Tag Archives: simon & schuster canada

The Only Child (Andrew Pyper)

9 Jun

Fans of Frankenstein, Dracula, and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde will recognize a lot of their favourite stories in Andrew Pyper’s The Only Child. If you’re looking to read along the lines of creepy, gothic, or psychologically thrilling, well, you’ll find them all in this novel.


Only Child


1.  I don’t care much for the horror and thriller genre. The only reason I decided to give The Only Child a go was because it was by Andrew Pyper. I enjoyed The Demonologist from a few years back, so I was happy to read his words again. When I find authors I like, I’m eager to give their new worlds a try.

2.  I wasn’t as scared as I thought I would be, which really is very good news for people like me who don’t enjoy the heart-pounding scenes. I pegged this novel as a horror story based on the blurb on the back cover, but I think I’d classify this more as a psychological thriller. The main character, Lily, goes back and forth in her thoughts about the goodness of the people she meets, and it was very nerve-wracking trying to do the same. Is Michael going to kill her? Is Will a decent guy? What about Lionel?

3.  Let’s talk about Lily for a second. In truth, she’s not my favourite MC. In fact, she gets on my nerves a little bit. I didn’t really enjoy her indecision, and she seems a bit too reckless for me. For someone who’s supposed to be smart and an expert in her field, I figured she wouldn’t really be the type to leave her comfortable life and go traipsing about Europe in search for answers and a mad man/non-man. But, there she goes anyway. The story is written in third-person perspective, so I attribute the fact that Lily’s thoughts get under my skin to Pyper’s prowess with prose. There is a lot of narration specifically about her thoughts, but at many points of the story, I felt as if Lily were sharing her thoughts herself, rather than a narrator telling me a story.

4.  One of the reasons I enjoyed The Demonologist and now The Only Child is because I really like the way Pyper paints pictures with his words. His imagery seems to come effortlessly, and yet, it can transport you to whichever old-world club or pub he is describing. I find myself entering the lavish Savoy or walking around the Villa Diodati with Lily with ease. It is so easy to highlight paragraphs and passages to show my students examples of masterful writing.


Only Child 2


5.  Throughout the book, I found myself caring more for Michael than I did for Lily, and I think that’s just incredible. Pyper manages to evoke all sorts of sympathy from me for his monster, and if I meet the author again, that’s something I’d definitely ask him about. Did he mean to make him more likable than Lily? Of all the twists and turns in this story, I never expected that.


4 Squinkles


Andrew Pyper’s Online Corners
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Chapters/Indigo


Thank you, Simon and Schuster Canada, for sending me a copy of
The Only Child in exchange for an honest review.

All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.

The Blackthorn Key (Kevin Sands)

7 Oct

I was so pleased to receive a couple of copies of the Blackthorn Key at a blogger event this summer. In fact, the very Monday after the meet-up, I began teaching it because I had already finished reading it, and I knew I just had to share.


Blackthorn Key - Poster


If you’ve been searching for a book with mystery, heart, and a little bit of history, this is the perfect book for you. I’m happy to say that my students loved this book – and they were very engaged in the culminating tasks I had them do, including a hashtag image (below) and book poster (above). It was the perfect way to end summer school. And now, well, there’s a waitlist for our school copies.


1. I’ve found historical fiction to be hit or miss with younger students, so I was happy that the historical aspect of this novel was not a deterrent for my kids. Personally, I LOVE history and tying dates and events together, so I really enjoyed learning about Oak Apple Day. It became even more interesting to correlate the real feast days with the fictional events to find themes in Sands’ story.

Blackthorn Key - Hashtags

2. I’ve got an unusual affinity for chemistry. Unusual only because I teach humanities and social sciences, and, oh yeah, I hate math. But I LOVE chemistry, so I was particularly drawn to the formulae and concoctions scattered throughout the chapters. And “oil of vitriol” just sounds so old fashioned. I love it! (It also led to a great discussion on vitriolic diatribes …)

3. Speaking of chapters, there are many in this story, and none are too long. It’s got nothing to do with attention span; I think stories are much more exciting with shorter (but more) chapters. It might have to do with the fact that I flip the pages more often.

4. I really admire Christopher’s relationships with both Tom and Master Benedict. The fact that he is loved and respected by both a peer and a superior says a lot about his character, and the banter between the two boys, which only happens when two people are as close as they are, is funny and even enviable.

Blackthorn Key - Quotes 2

5. Christopher is honourable and loyal. He will defend and champion his best friend and master at all costs, and his fealty to them drives many of his choices throughout the novel. He is also exceedingly brave and inquisitive – characteristics that anyone would be lucky to possess. And though his inquisitiveness is what sometimes gets him into trouble, I’d argue that they inform his bravery as well.

Blackthorn Key - Quotes 0

6. I love codes and solving puzzles. Our class had a grand old time trying to solve the clues before reading the answers. It was also a great stepping stone to the various games we ended up playing in class.

Blackthorn Key - Quotes 1

7. There are a great many things that my students and I were able to discuss from this story, including solutions, planets, feast days, history. I can’t help but think that Sands had cross-curricular activities in mind when he wrote it. I love books that can be appreciated across the curricula, so that’s part of what puts this book at the top of my suggestions list. I think this story can be appealing to a wide range of kids.

8. This book seems to be a standalone – and it works well as it is – but my kids and I still wonder what happens after the last chapter. That’s always a sign of a great book.

* Teachers/parents, if you’d like a copy of the chapter-by-chapter reading questions I gave to my students, feel free to email me!


4.5 Squinkles


Kevin Sands’ Online Corners
Twitter | Goodreads | Chapters

Thank you, Simon and Schuster Canada, for giving me a copy of the Blackthorn Key in exchange for an honest review.

All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.

Bookcation 2015 #11: The Blackthorn Key

14 Aug

Squinks, Squinks, Squinks!  I can’t wait to share my thoughts on Kevin Sands’ first novel, the Blackthorn Key … but I have to exercise what little patience I have because SOME of you haven’t finished reading it yet.  And although my reviews are always spoiler free, I don’t want to inadvertently tell you that the ending is GREAT.


Blackthorn Key  

For those of you “lucky” enough to be spending your summer away from school – though you’re actually rather UNLUCKY for not spending seven weeks talking about myths and legends and stories and books – you really need to pick up the Blackthorn Key when it pubs in September.  In fact, that should be Assignment #1 for the new school year.

Anyhoo, I’ll be back in a little bit to share my thoughts about this rockin’ novel, and some of my Squinks will also be sharing theirs.  We’re about to start on a book-related project, so hopefully, you’ll be treated to some really cool entries from my Summer-School Squinks.  ‘Til then … go pre-order the Blackthorn Key.  You might as well since you’re going to end up wanting to buy it anyway.

Eight Hundred Grapes (Laura Dave)

8 Jun

Eight Hundred Grapes


It’s no surprise that Laura Dave has found success as a writer across all platforms. Her experience writing for the big and small screens shines in this novel. Eight Hundred Grapes is the perfect marriage between the written word and moving pictures: It’s got likeable characters that are both flawed and believable, a gripping central conflict that many people will both understand and not be enviable of, and bite-sized scenes that are perfect for keeping the pace moving.

In Eight Hundred Grapes, Georgia is all set to marry Ben, a truly lovely bloke in all the ways that matter … except for the one mistake he made – he kept something from Georgia. Or, rather, he kept someone a secret. Hooked? Yeah, it didn’t take me very long at all to read Dave’s story. Her characters are totally engaging – all with their own set of delicious problems, all putting on brave faces even (and in some cases especially) when in front of family, all silently burning in torment.

I love, love, love awkward moments (in literature, in case the universe gets any big ideas), and there’s no shortage of grapes to make a bottle of fine awkward wine in this novel. There is no right or wrong when it comes to what Georgia should do, and what drives this novel is the choice she has to make. White? Red? Maybe a Zinfandel will do. All equally appealing, but she needs to decide which one is better for her. I’m glad Dave allows her protagonist the opportunity to waffle between her choices because life is like that: It’s rarely neat and never easy. I really enjoyed the mess that Georgia has to find her way out of. I also enjoyed the storyline between Georgia’s parents. As children, we forget sometimes that our parents had a love story before we ever came along, so it was exciting to read Dave’s exploration of love in a marriage many decades in the making.

And if that’s not enough conflict for you, revel in the mixing vat that is Georgia’s brothers’ conundrum. You’ll need a glass of wine to help the medicine go down. Speaking of which … Squinks, if you’re reading this, close your eyes for a paragraph while I talk to your parents for a minute …

Parents, Laura Dave very kindly gave me a copy of her suggested wine pairings for this delectable book. If/when you get your hands on Eight Hundred Grapes, she suggests having by your side a glass of La Marca Prosecco (for the first part), Lynmar Chardonnay (for the second and third), and Ridge Zinfandel (for the fourth and fifth).

Okay, a last word from me: DON’T read this book if you’ve only got a few minutes here and there. That may be enough to read a chapter or two, but you’ll definitely want to carve out an afternoon for this one. And that afternoon will lead into a book-club meeting or a girls’ night in of discussion. Also, DON’T read this story if you’re not into witty one-liners or charming characters. Lastly, DON’T read this book if you like things orderly and resolved. If you can’t stand bittersweet awkward encounters, mosey on along.

Have you read Eight Hundred Grapes yet? What did you think?  I’m looking forward to reading Dave’s other stories!


4 Squinkles


Laura Dave’s Online Corners

Website | FacebookTwitter | Goodreads | Chapters


Thank you, Simon and Schuster Canada, for sending me a copy of
Eight Hundred Grapes in exchange for an honest review.
All opinions and suggestions expressed herein are entirely my own.

A to Z: O is for the Other Boleyn Girl

15 Apr

O is for the Other Boleyn Girl, the second novel in Philippa Gregory’s fantastic Tudor Court series, which my mom and I both adore.  (Mom even came with me to meet Gregory and to have all of our books signed!)  This series is a labour of love – so much research is evident in the luscious details of the narrative, and Gregory shows just how much of King Henry’s reign was shaped by the woman at his side.  I can only imagine how the (real) other Boleyn girl must have felt about her sister.  What a journey.  What a life.


O - Other Boleyn Girl 

This was my first Philippa Gregory book, and it was just the best way to get introduced to her wonderful writing and this very satisfying genre.  Do you like historical fiction?

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