Tag Archives: dial books for young readers

ARC Review – Landry Park by Bethany Hagen

17350916Title:  Landry Park

Author: Bethany Hagen

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: In a fragmented future United States ruled by the lavish gentry, seventeen-year-old Madeline Landry dreams of going to the university. Unfortunately, gentry decorum and her domineering father won’t allow that. Madeline must marry, like a good Landry woman, and run the family estate. But her world is turned upside down when she discovers the devastating consequences her lifestyle is having on those less fortunate. As Madeline begins to question everything she has ever learned, she finds herself increasingly drawn to handsome, beguiling David Dana. Soon, rumors of war and rebellion start to spread, and Madeline finds herself and David at the center of it all. Ultimately, she must make a choice between duty – her family and the estate she loves dearly – and desire.

Sam’s Review

Huge thank you to Dial Books for Young Readers/Razorbill Canada for this advance reader’s copy.

This book. I don’t even know where to begin. I didn’t even have it on my radar until it showed up in my mailbox. It’s one of those books where the blurb in some ways does it no favours, making it out to be something you may have read or encountered before.

Landry Park is pretty damn fabulous and Hagen is surprisingly masterful in how she handles the development of her characters. Madeline is a heroine who gets crap done and she easy to have misconceptions about at the beginning of the story, yet her transformation as the narrative moves is phenomenally done. All the characters have a ton of depth, they are likable, their motives have a strong meaning, this book is such a page-turner! You want to keep going, and the book wants, no, demands your attention in such a way that most dystopian titles just don’t do (at least for me).

The issues of classism are very apparent in Landry Park and the way it is handled is pretty awesome. In some ways, we’ve seen the Rootless is countless other dystopian novels, but they are at times, a difficult group to sympathize with. However, as the novel unfolds you see how Madeline, David and Jude all change their tunes. The world Hagen presents is dark, but it’s also a regency novel with modern twists and turns. I think the best way to approach this book is to treat it like a dystopian version ofNorth and the South, though I can see why comparisons toDownton Abbey are made.

And then the ending… holy tension driven, Batman! I knew as soon as I hit the last fifty pages that I was going to barrel through to the end. This is one of those novels that just sucks you in, puts in debutante claws into you, and demands your attention, and I really loved the book for it. The elitism, the expectation, the drama, it’s all there and its done so well. You really feel for the characters in this story, you want to see them grow, and heck, I even liked the romance, which I don’t say too often about YA dystopian novels. Madeline is a great heroine, and I found myself cheering for her from start to finish.

Though I will say, damn Jude needs more love.

But in all seriousness, Landry Park is a fantastic debut and it has something for every reader. The world feels so believable and raw, the writing is gorgeous, the characters are full of surprise and depth. This book may have some familiar tones to it, but all in all, Landry Park is one debutante ball you may want to attend.

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ARC Review – The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky by Holly Schindler

18079564Title:  The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky

Author: Holly Schindler

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: August “Auggie” Jones lives with her Grandpa Gus, a trash hauler, in a poor part of town. So when her wealthy classmate’s father starts the House Beautification Committee, it’s homes like Auggie’s that are deemed “in violation.” Auggie is determined to prove that she is not as run-down as the outside of her house might suggest. Using the kind of items Gus usually hauls to the scrap heap, a broken toaster becomes a flower; church windows turn into a rainbow walkway; and an old car gets new life as spinning whirligigs. What starts out as a home renovation project becomes much more as Auggie and her grandpa discover a talent they never knew they had—and redefine a whole town’s perception of beauty, one recycled sculpture at a time. Auggie’s talent for creating found art will remind readers that one girl’s trash really is another girl’s treasure.

Sam’s Review:

Huge thank you to Dial Books for Young Readers for an advance copy of this book!

I love going into a book where I have no expectations. I love to see where stories I might not have been interested in will take me. Sometimes you get a dud, or in this case, you get a wonderfully rich surprise. The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky definitely falls in the latter category, creating a story that teaches us about the importance of inner beauty and community.

Auggie’s voices in infectious. You can tell she’s the type of person who has a good head on her shoulders and wants what’s best for those around her. What I also love about her is that she understands what it means to live within one’s means and create beauty out of old junk. I love that she is at war with the House Beautification Committee, yet her overall question in the novel is “Who deems the right to say what is and isn’t beautiful?” It’s an amazing question to ask in middle grade fiction because we’re constantly seeing this issues take shape within media, yet the definition of beauty has always been subjective, though for younger readers its always a bit harder to grasp because peer pressure can be so strong.

Auggie combats a lot of this. You see this issues of peer pressure with characters like, Lexie, where its handled so perfectly, yet true friendship can and will conquer all. A lot of the characters were surprisingly memorable as well. My personal favourite was Weird Harold, he was just a delightful odd ball who’s hat always said something new that reflected what was happening within the plot. It was a clever gimmick on the author’s part, but I love his suspicions about the committee and his desire to fight. In fact, that’s really the main aspect I love about this novel: its sense of community.

This novel deals with segregation in a way that is so easy to comprehend without being childish. When you dig below the surface, Auggie lives in a place where the rich stay rich and the poor get poorer, yet the beauty lies in its approach.  The characters who live at the Junction of Sunshine and Lucky are OKAY with being poor so long as they have places and friends to take care of. Everyone in the community has a strong desire to take care of one another and its quite a great sight to read about. I appreciated how community played a big role in this story as it added a lot overall.

The only thing that kept this book from being a five for me was how abrupt it ends. The conflict was so strong, yet towards the end it just felt like it trickled off. Still, it’s not often you read a book that incorporates folk art in such a way where its fun to read and accessible in the process. I think The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky will definitely have its share of readers who will easily resonate with a lot of its wonderfully positive messages, and it’s a great book for any middle grader on your list, especially those who have an interest in art.

ARC Review – Control by Lydia Kang

16718816Title: Control

Author: Lydia Kang

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: When a crash kills their father and leaves them orphaned, Zel knows she needs to protect her sister, Dyl. But before Zel has a plan, Dyl is taken by strangers using bizarre sensory weapons, and Zel finds herself in a safe house for teens who aren’t like any she’s ever seen before—teens who shouldn’t even exist. Using broken-down technology, her new friends’ peculiar gifts, and her own grit, Zel must find a way to get her sister back from the kidnappers who think a powerful secret is encoded in Dyl’s DNA.

Huge thank you to Dial Books for Young Readers and Netgalley for this advance read copy!

Sam’s Review (4.5 Stars)

Control was an unexpected surprise for me. I didn’t know anything about it upon requesting it, but from page one I found myself instantly hooked. I wasn’t sure at first what to expect or where Kang was going to go with this story about displaced twins and medical do-the-whacky, but I found myself completely drawn to the world (even if the building was a bit slow at first) and the characters. I can’t say I’ve ever read a science-fiction medical thriller than was, in fact, written by an actual doctor.

What I loved about Kang’s writing style is that it’s snappy. It’s easy to know what’s going on, who’s speaking and the overall conflict within the world. Even more so, I love the incorporation of medical terminology and sciterrificness (science + terrific + ness = sciterrificness) that she presents within the story — she makes all these aspects extremely accessible and easy to understand. The jargon is there, but it never feels out of place. In a lot of ways, Kang tackles so many kinds of medical issues, making them front and centre. Funny enough the book is called Conrtrol yet its anything but. That’s part of the fun though, considering what a page turner this book is.

I LOVED Zel and Dyl’s relationship and I felt it was very strong and well realized. Their need for each other goes beyond just being sisters — they are best friends. I enjoyed the secondary cast of characters, particularly Vera who gave me the willies at times. I loved that the nearly every character in this story is mutated or transformed in some way — physically or mentally, yet it doesn’t stop them from trying to be the best they can be. I wasn’t originally sold on Micah or Cy, but I actually ended up liking them both quite a bit. Heck, I even thought the romance was surprisingly fun — how many girls can get away with half the stuff Zel did and still land a good guy? Cy and Zel relationship is surprisingly violent, yet playful (odd, I know), but they just worked so well for me!

It’s hard for me to explain all the reasons why I liked Control, but I think I can sum it up in two words: it’s fun. It’s fun, fast, engaging, and everything just works so well without feeling out of place. Yes there is some lack of believably, but in this story it works to its advantage, and many of the diseases within the book are real and are scary. I cannot wait to read the sequel and see where Zel, Dyl and Cy’s adventures take them. Also this book totally needs more mutants. And not in the X-Men way (which I totally appreciated even though I love X-Men).

River’s Review:

Coming Soon.