Canada Reads 2018 – Favs and Predictions

Debates kick off next week. Have you read them all yet?

It’s almost time! The debates kick off next week from March 26-29, 2018. In advance of the debates, I have read all five novels and have broken down the five into two lists. One, based on which ones I enjoyed the most and two, based on how the book best fits this year’s theme. Don’t forget to click on the links to read my full reviews on each novel!

Let’s start with the theme: One Book to Open Your Eyes. Here is how I think the debates will unfold and which book I think will be the winner.


5) The Marrow Thieves –  Putting a dystopian YA novel in with other quality pieces of literature is always going to be a gamble and while the topic of the treatment of Native Americans is important the execution of this story just didn’t match up with the other contenders. The loose concept of dreams being stuck in bone marrow was a bit of stretch too.

4) Precious Cargo – I thoroughly enjoyed this read. It draws attention to children and families living with disabilities. The writing is lighthearted and humorous but lacks the depth of the other contending novels.

3) Forgiveness – Rife with Canadian history as well lesser-known war details about Canada’s time in Hong Kong during WWII. The author’s grandparents come to terms with the terrible misfortunes that the war has brought them and learn to forgive as their families come together.  The writing can be a bit clunky and did not feel like a finished whole.

2) American War – Another dystopian though catered to a very adult audience. The content of this book is violent and brutal and draws a lot of attention to the realities of war and the politics behind it as well as the people that suffer in its wake.

1) The Boat People – Despite the slow start to this novel, this book takes the cake when it comes to the theme this year. The book is inspired by a real refugee crisis that happened in Canada in 2010 and it really opens your eyes past all the media and politics to the real issue facing refugees.

In terms of the books I enjoyed the most, however, I would rank the novels as such. It was tough this year as I found the difference in genres made it challenging as I enjoyed a few of the stories equally.


5) The Marrow Thieves – This book just didn’t click with me. The storytelling tradition aspects of the book are beautiful but the general YA premise just didn’t work for me.

4) Precious Cargo – I thoroughly enjoyed this novel as it was the most uplifting of the five. Had the other books not been as poignant it would have been higher up on this list.

3) Forgiveness –  Despite the issues I had with the writing style, the content about Hong Kong and the author’s time in a Japanese POW was absolutely captivating.

2) American War – This book surprised me the most. I was completely drawn into this world and the ending left me gutted.

1) The Boat People – Based on the first quarter of this book, I thought it was going to be on the bottom of this list, thankfully the dry story quickly came together to create something phenomenal and beautiful. This book combines dynamic and visceral characters paired with a memorable and important story that will be sure to tug on anyone’s conscience.

What do you think of my predictions and favourites? Do you agree? Comment and let me know!

Here are a few more details to get you prepped and ready for the debates! The contenders and their chosen books are:

Ali Hassan from CBC’s Laugh Out Loud will host for the second year in a row.

The debates will air on CBC Radio One at 11:05 a.m. ET, CT, MT, PT; 1:05 p.m. in Atlantic Canada; and at 1:35 p.m. in Newfoundland and Labrador. They will also be live-streamed on CBC Books at 11 a.m. ET and can be seen on CBC Television at 4 p.m. local time.

Nocturne by Heather McKenzie

“The only way I can protect the ones I love…is to disappear.”

3/5 stars.
ebook, 363 pages.
Read from March 13, 2018 to March 19, 2018.

I was thrilled when Heather reached out to me again to review an ARC edition of her latest novel in the Nightmusic Trilogy. I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in her series, Serenade, and am thankful I have had the privilege of continuing to read and review the series.

Nocturne picks up right where it left off in Serenade so I would recommend starting with Serenade if you are interested in the series or you will not have a clue what is going on in Nocturne. If you have read Serenade then you are in for a treat as all of the best characters make a come back in this novel as well as few stellar new ones.

Kaya feels free. Finally. Well, as free as you can feel being away from an oppressive and murderous father who wants you dead to ensure he gets full control of his billion-dollar pharmaceutical company. But she has Luke and that is all she needs. Despite her good fortune with the help of her friends in her initial escape she is still being hunted and is constantly be on the run. She soon learns that she is being hunted by more than just her father which has brought a few unwanted people back into her life. This knowledge came with a violent scene in which Kaya tragically learns that if she truly wants to protect the ones she loves she must leave them. Kaya heart-wrenchingly lies to those close to her and then sets off on her own, something she has never been allowed to do before. She is picked up by a cowboy named Ben who invites her to work on his ranch for room and board. Kaya is gutted with the loss of Luke and tries her best to maintain herself but will she be able to stay hidden? Is this what her life is now going to be like? No longer a sheltered princess living in a castle, Kaya grows and learns about her own capabilities and is finally free to make her own decisions. Luke and the ones who love her are not so easily deterred from protecting her, and as the story climaxes, Kaya will be thankful for their persistence.

Nocturne definitely keeps the same intense pace as its predecessor! This is the kind of action that needs to be in more YA novels with female leads. The novel is exciting, action-packed and suspenseful. The story is constantly moving and changing, creating nail-biting anticipation as Kaya and her friends literally fight their way away from those wanting to harm her. The story does not shy away from gun violence, blood, gore or from the characters getting a little frisky! The characters emotional reactions are visceral and the scenes invoke fantastic imagery. It is also nice to see a plot set in Saskatchewan, Canada. While it isn’t the most glamorous place, it is nice to see real rural Canadian settings in a YA book and I think that will speak to a lot of local readers.

Fun Fact:
Heather McKenzie decided to write a book because her own daughter wanted to read a story that did not have vampires, werewolves etc. but rather something set in real life.

As with a lot of YA novels, I struggled with the romance aspects of the plot and this book is sappier than Serenade. The massive love triangle was not as appealing to me as the extreme in which the characters cared and lusted for each other seemed like a stretch, but then again, I am not a teenager. I have not forgotten the fierceness I felt with my first love or how all-encompassing it felt so I think that the romance in this story would be very engaging for most teens. The other new characters in the story, like Thomas and Marlene, are fierce, smart and funny and are fantastic additions to the story.

There is one character and aspect of this story that I question and that is how the new character, Ben, was handled. Without spoiling the story, Ben makes some reprehensible choices under the guise that he was drunk and didn’t mean it. Just because someone is drunk does mean that they are not in control or not responsible for their actions. Ben also had a track record of the behaviour. However, Ben is a complicated and dynamic character, which is not always seen in YA, and he really added some depth to the story. I don’t think you’re supposed to like Ben or even feel sorry for him and thankfully the other supporting characters reactions and fortitude make up for his failings. Some of the novel’s focus is on Kaya’s desire and her desirability, which, of course, every teen girl wants to feel! So as a teen reader these plot nuances are a way to build on that and for the reader to play into a fantasy of desirability, which is completely understandable. So perhaps I think I just need to turn my adult-brain off and just enjoy the story for what it is, and it is one that I actually really enjoyed.

In fact, I demolished it over the last few days and bemoaned when I had to put it down. I feel really lucky to be one of the first to get my hands on this book. If you are a teen, a lover of YA fiction, action and romance then you are going to love this book. It is a great follow-up to Serenade and I can’t wait to see what the final book has in store for Kaya. Hopefully, we don’t have to wait too long for the final addition in this series!

Want some free books? Enter to win! Ends March 29th.

Get your hands on a copy of this exciting novel now and stay tuned for my review!

Heather McKenzie is back with the second instalment of the Nightmusic Trilogy! Nocturne is the second book in the trilogy following the highly successful debut novel, SerenadeNocturne is available for ebook purchase on March 20th and will be available in print on July 10, 2018.

Check out my review of Nocturne!

Want to win a mystery box from Clean Teen Publishing? Check out the giveaway below!

The giveaway ends on MARCH 29TH so make sure to get your entry in fast!

Read further for an excerpt of Nocturne and for more information about this up and coming Canadian author. Don’t forget to pick a copy Nocturne!

Available at:
Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo


by Heather McKenzie
(Nightmusic Trilogy, #2)
Published by: Clean Teen Publishing
Publication date: March 20th 2018
Genres: Mystery, Suspense, Young Adult

I am hunted.
A pawn in a vicious game.
The only way I can protect the ones I love…
…is to disappear.

Finally free of her father, Kaya has the one thing that keeps her heart beating—Luke.

Blissfully content in his arms, everything seems perfect…until their world is shattered by a deadly invasion. When an old ally comes to the rescue, Kaya wants none of it. She is devastated to learn the identity of her attacker, and that she must do something truly heartbreaking if she wants to save the ones she loves. Sacrificing everything and sinking into bottomless sorrow, Kaya finds solace in an unlikely friend—one who shows her a different kind of love, and helps her discover an inner strength she never thought possible.

A heart-pounding journey of self-discovery, Nocturne is the transformative second installment of The Nightmusic Trilogy by Heather McKenzie.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo


I flew out the door into the cool night, took four steps, then stopped—the latest enlightening news about my father had sent me over the edge. Tears burst from my eyes. The last shred of hope I’d been hanging onto that Henry wasn’t all bad had been completely obliterated; he was an actual monster.

I dropped to the curb and put my head in my hands. The rain started falling, lightly dusting my shoulders at first, then becoming a downpour just to add to my misery. I became soaked head to toe, but I didn’t care. I stayed where I was, wishing the rain would melt me into a puddle that would drain into the gutter and then just disappear into the earth…

“You left something in my truck,” said a voice from out of nowhere.

At the edge of my vision was Ben, rain coming down even harder now and pouring off his cowboy hat in rivers. He was holding out a paper bag, which was now soaked. It was the muffin I hadn’t eaten.

“I didn’t want it to go to waste,” he added, eyeing me with concern, then glancing at the café window where I could feel many sets of eyes on my back.

I dropped my gaze back to the gutter. My body didn’t want to move, and I still held out hope that the rain might just wash me away. Ben said something, and then he hauled me up and turned me to face him. He lifted my chin, and I had no choice but to meet his eyes. The rain plastered my hair to my face, mixing with the tears that were spilling out of me with blinding force.

He gave me a weak smile. “I tried to leave. Got in my truck and was ten minutes out of town, but then I realized…” He paused, fumbling for the right words. “I could really use some help at my ranch. Now, the job doesn’t pay much, but you’ll have your own room and all the food you can eat. You’ll be dry.”

He waited patiently for an answer, but I was so grateful that all my words caught in my throat. He tossed the paper bag with the muffin into the garbage. After a quick glance at the internet café and the white-haired waiter watching from the doorway, his hand firmly latched onto mine. I had the sense I wasn’t being given a choice, I was going wherever this cowboy wanted me to.

“I’m taking you home now,” he said over the downpour.

Home. Home was in Luke’s arms….

The rain was falling in sheets. Since I wasn’t about to turn into a puddle and dissolve, I let the cowboy lead the way.

About the author:

Heather.jpgHeather McKenzie is the Canadian author of The Nightmusic Trilogy. Also a professional singer/songwriter with five albums to date, she told stories through music for years before falling in love with novel writing. Heather pulls from her extraordinary experiences as a musician to fuel her passion for creating Young Adult fiction. She is a rocker at heart, a mom of three and an aspiring painter.

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