August Wrap-Up [2017]

Hey all! It’s time for our August wrap-up. Here’s a look at what we read & what we did!

Sasha read 3 books:

-Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton – 4*

-A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir – 5*

-Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman – 5* (review coming soon!)

Sarena read 3 books:

-One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus – 5*

-Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh – 4.5*

-The Reader by Traci Chee – 5* (seriously one of the BEST books I have ever read)

August was a bit busy since it was the end of summer school, but otherwise we did do a few fun things! Here is a look at the month via Instagram photos:

We also went to this awesome book signing–a YA Extravaganza panel at Chapters Brampton!

Shortly after, we attended the Indigo Preview Event in Toronto! You can read all about it here.

We hope you all had a great, restful month! Until next time,

Sarena & Sasha

March Wrap-Up [2017]

Hey all! Even though it’s already April (how?!) we decided to share our March wrap-up. Here it is!

What We Read

Sasha: 

  1. Die Laughing (3*)
  2. The Wide Window by Lemony Snicket (ASOUE #3 – 4.5*)

Sarena: 

  1. Allegedly by Tiffany Jackson (5*)
  2. Valpartha by Dale Shillito (3*)
  3. Empress of a Thousand Skies (4*)
  4. The Gauntlet by Karuna Riazi (5* review to come!)

We also posted a guest post from author Karuna Riazi on social media.

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What We Did

This was a really busy month for us since it was the last month of school. Basically, we did a bunch of homework. But we also hosted a launch for our club’s magazine, Scribes Slate, attended a launch for a journal Sasha published a short story in, and our club won an award at our university formal. So, some exciting stuff!

On March 3, we also presented our creative writing journey to 6th graders at our old middle school:

We got these awesome books in the mail:

And got these for review:

We hope you all had a great March as well! Until next time,

Sarena & Sasha

The Perfect Night In — Book Edition

Sometimes, weekends were made for staying in, curling up with a good book, and pretending nothing else exists.

Okay, as much as we wish this were more like every day, these blissful retreats seem to only happen every once in a while. So, what’s our perfect formula for staying in?

We were inspired by Leesa, an online mattress company, to share our staying-in essentials! Let’s get started.

First, and this basically goes without saying, but you’re going to need a good book. It’s best to find something you know you can easily get lost in. How about a thriller? Or some good ol’ Harry Potter (and maybe a movie marathon or two while you’re at it).

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Next, you’re going to need a) a warm blanket, b) a warm fireplace, or c) (and the best option of the three) ALL OF THE ABOVE. This is one multiple choice answer that’s not hard to figure out!

Of course, one of our essentials is hot chocolate, or whatever warm cup of tea/coffee you prefer. It’s part of the perfect recipe to staying in!

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On a wintry day, we would definitely recommend reading The Prisoner of Azkaban (HP3) and having a cup of Butterbeer instead!

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*salivates*

Snacks are also a huge must. Popcorn is a good one-hand snack, or better yet, cubes of cheese. Mmm.

Lastly, a day in requires a fort. It could be made of blankets, or maybe you could build a fort of books all around you. It would take a while, but it’s *so* worth it.

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Think you’re ready for a day in? Plop yourself on the couch, turn off the TV, and grab a great read!

Until next time,

Sarena & Sasha

The Gauntlet Launch

Hey everyone! We’re back on our blog to share an awesome piece by Karuna Riazi, author of The Gauntlet, one of our most anticipated reads of the year. In case you need a refresher, here’s the (amazing) cover and synopsis:


29346880A trio of friends from New York City find themselves trapped inside a mechanical board game that they must dismantle in order to save themselves and generations of other children in this action-packed debut that’s a steampunk Jumanji with a Middle Eastern flair.

When twelve-year-old Farah and her two best friends get sucked into a mechanical board game called The Gauntlet of Blood and Sand—a puzzle game akin to a large Rubik’s cube—they know it’s up to them to defeat the game’s diabolical architect in order to save themselves and those who are trapped inside, including her baby brother Ahmed. But first they have to figure out how.

Under the tutelage of a lizard guide named Henrietta Peel and an aeronaut Vijay, Farah and her friends battle camel spiders, red scorpions, grease monkeys, and sand cats as they prepare to face off with the maniacal Lord Amari, the man behind the machine. Can they defeat Amari at his own game…or will they, like the children who came before them, become cogs in the machine?


We are so, so excited for this book! Thanks to Sona Charaipotra and Karuna Riazi, we have a post below from the author herself!

Social Media for Debut Authors

One of the most beautiful, and most frustrating, aspects of the debut process is how much information there actually is out there from authors who have already gone through the hurdles, the upsets, the highs and lows.

It’s beautiful, of course, because you are fully aware you are not the first to wake up in the middle of the night wondering if you should add some postcards to that bookmark order – and definitely not the last – but it can also be frustrating because there is a ton of advice that might not actually work for you, and you don’t want to find out that it doesn’t work for you after you’ve shelled out a lot of money (and energy) because it worked for someone else.

Social media is one of those things. Everyone is on there. Everyone seems to be better at it than you, whether that is peppering Instagram with award-worthy shots of their kids or discussing their favorite TV shows and actually managing to get a response from the incredibly funny leading guy.

And everyone says you should be on there, too. If anything, it feels more like a requirement than a presented option.

Here’s the thing: social media is a wonderful way of connecting with others, and I too, have lost many hours on Twitter like many other members of the community. But the foremost point of social media is how much you enjoy it and how willing you are to use it to communicate with others. Willingness and enthusiasm really counts. If you’re not sure what to do with the app you just installed, or leave it to gather dust, focus on what really excites you.

So, first of all, figure out what works for you. You don’t have to be on every medium. I use Pinterest and Twitter and occasionally Tumblr for outreach and am working on a website (which, I would say, is the most crucial because it is your hub of contact information and because not every librarian, teacher or contact wants to reach out publicly on unlocked, visible social media – and, if you need a personal endorsement on it, I can safely say that a lot of things would be a lot easier for me if I had made one sooner).

If you need someone to tell you what social media is likely best for you, or at least give some suggestions, I would point again to a website, maybe with a blog component, and a Twitter if you’re the type who likes to keep everyone updated in 140 characters or less. If you’re the type who likes to snap pictures of where you’ve been or where you want to be, add in an Instagram. You can use, or stop using, whatever you want. It’s about you and what you want to put out there. That’s it.

When I said focus on what excites you, that goes for the content you generate, too. Make sure it is balanced between what you feel you should be posting (stuff about your book, what people are saying about your book, oh, look, someone just got an ARC of your book) with what you want to talk about and what you’d like people to know about you. I personally have two Twitter feeds, and one is all about feminism and social justice and magical girls while the other is solely devoted to book news and – right now – talk about my upcoming release and the jitters I’m having. It works out well for me, and sometimes one may mix in with the other, and that’s perfectly fine, too.

If you do post a lot about your book and want to keep all of that organized so people can look back and get excited, that is what hashtags are for – particularly if you are going to have an author Twitter account. The best hashtag is really your title, and once you’ve gotten that down, you can use the same hashtag over on your Instagram, too.

Again, the main rule here is doing what works for you. There are a lot of brilliant authors out there who do the bare minimum in wielding social media. There are a lot of them who don’t even bother with it, which is probably excellent for their productivity, but might not always work when you’re just putting yourself out there and need to work up some buzz.

(On that same note, your feed is also for you. A few authors have advised me, for instance, to keep a ratio of more authors than bloggers, and make sure to give said bloggers space. I’ll put it out there right now, as a former book blogger: putting a search on your name and popping into bloggers’ mentions when they say it a la Voldemort is not a good idea. Having an argument with said blogger about the importance of your love interest’s name and why you can’t believe they didn’t like it is even less of a good idea. I won’t say this has happened, but…don’t do it.

Don’t worry at all times about reaching out for the sake of promotional purposes – which can get annoying for others, or keep you from making genuine connections because you feel like you need to be wearing an author hat every single time you’re online. You also might consider weeding out what you don’t want to see, like the news for the sake of your blood pressure. Again, it’s for you. It’s what makes you feel like being part of this connective resource is worth it.)

Another rule you should keep in mind: when you can, where you can, schedule. If you want people to know about a pre-order campaign and you’re tweeting about it whenever you can (but also, exposing yourself to the glittery wonderland that is a Twitter feed and all its associated distractions), for instance, look into using Tweetdeck and plugging in a few tweets in advance for certain high-traffic hours.

Social media can be a real time sink, and what you want to be doing is balancing yourself out between that and the other things you’re supposed to be doing, like your edits, or writing that next project for your agent.

One more quick note, on the subject of author-reviewer interactions: Be mindful and respectful of others online, particularly underage readers and bloggers. Not everyone is going to like your book, and that is their right. Not everyone is going to write a review that will necessarily make you feel cheery. And not every review requires a response from you, or retaliation – and believe me, I am aware of how personal comments may feel when you are the author.

My suggestion with GoodReads is that it may be the social media that you’ll least want or need to be involved in. Ignore it. Don’t log in. If you feel something needs to be addressed or you do feel the need to apologize for a potential hurt caused by your work, the best thing to do is at least consult your editor and agent over the right procedure before stepping in yourself.

Also, in the same vein, in a way: know when to step away. If you are spending all your time on social media, making it your priority or feeling drained, it’s your right to unplug for a while and focus on other things, like building your website or responding to e-mails you’ve been putting off or your edits (I promise your editor did not compensate me for these continual reminders).

At the end of the day, social media is supposed to be a tool to improve your outreach and help you, rather than harm you or aggravate your anxiety or leave you with fewer hours to do what you need to do. This is an overwhelming, busy time and you have plenty of other responsibilities to worry about.

Take a deep breath, choose what sounds like fun, and don’t worry at the end of the day if you haven’t logged into Twitter once or had more pressing things to do than add a few more pins to your book’s board on Pinterest. Best of luck and happy debut year to you!

Karuna Riazi


Thank you for the insightful post, Karuna! Happy book birthday to The Gauntlet!

Sarena & Sasha

[ARC Review] The You I’ve Never Known by Ellen Hopkins

Ellen Hopkins is known for her books told in verse, but her newest release, THE YOU I’VE NEVER KNOWN, is told in both verse and prose. Filled with poetry and deep messages, this novel was the most light-hearted-yet-emotional book by Hopkins thus far. I was offered a review copy by Simon and Schuster Canada, so big thanks to S&S for being so kind to send me an ARC. Without further ado, let’s get into the review by beginning with the synopsis. (I will admit, the synopsis gives away quite a bit relating to the ‘twist,’ so if you don’t want to read the synopsis, skip down below!)


30312837How do you live your life if your past is based on a lie? A new novel in both verse and prose from #1 New York Times bestselling author, Ellen Hopkins.

For as long as she can remember, it’s been just Ariel and Dad. Ariel’s mom disappeared when she was a baby. Dad says home is wherever the two of them are, but Ariel is now seventeen and after years of new apartments, new schools, and new faces, all she wants is to put down some roots. Complicating things are Monica and Gabe, both of whom have stirred a different kind of desire.

Maya’s a teenager who’s run from an abusive mother right into the arms of an older man she thinks she can trust. But now she’s isolated with a baby on the way, and life’s getting more complicated than Maya ever could have imagined.

Ariel and Maya’s lives collide unexpectedly when Ariel’s mother shows up out of the blue with wild accusations: Ariel wasn’t abandoned. Her father kidnapped her fourteen years ago.

What is Ariel supposed to believe? Is it possible Dad’s woven her entire history into a tapestry of lies? How can she choose between the mother she’s been taught to mistrust and the father who has taken care of her all these years?

In bestselling author Ellen Hopkins’s deft hands, Ariel’s emotionally charged journey to find out the truth of who she really is balances beautifully with Maya’s story of loss and redemption. This is a memorable portrait of two young women trying to make sense of their lives and coming face to face with themselves—for both the last and the very first time.


***Disclaimer: I received a review copy from S&S Canada. This has in no way impacted my review.**

This book was an emotional ride. It’s definitely a lot lighter compared to some of Hopkins’ other works, like IDENTICAL and BURNED, both of which I read and remember having heavier themes than this one. However, at the heart of this book, what I liked was that it contained a story about family. First and foremost, the novel was always about identity, family, and finding yourself. I liked how Hopkins was able to diverge from her usual writing style (verse) and use a mixture of the two to get across a unique dual PoV. Though I guessed the twist not long before it was revealed, it still came to me as a shock. (Kudos, Hopkins!) I especially enjoyed the diverse aspects of the novel, especially the exploration of bisexuality.

Now, let’s get into the two characters themselves. Both are young women, in their teens, exploring different parts of themselves. Ariel has never known life outside being with her father. Though her father was definitely the worst, Ariel was still able to forgive him for certain things, which I found to be very mature. I liked how different Maya’s voice was compared to Ariel’s, considering Maya’s parts are told in prose and Ariel’s in verse. I still have to say, though, that Hopkins’ verse is one of the best, so Ariel really stole the show for me. I wanted to keep reading her parts, which took up most of the novel compared to Maya’s sections, as they were really quick to get through.

I especially liked Monica and Gabe, though Monica won my heart in terms of BFFs-to-more characters. The fact that she’s Mexican and brings with her a rich culture and language made the story even more organic and diverse.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, though I’m not sure if I liked it more than the other two I’ve read by her. Those were hard-hitting with twists I did not see coming, especially in IDENTICAL. I remember reading IDENTICAL in one day, as well as BURNED. It’s been a few years since then, so I thought it was time to pick up another one of her books, but this one took me a bit longer to get through. This one did have a lighter tone, though, and made for a different, perhaps more unique (and maybe more enjoyable for some!) read.

My rating: 4.5/5*. This book released on Jan 24, 2017.

Until next time,

S&S

 

What’s On My Night Table? #1

Hey, all! You probably didn’t notice, but we didn’t post anything last week … even though our resolution is to post weekly on our blog. Woops! At least it’s Monday, so we can start on a clean slate. I (Sarena) decided to make a post about what’s on my night table currently. We’ll probably make this into a series of posts regarding what we’re currently reading. Let’s take a look!

1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by JK Rowling

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This is my first-ever reread of the first HP book. I’m actually reading the American edition since Sasha is using our British/Canadian one for her own reread. I picked up the American one on a whim at a convenience store nearby that had a small section of cheap books. (Random, I know.)

2. The Copyeditor’s Handbook (Edition 3) by Amy Einsohn

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I’m reading over this one for our editing course! It’s actually super interesting, but that’s only because I love grammar (and learning about it).

3. Paper Hearts (eBook edition) Vol 1: Some Writing Advice

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This is an eBook I received for free after the new year thanks to Beth Revis (and her great newsletter!). This is the first of three volumes in her Paper Hearts series. Each volume tackles something different. Volume 1 is writing, 2 is publishing, and 3 is marketing. I’ve only looked at a few chapters but it’s definitely a great read for writers/aspiring authors out there!

 

That’s it for now! What’s on your night table, book-wise? 😀

-S&S

2016 Highlights + Wrap-Up

2016 was … a year, that’s for sure. There were some good things, and some very (very) bad things. However, we can’t forget all of the amazing things that DID actually happen, and that we accomplished in 2016. So we’re going to go through, month by month, and tell you 1 highlight, along with our favourite book we read that month. Let’s get started!

JANUARY

Ah. The beginning of 2016. The start of a new, fresh year. And let’s just say, we had a good month! (For both the reading and school category, and lots and lots of editing!). We didn’t attend any book signings or anything, but it was a good month for reviews and blogging! Our favourite post of the month was definitely… Continue reading