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Book Review: Dear Evan Hansen by Val Emmich

Dear Evan Hansen

Dear Evan Hansen

Release date: October 9th 2018

4.5 stars

Dear Evan Hansen,
Today’s going to be an amazing day and here’s why…

When a letter that was never meant to be seen by anyone draws high school senior Evan Hansen into a family’s grief over the loss of their son, he is given the chance of a lifetime: to belong. He just has to stick to a lie he never meant to tell, that the notoriously troubled Connor Murphy was his secret best friend.
Suddenly, Evan isn’t invisible anymore–even to the girl of his dreams. And Connor Murphy’s parents, with their beautiful home on the other side of town, have taken him in like he was their own, desperate to know more about their enigmatic son from his closest friend. As Evan gets pulled deeper into their swirl of anger, regret, and confusion, he knows that what he’s doing can’t be right, but if he’s helping people, how wrong can it be?
No longer tangled in his once-incapacitating anxiety, this new Evan has a purpose. And a website. He’s confident. He’s a viral phenomenon. Every day is amazing. Until everything is in danger of unraveling and he comes face to face with his greatest obstacle: himself.
A simple lie leads to complicated truths in this big-hearted coming-of-age story of grief, authenticity and the struggle to belong in an age of instant connectivity and profound isolation.

I am a huge fan of the Dear Evan Hansen musical so a novelization of it seemed like a dream come true. It was slightly different from the musical as a lot of the storytelling doesn’t come from songs in the book but it stayed very close to the musical version. I also felt the book stood well on its own, for anyone uninterested in seeing or listening to the musical.

The biggest change was that we got to see a lot of more Connor Murphy’s thoughts as himself, not as Evan’s conscience or imagination. I loved this because it meant we got more insight into Connor, more backstory. The book took everything from the musical and just added to it, shaped it into something more while still respecting the source material.

For anyone not interested in the musical, the book is still a full story on its own. The characters were well developed, the plot was complete, and it was still a huge roller coaster of emotions. It dealt with issues very relevant to today with anxiety, suicide, and depression. I know this review is short but if you know the musical, you know most of the story in his book, and if you don’t know the musical, anything more I say could be a spoiler. I’ll leave it with, this book is definitely worth reading.

*I received a copy of this book from Indigo Books & Music in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: Sadie by Courtney Summers

Sadie

Sadie

Release date: September 4th 2018

4 stars

A gripping novel about the depth of a sister’s love; poised to be the next book you won’t be able to stop talking about.
A missing girl on a journey of revenge and a Serial-like podcast following the clues she’s left behind.
Sadie hasn’t had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she’s been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water.
But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie’s entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister’s killer to justice and hits the road following a few meager clues to find him.
When West McCray—a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America—overhears Sadie’s story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie’s journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it’s too late.

Sadie was one of those books that completely took me by surprise. I thought I knew what I was getting into when I began reading, but it turned into something much more than I was expecting. I loved the dual timelines, with one being Sadie’s POV and one being the podcast interview. I don’t listen to a lot of podcasts so I was unsure of how I would enjoy a book where half of it was written as a podcast but it was a great way to make the two timelines feel connected and there was still plenty of emotion through the podcast parts.

Sadie was one of those characters who made me hurt. She lived her life for her sister pretty much since the moment Mattie was born. She never truly got to be a child. Her POV was in the timeline of the past, showing her trying to find the man she thought responsible for her sister’s murder. Through her, we get to know more about Mattie as well and we see just how much Sadie loved her. It was hard to see Sadie getting more and more reckless as she was desperate to find her sister’s murderer.

The other half of the book was West McCray’s investigation as a podcast. He was interviewing people who knew Sadie and Mattie, tracking down the people who Sadie had talked to months earlier, and following all the clues she’d left behind, which wasn’t many. It was interesting to see how he went from completely uninterested in the story of Sadie to completely invested by the time he was finished. His section, with his more detached investigator voice, balanced Sadie’s passion and anger, and both sections worked together to create a dark, disturbing story that will stay with its reader long after the last page has been read.

It’s been about five days since I finished this book and it hasn’t left my thoughts yet.

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

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Book Review: The Truth Lies Here by Lindsey Klingele

Truth Lies Here

The Truth Lies Here

Release date: August 21st 2018

3.5 stars

In small town Michigan, Penny, an aspiring journalist, teams up with the nerdy boy-next-door and the town’s star quarterback to find her conspiracy theorist father after he goes missing and several other townspeople turn up dead in the woods.
The deeper she digs, the weirder things start to get. Townspeople repeat the same phrases—verbatim. Men in black suits stroll around Main Street. Chunks of her memory go missing. Pretty soon, Penny’s research leads her to the long-ago meteorite crash in Bone Lake’s woods, and she’s going to have to reconsider her definition of “real” if she wants answers. . . .

This is a great pick for a rainy, dark night when you want a book that has a bit of a creepy factor to it. Or at any time, but it has that definite feel of a dark night read. It was fairly quick to read, fast paced, it kept my interest through the whole book. It did have some twists I found predictable but that could be because it reminded me of Supernatural or The X-Files, two shows I’ve watched so many times I question everything when a book reminds me of them.

The whole book was through Penny’s POV, an aspiring journalist student hoping to use her childhood hometown as the backdrop to a human interest piece that she was sure would put her application over the top. Except her dad never showed to get her at the airport. I could understand her lack of concern at first, she was used to her father putting his work above everything else and they were on complete opposite sides of the journalism spectrum. It made for an interesting relationship even with her father being absent.

There was a bit of a love triangle between Penny, her childhood best friend Dex, and her childhood crush Micah, but it never overtook the story. Both boys added something different to the plot but I was leaning more toward Dex, the geeky best friend who loved conspiracy theories and The X-Files and who was by Penny’s side through her whole investigation, believing in the impossible even when she didn’t. I thought Micah was a good way to show how much Penny had changed from the girl who lived in Bone Lake as a child.

The plot focused on Penny’s father’s disappearance and her and Dex’s investigation. It was fast paced and there was a lot of back and forth as they argued over a realistic explanation vs a paranormal one. The more they investigated, the more strange things they uncovered, which led to more questions. Some of the twists were predictable, as mentioned, but they were still enjoyable.

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

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Book Review: Now is Everything by Amy Giles

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Now is Everything

4 stars

The McCauleys look perfect on the outside. But nothing is ever as it seems, and this family is hiding a dark secret.
Hadley McCauley will do anything to keep her sister safe from their father. But when Hadley’s forbidden relationship with Charlie Simmons deepens, the violence at home escalates, culminating in an explosive accident that will leave everyone changed.
When Hadley attempts to take her own life at the hospital post-accident, her friends, doctors, family, and the investigator on the case want to know why. Only Hadley knows what really happened that day, and she’s not talking.

I wasn’t too sure what to expect from this book but I’m very glad that I decided to pick it up. It used non-linnear storytelling to show Hadley before a tragedy and after, along with police interviews with her friends and teachers as the detectives attempted to figure out what happened that day. I loved the way we slowly got hints in the present to what happened and in the past, we got the lead up and Hadley’s thoughts.

Hadley’s life seemed perfect on the outside and she put up a good front for most everyone. Even her grandmother and closest friends, though they had suspicions, had no idea what went on in that home. The bond between Hadley and her younger sister was strong as Hadley tried to protect her from the worst of their father’s abuse and their mother’s inaction. When Hadley started dating Charlie, a boy she’d had a crush on forever, their relationship was fast and intense, but it also made sense for those two to latch on so strongly to each other. Their relationship had to be a secret from Hadley’s parents and as they became more serious, it got harder to hide.

There were definitely parts of this that were hard to read. Hadley’s father was a bad man and it hurt seeing him manipulate her, beat her, and controlled so much of her life. It hurt to see Hadley try so fiercely to protect Lila, who was feisty and precocious and Hadley knew their father would ruin that if he started in on her. Hadley was prepared to do whatever it took to keep their father away from Lila.

I liked how everything came together at the end as the cause of the plane crash was investigated. And questions about the cause and that day were answered. The wrap up of everything was great, fitting for the tone of the book, and it added to the overall feel that this is a memorable read.

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Book Review: How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

How to Stop Time

How to Stop Time

4 stars

A love story across the ages – and for the ages – about a man lost in time, the woman who could save him, and the lifetimes it can take to learn how to live
Tom Hazard has a dangerous secret. He may look like an ordinary 41-year-old, but owing to a rare condition, he’s been alive for centuries. Tom has lived history–performing with Shakespeare, exploring the high seas with Captain Cook, and sharing cocktails with Fitzgerald. Now, he just wants an ordinary life.
So Tom moves back to London, his old home, to become a high school history teacher–the perfect job for someone who has witnessed the city’s history first hand. Better yet, a captivating French teacher at his school seems fascinated by him. But the Albatross Society, the secretive group which protects people like Tom, has one rule: never fall in love. As painful memories of his past and the erratic behavior of the Society’s watchful leader threaten to derail his new life and romance, the one thing he can’t have just happens to be the one thing that might save him. Tom will have to decide once and for all whether to remain stuck in the past, or finally begin living in the present.

This was my first time reading a Matt Haig book but the concept of an almost-immortal, a secret society, and forbidden love definitely had me intrigued. There were many times it reminded me a little of The Highlander, without the ‘there can only be one’ plot. The main character who had lived for centuries and lived many different lives was ready for something mundane, teaching high school history.

This was a book about time travel but we did travel through centuries with Tom’s flashbacks. We saw so much of his past, from discovering his condition, to him falling in love, to him meeting other people like him. He was a very interesting character and seeing him live through so many extreme ups and extreme downs as he tried to live his life knowing anyone he might connect with will die long before him was a reminder not to take things for granted. Tom made so many poignant observations through the book but he could also be very funny. There were many times I laughed out loud while reading this book.

The secret society aspect of the book brought in the Albatross Society. They were a group who helped keep people like Tom a secret, helped them move so no one clued in about their condition, but they were also quite controlling. They expect their rules to be followed and they, especially their leader Hendrich, will do anything necessary to make sure their members follow those rules and that they’re not exposed.

It’s not an action-packed book. The plot is very driven by Tom and the decisions he both makes in the present and made in the past. It was pretty amazing that someone who’d lived for 400 years could still have character development but Tom did. It’s hard to say much else without giving away some major spoilers so I will leave it with one of my favourite quotes from the book:

“Whenever I see someone reading a book, especially if it is someone I don’t expect, I feel civilization has become a little safer.”

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Book Review: Listen to Your Heart – Kasie West

Listen to you Heart

Listen to Your Heart

Release date: May 29th 2018

4 stars

Talking to other people isn’t Kate Bailey’s favorite activity. She’d much rather be out on the lake, soaking up the solitude and sunshine. So when her best friend, Alana, convinces Kate to join their high school’s podcast, Kate is not expecting to be chosen as the host. Now she’ll have to answer calls and give advice on the air? Impossible.
But to Kate’s surprise, she turns out to be pretty good at the hosting gig. Then the podcast gets in a call from an anonymous guy, asking for advice about his unnamed crush. Kate is pretty sure that the caller is gorgeous Diego Martinez, and even surer that the girl in question is Alana. Kate is excited for her friend … until Kate herself starts to develop feelings for Diego. Suddenly, Kate finds that while doling out wisdom to others may be easy, asking for help is tougher than it looks, and following your own advice is even harder.

I am always excited for new Kasie West books and this one was followed Kate as her best friend convinced her to take a class that ended up with the shy Kate being co-host of the school’s podcast. The topic of the show was advice, something Kate felt she wasn’t going to be any good at but she ended up surprising herself. I really enjoyed seeing the episodes being made and just how much work went into it.

Kate was someone I could find myself relating to. She just wanted to be out on the lake, enjoying herself, and since she wanted to take over the family business there was no need to push herself outside her comfort area. Even when she was doing a great job at co-hosting, she was nervous and she and her co-host Victoria played off each other so well. I loved her friendship with Alana and the interactions she had with Diego as she tried to help Alana get to know her crush.

I absolutely loved how close Kate’s large family was. Her family plus two houses of aunts, uncles, and cousins would walk into each other’s houses without a thought, they had a cousins night that sounded like a whole lot of fun, and her parents were present through the whole book. The main thing I was worried about was the romance, or mostly the potential love triangle, but I thought it was handled very well and I really liked Diego. I even liked the added tension of Frank, a resort owner’s son who wanted to buy the marina from Kate’s parents, getting pulled into their group due to being in the podcast class.

This book was quick, easy and full of quirky characters that I loved. Kate grew so much by the end of the book and I felt like I could relate to her in so many ways. She handled being shoved in front of a microphone way better than I would have.

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

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Book Review: More Than We Can Tell by Brigid Kemmerer

More than we can tell

More Than We Can Tell

4.5 stars


Rev Fletcher is battling the demons of his past. But with loving adoptive parents by his side, he’s managed to keep them at bay…until he gets a letter from his abusive father and the trauma of his childhood comes hurtling back.
Emma Blue spends her time perfecting the computer game she built from scratch, rather than facing her parents’ crumbling marriage. She can solve any problem with the right code, but when an online troll’s harassment escalates, she’s truly afraid.
When Rev and Emma meet, they both long to lift the burden of their secrets and bond instantly over their shared turmoil. But when their situations turn dangerous, their trust in each other will be tested in ways they never expected. This must-read story will once again have readers falling for Brigid Kemmerer’s emotional storytelling.

 

I loved Letters to the Lost last year when I read it and I was ridiculously excited when I found out there would be a companion novel with Rev as a main character. I had high expectations going on and was so happy that it in no way disappointed. It still had the same great character dynamics I’d fallen in with love in the first book, just slightly different since we now saw everything through Rev’s POV, and I really enjoyed the addition of Emma.

The book was split between Rev and Emma’s POVs, mostly back and forth but occasionally we would stay in the same POV for the next chapter. I liked the choice to not always switch POVs every new chapter as there were times staying was definitely needed. I fell in love with Rev in the first book and this one really just cemented that. I loved his friendship with Declan and the relationship he had with his adoptive parents. When his birth father started making contact, I could understand why Rev wanted to keep it a secret and why it was messing with him. Emma had designed her own online RPG game that had some popularity around her area but it also brought a cybertroll into her life. Like with Rev, I could understand the reasoning behind why she wanted to keep quiet and deal with it herself. Her mother wasn’t overly supportive of her desire to follow her father into a gaming career and her dad was never around.

I really enjoyed the interactions between Rev and Emma. They were both shy, awkward people so screen contact felt more natural but they could open up to each other and support each other. It gave them each someone in their corner when they felt they’d ruined all their other relationships and I really liked the way their own relationship slowly progressed.

The book was very character driven. We saw Rev and Emma make choices, either good or bad, and then have to deal with the consequences of those choices. We saw them grow through the book as they made realizations that affected the way they dealt with the people around them and with how they saw themselves. It was just a great story, a perfect companion to Letters to the Lost, though this could standalone. I would recommend reading both just because they’re both so good and there needs to be as much Declan/Rev friendship in the world as possible.

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Book Review: Thief of Happy Endings by Kristen Chandler

Thief of Happy Endings

Thief of Happy Endings

Release date: June 19th 2018

4 stars

Ever since her father moved out, Cassidy feels like her life has been falling apart. So a summer of riding horses at a ranch camp in Wyoming sounds like just what she needs–never mind the fact that she has a paralyzing fear of horses. She’s determined to move past her fear, even if that means taking lessons from the insufferable (yet irresistible) junior wrangler Justin and embarrassing herself in front of the other campers. What follows is a summer of rodeos, complicated friendships, and a wild mustang thief on the loose.

This book didn’t take long to hook me. Really, the words ranch camp and cute cowboy had me before I even began reading, but Cassidy was what kept me reading. She was a great character and her voice was unique while still being a little familiar, in the way where she would say or think something that I was already thinking. It made me feel connected with her, which made me all that more invested in her journey. She was dealing with a lot at home and the ranch was supposed to be a way for her to get away from it all for a while, make some new friends, relax. I loved watching her re-discover her love for horses and overcome her fears.

The ranch setting was amazing and I loved the vivid descriptions of the area. It added to the overall atmosphere and it made easy to picture everything. The supporting characters were all very unique, some were more developed than others but I expected that with such a large group. The characters who Cass hung around with the most were the ones we learned the most about, of course, and Alice and Ethan became quick favourites. Alice probably had the second most growth over the summer and it was great to see.

Another thing I enjoyed was the dynamic between Cassidy and Justin. He could be a jerk, or at least come off as a jerk, but there were hints of someone sweet who was just awkward with people. I loved that Cassidy didn’t take his opinions of her lying down. They definitely made a great team. Between Justin and Coulter, the I-care-but-I-don’t-want-you-to-know-it owner of the ranch, it gave a natural way for information on mustangs and the relocation.

Reading this book brought back the same feelings of watching some past favourite TV shows that involved horses like Heartland, Wildfire, and even Hey Dude(going way back). I can’t wait to recommend it at the bookstore this summer.

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

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Book Review: Time Bomb by Joelle Charbonneau

Time Bomb

Time Bomb

4 stars

A congressman’s daughter who has to be perfect. A star quarterback with a secret. A guy who’s tired of being ignored. A clarinet player who’s done trying to fit in. An orphaned rebel who wants to teach someone a lesson. A guy who wants people to see him, not his religion.
They couldn’t be more different, but before the morning’s over, they’ll all be trapped in a school that’s been rocked by a bombing. When they hear that someone inside is the bomber, they’ll also be looking to one another for answers.

This was a quick read with quick chapters between 6 different POVs. I was a little worried at first about being able to distinguish between so many characters but they were all so unique that there was no issue at all. It was very relevant to today, which made it terrifying. I could definitely see where the dark Breakfast Club comparisons came from, though the book and its characters stood on its own as well.

Each of the six students with POVs had reasons to be at the school that morning even though it was still Summer. We saw all of them as they got ready to arrive at the school, hints of what they were doing at the school, and all of them had reasons for the reader to be suspicious of them. The constant shifting of POVs reminded me of books like Shooter, This is Where it Ends, or One of Us is Lying. Some of the development of the characters was a little uneven, especially with six characters, but overall I liked them all.

Once the bombs went off in the school, it added a survival aspect to the mystery plot. We saw each of the characters struggle to find other survivors without knowing exactly what happened and the way they interacted with each other, being suspicious but also needing to trust each other in order to survive. I liked all of the characters but Rashid and Cas stood out for me. I did have plenty of theories on who the bomber was and why, and I ended up being right. Even thought I figured out the identity of the bomber, I didn’t find that the lack of surprise took anything away from the story. It was still a tense read, written in a way that made me want to keep reading after every chapter.

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

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Book Review: Chaotic Good by Whitney Gardner

Chaotic Good Comps14.indd

Chaotic Good

3.5 stars

Cameron’s cosplay–dressing like a fictional character–is finally starting to earn her attention–attention she hopes to use to get into the CalTech costume department for college. But when she wins a major competition, she inadvertently sets off a firestorm of angry comments from male fans.
When Cameron’s family moves the summer before her senior year, she hopes to complete her costume portfolio in peace and quiet away from the abuse. Unfortunately, the only comic shop in town–her main destination for character reference–is staffed by a dudebro owner who challenges every woman who comes into the shop.
At her twin brother’s suggestion, Cameron borrows a set of his clothes and uses her costuming expertise to waltz into the shop as Boy Cameron, where she’s shocked at how easily she’s accepted into the nerd inner sanctum. Soon, Cameron finds herself drafted into a D&D campaign alongside the jerky shop-owner Brody, friendly (almost flirtatiously so) clerk Wyatt, handsome Lincoln, and her bro Cooper, dragged along for good measure.
But as her “secret identity” gets more and more entrenched, Cameron’s portfolio falls by the wayside–and her feelings for Lincoln threaten to make a complicated situation even more precarious.

I really liked Whitney Gardner’s You’re Welcome, Universe so I was very excited to see this book coming out that seemed like it would be addressing sexism in the comic world and cyber bullying. There were a few times when it felt like the book was trying a little too hard while attempting to make a point and sometimes Cameron’s voice wasn’t the strongest. I don’t know much about the cosplay or dungeons and dragons worlds so I can’t speak to the authenticity but it seemed like a lot of fun.

Cameron was a character where I could see where she was coming from in regards to a lot of her actions, even if I didn’t always agree with the way she handled things. I didn’t find that she was completely serious, or at least that it didn’t come across as serious, about wanting to attend a program in design. Designing was a huge part of her life but she seemed to do a lot on a whim and inspiration, not really showing she would be able to handle the demands of a program with deadlines and rules. I did like her relationship with her brother Connor and I could understand why she didn’t want him(or their parents) to know about the cyber bullying but it seemed a little strange that she was able to keep it a secret since it was all public on her blog.

The addition of the comics drawn through the book, made up of the dungeons and dragons adventures, was a great touch. The romance was cute and I enjoyed the developing friendships. It was a little hard to completely enjoy some of the friendships when there was the lie of Cameron pretending to be a boy hanging between them. I understood her original plan but the longer she kept up the disguise, the more I felt bad for some of the other characters.

It was a fast read, easy to finish in a night. And if there was a companion book staring her brother, Cooper, I would definitely read it.

*I received a copy of this book from Indigo Books & Music in exchange for an honest review.

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