Tag Archives: contemp

Court of Lions — Jane Johnson

15 Jan


Publisher: Double Day
Released: May 30th 2017
Genre: Historical
Source: Finished copy from publisher


Kate Fordham, escaping terrible trauma, has fled to the beautiful sunlit city of Granada, the ancient capital of the Moors in Spain, where she is scraping by with an unfulfilling job in a busy bar. One day in the glorious gardens of the Alhambra, once home to Sultan Abu Abdullah Mohammed, also known as Boabdil, Kate finds a scrap of paper hidden in one of the ancient walls. Upon it, in strange symbols, has been inscribed a message from another age. It has lain undiscovered since before the Fall of Granada in 1492, when the city was surrendered to Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand. Born of love, in a time of danger and desperation, the fragment will be the catalyst that changes Kate’s life forever.

An epic saga of romance and redemption, Court of Lions brings one of the great hinge-points in human history to life, telling the stories of a modern woman and the last Moorish sultan of Granada, as they both move towards their cataclysmic destinies.

From Goodreads

This was an interesting read. I think it’s the first historical novel I’ve read that also has a current timeline plot connected with it. And while I found the transition back and forth between time periods smooth, I have to admit that I enjoyed the historical plot line more than the contemp plot line. It may be because I don’t read a lot of novels based on historical events that I found that plot so engaging.

The writing is so rich in detail that it made the location just pop to life. In fact, to me the location was a character in the book. It was almost like I was there. The description of the places made me want to go there, which is neat, because travel isn’t really my thing.

I’m normally not a huge fan of romance, but as I’ve said before if it’s done as part of the story and is done well, then I actually enjoy it. The romance and love in this story was beautifully written, especially in the historical parts of the book. I don’t want to give anything away, but it was quite lovely to read.

I really enjoyed Court of Lions and look forward to reading more from this author.




A Line in the Dark — Malinda Lo

11 Jan


Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers
Released: October 17th, 2017
Genre: YA, psychological thriller
Source: ARC from publisher


Jess Wong is Angie Redmond’s best friend. And that’s the most important thing, even if Angie can’t see how Jess truly feels. Being the girl no one quite notices is OK with Jess anyway. While nobody notices her, she’s free to watch everyone else. But when Angie begins to fall for Margot Adams, a girl from the nearby boarding school, Jess can see it coming a mile away. Suddenly her powers of observation are more curse than gift.

As Angie drags Jess further into Margot’s circle, Jess discovers more than her friend’s growing crush. Secrets and cruelty lie just beneath the carefree surface of this world of wealth and privilege, and when they come out, Jess knows Angie won’t be able to handle the consequences.

When the inevitable darkness finally descends, Angie will need her best friend.

“It doesn’t even matter that she probably doesn’t understand how much she means to me. It’s purer this way. She can take whatever she wants from me, whenever she wants it, because I’m her best friend.”

From Goodreads

Okay, so I’ve been struggling for MONTHS with how to review this book. Not because I’m not sure how I feel about it (I really enjoyed it) but because I really don’t want to give anything away. So this will be a short review.

I LOVE Lo’s writing. She really gets to the heart of her characters and their motivation without dumping a lot of info on the reader. And she weaves such wonderful stories that her books are really hard to put down. I mean, as I write this review I’ve added A Line in the Dark to the top of my to reread pile.

YA contemp is one of my favourite genres, and I love when it leans towards psychological thriller. The plot was tight and really kept me wanting to turn the page. And the ending wasn’t cliche or typical.

I think anyone who likes books with a bit of edge and twists should give this a try. And fans of YA contemp are going to love it.

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.



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



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



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



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.