Tag Archives: edelweiss

ARC Review – The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

23830990Title:  The Rest of Us Just Live Here

Author: Patrick Ness

Rating:  ★★★★ / ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: What if you aren’t the Chosen One? The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death? What if you’re like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.

Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life. Even if your best friend is worshipped by mountain lions.

Huge thank you to the publisher for letting me read an advanced copy of this book!

River’s Review:

This book was SO MUCH FUN! I’ve actually never read a Ness book before (I know, sue me, but they’re LONG…) and I need to fix that soon. I really enjoyed this book. I liked the way it was written, I liked the magical realism and all of the characters were really awesome.

This is a story about the people that are NOT involved with saving the world. The Harrys, the Buffys, the Sam & Deans. Those guys, they save the world. And they’re pretty awesome at it. But what about the guys who aren’t saving the world? The regular old guys that just have to sit by and watch those other awesome dudes save the world? Sure, the muggles in The Chosen One stories don’t always know about the conflicts, the vampires, the witches, but they do have some sense of the fall out (gas leaks, water mains bursting, random never-before-heard-of-illnesses killing off the local folks). I loved that in this book they KNEW about the zombies and ghosts and vampires that were invading the world.

And they knew that they couldn’t do anything about it because it wasn’t THEIR story.

In this book there’s The Chosen Ones (refereed to as the Indie kids, which cracked me the HELL up because I was kinda an indie kid in college even though I would NEVER have admitted it) and then The Rest of Us. The main characters are The Rest of Us: Mikey (who has OCD), his older sister Mel (who’s recovering from an eating disorder), his younger sister Meredith (who just struggles with being 10 years old and wanting to go to her favorite boy band concert), his neighbor and best friend Henna (who struggled with her super religious parents), and his other best friend Jared (who is half god and worshiped by cats. And also gay). Everyone has their faults, they deal with them in strange ways, and help each other out. They live, laugh, fight, love and wonder wtf is going on in their town THIS time.

I think what I loved the most about this was how it was at times just a normal contemporary dealing with issues that a lot of teens face (and are just becoming things that are “okay” to talk about and seek help with) but then in the background there’s the freaking end of the world! And Indie kids are dying and saving the world and the sections that were about the Indie kids just SLAYED ME. I loved the writing and the mix of mystical with the contemporary and how it was all just so normal. A lot of it made me laugh, a lot of it felt like an inside joke that I was IN on and I loved it.

Overall I’m not sure how this compares to Ness’ other books, but for me this was a great introduction to him.

Sam’s Review:

I admit, I haven’t read a lot of Patrick Ness’ works, and the ones I have read I’ve either absolutely adored or been completely ‘meh’ on. I took a gamble with The Rest of Us Just Live Here after hearing about it at Frenzy Presents (hosted by HarperCollins Canada) and I can honestly say I thought this was quite the fun book! Patrick Ness is fantastic at immersion in his stories, crafting weird and wonderful scenarios, and this book was no different.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here focuses on those who are not “The Chosen One.” The ones who have to suffer the consequences and actions of “The Chosen One” as they fight to protect the world around them. Some days are more catastrophic than others, and this idea is done with a lot of humour. You can also tell Ness is a huge Buffy nerd, because there are some references in the novel that just prove that point and drive it home!

Although I’ve given you a small glimpse on what the book is about, it’s hard to really categorize what it is supposed to be. Is it fantasy? Paranormal? Contemporary? The Rest of Us Just Live Here really is a mish-mash of genres rolled into one engaging package. I admit, the use of genre bending threw me off once in awhile, and I’d have to reread parts to make sure I understood what Ness’ intention was. I admit, I did find parts of the novel dragged, but for me it was this weird level of rollercoaster enjoyment, where it felt very up and down. Ness’ has a very unique writing style, and it’s definitely not for everyone (hence why some books have worked for me and others haven’t).

It’s weird to say, but I actually loved the plotline with the indie kids more than I did the Unchosen Ones. There was so much satire and humour in those moments, and when the indie kids plot mixed together with the Unchosen Ones plotline, that was when I found the book the most enjoyable and entertaining. The bit with the Finns? Absolutely genius. But when it was just about the day-to-day with the Unchosen Ones, I did find at times that the book wasn’t always as gripping as I wanted it to be. I also didn’t find the main characters to be as interesting compared to the Chosen Ones, and again that could have been more me than the book given that I was more interested in the satire side of the novel.

That being said, I think that this might be one of Patrick Ness’ most unique books to-date, but it did not top A Monster Calls, which still remains my favourite book of his. I think that if you’re a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Joss Whedon style humour, you’ll find a lot to enjoy in this novel, but the story part I think will be quite hit-or-miss for some readers depending on what kind of expectations that have for this book. Truthfully, this to me isn’t the Patrick Ness book to start with (I still say The Knife of Never Letting Go or A Monster Calls really is where to start), however, I think this book will be quite the hit with those can appreciate the playfulness that Patrick Ness infuses into this world. I just wish I had liked the characters a lot more.

Late to the Party ARC Review – Uprooted by Naomi Novik

22544764Title: Uprooted

Author: Naomi Novik

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life. Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her. But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

Huge thank you to the publisher for providing me an ARC of this book!

Sam’s Review:

I am a huge Naomi Novik fan, especially since His Majesty’s Dragon released years ago. Her books do an amazing job of blending alternative history an the fantastical together to create a gripping world that is always interesting to embark in. Her latest novel, Uprooted, is a departure in this regard, as it’s still fantasy, there still be dragons, but is much more traditional in nature. And it’s perfect.

What I love about Uprooted is that in a lot of cases, the book is not entirely what it seems. We have a “Dragon” abducting women and “sacrificing them,” we have a wood that is much more alive than those realize, and a heroine by the name of Agnieszka who must learn magic as a means to push the malevolent woods back, before it destroys everything in the valley and all the people she has sworn to protect.

This is a gorgeously written book that oozes wonderful and raw description. Moreover, Novik uses her skills to craft this very sinister world, one which feels disjointed and suffocating. The Woods are as much of a character in the story than one would notice at first, and it’s a testament to Novik’s skill that we are given a Woods that is very much alive and out to destroy the world. Oddly, the Woods was my favourite character, and I loved the way in which its described, and the way it has the power to foil the characters in the story. That’s not to say I didn’t love the heroine,
Agnieszka, who really is a character that begins as a slow burn and then blossoms into this wise, tough individual who knows there’s so much riding on her success. Agnieszka struggles with failure, she’s sympathetic, and she’s someone who wants to do and see good in everyone and everything. I loved her for it.

And that’s really it: all the characters in this book have a great amount of depth and complexity to them. Agnieszka takes Kasia’s place, you know in that instance their relationship changes in a way that isn’t necessarily for the better. The Dragon is such a gruff guy, and yet he does show care and compassion towards Agnieszka, even if it’s somewhat digressive in nature. The characters and their dynamics work wonderfully, and the story is gripping from start to finish. I cared about these characters and the world they are living in.

If you’ve never read a Naomi Novik novel or you’re intimidated by the size of the Temeraire series, then I implore you to give Uprooted a go. It’s delicious dark, but it’ll scratch the itch of any fantasy fan who loves deep description and wonderfully fleshed out characters. This is easily a new favourite novel by her for me!

ARC Review – Tonight the Streets Are Ours by Leila Sales

23310761Title: Tonight the Streets Are Ours

Author: Leila Sales

Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Arden Huntley is recklessly loyal. Taking care of her loved ones is what gives Arden purpose in her life and makes her feel like she matters. But she’s tired of being loyal to people who don’t appreciate her—including her needy best friend and her absent mom.

Arden finds comfort in a blog she stumbles upon called “Tonight the Streets Are Ours,” the musings of a young New York City writer named Peter. When Peter is dumped by the girlfriend he blogs about, Arden decides to take a road trip to see him.

During one crazy night out in NYC filled with parties, dancing, and music—the type of night when anything can happen, and nearly everything does—Arden discovers that Peter isn’t exactly who she thought he was. And maybe she isn’t exactly who she thought she was, either.

Huge thank you to Macmillan/Raincoast Books for letting us read an advanced copy!

River’s Review:

First off I want to say that the only reason I read this so soon is because it was one of those ‘will expire in 60 days’ deals and I didn’t want to forget about it and have it expire and have to re-download it or whatever cuz then I would have just skipped it. And I did not want to skip this book. This Song Will Save Your Life is a favorite of mine and I was really excited to see another book coming out by the same author.

Sadly this just didn’t do it for me like TSWSYL. Everything was just a little flat for me and I had trouble connecting with or liking anyone. The writing was tight, but lacked the emotion that TSWSYL did. I wasn’t able to connect to Arden or Lindsey at all. The little brother annoyed the crap out of me, the dad needed a good dose of reality (which he got) and the mother… I was torn on her. I wanted to be mad at her and tell her to wait until her kids were older to run off to try and get her shit together, but as an adult woman I could understand her need to get out of the situation she was in.

In Tonight the Streets are Ours Arden tells us a love story. About her friends and family and a random boy she met online. Now, when I read the synopsis of this I thought that she’d formed a relationship (friendship, whatever) with Peter, the author of the ‘Tonight the Streets are Ours’ blog that Arden finds and becomes obsessed with. But they never communicate at all. Arden just reads about his break up with his girlfriend, decides that Peter needs here and takes off to New York City (which is 300 miles away) in her shitty car (srsly, it’s a piece of junk) and her super unreliable best friend Lindsay.

I’m gonna stop right here and say that maybe I’m too old or this book. Because all I could think about was WHAT HAPPENED TO INTERNET SAFETY 101?! Are we no longer teaching teens that it’s NOT OKAY TO MEET STRANGERS FROM THE INTERNET?! Now before you yell at me about how ppl meet online all the time, I grew up with the internet. I was in middle school when regular old people could connect their Gateway desktops to their phone lines and sit there for ten minutes while it dialed up the World Wide Web. My parents watched all of the Dateline episodes about child predators lurking in chat rooms. TV told my parents that THE INTERNET IS DANGEROUS and they listened. That said I did meet TONS of people from the internet later on in life. When I was older. Or supervised by an adult. I met my college roomates and best friends on livejournal. I used to travel across the state to stay the weekend with a girl I met online. I met my husband from the Japanese equivalent of Facebook. I’m all for meeting people online IF YOU KNOW THEM IN SOME CAPACITY BEFOREHAND. So when I say that I did not approve of what Arden did it’s because she DIDN’T KNOW PETER. And as a blogger if some random person read my blog and then drove over 300 miles to meet me WITHOUT HAVING COMMUNICATED WITH ME I would not be pleased. And that was when this book really lost points with me.

Also Adren knows that Peter works at a bookstore in NYC and on their way down Lindsey calls all of them asking if Peter is working and one store is like ‘yeah he’s in today’. And that also scared the crap out of me because I just went through security training at my new job and you’re NEVER supposed to give out personal information over the phone to an unknown party ESPECIALLY SOMETHING LIKE IF THE PERSON IS AT SAID LOCATION. It could be ANYONE calling. A stalker (case in point), an angry family member, an armed psychopath. So yes it’s supposed to be clever on Lindsey’s side, but the actual safety of it made me cringe so much.

Anyway, Adren and Lindsey make it to NYC and they find Peter and meet him and go off with him to a party. ALL THE SAFEST THINGS IN THE WORLD. Arden seems SO proud that she knows all of this stuff about Peter from his blog and he doesn’t find it creepy at all (because Peter turns out to be an asshole), and I don’t know why Arden didn’t feel weird about it (I guess because she felt like she was entitled to Peter from reading about him). Now I’m pretty active on Twitter and I follow some of my friends that I see pretty often on there and once a friend of mine and I were talking and I mentioned something that I’d written on twitter and she was like ‘oh yeah I saw on Twitter’ and then we realized how fucking WEIRD it was and decided that even if we’d already known something from reading it on twitter that we wouldn’t say anything about it because IT IS WEIRD.

Anyway, so I did like that Arden slowly pieced together that most of Peter’s blog was a one-sided version of what he wanted people to know and that he’d actually just been writing in a way that made him look cool/the victim/desirable. That he’d left out entire portions of what was really going on and the real reason why his brother ran away and his girlfriend broke up with him. How he’d used his family’s issues to make him seem unloved when really he was the cause of a lot of the problems! Adren began to see that was someone wrote down on their blog didn’t necessarily mean that’s how they were like in real life and her image of him was shattered.

So if you’re expecting this to be a love story about Arden running off to NYC to find her blogger soulmate, it’s not.

There are also a few moments where Arden finally speaks her mind to her mother, father, Lindsey and her boyfriend. Those were well done and Arden needed to finally speak her mind, but they all seemed a bit canned and didn’t necessarily flow as well as they could have.

Overall this is not a bad book and I’m sure it will work for some people, but alas it just wasn’t meant for me.

Sam’s Review:

One of my favourite books in 2013 was This Song Will Save Your Life. I found the novel moving, something I could relate to in a strong way. Needless to say, I was thrilled that Leila Sales was putting out another novel, one I was hoping to have a much stronger emotional connection towards. I have to admit, however, that while I enjoyed parts of this novel, I struggled to suspend my disbelief in some situations.

I will concede that I loved the idea of this novel being an unexpected love story, and I loved the exploration around this concept. I think Sales does a great job of grabbing the reader’s attention to show obsessed Arden becomes with the blog and the man behind the words. It’s easy to become infatuated with someone else’s words or the way in which they tell their stories, but I admit, I disapproved of Arden’s actions in going to NYC and seeking Peter out in real life.

I just had such a hard time suspending my disbelief for that, and I feel uncomfortable with the idea that someone would go that far to stalk someone’s blog. I recognize that it happens, but my discomfort comes from the fact that it at first comes across quite unwelcomed? Perhaps there’s just a part of me that was confused by how this was supposed to be a romantic gesture of sorts — and like my co-blogger said, there’s that part of me that felt out and questioned how Arden could be so damn trusting towards Peter. I understand that she feels like she knows him, but on the other side of the coin does she really? Again, the level of trust and lack of discomfort really threw me for a loop, and admittedly, I’m surprised that Lindsey as her friend would go along with this (mind you, she’s the more adventurous type compared to Arden). I really enjoyed the reveal in regards to Peter, and I loved that Arden learns how one-sided everything is after confronting him about his relationship with Bianca. I kinda wish Arden had been more upfront with Chris, but I do like how Sales shows cheating as a learning experience, though I still wish she hadn’t done that!

I will say, I actually loved the friendship between Arden and Lindsey. For me, that was the best parts of this novel — the way they had each others back, the way they could call each other on their crap, the way in which they took care of each other was pretty admirable. I also loved Arden’s growth in terms of her family problems and how she eventually is able to speak out about it to her parents and others. For me, those were the more interesting parts of the novel since I struggled to buy into the Peter relationship and the blog stalking. I just found those aspects so hard to connect with mostly because I was screaming STRANGER DANGER every few seconds.

I think Tonight the Streets Are Ours is definitely an engaging read, especially if you can suspend your disbelief with how easy a lot of aspects fall into the place. I found I liked the novel, but was just also very disappointed in how simple and easy a lot of the situations were. I wish there had been more to the consequences, because that really did frustrate me. I’m disappointed that I didn’t enjoy this book the way I did This Song Will Save Your Life, but I do recommend it to those who can suspend their disbelief and enjoy the narrative for what it is.

ARC Review – The Fall by James Preller

21936978Title: The Fall

Author: James Preller

Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: Through his journal a boy deals with the death of a classmate, who committed suicide as a result of bullying.

The summer before school starts, Sam’s friend and classmate Morgan Mallen kills herself. Morgan had been bullied. Maybe she kissed the wrong boy. Or said the wrong thing. What about that selfie that made the rounds? Morgan was this, and Morgan was that. But who really knows what happened?

As Sam explores the events leading up to the tragedy, he must face a difficult and life-changing question: Why did he keep his friendship with Morgan a secret? And could he have done something—anything—to prevent her final actions?


Huge thank you to the publisher for letting me read an advanced copy of this book!

River’s Review:

Overall this is a solid look at suicide, bullying, and peer pressure. It’s told in journal entries by our narrator, Sam, who is trying to figure out and come to terms with the suicide of a classmate. We get to see that Morgan, the girl who jumped to her death, wasn’t just a random classmate. She was the outcast, the social leper, the one that everyone ganged up on. And she was also Sam’s friend.

And he liked her. Like-liked her. And she liked him back.

But we learn that Sam is just your average kid trying to get through high school without making waves. He’s a baseball player, decently liked, and gets along well enough with the popular kids that he is involved in their games. And their favorite game is a sick version of tag where if you’re “it” you have to write something super nasty (and anonymous) on Morgan’s social media site. And Sam admits that he’s a follower and that he follows the flow and that this is what he does.

I liked the voice of this. The writing was simple but clear, and I think it worked well for the story that was being told. Sadly, thought, I think it also didn’t lend well to a lot of depth and emotion which is why I’m giving it a 3 instead of a 4. I liked this, but it didn’t really make me feel anything. It made me think, which is what books like this should do, but it didn’t really rip me up or anything (which is what I want books like this to do).

Overall this is a nice addition to an important genre that explores bullying, suicide, and the ramifications it has on not just those directly effected, but everyone in a peer group.

ARC Review – Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

18692431Title:  Everything, Everything

Author: Nicola Yoon

Rating:  ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly. Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.

Huge than you to the publisher for letting me read an advanced copy of this book!

River’s Review:

So going into this book I’d heard both sides of the spectrum. It’s The Best Book Of This Year. It’s HORRIBLE. I knew there was a twist coming so I’m not sure if I figured it out on my own, or if I was looking for it… but I’m gonna go with a little bit of both.

Going into this book I had set my expectations really low because I’d had a few good book people say that it was terrible. I wanted to give it a shot (and I got it for review) and I’m pleased to say that I did enjoy it. This book is a VERY quick read. I have an eARC, and feel that a physical copy would have enhanced my reading experience due to the illustrations and sections written in email/chat/transcript.

Oddly enough I read this book directly after reading another Big Summer Book with a crazy format (Illumine) and I know that reading a physical book with a unique format is a lot better than reading an e-version. I found myself not caring enough about the illustrations or charts because I just couldn’t read them. And sometimes they felt a little juvenile. I did give Maddy a pass for some of it though because she’d lead quite a sheltered life.

This is a story about a girl who basically, lives in a bubble. She’s allergic to the outside world and anything could trigger a reaction so she’s confined to her home which is sealed off and the air is filtered in. Her only friend is her mother and a handful of internet people. (Which surprised me because I’m totally healthy and leave my house daily and have a TON of internet friends… I imagine that if I couldn’t leave my house on pain of death that I’d have A LOT more internet friends). We never see Maddy interact with any of these people, which idk, seemed odd. She spends her time reading, doing school work online, and playing games/watching movies with her mother.

Then a new family moves in next door and the two siblings try to befriend Maddy. Obviously they can’t meet, but the boy, Olly, is curious. He watches Maddy (in a non-creepy way) through his window and they communicate through gestures and funny antics. They eventually start to email and chat online and then Maddy convinces her nurse to let Olly inside. And they slowly begin to fall for each other.

This romance worked for me. It was subtle and gave me all the feels. I loved how Olly was curious and Maddy was protective and how they were both cautious by not. And when Maddy realizes that living in her bubble isn’t really living, she decides that she doesn’t care if her life is cut short, she just wants to spend time living, with Olly.

This is where the story started to fall apart for me. They suddenly take off to Hawaii and idk. It just struck me as odd. Like, sure it would sound good on paper, maybe something they’d scheme but not actually follow through with… but they actually do it and idk, I just never felt that either of them really had the guts to do it. And of course Maddy gets sick and then the inevitable heartbreak happens.

And then the twist. Which I had started to suspect. And I am very torn on that. The revel was emotional and sad and heartbreaking but at the same time I just wondered how it had kept on for so long.

And the mother. I thought that she was sweet and caring and really dedicated herself to Maddy. I was surprised that she never seemed to blame herself for her daughter’s suffering and then later on I wanted to hate her for the way she treated Maddy, but at the same time I wanted to understand and I guess if we could have seen a deeper side of the mother, a more broken side, a more screwed up side, maybe I could have taken things a little bit better and loved it a little bit more.

The writing in this is very quiet. Some people will enjoy the voice and the style, others will hate it. It’s not a style that I seek out, but when I do stumble upon it I find that it’s refreshing.

Overall I think I liked this more than I would have due to my low expectations and if I’d gone into it thinking it was going to be The Best I would have been disappointed.

Late to the Party ARC Review – Prudence (The Custard Protocol, #1) by Gail Carriger

23562480Title:  Prudence (The Custard Protocol, #1)

Author: Gail Carriger

Rating:  ★★★★

Synopsis: When Prudence Alessandra Maccon Akeldama (Rue to her friends) is given an unexpected dirigible, she does what any sensible female would under similar circumstances — names it the Spotted Custard and floats to India in pursuit of the perfect cup of tea. But India has more than just tea on offer. Rue stumbles upon a plot involving local dissidents, a kidnapped brigadier’s wife, and some awfully familiar Scottish werewolves. Faced with a dire crisis and an embarrassing lack of bloomers, what else is a young lady of good breeding to do but turn metanatural and find out everyone’s secrets, even thousand-year-old fuzzy ones?

Huge thank you to Orbit and Edelweiss for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I probably should have read this sooner given my fangirl status for Gail Carriger. Sadly, life got in the way and this just didn’t happen as early as I wanted it too. However, given the status of this book for some many years, boy was I finally glad to read it!

Prudence was totally worth waiting for, given all the hiccups before its release. It’s as sassy as the Parasol Protectorate series, but still has it’s own distinctive voice and sense of humour. I loved Rue and her companions, particularly Percy who just had me in stitches for large chunks of the story. Carriger has this amazing ability to write chemistry between her characters, and I feel like in this book the level of success she has is huge.

Furthermore there were cameos of old favourites from Parasol Protectorate, which really just made me grin from ear to ear. Plus since Prudence takes place in the same universe as many of Carriger’s other novels, it just makes everything feel so familiar and comfortable.

For me, I get a sense of comfort when reading a Gail Carriger novel. I know exactly what I am getting: humour, quirk, romance, a grand adventure with some prim and proper attached, and I’m such happy to have those things. This book isn’t without flaw, as it does feel a little samey to the main series, but I didn’t care because I found myself laughing along to Rue and crew’s antics. The comedy was just very spot on in this novel, and sometimes you wanted a book that doesn’t try to hard, and it’s only goal is to make you have a good laugh.

ARC Review – Made You Up by Francesca Zappia

17661416Title: Made You Up

Author: Francesca Zappia

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Reality, it turns out, is often not what you perceive it to be—sometimes, there really is someone out to get you. Made You Up tells the story of Alex, a high school senior unable to tell the difference between real life and delusion. This is a compelling and provoking literary debut that will appeal to fans of Wes Anderson, Silver Linings Playbook, and Liar.

Alex fights a daily battle to figure out the difference between reality and delusion. Armed with a take-no-prisoners attitude, her camera, a Magic 8-Ball, and her only ally (her little sister), Alex wages a war against her schizophrenia, determined to stay sane long enough to get into college. She’s pretty optimistic about her chances until classes begin, and she runs into Miles. Didn’t she imagine him? Before she knows it, Alex is making friends, going to parties, falling in love, and experiencing all the usual rites of passage for teenagers. But Alex is used to being crazy. She’s not prepared for normal.

Huge thank you to Greenwillow Books & Edelweiss for this ARC!

River’s Review:

I LOVED THIS BOOK! I lived the writing style, the wacky school, Alex’s humor and sincerity and MILES! I freaking LOVED Miles! And their whole little group. It was such a colorful cast of characters.

This is a story about a girl named Alex who has paranoid schizophrenia. She often hallucinates and takes photos with her digital camera to help her understand what’s real and fake. The story starts off with her as a child trying to free the lobsters in the lobster tank at the grocery store. She meets a boy who has the bluest eyes she’s ever seen… and later learns that the whole thing was a delusion.

Years later she’s in her senior year of high school. Getting her last chance. She didn’t do so well in her last school (due to paranoia about communists and a spray paint incident) and you get the feeling that if she doesn’t prove herself this time around something bad is going to happen.

Alex is quirky and not just because of her schizophrenia. She’s just a wacky girl with a good sense of humor. I loved her voice and I loved being inside of her head. So often people are scared of schizophrenics and this really helped me to understand what it might be like for people who suffer from schizophrenia. I felt for Alex and she broke my heart more than once. Towards the end of the book we learn a very sad truth that is devastating for Alex and my heart just broke.

Mile’s is an incredibly interesting character. He’s a genius, he’s a jerk, he’s king of the school. He does ‘jobs’ for people who pay him money to get revenge, get them out of tests, and other odd ball things. He does this because it gives him power. Without that he’s just a nerd from a bad home who gets bullied. And he faces off with Alex, pulling pranks on her, and her pulling them back on him. They slowly form a bond thought and he later figures out that she’s schizophrenic. But he’s very good about it, and takes care of her. There are some of THE sweetest moments between the two of them. And I just loved him. And I also loved how she took care of him when he needed help.

The school they go to is almost it’s own character. There’s a lot of weird stuff going on and I just loved how it added to the story as an almost living background.

Pick this book up guys. It’s brilliant and amazing!

 

Summer Contemporary Fling – 99 Days by Katie Cotugno

22836575Title: 99 Days

Author: Katie Cotugno

Rating:  ★★ / ★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Day 1: Julia Donnelly eggs my house my first night back in Star Lake, and that’s how I know everyone still remembers everything—how I destroyed my relationship with Patrick the night everything happened with his brother, Gabe. How I wrecked their whole family. Now I’m serving out my summer like a jail sentence: Just ninety-nine days till I can leave for college, and be done.

Day 4: A nasty note on my windshield makes it clear Julia isn’t finished. I’m expecting a fight when someone taps me on the shoulder, but it’s just Gabe, home from college and actually happy to see me. “For what it’s worth, Molly Barlow,” he says, “I’m really glad you’re back.”

Day 12: Gabe got me to come to this party, and I’m actually having fun. I think he’s about to kiss me—and that’s when I see Patrick. My Patrick, who’s supposed to be clear across the country. My Patrick, who’s never going to forgive me.

Huge thank you to Balzer + Bray and Edelweiss for this ARC!

River’s Review:

I… did not like this book. I found it incredibly frustrating and almost put it down a couple of times. I did like how it tackled double standards though, and for that I gave it two stars.

Molly Barlow is a selfish girl who keeps making the same mistakes over and over again. I HATED how every time she would do something that she KNEW was wrong she’d always brush it off as ‘I couldn’t help myself’ or ‘I couldn’t stop myself’. Uh, yes, you can. Nobody was FORCING you, EVER.

This book is about a girl who broke her boyfriend’s heart by sleeping with his brother. Molly was dating Patrick forEVER, but when they broke up (the DAY they broke up, wtf) she slept with his older brother. And then kept it a secret for a year until Molly’s mother (who’s a best selling novelist) wrote a book using Molly’s secret (wtf at her mom!) and then did an interview for People Magazine (again WTF!!! I’d be SO PISSED if that was my mom). Everyone in town found out about it and Molly ran away to boarding school. When she comes back for the summer she’s ostracized and slut shamed for what she did.

And that’s where I got super annoyed. I don’t understand how sleeping with Gabe, the older brother, ONCE = being a dirty whore. I could have understood that reaction a bit more (not agreed with, but understood) if she’d been sleeping with him for THE ENTIRE YEAR while still dating Patrick, but it was ONE time and they were BROKEN UP. So yes, I can see how the family would be hurt (Molly has been very close with the two brothers and their sister), and the brother’s pissed off, but I don’t know why the entire fucking TOWN decided that she was a dirty slut.

I also didn’t care for any of the characters. Tess and Imogen were really good friends and I felt so bad for them both when Molly kept treating them like crap and in the end really hurt Tess. I was a bit upset with Imogen at first when Molly came back to town, but when we find out what kind of stuff Imogen had been dealing with and how Molly had just dropped her, then I felt bad for her.

I really disliked Patrick and Gabe. They were both douhebags and while I did like that Gabe was willing to take a chance and befriend Molly at the beginning of the summer, and how he kept trying to include her, I didn’t really care for either brother and in the end when we find out more about why they both were going after her, well, that was just really shitty of them both. And ugh, Patrick pissed me off so much. And as much as everyone wants to point at Molly for being a cheater, she technically wasn’t until much later in the book. And she wasn’t the only one.

Like I said though, I did applaud this book for challenging the double standard. So often the female in the relationship is condemned and shunned for cheating and the male’s involvement is shrugged off as ‘well, men!’. Gabe often pointed out that it took the two of them to do what they’d done, and same goes for Patrick later on in the book. I did cheer for Molly when she addressed the issue, but it was hard to cheer for her beyond much else.

Overall I just didn’t connect with anyone in this book, and while I usually enjoy messy stories where ugly pretty people get their just deserts, I never really found anyone who I felt got what they deserved, and I hated not having anyone to cheer for at all in this entire book.

Sam’s Review:

While a lot of the reviews say this book will either be a love or hate affair, I found myself somewhat indifferent. I adored Cotugno’s debut, How to Love, so of course 99 Days shot up to be an anticipated read. I don’t think this book is bad, but it’s quite middling and somewhat problematic.

I really didn’t enjoy how Molly being a cheater automatically made her “slut” in the eyes of everyone in the community. It seemed a little ridiculous at times, and I mean I can’t blame her feeling like a “slut” if that’s how people are portraying her, but it gets to be a little suffocating at times. I had a hard time with Molly, because sometimes I found I was able to empathize with her, especially when she was trying to make her life more positive, but she repeatedly makes the same mistake over and over again, and it takes her so long to learn from those mistakes, and that can be frustrating for a reader who wants to cheer her on.

Molly is selfish, and her lack of regret is problematic for me. Especially in how she hurts both Tess and Imogen, and yet her character and personality — it felt very real to me in the way that Cotugno knows how to flesh out her characters. Some people, like Molly, just don’t get it, and I think there are parts of that novel where Cotugno is trying to portray this idea that not everyone figures stuff out or sometimes even tries. They aren’t good people, but when I think of where Molly comes from, having her dirty laundry aired in her mother’s best-selling novel, I sort of see why she behaves like she’s stuck.

Frankly, I hate both the male love interests, which shouldn’t be surprising because I hated the one in How to Love. But again, for me, I hate Gabe and Patrick because it comes from the fact that they feel real, like real people I wouldn’t like even in real life. Gabe is just full of himself and a tool, while Patrick is a firecracker who just can’t see beyond himself. And that’s just it, these characters are selfish, mean, but they are people you may have encountered in your lives. I applaud Cotugno’s writing because I’ve always enjoyed the fact that her characters can be appalling and problematic, but they are real people who just happen to be unlike-able.

And here’s the thing, yes cheating is a taboo subject, but it does happen, and it shouldn’t be the end of someone’s world because they’ve done it. I think what frustrates me at times is this idea that when someone is a cheater, they are always a cheater, and I don’t think that’s entirely true. People make mistakes, they are human, it’s what you learn from the experience. It may take Molly the entire story to learn from her mistakes and even fix some of her relationships, but she’s still a young person learning to be someone. It’s why even when I was angry and frustrated with her, I could still empathize. I’ve met people like her in my life, and yes they are imperfect — but aren’t we all?

At the end of the day, 99 Days is a frustrating read, but I appreciate the kinds of lessons that Cotugno was trying to infuse into the story about some people never getting it. The ending works so perfectly because Molly is called out once more, and yet she knows she’s leaving for college and she gets that chance to potentially have a fresh start. Sometimes you have to let people learn the hard way, which is what I got from this novel. I still would recommend How to Love over this novel any day, but I admit I did want more from 99 Days and I just didn’t get it in the end.

ARC Review – Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway

13132816Title: Emmy & Oliver

Author: Robin Benway

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Emmy just wants to be in charge of her own life. She wants to stay out late, surf her favorite beach—go anywhere without her parents’ relentless worrying. But Emmy’s parents can’t seem to let her grow up—not since the day Oliver disappeared.

Oliver needs a moment to figure out his heart. He’d thought, all these years, that his dad was the good guy. He never knew that it was his father who kidnapped him and kept him on the run. Discovering it, and finding himself returned to his old hometown, all at once, has his heart racing and his thoughts swirling.

Emmy and Oliver were going to be best friends forever, or maybe even more, before their futures were ripped apart. In Emmy’s soul, despite the space and time between them, their connection has never been severed. But is their story still written in the stars? Or are their hearts like the pieces of two different puzzles—impossible to fit together?

Huge thank you to Harper Teen for allowing us to read this book!

River’s Review:

Huge thank you to the publisher for sending me an advanced copy of this book for review

I’m not sure I can do this book justice with a review but I will try. First off Robin Benway is one of my favorite authors. I read AKA last year and fell in LOVE with her writing. I love the humor, the dialog, the relationships and the seriousness that she can write and pack all into one book. I love the way she writes friendships and romantic relationships and families.

Emmy & Oliver was one of my most anticipated books of 2015 and it is now one of my favorite books of all time. I was so scared to read it because I had hyped it up so much to MYSELF that I was worried that I wasn’t going to be as in love with it as I WANTED to be (this happened with one of Benway’s other books,The Secrets of April, May, and June. The only book of her’s that I didn’t give 5 stars to) but I was. And this book is more than good. It is literal perfection.

We all know the story of this book. It’s simple really. A boy gets snatched away by his father at the age of seven. Ten years later he is found. And he comes home. Only it is not the homecoming that everyone expects. Because Oliver wasn’t taken against his will. He wasn’t held at gun point every day and told that if he didn’t stay put that he’d die. He was living with his father, growing up. Sure there were a few weird things going on, and he was devastated about some of the lies that his father told him (that he didn’t know were lies until later on), but he had a life, a home, and he was happy.

See, Oliver didn’t even know that he’d been kidnapped until ten years later when he gets found. So when he comes home it’s hard. And he struggles. And Emmy is there to help him. She’s essentially been waiting for him for ten years. And when he comes back it’s not like he expected, nothing like she expected, nothing like anyone expected.

Now I’ve never been kidnapped, but I have ‘left’ and I think anyone who’e ever ‘left’ and then ‘come back’ (for me it was leaving the country for seven years) you can understand just an ounce of how hard it must be to come back from what Oliver had come back from. For me things were different, people were different, but they expected me to be the same. And I expected that of them too. We forget how much we grow and change over time. And Oliver’s family and friends had trouble with that.

Along with Oliver’s story we have Emmy who struggles with her extremely overprotective parents. Emmy and Oliver lived next door to each other and when he was taken her parents were there to support Oliver’s mother. And they then lived through the entire horrible ordeal with her and basically channeled their anger and fear into protecting their only daughter… and thus gave her very strict curfews, controlled her plans for college and always told her what to do. They were really good parents, and I loved Emmy’s relationship with them, but they were a bit overbearing. And this does come to a head because Emmy loves to surf (something her parents would freak out about if they knew she was doing it) and often lies to her parents to do what she loves.

I also loved the more subtle stories woven in with Drew (who struggles with his family not 100% accepting that he’s gay) and Caro (who struggles with not being noticed in her huge family of six kids at all) and their friendship with Emmy and then Oliver when he comes back. I loved the interactions between these four and it made me super nostalgic for high school and parties (siighhhh I really am getting old!).

And the romance. I loved it so much. It was slow build and then explosions and just gave me ALL. THE. FEELS.

I really hope that my review doesn’t overhype this book for others but for real you just need to read this book, especially if you are a Robin Benway fan. This book does not disappoint and now I am really sad that it’s over!!!

Sam’s Review:

So, Emmy & Oliver. I have to admit, I was really nervous going into this one having seen a lot of the reviews be all over the place. However, then I asked myself, “Sam, why are you worried? You know Robin Benway books mean fun, crazy, good times.”

Sadly, that sentiment is not true of Emmy & Oliver, as this is a book that will punch you hard in the feels, and then repeatedly take a few more punches in hopes that it will drill it’s emotional turmoil into your soul. I digress, but I loved this book and am completely reminded of why I think Robin Benway is a strong writer in the young adult world.

If there is something Benway excels in the most, it’s crafting relationships amongst her characters. Especially, friendships. In this story Emmy has two partners-in-crime, both who get an intense amount of development considering they are secondary characters, and their stories are equally as wonderful as that of the main plot that drives the novel. I thought Caroline and Drew’s stories wonderfully tied is, from Drew’s family not accepting that he’s gay, or Caroline feeling invisible because of her large family, it parallels so well to Emmy & Oliver’s stories.

This novel really is about the level of disconnect that parents often have with their children. This idea that they know better, or what is best, and you see this constantly throughout with the four teens that Benway focuses one. Each with their own struggles of identity, desire for approval, or just even trying to get their parents to comprehend their wants and desires, Benway does an amazing job at putting the reader at the forefront of these problems and she doesn’t provide an easy solution for them either.

Oliver by far gets it the hardest, and it’s why he’s such a fascinating character. He’s someone who was kidnapped at a young age, and didn’t entirely understand what was happening around him. His struggles are so real and he tries so hard to assimilate himself into a world where he once belong. Couple that with the fact that his mother confiding in Emmy’s family, and you see that Oliver’s disappearance begins to directly affect Emmy’s life — her parents becoming overprotective, strict and difficult. They are a pair though, and Benway does a great job of showing the reader how life was before the kidnapping and after, and how Emmy and Oliver truly are a part of each other’s lives. They have this intense, symbiotic relationship, and even after ten years though it’s difficult for Oliver, Emmy becomes a pillar of strength, and roles reverse and so forth.

Robin Benway does an amazing job of keep readers engaged withEmmy & Oliver. I may have read it at a slow pace, but it was one of those books I found myself devouring word for word because I was invested in these characters and their hardships. I’ve sadly never dealt with the issues they have faced (I grew up in a fairly open family). I feel like this is Robin Benway’s best novel yet, and if you are a fan or her work or you just want an emotional connection with, this is a perfect read.

ARC Review – Three DC Comic Reviews

25138266Title: Batgirl Vol. 1: The Batgirl of Burnside

Authors: Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart & Babs Tarr

Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: Barbara Gordon’s ready for a fresh start. She’s packing her bags, crossing the bridge, and heading to Gotham’s coolest neighborhood: Burnside. And when a freak fire burns up her costume and gear, Babs has the chance to become a whole new Batgirl!

But she barely slips on her new DIY costume before Batgirl starts trending as Gotham’s first viral vigilante — and attracting a new wave of enemies who want her social-media spotlight for themselves. Meanwhile, the girl beneath the gear’s got a whole new crew of friends, college classes that are kicking her Bat-butt and a dating scene that can make anyone want to swipe left on life. This bat’s done living in the shadows. But will the bright lights of Burnside burn her for good?

Huge thank you to DC Comics and Edelweiss for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I have been a Batgirl nut for as long as I can remember, in fact, I love Babs even more than I do Bruce (and that says a lot considering my love of Batman). In this instalment of the New 52, Babs really has a different transformation from the Gail Simone run that came previously. The changes made are interesting, but I’m not sure if I completely love them.

For starters, Babs feels much younger here than she did in previous instalments, but she’s penned at times as being both a genius but also incredibly immature, which threw me for a bit as I was reading. Simone’s Batgirl had a sense of maturity that I loved so much, so to see her behave like a child at times didn’t always feel right in my mind.

The ARC itself is quite good (minus the weird anime, ‘kawaii’ bit which was just dreadful and I wish I had not been included — very out of place), as it’s very fluid for the most part. I also loved the portrayal of Dinah and Babs’ relationship, as you can tell they have this mutual respect, but often want to slap the other for some reason, usually pertaining to the other being selfish. There’s some wonderful comedic moments between the two, and their resolution is a good one.

One thing I will absolutely praise is the artwork. It really has a unique and distinctive style that really separates it from other versions of Batgirl. Her new suit is awesome looking, as it is functional, and there’s less emphasis on driving sex appeal, which I appreciated. There’s also these wonderful extra touches in the artwork that quite excellent, especially the attention to detail in someone’s outfit, or how a certain villain is drawn.

Overall, I liked this quite a bit, though sadly not as much as Simone’s stuff. Still, I feel like I will find my groove with this Babs, as she’s really quite spunky and likeable. There’s definitely fun to be had in this instalment, though if you’re a big Gail Simone fan, it may be hard to detach yourself from what you’re already used to.

23395763Title: Gotham Academy, Vol. 1: Welcome to Gotham Academy

Authors: Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher, Karl Kerschl

Rating: ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Gotham City’s most prestigious prep school is a very weird place. It’s got a spooky campus, oddball teachers, and rich benefactors always dropping by…like that weirdo Bruce Wayne. But nothing is as strange as the students!

Like, what’s up with Olive Silverlock? Is she crazy or what? Where did she go last summer? And what’s the deal with her creepy mom? And how come that Freshman Maps is always following her around? And is she still going out with Kyle? P.S. Did you hear the rumor about the ghost in the North Hall?!

Review:

Gotham Academy was not what I was expecting from a DC Comics franchise. Quirky, cute and off-the-wall, Becky Cloonan and co. have done an amazing job at creating a school-ish spin-off that really is a joy to read.

Part of what makes Gotham Academy a lot of fun is its overall atmosphere. Those who are fans of many of DC Comics’ capes franchises will be able to point out many of its characters, and even though we have an original cast leading the charge, the balance is done quite well. Olive is darling, Maps is insane, and the antics they get into are funny. I found myself snickering through parts of the comics just because Olive looks like the last kind of person to get into so much trouble.

This comic is so comedic, and it will make you smile. It’s not without its faults — sometimes the characters behave like they know more of what’s going on than the reader, and yes the cliffhanger of this instalment was, well, kind of lame, but I feel like there is a ton of potential with Gotham Academy to go in a fun, or even dark direction. I feel like the hardest part of Gotham Academy was trying to understand the direction it wants to go, and it’s not obvious even towards the end. Still, I want to recommend it, most because I still want to see where it goes next and because at the end of the day, I always love a comic that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

23505378Title: Grayson, Vol. 1: Agents of Spyral

Authors:  Tim Seeley & Mikel Janin

Rating: ★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Dick Grayson. Former Sidekick. Former Superhero. Former dead man. Agent of Spyral?! A thrilling new chapter of Dick Grayson’s life begins here. A super-spy espionage thriller that will shock you and prove one thing: you might think you know Nightwing–but you don’t know Dick.

 

Review:

I have to admit, the idea of Dick Grayson being a spy didn’t win me over in any way. It should have, but I found this whole first instalment quite bland as I was reading it. It tries to overexert personality, but I honestly just didn’t enjoy Dick’s characterization at all. Perhaps it’s because I always adored him as Robin or loved his take over as Batman, but Spy!Dick just didn’t engage me the way he has in his other personas.

I think the other issue I had with this, and it’s more on my fault than it is the comic’s is that I felt like I was missing something when I was reading this. Even though it provides a detailed backstory to how Dick becomes an agent, I felt like I was missing pieces of the puzzle by having not read something that came before this.

I will admit, I did love the art in this. It’s crisp, clean, colourful. I loved the action sequences, which just oozed in detail. But as I’ve said, there’s a lack of spark in Grayon Volume 1, and I don’t think I’ll be continuing this series any time soon, sadly.