Monday, June 18, 2018

The Death House by Sarah Pinborough

The Death House
Publisher: Orion Books
Genre: Young Adult
Pages: 288 Pages
Format: Paperback
Source: From Publisher
Reason: For Review
Find the Author: Website

Toby is a boy who has forgotten how to live.Clara is a girl who was born to die.Toby's life was perfectly normal . . .Taken from his family, Toby now lives in the Death House. Isolated from the outside world the inhabitants of are watched for any signs of a mysterious illness . . .Clara was a girl who had everything. Adored by her friends and her family, her life was destined for greatness. Now, Clara is the newest resident of the Death House and she's determined not to allow her life to end there.This is Toby and Clara's story.

MORAL OF THE STORY:
NEVER TRUST THE CREEPY NURSES

After reading 13 Minutes, I couldn't wait to get my hands on The Death House. It sounded like the perfect mix of creep and romance. It definitely had a haunting atmosphere to it; a bunch of kids that contain a fatal, defective gene, all living together in an English boarding house until they are taken to the Sanatorium and never seen again...Yikes!

Firstly, Sarah Pinborough's writing style is absolute perfection. She knows how to captivate her audience. The Death House grasps you tightly and does not let you go. Her writing just flows so easily off of the page, making it a quick read because you will not be able to put it down. Her characters are another one of her specialties. Just like 13 Minutes, she creates a medium-sized character cast that all compliment each other wonderfully. Pinborough has done her characters proud! In that imagination of hers, they came to her with their stories and she put them to paper perfectly. The romance aspect of The Death House was just right. It was a good focal point of the book but didn't cloud over the secondary storyline. It all meshed well together!

There were a few aspects of the book that did fall short for me. I wish we got more of a history regarding this mysterious gene: What is it? Why does it affect only a certain population of kids? Where did it originate, etc? I also would have loved a little more backstory on the nurses and the sanitarium. I know keeping those things a mystery was probably intentional, however, I would have liked just a little bit of story on them.

Overall, this book was an entertaining read! I flew through it and adored all of the characters.  I definitely recommend The Death House if you're looking for that quick, can't-put-down kind of read!



Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Shooter by Caroline Pignat

Shooter
Release Date: May 3rd, 2016
Publisher: Razorbill | Penguin Canada
Genre: Young Adult
Pages: 320 Pages
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Reason: Personal Interest
Find the Author: Website

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

MORAL OF THE STORY:
BE KIND. YOU NEVER KNOW THE BATTLE THAT ANOTHER PERSON IS FIGHTING

This book was recommended to me by a neighbour and a friend who happens to be a teacher. She read this book to her middle-grade class and raved about it. After learning the subject matter of this book, I knew I couldn't pass up this recommendation. I am a strong supporter of books that tackle tough and relevant topics. Shooter definitely hit the mark when it came to addressing the hard yet real-life issues that students endure on a daily basis: bullying, social and academic pressures, fitting in, not fitting in, etc, and what these students do to cope with the stressors of their lives. 

Shooter spans over the course of an hour. 5 students locked in a Boys washroom during a school Lockdown drill...only, it is not a drill. As referenced, this book definitely takes on a 'Breakfast Club' vibe, which I loved. Hogan(the jock), Xander(the nerd), Isabelle(the princess), Alice(the good girl) and Noah(Alice's autistic brother) are all polar opposites. Throughout the novel they clash more than once, but despite some of the hostility and their "social rankings" there are moments of beautiful vulnerability. Glimpses inside their souls and the darkest corners of their thoughts. 

With some of the horrible headlines hitting the news and shows like 13 Reasons Why, this book couldn't be more relevant for the time we are living in.  Bullying is a worldwide issue, it's a pandemic. We are losing so many lives due to the actions of others, or the lack of actions entirely. I think this is a book that belongs in every school curriculum. It needs to be on every teacher reading list. What I loved most about Shooter was its ability to handle these matters in a way that didn't make this book inaccessible to the youth. It's perfectly appropriate for a young reader. 

This is my first book by Caroline Pignat, but I am already eager to dive into her previous and future work. She has a simple writing style that makes for an easy breezy reading experience. Shooter was a fast-paced novel that had me flying through the pages, desperate to know the outcome. It's both heart-wrenching yet hopeful.  Shooter was a great read with an even greater message!

"Don't judge a book by the chapter you walk into" -Alice 

Monday, June 4, 2018

Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

Jar of Hearts
Release Date: June 12th, 2018
Publisher: Minataur Books
Genre: Mystery & Thriller
Pages: 320 Pages
Format: ARC
Source: From the publisher
Reason: For Honest Review
Find the Author: Website
Buy the Book

This is the story of three best friends: one who was murdered, one who went to prison, and one who's been searching for the truth all these years . . .
When she was sixteen years old, Angela Wong—one of the most popular girls in school—disappeared without a trace. Nobody ever suspected that her best friend, Georgina Shaw, now an executive and rising star at her Seattle pharmaceutical company, was involved in any way. Certainly not Kaiser Brody, who was close with both girls back in high school.But fourteen years later, Angela Wong's remains are discovered in the woods near Geo's childhood home. And Kaiser—now a detective with Seattle PD—finally learns the truth: Angela was a victim of Calvin James. The same Calvin James who murdered at least three other women.To the authorities, Calvin is a serial killer. But to Geo, he's something else entirely. Back in high school, Calvin was Geo's first love. Turbulent and often volatile, their relationship bordered on obsession from the moment they met right up until the night Angela was killed.For fourteen years, Geo knew what happened to Angela and told no one. For fourteen years, she carried the secret of Angela's death until Geo was arrested and sent to prison.While everyone thinks they finally know the truth, there are dark secrets buried deep. And what happened that fateful night is more complex and more chilling than anyone really knows. Now the obsessive past catches up with the deadly present when new bodies begin to turn up, killed in the exact same manner as Angela Wong.How far will someone go to bury her secrets and hide her grief? How long can you get away with a lie? How long can you live with it?
Dark, twisted and heart-pounding, Jar of Hearts is everything you'll want and more in a novel!

Jar of Hearts packs A LOT of punch! It is a gripping tale that will keep you on the very edge of your seat. And trust me, you'll want to cancel your entire day, because you'll devour this book hungrily in one sitting!

Call me biased(being a Canadian and all) but I feel like the best talent comes out of Canada, and since finding out that the author, Jennifer Hillier, is Canadian, it's not wonder this book kicked so much butt!

Jennifer Hillier penned a small character cast that really made for an intimate reading experience. There wasn't too many story lines going on so I felt I could really commit to each character. The story is also told between the past and present. The author delivered that structure flawlessly! She dished out just the perfect amount of each that would have you sitting at the edge of your seat, eager for the story to unfold more; making the pacing of the novel just right.

Jar of Hearts left me with a major book hangover! It will hook you from the very first page and keep your head-spinning with its masterful storytelling until the very last.

"A relationship isn't supposed to consume you; it's not supposed to change you into someone you don't want to be. But how do you teach that?  How do you explain to someone who's never been in a romantic relationship what a healthy relationship feels like? How do you explain to a sixteen-year-old girl who's never been in love what love is supposed to feel like?" 

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Love and Other Carnivorous Plants by Florence Gonsalves

Love & Other Carnivorous Plants
Release Date: May 15th, 2018
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Genre: Young Adult | Fiction
Pages: 352 Pages
Format: ARC
Source: From Publisher
Reason: For an honest review

Buy the Book

Freshman year at Harvard was the most anticlimactic year of Danny's life. She's failing pre-med and drifting apart from her best friend. One by one, Danny is losing all the underpinnings of her identity. When she finds herself attracted to an older, edgy girl who she met in rehab for an eating disorder, she finally feels like she might be finding a new sense of self. But when tragedy strikes, her self-destructive tendencies come back to haunt her as she struggles to discover who that self really is.

It's hard to take a book like this and say how much you enjoyed it considering the subject matter, but it's true, I really liked this book!

I really enjoyed Danny's character. Her dark and sarcastic humour added comedic relief to the overall tone of the novel. The book itself dives into the struggles of eating disorders, addiction, and depression with the real-life realities of living life through it all. Florence Gonsalves did a wonderful job at penning these delicate subjects and delivering them with a raw voice. It can be tough approaching Mental health in novels. It's placing a very real struggle into a fictional world and the author did a spectacular job. I feel that if anyone who has been in Danny's shoes would have felt the author was very authentic. There was no sugar-coating. It was no holds barred.  It was raw and untethered. 

There are multiple storylines going on in the novel. We have Danny and Sara, Danny and Bugg, Danny and her parents and Danny and herself.  Each storyline packs a lot of punch. Each one is riddled with highs and lows. It's messy but in an intentional way.

Love and Other Carnivorous Plants went beyond my expectations. I wasn't expecting this book to turn out the way that it did. It's sad yet hilarious at times. Even though it's a fictional story, it's a very truthful representation of disorders and mental health.  Definitely a one-of-a-kind read!


"When I no longer hear her receding footsteps, I touch the place where her lips were, half expecting to find a scar."



Monday, May 14, 2018

*AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: DANIELA TULLY*

I am beyond thrilled to have author, Daniela Tully, on the blog today! Daniela is the author of the newly released, Hotel on Shadow Lake. Daniela stopped by the blog today to talk about something that stirs inside all of us. We long for it. Crave it. Devour books about it. I'm talking about Wanderlust. The desire to travel and explore. To see the world and experience different cultures.  Read on below for Daniela Tully's honest and beautiful view on Wanderlust.



The crippling grip of Wanderlust: Curse or blessing?


Wanderlust is generally defined as a “strong longing for or impulse toward wandering.” In fact, it’s an English loanword of German origin, my origin, which literally translated into English means ‘the desire to hike’: Lust auf Wandern. Wandern, however, doesn’t actually translate into ‘wander’, but into ‘hiking’. And hiking alone doesn’t do the trick. The places wanderlust-stricken people long to see are not just a simple hike away. So we loaned our word to you, and in German replaced it with a term of different connotation: “Fernweh”, weh meaning ache, ‘fern’ translating into ‘far’. So in contrast to what the English loaned from us, our “new” term speaks of pain at feeling wanderlust, not just a “simple” desire. So why is it that the German language acknowledges the pain one can feel for the things that are away, and the English language, on the other hand, only talks about pain that one feels for things left behind? You can be homesick in English, but you cannot be “farsick”. The longing for what is far is a lust. One not associated with pain.


And yet, my experience sometimes has been, and still is, a very different one.

When I started writing my debut novel, which has two female protagonists, one in the past, one in the present, I at first depicted one of them as a wanderlust-crippled woman who couldn’t settle, but was then called back home, to solve a mystery.

But I just couldn’t bring myself to like that character. What was likable about her? Traveling still is a luxury many people cannot afford. Why feel empathy with someone who feels the need to travel all the time? Especially when contrasted with my other heroine, Martha, who undergoes a “real” plight in the Third Reich, one that is associated with suffering, while a wanderlust-crippled person is not really suffering, is she?


When my mother married my father, she was only able and willing to move to a new home that was within walking distance of her parents’ house. I, on the other hand, was bit by the travel bug on a school exchange to Argentina, at the age of 16, taking my first flight ever. And after that I’ve never stopped travelling and lived all over the world.


And this also begs the questions: where does wanderlust start, and where does it end? To some people with wanderlust, traveling to a far away country for three weeks per year won’t do the trick. It needs to be more. It needs to be a dive into the culture, rather than gaining a brief glance as a tourist. Experience it with a vehemence that a vacation can never offer you. Just like it is for me.

I come from a mid-sized town in Germany, a place not small enough to not allow for any kind of otherness, but too small to accept it without further ado. I was the odd one out. When would I grow roots, when others had never uprooted themselves before? I approached an age at which being a female global nomad was no longer cool, it was just bizarre. I was the wrong gender to play the role convincingly: of the ageless, lonely wolf, roaming the world, who -- just like wine -- was getting better with age. I felt faced with Victorian attitudes. Of course, nothing was made obvious, we are in the twenty-first century after all. But I was told in no uncertain terms that nobody would settle with someone that “restless”.

When I googled the wanderlust definition on Google, the Oxford Dictionary gives an exemplary sentence containing wanderlust right after providing me with the definition: “a man consumed by wanderlust.” I am not saying it is only attributed to men; wanderlust is not conditional to gender. But the stigma of it is.


I now live in Dubai, again, for the second time. Most of my female friends are either single and came for the job, or have come here to accompany their husbands. They have followed his path, not their own, to make the partnership work. When we came here the first time, my husband (who I met on a job in Los Angeles) came with me, because of the job I was offered. Only once have I met another couple, whose husband accompanied the woman for her job, and not vice versa. There aren’t many men who follow their women abroad.


I don’t know yet where the road is taking us, my husband, my daughter and I. We don’t know yet where we will live in two years. Even here, in a country filled with expats, friends ask me: “When will you go back?” There is no ‘back’, only onwards, and not necessarily always upwards. Most of the time, I am a very happy global nomad, but I also know that there is a price to pay. Recently, when I see a movie or read a book about someone’s loss and how the person is supported by family and friends in a closely-knit community, I start to worry about myself, about us. I’ve always been on the road (on the run?); do I have a strong enough community? Will I end up alone one day, without a strong local community, without friends who simply moved “back”, a daughter who carries a certain degree of wanderlust maybe already firmly implanted in her? A daughter who is raised as a third culture kid, a child who spends its formative years growing up in a culture other than their parents’? And what about my own cultural identity? I do not want to move back to Germany. That would mean moving back. I don’t want this. Yet, my family members, and especially mother, a real “home buddy”, will need me one day, as they grow older. But that is a whole other topic.


I don’t ever regret having succumbed to wanderlust. Over the years, however, I’ve grown to appreciate those that have only been stricken with the milder, more confortable form of wanderlust. Not with what we Germans call Fernweh, farsickness, a sickness that is so hard to heal, and yet so little understood. Including by myself, as otherwise I would have ventured out and dared to make Maya, my heroine of the present, a ‘farsick’ person, and not someone my total opposite, and my worst nightmare: a person crippled with aviophobia, the fear of flying.

The day I am creating a likeable version of the character I had originally envisioned for the present plot strand of my novel will hopefully mean I, myself, have come to terms: with wanderlust, with myself.

Hotel on Shadow Lake

Hotel on Shadow Lake
When Maya was a girl in Germany, her grandmother was everything to her: teller of magical fairy tales, surrogate mother, best friend. Then, shortly after Maya’s sixteenth birthday, her grandmother disappeared without a trace, leaving Maya with only questions to fill the void. 
Twenty-seven years later, her grandmother’s body is found in a place she had no connection to: the Montgomery Resort in upstate New York. How did she get there? Why had she come? Desperate for answers, Maya leaves her life in Germany behind and travels to America, where she is drawn to the powerful family that owns the hotel and seemingly the rest of the town.
Soon Maya is unraveling secrets that go back decades, from 1910s New York to 1930s Germany and beyond. But when she begins to find herself spinning her own lies in order to uncover the circumstances surrounding her grandmother’s death, she must decide whether her life and a chance at true love are worth risking for the truth.


About Daniela Tully
Since early childhood I have dreamt of exploring the world outside of my birthplace, the mid-sized city of Bielefeld in Germany. Too young to yet fulfil my wanderlust, I escaped into the world of storytelling, and - as soon as I was able to read - was always seen with a novel plastered in front of my face. In fact, for many years, I wanted to become a librarian. Instead, I chose a different path and dove into the world of audio-visual storytelling: first, with film making. I began my career working with famed director Uli Edel while completing my film studies, which allowed me to work on sets all over the world. Once I met my husband, on one of those films, I settled down in Munich for a while, and first became head of script development at a film production company in Munich, and then a network executive of original programming at one of Germany’s major private networks. After this I moved to the United Arab Emirates, where I had been hired to help develop the country’s film industry. Through our company’s partnerships with Hollywood, I was involved in projects such as the critically-acclaimed Fair Game, box-office hits Contagion and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, as well as the Oscar-winning The Help. However, as nice as it is to be able to include these titles on my resume, I sometimes felt, especially with other films I produced, that the art of story telling in film making can be compromised by the number of cooks in the kitchen. And so I sat down one day and started writing my own story, the first of many to come.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

I Have Lost My Way by Gayle Forman

I Have Lost My Way
Release Date: March 27th, 2018
Publisher: Viking
Genre: Young Adult
Pages: 368 Pages
Series: Stand alone
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Reason: Personal interest
Find the Author:
Buy the Book: Website



Around the time that Freya loses her voice while recording her debut album, Harun is making plans to run away from everyone he has ever loved, and Nathaniel is arriving in New York City with a backpack, a desperate plan, and nothing left to lose. When a fateful accident draws these three strangers together, their secrets start to unravel as they begin to understand that the way out of their own loss might just lie in help­ing the others out of theirs.
MORAL OF THE STORY:
EVERYONE YOU MEET IS FIGHTING THEIR OWN BATTLE

Gayle Forman is a writing genius. Read this book now.
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.
.
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Okay, okay, I give you a little more on why you should read this book. But really, the above statement should be all you need.

Gayle Forman has been an auto-buy author of mine since I read If I Stay when it was first released. Her writing paired with diverse characters hooked me, and she has continued to keep it that way since. I snatched up I Have Lost my Way the moment it was released and I couldn't wait to dive into it. 

I usually love to savour books. I'm not one that usually finishes a book in one day because I actually like to give myself time to enjoy the reading experience. However, that was impossible for this book. I couldn't put it down even if my life depended on it! I devoured it, happily, without guilt, in one sitting. I got completely immersed in the lives of Freya, Harun and Nathaniel. Forman's ability to craft such in-depth characters is really a magical thing. She can take you from wherever you are in the world, wherever you a reading, and place you right into the lives of the characters and their world. Her story telling is masterful. Giving your heart a tug on one page, while making you chuckle through your tears on another. She is a fine artist in this literary world.

I Have Lost My Way is the story of 3 teenagers that are lost. Their lives are at a stand still and their options barely visible. A series of events brings these 3 characters into each other's lives. The span of their time together is only 1 day; but Forman has taught us that a lot can happen in one day. 

I adored every single second of this novel. It just proved to me even further why I love Gayle Forman. Another win for the books...see what I did there....

 “They may be complete strangers, with different lives and different problems, but there in that examination room they are measuring sadness the same way. They are measuring it in loss.” 


Monday, April 30, 2018

The Broken Girls by Simone St. James

The Broken Girls
Release Date: March 20th, 2018
Publisher: Berkley Books
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 336 Pages
Format: Hardcover
Source: From the Publisher
Reason: For an honest review
Find the Author: Website
Buy the Book: Amazon | Amazon CA | Barnes & Noble


Vermont, 1950. There's a place for the girls whom no one wants--the troublemakers, the illegitimate, the too smart for their own good. It's called Idlewild Hall. And in the small town where it's located, there are rumors that the boarding school is haunted. Four roommates bond over their whispered fears, their budding friendship blossoming--until one of them mysteriously disappears. . . . 

Vermont, 2014. As much as she's tried, journalist Fiona Sheridan cannot stop revisiting the events surrounding her older sister's death. Twenty years ago, her body was found lying in the overgrown fields near the ruins of Idlewild Hall. And though her sister's boyfriend was tried and convicted of murder, Fiona can't shake the suspicion that something was never right about the case.When Fiona discovers that Idlewild Hall is being restored by an anonymous benefactor, she decides to write a story about it. But a shocking discovery during the renovations will link the loss of her sister to secrets that were meant to stay hidden in the past--and a voice that won't be silenced. . . .

MORAL OF THE STORY
MOVE OVER BLOODY MARY, MARY HAND IS IN THE HOUSE!

From Page one this book grasped its ghostly fingers around me and didn't let go! Fascinating characters with an irresistible storyline made The Broken Girls one of my favourite reads of 2018...actually, one of my most favourite ever!

The Broken Girls is a captivating mash-up of ghost story meets suspense. You have a whodunnit thrown right into the mix of a haunting. You will not be able to break free until all of your questions are answered. And trust me, the author doesn't give in easily. Each cliffhanger moment is both painful and scrumptious all at the same time!

The Broken Girls was delivered not only in multiple perspectives but in 2 different eras. Some may consider this a risky move but Simone St. James did it flawlessly. Each Character was so diverse and each held a strong and distinct voice that not once did I find they blended together, or that I got confused on who's point-of-view I was reading from.  Each character is also presented at a beautiful pace. Their stories slowly unfolding made it a great opportunity to bond with each character. 

The Paranormal aspect of this novel was done perfectly! It was both eerie and mysterious. It definitely made my bedtime reading a bit challenging. You're never too old for a night light...right??

The Broken Girls is the total package. It packs so much in its 326 pages. It will tug at your heart one moment, and send your spine tingling the next. Buckle up, because you're in for one epic reading experience!

Also, is Simone St. James not the best author name?! 

"It wasn't easy to survive in a boarding school full of throwaway girls, but after swallowing her tears in those first moments, Katie has mastered it."
 
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