Midweek Mini Reviews #23

This Midweek Mini Reviews post features two books for kids, just in time for the TD Canadian Children’s Book Week!

Sakura’s Cherry Blossoms written by Robert Paul Weston & illustrated by Misa Saburi 

I don’t often read and review picture books, but Sakura’s Cherry Blossoms was such an adorable and heartwarming read that I’d thought I share on my blog. Written by Robert Paul Weston and gorgeously illustrated by Miso Saburi, this book follows a little girl named Sakura whose family has to move from Japan to the US. This book is perfect for kids, especially those who have moved to a new city or even country as it perfectly captures the difficulties that kids may face as well it shows the importance of good friends and how strong family bonds will always be there even when you are not physically near each other. Sakura’s Cherry Blossoms manages to stay light-hearted for kids while touching on topics like fitting in, bullying, homesickness and illness. I also loved how it shows that as a new kid even if you have just one friend, if they’re a good one it will make all the difference. Despite not being a kid, I really did enjoy both the story and the illustrations. And I think even adult readers would be able to appreciate the charm of Sakura’s Cherry Blossoms especially if they’re fans of seeing cherry blossoms in the spring.

Clara Voyant by Rachelle Delaney

Middle Grade books tend to be either a hit or miss for me. For instance, I adore Susin Nielsen’s books but haven’t had much luck with other middle-grade novels. However, Vikki VanSickle at Penguin Random House Canada made a strong case for Rachelle Delaney’s Clara Voyant that I just had to give it a chance. This novel is set Toronto’s Kensington Market, which had me intrigued as it’s a neighbourhood that I’ve recently discovered and fell in love with. I also liked the premise of astrology and psychic abilities. That being said, it took me an incredibly long time to get invested in the characters and plot as it was only near the end when the book started to get interesting for me. What I did appreciate about this novel, however was the wonderful friendship between Clara and Maeve, and how both girls had their own ambitions but still made time for each other. I also thought the twist at the end and the reveal of what happened to the missing mascot to be quite clever. While Clara Voyant certainly had its satisfying and entertaining moments, overall I don’t think this was my cup of tea. I do think that this would make for an excellent read for those in middle grade who are slowly figuring out who they are and who might not feel completely comfortable in their own skin yet.

 

 

 

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above reviews consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

[Blog Tour] Book Review | Burn by Paula Weston

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Authour:burn
Paula Weston
Format:
Trade paperback, 448 pages
Publication date:
June 7th 2016
Publisher:
Tundra Books
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:

“Where do we fit in the universe? We exist in this world but we’re tied to other, unseen worlds. We are Rephaim, children of the forsaken. What future exists for us if we find the fallen? What future exists for us if we don’t?” – p. 20

When a series you’ve followed faithfully for years, finally concludes it can leave you with a few incredibly mixed feelings. I can’t believe that it’s been three years since the first Rephaim book was released in North America, to be honest it feels much longer. Since Burn is the final book in the Rephaim series, it may be difficult for me to write this review without spoiling elements from the previous book, however I will attempt my best to avoid spoilers that aren’t in the synopsis of the book.

After a quick recap of the series so far, which I appreciated, Burn begins immediately after the events of Shimmer. Gabe’s memories have mysteriously returned to her, and it was a pleasant surprise that she did not revert completely back to her former self. Instead her struggles to reconcile the past year with whom she once came off as both realistic and refreshing.

As a result of her memories returning, Burn initially switches between flashbacks and the present day events. Finally we receive answers to all our burning questions regarding Jude, Gabe and Rafa. To be honest, I was a bit disappointed in the reveal of why Gabriella and Rafa “hate” each other as it all came down to personal drama. That being understood, I did feel that Gabe’s extreme reaction was fitting given her personality and pride and that the embarrassment and fear of humiliation by others that she felt was realistic to her character. On the other hand, I appreciate the complexity of the sibling dynamics between Gabe and Jude, and it was satisfying to learn how they ended up the way they did.

I think one of the reasons why the Rephaim series has appealed to me in spite of the fact that I typically do not enjoy fantasy or supernatural fiction is that the series contains numerous elements that can also be found in contemporary fiction. The complex relationships are all there, both familial and romantic on top of well written friendships. Furthermore, I love books with action which Burn definitely does not lack. There are several thrilling twists and turns and the final battle does not disappoint.

Burn as a conclusion to the Rephaim series was extremely satisfying as it tied the major loose ends up while leaving room for further exploration of the world later on. For instance, given the position that Jude finds himself in I would love a spin off that focused on him. Ever since I started the Rephaim series, it has been one of my go-to recommendations for fantasy fans in addition to reluctant contemporary fiction fans who are not that keen on the fantasy genre. And with this conclusion, Burn has cemented the Rephaim series as one of my go-to recommendations for anyone who is looking for an action packed story with multi-layered characters and relationships

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

[Blog Tour] Book Review | Shimmer by Paula Weston

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Authour:shimmer
Paula Weston
Format:
Trade paperback, 400 pages
Publication date:
March 8th 2016
Publisher:
Tundra Books
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:

“The piazza is in chaos. It seethes with more Rephaim than I’ve ever seen in one place: punching, kicking, and wrestling each other with blinding speed.Shouting, swearing, Grunting.” – p. 154

I’m fortunate to once again have the opportunity to be on the blog tour for another book in Paula Weston’s Rephaim series. (I will also be on the blog tour for the final book in the series as well) However, while I absolutely adored both Shadows and Haze I was surprised to find that I was not as enthusiastic when it came to Shimmer. I believe this may have to do with the fact that Gaby and Rafa are separated for the majority of this book and since their dynamic is such a core element of the series it didn’t feel the same. Nevertheless, I did appreciate that this book focused on the twins and the other Rephaim relationships and dynamics. Furthermore, we do learn more about the other players in the conflict, and once again it appears that things are not as the initially appear. All of this makes Shimmer a necessary addition to the Rephaim series.

On a whole other note, it’s been awhile since I read the previous book, Haze that I completely forgot how short the chapters were since it makes for an excellent work commute read. I also loved the chapter titles that they are (usually) appropriate and always hilarious. Shimmer also has one hell of a cliff-hanger ending, as just when things are starting to pick up again the reader is thrown a major curveball. As a result, I am eager to read Burn as soon as possible in order to see where this new development takes our characters. Additionally, I am looking forward to seeing how Paula Weston concludes her Rephaim series. Having invested a great deal in the series that I initially thought wouldn’t be my cup of tea, I am both curious and excited to read the conclusion. Hopefully since all the key players and pieces are now gathered, Burn will be filled with more action and excitement.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Blog Tour | On Fear [Guest Post]

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Please join me in welcoming Paula Weston author of The Rephaim series (which we LOVE) to the blog. We’re so excited to have her stopping by today on her blog tour for her second book in the series, “Haze”! She’s kindly agreed to contribute this guest post:

Fear…it’s a funny thing. We all deal with it in different ways and at different levels.

Veronica Roth says she wrote Divergent as a way to deal with her own fear and anxiety, which – at certain times in her life – she’s found overwhelming and debilitating (www.people.com/people/article/0,,20798669,00.html).

I’ve certainly had moments of overwhelming anxiety, but I tend to have the opposite reaction: I act impulsively. For me, action – even ill-considered – is less stressful than inaction. (Now you know where Gaby gets it from.)

But a few years ago, I discovered that anxiety had dug its hooks into me in ways I wasn’t even aware of.

I’d made a significant decision to make a lifestyle change, moving from a full-time job to become self employed as a writer and as a partner in a consultancy with one of my closest friends. Over the next six months, I picked up my first publishing contract for the Rephaim series and the business built steadily. But something weird was happening to me. I was getting chest pains, shortness of breath, palpitations, numbness and felt ‘spacey’ at odd and inappropriate moments. I got checked out at the doctor, and the ultimate diagnosis was that I was stressed. Which made no sense because I was working from home, pursuing my dreams and, I thought, living a more relaxed lifestyle.

When I finally started to pick apart what was happening for me, I realised I was anxious about loss of control and financial security – it was a major shift to go from a regular wage to an inconsistent, unpredictable (and lower) income. And because I wasn’t dealing with that on a conscious level, my body decided to send me a few not-so-subtle signals.

Interestingly, once I recognised what was going on and started being honest with myself, the
symptoms went away. For me, my state of mind definitely influenced my physical wellbeing. The underlying fear didn’t go away – or the financial pressure – but I chose to deal with it head-on, which works better for me.

In the Rephaim series, I write a lot about fear – much of it about immediate, physical threats. But, particularly in Haze, I’m also trying to explore that deeper type of fear that influences how we think and feel, even when we’re not acknowledging it exists.

For those not familiar with the series, it’s told through the eyes of 19-year-old Gaby who (in the first book, Shadows) discovers she’s not who she thinks she is, and that she may have done something potentially disastrous a year ago. She’s caught in the middle of a conflict she doesn’t remember, with threats coming from all sides.

On a very simple level, Gaby fears for her safety and the safety of those she cares about. There are half-angels, demons and hell-beasts out to hurt her and more than once she has to deal with the fight-or-flight issue. Then there are deeper, more pervasive fears about identity and belonging: who she was and what she might have done in the past – and what that means now.

Gaby also discovers the twin brother she’s been mourning for a year may not be dead, and that her memories of him are as fake as everything else she remembers about the past. In Shadows, she’s afraid to hope that Jude is alive, afraid to go through the pain of losing him all over again. In Haze she deals with the fear of what might happen if he is alive. Will he be the brother she loves and remembers or will he reject her because she’s not who she’s supposed to be? Throughout he series, Gaby’s biggest challenge is learning to push through her fear and find the strength to protect the people around her, and to trust herself.

The great paradox with fear is that we’re often afraid talk about it, in case it somehow makes us (more) vulnerable. But anyone who’s ever shared their fears with someone they trust knows the power that exists in dragging that stuff into the light.

For Gaby, especially, she functions best when she’s honest enough to face what she’s really feeling. And I’d have to say I’m pretty much the same.

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Credit: Celia Southcombe, Flow Photography

Author Bio:
Paula Weston is a writer-journalist-professional communicator with pH creative. Weston is also a huge fan of Australian literature, fantasy/paranormal writing across books, TV and film; comedy in addition to being a closeted comic reader and TV addict. Shadows, the first book in the four book Rephaim series published by Tundra Books in Canada is now out in stores with the second book, Haze coming out in Fall 2014. Weston currently resides in Brisbane with her husband, Murray and their pets, a retired greyhound and a moody cockatiel. (Taken from the author’s website)