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How to Disappear by Sharon Huss Roat (from a Two Thumbs Up reviewer)

by McNally Robinson - Saturday, Sep 16, 2017 at 6:02pm

Vicky Decker has perfected the art of hiding in plain sight. But when her mother gets desperate for her to make friends, Vicky decides to invent a social life by Photoshopping herself into photos and posting them on Instagram under her screen name, Vicurious. As Vicurious's online followers multiply, Vicky soon realizes she's not the only one who feels #alone and #ignored in real life. And to help them, and herself, Vicky must find the courage to come out from behind her screen, stop living vicariously, and truly bring the magic of Vicurious to life.

This book was amazing, I would honestly say it was one of the best books I have ever read. It is an absolute must read for people attending, or working at a high school and I would highly recommend it to everyone else as well. It makes you stop and think about the people around you, the ones you're close with and the ones you may not know very well, and wonder what they may be struggling with that you don't know about. It reminds you that everybody is really the same when you get right down to it, everyone wants to be loved, excepted and to feel like they belong. That we can get so wrapped up in ourselves and our assumptions of people that that can be forgotten. One particular thing I really liked about this book was the way it looked at the good parts of social media, instead of the bad. How social media can bring people together when they need it most and how it can change people's lives for the better. I loved everything about this book and it will definitely be one I read over and over again.

- Lilja, a Two Thumbs Up reviewer

Categories: Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Two Thumbs Up

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C Dao (from a Two Thumbs Up reviewer)

by McNally Robinson - Thursday, Sep 14, 2017 at 8:18pm

Eighteen-year-old Xifeng is beautiful. The stars say she is destined for greatness, that she is meant to be Empress of Feng Lu. But only if she embraces the darkness within her. Growing up as a peasant in a forgotten village on the edge of the map, Xifeng longs to fulfill the destiny promised to her by her cruel aunt, the witch Guma, who has read the cards and seen glimmers of Xifeng's majestic future. But is the price of the throne too high? Because in order to achieve greatness, she must spurn the young man who loves her and  exploit the callous magic that runs through her veins--sorcery fueled by eating the hearts of the recently killed. For the god who has sent her on this journey will not be satisfied until his power is absolute.

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is an Asian retelling of the Evil Queen from Snow White, and thus an anti-hero story. Although, this didn’t occur to me until I was halfway through and wondered if I was reading some sort of villain’s backstory. The world building is rich and complex, rather than focusing on Chinese culture like I originally thought, there is… a mix of all sort of culture in here. I still don’t know how to feel about that, but I must commend the author on her creativity. It was a feast to read about the distinctive legends of this world. Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is also one of those books that rely heavily on its characters in order to process. The pacing isn’t slow per se, but there are moments where I wished the book would hurry up and cut to the chase. And the characters, my goodness. For a story that leans slightly toward political intrigue, I was hoping for more players, besides Xifeng, whose personality isn’t so transparent. It wasn’t very exciting to see one player dominating a game of cards, and an inexperienced and naïve player at that. As for Xifeng herself, she has great developments along the way. However, I couldn’t help but question the girl’s motive and behaviour. Everything about our anti-hero felt too contradicting. Why on earth would you insist on listening to the aunt who beats and manipulates you? And for someone who desires freedom, the girl is awfully good at ‘caging’ herself. The stuff about her lover, too, doesn’t make any sense to me. Does she like him, want to manipulate him or secretly want to be rid of him? Because of all this, I couldn’t connect to Xifeng’s character at all, I’d like to punch her more.

The ending was still satisfying to read about nonetheless, and as predictable as all stories about the Evil Queen go. It introduces some character that I’m interested to see more in the next installment. Or perhaps I am just anxious to see the fall of Xifeng. All and all, this is a different fantasy/retelling with great culture representation if you can handle a moody protagonist with questionable behaviours. 3/5 Stars

- Phuong, a Two Thumbs Up reviewer

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns will be available October 10.

Categories: Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Two Thumbs Up

Nyxia by Scott Reintgen (from a Two Thumbs Up reviewer)

by McNally Robinson - Tuesday, Sep 12, 2017 at 5:33pm

Emmett Atwater isn’t just leaving Detroit; he’s leaving Earth. Why the Babel Corporation recruited him is a mystery, but the number of zeroes on their contract has him boarding their lightship and hoping to return to Earth with enough money to take care of his family. Forever. Before long, Emmett discovers that he is one of ten recruits, all of whom have troubled pasts and are a long way from home. Now each recruit must earn the right to travel down to the planet of Eden where they will mine a substance called Nyxia that has quietly become the most valuable material in the universe. But Emmett will soon face the ultimate choice: win the fortune at any cost, or find a way to fight that won’t forever compromise what it means to be human.

I'm just...speechless. Nyxia had so many twists and turns and new, unexpected surprises that I'm shocked the characters didn't get angry more often. Every chapter had a secret plan or ulterior motive revealed, and it was up to Emmett to deal with the obstacles. This is the ultimate space novel. Not only does it include aliens and a recently discovered habitable planet, but it also includes Nyxia, a foreign substance that can be manipulated at will. Umm...hello? That is super cool! Scott Reintgen thought up a galaxy of challenges using this extraordinary imagination of his to test the recruits on board the GENESIS 11. It's fascinating to follow along as Emmett and the others use new strategies to best each other.

Not much else can be mentioned without spoiling, so I'll leave you on this note: this is a must-read. I am not kidding. It's completely worth it and you'll be thankful you took my advice after you start reading. I'd rate this a 9/10.

- Lauren, a Two Thumbs Up reviewer

Categories: Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Two Thumbs Up

A Poison Dark and Drowning by Jessica Cluess (from a Two Thumbs Up reviewer)

by McNally Robinson - Sunday, Sep 10, 2017 at 1:51pm

Henrietta doesn't need a prophecy to know that she's in danger. She came to London to be named the chosen one, the first female sorcerer in centuries, the one who would defeat the Ancients. Instead, she discovered a city ruled by secrets. And the biggest secret of all: Henrietta is not the chosen one. Still, she must play the role in order to keep herself and Rook, her best friend and childhood love, safe. But can she truly save him? The poison in Rook's system is transforming him as he begins to master dark powers of his own. So when Henrietta finds a clue to the Ancients' past that could turn the tide of the war, she persuades Blackwood, the Earl of Sorrow-Fell, to travel up the coast to seek out new weapons. Together, they will face monsters, meet powerful new allies, and discover that some old wounds are still full of poison.

I think the first book in this series, A Shadow Bright and Burning was better than A Poison Dark and Drowning. This book had more plot twists and were interesting, but I also feel like there were more dull moments as well. The first book is action packed and didn't have as much dull moments. There is so much character development in this series, especially with the two main characters Henrietta Howel and Lord Blackwood. At the beginning Henrietta is confident and naive. She has a plan to defeat the ancients and thinks everything is going to work out but as the book goes on she becomes uncertain and realizes that it isn't going to be easy an that it's not a war they can finish right away. With Lord Blackwood it's different, he is very reserved, uncertain, and responsible. He won't take new ideas into consideration, an just wants war to be over and done with. Later on in the book he is more open to ideas and is hopeful. He loosens up and celebrates victories instead of hiding away and working. It was a good book, but didn't leave me with a bunch of questions for the next book and I'm not dying to read it again and again. I did feel emerged into the plot though, I had felt scared, angry and uncertain. It wasn't super predictable but however there was parts where I could tell what would happen next. I give this book 3.5/5 star rating.

-Nicole, a Two Thumbs Up reviewer

A Poison Dark and Drowning will be published on September 19th.

Categories: Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Two Thumbs Up

Far from the Tree by Robin Benway (from a Two Thumbs Up reviewer)

by McNally Robinson - Saturday, Sep 09, 2017 at 11:37am

Being the middle child has its ups and downs. But for Grace, an only child who was adopted at birth, discovering that she is a middle child is a different ride altogether. After putting her own baby up for adoption, she goes looking for her biological family, including Maya, her younger bio sister, who has a lot to say about their newfound family ties. Having grown up the snarky brunette in a house full of chipper redheads, she’s quick to search for traces of herself among these not-quite-strangers. And Joaquin, their stoic older bio brother, who has no interest in bonding. After seventeen years in the foster care system, he’s learned that there are no heroes, and secrets and fears are best kept close to the vest, where they can’t hurt anyone but him.

Far From the Tree is achingly beautiful, a one-of-a-kind gem that bases around adoption and the thus complex family dynamics that comes with it. I didn’t know I needed this book until I finally read it. The concept may come off as daunting and not very exciting but trust me, Robin Benway is a storytelling wizard. The story is told in three POVs of a brother and two sisters who are separated from birth, each of them is entirely three dimensional and has a problem of their own. But no matter how flawed they may be, I found myself rooting for their happiness nonetheless. There was just something about these characters that pulled at me from the start, I laughed at Maya’s sarcasm, my heart ached for Grace, I felt things when Joaquin starts to open his heart. My emotion was a serious mess because of these fictional angsty dorks. I guess this is my way of telling you that Far From the Tree is very much a character-driven story. Also, I absolutely adored Rafe’s character. He is hilarious (and fabulous, may I add), Rafe is definitely a needed comic relief for how heavy this story is sometimes. What else, the way the author handles multiple POVs is also very well done. The flow is never disrupted and I was heavily invested in what all of the siblings has to say. If you in the mood for a contemporary story that hit you with feelings, this is the one to go. I highly recommend it overall. It’s just so well done and highly entertaining. 4/5 Stars. 

- Phuong, a Two Thumbs Up reviewer

Far From the Tree will be available October 3.

Categories: Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Two Thumbs Up
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