Tag Archives: harper teen

ARC Review – That Thing We Call a Heart by Sheba Karim

Title: That Thing We Call a Heart

Author: Sheba Karim

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Shabnam Qureshi is a funny, imaginative Pakistani-American teen attending a tony private school in suburban New Jersey. When her feisty best friend, Farah, starts wearing the headscarf without even consulting her, it begins to unravel their friendship. After hooking up with the most racist boy in school and telling a huge lie about a tragedy that happened to her family during the Partition of India in 1947, Shabnam is ready for high school to end. She faces a summer of boredom and regret, but she has a plan: Get through the summer. Get to college. Don’t look back. Begin anew.

Everything changes when she meets Jamie, who scores her a job at his aunt’s pie shack, and meets her there every afternoon. Shabnam begins to see Jamie and herself like the rose and the nightingale of classic Urdu poetry, which, according to her father, is the ultimate language of desire. Jamie finds Shabnam fascinating—her curls, her culture, her awkwardness. Shabnam finds herself falling in love, but Farah finds Jamie worrying.

With Farah’s help, Shabnam uncovers the truth about Jamie, about herself, and what really happened during Partition. As she rebuilds her friendship with Farah and grows closer to her parents, Shabnam learns powerful lessons about the importance of love, in all of its forms.

Huge thank you to Harper Collins Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I will be 100% honest: it wasn’t until I had gone to Harper Collins’ Spring Preview that I had even hard of this book. It didn’t seem like there was a lot of buzz surrounding this one, which is a real shame, because it is a fantastic, punchy little book about family, friendship, religion and first love.

At it’s core That Thing We Call A Heart is really about the friendship between Shabnam and her “former” best friend Farah. The two had a falling out when Farah began to proudly start wearing her headscarf to school without consulting Shabnam. This small but significant incident spirals the two best friends into a situation where they learn to be a part for awhile, but converge on how to make their friendship whole again. There is also a romance involving a non-Muslim boy who is interested in Muslim culture, a father obsessed with Urdu romance poetry but doesn’t see his wife, and a mother who has so much love to give yet seems neglected. A lot happens in this tiny novel, and all of it is interesting.

Honestly, my favourite parts of this novel were the moments between Shabnam and Farah. When they were focusing on their friendship you can see the intense chemistry between the two of them and why they were friends in the first place. Sheba Karim does this amazing job of building the relationship between these two best friends and there is a genuine sense of care and compassion coming from both sides. When Farah begins to question Shabnam’s “relationship” with Jamie, she does it from such a caring standpoint, and while it seems like she may be playing devil’s advocate, you get a very genuine vibe from her that she simply wants what is best for Shabnam. Farah was easily my favourite character in this book, as she has such a fantastic and blunt attitude. We need more badass ladies like her in contemporary YA.

I also loved Shabnam, even though she definitely had some moments that were very frustrating. I think Sheba Karim does a great job of capturing a teenager who is head over heels regarding their first love, and you can feel the this sense that Shabnam truly is in love with Jamie throughout the story. It doesn’t feel trite or forced, it feels like teenage lovesickness — realistic and heartbreaking. I will say, I still kinda didn’t get Jamie’s appeal at all in the story, and that is maybe because he’s not the kind of guy I’d dig in the slightest, but I can respect Shabnam’s interest in the guy, and I do appreciate that he was written in a way where he was trying to understand and respect Muslim culture. I thought that aspect of his character was actually very well done.

Can I also say how much I loved Shabnam’s family? There are so many moments that were so funny and toughing between her and her folks. I thought her mum was adorable and sweet, and I loved how caring she is. I also found Shabnam’s father hilarious and I liked that he made no bones about who he is throughout. They felt like read parents, which in YA often is completely unheard of.

I am so glad I was given the chance to read this book, because when it comes to books that feel genuine from start to finish, That Thing We Call A Heart succeeds. I really adored my time with this book, and I felt like I was able to really connect with the characters in this story, even though I don’t share the same culture as them. I felt like I learned so much about Muslim culture and the importance of family, both birth and chosen. There’s a lot of beauty in this book, and the ending definitely left me heartbroken.

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ARC Review – Everything All at Once by Katrina Leno

28926581Title: Everything All at Once

Author: Katrina Leno

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Lottie Reeves has always struggled with anxiety, and when her beloved Aunt Helen dies, Lottie begins to fear that her own unexpected death might be waiting around every corner.

Aunt Helen wasn’t a typical aunt. She was the author of the best–selling Alvin Hatter series, about siblings who discover the elixir of immortality. Her writing inspired a generation of readers.

In her will, she leaves one last writing project—just for Lottie. It’s a series of letters, each containing mysterious instructions designed to push Lottie out of her comfort zone. Soon, Lottie’s trying some writing of her own, leaping off cliffs, and even falling for a boy she’s only just met. Then the letters reveal an extraordinary secret about the inspiration for the Alvin Hatter series. Lottie finds herself faced with an impossible choice, one that will force her to confront her greatest fear once and for all.

Molly’s Review:

I HAVE SO MANY EMOTIONS RIGHT NOW.

This book was so amazing and hit me so close to home. Much like Lottie, I was close to my grandmother the same way she was with her aunt. All of her emotions and grief I felt deeply while reading this and there were parts that really gut punched me at the most random times.

This book made me cry. I rarely cry over books and I choked up quite a few times and kinda lost it at the end. SO MANY EMOTIONS.

The characters were all so wonderful. I really love the way that Katrina Leno writes siblings and best friends. I also loved the parents in this book A LOT. Abe was my favorite & I wish that I had a brother like him.

The whole Alvin Hatter book series was fucking perfection. To be honest I am NOT a fan of the “book within a book” type of books (I loved Fangirl but hated the Simon parts and won’t read Carry On. There have also been other books that I have skipped or dropped because of the book within a book parts) but it worked SO WELL in this book. The sections that were from the Alvin books actually made me yearn for a Harry Potter reread. But the best thing about the Alvin books is that they AREN’T Harry Potter specifically. They are Narnia, they are Percy Jackson, they are A Wrinkle in Time, they are The Golden Compass. Alvin Hatter is the stand in for your favorite childhood books paying homage to them all. And that is what I loved so much about them. (Yes Aunt Helen is totally the JKR of this world).

This book is surprising too and if you’re a close reader you’ll be able to figure out the magic. I was SO PLEASED with the ending and with the clues and with Aunt Helen’s big secret. I was so happy with the choices Lottie made too.

There is also A TON of diversity in this book that is reflective of the world around us. I really love how naturally Katrina writes diverse characters without it feeling like she just forced them in for diversity’s sake. It feels very REAL and authentic.

I feel like this book was meant for me. I am so honored that Katrina let me read it so early. This book was made up of so many things that I love (letters in a book! Amazing friendships, quite romance, hilarious conversations, musings about time and the universe, magic, Conor Oberst).

Lastly, if you are a book lover or a writer, this book will be something that you can really understand and just really connect with. So please check it out this coming July!

ARC Review – Three Dark Crowns (Three Dark Crowns #1) by Kendare Blake

23207027Title:  Three Dark Crowns (Three Dark Crowns #1)

Author: Kendare Blake

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins. The last queen standing gets the crown.

If only it was that simple. Katharine is unable to tolerate the weakest poison, and Arsinoe, no matter how hard she tries, can’t make even a weed grow. The two queens have been shamefully faking their powers, taking care to keep each other, the island, and their powerful sister Mirabella none the wiser. But with alliances being formed, betrayals taking shape, and ruthless revenge haunting the queens’ every move, one thing is certain: the last queen standing might not be the strongest…but she may be the darkest.

Huge thank you to the publisher for this ARC!

Molly’s Review:

For some reason this year has been the year that I’ve reconnected with fantasy. There’s been a lot that I haven’t liked and so much that I have loved. I went into this book with hesitation because of the mixed reviews. But I’m a fan of Blake’s previous books, so I really wanted to check this out. And dark fantasy has been my jam recently.

This book didn’t disappoint me at all. I had a few issues with the world building and history of the queens, but I kinda let it fall to the side because I was so entranced with the rest of the story. I LOVED the queens, their powers, the people surrounding them. I loved how complex they were, the ways that their lives had shaped them, and how their powers defined them.

I think that Katherine was my favorite queen, followed by Arisone. I really enjoyed all of the side characters too, and the fact that there WAS romance, but that romance didn’t dominate the book. This was the story of three powerful girls trying to find their ways and themselves.

This book is long but I was super engaged and flew right through it. I got to the end and was really upset that there wasn’t more and then kept thinking about it for a few days after BECAUSE THAT CLIFFHANGER.

Ugh, I need more. Def check this out if you’ve been enjoying the dark fantasy that YA has been offering us this past year!

ARC Review – Frannie and Tru by Karen Hattrup

23587107Title:  Frannie and Tru

Author: Karen Hattrup

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: When Frannie Little eavesdrops on her parents fighting she discovers that her cousin Truman is gay, and his parents are so upset they are sending him to live with her family for the summer. At least, that’s what she thinks the story is. . . When he arrives, shy Frannie befriends this older boy, who is everything that she’s not–rich, confident, cynical, sophisticated. Together, they embark on a magical summer marked by slowly unraveling secrets.

Molly’s Review:

My god, the writing in this book was effortless. I was able to sink down into it. I love it when I read a book and it feels like the words are just washing over my brain.

So I was DYING to read this book and was so excited when a friend gave me a copy. It sounded like such a ME book (dark-ish contemporary, ugly pretty people). And it was such a me book. I loved Tru and Frannie and their interactions with each other. I loved how pitch perfect Frannie’s thoughts and feelings and actions were.

This is the story of family. There’s a little romance in it, but not much, and it is NOT the focus of the book. Frannie’s family is struggling after her father loses his job. There are three kids, Frannie has twin brothers, and they’re at the start of what promises to be a long, hot, boring summer. Then one night Frannie’s mom gets a phone call from her sister and the next thing everyone knows cousin Tru is coming to stay for the summer. Frannie overhears her family talking about Tru and learns that he’s gay. Frannie then assumes that Tru is coming to stay with them because his family (a rich white NYC family) can’t handle it. Frannie tries to be sensitive to Tru while trying to understand him and what his sexuality means.

Only how much does Frannie REALLY know? All she can remember about her cousin is that he’s smart, funny, and well off. She harbors fantasies of the two of them going of into the summer to have grand, sexy, sultry adventures. And while they do, she learns that Tru is hiding something, that he’s not always honest with everyone (himself included) and that behind his charm and swagger is a guy who’s kind of a dick.

The family dynamics, the secrets and interactions between mother daughter sister brother father cousin and so on were so well done. Family is complicated, especially when one side is financially better off than the other. Relationships with blood can be difficult because you know you’re supposed to be a certain way and you can’t always be your true self.

There was another underlying theme playing out in this, about race, that I felt was a little too agenda-y. We find out that due to her family’s financial situation that Frannie will be going to a public school that’s going to be “filled with black kids”. There are black characters and they have discussions about race, but sometimes it felt a little too forced. I DID like the awkwardness of race between Frannie and Devon, that was so natural sounding, but there are a few other things that just kinda stuck out at me kinda oddly.

Overall this book was perfection and I think that it will do really well when it comes out.

ARC Review – Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes

22297294Title: Girl Against the Universe

Author: Paula Stokes

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: No matter how many charms she buys off the internet or good luck rituals she performs each morning, horrible things happen when Maguire is around. Like that time the rollercoaster jumped off its tracks. Or the time the house next door caught on fire. Or that time her brother, father, and uncle were all killed in a car crash—and Maguire walked away with barely a scratch.

It’s safest for Maguire to hide out in her room, where she can cause less damage and avoid meeting new people who she could hurt. But then she meets Jordy, an aspiring tennis star. Jordy is confident, talented, and lucky, and he’s convinced he can help Maguire break her unlucky streak. Maguire knows that the best thing she can do for Jordy is to stay away. But it turns out staying away is harder than she thought.

Huge thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy of this for review!

Molly’s Review:

I really liked this book! I’ve always had a soft spot for books/movies/TV shows about people trying their best at a sport. Maybe because I’ve always wished that I could be good at a sport, but instead gave up on the one that I really loved 😦

ANYWAY! This is a book about Maguire, a girl who believes that she is bad luck. She thinks that she’s cursed and that the Universe is against her. Bad things seem to happen around her: her brother, father and Uncle died in a car crash while she survived, friends have gotten sick, accidents have happened, houses have burned. Maguire chooses to see the bad and she isolates herself from her family and friends. Her mother finally gets her into therapy and her therapist encourages her to make a list of challenges to face so that she can hopefully conquer her fears and go on an international trip with her mother to visit her grandmother.

I loved the topics dealt with in this book. Magical thinking is something that I don’t feel gets spoken about enough. Often YA books focus on the more “hot topic” mental illnesses (which is fine, I think that talking about depression and other mental illnesses is SUPER important). I think that everyone in the WORLD falls prey to magical thinking. I know that I often find that my husband and I fight around holiday celebrations and I often say things like “we shouldn’t even bother celebrating, only bad things happen when we do”. It’s also socially accepted to have good luck rituals (knocking on wood, blowing off eye lashes that have fallen onto someone’s cheek, etc) that are considered normal if we don’t view them as magical thinking. And ya know, some magical thinking CAN be good. Believing that you can do something, telling yourself that today is going to be good… that can all be very positive. But the focus on the negative magical thinking in this book was really well done, relate-able, and realistic.

The characters in this book were really fun and I loved watching Maguire grow. She makes friends, falls for a great guy, and gets closer to her family. She does have moments when she doesn’t believe in herself and she fails her challenges or regresses back to old habits, but that’s what made this book realistic. I LOVED how supportive everyone was of her and it was really hopeful feeling that if you do have something that might be considered “different” or “weird” that if you find the right people they’ll be totally supportive and accepting.

The positive portrayal of therapy was also very refreshing. I often times find that books for teens have very negative therapist-patient relationships and I really like it when they seem healthy and helpful.

I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about where the ending was going and was almost a little mad that things seemed to be coming full circle and I did NOT understand how Maguire was ever going to be able to move on with her life, but then when something really amazingly good came out of it, I just felt so happy and everything felt so right.

Def check out this book, it is SO good.

ARC Review – The Fall of Butterflies by Andrea Portes

26115772Title:  The Fall of Butterflies

Author: Andrea Portes

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Willa Parker, 646th and least-popular resident of What Cheer, Iowa, is headed east to start a new life. Did she choose this life? No, because that would be too easy—and nothing in Willa’s life is easy. It’s her famous genius mother’s idea to send her to ultra-expensive, ultra-exclusive Pembroke Prep, and Willa has no intention of fitting in. But when she meets peculiar, glittering Remy Taft, the richest, most mysterious girl on campus, she starts to see a foothold in this foreign world—a place where she could maybe, possibly, sort of fit in. When Willa looks at Remy, she sees a girl who has everything. But for Remy, having everything comes at a price. And as she spirals out of control, Willa can feel Remy spinning right out of her grasp.

Huge thank you to HarperCollins for sending me an ARC for review!

River’s Review:

I was NOT expecting to love this book as much as I did. I started reading it because I was in the mood for something contemporary and I remembered really enjoying Portes’ previous YA title. I got SUCKED into this book and read almost 200 pages in one sitting. I was expecting a typical small town girl goes to expensive prep school and gets sucked into a new, exciting world, story butttttt this took an unexpected dark turn. And I loved it. I loved the characters and the way that Willa deals with the new life around her. She’s curious (too curious at times) and willing to explore new things. But she’s also very secure in who she is (despite her own feelings that she isn’t) and knows when to put on the brakes.

Willa’s mother is a world famous economist who basically left her family to run off to France and peaced out of Willa’s life. Willa lives in a small town in Iowa and she’s not popular. She’s very flippant about the small group of people she spends time with but clearly doesn’t care about them at all. She’s set to kill herself just because she’s so sick of feeling her mother’s expectations on her shoulders and when she moves to New England to attend an elite boarding school that her mother got her into.

The only real problem I had with this book was that Willa talks about wanting to kill herself, but I never really felt like she had an actual reason why. She didn’t seem depressed, she didn’t seem suicidal, she just seemed done with life. Over it. And after she starts to sink into her new life that vein of story just kinda slowly falls away… it seemed a little odd to me.

Other than that thought I loved the way that Willa comes to terms with her mother, with her father, with the life she left, and the new life she’s leading. I loved watching those around her react to her and help her grow. I loved seeing her try so hard to save her new friend and coming to terms with the fact that sometimes you just can’t help people who don’t want it.

I really love Portes’ writing style too. It’s very unique and quirky and fun to read. I liked that this story was being told to you (the reader) and that Willa is aware of you (the reader). It makes for a very quick read.

ARC Review – Queen of Hearts (Queen of Hearts Saga #1) by Colleen Oakes

26074194Title: Queen of Hearts (Queen of Hearts Saga #1)

Author: Colleen Oakes

Rating: ★★

Synopsis: As Princess of Wonderland Palace and the future Queen of Hearts, Dinah’s days are an endless monotony of tea, tarts, and a stream of vicious humiliations at the hands of her father, the King of Hearts. The only highlight of her days is visiting Wardley, her childhood best friend, the future Knave of Hearts — and the love of her life.

When an enchanting stranger arrives at the Palace, Dinah watches as everything she’s ever wanted threatens to crumble. As her coronation date approaches, a series of suspicious and bloody events suggests that something sinister stirs in the whimsical halls of Wonderland. It’s up to Dinah to unravel the mysteries that lurk both inside and under the Palace before she loses her own head to a clever and faceless foe.

Huge thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy for review!

River’s Review:

Waaaah, I wanted to like this one so much more than I did. In 2009 I watched the TV Mini-series called “Alice” which was a modern remake of Alice in Wonderland. It was weird and twisty and did such an amazing job of playing with the themes of Alice in Wonderland (a story that I never really connected with that much in the past) that when I heard about this I for some reason connected the two in my head and thought that this book was going to be as brilliant as that mini-series.

And this book could have been. I had all of the elements, things were weird and twisted and Wonderland was deliciously creepy. But there was no backstory. No real world building. I felt like the only reason I was able to “see” it the way I was was because I was projecting my own ideas onto it. But when it comes to a fantasy world, even in a re-telling, I need some backstory. Why are things the way they are now, what lead to this current situation? Why should I care? There were things peppered throughout the book that I was grasping at, but nothing that really gave me the answers that I was craving.

Also there were times in this book that it felt like there was a Wonderland checklist that the author was just ticking boxes off. All the characters were there, but some of them seemed a little forced. Part of why I loved that TV mini-series so much was because the surprise of figuring out who was who! In this it was very obvious who was who and what their rolls were and it just fell a little flat for me.

I also wanted a plot. There was kind of this idea that there was something bad going on but the clues were so few and far between that I could never even try to piece them together. There was NO conclusion and nothing was wrapped up, no questions were answered, and everything was just left hanging in such an unsatisfactory way. It wasn’t even a cliffhanger. It’s just like the book cut off and that there should be more, but haha, you have to wait until the next one.

Also I was NOT comfortable with the relationship between the King of Hearts and Princess Dinah. I never felt that his actions were just and most of the time they seemed super random. Also the time jumps were weird and the whole story around the court politics made no sense.

I did enjoy the writing in this, and the descriptions of Wonderland. Wardley was an okay character, but that’s about it. I might pick up the next book just to see how things go, but it’s not going to be a priority. Sadness!