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The Love that Split the World — Emily Henry

19 Sep

split

 

Publisher: Razorbill
Released: Jan 26th, 2016
Genre: Young Adult
Source: Review copy from publisher

 

Natalie Cleary must risk her future and leap blindly into a vast unknown for the chance to build a new world with the boy she loves.

Natalie’s last summer in her small Kentucky hometown is off to a magical start… until she starts seeing the “wrong things.” They’re just momentary glimpses at first—her front door is red instead of its usual green, there’s a pre-school where the garden store should be. But then her whole town disappears for hours, fading away into rolling hills and grazing buffalo, and Nat knows something isn’t right.

That’s when she gets a visit from the kind but mysterious apparition she calls “Grandmother,” who tells her: “You have three months to save him.” The next night, under the stadium lights of the high school football field, she meets a beautiful boy named Beau, and it’s as if time just stops and nothing exists. Nothing, except Natalie and Beau.

Emily Henry’s stunning debut novel is Friday Night Lights meets The Time Traveler’s Wife, and perfectly captures those bittersweet months after high school, when we dream not only of the future, but of all the roads and paths we’ve left untaken.

From Goodreads

I love, love, LOVE how this book starts. Right in the middle of the story, no preamble or backstory or lead in. Just BAM! there you are. Why this works so well is that it really gave me a sense of being off balanced, which is how Natalie feels for a large part of the book. Things are going on, weird things, and she isn’t sure why. Or even what sometimes. So the opening really put me in the middle of her feelings, and I just loved that.

The friendship between Natalie and her best friend Megan was spot on. As was the dialogue. So realistic and snappy and fun. But these two had a deep bond and that came across strongly, even during the moments of banter.

The timey wimey stuff was cool, too, although I have to admit I didn’t 100% understand it. And I’m not sure what happens at the end of the book. But I think that is more about me than the story or the writing. I tend to have a hard time wrapping my brain around that kind of thing.

Even though I was a bit unsure about the ending, I really, really enjoyed this book.

 

The Serpent King — Jeff Zentner

13 Sep

serpent

 

Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers/Random House
Released: March 8th, 2016
Genre: Young Adult
Source: Review copy from publisher

 

Dill has had to wrestle with vipers his whole life—at home, as the only son of a Pentecostal minister who urges him to handle poisonous rattlesnakes, and at school, where he faces down bullies who target him for his father’s extreme faith and very public fall from grace.

He and his fellow outcast friends must try to make it through their senior year of high school without letting the small-town culture destroy their creative spirits and sense of self. Graduation will lead to new beginnings for Lydia, whose edgy fashion blog is her ticket out of their rural Tennessee town. And Travis is content where he is thanks to his obsession with an epic book series and the fangirl turning his reality into real-life fantasy.

Their diverging paths could mean the end of their friendship. But not before Dill confronts his dark legacy to attempt to find a way into the light of a future worth living.

From Goodreads

OMG this book. THIS BOOK. It started off nice and calm, an interesting novel about friendship, then a little over half way through it turned into one of those books that has you feeling ALL THE FEELZ and frantically turning the pages and talking out loud to yourself and wanting to take the author out for cup of tea to thank them SO MUCH for writing it.

I won’t go into the plot because I don’t want to spoil anything, and I generally don’t in reviews anyway, but this was one of the deepest and truest and loveliest and heart-wrenching friendship stories I have every read. And while there are other aspects to the plot, for me it was all about the friendship between Dill and Lydia and Travis.

I love when a book deals with emotions without being overly emotional and fake and that’s exactly what The Serpent King does. Zentner’s writing style is very quiet and honest, no big bells and whistles and I mean that as the biggest compliment. Big things happen, but he writes about them from a place of emotion and human connection and parts of this book just left me gutted.

I felt such a strong attachment to the characters in The Serpent King that I really, really wanted to know what happened to them after the last page of the book, and that really isn’t like me. But the story and the characters were so well and realistically written and I just felt like I was invested in their lives.

This was an amazing read and I can’t recommend it enough.

It Should Have Been a #GoodDay blog tour

25 Feb

goodday

 

Full disclosure time, folks: One of my other personalities — Savvy Fox — was the main developmental editor on It Should Have Been a #GoodDay and I also organized this blog tour.😀

Since it would be kinda weird if I posted a review (although I LOVE LOVE LOVE this book and think you should all read it!) I did want to take part so Natalie agreed to do a Q&A.

Coffee or tea?

Tea, definitely. I can’t even stand the smell of coffee … though my chemical pick me up of choice is diet Coke.

Sweat pants or yoga pants?

Sweats, though yoga pants have a close second. Either really. So long as they’re stretchy.

Music while writing or silence?

Silence. I wish I could write with music, but it’s too distracting!

Do you have any writing rituals? (Certain pen, certain time, certain stack food, those kinds of thing?)

I write at my ‘Me Station’ – the desk where I do things that are only for me, not for the kids or the house or the husband… I love to snack on small bite things like M&Ms or crackers, though it’s not a necessity. Diet Coke is often present, and my desk lamp is on, even if it’s sunny or the overhead light is on as well. It’s like turning on the desk light turns on my focus on my keyboard.

What’s the last book that you read that completely blew you away?

Oh so hard. Probably either “I’ll Give you the Sun” or “Life After Life” Both were incredible, magical and untouchable. Books like that both inspire me to write more and remind me I’ll never write like that… a strange dichotomy of emotion.

Henry has some very specific things that he does to deal with stress and life in general. Do you have any coping mechanisms that you rely on when things get a bit harried?

All the bad stuff. I bite my nails, terribly and painfully! I eat to relieve stress. To cope, sometimes I’ll write To Do lists to itemize and solidify what is going on. I make sure to include items I’ve already done so I can check them off.

Not all of the characters in your books are nice. How hard is it to write unlikeable characters?

It’s not so hard to write unlikeable characters – what I find hard it to make sure they’r not pure awful. I tend to lean towards black and white, bad and good characters but a story is more interesting if everyone has shades of grey – some good and some bad all mixed together, or if their bad actions have good intentions. I find that challenging because it forces me to find a different perspective – what I would consider an unlikeable action or opinion may not come from ignorance or hate or meanness. I was heartsick when an editor called one of my favourite characters a ‘cad’. I saw him as a good guy locked in an impossible situation wherein he made a brave and selfless choice… he saw him as a manipulative cad, a coward who ran away… In the end I had to accept that each reader will go away with a different opinion of my characters and that’s what makes it interesting, but I had hurt feelings on behalf of my character, that someone didn’t LIKE him.

Thanks so much to Natalie for stopping by!

It Should Have Been a #GoodDay is out this Sunday, February 28th, and we holding an official launch party in Halifax!

 

Eulogy — Ken Murray

27 Jan

eulogyPublisher: Tightrope Books, Inc
Released: July 1st, 2015
Genre: Adult contemp
Source: Paperback review copy from publicist

 

 

 

The controlled and calm life of William Oaks is shattered when his parents die suddenly in a car crash. A reclusive paper conservator at a renowned Toronto museum, William must face the obsessions and denials that have formed him: delusional family history, religious fundamentalism, living with unhappy parents who are constantly bickering, forced starvation, secrets and get-rich-quick schemes. Memory and facts collide, threatening to derail his life and career as William feverishly prepares for an important exhibition on the Egyptian Book of the Dead.

I have to admit when the request to review Eulogy popped into my email, my first impulse was to say no. While the description was interesting, it really didn’t seem like my cup of tea at all. But I decided to take a chance on it. After all it was by a debut Canadian author, and you know I am all about supporting our writers.

Holy Lord frigging Jesus am I ever glad I decided to review it. Eulogy is a heart-wrenching book about love, family, self-doubt and dealing with all the shit that life and relatives can put you through.

I love books where there are no “good” or “bad” characters. Where there’s just people trying to do what’s best with what they have. Sometimes they succeed and sometimes they fail. And sometimes it can be really hard to tell the difference. That’s what I loved so much about Eulogy. All of the characters are damaged in some way or another and it’s just heartbreaking.  And it’s real. So goddamn REAL.

The voice of the main character, William Oaks, describes his current life and the events leading up to it in such a way that it seems very non-judgmental. This lends itself a lot to Murray’s writing, which is beautifully descriptive and never delves into the cliche. Also, Oaks never dips into self pity, although there would be plenty of reason to. Because of this, Murray wrote a believable narrative through the eyes of a character that could be very skewed due to who he is and how he was brought up.

Eulogy was a fascinating read and a quick one for me. Once I started it I felt compelled to finish it. If you like books that tell an amazing story (but a difficult story to read sometimes due to the nature of the content) then Eulogy is right up your alley.

Girl Incredible — Patti Larsen

10 Sep

girlincrediblePublisher: Purely Paranormal Press
Released: Feb 16th, 2015
Genre: YA contemporary
Source: For review from author

 

 

 

 

Her CIA bosses think she’s the bomb. Kitalia Ore is positive of that fact.

Okay, fine. Kitten MacLean. And they’re her parents, but it’s so much more fun to imagine them the other way around. And J.J., her MI6 contact? He’s in love with her. Doesn’t matter that her closest confidant, Jimmy Jones, hasn’t spoken a word to her since first grade.

Everyone at school adores her, too. Sure, they might not know it yet, but every single student at Rimtree High is her best friend. Naturally.

She’s just that incredible.

When a new girl—Kit’s choice for sidekick in her daily adventures—is being bullied, however, it’s time for Kit to take charge and leave her fantasy world of fearless bravado and easy victories behind. Can the “real” Kit use her make-believe practice to her advantage? The world outside her CIA missions is far different than she’s used to, and her usual happy-go lucky heart is about to take the beating of a lifetime. But Kit has never backed down from anything in her life and she’s not about to start now.

Time to find out what she’s really made of. Before the bad guys ruin everything.

From Goodreads.

Did you know it’s possible for a book to be heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time?  Well, it is. And I think that’s the best way I can describe Girl Incredible.

I loved this book. I loved Kit and I could so identify with the issues she was having. I think a lot of people will be able to.

Kit is possibly the happiest, most positive character I’ve encountered. She thinks everyone is her best friend. She’s sees everything as a way to spread her happy. And I think that’s what makes the book so heartbreaking at times. The fact that her vision of her life doesn’t always match the reality of what’s going on.

I loved reading about her alter ego, Kitalia Ore, and I loved how this imaginary world mimicked what was going on in her real life. But for me the meat of the story was what was going on in her real life and how she was dealing (or not dealing) with the challenges that she was faced with. I was riveted and pretty much read the book in one sitting. I had to know what was going to happen. And I was rooting for everything to go alright. It’s almost as if I became super protective of Kit.

This was such a neat read. It just made me feel really really good. And who doesn’t like that?

Taken By Chance — Erica Cameron and Lani Woodland

14 May

takenbychance

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.