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Taken By Chance — Erica Cameron and Lani Woodland

14 May


Released: May 5th, 2015
Genre: YA contemporary
Source: Ebook for review from author




A single chance encounter can change your life…

Despite being the son of Hollywood’s hottest director, Dare Andrews has managed to steer clear of the paparazzi for seventeen years. But when his ​ex-​girlfriend sells a tell-all interview to the tabloids, he’s suddenly hounded by fans and reporters alike. Dare is getting cynical fast, so he’s unprepared to meet a glass-half-full girl like Chance. And unprepared for the consequences after he helps her save face. Pretending to be the new guy in her life was easy enough when she was being dumped by her boyfriend, but the lie backfires.

What started as a random act of chivalry becomes something deeper as Dare and Chance find themselves trapped in their charade. The problem is that the more Dare gets to know Chance, the less fake their relationship feels. But secrets they both keep threaten their future, and with new storm​s​ overhead, will Chance’s lessons in optimism be enough to help Dare find the silver lining?​

From Goodreads

First of all, how freaking cute is this title? I LOVE play on words and this title is spot on.

This whole book was cute and funny and sweet and I fell in love with it from the first page. The plot was interesting and there were even a few times where I was like WHAT? which I love. I love when something unexpected happens and I’m surprised but it fits into the plot perfectly.

As some of you may know, I’m not a huge fan of romance-centered novels. At all. But the romance presented in Taken By Chance was totally real and honest and messy and I dug it.

I think the thing that I enjoyed the most about the book was the portrayal of friendship. Once again these were written in a real and honest way.  I loved the banter back and forth between friends and the different group dynamics that took place.  Nothing was cookie cutter or idealized.

I also like how Verity’s sub plot was written. It was obviously very important but the authors didn’t tell too much too soon. I knew something bad had happened to her, but the authors dropped little nuggets of information rather than coming out and telling right away which added to the tension and made me want to know even more.

So, yeah, I really enjoyed Taken By Chance. It’s the first in the Laguna Tides series. I think this is going to be one of those series where when I finish one book I itch to read the next.

The Boy Recession – Flynn Meaney

5 Oct

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Released: Aug 7th, 2012
Genre: YA contemp
Review copy from publisher

It’s all about supply and demand when a high school deals with the sudden exodus of male students.

The boy recession has hit Julius P. Heil High, and the remaining boys find that their stock is on the rise: With little competition, even the most unlikely guys have a good chance at making the team and getting the girl. Guitar-strumming, class-skipping Hunter Fahrenbach never wanted to be a hot commodity, but the popular girls can’t help but notice his unconventional good looks. With a little work, he might even by boyfriend material.

But for down-to-earth Kelly Robbins, the boy recession is causing all sorts of problems. She has secretly liked her good friend Hunter for a while now, but how can she stand out in a crowd of overzealous Spandexers?

As if dating wasn’t hard enough without a four-to-one ratio!

From publisher’s website

This book was CUTE. And FUNNY. But also WEIRD. Three of my favourite things. And they work so well together when they’re done right. And in The Boy Recession? They are done amazingly.

So much fun this book was. So much. Kelly and Hunter are such different characters from one another but they just meshed. And they are REAL. I love real characters. You know the kind.  Imperfect, often stumbling over their words, making mistakes. Cringe-worthy mistakes. Which, IMHO are the best kind when it comes to characters in books.

And the whole lack of boy situation? So funny and horrible and awkward. Yes, I know I’m using a lot of descriptive words here. I can’t help it. Sometimes I love a book but have a hard time saying why. When I try to explain, full sentences don’t come out. Only descriptive words. Seriously, ask the hubs. He often gets explanation in just a string of descriptive words.

Know those funny, feel good teen movies with just a bit of edge? The ones that do it right? (I’m looking at you, Easy A.) That’s what Boy Recession reminded me of.  Which is all kinds of good in my books.

In Leah’s Wake – Terri Giuliano Long

20 Sep

Publisher: Laughing Moon Publishing
Released: Feb 28th, 2010
Genre: Adult fiction
Review copy from author

The Tylers have a perfect life—beautiful home, established careers, two sweet and talented daughters. Their eldest daughter, Leah, an exceptional soccer player, is on track for a prestigious. Their youngest, Justine, more responsible than seems possible for her 12 years, just wants her sister’s approval. With Leah nearing the end of high school and Justine a seemingly together kid, the parents are set to enjoy a peaceful life…until everything goes wrong.

As Leah’s parents fight to save their daughter from a world of drugs, sex, and wild parties, their divided approach drives their daughter out of their home and a wedge into their marriage. Meanwhile, twelve-year-old Justine observes her sister’s rebellion from the shadows of their fragmented family—leaving her to question whether anyone loves her and if God even knows she exists.

Can this family survive in Leah’s wake? What happens when love just isn’t enough?

From the author’s website.

This book was one emotional roller coaster of a ride. This family is so fragmented and broken that at times it was awkward to read about. But the good kind of awkward, you know? The kind that most of us can identify with.

I really appreciated the fact that this was a true family drama. The author lets us see things from all perspectives and while there’s a lot of blame from different family members, it’s easy to see that the problems, the issues involve everybody. There really isn’t one person to blame.

With that being said, Leah is at the centre of most of the drama and problems with the family. But I didn’t feel that Leah was written in such a way that I was always thinking “Sheesh, teens!” There were often times that I felt a lot of empathy for Leah, even when she was wandering down a bad path and when she was being, well, obnoxious.  She was a well-rounded character, as were all the characters.

In Leah’s Wake surprised me. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but what I got was a well-told story of relationships and families. I think anyone who enjoys a book where things get messy and the characters aren’t perfect will enjoy it. I did.

The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen – Susin Nielsen

18 Sep

Publisher: Tundra Books
Released: Sept 11th, 2012
Genre: YA contemp
Review copy from publisher

Thirteen-year-old Henry’s happy, ordinary life comes to an abrupt halt when his older brother, Jesse, picks up their father’s hunting rifle and leaves the house one morning. What follows shatters Henry’s family, who are forced to resume their lives in a new city, where no one knows their past. When Henry’s therapist suggests he keep a journal, at first he is resistant. But soon he confides in it at all hours of the day and night.

In spite of Henry’s desire to “fly under the radar,” he eventually befriends a number of oddball characters, both at school and in his modest apartment building. And even though they know nothing about his past – at least, not yet – they help him navigate the waters of life after “IT.”

From Susin Nielsen’s website.

It’s no secret that I absolutely fell in love with Susin Nielsen’s writing in Word Nerd and that love just grew with Dear George Clooney, Please Marry My Mom. Despite the fact that The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen is darker and deals with a more serious subject matter than the first two books, I absolutely, positively LOVED IT. I devoured it in one sitting and when I was finished, I just felt like a better person for having read it.

OMG this book broke my heart. Just smashed it to little pieces. But it also made my heart swell with love at places. I wanted to jump through the pages and give Henry a big hug and buy him an ice cream. He was such a sweet, awkward, lovable character that I just wanted to do something to make his pain stop. Nielsen wrote him in such a caring yet straightforward manner that he never felt pathetic or whiny to me. He just seemed like a kid who was going through some serious crap and trying to handle it the best way that he could.

I’m not going to say a whole lot about “IT” except that her telling of what happened, the way she presented it, was just amazing. It’s hard to take a situation like that and write about it in a way that doesn’t come across as sensational or crude. But through Henry, Nielsen explains what happened in a way that was both heartbreaking and understated. Perfection.

As always, there’s a slew of wonderfully weird secondary characters in The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen. I loved them all so much that it would be impossible to pick my favorite.  And even thought they were secondary, they each had a huge part in helping Henry to deal with what happened.

I loved this book so much that I could probably go on and on and on about all the wonderful things that sucked me in and made me sad when I got to the last page. But about all, I loved Henry’s voice. Nielsen wrote him so honestly that it hurt my soul at times, to witness how he was feeling and what he was going through.

Henry’s is a tough story to read and I can only imagine how hard it was to write it. But it’s one that really needs to be heard. And honestly, I couldn’t have pictured anyone but Nielsen telling it.

Grow Up – Ben Brooks

17 Aug

Publisher: House of Anansi Press
Released:  May 12, 2012
Genre: YA contemp
Review copy from publisher

YouTube suicides, possible pregnancies, drug comedowns, and getting straight As — meet Jasper: a seventeen-year-old with his hands full. Weekdays are packed with visits to the psychologist, mounting parental pressure to achieve in school, scouring the Internet for porn, and trying to figure out whether his stepfather murdered his ex-wife. Weekends are focused on finding the next party, the best drugs, and sex — preferably with Georgia Treely — but really with anyone he can get.

From House of Anansi Press website.

First of all, the fact that the author is nineteen is INSANE! This is the first book by a teen that I’ve not only been able to get through, but that I absolutely loved.

This book is wrong on so many levels, which is what makes it absolutely amazing. I mean, Jasper is a seriously f-cked up dude. I would not want to sit next to him on a bus, in a class or anywhere for that matter. The inner workings of this kid’s brain makes me once again thankful for my decision not to have kids. But despite this fact I couldn’t get enough of him. He was so brilliantly written that I was FASCINATED with him from the first line.

If you have any issue with sex or drug use in books, stay away. Far, far away. Cuz Grow Up has plenty of both.  But neither came off as being sensational or thrown in for shock factor. Sex and drugs are just such an integral part of Jasper’s life.

This book is set in Britain, so some of the grammar and such took a bit of getting used to. But there was tea drinking in almost every scene, which made me love it all the more. :)

While there were a couple of different plots in Grow Up, this was definitely a character driven book. And with Jasper being such a different, strong, weird character, it set the perfect tone.

If you like your YA contempt very real, very gritty, and at times very screwed up, then I can’t recommend Grow Up enough.

Purity – Jackson Pearce

18 Jul

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Released: April 24, 2012
Genre: YA contemp
Review copy from publisher

A novel about love, loss, and sex — but not necessarily in that order.

Before her mother died, Shelby promised three things: to listen to her father, to love as much as possible, and to live without restraint. Those Promises become harder to keep when Shelby’s father joins the planning committee for the Princess Ball, an annual dance that ends with a ceremonial vow to live pure lives — in other words, no “bad behavior,” no breaking the rules, and definitely no sex.

Torn between Promises One and Three, Shelby makes a decision — to exploit a loophole and lose her virginity before taking the vow. But somewhere between failed hookup attempts and helping her dad plan the ball, Shelby starts to understand what her mother really meant, what her father really needs, and who really has the right to her purity.

From Little, Brown and Company website

I don’t know why, but when I first read the blurb, I was expecting a fairly light, funny book. You know lots of jokes, tongue in cheek dialogue.  Yeah, not so much. What I got instead was a riveting story of dealing with loss, impossible promises, relationships in transition and growing into your own skin. In short, what I got was an amazing read.

I think my favorite part of Shelby’s story was her relationship with her father. While my teen years are far behind me, I remember the struggle between wanting to please my dad and the desire to be my own person. These two didn’t always mesh, and they definitely don’t for Shelby. I think that most readers will be able to sympathize with Shelby and her dad as they try to figure out their relationship as she grows up.

And then there’s Shelby’s relationship with her mother. Despite the fact that her mother has passed away, she’s a strong presence throughout the book.  After all, it’s Shelby’s promises to her that have guided Shelby’s life since her mother died.

Shelby’s attempts to lose her virginity are awkward and heartbreaking.  While the situation could have easily spiraled into the ridiculous, Pearce’s writing keeps things real. She also writes Shelby’s story in a way that it doesn’t enter over-dramatic or whiny territory.

I just loved the tone of this book and how it evoked so many feelings in me when I was reading it. I always find it hard to explain how and why a book made me feel a certain way. But I finished Purity, and felt content. And weepy. Always a good sign when I finished a book.

The Heart is Not a Size – Beth Kephart

5 Jun

Publisher: HarperCollins Canada
Released: March 22th, 2010
Genre: YA contemp
Review copy from publisher

Georgia knows what it means to keep secrets. She knows how to ignore things. She knows that some things are better left unsaid. . . . Or are they?

When Georgia and her best friend, Riley, travel along with nine other suburban Pennsylvania kids to Anapra, a squatters’ village in the heat-flattened border city of Juarez, Mexico, secrets seem to percolate and threaten both a friendship and a life. Certainties unravel. Reality changes. And Georgia is left to figure out who she is outside the world she’s always known.

From HarperCollins Canada website.

It’s weird. The first time I picked up The Heart is Not a Size, I only got a few pages in before I set it down. People had gushed about it, but I wasn’t feeling it. But it was for review and I always try to read review books (in a timely manner, when I can). So after letting it sit on my shelves for over a year, I decided to give it another try. And read it in one night. I dunno, I must have been in a mood the first time I tried.

I’m not a very visual person. When I read a book, I don’t often picture it in my head. Strange, but true. But sometimes when I read a book, I can imagine it as a movie, almost scene by scene. And that’s what this book was like for me. I could picture it as the type of coming of age movie that I would watch over and over again.

This is a story about friendship and how we sometimes struggle to do the right thing for a friend and it ends up blowing up in our faces. I loved that the book centered on Georgia and Riley’s friendship. That it wasn’t all about the boys and the romance. Sure, there may have been hints of romance, but it wasn’t a completely integral part of the story. It wasn’t the point of the book.

I think female readers in particular will be able to identify with The Heart is Not a Size. I am a fair distance from the age of Georgia and Riley but their friendship and story had me thinking of some of the friendships I had when I was a teen and how important they are to who I am now.

So I’m definitely glad I gave it another go. And I’m happy that the lovely peeps at HarperCollins Canada sent along a review copy.


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