Tag Archives: animals

ARC Review – Fetch: How a Bad Dog Brought Me Home by Nicole J. Georges

Title: Fetch: How a Bad Dog Brought Me Home

Author: Nicole J. Georges

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: When Nicole Georges was sixteen she adopted Beija, a dysfunctional shar-pei/corgi mix—a troublesome combination of tiny and attack, just like teenaged Nicole herself. For the next fifteen years, Beija would be the one constant in her life. Through depression, relationships gone awry, and an unmoored young adulthood played out against the backdrop of the Portland punk scene, Beija was there, wearing her “Don’t Pet Me” bandana.   Georges’s gorgeous graphic novel Fetch chronicles their symbiotic, codependent relationship and probes what it means to care for and be responsible to another living thing—a living thing that occasionally lunges at toddlers. Nicole turns to vets, dog whisperers, and even a pet psychic for help, but it is the moments of accommodation, adaption, and compassion that sustain them. Nicole never successfully taught Beija “sit,” but in the end, Beija taught Nicole how to stay.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I knew this book was going to emotionally wreck me. This is the story of Nicole J. Georges and her dog, Beija. Beija is a shar-pei/corgi mix with some behavioral troubles. She’s not comfortable with people petting her, she’s somewhat aggressive when people emit different kinds of energy levels. She is constantly told by people that she is a horrible, no good, bad dog. However, reading this graphic memoir you can see through Nicole George’s perspective that Beija is also a misunderstood dog.

As someone who owns a bulldog, I actually found myself understanding where the author was coming from. It’s hard because in some circumstances you understand why people see and say what they do when they think something is wrong with a dog’s behavior, but the fault in that is that often people don’t give certain breeds of dog a chance to become better.

It’s very evident in this story how much the author loved her dog and how much her dog helped me with a dark period of her life. Animals have magic powers in this regard, they know when their companion needs them and will do anything to try and make things better. I also loved the artwork in this graphic memoir. It’s got great visual appeal and the author does an amazing job of illustrating the story that she wanted to tell.

I really loved this story, and I definitely want to check out more of Nicole J Georges graphic memoirs. Fetch is both funny as it is heartbreaking, and if you are an animal lover and owner it will probably make you cry. I know I did.

Book Review – Wish by Barbara O’Connor

27414384Title: Wish

Author: Barbara O’Connor

Rating: ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Eleven-year-old Charlie Reese has been making the same secret wish every day since fourth grade. She even has a list of all the ways there are to make the wish, such as cutting off the pointed end of a slice of pie and wishing on it as she takes the last bite. But when she is sent to the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina to live with family she barely knows, it seems unlikely that her wish will ever come true. That is until she meets
Wishbone, a skinny stray dog who captures her heart, and Howard, a neighbor boy who proves surprising in lots of ways. Suddenly Charlie is in serious danger of discovering that what she thought she wanted may not be what she needs at all.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for a finished copy of this book!

Sam’s Review:

Wish was a middle grade novel that wasn’t on my radar at all. I admit to being unfamiliar with Barbara O’Connor’s work, especially given she is a quite the name with quite the plethora of work in the land of middle grade. This book is about a young girl who comes from a broken home, is transplanted to live with her aunt and uncle, and has to learn to live in a new environment.

Charlie isn’t the sweetest girl given her upbringing — she’s very rough around the edges, very self-involved at times, and she struggles to understand right and wrong. This makes her a difficult character to be in the mind of at times because her emotions are completely founded, but she can also be so nasty to others at time. O’Connor does a great job of making her feel like a kid with problems and she doesn’t sugarcoat Charlie’s responses to others, which I appreciate so much. However, I feel like if I was a younger reader enjoying Wish, I think I would struggle to actually like and root for Charlie. I found my brain at odds with her character, because adult!me understands her character well, but child!me would have really disliked her as a character.

This is also a book about a girl who wants a dog, in this case, a stray named Wishbone. I won’t lie, the bits about wanting to trap Wishbone actually upset me at times, and even rubbed me the wrong way. I am happy, of course, that nothing happens to the dog, and I am even happier that Wishbone is able to help Charlie cope with her life problems, because I do believe in the healing power of animals, which this book shows very well. I also like the growth between the two characters, and how Wishbone brings Charlie out of her shell. The friendships that are forged in this book are so strongly written, so organically grown in the story, and those were my favourite parts when reading it.

Wish is a tough read — it will fill you with so many emotions as you’re reading it, and O’Connor does a good job of keeping her readers engaged in Charlie’s development. I wish the story had ended on a bit of a strong note, but I won’t deny the enjoyment I felt watching our heroine grow in the story. I loved her aunt and uncle, though I wish they had been more a part of the story, I adored Wishbone, in a way, I wish this book had been a bit longer so their could have been more character development. Still, I think this is a strong middle grade novel that is sure to win many awards and reader’s hearts.

ARC Review – Riders (Riders, #1) by Veronica Rossi

23430471Title: Riders (Riders, #1)

Author:  Veronica Rossi

Rating:  ★★ 1/2 /  ★★★

Synopsis: For eighteen-year-old Gideon Blake, nothing but death can keep him from achieving his goal of becoming a U.S. Army Ranger. As it turns out, it does. Recovering from the accident that most definitely killed him, Gideon finds himself with strange new powers and a bizarre cuff he can’t remove. His death has brought to life his real destiny. He has become War, one of the legendary four horsemen of the apocalypse.

Over the coming weeks, he and the other horsemen–Conquest, Famine, and Death–are brought together by a beautiful but frustratingly secretive girl to help save humanity from an ancient evil on the emergence. They fail.

Now–bound, bloodied, and drugged–Gideon is interrogated by the authorities about his role in a battle that has become an international incident. If he stands any chance of saving his friends and the girl he’s fallen for–not to mention all of humankind–he needs to convince the skeptical government officials the world is in imminent danger. But will anyone believe him?

Huge thank you to Raincoast/Tor Teen for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I seem to have a weird love-hate relationship with Veronica Rossi’s writing. I remember reading Under the Never Sky on the recommendation of my friends and not being impressed by it. Then I read the sequels that followed, adored them, and was still confused why I didn’t connect with that first book. I feel like this might be the same thing with Riders.

That’s not to say Riders is a bad book, but once again I feel insanely distanced by the writing, and I really didn’t like our hero, Gideon. I just found him to be such a flat protagonist, someone whose thoughts didn’t always feel that engaging or interesting to read about. Worse off is the fact that we meet tons of other characters, but they are barely developed in any way. I just didn’t feel like I knew them very well, and part of that really steams from just only being trapped in Gideon’s mind.

However, I loved the concept of this story, and when the action was on, it was fantastic. I just found myself turning pages, needing to know how things were going to go. I’ll also give this to Rossi — the ending of this book is quite the cliffhanger, and despite all my problems with Gideon as a character, she left this book on such a mean note that I STILL will likely end up reading the sequel because I need to know.

But this book is both interesting as it is frustrating. There’s so many ideas being thrown about, there’s a lot of world-building, it almost felt like too much at times. With Gideon’s perspective not always being engaging, I found it hurt the experience for me somewhat and Rossi’s writing didn’t always carry it for me the way it did in the Under the Never Sky series.

Still, I don’t think this is a bad book, but I just didn’t have the same level of engagement that I was hoping for. I do think, like with Under the Never Sky that I am going to check out the sequel, just to see if it’s the same kind of situation or if it really is the case that this series doesn’t work for me.

Also, not enough horses. Needs more horses!

River’s Review:

Soooooooo I LOVED Rossi’s other books. And this sounded so kick ass and HORSES. I was down. And so excited for this.

Sadly it didn’t live up to my expectations.

Oddly I think this would make a much better movie than book.

There were parts of this that I LOVED. The horses, the action, the idea of the characters. Scenes that I could picture so perfectly in my mind.

But the characters were all under developed. I never felt any chemistry between Gideon and Daryn. The back story was very vague and not fleshed out enough. And I kinda hated that this was all told in flashback.

I found most of the first half of this kinda slow and boring. Things weren’t always explained and too much time was spent gathering the four guys. I didn’t feel like anyone was really reacting properly to their situation.

The second half was so much stronger. The training and horses is what I’d be expecting from the start!!!

And the last chapter really should have been an epilogue.

Overall not the strongest Rossi book, but I’ll def pick up the next one to see what’s going to happen!

ARC Review – Paper Wishes by Lois Sepahban

25667444Title:  Paper Wishes

Author: Lois Sepahban

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: A moving debut novel about a girl whose family is relocated to a Japanese internment camp during World War II–and the dog she has to leave behind.

Ten-year-old Manami did not realize how peaceful her family’s life on Bainbridge Island was until the day it all changed. It’s 1942, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and Manami and her family are Japanese American, which means that the government says they must leave their home by the sea and join other Japanese Americans at a prison camp in the desert. Manami is sad to go, but even worse is that they are going to have to give her dog, Yujiin, to a neighbor to take care of. Manami decides to sneak Yujiin under her coat, but she is caught and forced to abandon him. She is devastated but clings to the hope that somehow Yujiin will find his way to the camp and make her family whole again. It isn’t until she finds a way to let go of her guilt that Manami can accept all that has happened to her family.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I seem to be a magnet for books about young girls and their dogs. Authors who write these kinds of books and I always seem to connect instantly, and Lois Sepahban’s book is not exception. Mind you, this book also focuses on the Japanese internment camps, something I admit, I knew about, but didn’t entirely understand the lengths of.

This book is simple, if beautiful written. It looks at the story of a girl who is whisked away from her normal life and thrown into an internment camp due to the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Many Japanese families are forced into these camps under levels of suspicion, but when our heroine Manami is torn away from Yujiin her dog, let’s just say I bawled.

Then when other dogs started to hang about the camp, yet Manami was still dreaming of Yujiin, I bawled again.

Manami’s simple narrative carries the reader through this rough historical period in a way that is very honest and quite blunt. You get a sense that her innocence has been completely lost, and all she has now to gain is experience. She’s so young to have her innocence taken from her due to the threats of war, but you understand (as she does) that there is more than meets the eye in her current situation.

This book beautifully illustrates family, companionship between a girl and her dog, friendship, and it does it all in a way that is both easy, yet powerful to read. This book is so short, yet it packs such a large, hard hitting punch. It makes you come to terms with how history has a way of displacing people and making them feel like even if they are innocent of a crime, the world doesn’t necessarily see it that way. I felt for Manami and her family, but mostly I spent a lot of the book just wishing and hoping that Manami and Yujiin would be reunited.

Paper Wishes is a beautiful and melancholy novel. It doesn’t ask a lot of the reader, but it wants to paint the picture of displacement in a way that many can understand. I highly recommend this book if you love learning about Japanese history or you want a touching middle grade tale.

Late to the Party ARC Review – Ava and Taco Cat by Carol Weston

21991202Title: Ava and Taco Cat

Author: Carol Weston

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Ava desperately wants a pet for her eleventh birthday-but gets way more than she bargained for when she adopts T-A-C-O-C-A-T.

When Ava Wren hears about an injured yellow tabby with mismatched ears, she becomes obsessed and wants to rescue him. She even picks out a perfect palindromic name: T-A-C-O-C-A-T. But when Taco joins the family, he doesn’t snuggle or purr-all he does is hide. Worse, Ava’s best friend starts hanging out with Zara, a new girl in fifth grade. Ava feels alone and writes an acclaimed story, “The Cat Who Wouldn’t Purr.” What begins as exciting news turns into a disaster. How can Ava make things right? And what about sweet, scared little Taco?

Huge thank you to Sourcebooks Jabberwocky and Netgalley for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I was a huge fan of Carol Weston’s Ava and Pip last year. I thought it was just such a fantastic and humorous portrayal of sisterhood. Colour me surprised when I found out that Carol had wrote a sequel, this time about Ava and her new cat companion, Taco Cat.

Once again, Carol Weston does this amazing job of putting us in the mind of a young girl, and she keeps Ava in character. Sometimes it’s awkward to read first-person middle grade books because sometimes characters read slightly older than they should be, but I feel like book is spot on. A lot of this story revolves around Ava’s relationship with others, and a lot of the book just made me smile.

There’s one bit in the story that really hit close to home: when I was Ava’s age, there was a girl in my class who I felt was totally trying to take my best friend away from me. I remembered I ended up being bullied by that girl (she left me messages telling me how my bestfriend hated me, etc). Thankfully the book doesn’t go that far, but it’s interesting to see how Ava handles her jealousy and frustrations, and I loved that Maybelle doesn’t entirely let he get away with the behaviour either. Still, I knew full well how Ava felt, and I actually did feel sorry for her. But I also was pleased by the resolve for that situation.

And then there is Taco Cat. My goodness, he’s a wonderful feline companion. He has a lot of personality and spark. I love that he provides Ava and her family so much comfort, and it’s true that pets just have this magical way of brightening up your life and making you smile without effort. It’s also why losing a pet is so hard as well — the instant love and gratification is gone.

The only thing that disappointed me a bit, was the lack of Pip. She was there, but she didn’t have as much of a presence as I was hoping. We need more Pip!

Once again, I loved this book, and I love that Carol Weston gives younger readers lots to ponder as the book progresses. I am only imagine what Ava and Pip’s next adventure is going to be like. This book was fun, thoughtful, and just such a great read. If you have children or you like sweet middle grade, this book is for you.

ARC Review – The Sign of the Cat by Lynne Jonell

22718670Title: The Sign of the Cat

Author: Lynne Jonell

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Talking cats, a missing princess, swordfights with villains, and secret identities combine in this epic tale of bravery and self-discovery on the high seas. Duncan is very smart. He also has a most unusual gift. So why does his mother encourage him to be perfectly average and insist he only get mediocre grades ? His special talent is the ability to talk to cats—but Duncan longs more than anything for academic success. When Duncan rebels and gets a perfect test score, people start taking notice of him. And it turns out that some of those people may not have the best intentions . . . not by a long shot.

Huge thank you to Raincoast Books/Henry Holt Books for Young Readers for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

What an imaginative book! I’ll admit, this is the first Lynne Jonell book I’ve read, though her name was not unfamiliar to me since she’s a household name in middle grade. The Sign of the Cat has the eader following a young boy named Duncan, who just happens to be able to communicate with cats.

I loved Duncan as a protagonist. He’s someone who has a lot of personal struggles, he’s not the most liked kid, isn’t the best at making friends, and his family tends to put him down because of how smart he is. To the point where they want him to get low grades so he won’t “cause a scene” (seriously, who says that to their kid?). A lot of the book is focused on both the grand journey that Duncan takes, but it’s also about his personal progress in becoming a person he can be satisfied with. He has a lot of personal growth, and becomes such a strong character by the end of the story, both in body and mind.

My actual favourite character was Fia. She was just so sassy and fun, and her stubbornness was somewhat entertaining as well. A lot of the characters in this story are highly entertaining and a lot of fun. They keep the story moving, and it’s fun to be whisked away into a world with talking cats. Seriously, TALKING CATS. How awesome is that? Let’s be honest, most of think our pets are talking to us as is.

The Sign of the Cat is such an engrossing adventure story, offering readers a little of romance, mystery, and thrills from start to finish. I can easily see this book being a hit with younger readers, especially those who dig a fun, epic journey, or to those who love the idea of talking kitty cats. I definitely can see this book being quite the hit with middle graders who want to read a grand adventure.

ARC Review – The Zoo Box by Ariel Cohn & Aron Nels Steinke

20518978Title:  The Zoo Box

Author: Ariel Cohn & Aron Nels Steinke

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: When Erika and Patrick’s parents leave them home alone for the night, they head straight to the attic to explore. When they open a mysterious box, hundreds of animals come pouring out! Soon the town is awash in more and more zoo animals, until Erika and Patrick discover that the tables have been turned… and the animals now run a zoo full of humans! 

Huge thank you to First Second Books for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I loved The Zoo Box. I think what I adored the most about this story is how imaginative it is — you open a box and suddenly there’s a zoo in your house, or how about the reality you once thought was real, may have been in fact… different? Erika and Patrick discover that humans are in fact, the animals on display at a “human zoo.” It may sound a touch creepy at first, but this book approaches this idea in a very genuine way — what do animals really think of us humans?

I really enjoyed the simplicity of this story. The art fits the story its telling, the characters are really sweet and fun, and it’s just such a crazy idea. I love how the element of make-believe gets turned completely on its head, though if I were Erika and Patrick’s parents, I don’t think I’d trust either of those children to be home alone!

Overall, this is a great little graphic novel for young readers, especially even reluctant ones. There’s lots of creativity and humour, and I think this is one parents should definitely check out if they have kids who love zany plotlines and animals!