2018 Reading Challenge

2018 Reading Challenge

2018 Reading Challenge
Tina has read 4 books toward her goal of 30 books.

Friday, August 24, 2018

REVIEW for Doll Hearts by Colleen Clayton

TITLE:                   Doll Hearts

AUTHOR:             Colleen Clayton

GENRE:                 YA

RATING:                3.5 stars

I am on the fence about this book.  I ultimately rated it a 4 star, but honestly, this should be a 3.5 star book.  

The good:  I love this author's writing style.  So down to earth, great dialogue and just enough detail to make the reader feel as though they are right there in the story.

I also like how the author, for the most part, knows the YA world - she created characters that were completely believable and knows how to develop them - mostly.

The actual plot was also interesting and on point.  Hoarding has become a huge issue and the addiction side of it has not been written enough about, so kudos to the author for tackling this difficult subject.

The not so great:  I HATED almost every character in this book, with the exception of Lolo!  I know I was supposed to feel empathy for Julianne, but wow!  she loves to make her life difficult for NOTHING.  I don't know how many times I wanted to scream at her "get out of denial".  She gets a job, tries to get overtime and basically works like a maniac because, somehow, she is going to save the day by making enough $ to save her house from bankruptcy.  Ditto how she kept "missing" her mother - the same mother who didn't return her calls, the same mother who chose her dolls over her own daughter. 

It amazed me that nobody actually tried to deal with this situation head on, they just let the mother rot in her addiction.  Julienne thinks paying off the back mortgage will fix her mother and her father runs away from the situation (again) .  In short, her  mother was written almost as an afterthought of sheer patheticness (I know, its not a word but it works here) who basically abandons her kid.

The Brandon angle was also annoying.  What was he doing?  Playing both ends against the middle?  I know the author wanted me to like him, but he came across as a player.

I did like the friendship angle in this story.  Both Dana and Lindsay were great friends and I liked that.

Finally - the diabetes thing.  I have several friends who have it and manage to live just fine with it.  Why was Julianne always passing out? it got to be a bit ridiculous.  One of my friends also has a pump and honestly, didn't make a big deal out of it - again, what was Julianne's problem?

Having said ALL of this,  in the end, I enjoyed the whole, rather than the parts, if this makes any sense.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

REVIEW for Walking Shadows by Faye Kellerman

Thank you to Hachette Canada for sending me an e copy of this to read and review.

TITLE:            Walking Shadows

AUTHOR:       Faye Kellerman

GENRE:          Thriller


I have read all of Kellerman's books with varying degrees of success. This one i would rate as a 3.5 stars.

I love Decker and Harvard when they work together so I was disappointed to see that Harvard wasn't as prominent as in the past. i know that Kellerman is grooming Harvard to take over the series at one point and i am good with that but i really needed him front and center in this one.

Decker is his usual smart, calm and steadfast self and I love how the author uses his brain to solve cases instead of ridiculous car chases. I love, love Decker such a smart character.

The plot is what dragged this a bit. i did not care about this "whodunnit". Looking back on a past murder....kind of didn't pop for me.

Thankfully Kellerman kept the Decker/Lazarus scenes to a minimum without drawn out family scenes and finally Rina is not the most beautful, smart, amazing person in every room. This character should only get a background role as I find her to be unnecessary in most cases.

Surprisingly, Kellerman does a shut out to her husband's books and his starring character Alex Delaware. Free publicity.

The pacing is good except with a plot like this it did feel slow at times.

Overall okay but nothing amazing.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

REVIEW for Gang Girl by Nancy Miller

Thank you to the publisher, Lorimer Kids & Teens, for sending me an ecopy of this book to read and review.

TITLE:                    Gang Girl

AUTHOR:              Nancy Miller

GENRE:                  YA - social theme

RATING:                 3 stars

This book was a little odd.  Not a horrible odd, just a bit out there.

Sasha is Russian and she got in trouble in Russia so her well to do parents send her to Canada.  Almost from the first second she is here, she ends up with the "mean girls" and has to devise a clever plan to get out of some serious stuff she did with them.

I find the story interesting but the reality is a little out there.  These girls are all thought to be doing good works, but really they are cheating, stealing and doing other horrible things. The lead who is nicknamed "master" is something else.  She is all kinds of horrible and does not have one redeeming feature and, of course, Sasha ends up with the boy that master covets.

Its all so unlikely and destructive, I am not sure what the point of this book was.  None of the characters are fleshed out - at all.  The parental guidance in this book is ZERO and we don't even get to really discover who Jake is, other than he clamps onto Sasha and becomes her boyfriend.

Who does not love reading about mean girls and from this point of view, the author wrote an entertaining book, but you have to be willing to suspend your disbelief - a lot.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

REVIEW FOR Someone I Used to Know by Patty Blount

TITLE:         Someone I used to Know

AUTHOR:    Patty Blount

GENRE:        Social Theme YA


Reading this book is harrowing.  The subject is rape and sexual assault and our main character Ashley has experienced both.

While this book is fiction, it reads as a true story.  Ashley is a YA who feels insecure about herself and falls right into the games being played by Victor and his football team in the form of a "horrific version of a scavenger hunt".  What makes it worse? her own brother, who she adores endorses this "game".

The writing is deep and raw.  This book doesn't spend a lot of time on describing the rape, but rather focuses on the before and after and how it affects each and every person in Ashley's world.  

This story is so well written, it feels like a dissertation on rape, digging deep into Ashley's feelings about herself, the rape and her family.  Extremely family oriented which is where the focus lies.

I cannot describe how deep the author delves. I have read many, many books on the subject and I have never read a fiction book on rape with such detail.  At times, you feel as though you can actually see it through Ashley's eyes.

Told in Ashley and her brother Derek's points of view, it it fascinating  to see how this event affects each in a very different way, yet, at the same time, they are so alike.

Sad, scary and empowering, this is an amazing read.

Also makes you think about how you view woman (although I am one) and how sexual innuendos and assaults are so much more prevalent than we think.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

REVIEW for The Weight of Being by Kara Richardson Whitely

Thank you to the publisher Seal Press for sending me an ecopy of this book to read and review.

TITLE:           The Weight of Being

AUTHOR:      Kara Richardson Whitely

GENRE:          Memoir

RATING:          3.5 stars

I read this author's first book and found it inspirational, so I was a little disappointed with this one.

While her first book was all about empowerment and discovering yourself, this one is all about EVERYONE else in her life. I do recognize that eating disorders affect just about everyone in the person's life and it is important to reflect that and understand how they are impacted. For this, I give the author full credit. She wasn't afraid to confront what her food issues are doing to her family.

Having said that though, I worried that she basically put everyone's feelings above her own ALL THE TIME. Frankly, nobody came across as particularly nice or even encouraging in this story. Her husband basically doesn't want to deal with any of it, so he ends up coming off a bit selfish and Kara's mother needs to be told that she is needed by her daughter, which is sad.

This book feels as though everything that is wrong in Kara's life and family is because she is overweight. I understand that Kara would think this, but I would have killed for ONE member of her family to tell her "we will support you and your decisions" and "not everything that is going wrong in our lives is because you are overweight".

The most interesting aspects for me are the running commentaries in Kara's mind, as she tries to fit these emotions and reflection into her reality of day to day life - something that I believe every binge eater does. The emotions and thoughts that came through Kara were scary, deep and honest. This is the Kara that I liked in the first book.

Overall, I am left somewhat let down. I wanted more Kara and her thoughts, her ambitions and her hopefulness.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

REVIEW for Lush By Kerry Cohen

Thank you to the wonderful people at SourceBooks for giving me an electronic copy of this book to read and review.

TITLE:               LUSH

AUTHOR:          Kerry Cohen

GENRE:             Memoir/non fiction

RATING:            5 Stars

How much do I love Kerry Cohen.  Since Loose Girl, I have read every book she has written and while they have not all been excellent, I have enjoyed them.

Lush....Lush stands out for me, as much as Loose Girl.  Cohen's strength is to write her story - her truth.  This book is both a memoir and an inspiration.  Cohen delves back into her addiction to love (and men) while showing us (and herself) the similarities between addictions - cross addicting to booze.

Interestingly, Cohen did not start drinking until middle age and she analyses this aspect, which confuses her in the beginning, only to realize that, in some way or another, she and many other people cross addict all the time.  

If you insult easily don't read this book. Cohen doesn't mince words and doesn't put herself up on a pedestal.

My personal interest, in this book, peeked when she looks at addiction and gives us her view of what an addict is and what addiction is.  Many of what she said touched a nerve and I found myself nodding.  While she and I don't share the same addiction, Cohen touches on how all addictions (be it to booze, men, drugs, gambling, food) can cause misery.

I don't agree with Cohen's view on AA, but I do admire her for doing so much research and trying to think outside the box.  

What a great, great, sad story this is.  I hope Cohen writes a lot more about her life.  I would be right in line to buy the books.

The only negative I will give this book is that at one point, Cohen says she wishes she had an eating disorder (or words to that effect).  Kerry.......believe me, you don't wish that. 

Sunday, July 1, 2018

REVIEW for Happily Ever Esther by Steve Jenkins and Derek Walter

Thank you to the people at Grand Central Publishing for sending me a copy of this electronic book to read and review.

TITLE:                         Happily Ever Esther

AUTHORS:                 Steve Jenkins and Derek Walters and Caprice Craine with a cool forward
                                     by Alan Cumming

GENRE:                      Memoir


Once I started reading this book, I could not put it down.  No, its not a thriller, but it is an honest and frank inside look at one of social media's biggest stars (and pink beauty) Esther the Wonder Pig.  With over 1.3 million followers, there is little doubt that Esther is loved and the message that comes through loud and clear from Esther's celebrity (and her two dads) is that love comes in every shape and size. 

In fact, this is the central message in all of Esther's various platforms, be it book or internet (Facebook page).  She has launched a movement to gently engaged people in looking at their eating habits and even their lifestyles, encouraging everyone to see animals as more than a convenience to humans.

Having said all of this, Happily Ever Esther is the continuing story from the first book, where dads and Esther write about their settling into their new home, which is also a Sanctuary for abused or abandoned farm animals.

Told by one of the dads - Steve - this is a surprisingly honest look at their life, which was completely turned around when they met Esther as a piglet and decided they were never going to let her go.  Throughout the book, Steve details the very ups and downs of their decision to put their old lives behind them and embark on creating a comfortable and happy life for animals that are at their sanctuary.

Steve makes it clear that the learning curve was high and that both he and Derek questioned their decisions at times, feeling overwhelmed and trying to find their way in this new challenge.

Also present are funny stories about Esther and sanctuary life.  We get more of a backstory on some of the animals at the farm, but we also discover that, at times, sweet Esther can be a challenge, especially when she wants to be the boss.  Its hard to re conciliate the sweet Esther we regularly see on FB to the one who throws occasional tantrums, especially when is facing her "teen" years.

Told always with a loving voice, Steve comes clean with a lot of things and honestly, he gave answers to some of the questions that I have had for several months.

No matter what is happening, Steve and Derek and their love for Esther and all the animals at the farm is obvious.  

Thank you to these two wonderful people who put the needs of Esther and her friends before their own.

Wonderful, wonderful read that makes me tear up (something I rarely do when reading a book).  I want to hug both of them for being their true selves and to Esther who is capturing the world one heart at a time.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

REVIEW for The Universe is Expanding and so Am I by Carolyn Mackler

TITLE:              The Universe is Expanding and so Am I

AUTHOR:          Carolyn Mackler

GENRE:            YA

RATING:            3 stars

I love Mackler's books and have, in fact, reread several of them. While they are YA, I have always found them to be well written, as well as contain messages that are important social themes.

Which is why I am so upset at this book. I really, really disliked the main character and while this is not a deal breaker for me if I like the plot, it wasn't the case here. Virginia was written basically as a helpless and hapless YA. I cannot tell you how many times the story contained the words "and Virginia could not speak" "and Virginia was rooted to her spot and could not move". Yep, the main character is so weak, that I found myself getting more and more incensed as I kept reading.

I mean I get it - not everyone can speak their mind and be pro-active, but wow! Virginia doesn't have a backbone AT ALL and can't even move when she sees several police officers at her front door. "I know I should move, but I am rooted here".

Yes, there are various messages here about acceptance, rape and sexual assault and about growing up, but all of it gets lost for me, with such a poor central character.

Friday, June 8, 2018

REVIEW for Ride or Die by Wanda Taylor

TITLE:             RIDE OR DIE

AUTHOR:       Wanda Taylor

GENRE:            YA


The Sidestreets series is interesting. YA novels, very short, with a social theme message. Sometimes, they hit the mark and sometimes not so much.

Ride or Die is a good read, although as is the norm, very short. The problem with very short is that it doesn`t set up the characters nor the circumstances properly. Having said that, Ride or Die explores the sex trade without shying away from the truth. 

These stories are always based in Canada and no matter how many of these I read and the fact that I know Canada and the various cities have areas you don`t want to be in, I am always surprised at how dangerous even Canada can be and I think that Taylor gives us a good taste of of dangerous Toronto can be.

The main characters are innocent and not particularly likeable. You don`t really get to understand why they are unhappy, except that they are YA - or maybe that is enough of a reason? Kanika lives with her aunt, but she is always so angry - so when she spots a guy she likes, she basically falls for him and his crap line, hook and sinker, in fact that is one of the scariest things in this book. The main characters seem to not have a brain between them and somehow let themselves fall into a bad crowd without ONE thought along the lines of "hum, maybe I should not do this?". 

Once Kanika ends up a prostitute, she is miserable and hopes to escape, but even then, somehow she does not seem to get that she was plain stupid and that she got herself there. Finally, she tries to escape with mixed results and finds a couple willing to help her get home. Once home, she becomes the same unhappy and miserable girl again and tells her aunt she is moving away - at the age of sixteen.

The end is a bit ridiculous, but the part where she is held captive is quite interesting. Well written and obviously researched, this book is a good read, although the main characters need to get a brain and a clue.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

REVIEW for Lifeline by Abbey Lee Nash

Thank you to the wonderful people at Tiny Fox Press for sending me an electronic copy of this book to read and review.

TITLE:                  Lifeline

AUTHOR:             Abbey Lee Nash

GENRE:                YA

RATING:                4 Stars

I am rating this book 4 stars because it tackles a difficult subject - substance and recovery and does it, for the most part, well.

The first few chapters are extremely well written and the reader jumps right into the action, as we sit with the main character who immediately shows us, via his actions, that he is a full fledged junkie, even if he is a Lacrosse star.

The honest look at addiction and recovery is also well done as we are transported to rehab with Elie..  Once in rehab, Elie must learn to admit that he is a junkie, but also what his triggers are.  One the good side, Elie, while almost completely unlikeable has moments of kindness towards his friends in rehab and this, despite seeing his "perfect" life outside rehab crumble.  

Elie, as I mentioned, is not a particularly likeable character and that's okay, however, he is also, at times, quite a vanilla character - somehow not bad, but not good either, I suppose he represents the average person who has gotten in over their head with drugs.  However, this makes for a bit of a boring story once he enters rehab (and that is pretty early in the story).  I like that he makes some friends, but the whole Libby thing is completely over the top and I could have done without it.  Why the need for "romance" especially since everyone knows that recovery is NOT a place to find your next date.

I definitely liked the earlier part of this book  more than the recovery part, but overall this was written well, paced well and obviously researched well.

A good read.
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