Saturday, 10 June 2017

Review: Dragon's Green by Scarlett Thomas

by Scarlett Thomas
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Format: Hardcover
Release Date: May 30th, 2017
Purchase: [Amazon] [Chapters/Indigo]
The Neverending Story meets Jonathan Stroud’s Bartimaeus trilogy in this first magical adventure in a new series from acclaimed novelist Scarlett Thomas.

Effie Truelove believes in magic, as does her grandfather Griffin (although he refuses to do any magic, let alone teach Effie how to use it). After a mysterious incident leaves Griffin close to death, Effie is given an unusual silver ring and told she must look after her grandfather’s library of rare and powerful books. But then the books fall into the hands of shady scholar Leonard Levar, and Effie is propelled into the most dangerous adventure of her life.

Now, Effie and her friends—nerdy Maximilian, rugby-mad Wolf, helpful Lexy, and eccentric Raven—must discover their true powers if they are to get the books back. And Effie alone will have to travel to the Otherworld, where she will uncover the true meaning of the strange old book called Dragon’s Green…

Acclaimed novelist Scarlett Thomas invites you into the wondrous realm of the Worldquake Sequence, where magic most decidedly exists, a growing evil lurks, and a group of children is destined to save the world.

Pitched as The Neverending Story meets the Bartimaeus trilogy, I was instantly sold when it was first brought up during a Simon Teen preview event. At the time, there was no magically looking cover, but only a vague and mysterious synopsis depicting a female heroine named Effie who, along with her companions, must travel to the Otherworld to retrieve the secrets of the Dragon's Green, a rare book that if fallen into the wrong hands can have devastating consequences.

When it comes to middle grade, you never really know what you're going to find next. I've always delved into the genre, despite not being the target audience, because I've had the pleasure of finding some incredible hidden gems every now and then. Dragon's Green by Scarlett Thomas is one of those gems. Effie Truelove (yes, that is her real name and I love it), was a force to be reckoned with. Determined, inspiring, and a little reckless, she was a picture-perfect heroine that I adored reading. Additionally, with the presence of Maximilian, Raven, Wolf, and Lexy, Dragon's Green's cast of characters was spectacularly balanced and highly entertaining. The overall feel of the title felt very brand new to me, mysterious, and full of incredible magical twists and turns, some of which I enjoyed seeing develop right before my eyes. In conclusion - I felt that Dragon's Green was a magical little wonder I hope all younger readers will have the pleasure of reading. I highly recommend it to little readers who have just started the Harry Potter series or have enjoyed the likes of Percy Jackson, The Land of Stories, and Artemis Fowl.

5 / 5 Cupcakes

This title was provided to the blogger by the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review. No payment was received/accept in exchange for this review/post. The blogger requests that this review not be reposted or edited without the blogger's permission. The thoughts and words expressed in this review/post are explicitly the blogger's.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Review: The Scribe of Siena by Melodie Winawer

by Melodie Winawer
Publisher: Touchstone
Format: Hardcover
Release Date: May 16th, 2017
Purchase: [Amazon] [Chapters/Indigo]
Accomplished neurosurgeon Beatrice Trovato knows that her deep empathy for her patients is starting to impede her work. So when her beloved brother passes away, she welcomes the unexpected trip to the Tuscan city of Siena to resolve his estate, even as she wrestles with grief. But as she delves deeper into her brother’s affairs, she discovers intrigue she never imagined—a 700-year-old conspiracy to decimate the city.

After uncovering the journal and paintings of Gabriele Accorsi, the fourteenth-century artist at the heart of the plot, Beatrice finds a startling image of her own face and is suddenly transported to the year 1347. She awakens in a Siena unfamiliar to her, one that will soon be hit by the Plague.

Yet when Beatrice meets Accorsi, something unexpected happens: she falls in love—not only with Gabriele, but also with the beauty and cadence of medieval life. As the Plague and the ruthless hands behind its trajectory threaten not only her survival but also Siena’s very existence, Beatrice must decide in which century she belongs.

The Scribe of Siena is the captivating story of a brilliant woman’s passionate affair with a time and a place that captures her in an impossibly romantic and dangerous trap—testing the strength of fate and the bonds of love.

For the most part, and I despise publicly admitting this, historical fiction isn't usually my go-to genre for fiction, especially adult fiction. I've always leaned towards contemporary, paranormal, fantasy, and romance because it's what I most feel confident in reading. I suppose I can associate this with having many failed read throughs of many historical fiction titles, however that isn't to say I haven't enjoyed any. Many of the titles I've had the pleasure of enjoying have been the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon and the Mistresses of Versailles series by Sally Christie. So when I was first approached to review The Scribe of Siena, I felt that it's synopsis felt close to what I adored so much from the Outlander series, and was hoping I'd find a new favorite to enjoy.

Diving into The Scribe of Siena by Melodie Winawer, I first found main protagonist Beatrice to be an inspiring and awe-striking character. The highly accomplished neurosurgeon, having a difficult time mourning the loss of her dearest brother, takes to an unexpected trip to Siena to come to terms with her grief and help resolve her brother's estate. There, in the Tuscan City, she finds herself in the middle of a 700 year old conspiracy set to decimate the city. After she uncovers the journal of Gabriele Accorsi, a fourteenth century artist, Beatrice not only discovers a painting of a woman eerily similar to herself, but is additionally transported through it to the year 1347. In the midst of all the intrigue and unique sprint into the past, I highly enjoyed Beatrice's composure, skepticism, and eye for detail. She was a brilliant heroine, and I furthermore enjoyed her interactions and romance with Gabriele Accorsi. The entire novel, through and through, read beautifully, mysteriously, and was so rich in history and detail that I simply could not put it to rest until I reached the very end.

Historical fiction enthusiasts - this is the book for you. The characters are deliciously brilliant, Melodie's writing is superb and rich with historical detail, and the sheer intrigue of the mystery at the foundation of the Scribe of Siena will completely enthrall you.

4 / 5 Cupcakes

This title was provided to the blogger by the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review. No payment was received/accept in exchange for this review/post. The blogger requests that this review not be reposted or edited without the blogger's permission. The thoughts and words expressed in this review/post are explicitly the blogger's.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Review: Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han

by Jenny Han
Publisher:Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Format: Hardcover
Release Date: May 2nd, 2017
Purchase: [Amazon] [Chapters/Indigo]
Lara Jean’s letter-writing days aren’t over in this surprise follow-up to the New York Times bestselling To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love You.

Lara Jean is having the best senior year a girl could ever hope for. She is head over heels in love with her boyfriend, Peter; her dad’s finally getting remarried to their next door neighbor, Ms. Rothschild; and Margot’s coming home for the summer just in time for the wedding.

But change is looming on the horizon. And while Lara Jean is having fun and keeping busy helping plan her father’s wedding, she can’t ignore the big life decisions she has to make. Most pressingly, where she wants to go to college and what that means for her relationship with Peter. She watched her sister Margot go through these growing pains. Now Lara Jean’s the one who’ll be graduating high school and leaving for college and leaving her family—and possibly the boy she loves—behind.

When your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to?

After reading and adoring Always and Forever, Lara Jean, I've finally concluded that Jenny Han is essentially my ultimate go-to author for contemporary fiction. She's IT for me, and to be honest I haven't felt so overwhelmingly happy from reading a book in such a long time, that is not until Jenny Han's latest adventure for beloved Lara Jean.

When I first picked up To All The Boys I've Loved Before, I didn't expect to connect with Lara Jean on such an emotional level. She was a complicated character with a hatbox of love letters that she'd written, only in an odd twist of fate to have them sent out. I felt anxious for her from beginning to end, and then suddenly found myself fawning over Peter, who in the end would be my OTP with Lara Jean. Then, in P.S. I Still Love You, another twist of fate brings an old love of Lara's back into her life, and with Peter in the picture, I found myself wishing any other prospective love interests away. The first two titles, overall, were spectacular and romantic to the very end, and without any knowledge, at the time, that there would be a third installment, I was admittedly quite satisfied with it's ending. However, with the announcement and release of Always and Forever, Lara Jean, I was ecstatic but also scared to discover what Jenny would have in store for our favorite protagonist.

Overall, Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han was what I really truly needed to conclude Lara Jean's story. I honestly wouldn't be mad at all if Jenny had more planned, even a few years down the road, however I strongly felt that all of the emotional roller coasters Jenny had in store for us were completely necessary. I think throughout the novel what I was most scared of was to see Lara Jean become involved with someone I didn't like, however, and without spoiling the tale for others, I was wholesomely satisfied with it's events.

Readers, if you have yet to read this series, I strongly suggest you give it a try this summer. It's breathtakingly real and identifiable. Lara Jean is the teen we all were and throughout many points in the series, I found myself feelingly fully connected to Lara Jean.

5 / 5 Cupcakes

This title was provided to the blogger by the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review. No payment was received/accept in exchange for this review/post. The blogger requests that this review not be reposted or edited without the blogger's permission. The thoughts and words expressed in this review/post are explicitly the blogger's.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Review: Once and For All by Sarah Dessen

by Sarah Dessen
Publisher:Viking Books for Young Readers
Format: Hardcover
Release Date: June 6th, 2017
Purchase: [Amazon] [Chapters/Indigo]
As bubbly as champagne and delectable as wedding cake, Once and for All, Sarah Dessen's thirteenth novel, is set in the world of wedding planning, where crises are routine.

Louna, daughter of famed wedding planner Natalie Barrett, has seen every sort of wedding: on the beach, at historic mansions, in fancy hotels and clubs. Perhaps that's why she's cynical about happily-ever-after endings, especially since her own first love ended tragically. When Louna meets charming, happy-go-lucky serial dater Ambrose, she holds him at arm's length. But Ambrose isn't about to be discouraged, now that he's met the one girl he really wants.

Sarah Dessen’s many, many fans will adore her latest, a richly satisfying, enormously entertaining story that has everything—humor, romance, and an ending both happy and imperfect, just like life itself.

Who doesn't love a good Sarah Dessen novel? I, personally, don't believe I've ever remotely disliked any of her titles, always finding peace and solace breezing through the pages. The uplifting tales, the exciting romances, and the wonderful writing is an aspect to Sarah Dessen's titles that has always had me coming back for more. So, with that said, I was an ecstatic little cupcake the moment a copy of Sarah's ONCE AND FOR ALL arrived on my doorstep, courtesy of Penguin Random House of Canada, and I found myself being completely unproductive that day, only finding time to read Sarah's latest from beginning to end.

Sarah Dessen's Once and For All was a light, heartwarming, summer read. I positively adored protagonist Louna. She had a straight-forward personality, a very well-rounded way of holding herself, and I completely related to her emotionally. Ambrose, Louna's prospective love interest in Once and For All, was another character I found inspiring. He was funny, compassionate, and had a seize-the-day kind of attitude I found admirable. It's a trait I would very much like to see in myself someday!

Overall, I found Sarah Dessen's latest to be a breezy read full of summer love, realistic relationship development, and felt that it focused on a lot of coming-of-age topics many younger readers might identify with. Sarah Dessen's Once and For All will not disappoint and I highly recommend it to all readers over the age of 14.

5 / 5 Cupcakes

This title was provided to the blogger by the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review. No payment was received/accept in exchange for this review/post. The blogger requests that this review not be reposted or edited without the blogger's permission. The thoughts and words expressed in this review/post are explicitly the blogger's.

Friday, 2 June 2017

Recap: Anime North 2017

I hate to say it, Cupcakes, but it had been years since I had last had the opportunity to attend Anime North. I had last attended during my last year of high school (just a few years ago) and had sorely missed going. Unfortunately, life happens and I always found myself otherwise occupied during the infamous weekend, however this year I was finally able to set a day aside to attend, and nostalgia was in the air!

This year I chose to attend on the first day of the con, Friday May 26th, and arrived at the Toronto Congress Centre in my current Lolita best (which, at the moment, isn't very much considering I'm a newbie). The Fiance was extremely eager as we arrived, this year being his first ever visit to Anime North, and as we made our way into the general line-up for the marketplace, I gave him a few tips and tricks on handling the con and how to make our way from one location to the other. As we stood in line just before open, we took the opportunity to check out some incredible cosplays. I also found myself admiring plenty of Lolita coords, finding myself envious but wholesomely inspired, possibly for FanExpo this upcoming summer. In addition, we took the time to make some quick friends in line, just before the rain hit, and found ourselves talking about many of our favorite anime releases of the year. The overall feel, even just at the beginning, of Anime North was quite different from that of FanExpo or Comic Con.

Not long after, the doors were open and guests, in a very organized fashion, made their way into the marketplace. It was completely unlike the chaos I had one year endured in the past. It was very calm despite people being quite eager to get in, and with the unwelcome rain, I was sure people would rush the doors and/or shove and bud in line. I was happy to see it was very well done!

Almost immediately upon my entering the marketplace, I had beelined it straight towards one particular booth that was selling the cutest furry animal bags, sailor moon purses/wallets, and other assortment of keychains and gadgets. It was a half second later in which I purchased a Sailor Moon by Samantha Vega purse in the Sailor Mercury pattern. It was a purse I had eye-balled for a long time, but had found for ridiculous sale prices both online and at FanExpo in the past. The deal at this booth was far too good to pass up, and was quickly noted when I saw the same purse later at other booths at a far higher price point. Not long after that purchase, a cupcake holding Pusheen was also added to the list of purchases, in addition to a L with Cake Hot Topic exclusive Funko POP.

Not long after the binge-buy, I was stopped for some photos, and in addition took the opportunity to snap some photos of cosplayers, as well. After the quick break, we continued to make our way through the marketplace and enjoyed the excellent variety of what vendors had to offer. I perused Lolita fashion, kimonos, doujinshi, funkos, and jewellry, and not long after that I managed to run into a few friends and a colleague from work. Little after, the Fiance and I chose to walk around over and line up for the Nominoichi (the flea market). The Nominoichi is an event that takes place on the first day of the con and is completely fan run. Guests of Anime North are invited to purchase a table at the flea market and are encouraged to sell anime-related goodies from home in an almost garage-sale fashion. In the past, the Nominoichi has been known to be very hot, crowded, and hectic, as it is usually held in a fairly small area of the Congress centre. This year, however, it was fairly cool, calm, and I found it very easy to maneuver from one table to the other. In fact, I purchased an adorable Snow White patterned dress from one of the tables.

Further into the night, after making a quick stop to eat, check out some more cosplayers, and even make a brief stop into a Lolita themed panel, the Fiance and I chose to head into the marketplace one last time for some last minute browsing/shopping. At the very end I convinced myself to purchase my first-ever doujinshi (fan created comics/art books). Doujinshi are extremely popular in Japan, and I've always wished to purchase some from artists I either greatly admired or featured characters I enjoy. I managed to choose two that I was certain I'd enjoy. The first being a Yuri on Ice doujin featuring Yuri and Victor, presented by Posy&aBloom. The second was an Uta no Prince-Sama doujin featuring Tokiya and Haruka, my OTP, and it was presented by Peppermint Holic. Both were extremely sweet and adorable. The Yuri on Ice doujin featured a cute story about Yuri taking care of Victor when he's sick, and later on vice-versa. Super sweet! The Uta no Prince-Sama one was just as sweet, featuring a story of a daydreaming Haruka thinking about prince-like Tokiya. In the future, I definitely plan on purchasing more, maybe some Ren x Haruka next time?

Overall, my long-awaited visit to Anime North after several years was a complete success. I definitely plan on attending for more than one day next year, if my schedule permits, and will certainly bring home more goodies.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Fresh on the Shelf - June 2017 Book Releases + Giveaway

Happy June, Cupcakes!

I want to shout "Happy Summer!" but technically it won't be 'officially' summer until June 21st, however I do wholeheartedly wish each and every one of you a wonderful beginning to what I hope to be an incredible summer.

May was an exceptional month for yours truly. I read and reviewed some incredible books, participated in an excellent bookish event, and also attended Anime North (a recap you can expect to see later on this week!) I enjoyed the busier than usual tempo of May and hope June will be the same. I plan on reading and reviewing more exciting titles for the month of June, some of which include The Sandcastle Empire, Once and For All, and Spellbook of the Lost and Found. I look forward to hearing your thoughts, as well, on other June 2017 book releases.

Happy reading! 📚

June 2017 Book Releases
The Sandcastle Empire by Kayla Olson
The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virture by Mackenzi Lee
Roar by Cora Carmack
Now I Rise by Kiersten White
Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab
Bad Romance by Heather Demetrios
Obsidian and Stars by Julie Eshbaugh
Song of the Current by Sarah Tolcser

Once And For All by Sarah Dessen
Tasha Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee
Thief's Cunning by Sarah Ahiers
Want by Cindy Pon
Dramatically Every After by Isabel Bandeira
Internet Famous by Danika Stone
Here Lies Daniel Tate by Cristin Terrill
The Possible by Tara Altebrando

Spellbook of the Lost and Found by Moira Fowley-Doyle
We Come Apart by Sarah Crossan and Brian Conaghan
The Impossible Vastness of Us by Samantha Young
Be True to Me by Adele Griffin
What I Lost by Alexandra Ballard
The Suffering Tree by Elle Cosimano

Giveaway (International)

The giveaway is for one book from the June 2017 book release line up above.
One winner will be selected from all valid entries.
Open to anyone who can internationally receive shipments from The Book Depository.
I am not responsible for lost, stolen, or damaged books received.
Please fill in entries accordingly for a valid entry.
Happy reading and good luck! ^_^

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Happy Reading,