Book Review: How it Ends by Catherine Lo

how it ends

How It Ends

Release date: June 7th 2016

3.5 stars

There are two sides to every story.
It’s friends-at-first-sight for Jessie and Annie, proving the old adage that opposites attract. Shy, anxious Jessie would give anything to have Annie’s beauty and confidence. And Annie thinks Jessie has the perfect life, with her close-knit family and killer grades. They’re BFFs…until suddenly they’re not.
Told through alternating points of view, How It Ends is a wildly fast but deeply moving read about a friendship in crisis. Set against a tumultuous sophomore year of bullying, boys and backstabbing, the novel shows what can happen when friends choose assumptions and fear over each other
.

This ended up being a pretty quick read, but a good one, about the ups and downs of friendship, the effects of rumours, and the strength of finding yourself. It went back and forth between the POVs of Annie and Jessie, showing how they became friends and how they slowly started to drift apart. Their friendship seemed so perfect at first but it felt very realistic that outside forces could slowly break them apart.

Jessie was the shy girl with no friends before Annie came into her life. She had anxiety, which made it hard for her to maintain any friendships, and she usually found solace in books over people. Annie was more outgoing but struggled at home with her new step-mother and step-sister. The two girls seemed destined to be friends and they definitely hit it off quickly. It was both sad and frustrating to see them drifting apart, especially over secrets and the popular crowd. I really wanted to scream at them to talk and listen to each other.

There was a bit of a romance in the book, with Annie beginning to date a boy that Jessie had a crush on, but it mostly stayed in the background. The main focused remained on the two girls and their growth separately and together. It was a brutal but realistic and honest journey of two very different girls navigating their way through high school and trying to find a way to both get what they wanted and needed from their friendship.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: Shooter by Caroline Pignat

shooter

Shooter

4 stars

A lockdown catches five grade 12 students by surprise and throws them together in the only unlocked room on that empty third floor wing: the boys’ washroom. They sit in silence, judging each other by what they see, by the stories they’ve heard over the years. Stuck here with them–could anything be worse?
There’s Alice: an introverted writer, trapped in the role of big sister to her older autistic brother, Noah.
Isabelle: the popular, high-achieving, student council president, whose greatest performance is her everyday life.
Hogan: an ex-football player with a troubled past and a hopeless future.
Xander: that socially awkward guy hiding behind the camera, whose candid pictures of school life, especially those of Isabelle, have brought him more trouble than answers.
Told in five unique voices through prose, poetry, text messages, journals, and homework assignments, each student reveals pieces of their true story as they wait for the drill to end. But this modern-day Breakfast Club takes a twist when Isabelle gets a text that changes everything: NOT A DRILL!! Shooter in the school!
Suddenly, the bathroom doesn’t seem so safe anymore. Especially when they learn that one of them knows more about the shooter than they realized…

I was really excited to read this book because of the ‘The Breakfast Club meets We Need to Talk About Kevin’ comparisons. The Breakfast Club is one of my favourite movies so any time there’s a mention of it in the synopsis of a book, I know I’ll be picking it up and reading it. Thankfully, this one didn’t disappoint and I was able to see where The Breakfast Club comparisons came from.

The book was told in the POVs of the five teenagers and used different styles to tell the story. We saw prose, verse, text messages, homework assignments, diagrams and it was done it a way that was still easy to read and understand even with all the switching POVs and styles. The characters were all also unique to each other that it was easy to tell whose POV it was. What was hard was choosing a favourite. I still go back and forth on different ones each time I think of this book.

My favourite thing was how these characters who were stuck together interacted with each other. None of them were friends but knew of each other, or had had run-ins with each other, but nothing of significance except siblings Alice and Noah. The feel of the room could go from friendly to hostile to uncomfortable so much with just one interaction between two characters. I liked the way more information about each character was slowly revealed to the reader but also to the group and it started to change the way each person was viewed. It was also great to see growth in the characters even with the book being set in such a short span of time.

There was a lot of tension through the book as well. With the majority of it being set in one small room, it could have gotten repetitive after a while but Caroline Pignat did a great job of keeping things interesting and keeping the plot moving. It made me want to keep reading and I ended up finishing it in about a day and a half(and only then because I had to work).

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Book Review: How It Feels to Fly by Kathryn Holmes

hot it feels to fly

How It Feels To Fly

Release date: June 14th 2016

4 stars

A struggle with body dysmorphia forces one girl to decide if letting go of her insecurity also means turning her back on her dreams.
Sam has always known she’d be a professional dancer—but that was before her body betrayed her, developing unmanageable curves in all the wrong places. Lately, the girl staring back at Sam in the mirror is unrecognizable. Dieting doesn’t work, ignoring the whispers is pointless, and her overbearing mother just makes it worse.
Following a series of crippling anxiety attacks, Sam is sent to a treatment camp for teens struggling with mental and emotional obstacles. Forced to open up to complete strangers, Sam must get through the program if she wants to attend a crucial ballet intensive later in the summer. It seems hopeless until she starts confiding in a camp counselor who sparks a confidence she was sure she’d never feel again. But when she’s faced with disappointing setbacks, will Sam succumb to the insecurity that imprisons her?
This compelling story from Kathryn Holmes examines one girl’s efforts to overcome her worst enemy: herself

This was one of those kinds of books that completely took me by surprise with how much I was able to relate to the characters and how much I came to care about them all. These were very talented teenagers who were having trouble performing in their chosen fields for various reasons and who all ended up at the same treatment center. They were there to learn coping mechanisms and acceptance so they could go back into the world and do what they loved.

Sam, the main character, was having panic attacks over gaining weight as her body developed. Her body was no longer a perfect ballerina body and, to her, if felt like everyone around her was staring at her, judging her. It was clear that she loved ballet, that it was what she wanted to do with her life, and the fact that it felt like it was slipping away from her was terrifying. I found her character easy to understand and relate to and I really was hoping she would end up in a good place by the end of her journey – even if that place wasn’t what she was expecting.

The character dynamics were absolutely fantastic. I loved seeing the group go from complete strangers to accepting they were stuck with each other to friends to their own little family. I wanted to see them all succeed in conquering their demons and get better. Everyone from Jenna, the figure skater, Oscar the actor, Dominic the football player, Katie the gymnast, and Zoe the tennis player had their own personalities, their own stories, their own issues they would have to face. The main focus was always on Sam but the book didn’t ignore that the other teens were there for a reason. I also loved that they were all so different from each other so it gave their group a bit of the misfit family vibe I love so much.

I really enjoyed the unique way the therapists at Perform at Your Peak were able to connect with the teens and put them in activities and situations that helped them face their issues. Everything was so well thought out. I also really liked that the plot was focused on the therapy and on Sam’s journey to healing, and not on romance.

This is definitely a book I will be recommending to people. I connected with Sam and I think a lot of other people will as well.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Waiting on Wednesday

New WoW

This is a feature started on Breaking the Spine that puts the spotlight on upcoming books.

This week’s pick is:

female of the species

The Female of the Species

Release date: September 20th 2016

Goodreads: Alex Craft knows how to kill someone. And she doesn’t feel bad about it. When her older sister, Anna, was murdered three years ago and the killer walked free, Alex uncaged the language she knows best. The language of violence.
While her crime goes unpunished, Alex knows she can’t be trusted among other people, even in her small hometown. She relegates herself to the shadows, a girl who goes unseen in plain sight, unremarkable in the high school hallways.
But Jack Fisher sees her. He’s the guy all other guys want to be: the star athlete gunning for valedictorian with the prom queen on his arm. Guilt over the role he played the night Anna’s body was discovered hasn’t let him forget Alex over the years, and now her green eyes amid a constellation of freckles have his attention. He doesn’t want to only see Alex Craft; he wants to know her.
So does Peekay, the preacher’s kid, a girl whose identity is entangled with her dad’s job, though that does not stop her from knowing the taste of beer or missing the touch of her ex-boyfriend. When Peekay and Alex start working together at the animal shelter, a friendship forms and Alex’s protective nature extends to more than just the dogs and cats they care for.
Circumstances bring Alex, Jack, and Peekay together as their senior year unfolds. While partying one night, Alex’s darker nature breaks out, setting the teens on a collision course that will change their lives forever.

Why I`m excited: Mindy McGinnis just keeps writing addicting books and this one sounds dark but with that friendship dynamic that I love.

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Weekly Reading Recap

14836299-stack-of-books-books-stacked

I got to read outside this week:) I also got sunburned this week:(

Currently reading: return to the isle

Finished reading: hot it feels to flyhow it endsshooterGlittering Court

Reviewed: frannie and truwanderlosttrue letters

What I’m hoping to get to next week: all the feelsmy lady jane to read

hot it feels to flyshooterhow it ends to review

What this means for my 2016 challenges:

  • 92 books read in total
  • 45 contemporary books read
  • 37 paranormal/fantasy books read
  • 30 2016 debut authors read
  • 53 reviews posted

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Top Ten Tuesday

toptentuesday

Top Ten Tuesday was started by The Broke and the Bookish. Every Tuesday there’s a different topic. This week’s topic is Top Ten books I feel differently about after time has passed.

10. twilight big Twilight  – Stephanie Meyer. I admit, I wasn’t a huge fan of this series and my feelings in that regard haven’t changed. But hearing fans’ stories about how this series got them back into reading or just how passionate they can get, it makes me appreciate the series more now than I did back when it was all Twilight, all the time.

9. glass houses big Morganville Vampires – Rachel Caine. I binge read the first nine or ten books in this series in a few days so I was reading one book, finishing it, and going right into the next one. I did multiple books in a day. I loved them but it wasn’t the best way to fully appreciate the characters or the world-building.

8. hush hush Hush, Hush – Becca Fitzpatrick. Hush, Hush was my first experience with YA Angels and I thought it was great. After reading a lot of other series with Angels then going back to this series, all I could think was ‘I don’t remember being this annoyed with the main characters in the first book’.

7. under the never sky big Under the Never Sky – Veronica Rossi. I read this series pretty early on in the whole Dystopian craze so I didn’t fully appreciate just how intricate the world-building was until I’d read a lot of other Dystopian series with not-so-great world-building.

6. vampire academy big Vampire Academy – Richelle Mead. By the time I started this series, I think all the books except the last one were out. I read the whole series pretty fast and got caught up in the plot that I didn’t take the time to appreciate how well developed all the characters were and how complex their relationships got.

5. bobbsey The Bobbsey Twins – Laura Lee Hope. I loved this series as a kid and most of the books are boxed up in the attic(because we keep meaning to take them to the library when they’re having a collection but keep forgetting). With the books being set when they are, there’s so much about it that makes me wince now.

4. nancy drew Nancy Drew – Carolyn Keene. Another series I loved as a child but, other than thinking Nancy was really cool, I didn’t really appreciate how strong of a female character she was until I grew up.

3. madman's daughter The Madman’s Daughter – Megan Shepherd. This was one of the first non-war historical fiction books I read and also one of the first re-tellings. After reading more in both genres, I’ve come to love this series even more for the way the author was able to keep the same dark tone across three different re-tellings.

2. goodbye The Last Time We Say Goodbye – Cynthia Hand. I knew this book had deeply affected me after I’d finished it but I didn’t truly realize how much until months after when I teared up talking about it to a friend. It’s been well over a year since I read it now and it’s still hard to get through explaining it without tearing up.

1. harry potter Harry Potter – JK Rowling. I was a little late to the party but I was still reading them while they were still being published. Reading Harry Potter was the thing to do. I think a lot of us knew it was something special but to see it come to where it is now, with theme parks, a play, 8 movies and counting, and a whole new generation that’s just beginning to fall in love with it, well…every time I think I can’t possibly love this series any more than I already do, it finds a way to surprise me.

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Book Review: Frannie and Tru by Karen Hattrup

frannie and tru

Frannie and Tru

Release date: May 31st 2016

3.5 stars

When Frannie Little eavesdrops on her parents fighting she discovers that her cousin Truman is gay, and his parents are so upset they are sending him to live with her family for the summer. At least, that’s what she thinks the story is. . . When he arrives, shy Frannie befriends this older boy, who is everything that she’s not–rich, confident, cynical, sophisticated. Together, they embark on a magical summer marked by slowly unraveling secrets.

This was the story of a lonely girl and the cousin who came to live with her family for the summer. Frannie had lost her best friends when money constraints meant she could no longer attend the private school they all went to and would be starting public school in the fall. She was lonely and insecure and anxious about starting a new school so it made sense that she really was looking forward to connecting with Truman. She was searching for her own identity so her latching on to Truman, who seemed so confident and sure of who he was, also made sense. It did make Frannie seem more like a supporting character in her own story for a while, with most of her thoughts centering around Truman, always wanting to be with Truman, feeling jealous when Truman spent time with other people, but I liked getting to see her slowly take control of her own identity.

There was also a nice sub-plot of Frannie and her whole family opening up to be more accepting of people and events outside their norm. They weren’t bad people but at the beginning they were all very comfortable in their own neighborhood, their own ideals, and branching out to meet new people or try new things was never at the top of their lists. Truman changed that. He pushed Frannie, and in turn she made the other want to push themselves.

Tru was an interesting character. Seeing him through Frannie’s eyes made him seem larger than life, that cool guy you definitely want to notice you, the person who’s approval will validate you. Reading him, even through Frannie’s eyes, as an adult, I could see him more clearly than she could. There were moments of wincing when I knew he was being manipulative but there were definitely moments when it was obvious he did genuinely care about her. He was going through a lot and angry and sullen but also trying to be there for Frannie.

Overall, it was a quick read but one that said a lot about growing up, finding your identity and breaking out of your own comfort area.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: Wanderlost by Jen Malone

wanderlost

Wanderlost

Release Date: May 31st 2016

3.5 stars

Not all those who wander are lost, but Aubree Sadler most definitely is on this novel’s whirlwind trip through Europe.
Aubree can’t think of a better place to be than in perfectly boring Ohio, and she’s ready for a relaxing summer. But when her older sister, Elizabeth, gets into real trouble, Aubree is talked into taking over Elizabeth’s summer job, leading a group of senior citizens on a bus tour through Europe.
Aubree doesn’t even make it to the first stop in Amsterdam before their perfect plan unravels, leaving her with no phone, no carefully prepared binder full of helpful facts, and an unexpected guest: the tour company owner’s son, Sam. Considering she’s pretending to be Elizabeth, she absolutely shouldn’t fall for him, but she can’t help it, especially with the most romantic European cities as the backdrop for their love story.
But her relationship with Sam is threatening to ruin her relationship with her sister, and she feels like she’s letting both of them down. Aubree knows this trip may show her who she really is—she just hopes she likes where she ends up.

I was surprised with how much I ended up connecting to Aubree by the end of this book since, at first, I wasn’t too sure how much I would like her. She seemed a bit like a brat and I didn’t want to spend a lot of time in her POV if it was going to be about how much everything ruined her life even though she was the one who decided to have the party and her sister basically saved her ass. But then her sister guilt-tripped her into taking her place as a tour guide, posing as her, and we saw the real Aubree, the young girl who had stayed in her comfort zone her whole life and was about to be pushed out of it in an extraordinary fashion.

It seemed like whatever could go wrong, went wrong for her at the beginning. She lost her phone and the itinerary her sister made her on the plane, her driver didn’t speak English and she spoke only English, and the mother of the company’s owner was a part of her tour. She could have easily given in and confessed to everything and I wouldn’t have blamed her. First time away from home, first time in another country, and she was so alone. But she kept finding ways to pull through for the people depending on her.

I ended up liking her flirtation with Sam more when it was over the phone than when he showed up. Over the phone was harmless but in person, with her feelings growing, it was a little hard to really get into knowing that she was lying to him. She kept having to feed him half-truths about her life since he thought she was her sister, and also a few years older.

The plot was mostly pushed by Aubree’s growth. She went from being someone who wasn’t willing to try new things, to travel, to go too far from home, to someone who was confident leading a tour in another country. The senior citizens that made up Aubree’s group were a great supporting cast and made me feel like I would definitely want to be a part of their tour. It was a pretty light read and would make a good choice for a beach read or a travel book.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: True Letters from a Fictional Life by Kenneth Logan

true letters

True Letters From a Fictional Life

Release date: June 7th 2016

3.5 stars

If you asked anyone in his small Vermont town, they’d tell you the facts: James Liddell, star athlete, decent student and sort-of boyfriend to cute, peppy Theresa, is a happy, funny, carefree guy.
But whenever James sits down at his desk to write, he tells a different story. As he fills his drawers with letters to the people in his world–letters he never intends to send–he spills the truth: he’s trying hard, but he just isn’t into Theresa. It’s a boy who lingers in his thoughts.
He feels trapped by his parents, his teammates, and the lies they’ve helped him tell, and he has no idea how to escape. Is he destined to live a life of fiction?

The cover of this one caught my attention, with its bright colours and a pez dispenser, which immediately made me curious to see how big of a role the pez dispenser would play in the plot. The concept sounded a little Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda meets To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, both books I really liked, so I was definitely convinced to pick this one up and give it a try.

James had a very strong voice that I really liked. He was struggling with the fact that he felt nothing for his supposed girlfriend and a lot of something for one of his male friends and what exactly did that mean? His main method of coping with his feelings(any feelings) was to write a very honest letters to that person, get it all out, and then lock it away in his drawer. He seemed like a really good guy who just didn’t want to hurt anyone. It wasn’t just about him coming to terms with his sexuality but also of breaking away from everyone’s expectations of him.

I really loved all the character dynamics that were happening in this book. My favourite was the friendship between James and Hawken. Everyone needs a Hawken in their life. James and his best friend Derek were a close second. It was just an amazing group of friends that would fight and disagree and make up and just hang out. There were so many great family moments as well. It made the book feel like it was more than simply a coming out arc, and it was.

As well with James’ coming out arc, we got to see some other characters have acceptance arcs, whether they were easily or they struggled. We got to see James try to find out who he was, who he wanted to be. We also saw him struggle with the idea that one of his friends had betrayed him by stealing some of his hidden letters, who was it, what was their purpose, why would they want to hurt him? I thought Kenneth Logan did a really job job adding all these subplots to the story without drawing the focus away from James’ acceptance and coming out arc.

Overall, the writing and the friendships really sold me on this book. There were a lot of laugh out loud moments and just as many moments that made me smile or made me hold my breath.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Waiting on Wednesday

New WoW

This is a feature started on Breaking the Spine that puts the spotlight on upcoming books.

This week’s pick is:

9780399175411_OutrunTheMoon_BOM.indd

Outrun the Moon

Release date: May 24th 2016

Goodreads: San Francisco, 1906: Fifteen-year-old Mercy Wong is determined to break from the poverty in Chinatown, and an education at St. Clare’s School for Girls is her best hope. Although St. Clare’s is off-limits to all but the wealthiest white girls, Mercy gains admittance through a mix of cunning and a little bribery, only to discover that getting in was the easiest part. Not to be undone by a bunch of spoiled heiresses, Mercy stands strong—until disaster strikes.
On April 18, an historic earthquake rocks San Francisco, destroying Mercy’s home and school. With martial law in effect, she is forced to wait with her classmates for their families in a temporary park encampment. Mercy can’t sit by while they wait for the Army to bring help. Fires might rage, and the city may be in shambles, yet Mercy still has the ‘bossy’ cheeks that mark her as someone who gets things done. But what can one teenaged girl do to heal so many suffering in her broken city?

Why I’m excited: I absolutely loved Stacey Lee’s Under a Painted Sky so I can’t wait to get my hands on another historical novel by her. if the history and the culture throughout her first book is present in this one, I’m sure I’ll love it just as much. I think Mercy is a character that I will absolutely love and I’m excited to see her grow into a potential badass who saves people.

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