A List of Cages by Robin Roe

This book has been recommended to me multiple times by many people and I have just been pushing it off. I finally decided to read it and see what the hype was all about. Here is my review:

Adam Blake is one of those people who is always positive. Sure, he has his difficulties what with his ADHD, but he’s always able to look at the bright side of things. When his senior year elective is to serve as an aide to the school psychologist, Adam is sure that it will be an easy one. The psychologist asks him to track down a troubled freshman who keeps evading his sessions, and Adam discovers that the boy is Julian, the foster brother he hasn’t seen in 5 years. Adam is ecstatic to be reunited with Julian. But Julian isn’t the same anymore. He is quieter, more insecure, and he keeps a lot of secrets – like about what’s really going on inside his house. Adam is determined to help Julian, but his involvement could endanger both their lives.

Holy, did this book make me an emotional wreck! I did not expect it to tug at my heart the way it did but I was bawling from the halfway point until the end. I don’t even know where to start with this book.

The story is told from 2 perspectives: Julian and Adam. Each boy has his own voice and personality and the author does a great job of making them complement each other. Adam is this super positive guy, and you may think that this is overkill, but I love how the author really tried to explain why he does things and thinks things in the way that he does. He has ADHD, but he doesn’t fall into the stereotypical portrayal of it and that made me really happy. Julian’s simplicity and kindness is perfectly captured; the author definitely did not overdo it! I found it very easy to imagine the different personalities and relationships between the different characters and that made this an enjoyable read.

This novel deals with a lot of difficult issues. Not only does it address the stigma associated with mental health and illness, it talks about loss, guilt, and abuse. Each one has its role to play in the novel and the author addressed each one with the care and tact it deserved. I love how the story tied in all of these elements to make something beautiful and raw. This novel makes you think about life and the power of friendship, and it is sure to move you. I genuinely cannot express how strongly I feel for this novel but I really want every single individual to read this book because it is just that fantastic.

Happy reading ~

New Boy by Tracy Chevalier – Hogarth Shakespeare

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

When I first requested this novel, it was because I really enjoyed reading Tracy Chevalier’s earlier work. Imagine my delight when I discovered that this novel is part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series! So far, I’ve loved every book that has been part of the Hogarth concept, so I was very excited to give this novel a shot!

Osei Kokote has not had it easy. The son of a diplomat, it is his first day at his fifth new school in as many years. He knows that in order to survive his first day, he needs to find an ally, and he is lucky enough to find a friend in Dee, the most popular girl in school. For her part, Dee genuinely seems to like Osei and soon their budding relationship takes flight. But there is one person who is not happy to see this and is determined to wreak havoc on this friendship between the black boy and the golden girl. BBy the end of the day, the school and its key players – teachers and pupils alike – will never be the same again.

The Shakespeare play that served as inspiration for this novel is Othello, which is one of the few works by Shakespeare that I actually don’t like too much. I’ve never been a fan of tragedies, especially ones that deal with the whole concept of misunderstandings. I was quite impressed by the originality of this novel, in taking a serious adult tragedy like Othello and transplanting it into a Washington school playground. It reminded me of my cringe-worthy days in elementary school, struggling to fit in with my peers, facing the social hierarchy that was constantly shifting, and dealing with betrayals and crushes. The author did a great job of giving each character a unique voice and exploring the playground politics in a serious tone that went beyond the surface. This novel speaks at length on the issue of race in an unusual setting that is really just a microcosm of our own society; it both surprised and delighted me to see this concept work out as well as it did! Was this novel a complete success? No. It had its flaws and the ending, while tragic, was a bit too dramatic for the setting the author was trying to maintain. However, this is still a powerful rendition of Othello, and I appreciate its uniqueness. Overall, an interesting novel!

Happy reading ~

The Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson

You may expect that an idyllic community of wealthy California families would be the perfect paradise. Instead, when a middle school tragedy occurs, it becomes a nightmare. The reverberations from that tragedy still shake the community … and the privileged students involved in it. Now, new teacher Molly Nicoll enters the scene, hoping to inspire her pupils and understand them, not knowing the effects that the disaster has already had on them. At every turn, there is a child hiding under high school stereotypes: Nick, the brilliant scam artist; Emma, the gifted dancer and party girl; Dave, the B student who strives to meet his parents’ expectations; Calista, the hippie outcast who hides her intelligence for reasons of her own; and Abigail, the girl who has her life charted out but makes a rash decision that will change her world.

The first story that this novel opens up with is emotionally-charged, and it is what got me into this book. It reminded me a lot of my own middle school and high school days, and every miserably memory that I had from that time. It was powerful and showed the very dark side of adolescence. However, the rest of the novel didn’t really work for me. Each chapter is like a vignette into a character’s life, and reading this novel, it began to feel as if I was reading short stories instead of a cohesive novel. The characters were also a bit too flat for me because they didn’t always get enough time in their chapter to be explored and developed; I ended up not really caring about any of them. At one point, I began to be overwhelmed by the sheer number of characters, which took my attention away from the main message. It’s clear from this novel that the author is very passionate about the drama and bullying and difficulties that arise in adolescents who are in high school. And she did a great job of exploring the various issues. That passion is evident throughout the novel and was the force that propelled the plot forward. However, this passion wasn’t enough for me to like this novel. If you like novels that deal with these issues, then you should definitely give this one a read. However, I will be giving this novel a 2.5/5 (the 2.5 is for the passion).

Happy reading ~

Beartown by Fredrik Backman

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Sports has never been my thing. I’ve never understood the sports culture and many of the rules of the various games just flies over my head. I’ll admit part of it is because I’ve never really given it a fair shot. This novel was me giving it a chance to win me over!

Beartown is a tiny community nestled deep in the forest. But down by the lake, there is an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. This ice rink is the only thing that makes people believe in a brighter future. Beartown’s junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys. Naturally, this is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match acts as a catalyst for a violent act that will leave a girl traumatized and a town divided.  When accusations are made and the truth threatens to come out, the reverberations  travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.

You do not need to know anything about hockey in order to understand this novel. That being said, you’d probably enjoy this novel more if you are a fan of the game. There is A LOT  of hockey talk in this game. I don’t mean that the author puts in useless jargon or anything; it’s just that every other sentence has something to do with hockey. Now, you may think that I’m saying this as an off-putting thing but it actually wasn’t. It allowed me to understand and appreciate the hockey culture. This novel actually helped me see what the hype was all about and how people can make hockey the center of their lives, a fact I’m sure my boyfriend will be very happy to hear! This novel is very well-written and involves a whole host of characters, some adults and some teenagers. Each one has their own unique perspective, their own backstory, and the author does a fantastic job of making them relevant without bogging down the story. This novel is emotionally engaging, which was a happy surprise for me as I wasn’t expecting it. There is so much to this novel, so many issues that it highlights, and I could keep talking forever and ever on them…. but I won’t. I’d rather you read this novel and form your own impressions instead. This novel was something that I approached warily but by the end of the story, I was an absolute fan of this book and author!

Happy reading ~

All The Forever Things by Jolene Perry

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I’m always in the mood for a story that is unique. I find that most realistic fiction novels that are YA tend to follow the same trajectory, but this story came off as being different so I was glad to be approved for this ARC! Here is my review:

Gabriella’s family owns and operates a funeral home, which makes Gabriella well acquainted with all aspects of death. She may be weird and a bit dark, but at least she has her best friend Bree on her side. But when Bree begins to date the jock who used to bully Gabriella, their friendship starts to change. Gabriella wants to be supportive but she just isn’t comfortable with Bree’s new relationship. It doesn’t help that Bree has no time for Gabriella anymore, and even begins to act like all of the other girls in school. The only person who seems to want to spend time with “Graveyard Gabe” is Hartman, the new guy in town who has his own issues. To try to get things back to normal with Bree, Gabriella agrees to drive everyone to prom… but no one could have been prepared for the deadly incident that would occur.

The premise for this novel was definitely interesting. I mean, you don’t hear too often about teenagers living and working in a funeral home. And Gabriella – or Gabe, as she likes to be called – is definitely on the morbid side. She wears vintage clothes in black, and loves Wednesday Addams. Not that I have a problem with either of these things! I think that the author enticed readers by showing them this breakdown in friendship between Gabe and Bree, and the emergence of something romantic between Gabe and Hartman. But I wish the author had really gotten into the material instead of just skimming the surface. There were quite a few instances where the author could have really pushed and delivered more on the emotional front, but instead, it just felt very … superficial. Instead of making this more of a heartbreak, this novel (for the most part) just seemed like a girl whining about growing up. Even during times when my alarm bells went off, things didn’t really take a serious or deep turn. This novel had a lot of potential but I think its flaw comes from the fact that everything that happened with the characters just skimmed the surface. When I read a realistic fiction story, I expect it to be very character-driven; I want it to be teeming with complex emotions from the side of the protagonist as well as the other characters. However, this novel didn’t dig deep enough into the character’s personality, so it was very hard for me to feel any sympathy for anyone in the story. Also Hartman’s character just came off weird. I understand that the author wanted to show him as grieving but his actions just didn’t match up so he just confused me. In the end, this was a novel with a lot of potential that didn’t really deliver what I was expecting.

Happy reading ~

A Single Stone by Meg McKinlay

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Being part of the line is a blessing. Every family hopes that their daughter will become one of the chosen 7 to tunnel deep into the mountain and return with the harvest. These girls are the most important ones in the village; their work in the mountains makes the difference between life and death. Jena is the leader of the line. She is a good tunneler, strong and reliable, liked by all of the girls. And she has gone through extensive training and wrapping and fasting to become this way. She is proud of herself and the role she plays. But one day, Jena makes a discovery that leads her to question the way her world works. What if there is more to life than just this village?

This was a short but well-written novel and I really enjoyed reading it. It was layered and complex in a quiet way. It was subtle yet transparent as it showed you Jena’s life, the secrets of the village, and the dangers of the mountain. The writing was intelligent and thought-provoking, which I really wasn’t expecting it. I found myself rereading sections of this story, not because it was hard to understand but because it was just so powerful! This novel may have been targeted for teens and middle schoolers, but I can easily see adults reading and enjoying this story! Don’t be fooled by its deceptive slowness; this novel picks up the pace and the events roll out fairly quickly! A great story, and I’m really glad to have gotten a chance to read it!

Happy reading ~

Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruined by Danielle Younge-Ullman

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

There are many YA fiction novels out there that discuss how a teenager deals with problems in her life. Some of these stories are good and some of them don’t really make the cut. I haven’t read one of these tearjerker novels in a while and I wasn’t really expecting this novel to be one. But after reading the first chapter, I knew exactly what it was all about. I continued to read… and I’m so glad I did, because this novel definitely blew me away!

Then

When Ingrid was younger, she travelled all over Europe with her opera star maother, Margot-Sophia Lalonde. Life was full of surprises and beauty – and music. But when tragedy strikes, Ingrid and her mother must forgo their glamorous life for something simpler. And it takes a toll on the both of them. Gone is the brilliant and bright mother, replaced by someone who hides from her past and can barely drag up the energy to face the present.

Now

At her mother’s insistence, Ingrid is on a summertime wilderness survival camp for teens, all of whom are at-risk for some reason or the other. She has to fight through mosquitoes, physical challenges that will push her to her limits, and survive crushing humiliations that threaten to break her.

As this story moves from past to present, we find out what landed Ingrid in this intensive camp in the first place, as well as how this experience will change her forever.

I adored this novel. Truly, I did. From the synopsis to the actual writing to the characters, everything was flawless and perfect. I couldn’t have asked for a better story!

I loved the different characters that we were introduced to, even though it was apparent that Ingrid was the star of the show. The descriptions of the other characters was given through Ingrid and I really liked how this was done, because it showed Ingrid as someone who is not self-absorbed and consumed by her own problems. Ingrid, while seeming to be quiet, is actually a firecracker who knows how to stand up for herself. She may have wanted to back down from the challenges she faced but she doesn’t, and that made me love her character! The other characters from the camp were written very well and did a good job in terms of giving Ingrid the support and baseboard that she needed in order to “grow”.

I really enjoyed the way this story was written. The chapters would flit from the past to the present and it was really interesting to read from both perspectives and see how they all matched up. The emotions that Ingrid felt in the past, and the pain she was carrying with her in the present were powerfully written; it made me want to go and hug her! The story never dragged, which was really great to see since I frequently find books in this genre are … slow-paced.

Overall, this book is emotionally-packed. It will make you laugh out loud, and cry, and just … FEEL so much! I loved Ingrid, I loved Margot-Sophia, I loved every character (except Peace, of course)! This novel was amazing in terms of its writing style, pacing, story line, and character development. I would recommend this to anyone looking for a good teen fiction that will make you emotional!

Happy reading ~

Bookishly Ever After by Isabel Bandeira

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Yay to cute teen novels!!! I used to love reading cute romance novels when I was younger, and this novel is just such a throwback to those times! After all of the dark thrillers that I’ve been reading, I was quite happy to receive this book! And the best part about this novel? It has a female protagonist who LOVES to read and is super awkward! I cannot tell you how long I have waited for this moment, so thank you to the author for writing this!

Phoebe Martins’ perfect world resides in a YA novel with magic and a hot paranormal love interest. Now if only her life outside of the book could be the same. But when Phoebe finds out that Dev, the hottest guy in the clarinet section of band, might actually have a crush on her, she’s at a loss as to what to do. So … she turns to her favorite books for advice. In order to win Dev over, Phoebe decides to go through a personality change and become just like one of her favorite heroines. But will that be enough to win Dev’s heart?

Like I said before, this is one hell of a cute teen romance novel. It is exactly as what the summary says: girl likes boy but doesn’t know how to go about telling him how she feels. I really liked this book because it reminded me of my own teenage days, with those crushes and awkward moments and those little fantasies about having a guy tell you he likes you – and saying it back to him! Phoebe is a really cute character and her group of friends are really funny. The story did progress a bit too slowly at times, but it was still enjoyable! I think the one thing that began to get a little old for me were the number of “excerpts” from the books that Phoebe was reading; while I get the point of it, there were just too many of them and they sometimes hampered the speed of the already-slow story. Overall, a really cute and funny novel about love and friendship, and I would recommend this to preteens/young teens!

Happy reading ~

 

Orange: The Complete Collection Vol 1-5 by Tanako Ichigo

When I was 12 years old, manga was all the rage. I grew up in a neighbourhood where there were many East Asian children, so I was heavily influenced by their culture and what was popular with them. At first, reading manga was just a way to fit in but very quickly, I found myself enjoying the story and the artwork. It has been a long time since I’ve read a manga book, but my boyfriend (who loves reading manga) recommended this to me, and guaranteed that I would love it. So I found it online and read it in one sitting.

On the day that Naho begins 11th grade, she receives a letter that is apparently from herself … but from 10 years in the future. At first, she dismisses it. There’s no such thing as time travel! But as the letter’s predictions come true, down to the minutest detail, Naho realizes that this letter could very well be the real deal. Her future self tells Naho that a transfer student will be joining her class, a boy named Kakeru. The letter begs Naho to watch him, stating that she is the only person that can save him from a terrible fate. Who is this mystery boy and how is Naho connected to him? Better yet, can she save him from his destiny?

This graphic novel may be YA fiction because of the setting and the characters, but the feelings it evokes are strong enough for any adult! If you aren’t familiar with Japanese culture, then parts of this novel may seem a little odd or cringe-y in the beginning. But trust me, it is worth sticking through. This story is one of friendship, loss, love, and resilience. The story deals with suicide, guilt, and the difficulty in moving on from a traumatic event. I am not ashamed to admit that I was sobbing like a baby throughout the novel. Naho is a timid character, and sometimes her timidity can be exasperating. But she changes throughout the novel, realizing that she needs to become more bold and assertive in order to be there for the people she loves. Every character in this story has depth and they are just so …. loveable and amazing! I’m still not in the right frame of mind to coherently write down my thoughts, but the main point I’m saying here is that this manga has a depth to it that I have rarely seen in others in this genre, or even in regular fiction. It has its funny moments, and its cheesy moments, and it’s cute to see teen love bloom. But it shows how strong the bonds of friendship can be, and how difficult it can be to be a teenager. Maybe the story hit me as hard as it did because my teenage years were also difficult (not as difficult as in this story, though) but it is still well-written, well developed, and aesthetically beautiful. If you have never tried manga, then start with this one because it is absolutely fantastic!

Happy reading ~

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

The hardest books for me to read are those where children die. Children are so vulnerable, so innocent, and when harm befalls them … well, it just hurts me to hear about it. There are times when I’ve chosen not to read a really good book because the topic has been too difficult for me to read. However, I decided to give this novel a shot and I’m so glad I did because it was absolutely fantastic!

It takes one rwiny afternoon to shatter a mother’s life, when her son slips from her grip and runs into the street. In a split second, Jenna Gray’s world descends into a nightmare. Her only hope of moving on is to walk away from everything, including that terrible car accident and the death of her child. Desperate to escape, she moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast. Slowly, Jenna begins to glimpse the potential for happiness in her future. But her past is about to catch up with her, and the consequences will be devastating . . .

At first, this novel broke my heart. I could feel the pain from losing a child with every word written on the page. I could feel the guilt oozing out of Jenna, and I understood the helplessness of the detectives investigating the hit-and-run. But when I got to the midpoint, this story shocked me. The twist was unexpected and I knew I had to read more. The story became so much darker; it was sinister and scary and I couldn’t stop myself from reading further. The cast of characters were fabulous, each so unique and detailed that I felt I got to know them on a deeper level. Few books have made me feel as if I have glimpsed the soul of each character… but this one did. This was such as fantastic story, and it is a thriller that made me feel every emotion under the sun! Looking for your next big thrill? Don’t miss out on this one!

Happy reading ~