Tag Archives: sourcebooks fire

ARC Review – Busted by Gina Ciocca

Title: Busted

Author: Gina Ciocca

Rating: ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Marisa wasn’t planning to be a snoop for hire—until she accidentally caught her best friend’s boyfriend making out with another girl. Now her reputation for sniffing out cheaters has spread all over school, and Marisa finds herself the reluctant queen of busting two-timing boys.

But when ex-frenemy Kendall asks her to spy on her boyfriend, TJ, Marisa quickly discovers the girl TJ might be falling for is Marisa herself. And worse yet? The feelings are quickly becoming mutual. Now, she’s stuck spying on a “mystery girl” and the spoken-for guy who just might be the love of her life…

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Busted is in some ways, my kind of book. I am a sucker for teen private eye’s and stories about where cheaters never prosper. Our heroine in this book, Marisa, is a young investigator with a website that is out to help teens at her high school who are suspecting that their partner may be a cheater.

If I am being honest, this book was pure candy for me. It’s fun, cheeky, and when it goes to some darker places, it’s got all the melodrama. Like, all of it. Kendall is crazy and overeager, TJ is the ‘mysterious boy”, Jordan is a jerk, the list goes on. Each of the characters has a trope that they follow to some extent and if you are looking for deep characterization, Busted is not it. This is a very plot-driven story, but I wish the characters outside of Marisa had been fleshed out a bit better.

Still, this was a fun read that really is a love-letter to Veronica Mars in so many ways, and I appreciate that. There’s parts of this book that felt crazy, silly, even immature at times. Yet, I couldn’t stop reading this book because Bustedmade me trash for it. I am a sucker for ugly people doing ugly things, and perhaps that why this book hooked me the way it did. For all its imperfections, I still happy want to recommend this book because I feel like there is going to be readers out there who won’t mind teen meladrama or candy factor.

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ARC Review – Girl Out of Water by Laura Silverman

Title: Girl Out of Water

Author: Laura Silverman

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Anise Sawyer plans to spend every minute of summer with her friends: surfing, chowing down on fish tacos drizzled with wasabi balsamic vinegar, and throwing bonfires that blaze until dawn. But when a serious car wreck leaves her aunt, a single mother of three, with two broken legs, it forces Anise to say goodbye for the first time to Santa Cruz, the waves, her friends, and even a kindling romance, and fly with her dad to Nebraska for the entire summer. Living in Nebraska isn’t easy. Anise spends her days caring for her three younger cousins in the childhood home of her runaway mom, a wild figure who’s been flickering in and out of her life since birth, appearing for weeks at a time and then disappearing again for months, or even years, without a word.

Complicating matters is Lincoln, a one-armed, charismatic skater who pushes Anise to trade her surfboard for a skateboard. As Anise draws closer to Lincoln and takes on the full burden and joy of her cousins, she loses touch with her friends back home – leading her to one terrifying question: will she turn out just like her mom and spend her life leaving behind the ones she loves.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

This book unexpectedly resonated with me in more ways than one. It’s wonderful to think that a book about a girl being transplanted into different circumstances beyond her control would have such a profound effect on me, but here we are.

I found this book a bit difficult at first — something about the writing didn’t hook me right away, and yet I found this compulsion to keep going to see if it was me or the book. It was me. Once I got further into the book I found myself really gelling with the writing. Anise’s story is one of feeling like she has lost her place and needs to in some ways, rebuild again. It’s a feeling I found myself completely empathizing with her as someone in similar circumstances. Anise’s change throughout this summer is one that is both memorizing as it is engaging. She’s a very lovable character, wearing her flaws very much out in the open.

What I loved about the story on a whole is how funny and sincere it is. There is a genuineness to the characters that I found impeccable, and watching the characters grow and develop alongside Anise in the story was a delight. I loved Lincoln and I thought he was a wonderful partner to Anise. Silverman also does something I wish more YA books did: make the romance feel organic to the overall story. It’s not love at first sight, they are friends first! We need more of that! I also loved Anise’s relationship with Emery and her cousins. It was funny, charming, and so sad too.

I am so glad I stuck with Girl Out of Water, because it’s one of those books that I found so enchanting. It filled me with so many emotions as I was reading it, and it’s the kind of book that left me thinking about life and the way in which things can change and how we sometimes have to adapt, even though it’s frightening at times. If you love contemporary, this book needs to be on your radar.

ARC Review – Speed of Life, by Carol Weston

Title: Speed of Life

Author: Carol Weston

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Sofia wonders if 14 might be the worst possible age to lose your mom. Talking with her dad about puberty and s-e-x is super-awkward (even though he is a gynecologist). And when she wants to talk about her mom, her friends don’t know what to say and her dad gets sad.

When Sofia discovers Dear Kate, an advice columnist from Fifteen magazine, she’s grateful to have someone to confide in about everything from crushes to mourning—someone who is completely, wonderfully anonymous. It feels ideal—until Sofia’s dad introduces her to his new girlfriend, Katherine Baird, a.k.a., Dear Kate…

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

If I am being honest, I wasn’t prepared for Speed of Life. Having read and adored Carol Weston’s Ava and Pip series, Speed of Life feels vastly different in a lot of ways. I felt a lot for the heroine, Sofia, who spends a lot of this novel trying to cope with the loss of her mother and the fact that her father is dating someone new.

A lot of Sofia’s feelings regarding the loss of her mother really resonated with me. I lost my mother last April and I admit, I’m still feeling a lot of grief and sadness. When Sofia talks about her smell, her clothes, anything reminiscent of her, I admit, it left me feeling really emotional. A lot of her feelings, people telling her how to deal with her grief, she’s super justified in her feelings. While I wouldn’t be brave enough to confide in someone such as “Dear Kate,” I thought this was an interesting way to tell the first half of Sofia’s story, especially given that Kate becomes the love interest.

There’s good characters in this series, even if the writing has some awkward moments — preferably at the beginning when reader’s are introduced to Kiki, Sofia’s bestie and “Dear Kate.” The story does fall on the much younger spectrum of YA — it’s not a bad thing, but I admit given the amount of YA I read, this threw me off a bit at first (the beginning reads so much closer to a middle grade novel to me). However, I think Weston dos do a great job of showing the reader a story where transition during a period of grief is challenging, even terrifying at times.

I think the support characters in this story are really well done. Kiki kind of urked me at first, but as the story went on she started to really grow on me. Same with Alexa and Kate. Weston’s characters are flawed in a great way — they aren’t likable at first but they are constantly trying to redeem themselves. Even Sofia’s dad, who you can tell is constantly trying to stay strong for his daughter. There is so much character growth in this story, and I love the way the book tries to acknowledge to the reader that change isn’t always a bad thing. It can be scary, but you never know what may be in store for you.

Speed of Life is a great read and one that offers a lot of depth to its readers. There’s great characters with a lot of heart and humour. Sofia is someone who becomes so strong and thoughtful throughout the course of the story. I really enjoyed my time with this book, and definitely would recommend it to younger YA readers.

ARC Review – Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall

28101540Title: Under Rose-Tainted Skies

Author: Louise Gornall

Rating: ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Norah has agoraphobia and OCD. When groceries are left on the porch, she can’t step out to get them. Struggling to snag the bags with a stick, she meets Luke. He’s sweet and funny, and he just caught her fishing for groceries. Because of course he did.

Norah can’t leave the house, but can she let someone in? As their friendship grows deeper, Norah realizes Luke deserves a normal girl. One who can lie on the front lawn and look up at the stars. One who isn’t so screwed up.

Huge thank you to Raincoast and Netgalley for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Back at the Winter #TeensReadFeed event hosted by Raincoast, the first book we as a group were introduced to was Under Rose-Tainted Skies. The book focused on a topic that I admit I have never read anything about: agoraphobia. Our heroine Norah suffers from agoraphobia, OCD and is anxious as all hell, and while these are parts of her character, she works so hard throughout the story to not let these things define her.

I think what struck me about this novel was how well Norah’s anxiety was portrayed. I suffer from social anxiety, so seeing her anxious thoughts on the page had me constantly nodding along with her feelings. These were feelings I recognizing because they were things I were feeling on a constant basis. There was even one part where she discusses how being social drains her batteries to the point where it takes a long time to recharge, and part of me wanted to yell at the book, “Girl, I feel you.”A lot of how Gornall describes Norah and her illness are things I recognize in myself — things that are ugly, that I wish weren’t a part of me, but I accept that they are there and choose to fight against. Norah struggles with loving herself, and it makes it hard for her to love others because she has no concept of loving herself. I can understand that completely, and I personally still have those kind of days. I loved a lot of the descriptions in this book and I feel like Gornall hits this aspect of the story near perfectly.

However, I REALLY struggled with the romance in this book. I am not big on stories where boys can be a magic cure for illness. It didn’t work for me in Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon, and it definitely didn’t work here either for me. While Norah was so easy to connect with, Luke was the exact opposite. I found him to be a bit too robotic and awkward, but not in the teen boy way, more in that I don’t feel like his character is as well-developed. Frankly, Luke feels too much like a plot device as a opposed to a character and that was hard to stomach at times. I think there will be people who will gravitate to this kind of romance, but ultimately it just didn’t work for me.

I think Under Rose-Tainted Skies offers a wonderful perspective on mental illness that feels very authentic in ways that other YA novels have struggled with. Norah’s story is messy, its heartfelt, and Gornall’s message to her readers is so loud and clear. These are the reasons to read this book, pain and simple. I just wish I had a larger connection with the romance (or I wish it hadn’t been there at all) because this book then would have easily been a home run for me.

Blog Tour – Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova (Review and Q&A)

Labyrinth Lost is a book that wasn’t on my radar until I had gone to the #TeensReadFeed event hosted by Raincoast back in May. The book was in my goodie bag, and though it had been mentioned at previous events, the release date kept getting pushed back. I have friends who love Zoraida Cordova’s novels, but I admit I wasn’t too familiar with her work.

Labyrinth Lost is a joy. It’s sassy, it’s adventurous, and it gives you a sense of appreciation for otherly worlds and other people’s culture. Once again I am super grateful to Raincoast for inviting me on this blog tour, and a huge, huge thank you to Zoraida Cordova for taking time out of her busy schedule to do some Q&A.


27969081Title: Labyrinth Lost

Author: Zoraida Cordova

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives.

Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can’t trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange marks on his skin.

The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland…

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I generally am not big on paranormal YA, like, at all. I was hesitant then that I would enjoy Labyrinth Lost, and you know what? It was a pleasant surprise for all the right reasons. It didn’t have the usual trope-yness of YA paranormal, and I think because a lot of this novel is rooted in Latin culture, that was what gave it a lot of appeal that made me fall in love with it.

I have never read any paranormal that is rooted in Latin-American culture. I am Canadian so my knowledge of Latin-American culture is fairly flimsy at best. However, I LOVE to read about other cultures and learn new things I never knew about. And this book is such a fun, fun read. The characters are very well developed, the story is fast-paced and quick witted, and I never felt bored reading Labyrinth Lost. There was always just so much happening, and my goodness when the action was on, it wad turned way up.

I think what I loved about this novel the most was how well developed the world of both Brooklyn and Los Lagos was. Cordova breaths so much life and makes both places so vivid, and watching Alex go between both places made the novel all that more interesting. She faces so many struggles because of powers she never wanted and is forced to embrace something she was fearful of. Forbidden power and family history play such a large, playful role in this story, and I found myself just turning the pages, needing to know what was going to happen next… and then the book ends on a cliffhanger — not cool Zoraida Cordova! (Except it is, because I adored this book).

But seriously, the cast of characters in this story is love: Alex is wonderful, she’s strong, and her head-space is just an interesting place to be in. I also loved Rishi and thought she was great as well. Nova took awhile to grow on me, and frankly it wasn’t until the end when I finally realized that he wasn’t too bad of a character.

I love books like Labyrinth Lost that drop you into a story and then offers so much more than meets the eye. This novel offers a fantastic adventure, with a fun cast of characters. I am very grateful that books like this exist where I can enjoy cultures that I am unfamiliar with and make them super accessible. I am excited and scared to read book two when it releases!


Q&A With Zoraida Cordova!

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Q: One of my favourite aspects of Labyrinth Lost was being allowed to learn more about
Latin culture and how you used it to create a paranormal experience for Alex. Are there
any Latin stories or myths that you love and would perhaps want to transform into a story?

ZC: There’s one story of La Llorona that used to scare me as a kid. It isn’t uniquely
Ecuadorian. There are lots of Latin American countries that have a similar story. It’s
about a weeping woman who steals children who are bad. I used to want to write a story
about her, but I don’t think I’d do it justice. There is a book called Summer of the Mariposas by Guadalupe McCall that does this wonderfully. Maybe one day!


Huge thank you to Raincoast for allowing me this chance to participate in the blog tour, and huge thank you to Zoraida for taking time out of her busy schedule to answer my question! Want to see where the blog tour is heading next? Check out all the tour stops and don’t forget to check out Labyrinth Lost, which released on September 6, 2016. 🙂

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Late to the Party ARC Review – You Were Here by Cori McCarthy

25679559Title: You Were Here

Author: Cori McCarthy

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: On the anniversary of her daredevil brother’s death, Jaycee attempts to break into Jake’s favorite hideout—the petrifying ruins of an insane asylum. Joined by four classmates, each with their own brand of dysfunction, Jaycee discovers a map detailing her brother’s exploration and the unfinished dares he left behind.

As a tribute to Jake, Jaycee vows to complete the dares, no matter how terrifying or dangerous. What she doesn’t bargain on is her eccentric band of friends who challenge her to do the unthinkable: reveal the parts of herself that she buried with her brother.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

THIS BOOK EMOTIONALLY MESSED ME UP.

Okay, that’s a bit of a stretch, but it did make me very emotional as I read it. This is a book about friendship, it’s about reconnecting with someone you’ve lost (in this case who has died). There is a huge mystery surrounding Jake’s death, and Jaycee wants to recreate his death-defying stunts so that she can connect to him in another way. She and her group of friends, who are all going through different problems, accompany her on this journey, sometimes trying to talk her out of things, other times to be supportive and it’s just, wow.

Grief makes you feel and do strange things. In Jaycee’s case, there’s this strong desire to find connection in her brother’s death. It’s heartbreaking, but totally something I could understand and sympathize with, having recently dealt with the death of my own mother. You miss someone to the point where you wish them back into existence — you want them to still be flesh and bone yet the world has taken them from you.

The friendship in this story is one of my favourite aspects, and I thought every character was strongly written. Natalie’s plotline was particularly engaging, and I actually loved how some of the prespective was told in different formats. There’s poetry, an ongoing comic, artwork, and it all fits into this story. It doesn’t feel out of place or strange, it’s just perfect actually. I loved these additions because it gave us so much insight into each character. Heck, I generally am not huge on the romance, but Mik and Jaycee’s romance was really well developed. I also liked Zach and Natalie as well, and my heart went out to Zach a lot throughout the novel.

This book is one that needs to be talked about more. It offers an insightful look to dealing with grief, while also weaving so many exceptional smaller stories along the way. Easily one of my favourite reads this year, and one that I hope others will try because there’s just so much going on in this novel, and it’so good at making the reader feel like they are a part of this story. The emotional investment I had felt so real, and I felt really connected to this story and its characters.

ARC Review – This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

24529123Title:  This Is Where It Ends

Author: Marieke Nijkamp

Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: 10:00 a.m.
The principal of Opportunity, Alabama’s high school finishes her speech, welcoming the entire student body to a new semester and encouraging them to excel and achieve.

10:02 a.m.
The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next class.

10:03
The auditorium doors won’t open.

10:05
Someone starts shooting.

Told over the span of 54 harrowing minutes from four different perspectives, terror reigns as one student’s calculated revenge turns into the ultimate game of survival.

Huge thank you to Raincoast Books/Sourcebooks Fire and Netgalley for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Ever read a book where you read the synopsis and it turns out to be exactly as the back says? To the letter, no less? That is what reading This Is Where It Ends was for me, and in a lot of ways I was surprised I didn’t enjoy this book as much as the synopsis would have led me to believe.

I love diverse YA, I equally love tough issue YA, and yet this book didn’t draw any emotion from me. That bothers me too given a lot of what the synopsis promised, but I found this book very hard to connect with. Part of it was that we have some many points of view, which is both a point in the books favour, but a point against it. I loved the multiple points of view and how it was used to layer the disturbance present in this novel, but I disliked that the characters didn’t have much personality or something to connect with. It made for both a great and frustrating experience, because while I loved seeing Tyler from each of their eyes, I still felt like I didn’t know these characters very well, even up until the end.

For a book about a school lockdown and shooting, there was a lot that felt very convenient in the story to move it along. Perhaps it’s me comparing it to school shootings that have occurred in the news in the past, but part of me expected a bit more of an onslaught from Tyler’s part, given the level of revenge he wanted to take on his classmates and the school. I wasn’t shocked or surprised by the outcome of this book, and I felt as if it was the only way the author could have ended the book… but I was mad that I didn’t show any emotion over the story or its characters. I should have given their horrific circumstances, but alas, it didn’t happen.

That’s not to say that this is a bad book! Far from it, the writing is quite good and engaging, and it’s a quick read too. I think I just would have connected to this book more had I found characters to latch onto, and you know, hadn’t readViolent Ends earlier in the year. This book is an interesting perspective of school shootings and how people crack under emotional pressure, and if you like that sort of thing, I’d recommend it. If you love a character driven novel, you won’t find that here, I’m afraid.