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Optimists Die First — Susin Nielsen

9 Aug

 

Publisher: Penguin Random House
Released: Feb 21st, 2017
Genre: Young adult contemp
Source: Arc from publisher

 

 

Life ahead: Proceed with caution.

Sixteen-year-old Petula De Wilde is anything but wild. A family tragedy has made her shut herself off from the world. Once a crafting fiend with a happy life, Petula now sees danger in everything, from airplanes to ground beef.

The worst part of her week is her comically lame mandatory art therapy class. She has nothing in common with this small band of teenage misfits, except that they all carry their own burden of guilt.

When Jacob joins their ranks, he seems so normal and confident. Petula wants nothing to do with him, or his prosthetic arm. But when they’re forced to collaborate on a unique school project, she slowly opens up, and he inspires her to face her fears.

Until a hidden truth threatens to derail everything.

From Goodreads

It’s no secret that I worship the ground Susin Nielsen writes on. She is one of my top five favourite authors and her books never disappoint. Optimists Die First continues that trend. This is a heartfelt and honestly written book.

I read this book at the perfect time. I was having a hard time dealing with my depression and anxiety. So despite the fact that I am way older that Petula, I could really identify with her. And I think a lot of readers will. For me Nielsen is the queen of writing about important topics without hitting readers over the head with it. She really gets into the psyche of her characters and shows rather than tells the readers what’s going on.

I’m a sucker for stories about people who don’t 100% fit in. Those who are on the edge of society, either doing their own thing or trying to fit in. Petula and Jacob are perfect examples of this.

I really can’t recommend this book enough. Or any of her other books.

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.

 

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.

 

Movers — Meagan MacIsaac

17 Nov

movers

 

Publisher: Tundra
Released: February 2nd, 2016
Genre: Young Adult, dystopia
Source: Review copy from publisher

 

The world is dying, overcrowded and polluted. Storms rage over the immensely tall tower blocks, attracted to Movers.

Movers are connected to people in the future, their Shadows. And moving your Shadow is highly illegal.

Patrick knows all too well what happens if you break the law: his father has been in the Shelves ever since he moved his Shadow. And now Patrick and his family are in danger again.

Following a catastrophic event at their school, Patrick must go on the run. Through filthy, teeming markets, forebrawler matches, a labyrinth of underground tunnels and beyond, he’ll need his wits and courage to escape the forces that want to take everything he loves.

From Goodreads

What an action-packed exciting read! The premise of Movers grabbed me instantly and was very different from any other dystopian YA novel I’ve read. I pretty much flew through the book, eager to find out what the heck was going on.

I have to chat a bit about Movers and their Shadows. What a cool/creepy concept. And I love the fact that not all was as it seemed and that Patrick is never quite sure wha’s going on. He’s really feeling off balanced and that was so well written that as a reader I feel off balanced also.

I also think it’s interesting that Movers are looked down on and in some cases ostracized.

I really like that Patrick was thrown into the situation and has to form alliances with people that he isn’t 100% sure he could trust. I’m all about the group dynamics and love when different personalities are thrown together and have to deal with crap.

The book ends on a bit of a cliffhanger and I can’t wait to read the next in the series.

Strike — Delilah S. Dawson

17 Oct

strikePublisher: Simon Pulse
Released: April 12th, 2016
Genre: Young Adult
Source: Review copy from publisher

The hit list was just the beginning.

Time to strike back.

After faking her own death to escape her term as an indentured assassin for Valor Savings Bank, Patsy is on the run with her boyfriend, Wyatt. All she wants to do is go home, but that’s never going to happen—not as long as Valor’s out to get her and the people she loves.

Left with no good choices, Patsy’s only option is to meet with a mysterious group that calls itself the Citizens for Freedom.

Led by the charismatic Leon Crane, the CFF seem like just what Patsy has been looking for. Leon promises that if she joins, she’ll finally get revenge on Valor for everything they’ve done to her—and for everything they’ve made her do.

But Patsy knows the CFF has a few secrets of their own. One thing is certain: they’ll do absolutely anything to complete their mission, no matter who’s standing in their way. Even if it’s Patsy herself.

From Goodreads

 

I liked Strike soooo much better than Hit and I liked Hit so that’s saying a lot.

There are more characters in Strike, and the element that I liked the most was the different group dynamics. Everyone has been through their own version of hell and it was fascinating to watch how they all interacted with each other. I always gravitate towards dystopia and post-apocalyptic literature and shows where the setting and what’s going on isn’t always the focus, but rather, how people interact with each other in these settings. Sometimes it’s done in a realistic manner and others not so much. For me Dawson nailed it.

I also enjoyed the relationship between Patsy and Wyatt way more than I did in Hit. I just felt that their connection made more sense in this book and was more believable to me.

While I enjoyed the over plot of the book (I don’t want to talk about it and give anything away) there were some elements that felt a bit convenient to me. But that’s okay. Even in a shitty world coincidences do happen. 🙂

I think fans of Hit are really going to enjoy Strike. And if you weren’t a huge fan of Hit? I think there’s a good chance that you’ll still enjoy this book.

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.