Tag Archives: friendship

ARC Review – Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills

Title: Foolish Hearts

Author: Emma Mills

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: A contemporary novel about a girl whose high school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream leads her to new friends—and maybe even new love.

The day of the last party of the summer, Claudia overhears a conversation she wasn’t supposed to. Now on the wrong side of one of the meanest girls in school, Claudia doesn’t know what to expect when the two are paired up to write a paper—let alone when they’re both forced to try out for the school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

But mandatory participation has its upsides—namely, an unexpected friendship, a boy band obsession, and a guy with the best dimpled smile Claudia’s ever seen. As Claudia’s world starts to expand, she finds that maybe there are some things worth sticking her neck out for.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I swear when it comes to writing friendship stories, Emma Mills always knocks it out of the park. What I love about Foolish Hearts is that this is a story about an unlikely friendship through boy band fandom.

Claudia and Iris do not seem like the kind of people who would be friends, but when Iris and her girlfriend Paige suffer a nasty break up, Iris is forced to work with Claudia to work on a school paper, as well as the school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. However, one day while working on said project, Claudia learns that Iris loves TION (or This Is Our Now), a boy band that takes over every inch of her bedroom wall. They begin to foster a friendship through their love of TION, and it is adorable.

What I love about Emma Mills’ books is that they are very genuine, her heroines very believable, and it’s always chock full of humour and heart. I adored the characters in this story, I loved the building of Claudia and Iris’ friendship, and I loved all the feelings this book gave me. Even the romance between Claudia and Gideon was adorkable. I just loved everything about this story and the cast and I just found myself in such a happy state of mind while I was reading this book.

Reading an Emma Mills book is like comfort food. It’s happiness and fun, and I just love what she does with her characters. Much like This Adventure Ends, I feel like Foolish Hearts is just such a memorable read, and I will continue to support Emma Mills if she continues to keep writing fannish, fluffy, contemporary novels.

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ARC Review – Hundred Percent by Karen Romano Young

28645644Title: Hundred Percent

Author: Karen Romano Young

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: The last year of elementary school is big for every kid. Christine Gouda faces change at every turn, starting with her own nickname—Tink—which just doesn’t fit anymore. Christine navigates a year’s cringingly painful trials in normalcy—uncomfortable Halloween costumes, premature sleepover parties, crushed crushes, and changing friendships. Throughout all this, Tink learns, what you call yourself, and how you do it, has a lot to do with who you are.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this finished copy!

Sam’s Review:

You know what I love about Hundred Percent? It discusses a topic in middle grade that tends to get ignored, overshadowed, and it just seems like folks are afraid to talk about — puberty. While I am not a fan of the Judy Blume classic, Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret, I think Hundred Percent might be that book that tackles so many middle grade issues at once, but it definitely does an awesome job looking at how a person can change both physically and mentally.

Tink and Jackie couldn’t be more different — Tink has started to develop while Jackie is still a bit of a twig, and yet they wish in some ways they could switch. There friendship is the larger focus of this story, and I REALLY adored the way Romano Young shows the changes in their friendship and the ways in which Tink and Jackie growing up shows how they can be both closer together, but also be driven further apart.

I mean, they are at that age where they are beginning to transform, feel different, even older, and yet it’s fun to watch Tink in particular fight back. In fact, she spends a lot of this book still throwing childish tantrums and being called out on it by Jackie, and you know what? I can’t even fault her on a lot of those because her mind and body are in two different places. I loved the way all all these feelings were expressed in the novel! I just wish at the same time Tink would have tried to be a bit more thoughtful during some of the arguments, but I also get what the author was trying to do as well.

I think my biggest criticism of this book, however, is that there were just way too many topics being handled at once, particularly when you look it discussing promiscuity, losing your best friend to the popular kids, puberty, forcing to forge on one’s own, it’s a lot packed into a tight squeeze, and sometimes I felt like it was too much. Again, I do think it works given that Tink spends a lot of the novel having so many problems to face at her age and trying to understand each of them head on, but I almost wish the book had been a tad longer to explore a lot of these issues further.

I do think Hundred Percent is a great and important middle grade book, and I love that it doesn’t shy away from the issues it presents in the text. I loved both Tink and Jackie, and I think Romano Young has brought up some important issues with this novel that perhaps need better address in middle grade today. I definitely think if you love contemporary middle grade, especially books focusing on those tough middle years, than Hundred Percent is worth looking into.

ARC Review – The Infinity Year of Avalon James by Dana Middleton

27414424Title: The Infinity Year of Avalon James

Author: Dana Middleton

Rating:  ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Avalon James and Atticus Brightwell have a secret–one that they aren’t allowed to discuss with anyone. This secret is shared between two best friends. When you and your best friend turn ten years old magical things are said to happen. You both will receive some kind of magical power. It can be a power you can call on time and time again. Or it can be a power that comes once when you need it most. It’s your Infinity Year and the possibilities are endless.

The past year hasn’t been great with her family being torn apart and bullying at school, so Avalon is depending on her magical ability to appear soon and help. With the clock ticking and her eleventh birthday approaching, which would be the end of her powers, Avalon’s hopes are running high. Will she and Atticus get the powers they so desperately want and need?

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

The Infinity Year of Avalon James has an intriguing premise: it’s about two best friends who when they turn the age of ten are granted an “infinity year” — magical “things” are supposed to happen, especially since it’s a secret they share. I loved this idea of two best friends sharing a secret like this, though this novel didn’t entirely win me over like I thought it would.

First off, I LOVE the friendship between Avalon and Atticus and I think the way Middleton develops it is fantastic. You get a very rich sense of their friendship, what they share with each other, and they are great to grow alongside in the novel. I loved how they wanted to protect one another, and yet when Atticus’ secret is let out, Middleton does an amazing job of connecting the reader with both Avalon and Arricus’ feelings.

However, the premise for this novel feels a bit misleading. I had it in my head that something really magical was going to happen, because it’s something constantly discussed by the two best friends. This novel is through and through contemporary all the way, but the blurb makes it sound as though there’s more to that contemporary setting than there actual is. This is not a bad thing, but it was definitely a case for me of expecting one thing and definitely getting something else.

I also felt that the supporting case in this story were way too one-dimensional at times, and to be honest, I don’t entirely understand Elena’s real motivations for being such a poop disturber. The reason is given, and while it’s perfectly good in middle grade, it did leave me wanting a bit more. I do love some of the littler tidbits in the novel, such as the spelling bee, and M the cat (I loved M the cat, M is rad).

While I have a few criticisms of this novel, I do think it is pretty swell over all. I had a lot of fun reading about Avalon and Atticus’ adventures, and I think Atticus’ secret was wonderfully shared in a way that I think a lot of kids can relate to. I think the portrayal of bullying is spot on here and I love the way Avalon handles herself. There’s a lot to enjoy about The Infinity Year of Avalon James, and I think those looking for a good book about friendship will find something to love here in Dana Middleton’s debut.

ARC Review – This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills

27779275Title: This Adventure Ends

Author: Emma Mills

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Sloane isn’t expecting to fall in with a group of friends when she moves from New York to Florida—especially not a group of friends so intense, so in love, so all-consuming. Yet that’s exactly what happens.

Sloane becomes closest to Vera, a social-media star who lights up any room, and Gabe, Vera’s twin brother and the most serious person Sloane’s ever met. When a beloved painting by the twins’ late mother goes missing, Sloane takes on the responsibility of tracking it down, a journey that takes her across state lines—and ever deeper into the twins’ lives.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

During the summer I read Emma Mills’ first novel and I thought it was delight. It wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but she had a way of making me love her characters, even when they were being selfish or frustrating — I had their backs. There is also just something in the way that Mills writes that I found easy to relate to as well.

I think This Adventure Ends blows First & Then right out of the water. This sophomore novel gave me everything I wanted from a great read: beautiful friendships, a wonderful story I could relate to, and Sloane was someone who could easily be identified with. I laughed out loud, I felt the pain of the characters, there is so much about this story that I just fell in love with and when it was over, I felt sad that the adventure had in fact, ended.

Sloane is wonderful as a heroine — she has a fun relationship with her father, a writer/fan-fic author. Those moments were always by far my favourite. I loved the father/daughter chemistry between them, I adored the way they shared fandom together, I loved that they could call each other out on each others crapola. Seriously, their dynamic was a joy to read.

I also loved Sloane’s school friends, especially Vera. I thought all the friends in the book were well developed and fleshed out. I found myself really caring about how Sloane was treating her friends and vise versa, as well as how they deal with each others “issues” within the friendship. I think where Mills’ makes this book really shine is that she shows how organic friendship can be, as well as writing very realistic relationships where the secondary characters feel as though they have as much weight as the main character. It’s a hard skill to master and I just found that Mills is great at developing relationships between characters.

This book will make you laugh and it will give you the feels. I just found so much I could relate to while reading this story (especially in regards to friendship and fandom) and I think that’s why I had as deep a connection as I did. If you haven’t read any of Emma Mills’ books, read this one, because it’s just the complete package for anyone who loves stories with well developed characters and fun friendships.

Blog Tour – How it Ends by Catherine Lo (Review and Q&A)

I am always thrilled when Raincoast invites me to participate in a blog tour. They have yet to send a book I haven’t liked when it comes to doing these kinds of promotions. Plus, I am always 100% on board when they tell me it’s to promote Canadian talent. We have amazing YA writers, and I think Cathrine Lo is one to watch. Seriously though, let me tell you all about How It Ends.

How it Ends is one of the best examples I have ever come across in terms of protraying a realistic break up between best friends. It’s raw, thoughtful, and it definitely left me quite reflective of my friendship back when I was in high school, and in a lot of ways, I wish this book had been around for me during that time.

I hope after reading my review you’ll give this stunning and intelligent book a chance. It left me with a lot of thinking after I finished it.


22608764Title: How It Ends

Author: Catherine Lo

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: There are two sides to every story.

It’s friends-at-first-sight for Jessie and Annie, proving the old adage that opposites attract. Shy, anxious Jessie would give anything to have Annie’s beauty and confidence. And Annie thinks Jessie has the perfect life, with her close-knit family and killer grades. They’re BFFs…until suddenly they’re not.

Told through alternating points of view, How It Ends is a wildly fast but deeply moving read about a friendship in crisis. Set against a tumultuous sophomore year of bullying, boys and backstabbing, the novel shows what can happen when friends choose assumptions and fear over each other.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I admit, I’ve been coveting this book since last year’s #TeensReadFeed event hosted by Raincoast. The premise seemed so simplistic and yet so appealing at the same time. This is the tale of two girls befriending each other in tenth grade, at what seems to be the perfect moment in time. The reader gets to watch their relationship organically grow and transform. We see how these two friends grow together, as well as fall a part.

I was completely captivated by this novel right from the get go. It’s a novel that gradually builds and builds, as we watch Jessie and Annie work through high school. I found myself nodding along with the feelings of both characters, as I’ve been in both their shoes in different situations. I remember wading through high school the way Jessie did, living with anxiety and worrying how I would be seen and accepted by others, and it was something that carried with me well into my first few years of university.

When you suffer from anxiety of any kind, you do in fact see the world so differently compared to others that it is often seen as a “paranoia” meanwhile, that isn’t entirely the case. Lo examines Jessie’s social anxieties with such a fine tooth comb, and to the point where even when Jessie is at her worst, she is still someone who is redeemable and someone we as the reader can sympathize with. I’ve also been in Annie’s shoes — the person who is attempting to take care of someone else and is trying to understand their ways and behavior but never feeling like you entirely get it.

Annie is strong, sassy, and she wants to see the good in everyone, whereas Jessie can’t because the fear of being hurt is just too strong with her. Both share similarities in that they both have walls that are hard to break down, and watching how there friendship develops and breaks down is what makes this book so interesting. When we start to see how their relationship falls apart it is just so heartbreaking, and I found myself just wanting to shake both of them and say that things can be mended, they can be repaired.

This book is such a raw experience, full of open wounds that need mending. It is such a realistic look of friendships and how we value people in a lot of ways, and when things are not okay, how that value is quickly taken away.How it Ends is a beautiful examination of how beautiful, complicated and messy friendships can be.


Q&A with Cathetrine Lo!

lo

Those lovely ladies at Raincoast gave me the chance to ask Catherine a question of my choice. Here’s my question and her wonderful response.

Q: The friendship portrayed in How It Ends is both raw as it is believable. Why did you
choose to write a novel that focused squarely on the complexities of friendship?

A: In my role as a teacher, I see a lot of young people struggling with friendship issues,
and it reminds me of the same difficulties I had as a teen. In some ways, I wrote How It
Ends for my students, but in others, I think I wrote it because it was the book that the
teen me needed to read when I was in high school. Back then, there were a lot of books
that addressed romantic breakups, but not as many that dealt with the rocky patches we
all go through in our friendships. I wanted to explore the complexities of female
friendship, and show just how intense and important these relationships are.


As always, huge thank you to Raincoast for their support and kindness. They are such a delight to work with! Also big thank you to Catherine Lo for taking time out of her busy schedule to respond to my question! How It Ends released on June 7th, and is current avaliable at your favourite local book retailer. Please make sure you check out the other stops on the tour to find out their thoughts on How it Ends!

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Blog Tour – Gena/Finn by Hannah Moskowitz & Kat Helgeson (Review and Q&A)

Gena/Finn is one of those books where if you grew up loving a fandom so hard with your friends, you’ll appreciate it from head to toe. When I learned about its existence during the #TeensRead event hosted by Raincoast, I knew I had to get my paws on this book. If I’m being honest, this book brought up a lot of great memories and was everything I hoped it would be.

Huge thanks for Raincoast, as well as the authors, for letting me in on this blog tour, and into their worlds. Even if it’s only a little bit.


19254725Title: Gena/Finn

Author: Hannah Moskowitz & Kat Helgeson

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Gena (short for Genevieve) and Finn (short for Stephanie) have little in common. Book-smart Gena is preparing to leave her posh boarding school for college; down-to-earth Finn is a twenty-something struggling to make ends meet in the big city. Gena’s romantic life is a series of reluctant one-night-stands; Finn is making a go of it with long-term boyfriend Charlie. But they share a passion for Up Below, a buddy cop TV show with a cult fan following. Gena is a darling of the fangirl scene, keeping a popular blog and writing fan fiction. Finn’s online life is a secret, even from Charlie. The pair spark an unlikely online friendship that deepens quickly (so quickly it scares them both), and as their individual “real” lives begin to fall apart, they increasingly seek shelter online, and with each other.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:
Gena/Finn is a book that brought up a lot for memories for me. The majority of my university years were spent with people loving and worshiping fandoms. From cheesy Canadian televisions shows such as The Collector to the fantastically aged video game series Suikoden, the majority of the friends that I have came from being a part of a fandom.

This book is told in a mixed media format: chat logs, e-mails, text logs, blog posts, litter the pages this book from beginning to end. It’s actually perfect given how this story is being told. Gena is a young girl who has a secret identity, while Finn is a twenty-five year old recent college grad who is trying to find where she fits into the world. She has the perfect boyfriend, but he doesn’t seem as interested in her fannish life.

The story of Gena/Finn hit so close to home as I was reading it. It reminded me of my university days where I would spend hours looking through message boards (we didn’t have tumblr when I was growing up), I ran a successful Suikoden role-playing community over on Livejournal, and I even shared that love with my friends. We all felt as though we were sharing all our loves and passions, and that is totally reflected in both heroines, Gena and Finn.

When fandom and real life begin to collide and feelings become apart of the equation, this novel loses a bit of the fannish edge in favour of pushing the larger parts of the narrative forward, while still inserting fannish aspects when possible. It’s delightful, heartbreaking, emotional, and I found I could identify with both heroines a lot of the time. The only character I couldn’t identify with was Charlie, seeing as my husband has been a large influence in my life when it comes to fandoms as well. However, I could totally understand and even empathize with him and his personal feelings through the novel.

Fandom often gets such a tough rap and treated as something to be misunderstood. Gena/Finn remind us that fandom came bring people together in remarkable ways. There’s so much love and attention to detail in this novel, and I loved the positive memories that it reminded me of as I was reading it. This story just gave me all the feels, and it’s a book I plan on buying for all my fannish ladyfriends because dammit fandom friendships are rad.


Q&A with Hannah Moskowitz & Kat Helgeson!

As always, Raincoast has allowed all the blog tour participants to ask the authors a question or two in regards to their novel. Here’s what I asked to Hannah and Kat in regards to Gena/Finn!

What is your favourite fannish memory? What fandom do you feel defines a lot of your
personality?

KAT: Before Gena/Finn was a thing, Hannah and I used to write fanfiction together on
occasion. So there was this one night when we’d come up with a project we wanted to start
together. We were up all night hashing out the details – creating a place to host the
stories, making art, outlining what was going to happen. We had a few nights like that
when we were working on Gena/Finn, but I think working on this fanfiction project was the
first. It was the kind of epic all-nighter you can only have with your best friend.

HANNAH: My favorite fannish memory is when I met the stars of Degrassi on their mall
tour. I made them shirts with quotes their characters said on the show. I’m sure Drake
still wears his all the time. (Sam’s Note: We can only hope so, Hannah!)


And that’s a wrap for this blog tour! Huge thank you to both Hannah Moskowitz and Kat Helgeson for taking time out of their schedules to answer some questions, and an equally large thank you to Raincoast for allowing me the chance to participate on the tour. If you’d like to see where the Gena/Finn blog tour is heading to next, check out the tour schedule below. Remember: fandom is delightful, and some of the best folks you will ever meet, will be because you loved the same thing so damn hard. 🙂

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Blog Tour – Little Robot by Ben Hatke (Review + Giveaway)

23310721Title:  Little Robot

Author: Ben Hatke

Rating:  ★★★★★

Synopsis: When a little girl finds an adorable robot in the woods, she presses a button and accidentally activates him for the first time. Now, she finally has a friend. But the big, bad robots are coming to collect the little guy for nefarious purposes, and it’s all up to a five-year-old armed only with a wrench and a fierce loyalty to her mechanical friend to save the day!

Huge thank you to First Second for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I am a huge fan of Ben Hatke’s work, and his graphic novels are some of the easiest to recommend to younger readers. Zita the Spacegirl and Julia’s House for Lost Creatures completely captured my heart as I read through them, and it’s easy to say that Little Robot won me over the exact same way.

A large chunk of this graphic novel is wordless, and stronger for it. The artwork in the novel does an amazing job of evoking so much thought and emotion. I love the expressions on the robots faces, I love the adventure that the little girl and her new robot companion embark on. I felt bad for them a lot of the time since they were being chased by other robots with nefarious intentions, but I loved the comic aspects of the story because it really kept the story fresh and fast paced.

There is so much to love about Little Robot. It’s a beautiful look at friendship, having tenacity, and finding one’s place in the world (or at least, trying to comprehend the world that’s around you to begin with). If you have a younger reader (or you’re an adult that appreciates this kind of sweet tale), Little Robot is easy to recommend and worth the time. It’s a story worth sharing with loved ones, as it will pull on your heartstrings while also providing some laughs from start to finish.


I am insanely excited that First Second approached me to participate in this blog tour for Ben Hatke’s latest graphic novel, Little Robot. The book released yesterday, September 1st, and tells a heart-warming story of friendship and courage. I sincerely hope that you check this book out, especially if you have a young reader in your life, and while you’re at it, please check out the other stops on this tour. Also please enter our GIVEAWAY! (US/CANADA ONLY)


unnamed (1)About the Author: Ben Hatke is an author and illustrator of graphic novels and picture books. Most notably he is the creator of the Zita the Spacegirl graphic novel series. He posts art and stories online at: www.benhatke.com