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The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles (from a Two Thumbs Up reviewer)

by McNally Robinson - Wednesday, Mar 08, 2017 at 8:40pm

It's been a shattering year for Zoe, who's still reeling from her father's shocking death in a caving accident and her neighbors' mysterious disappearance from their own home. Then on a terrifying blizzardy night in Montana, she and her brother are brutally attacked in the woods - only to be rescued by a mysterious bounty hunter they call X. X is no ordinary bounty hunter. He is from a hell called the Lowlands, sent to claim the soul of Zoe's evil attacker and others like him. X is forbidden from revealing himself to anyone other than his prey, but he casts aside the Lowlands' rules for Zoe. As they learn more about their colliding worlds, they begin to question the past, their fate, and their future. But escaping the Lowlands and the ties that bind X might mean the ultimate sacrifice for them both.

I don't mind a good useless information dump if it will add to the plot later on. However, there were around four info dumps in just the first chapter. I was so excited to read this after the prologue, but the first chapter killed me. 

This book has the typical case of simply too much telling and not enough showing. And with that problem, the third-person narrative makes it 10 times more painful to read. And I hate that we constantly had to write the main character's name. 

There's also a case of extremey HUGE instalove, and that is also a big no-no for me. In all honestly, this book didn't live up to my expectations AT ALL. I'm giving this book a 1 star review. 

- Yen Anh, a Two Thumbs Up reviewer

Categories: Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Two Thumbs Up

Given to the Sea by Mindy McGinnis (from a Two Thumbs Up reviewer)

by McNally Robinson - Monday, Mar 06, 2017 at 5:46pm

Given to the Sea tries hard to be a complex, character-driven fantasy but falls short on many accounts. The book follows four points of view: Khosa, the Given, is to be sacrificed so her kingdom won't drown. She must also give birth to the next Given; Vincent, the prince of Stille, doesn't want the responsibility that comes with his position; Dara and Donil, twins who each carry a hint of magic. Their race, the Inditri, are slaughtered by the Pietra and they are the last of their kind. Adopted by Stille royalty, they become Vincent's half siblings; Finally there's Witt, the leader of the Pietra. He's readying his army for war once again, and this time, Stille is his target.

First, the world building. There were so many names thrown at me, and each was explained in very few sentences before the point of view switched, only for the same thing to happen again. Sure, I was familiar with them halfway through, but I felt so disconnected that I stopped caring altogether. With a such a small world, I also expected more focus on Stille and Pietra's cultures, but no. Instead everything seems to be revolving around Khosa and who she would bed. The magic system is another problem I have. It felt too convenient and underdeveloped. During a crisis, a person with magical would burst out and save the day because they can. Plus, how can a race with magical powers like the Indiri get wiped out entirely save for two people? If people with magic exist, how can they not find some sort of solution against the ocean that tries to drown them all? So many unsatisfied questions.

The characters hardly developped at all, and I just don't get Khosa. One second, she refuses to be touched by anyone. Then she suddenly melts into the arms of a boy she talks to twice because he's attractive. I kind of wanted to push her into the sea myself since she hardly contributes anything to the plot. And what's with the oversexualized plot? The topic of discussion in every chapter was who sleeps with who. I seriously think the reason Vincent hates his position is because he can't choose who he should sleep with. The dude literally spends the whole book romanticizing not one, but two girls, who he repeatedly says he has no interested in, then proceeds to be jealous when the girls are with other people. Dara is properly the most decent character in the book. She is strong, brave, and every bit an independent young woman. Although she too has a crush on someone, she doesn't spend the whole story mooning over him. Dara gets the job done, but she still feels too generic. I don't have anything to say about Donil and Witt. I don't hate them, but neither do I appreciate them.

A lot of ranting aside, I do want to see other opinions about this book. When it comes to fantasy, I just happen to be super picky. Do try this book out if the premise interests you, but I can't say that I recommend it. At the very least, you'll end up with a pretty book on your shelf and that's all that matteres. 1.5/5 stars.

- Phuong, a Two Thumbs Up reviewer

Given to the Sea will be available April 11.

Categories: Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Two Thumbs Up

The Beast Is an Animal by Peternelle van Arsdale (from a Two Thumbs Up reviewer)

by McNally Robinson - Monday, Mar 06, 2017 at 4:11pm

The Beast is an Animal is a dark, yet perfectly charming story. It reads like a fairytale, and it is so atmospheric, you get the feeling that the book is slowly sucking you into its pages. Besides the fact that her name is super cool, Peternelle van Arsdale's writing style is equally just as good. Each seamlessly flows from one to another, creating a world consisting of mad men, beasts, and soul eaters that will continue to haunt you even after finishing.

The Beast is an Animal is, as mentioned, every bit a fairytale. Our main protagonist, Alys, was only six years old when twin soul eaters attacked her village and killed everyone over the age of sixteen. Now under the protection of a neighbouring village, Alys soon discovers that she is destined to end the soul eaters' hunger. But that's not all. There is the mystery of the Beast that lurks around the forest, the danger of the villagers sentencing Alys to death for who she really is, and Alys' own struggle in accepting her true identity. As a character, Alys is a heroine that everyone can root for. Though she is a chosen one, she is far from a "special snowflake." Alys takes matters into her own hands and doesn't need a knight in shining armor to rescue her. The rest of the characters are not as developed, but it was so nice to read about their relationship with Alys. There is a subtle romance in this book, but it occurs later in the story and doesn't take centre stage. '

I also love how van Arsdale sneaks some "food for thought" into this book. Most of it is rather relevant to our own situation: A wall is built around Alys' village to prevent the soul eaters from getting in; the children from Alys' old village, including herself, are discriminated against; the High Elders, the heads of the village, use religion and fear to keep the villagers in submission; villagers are wrongfully acused in order to keep their good name. 

I'm obsessed with this book, if you can't already tell. However, I understand that this book can feel slow and even boring to some. Despite its creepiness and atmospheric nature, the plot feels very tame. There are no heart throbbing moments or awesome battlescenes, and one might even say that it is not scary enough. In the end, everything works out and we have our good old satisfactory fairtyale ending. I don't have a problem with that at all because I was too invested in Alys' story.

If none of the mentioned problems above bother you, and/or you happen to be interested in any of the facts mentioned above, read this book. What are the chances of you finding a fantastic fairytale read these days? 5/5 stars. 

- Phuong, a Two Thumbs Up reviewer

Categories: Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Two Thumbs Up

Eat the Sky, Drink the Ocean by Kirsty Murray (from a Two Thumbs Up reviewer)

by McNally Robinson - Saturday, Mar 04, 2017 at 3:52pm

Eat the sky, Drink the Ocean is an empowering book of short stories for readers, specifically girls. It covers many different genres, with a balance between quirkier stories with eccentric protangonists, and stories with darker undertones and serious subjects.

This book is a garden, each story and collaboration is a distinctly different flower, but all of them a part of one community; with the singular goal to strengthen and unite girls from different countries and continents. I for one, am excited to watch it happen.

- Chloe, a Two Thumbs Up reviewer

Eat the Sky, Drink the Ocean will be available March 7.

Categories: Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Two Thumbs Up

100 Hours by Rachel Vincent (from a Two Thumbs Up reviewer)

by McNally Robinson - Sunday, Feb 26, 2017 at 10:37am

100 Hours is a a suspense-filled novel containing all the rights elements a YA novel needs to survive in today's industry.

A lot of the plot reminds me of one of those old action-packed movies: it has ransom, remote locations, and a cast of characters that you end up fearing for. To counter-balance, it also has a whole lot of teen drama. The characters are amusing, but I think that if I were the one kidnapped and stranded in the jungle, I would be less concerned about who was hooking up with who and more concerned about if I'm going to live another day or not. That sort of bothers me, and a lot of the time I found myself saying, "get over yourself."

We do see some character development as well, and I ended up having hope for Genesis overall. I think the author did a really good job at alternating the POVs, allowing the readers to get a more in-depth experience as to what was going on. However, I don't really like the way the book ends. Yes, it ends in a cliffhanger, but I really wanted to get some answers. Overall, I did enjoy the book and I would give it a 4 out if 5 stars.

- Sabrina, a Two Thumbs Up reviewer

100 Hours will be available March 28.

Categories: Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Two Thumbs Up
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