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ARC Reviews – A Tragic Kind of Wonderful by Eric Lindstrom

28575699Title: A Tragic Kind of Wonderful

Author: Eric Lindstrom

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: For sixteen-year-old Mel Hannigan, bipolar disorder makes life unpredictable. Her latest struggle is balancing her growing feelings in a new relationship with her instinct to keep everyone at arm’s length. And when a former friend confronts Mel with the truth about the way their relationship ended, deeply buried secrets threaten to come out and upend her shaky equilibrium.

As the walls of Mel’s compartmentalized world crumble, she fears the worst–that her friends will abandon her if they learn the truth about what she’s been hiding. Can Mel bring herself to risk everything to find out?

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

Sam’s Review:

I had a weird relation with this book as I was reading it. In fact, for such a short book I had put it down for six days without reading it because something within its contents gave me a reason to. I won’t lie to readers, Mel is a challenging heroine — she’s very distant from the reader, sometimes to the point where you never feel like she’s going to be open enough either. I hit a point with her where I was frustrated and it caused me to put the book down.

After some internal monologue and a few days away from the book, I picked it up again, determined I needed to see it to the end given I have this habit that I don’t like to give up on people or ficitional characters apparently. I am happy I saw her story to the end.

Lindstrom’s writing has a very simplistic quality to it that makes it very engaging. Mel is so into her own mind, thoughts and feelings that she doesn’t see beyond the world. She’s so focused on the death of Nolan, the guilt and anxiety that is present within her and its to the point where everyone she’s ever loved has been pushed far, far away from her. I can relate to that. Sometimes it’s on purpose, other times its just done unconsciously. My frustrations with Mel came from seeing myself in her and I think it’s why a part of me avoided this book for the while that I did.

Mel’s illness is rough, but her reactions and responses are so realistic, right down to the friends she keeps. I really liked the way Lindstrom handled the teenage drama in this book because the responses didn’t feel melodramatic, but rather on point. People do blow situations out of proportion, some people do try to be an alpha in a friendship, some people will try to take all the attention for themselves — all these reactions felt right in place with the story. I felt so angry with a lot of the characters in this book because none of them every stopped to look at the bigger pictures, which again shows a lot of strength in the story being told here.

There are parts of this book that I think will make readers uneasy at times, but I do think A Tragic Kind of Wonderful offers some wonderfully realistic characters trying to seek light in dark places. It is for those who wish to understand those with mental illness, and what Mel feels throughout the story sheds a lot of light on the stigma of mental illness, even if she s a character can feel really infuriating at the same time. If you like deep contemporary YA, this is definitely worth checking out.

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ARC Review – The New Guy (and Other Senior Year Distractions) by Amy Spalding

23232950Title: The New Guy (and Other Senior Year Distractions)

Author: Amy Spalding

Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: Filled with tons of romance, rivalry, and passive-aggressive dog walking, Amy Spalding delivers a hilariously relatable high school story that’s sure to have you falling for The New Guy.

Huge thanks to The Novl for sending me an ARC for review!

River’s Review:

So last year I read and LOOOOOVED Kissing Ted Callahan and when I heard that Spalding had a new book coming out I was SO EXCITED!

Sadly this book didn’t quite live up to my love for KTC, but I did enjoy it!

The New Guy is a story about Jules and how she deals with her senior year of high school. She’s an overachiever and spends a lot of her time doing whatever she can to get herself into Brown. She’s the editor of her school paper, she walks dogs at the local shelter, and she’s a top student. She also volunteers to show new kids around on their first day of school. Enter Alex, the new guy, who was also an ex-viral boy band sensation. He’s not really famous anymore, and in LA your 15 minutes of fame is usually quickly forgotten. The students at their school spend a few minutes freaking out about Alex, but then he just becomes another student.

He does fall for Jules pretty quickly (too quickly…) and they start to date. Only for about a week though until he starts to work for their schools new broadcast news club… which Jules takes as a personal attack on her and the school newspaper.

Jules and her crew set out to destroy the broadcast news club and in doing so she ends up hurting a lot of people… Alex, her best friend and herself included.

Overall this is a good story about first love, friendship, and family. I enjoyed Jules’ relationships with her two moms, her best friend Sadie, and even Alex. Jules is a very honest, hardworking, but sometimes naive girl, and this gets her into trouble. But this book didn’t quite have the wit and quirk in it that I’d been hoping for after having loved KTC so much.

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 – Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between by Jennifer E. Smith

23369370Title: Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between

Author: Jennifer E. Smith

Rating: ★★ 1/2

Synopsis: On the night before they leave for college, Clare and Aidan only have one thing left to do: figure out whether they should stay together or break up. Over the course of twelve hours, they’ll retrace the steps of their relationship, trying to find something in their past that might help them decide what their future should be. The night will lead them to friends and family, familiar landmarks and unexpected places, hard truths and surprising revelations. But as the clock winds down and morning approaches, so does their inevitable goodbye. The question is, will it be goodbye for now or goodbye forever?

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

Sam’s Review:

I have mixed emotions when it comes to Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between. On one hand, I absolutely adored the overarching storyline for these teens regarding their relationship and the journey back through it, but on the other side of the coin, parts of this book felt like forced melodrama because of the trip back through time.

I think what I struggled with the most were the characters. I didn’t really care for Clare and Aiden and I found their relationship to feel a little hollow at times. Funny enough though, when it was more about the two of them as individuals, I found myself empathizing in a lot of ways, especially with Clare. There’s a scene where Clare takes about college and needing to be someone, and that bit alone was something I could relate to: the need to be perfect, the desire to know exactly what I want and how I want to get there. Jennifer E. Smith brings up a lot of great issues in terms of per-college jitters that I totally found myself nodding my head with.

Even though I didn’t care for Clare and Aiden’s relationship, I admit to enjoying the fluff when it was there. There is so cute moments in this story, but when it lead to the melodrama train it was kind fo disappointing. I feel like there were better ways to resolve a lot of the situations in this novel without the melodrama, and instead the story decided the melodrama would make for the more interesting route. I don’t necessarily agree with that sentiment, however.

I guess part of me especially felt like it was strange how these two characters were trying to figure out whether they should stay together or break up when we live in a world where technology really does allow us to stay together and connected. It was made even stranger when you get to the ending of the novel, which if I’m being frank, felt like quite the cop out. I don’t mind ambiguity, but you spend so much of the novel with one character being super set on breaking up and the other wanting to stay together, that it just fell very flat and it didn’t really go anywhere (and perhaps that’s the point).

Still, there were times where I was enjoying myself in this read, and I can’t deny that. While I was frustrated with the characters, the book is a quick read in every sense of the word. I really did love the representation of life after high school and pre-college jitters and I felt like when the novel was focused more on these issues, it was a lot stronger for it. Still, while I’m hesitant to recommend this book, I think there is definitely some value in the story that is worth checking out because I think how some of the issues are presented are really well done. I feel like if the melodrama had been more toned down, I would have enjoyed this book more. Although this was my first Jennifer E. Smith book, I still want to give her another try.

ARC Review – Those Girls by Lauren Saft

18249315Title: Those Girls

Author: Lauren Saft

Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: Junior year, the suburbs of Philadelphia. Alex, Mollie and Veronica are those girls: they’re the best of friends and the party girls of the school. But how well does everybody know them–and really, how well do they know one another? Alex is secretly in love with the boy next door and has joined a band–without telling anyone. Mollie suffers from a popular (and possibly sociopathic) boyfriend, as well as a serious mean streak. And Veronica just wants to be loved–literally, figuratively, physically….she’s not particular. Will this be the year that bonds them forever….or tears them apart for good? 

Huge thank you to the publisher for letting me read an advanced copy of this book!

River’s Review:

You’re either going to like this book or hate it. And I can see why a lot of people will hate it. There’s a sad rawness to this book that will hit a lot of people the wrong way. There’s slut shaming, horrible girls being horrible to girls, horrible boys treating girls like dirt, and oddly enough one voice of reason that pops in and out through this entire book shedding some light on how just wrong all of them are.

I love books about pretty people doing awful things. And this was one of them. Those Girls are the IT girls. They’re the hot girls, the fun girls, the party girls. Mollie is dating the hottest guy in school no matter how much of a asshole he is to her she clings to him because she wants to keep that image. Veronica just wants attention and takes it anyway she can get it. And Alex doesn’t have the guts to go for what she wants.

I felt so sad for these girls. I remember being in high school and calling my friends bitches and whores and “joking” when you really mean what you’re saying. I remember girls bragging about having sex so they’d seem experienced and otherworldy. I remember girls who just wanted attention and would do anything to get it. I see it on TV, I hear about it from friends who now have kids. And it’s fucking sad. And this book shines a lot of light on how sad it is that girls live in a society like this. And how they think it’s okay. How Mollie was starving herself and letting her dick of a boyfriend do whatever he wanted with her just to hope that he’d love her and desire her. That Veronica was throwing herself at everybody and letting everyone do whatever they wanted with her because she was so alone. And I’ve been in Alex’s shoes, too in love with someone that you’re scared to tell, too wrapped up in this but he’s my best friend we can’t ruin what we have BS to actually try to do what I wanted.

Oddly enough Alex’s younger brother, Josh, is the voice of reason in this book. He tells the girls on multiple occasions that they deserve better, that they are better, that they shouldn’t act the way they do. That they can be better because they’re good people. But they never listen. But I loved that he was cheering for them, that he believed in them. Because yeah it sucks that Veronica’s parents aren’t ever around, and that Mollie’s mother is an oppressive religious nut, and that Alex’s father walked out on them. But they could have done better for themselves.

This book is about friendship and how it’s so hard for girls to respect each other when all they see is women disrespecting each other in the world around them. I remember in high school and college I was always friend with guys because I didn’t want to deal with girls. Anytime I did make friends with girls they was cat fighting, boyfriend stealing, back stabbing, and even a case of being Single-white-femaled. I didn’t like being treated like crap because I was thin, being looked down upon because I wasn’t hooking up with anyone, being treated like a baby because I didn’t like to talk about sex or get super drunk. How I wish that girls could just be friends without all the competition.

I originally was going to give this book four stars but dropped it a little when things took a different turn than I had expected them to. Things were getting dark and dangerous and I thought that if the book was going to take it as far as it did that it was going to keep going and really rip things apart. But at the last minute it pulled back and everything was, well, not okay, but way more okay than I had expected.

ARC Review – Kissing Ted Callahan (and Other Guys) by Amy Spalding

18333999Title: Kissing Ted Callahan (and Other Guys)

Author: Amy Spalding

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: After catching their bandmates in a compromising position, sixteen-year-old Los Angelenos Riley and Reid become painfully aware of the romance missing from their own lives. And so a pact is formed: they’ll both try to make something happen with their respective crushes and document the experiences in a shared notebook.

While Reid struggles with the moral dilemma of adopting a dog to win over someone’s heart, Riley tries to make progress with Ted Callahan, who she’s been obsessed with forever-His floppy hair! His undeniable intelligence! But suddenly cute guys are popping up everywhere. How did she never notice them before?! With their love lives going from 0 to 60 in the blink of an eye, Riley and Reid realize the results of their pact may be more than they bargained for.

Huge thank you to Poppy and Netgalley for this ARC!

River’s Review:

Omfg I LOVED THIS BOOK SO MUCH!!!! Riley is basically the person I wish I could have been in high school and she totally had the life that I wish I could have had. I loved her, her friends, her craziness, her family, her amazing taste in music and just everything! I loved the writing in this, it was quirky and fun and really fast paced. I was never bored while reading this and when I wasn’t reading it I wished I was!

So basically Riley and her band mate/ male BFF witness the other two members of their band doing it and then things get super weird between Riley and her female BFF and then Riley and her male BFF (Reid) decide that they want to get some too and even though the book isn’t really like OMG SEX!!! There are sexy times (but they’re really well done and I liked how sex was handled in this book) so Riley and Reid start a notebook where they write about their goals and who they want to date and how to date. They write a lot of personal stuff about the people that they’re interested in and it all just felt so fresh and authentic. Sometimes in YA the teens don’t always seem like TEENS, but like teens acting like adults and because of that I can see how reviews are saying that this is juvenile and immature but I actually thought it was much more authentic.

I loved how this just threw me back to my days of being super into music and going to shows and having friends who were in a band. I think my THE CRUSH was very similar to Ted and I acted like Riley did when she was around Ted and it was just so nostalgic for me.

If you like music, funny books, quirky narrators and kissing cute boys check this out!!!

ARC Review – Wildlife by Fiona Wood

20380942Title:  Wildlife

Author: Fiona Wood

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: During a semester in the wilderness, sixteen-year-old Sib expects the tough outdoor education program and the horrors of dorm life, but friendship drama and an unexpected romance with popular Ben Capaldi? That will take some navigating.

New girl Lou has zero interest in fitting in, or joining in. Still reeling from a loss that occurred almost a year ago, she just wants to be left alone. But as she witnesses a betrayal unfolding around Sib and her best friend Holly, Lou can’t help but be drawn back into the land of the living.

Huge thank you to Poppy/Little, Brown Books for Young Readers and Netgalley for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I adored Fiona Wood’s Six Impossible Things, but I think I may love Wildlife even more. Fiona Wood continues her trend of writing some beautifully flawed individuals and she does it with such an ample amount of humour, that is so easy to fall in love with her characters and stories.

First off, I want to quickly mention that this book references two of my favourite things: Daria and Melina Marchetta. Daria is one of my all time favourite television shows (seriously, I cn watch it over and over) and Melina Marchetta has written a good chunk of my favourite books, so kudos to Finoa Wood for her awesome references!

But seriously, I loved Sibylle and Lou. I loved Lou before, but I think having her attempt to come to terms with Fred’s death in this story may have made her my favourite of Wood’s characters. Lou is someone easy to sympathize with, yet she doesn’t want people’s pity or even acknowledgement, so when she is forced to share a house with five other girls, it’s no wonder she has no desire to connect with them — she’s so cut off from the rest of the world so it’s great to watch her grow through the story and take the small steps to come back to the real world, no matter how difficult it is. I’ve been in her shoes before, and let me tell you — Wood captures Lou’s mental state perfectly, and her journal entries really solidify who she thinks she is and who she might want to become.

Then there is Sibylle, who was adorkable and also really flawed. In her case, Sib has the problem that she’s not ready to let go of certain things — in particular her friendship with Holly, who is in fact, a crappy, malicious, manipulative individual. She’s so focused on trying to grow into her own skin and because she’s such a passive person, she allows Holly to control her in a lot of ways. It’s definitely not a healthy relationship, but I think many of us can relate to having a friend who we know is toxic and we need to find a way to remove ourselves from them, and Holly is a tough nut to get rid of! Sib is just wonderfully realistic and her emotions and breakdowns are something I think many of us out there have dealt with.

Even though I loved all the characters in this book (seriously, all of them, even that jerk, Ben), no one comes as close to being as horrific as Holly. Holly is such a memorable character because she’s an awful, crappy, evil person, and yet she too has flaws because she’s so oblivious to others and their feelings. She can be down right evil, but I can say. I’ve known people like her, and that’s why she worked as an antagonist for Sib and Lou in this story. She is someone you want to scream at and tell her to get over herself, but you recognize it’s easier said than done.

The prose in this book is always engaging, and I loved that this story was very sex positive. We need MORE of this in YA! I loved that Sib’s mom had a speech about sex, in particularly the ins and outs, the dos and don’ts, but most of all “sex is an important, but be safe about it.” Seriously, that bit was awesome! In fact, how sex as a topic is approached in this book is wonderful, and I loved it.

Seriously, this book is fantastic. It’s amazingly thoughtful and it breaths such wonderful characters who are unforgettable. I was so heartbroken when the story was finally over, because it meant I didn’t get to spend anymore time with Sib and Lou (and that Michael kid, he’s a cutie.)