Tag Archives: contemp

36 Questions That Changed My Mind About You — Vicki Grant

17 Oct

 

Publisher: Running Press
Released: Oct 17th 2017
Genre: YA, contemp
Source: ARC from publisher

 

 

Hildy and Paul each have their own reasons for joining the university psychology study that asks the simple question: Can love be engineered?

The study consists of 36 questions, ranging from “What is your most terrible memory?” to “When did you last sing to yourself?” By the time Hildy and Paul have made it to the end of the questionnaire, they’ve laughed and cried and lied and thrown things and run away and come back and driven each other almost crazy. They’ve also each discovered the painful secret the other was trying so hard to hide. But have they fallen in love?

Told in the language of modern romance—texting, Q&A, IM—and punctuated by Paul’s sketches, this clever high-concept YA is full of humor and heart. As soon as you’ve finished reading, you’ll be searching for your own stranger to ask the 36 questions. Maybe you’ll even fall in love.

From Goodreads

This book, guys. THIS. BOOK. So brilliant and funny and heart-warming and just ahhhhhhhhhhhhh. I have loved all of Vicki’s books, but this one is my fave.

First I have to talk about the concept. So so cool! I love that 36 Questions is based on an actual study. It just adds another layer of realism to the story.

The format was very different from other YA contemp books that I have read and it just added to the story telling. I love when authors take a chance like that. Especially when it works out so well.

The writing is just amazing. Most of the book is dialogue and not just any dialogue. Teen dialogue. Which can be hella hard to nail. The flow of the conversation between Hildy and Paul and the back and forth and the teasing and the flirting and the honesty is so spot on it was awkward to read at times. Like I was eavesdropping on a real conversation between two teens trying to navigate their lives while figuring each other out.

I really can’t recommend 36 Questions That Changed My Mind About You enough. I know a couple of people who will be getting this book as a Christmas gift.

 

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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.

 

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.

 

13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl — Mona Awad

1 Dec

13ways

 

Publisher: Penguin Pulse
Released: February 23rd, 2016
Genre: Adult, Literary
Source: Ebook purchased

 

Growing up in the suburban hell of Misery Saga (a.k.a. Mississauga), Lizzie has never liked the way she looks—even though her best friend Mel says she’s the pretty one. She starts dating guys online, but she’s afraid to send pictures, even when her skinny friend China does her makeup: she knows no one would want her if they could really see her. So she starts to lose. With punishing drive, she counts almonds consumed, miles logged, pounds dropped. She fights her way into coveted dresses. She grows up and gets thin, navigating double-edged validation from her mother, her friends, her husband, her reflection in the mirror. But no matter how much she loses, will she ever see herself as anything other than a fat girl?

In her brilliant, hilarious, and at times shocking debut, Mona Awad simultaneously skewers the body image-obsessed culture that tells women they have no value outside their physical appearance, and delivers a tender and moving depiction of a lovably difficult young woman whose life is hijacked by her struggle to conform. As caustically funny as it is heartbreaking, 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl introduces a vital new voice in fiction.

From Goodreads

OMG this book! I’m not even sure how to go forward with this review. This is by far one of my favourite reads of the year. The plot, the characters, the writing. It’s all so amazing and perfect for this book that it hurt me when it was over.

Lizzie is one of the most sympathetic, grating, relatable and unlikeable characters I’ve read in a long time. I have a lot of mixed emotions about her, as you can see. As someone who has spent most of her life struggling with her weight (and still currently struggling) this was a tough read for me at times. But it’s supposed to be. This isn’t the type of book that you pick up because you’re looking for a fun, light read.

I love the way this story is told. It isn’t 100% linear and it isn’t strictly from Lizzie first person POV. All of the chapters were about Lizzie, but some where told from other POVs which really really works and helps to get a better insight into her character. These were also the sections that are the most heartbreaking.

13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl is definitely going to stick with me for a long, long time. I can’t recommend it enough.

 

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.

Mad about the Boy — Helen Fielding

24 Nov

aboutboy

 

Publisher: Knopf Canada
Released: October 15th, 2015
Genre: Contemp, chick-lit
Source: Second hand copy purchased

 

Bridget Jones is back!

Great comic writers are as rare as hen’s teeth. And Helen is one of a very select band who have created a character of whom the very thought makes you smile. Bridget Jones’ Diary charting the life of a 30-something singleton in London in the 1990s was a huge international bestseller, published in 40 countries and selling over 15 million copies worldwide. Its sequel, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, published soon after was also a major international bestseller. Both were made into films starring Renée Zellweger, Hugh Grant and Colin Firth.

Set in the present, the new novel will explore a different phase in Bridget’s life with an entirely new scenario. As Helen Fielding has said: “If people laugh as much reading it as I am while writing it then we’ll all be very happy.”

From Goodreads
When this book was first announced, fans such as myself were over the moon giggley about getting to have another glimpse into the Bridget Jones world. Then the publisher unleashed their marketing campaign and gave away a MAJOR spoiler that pretty much pissed off most fans. I wasn’t upset with the spoiler, but I was really upset that something was given away. So I stayed away from reading the book.

I found it recently at a yard sale or flea market or somewhere (seriously, when you buy as many books as I do you lose track of where you’ve bought them) and decided to give it a read. And I really really liked it. I think I would have liked it more if I hadn’t known about THE BIG SPOILER but it was still an enjoyable read.
This is a light read with tendrils of seriousness wrapping around the reader every once in a while. Bridget is still Bridget and it’s hilarious (and sometimes awkward) to watch her trying to survive a new period in her life. She’s still awkward and she still wears her heart on her sleeve, but she’s gone through some shit and it has changed her a bit. There’s more depth to the character and I really, really like that.
There’s one part of the plot that is so obvious from the get go that i’s a bit of a roll your eyes kind of thing. I think it’s supposed to be a twist but it so isn’t. Or maybe it’s supposed to be super clear to anyone observing, but Bridget is completely oblivious. Either way, this part of the book fell a bit flat to me. I do think fans of the first two books will enjoy this third instalment, though. It was a quick read and I’m really happy I finally gave it a go.