Tag Archives: YA

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.

 

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.

 

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.

Secrets Box Set Giveaway!

16 Mar

secretsboxset

 

WHOOOOOOHOOOOOO!!!!!!

Thanks to the awesome folks over at Orca, I have one boxset of the Secrets collection to giveaway to one lucky booknerd! These are greats books and I really enjoyed them all, as you can tell by my reviews of them over the past eight days. They connect but can be read in any order and each teaches the reader a little something about history, human connection and finding your own path.

This contest is open to Canada and US and it’s easy to enter. No following or liking or any of that. Simply comment below and tell me which book you’d like to read the most out of the series. You have until March 26th 11:59 pm EST to enter. One entry per person.

Good luck and happy reading!

Innocent — Eric Walters

15 Mar

innocent

 

Publisher: Orca Books
Released: September 29th, 2015
Genre: YA
Source: Ebook review copy from publisher

 

Sometimes you have to look back in order to move forward.

After the orphanage she lives in is destroyed by fire, Betty, an innocent and trusting teen, takes a job as a maid in Kingston, Ontario. Welcomed into the household of the wealthy Remington clan, Betty makes friends with the staff at the house and soon discovers that her mother had also been a maid there—and that her father is in a nearby jail, convicted of murdering her mother. When she meets her father, she is taken aback by his claims of innocence, and she decides to try to uncover the truth about her mother’s murder and her father’s conviction. A friendly young policeman assists her in her investigation (and shows an interest in Betty that is more romantic than professional). But all is not well in the Remington household, and someone doesn’t want Betty to learn the truth.

From Goodreads

Although this book is set in 1964, it has a bit of a gothic feel to it, which I love. The whole young-girl-goes-to-work-at-a-mansion-while-working-to-uncover-a-mystery thing, and it works quite well. Betty is an outsider who is welcomed into the Remington household but almost straight off the bat you get the feeling that things are a bit wonky.

While the other girls are all searching to discover who their parents are, Betty finds out during the course of the book and then her focus switches to finding out what really happened to her mother. As with all the best mysteries, her search is anything but easy and it isn’t always clear who’s on her side. That’s what I love about a well-told mystery: like the protagonist, you aren’t always sure who is good and who is bad.

The mystery is also very well-crafted, which isn’t always a given with the genre. The plot wasn’t convuluted and the ending wasn’t easy to figure out, although there were some well placed hints along the way.

This was one of my favourite plots of all the Secrets books and I highly recommend it.