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ARC Review – Blueberry Pancakes Forever (Tuesday McGillycuddy #3) by Angelica Banks

Title: Blueberry Pancakes Forever (Tuesday McGillycuddy #3)

Author:  Angelica Banks

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Winter has fallen in the world of story, and at Brown Street, Tuesday’s typewriter lies silent. Far away in the Peppermint Forest, Vivienne Small fears that she will never again feel the touch of the sun…But when the mysterious Loddon appears in Vivienne’s treehouse, he brings with him terrible danger. Without warning, Tuesday is swept up into the world of story as she has never seen it before. In this forbidding and unfamiliar place – and without her beloved dog Baxterr at her side – Tuesday becomes Loddon’s captive. But who exactly is this strange boy? And will she find a way to defeat him?..Blueberry Pancakes Forever will capture the hearts of everyone who is entranced by the power of story.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I am so depressed that the Tuesday McGillycuddy series is completed. This has been one of my “go-to” middle grade series that I love to recommend to kids at my work. It’s funny, it’s enchanting, the writing is stunning, the characters are delightful — it’s the complete package for any middle grade lover. I loved each installment of this series, but reading Blueberry Pancakes Forever was both wonderful and bittersweet all the same.

I can’t go into too much detail for this review because it is a series and there are events leading into this finale. There’s a lot of drama in this book, particularly involving Vivian Small, Tuesday’s mother’s leading character in her popular children’s series. Baxterr the dog also has some awesome moments in the story as well (although let’s be real here, Baxterr is always the best). I also love the incorporation of food in Blueberry Pancakes Forever, and we get to see more of Tuesday’s family dynamic as well.

There’s also some very heavy moments in this story. For all this series’ humour, there are some gut-punching moments that I know got me as I was reading along. Especially in the first few pages, even! But in all honesty, if you’ve never read the Tuesday McGillycuddy series and you love middle grade, this is A+, will read again material. If you have a young one who loves magic and fun characters, this series is equally for them. While I am sad that this is the last book in the series, I really cannot wait to see what Angelica Banks has in store next.

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.

ARC Review – A Week Without Tuesday (Tuesday McGillycuddy #2) by Angelica Banks

25332036Title: A Week Without Tuesday (Tuesday McGillycuddy #2)

Author: Angelica Banks

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Something is broken in the land of story. Real and imaginary worlds are colliding—putting everything and everyone in grave peril. Tuesday and Baxterr, at the request of the Librarian, and with the help of Vivienne Small, venture to find the Gardener—the one person who can stop this catastrophe. On their way, they’ll meet friends and foes, and discover strengths they didn’t know they had. Will they be able to save the land of story?

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

I adored Finding Serendipty. I realize books about girls and their dogs aren’t getting the greatest wrap right now, but I’m a complete and utter sucker for them. This is only the second instalment of the Tuesday McGillycuddy series, and I hope it’s not the last because I love these characters and this world so so much.

Tuesday is just such a delightful heroine, full of crazy and curiosities. This time around she is writing her novel, and all of a sudden the novel world and the real world begin to collide. With the help from Vivienne Small and the Librarian, they state that only the Gardener can fix this calamity from happening. Once again this book is full of charm and humour. I found myself laughing out loud quite a bit on the train ride home as I was reading this because Tuesday and Baxterr are just such a delight.

This series is just full of creativity and imagination. It’s one of those middle grade series that has the ability to hook itself to the reader and keep them guessing. This particular instalment is quite the adventure, and I was so excited to see more of Tuesday’s parents in this novel. In fact, I don’t think there is a character I didn’t like in this novel!

If you haven’t read Finding Serendipity, do yourself a favour and read that. Then go straight out afterwards and read this book too. This is such a gem of a series that has these magical powers to delight and entertain readers. If you love middle grade, or have a middle grader in your life who loves grand adventures with cheeky characters, then you need to get them hooked to this series.

Can I have book three yet? There has to be more! Please let there be more. ❤

 

ARC Review – Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

22294935Title:  Six of Crows

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Rating:  ★★★★★

Synopsis:  Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone…

A convict with a thirst for revenge. A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager. A runaway with a privileged past. A spy known as the Wraith. A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums. A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes. Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz’s crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.  

Huge thank you to Raincoast/Macmillan for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Those who know me, know I am a sucker for a good heist story. Needless to say when details started trickling out about Six of Crows, I knew I had to have it. I admit, I enjoyed the Grisha trilogy, even with all its flaws, but I feel like Six of Crows shows what a much stronger writer Leigh Bardugo has become over the years.

While this book has us following multiple perspectives, all of them are well intertwined. If you’ve read the Grisha Trilogy, than Six of Crows in terms of it’s world building will not feel foreign to you, including the series terminology. Even though there’s multiple perspective at play, each character in the story feels full developed and well realized, and each makes for an engaging point of view to read about. My favourite point of view to read, easily was Inej’s, if only because she’s a character who I easily gravitate towards when I read fantasy: mysterious, tough as nails, unafraid to be herself, but on the downside isn’t easy to warm up to others, and definitely has trust issues. She also easily gets some of the best lines in the story as well.

The additions to the Grisha world in this book is fantastic and so much more grittier than what the original series provided. I loved the grim, dark atmosphere, and I loved how Bardugo really plays with description in this novel. Everything about this novel is epic in scope, and you constantly feel like you’re being tossed around in a hectic storm. I admit, I was slow reading this at first, but once I hit parts four and five, I found I couldn’t put the novel down. I was invested in the heist, invested in the characters, and I needed to know that they were going to be okay.

I WAS NOT OKAY READING THIS BOOK. I was not, I admit it. I had moments where my heart was racing, I was panicking for the characters, and Bardugo is evil for that. She’s great at tugging on the reader’s heart strings and making her characters vulnerable. It makes for such a great reading experience. If you loved the Grisha trilogy, you’ll love how the world has been expanded with Six of Crows. However, if you want a starting point into Bardugo’s work, I strong recommend reading Shadow and Bone, if only to give yourself more familiarity to the world that’s crafted. Believe me, it’s one hell of a world, and one heck of an experience.

ARC Review – The Sign of the Cat by Lynne Jonell

22718670Title: The Sign of the Cat

Author: Lynne Jonell

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Talking cats, a missing princess, swordfights with villains, and secret identities combine in this epic tale of bravery and self-discovery on the high seas. Duncan is very smart. He also has a most unusual gift. So why does his mother encourage him to be perfectly average and insist he only get mediocre grades ? His special talent is the ability to talk to cats—but Duncan longs more than anything for academic success. When Duncan rebels and gets a perfect test score, people start taking notice of him. And it turns out that some of those people may not have the best intentions . . . not by a long shot.

Huge thank you to Raincoast Books/Henry Holt Books for Young Readers for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

What an imaginative book! I’ll admit, this is the first Lynne Jonell book I’ve read, though her name was not unfamiliar to me since she’s a household name in middle grade. The Sign of the Cat has the eader following a young boy named Duncan, who just happens to be able to communicate with cats.

I loved Duncan as a protagonist. He’s someone who has a lot of personal struggles, he’s not the most liked kid, isn’t the best at making friends, and his family tends to put him down because of how smart he is. To the point where they want him to get low grades so he won’t “cause a scene” (seriously, who says that to their kid?). A lot of the book is focused on both the grand journey that Duncan takes, but it’s also about his personal progress in becoming a person he can be satisfied with. He has a lot of personal growth, and becomes such a strong character by the end of the story, both in body and mind.

My actual favourite character was Fia. She was just so sassy and fun, and her stubbornness was somewhat entertaining as well. A lot of the characters in this story are highly entertaining and a lot of fun. They keep the story moving, and it’s fun to be whisked away into a world with talking cats. Seriously, TALKING CATS. How awesome is that? Let’s be honest, most of think our pets are talking to us as is.

The Sign of the Cat is such an engrossing adventure story, offering readers a little of romance, mystery, and thrills from start to finish. I can easily see this book being a hit with younger readers, especially those who dig a fun, epic journey, or to those who love the idea of talking kitty cats. I definitely can see this book being quite the hit with middle graders who want to read a grand adventure.

ARC Review – I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios

21469068Title: I’ll Meet You There

Author: Heather Demetrios

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: If seventeen-year-old Skylar Evans were a typical Creek View girl, her future would involve a double-wide trailer, a baby on her hip, and the graveyard shift at Taco Bell. But after graduation, the only thing standing between straightedge Skylar and art school are three minimum-wage months of summer. Skylar can taste the freedom—that is, until her mother loses her job and everything starts coming apart. Torn between her dreams and the people she loves, Skylar realizes everything she’s ever worked for is on the line.Nineteen-year-old Josh Mitchell had a different ticket out of Creek View: the Marines. But after his leg is blown off in Afghanistan, he returns home, a shell of the cocksure boy he used to be. What brings Skylar and Josh together is working at the Paradise—a quirky motel off California’s dusty Highway 99. Despite their differences, their shared isolation turns into an unexpected friendship and soon, something deeper.

Huge thank you to Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) and Netgalley for this ARC!

River’s Review: 

This book was difficult to read at times. I will not sugar coat that this book does not sugar coat anything. War, poverty, double standards, alcoholism. It’s all in there, it’s all real, and it’s sometimes difficult to read about.

I think something that I really love bout Demetrois’s writing is that she pushes the envelope, just enough. You feel uncomfortable and question things and just think ‘how can this be real life?’ but it IS. And that’s what this book was about. Her letter at the end almost made me cry because it was just so damn real.

This is the story of a girl who falls in love with a boy. And not his dreamy eyes or his rock hard abs. She falls in love with HIM and all of the pain that followed him home from the war.

Sam’s Review:

This book completely destroyed me.

Every page I turned, every word I read, this book just left me emotionally drained. Demetrios never shies away from tough topics, and this book has numerous issues, each handled in such a realistic way. This book deals with PTSD, poverty, family issues, double standards, alcoholism, war, and it wraps all these issues into one very compact story.

I was heartbroken reading this novel. Skylar is someone who knows exactly who she is but cannot seem to find her place in the world, while Josh, an ex-marine, comes home only to feel completely displaced by the very people he fought to protect. Josh also is missing a limb, suffers from PTSD, finds himself constantly reliving battles, and has lost emotional stability. Dammit, he tries SO HARD and yet he’s constantly pushed aside because people are afraid of him. All, except Skylar.

I’m not saying Skylar is the special snowflake who breaks through his walls, it’s more that Demetrois juxtaposes the two characters in such a way where they struggle to connect because they both have issues that feel beyond them. Yet, when they finally breakthrough to each other, it’s not fluffy or romantic, but almost cathartic in ways.

I’ll Meet You There is one of those rare, raw and emotional reads that leaves you thinking well after you’ve completed it. A lot of the subject matter is tough to read and hard to turn away from and yet you want to get to the end, you want to see how Skylar and Josh break free from their chains. They are also such fantastic leads, and they were supported by an even stronger secondary cast who were just as memorable. I may have felt emotionally destroyed at the end of this book, but it’s easily one of my new favourites that I hope you’ll consider checking out when it releases in February 2015.

 

River & Sam’s Fave Books of November

It’s time to pick our favourite book(s) of the month! November was a stressful month, and the only thing that keep us both de-stressed? Reading! Reading fixes everything. I know for me personal, November was test and assignment hell, to the point where life was library school and reading to keep myself sane. Social life? I miss you, we should hang out some time.

On to the favourites!

River’s PIck:

23350066

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

After she finished reading it, River gushed about this book to me, so much so that it is what I will be reading for this month’s SIT DOWN! SHUT UP! READ THIS! (and including it in my reading challenge somehow!). Check out River’s Full Review where she tells you why you need this book on your TBR, and check in with me at the end of the month for my review in SIT DOWN! SHUT UP! READ THIS!

Sam’s Pick:

21081693

Finding Serendipity by Angelica Banks

I am so glad River made me read this. SO SO SO GLAD! This book was just wonderful, magical and so damn poetic. River knows how much I adore thoughtful middle grade, and she also knew it had an awesome dog side kick, so no wonder this book stole my heart. This book definitely needs to be read, especially when it releases in North America in February.

What was your favourite book you read in November? Let us know in the comments.