Tag Archives: simon teen

Late to the Party ARC Review – Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi

Title: Emergency Contact

Author: Mary H.K. Choi

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: For Penny Lee high school was a total nonevent. Her friends were okay, her grades were fine, and while she somehow managed to land a boyfriend, he doesn’t actually know anything about her. When Penny heads to college in Austin, Texas, to learn how to become a writer, it’s seventy-nine miles and a zillion light years away from everything she can’t wait to leave behind.

Sam’s stuck. Literally, figuratively, emotionally, financially. He works at a café and sleeps there too, on a mattress on the floor of an empty storage room upstairs. He knows that this is the god-awful chapter of his life that will serve as inspiration for when he’s a famous movie director but right this second the seventeen bucks in his checking account and his dying laptop are really testing him. 

When Sam and Penny cross paths it’s less meet-cute and more a collision of unbearable awkwardness. Still, they swap numbers and stay in touch—via text—and soon become digitally inseparable, sharing their deepest anxieties and secret dreams without the humiliating weirdness of having to see each other.

Huge thank you to Simon & Schuster Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I’ll be honest: I kind of ignored the hype surrounding this book. I felt like it was going to be a book that I thought would just be “okay” or “that was fine.” When I got it in my Simon and Schuster Canada goodies bag from the Ontario Library Association’s Super Conference, I was intrigued, but not in the best frame of mind to read this book.

I loved, and slowly devoured Emergency Contact. I picked it up on a whim during a crazy and difficult period in my life, and it’s a book I was constantly connecting with. I loved Penny and Sam, and I while they do frustrating and even unthinkable things, I cared about their every action, and I wanted them to be better off by the end. I love that this is first and foremost a friendship novel. Penny and Sam meet in such an awkward, uncomfortable way, and they become each other’s “emergency contact” — the person they connect with when life is beating them black and blue.

This book has a very slow build, but I found myself really loving and engaging with it. This isn’t a book I found myself reading quickly, but rather small bits at a time because I found the situations that the characters engaged in to be difficult to read about at times. Sam’s plot-line in particular had me yelling and flailing my arms in anger, while Penny I could easily relate to (despite being nothing like her) and seeing how she has to deal with changes beyond her control. The writing in this book is playful, lyrical and fun despite the darker tone in it, and I think Choi does a fantastic job of getting readers to care and emote while reading this novel.

I am definitely going to have to buy myself a copy of this book because I feel like it’s one I will get the itch to reread. While I feel like this book is pretty hyped, it’s also one I don’t think that had that intention in the first place. This is a very quiet book, and one that builds and builds until it crashes so hard that everything feels messy and raw. I love novels like that, and I think it’s why Emergency Contactresonated with me the way it did. It’s definitely not for every reader, but if you love quieter books that offer a detailed character study of two lost young adults, I think this book is highly worth the read.

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ARC Review – Violent Ends edited by Shaun David Hutchinson

24885763Title:  Violent Ends

Edited By: Shaun David Hutchinson

Rating:  ★★★★★

Synopsis: It took only twenty-two minutes for Kirby Matheson to exit his car, march onto school grounds, enter the gymnasium, and open fire, killing six and injuring five others. But this isn’t a story about the shooting itself. This isn’t about recounting that one unforgettable day. This is about Kirby and how one boy—who had friends, enjoyed reading, played saxophone in the band, and had never been in trouble before—became a monster capable of entering his school with a loaded gun and firing on his classmates.

Each chapter is told from a different victim’s viewpoint, giving insight into who Kirby was and who he’d become. Some are sweet, some are dark; some are seemingly unrelated, about fights or first kisses or late-night parties.

Huge thank you to Simon Teen Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Have you ever read a book that physically affected you? Reading Violent Ends did that to me. It left me shaken and exhausted to the core. What’s worse in the novel hit a little too close to home for me at times, when you’ve been directly or indirectly affected by violence, it’s not an easy feeling to simply wish away.

Violent Ends is a unique beast. Written with seventeen different perspectives, it’s a book that revolves around one teen, and a horrific event that changes his community. What affected me in regards to this story was that I grew up with someone who later in life became a killer.

When I was reading the perspectives of the different characters in the novel, they all provided different versions of Kirby Matheson’s character: someone saw him as a loner, a loser, a great guy, an odd guy — you never feel like you truly know who he is, which I think is part of why this novel works and is so powerful. When we think of killers, we don’t always know the details as to why a crime is committed or how they eventually turned to commit an act. If you’re close to killer or knew them at some point, you can only envision what you know about them from past experiences, and sometimes the person you knew in the past is nowhere near the person they become later on in life. It makes the novel feel very mysterious in a lot of ways based on how each character perceives Kirby’s character, he comes across almost as though he is a chameleon.

Moreover, I loved how each story also manages to stand on its own two feet. Again, you have varying perspectives as some take place before the shooting, some weeks after, and sometimes you are getting the before, in the moment and after all at once. Each story has a boiling point, and it’s one that you know if going to happen, it’s just a simple question of when. I did enjoy that the book doesn’t label which author wrote which story. While some of the writers have a more distinctive style than others, the flow from story to story is well done, and sometimes I’d forget that I was reading a different author’s story because everything feels so inter-connected. If I had to pick favourites, I’d said they were “Miss Susie,” “The Perfect Shot,” “History Lessons,” and “Hypothetical Time Travel.” These four stories in particular stirred a lot of emotion in me, but I think all the stories as a collective are powerful.

Violent Ends will leave you breathless, as it will cause you to ponder the past. It’s terrifying, but thought-provoking. Getting the feelings of seventeen different characters and their perspectives on one event makes for an interesting writing experience, and I feel like this book does so much right in terms of the subject matter is shares. Violent Ends left me haunted, and pondering my past, and it certainly rocked me to my core.

 

Summer Contemporary Fling – The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler

Title: The Summer of Chasing Mermaids22840182

Author:  Sarah Ockler

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: The youngest of six talented sisters, Elyse d’Abreau was destined for stardom—until a boating accident took everything from her. Now, the most beautiful singer in Tobago can’t sing. She can’t even speak.

Seeking quiet solitude, Elyse accepts a friend’s invitation to Atargatis Cove. Named for the mythical first mermaid, the Oregon seaside town is everything Elyse’s home in the Caribbean isn’t: An ocean too cold for swimming, parties too tame for singing, and people too polite to pry—except for one.

Christian Kane is a notorious playboy—insolent, arrogant, and completely charming. He’s also the only person in Atargatis Cove who doesn’t treat Elyse like a glass statue. He challenges her to express herself, and he admires the way she treats his younger brother Sebastian, who believes Elyse is the legendary mermaid come to life.

Huge thank you to Simon Pulse and Edelweiss for this ARC!

River’s Review:

I fell in love with Sarah Ockler’s writing when I blew through #Scandal last year, and was SO excited when I got approved for this! I was a little worried that #Scandal might have been a one-hit-wonder for me (I wasn’t the biggest fan of Twenty Boy Summer, another one of Ockler’s books) but nope! This book was so good and I flew through it in less than two days.

The little mermaid retelling aside (but let me just say that I loved all of TLM references!) this was a solid book about finding you voice. Almost everyone in this book is oppressed somehow. Elyse literally cannot speak because of an accident that damaged her vocal chords. Christian is oppressed by his father. Sebastian is shoved into a box and nobody will listen to him. Lemon is outside of the norm. Even the fathers can’t speak due to their pride. I loved that there WERE characters that could speak though. Vanessa was loud and outspoken, her mother killed me when she took a stand for Sebastian, and Kirby is always talking, about everything and everyone. In one sense Kirby is everyone’s voice.

Elyse is from the twin islands of Trinidad and Tobago. I know very little about these Caribbean islands and their culture, but I never once felt that Ockler was making things up. And she’s an author I trust to do her research. I enjoyed how Elyse was familiar with the USA, but at the same time had her difficulties with the culture and customs. Since I don’t know how different her homeland is, it’s hard for me to judge, but I felt that her situation was very realistic. People often commented about how she was so withdrawn from everyone and not only was she dealing with the loss of her voice, the trouble with her sister, but she was also living in a new country. Her behavior seemed legit.

I loved all of the characters in this. Kirby and Vanessa were perfect friends. Christian was swoony and sweet and sexy. Sebastian stole my heart. Lemon was so unique and quirky. And Elyse was so smart and insightful. I’ve never read a book where the MC literally cannot speak, and it was very interesting to see the ways she communicated. Sure we were in her head, but dialogue is huge for me!

There were so many times this book made me smile too. I was just reading along, smiling and it hit me that there aren’t THAT many books that make me ACTUALLY PHYSICALLY SMILE. And I loved it.

This book is just… perfect. It hits all the right notes and addresses a lot of issues in the current world and in current YA. It’s the perfect blend of diverse and swoony and touches on a lot of subjects that I really feel are important to open up dialogues about. And I hope that this book will get people talking.

Sam’s Review:

Oh my goodness, if this is what reading a Sarah Ockler book is like, sign me up for more. Yes, this is my first Sarah Ockler book, and I can honestly say without a doubt that I am going to be diving into her back cataloguing this summer. The Summer of Chasing Mermaids is the perfect beach read. I realize it’s silly to say that since this is a book about mermaids, beaches and summer, but honestly, there was something so relaxing about this novel. It might also be because it’s based off of The Little Mermaid, a tale near and dear to my heart, that I gravitated to this book with such ease.

Elyse is a brilliant heroine, and I absolutely adored her character. She’s clever, curious, and a lot smarter than she initially lets on. This book focuses on the theme of finding your inner voice and having the courage to speak up. Elyse spends a lot of the novel trying to find herself and her strength, though she’s quite unsure of herself throughout the story. This overlaying message that Ockler puts in the novel is very thought provoking throughout. Heck, I generally don’t like playboy characters, but I admittedly adored Christian, if only because his curiosity sometimes borderlined on nosey, and yet there are so many parts of the story where he means so well.

My favourite character, interestingly enough was Kirby. She’s one of those overprotective friends who wants what’s best for everyone yet doesn’t realize that it’s not always the best approach to have when dealing with people. The more I read the book, the more I loved a lot of the secondary characters, which doesn’t always happen with me, but everyone in the story is quite lovable or interesting. It made for a real page turner.

Plus, I want to share the fact that I loved Ockler’s Acknowledgements that were at the back of the book. I loved who this story was for, why she wrote it, and who she in way wanted to represent. Furthermore, I loved her depictions of Trinidad and Tobago, and I felt like when she was description the islands that I felt like I was truly there. Also, can I also just say how much I loved Elyse and Christian’s romance? Because it was totally believable and adorable and I loved it so much.

Let’s be honest here, this book is very emotional to read and it’s the kind of emotions that are hard to hide in public (I was reading this book at a bus station, yeaaaah). Still, The Summer of Chasing Mermaids is just one of those stories that is not only emotionally gripping, but it keeps you guessing in unexpected ways. Plus the ending completely wrecked me, and I mean that. It just destroyed me emotionally. I highly recommend this book, not only as a fantastic summer read, but just one that will keep you thinking even after it’s over.