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Goodbye Days — Jeff Zentner

2 Aug

 

Publisher: Penguin Random House
Released: March 7th, 2016
Genre: Ya contemp
Source: ARC from publisher

 

 

What if you could spend one last day with someone you lost?

One day Carver Briggs had it all—three best friends, a supportive family, and a reputation as a talented writer at his high school, Nashville Academy for the Arts.

The next day he lost it all when he sent a simple text to his friend Mars, right before Mars, Eli, and Blake were killed in a car crash.

Now Carver can’t stop blaming himself for the accident, and he’s not the only one. Eli’s twin sister is trying to freeze him out of school with her death-ray stare. And Mars’s father, a powerful judge, is pressuring the district attorney to open a criminal investigation into Carver’s actions.

Luckily, Carver has some unexpected allies: Eli’s girlfriend, the only person to stand by him at school; Dr. Mendez, his new therapist; and Blake’s grandmother, who asks Carver to spend a Goodbye Day with her to share their memories and say a proper goodbye to his friend.

Soon the other families are asking for a Goodbye Day with Carver, but he’s unsure of their motives. Will they all be able to make peace with their losses, or will these Goodbye Days bring Carver one step closer to a complete breakdown or—even worse—prison.

From Goodreads

As an editor, I know that one of the hardest things for authors to nail is dialogue, especially in YA. The flow of the dialogue, having it bounce around without being confusing, keeping it real and genuine. Jeff Zentner is one of the best YA writers for honest dialogue. The exchanges between the teens was perfection. The tone, the words chosen, the flow. Just amazing.

Actually the whole flow and tone of the book was bang on. Goodbye Days is one of those YA contemp that had me laughing and crying. It pretty much tugged on my heartstrings in every way possible.

As with Zentner’s previous book, The Serpent King, this isn’t an easy read, emotionally. He deals with death and survivor’s guilt and trying to get on with life. But never once does he get preachy or over dramatic. Everything about this book was realistic and never cliche.

I can’t recommend Goodbye Days enough. If you like honest and emotional tales, then this is definitely for you.

 

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane Blog Tour

22 Mar

 

As soon as I saw “Tea Girl” in the title, I knew I had to review this book. I am a HUGE tea drinker with around one hundred kinds of tea in my personal collection. And I am also a tea leaf reader. So yeah, this was bound to be right up my alley.

 

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Canada
Released: March 21st, 2017
Genre: contemporary
Source: ARC from publisher

 

 

I have to admit I’ve never had straight up Pu’er tea before. I’ve had flavoured Pu’er tea, but that’s not really the same. So of course I went to David’s Tea and picked up some Silken Pu’er from Yunnan and am drinking it as I write this review. I usually take cream in my tea but I’m having it without and I’m really enjoying it. The scent is very earthy to me and the taste is very grounding. I am definitely a fan!

Okay, now on to the book.  The first thing is reading this made me realize how white-washed my reading is. Most of the books I read take place within my own cultural knowledge and feature white characters. I really need to start diversifying my reading list. A LOT. I really enjoyed reading about the Akha and their traditions and culture. See writes about it in beautiful detail and quite vividly. Reading through the lens of my experience I did find some of their practices heartbreaking and during the first part of the book had to remind myself that I wasn’t actually reading an historical novel, but one that took place between the late 80s and late 90s.

Li-yan’s struggles with wanting to honour her parents and the Akha way but also recognizing that some of the traditions are outdated. She strives to balance living in a modern world with not completely forgetting her culture. This is something I know nothing about, but I imagine it’s a common struggle, especially as Western civilization encroaches more and more on other cultures.  See doesn’t hit readers over the head with any moral message about this, but the description of the changes taking place and the internal struggle Li-yan faces is clear and at times uncomfortable, making for a riveting read.

The structure of the novel was unexpected but perfect. I was expecting it to be written from Li-yan and Haley’s POV but Haley’s sections are presented in a creative way that still lets the readers in on her life. For me it really helped to make clear the difference in their lives.

I LOVED all the details about tea: growing it, picking it, processing it, brewing it, and drinking it. As I said already I’m a huge tea fan, but more of the drinking rather than the learning. But after reading The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane I know want to know ALL about tea. (There may be some book purchases in the near future!)

To me the core of the story isn’t just relationships, but female relationships. Li-yan’s mother is a surprising character and I really enjoyed watching their relationship evolve. All of the relationships were complex and believable and all of the character were fleshed out.

I really really liked this book and loved the fact that it opened my eyes to a part of the world and a group of people I wasn’t aware of before. This will definitely lead to me varying what I read in the future.

The Twilight Wife — A.J. Banner

22 Dec

twilight

 

Publisher: Touchstone
Released: Dec 27th, 2016
Genre: Mystery, suspence
Source: ARC from publisher

 

Thirty-four-year-old marine biologist Kyra Winthrop remembers nothing about the diving accident that left her with a complex form of memory loss. With only brief flashes of the last few years of her life, her world has narrowed to a few close friendships on the island where she lives with her devoted husband, Jacob.

But all is not what it seems. Kyra begins to have visions—or are they memories?—of a rocky marriage, broken promises, and cryptic relationships with the island residents, whom she believes to be her friends.

As Kyra races to uncover her past, the truth becomes a terrifying nightmare. A twisty, immersive thriller, The Twilight Wife will keep readers enthralled through the final, shocking twist.

From Goodreads

Ahhhhh a mystery with an unreliable narrator. My favourite! I like a mystery where I feel off-kilter, not really sure if I can believe what I’m reading. And I definitely got that with this book. When the narrator’s memory is touch and go, how can you trust what she’s saying?

Trying to piece together what was real and what was imaginary as Krya was doing the same thing really made for a delicious read. And when I kind of figured out what was going on before she did? It’s like when you watch a horror movie and you know the heroine shouldn’t open the door and you’re yelling “DON’T!!!!” It was that kind of thing. I felt super anxious for Kyra because she was still clueless but I had all the clues lined up.

I can’t really go into much more without giving anything away. This was a quick read for me that really drew me right in.

I really enjoyed The Twilight Wife. It’s an awesome mystery and I definitely recommend it.

 

Field Notes — Sara Jewell

20 Dec

field

 

Publisher: Nimbus Publishing
Released: September 30th, 2016
Genre: Memoir, essays
Source: ARC from publisher

 

“When my husband told me he didn’t want to be married any longer, I didn’t call a lawyer, talk to my minister, or even tell my best friend. My first thought—and only plan—was go to Pugwash.”
So begins Sara Jewell’s tender and heartfelt collection of essays. After a childhood of idyllic summers on Canada’s east coast, Sara knew the only place she could begin to rebuild her life—to find her heart and home—was amid the salty air and red dirt roads of Cumberland County, Nova Scotia.

Part humorous observation and part honest self-reflection, Sara deftly explores the people, creatures, landscapes, and experiences that make her life in rural Nova Scotia so different from the big-city one she’d grown accustomed to.

They say you can never go back. But they are wrong.

From Goodreads

Delightful. That’s the word that kept popping into my head as I read Field Notes: A City Girl’s Search for Heart and Home in Rural Nova Scotia. 

As a former suburban chick who bought a 100 year old farmhouse and 37 acres of land with her hubby seven years ago, there’s a lot that I could identify with in Jewell’s essays. From her obsession with chickens (I have them also) to her desire for more farm animals (I also gave in to a desire for pet goats) I was nodding my head quite a bit while reading.

I am not a social person, so I really enjoyed reading about how Sara found herself welcomed into the community and all the connections she made. She really embraced the country life and I think that’s awesome. I was also pleasantly surprised to find out that Christina Martin, one of my favourite singers and an acquaintance of mine, is a neighbour of Jewell’s. Even reading a book about the Maritimes can result in that game of “I know them too!”

Jewell’s writing style is lush and descriptive and draws you right into the scene. She’s writes deep without being flowery and sometimes her essays take you to unexpected but beautiful places.

Honest and interesting, anyone who enjoys memoirs will love this book.

For the Love of Mary — Christopher Meades

15 Dec

love

 

Publisher: ECW Press
Released: June 14th, 2016
Genre: YA
Source: eARC from publisher

 

A hilarious coming-of-age novel about the pain of young love, family secrets, and sick ferrets

Fifteen-year-old Jacob feels almost on the inside: almost smart, almost funny, almost good-looking, almost worthy of falling in love. His sister is too busy dating guys in Whitesnake jackets to notice, and his best friend is occupied with his own painful pubescent crisis. Jacob’s mother has just started a curious (and rather un-Christian) holy war with the church across the street, while his father has secretly moved into the garage.

Everything changes when Jacob meets Mary. Jacob thinks Mary is the most beautiful girl in the world. If only Mary’s father wasn’t the minister at the enormous rival church. If only she wasn’t dating a youth pastor with pristine white teeth and impeccably trimmed hair. If only Jacob could work up the courage to tell Mary how he feels . . .

As the conflict between the churches escalates, a peeping Tom prowls the neighbourhood, a bearded lady terrorizes unsuspecting Dairy Queen customers, a beautiful young girl entices Jacob into a carnal romp in a car wash, and the church parishioners prepare their annual re-enactment of Operation Desert Storm.

For the Love of Mary is sidesplitting satire with a surprising amount of heart.

From Goodreads

Do you remember The Best Christmas Pageant ever? It’s a book but was also turned into a TV movie.  For the Love of Mary reminds me a bit of it. The whole fighting between the churches, both sides trying to one up the other, just has the same feel to it. And I LOVE it. This is a quirky book and quirky is very hard to nail. But Meades does it beautifully.

I love how weird and imperfect all the characters were. So so relatable. Every single character is a bit nutso, and really, isn’t that how life is? Their actions and dialogue are so believable even if the situations in the book seem a bit over the top. But because of how believable the characters are, it actually makes those over the top plot points seem believable.

This is humorous satirical writing at its best. But it’s not all about getting the laughs. There’s a real story here about friendship, first loves and tolerance.

I have to take a moment to talk about Jacob’s best friend, Moss Murphy. First of all, how great is that name? And the fact that he’s always referred to as Moss Murphy, not just Moss, is AWESOME. Like there’s the possibility that Jacob knows someone else by the name of Moss. And Moss Murphy is a character well-deserving of the name, let me tell you. He’s one of my favourite parts of the book.

My only issue is with the ending. Not necessarily the way it ended, but how abrupt it seems. I am all for open endings (and I actually prefer them) but the quickness of the ending caught me a bit off guard. This could in part be due to the fact that I really liked the book and didn’t want it to end.

I can’t recommend For the Love of Mary enough. If you like believable, quirky YA, then this is right up your alley.

What Light — Jay Asher

13 Dec

whatlight

 

Publisher: Razorbill
Released: Oct 18th, 2016
Genre: YA
Source: ARC from publisher

 

Sierra’s family runs a Christmas tree farm in Oregon—it’s a bucolic setting for a girl to grow up in, except that every year, they pack up and move to California to set up their Christmas tree lot for the season. So Sierra lives two lives: her life in Oregon and her life at Christmas. And leaving one always means missing the other.

Until this particular Christmas, when Sierra meets Caleb, and one life eclipses the other.

By reputation, Caleb is not your perfect guy: years ago, he made an enormous mistake and has been paying for it ever since. But Sierra sees beyond Caleb’s past and becomes determined to help him find forgiveness and, maybe, redemption. As disapproval, misconceptions, and suspicions swirl around them, Caleb and Sierra discover the one thing that transcends all else: true love.

What Light is a love story that’s moving and life-affirming and completely unforgettable.

From Goodreads

This is the PERFECT December read if you are into YA love stories that are just awesome. It’s no secret that I’m not a huge fan of romance books but love stories, if done well, just suck me right in. I sat down with What Light and didn’t get up until I finished it. Folks, I’m talking no pee breaks. I read it all at once and was kind of sad when it was over.

I love that the plot wasn’t overly complicated or overly done, and it drew me right in. Asher doesn’t need a whole lot of bells and whistles. His writing is on point and the plot believable. My test of whether or not a love story is believable is if I roll my eyes at all while reading. And I didn’t. I really cared about Sierra and Caleb and their relationship. I felt invested in their story and whether or not they’d make it. They were believable characters, both flawed in their own way.

And as I already mentioned, the writing is awesome. I was so into it that I had to make myself slow down so that I was really reading the words, not just skimming. And to me, this is always the sign of awesome writing.

 

The Universe vs Alex Woods — Gavin Extence

29 Nov

alexwoods

 

Publisher: Redhook
Released: June 25th, 2013
Genre: Young Adult
Source: Read hubby’s purchased copy

 

 

A rare meteorite struck Alex Woods when he was ten years old, leaving scars and marking him for an extraordinary future. The son of a fortune teller, bookish, and an easy target for bullies, Alex hasn’t had the easiest childhood.

But when he meets curmudgeonly widower Mr. Peterson, he finds an unlikely friend. Someone who teaches him that you only get one shot at life. That you have to make it count.

So when, aged seventeen, Alex is stopped at customs with 113 grams of marijuana, an urn full of ashes on the front seat, and an entire nation in uproar, he’s fairly sure he’s done the right thing …

Introducing a bright young voice destined to charm the world,The Universe Versus Alex Woods is a celebration of curious incidents, astronomy and astrology, the works of Kurt Vonnegut and the unexpected connections that form our world.

From Goodreads

My husband bought this book last year as his Christmas Eve book choice (every year we go into a bookstore on Christmas Eve and buy a book to read that evening/Christmas Day. Yes, we are those kind of people.) Once he finished it he started hounding me to read it. It sounded like an interesting enough read, but I didn’t feel a driving desire to read it. I finally picked it up last month and am very glad I did.

This was just a lovely read. At first it seems like it’s going to be a quirky book about this quirky kid who just happened to have gotten beamed off the head by a meteorite, but it ends up being much more than that.

The way the author writes the growing friendship with Mr. Peterson is just amazing. Here are two characters who really don’t have anything in common, yet they form a connection and a strong friendship. And it isn’t presented in a way that’s overly saccharine or moral message after moral message. It’s honest and real and funny but also heartbreaking at times.

I don’t want to give too much away from the plot, but I love how it was woven together and once again any lessons or morals weren’t shoved in my face. But it definitely made me think of my live and the choices I would make in certain situation.

The writing style and tone was spot on for the plot of the book. The author lets things flow naturally and there’s nothing forced about the POV or the voice of Alex.

This is definitely going on my Favourites shelf.