Penguin Teen Social 2019 - Recap (May 23, 2019)

Right before going to NYC for BEA/BookCon, I got to be at Penguin Teen Social event at Penguin Random House Canada HQ - effectively, kicking off my bookish 2 weeks. I was trying to write and upload this post before I left, but there was just too much happening!

I love going to book events in Canada as I get to see lots of bookish friends and bloggers! Not to mention get my hands on the newest releases. And this event was not an exception.

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An Unexpected Adventure by Kandi J. Wyatt - Cover Reveal

An Unexpected Adventure by Kandi J. Wyatt

Protect their community or protect their discovery?

For eighth graders Chace, Harley, Will, and Cherise, that’s a life-changing question after they find a dragon’s egg while hunting for thundereggs on the beach. Toss in summer jobs, family struggles, and a National Security Agent, and their summer vacation just became complicated.

Can they find a solution that won’t leave their hearts broken or their community in flames?

Pre-order "An Unexpected Adventure" here!

Release date: Tuesday, Sept 25th

Blogger's note:

I have been sent an eARC of "An Unexpected Adventure" for review, but I have not read it yet. It looks like a very promising middle-grade novel, quoted to be a mashup of "E.T. meets How to Train Your Dragon". HTTYD is one of my favourite animated movies, and I can not wait to read this book!

Author Bio:

Even as a young girl, Kandi J Wyatt, had a knack for words. She loved to read them, even if it was on a shampoo bottle! By high school, Kandi had learned to put words together on paper to create stories for those she loved. Nowadays, she writes for her kids, whether that's her own five or the hundreds of students she's been lucky to teach. When Kandi's not spinning words to create stories, she's using them to teach students about Spanish, life, and leadership.

Links:

Website: http://kandijwyatt.com/
Facebook: http://facebook.com/kandijwyatt/
Google: http://plus.google.com/u/0/+KandiWyatt/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/kandijwyatt
Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/kandijwyatt
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13817774.Kandi_J_Wyatt
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Kandi-J-Wyatt/e/B00ZTC4T10/

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Book review: “City of Ghosts” by Victoria Schwab

City of Ghosts

One of my main goals for BookCon 2018 was to meet one of my all-time favourite authors, Victoria Schwab. Sadly, I missed out on the opportunity to get my copy of new US Vicious signed by Victoria, but after standing in the line for an hour on the second day of the convention - I got an advanced reader’s copy of “City of Ghosts”. I was over the moon!

As a matter of fact, I have several vlogs on my YT channel from the BookCon this year.

I wanted to start “City of Ghosts” as soon as possible but didn’t want to rush into it either. So, I decided to pick City of Ghosts” for #ARCAugust challenge.

Synopsis

Cassidy Blake's parents are The Inspectres, a (somewhat inept) ghost-hunting team. But Cass herself can REALLY see ghosts. In fact, her best friend, Jacob, just happens to be one.

When The Inspectres head to ultra-haunted Edinburgh, Scotland, for their new TV show, Cass—and Jacob—come along. In Scotland, Cass is surrounded by ghosts, not all of them friendly. Then she meets Lara, a girl who can also see the dead. But Lara tells Cassidy that as an In-betweener, their job is to send ghosts permanently beyond the Veil. Cass isn't sure about her new mission, but she does know the sinister Red Raven haunting the city doesn't belong in her world. Cassidy's powers will draw her into an epic fight that stretches through the worlds of the living and the dead, in order to save herself.

Review

I could not wait to read “City of Ghosts”! I was very excited! I was, however, trying to be very mindful of the fact that not only I am reading an ARC, but it is also middle grade, so I can’t expect the same depth of world building and character development from “City of Ghost” as from some other Victoria’s books.

I was right. “City of Ghosts” is precisely what Victoria multiple times said, it was. It is the book that she wrote for her 12-year-old self. It is spooky and wonderful, and I kept thinking of Cassidy as Victoria in that age. It is a lovingly crafted narration set in Edinburgh, which is a special city for Victoria, and her current place of residence.

“City of Ghosts” is a fun read full of adorable characters and unexpected adventures. I adored this book. However, no matter how much it pains me to say this about Victoria’s work - this is not the best story she has written.

In her Instagram Stories, Victoria said that she saw some early readers complain that “City of Ghosts” is too simple or the plot is not layered enough, and she explained saying that middle-grade books do not have the same complexity as young adult or adult books because they simply can’t be. That is the whole point of the genre. I wholeheartedly agree.

I felt that “City of Ghosts” was written perfectly aligned with the target audience. It has just the right combination of fun and thrill that is so attractive to the younger audience. I did, however, expect more originality of the plot than there was. Even the title surprised me, as there are dozens of novels with the same title out there.

“City of Ghosts” has haunted places, travelling beyond the Veil and ghost friends. While reading this novel, I kept having a deja vu feeling. Some of the elements reminded me of Fantastic Five by Enid Blyton, some of Susan Cooper’s books (perhaps, due to the setting). Which resulted in me lowering the overall rating of the book.

The writing in the novel is excellent and very typical of Victoria’s style, even though the ARC I got started “uncorrected proof” on the cover. I was impressed by the lack of obvious mistakes. I did pre-order the final copy and received it the day after I finished the book. I am tempted to re-read it again. “City of Ghosts” is supposed to be a duology, so I can not wait to see what other adventure Cassidy and Jacob would get sucked into next.

Rating: 3.5

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Book review: "The Prince and the Dressmaker" by Jen Wang

The Prince and the Dressmaker  

If you ask me now how I head of The Prince and the Dressmaker, I would not be able to tell you. But it was on my Amazon wishlist way before it came out. I was even going to purchase it when I saw it available on OverDrive through my library. So, obviously, I had to request it.

 

I found the summary of the book a bit spoilery, so if you would like, just skip over it to my review.

Summary

 

Paris, at the dawn of the modern age:

 

Prince Sebastian is looking for a bride―or rather, his parents are looking for one for him. Sebastian is too busy hiding his secret life from everyone. At night he puts on daring dresses and takes Paris by storm as the fabulous Lady Crystallia―the hottest fashion icon in the world capital of fashion!

 

Sebastian’s secret weapon (and best friend) is the brilliant dressmaker Frances―one of only two people who know the truth: sometimes this boy wears dresses. But Frances dreams of greatness, and being someone’s secret weapon means being a secret. Forever. How long can Frances defer her dreams to protect a friend? Jen Wang weaves an exuberantly romantic tale of identity, young love, art, and family. A fairytale for any age, The Prince and the Dressmaker will steal your heart.

 

Review

 

Okay, so my first reaction when I opened up The Prince and the Dressmaker was “this is a graphic novel????”. I admit that my habit of not reading the summary and staying away from spoilers completely blindsided me in this case.

 

I was delighted though as I found that the format of a graphic novel worked very well for this story.

 

Discovering this story as it goes felt as if I was a kid reading one of the classic fairy tales for the first time. The pace is great, and the story has all the attributes of a good tale: we have a hard-working dressmaker with a dream and a misunderstood prince who struggles to express himself.

 

I flew through the book. I found it adorable and cute, a very easy and light read, but lacking in some unidentifiable way, even though I think it is well written. Perhaps, my impression came from the fact that I kept thinking of Gru from Despicable Me every time I saw Sebastian and it just ruined all drama for me (I am sorry! It is the nose!). There are some earlier sketches at the back of the book, and I liked Sebastian better in those with a less pointy nose.

 

I loved Frances, though. She is strong and talented, and I like how she goes in the pursuit of her dreams even though it means breaking her heart. A delightful character!

 

Only after finishing the story, I realized that The Prince and the Dressmaker was tagged as a middle-grade book on GoodReads. I am not sure if it is the actual case, as it didn’t feel like a middle-grade novel. I often struggle with the middle-grade genre as those books tend to stay away from edgy topics or gloss over certain details, focusing more on external conflicts rather than internal. In The Prince and the Dressmaker, there is an internal conflict (for both Frances and Sebastian) as well as an external one, and the characters are in their teen years, so I would rather classify it as young adult. However, there is no violence, explicit sexual scenes, etc.,  and it is generally a happy book overall.

 

Would I give it to read to a 10-12-year-old kid? Absolutely.

 

The Prince and the Dressmaker can show children that sometimes people can be different, and it is okay. In some ways, it reminded me of George by Alex Gino, although Sebastian does not have the same gender identity (it is not explicitly explained as the story is set in a fairytale setting, but I assume Sebastian is non-binary or gender fluid).

 

I highly recommend you pick up The Prince and the Dressmaker. It is a light and fun read with an important message hidden within the folds of pretty dresses.

 

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Rating: 4 stars

 

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Book review: The King of Average by Gary Schwartz (audiobook)

The King of Average I have received a copy of this audiobook from Aurora Publicity in exchange of a free and honest review. I love audiobooks and jumped at this opportunity as I usually do not get to choose between an ebook and audiobook copy.

 

"The King of Average" is a middle grade fantasy adventure novel about an eleven year-old boy named James, who is so ordinary and average, that one day he decides to become the most average person ever. The moment he makes his decision, he is transported into a fantasy world, the Realm of Possibilities, where he makes friends and faces challenges on his road to become the King of Average.

I adored this book! It is incredibly well written and gripping for a debut novel. More so, it works perfectly well as an audiobook, as it is performed by Gary Schwartz himself, who is an actor, a voice artist and an impov coach. Mr. Schwartz created a variety of characters with very distinct voices - literarily and figuratively speaking - and the wordplay that he uses for the creation of his imaginary word is simply superb. I often couldn’t help laughing at the telling names of the places, like Eureka and Epiphany, or characters, like the professional pessimist Killjoy or the real scapegoat Mayor Culpa. I think it would prove to be quite educational for kids in terms of abstract concepts and wordplay.

 

It’s been awhile since I was this taken by a middle grade novel, as I often find them to be too simplistic and talking down to children. This is, fortunately, not the case with "The King of Average".

 

James faces some serious problems in his life. He is neglected by his mother, who seems not to care for his existence at all and inadvertently blames him for his father abandoning them. James longs to be important, to matter, he wants family love and friends, and he finds all of those in the Realm of Possibilities. As true to adventure stories, he also discovers things about himself and is given a glimpse into the reasons behind his mother’s antagonism.

 

I believe that any reader will be able to find a character they can relate to in this book. I liked many characters in this book but I think that Monsieur Roget is probably my favourite. (While listening to the audiobook, I kept envisioning him as a more friendly version of Suchet’s Poirot, which made me smile a lot.) This audiobook brought up the long forgotten feeling of a childhood story well-told - something that I often find missing in contemporary middle grade fiction. Loveable characters and curious adventures - what more can you ask for! I think that the fact that Gary is a professional voice actor, undoubtedly, adds to the story. His narration is so perfect, I kept forgetting that I was listening to one person doing all of those voices.

 

I did, however, had a bit of an issue with the tiny small thing at the end. Can’t really explain it explicitly without giving away the ending, but I felt that it should have been given more attention. Also the ending made me scream internally for the sequel. Because I want to know what will happen after the last chapter! But as far as I am aware, this is a standalone novel.

 

I can’t praise this book enough. It is a sweet and witty middle grade novel, that both kids and adults (hey, I am an adult!) would love, and I highly recommend you pick the audiobook version. Those six hours flew by very quickly.

 

I hope that Mr. Schwartz would write and voice more books, as I am already hooked.

 

Overall rating: 4.5 stars

Plot: 4 stars

Performance: 5 stars

 

Sources:

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