Tag Archives: arc review

ARC Review – Flor and Miranda Steal the Show by Jennifer Torres

Title: Flor and Miranda Steal the Show

Author: Jennifer Torres

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Miranda is the lead singer in her family’s musical band, Miranda y Los Reyes. Her family has worked hard performing at festivals and quinceañeras. Now, they have a shot at the main stage. How will Miranda make it a performance to remember? Flor’s family runs the petting zoo at Mr. Barsetti’s carnival. When she accidentally overhears Mr. Barsetti and Miranda’s dad talk about cutting the zoo to accommodate Miranda y Los Reyes’s main stage salary, she knows she has to take action. Will she have the heart for sabotage once she and Miranda actually start to become friends? 

Huge thank you to Hachette Book Group Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Flor and Miranda Steal the Show was a book I didn’t even have on my radar. Going to HGBC ARC list, I read the synopsis and decided to give it a whirl because it felt like something children at my library branch would enjoy. For such a such book, it took me awhile to read — not because it was bad, but because it was rich in entertainment and meaningful discussion.

Miranda is the lead singer in her family’s ranchera band, while Flor is a girl who works in her family’s petting zoo. When the carnival states that they are losing funds, Flor over hears that the petting zoo is in danger and that the money will go towards Miranda’s ranchera band, which is growing in popularity. This premise tells you a lot about the story on the surface, but what it doesn’t show is just how intense Miranda and Flor’s friendship is.

This is a book about family trials and tribulations and how desperate stakes can affect a friendship, and this element is done so well. You feel for both Flor and Miranda, you see how their friendship is in jeopardy, but you also see how the girls work to try and show value for each other and their families. The book also shows the level of sacrifices the girls are willing to make to take care of each other, which is crazy unheard of in middle grade.

Flor and Miranda Steal the Show is a wonderfully crafted middle grade story that focuses on so many different topics, and does it with humour and heart. It’s a story that shows how friends can work together to overcome difficult challenges, and even how they can advocate for each other. I adored this carnival tour, and I cannot wait to share this book with younger readers.

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Late to the Party ARC Review – Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young

Title:  Sky in the Deep

Author: Adrienne Young

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Raised to be a warrior, seventeen-year-old Eelyn fights alongside her Aska clansmen in an ancient rivalry against the Riki clan. Her life is brutal but simple: fight and survive. Until the day she sees the impossible on the battlefield — her brother, fighting with the enemy — the brother she watched die five years ago.

Faced with her brother’s betrayal, she must survive the winter in the mountains with the Riki, in a village where every neighbor is an enemy, every battle scar possibly one she delivered. But when the Riki village is raided by a ruthless clan thought to be a legend, Eelyn is even more desperate to get back to her beloved family.

She is given no choice but to trust Fiske, her brother’s friend, who sees her as a threat. They must do the impossible: unite the clans to fight together, or risk being slaughtered one by one. Driven by a love for her clan and her growing love for Fiske, Eelyn must confront her own definition of loyalty and family while daring to put her faith in the people she’s spent her life hating.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I was so excited when Raincoast sent me Sky in the Deep. I haven’t read a lot of novels featuring vikings, let alone one where the lead is a female warrior. Eelyn story is wonderfully compelling, and this book read like candy.

I won’t lie, this book is not to most ground-breaking or well-written. It’s a debut, and it makes a lot of the mistakes debuts have by giving so much in a story without properly providing necessary aspects such as strong world building or deep and developed characters. This is true for Sky in the Deep and yet, I didn’t care. I was having so much fun reading this book, and while I didn’t read it quickly, I appreciated what an easy read it was.

Eelyn is a fun heroine. She’s strong, difficult, and she stands out. She takes to tasks and wants to get the job done, making her quite the boss. She’s also wonderfully flawed, which made me happy given I like a heroine to have flaws that the reader can relate to. This is a heroine who is tough, she mows people down, she has a sense of justice and duty and yet she’s a fighter. I just, I loved her so.

I just had such fun with all the action in the book. I also liked the political aspects between the viking groups, though I wish it had been more developed. I also appreciated that the romance wasn’t the forefront in this story mostly because I found it to be very phoned in. I still say I loved the issues involving the clans (well, any bit of information we received).

I can’t really explained why I liked this book. There’s a lot of action, politics and an awesome heroine, but there’s equally enough problems such as a lack of world-building and characterization among the secondary cast. But I found this to be such an enjoyable page-turner and even with the lack of information at times I was still loving the book, flaws and all. I wish we had more YA viking fantasy, and even with the book’s problems, I am still so happy it exists in the world and I cannot wait to start recommending it.

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!

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.

ARC Review – Bob by Wendy Mass & Rebecca Stead

Title: Bob

Author: Wendy Mass & Rebecca Stead

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: It’s been five years since Livy and her family have visited Livy’s grandmother in Australia. Now that she’s back, Livy has the feeling she’s forgotten something really, really important about Gran’s house.

It turns out she’s right.

Bob, a short, greenish creature dressed in a chicken suit, didn’t forget Livy, or her promise. He’s been waiting five years for her to come back, hiding in a closet like she told him to. He can’t remember who—or what—he is, where he came from, or if he even has a family. But five years ago Livy promised she would help him find his way back home. Now it’s time to keep that promise.

Clue by clue, Livy and Bob will unravel the mystery of where Bob comes from, and discover the kind of magic that lasts forever.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I read Bob in one sitting while I was waiting for work to be done on my car. Written by two middle grade titans, Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead, Bob follows the story of a little zombie creature who has been hiding in a closet for over five years, having been left behind by a little girl named Livy, who has recently returned to Australia to visit her grandmother’s house.

This book is charming and very gentle. It’s the kind of book that shows warmth, friendship, teaching younger readers about the value of forgiveness. This is a story is also about Livy trying to help Bob get home, because while she failed him once before, she doesn’t want to fail him again. Livy and Bob are just so cute and they have such a sweet friendship. The dual-perspective in this story also adds just another wonderful layer, making you want to cheer for Bob to get home.

Bob is a sweet read that will appeal to sensitive readers who love stories of friendship. While the story isn’t ground-breaking, it’s enjoyable and easy to snuggle down with. If you love Wendy Mass or Rebecca Stead’s writing, you’ll definitely love this joint effort.

ARC Review – Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol

Title: Be Prepared

Author: Vera Brosgol

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: All Vera wants to do is fit in—but that’s not easy for a Russian girl in the suburbs. Her friends live in fancy houses and their parents can afford to send them to the best summer camps. Vera’s single mother can’t afford that sort of luxury, but there’s one summer camp in her price range—Russian summer camp.

Vera is sure she’s found the one place she can fit in, but camp is far from what she imagined. And nothing could prepare her for all the “cool girl” drama, endless Russian history lessons, and outhouses straight out of nightmares!

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I didn’t know much about Be Prepared when it was sent to me. I know it was autobiographical and about a summer camp. What I didn’t realize, was just how much I would be nodding along to a lot of what Vera did during her four weeks at camp.

I went to summer camp exactly one time, and it was an experience I didn’t care for. Part of that was because I struggled to make friends with a lot of the girls there, the other being that I had felt left out a lot of the time. I remember I was going through a lot when it came to my friendships, and that just made going to summer camp a heck of a lot worse.

Vera’s story about going to Russian camp hit home with me on numerous occasions because she struggles to make friends and enjoy the activities. She feels constantly left out and when she does try to make friends and connect with the other girls, it backfires in her face a lot of the time. I could connect with her 100% throughout this graphic memoir, and seeing a lot of her struggles reminded me of my own experience. However, there’s a lot of fun in this story as well, particularly when Vera begins to not give a crap about the people who have made her feel unwanted. Also when she befriends Kira at the end, you get reminded that some of the worse experiences can often give you the best friendships.

I loved the artwork in this graphic novel. The characters are very expressive, the backgrounds are quite detailed, and Brosgol’s art just transports you to the summer camp. I look forward to seeing how the colour treatment is going to look given my ARC was mostly in black and white (which even then it looked fantastic!).

Be Prepared brought up a lot of mixed memories for me, and I think that’s why I adored it as much as I did. I felt connected to Vera and I understood where she was coming from in terms of being an awkward kid who just wanted to please others in order to make friends. This middle grade graphic novel is great for anyone who wants to relive their summer camp days, or who just want to have an honest discussion of what it means to accept and love yourself for who you are.