Monthly Archives: August 2015

ARC Review – Your Voice Is All I Hear by Leah Scheier

22082098Title:  Your Voice Is All I Hear

Author: Leah Scheier

Rating:  ★★★★★

Synopsis: Everything about Jonah is unexpected. On the first day of school, he sits next to April, when he could have chosen to sit with the popular girl. He turns down an invitation to join the school team and declares he’d rather paint. He encourages April to develop her musical talent and shrugs off the bullies that torment them. April isn’t surprised to find herself falling for Jonah. The unexpected part is when he falls for her too.

But the giddy happiness of their first romance begins to fade when Jonah’s unpredictability begins to take a darker turn. April understands that her boyfriend is haunted by a painful memory, but his sudden mood swings worry her. She can’t explain his growing fear of cellphones, electric keyboards, and of sounds that no one else can hear. Still, no matter what happens, April is sure that she’ll always stand by him. Until Jonah finally breaks and is committed to a psychiatric ward. Until schizophrenia changes everything.

Though everyone urges her to let him go, April stays true to Jonah. But as the boy she adores begins to disappear in front of her, she has to face her worst fear: that her love may not be enough to save him.

Huge thank you to Raincoast Books for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

This book was an unexpected surprise for me. When I started it, it felt like just an ‘okay read’ that slowly developed into me wanting to huddle into a corner and cry. There’s a lot of tough issues in this book that are at play and Scheier does an amazing job balancing them with the core issue of the novel: how do you love and stay with someone who you know needs more help than they want to admit to?

Because this novel deals with a character who suffers from schizophrenia, you are given a story that bursts with aggression, emotion and it leaves you feeling drained. April is in love with a boy who thinks he’s hearing voices, is haunted by the death of someone, and also feels as through he has been split into two different people. Jonah is such a wonderfully rich and well written character, and if anything I love the fact that he tries so hard to control himself but knows in a lot of ways that he is ill. April wants him to get help and Jonah feels as though the world is out to get him and April is the only person he can trust.

There’s a lot to take into with this story. I admit, I was worried about April’s character in the story because she’s introduced as the token invisible girl, but I liked the way in which she develops throughout the course of the story. She’s a young woman whose never had to make difficult decisions, yet being with Jonah is both the most beautiful, destructive thing she faces. It’s gut-wrenching the decisions April makes in the story and you see her fighting for her relationship, on top of the fact that she wants to do right by Jonah in so many ways.

What I also ended up loving about her character (and this may have more to do with the writing) is the way Scheier builds the friendship between Kristin and April. A lot of their relationship was something I could relation to in some ways, especially when it came to friends trying to have the other see something they aren’t, regardless of how much it hurts. I liked the resolve between them, and I appreciated the way in which there is so much development between them — Kristin didn’t feel like she was tacked on, she felt as much of a character as everyone else did. I also loved Jonah’s sister Katie — she was just so cheeky and yet you can see how caught in the middle she is at such a young age. I also liked how April got into touch with her Jewish heritage in the story, which was a nice little addition in her development (and I have to say, I learned quite a bit!)

I felt like I learned a lot about mental illness and how much it can affect a relationship. There’s such a realistic portrayal of how mental illness changes someone, and how it is handled by loved ones. I especially enjoyed the way the novel ended, especially because I felt if it ended any other way it would be such a cop out.Your Voices Is All I Hear is beautifully written, thoroughly engaging, tough to read, and doesn’t pull any cheap tricks to play with emotions. The book is raw, has wonderfully developed and characters, and the ending will leave quite the hole in your heart.

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What’s On Sam’s Shelves! – Part One!

I was having a bit of fun one day taking some shelfies and I thought it would be a lot of fun to share the kinds of goodies that sit on my book shelves. Since I have book shelves in a variety of areas in my house, I thought it would be fun to go into the rooms and take pictures to share the goodies on my shelves. For this first instalment, we are looking are things on my shelves in my office.

On my ARC Shelf:

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In order we have Lenneth from Valkyrie Profile, Frog from Chrono Trigger, and Riou from Suikoden II. A friend of mine gifted these to me as a Christmas present and I LOVE them. If you can’t tell I am a big, big gamer (and may in fact write for games!). These are the only items on my ARC/borrowed shelf.

Read Shelf:

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We have Mitsuru Kirijo (Persona 3) and Agent Carter (from Agent Cater). They are in the badass women of badass corner!

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We are a Star Wars household. When I got married last year, this was the cake topper. My friend Kiki built it for us (light sabers included)

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My collection of Funko Mass Effect toys minus Grunt. So in order it’s Shepard, Tali, Lego Bride and Groom, Miranda and Garrus. 😀 (I also have Funko Harley Quinn from Batman and Robb Stark from Game of Thrones but they were on a non-bookish shelf, oops!)

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I am a huge Simpsons nut, so we have some Lego Simpsons characters, my Kirby Amiibo, and then Lego Shakespeare and Hot Dog Man.

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On the other side of Mitsuru and Agent Carter we have Junpei (also from Persona 3) and JACK FROST! Who is the mascot of the company Atlus, who makes the Persona games.

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My Persona 4 figure collection, which include two Chies, one Rise, and two Yukikos.

On the TBR Shelf

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My Atelier Annie SD figurines which I LOVE. And Lenny from the Simpsons because he’s cute looking in this form.

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My Final Fantasy minis along with a Stick of Truth Kyle (dressed as the Elven Lord) and a fish keychain that a student made me while I was teaching ESL for many years.

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And on top of the TBR shelf we have a Lucina amiibo, Orange Slime (from Dragon Quest), Mirror Kirby, and Chibiterasu (from Okamiden)

I hoped you enjoyed seeing what goodies are on my office shelves. I actually have two TBR shelves but there’s nothing exciting on top of those sadly. I’ll pick another room and another set of shelves soon! What’s on your shelves that you love? What books on the TBR shelf do you see that I should READ? Lemme know in the comments.

ARC August — Week 3 Wrap Up

ARC-August-2015

Week Three of ARC August hosted by @ Read. Sleep. Repeat. So this week was a bit of a slower week, mostly because I took a small break from ARCs to read one of my own books.

  • 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: 6/10

This week I managed to read Switch by Ingrid Law, which I thought was really cute. I think I would have loved it more had I read the other books in the series (this one was considered a companion to the first two books). [Insert other things here].

You’ll notice I added one more title to that list above, and that’s because I received a package from Hatchett Canada! Again, while I don’t think I’ll get to everything above, again I am going to see what I can get to in the coming weeks. The last update likely won’t be until the 31st of the month since that is the last day in August. Hopefully you enjoyed this week, and I hope by the 31st that I will have completed my goal of ten ARCs!

 

ARC Review – Switch (Savvy #3) by Ingrid Law

24611857Title:  Switch (Savvy #3)

Author: Ingrid Law

Rating:  ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Gypsy Beaumont has always been a whirly-twirly free spirit, so as her thirteenth birthday approaches, she hopes to get a magical ability that will let her fly, or dance up to the stars. Instead, she wakes up on her birthday with blurry vision . . . and starts seeing flashes of the future and past. But when Momma and Poppa announce that her very un-magical, downright mean Grandma Pat has Alzheimer’s and is going to move in with them, Gypsy’s savvy—along with her family’s—suddenly becomes its opposite. Now it’s savvy mayhem as Gypsy starts freezing time, and no one could have predicted what would happen on their trip to bring Grandma Pat home  . . . not even Gypsy.
Huge thank you to Penguin Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

This was an unexpected title that came in one of the packages I had received. If I’m being frank, I didn’t know about Ingrid Law’sSavvy series, so I felt a bit odd reading this third instalment. However, I was assumed that I should be okay reading this without having read the first to, and that statement is quite true. However, for me, having not read the prior books, there were a few things I felt like I was missing out on.

The heroine in this story, Gypsy, can see both the past and future. It’s a pretty terrifying ability for a young girl, especially one as free-spirited and kind as Gypsy is. Furthermore, she has a grandmother who is not exactly friendly and is scarred by something in her past. Gypsy and her siblings don’t particularly care for the grandmother because she’s quote, “mean” and I get that considering her behaviour in the story.

While there’s a larger adventure at play in this story, the best parts of it were Gypsy trying to come to terms with her grandmother’s behaviour. It’s kind of rough and sad to read at times because Gypsy understands where her siblings are coming from in their dislike of their grandmother, and yet there’s also a part of her that feels like the behaviour is inexcusable. I’ll give Gypsy credit, she doesn’t let her grandmother get away with her behaviour for very long, but she also becomes very empathetic when she starts to put the pieces together. I also really dug the savvy (magical) elements of the story, and I thought they were a nice touch given the setting is a real world story with magical elements.

Overall, I really liked the characters and thought the story was very cute and entertaining. However, I did feel lost at times because I felt like there were parts of the world building that were already established and since this is my first book I’m reading in the series, it left me a little confused. However, given the content here, it does make me want to check out the first two books, because I do think Ingrid Law’s writing is quite delightful. If you have a middle grader who has a love of magic and digs a fun adventure, this may be for you.

ARC Review – Infinite in Between by Carolyn Mackler

23870836Title:  Infinite in Between

Author: Carolyn Mackler

Rating:  ★★★

Synopsis: Zoe, Jake, Mia, Gregor, and Whitney meet at freshman orientation. At the end of that first day, they make a promise to reunite after graduation. So much can happen in those in-between years….

Zoe feels like she will live forever in her famous mother’s shadow. Jake struggles to find the right connections in friendship and in love. Mia keeps trying on new identities, looking for one that actually fits. Gregor thoughthe wanted to be more than just a band geek. And Whitney seems to have it all, until it’s all falling apart around her.

Echoing aspects of John Hughes’s The Breakfast Club, Carolyn Mackler skillfully brings the stories of these five disparate teens together to create a distinct and cohesive whole—a novel about how we can all affect one another’s lives in the most unexpected and amazing ways.

Huge thank you from the publisher for sending me an advanced copy of this for review!

River’s Review:

Sadly I found this book to be on the boring side. I’m not a huge fan of multiple-POV and this one had FIVE! There were times I got a little lost about who was who and who was doing what, but it was a quick read (despite being over 400 pages).

This story takes place over the four years of high school and follows five different students. They cross paths, some even become friends, but it’s not about THEM as a GROUP. I liked this and didn’t. It was an interesting character study. I liked how each character evolved, some went through personal transformations, others went through personal tragedies. They all touched each others lives without even knowing it at times.

I think what I liked best about this was how each character did grow. I liked that in the beginning they seemed so young and immature and then by the time they graduated it felt like they’d started to take their places in the world.

Overall though this book didn’t make that strong of an impression on me and I think it would make an interesting movie, but as a book, didn’t fully work for me.

River & Sam’s Top Five Books of 2015 So Far

It’s crazy to think we are more than halfway through 2015, and there’s still tons of great books being released. Seriously, so many that it was hard to narrow down our favourite books that have been released so far. Wait until the end of the year when we’re screaming about the fact that we have MORE books we want to include. For now though I’m going to share our Top Five Books, and if it’s already been reviewed, I’ll share a link for that as well. But here’s five books each that we think you need to get your hands on ASAP.

River’s Top Five:

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  1. Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin (Release Date: October 20th 2015 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers) — Review TO COME.
  2.  The Night We Said Yes by Lauren Gibaldi (Published: June 16th 2015 by HarperTeen) — Review!
  3.  Illusionarium by Heather Dixon (Published: May 19th 2015 by Greenwillow) — Review
  4. Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway (Published: June 23rd 2015 by HarperTeen) — Review~~
  5. Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu  (Published: June 2nd 2015 by Roaring Brook Press) — Review~

Sam’s Top Five:

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  1. Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu  (Published: June 2nd 2015 by Roaring Brook Press) — Review
  2. All the Rage by Courtney Summers (Published: April 14th 2015 by St. Martin’s Griffin) — Review!
  3. Violent Ends edited by Shaun David Hutchinson (Release Date: September 1st 2015 by Simon Pulse) — Review!!
  4. Don’t Fail me Now by Una LaMarche (Release Date: September 1st 2015 by Razorbill) — REVIEW COMING SOON
  5. The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow (Release Date: September 22nd 2015 by Margaret K. McElderry Books) — REVIEW COMING SOON!

This is our top five books of the year so far, though I wouldn’t doubt that this will change somewhat by the end of the year. What have been your top favourites so far this year? Let us know in the comments!

 

ARC Review – The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands

23270216Title:  The Blackthorn Key

Author: Kevin Sands

Rating:  ★★★★

Synopsis: “Tell no one what I’ve given you.”

Until he got that cryptic warning, Christopher Rowe was happy, learning how to solve complex codes and puzzles and creating powerful medicines, potions, and weapons as an apprentice to Master Benedict Blackthorn—with maybe an explosion or two along the way.

But when a mysterious cult begins to prey on London’s apothecaries, the trail of murders grows closer and closer to Blackthorn’s shop. With time running out, Christopher must use every skill he’s learned to discover the key to a terrible secret with the power to tear the world apart.

Huge thank you to Simon & Schuster Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

If I’m being honest, I didn’t really know what I was getting into when I started The Blackthorn Key. I hadn’t heard any buzz, so I went into this book without expectation, though I had heard mild rumblings that this was going to be on par with Percy Jackson in terms of popular middle grade fiction.

Screw Percy Jackson, this book is better! Call me a heathen, butThe Blackthorn Key easily swept my interest in a way Percy Jackson failed to do so. This book has such a rich setting, very dark, mysterious, and the story is centred around cults who attack apothecaries, and our protagonist, Christopher’s master, happens to be one of the prey. This means this book is full of puzzles — and I love me some clever puzzles. Sands was even kind enough to give decoders in the novel so the reader can unravel the meaning of the puzzles themselves, which is so rad! (And yes, I used it many, many times…)

I really enjoyed the story in this book. It’s fast paced, crazy, and it keeps the reader on the toes. The puzzle elements are a unique addition and it’s a great way for the reader to exercise their brain power along side Christopher as he unravels what happened to his master. Furthermore, every chapter has a cliffhanger, and for me personally, I definitely got into the habit of “Just one more chapter!” because Sands knows how to keep his readers engaged.

Plus I thought the characters were really well done. I adored Christopher’s tenacity and love that he wasn’t the stereotypical troublemaker that middle grade loves to throw at readers. He’s insanely passionate about his apprenticeship and has such a strong belief in working hard. He also wears his flaws on his sleeve, which I thought was a nice touch. I also loved his relationship with Tom, who I felt was a good foil for Christopher at times. He’s a little quirky, but has so much heart. Even the villains and the cult are well portrayed — there’s an eerie tone throughout the novel, and the novel does this great job of never making the reader or the characters feel safe.

I also appreciated how the novel was wrapped up. I liked that there wasn’t a pretty bow and that Christopher doesn’t get out of the situation and the mystery scott free, but rather he’s forced to accept a situation that he couldn’t control. He’s left with a lot of depth embedded in him. Something which I appreciated.

The Blackthorn Key was a great ride, and easily one of the more intriguing middle grade novels I’ve had the pleasure of reading this year. While I adored the puzzle elements in this novel, I wonder if it’s something every reader is going to feel engaged with. I don’t know how hip or with it decoders are (though I enjoyed it!). I think this story does so much right in terms of drawing the reader in with its characters, setting and over all atmosphere, and I do hope this book gets well-loved, because honesty, I really do think it’s better than some of the most of the popular middle grade series out there.