Showing posts with label Simon and Schuster. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Simon and Schuster. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Mini Reviews: Devils Unto Dust by Emma Berquist and American Panda by Gloria Chau

To those of you still following this blog, hello! I finally managed to post something after months of no activity! 
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From Goodreads: Ten years ago, a horrifying disease began spreading across the West Texas desert. Infected people - shakes - attacked the living and created havoc and destruction. No one has ever survived the infection. Daisy Wilcox, known as Willie, has been protecting her siblings within the relatively safe walls of Glory, Texas. When Willie’s good-for-nothing father steals a fortune from one of the most dangerous shake-hunters in town, she finds herself on the hook for his debt. With two hunters, including the gruff and handsome Ben, to accompany her, she sets out across the desert in search of her father. But the desert is not kind to travelers, and not everyone will pass through alive. 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: During a time when I’m struggling to find the motivation to read and blog, Emma Berquist’s standalone novel Devils Unto Dust managed to somehow hold my attention thanks to its short chapters. I also thought the harsh desert setting was great since it featured all kinds of perils (e.g. shakes, hunters, sandstorms, etc.), and liked the tough heroine of the book because she would do anything for her family and refused to be cowed by the hunters around her.

Devils Unto Dust was released on April 10, 2018 by Greenwillow Books. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (HarperCollins) for free via Edelweiss.

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From Back Cover: At seventeen, Mei should be in high school, but skipping fourth grade was part of her parents' master plan. Now a freshman at MIT, she is on track to fulfill the rest of this predetermined future: become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, produce a litter of babies. With everything her parents have sacrificed to make her cushy life a reality, Mei can't bring herself to tell them the truth - that she (1) hates germs, (2) falls asleep in biology lectures, and (3) has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is decidedly not Taiwanese. But when Mei reconnects with her brother, Xing, who is estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if all the secrets are truly worth it. Can she find a way to be herself, whoever that is, before her web of lies unravels? 

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: American Panda by Gloria Chau was a book that seemed to have a lot of hype as a diverse read. I, however, found that it featured quite a few stereotypes and wished that it was less predictable. For example, Mei’s parents are extremely overprotective and believe medicine to be the only acceptable profession for their children. While American Panda wasn’t a bad read per se, nothing about it really stood out for me and I’ve already forgotten large parts of it. I do remember not being a fan of the insta-love romance though. 

American Panda was released by Simon Pulse in February 2018.

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Simon and Schuster Canada) for free. 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Mini Reviews: Protected by Claire Zorn and Karma Khullar's Mustache by Kristi Wientge

From Goodreads: Hannah's world is in pieces and she doesn't need the school counsellor to tell her she has deep-seated psychological issues. With a seriously depressed mum, an injured dad and a dead sister, who wouldn't have problems? Hannah should feel terrible but for the first time in ages, she feels a glimmer of hope and isn't afraid anymore. Is it because the elusive Josh is taking an interest in her? Or does it run deeper than that? In a family torn apart by grief and guilt, one girl's struggle to come to terms with years of torment shows just how long old wounds can take to heal.

My Rating: 2 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Claire Zorn's Protected was a book that I failed to connect with for several reasons. Firstly, there was too much going on, what with Hannah being bullied before Katie’s death and now watching her family fall apart since her dad was the one driving the car when Katie was killed. Unsure of whether her husband is to blame for her daughter’s death, Hannah’s mom has spiralled into depression while Hannah’s dad can no longer walk without crutches and may go to prison depending on Hannah’s testimony during a court hearing. Secondly, Protected randomly veers between the present and the past throughout the book, which was very confusing particularly at the beginning of the novel when I didn’t know this. I’d be reading a section thinking it was happening to Hannah in the present and then realize it was a flashback because Katie was alive in the scene. Finally and most importantly, it was hard for me to care that Katie was dead because she was an awful sister to Hannah.

Protected will be released on October 3, 2017 by Sourcebooks Fire. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Sourcebooks) for free via NetGalley. 
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From Back Cover: Karma Khullar is entering middle school and is super nervous. Not just because it seems like her best friend has found a newer, blonder best friend, or the fact that her home life is shaken up by the death of her dadima, or that her dad is the new stay-at-home parent, leading her mom to spend most of her time at work. But because she’s realized that she has seventeen hairs that have formed a mustache on her upper lip. With everyone preoccupied, Karma has no one to turn to, and must figure out what to make of her terrifyingly hairy surprise.

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: When reading MG, I prefer my novels to have crossover appeal. Sadly, I found that Karma Khullar’s Mustache by Kristi Wientge did not go into as much depth on themes like bullying, changing friendships, etc. as it could have, and that problems were resolved too easily and simply. For example, although Karma is made fun of for having a mustache, Karma Khullar’s Mustache ends with Karma just rolling her eyes at the fact that she’ll continue to be called ‘Stache until her peers get tired of teasing her. It would have been much better had Karma stood up for herself and told off her peers to convey the message that bullying should never just be accepted. That being said, Karma Khullar’s Mustache may resonate more with younger readers closer to Karma’s age, and the incorporation of Sikh culture should appeal to those seeking more diverse reads. 

Karma Khullar’s Mustache was released by Simon and Schuster on August 15, 2017.

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Simon and Schuster Canada) for free. 

Monday, July 31, 2017

Review: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

From Back Cover: Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family - and from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers ... right? Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him - wherein he’ll have to woo her - he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself. The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not? Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways. 

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: I’m back … and one of the books I read during my blogging break was Sandhya Menon’s When Dimple Met Rishi. I originally had no intention of reading this book because I generally avoid straight-up romances; but with people seeming to love it on Twitter and the fact that the protagonist is Desi, I figured I’d give it a try. Having read When Dimple Met Rishi now, I have mixed feelings about it.

On the one hand, I loved how I could relate to Dimple so much. Guys, the pressure to find a good husband is real, and the conversations Dimple has with her mom regarding marriage are definitely similar to ones that I’ve had with older female family members. I also loved how Menon blended Indian culture into the experience of a teen growing up in America. For example, Hindi is integrated seamlessly in conversations between Dimple or Rishi and their parents.

On the other hand, I wasn’t crazy about the romance, and was kind of disappointed that the coding aspect of the plot was overshadowed by it. I also found Dimple to be very self-righteous at times and didn’t like how quickly she judged others. For example, Dimple describes Isabelle as “the blond girl who wore a perpetual sneer as if she were too good for all of this” (p. 54) even before getting to know her.

Despite its flaws however, I’d recommend giving When Dimple Met Rishi a chance if only because of how authentic Dimple and Rishi’s voices felt as South Asian-American teens. When Dimple Met Rishi was released by Simon Pulse in May 2017.

Comments About the Cover: It makes the book seem like it’s a cute, cheesy contemporary. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Review: Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand

From Goodreads: Things Finley Hart Doesn't Want To Talk About: 1) Her parents, who are having problems. (But they pretend like they’re not.) 2) Being sent to her grandparents’ house for the summer. 3) Never having met said grandparents. 4) Her blue days - when life feels overwhelming, and it’s hard to keep her head up. (This happens a lot.) Finley’s only retreat is the Everwood, a forest kingdom that exists in the pages of her notebook. Until she discovers the endless woods behind her grandparents’ house and realizes the Everwood is real - and holds more mysteries than she'd ever imagined, including a family of pirates that she isn’t allowed to talk to, trees covered in ash, and a strange old wizard living in a house made of bones. With the help of her cousins, Finley sets out on a mission to save the dying Everwood and uncover its secrets. But as the mysteries pile up and the frightening sadness inside her grows, Finley realizes that if she wants to save the Everwood, she’ll first have to save herself. 

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Having enjoyed Claire Legrand’s previous novels for the most part, I decided to give Some Kind of Happiness a try without reading its synopsis. Therefore, I wasn’t expecting this MG novel to be so heavy, with a main character battling anxiety and depression but unable to put her feelings into words. To cope with her feelings, which worsen as her parents’ marriage falls apart and she meets her perfect, estranged extended family, Finley creates and writes about an imaginary world that the reader reads about as well.

To be honest, I’m not sure who I’d recommend Some Kind of Happiness to. The book felt quite long – the plot dragged in the middle – and there are much better novels that revolve around family or mental health. Moreover, the metaphor of the Everwood to describe Finley’s problems in real life may be lost on younger readers.

Some Kind of Happiness was released in May 2016 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

Comments About the Cover: The dark colours match the book's mood well, and the solitary person gives off a sense of loneliness, which is how Finley often feels. 

Monday, June 06, 2016

Review: The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson

From Back Cover: When you are a politician’s daughter who’s pretty much raised yourself, you learn everything can be planned or spun, or both. Especially your future. Important internship? Check. Amazing friends? Check. Guys? Check (as long as we’re talking no more than three weeks). But that was before the scandal. Before having to be in the same house with her dad. Before walking an insane number of dogs. That was before Clark and those few months that might change her whole life. Because here’s the thing - if everything’s planned out, you can never find the unexpected. And where’s the fun in that? 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Morgan Matson’s novels always have a nice blend of family, friendship, and romance, which is why I enjoy them. However, her latest book, The Unexpected Everything, was my least favourite of her novels.

Since my thoughts for The Unexpected Everything were kind of all over the place, I figured the best way to review this book would be to write a pros and cons list.

Pros: 
  • Despite the fact that she didn’t make the best decisions, I still found Andie to be a likeable character. 
  • Clark was an adorable love interest. 
  • I loved seeing the change in Andie’s relationship with her father. I would have liked The Unexpected Everything to have spent a little more time exploring that relationship in greater detail and a little less time on the drama between Andie’s friends. 
Cons: 
  • At just over 500 pages, I think this book was a little too long. Had it been shorter, the plot wouldn’t have dragged at times. 
  • I found the character of Topher – and by extension, Andie’s relationship with him – to be totally unnecessary.
  • Although I understood how important Andie’s friends were to her, I still didn’t care about the drama between Bri and Toby.
The Unexpected Everything was released by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers in May 2016. 

Comments About the Cover: It makes the book look like a great beach read, which I could easily imagine The Unexpected Everything being.  

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Simon and Schuster Canada) for free.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Review: The Year We Fell Apart by Emily Martin

From Goodreads: Few things come as naturally to Harper as epic mistakes. In the past year she was kicked off the swim team, earned a reputation as Carson High’s easiest hook-up, and officially became the black sheep of her family. But her worst mistake was destroying her relationship with her best friend, Declan. Now, after two semesters of silence, Declan is home from boarding school for the summer. Everything about him is different - he’s taller, stronger ... more handsome. Harper has changed, too, especially in the wake of her mom’s cancer diagnosis. While Declan wants nothing to do with Harper, he’s still Declan, her Declan, and the only person she wants to talk to about what’s really going on. But he’s also the one person she’s lost the right to seek comfort from. As their mutual friends and shared histories draw them together again, Harper and Declan must decide which parts of their past are still salvageable, and which parts they’ll have to let go of once and for all. 

My Rating: 1.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Emily Martin’s The Year We Fell Apart was a book I picked up without looking at its rating on Goodreads. Big mistake! Had I done so, I would have realized that this book and I wouldn’t get along.

First of all, I found the main character, Harper, extremely annoying. She made the same mistakes over and over again – getting drunk, hooking up, regretting what happened – and justified her bad decisions to herself so that she wouldn’t have to own up to her choices. The issue of Harper using alcohol as a coping mechanism didn't seem to get resolved, and she experienced very little growth over the course of the novel.

I didn’t really like the plot either. Although I love stories revolving around a second chance, I felt too old while reading The Year We Fell Apart because it was just so filled with juvenile drama. To me, the aspect of Harper’s mom getting cancer wasn’t explored enough, and the whole Declan situation was just lame. Declan and Harper don’t talk about their issues so it’s not a surprise then that Declan is angry – rightfully so, I might add – when he finds out the reason why he and Harper actually broke up.

The Year We Fell Apart was released in January 2016 by Simon Pulse. 

Comments About the Cover: The cover doesn’t match the angsty tone of the novel.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Mini Reviews: Pretending to be Erica by Michelle Painchaud and Ruthless by Carolyn Lee Adams

From Goodreads: Seventeen-year-old Violet’s entire life has revolved around one thing: becoming Erica Silverman, an heiress kidnapped at age five and never seen again. Violet’s father, the best con man in Las Vegas, has a plan, chilling in its very specific precision. Violet shares a blood type with Erica; soon, thanks to surgery and blackmail, she has the same face, body, and DNA. She knows every detail of the Silvermans’ lives, as well as the PTSD she will have to fake around them. And then, when the time is right, she “reappears” - Erica Silverman, brought home by some kind of miracle. But she is also Violet, and she has a job: Stay long enough to steal the Silverman Painting, an Old Master legendary in the Vegas crime world. Walking a razor’s edge, calculating every decision, not sure sometimes who she is or what she is doing it for, Violet is an unforgettable heroine, and Pretending to be Erica is a killer debut.

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Michelle Painchaud’s Pretending to be Erica captured my interest because I love stories involving cons. Sadly, while I enjoyed reading the book, I do have to say there was nothing particularly memorable about it. You don’t have to be a genius to predict that the main character, Violet, will end up feeling conflicted about her situation and who she will ultimately side with.

Pretending to be Erica was released in July 2015 by Viking Books for Young Readers.
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From Back Cover: When she wakes up with a concussion in the bed of a moving pickup truck, she realizes she has been entered into a contest she can’t afford to lose. At a remote, rotting cabin deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Ruth’s blindfold comes off and she comes face-to-face with her captor. A man who believes his mission is to punish bad girls like Ruth. A man who has done this six times before. The other girls were never heard from again, but Ruth won’t go down easy. She escapes into the wilderness, but her hunter is close at her heels. That’s when the real battle begins. That’s when Ruth must decides just how far she’ll go in order to survive. Back home, they called her Ruthless. They had no idea just how right they were. 

My Rating: 2.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Ruthless by Carolyn Lee Adams started off great as the main character, Ruth, woke up concussed and bound in a truck, unsure of what had happened to her. The tension increases once she realizes that she has been abducted by a serial killer. However, the further I delved into Ruthless, the more bored I became with it due to its repetitive plot. The bad guy finds Ruth, she escapes, rinse and repeat. Neither the bad guy nor Ruth seemed very competent in their roles, although I did like Ruth’s determination to survive.

Ruthless was released by Simon Pulse in July 2015.

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Simon & Schuster Canada).

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Review: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

From Goodreads: Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. He is a man who can count all his friends on the fingers of one hand, whose lifelong difficulty with social rituals has convinced him that he is simply not wired for romance. So when an acquaintance informs him that he would make a “wonderful” husband, his first reaction is shock. Yet he must concede to the statistical probability that there is someone for everyone, and he embarks upon The Wife Project. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which he approaches all things, Don sets out to find the perfect partner. She will be punctual and logical - most definitely not a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker, or a late-arriver. Yet Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is also beguiling, fiery, intelligent - and on a quest of her own. She is looking for her biological father, a search that a certain DNA expert might be able to help her with. Don's Wife Project takes a back burner to the Father Project and an unlikely relationship blooms, forcing the scientifically minded geneticist to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie - and the realization that love is not always what looks good on paper.

My Rating: 4.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Although I don’t normally read adult novels, Rummanah from Books in the Spotlight's review of Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Project convinced me to add it to my wishlist. Then I found out that the author was an Australian, and since I haven’t been disappointed by any Aussie authors so far, I knew I had to give The Rosie Project a try.

I don’t think I’ve read a book yet where the main character is on the autism spectrum, but there’s an allusion that Don is on it. Case in point: He is quite rigid in his behaviour and lacks the ability to understand social situations. In fact, Don’s inability to interpret language figuratively often leads to amusing misunderstandings.

When Rosie enters Don’s life, she challenges Don to step out of his box. At the same time, she accepts him for who he is, and asks that he do the same for her. Their relationship – and how much it throws off Don – was so fun to read about!

The Rosie Project was released on October 1, 2013 by Simon and Schuster. 

Comments About the Cover: I think it’s cute and effective because of its simplicity.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Mini Reviews: Out of Control by Sarah Alderson and The Fill-in Boyfriend by Kasie West

From Goodreads: When seventeen-year-old Liva came to New York City, all she wanted was to escape the painful memories of her past and finally find a fresh start. Her hopes for a new future were dashed the moment she became the sole witness to a brutal murder. When she's taken into police custody - supposedly for her own protection - she realizes something isn't right, but it's too late. Soon, bullets start flying, and Liva realizes that she is not just a witness, but the target - and she needs to escape before it's too late. With the help of a sexy car thief that she met at the station, Liva manages to get away from the massacre unharmed, but now the two of them are alone in New York, trying to outrun and outwit the two killers who will stop at nothing to find them. Liva and Jay are living on the edge, but when you're on the edge, there's a long way to fall. 

My Rating: 2 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Although I enjoyed Sarah Alderson’s Lila series, I haven’t read any of her books since. So, I had some high expectations for her newest novel, Out of Control. Unfortunately, Out of Control turned out to be a rather disappointing read for a few reasons. Firstly, its fast pacing made it hard to learn much about the characters or care about them. Secondly, I found myself getting annoyed by Liva because of her priorities, – I wouldn’t be focused on a guy if there were people trying to kidnap me, – and complaints about her looks (but really, she’s pretty). Lastly, it drove me crazy that the Hispanic characters in Out of Control were portrayed so stereotypically. 

Out of Control was released in May 2015 by Simon Pulse. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from Xpresso Book Tours.
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From Goodreads: When Gia Montgomery's boyfriend, Bradley, dumps her in the parking lot of her high school prom, she has to think fast. After all, she'd been telling her friends about him for months now. This was supposed to be the night she proved he existed. So when she sees a cute guy waiting to pick up his sister, she enlists his help. The task is simple: be her fill-in boyfriend - two hours, zero commitment, a few white lies. After that, she can win back the real Bradley. The problem is that days after prom, it's not the real Bradley she's thinking about, but the stand-in. The one whose name she doesn't even know. But tracking him down doesn't mean they're done faking a relationship. Gia owes him a favor and his sister intends to see that he collects: his ex-girlfriend's graduation party - three hours, zero commitment, a few white lies. Just when Gia begins to wonder if she could turn her fake boyfriend into a real one, Bradley comes waltzing back into her life, exposing her lie, and threatening to destroy her friendships and her new-found relationship. 

My Rating: 2.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: While I loved Kasie West’s Pivot Point series, I haven’t found her contemporary novels quite as appealing. Sadly, The Fill-in Boyfriend was no exception. I had a tough time connecting with Gia because I found her to be very shallow. As well, the way the romance started off wasn’t very convincing, and it then veered into drama territory. I think in the future, I’ll just have to pass on any Kasie West contemporaries. 

The Fill-in Boyfriend was released by HarperTeen in May 2015.    

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Review: #scandal by Sarah Ockler

From Goodreads: Lucy’s learned some important lessons from tabloid darling Jayla Heart’s all-too-public blunders: Avoid the spotlight, don’t feed the Internet trolls, and keep your secrets secret. The policy has served Lucy well all through high school, so when her best friend Ellie gets sick before prom and begs her to step in as Cole’s date, she accepts with a smile, silencing about ten different reservations. Like the one where she’d rather stay home shredding online zombies. And the one where she hates playing dress-up. And especially the one where she’s been secretly in love with Cole since the dawn of time. When Cole surprises her at the after party with a kiss under the stars, it’s everything Lucy has ever dreamed of … and the biggest BFF deal-breaker ever. Despite Cole’s lingering sweetness, Lucy knows they’ll have to ’fess up to Ellie. But before they get the chance, Lucy’s own Facebook profile mysteriously explodes with compromising pics of her and Cole, along with tons of other students’ party indiscretions. Tagged. Liked. And furiously viral. By Monday morning, Lucy’s been branded a slut, a backstabber, and a narc, mired in a tabloid-worthy scandal just weeks before graduation. Lucy’s been battling undead masses online long enough to know there’s only one way to survive a disaster of this magnitude: Stand up and fight. Game plan? Uncover and expose the Facebook hacker, win back her best friend’s trust, and graduate with a clean slate. There’s just one snag - Cole. Turns out Lucy’s not the only one who’s been harboring unrequited love ...

My Rating: 1.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Having enjoyed Sarah Ockler’s previous books, I was looking forward to reading #scandal. Sadly, it just didn’t live up to my expectations.

First, the romance was set up in a weird way. Not only did #scandal begin with Cole and Lucy hooking up and having feelings for each other, but the two were forced to go to prom together by Lucy’s best friend, Ellie, who didn’t tell Lucy that she and Cole had broken up. So, while I was trying to figure out how I should feel about Lucy and Cole as a couple (because I barely knew anything about Cole or Lucy as individuals or Cole and Ellie as a couple), I was also wondering why somebody would agree to pretend to still be dating their ex. On top of that, you’ve got two girls claiming to be best friends, yet keeping huge secrets from each other.

As the novel progressed, it became clear that the romance wouldn’t be a highlight of #scandal. Cole was barely around (because Lucy kept avoiding him since she felt guilty about hooking up with him); and when he was present, I just found the way that he and Lucy interacted to lack chemistry.

Another aspect of #scandal that could have been great had it been written differently was the cyberbullying element. I never really connected with Lucy, and it didn’t help that she refused to stand up for herself despite being given opportunities for doing so. I also found it very strange that the school administrators didn’t investigate the issue more but simply decided that Lucy was the bully. Even after realizing that she wasn’t the perpetrator, an apology wasn’t given; instead, the principal decided to use Lucy as an example and made her do a presentation about the effects of cyberbullying.  

A book that took me far too long to finish, #scandal was released in June 2014 by Simon Pulse.  

Comments About the Cover: I like that it focuses on one of the important events of the book.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Mini Reviews: The Year of Shadows by Claire Legrand and Guitar Notes by Mary Amato

From Goodreads: Olivia Stellatella is having a rough year. Her mother's left; her neglectful father, the maestro of a failing orchestra, has moved her and her grandmother into the city's dark, broken-down concert hall to save money, and her only friend is Igor, an ornery stray cat. Just when she thinks life couldn't get any weirder, she meets four ghosts who haunt the hall. They need Olivia's help; if the hall is torn down, they'll be stuck as ghosts forever, never able to move on. Olivia has to do the impossible for her shadowy new friends: save the concert hall. But helping the dead has powerful consequences for the living; and soon it's not just the concert hall that needs saving. 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Through the use of music and a loosely defined world of Limbo, Claire Legrand’s The Year of Shadows explores the themes of loss, friendship, and loneliness in a manner suitable for MG readers. Consider for example the protagonist: Olivia. During a time of recession, many tweens will be able to relate to Olivia’s situation of having their parents be stressed about their finances. Although I found The Year of Shadows to be a solid read, I couldn’t help repeatedly comparing it to Legrand’s other novel, The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, which I thought was more engaging. 

The Year of Shadows was released in August 2013 by Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers. .................................................................................................. 
From Goodreads: Tripp, who plays guitar only for himself, and Lyla, a cellist whose talent has already made her famous but not happy, form an unlikely friendship when they are forced to share a practice room at their high school. 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts for the first 2/3 of the book; 2 hearts for the final 1/3 

Thoughts on the Novel: Like The Year of Shadows, Guitar Notes by Mary Amato was a book that I began without having read the synopsis. A few chapters in, I thought I had figured out what would happen: after exchanging a flurry of letters, Tripp and Lyla would get to know each other better and eventually become a couple. So, it was a pleasant surprise to find out that Tripp and Lyla maintained a platonic relationship throughout the novel. Since I find books that feature a friendship between a guy and a girl without it becoming anything more somewhat lacking in YA, I was enjoying Guitar Notes in spite of the clichéd secondary characters and Tripp’s tendency to be overdramatic.

The ending, however, ruined my enjoyment because Amato resorted to something over the top to ensure her main characters would be reunited. In doing so, she also didn’t provide a satisfactory resolution because while most of Guitar Notes took place on a day to day basis from September to November, the last 20% was just a brief summary of the next 4 months.

Guitar Notes was released by EgmontUSA in July 2012.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Review: The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls by Claire Legrand

From Goodreads: Victoria hates nonsense. There is no need for it when your life is perfect. The only smudge on her pristine life is her best friend Lawrence. He is a disaster - lazy and dreamy, shirt always untucked, obsessed with his silly piano. Victoria often wonders why she ever bothered being his friend. (Lawrence does too.) But then Lawrence goes missing. And he’s not the only one. Victoria soon discovers that The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls is not what it appears to be. Kids go in but come out … different. Or they don’t come out at all. If anyone can sort this out, it’s Victoria - even if it means getting a little messy. 

My Rating: 4.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls by Claire Legrand was a delightfully creepy read (with great illustrations) that’s sure to appeal to MG and older readers alike!

Beginning innocently enough by introducing the reader to its protagonist, Victoria, a girl who strives for order and perfection, the plot takes a turn for the worse when Victoria’s friend – or as she would say, project – Lawrence disappears. Though his parents claim that Lawrence is at his grandmother’s house, Victoria believes differently and begins to seek answers. Her investigation leads her to Nine Silldie Place (aka The Cavendish Home) where ordinary things like a house and candies just aren’t what they seem, and the extraordinary appears to be all too possible.

As a villain, I loved Mrs. Cavendish! Her black and white thinking about what’s appropriate can easily be contrasted with Victoria’s; but unlike Victoria, she’s willing to go to extreme lengths to ensure that everybody conforms to her ideals. Her coaching methods are actually kind of reminiscent of Dolores Umbridge’s.

I also loved Victoria because she knows exactly who she is and dares you to try and mould her to be different. Her no-nonsense attitude, stubbornness, and lack of apology about her personality made her the perfect match for Mrs. Cavendish.

A story that’s perfectly paced to maximize tension and keep readers guessing about all the secrets harboured at The Cavendish Home, The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls was released in August 2012 by Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers. 

Comments About the Cover: It’s a bit misleading because Victoria only gets curious about The Cavendish Home once Lawrence disappears. Lawrence – at least I’m assuming that it’s him – should therefore not really be on the cover.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Review: To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

From Back Cover: Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren't love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she's written. One for every boy she's ever loved - five in all. When she writes, she can pour out her heart and soul and say all the things she would never say in real life because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean's love life goes from imaginary to out of control. 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts

Thoughts on the Novel: In my early days of blogging, I saw quite a few positive reviews for Jenny Han’s Summer series. But since the premise of the series never appealed to me, I haven’t read any of her books until now. Given the synopsis, I was expecting To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before to be a very romance-centric novel, but was pleasantly surprised to find out it focused equally on family.

I loved the Covey family and wouldn’t hesitate to be adopted by them! I just felt the family dynamics, particularly the relationship between siblings, was portrayed so realistically. As the eldest child, I have no idea how true to life Lara Jean’s relationship with her older sister, Margot, is; but the relationship she has with her younger sister, Kitty, is definitely very accurate. Like Lara Jean, though I got along with my younger siblings most of the time, we did fight and get great glee out of annoying each other.

Moving on to Lara Jean as a character, I found her to be a bit immature and na?ve at times. But at other moments, I could completely relate to her thoughts and experiences. For example, the way Lara Jean describes her driving is pretty much how I feel when I drive, which probably explains why I still only have my G1 license.

The romance was the weakest aspect of the book for me. I just couldn’t support Lara Jean’s feelings for Josh, Margot’s ex, at the beginning of the novel, and later on, thought he acted way too much like a jealous boyfriend. As Lara Jean began to hang out more with Peter to try and get over her feelings for Josh, I ended up slowly liking Peter. The open ending kind of ruined how I felt about him though because when someone – it’s unclear who, but I’m assuming it’s Peter’s ex-girlfriend – spreads rumours about Lara Jean being a slut, Peter doesn’t defend Lara Jean, a fact she somehow forgets. Also, it just seemed like Peter and Lara Jean randomly decided that they had feelings for each other and were over the people they liked, yet their actions suggested otherwise.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before was released in April 2014 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. 

Comments About the Cover: Since Lara Jean is half-Korean, I’m really glad that the cover features an Asian model. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Simon and Schuster Canada) for free.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Review: Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson

From Back Cover: It was Sloane who yanked Emily out of her shell and made life 100% interesting. But right before what should have been the most epic summer, Sloane just ... disappears. All she leaves behind is a to-do list. On it, thirteen Sloane-inspired tasks that Emily would normally never try. But what if they could bring her best friend back? Emily now has this unexpected summer, and the help of Frank Porter (totally unexpected) to check things off Sloane's list. Who knows what she'll find. 

My Rating: 4 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: After I ended up loving both Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour and Second Chance Summer, Morgan Matson quickly joined my list of contemporary authors I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend. So, I was thrilled when I received an ARC of her newest novel, Since You’ve Been Gone, for review because it shortened my need to wait for its release.

In a well-ordered universe, here are five reasons (in no particular order) why you should get your hands on a copy of Since You’ve Been Gone:
  1. The realistic depiction of friendship: I thought Matson did a fabulous job of showing a friendship from a variety of different angles. For example, through Emily’s thoughts, you see Sloane portrayed ideally whereas through flashbacks, you come to learn some of Sloane’s faults. When combined with Sloane's list of dares and the ending, the flashbacks also enable the reader to understand how important their friendship is to both girls.
  2. The protagonist: I found Emily really easy to relate to because her personality is similar to mine. The way she reacts and the choices she makes are ones that I could see myself making too if I were placed in the same situation.
  3. The slow personal growth: Accomplishing Sloane’s list of dares causes Emily to change in a very natural way, and it’s only at the end of the novel that you realize just how much she has grown over the course of the summer.   
  4. The secondary characters: I loved that they seemed like real people and were complex. For example, though Collins is Emily’s friend, he is also simultaneously jealous of her friendship with Frank, his best friend, because it means that he gets to spend less time with Frank.
  5. The romance: Although I didn’t completely love the romance because Frank still had a girlfriend when he hooked up with Emily, I did like how it developed. I found the transition from the two being acquaintances to friends to something more to be very nicely paced.
Since You’ve Been Gone was released on May 6, 2014 by Simon & Schuster. 

Comments About the Cover: Besides making me want a scoop of ice-cream, I like that the cover has a fun summer feel to it. I also really like that it emphasizes the friendship aspect of the novel by showing two girls hanging out and looking like they’re having a good time.

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Simon and Schuster Canada) for free.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Review: Year of Mistaken Discoveries by Eileen Cook

From Back Cover: Avery and Nora bonded back in first grade when a school assignment revealed that the girls had something in common - they were both adopted. Years later, the two friends have drifted apart. Avery is at the top of the social ladder at school and Nora ... Nora's not even on the map.. Avery knows that Nora has problems, but she's got her own. She's trying to get into the Ivy League, and her long-term boyfriend wants to take "a break." Then Avery learns the devastating news that Nora's overdosed. Searching for her own birth mom might be a way to honour Nora and get into the college of her dreams all at the same time. Avery enlists the help of Nora's friend, Brody, and together the two embark on a quest to find her past. She hopes it will help her hang on to the world she's built, but it may result in losing everything. Avery just might discover that what she really needs goes deeper than genetics ... 

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: In comparison to Eileen Cook’s previous books, I’d have to say that her latest novel, Year of Mistaken Discoveries, is probably the most serious in tone. The subdued humour wasn’t what I was expecting, but I appreciated that Cook decided to try something new.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t get fully invested into the story because it involved more telling than showing. We also don’t get to know Nora very intimately, and so her death had little impact on me.

Furthermore, I couldn’t connect with Avery or Brody. In the case of Avery, I think this can partly be attributed to the fact that she herself doesn’t know who she is. Brody, on the other hand, seemed like a guy that I would easily like since he was sweet and honest … but, something just seemed to be missing to make him come alive off the pages.

I really liked the last few chapters of the novel however. Although Avery’s search for her birth mother progressed easily and in an unrealistic manner, the result of her search was unexpected and made her – and the reader – reflect on the definition of family.

Year of Mistaken Discoveries was released in February 2014 by Simon Pulse. 

Comments About the Cover: I don’t like that the cover emphasizes the romance between Avery and Brody because their romance actually doesn’t play a huge role in the book. Instead, the main themes in Year of Mistaken Discoveries are family and self-discovery. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Simon and Schuster Canada) for free.
original image from thegate.ca

Friday, February 14, 2014

Mini Reviews: The Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg and Two Lies and a Spy by Kat Carlton

From Goodreads: Penny is sick of boys and sick of dating. So she vows: no more. It's a personal choice ... and, of course, soon everyone wants to know about it. And a few other girls are inspired. A movement is born: The Lonely Hearts Club (named after the band from Sgt. Pepper). Penny is suddenly known for her nondating ways ... which is too bad, because there's this certain boy she can't help but like ... 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: The Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg was a light, albeit cheesy, read. After being cheated on, Penny decides to open up a club for girls who are fed up of getting their hearts broken by guys. While I thought Penny’s reason for opening up the club was really lame, I did like the eventual outcome of The Lonely Hearts Club because it led to the creation of a diverse group of girls who supported each other, were loyal to their friends, and learned that they didn’t need a boyfriend to feel validated.

The Lonely Hearts Club was released in January 2010 by Point. 
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From Goodreads: When sixteen-year-old Kari’s dad sends her an unexpected text, she and her brother immediately go into hiding. Because when your parents are superspies and your dad declares a Code Black, it can only mean something bad. Very bad. Kari soon discovers that her parents have been disavowed and declared traitors, and she’s determined to clear their names. Breaking into the Agency seems like a reasonable plan, especially with the help of a team that includes her longtime crush, Luke, as well as her two best friends - an expert hacker with attitude and a master martial artist - and Luke’s popular, vindictive twin sister. Oh, and a new guy, who’s as cute as he is complicated ... 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Two Lies and a Spy by Kat Carlton had a completely outrageous but fun plot. I liked that there was plenty of action and an ending that I wasn’t expecting. I also really liked Kari and the secondary characters. Lacey and Evan both made me laugh, and seven-year-old Charlie, Kari’s brother, was pretty cute. As well, although the synopsis makes it seem like there may be a love triangle in Two Lies and a Spy, I liked that that didn’t end up being the case. Kari never veered from having a crush on Luke, but since we really don’t see much of him, I don't know how I feel about him. 

Two Lies and a Spy was released by Simon and Schuster in September 2013.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Review: Losing Lila by Sarah Alderson

From Goodreads: Alex and Lila are on the run, desperately trying to stay one step ahead of the Unit, which is somehow tracking their every move. While Alex is determined to keep Lila safe and her ability secret at any cost, Lila's only thought is of finding a way back to California so she can rescue her brother and mother from the military base where they're being held. Struggling to control both her growing power and her deepening feelings for Alex, Lila decides the time has finally come to stop running and start fighting. Together with Alex, Demos, and the others she's come to think of as family, Lila plans not only to save her brother and mum, but also to completely destroy the Unit and everything it stands for. But the plan requires Lila to return to California alone, and to make friends with the enemy - and in doing so, she risks losing everything: Alex, her family … even her life. 

My Rating: 4 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Losing Lila by Sarah Alderson begins a week after the end of Hunting Lila. When the novel starts, Lila and Alex are on the run from the Unit. Jack is in a coma after having been shot. Demos’ original group has splintered and those that remain with him are trying to divide the Unit’s forces by having the Unit chase them rather than Alex and Lila. Readers dive headfirst into the action, and it’s awesome!

As a character, Lila is definitely more mature in this novel. She’s still impulsive, but her impulsivity is reined in. It’s also evident throughout the course of Losing Lila that she has become more comfortable with her power and is able to control it better. As well, I really liked that she was able to stand up for herself, especially when it came to decisions made by Alex (who shows some emotional vulnerability in this installment) or Jack as those two tended to make the decisions for her in Hunting Lila.

I continue loving the sibling dynamic between Lila and Jack! Their interactions never fail to amuse me, and I love how they know exactly what buttons to push to annoy the other person. If I could have an older brother from a YA novel, Jack would probably be on the top of my list (although his protective streak might get old after a while)!

With the return of beloved secondary characters like Nate and Suki, Losing Lila is as enjoyable as Hunting Lila. While Hunting Lila may have been more fun, Losing Lila balances that out by having more emotional depth.

Losing Lila was released in August 2012 by Simon & Schuster UK. 

Comments About the Cover: I’m not really a fan of the cover. I liked Hunting Lila’s cover better.
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