Tag «Realistic Fiction»

Single Sundays: Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for Challenger Deep (from Goodreads):

Caden Bosch is on a ship that’s headed for the deepest point on Earth: Challenger Deep, the southern part of the Marianas Trench.

Caden Bosch is a brilliant high school student whose friends are starting to notice his odd behavior.

Caden Bosch is designated the ship’s artist in residence, to document the journey with images.

Caden Bosch pretends to join the school track team but spends his days walking for miles, absorbed by the thoughts in his head.

Caden Bosch is split between his allegiance to the captain and the allure of mutiny.

Caden Bosch is torn.

A captivating and powerful novel that lingers long beyond the last page, Challenger Deep is a heartfelt tour de force by one of today’s most admired writers for teens.

breakdown

Author: Neal Shusterman
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Mental Health
Heat Rating: cold
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: April 21, 2015
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’ve never read a Neal Shusterman novel–never even heard of the guy either–but apparently he is “one of today’s most admired writers for teens”. So that both excited and scared me when it came to this novel. Excited me because he is (apparently) known for writing captivating stories; scared me because promotional hype can easily heighten expectations and leave you devastated.

I really had no idea what to expect. I don’t even know how I found out about this book. And when I started listening to the audiobook, I didn’t read the synopsis so I was going in completely blind.

The Concept:

I think if I had read the synopsis before starting the audiobook, I would haven’t felt as lost as I was at the start. See, all I remembered when I started this book was the part about the ship. I missed the rest of the synopsis so I was a little confused as to why were were jumping back and forth between Caden’s life at home and his life on the ship.

This is a book about mental illness and I think it is important to know that going in so you can get into the right mindset. Because honestly, I was confused until I figured that out. That’s when you can start putting things together and figure out what Caden is describing and how he is feeling.

The Plot:

As I said above, the plot shifts a lot at the start and it can be a little overwhelming. But once you start to delve a little deeper, you start to see how everything is working together.

I love stories that have you continuously working it out in your head. Honestly, I would love to study this book in school and dissect every moment of it because it is beautifully crafted. It’s one of those books that you really don’t appreciate until you finish it and see how everything blends together.

The Characters:

I think everyone can relate to Caden’s story in one way or another. Whether you know someone who suffers from a mental health condition or you yourself have one, you’ll connect with this story in some capacity.

This book does a fabulous job of delivering Caden’s thoughts and reasonings in a way readers can understand and experience for themselves. There’s a part where Caden switches to the 2nd person POV and you really get to put yourself in his shoes and see what it feels like to be in his current situation. I’ve never had that connection to a character that I didn’t share some trait with and it was a refreshing experience for me as a reader.

The Romance:

I’ve read a lot of really great YA contemporaries in the last year that focus on mental health but they’ve all been a little hindered by the romance. So I was really happy when this book never took that turn. This story is all about Caden’s journey and it never shies away from that.

My Audiobook Experience:

I’m very glad I read this as an audiobook: the production was fabulous! Every character had their own unique voice and that made it such a treat to listen to. It also forced me to pay attention too (not that I don’t normally pay attention to my audiobooks–I just mean I paid particular attention to remembering the story) so that I could make sure I knew what was happening and why that particular chapter was important to remember later on. It was like listening to a mystery that you only get clues to along the way but you can’t look backwards. I guess what I’m trying to say is that this book captured my full attention and the audiobook experience was very immersive.

My Rating: 5/5

overall

Easily one of the best books I’ve read about mental health in the YA genre. Ever.

Read if You Like: books about mental health, books with allusions
Avoid if You: want a romance, can’t handle shifting narration
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Single Sundays: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Single Sundays: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for The Hate U Give (from Goodreads):

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

breakdown

Author: Angie Thomas
Genre: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction, Contemporary
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: February 28, 2017
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

If you haven’t heard of this book, you were living under a rock for most of 2017. One of the most discussed novels I’ve ever seen in the blogosphere and in main stream media, of course I had to check it out.

The Concept:

I’ve never read such a culturally and socially on point novel as this one. I never felt like this book was jumping on a bandwagon to sell a novel or going for shock factor. This book comes from the heart and isn’t afraid to talk about situations that people would rather shy away from. But as this book reminds us, we need to have these discussions if we are ever going to move forward and make this world a better place.

The Plot:

This book made me feel every range of emotions. When my heart wasn’t breaking for Starr, it was swooning for her boyfriend or loving her family. I can definitely say that I laughed, cried and felt everything in between. So that in itself made me super invested in the story.

While I enjoyed Starr’s story from start to end, when I finished this book I just couldn’t give it 5/5. Without a doubt, the topic and how it is handled is a 5/5 and it wouldn’t be the same story without getting to know Starr’s everyday life; but I felt like the balance was a touch off. I felt like some things were dwelt on a little too long (like some of the stuff with her friends) and it just made the pacing a little weird too me.

The Characters:

Like I said, I loved Star as a character. I thought she was hilarious and charming. And she’s also very relateable. She’s growing up and trying to find herself. She feels pressure from her family, her friends, her community and her culture. Who doesn’t feel that growing up? And while it might not be to the same level, I think we can all remember a time where it felt like us against the world.

And her family? LOVE THEM! They were a blast to read about and so heartfelt.

The Romance:

Starr’s relationship with Chris is super adorable but it is also super important as well. It’s used a tool to get the various points across when it does make an appearance. However, this isn’t a romance at its core so don’t expect it to be a large focus.

My Audiobook Experience:

I loved this as an audiobook! It’s a little on the longer side for my personal tastes (knowing I could probably read a physical copy in half the time) but I loved listening to Star’s story. Hearing the emotions in her voice throughout her experience really immersed me in the novel. There’s just something to listening to someone’s story as they tell it aloud to you vs written word. I highly recommend the audio version.

My Rating: 4/5

overall

This book definitely deserves all the praise it gets! It’s a well crafted story that is so relevant to society right now. My only criticism is the pacing of the plot at times.

Read if You Like: diverse reads, socially relevant
Avoid if You: truly, truly dislike contemporaries or realistic fiction

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Single Sundays: The Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for The Symptoms of Being Human (from Goodreads):

The first thing you’re going to want to know about me is: Am I a boy, or am I a girl?

Riley Cavanaugh is many things: Punk rock. Snarky. Rebellious. And gender fluid. Some days Riley identifies as a boy, and others as a girl. The thing is…Riley isn’t exactly out yet. And between starting a new school and having a congressman father running for reelection in uber-conservative Orange County, the pressure—media and otherwise—is building up in Riley’s so-called “normal” life.

On the advice of a therapist, Riley starts an anonymous blog to vent those pent-up feelings and tell the truth of what it’s REALLY like to be a gender fluid teenager. But just as Riley’s starting to settle in at school—even developing feelings for a mysterious outcast—the blog goes viral, and an unnamed commenter discovers Riley’s real identity, threatening exposure. Riley must make a choice: walk away from what the blog has created—a lifeline, new friends, a cause to believe in—or stand up, come out, and risk everything.

breakdown

Author: Jeff Garvin
Genre: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction, Contemporary, GLBT
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: February 2, 2016
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

This was one of the many must read contemporaries that seemed to be everywhere when it came out. I’m not a big YA contemporary fan but I like diverse stories I wouldn’t normally encounter in my usual reads.

The Concept:

I will be the first admit I don’t know much about what it means to be gender fluid. I’m not even sure if I knew what it was before I read the synopsis for this book. So I was looking forward to learning more and I definitely did. Not only does Riley explain what it means to identify as gender fluid but Riley also does a great job of showing what it means to actively live as a gender fluid teen.

It was quite the change for me to read about this particular story because Riley struggles with not being associated with a single gender whereas in None of the Above, the story I just finished the day before about an intersex teen, Kristin wants nothing more than to be seen as a girl. The contrasts and similarities between the two books would be the subject of a great essay but I’ll just say I had to leave one mindset and dive into another. Both books offer fascinating insights into the perception of gender in society.

The Plot:

I hate being one of those reviewers who constantly compares books to each other but I have to bring up None of the Above one more time. You can read my review of None of the Above here but one of my biggest criticisms of it was the lack of subplot besides the lead’s gender identity crisis. Thankfully, SOBH has a lot more going on than just Riley’s struggle to be “out”.

You have the political aspirations and influence of Riley’s dad’s career; you have Riley’s interest in a particular girl; Riley’s struggles at school; the blog and then the overall pressures of society to conform to a particular gender. Needless to say, this book is always moving forward with one plot aspect or another.

The Characters:

I liked Riley as a lead but I wouldn’t say I loved Riley as much as I have with other characters. I really did feel for Riley, no doubt about that. It’s easy to see why Riley would feel the pressure to hide who Riley really is and that broke my heart.

One of my favourite aspects of this novel is the fact that we don’t know whether or not Riley was born a male or a female. I think it further drives the point that society feels the need to confine people to a label because I will be the first to say I kept waiting to find out what gender Riley’s parents saw Riley as. But at the same time, what does it matter? At the end of the day Riley is a person and who cares if Riley wears a dress one day and a suit the next? It doesn’t change who Riley is as a person and I’m forever grateful that Riley reminded me of that in this book.

The Romance:

I almost wonder if I would have enjoyed this story more without the romance. It didn’t negatively impact the story but I’m not even sure if it added all that much to it either. Yes, it does add a layer to Riley’s development as a character but I think Riley would have reached that level without it.

The Audiobook Experience:

I really enjoyed this as an audiobook. I think I would have missed some of the humour without having it enunciated to me just because I can be dense like that when it comes to writing. But it really pulled a lot of the emotions out of me so bravo!

My Rating: 4/5

overall

If you like books that will make you laugh, cry and just make you re-evaluate how you view the world and others, this is a great one.

Read if You Like: YA contemporary, diverse reads
Avoid if You: dislike contemporary

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Single Sundays: None of the Above by I W Gregorio

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for None of the Above (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?

breakdown

Author: I W Gregorio
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Heat Rating: warm *suggestive content*
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: April 7, 2015
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

It seemed to me that 2015 was the year of “must-read” YA contemporaries. I marked off quite a few as TBR that year thanks to rave reviews from fellow bloggers. Not my usually genre but buzz can do that.

I was drawn to None of the Above for the intersex aspect. As someone who studied science–particularly health sciences–I know what it means to be intersex medically speaking but what does it mean as an everyday person? I was eager to explore that with this book.

The Plot:

As you might have expected, you follow Kristin’s journey from “normal” teenager to learning she is intersex and what that means for her going forward. It’s a heartbreaking journey at times because this girl really does go through a lot. (Truthfully, I lost a little hope in humanity with some of the things people say and do to her).

But there really isn’t much else to the plot. Which is fine because I like the focus on Kristin coming to terms with her diagnosis and becoming comfortable–I mean that’s why I picked up the book.

I do have one peeve with the plot that I have to get off my chest and it’s a spoiler so proceed with caution before opening it.

Spoiler

When Josh assaults Kristin at the club after he realizes she is intersex, I didn’t like that she doesn’t report the assault. I understand that she just got comfortable with other people knowing about her condition but her reasoning that “it being on file will stop him from doing it again” is such bullshit. He will do it again because he thinks he can get away with it. I really wish she would have reported it because it sets a precedence that it’s ok to defend yourself by filing charges but not following through. You aren’t being a hero by letting it slide.

[collapse]

The Characters:

Truthfully, I wasn’t a big Kristin fan. I can appreciate her journey and how she does grow up from the situation but she was a little too…stereotypical? (Not sure if that is the right word. Maybe cliche?). She’s your classic teenage girl who focuses on popularity, keeping her hot boyfriend and college. And those aren’t bad things necessarily–I just feel like she didn’t evolve from that.

While Kristin learns to accept her condition, her character growth remains pretty stifled. I really wanted her to have this big epiphany that there is more to life than high school and a good-looking boyfriend and she doesn’t really have that.

The Romance:

I’m a little torn on this. On one hand, I like that it wasn’t a huge focus. On the other hand, I don’t like how it is used as a validation that Kristin is a girl because a boy likes her. (Maybe I’m reading too much into it?)

I get that Kristin worries she won’t have that relationship because she isn’t a “true” girl. The difference between gender and sexual orientation is something that is unfortunately linked together. It’s something she struggles with and it does add to her story in a positive way. I just feel like she didn’t think she was complete until she got that “love” from a boy despite the great support from Gwen and her dad.

The Audiobook Version:

This was really well done. One of the nice things about listening to contemporary audiobooks is the emotions they convey. It’s like listening to someone tell you their life story and it’s so easy to listen to.

My Rating: 4/5

overall

While the subject matter of None of the Above is superb, it does sometimes slip into the typical flow of YA contemporaries instead of keeping its focus elsewhere. However, it is an eyeopening read that I recommend to everyone.

Read if You Like: character driven stories, realistic fiction
Avoid if You: (honestly, this is a book everyone should read)
similarreads

 

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DNF Review: Mr. Right Swipe by Ricki Schultz

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for Mr Right-Swipe (from Goodreads):

Rae Wallace would rather drown in a vat of pinot greezh and be eaten by her own beagle than make another trip down the aisle–even if it is her best friend’s wedding. She’s too busy molding the minds of first graders and polishing that ol’ novel in the drawer to waste time on any man, unless it’s Jason Segel.
But when her be-fris stage an intervention, Rae is forced to give in. After all, they’ve hatched a plan to help her find love the 21st century way: online. She’s skeptical of this electronic chlamydia catcher, but she’s out to prove she hasn’t been too picky with men.

However, when a familiar fella’s profile pops up–the dangerously hot substitute teacher from work (Nick)–Rae swipes herself right into a new problem…

breakdown

Author: Ricki Schultz
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Humour, Realistic Fiction
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: June 6, 2017
Source & Format: Netgalley–eARC | Thank you Grand Central Publishing!

thoughts

Disclaimer: I stopped reading Mr. Right-Swipe at 46% (Start of Chapter 12). Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I was very excited to start this book! Humour, a workplace romance and the woes of modern romance–it was calling to me!

What I Liked:

–Realistic Approach–

I have to say that on the basic level, this story is very realistic. Rae is a young woman struggling with the memories of a broken marriage and another failed relationship. She’s the last of her friends to find a successful relationship and she’s starting to feel the pressure. At the same time, she’s trying to decide what she even wants in a relationship (kids? marriage?) and navigate her career (although her passions lie elsewhere). I think we all feel those pressures at one time or another.

I also like that this story takes its time. Things don’t happen in a matter of days, they build slowly and that adds a layer of realism to the plot.

What I Didn’t Like:

–I’m Probably too Young to be Reading This–

In the same breath, I’m definitely NOT at that point in my life. I love my career and I’m happy being single right now. And because of that, I had a hard time connecting with Rae and her situation.

–Hard to Root for Rae–

Rae is one of those characters that had to work to make me like her…and it wasn’t a successful attempt. The best way (which is also the vaguest way) to describe my relationship with Rae is that I just didn’t “get” her. I think because we are in two different places in our lives, I just had a harder time sympathizing with her situation.

I also thought she was a little rude. Right around the part where I stopped reading, she was essentially fat shaming her date (not to his face but she mentions it numerous times) and that made her seem so shallow and mean to me.

Which brings me to her:

–Lack of Maturity–

I think Rae is supposed to be in her early 30s or close to–but you wouldn’t know that by her narration. She just lacks the maturity I would expect for someone who has gone through what she has. Perhaps that’s part of her current perdicament.

But if I didn’t know better, I would have thought she was much younger than she is and that wasn’t a good thing.

–Not as Funny as I Wanted it to Be–

Damn, I’ve really been struggling with humour in novels lately. I’m someone who laughs at everything but humour in books is a tricky thing. Rae is definitely quirky and that’s cool but because of everything I listed above, it was hard to find the laughs in her comments sometimes.

Will I Finish It?

Maybe in a few years I’ll try and return to this but for now, this is a full stop.

My Rating: DNF

overall

While my review seems mostly negative, I do think people will enjoy this story! For those who have had some unique experiences in the current dating world or who are feeling the pressures of being in a relationship by your friends, you’ll enjoy this modern contemporary novel!

Read if You Like: novels about dating, modern dating, slow burn romance
Avoid if You: struggle with quirky heroines, are your early 20s

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Single Sundays: Come This Way by Michelle Schlicher

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for Come This Way (from Goodreads):

A hiking and outdoor enthusiast, fifty-year-old Fern Conrad can’t imagine spending her time doing anything else, much to the dismay of her daughter, Colby.

Kara Dawson, a twenty-five-year-old student therapist, has shut life out to focus on her sister’s illness. That is, until a chance meeting pushes her to confront the possibilities—by letting go and moving forward.

Eighty-three-year-old Nettie Campbell heals in the hospital while facing the consequences of her actions. Can she repair relationships and forge new bonds as she comes to terms with the truth?

Come This Way is an emotional, honest look into the lives of women who are discovering their own strength. It is a story about difficult choices and the people around us who help us find our way.

breakdown

Author: Michelle Schlicher
Genre: Adult, Fiction, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Heat Rating: cold
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Date: October 21, 2016
Source & Format: Author–eARC

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I rarely venture outside my little reading bubble of New Adult, YA and Adult romances, but every once and a while, I’ll take a chance on a piece of adult fiction. I’ll admit, when I was asked if I wanted to read this one, I hesitated. I had no excuse other than the fact that it wasn’t my usual read–but all the more reason to give it a shot.

And I am so glad that I did!

The Concept:

I just have to say that this reminded me a lot of The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants: the concept of 4 women trying to navigate their lives as they enter the next phase of life. Only here, you have these women from various backgrounds and age-ranges with an unknown (if any) connection to each other.

It’s like the life stages version of the Sisterhood Series.

The Plot:

Each character has such a unique yet relatable story. I had a blast learning more about these characters as the novel progressed. There were so many great reveals–it was like watching a well thought out TV drama the further you went.

I also loved how realistic this story was. These are situations many people will find themselves in; and these are relationships that most of us will have in our life times. It was just so well-rounded in that respect.

I also liked the mystery of whether or not these characters were all linked together somehow. It gave a little dose of suspense to the story for me.

The Characters:

I really didn’t think I would relate to all of the characters (I’m not a grandmother nor a mother) but I was immediately drawn into all their stories.  In each of them, I found little pieces of myself and that was what surprised me the most. I truly felt for these characters on all levels and rarely do I connect to every single character in a story of this format (multiple POVs).

So don’t let the ages of the characters dissuade you from picking this up! I’m sure most readers will find a character (if not a few more) to relate with in this story: it’s just that good!

My Rating: 5/5

overall

Needless to say, this was a great read about life, love, family and being comfortable with yourself. I think lots of readers will enjoy this for its simple yet compelling stories. It’s not just light chick lit! There’s so much more to it!

Read if You Like: books about life and relationships, realistic fiction
Avoid if You: want more romance
similarreads

  • The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom
  • Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants by Ann Brashares (Sisterhood Series #1)

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Single Sundays: Spiral by Mila Ferrera

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for Spiral (from Goodreads):
Nessa Cavanaugh, psychology student, knows how to stay on an even keel. Despite the urging of her mother and her academic advisor to get a life and have some fun, “all work and no play” sums up her plan to survive her grueling internship year at a children’s hospital. She doesn’t want to end up like her father, whose constant ups and downs broke her family, and avoiding unnecessary emotional entanglements is a must.

Then she (literally) runs into Dr. Aron Lindstrom in the middle of her disastrous first day on the job. The attraction is instant—and terrifying. Nessa knows she should stay away—especially when she finds out he has a reputation for being a player—but Aron is brilliant, intense, and as sexy as they come. When he challenges her to take a chance on him, her plans to stay focused on work start to crumble.

But what begins as passion takes on a dangerous edge, becoming an emotional roller coaster that’s frighteningly familiar. As things spiral out of control, Nessa must decide whether she should hold on for the ride or run … even if it means leaving her heart behind.

breakdown

Author: Mila Ferrera
Genre: New Adult, Romance, Contemporary, Mental Health, Realistic
Heat Rating: really warm
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: July 9, 2013
Source & Format: Own–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I read Mila Ferrera’s novel Everything Between Us years ago and enjoyed it a lot. I like the mental health aspects she incorporates into her reads and the complexity of her characters. I find the stories to be real and fascinating, always grabbing my full attention with their approach. I bought Spiral during a bulk buy and it got buried under the mass of Kobo books I own until I pulled it out for my Rock my TBR Challenge in April.

The Concept:

This novel isn’t your everyday romance novel though it starts off that way. It does a fantastic job of exploring mental health and the stigma around it. Perhaps that is a bit of a spoiler but I feel like if a reader goes into this novel thinking it’s about some hero who has a tragic past that the heroine saves him from, you won’t enjoy this book for what it really is: an exploration of mental health in relationships.

The Plot:

Like I said before, this book starts off like your everyday romance novel. Boy meets girl and their explore their connection. But the drama of it all comes from the barriers they soon discover about themselves. Of course, there are some other dramatic elements at play but I found they never took away from the main story which is Aron and Nessa attempting to navigate their relationship and new-found careers.

The Characters:

I really warmed up to Nessa as the story progressed. I’m not sure what I found off-putting about her at the start but I didn’t immediately love her. But as I learned more about her character and saw how she interacted, I really respected her as a character. She was a solid character and does a great job of carrying this story.

Aron is also great. Again, a strong character that has great development despite the fact that we don’t get his POV directly you still have a firm grasp on who he is.

The Romance:

This was a really sweet romance to watch unfold. I was worried it was going to be a little “love-at-first-sight” with the way it was initiated but it really develops into something strong and solid. They have great chemistry so the sexual tension really drives the story forward. This story is really about the romance and the partnership that comes from it and it was definitely my favourite aspect of the novel.

My Rating: 4/5

overall

If you enjoy romances that focus more on the mental health aspect of its characters, this is a great novel for you to read. It’s sweet but powerful and will have your full attention from start to finish.

Read if You Like: stories about mental health
Avoid if You: want a “lighter” read
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Single Sundays: All the Rage by Courtney Summers

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for All the Rage (from Goodreads):
The sheriff’s son, Kellan Turner, is not the golden boy everyone thinks he is, and Romy Grey knows that for a fact. Because no one wants to believe a girl from the wrong side of town, the truth about him has cost her everything—friends, family, and her community. Branded a liar and bullied relentlessly by a group of kids she used to hang out with, Romy’s only refuge is the diner where she works outside of town. No one knows her name or her past there; she can finally be anonymous. But when a girl with ties to both Romy and Kellan goes missing after a party, and news of him assaulting another girl in a town close by gets out, Romy must decide whether she wants to fight or carry the burden of knowing more girls could get hurt if she doesn’t speak up. Nobody believed her the first time—and they certainly won’t now — but the cost of her silence might be more than she can bear.

With a shocking conclusion and writing that will absolutely knock you out, All the Rage examines the shame and silence inflicted upon young women after an act of sexual violence, forcing us to ask ourselves: In a culture that refuses to protect its young girls, how can they survive?

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Canadian Author
Author: Courtney Summers
Genre: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction, Mystery
Heat Rating: cold
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: April 14, 2015
Source & Format: Public Library–Hardcover

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

A few years ago I read a fantastic novel called You Against Me which focuses on the siblings of the two people wrapped up in a rape case. I loved how it showed the effects on both families involved in a rape situation. So what appealed to me about All the Rage is that it deals specifically with the victim of a rape case–the victim who no one believes.

The Concept:

There are so many rape cases that are never reported for the simple reason that they feel powerless. Shame, self-blame and the belief that reporting will have no effect are all common reasons rapes are never reported. (You can read an in-depth news article here)

I think that sometimes these statistics do more harm than good. For example, if you broadcast something as an unfavourable experience (such as reporting a sexual crime), people won’t want to go through it. However–and more importantly–they also prove that the system is broken if these are the statistics it produces. Rape culture is getting more awareness now in mainstream media but still, no real change is happening. The double-standards, prejudices and attitudes towards victims disgusts me and it made me all the more eager to pick up this book which explores all these facets in today’s modern world. 

The Plot:

As is expected, this story mostly focuses on Romy trying to live her life after reporting her rape. It’s an absolutely heart-breaking story to read because this poor girl is just continuously decimated by her peers. She is the butt of every joke and is continuously bullied by everyone in town. Yes, everyone. This book does a great job of showing that it isn’t just young people who have stigmas against anyone involved in a rape, it spans all ages and genders.

I was actually surprised with the mystery element to this book. I really just thought this book was going to be more about Romy’s life after she reports her rape and how she has to deal with all the backlash at school. So having that mystery aspect kept the book moving forward. I thought it was a great mystery plot and very unpredictable. It also adds another layer to the story that really drives the message home.

The Characters:

Romy is a hard character to get a grasp on because she is unravelling before you. Her story is so emotionally draining that it breaks your heart that there are women around the world who live in Romy’s world everyday.

My problem with Romy is that she is an unreliable narrator. Which is fine, I just found that I had a really hard time following what was happening. The critic in me can appreciate the frazzled, tormented mind of Romy but the reader in me got lost a lot trying to figure out what was happening and that really diminished my reading experience.

My Rating: 3.5/5

overall

I’m so torn over how I feel about this book. On one hand, I LOVE the message is has and how it opens the discussion about rape and how society deals with it. On the other hand, I got lost sometimes in the narration. There are still parts in this book that I have no idea what was happening and I really don’t like that.

I think this is a great read for young people to read. It’s very eyeopening and the mystery aspect makes you want to keep reading about Romy’s experience even when it gets hard to swallow it all. It’s definitely a book that will stick with me for the rest of my life because it truly nails the message that we need to fix how we perceive rape in our culture or else we will suffer terrible consequences.

Read if You Like: eye-opening realistic fiction
Avoid if You: don’t like reading via unreliable narrators

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Movie Mondays: Room

Movie Mondays: On the occasional Monday, I will review a book series or novel that has been made into a movie. I will then answer the question that everyone asks: which is better, the movie or the book? Here is this week’s offering:

Book: Room by Emma Donoghue (2010) | Movie: Room (2015)

Which did I read/see first? the BOOK

Book Cover | Movie Poster

Author: Emma Donoghue
Genre: Adult, Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Crime, Contemporary
Point of View: First Person, Single
Source & Format: Borrowed–Paperback

thoughts

Room was everywhere when it first came out. I saw it every time I passed a book store or browsed online. At the time, I didn’t understand the premise. I honestly thought it was some abstract book about a boy and his mom who live within a single room. I blame the simple back-cover description for giving me that impression because when I read the synopsis now, it makes a LOT more sense.

I’m a huge Criminal Minds fan so I was intrigued by this premise when a friend mentioned this book to me again around the time its movie was premiering at TIFF.

This book took me a long time to read. Mostly because I’m a busy student and had lots of library books I had to read and return; but also because it is a very tough book to get through.

Jack, the 5 year old boy, is your primary narrator and it’s hard to get used to his narration style. He is the very definition of an unreliable narrator but I don’t know how else you would tell this story. It offers a unique view of the situation Ma and Jack find themselves in. I think most people would assume that it would be Ma who tells the story but I liked the fresh perspective Jack offers instead. His curious innocence gives this story a more positive vibe than if we were stuck in the darker, fully aware place of Ma’s mind. Still, it doesn’t make it any easier to understand what is happening at times.

The other reason this book is hard to get through is the subject matter. Though Jack isn’t aware of the situation, you as the reader totally are and that makes it hard to read. This book tugs on your heartstrings in every way possible. It will also make you frustrated and cause you to cringe. But just a few pages later, you will get a big grin on your face because it is so hard not to like Jack and his attitude towards life.

overall

When a book evokes every emotion in you, it’s hard not to give it 5 stars. This book is simply well done. Jack’s narration is brilliant and I think the book is super realistic, even if the topic is one we don’t want to think about often.

Rating: 5/5

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  • Stolen by Lucy Christopher
  • Still Alice by Alice Genova

Were My Expectations Met?

Yes and they were even surpassed if I am going to be honest. My friend who saw the premiere at TIFF (where it won the People’s Choice Award) said everyone was in tears at the end. And while I didn’t come close to crying in the the book, the movie definitely evoked some high emotions in me and I will admit that I nearly cried.

How Close is it to the Book?

It’s pretty close actually and the main things from the book are present in the movie. I was also really worried from the trailers that they would cast Ma in a more “self-sacrificing” light than the slightly “selfish” tone she gives in the book. But I feel like the movie captured her character perfectly. You were still sympathetic to her situation and her, but it kept the very realistic tone of a bratty 5-year old Jack and an isolated mom who has her patience tested that is present throughout the book.

Did I Like the Cast?

Brie Larson was fantastic in the movie and definitely deserves all the award nominations and praise she has been getting for this role. She was flawless and made even more so by her young co-star.

Jacob Tremblay (Jack) really stole the show for me. It still feels very much like Jack’s story despite the fact that you aren’t seeing into his mind specifically like you are in the book because Jacob is so real and a natural actor. He really makes you feel everything and it was a joy to watch him in this role. I really think he has a great career ahead of him–even though he was totally snubbed of a Oscar nomination in my humble opinion!

thewinneris wintie

I feel like both compliment each other so well. Bringing a book like Room to life takes a lot of skill and class and this movie has it in buckets. I think the book provides readers with a unique experience but the movie just wraps everything up together in a way that is so approachable and real.

Do you agree? Leave a comment below!

Synopsis for Room (from Goodreads):

To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it’s where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it’s not enough…not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son’s bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work.

Told entirely in the language of the energetic, pragmatic five-year-old Jack, Room is a celebration of resilience and the limitless bond between parent and child, a brilliantly executed novel about what it means to journey from one world to another.

Trailer:

Single Sundays: Little Peach by Peggy Kern

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for Little Peach (from Goodreads):
What do you do if you’re in trouble?

When Michelle runs away from her drug-addicted mother, she has just enough money to make it to New York City, where she hopes to move in with a friend. But once she arrives at the bustling Port Authority, she is confronted with the terrifying truth: she is alone and out of options.

Then she meets Devon, a good-looking, well-dressed guy who emerges from the crowd armed with a kind smile, a place for her to stay, and eyes that seem to understand exactly how she feels.

But Devon is not what he seems to be, and soon Michelle finds herself engulfed in the world of child prostitution where he becomes her “Daddy” and she his “Little Peach.” It is a world of impossible choices, where the line between love and abuse, captor and savior, is blurred beyond recognition.

This hauntingly vivid story illustrates the human spirit’s indomitable search for home, and one girl’s struggle to survive.

breakdown

Author: Peggy Kern
Genre: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction, Dark, Contemporary **Mature Subject Matter**
Heat Rating: N/A
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: March 10, 2015
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I came across this book on someone’s blog (I should really start noting where I find these things!) and the whole topic of child prostitution caught my attention. I’m not a huge YA contemporary fan, but I do enjoy ones that deal with mature, often darker, subject matter (like bullying, teen suicide and similar issues). I’ve never read a book about child prostitution and my knowledge of it is very limited so I looked forward to (as much as one can with a topic like this) learning more about it.

The Concept:

As I was writing this review, I decided to look into some facts about child prostitution or trafficking.

The United Nations defines it as:

the act of engaging or offering the services of a child to perform sexual acts for money or other consideration with that person or any other person

I was shocked to learn that my country, Canada, has a serious child prostitution problem! I suppose it is one of those taboo subjects that just doesn’t get talked about or, even worse, isn’t reported to authorities. You can read about the 5 countries with the highest rates of child prostitution and I highly recommend you read this list of the 10 Most Surprising Facts of Child Trafficking: it is truly eye opening and informative!

The Plot:

The plot itself alternates between the present and the past (Michelle’s journey into prostitution): and boy, is it hard to read! Michelle’s situation is so heartbreaking and shocking that I couldn’t stomach more than a few pages at a time (and this book just clocked in at 100 pages on my Kobo which isn’t very long at all!). It was hard to watch her go through everything she did because it was so realistic! I could easily see this happen to real people and that’s what made this so hard: seeing what happens when people see no other option.

I also found this hard because Michelle is a bit of an unreliable narrator–not that I entirely blame her either given what happens to her. It was especially noticeable in the “present” scenes where I believe it is intentionally left vague as we haven’t met all the characters yet. It presses you to read on but I’ll admit I had a hard time trying to figure out who the “you” was and that I didn’t exactly understand what was happening. It definitely gets clearer as the story progresses and you are brought up to current events.

The Characters:

It isn’t long before you start to develop both empathy and sympathy for her because of how this story is written. You develop sympathy because you see how this 14 year old girl has been abused from early childhood all the way up to the present. And then you develop empathy because of how this book is written; how the scenes are described and the emotions and thoughts Michelle expresses as she narrates her story.

Everyone else is written in an extremely realistic way and they all contribute to this story in their own twisted way. I thought everyone was really well developed despite the short length of this book.

My Rating: 4/5

overall

You can tell that Peggy Kern has done a lot of research and interviews to write such a real characters and situations.

Read if You Like: eye-opening books, realistic fiction
Avoid if You: don’t like realistic fiction, don’t enjoy shorter stories

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