Tuesday, April 22, 2014

REVIEW for To All the Boys I've Loved Before

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

TITLE:              To All the Boys I 've Loved Before

AUTHOR:         Jenny Han

GENRE:            YA


This book had been on my "dying to read" list for some time, so when I was offered an ARC to read and review, I was thrilled.

First of all, I love, love the title of this book and the premise behind this story sold me as a "must read".

Lara Jean knows about heartbreak - she has had her share of boys she has loved and lost and more deeply, the loss of a parent at a young age.
I admit that I completely identified with Lara, having loss my dad at a young age and having also loved and lost (the good, the bad and the ugly) as well.  Although I am now an adult, some of the boys in my young life marked me more than I realized and some even helped formed the adult that I am today.  I would love to be able to go back in time (as an adult) and watch my young self talking and dealing with these young boys.  What would I think? We have all, at some point or another, wondered about the "what if" - sometimes being thankful that nothing happened and sometimes wishing we had made a different choice.

All of this drew me to this book and I simply loved how the author incorporated Lara's sweetness and honesty when writing to each boy.  To me, this is the strength of this book - Lara pouring her heart out to the boys of her life - without realizing that, in many ways, she was also writing to her mother.

Yes, the reaction to these letters is also interesting, although I find myself going back to reread the chapters where Lara writes her thoughts and emotions down - feeling as though the author has truly connected her character with her reader.

This was a wonderful read, I loved it.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

REVIEW for On the Rocks

Read through NetGalley.

TITLE:                On the Rocks

AUTHOR:           Erin Duffy

GENRE:              Contemporary Fiction


I am a huge fan of this author's first book, Bond Girl, in fact, I have re-read that book quite a few times (something I rarely do).

I was, to say the last, incredibly enthusiastic to read her second book On the Rocks.

First off, although I received an electronic copy, I have seen the proposed cover for this book and its beautiful - I am a "cover" fan and have actually reached for books (and discovered some great gems) that were attractive to me, even if I had no clue who the author was or what the book was about.  So, On the Rocks has my vote when it comes to beautiful covers.

Now, about the story line itself.

I loved it!  This could be my entire review, but I have to explain further (of course LOL).

The opening scene basically sets up the entire novel - Abby is thrilled as she tries on wedding gowns - she is getting married soon - but quickly things fall apart as she learns, through Facebook, while trying on wedding gowns that she has been dumped by her boyfriend.

I sat with that a moment and truly thought about it, is this what our world (and life) has become? followed immediately by the thought "wow, what a coward".

But what follows is an absolutely hysterically funny scene between Abby and "the coward as I have come to name him" where she confronts him.  I am sorry, but that scene was both sad and comical at the same time, which set the tone of this novel.

Grace, Abby's somewhat crazy friend (who has issues of her own) convinces Abby to take a summer home with her and as it turns out they have to share with a few guys who turn out to be not so bad as friends.

I loved the Abby and Grace relationship - and I loved that we get to explore a bit of Abby's own self-destructive ways in the process.

Although this novel focuses on Abby trying to find herself and re-invent herself, there is a strong bond between the friends (for better or worse) that I found endearing.

This book is extremely well written and intelligent, as was Bond Girl.  It is also warm and funny and I loved it.

I admit to still loving Bond Girl a tad more - mainly because it was set in the world of high finance, which I am partial to, but On the Rocks is a wonderful read that will appeal to chick lit lovers and lovers of contemporary fiction.

Read it - on the beach if possible :)

Friday, April 11, 2014

REVIEW for How I Got Skinny, Famous and Fell Madly in Love

Thank you to Perseus books for the NetGalley download.

TITLE:          How I got Skinny, Famous and Fell Madly in Love

AUTHOR:       Ken Baker

GENRE:          YA


I had mixed emotions about this book, but in the end gave it a 3 star rating because it was truly an interesting read.

This book is a work of fiction - incorporating reality tv and weight issues which made for a very promising plot line. Of course, I make a point of reading all things (fiction and non) on weight issues and have, therefore, had my share of great (and not so great reads).

The strength of this book lies, in my opinion, in the author's ability to really show the reader the pain that someone with weight issues can go through. Although it is less common now, many people still believe that being overweight is just a matter of "mind over matter" or that an overweight person is simply lazy and stupid. But, as it turns out, this is far from the truth and this is very well explored in this book.

From the early pages, I could easily see where some of the root problems lay - especially with the family dynamics detailed here. Of course, eating disorders are not born solely out of poor family dynamics - but they are a contributing factor and the author steadily shows us just how dysfunctional this home truly is. Of course, this is doubly true when Emery is expected to do a reality tv show where she must loose a huge amount of weight, on TV, in a ridiculously short amount of time, so that her parents don't lose their (very expensive) house.

What follows is the very sad road that Emery must take to please her parents and lose, lose, lose. I must admit that this makes for compelling reading - especially when Emery "fights back" in her own way against the machine that seems to care very little about her.

Yes, the author gives Emery a "team of experts, including medical and psychological help" but the reality is that the book falls apart for me here. I am worried about the message this book will send YA in that Emery is "given" a team to help her lose 50 pounds in fifty days - come on! that's a pound a day!!! which is a highly dangerous goal - no matter how many "specialists" you have working for (against???) you. In fact, at one point there is a discussion about cutting her calories down to 800 calories a day or something like that.

Secondly, amazingly, throughout this entire book - the words eating disorders are mentioned once or twice and that's it. It would have been great if this author had made this one of the main focuses of the book.

Having said all of that though, there is an interesting plot twist that does redeems the book in many ways - and this is a good read overall, but I guess I was hoping for a more balanced looked at the issues of weight and eating disorders, especially considering the target audience of this book.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

REVIEW for Far from You

Thank you to the wonderful people at Hachette Book Group Canada and NetGalley for giving me a copy of this ebook to review.

TITLE:          Far From you

AUTHOR:    Tess Sharpe

GENRE:       YA


I love YA novels that are edgy, honest and raw and this book was all of that and more.  

This debut novel opens with Sophie doing she needs to do to get back to the real world and solve the one and only thing that is on her mind - finding her friend's killer.  To say that Sophie has had a rough life to date is understating it considering she has almost died twice and the last time, she witnessed a horrific site her friend being killed.

There is a lot going on in this book and the format which details Sophie's life before the murder and after can get confusing in the beginning.  Fortunately, once I got into the groove and started following the characters and the story, things got much easier.

I like Sophie's determination, despite having been dealt a rough life.  Because of her past, she has developed an addiction, which I am not remotely surprised at considering her tendency to go overboard in many ways and yes, Sophie can seem spoiled at times, which was especially true in the opening chapter, but I found myself rooting for her, even if, at times, I did not fully trust her myself.

There are several interesting people around Sophie, the least of which I believe to be her parents. I could not form a constant opinion of them as they also seemed out of bounds at times.

On the surface, the story is about solving a murder, but honestly, it is about so much more.  This book has layer over layer and our job, as the reader, is to uncover these layers.

An excellent book.  I loved it.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

REVIEW for Big Fat Disaster

Thank you to Net Galley and the publisher, Merit Press,  for sending me an electronic copy of this book.

TITLE:            Big Fat Disaster

AUTHOR:      Beth Fehlbaum

GENRE:         YA


Absolutely one of the most difficult and raw books I have ever read on eating disorders to come under the word "fiction".

Colby finds a picture that will send her family and life into a downward spiral - with a family that does not know the meaning of the word selfless, this book will pull at every emotion you have - which for me, means suffering along with Colby has everybody in the world berates, laugh and totally disrespects her because she suffers from binge eating.

Suffering from the same eating disorder, I have to say that the author hit the feelings "right on" when describing the hell that a person goes through, thanks to an eating disorder.  I found myself getting angry at Colby's family - how can anyone live through such horrible behavior?  and I found myself yelling at Colby for not standing up for herself and not finding her voice.  This aspect of the story made me ma and pissed me off.

However, the rest of the story is so true - and the writing so honest that I will be asking a few people in my life to read this book - to better understand what eating disorders are about.  I am so proud that the author chose to acknowledge binge eater as being a disorder - so little has been written on this aspect of eating disorders and I want to give the author kudos.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

REVIEW for Dear Nobody, The True Diary of Mary Rose

TITLE:                 Dear Diary, The True Diary of Mary Rose

EDITED BY:       Gillian McCain and Legs McNeil

GENRE:              YA


I have read many, many "diary" books written by YA - about social issues and I have to admit that this one was one of the more harrowing and raw reads.

I think what freaked me out the most was that Mary Rose seems to go from 0 to 100 in only a few pages.  She starts off being a relatively normal teenager, with regular worries and suddenly seems to hurl herself into a complete world of debauchery.  What amazed me was that she seemed almost clueless about the harmful effects of her choices.

She rarely questions why she does something, in fact, she seems to look forward to doing more.  She never seems to have any qualms or worries about her choices, which progress into drugs, sex and other acts.  

I also question the role the adults in her life play.  Granted this is her diary but very rarely are her parents mentioned and when they are, they simply also seem clueless.  I am left to wonder - where these all clueless people?  Really?

The entries are mesmerizing, especially those concerning her health.  The progression of her addiction is obvious and she certainly fits the description of an addict.  

I am not a prude and I understand addiction, but it felt to me, at times, as though something was missing here - I think it was a voice of reason SOMEWHERE in this poor girl's life.

It must be horrible to be a YA in today's world and even more difficult to be a parent.  However, books like these are very important and this one does not shy away from the reality of what poor choices can bring.

It seems to be, throughout this entire book, that Mary Rose desperately needed to feel loved - this was a common thread throughout her entries - my heart goes out to her.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

REVIEW for The Summer I Wasn't Me

Thank you to Net Galley for giving me a copy of this book.

TITLE:               The Summer I wasn't Me

AUTHOR:          Jessica Verdi

GENRE:             YA


I was lucky enough to get this book through Net Galley.  

I love reading books that focus on social issues and this one definitely fit the bill.  Lexis voluntarily heads to a christian summer camp in order to have her "gayness" removed from her.

My very first thought as I read this synopsis was "do they actually still do that?" followed immediately by "they can't think this will work right?".  I believe that the strength in this story is just that - it makes you ask some hard questions.  Yes, this is a work of fiction, but it is so deftly written that you could actually feel as though you are reading someone's memoirs.

I thoroughly fell in love with Lexis.  She was in a tough spot and tried to do all she could to "save" her mother, while, in the process, killing her own soul.

This book was written with compassion and did a wonderful job of showing just how much of a struggle people with gender issues go through.

I also thought it interesting that the author chose to write very different characters, with very different points of view of their own sexuality - but they were all there for their own reasons - which singled out in a word "survival".

The book was compelling to me and I would have given it a 5 star review if not for an event that happens about 3/4 of the way through which kind of made me stop and think "wow, that was so not necessary".  I also thought that this particular event was also wayyyyyy over the top and did not really add to the book.

Overall though this was a wonderful read.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

REVIEW for Tales from my Closet

Another thank you goes out to Nikole at Scholastic Canada for sending me a copy of this book.

TITLE:              Tales from my Closet

AUTHOR:         Jennifer Anne Moses

GENRE:            YA


I gave this book three stars because I could not get a clear handle on what the author was trying to do with this book.

It is certainly not a horrible read, in fact, it wasn't bad, but unlike other books who incorporate "fun" with "drama" I found that this did not work all that well here.  Yes, I get that fashion is the escape point for these girls, but it does not come across as flawless, but rather - bad, bad and then escape into fashion.  Additionally, I think the author worked in too many characters here which make keeping it all organized a bit challenging.

When the author tackles the fashion aspect, this book is entertaining and fun to read, I wish she would have simply stuck to that - there would have been nothing wrong with simply focusing on the characters love of fashion without all the drama.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

REVIEW for The Following TV SHOW

I rarely review TV shows, as I consider this to be a book blog.  However, in the past, I have reviewed a few shows, specifically the season finale of the excellent and greatly missed show Medium.

Having said that, I have been an avid fan of The Following (almost wrote "I have been following The Following") but that would have been wrong for so many reasons LOL.

Anyway, this is season 2 of The Following and we are at the beginning of it (it was greatly missed while on hiatus) and I have been psyched to see what the producers would come up with to keep it interesting and fresh.  I have also avoided reading any spoilers, as I don't want to know too much, ahead of time.

Kevin Bacon is back, always wonderful.  I have loved him in all his various appearances over the years.  They also brought back James Purefoy as Joe and the excellent Shawn Ashmore, who is a character that I have really started to enjoy watching.  Of all the characters, he is the one that has grown the most, in my opinion.

To my HUGE surprise, they also added a character by the name of Micah as a cult leader in the episode "Sacrifice", who is played by Jake Weber  the wonderful actor who played the warm and loving husband and father on Medium (and this is why I am reviewing The Following today).

I am sorry, but I just cannot sit through this episode without focusing on Jake Weber playing a hard ass  cult leader.  All I see when I look at him is Joe Dubois from Medium.  Anytime he tries to act vicious on the screen I smirk and find myself looking for Alison Dubois (played by Patricia Arquette) to come and calm him down with a beer, like they use to do on Medium.

I love The Following - its violent, gritty and always adds twists that you don't expect - but I am sorry, this time, I am just not buying Weber as a vicious cult leader.

I will still continue to avidly watch this show - but wow, I guess I am doing my own type casting now.

BTW, Joe Dubois died in the series finale of Medium which I NEVER, EVER AGREED with.  In fact, I hated the final episode of Medium, so its nice to see Weber on TV again, but not in the role of a vicious cult leader, I just don't buy it.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

REVIEW for Social Death

I was lucky enough to receive an e-copy of this book.

TITLE:            Social Death

AUTHOR;       Tatiana Boncompagni

GENRE:          Mystery


I have read  and absolutely loved all of Tatiana Boncompagni’s books  so I was incredibly thrilled to review Social Death, which is a huge departure for this author.

Social Death is actually a contemporary mystery as opposed to her previous books which were contemporary fiction based in the world of high finance.

I wasn’t sure how I felt about this change as I felt that Boncompagni’s first hand knowledge of the world of high finance had created some powerful reads.  Nonetheless, I  threw myself into Social Death and was hooked by the very first line.  This book, while still set in the world of the rich, focuses on news producer Clyde Shaw who has had to overcome a lot to be where she is today.  However, a routine call to a death scene, in order to “report on it” will change her life, yet again throwing her both personally and professionally into sadness, confusion, chaos and murder

Indeed, Clyde Shaw’s life will never be the same again after she discovers who the murder victim is – and she will basically spend the entire storyline desperately trying to figure out who the murderer is, while also desperately trying not to fall apart – again.

This added twist to the story(actually there are quite a few twists) makes this plot interesting. Shaw is a very delicate and yet tough character who is far from perfect, making her the perfect character in my eyes.  I hate it when authors create characters that are simply larger than life – I feel disconnected and removed from them, whereas I loved Clyde Shaw.

Once again, Boncompagni details the life of the rich and ridiculous with a deft hand – in essence telling us, without actually ever saying the words, how silly this world can be.  I also thought  that she did an excellent job of educating  the reader about what goes on behind closed doors when it comes to the news.

However, the whodunit is definitely the center of this novel and while I thought I had it figured out a few times, it was obvious that I didn’t, which was great.

This is a fast paced, excellent read and  I recommend it.  However, if I was asked to choose, I have to admit that I still prefer Boncompagni’s previous books – but not by much.

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