Tag Archives: little brown books for young readers

ARC Reviews – Love and First Sight by Josh Sundquist

24921988Title: Love and First Sight

Author: Josh Sundquist

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: On his first day at a new school, blind sixteen-year-old Will Porter accidentally groped a girl on the stairs, sat on another student in the cafeteria, and somehow drove a classmate to tears. High school can only go up from here, right?

As Will starts to find his footing, he develops a crush on a charming, quiet girl named Cecily. Then an unprecedented opportunity arises: an experimental surgery that could give Will eyesight for the first time in his life. But learning to see is more difficult than Will ever imagined, and he soon discovers that the sighted world has been keeping secrets. It turns out Cecily doesn’t meet traditional definitions of beauty–in fact, everything he’d heard about her appearance was a lie engineered by their so-called friends to get the two of them together. Does it matter what Cecily looks like? No, not really. But then why does Will feel so betrayed?

Huge thank you to Hachette Book Group Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I loved Josh Sundquist’s non-fiction novel We Should Hang Out Sometime. It made me laugh, it educated me about disability, and I loved how open the author was about his life. This is Josh Sundquist’s debut YA novel, which focuses on Will, a boy who is blind and is going to a public school for the first time in his life. His parents are afraid of him being a part of the public school system considering he was transferring from a special school for the blind. He then falls for a girl he cannot actually see and decides to undergo a radical surgery that could potentially give him back his eye sight.

This book is so wonderful, so funny, and so heart-warming. Josh Sundquist has this crazy ability to be so inviting when he shares a story, and Will is just such a sweet protagonist who has such amazing intentions. He cannot see, but it doesn’t mean he doesn’t have aspirations, as he wants to be a journalist, a job that really is focused on sight. I felt invested in his story, his friendships, his family, and that’s the markings of a great main character. You can also feel the amount of research that Sundquist did to bring such an authentic story. I also love love loved Cecily, who is the love interest, and I ADORED the way Will and Cecily’s relationship develops given her own personal problems. They are such a sweet couple, and I actually love how long it took to get to that in the novel.

This is a book that can easily be read in a day. It is a sweet contemporary novel that offers a really unique perspective written by someone who understands disability lit. This book isn’t mind-blowing, but it just so funny and genuine and sometimes those are the kinds of books you need to make you smile. Even the research in regards to Will’s surgery was so well implemented, and I wanted to know more about it. I think readers will completely fall in love with Will when this book releases in January. Then while you are at it, read the Author’s Note, because it is so fascinating.

ARC Review – And the Trees Crept In by Dawn Kurtagich

28449150Title: And the Trees Crept In

Author: Dawn Kurtagich

Rating: ★

Synopsis: When Silla and Nori arrive at their aunt’s home, it’s immediately clear that the manor is cursed. The endless creaking of the house at night and the eerie stillness of the woods surrounding them would be enough of a sign, but there are secrets too—questions that Silla can’t ignore: Why does it seem that, ever since they arrived, the trees have been creeping closer? Who is the beautiful boy who’s appeared from the woods? And who is the tall man with no eyes who Nori plays with in the basement at night… a man no one else can see?

Huge thank you to the publisher for providing me with an ARC! This does not influence my review of this book. Spoilers for the book have been shared and you have been warned.

Molly’s Review:

I picked this book up because I wanted a creepy, atmospheric Halloween read. I’d seen a lot of good things about this book, and I generally enjoyed the author’s previous novel, THE DEAD HOUSE. Turns out this book was basically the same premise as THE DEAD HOUSE. Two sisters, a haunted house, one of them thinking that they’re crazy.

AS THE TREES CREPT IN starts off with Silla and her little sister Nori showing up at their “crazy” Aunt Cath’s manor house in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the woods. This book is set in the UK, about four-some hours outside of London. Silla’s appearance is and isn’t shocking to Cath. We get the sense that Sill and Nori fled and abusive father. Nori is mute, she can’t make ANY sound, and she has a deformed arm.

At the beginning of Silla and Nori’s time with their Aunt things are good. They eat delicious food, tend the garden and play around. But Cath starts to slowly lose her mind, and when Nori almost goes into the surrounding woods, Cath snaps. Apparently Cath and her younger sisters know that something sinister is in the woods, waiting for them, watching them…

Sounds freaky right? Well… it wasn’t. There was NOTHING scary about this book. I did enjoy the creepiness: the house was rotting, sinking into the earth, the girls were growing mold on their bodies, the food was falling to pieces, the trees were DEF creeping in… but then the “villain” in the book was… get ready… named… The CREEPER MAN. What. The Fuck. That name is NOT scary at all. Like. Idk. Every time I would read that name I would just roll my eyes. I get it, the names of our terrors aren’t that frightening: Slender Man, The Boogey Man, etc. But for me, “creeper” isn’t really a scary thing, just a weird or kinda off thing. People that are described as creepers are usually gross or perverted, not really terrifying.

So Aunt Cath loses her mind after Nori almost goes into the woods and locks herself in the attick… FOR THREE YEARS. Like at this point of the book I was starting to really lose interest. It wasn’t scary, nothing was happening, the writing IS AWUFL, and then the Aunt leaves these two girls (ages 14 and 4) ALONE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE WOODS FOR THREE YEARS. Like how is that even POSSIBLE?! And she left them with a warning to NOT go into the woods because ~The Creeper Man~ will get them.

At this point Nori and Silla are starving and there’s only a little food left and the garden is dying and there’s no rain (despite it raining and storming almost EVERY OTHER PAGE) and the village across the way (through the woods) is abandoned (because apparently world war III is coming??? This was another super random thing that was tossed in here and there that had NOTHING to do with the story) and Silla went a few times (even though she was told not to go into the woods and later on REFUSES to leave because she can’t go into the woods… uh, okay…) and then this boy who used to live at the manor (when it was an orphanage) just shows up out of nowhere and Nori loves him and Silla hates him and then they have this brief love-hate relationship where Silla doesn’t want him around but does and then she FORCES him to leave and they run out of food and Silla’s teeth and hair start to fall out and then she GETS MAD at the boy (Gowan) for leaving. WHAT IS EVEN GOING ON AT THIS POINT.
Gowen FINALLY comes back and is so sorry that he left (even though Silla had forced him to) and Gowan declares his love for Silla even though they’ve never shared ANYTHING significant, and they spend a lot of time in the library while Nori is off playing games in the basement with The Creeper Man. When Silla finally realizes that Nori has been playing with the Creeper Man she freaks out and then Nori LEAVES with the Creeper man. At this point the trees have SUPER crept in and the house is not only surrounded but the trees are INSIDE the house. Crazy Cath is still in the attic and the trees basically eat her and then Silla and Gowen have to go find Nori, which means going into the woods which is THE WORST THING EVER (even though Silla has gone into them a few times and Gowen had to have come from somewhere). So Silla and Gowen are running around searching for Nori and in the middle of it all, in the middle of this haunted wood, THEY DECIDE TO HAVE SEX. I kid you not. They are so in love that they have to pause their hunt for Nori WHO COULD BE IN SUPER DANGER and have sex.

They finally find Nori and she’s dead and Silla loses her mind and then she FINALLY realizes that… THEY ARE ALL DEAD AND THE PAST 300 PAGES OF BOOK HAVE BEEN ABOUT SILLA BEING IN HER OWN PURGATORY. I was SO MAD when I got to that point. Apparently all of the suffering that they had been through had been “clues” that the book was throwing at me to lead me to knowing that they were all dead. Only nope, those clues only made sense if they were REVELED IN THAT CONTEXT. Other than that Silla being hungry all of the time (because she was starving to death next to her dead sister’s body) Cath’s creaking sounds in the attic (because she had hung herself, not because she was pacing), Gowan’s disappearance (because he went to find supplies for them before Silla died) and reappearance (because he had finally died as an old man and was able to find Silla again in ~the afterlife~) none of this was pointing to the fact that they were DEAD.

UGH.

Oh and this book is weirdly dated. It takes place in 2013 apparently and they live in the woods for three years without any TV or internet, and yet Silla is throwing around phrases like “first world problems” and apparently watched a lot of Japanese and Korean horror movies… when she was a kid? At age 14 and younger? While living in this horrific abusive household with a father that was super controlling and wouldn’t let them do anything? Just some of the very “current” things that Silla would say really hit me as weird because… where did she learn that?! HOW?!

And my BIGGEST MOST RAGE-IEST issue with this book was when Silla couldn’t eat (because she was malnourished, had no food, was trying to save food for her sister, was taking care of her sister, was only 17 and living in an abandoned haunted house, had none to care for her ect) at one point thought that the reason she wasn’t able to eat was because she “was anorexic or had a stomach bug”. At the end after she found out that the reason she was always starving in her purgatory was due to starving to death she even commented again that she “thought she was anorexic”.

PEOPLE. FUCKING HELL. WHAT EVEN IS THIS. Anorexia isn’t just “I can’t eat”. It is a fucking EATING DISORDER WHERE YOU DON’T EAT BECAUSE YOU HAVE A FEAR OF GAINING WEIGHT AND WANT TO BE THIN. IT IS AN ACTUAL DISEASE THAT IS SERIOUS AND NOT SOMETHING THAT YOU JUST “GET”. IT IS NOT JUST “I CAN’T EAT AND I DON’T KNOW WHY”. OH MY GOD. This part of the book made me RAGEFUL and at the point that I had read it I was thinking about DNFing but then I just kept on rage reading because I knew that I had to write this rage review.

DO NOT BOTHER WITH THIS BOOK. The characters are one dimensional, it’s not scary at all. Nothing makes sense until you get to the stupid ‘big reveal” and then you’ll just be angry because ~it was all a dream~. Just no with this book.

Book Chat – Books That Surprised Me

Sometimes when I read a book, I worry I won’t enjoy it. I look at it, read the synopsis, flip through the first few pages, and debate. Surprises can come in a variety of forms — enjoyment, disappointment, disgust, confusion, there’s a lot of emotions to describe when a book can surprise you. Sometimes it’s a plot element, maybe it’s overall enjoyment, it’s hard to gauge why something works or doesn’t work for you. I thought I’d share with you guys a few books that I’ve read that have surprised me in a variety of ways.

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The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
by Sherman Alexie (2007)

If I’m being honest, I had some reservations going into The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, if only because I am Canadian and I am a Canadian who loves Native American Fiction, but also is depressed by Canada’s past towards indiginious peoples. While this novel isn’t about Canada or written by a Canadian, it offers a very important prespective on “native culture” and what it means to be white-washed.

What surprised me about this novel wasn’t the topic, but it was in how I read it. I listened to this on audiobook with Sherman Alexie as the narrator, and at first I didn’t entirely dig his reading voice. In fact, it out right annoyed me at times… yet then as the story grew, his voice grew on me as well. There is an authenticness to the novel in having him read it, and I could feel Arnold’s emotions and struggles in Alexie’s voice and feel it in a way that felt very different then reading words off the page. This book is clever, it’s funny, and it’s downright sad at times. It took me on a surprising emotional journey, and it totally deserves all the awards that it has won.

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The Raven King (The Raven Cycle #4)
by Maggie Stiefvater (2016)

I am going to avoid spoilers for this book given how new it is, but this book was a ball of surprises from start to finish. It’s one of those books where from book one you KNEW WHAT WAS GOING TO HAPPEN, but you always kept hoping Maggie Stiefvater wouldn’t actually do it. If you’ve read the series, you know what I am talking about, and the way in which she did left me emotionally spent. However, there were other parts of this novel that just surprised me (Chapter 33 is perfect, you guys), and it made me love the novel, its characters and the series a million times more. Sometimes when you know something is supposed to be predictable, author’s will throw a wrench and still manage to surprise the crap out of it.

Maggie: I want my tears back, dammit.

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The Princess in Black series
by Shannon Hale & Dean Hale (2014-)

You should all not be surprised that a middle grade series is on this list, but let me tell you: The Princess in Black series continues to get better and better with each installment. What surprised me with this series was that I worried I would find it too juvinile at times to enjoy. The child in me loves this series and the adult in me in me keeps wanting to say I shouldn’t enjoy this series, but I do. This is a favourite of mine to recommend to reluctant readers at my the public library I work at, and it’s a fun one to talk up and explain to parents as well. Cheeky and fun, this series is for kids who love adventure, and adults who miss the feeling of being a child again.

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Mayumi and the Sea of Happiness
by Jennifer Tseng (2015)

Mayumi and the Sea of Happiness was such a mixed bag of a book for me. Meanwhile it focuses on a more taboo subject matter (an adult woman sleeping with a minor), that actually wasn’t the aspect of the book that surprised me, even when it started to get rather heavy. What surprised me was how beautiful the writing was in this book, but how unrealstic and frusrating the plot was for such a beautifully written book. I spent a lot of the novel wanting to scream at Mayumi, and I was certainly annoyed by how literary the boy began to sound despite his distaste for literature. There’s a lot in this book that feels hapharzardly put together and yet I COULDN’T STOP READING IT. This book was such a weird reading experience and it’s one I have a hard time forgetting because I felt so confused and yet so involved in the development of this story.

What are some novels that have surprised you, for better or worse? I’d love to know how others experience “surprising” aspects of a novel and how it affects your reading experience. Let me know in the comments below what your thoughts are on the subject!

ARC Review – Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse

26030682Title: Girl in the Blue Coat

Author:  Monica Hesse

Rating:  ★★★★★

Synopsis: Amsterdam, 1943. Hanneke spends her days procuring and delivering sought-after black market goods to paying customers, her nights hiding the true nature of her work from her concerned parents, and every waking moment mourning her boyfriend, who was killed on the Dutch front lines when the Germans invaded. She likes to think of her illegal work as a small act of rebellion.

On a routine delivery, a client asks Hanneke for help. Expecting to hear that Mrs. Janssen wants meat or kerosene, Hanneke is shocked by the older woman’s frantic plea to find a person–a Jewish teenager Mrs. Janssen had been hiding, who has vanished without a trace from a secret room. Hanneke initially wants nothing to do with such dangerous work, but is ultimately drawn into a web of mysteries and stunning revelations that lead her into the heart of the resistance, open her eyes to the horrors of the Nazi war machine, and compel her to take desperate action.

HUGE thank you to The Novl for sending me an ARC for review!

River’s Review:

Omg I LOVED THIS BOOK! This year I’ve been trying to mix up my genre’s and I’ve been reading a lot more WWII fiction. As I’ve said in a previous review, I generally don’t read WWII stuff because it’s usually about someone in a camp. Not that those stories aren’t important and powerful in their own, they are just WAY. TOO. SAD. for me to read that often. So I like that I’m seeing books that have different angles on the war and what it was like to live in Nazi occupied Europe.

This book takes place in The Netherlands and it’s about a non-Jewish girl who works for the black market. She finds things and sells them, but she’s not a formal member of the resistance. Hanneke, our MC, takes care of her family and keeps her head down. But when one of her customer’s asks her to help find a missing Jewish girl Hanneke can’t help getting involved and one thing leads to another and before she knows it she’s entrenched in the resistance and risking her life for a girl she’s never met.

I loved the history of this, but I also loved the accessibility. There were times that the writing felt rather modern, but by the end I actually liked that. It’s easy to read and doesn’t feel too dense, which is another reasons I generally steer clear of historical fiction. I also loved that I learned so much! So often the focus of WWII stories is on Germany. The setting in this was refreshing and I loved the author’s note!

The end of this book really got me and I was in tears by the end of it. SEE SAD. But also hopeful. The twists and turns at the end I did NOT see coming and I was breathless with them.

Make sure to pick this book up even if you aren’t a huge fan of historical or WWII stories! You wont regret it!

ARC Review – Manners & Mutiny (Finishing School #4) by Gail Carriger

24539011Title: Manners & Mutiny (Finishing School #4)

Author: Gail Carriger

Rating:  ★★★★

Synopsis: When a dastardly Pickleman plot comes to fruition, only Sophronia can save her friends, her school, and all of London…but at what cost? Our proper young heroine puts her training and skills to the test in this highly anticipated conclusion of the rousing, intriguing, and always polished New York Times bestselling Finishing School series!

 

Huge thank you to Hachette Book Group Canada and Netgalley for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

It pains me to see that this series is over. Gail Carriger is one of my favourite authors and she always writes these unforgettable, crazy bunch of characters who get under your skin and stay a part of you. That’s how I felt about Sophronia and her friends.

Once more, I think of all four books and this one made me laugh the hardest at times. While it didn’t feature much of my favourite character (Sidheag), the focus on Agatha, who has been quite the allure this whole series, was fantastic. I loved how Carriger wrapped up the mystery of her character in particular, and I’m always happy to see when there’s more to a grumpy character.

This was also probably the most intense and action oriented of the four novels, and with good reason when you hit the ending. Unlike the other three books, the majority of the action in this book is far more serious than comedic (though that isn’t entirely true). There’s so much humour in these characters, and I love the wit and cheekiness of them. It’s hard to let them go.

The action, the etiquette, the zaniness! There’s just so much this series embodies, and I thought that Carriger did a great job bringing this world to a close. While I’m sad it’s all over, I’m excited to see where things go with this universe now that Prudence is an adult. While I’m having a hard time letting these characters go, I won’t forget the mayhem they caused, and the joy they gave me as a reader.

ARC Review – Not If I See You First by Eric Lindstrom

22701879Title:  Not If I See You First

Author: Eric Lindstrom

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Parker Grant doesn’t need 20/20 vision to see right through you. That’s why she created the Rules: Don’t treat her any differently just because she’s blind, and never take advantage. There will be no second chances. Just ask Scott Kilpatrick, the boy who broke her heart.

When Scott suddenly reappears in her life after being gone for years, Parker knows there’s only one way to react-shun him so hard it hurts. She has enough on her mind already, like trying out for the track team (that’s right, her eyes don’t work but her legs still do), doling out tough-love advice to her painfully naive classmates, and giving herself gold stars for every day she hasn’t cried since her dad’s death three months ago. But avoiding her past quickly proves impossible, and the more Parker learns about what really happened–both with Scott, and her dad–the more she starts to question if things are always as they seem. Maybe, just maybe, some Rules are meant to be broken.

Huge thank you to The Novl for sending me a finished copy of this book!

River’s Review:

Guys, let’s be honest. I had an eARC of this and probably wouldn’t have read it but then I got a copy from The Novl and decided that I should give it a shot. I know, I know, the cover isn’t anything special… unless you have a finished copy! IT HAS BRAILLE ON IT! And if you can find a pair of those red and blue 3-D glasses (yes I had a pair laying around, my husband is taking a computer vision class and he got them idek) THE COVER IS IN 3-D AND LOOKS SO COOL! So please don’t judge this cover too harshly (I know it’s very different from the norm in YA covers).

Originally I was drawn to this book (and going to read it at some point) because the MC is blind. If you know me, you know that I have struggled with an eye disease since 2004 and there were times I thought I was going to go blind (and could still possibly go blind in the future if things ever get really bad real fast and take a turn for the worse). I spent the first few years after my diagnosis dealing with treatments and the fear that they weren’t going to work. THANKFULLY at my last eye doctor appointment I was deemed the healthiest I’ve been since 2002 and that things will probably remain steady. SO YEAH. But eye issues and blindness are close to my heart.

Parker, our MC, has been blind since she was seven years old. Her mother crashed the car she was driving and Parker was injured and lost her sight. She grows up with her father, who suddenly dies the June before Parker’s junior year of high school. Parker’s Aunt, Uncle and two cousins move across the country to live with her and take care of her so she doesn’t have to move and re-learn a school/home/city.

Parker is one tough cookie. She’s sassy and honest and a bit brutal at times. She doesn’t let people treat her special or delicate and I loved that. I’ve read a lot about blindness and how blind people usually HATE being restricted. Yes, they can’t see, but they’re still living people who can function! Sight isn’t always what we need to live our lives the best we can… so Parker makes up The Rules; a set of rules that she lives by and makes others respect if they’re going to be around her. Sadly her best friend turned boyfriend breaks one of the rules (one of the MOST IMPORTANT rules) and she freezes him out of her life.

I was able to relate with Parker on so many levels. I’ve always been small and sickly and I’ve always hated it when people would treat me like a delicate flower that’s going to break. I’ve overcome a lot of that and I always feared that if I DID go blind how I’d lose a lot of what I have now. I also understood Parker’s take on relationships and how if you burned her once then you were done. I’m sadly very much like that and have trouble forgiving people and moving on and making amends.

The friendship’s in this book were really well done. I felt like they were very real. Parker has a best friend and then a few other close friends who orbit high school in different cliques. She makes new friends and even goes on a date with a new boy and she learns a lot about herself when she has some problems and comes to realize that she doesn’t always listen to people like she should.

I liked how messy and complicated the relationships in this book were. I really liked the themes of sight and seeing things and hearing and listening. And I loved how not only Parker grew, but her friends did too. And sometimes you don’t really see a lot of character growth in secondary characters.

Overall I am SO glad that I read this book and I REALLY hope others will give it a try. I feel like it’s realistic and well written and respectful towards blind people and the struggles they face.

ARC Review – Wolf By Wolf (Wolf By Wolf #1) by Ryan Graudin

24807186Title: Wolf By Wolf (Wolf By Wolf #1)

Author: Ryan Graudin

Rating:  ★★★★★

Synopsis: The year is 1956, and the Axis powers of the Third Reich and Imperial Japan rule the world. To commemorate their Great Victory over Britain and Russia, Hitler and Emperor Hirohito host the Axis Tour: an annual motorcycle race across their conjoined continents. The victor is awarded an audience with the highly reclusive Adolf Hitler at the Victor’s ball.

Yael, who escaped from a death camp, has one goal: Win the race and kill Hitler. A survivor of painful human experimentation, Yael has the power to skinshift and must complete her mission by impersonating last year’s only female victor, Adele Wolfe. This deception becomes more difficult when Felix, Adele twin’s brother, and Luka, her former love interest, enter the race and watch Yael’s every move. But as Yael begins to get closer to the other competitors, can she bring herself to be as ruthless as she needs to be to avoid discovery and complete her mission?

Huge thank you to The Novl for sending me an ARC of this book!

River’s Review:

OMG THIS WAS SO GOOD ALL THE STARS!!!!

This had everything I love! Racing, kick-ass girls, sibling relationships, a not horrible not IN YOUR FACE romance! Alternate history! IT WAS SO FREAKING COOL. I don’t remember the last time I was so INVESTED in a book like this. I was literally shaking with adrenaline during the racing parts and crying at the end, and smiling at Lowe and SCREAMING at the betrayals and filled with SO MUCH HATE over the horrors of the Third Reich.

I’m not usually that into historical fiction, or even alternate history historical fiction. Lately I’ve been REALLY into dark contemporary, but sometimes I need a break. And in between I like to throw in some fantasy, historical, sci-fi… so when I got a copy of this book I was THRILLED! I really enjoyed Graudin’s earlier book, The Walled City and while I enjoyed it, I didn’t LOVE IT WITH ALL MY BEING. So I went into this book expecting it to be awesome, but not AWESOME, but… it was AWESOME TIMES A MILLION.

I feel like the two things that really struck me were the stories behind her wolves and the story behind who Yael herself was. I loved how she struggled with who she was because she couldn’t even remember her own face. I loved how she clung to her wolves and how they formed her current identity. I really loved her relationships with both Felix and Lowe. I liked how there was depth to many of the racers and that a lot of them weren’t just faceless contenders. I love that even though this is a book about a life or death race it didn’t feel like any of the other books out there that are about life or death races. And I really loved the revelations at the end. And I am damn curious to see how a sequel will spin out.

Writing reviews for books that I LOVELOVELOVED are always the hardest. And I basically just want to say: I LOVE THIS BOOK AND YOU MUST READ IT THIS OCTOBER OKAY?!