2016 Reading Challenge

2016 Reading Challenge

2016 Reading Challenge
Tina has read 1 book toward her goal of 40 books.
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Sunday, May 29, 2016

REVIEW for Crush by Eve Ainsworth





TITLE:           Crush

AUTHOR:     Eve Ainsworth

GENRE:         YA

RATING:   

This story is scary - because it felt all too real. While it is a work of fiction, the author created a dark, scary story of a young girl who is naive and unhappy in her family life who somehow is drawn to a young boy who is majorly screwed up.

As the story develops and we see the dynamics between Anna and Will, as well as the backstories of both of these characters, we start to get a better picture of why/how Anna and Will became the people they are, as well as why they are attracted to each other and it is SCARY.

The book does a good job of showing us how we are a product of our environments - basically from every experience we have lived from day 1.

I did struggle with some of the English terms in this story as it is British - some references were beyond me, but overall, this story was engrossing and all too real.

I could not believe how quickly I finished this book.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Review for Bye Bye Baby


TITLE:                 Bye Bye Baby

AUTHOR:           Caroline Sullivan

GENRE:               Memoir

RATING:              

I read this book when it first came out, but I could not really remember much of it - except that this person was, like I was, a fan of the Bay City Rollers (yes, I can admit it!).

Its weird because she mentions a lot of events related to the Rollers around the time that I actually saw them in Toronto in 1977. She even alludes to having had an intimate encounter with one of them around the 24th of August - which would have been two days after I saw them! Of course it feels odd because I was NOWHERE near considering any type of intimate encounter with them since I was not even 15 yet! she was older at 19....but still, had my young and innocent 14 year old self knew what the guys were doing, my view of them might have changed LOL.

Still, this book was compelling, although wow! what a brat she was - didn't want to go to school, didn't want a job and everyone has to support her. But the stories of basically tracking, harassing and otherwise running after the Rollers is so much fun to read. I found myself thinking "wow, she is really committed to this".

Knowing now, what the members (some of them) of the group have shared, a lot of what she cryptically refers to seems logical. Although, once again, this book is a great example of someone who wants to "share" their memoir, but any interesting or juicy details are redacted or intentionally vague, leaving us feeling cheated. This seems to happen in so many memoirs, it makes me wonder why they want to write this type of book, only to chicken out.

Nonetheless, this is a good story, for all lovers of BCR. Of course, I cannot imagine how it would/must be today to try to get close to your favorite groups. Her story shows how innocent and in many ways, easy it was to get the "scoop" on their whereabouts from hotel clerks, airline employees - can you imagine THAT happening today? I miss the good old days in in some ways, I miss BCR!
 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

REVIEW for 100 Days of Cake







A huge thank you goes out to the people at Atheneum Books for Young Readers for sending me an electronic copy of this book.

TITLE:                        100 Days of Cake

AUTHOR:                   Shari Goldhagen


GENRE:                      YA


RATING:                     4 Stars



I pretty much read this book in a few sittings.  

Reviewing this book is going to be difficult for me because I literally am of two minds.

Firstly, I admit that I HATED the main character Molly. She is selfish, self involved, bossy and completely out of tune with EVERYONE and EVERYBODY except the TV show Golden Girls.  

While the book's central character can, arguably be said to be about depression, I found it hard to care about Molly's depression.  The author does a good job of describing the "inner" feelings, thoughts and turmoil depression can elicit, but Molly was just so annoying that it really took away from the story for me.

Also, I question how everyone else interacted with her - specifically her mother who basically seemed to be constantly afraid for her daughter, yet, did very little to involve herself in her life, in fact, she did very little to involve herself in both her daughter's lives......the baby sister, at 15 having a steady boyfriend and dressing like she was auditioning for a Burlesque show!!!  Fortunately, the mother figure is actually portrayed as nice in this story, which is a nice change of pace in YA.

Also, wow! the therapist.....that went off the rails completely and I worry that there seems to be no consequences from that.....

I would also question the whole title of this book - I actually did enjoy the incorporation and idea of baking a cake a day in order to (obviously) help the mother deal with her daughter's depression, but I would have liked to have more focus on the mother and how soothing and helpful the actual baking was to her - considering the title of the book, I would have liked more focus on the cakes, although towards the end of the book, we do get a better idea of WHY the mother is baking cakes.

What worked for me was the friendship between Elle and Molly.  In fact, Elle was a stronger character in this book for me - she propelled things along better and was, in many ways, a stronger core.  Alex was okay, but we could have used more fleshing out of the character, apart from him being in a band, we don't know much about him.

Having said all of this - I felt compelled to read this book and was interested right to the last word.  For me, the story was highly engaging and the writing was spot on - with a pace that was perfect!

Let's face it, writing a book with a depressed character is tough and I give the author lots of points for this - its always a balancing act of reality and compassion vs entertaintment and since I found myself struggling to put this book down - I obviously loved many aspects of it - which is why I am STILL giving it 4 stars, despite hating Molly.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

BLOG TOUR for WEDDING GIRL by Stacey Ballis





Thank you to the publishers Berkley for sending me an electronic copy of this book and inviting me to join their book tour.

TITLE:         WEDDING GIRL

AUTHOR:    Stacey Ballis

GENRE:       Contemporary fiction

RATING:      



This book was an interesting contrast of good/bad.  The first half (ish) of the book is about losing something, someone as well as your dream or what you thought your dream would be.  The second part is about picking yourself up and moving forward.

So, from this point of view this book is well written and I enjoyed reading about Sophie's "can do" attitude.  Its actually fun to watch someone else's life become something completely different - kind of reflects reality.

On the other hand, this book was a little too "perfect" at times, which does NOT, in my opinion reflect reality.  Having said that, however, the writing is crisp and the main character is a strong one, which is always a huge plus for me.  I also love that she ends up with her grandmother, which is something dear and close to my heart.

I felt I had to suspend my disbelief a little bit, but otherwise, I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  Kind of gives us hope that better things than what we can imagine are coming our way.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

REVIEW for Where You'll Find Me



TITLE:           Where You'll Find Me

AUTHOR:       Natasha Friend

GENRE:           YA


RATING:         


I enjoy Natasha Friend's books. She writes smart books on tough subjects that, IMO, are must reads for YA.

Where You'll Find Me is the newest entry. Actually this book is middle grade oriented with a main character who is 13 years old. Maybe this is part of the issue for me. As an adult, who enjoys reading YA with social issues as the main theme, I like a storyline that is usually a lot more raw. 


Friend depicts mental illness with tact and in a realistic way, but it is everything else surrounding this novel that annoyed me. NONE of the adults in this book seem to realize just how damaged Anna is, after she walked in on her mother's suicide attempt. Really????? I could, maybe buy this, if this book was written in 1960, but wow! this 2016 and somebody should have done something for this poor child.

Anna frustrated me at times. She literally DOES NOT speak up for herself AT ALL EVER! In fact, when she does, she mumbles something that nobody even bothers to ask her to repeat. I realize that Anna is going through so many things in this story, but at times, I wanted to scream at her to OPEN HER MOUTH and say something to help herself.

On the plus side, the relationships here are actually somewhat healthy. Marnie is not the evil stepmother (thankfully - it feels as though that has been done to death) so the relationship between Anna and Marie worked for me.

I also liked the relationship between Anna and her school friends - sweet and endearing to read.

Anna's parents really dropped the ball in this story - and the father was a useless character for me. I much preferred Anna and Marnie together than any kind of relationship she had with her own father.

The book is well written and obviously aimed at a middle grade audience. Overall, I liked this book.
 

Saturday, April 9, 2016

REVIEW FOR The Vanishing Velazquez








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

TITLE:           The Vanishing Velazquez

AUTHOR:      Laura Cumming


GENRE:         Non fiction


RATING:        4 Stars


I loved, loved this book.

I am a lover of first edition books, so I can absolutely see how Snare could become obsessed with this Velazquez and needed to get to the "bottom" of the discovery of this masterpiece.

Somehow, history, the good and the bad, has a way of grabbing us and not letting go and this highly well researched and detailed book shows us just how consumed we can be with the past, at the mercy of our present.

In the process, I learned so much from this book and from that time period, as well as a lot on the art form - all things that I had not really considered in the past.

The writing can be a little confusing at times, which made me sit down and truly concentrate on what I was reading and I do admit that at times, there was just TOO much information, but overall, this book was "the word that comes to mind is" LYRICAL in many ways, scary in some ways and highly entertaining in all ways.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

REVIEW for Asking For It


Thank you to Kaitlin at HGBC Canada for giving me an electronic copy of this book.

TITLE:                   Asking For It

AUTHOR;              Louise O'Neill

GENRE:                 YA

RATING;               4.5 STARS


******************************SPOILER ALERT****************************

I have noticed a definite shift in my reading patterns in the last few years, especially with YA.  I like to feel challenged by what I read - which is one of the reasons I have gravitated to thoroughly to YA with a message - social issues, a book with something important to say.

Asking for It, definitely falls within this parameter.  In fact, at times, I had to actually physically put down my Kindle and let what I just read sink in.

This book is about rape and the culture that surrounds it and author O'Neill does NOT shy away from ANY of it. 


Emma, our main character, is not someone I would like and if she were my daughter, I think I would just lock her up in her room until she was 30 or until the got a clue - whichever came first.  I say this because Emma, for me, is a composite of so many YA that I am meeting these days - clueless about so many things, especially sex and ALL the ramifications around it.  All this ranting on my part, to say, that O'Neill does an amazing job of writing characters that ring completely true to me - and in many ways, that is a sad commentary about life right  now.


Emma thinks that she can get what she wants from anyone and plays into that, milking it for all it is worth! So, when she gets drunk and high at a party and wakes up the next morning without any memories or responsibility for any of her actions, she has to come face to face with the facts - SHE WAS RAPE and because she lives in 2016 - her horrific experience is electronically captured for everyone's entertainment.  

Now, judgements abound - everyone has an opinion on what happened and, of course, on whether Emma "asked for it but being seductive and throwing around her sexuality, while drinking and doing drugs" - hence, the title of the book ASKING FOR IT.

What works for me the most, in this book, is the "after" look at rape and how it is viewed in our society today.  Victim blaming and shaming,  the responsibility of other people in the digital age, the responsibility Emma needs to shoulder, the role of the Internet in trivializing sexual acts and sexuality.  

All of it is explored, in a deep, respectful yet very realistic way in this novel.  Yes, this is a novel, but the many layers brought out by O'Neill on this very touchy yet incredibly timely subject must definitely be admired by those of us who loved this book.

This is a tough book to read and, for me, at times, I felt a tad lost because it is obviously based on Britain wording (in many instances) but the main plot is so intriguing and challenges us to reflect honestly on how we really view rape and its aftermath - an amazing read.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

REVIEW for Liars and Losers Like Us


Thank you to the publishing company Sky Pony Press for sending me an electronic copy of this book.

TITLE:               Liars and Losers Like Us

AUTHOR:         Ami Allen-Vath


GENRE:            YA


RATING:           5 Stars

What a wonderful book!  At first, I was worried that this would be the standard contemporary YA fare, but as I started reading, it soon became obvious that there  is a depth to this book.

All of the characters are flawed, all the while struggling to just "be", especially in the world of proms and high school.  Although there are a lot of ups and downs with each character and mainly with Bree (Breeze), you still feel the love the author has for both the characters and her story.

Sprinkled with a love story, tragedy (which defines most of the book, even at the beginning when we, as readers, don't even know it yet).  


Extremely well written with compassion a dose of humour and a strong parental figure (soooo nice to see this) - I absolutely adored this book.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

REVIEW for The Vanishing of Flight MH370





Thank you to Penguin Group USA for giving me an electronic copy of this book

TITLE:              Flight MH370

AUTHOR:         Richard Quest

GENRE:            Non fiction

RATING:          

I remember the CNN coverage of the disappearance of MH370. I also remember how I felt - sadden and yet, at the same time, mesmerized.  

While CNN presented their coverage non stop and had a myriad of "experts" and "correspondents" one did stick out for me - Richard Quest.  I liked him because he was extremely, extremely passionate about what he was saying and was not afraid to disagree if needed which is why I decided to read this book.  I knew that there would be very little "nonsense" in this telling of events - kind of like the man himself (at least that is how he appears to me).

Let's be honest and say that writing a book about a plane that has yet to be found must be very daunting.  Speculation is the name of the game, yet Quest did an excellent job of detailing the facts and expanding on them appropriately.  While i knew most of it, it was nice to have it set out in a timeline, with explanations as needed.

I also liked that while there were passages that were somewhat too technical for me (not an aviation fan) the author is aware of his audience and breaks it all down enough for us to understand.  

The entire book is written in a very down to earth tone, with a little British thrown in here and there, reminding us that Quest is indeed British.  The story also flows well and as I mentioned, it was nice to have a clear timeline of the events preceding that faithful flight, but also during (as much as is known) and after.  The after was especially interesting to me. 

It is easy to judge everyone involved for their actions or lack thereof.  But this book shows us that not everything might have been as "evident" as it is to us who benefit from looking back on the event with the knowledge of what happened, while the people there were living the events, thinking that it was not even a possibility that a 777 would just disappear.  I often found myself thinking back on Titanic and how everyone on board was "so sure" that this big ship was indestructible and it was only with hindsight that we saw how wrong everyone had been.

I did enjoy a substantial chunk of this book.  I did feel as though he strayed a little with the chapter on media coverage, especially CNN coverage.  It felt a little long and dull. 

I did think that the brief chapter in which he speaks about the way the families were treated was sad but accurate.  I remember watching some of the family members throwing themselves on the floor in hysterics and I kept thinking "why are they showing these poor people?".  Interestingly, Quest does mention one particular family member, an American who appeared on CNN regularly and who kept insisting that the plane had not gone down, but had landed somewhere.  I remember feeling badly for her, while also thinking "reality is going to hit her hard, when they find that plane" and I immediately felt bad about thinking that way.  Yet, Quest, himself, mentions that he was weary himself of speaking with her because despite everything, she seemed to refuse to believe that all the souls were gone.    It took guts to write that - which proves to me that the author chose to write an honest book, based on his knowledge and, of course, on his own views.

I don't know how I would have reacted if I had a loved one on that plane.  The not knowing...how do you get closure and move on?  Maybe I would be that person who could not believe until I had proof, but then, I ask myself, what would ever be enough proof for me?  If they found the plane?  Would that be enough? or  would I only believe if they found my loved one?  Such a horrible, horrible thing to have to go through for all the people involved.

Quest does give us his own opinion of what actually happened that night, but as with other theories on MH370 - they are just that.

This book was engrossing and worth a read for anyone who felt compelled by MH370.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Review tour for THE TRUTH


Thank you  to Sourebooks for giving me an electronic copy of this book to read.

TITLE:            The Truth

AUTHOR:       Jeffry W. Johnston


GENRE:          YA action adventure

RATING:         4 Stars



I wasn't sure what to expect with this book, but I have always been a fan of confined spaces and terror and this book sounded like it had both.

The Truth explores two families, rather two brothers, both trying to get to  the truth about what really happened in that one instant, where everything changed.

Chris and Derek are obviously both incredibly wounded and broken in their own ways....both living in denial about their reality, which makes for an interesting take when they both get together in circumstances that are both terrifying and creepy.


This book moved at a quick pace, which is good, considering the subject matter - does it succeed in evoking terror or fear?  I have to say yes, up to a point.  The book can get a little bit bogged down with too much retrospection, but the strong writing makes up for it.

I didn't actually like any character in this book, but somehow that didn't make any difference in me frantically turning pages to find out what happens next.

A great read.
 
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