims they’re implying.

The Middle-Onwards

The story starts to get interesting about 7 chapters in once the plot moves away from friends and school and focuses instead on the family drama and Sawyer. The love scenes are definitely steamy, which is a plus. I’m glad that the author isn’t afraid to write about detailed sex between teens.

I don’t get why her mom’s past is such a big topic in this book. I know it’s meant to emphasize the “most likely to succeed” theme Kaye has running through her life, and the pressure her mom puts on her, but I don’t think it succeeds. It feels very random every time it is introduced. The parallels aren’t there in the way the author may have intended them to be.

I also feel like the author has tried to write deep conversations between the characters, such as the conversation covering how Sawyer became a vegan, but it’s unsuccessful; it is not very deep at all and sounds kind of silly, in my opinion.

Misc. Thoughts

I liked it, but I didn’t love it. A lot of the novel definitely could have been better.

The cover was a huge turn-off for me. It looks very middle-grade, and I actually thought, at first glance, that this book was for 13-year-olds. The cover does not match up with the mature themes running through this novel, especially the sexuality. Something steamier or a bit more romantic on the cover—while being aimed at older teens (I’m not suggesting a half-naked dude on the cover or anything)—would have made me much more receptive to the book initially.

All in all, this isn’t a book I would recommend to you guys, but if you do pick it up or have already read it, I’d love to know what you think. Comment below! 🙂

-Ember Book Reviews xxoo

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SOMETHING REAL by Heather Demetrios

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5 out of 5

Chloe Baker and Bonnie Baker couldn’t be more different. Chloe Baker is a shy senior with a few close friends and a crush on the mysterious, grungy, but sweet guy in her government class. She’s camera shy and hates having the attention on her. Bonnie Baker is one kid in a family with twelve who once starred on a reality TV series based on her family called Baker’s Dozen. Her family was crumbling and at age thirteen, she overdosed on her parents’ medicine cabinet and got her stomach pumped on TV. Just because they share the same body and history, doesn’t mean they are the same people.

Chloe couldn’t be more thrilled to finally be living a normal life. Nobody at school recognizes her for who she once was, and this new normalcy takes on an air of permanence when she bravely gets her photo done for the yearbook. On top of all of that, it seems that her crush, Patrick, might actually like her back.

But then Chloe comes home from school one day to see her home invaded by those all-too familiar cameras. Chuck, the producer, is threatening her to behave and do what is required for the show or he’ll sue her family. Her mom refuses to listen to her or her brother Benny’s pleas to give them their privacy. The panic attacks that Chloe had finally gotten under control—the ones that lead to her swallowing the majority of her parents’ medicine cabinet back in season 13—come back in full swing. To top it all off, everyone at school knows about Bonnie and her twisted life on Baker’s Dozen.

Heather Demetrios’s Something Real is an enthralling take on the reality of reality television and its effects on the kids involved. Laced with charming dialogue and an adorable love story, Something Real has been one of my favourite reads of 2015 so far.

*SPOILER ALERT*

This book was so good. It really gets the reader thinking about reality shows and how scripted they probably are. It also puts what life for kids who star in these reality shows must be like in perspective. It must be horrifying and I pity the children that are forced to go through that.

There were two other books that Something Real reminded me of in different ways. Reading Something Real gave me a similar feeling to what I felt reading Josephine Angelini’s Starcrossed; the two are totally different books in almost every way, but the characters and friendships were developed in a similar fashion and I was invested in the story in similar ways. The love story also reminded me of Stephanie Perkins’ Isla and the Happily Ever After; it progressed in a similar fashion and while Something Real’s wasn’t as much of a roller-coaster and wasn’t as heartbreaking, it was still emotionally tough to read through at times. I really felt for the all characters, but especially Chloe and Patrick (who I related to more because I started dating my own boyfriend when we were sixteen).

This is the first time I’ve had a hard time coming up with any criticisms since I started blogging. I guess I would say that I wished it explored Chloe’s dark past in a more in-depth way, or her relationship with her father. I also wish her changing relationship with Lex had been expanded on. I felt like Chloe didn’t view her adopted siblings as her actual siblings in the same way that she viewed Benny or Lex as her actual siblings. I felt this way because she associates with Benny and Lex way more, and this is not an age thing because they have adopted siblings close to their ages (they mention that one is fifteen years old, for example). I am forced to conclude that it’s a “Benny and Lex are my biological siblings so we’re closer” thing, which I didn’t think was fair. The way the extended family was written was also very vague and at times awkward.

Like I said, I really had to stretch to come up with those criticisms, which just goes to show you how great this book is. It’s a longer read, so if you’re looking for something to really sink your teeth into, this would be a good choice. It is also a great commentary on reality television and what constitutes as child abuse, in addition to growing up and the freedom to take control of your own life. I would highly recommend this book both for pleasure as well as for a discussion group of some kind. There is a lot of great stuff to discuss in here.

Happy reading!

-Ember Book Reviews xxoo

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