Best Books of 2018

Tuesday, 15 January 2019



2018 was an amazing year for me, and an even better reading year. Check out my favourite books of the year below, and let me know which ones made your list!



Memorial by Alice Oswald


Memorial is kind of the underdog on my list. I didn't think much of it when I read it (That's actually a lie, I thought it was so good I wrote a review on it. I more mean that I wasn't expecting it to be a favourite of mine). I really love the way that Memorial rewrites the genre of adaptation, and creates a beautiful kinetic story surrounding grief.



The Tzar of Love and Techno by Anthony Mara

What a fucking journey. My friend Katie had been telling me about this book for literal years, and when she gave me a copy as a graduation present, I was excited to read it. But wow I wasn't expecting it to tear me apart, put me back together, rinse and repeat. I loved each of the stories and as a whole, this collection is truly beautiful.



Indecent by Paula Vogel

Indecent is such a spectacular play, and the reading experience is so rich with detail and nuance. And the performances, documented in the PBS Great Performance is so beautiful as well. Paula Vogel is quickly becoming one of my favourite playwrights!


Botticelli in the Fire & Sunday in Sodom by Jordan Tannahill

More adaptations and re-imagined histories on this list! I reviewed this book for Ryerson's White Wall Review (You can read that here!) but my favourite part of this duology of plays is the reimagining of history, of art, and of religion. And not only the reimagining, but the reclamation of this as well. Such a powerful and heart wrenching story!



Gertrude and Alice by Anna Chatterton & Evalyn Parry, with Karin Randoja

I! Love! This! Play! I love the Lost Generation and this play fills both my love of queer theatre, and the exploration of the lives of authors. The Independent Aunties' play is so well crafted, using both new and innovative text as well as using things historically said by the characters in order to blur the lines between realism and fantasy. 




Toil and Trouble, edited by Jessica Spotswood and Tess Sharpe

This anthology was such a fun, such a wild read. I love witches, and I don't read about them enough. And this anthology ticked all of the boxes -- Diverse representation, different kinds of witches, a little romance, a little angst, a lot of badass ladies, and lots of fun magic. Honestly, if you want an anthology that is masterfully put together and has something for everyone, for every mood, this is the one.




Invisible Ghosts by Robyn Schneider

 My list would not be complete without a book by Robyn Schneider. Invisible Ghosts took my breath away in so many ways. Her stories always find their way into my heart and this was no exception. Filled with romance, ghosts, and the tricky and painful parts of grieving, this book is smarter than it looks, and spectacular all around.









Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman

I saw the film early in 2018, pre-Oscars, and fell absolutely in love with it. I knew I had to read the book, and I was not disappointed. The atmosphere, the tone, the perspective, the love. It's such a heartbreaking story, but one that withers, and blooms, and shatters, and heals. It's a very human story and one that I still think about. 




A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi


I didn't expect to read this all in one sitting. I wanted to savour it, to hold onto every word, but it doesn't let you do that. This book is so compelling, and so honestly emotional, that you can't help but be sucked in. Each character, each plot point, each word and action, feel like necessities. This book is lean muscle -- nothing hanging off of it. So sharp, beautiful, powerful, and heartfelt. 




An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

I read a lot of books that change the way I think about the world, or that change the way I think about other people. But sometimes that are books that shift the entire world on it's axis, and grip your hand, pulling you along for the ride. That was this book for me. It's unassuming, and gentle. It asks you to look at the world around you, see it from all different perspectives, recognize it's flaws, and bask in its beauty. If you read anything in 2019, let it be this one. 




You are the Everything by Karen Rivers | Book Review, Q&A, and Giveaway | Blog Tour

Monday, 19 November 2018






Book
You are the Everything

Author
Karen Rivers

Pages
271 Pages

Format
Hardcover

Source
Sent to me for review by Thomas Allen and Sons





Where to Purchase







Can you want something—or someone—so badly that it changes your destiny?

Elyse Schmidt never would have thought so, until it happened to her. When Elyse and her not-so-secret crush, Josh Harris, are the sole survivors of a plane crash, tragedy binds them together. It’s as if their love story is meant to be. Everything is perfect, as perfect as it can be when you’ve literally fallen out of the sky and landed hard on the side of a mountain—until suddenly it isn’t.

When the pieces of Elyse’s life stop fitting together, what’s left?

You Are the Everything is a story about the fates we yearn for, the fates we choose, and the fates that are chosen for us.


I was kind of taken aback when I started this books, and that’s because of the shocking and semi-unsettling narration. In You are the Everything, You are the narrator. You are the protagonist. You are Elyse Schmidt. This narration style is shocking and sets you right within the eye of Elyse’s storm. While it takes a while to get used to, and I can see how it might be frustrating for some readers, it ends up really driving the plot forward later on in the novel. 

I didn’t find Elyse a likeable character, but a fascinating one. It was odd to be aligned with someone who I wasn’t interested in liking, as it creates this really interesting feeling of sympathy for her. She’s got a temper, she’s stubborn, and frustrating. But her memory is constantly playing tricks on her, and we as readers know how disorienting her life is. But I still wasn’t a fan of a lot of her actions, and as a character, she’s my least favourite part of the book. The narrative style, on the other hand, was incredible. 

I was expecting the plane crash to take more time within the book, but the story really follows Elyse and Josh Harris (all one word) as they try to put back the pieces of their lives. The crash leaves Elyse (or us? Potentially?) with a brain trauma, causing her to lose memories, and more often than not, time. The narrative style is confusing, jumping from point to point, but as a reader, you’re never lost. Karen Rivers’ narration is masterful, and makes for a really interesting reading experience.

Overall, Karen Rivers has crafted a really interesting story told in an incredibly unique way. While the characters are not the strongest points of the novel, the narration more than makes up for it. If you're looking for an interesting story told beautifully, this is your book.

4/5 Stars.

Karen was kind enough to answer some questions for all of us on the blog tour! Make sure to check out all the other posts to see what Karen's answers are!


IW: How do you choose the names of your characters?
KR: I’m not sure that I do, they generally arrive in my head with names already attached. I’ve only had one character in one book whose name I struggled with, and it wasn’t this one. Josh Harris and Elyse Schmidt just showed up! 


Did you listen to music when you wrote this book? If so, what did you listen to?
I didn’t! I don’t listen to anything while I write because if I do, sometimes the song lyrics leak through onto the page. I like it to be silent, only the sound of the crackling fire (in winter) or the fan (in summer) and the dogs barking at me every once in a while to go for a walk. 


What’s your top book recommendation?
WHEN YOU REACH ME, Rebecca Stead. 


What’s the best writing advice you ever received?
Give yourself permission to write crappy first drafts. 



Meet the Author
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 karenrivers.com and on Twitter: @karenrivers. 

Follow Karen:
Website https://www.karenrivers.com/ 
Twitter http://ow.ly/lp7830msTkQ
Goodreads http://ow.ly/O7VG30msTlV






Tour-wide Giveaway!
The winner will receive 1 copy of You Are the Everything (HC) by Karen Rivers.
Giveaway Details: 
-Canada Only (full rules found in the T&C on Rafflecopter) 
-Giveaway ends on Wednesday Nov. 28th @ 11:59 pm EST 
-Winner will be drawn randomly through Rafflecopter, contacted via email & will have 48
hours to claim their prize 










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Mermaids in the Human Imagination | Guest Post by Sonia Faruqi, Author of The Oyster Thief | Blog Tour

Thursday, 4 October 2018






Book
The Oyster Thief

Author
Sonia Faruqi

Release Date
October 2nd, 2018

Pages
304 Pages

Format
ARC

Source
Sent to me for review by Penguin Random House CA


Where to Buy



Welcome to my stop on The Oyster Thief blog tour! I'm excited to host Sonia Faruqi on the blog today! She has so kindly written a guest post about the mermaids within the world of The Oyster Thief, and how the world developed! Make sure to check out all the other stops on the blog tour, which will be linked at the bottom of the post.


Mermaids in the Human Imagination
- Sonia Faruqi -

Merpeople have held a fascination for humans for centuries. They have often been considered an epitome of beauty, with a brightly colored tail and a long, swaying mane of hair, or else they have been considered a source of fear in the form of sirens who beckon sailors into the water with beautiful voices then drown them.

In writing my debut novel The Oyster Thief, an underwater fantasy for adults and young adults, I stayed clear of presumptions about mermaids in literature and culture. I pretended that merpeople already existed, and that I, like an anthropologist, was simply “discovering” them.

Given that they already existed, they, like all other life on earth, would exist in accordance with the laws of science and nature. For one, merpeople would be a kind of fish, just as humans are a kind of mammal. 

The ocean is vastly deep—its average depth is about two miles, or three-and-a-half kilometers—but much of its life, and all of its photosynthesis, is concentrated in what is called the Sunlight Zone, a range of six-hundred-and-sixty feet, or two hundred meters, down from the waves. I would have liked for merpeople to live deeper than the Sunlight Zone—to live in the Twilight, or even Midnight, Zone—but it would have meant living in the dark.

It was interesting for me to think about their culture. With regard to their clothing, I leaned originally toward flowing gowns and robes, but came to the obvious conclusion that such clothing would be cumbersome—the fabric would tangle constantly with the tail. I opted for corsets and waistcoats; they would end at the hip, and their fitted design would ensure the fabric did not fly up while swimming.

I decided on shells for currency and jewelry because some cultures on land have historically also used shells as such. The phrase “shelling out money” originates from such use.

As for light sources, bioluminescence is common in the ocean. The compound luciferin, found in many marine organisms, including bacteria, generates light in the presence of oxygen. For light, I devised that merpeople should use orbs filled with bioluminescent bacteria.

Here is a piece of art featuring a mermaid that I have picked up along the way. It doesn’t quite fit with the culture in The Oyster Thief (merpeople avoid the surface because it is considered a dangerous place with ships and fish-nets) but I thought the picture pretty nonetheless. 




Author Bio

Sonia pushes the boundaries of imagination in her debut novel, The Oyster Thief, an underwater fantasy with themes of ocean conservation. The book has been endorsed by Jodi Picoult, bestselling author of My Sister’s Keeper, and Dr. Sylvia Earle, the world’s foremost ocean scientist. The first chapter can be found here. Sonia is also the author ofProject Animal Farm, a work of critically acclaimed investigative journalism about the world’s food system. A skilled storyteller and speaker, she lives in Toronto. She will be providing exclusive content about The Oyster Thief through her website and monthly newsletter at www.soniafaruqi.com





Toil and Trouble: 15 Tales of Women and Witchcraft edited by Jessica Spotswood and Tess Sharpe | ARC Review

Wednesday, 26 September 2018



Book
Toil and Trouble: 15 Tales of Women and Witchcraft

Editors
Jessica Spotswood and Tess Sharpe

Authors
Brandy Colbert, Zoraida Córdova, Andrea Cremer, Kate Hart, Emery Lord, Elizabeth May, Anna-Marie McLemore, Tehlor Kay Mejia, Lindsay Smith, Nova Ren Suma, Robin Talley, Shveta Thakrar, Brenna Yovanoff

Release Date
August 28th, 2018

Pages
320 Pages

Format
E-ARC

Source
NetGalley


Where to Preorder


A young adult fiction anthology of 15 stories featuring contemporary, historical, and futuristic stories featuring witchy heroines who are diverse in race, class, sexuality, religion, geography, and era.



Are you a good witch or a bad witch?

Glinda the Good Witch. Elphaba the Wicked Witch. Willow. Sabrina. Gemma Doyle. The Mayfair Witches. Ursula the Sea Witch. Morgan le Fey. The three weird sisters from Macbeth.

History tells us women accused of witchcraft were often outsiders: educated, independent, unmarried, unwilling to fall in line with traditional societal expectations.

Bold. Powerful. Rebellious.

A bruja’s traditional love spell has unexpected results. A witch’s healing hands begin to take life instead of giving it when she ignores her attraction to a fellow witch. In a terrifying future, women are captured by a cabal of men crying witchcraft and the one true witch among them must fight to free them all. In a desolate past, three orphaned sisters prophesize for a murderous king. Somewhere in the present, a teen girl just wants to kiss a boy without causing a hurricane.

From good witches to bad witches, to witches who are a bit of both, this is an anthology of diverse witchy tales from a collection of diverse, feminist authors. The collective strength of women working together—magically or mundanely--has long frightened society, to the point that women’s rights are challenged, legislated against, and denied all over the world. Toil & Trouble delves deep into the truly diverse mythology of witchcraft from many cultures and feminist points of view, to create modern and unique tales of witchery that have yet to be explored. 




I really loved this anthology, and some of the stories in here were absolutely spectacular. I really loved the different settings, contexts, types of witches, etc that are featured in the book. I loved the diverse nature of the book -- there were no two stories that were the same, or even similar. And yet, the ways in which they were connected were on a cellular level. They all had the same messages, and inspired the same thoughts, while being entirely different tones.

Look I just really loved the book.

I don't have enough space to go through every story, so I'm going to just highlight my favourite ones. But know that I love all of them so much, and I love all my baby witches.

Tehlor Kay Mejia's Star Song features Luna, an artist, social media star of a Bruja, who strikes up a connection with a science, NASA loving girl on Instagram. I have never read anything by Tehlor Kay, and if everything she writes features characters like Luna, I'd be thrilled. I also really liked the complicated relationship between her mother and the generations before her. It added this really interested perspective, as most witches are seen as familial bodies, with information being passed down. I loved that this was the opening story, featuring a modern witch, debunking some old traditions, and featuring a Latina queer woman. So much love for this story.


The Heart in Her Hands by Tess Sharpe, one of the editors of the anthology, had such a beautiful concept and execution. I loved that Bettina was a kitchen witch, and that her story was built around soulmates and love. I just really loved the soft incorporation of magic, and that this was a story about Bettina being able to love who she wanted to. So beautiful and meaningful.

Lindsay Smith's Death in the Sawtooth was a really interesting story as well, that was completely on the other side of the spectrum from Star Song. This story is about Mattie, a follower of Lady Xosia, and therefore an outcast in the fantastical witch/wizard society. This story is a lot more structured, as in the magical world is more structured, than some of the other stories, and I really enjoyed that. I thought that the conflict between Mattie and most others in the story was intriguing, and the undertones about organized belief systems was right up my alley.

The One Who Stayed by Nova Ren Suma was haunting, plain and simple. A story, narrated by a collective 'We', it deals with sexual assault, rape, and the power in numbers. I won't say more about the plot, but it gave me chills. The way it presents a group of women helping others through hardships, and dealing with such intense topics was spectacular.

Jessica Spotswood's story, Beware of Girls with Crooked Mouths  was the story I was maybe the most excited for. I love her Cahill Witch Chronicles, and seeing her write sister witches again made me happy. And with family curses, beautifully integrated lgbt+ themes, all set against a beautiful Victorian setting made for such an intense story about family and the limits of magic.

Why They Watch Us Burn by Elizabeth May gives me chills just thinking about it. It's so beautifully written, sounding like a starkly honest feminist manifesto. The story, about 12 girls who are imprisoned for 'leading men to sin' aka who are accused of witchcraft, deals with the power that women have, and how women are viewed across time and society. The spine chilling style in which this is written in, matched with the intense feelings of hope and redemption, makes such a stunning end to this anthology.

Overall, This was a spectacular collection of stories, written by a collection of amazing women. And what you're left with when you finish, is not only the tales of these powerful, magical women, but the feeling that all of them are connected. That is something I wasn't expecting out of this collection -- an overarching tale of female power, courage, connection, and endurance. 

Such a beautiful collection, and I'm so glad I read it. 4.5/5 Stars.

Happy Reading!