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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.

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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:

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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:

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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.

SIT DOWN! SHUT UP! READ THIS! – November Edition Reviewed

November is over, December begins, which means it’s time for the latest instalment of SIT DOWN! SHUT UP! READ THIS! Reviewed Edition. River and I read some pretty awesome books in November, and the two we selected for each other? Let’s just say we REALLY enjoyed them.

Sam’s Pick for River:

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Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

River’s Thoughts: This book was so much different from what I expected. I mean, I knew it was going to be groundhogs-day-ish, but I guess beyond that I had no idea. I actually put this book off for a long time because I thought the whole re-living the same day thing sounded SUPER boring. And this book is on the long-ish side for a YA novel. I’m also not the biggest Lauren Oliver fan. I really didn’t like her dystopian books that much, but then I read PANIC and looooooved that so I guess I like her contemporary work? Like, a lot?

Now I can’t wait for Vanishing Girls and I NEED to pick up a copy of Rooms. But yeah this book was so good.

River’s Pick for Sam: 

21081693

Finding Serendipity by Angelica Banks

Sam’s Thoughts: What a magical story! I loved the adventure in this story, and I loved how it as much a mother-daughter bonding story as it was one of growing up. I think what the appeal is for Finding Serendipity is that it’s a book lover’s book, a book a writer would love to write. It made me smile from start to finish, I loved the characters, especially Baxterr (with his extra ‘r’!). The story is insanely cute and it’s accompanied by some beautiful illustrations.

Even though this is a middle grade novel, I feel like anyone can read this story and fall victim to its charms. It’s quirky, cute, and just plain fun. Sometimes you just want a story that’s fun and thoughtful in the simplest ways, and Finding Serendipity just excels at that. It’s seriously that magical and delightful of a book! Check it out!

Read any of our picks? Let us know what you think in the comments.

River’s Quickie Review #5

18805916Title: Sublime by Christina Lauren (October 14th 2014 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)

Synopsis: When Lucy walks out of a frozen forest, wearing only a silk dress and sandals, she isn’t sure how she got there. But when she sees Colin, she knows for sure that she’s here for him.

Colin has never been captivated by a girl the way he is by Lucy. With each passing day their lives intertwine, and even as Lucy begins to remember more of her life—and her death—neither of them is willing to give up what they have, no matter how impossible it is. And when Colin finds a way to physically be with Lucy, taking himself to the brink of death where his reality and Lucy’s overlap, the joy of being together for those brief stolen moments drowns out everything in the outside world. But some lines weren’t meant to be crossed…

River’s Review: Overall I enjoyed this, but I wasn’t sure about the ending. I loved the writing and the setting, but wasn’t really fond of the characters. There were some awkward moments between the two MCs and the whole ‘I’m going to almost kill myself so we can have sex’ part was a bit wtf for me. I understand that they were in love and wanted to be able to touch each other, but man… that was just a bit too much.

But I really am not sure what to make of the ending. 3.5/5 Stars.


21081693Title:  Finding Serendipity by Angelica Banks (February 3rd 2015 by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)

Synopsis: When Tuesday McGillycuddy and her beloved dog, Baxterr, discover that Tuesday’s mother—the famous author Serendipity Smith—has gone missing, they set out on a magical adventure. In their quest to find Serendipity, they discover the mysterious and unpredictable place that stories come from. Here, Tuesday befriends the fearless Vivienne Small, learns to sail an enchanted boat, tangles with an evil pirate, and discovers the truth about her remarkable dog. Along the way, she learns what it means to be a writer and how difficult it can sometimes be to get all the way to The End.

River’s Review: Ah, this book is SO CUTE! Basically anybody who loves reading or writing should read it. It’s a magical story about the magical land where stories are created. Tuesday gets sucked into it when she goes looking for her (world famous novelist) mother. And she takes here cute little dog (doggo!) Baxterr (double rr) with her.

The writing in this is divine. I actually just finished THE BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR and was finding it difficult to get into something but this was just what I needed.

Seriously, check this out. Even if you aren’t huge into middle grade (I’m not) you’ll love this! 5/5 Stars.


21469068 Title:  I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios(February 3rd 2015 by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)

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.

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. 5/5 Stars.


Huge thank you to Simon and Schuster BFYR, Henry Holt BFYR, Edelweiss and Netgalley for these books.

ARC Review – Firebug by Lish McBride

16117921Title: Firebug

Author: Lish McBride

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Ava is a firebug—she can start fires with her mind. Which would all be well and good if she weren’t caught in a deadly contract with the Coterie, a magical mafia. She’s one of their main hit men . . . and she doesn’t like it one bit. Not least because her mother’s death was ordered by Venus—who is now her boss.

When Venus asks Ava to kill a family friend, Ava rebels. She knows very well that you can’t say no to the Coterie and expect to get away with it, though, so she and her friends hit the road, trying desperately to think of a way out of the mess they find themselves in. Preferably keeping the murder to a minimum.

Huge thank you to Henry Holt BFYR and Netgalley for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Two words: Magical Mafia. That is actually what sold me on requesting this book because there just isn’t enough Mafioso reads, let alone in the young adult world. That alone scored major points with me!

But seriously, Firebug is a fun read. Our heroine, Ava, is quirky, sassy, and quite the troll when she wants to be. She knows what she wants and what she expects of herself, but unfortunately she’s caught working for an organization that uses her as a magical tool. Ava is also supported by a great secondary cast, and the friendship between her, Lock and Ezra is especially well developed. Seriously, her friends behave like a band of merry men getting ready to tackle anyone and everyone out for their blood and you know what? They kick some serious ass.

This book does, admittedly suffer from some repetition and pacing problems. I admit there were points where Ava was doing a lot of detailed description and exposition that I wanted the story to get on with it. The pacing its varies throughout the whole text and it never entirely feels balanced at any given moment, which for me as a bit jarring. Still, what the book faltered in, it made up for in tons of crass and humour. McBride writes some fabulous characters and gives them great motives to become stronger, better, awesome(r) people. I can honestly say I liked every character in this book, which says a lot for how McBride develops her characters. I always felt like I had just enough information to know the characters, but never enough to feel like I was entirely prying into their lives.

More importantly this book is FUN. I felt such a range of emotions reading this book, but it always came back to humour. It wasn’t a perfect read, but I feel like McBride as a writer can win over even the prickest of reader with her snarky bunch of lonesome firebugs.

ARC Review – The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson

16429619Title:  The Kiss of Deception

Author: Mary E. Pearson

Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: In this timeless new trilogy about love and sacrifice, a princess must find her place in a reborn world.

In a society steeped in tradition, Princess Lia’s life follows a preordained course. As First Daughter, she is expected to have the revered gift of sight—but she doesn’t—and she knows her parents are perpetrating a sham when they arrange her marriage to secure an alliance with a neighboring kingdom—to a prince she has never met.

On the morning of her wedding, Lia flees to a distant village. She settles into a new life, hopeful when two mysterious and handsome strangers arrive—and unaware that one is the jilted prince and the other an assassin sent to kill her. Deception abounds, and Lia finds herself on the brink of unlocking perilous secrets—even as she finds herself falling in love.

Huge thank you to Henry Holt Books for Young Readers and Netgalley for this ARC!

River’s Review:

This book took me FOREVER to read. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it. Overall I think this was a case of ‘it’s not you, it’s me’. I don’t think I’m that big of a fantasy fan anymore (it’s all I used to read when I was younger), and I wasn’t really in the mood for fantasy when I picked this up. Between packing for my big move and watching How I Met Your Mother this just took me WAY too long to get into and get through.

Overall it was good. The writing is gorgeous, the characters are interesting, the world is vast. I did want A LOT more world building though. There’s A LOT going on, there are many regions, and a bajillion traditions. But I never really understood where it all came from. There’s hints here and there and I’m leaning towards this is a fantasy-dystopian world? There’s a lot of mention of ancient people, cities, and ‘relics’. I’m torn between these just being a part of the fantasy world or… are they remnants of NOW? I hope this is answered in the next book.

For all the crying over the “love triangle” it was pretty non-existent. I felt that it was more both guys were interested in Lia, but it was very clear which one she cared about the most.

And I was a bit disappointed over who was the prince and who was the assassin. I mean, I shouldn’t be because that means that the guy that I liked isn’t an assassin but… it would have been so much more interesting if he had been!

I don’t know guys, I just wasn’t in the mood for this. But if you love fantasy you’ll REALLY enjoy this one.

Sam’s Review:

This is going to be a shortish review, because a lot of what I’m thinking, my co-blogger, River said better than I could. Kiss of Deception has some of the dullest pacing I’ve read in a book in a long time. It takes its dear sweet time to get motivated in telling its story, there’s random amount of info-dumping, and it wasn’t always engaging. In fact, it was downright boring at times.

However, when the book hit its stride, it was interesting, though I didn’t understand all the smirking males or the point of the love triangle in this story. It was pointless, but inoffensive compared to others I’ve read about. Despite the story being dull at times, the prose was beautiful and eye-catching, There are passages where I just found myself rereading them because the writing was so pretty. The characters were a little hit-or-miss, but I think it’s because the book attempts to over-develop them as opposed to under.

Kiss of Deception is not a bad book at all, it just needs the right reader to sync with. I love fantasy and I did think the world Pearson presented was certainly an interesting one, but it needed more to keep my attention and capture my desire.