Monthly Archives: February 2016

ARC Review – The Lifeboat Clique by Kathy Parks

22926200Title: The Lifeboat Clique

Author: Kathy Parks

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Some people might say that Denver had a death wish. Why else would she have dared to sneak into a Malibu beach party where she’d be surrounded by enemies, namely including her ex-BFF Abigail? Oh yeah. Croix. Denver never thought in a million years he’d ask her out, but who was she to question this miracle of fate? Well, that wasn’t the only surprise fate had in store.During the party a tsunami hit the coast of California, wiping out everything in its path. Denver and a handful of others escaped death by holding onto the roof of the house and were swept out to sea. Of course, one of her fellow castaways was none other than Abigail, who could barely stand the sight of her.

Now that she’s floating in the ocean, stuck on a small boat with the most popular kids in school and waiting to be rescued, Denver wonders what might kill her first-dehydration, sunstroke, or the girl she used to think of as a sister?

Huge thank you to Harper Collins for sending me a copy of this for review!

River’s Review:

This book was so fun… which feels wrong saying about a book that is about a lot of freaking death. But Denver had a great voice and the whole story just worked. It’s very 90’s and very mean girls.

Denver goes to a party that she shouldn’t have, but wanted to because some dude asked her. She sneaks out of her house and heads to the illegal Malibu mansion party. A HUGE earthquake strikes and a tsunami follows, pulling the kids out to sea. Not a lot of them survive and it’s all quite horrid. But in a dark comedy sort of way. Denver ends up on a boat with the “cool kids” and uses a lot of science to try to save them. They fight, they pull together, and they have some moments.

There’s not really too much that I can say about this book other than you should read it!

 

ARC Review – Tru and Nelle by G. Neri

25897850Title: Tru & Nelle

Author:  G.Neri

Rating:  ★★★★

Synopsis: Long before they became famous writers, Truman Capote (In Cold Blood) and Harper Lee (To Kill a Mockingbird) were childhood friends in Monroeville, Alabama. This fictionalized account of their time together opens at the beginning of the Great Depression, when Tru is seven and Nelle is six. They love playing pirates, but they like playing Sherlock and Watson-style detectives even more. It’s their pursuit of a case of drugstore theft that lands the daring duo in real trouble. Humor and heartache intermingle in this lively look at two budding writers in the 1930s South.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I admit, my knowledge of both Harper Lee and Truman Capote is quite limited. I’ve read both their acclaimed works and enjoyed them, but I never knew the true extent of their friendship until I had read Tru & Nelle. I had not watched Capote (though I’m starting to think I should check it out), but taught me more about the pair then I knew prior.

This is a fictionalized book based on the friendship of Truman Capote and Harper Lee during their time in Monroeville, Alabama. This is a middle grade novel, though I question how many middle graders would know who either of these famous writer’s are. Still, it reads like what you would expect for a historical middle grade novel — it’s a tale of two best friends getting into a lot of mischief and mayhem, and having a glorious summer doing it. Both Tru and Nelle are delightful characters, and if I’m being honest, they made me laugh out loud quite a bit!

This book looks at issues of racism and does so thoughtfully. Especially in the ending section with Truman’s birthday where the KKK end up picking on a young boy. It reminded me of another book I had read in how it handled this issue, Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper. Issues of racism are shared in a thoughtful and intelligent way, without making younger reader feel as it’s not something they’d be able to understand. There’s a delightful simplicity in the storytelling in Tru & Nelle, and I really liked that about the story. It felt laid back and homey, and it made for a fun experience.

The novel itself is quite short with additional short stories tucked in at the end. I wasn’t as in love with the short stories at the end, but I did love the additional historical information that G.Neri included at the end of the text involving the depth of research, and the biographical information surrounding his protagonists. I found it to be very fascinating to read right after completing the novel.

Tru & Nelle is a delightful middle grade read with a lot of heart and soul. It’s fun, hysterical and thoughtful. I couldn’t put it down once I started reading it, and while I wasn’t huge on the short stories, the core novel shines from beginning to end. This novel is both great for middle grade lovers, as well as adults who are interested in the lives of Truman Capote and Harper Lee.

ARC Review – The Leaving Season by Cat Jordan

25708587Title: The Leaving Season

Author:  Cat Jordan

Rating:  ★★★★

Synopsis:Middie Daniels calls it the Leaving Season: the time of year when everyone graduates high school, packs up their brand-new suitcases, and leaves home for the first time.

This year Middie’s boyfriend Nate is the one leaving. Nate, who’s so perfect that she can barely believe it. Nate, who makes her better than she is on her own. Nate, who’s promised to come back once he’s finished his gap year volunteering in Central America. And when he does, it’ll be time for Middie to leave, too. With him.

But when a tragedy strikes, Middie’s whole world is set spinning. No one seems to understand just how lost she is… except for Nate’s slacker best friend Lee. Middie and Lee have never gotten along. But with the ground ripped out from under her, Middie is finding that up is down—and that Lee Ryan might be just what she needs to find her footing once more.

Huge thank you to Harper Collins for sending me this book for review!

River’s Review:

Soooo I enjoyed this book WAY more than I had anticipated. I went into it thinking it was going to be a sad contemporary read but it was a lot more.

First off I really enjoyed the writing. It just fit with the tone and voice. This book does suffer from some poor pacing, which bugged me and brought my rating down a bit. Things kinda happen in sweeps to accelerate the time line and it just didn’t work for me with such an emotional story.

Also I am both for and against how quickly Middie moved on after “tragedy strikes”. I understand first hand how grief can make you do crazy things, but at the same time I’m not sure how well it works in this scenario. I did like how Middie and Lee relied on each other for comfort and how they became close. But some emotional stuff felt a little rushed.

I really enjoyed the characters in this. It’s a story about a golden couple and how Middie is defined by her relationship. When Nate leaves she finds that she can define herself. And while this was a story about loss, and there was a romantic sub plot, I felt that the whole point was that Middie had to choose to let Nate define her or find a way to define herself.

I saw a few reviews stating that Middie was a stereotypical good girl and that Lee is a bad boy, but that’s really not the case for either. Middie is a part of a relationship that makes her LOOK like the golden girl. And Lee isn’t her Golden Boy, but he drives a freaking Vespa… not really bad boy material.

Another thing I liked about this was the exploration of friendships. I really enjoyed seeing Middie develop stronger friendships with her girl friends in the absence of a very all encompassing relationship. I also liked watching her try to come to terms with Her Nate and Lee’s Nate. Just shows how people are different around their different groups of friends.

I had NOT seen the twist coming and it was so emotional! I also LOVED the ending and the choices that Middie made. This book stuck with me LONG after reading the last page.

ARC Review – Just My Luck by Cammie McGovern

25685283Title:  Just My Luck

Author: Cammie McGovern

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Fourth grade is not going at all how Benny Barrows hoped. He hasn’t found a new best friend. He’s still not a great bike rider—even though his brother George, who’s autistic, can do tricks. And worst of all, he worries his dad’s recent accident might be all his fault. Benny tries to take his mom’s advice and focus on helping others, and to take things one step at a time. But when his dad ends up in the hospital again, Benny doesn’t know how he and his family will overcome all the bad luck that life has thrown their way.

Just My Luck is a deeply moving and rewarding novel about a down-on-his-luck boy whose caring heart ultimately helps him find the strength to cope with tragedy and realize how much he truly has to offer his friends and family.

Huge thank you to Harper Collins Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Cammie McGovern seems to have become an auto-read author for me as of late. There’s something about her novels where I find myself really connecting to her characters and their personal situations. Being that this was her first middle grade novel, I was a bit worried about how this was going to shake up. Turns out, it was fantastic ride that made me shed a few tears!

Benny is a delightful main character, and his voice is so delightful and genuine. He’s one of those kids who has a hard time making friends, mostly because he’s scared of being made fun of or hurt. He also has a brother with a disability, whom he shows great compassion towards, even if others do not. He confides in his Lego collection by making little movies as a means to share his love and passions.

Benny reminded me of myself when I was his age, although change Lego to Littlest Pet Shops. Like Benny, I’d spend hours of my day making elaborate stories with my Littlest Pet Shops, weaving new tales and seeing what kinds of antics the characters could get themselves into. Benny is also a kid who desires to be recognized, and when his school implements a Footprints Program (essentially, a good deed gets you a footprint with your name on it), Benny tries to put himself out there in ways, and I could totally sympathize with a lot of his feelings within the story.

I also loved Benny’s relationship with his family. His family is so supportive and strong, and yet they know they are also kind of a mess too. Benny’s family goes through so much in this tiny little book, and it’s amazing how much stronger they become in terms of dealing with their family problems. I thought the relationships between everyone were spectacularly writing, and easy to root for.

This book is just so genuine in every way. It leaves you thinking about how you were when you were a child, especially if you weren’t the most extroverted kid. This is my favourite book of Cammie McGovern’s to date, and I cannot wait to see what she comes up with next!

ARC Review – A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic #2) by V.E Schwab

A Gathering of Shadows FinalTitle: A Gathering of Shadows  (Shades of Magic #2)

Author:  V.E Schwab

Rating:  ★★★★★

Synopsis: Four months have passed since the shadow stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Rhy was wounded and the Dane twins fell, and the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift, and into Black London. In many ways, things have almost returned to normal, though Rhy is more sober, and Kell is now plagued by his guilt. Restless, and having given up smuggling, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks like she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games—an extravagant international competition of magic, meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries—a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.

But while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life, and those who were thought to be forever gone have returned. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night reappears in the morning, and so it seems Black London has risen again—meaning that another London must fall.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I devoured A Darker Shade of Magic when it released last year. I got completely sucked into the worlds that Schwab had crafted, and adored the cast of characters she created. Victoria Schwab has a knack for great characters, interesting world-building, and her books offer so much tension and intrigue that it’s hard not to love them. A Gathering of Shadows is no different.

Obviously, this book is a sequel and definitely requires that you have read A Darker Shade of Magic. This book occurs four months after the main events of ADSOM, and basically the book takes off from there. Kell and Rhy are in new positions, Lila’s taken up a life on the sea, and then there’s a magic tournament and a whole lot of other shenanigans. A lot of the new characters that are introduced in this novel are fantastic as well, and I quite enjoyed reading their stories. I’m interested to see where Schwab will take them in the next book since some of their narratives felt a unfinished.

I feel like reviewing a sequel is difficult, because at the end of the day, you don’t want to give away any spoilers for those who have yet to read the first book. I think if you love character driven stories full of wonder and enchantment, then A Darker Shade of Magic is sure to delight. A Gathering of Shadows is a worthy sequel that offers fantastic development of Schwab’s world and her characters. The ending left me quite surprised, and I can only hope that the sequel answers more questions that have presented themselves in this novel.

Basically what I am saying is: I need the next book now.

ARC Review – Take the Fall by Emily Hainsworth

15782557Title: Take the Fall

Author:  Emily Hainsworth

Rating:  ★★★

Synopsis: Fear grips the residents of Hidden Falls the night Sonia Feldman and her best friend, Gretchen Meyer, are attacked in the woods. Sonia was lucky to escape with her life, but Gretchen’s body is discovered at the bottom of a waterfall. Beautiful, popular, and seemingly untouchable, Gretchen can’t be gone. Even as Sonia struggles with guilt and confusion over having survived, the whole town is looking to her for information…could she have seen something that will lead the police to the killer?

At the top of the list of suspects is Gretchen’s ex-boyfriend—and Sonia’s longtime enemy—Marcus Perez. So when Marcus comes to Sonia for help clearing his name, she agrees, hoping to find evidence the police need to prove he’s the killer. But as Gretchen’s many secrets emerge and the suspects add up, Sonia feels less sure of Marcus’s involvement, and more afraid for herself. Could Marcus, the artist, the screwup, the boy she might be falling for have attacked her? Killed her best friend? And if it wasn’t him in the woods that night…who could it have been?

Huge thank you to Harper Collins for sending me a copy for review!

River’s Review:

When I started this book I could not put it down and I blew through the first 100 or so pages. It was so fast paces and everything was just clicking along I was really excited to see where this was going. Sonia was a great MC, there was a really nice mix of characters, and I liked the small town feeling. I was super invested in WHAT WAS GOING TO HAPPEN.

And then things kinda slowed down. There were a few moments of AHA murder mystery, but a lot of it was just dealing with the loss of Gretchen and slowly figuring out that she wasn’t THAT great of a person (friend, sister, girl friend) after all. And this whole time I was fighting with myself over if Sonia was a reliable narrator or not. And I was pretty set on the idea that she was and that this was going to have some crazy twist and that we’d NEVER see WHO DUN IT coming and… I guessed it and I was right and I bumped it down to a 3 star rating because those kinds of twists are the lamest. And I don’t buy it. And just ugh.

Disappointed.

Too much?

I wrote this blog post (below) at like 3am on my phone last night because I couldn’t sleep (hello insomnia!). And even thought I’ve already posted it, I want to add some things now that I’m rested and it’s daylight.

Lately I’ve been revisiting things that I used to love… possibly for ~nostalgia’s sake~ but maybe also just because I really fucking miss who I used to be. And I’m not saying that the person I am now isn’t who I want to be, but I do miss some of the things that I used to really love that have kinda fallen to the wayside…

Music, for one, is something that I used to be OBSESSED with. I lost a lot of my music when my MacBook crashed and I have a very small amount on my iPhone. I do listen to Pandora when I’m at work, but I don’t want it to burn my data (and I don’t have wifi at home) so I tend not to listen to it as much as I used to. When I discovered Halsey over the summer last year it was like a part of me that  was missing had returned.

I do feel like I’ve ditched a lot of things that I used to be very in love with to spend more time reading. I LOVE TO READ. I have always loved to read. But lately I’ve been feeling like a slave to my TBR. Whenever I finish one book I IMMEDIATELY start another. It’s like I just can’t slow down because I feel this NEED to KEEP GOING. And I am neglecting things to read. Myself included.

I spent the past year really getting my foot in the door with publishers and I’ve overwhelmed myself with review books. I feel like I’m constantly getting stuff and while I WANT to read it, at the same time I feel like I HAVE to read it and that can take the joy out of actually reading it.

Reading is not my purpose, but I feel like it has become my purpose. I want to write but then I think about how much reading I wont get done. And then I don’t write. And I want to fucking write my book! I want to go to the gym but I’d rather sit on my butt at home and read. I’ve gained weight since moving back to the USA and I don’t like it I don’t like being unhappy with myself. Yes I am all for being happy with whatever body you have, but at the same time, if you aren’t happy with it then find a way to be. And sitting around eating crap food and feeling like shit isn’t the way that I’m going to find a way to be happy with these extra pounds (and the fact that my favorite shorts don’t fit anymore and that I couldn’t wear them AT ALL last summer).

I guess I just feel like I’m out of balance and that reading has become this thing that I do to avoid my adult problems and that really it just makes things worse for me in the end. Where is this coming from? I put off something important and avoided my stress about not doing said important thing by burying myself in a book and not looking up for a whole month. And guess what, the important thing didn’t go away, and now I am the most stressed out I’ve been in a long, long time. And I hate it. And I did it to myself. Because I don’t have balance.

So this doesn’t mean that I’m going to stop reading or blogging. It doesn’t mean that I’m going to stop requesting or reviewing. It does mean that I’m going to slow down. That reading is going to not be the thing that I strive to do day in and day out. That it’s something that I will do when I have time, when I’m done doing other things that I ALSO want to do.

 

How much is too much of anything? I’ve always been told that there are worse things to be addicted to in life than books. But when your (my) reading obsession (habit) becomes something that is more tangible than anything else where do I stop and realize that this might not be the best?

In the past few years, since I started book blogging, I have proudly read over 100 books a year. This year I wanted nothing less. And I have been reading like a crazy person. I am well on my way to being over my goals (some 20 books ahead) and I’ve found myself spending entire days binge reading a single book in one sitting.

Tomight I ran two miles. I haven’t done that in months. Why? Because I’d rather spend my free time after work and before bed reading. I honestly will rush home to sit there and read and then rush through whatever I have to do before staying up way later than I should to read. And then my entire day is spent in sleepy anticipation of doing it all over again.

I think I have a problem. Reading makes me feel productive. But it’s also something that I can get so easily sucked into. I often have to tell myself to do the laundry, chores, etc before I get sucked into a book or else I might not do it. Sometimes I don’t eat when I’m reading because I don’t realize or just cant be bothered.

I think my reading habits have become unbalanced. And I need to slow down. I need to run two miles more often. I need to spend actual time cleaning my house. I need to enjoy other things and spend time out with friends.

This is me saying that I need to find balance. That I am not going anywhere just that I need to slow down and find balance.