Monthly Archives: July 2015

ARC Review – A History of Glitter and Blood by Hannah Moskowitz

24905359Title: A History of Glitter and Blood

Author: Hannah Moskowitz

Rating: ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Beckan and her friends are the only fairies brave enough to stay in Ferrum when war breaks out. Now there is tension between the immortal fairies, the subterranean gnomes, and the mysterious tightropers who arrived to liberate the fairies. But when Beckan’s clan is forced to venture into the gnome underworld to survive, they find themselves tentatively forming unlikely friendships and making sacrifices they couldn’t have imagined. As danger mounts, Beckan finds herself caught between her loyalty to her friends, her desire for peace, and a love she never expected. This stunning, lyrical fantasy is a powerful exploration of what makes a family, what justifies a war, and what it means to truly love.

Huge thank you to Raincoast Books for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I am a big fan of Hannah Moskowitz’s books based on the handful I’ve read. I feel like her writing is the equivalent of a chameleon — every book stylistically feels so drastically different, and yet there’s always a small part in the writing that reminds you it’s a Hannah Moskowitz book. I was super excited for A History of Glitter and Blood, and I enjoyed it, but not as much as I was hoping.

First off, this book has a very weird style to it. One of the main things I’ve noticed is all the DNF reviews on Goodreads, and a lot of them complain about the unique style. I don’t blame people for giving up based on the style, it’s very difficult to read at times, often because the narrative jumps around, breaks the fourth wall, and sometimes feels like you’re being pushed away. However, when I gathered that this novel was being written a “history,” the observations and narrative did start to gel with me. Part of this issue is that it’s not entirely obvious right away who is telling the story — we know it’s about Beckan, but she isn’t the narrator.

The story itself, when you get past the style, it’s really interesting. It focuses on a war between fairy and gnomes, and you’re given this sense at first that it’s like “fairies good, gnomes bad” and Moskowitz does this amazing job of turning that mentality upside down and showing how both sides are fault. Moskowitz leads the reader through this violent and destructive war, and it’s described in such a raw and vivid way. If you don’t particularly like gore or graphic description, than this book might turn your stomach. The push and pull of both sides really resonated with me, and I liked that I couldn’t pick a side and point a finger to who was right and who was wrong. The book even ends in a somewhat ambiguous way, which I thought worked.

I think the hardest part of this story for me was while I liked the overall narrative, I struggled somewhat with the characters. I didn’t feel a strong connection to them, nor did I feel like they had enough personality to really differentiate from each other. You learn a lot from who is narrating the story, but it’s from that character’s perspective alone, which works because you get a sense of who this narrator likes and who they dislike. However, it means you’re only given a very limited perspective on the other characters, so you don’t really know if they are as bad or good as the narrator makes them out to be.

And that’s just it: while this book has amazing tension and a twisting narrative, it can be a touch confusing to know what is going on at times. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially because parts that feel confusing do get re-examined and there isn’t loose ends needing to be tied up by the end. I enjoyed my time with A History of Glitter and Blood, but I feel like the narrative style will definitely be something that might be off putting for some readers. Which is a same really, because while the lack of characterization bothered me, I have to admit to the fact that I was so swept up in the war and tension that this novel presents. I feel like those who love fantasy and politics will likely appreciate what A History of Glitter and Blood has to offer.

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Summer Contemporary Fling – Never Always Sometimes by Adi Alsaid

24338298Title:  Never Always Sometimes

Author: Adi Alsaid

Rating:  ★★★★

Synopsis: Best friends Dave and Julia were determined to never be cliché high school kids—the ones who sit at the same lunch table every day, dissecting the drama from homeroom and plotting their campaigns for prom king and queen. They even wrote their own Never List of everything they vowed they’d never, ever do in high school. Some of the rules have been easy to follow, like #5, never die your hair a color of the rainbow, or #7, never hook up with a teacher. But Dave has a secret: he’s broken rule #8, never pine silently after someone for the entirety of high school. It’s either that or break rule #10, never date your best friend. Dave has loved Julia for as long as he can remember. Julia is beautiful, wild and impetuous. So when she suggests they do every Never on the list, Dave is happy to play along. He even dyes his hair an unfortunate shade of green. It starts as a joke, but then a funny thing happens: Dave and Julia discover that by skipping the clichés, they’ve actually been missing out on high school. And maybe even on love.

Huge thank you to  Harlequin Teen  and Edelweiss for this ARC!

River’s Review:

This was an odd book for me. I had a lot of trouble getting into it and even at the midway point this book was only a 2-3 star book. But then towards the end it got much better and I ended up giving it four stars because the ending didn’t go as I had expected it and I gave it major points for that.

This is a story about two best friends and their quest to not conform. These days it’s so hard to not fit into some type of mold though. Julia and Dave are both aloof, cool, and walk down a different path than most of the kids at their school. They think high school is a cliche and that 99% of the kids at their school are cliches. I feel like a lot of this comes from Julia’s and her issues with her mother. Julia’s mother is a “free spirit”, she roams the world, hopping from country to country, doing whatever she wants. She sadly doesn’t spend that much time with her daughter, having left her in the care of her father and his partner, but Julia idolizes her mother’s alternative lifestyle. And I think that a lot of the reason why Julia thinks the way she does is because of that.

Dave is Julia’s best friend, but he is also in love with her. They spend all of their time together and before starting high school they make a list of ‘Nevers’; basically things they consider to be high school cliches that they will never do. Then at the end of their senior year they are bored out of their minds and find the list. Julia thinks it’s a great idea to actually do the Never list as a way to keep themselves amused until graduation.

So as they start to do the Nevers, go to parties, run for homecoming court, host a kegger, they start to realize that maybe there’s more to their classmates than meets the eye. Julia takes much longer to see it, but Dave discovers that he’s actually a pretty fun guy and that people like him. He starts to fall for a cute girl and when he finally starts to pull away from Julia shit hits the fan.

I really liked the dynamics between Dave and everyone. I understood his friendship and relationship with Julia because I was there myself in high school. I also enjoyed watching him get to know other people and realize that he’d put blinders on himself. I also enjoyed how Julia struggled with her own realizations about others, herself, and her mother. There were a lot of great moments between Dave and Julia but also between Julia and Dave’s brother, and Dave and basically anyone else he interacted with.

The writing in this is pretty solid, if not a little dry at times, but then there are a TON of hilarious lines and I found myself chuckling and smiling at times. As I said, I struggled to get into this, but as it went on it really grew on me and by the end I was smiling.

Recent Bookish Adventures

Hello! Look at me update! And not take six months to do it! So last month (June) and this month (July) have been rather bookish! In July I read something like 18 books and I’m now 28 books ahead on my goodreads challenge (to read 100 books). Holy crazy wow. Also last month I attended two book events here in Boston.

The first event was a children’s lit trivia night. I went with the lovely Mackenzi Lee and some other authors and book friends and while we did not win, we did exceptionally well (and I think we got like 4th place). I knew like two answers but hey, it was fun to go out and meet some new people.

After that Mackenzi and I set up the first Boston Book Swap (okay I’m sure it’s not THE FIRST but whatever, it’s the first of more that we plan to have!) we got the idea from the popular #booksfortrade on twitter and first it was just going to be the two of us swapping books but then we thought hey! let’s invite more people! So we (she) contacted all the book people we know in Boston (I know like, five, but more now!) and set up the party. Everyone was allowed to bring 10 books to trade. Sadly the day of the party was very stormy and rainy and not that many people wanted to trek out to Mackenzi’s place, so we only ended up with six people. But it was a TON of fun and there were A LOT of books!

IMG_1265All the books that were brought!

How it worked was like this: we each drew a number and then went around in a circle. You were allowed to choose one book from the floor OR you could steal a book from another person. Each book was allowed to be stolen three times. It took awhile and there were some hilarious steals but we all went home with lots of books!

IMG_1270All the books I ended up with! (Two were BEA gifts from Nicole and a few were extra’s given to me by Mackenzi)

I feel like the book swap was a success and I hope that more people will go next time!

This month I’ve been reading a lot as well, probably not as much as in June, but I DID get a huge ARC package from HarperCollins so I have A LOT of stuff to read…

IMG_1484IMG_1487I’m still in shock at how generous Harper was to me this month. This is my third time getting ARCs from them and this is the most I’ve gotten so far. I’m SO excited to read all of these, and a few are books that I have been DYING to read one of them being…

IMG_1486We are not surprised at all, now are we?

Again I cannot say how happy I am to be back in the USA where I can have the chance to participate in book events and make book friends and get physical ARCs. My bookish heart is filled and my bookish dreams are slowly being fulfilled.

ARC Review – Delilah Dirk and the King’s Shilling by Tony Cliff

25332007Title:  Delilah Dirk and the King’s Shilling

Author: Tony Cliff

Rating:  ★★★★

Release Date: March 8th 2016 by First Second

Huge thank you to First Second and Netgalley for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

My love for the Delilah Dirk series holds absolutely no bounds. This series has an amazing sense of humour, great and captivating characters, and they simply take you on a wonderful journey. While I didn’t like this collection as much as The Turkish Lieutenant, I still enjoyed my time with The King’s Shilling.

What I loved in this particular instalment is that we finally get some huge insight into Delilah’s character and her backstory. Sadly we don’t get as much with Selim, as he seems to appear more in the background of this collection, hopefully he’ll have more of a focus next time. But seriously, I loved how gripping Delilah’s backstory was and how intricate it felt. She’s such a wonderfully layered heroine, and Cliff continues to make her feel so real at times. Her imperfections, her drive, her sass and courage, really just make her so captivating to read about.

While I won’t spoil a lot of what happens in this collection, what I will say that I do think it’s a fantastic follow up to The Turkish Lieutenant. While it doesn’t have the same fast pace, what The King’s Shilling gets dead on is it’s absolutely to suck the reader into the world and the narrative, and Cliff gives the reader so much to uncover. His artwork continues to shine, and I love how expressive his characters are — even those in the background.

While you’ll have to wait until March to get your hands on this collection, it truly is worth the wait. As long as Tony Cliff continues to publish this series, I will continue to be an avid reader because I simply adore Delilah and Selim to pieces. If you haven’t read The Turkish Lieutenant, get on that so you can join in the fun that is the Delilah Dirk series.

ARC Review – Made You Up by Francesca Zappia

17661416Title: Made You Up

Author: Francesca Zappia

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Reality, it turns out, is often not what you perceive it to be—sometimes, there really is someone out to get you. Made You Up tells the story of Alex, a high school senior unable to tell the difference between real life and delusion. This is a compelling and provoking literary debut that will appeal to fans of Wes Anderson, Silver Linings Playbook, and Liar.

Alex fights a daily battle to figure out the difference between reality and delusion. Armed with a take-no-prisoners attitude, her camera, a Magic 8-Ball, and her only ally (her little sister), Alex wages a war against her schizophrenia, determined to stay sane long enough to get into college. She’s pretty optimistic about her chances until classes begin, and she runs into Miles. Didn’t she imagine him? Before she knows it, Alex is making friends, going to parties, falling in love, and experiencing all the usual rites of passage for teenagers. But Alex is used to being crazy. She’s not prepared for normal.

Huge thank you to Greenwillow Books & Edelweiss for this ARC!

River’s Review:

I LOVED THIS BOOK! I lived the writing style, the wacky school, Alex’s humor and sincerity and MILES! I freaking LOVED Miles! And their whole little group. It was such a colorful cast of characters.

This is a story about a girl named Alex who has paranoid schizophrenia. She often hallucinates and takes photos with her digital camera to help her understand what’s real and fake. The story starts off with her as a child trying to free the lobsters in the lobster tank at the grocery store. She meets a boy who has the bluest eyes she’s ever seen… and later learns that the whole thing was a delusion.

Years later she’s in her senior year of high school. Getting her last chance. She didn’t do so well in her last school (due to paranoia about communists and a spray paint incident) and you get the feeling that if she doesn’t prove herself this time around something bad is going to happen.

Alex is quirky and not just because of her schizophrenia. She’s just a wacky girl with a good sense of humor. I loved her voice and I loved being inside of her head. So often people are scared of schizophrenics and this really helped me to understand what it might be like for people who suffer from schizophrenia. I felt for Alex and she broke my heart more than once. Towards the end of the book we learn a very sad truth that is devastating for Alex and my heart just broke.

Mile’s is an incredibly interesting character. He’s a genius, he’s a jerk, he’s king of the school. He does ‘jobs’ for people who pay him money to get revenge, get them out of tests, and other odd ball things. He does this because it gives him power. Without that he’s just a nerd from a bad home who gets bullied. And he faces off with Alex, pulling pranks on her, and her pulling them back on him. They slowly form a bond thought and he later figures out that she’s schizophrenic. But he’s very good about it, and takes care of her. There are some of THE sweetest moments between the two of them. And I just loved him. And I also loved how she took care of him when he needed help.

The school they go to is almost it’s own character. There’s a lot of weird stuff going on and I just loved how it added to the story as an almost living background.

Pick this book up guys. It’s brilliant and amazing!

 

ARC Review – The Book of Dares for Lost Friends by Jane Kelley

22718719Title:  The Book of Dares for Lost Friends

Author:  Jane Kelley

Rating:  ★★★

Synopsis: Val and Lanora have been friends forever. Val expects their relationship to stay the same. But after they start middle school, Lanora decides to reinvent herself. Her parents have split up, and she wants to rise above that. Unfortunately Lanoraʼs choices lead her into trouble. Val hates watching her friend lose her way. She wants to rescue Lanora, but how? Val doesnʼt know what to do until a stray cat leads her to a strange boy who lives in an even stranger bookshop. Together they embark on a quest. Will they be able to save a lost friend? Will they get lost themselves? Or will they find a way to help each other become who they want to be . . .

Huge thank you to Raincoast Books for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I didn’t know what I was getting into when I started The Book of Dares for Lost Friends by Jane Kelley. I admit, I’m not familiar with her work, but what I was from this novel was a beautiful written, if somewhat confusing narrative.

What you need for this novel is that it’s very much an adventurer’s quest — Val wishes to save her friend Lanora from becoming someone different. From growing up and being forgotten. Interestingly what we have are two female heroines, both seemingly voiced as being older than they are, but with the maturity not quite being there yet. I actually appreciated that portrayal of the characters because it seemed very fitting as they are both in an awkward age where they want to be grown up but still are very childlike in their innocence. I just wish there had been more development in the characters, because I still feel like I didn’t know them as well as I would have liked.

This novel is beautiful written, but I admit at times it confused me. You’d get these very detailed descriptions and I found myself having to read them more than once to ensure that I understood what was happening. The setting of the story jumps around a lot, so trying to keep up and stay consistent requires slow reading. This novel took me awhile to get through, not because it was bad, but because it wants and demands your full attention. If your mind wanders, it’s easy to forget what you just read.

I appreciate a lot of the issues that Kelley presents in the novel, from divorce, fitting in, being lost, it’s all integral to growing up and learning what kind of person you are going to grow into. While the characters in this story lacked depth, the author made up for it in how she approached the issues — it’s done in a very sensitive and thoughtful manner that I feel the age group this book is targeted to could understand with ease. She never dumbed it down or make it feel shoe-horned in, and I like how Lanora and Val respond to the issues. There’s fear, uncertainty, challenge, and it felt very real at times.

I feel like The Book of Dares for Lost Friends offers a lot to a reader who is patient and methodical. Although this is very much an adventure story, it’s not a book I would recommend to a reader who is impatient and simply wanting action and instant discovery. This book is layered, it’s challenging, and I think with a patient reader, it could easily be a favourite. I admit, I feel like I wanted so much more from this story, and while I adore some of it’s approaches to topics, as a reader I struggled to connect. I think The Book of Dares for Lost Friends, while beautiful in it’s prose, may be a very polarizing book for some readers, and that’s okay too. Still, if you’re a patient reader and love a middle grade novel with a slow unravel, then definitely check this book out.

Summer Contemporary Fling – The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord

22429350Title:  The Start of Me and You

Author: Emery Lord

Rating:  ★★★★ 1/2 / ★★★★★

Synopsis: Brimming with heartfelt relationships and authentic high-school dynamics, The Start of Me and You proves that it’s never too late for second chances.

It’s been a year since it happened—when Paige Hancock’s first boyfriend died in an accident. After shutting out the world for two years, Paige is finally ready for a second chance at high school . . . and she has a plan. First: Get her old crush, Ryan Chase, to date her—the perfect way to convince everyone she’s back to normal. Next: Join a club—simple, it’s high school after all. But when Ryan’s sweet, nerdy cousin, Max, moves to town and recruits Paige for the Quiz Bowl team (of all things!) her perfect plan is thrown for a serious loop. Will Paige be able to face her fears and finally open herself up to the life she was meant to live?

Huge thank you to Bloomsbury and Netgalley for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

This was my first Emery Lord book. I admit, I was afraid to tackle it given the high praise of Open Road Summer (which I own, but haven’t read yet). I was nervous to go into this considering how much a lot of my blogger friends love her books, but I’m glad I read this. The Start of Me and You, though it has a rocky start, ends on a satisfying note.

First off, I want to talk about Paige. I love the way she was written because unlike a lot of young adult novels, she felt and acted her age. Lord does this amazing job of making her voice and mannerisms so authenticate that when Paige behaves a certain way, it feels believable or right in the context of the situation. She’s nerdy, shy, a little reserved, and yet she wants to grow and become a stronger individual. She has aspirations for herself and her self-esteem, and she’s easy to cheer for because you see she wears her imperfections on her sleeve.

Paige faces the tragedy of her boyfriend dying in an accident, and she struggles to open her heart again. Enter Max, who by far might be one of the first YA love interests in awhile that I can say I rooted for. Max is darling, he’s hilarious, and capitalizes on his social awkwardness. In way, it makes him charming, darling and just plain funny. He has a lot of heart and like Paige struggles to put himself out there, but where he differs is that he’s more willing to make mistakes, get hurt, and learn from it. Lord provides both Paige and Max with a lot of depth, and what we have is a relationship that develops in a beautiful, organic way. There’s no insta-love, but you get this shy and awkward interaction between the two that feels very realistic.

Lord also does an amazing job of writing friendships. In a way it reminds me of reading a Robin Benway novel, where the protagonist has well developed friends who feel like real people and can be counted on. I thought Tessa and Kayleigh were adorable and I loved how much they cared for Paige and wanted her to grow as well. Heck, I even liked the way Paige’s family was portrayed, especially the relationship she has with her grandmother. I thought that was richly described and wonderfully touching. Not a lot of people can say they are super close to their grandparents, but Paige’s relationship with hers felt very strong, which is why I think it hurt all the more.

Like I said from the beginning, this is my first Emery Lord book and it definitely won’t be my last. I really enjoyed the level of depth that Lord carved into the relationships within the narrative and how everything felt neatly woven together. The book does have a difficult start and it might not capture the reader if you aren’t in the right mood to read a book like this. The Start of Me and You will tug at your heart-strings, and give you a story full of wonderful relationships and realistic characters.

River’s Review:

Last year I read Open Road Summer and was not impressed with it. I almost didn’t pick this book up, but I did. And I read half the first chapter and put it down. I wasn’t going to read it. Then I won a copy and Sammy added it to our Summer Contemporary Fling list sooooo I picked it back up.

And this book broke me. It was SO good (so much better than ORS in my opinion) and I just devoured it. I loved the friendships, I loved Paige’s voice, I LOOOOVED Max, and I love the family aspect too.

In this book Paige struggled with being The Girl Who’s Boyfriend Died. Two months into dating Aaron he dies in an accident and Paige is just left… floating in the wind. She’s torn between the fact that she wasn’t REALLY a huge part of his life (or his her) and how much she feels she should be grieving especially in comparison with his life long friends and family. Paige is terrified of drowning (how he died) and she struggles with PTSD as well. I thought this was interesting because Paige has this awful position of people feeling sorry for her and then herself questioning how much she should allow herself to feel sorry for herself. And she constantly asks herself if it’s okay to be happy. So she decides that this next year will be the year she gets back out there and she makes a plan (she’s a super realist and planner) to make the next year great.

And part of the plan is to date her super crush, Ryan Chase. Ryan used to be the golden boy but his longtime girlfriend breaks up with him over the summer and he basically falls down the social scale. Ryan is a cool guy tho, and he’s best friends with his cousin, Max. Paige randomly gets on Ryan’s radar and she befriend’s Max with the slight (but not like FULL) intention of getting closer to Ryan. Slowly Ryan and Max get pulled into Paige’s circle of friends and they all become really close. I LOVED this dynamic so much. I loved the girlfriend friendships and I loved the guy friend relationships. Each girl in the group has her own personality and while I enjoyed them, there were times I couldn’t keep them all totally straight. But other than that, the group was just so dynamic and I loved them.

Paige also has this amazing relationship with her grandmother and omg, that was such a bittersweet thing for me. I was SUPER close to my grandmother and when she died of cancer it was DEVASTATING for me. Paige’s grandma doesn’t have cancer, but she does have Alzheimer and lives in an assisted living center… much like my living grandmother at the moment. So that just made me cry like a million times and made this book so much personal for me.

I really loved Max and I loved his relationship with Paige. It was very much the perfect contemporary romance and I loved the growth of their friendship, the tension as they became something more, and the issues they faced with each other. It was just so emotional.

There were just SO many things in this book that really hit a lot of the right notes for me. I loved the family dynamic and how it was different but that the parents were present, I loved the sibling relationship and how it was there in the background. I loved the little side friendship that Tessa and Max had. I loved that Ryan and Paige became actual real friends. I loved that Paige and her friends seemed like actual real teens. And I even loved the down to earth teacher that pushed them and seemed like a real person.

This book was SO good and now I can’t wait for Lord’s next book!