Friday, July 24, 2015

ARC Review: Dime by E. R. Frank

Publisher: Atheneum for Young Readers
Publishing Date: May 26th, 2015
Genre: YA Contemporary
Pages: 336 pgs
ISBN: 9781481431606
Source: Received from Simon & Schuster Canada in exchange for an honest review

Summary from Goodreads:
The realities of teen prostitution are revealed in this eye-opening, heartbreaking story from the author of America, which Booklist called "a piercing, unforgettable novel" and Kirkus Reviews deemed "a work of sublime humanity."
As a teen girl in Newark, New Jersey, lost in the foster care system, Dime just wants someone to care about her, to love her. A family. And that is exactly what she gets-a daddy and two "wifeys." So what if she has to go out and earn some coins to keep her place? It seems a fair enough exchange for love.
Dime never meant to become a prostitute. It happened so gradually, she pretty much didn't realize it was happening until it was too late.

But when a new "wifey" joins the family and Dime finds out that Daddy doesn't love her the way she thought he did, will Dime have the strength to leave? And will Daddy let her?

My Review:

I think this YA book may just be the definition of disturbing. It is a book about a young girl who gets sucked into prostitution. She is a teen girl, growing up in the foster family, and just looking for someone to show her love. This need for love in her life makes her an ideal target for a pimp. He is able to prey on her and pretends to love her. When she starts feeling comfortable then he asks her for a favour. No big deal- please go make me some money by selling your body.
This book is gritty and raw and will shake you up. This book will bother you but it is an important story to tell. These things happen everyday in every city. What makes the book so hard to read is the way it is narrated. This is the only life this teen girl has known and so it is written in a way that is normal. She has normalized the events in her life and it isn't until she sees the same thing happening to someone else that she realizes how horrid her life condition is.
While it's hard to read, this book is really good. I couldn't put it down and it stuck with me for quite some time. It got me thinking about foster care and poverty and how it lends itself to a cycle of abuse, drug use, gangs and prostitution. That's not to say everyone in this situation will fall into one of these categories but it makes it easier.
If you are looking for something thought provoking then this is the book for you. It is well worth the time and you should go out and pick it up.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

ARC Review: Last Year's Mistake by Gina Ciocca

Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publishing Date: June 9th, 2015
Genre: YA Contemporary
Pages: 320 pgs
ISBN: 9781481432238
Source: Received from Simon & Schuster Canada in exchange for an honest review

Summary from Goodreads:
Kelsey and David became best friends the summer before freshman year and were inseparable ever after. Until the night a misunderstanding turned Kelsey into the school joke, and everything around her crumbled—including her friendship with David. So when Kelsey's parents decided to move away, she couldn't wait to start over and leave the past behind. Except, David wasn't ready to let her go...
Now it's senior year and Kelsey has a new group of friends, genuine popularity, and a hot boyfriend. Her life is perfect. That is, until David's family moves to town and he shakes up everything. Soon old feelings bubble to the surface and threaten to destroy Kelsey's second chance at happiness. The more time she spends with David, the more she realizes she never truly let him go. And maybe she never wants to.

Told in alternating sections, LAST YEAR'S MISTAKE is a charming and romantic debut about loving, leaving, and letting go.

My Review:

This book alternates between present day where Kelsey is in a new school with a new group of friends and a new boyfriend and the past when Kelsey is best friends with David. Something happened between Kelsey and David and they stop speaking for quite some time. Now David is back in Kelsey's life for senior year and things get a little messy.
This book is a fun YA contemporary and it is ripe with sexual tension. You know from the beginning there is something between Kelsey and David and throughout most of the book they are both too stubborn to do anything about it. It is a fun summer read that is quick to get through but I can't say that I loved it too much. For me this book is okay but not stellar. I think that it's a story that has been done before with the love triangle and teen miscommunication and this why it didn't wow me. That is not to say that I didn't enjoy it while I was reading it. Like I said it's a fun book and it keeps your attention while you're reading it but I just don't think this is a story that will stick with me for a long time. This may be one of those times as an adult reading YA that the book/story isn't as complicated as I would like. I think that teen readers will be able to connect to the story a little more than I was able to. Overall I'd say it's a fun beach read that is enjoyable while reading.

Monday, July 20, 2015

ARC Review: Damage Done by Amanada Panitch

Publisher: Random House Books of Young Readers
Publishing Date: July 21st, 2015
Genre: YA Suspense
Pages: 336 pgs
ISBN: 9780553507492
Source: Received at a blogger even from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Summary from Goodreads:
22 minutes separate Julia Vann’s before and after.
Before: Julia had a twin brother, a boyfriend, and a best friend.
After: She has a new identity, a new hometown, and memories of those twenty-two minutes that refuse to come into focus. At least, that’s what she tells the police.
Now that she’s Lucy Black, she's able to begin again. She's even getting used to the empty bedroom where her brother should be. And her fresh start has attracted the attention of one of the hottest guys in school, a boy who will do anything to protect her. But when someone much more dangerous also takes notice, Lucy's forced to confront the dark secrets she thought were safely left behind.

One thing is clear: The damage done can never be erased. It’s only just beginning. . . .

My Review:

***This review will contain some spoilers but I will warn you beforehand***

This book has been penned the YA Gone Girl and with a sell like that how could I not want to read it. It follows Julia who is the survivor of a school shooting. In this shooting she lost her best friend, her boyfriend and her brother, who just so happened to be the killer. Julia and her family are forced to move to another town because of the fallout and Julia now goes by the name Lucy. Just as she begins getting comfortable in her new school, things begin to unravel and this when things get interesting.

This book is gripping and you will not want to put it down. I read this book in one sitting because I wanted to know what what going on. That being said, I had a few problems with the storyline. Some of it was too predictable and at the same time unbelievable.


At first you can't help but feel badly for Julia but as the story progresses you can't help but wonder why in the world people listen to her. Her new boyfriend Michael, a cop's son, keeps going along with her hairbrained schemes without much questioning. I would imagine someone like this would have a few more qualms about doing some of the things Lucy/Julia asks him to do. This relationship also felt a little rushed. They had barely been dating and Michael is hopelessly in love with her? I didn't really buy into that. Also, she so clearly doesn't feel the same way. I can't understand what he sees in her.

Also the parents in this book are barely present. If I was the parent and my child (seen through flashbacks) was disemboweling small animals, I would fight like hell to make sure they got the correct therapy to help change this. I would also want to make sure that my other child was safe. Then after the shootings, they hide vital information about their son and they allow their daughter to run around all willy nilly without any kind of parental control. This is so wildly unlikely that it is hard to ignore.

I admit that I did figure out the ending but not the full extent of it. I will not reveal what it is but I will say that I didn't see that part coming.

***Spoiler done***

In the grand scheme of things, this book is good for entertainment value. It will draw you in and keep you wondering what in the world is going on. It's much like a horror movie. Going in you know that you are not going to see an Oscar winning film but you still love it just the same. I'd say I enjoyed reading this book but you have to be able to overlook a few things if you really want to love it.

Friday, July 17, 2015

ARC Review: The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes

Publisher: Dial Books
Publishing Date: June 9th, 2015
Genre: YA
Pages: 400 pgs
ISBN: 9780803740709
Source: Received from Penguin Canada in exchange for an honest review

Summary from Goodreads:
With a harrowing poetic voice, this contemporary page-turner is perfect for fans of Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak, Julie Berry's All The Truth That's in Me, and the works of Ellen Hopkins.
The Kevinian cult has taken everything from seventeen-year-old Minnow: twelve years of her life, her family, her ability to trust.
And when she rebelled, they took away her hands, too.
Now their Prophet has been murdered and their camp set aflame, and it's clear that Minnow knows something—but she's not talking. As she languishes in juvenile detention, she struggles to un-learn everything she has been taught to believe, adjusting to a life behind bars and recounting the events that led up to her incarceration. But when an FBI detective approaches her about making a deal, Minnow sees she can have the freedom she always dreamed of—if she’s willing to part with the terrible secrets of her past.

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly is a hard-hitting and hopeful story about the dangers of blind faith—and the power of having faith in oneself.

My Review:

This is everything I was looking for in a book. It was completely different from anything I have read before. Minnow Bly is a young woman who is in juvie for assault. What makes her particularly different is that she has just escaped a cult and both her hands have been cut off. If this doesn't sound like an intriguing premise I don't know what is.
I could not put this book down. The writing is compelling and the story sucks you in. It has a bit of an Orange is the New Black vibe when reading about juvie but then it flashes back to the cult and it is so mind boggling. I couldn't imagine submitting all my faith in someone who weds underage girls and who is violent if you don't abide by the rules. I have always been fascinated by this and while on an intellectual level I can see how it happens but I still find it incredible that with all the technology we have people still fall for this brand of crazy.
My feelings on Minnow were mixed for a long time. She is a bit of an unreliable narrator. She is trying to conceal the truth about what happened on the night she left the cult and in the process she tells people lies and to an extent is lying to herself. It's hard to determine what has actually happened and what is in her head. I also found that she was very standoffish in the novel and at times it makes it hard to like her. Personally, I don't have to like the main character of a novel to like the story but I know that this can be a deal breaker for some people. For me it just made it more difficult to empathize and understand.
This story is refreshing but also haunting. It's one that you will not want to miss out on. Go out and pick this one up.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Top Ten Books I've Received Lately

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish.

This week the topic is the last ten book that came into your home. Well I have quite a few! This week I decided to make a video. Enjoy!

If you don't feel like watching the whole thing I posted a picture at the end.

Thanks for watching and if you didn't watch until the end here are the books that have come into my home lately.

Can't wait to see your picks this week. Happy Reading!

ARC Review: Ruthless by Carolyn Lee Adams

Publisher: SimonPulse
Publishing Date: July 14th, 2015
Genre: YA Suspense
Pages: 256 pgs
ISBN: 9781481422628
Source: Received from Simon & Schuster Canada in exchange for an honest review

Summary from Goodreads:
A spine-tingling debut about the ultimate game of cat-and-mouse in reverse as a teen struggles to retain hope—and her sanity—while on the run from a cunning and determined killer.
Ruth Carver has always competed like her life depends on it. Ambitious. Tough. Maybe even mean. It’s no wonder people call her Ruthless.
When she wakes up with a concussion in the bed of a moving pickup trick, she realizes she has been entered into a contest she can’t afford to lose.
At a remote, rotting cabin deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Ruth’s blindfold comes off and she comes face-to-face with her captor. A man who believes his mission is to punish bad girls like Ruth. A man who has done this six times before.
The other girls were never heard from again, but Ruth won’t go down easy. She escapes into the wilderness, but her hunter is close at her heels. That’s when the real battle begins. That’s when Ruth must decides just how far she’ll go in order to survive.

Back home, they called her Ruthless. They had no idea just how right they were.

My Review:

It's been a long time since a book kept me up all night long and this one did it. I am very happy to be off for the summer because I think I went to bed at 4am after finishing this story. This book is about a young girl who is kidnapped by a sexual predator. She escapes and is hunted through the woods by the killer. It's not often that you can find a book that keeps you on the edge of your seat. I found myself at times with an elevated heart rate and actually worried for the protagonist Ruth. She's not a particularly likable character at times but this girl is kickass. She is determined not to be raped and to escape from this madmen.
While this book had some moments where I had to raise an eyebrow, I still really liked it. Ruth goes through so much in this book and it was quite amazing that she was still able to keep her drive to survive throughout it all. There were sections in the book with flashbacks to Ruth's life with I liked because you got a little more insight into her personality outside of an emergency situation. There were also flashbacks in the point of view of the killer. In one set of flashbacks it goes all the way back to when he was young. I could do without these flashbacks. For some reason, they weren't working for me. I know they were meant to show how he became the way he was but they were put in spots when all I wanted to know is what was happening with Ruth. Another set of flashbacks were the lead up to the abduction of Ruth. I liked these ones better because I got to see another glimpse of Ruth's home life.
If you like thrillers and you like being in suspense then this is the book for you. I promise you it will not take you long to get through this one.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

ARC Review: 99 Days by Katie Cotugno

Publisher: Balzer & Bray
Publishing Date: April 21st, 2015
Genre: YA Contemporary
Pages: 384 pgs
ISBN: 9780062216380
Source: Received from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review

Summary from Goodreads:
Day 1: Julia Donnelly eggs my house my first night back in Star Lake, and that’s how I know everyone still remembers everything—how I destroyed my relationship with Patrick the night everything happened with his brother, Gabe. How I wrecked their whole family. Now I’m serving out my summer like a jail sentence: Just ninety-nine days till I can leave for college, and be done.
Day 4: A nasty note on my windshield makes it clear Julia isn’t finished. I’m expecting a fight when someone taps me on the shoulder, but it’s just Gabe, home from college and actually happy to see me. “For what it’s worth, Molly Barlow,” he says, “I’m really glad you’re back.”

Day 12: Gabe got me to come to this party, and I’m actually having fun. I think he’s about to kiss me—and that’s when I see Patrick. My Patrick, who’s supposed to be clear across the country. My Patrick, who’s never going to forgive me.

My Review:

This book begins after something major has happened in Molly's life. She was dating Patrick and she cheated on him with his brother Gabe. This has made her a social pariah and Molly, returning to her hometown, is trying to get by until she leaves for college. She only has to make it through 99 days before she can reinvent herself somewhere new.

The cheating storyline can be quite polarizing. Many people have a difficult time relating to a cheater and if you have ever been cheated on then it could make you really dislike the main character of this story. I will admit something that I am not proud of. I have been on both sides of cheating. It is not something I'm happy to admit and it's not something I admit to many people. That being said, I woudln't consider myself an immoral person. I care deeply about the people in my life but I am also human and I make mistakes. I think for this reason I could relate to Molly in a way but I could also relate to Patrick and Gabe at the same time. I really liked watching  Molly come to terms with what she did and the aftermath of it. She seemed somewhat stoic about that whole thing. She knew what she did wasn't great and in the beginning she wasn't trying to push it.


I have to admit that the back and forth between Patrick and Gabe later on became slightly frustrating. She was making the same mistakes over again. You can tell that she was trying to figure out which brother was meant for her but I think that she needed to be upfront with both of them. At times I felt like she was leading them on.

*****END SPOILER*****

Overall, I really liked this book. I think that it shows us that cheating is not just black or white. If you are one those people who can't read a book because there is cheating in it then I encourage you to try this book and read it with an open mind. The writing is good and the story is thought provoking. I will be reading the next Cotugno book for sure.

Monday, July 6, 2015

ARC Review: None of the Above by I. W. Gregorio

Publisher: Balzer & Bray
Publishing Date: April 7th, 2015
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Pages: 352 pgs
ISBN: 9780062335319
Source: Received from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review

Summary from Goodreads:
A groundbreaking story about a teenage girl who discovers she was born intersex... and what happens when her secret is revealed to the entire school. Incredibly compelling and sensitively told, None of the Above is a thought-provoking novel that explores what it means to be a boy, a girl, or something in between.
What if everything you knew about yourself changed in an instant?
When Kristin Lattimer is voted homecoming queen, it seems like another piece of her ideal life has fallen into place. She's a champion hurdler with a full scholarship to college and she's madly in love with her boyfriend. In fact, she's decided that she's ready to take things to the next level with him.
But Kristin's first time isn't the perfect moment she's planned—something is very wrong. A visit to the doctor reveals the truth: Kristin is intersex, which means that though she outwardly looks like a girl, she has male chromosomes, not to mention boy "parts."

Dealing with her body is difficult enough, but when her diagnosis is leaked to the whole school, Kristin's entire identity is thrown into question. As her world unravels, can she come to terms with her new self?

My Review:

I LOVED THIS BOOK! This is a story about Kristin who has been brought up as a girl and identifies as a girl. The night she loses her virginity she realizes something is not quite right and visits the doctor. It is there that she finds out that she is intersex. Essentially what this means is that physically she presents as a girl but she also has male chromosomes and testes.
I love how this book explores a topic that is not often discussed. While this condition is not a super common one, there are people out there living as intersex. I think Gregorio does an excellent job of raising questions of gender norms. How would you define what a girl is and what a boy is? Is it defined by how someone looks or how they dress? Who determines what you identify as? In many cases the parents or doctors make these decisions while the child is very young. It makes you wonder if this is the right thing.
This book was well written and you can't help but feel invested in what happens to Kristin. I found myself getting upset with some of the characters. I think it's horrendous the way people treat others that don't fit into the "norm" especially in high school. The author does a great job of depicting the struggle to fit in but at the same time trying to understand yourself.
I think this novel was wonderfully written and tackles a subject that can be sensitive in a respectful and realistic way. I can't recommend this book enough. Please go out and buy it as soon as you can.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

ARC Review: Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke by Anne Blankman

Publisher: Balzer & Bray
Publishing Date: April 1st, 2015
Genre: YA, Historical Fiction
Pages: 406 pgs
ISBN: 9780062278845
Source: Received from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review

Summary from Goodreads:
The girl known as Gretchen Whitestone has a secret: She used to be part of Adolf Hitler’s inner circle. More than a year after she made an enemy of her old family friend and fled Munich, she lives with a kindly English family, posing as an ordinary German immigrant, and is preparing to graduate from high school. Her love, Daniel Cohen, is a reporter in town. For the first time in her life, Gretchen is content.

But then, Daniel gets a telegram that sends him back to Germany, and Gretchen’s world turns upside-down. And when she receives word that Daniel is wanted for murder, she has to face the danger she thought she’d escaped-and return to her homeland.

Gretchen must do everything she can to avoid capture and recognition, even though saving Daniel will mean consorting with her former friends, the Nazi elite. And as they work to clear Daniel’s name, Gretchen and Daniel discover a deadly conspiracy stretching from the slums of Berlin to the Reichstag itself. Can they dig up the explosive truth and get out in time-or will Hitler discover them first?

My Review:

This is the second in a series and I was excited to get this book on Edelweiss. I really enjoyed the idea of the first one and I found that I really wanted to know more about Gretchen and Daniel. This book picks up soon after the first and Gretchen and Daniel have fled Germany. They are getting settled into their new lives when Daniel gets news that his cousin has been very badly injured. Daniel decides to head back to tension filled Germany. As you can suspect Daniel doesn't come back and Gretchen goes back into Germany to save him. This is during the lead up to WWII and the the fact that Daniel is Jewish does not bode well for him nor for his girlfriend Gretchen.

I have to admit that while I was really looking forward to reading this book, it didn't live up to it's expectations for me. The story wasn't bad but it wasn't amazing. I really like the concept of focusing on someone who used to be so close to Adolph Hitler. We don't ever think of Hitler with a human element. I think that adding this element makes what he did so much worse. It baffles me how atrocities like the Holocaust occur. I think while the concept was strong, I wasn't invested in the characters as much. I had to wonder if what they were doing was brave or slightly stupid. I suppose that knowing the outcome of the war, it makes it easy for me to say they were being naive. The two were idealistic in believing they could change everything.

This is not to say that I didn't like the book. It was entertaining and I read it quickly. I wanted to know what happens next but didn't find myself loving it. Overall I would say it was a solid 3 stars. Those who like a historical fiction will enjoy this story.