Monthly Archives: December 2015

Late to the Party ARC Review – At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen

23735614Title:  At the Water’s Edge

Author: Sarah Gruen

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: After embarrassing themselves at the social event of the year in high society Philadelphia on New Year’s Eve of 1942, Maddie and Ellis Hyde are cut off financially by Ellis’s father, a former army colonel who is already embarrassed by his son’s inability to serve in WWII due to color-blindness. Ellis decides that the only way to regain his father’s favor is to succeed in a venture his father attempted and very publicly failed at: he will hunt the famous Loch Ness monster and, when he finds it, he will restore his father’s name and return to his father’s good graces (and pocketbook). Joined by their friend Hank, a wealthy socialite, the three make their way to Scotland in the midst of war. Each day, the two men go off to hunt the monster, while another monster, Hitler, is devastating Europe. Meanwhile, Maddie undergoes a social awakening: to the harsh realities of life, to the beauties of nature, to a connection with forces larger than herself, to female friendship, and, finally, to love.

Huge thank you to Random House Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

This was a book I put off for months reading, worried I wouldn’t like it. I adored Water for Elephants, a book I assumed by title alone I wouldn’t enjoy. I was worried afterwards that At the Water’s Edge wouldn’t live up to my expectations of what Sarah Gruen is capable of.

However, I flew through this book. I couldn’t stop turning the pages because I was so engrossed by Maddie’s narrative, along with the quest to see the Loch Ness monster. I found myself completely enchanted by the way in which the story was woven together, and I loved how Gruen opens this novel and then surprises readers by the end of it with a reference to the beginning. There’s so many subtle nuances in this story, and the writing is quite lovely.

Mostly though, I loved Maddie, Anna, and Meg. I found each of the heroines in the story so strong in their own right, and I found that how they approached others in the story to be quite interesting. I wanted to hurl things at Ellis and Hank, but I understood their rational in a lot of the situations within the story. I gotta say though, the ending quite surprised me, and I loved how the story wrapped up.

Is the story a tad melodramatic and ridiculous? Absolutely! And if you don’t like that, then I definitely don’t recommend this book. However, if you don’t mind a little drama, and some really, really, lovely writing, I definitely recommend At the Water’s Edge, because if anything, it’s quite a page-turner.

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2016 Debuts I Need to Get My Paws On

2016 is around the corner, and debuts are completely upon us. I always look forward to debut novels, if only because I love seeing what a new author produces. It means then that if I enjoyed their first novel, I have something to anticipate in a second novel. Here’s a few of the debut novels I am insanely excited for!

22449806The Year We Fell Apart by Emily Martin (Release Date: January 26th 2016 by Simon Pulse)

My co-blogger, who is notorious for getting way ahead in the ARC pile of doom has already read this one, and warned me that it will probably emotionally destroy me given the subject matter. Since I am a super duper huge cry baby who loves emotionally engaging reads, I say bring it on (and then watch me be sobbing over the amount of feels I had).

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This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp (Release Date: January 5th 2016 by Sourcebooks Fire )

Since reading and loving Violent Ends, I’ve been looking for more reads that focus on school shootings. I am big reader of tough issue novels, and the aftermaths of school shootings always fascinate me because it’s about living with the realities of what has happened, along with the grief and anxiety that goes with it. I feel like this book has a lot to offer readers on that front, and I’m interested to see if I’ll enjoy it when I get the chance to read it.

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The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith (Release Date: March 22nd 2016 by Margaret K. McElderry Books )

I suppose you guys are seeing a trend here, huh? Another tough issue novel, this one focusing on abuse. I admit, I don’t know a lot about this novel, and what little the synopsis has told me has me very interested. I actually have a physical ARC for this one and it looks a little on the chunky side, which always worries me with tough issue books because I always worry they will be dragged out. The buzz has been quiet on this one, the early reviews are showing some promise.

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The Last Cherry Blossom
by Kathleen Burkinshaw (August 2nd 2016 by Sky Pony Press)

Japan book! Japan book! To be honest, I had never heard anything about this book until River pointed out that the author contacted me on my blog page (which I admit, I am HORRIBLE at checking). It wasn’t until River pointed out the request that I went and did a bit of investigating, and this book sounds absolutely interesting. We are a little tough on novels that take place in Japan on this blog (seeing as River lived there for many years), but I hope this one doesn’t disappoint!

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How It Ends
by Catherine Lo (Release Date: June 7th 2016 by HMH Books for Young Readers )

Supporting Canadian novels is always really important to me. When I was at the Raincoast event back in September, this one was one of the novels highlighted in the presentation, and it focuses on the idea that there are two sides to every story, and two sides to every friendship. It sounds like it’s going to be an one of those hard to read friendship stories, but I think I’ll be ready for it when it releases in June!

So these are just a few of the debut novels I am excited for. Not surprisingly, a lot of it is contemporary. I just haven’t seen a lot of science fiction and fantasy debuts jumping out at me, but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist for me either! I want to know which debuts you are excited for, as well as debuts I should consider getting hyped for that maybe I just don’t know about. Share with me the debuts you are thrilled about! 🙂

 

Feature — The The Violinist of Venice: A Story of Vivaldi by Alyssa Palombo

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The The Violinist of Venice: A Story of Vivaldi
by Alyssa Palombo

Out December 15, 2015 — On sale now!

A sweeping historical novel of composer and priest Antonio Vivaldi, a secret wealthy mistress, and their passion for music and each other

Like most 18th century Venetians, Adriana d’Amato adores music-except her strict merchant father has forbidden her to cultivate her gift for the violin. But she refuses to let that stop her from living her dreams and begins sneaking out of her family’s palazzo under the cover of night to take violin lessons from virtuoso violinist and composer Antonio Vivaldi. However, what begins as secret lessons swiftly evolves into a passionate, consuming love affair.

Adriana’s father is intent on seeing her married to a wealthy, prominent member of Venice’s patrician class-and a handsome, charming suitor, whom she knows she could love, only complicates matters-but Vivaldi is a priest, making their relationship forbidden in the eyes of the Church and of society. They both know their affair will end upon Adriana’s marriage, but she cannot anticipate the events that will force Vivaldi to choose between her and his music. The repercussions of his choice-and of Adriana’s own choices-will haunt both of their lives in ways they never imagined.

Spanning more than 30 years of Adriana’s life, Alyssa Palombo’s The Violinist of Venice is a story of passion, music, ambition, and finding the strength to both fall in love and to carry on when it ends.

ARC Review – What’s Broken Between Us by Alexis Bass

23633796Title:  What’s Broken Between Us

Author: Alexis Bass

Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: A year and a half ago, Amanda Tart’s brother got behind the wheel drunk and killed his best friend. Today, he’s coming home from prison.

Amanda’s been the one living with the fallout, made worse by her brother’s recent unapologetic TV interview. People think he’s a monster. Still, she loves him. It’s her dark secret, until she starts getting close to Henry again–whose sister is paralyzed from the accident.  A year and a half ago, her brother destroyed his life. Now Amanda has to decide if she’ll let his choice destroy hers.

Huge thank you to the publisher for sending me a review copy of this!

River’s Review:

I will admit that I didn’t think I was going to like this book. And I was surprised that I flew through it in one sitting and got really into it. I ABHORRED Jonathan from page one and I was so glad with how things ended up with him. It was interesting to see how he didn’t go the predictable route and try to embrace his second chance.

This is the story about a group of friends who’s world has been cracked because of a careless mistake. We’ve all seen the drunk driving crash photos. I’ve thankfully never lost someone to drunk driving but it’s a very real fact in life. Jonathan crashes his car after WAY too many drinks and kills one of his best friends and severely injures his girlfriend. Due to a few legal issues he’s let out of jail early and returns to his home and family.

Amanda, Jonathan’s younger sister, had always enjoyed living in her brother’s shadow. Jonathan was the cool guy that everyone wanted to be friends with. He partied hard, had the best friends, and made anyone (sister included) popular by association. After the accident Amanda feels that she’s responsible for basically saving face for her family. She doesn’t allow herself to be angry at her brother, she doesn’t allow herself to grieve for Grace (the girl who died who was ALSO her friend), and she keeps everyone at arms length.

In steps Henry, the brother of the girlfriend, who was Amanda’s almost boyfriend. I had some issues with the way things happened between Amanda and Henry, but overall I liked him and them. I did NOT like how incredibly stereotypical the story was about how Henry and his family were from the UK. I get that HENRY himself was often playing up the fact that he had an accent and spoke British English, but there’s a moment when Amanda and Henry are hanging out, basically watching TV and making out… while eating fish and chips. FOR REAL. I’m sorry I don’t care how British you are, you don’t deep fry some battered fish and make french fries while hooking up with a girl! That’d be like if one of them was Japanese and they were eating sushi. Come on. And who just has ~fish and chips~ laying around in their fridge? (Other than British people apparently). Give them a pizza and be done with it. Stuff like that really takes me out of the story and drives me nuts (yes I AM a cultural accuracy nitpicker/ stereotype police).

Anyway, this is an ugly-pretty people story where there’s not really anyone to root for and not really a happy feeling in any of it. I like dark stuff like that though, and I was really happy to NOT root for certain characters and see them get what they fucking deserved.

Late to the Party ARC Review – Making Pretty by Corey Ann Haydu

23110068Title: Making Pretty

Author: Corey Ann Haydu

Rating:  ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Montana and her sister, Arizona, are named after the mountainous states their mother left them for. But Montana is a New York City girl through and through, and as the city heats up, she’s stepping into the most intense summer of her life. Her father is distracted by yet another divorce, and she’s growing apart from her sister. Then she meets wild, bold Karissa, who encourages Montana to live in technicolor and chase new experiences. But the more of her own secrets Karissa reveals, the more Montana has to wonder if Karissa’s someone she can really trust.

In the midst of her uncertainty, Montana finds a beautiful distraction in Bernardo. He’s serious and spontaneous, and he looks at Montana in the way she wants to be seen. For the first time, Montana understands how you can become both lost and found in somebody else. But when that love becomes everything, where does it leave the rest of her imperfect life?

Huge thank you to Harper Collins Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by Making Pretty. Having never read a Corey Ann Haydu book and hearing mixed reactions to her previous two novels, I was really hesitant to start this book, to the point where I had the ARC since the event I got it from and just kept putting it off. I feel stupid having done that because I thought this book was fantastic.

I have of love of pretty-ugly people. They are people who behave in horrific ways, sometimes not learning their lessons, and often are difficult to connect with. I had a rough time with Montana and Arizona, because while they don’t fall into this category, they do have moments where they are pretty damn close to the spectrum. This is a novel of complex relationships, be it family, friends, the one you love, and the book constantly is asking the reader what it means to fit in within those relationships. Montana and Arizona have a parent who has hard four failed relationships, and the daughters really don’t have faith in him. It’s hard to given how much of a serial dater/proposer he is, so it was hard for me not to blame them when they were hard on him, even if it wasn’t right at all.

Then there’s the relationship between Montana and Karissa, which I thought was so intriguing given how much Montana feels that Karissa is hers alone. I think what I loved was how realistic Montana’s response is: everyone has had a friendship where they feel that that person belongs only to them and when they stray, they take it personally. When Arizona and Montana find out about Karissa’s relationship with their father, they behave in such a horrific way, and yet again considering how the novel builds, their reactions are unsurprising in the slightest.

What I loved about this novel was how real each character felt. Each one had enough development from Montana’s POV that you knew a surprising amount about them and her relationship with that person. This novel explores relationships in a way that is both thoughtful and complex, while approaching other subjects such as sex and friendship in a very approachable way. I completely devoured this book in a day and a half, but it always kept thinking, wondering. The way in which Haydu presents relationships is both fascinating as it is truthful, and she makes no bones about how complex and challenging they can be. Furthermore, the characters are very genuine and realistic in their reactions, and it made for a compelling read.

Making Pretty is one of those books I now regret not getting to sooner, but am now glad I’ve read. It makes me want to investigate more of her novels, because I feel like the tough issues presented in this story are exactly the kinds of stories I enjoy reading about. Smart, honest, and even hurtful, this book left me with a lot to think about, and I definitely encourage others to check it out if they like tough issue YA.

ARC Review – Manners & Mutiny (Finishing School #4) by Gail Carriger

24539011Title: Manners & Mutiny (Finishing School #4)

Author: Gail Carriger

Rating:  ★★★★

Synopsis: When a dastardly Pickleman plot comes to fruition, only Sophronia can save her friends, her school, and all of London…but at what cost? Our proper young heroine puts her training and skills to the test in this highly anticipated conclusion of the rousing, intriguing, and always polished New York Times bestselling Finishing School series!

 

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

Sam’s Review:

It pains me to see that this series is over. Gail Carriger is one of my favourite authors and she always writes these unforgettable, crazy bunch of characters who get under your skin and stay a part of you. That’s how I felt about Sophronia and her friends.

Once more, I think of all four books and this one made me laugh the hardest at times. While it didn’t feature much of my favourite character (Sidheag), the focus on Agatha, who has been quite the allure this whole series, was fantastic. I loved how Carriger wrapped up the mystery of her character in particular, and I’m always happy to see when there’s more to a grumpy character.

This was also probably the most intense and action oriented of the four novels, and with good reason when you hit the ending. Unlike the other three books, the majority of the action in this book is far more serious than comedic (though that isn’t entirely true). There’s so much humour in these characters, and I love the wit and cheekiness of them. It’s hard to let them go.

The action, the etiquette, the zaniness! There’s just so much this series embodies, and I thought that Carriger did a great job bringing this world to a close. While I’m sad it’s all over, I’m excited to see where things go with this universe now that Prudence is an adult. While I’m having a hard time letting these characters go, I won’t forget the mayhem they caused, and the joy they gave me as a reader.

ARC Review – Instructions for the End of the World by Jamie Kain

23848031Title:  Instructions for the End of the World

Author: Jamie Kain

Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: He prepared their family for every natural disaster known to man—except for the one that struck.  When Nicole Reed’s father forces her family to move to a remote area of the Sierra Foothills, one without any modern conveniences, it’s too much too handle for her mother, who abandons them in the middle of the night. Heading out to track her down, Nicole’s father leaves her in charge of taking care of the house and her younger sister, Izzy. For a while, Nicole is doing just fine running things on her own. But then the food begins to run out, the pipes crack, and forest fires start slowly inching their way closer every day. Wolf, a handsome boy from the neighboring community, offers to help her when she needs it most, but when she starts to develop feelings for him, feelings she knows she will never be allowed to act on once her father returns, she must make a decision. With her family falling apart, will she choose to continue preparing for tomorrow’s disasters, or will she take a chance and really start living for today?

Huge thank you to Raincoast/St. Martin’s Griffin for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Last year I read The Good Sister, a book I wasn’t expecting much from considering it was compared to The Lovely Bones, a book I quite disliked. I read it, and I LOVED it along with Jamie Kain’s writing style. I was so excited to hear she had a second YA novel coming in Instructions for the End of the World.

However, this book was lacking compared to her first. I had a hard time trying to connect with the characters at times. Part of it is the multiple perspectives, though by the end of it Nicole and Wolf begin to dominate it. It’s one of those books I kept wondering if I would have liked more written in one perspective or if it had been done in third would it have been more effective.

That being said, once again Kain writes a story about a troubled family coming together, in this case for the inevitable end of the world. She really has an amazing knack for writing family dynamics and making you care about the overall picture in terms of how the family will survive, how they will succeed, and where they have the potential to completely family. I loved reading about Nicole and Izzy’s family life, and I found those moments of the novel, especially when paired with the survivalist aspects to be quite gripping. Kain just really knows how to paint an engaging family portrait.

Despite having read this novel in a day, there’s a part of me that just felt it was lacking in terms of plot. It’s a case where the blurb doesn’t illustrate what the book is really about, and if you are expecting an apocalyptic novel, this probably is going to miss the mark. The ending alone complicates things in that it just ends and doesn’t provide a conclusion to anything really. I see why this was done, but as a reader I didn’t feel entirely satisfied when I finished the novel.

Even though I have some problems with this novel, I still think Jamie Kain is an amazing writer, and I love the experiences that she transplants me into when I start reading her novels. While this is no The Good Sister, I still found myself engaged byInstructions for the End of the World, and read the book in a day. There is a lot to like here, even if it isn’t the most satisfying read out there.

River’s Review:

After reading and LOVING The Good Sister I was very excited for this book. I grew up in a backwoods type country bumpkin town, my father made sure we knew how to hunt and take care of ourselves in the wild, and I went to outdoors camp when I was a kid. My family is NOT crazy “preppers” like the family in this book, but I was curious to see how well I could relate.

Sadly this book just didn’t cut it for me. The writing was still very good, but the payout at the end of this was not what I was hoping for. After the family drama in The Good Sister I was sad to see just a shadow of that in this book. The father clearly had some ISSUES (as did the mother) but it didn’t feel as natural in this book as it did The Good Sister.

This book starts off with Nicole and her family showing up at a dilapidated old house that apparently belonged to some great-great-great-great relative and hadn’t been lived in since that relative had been alive. Nicole’s father has moved them there so they can live off the gird in preparation for the ~end of the world~. Nicole has grown up buying into her father’s beliefs (btw father is some ex Military general who just randomly retired for no reason… until REASONS later on in the book). But somehow the mother and younger sister are NOT on the dad’s side of the fence and I just didn’t know HOW they’d made it this far with the two of them being so NOT a part of this.

And I guess that really bugged me through most of this book. How did the mother and the sister really get this far with the father acting the way he did? I could understand if like, the mother financially couldn’t leave or SOMETHING but again, there was never any explanation (and then the mother later enrolls in Grad school so I don’t think money was ever an issue). And how was the younger sister able to get away with as much as she did?

This was another multi-POV book and it did NOT work for me. There were WAY too many voices and I really didn’t see the need for Laurel’s AT ALL. She literally had NO effect on this book. Her chapters could have been edited out and we would have lost nothing. The younger sister’s were also pretty useless to the story. Sure they showed what she was struggling with, but she was a massive brat (and she did have right to be, but STILL) and I just didn’t feel like her voice really contributed to the plot or story. Wolf’s was okay, but I really would have been FINE if this would have been in first person from Nicole’s POV.

Also this is supposed to be a survival book. I was expecting tension and actual things that needed to be survived. Sure their water stopped working, but their lives weren’t really IN DANGER. And the part with the fires was like two pages and then it was done. I wanted some actual life-threatening survival! And I don’t know the gun/hunting laws in California, but I can they really, LEGALLY, be allowed to just go out hunting on their property any old time of year?! And Nicole, do you NOT know about wearing orange so that OTHER people don’t shoot at you? That part really bugged me.

Overall this wasn’t BAD, it just wasn’t… anything really. And that made me so sad after LOVING The Good Sister.