Monthly Archives: August 2015

ARC August — FInal Wrap Up

ARC-August-2015

ARC August was hosted by @ Read. Sleep. Repeat. This is my final update, so let’s see how I did…

  • Violent Ends edited by Shaun David Hutchinson (September 1st)
  • Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate (September 22nd)
  • The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands (September 1st)
  • All Fall Down, by Ally Carter (Already Out)
  • Switch by Ingrid Law (September 1st)
  • Your Voice Is All I Hear by Leah Scheier (September 1st)
  • What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler (September 22nd)
  • Another Day (Every Day #2) by David Levithan (August 25th)
  • Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray (August 25th)
  • Stand-Off by Andrew Smith (September 8th)
  • A Sense if Infinite by Hillary T. Smith (Already Out)
  • Hello, Goodbye, and Everything In Between by Jennifer E. Smith (September 1st)

Number of ARCs read: 9/10!

SO CLOSE. Well, not really, I actually ended up with two graphic novel ARCs from First Second, so I’m actually 11/10! Huge love to Read. Sleep. Repeat for running this fantastic event, as I always find it to be a great motivator to work through my ARCs, especially with how busy Fall can be. How many ARCs did you complete during ARC August? Let me know in the comments, I want to hear about your highs and lows during the month!

 

ARC Review – Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

18692431Title:  Everything, Everything

Author: Nicola Yoon

Rating:  ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly. Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.

Huge than you to the publisher for letting me read an advanced copy of this book!

River’s Review:

So going into this book I’d heard both sides of the spectrum. It’s The Best Book Of This Year. It’s HORRIBLE. I knew there was a twist coming so I’m not sure if I figured it out on my own, or if I was looking for it… but I’m gonna go with a little bit of both.

Going into this book I had set my expectations really low because I’d had a few good book people say that it was terrible. I wanted to give it a shot (and I got it for review) and I’m pleased to say that I did enjoy it. This book is a VERY quick read. I have an eARC, and feel that a physical copy would have enhanced my reading experience due to the illustrations and sections written in email/chat/transcript.

Oddly enough I read this book directly after reading another Big Summer Book with a crazy format (Illumine) and I know that reading a physical book with a unique format is a lot better than reading an e-version. I found myself not caring enough about the illustrations or charts because I just couldn’t read them. And sometimes they felt a little juvenile. I did give Maddy a pass for some of it though because she’d lead quite a sheltered life.

This is a story about a girl who basically, lives in a bubble. She’s allergic to the outside world and anything could trigger a reaction so she’s confined to her home which is sealed off and the air is filtered in. Her only friend is her mother and a handful of internet people. (Which surprised me because I’m totally healthy and leave my house daily and have a TON of internet friends… I imagine that if I couldn’t leave my house on pain of death that I’d have A LOT more internet friends). We never see Maddy interact with any of these people, which idk, seemed odd. She spends her time reading, doing school work online, and playing games/watching movies with her mother.

Then a new family moves in next door and the two siblings try to befriend Maddy. Obviously they can’t meet, but the boy, Olly, is curious. He watches Maddy (in a non-creepy way) through his window and they communicate through gestures and funny antics. They eventually start to email and chat online and then Maddy convinces her nurse to let Olly inside. And they slowly begin to fall for each other.

This romance worked for me. It was subtle and gave me all the feels. I loved how Olly was curious and Maddy was protective and how they were both cautious by not. And when Maddy realizes that living in her bubble isn’t really living, she decides that she doesn’t care if her life is cut short, she just wants to spend time living, with Olly.

This is where the story started to fall apart for me. They suddenly take off to Hawaii and idk. It just struck me as odd. Like, sure it would sound good on paper, maybe something they’d scheme but not actually follow through with… but they actually do it and idk, I just never felt that either of them really had the guts to do it. And of course Maddy gets sick and then the inevitable heartbreak happens.

And then the twist. Which I had started to suspect. And I am very torn on that. The revel was emotional and sad and heartbreaking but at the same time I just wondered how it had kept on for so long.

And the mother. I thought that she was sweet and caring and really dedicated herself to Maddy. I was surprised that she never seemed to blame herself for her daughter’s suffering and then later on I wanted to hate her for the way she treated Maddy, but at the same time I wanted to understand and I guess if we could have seen a deeper side of the mother, a more broken side, a more screwed up side, maybe I could have taken things a little bit better and loved it a little bit more.

The writing in this is very quiet. Some people will enjoy the voice and the style, others will hate it. It’s not a style that I seek out, but when I do stumble upon it I find that it’s refreshing.

Overall I think I liked this more than I would have due to my low expectations and if I’d gone into it thinking it was going to be The Best I would have been disappointed.

September TBR Shelf Challenge

A few weeks back I decided to count how many unread books I had. It wasn’t looking good: 219 (and I’m sure this doubled after my little trip to Book Outlet) unread books. I have a book case and half of unread books, and I decided that since I’ve been so good with catching up on my coming due ARCs, I’d use September to focus more specifically on my personal books. With eight shelves of unread books, I asked my co-blogger to pick a number. She picked seven and here’s the shelf I will be tackling for the month of September:

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Excuse the dog bed in front of my shelf! But yes, this is one of my hardcover shelves that also have some oversized paperbacks as well. Every week on my Twitter (follow @merrygodown for more antics) I’d share my progress of how much of the shelf I’ve chipped away at. Since I have a long commute to my library job, I’m hoping to get quite a chunk of this shelf read. I also made the decision that if it’s not something I want to keep after I read it, I am going to put it in my donation bag. We’ll see how I do! See anything in the picture that I need to read right away? Let me know in the comments.

With this challenge as comes two other things: I am going on a book buying ban for… as long as I can. I have been receiving a lot of books lately and while I won’t stop the publisher stuff (I like keeping relations!), but me personally buying things is definitely happening for sure. The other thing is: I am going on a library book ban. This is going to be hilarious considering I start working at a public library next week. Let’s all have a good laugh here. Girl’s gotta try though, and if it means I can get through a whack of books and donate the ones I don’t want to lend or reread, then this is a good thing for me.

If you want to participate along with me for the month, use the hashtag #SeptShelfathon and work your way through a shelf of books! This also pairs nicely with the fact that RYBSAT Round 6 (Read Your Bookshelf-a-Thon) is happening towards the end of the month. I hope some of you will participate with me so we can widdle our TBRs down a bit more!

 

Five Books I Am Hyped For After #FrenzyPresents

A few weeks back I had the chance to attend an event at Harper Collins Canada’s office. It was an event to share some of the upcoming titles for Fall and Winter. It was a fantastic meet up, as there were tons of bloggers to meet, food to eat (and encourage certain people that it’s totes cool to eat said free food, donuts FTW guys!), and people to chat with. I got to do Dumplin’ poses! See for yourself!

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Crazy thank you to Shelly of Read. Sleep. Repeat for taking the photo. I look like a dork!

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Group shot! Photo credit: @HCCFrenzy

Rather than discuss every single book I learned about at the event. I thought I’d share with you the five that stood out to me and why I am stoked for them. Shall we begin?

#1: Worlds of Ink and Shadow by Lena Coakley (Release Date: January 6th, 2016)

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Yes, it’s a novel about the Brontes. Weirdly, I am not the biggest Bronte fan, but Lena Coakley discussed her book during the event, and she made me a fan of her interpretation of the sisters. Also this book features Anne! The best Bronte (in my books). It sounds like a fantastic mystery, wrapped into an interesting twist on the history of the Brontes, and that to me sounds like a ton of fun.

#2: A Madness So Discreet
by Mindy McGinnis (Release Date: October 6th, 2015)

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My co-blogger is a huge Mindy McGinnis fan, and I am realizing I need to actually read something by her to understand River’s love for her. This book sounds amazing because it features Sherlock Holmes-style mysteries, an insane asylum, and a wonderfully messed up sounding heroine. I was fortunate enough to get an ARC of this before the event, and I cannot wait to read it because it sounds right up my alley.

#3: This Is Where the World Ends
by Amy Zhang (Release Date: March 22nd, 2016)

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Last year, both River and Melissa yelled at me. They screamed “Sam, you need to read Falling Into Place RIGHT NOW.” I told them I was busy, they persisted, so I finally gave in and decided I needed to see what the hubbub was about. Holy crap, you guys, Falling Into Place was amazing, as it was messed up. I should have listened to those two sooner, they know how much I love crappy people being crappy in stories. However, this book intrigues, not just because it’s Amy Zhang’s next book, but because the premise sounds so interesting to me: a personal apocalypse type story of  love, life, and disappearance. Plus it features tough issues — one of my favourite things in YA. Can’t wait to see what Amy Zhang writes next.

#4: A Step Towards Falling by Cammie McGovern (Release Date: October 6th, 2015)

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“Sometimes the worst thing you can do is nothing” is the tagline for Cammie McGovern’s second novel. Sounds intriguing, right? This book features issues surrounding disability, community service, and what it means to be someone who could have prevented something from happening, and chose not to. We’ve all done this in some shape or form, so I am expecting a little self reflection with this one. I haven’t read Say What You Will yet, but I know it was a book River quite adored last year. Excited!

#5: Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy (Release Date: September 15th, 2015)

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It’s no secret that I want to read Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy. I LOVED Side Effects May Vary and found that book to be pretty powerful in parts, but I feel like Dumplin’ may have the edge over that one with it’s large focus on body image and self-love. We actually will have a review for this one coming closer to release, as River read it and basically told me I needed to believe the hype of this one. During the event Suman, one of Harper Collins’ representatives stated that this is one of her new favourite reads simply because of how strong, clear and powerful the message is. Sign me up!

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ARCs in the goodie bag: Making Pretty, The Rest of Us Just Live Here, and A Step Towards Falling

So these are the five books I am super hyped for after going to #FrenzyPresents. I want to thank Harper Collins Canada for giving me the opportunity to attend the event, and to all the amazing bloggers who spoke with me and shared their favourite reads, and what they were most excited for. It was quite the delight. Seriously, what HarperTeen books are you excited that coming out soon? Let me know in the comments!


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FANGIRL SQUEEEEEEEEEE!

ARC Review – Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between by Jennifer E. Smith

23369370Title: Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between

Author: Jennifer E. Smith

Rating: ★★ 1/2

Synopsis: On the night before they leave for college, Clare and Aidan only have one thing left to do: figure out whether they should stay together or break up. Over the course of twelve hours, they’ll retrace the steps of their relationship, trying to find something in their past that might help them decide what their future should be. The night will lead them to friends and family, familiar landmarks and unexpected places, hard truths and surprising revelations. But as the clock winds down and morning approaches, so does their inevitable goodbye. The question is, will it be goodbye for now or goodbye forever?

Huge thank you to Hachette Book Group Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I have mixed emotions when it comes to Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between. On one hand, I absolutely adored the overarching storyline for these teens regarding their relationship and the journey back through it, but on the other side of the coin, parts of this book felt like forced melodrama because of the trip back through time.

I think what I struggled with the most were the characters. I didn’t really care for Clare and Aiden and I found their relationship to feel a little hollow at times. Funny enough though, when it was more about the two of them as individuals, I found myself empathizing in a lot of ways, especially with Clare. There’s a scene where Clare takes about college and needing to be someone, and that bit alone was something I could relate to: the need to be perfect, the desire to know exactly what I want and how I want to get there. Jennifer E. Smith brings up a lot of great issues in terms of per-college jitters that I totally found myself nodding my head with.

Even though I didn’t care for Clare and Aiden’s relationship, I admit to enjoying the fluff when it was there. There is so cute moments in this story, but when it lead to the melodrama train it was kind fo disappointing. I feel like there were better ways to resolve a lot of the situations in this novel without the melodrama, and instead the story decided the melodrama would make for the more interesting route. I don’t necessarily agree with that sentiment, however.

I guess part of me especially felt like it was strange how these two characters were trying to figure out whether they should stay together or break up when we live in a world where technology really does allow us to stay together and connected. It was made even stranger when you get to the ending of the novel, which if I’m being frank, felt like quite the cop out. I don’t mind ambiguity, but you spend so much of the novel with one character being super set on breaking up and the other wanting to stay together, that it just fell very flat and it didn’t really go anywhere (and perhaps that’s the point).

Still, there were times where I was enjoying myself in this read, and I can’t deny that. While I was frustrated with the characters, the book is a quick read in every sense of the word. I really did love the representation of life after high school and pre-college jitters and I felt like when the novel was focused more on these issues, it was a lot stronger for it. Still, while I’m hesitant to recommend this book, I think there is definitely some value in the story that is worth checking out because I think how some of the issues are presented are really well done. I feel like if the melodrama had been more toned down, I would have enjoyed this book more. Although this was my first Jennifer E. Smith book, I still want to give her another try.

ARC Review – Sound (Salvage #2) by Alexandra Duncan

24202895Title:  Sound

Author: Alexandra Duncan

Rating:  ★★★★★

Synopsis: SOUND is the stand-alone companion to Alexandra Duncan’s acclaimed novel Salvage, a debut that internationally bestselling author Stephanie Perkins called “kick-ass, brilliant, feminist science fiction.” For fans of Beth Revis, Firefly, and Battlestar Galactica.

As a child, Ava’s adopted sister Miyole watched her mother take to the stars, piloting her own ship from Earth to space making deliveries. Now a teen herself, Miyole is finally living her dream as a research assistant on her very first space voyage. If she plays her cards right, she could even be given permission to conduct her own research and experiments in her own habitat lab on the flight home. But when her ship saves a rover that has been viciously attacked by looters and kidnappers, Miyole—along with a rescued rover girl named Cassia—embarks on a mission to rescue Cassia’s abducted brother, and that changes the course of Miyole’s life forever.

Huge thank you to the publisher for sending me an advanced copy of this book!

River’s Review:

Last year I read Salvage by Duncan and I fell in LOVE with it. It was one of my top reads of the year. So I was so excited when I saw that she had a companion novel coming out this year! Sound takes place 20 years after Salvage. You do NOT have to have readSalvage to understand Sound. There are some crossover characters, and Miyole, our MC in this, is an important character in Salvage, but you can read this and understand it on it’s own.

One thing that I can’t help but ask is HOW ARE NOT MORE PEOPLE TALKING ABOUT THIS BOOK!? We have a queer bi-cultural person of color in this incredibly strong feminist sci-fi novel and I’ve hardly heard a thing about it! Come on guys! Miyole is Haitian by blood but she grew up in the Pacific ocean on basically a trash barge until it got blown away and then she moved to India with her adoptive sister Ava. This happened in Sound, but we get to see the results of this in Sound. Being Haitian means nothing to Miyole without her mother there to tell her stories about her native land. Instead Miyole, who is working on a deep sound research ship, struggles with her cultural identity. She doesn’t look ethnically Indian, but she grew up in India. I LOVED when Miyole was dressed in a sari and the Indian crew members commented on her effort to understand their culture. I could relate to her feelings and displacement SO WELL after having spent so much time in Japan, trying to fit in and be accepted and just not.

I also enjoyed how Miyole is unflinching in her sexuality. She doesn’t struggle with it and when she starts to fall for someone she goes for it. This is Miyole’s downfall at times, her heart speaks loudly and her brain doesn’t always catch up. But this is what got the story going, a beautiful girl and her family get their ship blown up, the brother gets captured, and Miyole takes off on a quest to save him.

Another thing I really enjoyed about this was the unique mix of cultures. It does take place in the far future, so it’s not surprising that cultures would blend and mix in such interesting ways once they leave the earth. I really enjoyed the mix of Japanese culture and language into this.

I also really liked how the pacing of this was so much different from Salvage. That takes place over a very long span of time, and it’s almost operatic. This is a much more contained story. I thought it was a nice juxtaposition against it’s predecessor.

Overall I really enjoyed this (maybe not as much as Salvage) and hope that it gets more recognition. It’s a very well done story that weaves important issues into it without coming off as cliche or overkill, and it’s a fun scifi that will keep you up late at night (as it did me!)

ARC Review – Don’t Fail Me Now by Una LaMarche

24878695Title: Don’t Fail me Now

Author: Una La Marche

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Michelle and her little siblings Cass and Denny are African-American and living on the poverty line in urban Baltimore, struggling to keep it together with their mom in jail and only Michelle’s part-time job at the Taco Bell to sustain them. Leah and her stepbrother Tim are white and middle class from suburban Maryland, with few worries beyond winning lacrosse games and getting college applications in on time.

Michelle and Leah only have one thing in common: Buck Devereaux, the biological father who abandoned them when they were little. After news trickles back to them that Buck is dying, they make the uneasy decision to drive across country to his hospice in California. Leah hopes for closure; Michelle just wants to give him a piece of her mind.

Five people in a failing, old station wagon, living off free samples at food courts across America, and the most pressing question on Michelle’s mind is: Who will break down first–herself or the car? All the signs tell her they won’t make it. But Michelle has heard that her whole life, and it’s never stopped her before….

Huge thank you to Razorbill Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Opening to the first page of Don’t Fail me Now, I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into. I’ve never read any of Una LaMarche’s novels, but a good friend of mine told me how she as an author has a way of building wonderful and memorable relationships. Don’t Fail Me Now focuses on two girls who happen to share a father, and the road trip with their siblings across America to get to him before he keels over.

This book brought out a ton of emotions in me. There were so many hilarious moments, as there were sad ones. Every character in this novel has a distinctive voice, well developed, and each has a bit of oddness to them that you cannot help but love. My favourite character easily was Denny, but that might be because of all the characters, his innocence is pretty darling. Still, he’s quirky, love a good poop joke, and does his best to get along with everyone. If I’m being realistic, I kinda of loved everyone.

Michelle is such a wonderful heroine with so much crap on her plate, and yet she pushes through all the crap to try and raise her siblings right. When she meets her half-sister Leah, they aren’t besties right away, and they at first struggle to see there relationship as being anything more than sharing a father. For me, they had a very believable relationship, and LaMarche couples this with the extra trials and tribulations of a road trip, forcing the two of them to put difference aside so they can have their say with the father that neglected them.

All the relationships in this story feel so real and honest, which is ultimately what I loved about the story. I was given five characters, each who I cared about through the entire story. I loved Cass and her attitude, Tim’s slight dippiness, but his desire to help in any way he can — these characters offer so much more than what I am describing, and it makes for such an engaging story.

The ending admittedly, wrecked me. Actually, the whole novel did. I feel like Don’t Fail Me Now is the complete package when it comes to a good summer contemporary novel. There’s an adventure, great characters, a sweet romance (which doesn’t happen really until the end of the book), family drama and antics — it’s such a well crafted novel, offering so much to the reader. Don’t Fail Me Now begs to be enjoyed by readers, and it does so much, so effortlessly. Easily one of my favourite reads this year so far.