Monthly Archives: April 2018

ARC Review – Sunny (Track #3) by Jason Reynolds

Title: Sunny (Track #3)

Author:  Jason Reynolds

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Ghost. Patina. Sunny. Lu. Four kids from wildly different backgrounds, with personalities that are explosive when they clash. But they are also four kids chosen for an elite middle school track team—a team that could qualify them for the Junior Olympics. They all have a lot of lose, but they all have a lot to prove, not only to each other, but to themselves. Sunny is the main character in this novel, the third of four books in Jason Reynold’s electrifying middle grade series.

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

Sam’s Review:

As many of you know, I am an insane Jason Reynolds fangirl. I started reading his books last year and since then have read everything he has published to date. When Simon & Schuster Canada sent me a package of Jason Reynolds books, I was rolling on the floor in utter delight. The Track series is one of my favourite middle grade reads and one I constantly recommend to parents who have reluctant readers in their lives.

In Sunny, our track team takes an interesting turn. Sunny finds track too easy and debates leaving his teammates behind to peruse his new passion — dance. Concerned about the feelings of his teammates but struggling with his own desires, Sunny fells somewhat broken as he writes in his diary. I think Sunny’s story is one we all go through just in various stages. A loss of passion for something you’ve done your whole life, letting others down for “selfish desire,” wanting to try to appease both sides, the reader truly gets a sense of Sunny’s struggle throughout.

I loved Sunny’s relationship with Aurelia, who helps him get into dance in the first place. You get to see what a good influence she is on him and she helps Sunny to see that while choices are hard, it’s what makes you the most happy. When you are a kid, that is really hard advice to take (even as an adult it’s hard advice to take). I loved Sunny though, and I kept wanting him to pursue his dreams.

The Track series is just so impeccably written and stories being told are easy to relate to. Ghost, Patty, Sunny and Lu are kids that are easy to connect with and you want to see them succeed no matter what. If you haven’t read this series, I urge you to check it out!

 

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Five Titles from #FrenzyPresents That I Need to Get My Paws On!

Over the weekend I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Harper Collins Canada for their Spring #FrenzyPresents event. This event happens every few months to showcase what upcoming YA titles are on their way out to the shelves. I always love these events if only because the Frenzy crew really shows such amazing enthusiasm and passion for the titles that they are publishing. They showed us a variety of titles, from high fantasy to gripping contemporary, and I thought it would be fun to share the five titles I’d love to get my paws on!

Monday’s Not Coming
by Tiffany D. Jackson (Expected Release:  May 22nd 2018 by Katherine Tegen Books)

This book sounds like it’s going to be a rough and gripping ride. Missing persons stories are easily some of the most uncomfortable stories out there. When someone is missing there’s the fear they’ve been brutally hurt, raped,  or even murdered. There’s a discomfort and unnerving feeling that comes from stories like this — a best friend has gone missing, no one seems to pay it any mind then the one person who strongly notices. Claudia’s story sounds like one that is going to be a tough read, but I’m here for it.

 Invisible Ghosts
by Robyn Schneider (Expected Release: June 5th 2018 by Katherine Tegen Books)

It has been awhile since we’ve gotten a new Robyn Schneider book. I find what I love about Robyn Schneider’s novels is there’s always an unpredictable element to them. In the case of her new novel, it has ghosts! I feel like this is going to be a story that hits me hard given it’s mainly about moving forward and trying to let go of the past. Believe me, I can relate, and I feel like this one is going to punch me hard in the feelings.

The Bird and the Blade
by Megan Bannen (Expected publication: June 5th 2018 by Balzer + Bray)

I admit, I am not the biggest historical fiction buff. I will say, however, that if a historical fiction novel focuses on East Asia, I will pay attention. Asian culture has always fascinated me, and while the author isn’t Asian, I’m willing to see where he story goes. This book has MONGOLS. MONGOLS PEOPLE. That alone had me yelling in my chair during the event! Plus, Maeve, being the doll that she is endorsed it, and given how well-researched I’ve heard this book is, I need to get my claws on it.

Leah on the Offbeat
by Becky Albertalli (Expected publication: April 24th 2018 by HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray)

Hi, my name is Sam, and I am addicted to Becky Albertalli books. Yes, yes, I am. I am SO EXCITED FOR LEAH ON THE OFF BEAT. SO MUCH SO THAT I AM USING ALL CAPS TO EXPRESS MY JOY AND HAPPINESS. YAS YAS YAS YAS YAS YAS YAS.

But seriously, I am here for this book. Feelings and flailing are going to happen.

Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now
by Dana L. Davis (Expected publication: May 1st 2018 by Harlequin Teen)

Hello family drama? I am in it. I’ll admit, this was one of the few books I hadn’t heard of during the event, but the synopsis sounded like it was going to be an emotional roller-coaster.  This book looks at a girl with two potential fathers and the possibility of feeling like she’s never going to fit in with a family. While I hope it isn’t Maury (‘You are not the father!’), I feel like there’s just going to be such an intense back and forth in this story. I look forward to reviewing it for you all very, very soon!

There you have it! These are the five titles I am beyond thrilled about it. I want to express a huge thank you to Harper Collins Canada for the invitation to see their new titles, and extend a thank you tot he special guest Hadley Dyer, who was so genuine and funny, and while you are all at it, go pick up here latest Here So Far Away (which I’ll have a review for on the blog super soon for — spoiler alert: I ADORED IT).

I cannot wait to share these new titles with the teens at my work, and I am living for these releases.

ARC Review – Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough

Title: Blood Water Paint

Author: Joy McCullough

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Her mother died when she was twelve, and suddenly Artemisia Gentileschi had a stark choice: a life as a nun in a convent or a life grinding pigment for her father’s paint.

She chose paint.

By the time she was seventeen, Artemisia did more than grind pigment. She was one of Rome’s most talented painters, even if no one knew her name. But Rome in 1610 was a city where men took what they wanted from women, and in the aftermath of rape Artemisia faced another terrible choice: a life of silence or a life of truth, no matter the cost.

Huge thank you to Miss Print’s ARC adoption for this review copy.

Molly’s Review:

This is probably going to be one of my top favorite books of 2018. I cannot describe how this book made me feel and I somehow have to for this review.

This book is horrifying.

This book is empowering.

This book is not shocking and shocking at the same time.

This book is timely and relevant and historical.

Blood Water Paint first got on my radar when I saw the cover and read the synopsis. I’m not usually into books written in verse, but wow, WOW, this book was beautifully written. I could have read pages and pages more. (for those of you who aren’t super into verse, there ARE sections that are written in traditional prose)

I think books about rape are important. Growing up I lived in a place that perpetuated rape culture and I was taught that women need to be responsible for not getting themselves raped. I was taught that girls ask for it, and that they cry rape after they do something they regret. I wish, oh how I wish, I had been exposed to books that taught otherwise. I wish that I had learned at a much earlier age that women are not to blame, that rape happens BECAUSE RAPISTS. And that is the end of it. So this book is important.

I also loved that I learned about a historical woman that I had never heard of before. I’ve really been into learning more about hidden ladies of the past recently, and this was such a nice addition to my shelf.

I so hope that McCullough writes more books like this.

Please read this book. Please sink into the beautiful writing, please feel all of the rage and sorrow and hope and fight that soak through these pages. Please see what a woman can do.

ARC Review – Vi by Kim Thúy

Title: Vi

Author: Kim Thúy

Rating: ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: The youngest of four children and the only girl, Vi was given a name that meant “precious, tiny one,” destined to be cosseted and protected, the family’s little treasure.
Daughter of an enterprising mother and a wealthy and spoiled father who never had to grow up, the Vietnam war tears their family asunder. While Vi and many of her family members escape, her father stays behind, and her family must fend for themselves in Canada.
While her mother and brothers put down roots, life has different plans for Vi. As a young woman, she finds the world opening up to her. 

Huge thank you to Random House Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I adored Ru back when I read it. I found it to be such an emotional journey, and Kim Thuy’s prose is some of the most beautiful that I’ve read over the years. He latest book, Vi looks at the youngest daughter of three, and a family of refugees trying to make a new life in Canada. This book is as short as Ru, and while it hits similar notes, it doesn’t quite deliver for me in the same way.

Part of my issue with Vi is how much it jumps around in terms of location and time. I found myself reading this book slowly, flipping back through pages just to ensure I understood where Vi was and the timeframe. I loved learning about Vi’s family, and I love how Vi is swept away from life and her new surroundings. She sees so much of the world, witnessing many important historical events, and making even larger personal milestones. This book truly is about a journey, both as a refugee and the more personal one about making your mark in the world, especially when the world feels like it may be against you.

The writing in this book is gorgeous beyond belief and Shelia Fischman’s translation makes Thuy’s prose so beautiful and raw. I loved seeing the transformation of Vi and the evolution of the world around her, and I think the vignettes that we get in this story do a great job of giving the reader just enough information. That being said, this is not a book for those looking for a concrete story, as this book meanders through various moments in time.

Despite some of my issues with this book, Vi is a good read and it’s one I think worth going into blind. While it didn’t make the same impact on me that Ru did, I still find myself compelled in wanting to read the rest of Kim Thuy’s works, because I do find that learning about Vietnamese-Canadian relations to be an interesting topic. This book is definitely made for those who love being whisked away on a journey, and don’t mind winding paths along the way.

ARC Review – People Like Us by Dana Mele

Title: People Like Us

Author: Dana Mele

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Kay Donovan may have skeletons in her closet, but the past is past, and she’s reinvented herself entirely. Now she’s a star soccer player whose group of gorgeous friends run their private school with effortless popularity and acerbic wit. But when a girl’s body is found in the lake, Kay’s carefully constructed life begins to topple.

The dead girl has left Kay a computer-coded scavenger hunt, which, as it unravels, begins to implicate suspect after suspect, until Kay herself is in the crosshairs of a murder investigation. But if Kay’s finally backed into a corner, she’ll do what it takes to survive. Because at Bates Academy, the truth is something you make…not something that happened. 

Huge thank you to Miss Print’s ARC adoption for this review copy.

Molly’s Review:

I always love a good boarding school mystery and I’m a huge fan of ugly pretty people doing ugly things stories. So this sounded right up my alley. And I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this!

First I want to talk about the representation in this book. This book has a bisexual (note: I think she’s bi. I could be wrong. There weren’t any real labels used in the book other than I think once it was said that the BFF, Brie, is gay. I am open to correction if I am using the wrong term) MC and there is ZERO mention of this in the book summary/ marketing. So this might fly under the radar which would be a shame. The way that the MC & her sexuality was written was so well done (at least I thought so, I could be wrong, I’m reading from the perspective of a heterosexual woman). There isn’t any huge “this is how I came out, I’m bi, I’ve been with both males & females etc.” explanation. Instead it’s just… there. It’s who the MC is. She’s clearly in love with her BFF (who we do find out is queer when the BFF’s girlfriend is mentioned) & the way the two interact with each other just shows it. At first I wasn’t sure if the MC was queer, just really REALLY close with her BFF or if there was going to be some unfortunate queer-baiting. That was NOT the case thankfully. We instead find out that the MC is bi through mentions of her relationships and seeing her interactions with both people she’s in love with (an ex-boyfriend and her current BFF) and a potential new love interest (another girl at school). There are a few mentions of how she discovered her sexuality, but it was never the focus. And I liked that. I liked that she was just who she was and that the author didn’t feel the need to explain. I would love to see more of this in YA & books in general.

The actual murder-mystery of this was really good too. I had my suspicions and there was a twist that I didn’t see coming (it wasn’t AS impactful as some of my favorite twists, but it was still not something that I saw coming, which I liked). The writing in this was really good at times and then other times I thought it could have used a little editing. And there are parts in the book (like the Thanksgiving break) that I thought were unnecessary… until I got to the end of the book. I really liked the characters that were fleshed out, but I felt that maybe some of the side characters could have had a bit more depth. I also thought it was odd that towards the middle the revenge scavenger hunt was just kind of… forgotten. There was a ton of build-up and then nothing until we started to get answers later on…

Overall I think this was a really good book and I think fans of Kara Thomas or Abigail Haas would really enjoy this book!

ARC Review – For Every One by Jason Reynolds

Title: For Every One

Author: Jason Reynolds

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Originally performed at the Kennedy Center for the unveiling of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, and later as a tribute to Walter Dean Myers, this stirring and inspirational poem is New York Times bestselling author and National Book Award finalist Jason Reynolds’s rallying cry to the dreamers of the world.

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

Sam’s Review:

Words cannot express how much of an unabashed Jason Reynolds fangirl I am. Whenever I read one of his novels I get completely swept into his narratives. When I read his poetry, I feel his words are like a warm blanket. In the case of For Every One that warm blanket is set on fire.

This beautiful long form poem looks at dreamers, people with passions, hopes, and desires. It looks at how we are people can be the detriments to our own success. It takes all our fears and discomforts and breaks them into tangible pieces that fuel strength and personal growth. Although it is written as a letter, you get the sense that this is drawn on not just from personal experiences, but even the experiences of others. I appreciate that he mentions how dreams are not just for creative types — dreams are for every one, and dreams come is all shapes and sizes.

For Every One is the little book you didn’t know you needed in your life. It’s motivating, inspiring, and it’s lights a fire that often feels extinguished in a world where we are often told that dreams don’t matter or they are unrealistic. This letter reminds us that dreams are worth having, that being who you want to be is worth it. I implore everyone to check this one because it offers words of wisdom that many of us who have felt defeated by life could use as a pick-me-up.