Monthly Archives: April 2014

Blog Tour – The Circus Dogs of Prague by Rachelle Delaney (Review)

19547272Title: The Circus Dogs of Prague

Author: Rachelle Delaney

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: JR and his embassy friends Robert, Pie, and Beatrix are on their way to Prague! Having solved the mystery of the missing dogs in Moscow, JR is ready for a vacation with his human, George, and George’s Russian girlfriend, Nadya. And where better to distract themselves than in Prague, taking in the sights and meeting Nadya’s brother, a circus performer.

But something is amiss at the circus—the animals are unhappy. The boxing kangaroo doesn’t want to box, the dancing chimpanzee doesn’t want to dance. Not only that, but a fancy new circus is coming to town, threatening to put everyone out of a job. It’s up to JR and the embassy dogs to save the show, with the help of some unlikely accomplices.

Huge thank you to Puffin/Razorbill Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I love animal stories, especially ones about dogs having grand adventures. Rachelle Delaney made me fall in love with a group of pups who end up on a very unconventional mission: to help a circus get its groove back. Sounds kinda of silly, but it works so well and there is a dog named Pie. Pie is my favourite, such a cutie.

I admit, I have not read The Metro Dogs of Moscow, but it’s not necessary to enjoy this book at all. For the most part Delaney does a great job of introducing these characters to readers who are having their first encounter. I loved the amount of personality she infused into all of the animal characters, each one distinctive, yet still very much an animal. I like that JR had as many doggie thoughts as he did human ones, it made for such a refreshing and fun reading experience.

Plus, I love the circus. So puppies plus circus equals the perfect book for Sam. I’m a dog owner (a Labrador Retriever and an English Bulldog) and a lot of the time I spent reading this I kept inserting my own dogs into the narrative, thinking about how they would respond to the circus. I realized both my dogs would not be cut out for it, sadly. Dakota would attempt to run the joint, and Brutus’ only trick is paw and snuggles. 

The Circus Dogs of Prague has so much to offer readers of any age. Children will love the fact that it’s a heart-felt animal story with a great sense of humor, and adults will love sharing it with their children because it’s just so genuine and sweet. JR, Beatrix, Pie and Robert have these magic powers to wag their way into your heart and just make you smile. I definitely loved the writing and the characters, and I cannot wait to see if Rachelle Delaney will do more with this fabulous and fun cast of characters. Also Pie = adorkable.

Book Ban Check-in #2

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(Missing: For the Win by Cory Doctorow because my spouse stole it back!)

Welcome to another installment of my adventures in book ban-land. This week as you can see the pile only grew slightly, as within two weeks I only read three books from my TBR that were not ARCs. If you are curious about the previous check in you can read that here.

Tally stands at: 1 middle grade book / 5 young adult books / 1 adult book. Total books is currently: 7/15 (though obviously I’m going to try and read more!)

Interestingly, I’m close to finishing The Unbound by Victoria Schwab, which I am completely in love with. Victoria Schwab really has a way of taking readers away and just keeping them engaged, and I just, I need to know what happens, darn it. I’m also 50% into The Soul Healer by Melissa Giorgio, which I cannot count for my book ban because it was the one book I bought during the ban. I have not bought ANY OTHER BOOKS, which means I’m doing good. Also Soul Healer is made of perfection as well! (Evan, why you so naughty? WHY?)

Okay, so let’s get into the books I added:

Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway: This is a book I read with River, as I bought it for her as a birthday present. It’s one I got for five bucks at Chapters and it may have been the best five bucks I’ve spent in awhile. The story is hilarious, Benway’s choice of music brought me back to my high school years when River and I met, and all the bands we as a group were listening to. It reminded me of the years when we were burning CDs for each other, mailing letters, anime, the works. I was very nostalgic through the book, and it reminded me how talented Robin Benway is because she creates characters with distinctive voices, and they are often characters you never forget. Audrey made me laugh so much and she was great to be in the head space of. I ended up giving this book 4 Stars.

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S King: So I can say with confidence that I’m pretty close to having read all of King’s books that are currently out. This book was a Printz Honor Winner and was also the pick for the #WednesdayYA book club hosted by Misty @ The Book Rat and Liz of Consumed by Books. It was an awesome choice, and King is such a fabulous writer. Reading this book I completely understood why she won the Printz Honor, because Vera and Charlie as so memorable and the multiple perspectives used oddly worked well (though not perfectly). There’s a lot of dark humor in this book, and the mystery element is very intriguing. Vera’s decision to protect Charlie in a lot of ways is not normal, but it makes for interesting story telling. I also loved her dad, and I totally understood a lot of his motives, and now have crazy appreciation for flow charts. Loved this book and gave it 4 Stars as it still doesn’t beat Everybody Sees the Ants or Ask the Passengers for me.

Dawn’s Early Light by Pip Ballentine & Tee Morris: I am not going to say a lot of this book as it’s a third in a series, but my goodness, if you haven’t read Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, you really should. Books and Braun are fantastic characters and they get into wacky steampunk adventures. This one features Telsa and Edison! Automatic 5 Stars! (No seriously, the book in hilarious, action-packed and very fun).

And there you have it for this second check-in. It’s a bit pathetic, but I am hoping to have more of my own books read. Should be interesting because May is a month of friends visiting, a family member’s wedding, and going to Disney World. Yeah, May is crazy, but I will do my best to try and sneak in a few more from my personal TBR. Providing ARCs and review games don’t destroy me as well.

Happy Monday and the next check-in will be in two weeks! 🙂

ARC Review – Tease by Amanda Maciel

18599820Title:  Tease

Author: Amanda Maciel

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Emma Putnam is dead, and it’s all Sara Wharton’s fault.

At least, that’s what everyone seems to think. Sara, along with her best friend and three other classmates, has been criminally charged for the bullying and harassment that led to Emma’s shocking suicide. Now Sara is the one who’s ostracized, already guilty according to her peers, the community, and the media.

During the summer before her senior year, in between meetings with lawyers and a court-recommended therapist, Sara is forced to reflect on the events that brought her to this moment—and ultimately consider her role in an undeniable tragedy. And she’ll have to find a way to move forward, even when it feels like her own life is over.

In this powerful debut novel inspired by real-life events, Amanda Maciel weaves a narrative of high school life as complex and heartbreaking as it is familiar: a story of everyday jealousies and resentments, misunderstandings and desires. Tease is a thought-provoking must-read that will haunt readers long after the last page.

Huge thank you to Edelweiss and Balzer + Bray for this ARC.

River’s Review:

You’re going to either love this or hate this. I’ve seen A LOT of DNFs and 1-star ratings because people don’t like the narrator. She feels no remorse, she’s not sorry, she’s self-centered. I feel like that’s the point of this book though. The narrator, Sara, is part of a group of popular kids who bullied a girl until she killed herself. Sara doesn’t understand why she’s to blame. She didn’t make Emma kill herself. She didn’t KILL Emma. She doesn’t know why she has to be sorry, why she’s the one being attacked now. In her eyes, she’s blameless.

I think the biggest reason Sara doesn’t feel that she holds any blame is because she was essentially following her best friend through all of the bullying. Sara’s the side kick and her best friend is the mean girl. Sara does a lot of shit to keep up with Brielle, from sleeping with her boyfriend to bulling Emma both online and offline. Sara gets a kick out of being powerful, and essentially, anyone who is the bully does. That’s why people do it. They want to feel powerful, it makes them feel powerful. And with the internet these days… it’s just even easier.

The lack of empathy and remorse Sara and her friends show really highlights a huge problem that has cropped up these past 10 years with young people using facebook and twitter. I remember being harassed on livejournal when I was in college by my roommate and a group of her friends. I’ve seen my fair-share of online bullying. It makes me sad and sick. But it’s just so EASY. And it seems to be getting worse as time goes on.

I liked that this book showed the flip side of the bullying. Most books show what it’s like to be the bullied. I’ve read a lot of mean girl books where the popular girl loses her popularity and gets crushed. The fact that this story led to suicide and was shown from a different perspective made me think a lot. It’s hard to think about who is wrong, who is to blame, how should this be handled and fixed.

I liked the ending when Sara does start to feel sorry and remorseful. People make mistakes, teenagers especially. There are no excuses, and she doesn’t make a full recovery, she doesn’t suddenly become a saint. She essentially learns from her mistakes. And I guess that’s all we can hope for, really.

This story is told in first person with alternating chapters taking place in the past and the present. I LOVED this. The winter is when all of the bullying took place and the summer is when the deposition and aftermath took place. I loved the juxtaposition of the two seasons.

The only thing that I would have liked would have been more information about Emma. I never really felt like I had any sense of who she was and how she was feeling. We’re told a lot of information, but she’s surprisingly absent from the book (no pun intended). I would have liked more characterization for her.

This is another powerful mean girl story that I think fans of Courtney Summers would really enjoy. It also reminds me quite a bit of The Truth About Alice (coming out later this year, which I’ve already reviewed).

 

ARC Review – Riot by Sarah Mussi

20359867Title:  Riot

Author: Sarah Mussi

Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: It is 2018. England has been struggling under a recession that has shown no sign of abating. Years of cuts has devastated Britain: banks are going under, businesses closing, prices soaring, unemployment rising, prisons overflowing. The authorities cannot cope. And the population has maxed out.

The police are snowed under. Something has to give. Drastic measures need taking.

Huge thank you to Hodder Children’s and Netgalley for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I am a bit torn on Riot. On one hand is has an interesting and politically heated premise, on the other hand it’s very convoluted and confusing. A part of me feels like I should nail the book for the level of confusion and misdirection is gives the reader, but I almost want to oddly applauded the book for going in a variety of directions, and one that never feels like the right one.

This is the first novel I’ve ever read by Sarah Mussi, and although Riot is an odd duck, I don’t feel like it will be my last. Her writing is gorgeous and disturbing, and you never feel entirely comfortable or aware while reading this novel. Although out narrator is constantly throwing information at the reader, a lot of clarity goes out the window and I kind of liked that this book was in a lot of ways a puzzle to uncover. However, I also think it’s the book’s biggest downfall because the puzzle lacks a clear result, the ending is a bit stoic, and you feel like for the time you spent reading the book like more concrete elements should have occurred.

Mussi’s novel definitely talks about a scary future, and one that actually could happen, and one we should be concerned about.Cities that are becoming the haves and havenots are rarer, but are becoming less so and yet reading this book you feel like you’re drowning in voices — like you’re actually a part of these riots and revolts. The tech side was also handled well, but it wasn’t always engaging to read about. In fact, there’s chunks of this book where it’s doing a lot of preaching but no action, which for a book called Riot, I expected a bit more.

Riot is not a bad book, but if you’re expecting something to happen and be engaging from start to finish you will be disappointed. You also need to have some tolerance for preachiness, but I think her message is solid all around even if the execution wasn’t perfect. Riot has great description and political self-awareness, but it needed more action to make it a much more intense read.

ARC Review – One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva

18465591Title:  One Man Guy

Author: Michael Barakiva

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Alek Khederian should have guessed something was wrong when his parents took him to a restaurant. Everyone knows that Armenians never eat out. Between bouts of interrogating the waitress and criticizing the menu, Alek’s parents announce that he’ll be attending summer school in order to bring up his grades. Alek is sure this experience will be the perfect hellish end to his hellish freshman year of high school. He never could’ve predicted that he’d meet someone like Ethan.

Ethan is everything Alek wishes he were: confident, free-spirited, and irreverent. He can’t believe a guy this cool wants to be his friend. And before long, it seems like Ethan wants to be more than friends. Alek has never thought about having a boyfriend—he’s barely ever had a girlfriend—but maybe it’s time to think again.

Huge thank you to Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) and Netgalley for this advance reader copy.

I am a little torn with One Man Guy because I actually loved the majority of this book but there was one thing that surprisingly tested my nerves and did genuinely upset me.

First off, I love that the title of this book is a reference to Rufus Wainwright and I love and appreciated Barakiva discussing the history of the song “One Man Guy” as well as a bit of history about Rufus Wainwright as a performance artist. I am a huge lover of Rufus Wainwright and anytime the characters quote songs or discussed the meanings I found myself smiling and grinning.

I actually also loved the writing in this book as well. The flow and pacing were close to perfect, and it was easy to understand a lot of the culture aspects of the story. There’s no heavy handedness, Barakiva makes Armenian culture something accessible, understandable, and quite lovable with his cast of characters. I had particular love for Alek’s family, especially Nik, oddly but there were parts of him that reminded me of my older brother.

Alek’s character is handled beautifully, and I loved his how he was coming out of shell and growing into someone who he wanted to be comfortable with. I like that people weren’t automatically accepting, but understood in such a way where he was fortunate enough to have an awesome support system in his parents and Becky. A lot of his mannerism and behavior make perfect sense for growing fourteen year old who’s learning how to push his parent’s buttons a little but still try to be his own person.

In a lot of GLBT literature, there’s always the approch of parents hating that their kids are gay, or trying to un-gay them in some way. What I loved in Barakiva’s approach is how understanding and supportive they were in their son’s decision, even if right away they weren’t fond of Ethan. You get a genuine sense that they love and care regardless of sexual orientation, and that was so refreshing. For the most part the world that we see in Alek’s life is surprisingly positive which in these types of stories sometimes feels unheard of. I also loved Nik’s big reveal and how that handed — it was so sweet and I found myself cheering so happily. The ending of this book is also wonderful and perfect and I feel like it couldn’t have ended any other way.

I do want to talk about something that did upset me with the book and it threw me for a bit of a loop, but I struggled with Ethan’s character. I was not fond of his forceful behavior towards Alek, particularly when he was still trying to understand what it meant to be gay. He’d say things like he gets it, but then force Alek to kiss him or expose himself and the way the novel is written you get the sense of discomfort from Alek’s character, and I just didn’t like Ethan’s lack of respect. It made it harder for me to connect with him because you can see Alek trying to grow and become who he wants to be. This happens a few times in the story and I had a hard time with it.

However, when Ethan is being as sweet and as vulnerable as Alek, that was something I liked and appreciated. In fact, I love them as a couple when they are learning and exploring, so the forced aspects just threw me off. Ethan has some amazing insight for a man his age, and I like his attitude towards what it means to be gay and being true to who you are.

There’s a wonderful debut here and the story is so sweet. It’s a relationship the reader gets to see develop and unfold, without the insta-love crap that often YA often likes to push forth. While I wasn’t 100% fond of Ethan’s characterization, I still loved the cast of characters and the story that Barakiva presented. Plus it’s an easy read and all it asks for the most part is an open-mind and welcomes those with a cheeky sense of humor.

Two – before & AFTER

In case you missed what this feature is about… check out my post here: BEFORE & AFTER

So how did the two that I chose hold up? You might be surprised (or not, if you already read my reviews).

endI LOVED IT SO MUCH!!! Five full stars. You can check out my review here, but basically it started off kinda weak and I was thinking about 3 stars but then it built up and exploded with AMAZINGNESS and Miles was great and I loved his and Juneau’s relationship and the banter between them and the writing was wonderful and THE ENDING OMG. So yes, I was so excited for this and thankfully my instincts were spot on! This was also one of my top-5-for-2014. You guys are going to want to read this one.

lilygravesSadly this one did not hold up. I was super scared to read it and while I may have loved Strohmeyer’s pervious books, this one didn’t hold a candle to ‘Smart Girls’. You can see my review here on goodreads (it will be up on the blog later) but man, I wanted so much more from this.

Have you read either of these? What did you think? Leave me your opinion in the comments!

 

ARC Review – What We Hide by Marthe Jocelyn

18209349Title:  What We Hide

Author: Marthe Jocelyn

Rating: ★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Americans Jenny and her brother, Tom, are off to England: Tom to university, to dodge the Vietnam draft, Jenny to be the new girl at a boarding school, Illington Hall. This is Jenny’s chance to finally stand out, so accidentally, on purpose, she tells a lie. But in the small world of Ill Hall, everyone has something to hide. Jenny pretends she has a boyfriend. Robbie and Luke both pretend they don’t. Brenda won’t tell what happened with the school doctor. Nico wants to hide his mother’s memoir. Percy keeps his famous dad a secret. Oona lies to everyone. Penelope lies only to herself.

Deftly told from multiple points of view in various narrative styles, including letters and movie screenplays, What We Hide is provocative, honest, often funny, and always intriguing.

Huge thank you to Tundra Books and Netgalley for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I am torn when it comes to What We Hide. It has an intriguing premise with a lot of mystery surrounding the characters within the story, and each character is connected to another by a small thread. The writing is gorgeous, it keeps you guessing, and yet, I struggled to connect with it. 

There are so many perspectives in this novel, and I think that’s what’s problematic about it. I never felt like I understood a lot of the characters or their motives, so a lot of their secrets didn’t feel naturally exposed, and to be honest I ended up with more questions than answers, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but it made for a confusing story a lot of the time.

There is also so much intertextuality in this book, which you don’t see in a lot of YA, but when you do it can be a nice break in the story. In What We Hide however, it just become more questions and often it made the text very jarring to read because the transition between letters, scripts and first person perspectives feel so mashed together instead of being placed in such a way that the reader would understand WHY the change in format.

I guess for me, it boils down to taste. I think with the right reader, this story will resonate well, but for me I just felt lost and confused a lot of the time. Even when I got to the end I found myself asking more questions and not feeling satisfied with results presented to me. What We Hide is not a bad book, but it definitely requires a ton of patience on the reader’s part.