Monthly Archives: March 2016

ARC Review – When We Collided by Emery Lord

25663637Title:  When We Collided

Author: Emery Lord

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Meet Vivi and Jonah: A girl and a boy whose love has the power save or destroy them.

Vivi and Jonah couldn’t be more different. Vivi craves anything joyful or beautiful that life can offer. Jonah has been burdened by responsibility for his family ever since his father died. As summer begins, Jonah resigns himself to another season of getting by. Then Vivi arrives, and suddenly life seems brighter and better. Jonah is the perfect project for Vivi, and things finally feel right for Jonah. Their love is the answer to everything. But soon Vivi’s zest for life falters, as her adventurousness becomes true danger-seeking. Jonah tries to keep her safe, but there’s something important Vivi hasn’t told him.

Huge thank you to Razorbill Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

When We Collided ripped me apart as I was reading it. Perhaps it’s my current circumstances, perhaps it’s the fact that a lot of this novel mirrored too much of my own life… it just destroyed me. That makes for a fantastic reading experience, admittedly. This is one of those books where I connected on so many different levels and and it made for such a layered experience.

I loved the relationship between Vivi and Jonah. In fact, it was my favourite part of the novel. It wasn’t love at first sight, the romance between both characters felt so organic, as everything builds to a messy climax. Jonah in particular was the one I could really relate to, and stories about caregivers often get ignored. Often these stories tend to miss the burnout, the aggression, the frusration of feeling like you don’t matter compared to the person you’re caring for. I understood Jonah’s trials and tribulations, in fact, whenever he vented his emotions I found myself nodding along with him. I loved Jonah’s siblings as well, especially Leah, who I feel capatured a lot of the books emotion in terms of how younger children deal with hyper-sensitive situations.

I also loved Vivi. I saw a lot of myself in her as well — emotionally investeded in others, but struggles to take care of herself. Loves others unconditionally, but cannot seem to find the same love in herself. She’s a beautiful character packed with so much intensity and emotion. I loved her need to remind the world who she once was, where she is now, and who she wishes to become. I loved her constant need to surprise others, and find the beauty in everything. She’s so well developed, though to be fair, I think every character in this book is fantastically portrayed.

This book is messy, it’s emotional, it’s loving, it’s rough, it’s kind, it’s… everything one would expect from a story about people colliding and trying to find focus in there lives in situations where it’s not possible. Lord does this amazing job of reminder readers about how these kinds of struggles are so real and should not be ignored. She also reminds us that beautiful things can often come in the messiest packages.

ARC Review – Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse

26030682Title: Girl in the Blue Coat

Author:  Monica Hesse

Rating:  ★★★★★

Synopsis: Amsterdam, 1943. Hanneke spends her days procuring and delivering sought-after black market goods to paying customers, her nights hiding the true nature of her work from her concerned parents, and every waking moment mourning her boyfriend, who was killed on the Dutch front lines when the Germans invaded. She likes to think of her illegal work as a small act of rebellion.

On a routine delivery, a client asks Hanneke for help. Expecting to hear that Mrs. Janssen wants meat or kerosene, Hanneke is shocked by the older woman’s frantic plea to find a person–a Jewish teenager Mrs. Janssen had been hiding, who has vanished without a trace from a secret room. Hanneke initially wants nothing to do with such dangerous work, but is ultimately drawn into a web of mysteries and stunning revelations that lead her into the heart of the resistance, open her eyes to the horrors of the Nazi war machine, and compel her to take desperate action.

HUGE thank you to The Novl for sending me an ARC for review!

River’s Review:

Omg I LOVED THIS BOOK! This year I’ve been trying to mix up my genre’s and I’ve been reading a lot more WWII fiction. As I’ve said in a previous review, I generally don’t read WWII stuff because it’s usually about someone in a camp. Not that those stories aren’t important and powerful in their own, they are just WAY. TOO. SAD. for me to read that often. So I like that I’m seeing books that have different angles on the war and what it was like to live in Nazi occupied Europe.

This book takes place in The Netherlands and it’s about a non-Jewish girl who works for the black market. She finds things and sells them, but she’s not a formal member of the resistance. Hanneke, our MC, takes care of her family and keeps her head down. But when one of her customer’s asks her to help find a missing Jewish girl Hanneke can’t help getting involved and one thing leads to another and before she knows it she’s entrenched in the resistance and risking her life for a girl she’s never met.

I loved the history of this, but I also loved the accessibility. There were times that the writing felt rather modern, but by the end I actually liked that. It’s easy to read and doesn’t feel too dense, which is another reasons I generally steer clear of historical fiction. I also loved that I learned so much! So often the focus of WWII stories is on Germany. The setting in this was refreshing and I loved the author’s note!

The end of this book really got me and I was in tears by the end of it. SEE SAD. But also hopeful. The twists and turns at the end I did NOT see coming and I was breathless with them.

Make sure to pick this book up even if you aren’t a huge fan of historical or WWII stories! You wont regret it!

ARC Review – Just Like Me by Nancy Cavanaugh

27204775Title: Just Like Me

Author:  Nancy Cavanaugh

Rating:  ★★★★

Synopsis: Who eats Cheetos with chopsticks?! Avery and Becca, my “Chinese Sisters,” that’s who. We’re not really sisters—we were just adopted from the same orphanage. And we’re nothing alike. They sing Chinese love songs on the bus to summer camp, and I pretend like I don’t know them. To make everything worse, we have to journal about our time at camp so the adoption agency can do some kind of “where are they now” newsletter. I’ll tell you where I am: At Camp Little Big Woods in a cabin with five other girls who aren’t getting along, competing for a campout and losing (badly), wondering how I got here…and where I belong.

Huge thank you to Sourcebooks and Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I wasn’t sure what I got myself into when I requested Just Like Me. I knew it was about adoption, culture and identity. What I didn’t know, was how much it would emotionally affect me in the end. Julia, Avery and Becca are all Chinese girls who have been adopted. While Becca and Avery still feel very close to their Chinese roots, Julia has other feelings.

In fact, Julia’s feelings are what emotionally got me. She’s adopted by parents who are Italian and Irish, and she recognizes that in no way does she look or act like them. She’s completely aware that they are not her birth parents, but she feels a closer connect to them then she does her birth family. When Becca and Avery attempt to immerse Julia into Chinese songs and games, she takes no part because she doesn’t feel that she is connected to her Chinese heritage.

Julia’s narration is both sassy as it is heartbreaking. She doesn’t feel like she belongs anywhere, and no matter how hard she tries, she struggles to really feel connected to anyone, until she meets Gina at summer camp. While Avery and Becca choose to stick together, Julia struggles with her own personal and cultural identity because she feels as there isn’t anyone else “like her,” meanwhile she is afraid to embrace all the parts of her that exist that make up who she truly is. This is a beautiful story, and while I don’t suffer from Julia’s problems, I can empathize her desire to figure out who she is and her own self-worth.

Just Like Me definitely has it’s funny moments, but it’s certainly a very raw story of understanding and figuring out where you belong. It’s a great story on what it means to grow up when you’re already unsure of who you are. Julia is a fantastic protagonist to follow, and the message this story presents really broke my heart at times. This is a lovely summer contemporary read that will remind you that regardless of age, you are always worthy of someone’s love.

ARC Review – The New Guy (and Other Senior Year Distractions) by Amy Spalding

23232950Title: The New Guy (and Other Senior Year Distractions)

Author: Amy Spalding

Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: Filled with tons of romance, rivalry, and passive-aggressive dog walking, Amy Spalding delivers a hilariously relatable high school story that’s sure to have you falling for The New Guy.

Huge thanks to The Novl for sending me an ARC for review!

River’s Review:

So last year I read and LOOOOOVED Kissing Ted Callahan and when I heard that Spalding had a new book coming out I was SO EXCITED!

Sadly this book didn’t quite live up to my love for KTC, but I did enjoy it!

The New Guy is a story about Jules and how she deals with her senior year of high school. She’s an overachiever and spends a lot of her time doing whatever she can to get herself into Brown. She’s the editor of her school paper, she walks dogs at the local shelter, and she’s a top student. She also volunteers to show new kids around on their first day of school. Enter Alex, the new guy, who was also an ex-viral boy band sensation. He’s not really famous anymore, and in LA your 15 minutes of fame is usually quickly forgotten. The students at their school spend a few minutes freaking out about Alex, but then he just becomes another student.

He does fall for Jules pretty quickly (too quickly…) and they start to date. Only for about a week though until he starts to work for their schools new broadcast news club… which Jules takes as a personal attack on her and the school newspaper.

Jules and her crew set out to destroy the broadcast news club and in doing so she ends up hurting a lot of people… Alex, her best friend and herself included.

Overall this is a good story about first love, friendship, and family. I enjoyed Jules’ relationships with her two moms, her best friend Sadie, and even Alex. Jules is a very honest, hardworking, but sometimes naive girl, and this gets her into trouble. But this book didn’t quite have the wit and quirk in it that I’d been hoping for after having loved KTC so much.

ARC Review – A Study in Charlotte (Charlotte Holmes #1) by Brittany Cavallaro

23272028Title: A Study in Charlotte (Charlotte Holmes #1)

Author: Brittany Cavallaro

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: The last thing Jamie Watson wants is a rugby scholarship to Sherringford, a Connecticut prep school just an hour away from his estranged father. But that’s not the only complication: Sherringford is also home to Charlotte Holmes, the famous detective’s great-great-great-granddaughter, who has inherited not only Sherlock’s genius but also his volatile temperament. From everything Jamie has heard about Charlotte, it seems safer to admire her from afar.

From the moment they meet, there’s a tense energy between them, and they seem more destined to be rivals than anything else. But when a Sherringford student dies under suspicious circumstances, ripped straight from the most terrifying of the Sherlock Holmes stories, Jamie can no longer afford to keep his distance. Jamie and Charlotte are being framed for murder, and only Charlotte can clear their names. But danger is mounting and nowhere is safe—and the only people they can trust are each other.

Huge thank you to Harper Collins for sending me an ARC of this for review!

River’s Review:

I LOVED this book! I’m going to be honest, but I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it. The idea sounded excellent, but Sherlock stories can always go sideways quickly. I’m a fan of the BBC version and I highly enjoy the newer movies, even some of the older films are okay, but I really dislike the American remake and I’ve had issues with some of the other YA Sherlock remakes. So I went into this with low expectations and was worried it was going to be cringe worthy… and it’s not.

First off I love the writing. I compared it to one of my favorite author’s writing and had a friend look at me with shock because that is some HIGH praise coming from me. I love how posh everything is, how quaintly New England the rest of it is. There are a lot of clever moments in this but it’s not super heavy handed THIS IS SHERLOCK at any time. I also laughed at the James Bond part.

The homage paid to the original Sherlock stories was so well done. I loved the name play, the references to both old and new Sherlock. I also really enjoyed how Holmes and Watson were portrayed. In this book Holmes is a girl, but she’s also very much… a Holmes. I loved the whole backstory that was created for both families and how well it matched with the Watson and Holmes we currently know and love. I really liked how dark Holmes was; and yes she has a drug problem. It is addressed. But I think it’s done will in this book. And the Watsons in this book were great. We get to see not only young Jamie Watson but his father, another Watson, at work here. The way that they interact with Charlotte is both hilarious and spot on to how I’d imagine previous Watsons would react to previous Holmeses.

The mystery in this was really fun too. I didn’t see whodunit coming and thought it was well played. There were moments of shock and moments of deduction and moments of plain good sleuthing.

Everything in this was just so pitch perfect and I really hope we get more!

ARC Review – The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith

25785649Title: The Way I Used to Be

Author:  Amber Smith

Rating:  ★★★★

Synopsis: Eden was always good at being good. Starting high school didn’t change who she was. But the night her brother’s best friend rapes her, Eden’s world capsizes.

What was once simple, is now complex. What Eden once loved—who she once loved—she now hates. What she thought she knew to be true, is now lies. Nothing makes sense anymore, and she knows she’s supposed to tell someone what happened but she can’t. So she buries it instead. And she buries the way she used to be.

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

Sam’s Review:

This was a tough book to read. It’s one that focuses on rape, consent, and how rape transforms someone. Eden, our heroine, spends a lot of this novel in self-reflection, transforming into a young woman who has had her world changed in a way in which she had no control. She becomes someone so drastically different after she is raped, and she is coming to terms with who she once was and who she has become.

The writing in this novel is absolutely stunning, and it makes for strong, absorbing storytelling. While I didn’t necessarily love the way in which it went through her four years of high school, it did grow on me as I read on. Sometimes it felt like time was moving crazy slow, other moments quick as lightning. It makes for a difficult yet unique approach to storytelling — how one event can make someone feel so polarized about themselves, and that’s a lot of what I felt the author was exploring.

I really loved Eden and her friendship with Mara. I loved watching their transformations go in completely different directions and yet they still were very bound to their friendship. In a lot of ways I felt like they were constantly rescuing each other from so much that has happened. The way in which their friendship was portrayed left me with a lot of thinking when I was finished the novel. There’s a lot of growth in Eden, and you see how complicated and complex she becomes as a character, and it’s shows so well in this story. I loved growing along side Eden.

This is a very challenging novel to read and I think it asks readers to look at difficult issues through different gazes. It asks people to understand that events can transform people for better or worse, and I feel like that is The Way I Used to Be‘s strong suit. This novel is beautiful as it is smart, and it definitely has the power to spark some real good conversation.

River’s Quickie Reviews #7

It’s been a long time since I’ve thrown one of these together, but River managed to get a crapton of books from ALAMW 2016, and has been writing some mini reviews for a few of the books she got her hands on. Enjoy some mini-reviews of titles that have either just released or will be coming out later in the year!


23266647

 

Title: Ask Me How I Got Here by Christine Heppermann (May 3rd 2016 by Greenwillow )

Synopsis: Addie has always known what she was running toward. In cross-country, in life, in love. Until she and her boyfriend—her sensitive, good-guy boyfriend—are careless one night and she ends up pregnant. Addie makes the difficult choice to have an abortion. And after that—even though she knows it was the right decision for her—nothing is the same anymore. She doesn’t want anyone besides her parents and her boyfriend to know what happened; she doesn’t want to run cross-country; she can’t bring herself to be excited about anything. Until she reconnects with Juliana, a former teammate who’s going through her own dark places.

River’s Review: This is a very fast read. I think I read it in about a half hour? It’s written in verse and the writing is SO gorgeous.

This is the story of a girl who has an abortion. She goes to a catholic school so there’s a lot of religious stuff going on in this book, but it’s not a book about condemning what was done. It’s not a book about a broken girl, just a girl who deals with the consequences of her actions and does what she believes is the right thing. This book isn’t preachy, but it does give a very interesting view on both sides of the debate, and I loved the juxtaposition going on in it.

I also really liked how quiet it was. She doesn’t go crazy and become a broken thing, but she does lose faith in herself and interest in things that were once important. Friends and family show concern, but it’s all very subtle and overall very well done.

This is a great book for a lazy afternoon. Beautiful writing, important content. It was something different and I needed it. 5/5 Stars.


25203675Title: The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi  (April 26th 2016 by St. Martin’s Griffin)

Synopsis: Cursed with a horoscope that promises a marriage of Death and Destruction, sixteen-year-old Maya has only earned the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her world is upheaved when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. But when her wedding takes a fatal turn, Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Yet neither roles are what she expected. As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds friendship and warmth. But Akaran has its own secrets – thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Beneath Akaran’s magic, Maya begins to suspect her life is in danger. When she ignores Amar’s plea for patience, her discoveries put more than new love at risk – it threatens the balance of all realms, human and Otherworldly.

River’s Review: Here’s another book that I very much enjoyed but didn’t LOVE. The writing in this is breathtakingly gorgeous and I really enjoyed some of the side characters. But over all I felt a little displaced with the world and the two main characters didn’t do too much for me. I LOVED that it was based on Indian mythology, that’s not something that I’ve run into very much in YA. Kamala the flesh eating horse was hilarious, and I really enjoyed Gupta and his eccentricities. Sadly Maya was a little too gullible at times, but I did enjoy her growth as a woman in the story. Amar was every other brooding bad-good-guy.

The first 100 pages or so of this was slow and boring at times, but around 150 things really picked up and I loved the way that things were reveled and pieced together through Maya’s own personal journey.

I’m very excited to see what more Chokshi writes, because wow does she spin some beautiful tales! 4/5 Stars.


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Title: The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter (March 15th 2016 by Philomel Books)

Synopsis: Cassie O’Malley has been trying to keep her head above water—literally and metaphorically—since birth. It’s been two and a half years since Cassie’s mother dumped her in a mental institution against her will, and now, at eighteen, Cassie is finally able to reclaim her life and enter the world on her own terms. But freedom is a poor match against a lifetime of psychological damage. As Cassie plumbs the depths of her new surroundings, the startling truths she uncovers about her own family narrative make it impossible to cut the tethers of a tumultuous past. And when the unhealthy mother-daughter relationship that defined Cassie’s childhood and adolescence threatens to pull her under once again, Cassie must decide: whose version of history is real? And more important, whose life must she save?

River’s Review: So I really liked this but something about the story felt super dated. I couldn’t place the time, and then there were mentions of cell phones and a couple of pop culture references, but overall this felt like it was set in the late 80s or early 90s for some reason.

And the college aspect of this was REALLY weird for me. I didn’t do the whole “freshman” thing when I was in college (I transferred in during my 2nd year) but I don’t remember my college (or any of my friends) having dances (like formals like you do in high school) and the pay phone at the end of the hallway and the very lack of anybody really following up with anything regarding Cassie just seemed really random and strange.

The emotional aspects, the mental health issues in this, and the writing were all really good though. 3/5 Stars.