Sunday, June 30, 2013

Review: Steampunk! An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories

The steampunk genre is everywhere these days, to the point that it's kind of becoming the Starbucks of the sci-fi/fantasy genre. Those of you who are new to the genre (and thus not over-caffeinated) and are looking for a worthy guide for this broad adventure, should look no further than this superb collection of short stories. Writer and editor Kelly Link has curated a strange and wonderful assortment of steampunk-themed tales here: in "Clockwork Fagin", author Cory Doctorow unleashes a savvy bunch of orphans who turn their deceased master into an automaton so they can rule themselves; "The Summer People" by Kelly Link is a sinister fairytale about a girl who escapes the enchantment of fairy folk that have had her family under their spell for generations; and "The Oracle Engine" by M. T. Anderson is a cool Classical spin on the genre that takes its readers to ancient Rome. Love.

This is the best collection of young adult fiction I've read in a long time. And, it's steampunk.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Giveaway Winner's Announced!

Yay! It's giveaway day! Here are our randomly picked winners in the order they were picked:

Winner of Prize #1 (The Testing Series) is Rachel Edmundson!

Winner of Prize #2 (The Jenna Fox Chronicles) is Tanya F.!

Winner of Prize #3 (Advanced Reading Copies) is Alice D.!

We'll be in touch with all three winners by the end of the day. And thanks again to everyone who entered!

Monday, June 24, 2013

last chance to win!

For more details on all prizes, go here. 

Today is the last day to enter our giveaway draw! You have until midnight tonight to get your name in. If you need a refresher, or are hearing about this for the first time, here are the RULES:

  1. Post a link to this giveaway on Facebook, twitter, tumblr, etc. Then come back here and leave a comment with a link to where you posted it.
  2. Like our Facebook page. Similarly, come back here and leave a comment saying you did this.
  3. Go into our store and sign up for our newsletter. Make sure to sign up using the ballot box, instead of writing your name down on our sign-up sheet, or your name won't be entered in the giveaway draw.
  4. Do all of the above. The more things you do, the more times your name gets entered, and the more likely you are to get picked
  5. The winner MUST be able to pick up their books in store (96 King St. N, Waterloo, Ontario).* So if you live in Halifax or Vancouver or New York, that's totally cool, as long as you have a way to get here.

Contest ends at midnight tonight. We’ll announce the winners tomorrow, here on the blog. So check back then!

*This rule has been altered: If you REALLY want to enter, don't live nearby, and are willing to pay for shipping, then feel free to enter.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Q & A with Vikki Vansickle

Vikki VanSickle is the author of three middle grade books: Words That Start With B, Love is a Four-Letter-Word, and Days That End in Y. Her most recent book, Summer Days, Starry Nights, is a YA novel that was just released this month.

Kristen: Vikki, I mention in my review that I couldn’t put Summer Days, Starry Nights down. It cast this warm, lovely spell over me, which is why I was so excited about this interview. I have so many questions!

Vikki: Yay! That is so nice of you to say!

Kristen: First of all, where did this story come from or what inspired you to write it?

Vikki: Reenie Starr literally walked into my head one day while I was on a two day break between camp sessions up north, staying at a friend’s house in Sudbury. I had a very clear sense of her voice and her family right away.

When I was a child my family rented a cottage on a family resort much like Sandy Shores for a week on Lake Dalrymple (near Orillia, ON), which I loved. I never wanted to leave, and so as an adult I imagined what it would be like to live there! One of the joys of fiction-writing is living out your own fantasies (to an extent).

Kristen: I loved everything about the setting: northern Ontario, the resort environment, the 60s! What about this place and time period appeals to you?

Vikki: I’ve always loved the 60s, particularly the music and the sense of change that was in the air. My favourite kind of story is a poignant coming of age tale and in the 60s it was like the whole world was coming of age. It was a particularly interesting time for women. All three women in the story, Reenie, Gwen, and Mimi, are products of their respective eras and are pushing against what was expected for girls at the time. Mimi is less successful, but in 1960s women were breaking boundaries all over the place. I read two fabulous nonfiction titles about women and music in the 60s, Girls Like Us by Sheila Weller and Girl Groups, Girl Culture by Jacqueline Warwick, which really helped shape Gwen’s character and provide insight into what the music industry was like for women at the time.

As for the location, it was loosely based on the resort my family visited when I was a child. I have very vivid memories of my time there. I’ve always associated summer with the 60s, probably due to movies like Dirty Dancing, My Girl, and My American Cousin. A summer story NOT set up north would have been very strange for me!

Kristen: Mimi, despite her flaws, was probably my favourite character in the book. I really felt her longing, and her sadness, and I so badly wanted to know why she was the way she was. Her running away right at the beginning had me immediately hooked. Which was your favourite character to write and why?

Vikki: I’m glad you felt for Mimi! She was the most interesting and difficult character to write because she makes some bad parenting decisions which end up hurting her children, particularly Reenie. Depression was not talked about widely in the 50s and 60s. Mimi would probably not refer to her own sadness as something as chronic as depression, which is something people today still don’t do and why it’s important to be open about mental illness. Mimi isn’t a bad mother, nor does she hate her lot in life. But she does have difficulty facing the world sometimes.

Gwen was the most fun to write about. She is the cool, older sister I would have loved to have. I love how fully she embraces life and how willing she is to take risks. She is the girl Mimi could have been in a different time period given different choices.  

Kristen: How long did it take to write Summer Days, Starry Nights? Was the process mostly the same as your other three books, or completely different?

Vikki: The process was similar in that I didn’t write in order. I don’t outline and I am wary of too much pre-planning. Instead I wade around the story, jump from scene to scene, and try things out until I eventually have so much material I need to step back and think about ordering it in some way.  

Summer Days, Starry Nights took a bit longer to write (about 2 years) and was almost double the length it is now. Originally it took place over a number of years and was titled The Seven Summers of Reenie Starr (I still really like this title, although it clearly doesn’t work anymore!) Eventually I realized a lot of those summers were back story for my benefit, but the reader didn’t need to be privy to all that detail. This meant that I made a huge cut, which is something I’ve never done before. It was scary, but also very liberating.

Kristen: I'm fascinated by authors who write out of order. I'm also curious about where you write. Do you have a special or favourite place?

Vikki: I tend to write in my room or in a little sun room/office space off the kitchen in the house I share with my roommates in Toronto. I prefer to write early in the morning when my brain is open and no one else is up yet. I drink pots and pots of tea and take many breaks to pet the cat. If I don’t, she takes it out on my poor laptop!

Kristen: Okay, more writing-related questions: Why do you write? What are the best and worst parts? What was your favourite part of writing Summer Days, Starry Nights?

Vikki: I love people. All of my books start with a character’s voice in my head. Eventually it gets to the point where I can’t ignore the voice and so I start writing. For me, the best part of writing is getting carried away by the story and all of a sudden two hours have gone by and you have a new twist or a new character.

The worst part for me is breaking to go about the regular business of life, like going to work or doing chores. Some days my story is taking up such a huge part of my brain it’s a miracle I can get anything else done!

Kristen: What have you been reading lately that you absolutely love? Or what is one of your all-time favourite books? (Feel free to name a few if you can’t pick just one.)

Vikki: I am bad at picking favourites, but lately I have loved Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell and Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. One of my favourite summer books is Kit Pearson’s Looking at the Moon. I love how Pearson catches the mood of the 1940s and Nora’s growing sense of self in the world around her. In some ways Summer Days, Starry Nights is just as much a tribute to that book as it is to Dirty Dancing.

Kristen: I definitely felt the Kit Pearson influence in Summer Days, Starry Nights, which I adored. And I loved Eleanor & Park too! Ow, my heart. Okay, last question: Do you have a favourite band from the 60s?

Vikki: Again, I am terrible at picking just ONE, but I love The Marvelettes, The Shirelles, The Crystals, Lesley Gore, and The Beatles (of course)!

Kristen: Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions, and thank you doubly for writing such a lovely book!

For those of you who haven't read Summer Days, Starry Nights yet, check out our review and Vikki's awesome pinterest board, and then go grab it!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Summer Days, Starry Nights by Vikki VanSickle

Summer Days, Starry Nights is a sun-kissed story that opens with a spark which quickly turns to flame: Reenie’s mother, Mimi, is missing. When she reappears we find out that shiny, exotic Mimi who once dreamt of being a star and whose dark, silent moods could strike at any time, ran away without even leaving a note. The secrets and uncertain moods of Reenie’s mother aren’t the only threat to her family’s happiness, though. Business is in decline at their resort, Sandy Shores, and Reenie is worried; she loves her home - the lake and the sand, the cabins and the customers - more than anything. She can’t bear the thought of losing it.

Then Gwendolyn Cate arrives – Mimi’s solution to all their problems. Gwen is a ballet dancer in training from Toronto, come to shine things up a bit. But Reenie’s memory of the fairy-like girl turns out to be just that: a memory. At first, Gwen seems like another person entirely, keeping secrets and not letting Reenie in. Gwen is friendly, but not as friendly as Reenie wants her to be. She wants a best friend, not an older sister. So Reenie decides to take matters into her own hands and figures out a way to simultaneously draw out Gwen’s secrets, make everyone happy, and save Sandy Shores. Only things don’t quite go as planned.

I found Reenie so endearing. She's eager to prove herself, as well as at ease in her home - whether she’s fishing with her dad, taking care of her little sister, or accommodating customers. She’s on the cusp of adolescence, a teenager and yet not quite a teenager, wanting more responsibility but not realizing what that responsibility entails. Inevitably, she makes mistakes and learns about herself along the way. I most especially loved her relationship with her father. She admires him and longs for him to see just how capable she is.

Altogether, Summer Days, Starry Nights is warm and delightful summer reading, perfect for preteens and younger teens. It evokes that camp or cottage feel, as well as that time in life where you just want to be able to test your wings and see if you can fly.

I couldn’t put it down.


Thursday, June 13, 2013

featured June releases: *The Oathbreaker's Shadow* and *The Moon and More*

So many exciting books are out this month! Here are two new arrivals that we've been waiting impatiently for:

The Oathbreaker's Shadow by Amy McCulloch:


From the flap copy:

In the land of Darhan promises are bound by magic, tied into knots, and worn with pride. Those who break them are physically scarred, cast out into the desert, and tormented by vengeful shadows of their treachery. So when Raim agrees to give his life as a warrior to the future Khan, he knows that he must honour his word until the day he dies.

But on the night he takes his vow, Raim accidentally breaks a mysterious promise that he has worn since the day he was born. Yet how can he break an oath he has no memory of making?

With the dark mark of a traitor seared into his skin, and forced into exile, Raim flees on a journey that will reveal the true meaning of honour, and uncover truths that will change his world for ever.

THE OATHBREAKER'S SHADOW is a fantasy pitched to fans of Philip Pullman and George R.R. Martin, and Kristen can't wait to read it. Forgotten oaths? Broken vows? Exile? Her heart-rate doubles just thinking about it.

The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen:

From the flap copy:

Luke is the perfect boyfriend: handsome, kind, fun. He and Emaline have been together all through high school in Colby, the beach town where they both grew up. But now, in the summer before college, Emaline wonders if perfect is good enough.

Enter Theo, a super-ambitious outsider, a New Yorker assisting on a documentary film about a reclusive local artist. Theo's sophisticated, exciting, and, best of all, he thinks Emaline is much too smart for Colby.

Emaline's mostly-absentee father, too, thinks Emaline should have a bigger life, and he's convinced that an Ivy League education is the only route to realizing her potential. Emaline is attracted to the bright future that Theo and her father promise. But she also clings to the deep roots of her loving mother, stepfather, and sisters. Can she ignore the pull of the happily familiar world of Colby? 

 Emaline wants the moon and more, but how can she balance where she comes from with where she's going?

Sarah Dessen's devoted fans will welcome this story of romance, yearning, and, finally, empowerment. It could only happen in the summer.

Mandy loves loves loves Sarah Dessen and thinks that this should be in everyone's to-read pile this summer.

Also! Be sure to check out and enter our GIVEAWAY DRAW here. The contest ends on June 25th, so enter as many times as you can before midnight on June 24th to win really awesome books.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Book Links

A round-up of bookish news going around the interwebs:

Maggie Stiefvater is holding an art contest to win an ARC of the The Dream Thieves. Go enter!

Check out the first few film stills of the Divergent movie over at Veronica Roth’s blog. (And if you haven’t seen the cover reveal for Allegiant yet, it’s here.) Oh, here she is again with Leigh Bardugo (Siege and Storm) talking about badass heroines.

Similarly, here's an author-editor interview with Sarah Dessen and her editor, Regina Hayes.

Also, the LAMBDA award winner for the YA Category was just announced: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz.

And the Seattle Public Library just broke the world record for their Domino Book Chain:

Last but not least, don't forget to enter our GIVEAWAY DRAW. The contest ends at midnight on June 24, so make sure you enter before then.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Relaunch Giveaway!

In celebration of our blog's relaunch (YAY!) we're giving away three prizes of books and ARCs (baskets not included):

Basket #1: The Testing Series
The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau
Independent Study by Joelle Charbonneau (Advanced Reader’s Copy)

Basket #2: Jenna Fox Chronicles
The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson
The Fox Inheritance by Mary E. Pearson
Fox Forever by Mary E. Pearson

Basket #3: 7 Advanced Reading Copies!
To Be Perfectly Honest by Sonya Sones
Earthbound by Aprilynne Pike
Ashes on the Waves by Mary Lindsey
Spellcaster by Claudia Gray
Confederates Don’t Wear Couture by Stephanie Kate Strohm
How to Lose Everything by Philipp Mattheis
The Wells Bequest by Polly Shulman


There are a few ways to enter. These are the ways:

  1. Post a link to this giveaway on Facebook, twitter, tumblr, etc. Then come back here and leave a comment with a link to where you posted it.
  2. Like our shiny new Facebook page. Similarly, come back here and leave a comment saying you did this.
  3. Go into our store and sign up for our newsletter. Make sure to sign up using the ballot box, instead of writing your name down on our sign-up sheet, or your name won't be entered in the giveaway draw.
  4. Do all of the above. The more things you do, the more times your name gets entered, and the more likely you are to get picked. Aw yeah.
  5. *IMPORTANT* The winner MUST be able to pick up their books in store (96 King St. N, Waterloo, Ontario). So if you live in Halifax or Vancouver or New York, that's totally cool, as long as you have a way to get here. :)
Contest ends at midnight on June 24. We’ll announce the winners on June 25 here on the blog. So check back then.

Good luck!!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Stay Tuned...

...while this blog gets an update.

New things coming soon!


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