ARC Review – Breakout by Kate Messner

Title: Breakout

Author: Kate Messner

Rating: ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Nora Tucker is looking forward to summer vacation in Wolf Creek–two months of swimming, popsicles, and brushing up on her journalism skills for the school paper. But when two inmates break out of the town’s maximum security prison, everything changes. Doors are locked, helicopters fly over the woods, and police patrol the school grounds. Worst of all, everyone is on edge, and fear brings out the worst in some people Nora has known her whole life. Even if the inmates are caught, she worries that home might never feel the same.

Told in letters, poems, text messages, news stories, and comics–a series of documents Nora collects for the Wolf Creek Community Time Capsule Project–Breakout is a thrilling story that will leave readers thinking about who’s really welcome in the places we call home.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Breakout wasn’t what I thought it would be for a middle grade novel. It is a mixed media novel filled with comics, letters, text messages, and documents that are collected. It’s also based on a jail breakout that occurred in 2015 and the grinding halt it put a town into.

This book took me awhile to read. The first half moved so quickly, to the point where I was pretty swept up in the story. Then I hit the middle and the book came to this weird, grinding halt for me. I mixed media style wasn’t engaging me anymore and if I am being honest, the main fault of this book is that it’s actually a bit too long for it’s own good, and I feel like parts of it could have easily been edited down.

That being said, I loved the social activism in this book. Nora, Elidee, and Lizzie, are very engaged young adults who are trying to understand fear mongering, depression, discomfort, and alienation. The Wolf Creek Community is shocked to its core when two inmates break out of the nearby prison. Nora, Elidee and Lizzie talk about how the adults project onto them, while also writing to a future generation who may not realize what this situation has done to the community.

What I like about Kate Messner’s novels is that they always have an element of excitement to them. They are engaging, exciting, and they have such a consistent flow for readers. This book has all that, but it’s interesting seeing the level of discomfort in the story, and that felt new here. I will also point out, I love the recommendations that Messner put into the back of the book and I definitely want to check out all the books on those lists that I haven’t read yet.

While I didn’t enjoy Breakout as much as The Exact Location of Home, I still think this is going to be a great middle grade novel for readers who love stories that are different. I think this book will kindle the interest of middle graders who are interested in social activism and understanding justice. I think it will spark great conversation as well, and I look forward to recommending it to many of my middle grade readers at the library!

Advertisements

Late to the Party ARC Review – Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi

Title: Emergency Contact

Author: Mary H.K. Choi

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: For Penny Lee high school was a total nonevent. Her friends were okay, her grades were fine, and while she somehow managed to land a boyfriend, he doesn’t actually know anything about her. When Penny heads to college in Austin, Texas, to learn how to become a writer, it’s seventy-nine miles and a zillion light years away from everything she can’t wait to leave behind.

Sam’s stuck. Literally, figuratively, emotionally, financially. He works at a café and sleeps there too, on a mattress on the floor of an empty storage room upstairs. He knows that this is the god-awful chapter of his life that will serve as inspiration for when he’s a famous movie director but right this second the seventeen bucks in his checking account and his dying laptop are really testing him. 

When Sam and Penny cross paths it’s less meet-cute and more a collision of unbearable awkwardness. Still, they swap numbers and stay in touch—via text—and soon become digitally inseparable, sharing their deepest anxieties and secret dreams without the humiliating weirdness of having to see each other.

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

Sam’s Review:

I’ll be honest: I kind of ignored the hype surrounding this book. I felt like it was going to be a book that I thought would just be “okay” or “that was fine.” When I got it in my Simon and Schuster Canada goodies bag from the Ontario Library Association’s Super Conference, I was intrigued, but not in the best frame of mind to read this book.

I loved, and slowly devoured Emergency Contact. I picked it up on a whim during a crazy and difficult period in my life, and it’s a book I was constantly connecting with. I loved Penny and Sam, and I while they do frustrating and even unthinkable things, I cared about their every action, and I wanted them to be better off by the end. I love that this is first and foremost a friendship novel. Penny and Sam meet in such an awkward, uncomfortable way, and they become each other’s “emergency contact” — the person they connect with when life is beating them black and blue.

This book has a very slow build, but I found myself really loving and engaging with it. This isn’t a book I found myself reading quickly, but rather small bits at a time because I found the situations that the characters engaged in to be difficult to read about at times. Sam’s plot-line in particular had me yelling and flailing my arms in anger, while Penny I could easily relate to (despite being nothing like her) and seeing how she has to deal with changes beyond her control. The writing in this book is playful, lyrical and fun despite the darker tone in it, and I think Choi does a fantastic job of getting readers to care and emote while reading this novel.

I am definitely going to have to buy myself a copy of this book because I feel like it’s one I will get the itch to reread. While I feel like this book is pretty hyped, it’s also one I don’t think that had that intention in the first place. This is a very quiet book, and one that builds and builds until it crashes so hard that everything feels messy and raw. I love novels like that, and I think it’s why Emergency Contactresonated with me the way it did. It’s definitely not for every reader, but if you love quieter books that offer a detailed character study of two lost young adults, I think this book is highly worth the read.

#FearlessWomen – VICIOUS

VICIOUS

A WEEK AGO

WRIGHTON PENITENTIARY

Prison was less important than what it afforded Victor. Namely, time.

Five years in isolation gave him time to think.

Four years in integration (thanks to budget cuts and the lack of evidence that Vale was in any way abnormal) gave him time to practice. And 463 inmates to practice on.

And the last seven months had given him time to plan this moment.

“Did you know,” said Victor, skimming a book from the prison library on anatomy (he thought it particularly foolish to endow inmates with a detailed sense of the positions of vital organs, but there you go), “that when you take away a person’s fear of pain, you take away their fear of death? You make them, in their own eyes, immortal. Which of course they’re not, but what’s the saying? We are all immortal until proven otherwise?”

“Something like that,” said Mitch, who was a bit preoccupied.

Mitch was Victor’s cellmate at Wrighton Federal Penitentiary. Victor was fond of Mitch, in part because Mitch was thoroughly unconcerned with prison politics, and in part because he was clever. People didn’t seem to catch on because of the man’s size, but Vic-tor saw the talent, and put it to good use. For instance, Mitch was presently trying to short out a security camera with a gum wrapper, a cigarette, and a small piece of wire Victor had secured for him three days before.

“Got it,” said Mitch a few moments later, when Victor was thumbing through the chapter on the nervous system. He set the book aside, and flexed his fingers as the guard came down the aisle.

“Shall we?” he asked as the air began to hum.

Mitch took a long look around their cell, and nodded. “After you.”

VICIOUS by V.E. Schwab 

(NOTE: This is a reissue of Vicious in anticipation of the publication of the sequel VENGEFUL on September 25, 2018.)

Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong.

Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end? 

In Vicious, V. E. Schwab brings to life a gritty comic-book-style world in vivid prose: a world where gaining superpowers doesn’t automatically lead to heroism, and a time when allegiances are called into question.

VSchwab2017-CreditJenna MauriceLoRez

About V.E. Schwab:

VICTORIA (V.E.) SCHWAB is the author of the NYT bestselling Shades of Magic series, as well as a number of MG and YA novels, including This Savage Song. She has been called “the heir to Diana Wynne Jones.” Her dynamic work has caught the attention of major TV and film studios. Schwab has a Masters degree in Art History from the University of Edinburgh. She currently lives in Nashville, Tennessee, but frequents Edinburgh. You can visit her at https://www.veschwab.com/

#FearlessWomen_BlogHeader

About #FearlessWomen:

Women are shining in every genre of speculative fiction, and it is no longer enough to say “Women are here.” Instead, #FearlessWomen everywhere are taking a stand to say “Women will thrive here.”

Highlighting major titles from bestselling authors V.E. Schwab, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Jacqueline Carey as well as titles from acclaimed and debut authors such as Mary Robinette Kowal, Tessa Gratton, Sam Hawke, and Robyn Bennis, #FearlessWomen will be a coordinated social media celebration encouraging fans to start a dialogue about women in publishing, their worlds, their voices, and their unique stories.

Tor Books’ handles across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (@torbooks) will be using the hashtags #FearlessWomen (and #FearlessFantasy and #FearlessSF) to promote excerpts, exclusive content, quizzes and giveaways beginning in May. There will also be exclusive giveaways at BookCon, San Diego Comic-Con, and New York Comic Con. Follow Tor Books online, join the conversation – and get reading!

#FearlessWomen – BY FIRE ABOVE

BY FIRE ABOVE

BY FIRE ABOVE –

Josette stepped to the rail next to him, resting her hands on it. She stood there so long that he had to ask, “Let me guess: you’re calculating how much luftgas we could purchase for the cost of running those lights?”

She swallowed and shook her head. “No,” she said, just loud enough to be heard over the steamjack and airscrews. “Only looking at them. It is a goddamn waste—you’re right about that—but it’s also quite beautiful.”

He began to laugh, until she silenced him with a glare. “My apologies,” he said. “But this is so unexpected. I’m proud of you.”

“I am capable of appreciating beauty,” she said harshly, “when leisure permits.”

He struck a pose and ran his fingers through his hair. “And yet you can’t seem to appreciate the beauty that’s right in front of you.” He undid a button on his jacket. “Won’t you come to my berth, when leisure permits, so that we may appreciate my beauty together?”

He was only trying to make her blush, of course, but by the light of the quicklime it was clear he hadn’t succeeded. She stood watching the ground for a while, before finally asking, “Are you clipped on quite securely, Bernie?”

He glanced at the clip connecting his harness to the overhead jack line. “Well, yes, why do you—” That was all he managed to say before she gave him a quick shove that sent him tumbling over the rail. He fell a short but harrowing couple of feet before the jack line caught him short and hung him by the shoulders, a hundred feed over the ground.

He looked up to see Josette leaning over the railing. She shot him a rare smile and said, “It would be selfish of me to not share your beauty with the entire city.”

BY FIRE ABOVE by Robyn Bennis

By Fire Above is the rip-roaring new adventure in Robyn Bennis’s Signal Airship military fantasy series that Patricia Briggs hails as “full of sass and terrific characters.”

“All’s fair in love and war”; according to airship captain Josette Dupre, until her hometown of Durum becomes occupied by the enemy and her mother a prisoner of war. Then it becomes “nothing fair except bombing those Vins to high hell”. Before she can rescue her town, however, Josette must maneuver her way through the nest of overstuffed vipers that make up Garnia’s military and royal leaders in order to drum up support. The foppish and mostly tolerated Mistral crew member Lord Bernat steps in to advise her, along with his very attractive older brother.

Between noble scheming, under-trained recruits, and supply shortages, Josette and the crew of the Mistral figure out a way to return to Durum—only to discover that when the homefront turns into the frontlines, things are more dangerous than they seem.

 

About Robyn Bennis:
Robyn Bennis has done research and development involving human gene expression, neural connectomics, cancer diagnostics, rapid flu testing, gene synthesis, genome sequencing, and systems integration. She wrote most of The Guns Above within sight of Hangar One at Moffett Airfield, which was once the West Coast home to one of America’s largest airships, the USS Macon. She currently resides in Madison, WI, where she has one cat, two careers, and an apartment full of dreams.

Robin Bennis- Publicity Shot - Hi Res

You can find her online at according2robyn.blogspot.com or on Twitter at @According2Robyn.

About #FearlessWomen:

Women are shining in every genre of speculative fiction, and it is no longer enough to say “Women are here.” Instead, #FearlessWomen everywhere are taking a stand to say “Women will thrive here.”

Highlighting major titles from bestselling authors V.E. Schwab, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Jacqueline Carey as well as titles from acclaimed and debut authors such as Mary Robinette Kowal, Tessa Gratton, Sam Hawke, and Robyn Bennis, #FearlessWomen will be a coordinated social media celebration encouraging fans to start a dialogue about women in publishing, their worlds, their voices, and their unique stories.

Tor Books’ handles across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (@torbooks) will be using the hashtags #FearlessWomen (and #FearlessFantasy and #FearlessSF) to promote excerpts, exclusive content, quizzes and giveaways beginning in May. There will also be exclusive giveaways at BookCon, San Diego Comic-Con, and New York Comic Con. Follow Tor Books online, join the conversation – and get reading!

#FearlessWomen_BlogHeader

#FearlessWomen – DEATH DOESN’T BARGAIN

DEATH DOESN'T BARGAIN

When it came to the Deadmen who sailed onboard the Sea Witch, they weren’t about to abandon each other, no matter what. Through thick and thin, and demons galore, they were one united insane family.

At least that was her thought until the demon in front of her burst apart with a stench so foul it caused her to choke and gasp. Ugh! Never had she smelled anything more putrid, and given some of the hovels where she and her brother had taken refuge  after their parents had orphaned them, that said a lot.

DEATH DOESN’T BARGAIN by Sherrilyn Kenyon 

 The Deadmen are back…

With DEATH DOESN’T BARGAIN, Kenyon again returns to the pirate ship Sea Witch, where Captain Devyl Bane, and his undead crew have set sail for eternity, searching for forgiveness and salvation. Together, they are humanity’s last hope to restore the gates and return the damned to their hell realms.

Many demons are beginning to break free of their eternal prison and are bent on mankind’s destruction. The worst of the lot is Vine, determined to claim their lives for taking hers. She will see the world burn…and has the perfect lure to destroy them all. One of their own.

Kalder Dupree has never known a day of mercy. Born to the cruelest of mer-races, he sacrificed himself for his crew and is in Vine’s hands. He expects no compassion or rescue.

Yet the young shipmate Cameron Jack is determined to set Kalder free. As a Hellchaser, it’s her calling, and she cannot allow even a not-so-innocent to be tortured for an act of kindness that spared her damnation.

To defeat evil, it sometimes takes an even worse evil, and Cameron is willing to do whatever she must to make this right. If Vine thought she had her hands full before, she hasn’t seen anything nearly as powerful as Cameron’s resolve.

DEATH DOESN’T BARGAIN delivers a sweeping epic saga sure to appeal to the millions of Kenyon’s Dark Hunter fans as well as anyone looking for a page-turning and high-paced adventure. It is a tale of passion and loss, emotions that wound and heal…and ultimate redemption.

 About Sherrilyn Kenyon:

Sherrilyn Kenyon is a New York Times bestselling author and is a regular in the #1 spot.  This extraordinary author continues to top every genre in which she writes.  More than 70 million copies of her books are in print in more than one hundred countries.  Her current series include The Dark-Hunters®, The League®, NevermoreTM, Lords of Avalon®, Chronicles of Nick® , and Deadman’s CrossTM. Her Nick ChroniclesTM and Dark-Hunters® are soon to be major media productions.

Sherrilyn Kenyon 2018 Credit Liza Hippler

Visit her online at http://www.sherrilynkenyon.com.

About #FearlessWomen:

Women are shining in every genre of speculative fiction, and it is no longer enough to say “Women are here.” Instead, #FearlessWomen everywhere are taking a stand to say “Women will thrive here.”

Highlighting major titles from bestselling authors V.E. Schwab, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Jacqueline Carey as well as titles from acclaimed and debut authors such as Mary Robinette Kowal, Tessa Gratton, Sam Hawke, and Robyn Bennis, #FearlessWomen will be a coordinated social media celebration encouraging fans to start a dialogue about women in publishing, their worlds, their voices, and their unique stories.

Tor Books’ handles across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (@torbooks) will be using the hashtags #FearlessWomen (and #FearlessFantasy and #FearlessSF) to promote excerpts, exclusive content, quizzes and giveaways beginning in May. There will also be exclusive giveaways at BookCon, San Diego Comic-Con, and New York Comic Con. Follow Tor Books online, join the conversation – and get reading!

#FearlessWomen_BlogHeader

 

ARC Review – The City on the Other Side by Mairghread Scott & Robin Robinson

Title: The City on the Other Side

Author: Mairghread Scott & Robin Robinson

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: The first decade of the twentieth century is coming to a close, and San Francisco is still recovering from the great earthquake of 1906. Isabel watched the destruction safely from her window, sheltered within her high-society world.

Isabel isn’t the kind of girl who goes on adventures. But that all changes when she stumbles through the invisible barrier that separates the human world from the fairy world. She quickly finds herself caught up in an age-old war and fighting on the side of the Seelie — the good fairies.

Huge thank you to First Second for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

City on the Other Side was a graphic novel I knew nothing about that happened to show up on my door step. It tells the story of a girl named Isabel who is very sheltered, but after a large scale earthquake, decides she may in fact be ready for adventure.

Isabel is a character I think many readers will easily be able to relate to. She’s shy and nervous, but she grows through the course of the story. Stepping through an invisible barrier, Isabel is transported to a new world where fairies lay. Over the course of the story we see her befriending the fairies and trying to make sense of the difference between the fairy world and where the humans reside.

I have to say, I really liked the artwork in this graphic novel. It’s whimsical, the colours used really pop off the page. There is just so much energy in both the story and the panels, making City on the Other Side a lot of fun to read. The one thing I wish though was that it was just a bit longer. I feel like there was definitely potential to expand the story in different areas, but that’s more of a minor complaint.

If you want to read a great graphic novel with a reluctant, but lovable heroine, please check out City on the Other Side. It’s a great story for younger and older readers alike.

ARC Review – 9 Days and 9 Nights by Katie Cotugno

Title: 9 Days and 9 Nights

Author: Katie Cotugno

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Molly Barlow isn’t that girl anymore. A business major at her college in Boston, she’s reinvented herself after everything that went down a year ago . . . after all the people she hurt and the family she tore apart.

Slowly, life is getting back to normal. Molly has just said “I love you” to her new boyfriend, Ian, and they are off on a romantic European vacation together, starting with scenic London. But there on a Tube platform, the past catches up to her in the form of Gabe, her ex, traveling on his own parallel vacation with new girlfriend Sadie.

After comparing itineraries, Ian ends up extending an invite for Gabe and Sadie to join them on the next leg of their trip, to Ireland. Sadie, who’s dying to go there, jumps at the prospect. And Molly and Gabe can’t bring themselves to tell the truth about who they once were to each other to their new significant others.

Now Molly has to spend nine days and nine nights with the boy she once loved, the boy whose heart she shredded, without Ian knowing. Will she make it through as new, improved Molly, or will everything that happened between her and Gabe come rushing back?

Huge thank you to Harper Collins Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I love Katie Cotugno’s books. I don’t read a lot of pure romance, but I find a lot of her books deal with love and tougher issues. I adored How to Love and Top Ten, but 99 Days had some moments that were hit-and-miss for me. I loathed Gabe, and I found Molly struggled as a character in ways that weren’t entirely redemptive.

9 Days and 9 Nights, I feel, was a much better book than its predecessor. Molly has moved to Boston, she’s learning to become the person she’s always wanted to be, and it’s great to see her grow. She’s dating a new guy, still might somewhat be hung up on Gabe still, but she’s dealing. The main story looks at how Molly is changing as an individual, and if she’ll get her happy ending.

I want to praise the discussion of abortion in this book. Cotugno handles this subject matter with such directness and empathy. We get to see how this choice was made and how others respond to it, and I appreciate that the book looked at this subject matter. You see how it impacts Molly, and you get a sense of how difficult a choice this was. I also was so happy to see that she had support throughout the story, which you don’t often see.

I still had the hardest time with Gabe, but that’s because I generally dislike his kind of male persona. The “dominate, has no faults, likes to mansplain” type nonsense. I enjoyed the push-and-pull between he and Molly thought, and I like that she forces him to see things from her perspective and really, she helps him get his head out of his butt.

I feel like 9 Days and 9 Nights was a far superior to 99 Days. If you struggled with Molly in the first book, I feel like she is a much more solid heroine this time around. She still can be unlikable, but at least there is growth in her character that didn’t feel like it was entirely there in the first book. Katie Cotugno still manages to show that she is a queen when it comes to handling tough issues in young adult.