Tag Archives: raincoast books

ARC Review – Tru and Nelle by G. Neri

25897850Title: Tru & Nelle

Author:  G.Neri

Rating:  ★★★★

Synopsis: Long before they became famous writers, Truman Capote (In Cold Blood) and Harper Lee (To Kill a Mockingbird) were childhood friends in Monroeville, Alabama. This fictionalized account of their time together opens at the beginning of the Great Depression, when Tru is seven and Nelle is six. They love playing pirates, but they like playing Sherlock and Watson-style detectives even more. It’s their pursuit of a case of drugstore theft that lands the daring duo in real trouble. Humor and heartache intermingle in this lively look at two budding writers in the 1930s South.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I admit, my knowledge of both Harper Lee and Truman Capote is quite limited. I’ve read both their acclaimed works and enjoyed them, but I never knew the true extent of their friendship until I had read Tru & Nelle. I had not watched Capote (though I’m starting to think I should check it out), but taught me more about the pair then I knew prior.

This is a fictionalized book based on the friendship of Truman Capote and Harper Lee during their time in Monroeville, Alabama. This is a middle grade novel, though I question how many middle graders would know who either of these famous writer’s are. Still, it reads like what you would expect for a historical middle grade novel — it’s a tale of two best friends getting into a lot of mischief and mayhem, and having a glorious summer doing it. Both Tru and Nelle are delightful characters, and if I’m being honest, they made me laugh out loud quite a bit!

This book looks at issues of racism and does so thoughtfully. Especially in the ending section with Truman’s birthday where the KKK end up picking on a young boy. It reminded me of another book I had read in how it handled this issue, Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper. Issues of racism are shared in a thoughtful and intelligent way, without making younger reader feel as it’s not something they’d be able to understand. There’s a delightful simplicity in the storytelling in Tru & Nelle, and I really liked that about the story. It felt laid back and homey, and it made for a fun experience.

The novel itself is quite short with additional short stories tucked in at the end. I wasn’t as in love with the short stories at the end, but I did love the additional historical information that G.Neri included at the end of the text involving the depth of research, and the biographical information surrounding his protagonists. I found it to be very fascinating to read right after completing the novel.

Tru & Nelle is a delightful middle grade read with a lot of heart and soul. It’s fun, hysterical and thoughtful. I couldn’t put it down once I started reading it, and while I wasn’t huge on the short stories, the core novel shines from beginning to end. This novel is both great for middle grade lovers, as well as adults who are interested in the lives of Truman Capote and Harper Lee.

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ARC Review – These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker & Kelly Zekas

23688792Title: These Vicious Masks

Author:  Tarun Shanker & Kelly Zekas

Rating:  ★★★★

Synopsis: England, 1882. Evelyn is bored with society and its expectations. So when her beloved sister, Rose, mysteriously vanishes, she ignores her parents and travels to London to find her, accompanied by the dashing Mr. Kent. But they’re not the only ones looking for Rose. The reclusive, young gentleman Sebastian Braddock is also searching for her, claiming that both sisters have special healing powers. Evelyn is convinced that Sebastian must be mad, until she discovers that his strange tales of extraordinary people are true—and that her sister is in graver danger than she feared.

Huge thank you to Raincoast Books/Swoon Reads for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

When I heard the pitch for These Vicious Masks, it just sounded too ridiculous to be true. Jane Austen meets X-Men? What kind of crack is that? While I went into this with rather low expectations, I can’t get over how much fun this book was on a whole.

First off, let me talk to you about how awesome and badass the heroines, Evelyn and Rose. Despite all their hardships, these two women really know how to stand up for themselves and show how strong and capable they are. I also loved how they respond to their abilities, how they try to rationalize the good, the bad, and the ugly that comes with them. The writers did a fantastic job making them characters that you can not only root for, but who are actually fun and engaging to read about.

I admit, I’m not a big romance person, but I even found the romance in this novel pretty good. It didn’t over power the way I was worried it would, considering a lot of young adult romance novels are very cliché in its approach to romance. A lot of the time I generally don’t like the romance itself or the characters, but here I found it worked very well.

In a lot of ways the book does a great job of taking the reader by the hand and whisking them into this weird pseudo-Western, steampunkish novel. The world building is great, it’s vivid, and then there’s the ending. Lord, that ending is really good. If I have any complaints about this book, it’s that sometimes I found the writing hard to get into, so it felt like a rollercoaster for me writing wise, moving up and down in terms of my enjoyment. While I liked the characters, the story had its moments for me where it dragged in spots.

Overall, These Vicious Masks reads like delicious ridiculous candy. Sometimes you just want a book that grabs at your attention and does it in a way that is just plain fun. This book is definitely worth checking out if you enjoy supernatural abilities and kick ass heroines.

ARC Review – Truthwitch (The Witchlands #1) by Susan Dennard

21414439Title:  Truthwitch (The Witchlands #1)

Author: Susan Dennard

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: On a continent ruled by three empires, some are born with a “witchery”, a magical skill that sets them apart from others. In the Witchlands, there are almost as many types of magic as there are ways to get in trouble—as two desperate young women know all too well.
Safiya is a Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lie. It’s a powerful magic that many would kill to have on their side, especially amongst the nobility to which Safi was born. So Safi must keep her gift hidden, lest she be used as a pawn in the struggle between empires.

Iseult, a Threadwitch, can see the invisible ties that bind and entangle the lives around her—but she cannot see the bonds that touch her own heart. Her unlikely friendship with Safi has taken her from life as an outcast into one of reckless adventure, where she is a cool, wary balance to Safi’s hotheaded impulsiveness.

Safi and Iseult just want to be free to live their own lives, but war is coming to the Witchlands. With the help of the cunning Prince Merik (a Windwitch and ship’s captain) and the hindrance of a Bloodwitch bent on revenge, the friends must fight emperors, princes, and mercenaries alike, who will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.

Sam’s Review:

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Generally, I avoid hyped books. I avoid them like the plague because I’ve been burned so many times by fandoms and hype. Truthwitch has possibly one of the most insane book campaigns for a title I’ve seen in awhile, to the point where it’s a bit too crazy for my tastes. However, I get the appeal of this book — a lot.

This is a fantasy novel that is centered around a very dynamic and intense friendship between two woman with magical abilities. They are bonded together by their unique abilities in being able to read truths and see hidden threads, and it makes for a pretty damn exciting tale. There is tons of action in this novel, and it’s very gripping. Safi and Iseult are impeccably developed, delightfully opposite to each other, and yet their friendship was my favourite part of this novel. They have such a rich bond, the kind of best friends that will do anything and everything for each other. Can say anything knowing the other means well, even if they don’t like it. When I say their friendship is intense, I mean that 100%.

I love fantasy that is full of political intrigue as well. This book offers a lot of well developed political shenanigans with some horrific people wanting the power of truth. The stakes are always high, and it feels like Dennard is a huge fangirl, because that’s the sort of connection I made while reading the novel and looking at the stakes for both Iseult and Safi. The choices are so damned if you do and damned if ya don’t.

The romance was the on bit I had some trouble with. I appreciate levels of sexual tension, but this one didn’t really capture me. I was way more into shipping Safi and Iseult’s friendship that I just didn’t find myself caring as much for the romance elements. I wanted to care, but I just, didn’t. I was just way too team Safi and Iseult.

This is a delightful fantasy novel, and I am excited to see where Susan Dennard goes with it as sequels come out. She has a very rich fantasy world with this story, and I’m intrigued to see how things will fair for Safi and Iseult as more books come out. If you love an intensely awesome friendship, kick ass heroines, and some strong political intrigue, then you need to put Truthwitch on your TBR.

ARC Review – Paper Wishes by Lois Sepahban

25667444Title:  Paper Wishes

Author: Lois Sepahban

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: A moving debut novel about a girl whose family is relocated to a Japanese internment camp during World War II–and the dog she has to leave behind.

Ten-year-old Manami did not realize how peaceful her family’s life on Bainbridge Island was until the day it all changed. It’s 1942, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and Manami and her family are Japanese American, which means that the government says they must leave their home by the sea and join other Japanese Americans at a prison camp in the desert. Manami is sad to go, but even worse is that they are going to have to give her dog, Yujiin, to a neighbor to take care of. Manami decides to sneak Yujiin under her coat, but she is caught and forced to abandon him. She is devastated but clings to the hope that somehow Yujiin will find his way to the camp and make her family whole again. It isn’t until she finds a way to let go of her guilt that Manami can accept all that has happened to her family.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I seem to be a magnet for books about young girls and their dogs. Authors who write these kinds of books and I always seem to connect instantly, and Lois Sepahban’s book is not exception. Mind you, this book also focuses on the Japanese internment camps, something I admit, I knew about, but didn’t entirely understand the lengths of.

This book is simple, if beautiful written. It looks at the story of a girl who is whisked away from her normal life and thrown into an internment camp due to the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Many Japanese families are forced into these camps under levels of suspicion, but when our heroine Manami is torn away from Yujiin her dog, let’s just say I bawled.

Then when other dogs started to hang about the camp, yet Manami was still dreaming of Yujiin, I bawled again.

Manami’s simple narrative carries the reader through this rough historical period in a way that is very honest and quite blunt. You get a sense that her innocence has been completely lost, and all she has now to gain is experience. She’s so young to have her innocence taken from her due to the threats of war, but you understand (as she does) that there is more than meets the eye in her current situation.

This book beautifully illustrates family, companionship between a girl and her dog, friendship, and it does it all in a way that is both easy, yet powerful to read. This book is so short, yet it packs such a large, hard hitting punch. It makes you come to terms with how history has a way of displacing people and making them feel like even if they are innocent of a crime, the world doesn’t necessarily see it that way. I felt for Manami and her family, but mostly I spent a lot of the book just wishing and hoping that Manami and Yujiin would be reunited.

Paper Wishes is a beautiful and melancholy novel. It doesn’t ask a lot of the reader, but it wants to paint the picture of displacement in a way that many can understand. I highly recommend this book if you love learning about Japanese history or you want a touching middle grade tale.

ARC Review – Instructions for the End of the World by Jamie Kain

23848031Title:  Instructions for the End of the World

Author: Jamie Kain

Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: He prepared their family for every natural disaster known to man—except for the one that struck.  When Nicole Reed’s father forces her family to move to a remote area of the Sierra Foothills, one without any modern conveniences, it’s too much too handle for her mother, who abandons them in the middle of the night. Heading out to track her down, Nicole’s father leaves her in charge of taking care of the house and her younger sister, Izzy. For a while, Nicole is doing just fine running things on her own. But then the food begins to run out, the pipes crack, and forest fires start slowly inching their way closer every day. Wolf, a handsome boy from the neighboring community, offers to help her when she needs it most, but when she starts to develop feelings for him, feelings she knows she will never be allowed to act on once her father returns, she must make a decision. With her family falling apart, will she choose to continue preparing for tomorrow’s disasters, or will she take a chance and really start living for today?

Huge thank you to Raincoast/St. Martin’s Griffin for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Last year I read The Good Sister, a book I wasn’t expecting much from considering it was compared to The Lovely Bones, a book I quite disliked. I read it, and I LOVED it along with Jamie Kain’s writing style. I was so excited to hear she had a second YA novel coming in Instructions for the End of the World.

However, this book was lacking compared to her first. I had a hard time trying to connect with the characters at times. Part of it is the multiple perspectives, though by the end of it Nicole and Wolf begin to dominate it. It’s one of those books I kept wondering if I would have liked more written in one perspective or if it had been done in third would it have been more effective.

That being said, once again Kain writes a story about a troubled family coming together, in this case for the inevitable end of the world. She really has an amazing knack for writing family dynamics and making you care about the overall picture in terms of how the family will survive, how they will succeed, and where they have the potential to completely family. I loved reading about Nicole and Izzy’s family life, and I found those moments of the novel, especially when paired with the survivalist aspects to be quite gripping. Kain just really knows how to paint an engaging family portrait.

Despite having read this novel in a day, there’s a part of me that just felt it was lacking in terms of plot. It’s a case where the blurb doesn’t illustrate what the book is really about, and if you are expecting an apocalyptic novel, this probably is going to miss the mark. The ending alone complicates things in that it just ends and doesn’t provide a conclusion to anything really. I see why this was done, but as a reader I didn’t feel entirely satisfied when I finished the novel.

Even though I have some problems with this novel, I still think Jamie Kain is an amazing writer, and I love the experiences that she transplants me into when I start reading her novels. While this is no The Good Sister, I still found myself engaged byInstructions for the End of the World, and read the book in a day. There is a lot to like here, even if it isn’t the most satisfying read out there.

River’s Review:

After reading and LOVING The Good Sister I was very excited for this book. I grew up in a backwoods type country bumpkin town, my father made sure we knew how to hunt and take care of ourselves in the wild, and I went to outdoors camp when I was a kid. My family is NOT crazy “preppers” like the family in this book, but I was curious to see how well I could relate.

Sadly this book just didn’t cut it for me. The writing was still very good, but the payout at the end of this was not what I was hoping for. After the family drama in The Good Sister I was sad to see just a shadow of that in this book. The father clearly had some ISSUES (as did the mother) but it didn’t feel as natural in this book as it did The Good Sister.

This book starts off with Nicole and her family showing up at a dilapidated old house that apparently belonged to some great-great-great-great relative and hadn’t been lived in since that relative had been alive. Nicole’s father has moved them there so they can live off the gird in preparation for the ~end of the world~. Nicole has grown up buying into her father’s beliefs (btw father is some ex Military general who just randomly retired for no reason… until REASONS later on in the book). But somehow the mother and younger sister are NOT on the dad’s side of the fence and I just didn’t know HOW they’d made it this far with the two of them being so NOT a part of this.

And I guess that really bugged me through most of this book. How did the mother and the sister really get this far with the father acting the way he did? I could understand if like, the mother financially couldn’t leave or SOMETHING but again, there was never any explanation (and then the mother later enrolls in Grad school so I don’t think money was ever an issue). And how was the younger sister able to get away with as much as she did?

This was another multi-POV book and it did NOT work for me. There were WAY too many voices and I really didn’t see the need for Laurel’s AT ALL. She literally had NO effect on this book. Her chapters could have been edited out and we would have lost nothing. The younger sister’s were also pretty useless to the story. Sure they showed what she was struggling with, but she was a massive brat (and she did have right to be, but STILL) and I just didn’t feel like her voice really contributed to the plot or story. Wolf’s was okay, but I really would have been FINE if this would have been in first person from Nicole’s POV.

Also this is supposed to be a survival book. I was expecting tension and actual things that needed to be survived. Sure their water stopped working, but their lives weren’t really IN DANGER. And the part with the fires was like two pages and then it was done. I wanted some actual life-threatening survival! And I don’t know the gun/hunting laws in California, but I can they really, LEGALLY, be allowed to just go out hunting on their property any old time of year?! And Nicole, do you NOT know about wearing orange so that OTHER people don’t shoot at you? That part really bugged me.

Overall this wasn’t BAD, it just wasn’t… anything really. And that made me so sad after LOVING The Good Sister.

ARC Review – On the Run by Tristan Bancks

23310747Title:  On the Run

Author: Tristan Bancks

Rating:  ★ 1/2

Synopsis: When a twelve-year-old boy’s parents discover millions of dollars deposited into their bank account, they take him and his sister on the lam in this fast-paced middle-grade adventure.

Ben has always wanted to be a cop, so he’s intrigued when police officers show up at the door, asking for his parents. Then his parents arrive after the police leave and rush him and his sister into the car, insisting they are going on a vacation. Ben’s a little skeptical—his family doesn’t go on vacations. After they lose the police in a high-speed car chase and end up in a remote cabin deep in the woods, Ben discovers his parents’ secret: millions of dollars were deposited into their bank account by accident, and they took the money and ran off. Ben isn’t sure what to think. Are his parents criminals? And because he ran off with them, is he a criminal, too?

Huge thank you to Raincoast Books for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Considering I decided to read this during the month of October, I was hoping for a much more spooky middle grade experience. On the Run in a lot of ways was not what I was expecting, as no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t suspense my disbelief enough.

Or rather, at all.

Part of the issue for me is that Ben reads so much younger than he is, yet will do things that you question how old he really is. The writing fell super flat for me, so in suspenseful moments, I didn’t find myself having the kind of emotional connection I think the author wanted me to have. I didn’t like the characters, and the only character I did like (Olive) wasn’t always handled very well in my opinion. A lot of the mannerism and behaviors from the characters felt so all over the place and as it went on, I started to care less and less.

If I’m being honest, I’m weirdly impressed but confused at the idea of Ben and Olive running off with over a million dollars and being able to hide it safely. I say this considering they are on their own for parts of the novel and any time they met someone I kept wondering why no one was really questioning them ON being alone. I recognize this book is supposed to have survivalist elements, but I couldn’t suspend my disbelief to see how any of the situations Ben got himself into could really be plausible.

I adore middle grade, especially those with a tougher concept in mind, but this book didn’t work for me at all. I just found myself bored by the writing and confused as to how a lot of the plot really occurred. That being said, I will still likely recommend it to middle graders at the library I work at because I do think they would enjoy the adventure aspects present in this story. For me personally, however, it just didn’t work.

ARC Review – The Boy Who Knew Everything by Victoria Forester

23310670Title:  The Boy Who Knew Everything

Author: Victoria Forester

Rating:  ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: There is a prophecy. It speaks of a girl who can fly and a boy who knows everything. The prophecy says that they have the power to bring about great change…

The boy is Conrad Harrington III. The girl is Piper McCloud. They need their talents now, more than ever, if they are to save the world—and themselves.

Huge thank you to Raincoast/Macmillan for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I was pleasantly surprised by how sucked in I was while readingThe Boy Who Knew Everything. Forester writes such a gripping middle grade novel full of wonder, whimsy, and action. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting when I started this book, but I really had a hard time putting it down!

I didn’t realize this was a companion to The Girl Who Could Fly, a novel I admit I hadn’t read. Most of the time, I’m not fond of reading books that are companion pieces to something I haven’t read before, but this was a rare case for me, as the author does an amazing job of making you feel like you haven’t missed anything too huge. Were the descriptions lacking at times? A bit. But considering I didn’t have the first book to work with, it allowed me to perhaps imagine some aspects of the story a bit differently.

I loved how rich the world building was, even for a world that was likely well established in the first book. I loved these characters, especially Piper who easily won my heart throughout the novel. I loved watching Conrad grow in the novel, especially because he starts out just so cynical and egotistical because he’s a super genius. His growth is wonderfully developed, quite gradual, and I love the lessons that he learns from the other characters about sharing emotion, that logic can’t solve every problem. The book also has one twist that is done SO WELL that I admit, I didn’t see it coming! The ending was a bit of a non-ending, though for the most part I did like how Forester wrapped every up, especially for Conrad.

Reading The Boy Who Knew Everything makes me want to go back and find a copy of The Girl Who Could Fly, just so I can really truly understand this world and it’s characters more. While I didn’t feel lost per say, part of me just wants to see why that first book is such a cult favourite amongst adults and children. I’m eager to see what Victoria Forester will write next, and part of me is thrilled that I get to go back now and see where everythign began in the first place.