2016 Reading Challenge

2016 Reading Challenge

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

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.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

REVIEW for Thicker than Water

Once again a HUGE thank you goes out to Harper Teen for sending me this e-book.

TITLE:                             Thicker than Water 

AUTHOR:                        Kelly Fiore

GENRE:                           YA - Social Issues

RATING:                         4 Stars

This book is realistic and does not shy away from the issue of drug addiction and enabling.

CeCe and Cy are close until Cy discovers drugs - the author does an excellent job of describing the hell of drug addiction, but with a twist - the focus is almost entirely on the family members and not the addict.

The telling of this story felt real and raw - it could happen to any of us without warning. The author focuses on a regular family who experiences unimaginable grief, which they do not process or deal with. The decline in all of the members of the family are vividly depicted, although CeCe is at the center of it all.

While this book was excellent, there were a few things that bugged me. 

Firstly - CeCe was not someone I felt any type of pity for. She was supposedly "smart" but yet, in many ways, she was the dumbest of them all. She never spoke up about anything, was extremely easy to manipulate and for the most part, never seemed to have the brains to ask "should I do this or is this right?" - there are a few very flagrant examples of this in the story line. I am not sure if the author wanted us to feel this way, but I could not shake my intense dislike of this character. I am okay with reading books with characters I don't like, but it did not work as well for me here, for some reason.

Secondly, CeCe's father needed to be more fleshed out. As it stands, he was kind of a faceless gutless man with absolutely no clue and the biggest enabler in the story line. We needed more information on him.

Finally, not sure I am buying the whole Tucker/CeCe thing and I am not even sure it was needed here.

Having said ALL of this, I still could not put this book down. Its pacing and writing is excellent and the story, while sad and horrible, is extremely compelling and kept me reading to the very end.

Monday, December 14, 2015

REVIEW for Delicate by C.K. Kelly Martin

TITLE:                  Delicate

AUTHOR:            C.K. Kelly Martin

GENRE:               YA

RATING:              5 STARS

I adored this book for so many reasons.

The story of Ivy and Lucan - both struggling in their own worlds until they collide.

As I was reading this book, the one thing that kept going through my head was "everything is predestined".  Indeed, while both Lucan and Ivy were living some very difficult moments - each in their own worlds, fate would intervene drawing them to each other in a slow, sometimes sweet, sometimes harsher manner - clearly demonstrating that when you think you are at your darkest hour, the next "good thing",  in your life,  is already moving toward you (albeit sometimes wayyyy too slowly).

Ivy is smart and in love, but her world is about to fall apart when the perfect guy becomes the cruel ex-guy.  
Lucan is smart but not particularly ready for the world.  Although he is far from living a sheltered life, he also hasn't been exposed to a lot in his short life, leaving him very ill equipped to deal with the emotional ups and downs of his friends and of his parents. 

The action starts quickly in this novel with Jeremy basically dumping Ivy (yep, the perfect guy can't get a clue about maybe NOT dumping his girlfriend right before a final).  Ivy can't believe it and basically spends the next few days in a daze, until Jeremy comes over and they have sex, after which he dumps her again.

While this sounds harsh, the author actually makes it hard to  hate Jeremy, he is clearly conflicted about all the feelings HE has and I thought this was interesting and clever and frustrating for me.  I wanted to HATE him, after all, who has not been unceremoniously dumped before? but,  in the Jeremy character, we see that, in many instances, few things are ever all black or all white.

If this wasn't bad enough,  we soon discover that Ivy needs to deal with more than just a breakup, which I had not seen coming.  Here again, the author chooses to write all of her characters with good and bad qualities - just like real life, making it, once again, hard for me to dearly HATE anybody in this story.  That was so frustrating LOL.

As for Lucan, while his love life is non existent, he somehow ends up having to deal with his best friend's breakup and specifically, the reason for the breakup.  In the process he discovers things about his friend that he struggles to understand, all the while worrying about parents who basically hate each other.

When Ivy and Lucan finally meet, the friendship has ups and downs, but you do feel that both characters want to find some middle ground, all the while licking their own wounds and worrying about what they should do next.

As a side note, any other reviewers have mentioned the abuse aspect of this story.  Yes, its definitely there, but its not in the spotlight.  I like that its something that is lived, discussed, confronted and dealt with but its not done in a "in your face" kind of way.  Its more subtly written and quite effective.

However, for me, the magic of this story is that all of the characters are both likeable and not so much at different points of the story.  I like that nothing is shoved in your face, while at the same time it is all brought to the forefront.  Nothing is black and white and everybody suffers because of poor choices.  

The writing is down to earth and challenges us to ask ourselves how we would react in certain situations.  It is beautifully laid out in a straightforward story that refuses to take the "holier than thou road" - instead, the author chooses to write the story and let her readers discover all the nuances.


Thursday, December 10, 2015

REVIEW for Ally Hughes Has Sex Sometimes

A big thank you goes out to the publishing house, Penguin Random House, for sending me this ebook.

TITLE:                      Ally Hughes Has Sex Sometimes

AUTHOR:                 Jules Moulin

GENRE:                    Fiction


I loved this book - that would be my short review.

In the first chapter, I wasn't sure if I was going to like the writing style, but I soon found myself so involved in the storyline and the characters that I found a flow to the book that had me right up to the last page.

I have read MANY stories about love, relationships and sex.  Sometimes the authors get it right and sometimes, they don't - Moulin got it right.

An honest and realistic, OH! and funny look at what people  dream about when it comes to their romantic and sexual needs (and desires).  Dotted with episodes of sex and love - sometimes as one and sometimes not - made reading this book a joy.

I also love how destiny and life have their own plans and sometimes in life, your decisions can come back to bite you in the derriere.

Loved, loved this book.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Author interview with one of my favorite authors - C.K. Kelly Martin and her new book DELICATE

This is a very special blog post for me - I am so thrilled to host one of my favorite authors,  Over the last year, I have had the opportunity of emailing with Carolyn quite often and I am so lucky that we have become friends.

Her book, DELICATE, has just been released, so I have not finished it (book review will follow shortly) but I wanted to get the word out!  

Carolyn's books are thoughtful, deep, provocative and real a MUST read.

Delicate is on sale now!  

Thank you Carolyn  - C.K. Martin for being so open in answering my questions.

1)  Your latest book Delicate has just been released.  Can you tell us about it?

Two second cousins (not blood relations) who haven’t seen each other in years because of a family feud reconnect over the course of one summer due to their own respective delicate situations. Ivy’s heartbroken because the boyfriend she thought could be the love of her life has just dumped her (which is only the tip of the iceberg) and Lucan’s being driven crazy by the presence of his mom’s young boyfriend, and their noisy bedtime activities as well as his best friend’s dysfunctional relationship with his girlfriend. These situations are like dominoes – leading to a collection of other complications ranging from painful urination to physical abuse. As much as the book is about the things going wrong in Ivy’s and Lucan’s lives it’s about meeting someone who you feel you can really talk to, who understands where you’re coming from and will help see you through. 

2)  What was the most surprising thing you discovered about yourself while writing this book?

That’s an interesting but tough question, one I really have to give some serious thought. I guess this is actually something I learned in the revision process with my editor when he wanted the storyline about Lucan’s friend, who is physically abusive to his girlfriend, expanded slightly. My kneejerk reaction to any kind of abuse is to feel sheer animosity for anyone who commits these acts, but what about when the boy committing them is only sixteen years old? As a society, we can’t just write him off as damaged. We have to try to help him. Because we’re talking about Lucan’s best friend I had to see him as whole person, not just some kind of villain. It’s such a complicated issue; I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. 

While we’re talking about it, there’s a good page on loveisrespect.org aimed at people who are abusive towards their partners but want to stop:

3)  Every author seems to have a "process" when it comes to their writing - can you tell us about yours?

I always feel like a bit of a fake talking about things like writerly process because I don’t really know what mine is. It seems to happen in a messy back room of my brain where a bunch of stuff I find interesting or am drawn to collect in a heap. I think it’s a kind of a subconscious process, like dreaming. Usually my mind attaches itself to a vague idea. In the early stages when I’m lying in bed or walking around on my own I’ll hear the main character’s voice in my head, and after that’s been  going on for a good while--of me discovering who the character is--I begin to plot a little. 

4)  Do you write your book or do the characters write their own stories?

For my contemporary books it’s definitely the characters leading the way. Sometimes I’ll have a really rough chapter by chapter outline to work from but because the characters are leading the way the outline can turn out to be pretty wrong and I have to go in the direction they’re steering me. For my sci-fi books Yesterday and Tomorrow things work a little differently because they’re more plot heavy and involve things like time travel, nefarious government agents and the trajectory of climate change. But even then the characters can surprise me. 

5)  Which literary figure would you ask to read your drafts?

I love this question. There are so many writers I admire. But the one who had the biggest impact when I was a tween and young teen was Judy Blume. She was so honest and comfortable in discussing things about adolescence that many other writers wouldn’t. I don’t think I even knew about wet dreams before I read her book THEN AGAIN, MAYBE I WON’T. I aspire to be as frank and fearless as Judy Blume in writing about young people so I couldn’t ask for a better person to give feedback on my drafts.   

6)  How do you feel about being a Canadian writer?

I love to set my books in Canada because I’m Canadian and that’s important to me. Although we share a lot of common cultural ground with our neighbours to the south we also have our own values, holidays, cultural icons (among them people like Terry Fox, David Suzuki and Laura Secord), not to mention the national popularity of Tim Hortons, the CBC and hockey! I feel it’s important that we see our own cities and towns written about because these places and the stories we can tell about them and their inhabitants are just as important as stories set in the U.S. or anywhere else. And, you know me, Tina, with our recent change in government I feel as though ‘Canada is back,’ like Neil Young said. It’s an exciting, hopeful time to be a Canadian. 

7)  If you were not a writer, what would you be?

Going way back, in my high school aptitude test my highest score was for journalism, and then law. But my degree is in film studies and I love movies so I’d probably a film critic. Unfortunately, it’s another job that the existence of the Internet has made a lot less financially lucrative!  

8)  Do you have a mantra or philosophy that you live by and if so, can you share it with us?

A couple of days after my step-mom passed away suddenly I was in a car with a few people, including my dad, and saw a personalized license plate that said ‘rage on.’ It might sound whimsical to say this, but I took it as a message from her. My step-mom Catherine was kind of a free spirit, very much her own person. At her funeral a bunch of eighth grade students showed up to say goodbye to her and she’d been retired from teaching for years at that point, so they would’ve just been small children when they’d known her but they sure remembered her. In particular, I remember one of the kid’s mothers came up to me after the funeral and recounted that one snowy day when hardly anyone was going to school she had to drop her daughter off. She was apologetic about it and Catherine said, “That’s okay, we’ll just dance,” which is so Catherine if you knew her.  

So ‘rage on’ is the phrase that now appears in one of the front pages of my books as a message to keep going no matter what kind of crappy situation you find yourself in. You can get to the other side if you keep going. 

9)  What do you love the most in the world?

We’re talking what rather than who, right? A mishmash of things including pub food, dogs (if my husband and I are out walking somewhere I always point out the cute dogs), Dublin, Ireland—which has my heart forever. Movies. My record collection. But in a fire if I had to save just one thing it would be my childhood teddy bear, which was my father’s teddy bear before me. When I was fourteen months old the teddy bear was in the hospital with me and had to be sterilized in order to stay with me. Back then they didn’t let parents stay overnight so he was there in their place. 

10) What would you tell your younger self?

I feel as though my younger self was very Luke Skywalker like in the ‘never his mind on where he was or what he was doing’ sense. I was always longing to be somewhere else, somewhere cooler where I thought my real life would start. So I’d like to tell my younger self to relax and enjoy where you are, be in the moment and not in a rush because there are things you’re going to miss about this when you’re older. Take one day at a time!

Thank you, Tina, for having me on Bookshipper!

Friday, November 20, 2015

REVIEW for Clutch

Thank you to the author for sending me a copy of this e book.

TITLE:               Clutch

AUTHOR;          Lisa Becker

GENRE:             Novel


I read Lisa's previous book and I loved it.  I think what makes these books so interesting to me is that Becker has a funny and yet real "take" on the dating world - how it feels to be single, yet at the same time trying to find "the one".

While there is an undertone of serious in the story, the humour is solid and really makes the story.  While Caroline and Mike view dating in completely opposite ways, its interesting to see them basically described their experiences side by side, making us see that going to extremes is not really the way to go.

I  liked both characters well enough but kept waiting for them to "see the light" and get together and that did distract me a little bit from the day to day.

Becker writes well and her stories are engaging.  I found myself nodding my head often in agreement.

At first, I could not figure out why she would title her book "Clutch" until I saw the headings of each chapter - cleverly comparing dating to a specific purse, depending on the type of dating.  Loved it.

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