2016 Reading Challenge

2016 Reading Challenge

2016 Reading Challenge
Tina has read 1 book toward her goal of 40 books.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

REVIEW for Where You'll Find Me

TITLE:           Where You'll Find Me

AUTHOR:       Natasha Friend

GENRE:           YA


I enjoy Natasha Friend's books. She writes smart books on tough subjects that, IMO, are must reads for YA.

Where You'll Find Me is the newest entry. Actually this book is middle grade oriented with a main character who is 13 years old. Maybe this is part of the issue for me. As an adult, who enjoys reading YA with social issues as the main theme, I like a storyline that is usually a lot more raw. 

Friend depicts mental illness with tact and in a realistic way, but it is everything else surrounding this novel that annoyed me. NONE of the adults in this book seem to realize just how damaged Anna is, after she walked in on her mother's suicide attempt. Really????? I could, maybe buy this, if this book was written in 1960, but wow! this 2016 and somebody should have done something for this poor child.

Anna frustrated me at times. She literally DOES NOT speak up for herself AT ALL EVER! In fact, when she does, she mumbles something that nobody even bothers to ask her to repeat. I realize that Anna is going through so many things in this story, but at times, I wanted to scream at her to OPEN HER MOUTH and say something to help herself.

On the plus side, the relationships here are actually somewhat healthy. Marnie is not the evil stepmother (thankfully - it feels as though that has been done to death) so the relationship between Anna and Marie worked for me.

I also liked the relationship between Anna and her school friends - sweet and endearing to read.

Anna's parents really dropped the ball in this story - and the father was a useless character for me. I much preferred Anna and Marnie together than any kind of relationship she had with her own father.

The book is well written and obviously aimed at a middle grade audience. Overall, I liked this book.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

REVIEW FOR The Vanishing Velazquez

Thank you to the wonderful people at Simon & Schuster for sending me a copy of this book.

TITLE:           The Vanishing Velazquez

AUTHOR:      Laura Cumming

GENRE:         Non fiction

RATING:        4 Stars

I loved, loved this book.

I am a lover of first edition books, so I can absolutely see how Snare could become obsessed with this Velazquez and needed to get to the "bottom" of the discovery of this masterpiece.

Somehow, history, the good and the bad, has a way of grabbing us and not letting go and this highly well researched and detailed book shows us just how consumed we can be with the past, at the mercy of our present.

In the process, I learned so much from this book and from that time period, as well as a lot on the art form - all things that I had not really considered in the past.

The writing can be a little confusing at times, which made me sit down and truly concentrate on what I was reading and I do admit that at times, there was just TOO much information, but overall, this book was "the word that comes to mind is" LYRICAL in many ways, scary in some ways and highly entertaining in all ways.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

REVIEW for Asking For It

Thank you to Kaitlin at HGBC Canada for giving me an electronic copy of this book.

TITLE:                   Asking For It

AUTHOR;              Louise O'Neill

GENRE:                 YA

RATING;               4.5 STARS

******************************SPOILER ALERT****************************

I have noticed a definite shift in my reading patterns in the last few years, especially with YA.  I like to feel challenged by what I read - which is one of the reasons I have gravitated to thoroughly to YA with a message - social issues, a book with something important to say.

Asking for It, definitely falls within this parameter.  In fact, at times, I had to actually physically put down my Kindle and let what I just read sink in.

This book is about rape and the culture that surrounds it and author O'Neill does NOT shy away from ANY of it. 

Emma, our main character, is not someone I would like and if she were my daughter, I think I would just lock her up in her room until she was 30 or until the got a clue - whichever came first.  I say this because Emma, for me, is a composite of so many YA that I am meeting these days - clueless about so many things, especially sex and ALL the ramifications around it.  All this ranting on my part, to say, that O'Neill does an amazing job of writing characters that ring completely true to me - and in many ways, that is a sad commentary about life right  now.

Emma thinks that she can get what she wants from anyone and plays into that, milking it for all it is worth! So, when she gets drunk and high at a party and wakes up the next morning without any memories or responsibility for any of her actions, she has to come face to face with the facts - SHE WAS RAPE and because she lives in 2016 - her horrific experience is electronically captured for everyone's entertainment.  

Now, judgements abound - everyone has an opinion on what happened and, of course, on whether Emma "asked for it but being seductive and throwing around her sexuality, while drinking and doing drugs" - hence, the title of the book ASKING FOR IT.

What works for me the most, in this book, is the "after" look at rape and how it is viewed in our society today.  Victim blaming and shaming,  the responsibility of other people in the digital age, the responsibility Emma needs to shoulder, the role of the Internet in trivializing sexual acts and sexuality.  

All of it is explored, in a deep, respectful yet very realistic way in this novel.  Yes, this is a novel, but the many layers brought out by O'Neill on this very touchy yet incredibly timely subject must definitely be admired by those of us who loved this book.

This is a tough book to read and, for me, at times, I felt a tad lost because it is obviously based on Britain wording (in many instances) but the main plot is so intriguing and challenges us to reflect honestly on how we really view rape and its aftermath - an amazing read.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

REVIEW for Liars and Losers Like Us

Thank you to the publishing company Sky Pony Press for sending me an electronic copy of this book.

TITLE:               Liars and Losers Like Us

AUTHOR:         Ami Allen-Vath

GENRE:            YA

RATING:           5 Stars

What a wonderful book!  At first, I was worried that this would be the standard contemporary YA fare, but as I started reading, it soon became obvious that there  is a depth to this book.

All of the characters are flawed, all the while struggling to just "be", especially in the world of proms and high school.  Although there are a lot of ups and downs with each character and mainly with Bree (Breeze), you still feel the love the author has for both the characters and her story.

Sprinkled with a love story, tragedy (which defines most of the book, even at the beginning when we, as readers, don't even know it yet).  

Extremely well written with compassion a dose of humour and a strong parental figure (soooo nice to see this) - I absolutely adored this book.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

REVIEW for The Vanishing of Flight MH370

Thank you to Penguin Group USA for giving me an electronic copy of this book

TITLE:              Flight MH370

AUTHOR:         Richard Quest

GENRE:            Non fiction


I remember the CNN coverage of the disappearance of MH370. I also remember how I felt - sadden and yet, at the same time, mesmerized.  

While CNN presented their coverage non stop and had a myriad of "experts" and "correspondents" one did stick out for me - Richard Quest.  I liked him because he was extremely, extremely passionate about what he was saying and was not afraid to disagree if needed which is why I decided to read this book.  I knew that there would be very little "nonsense" in this telling of events - kind of like the man himself (at least that is how he appears to me).

Let's be honest and say that writing a book about a plane that has yet to be found must be very daunting.  Speculation is the name of the game, yet Quest did an excellent job of detailing the facts and expanding on them appropriately.  While i knew most of it, it was nice to have it set out in a timeline, with explanations as needed.

I also liked that while there were passages that were somewhat too technical for me (not an aviation fan) the author is aware of his audience and breaks it all down enough for us to understand.  

The entire book is written in a very down to earth tone, with a little British thrown in here and there, reminding us that Quest is indeed British.  The story also flows well and as I mentioned, it was nice to have a clear timeline of the events preceding that faithful flight, but also during (as much as is known) and after.  The after was especially interesting to me. 

It is easy to judge everyone involved for their actions or lack thereof.  But this book shows us that not everything might have been as "evident" as it is to us who benefit from looking back on the event with the knowledge of what happened, while the people there were living the events, thinking that it was not even a possibility that a 777 would just disappear.  I often found myself thinking back on Titanic and how everyone on board was "so sure" that this big ship was indestructible and it was only with hindsight that we saw how wrong everyone had been.

I did enjoy a substantial chunk of this book.  I did feel as though he strayed a little with the chapter on media coverage, especially CNN coverage.  It felt a little long and dull. 

I did think that the brief chapter in which he speaks about the way the families were treated was sad but accurate.  I remember watching some of the family members throwing themselves on the floor in hysterics and I kept thinking "why are they showing these poor people?".  Interestingly, Quest does mention one particular family member, an American who appeared on CNN regularly and who kept insisting that the plane had not gone down, but had landed somewhere.  I remember feeling badly for her, while also thinking "reality is going to hit her hard, when they find that plane" and I immediately felt bad about thinking that way.  Yet, Quest, himself, mentions that he was weary himself of speaking with her because despite everything, she seemed to refuse to believe that all the souls were gone.    It took guts to write that - which proves to me that the author chose to write an honest book, based on his knowledge and, of course, on his own views.

I don't know how I would have reacted if I had a loved one on that plane.  The not knowing...how do you get closure and move on?  Maybe I would be that person who could not believe until I had proof, but then, I ask myself, what would ever be enough proof for me?  If they found the plane?  Would that be enough? or  would I only believe if they found my loved one?  Such a horrible, horrible thing to have to go through for all the people involved.

Quest does give us his own opinion of what actually happened that night, but as with other theories on MH370 - they are just that.

This book was engrossing and worth a read for anyone who felt compelled by MH370.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Review tour for THE TRUTH

Thank you  to Sourebooks for giving me an electronic copy of this book to read.

TITLE:            The Truth

AUTHOR:       Jeffry W. Johnston

GENRE:          YA action adventure

RATING:         4 Stars

I wasn't sure what to expect with this book, but I have always been a fan of confined spaces and terror and this book sounded like it had both.

The Truth explores two families, rather two brothers, both trying to get to  the truth about what really happened in that one instant, where everything changed.

Chris and Derek are obviously both incredibly wounded and broken in their own ways....both living in denial about their reality, which makes for an interesting take when they both get together in circumstances that are both terrifying and creepy.

This book moved at a quick pace, which is good, considering the subject matter - does it succeed in evoking terror or fear?  I have to say yes, up to a point.  The book can get a little bit bogged down with too much retrospection, but the strong writing makes up for it.

I didn't actually like any character in this book, but somehow that didn't make any difference in me frantically turning pages to find out what happens next.

A great read.

Monday, February 1, 2016

REVIEW for Killer Drop

Thank you to the wonderful people at James Lorimer (Sidestreets)  for giving me an electronic copy of this book.

TITLE:                       Killer Drop

AUTHOR:                Mette Bach

GENRE:                  YA

RATING:               4 Stars

At first, I thought Marcus would just be this typical rich YA who everyone loves to hate - but in fact, from the first few pages, there is something different about him. Yes, he is a jerk in many ways and yes, he doesn't really care that much, but this will quickly turn, thanks to one bad decision.

This story explores what happens when you are too cocky and ONE decision, made in an instant can transform your life, your personality and everyone around you. 

This book is good - it engaged me from the first and horrified me at the same time, because it shows us how something can change in a heartbeat. The description of Marcus and how he feels and what he hears on the mountain care spine tingling. In fact, this whole book was scary and sad, but also highly engrossing.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

REVIEW for Symptoms for Being Human

Thank you to the wonderful people at Balzer & Bray for sending me this  e-book.

TITLE:            Symptoms of Being Human

AUTHOR:       Jeff Garvin


I am an adult who loves reading YA, especially if it is pertinent to today's situations faced by YA.  I encourage authors to write these social issues books and I especially encourage YA to read them, which is why Symptoms of Being Human drew me.

Gender fluid is not a term that I ever really heard when I was growing up, although I am sure it existed in my day, it simply wasn't acknowledged as "real" and certainly not openly talked about.  I wanted to understand and try to see what someone who is gender fluid is going through, mentally, emotionally and physically.

This story eloquently, respectfully and honestly tells the story of Riley, who identifies as gender fluid.  I guess, for me, one of the things that stood out the most is that while I thought that people who are gender fluid fully understand their own bodies and minds and feelings.  This is not the case, as Riley, at one point in the story basically admits that its not easy to explain, not easy to feel and not easy to understand.  In fact, in several instances, Riley is caught judging other people or trying to "put" a gender on them.

I learned quite a lot more about gender fluid and how difficult and stressful it can be, to accept yourself and for others to accept you. As the story clearly demonstrates, self loathing, fear and judgement are a huge part of every day life.  Extremely difficult things happen to Riley, things that are hard to read but I would hazard to say that the story depicts the harsh realities of something that most people don't understand (or care to, for some).

Extremely well written, this story had me gripping my Kindle in some parts and at others, had me SCREAMING at Riley to SPEAK!  This, for me, was a flaw in this book - yes, the author helps the reader understand, at least one some level, how difficult this is for Riley - but I hate that Riley never said anything - good or bad, there were never any words.  In fact, I think the author should have called this book "I am not ready" because Riley said it at least 5 times that I counted and I wish I could say that Riley was talking about coming out - but in fact even after everything that happened, even after the violence - the only words were "I am not ready".  It got truly annoying, especially towards the last part of the book.

I am concerned at this trend in YA lately, so many of the main characters are not able to voice their thoughts, opinions or feelings.  Everything is always "stuck inside" and it scares me. Where are the strong characters with a voice?  I thought Bec would be that voice here, but in the end, that did not happen.

Nonetheless, a hard and emotionally difficult book, but I loved it.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

REVIEW for Other Broken Things

Thank you to the wonderful people at Simon & Schuster Canada for giving me an electronic copy of  this book to read and review.

TITLE:            Other Broken Things

AUTHOR:       C. Desir

GENRE:          YA

RATING:        3.5 stars

I cannot decide which rating to give this book. 

So many things to love about this book.

The main character, Nat, so flawed, so resentful, so young and just starting to grow into who she really wants to be.

The author did a wonderful job of slowly making us discover who Nat is becoming.  At first, she is simply a brat who got caught drinking and driving, but as the story develops, we see that she wants more for herself as she digs deep into what she really wants.  The process is very well detailed and gives us the opportunity to grow with her and get pissed at her for some of her choices.

The relationship with Nat's mother is also a developing one.  At times, I hated both of Nat's parents, but this is a theme that has become too typical in social issues type books - yet, it worked here.  The author does not focus on the father - daughter relationship much except to portray it as destructive.  I would have liked this explored more.

Finally. the OTHER main characters in this book - addiction and 12 step programs. I felt that, for the most part, both of these were extremely well researched and incorporated into the storyline, especially when Nat backslides into her addiction when things get too hard for her.  The author does an amazing job of introducing the "trigger" while we basically watch the addict side of Nat take over, realistically showing us that even when you are in AA and especially if you are just starting program, things are very, very hard.  Very well done.  So, for all of this 4 ++++ stars!

So, why my hesitation about the rating?   The storyline between Joe and Nat.  At first, I thought it would be a story of two broken people trying to help each other, instead the author chose to develop this into a romance????  Nope, did not work for me at all.  First of all, no  matter how the author tries to make this romance a sweet and caring one, Joe just comes off at sketchy and disgusting.  In fact, there was just so much wrong with this whole thing.

Firstly, while I am sure many young girls fall for older guys (been there!) the fact that she was only 17 did not work for me and this is not because of any weird moral thing - its because at 17 and NEWLY sober, Nat does not know where or who she is yet.  In fact, in the book, Joe basically tells her that, but yet, the relationship happens.  

Secondly, while I know that "13th stepping" in twelve step programs happens all the time in real life, in this storyline, it made me want to take a shower because the story felt gross.  Nat came to AA to get help from those who have been in program for longer than she - she needed guidance (loved the Kathy character) not scuzzy Joe.  As you can see THIS DID NOT WORK FOR ME AT ALL and really removed a lot of the wonderfulness of this story.

However, the overall story was amazing and this is a definite "to read".

I would love to see a sequel to this book to see where Nat lands.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

REVIEW for Big Girl

Thank you, thank you so much to Kaitlin at Hachette Book Group Canada for sending me a copy of this book.

TITLE:               Big Girl

AUTHOR:           Kelsey Miller

GENRE:             Memoir


I really, really wanted to read this book. I am always interested in reading other people's views and emotions when it comes to this very difficult topic. I have also, of late, focused my interests in the whole diet - anti diet industry, firmly coming to believe, as Kelsey Miller has, that DIETS DO NOT WORK - at least for me they don't, in fact they have made my life harder.

This is basically the topic explored by the author in her memoir. I LOVED THIS. Imagine, having the guts to write your own life story and coming right out and saying "I don't want to diet anymore". It takes guts and courage and to me, this is the strength of this memoir.

Miller is funny, sad and brutally honest! I am not sure if I fully agree with everything she writes, i.e. I have some concerns that she does not acknowledge eating disorders for example and at times, this book feels a little disconnected when it comes to Miller writing about the other aspects of her life, but, for the most part, she is spot on (IMO) about the damage the dieting cycle has done and continues to do. 

I purchased the book she refers to "Intuitive Eating" because she makes a great case for it, although she does have outside help, she does own up to the fact that being more intuitive about every aspect of her life can be both great and scary at the same time and can bring up a lot of unwanted emotions.

As I mentioned, the memoir gets a 4 star when it comes to her descriptions and views about dieting (her own and the entire industry) and perhaps a 3 star for the other aspects of her book. Nonetheless, this story is written with humour, honesty and is, in fact, very engaging.
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