Review: It Should Have Been a #GoodDay by Natalie Corbett Sampson

GoodDayIt Should Have Been a #GoodDay
by Natalie Corbett Sampson

ISBN-13: 9-780987-994103
Publication: February 2016 from Clubhouse Press
Rating: 4.5 ♥ / 5 ♥ – I really liked it!

Sometimes a situation is not what you think it is
The new girl — Emily had hoped to leave a painful event behind her by starting at a new school, but it looks like that’s just a pipe dream.

The golden boy — Brogan was the big man on campus until a knee injury had him sidelined. Now he’s struggling to hold on to his top dog position while dealing with the fact that his life is falling apart.

The popularity seeker— Thomas desperately wants to be one of the popular kids. He can feel it in his grasp, as long as he doesn’t let his nice guy status get in the way.

The heart of gold — Henry doesn’t know he’s different, although everyone else at his school does. And the popular kids have no problem letting him know he doesn’t fit in every chance they get.

As they go through an ordinary day of negotiating halls, classes and the baggage of their lives, each of them has no idea that their paths will cross in such a way that will change their lives forever.

Sometimes what should have been a #GoodDay turns out to be the worst day of your life.

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I read It Should Have Been a #GoodDay by Natalie Corbett Sampson in two sittings. The first chapter took me a bit by surprise – Henry’s narration is written in a way that I didn’t expect when opening the book. But by the time I had read the first chapters for Henry, Emily, Brogen and Thomas, I was hooked.

Taking place over the course of one school say (not even a full day), It Should Have Been a #GoodDay follows the same events from the points of view of four very different teenagers. In between each narration, are snippets of chat from the students in the school, letting you see glimpses into our four characters lives from others around them. I am completely attached to every one of these four characters, but Henry – oh Henry. I see some of my former students in him and I worry about their journey to high school. I have to say, I did not see the ending coming, at all. I was guessing that something was going to appear, but it come from not the character I was thinking of. I ache for Thomas and his mother, and Henry. I feel for Emily and both am grateful and upset at Brogan at the same time.

4.5 heart

It Should Have Been a #GoodDay breaks your heart. It immerses you into the world of high school today. Through phones, apps, chat and the harshness that can be a teenager, this book made me glad I’m not a teenager today. Of course it’s not the same for all students, but oh man. As a teacher I can tell you – this is very accurate. Ms. Sampson does an amazing job of portraying a tough subject and all the small details put into her writing have you holding your breath and wishing the students could see into each others brains. So many crossed wires and mixed signals. This is a great read and I highly recommend it!

e-ARC provided by Savvy Fox in exchange for my honest review. Thank you!

Review: George by Alex Gino

George George
by Alex Gino

ISBN-13: 9-780545-812542
Publication: August 2015 from Scholastic Press
Rating: 5 ♥ / 5 ♥ – I loved it

BE WHO YOU ARE.

When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she’s not a boy. She knows she’s a girl.

George thinks she’ll have to keep this a secret forever. Then her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte’s Web. George really, really, REALLY wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher says she can’t even try out for the part . . . because she’s a boy.

With the help of her best friend, Kelly, George comes up with a plan. Not just so she can be Charlotte — but so everyone can know who she is, once and for all.

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Librarians are wonderful people. My school librarian knows my love of YA and MG lit, and a few weeks ago put this book into my hands. She had just bought it for the school and hadn’t even put it into the system yet. She just said “read it.” So I did – finally. And oh my gosh. Beautiful. George is a fantastic book, and a great character.

I’m ashamed to admit that this is my first time reading a book with a main character who is transgender so I don’t have a lot to compare to, but I think the author did a fantastic job. If I hadn’t read the back of the book, I would have immediately assumed George was a girl in both gender and sex. Alex Gino uses “her” and “she” pronouns throughout the entire book, right form the beginning – the only thing that clued me in to the fact that George was born with a male body (besides the blurb) was the language used by friends, classmates and family in reference to George. It’s easy to see right from the first chapter who George is. She is someone who knows implicitely who she is, but being only ten, is struggling to be herself outside of her own throughts and feelings. I could and would never begin to understand the struggle of trying to explain that you are not who everyone thinks you are. Especially for a ten year old! To want everyone else to accept who she is on the inside and not what they see on the outside? George has a strong heart to not give into the fear of what others will think or say. That fear is there, of course, but she has to be true to herself first and foremost.

5 heartI loved that George had loud, outgoing support in the form of her best friend Kelly, and quiet comfortable support in her brother and principal. Mom struggles a little more, but George is her baby – it’s going to take some time. But you see the glimmer of acceptance begin. It’s inspiring to experience George’s confidence grow as she gets to let parts of true self shine through the school play and a visit to the zoo. Part of the grade six sexual health curriculum in my school board revolves around sexual identity and I think after I return this to my librarian, I’ll go strongly hint that the grade six teacher seek out this book as a read aloud.

Review: Vicious by V.E. Schwab

Vicious Vicious
by V.E Schwab

ISBN-13: 9-780765-335340
Publication: September 2013 from Tor
Source: BEA 2013
Rating: 5 ♥ / 5 ♥ – I loved it!
Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

Victor and Eli started out as college roommates — brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong.

Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find — aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge — but who will be left alive at the end?

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Vicious by V.E Schwab is fantastic. One of the best books I’ve read lately, different from my current usual, it was just what I needed. Sometimes a nice break away from the young adult and middle grade is just what the doctor ordered. Sci-fi/fantasy with a superhero twist and unreliable heros and villians (heros who ARE the villians!), Vicious delivers amazing characters, world-building and writing.

Our cast of characters is few, but oh man. They are large! Victor and Eli are our two main hero/villians. Friends from university, everything starts to go pear-shaped when research into the relationship between EOs (ExtraOrdinary people) and near-death experiences results in, well, near-death experiences. In the end, Victor goes to prison and Eli doesn’t. As the story progresses, we pick up Mitch and Syndey on Victor’s side, and Serena on Eli’s. All of them with secrets, four of them with powers, and some really crazy views on what makes a hero or villian. Told in alternating past and present chapters, we see how Eli, Victor, Sydney and Serena wind up connecting and colliding in a show down that is both awesome and frightening.

5 heart

I am completely enamoured with V.E. Schwab’s take on superpowers. She has created a world in which EO’s exist, but not because of radioactive spiders, or meteors, or mutant genes, etc. Instead, they’re gifts come from a flirt with death and having their body completely traumatized. So what begins as a fascination for Eli and Victor, turns into confusion, a little hatred and a sense that really, EOs are wrong and unnatural (on Eli’s part, anyway). The present story in Vicious takes place over two days, while the past talks about events ten years prior. I would love to read more in this world; to know what happens after the end – because oh, what an end! – and get another glimpse into the characters lives.

ARC received at BEA 2013 through an author signing.

Review: If You Find This by Matthew Baker

If You Find This If You Find This
by Matthew Baker

ISBN-13: 9-780316-240086
Publication: March 2015 from Little, Brown BYR
Source: netgalley
Rating: 3 ♥ / 5 ♥ – I liked it
Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

Nicholas is a math and music genius with no friends and a huge problem: His father has lost his job, and they’ll have to sell their house, which holds the only memory Nicholas has of his younger brother. Just in time, Nicholas’s senile grandfather arrives, filled with tales of priceless treasure he has hidden somewhere in town – but where?

With the help of misfit classmates, two grandfathers, a ghosthouse, hidden messages, séances, and an uncanny mind for numbers, Nicholas stages a nursing home breakout, tangles with high schoolers in smugglers’ tunnels, and gets swept up in a duel with the biggest bullies in the neighborhood. Will it be enough to find the treasure and save his house?

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If You Find This by Matthew Baker is an intriguing book about a young boy who doesn’t quite fit in and his just-out-of-prison grandfather. Throw in two very unlikely friends, family heirlooms and a dreaded ‘For Sale’ sign (and some old smuggler tunnels) and you have the making of a different sort of adventure book.

Nicholas is the best part of If You Find This. His voice is fantastic. Nicholas is a junior high school student, and a genius. As such, he doesn’t really mesh with the rest of the school crowd. Terrified he’s going to lose his house (most likely, with the For Sale sign present) and the last connection to his brother, Nicholas gets some hope in the form of his grandfather – who’s just been released from prison and is more than a little senile. Wanting to find any means necessary to keep his family from moving, Nicholas latches on to his grandfather’s story about buried family heirlooms. And so starts a story filled with senior home breakouts, a haunted house, and the help of the school thief and school bully.

Right at the beginning of the book, I felt for Nicholas. If he leaves his house, he leaves that connection to his brother. If he believes his grandfather, everything could be fixed. If he doesn’t, he might be throwing away the chance to save his house. Does he believe or doesn’t he? I definitely think his choice is awesome, if nto a little unbelievable at times. Like stealign a boat to sail out to an island of tunnels where high schoolers hang out? Alright. Keeping two missing grandfathers in a haunted house and NO ONE manages to find them? Sure. A boy that gets away with stealing all manner of things, mostly high-top sneakers and reselling them (at school!) and nothing’s done about it? Ok. It’s a book, I’ll suspend disbelief for a good story. And Nicholas is worth the story. He’s brave and kind and a little reckless.

3 heart

As a music lover, I also enjoyed the musical knowledge put into If You Find This. Unlike Nicholas, I didn’t play violin, but it was nice to see band class represented in a middle grade story. However, the musical terms did at times distract me from the story. As Nicholas narrates, he included musical notations like forte, piano, etc. to denote how people are speaking, things are sounding, etc. I eventually started skipping over them and reading the sentences as if these words weren’t there – mostly because, at least in the e-ARC version, they were not formated very well. Unfortunately, I have no copies in a local book store that I could go check to see how it’s formated in the finished published version – I guess I’ll just have to order it to read to my class this year! This book is definitely one that I could see reading out loud to my students. They’d love the mysteryof the missing heirlooms.

e-ARC provided through Netgalley from Hachette Book Group Canada in exchange for my honest review. Thank you!

Review: The Creeping by Alexandra Sirowy

The Creeping The Creeping
by Alexandra Sirowy

ISBN-13: 9-781481-418867
Publication: August 18, 2015 from Simon & Schuster BYR
Source: publisher
Rating: 4 ♥ / 5 ♥ – I really liked it
Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

If you look for monsters, you’ll find them.

Eleven years ago, Stella and Jeanie disappeared. Only Stella came back. Now all she wants is a summer full of cove days, friends, and her gorgeous crush – until a fresh corpse leads Stella down a path of ancient evil and secrets. Stella believes remembering what happened to Janie will save her. It won’t. She used to know better than to believe in what slinks through the shadows. Not anymore.

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The Creeping by Alexandra Sirowy is not my usual read. But between it and Survive the Night, I think I’ve managed to getout of my reader slump! There’s something to be said about reading books different from your usual. I’m not one to like horror – either movies or books – but The Creeping was horrifically great, and exactly what I wanted.

When Stella was six, she and her friend Jeanie went missing. Only Stella returned, with no memory of what happened. Now, years later, things start happening which bring up past events. It’s the anniversary of when the girls went missing and another girl has just turned up dead. Stella is rightfully freaked out! Especially with the return of Daniel, Jeanie’s older brother, who over the years has blamed, stalked and tormented Stella. With the help of an old friend, Stella is determined to fifure out what really happened the day she disappeared. But that’s not always a good idea.

I was holding my breath throughout most of this book, wondering at what would happen when Stella recovered her memories (if she recovered them) and who or what kidnapped the girls. Alexandra Sirowy does a fantastic job at setting the mood. The nights were dark and creepy, Stella’s thoughts and memories were sporadic and abrupt, the forest was looming and terrifying and the cast of characters were unforgettable. I could have done without some of the Sam/Stella romance, but it was realistic. Stella is in high school, trying to solve Jeanie’s disappearance, yes, but also navigating popularity, friends and boys. One doesn’t stop because the other starts. So Sam and Stella were believeable, if not my favourite parts. Zoey was not my idea of a best friend. I can see why Stella stuck with her, loved her and would do anything for her, but oh man was she bossy, rude and a bit self-absorbed. You basically have to trust Stella that she’s a good person.

4 heart
I was definitely surprised by the end of The Creeping. Even with everything seemingly wrapped up and explained, there is that small little tidbit left behind that makes you wonder: was it really? Could there be more to this? I was hooked from the beginning, and engaged until the end. I don’t suggest reading this one while you’re home alone in the dark, especially if you don’t like horror, but outside on a deck in the bright sunshine withpeople around? Go for it! If you like, horror? You’ll like this one.

ARC received from Simon & Schuster Canada in exchange for my honest review. Thank you!

Review: Survive the Night by Danielle Vega

Survive the Night Survive the Night
by Danielle Vega

ISBN-13: 9-781595-147240
Publication: July 7, 2015 from Razorbill
Source: publisher
Rating: 3 ♥ / 5 ♥ – I liked it
Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

We’re all gonna die down here…

Julie lies dead and disemboweled in a dank, black subway tunnel, red-eyed rats nibbling at her fingers. Her friends think she’s just off with some guy – no one could hear her getting torn apart over the sound of pulsing music.

In a tunnel nearby, Casey regrets coming to Survive the Night, the all-night underground rave in the New York City subway. Her best friend Shana talked her into it, even though Casey just got out of rehab. Alone and lost in the dark, creepy tunnels, Casey doesn’t think Survive the Night could get any worse…

…until she comes across Julie’s body, and the party turns deadly.

Desperate for help, Casey and her friends find themselves running through the putrid subway system, searching for a way out. But every manhole is sealed shut, and every noise echoes eerily in the dark, reminding them they’re not alone.

They’re being hunted.

Trapped underground with someone – or something – out to get them, Casey can’t help but listen to her friend’s terrified refrain: “We’re all gonna die down here…”

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Survive the Night by Danielle Vega is not my usual type of read, but I enjoyed it and finished it in one evening. Thankfully I was relaxing in bright, warm sunshine or else I think I might have gotten a little scared because I’m a chicken when it comes to anything horror related.

So Casey. Our main character. Talk about an unreliable narrator! Casey has just gotten out of rehab for drug addiction. She’s attending a sleepover at a, shall we say, former friends house when our other main characters show up – Shana, Julie and Aya. Right away the adult in me wanted to shake Casey and tell her to go back to Madison’s house, talk about soccer, boys and school and leave Shana way, way behind! Julie and Aya are tamer versions of Shana. High and drunk, yes, but they don’t seem as death-defying reckless as the girl you know is the reason Casey was in rehab. So anyway, the girls head to NYC, hook up with Casey’s ex Sam and his bandmate Woody and head out to find an underground rave called Survive the Night. Let the surviving begin!

I highly enjoyed the atmosphere of this book. Danielle Vega does a wonderful job of portraying dark, dank, tense, and scary. The longer Casey is at survive the night, the more suspensful and unsure it gets. At the beginning, when Julie disappears, you aren’t sure what to think. You discover that Casey is high, and it could all be a hallucination. It still could be! Yes, things go bad, fast. But is it really the something Casey believes it was? Aya’s repetition of “We’re all going to die” lends a chilling fear to the desperate race through the underground tunnels. My only disbeliefs for this book? Besides the something, of course, but monsters are cool – is that their way out was blocked so quickly considering all the ravers are escorted out of the tunnels while Casey and friends watch and are not that far away, that none of them yelled through the grate to have themselves be found, and that their cellphones had no reception but lasted as long as they did as flashlights. I know by 4 in the morning without any charging my phone would have been looooooong dead. Also, the romance. Or what there was of it. Last thing I would think of when running for my life is if my ex-bf wanted to get back with me.

3 heart

That said, the characterization, backstory, foreshadowing and uncertain ending all keep Survive the Night being a strong, nail-biting rush of a novel. Casey and Shana are the ultimate unhealthy relationship. From the beginning you want Casey to smarten up and as more and more of their past is revealed you can only shake your head and pray that any children you have in the future avoid getting tangled up with someone like Shana. And Casey knows it’s unhealthy, but drugs and that rush of adventure can change you. I will definitely be checking out Danielle Vega’s other book The Merciless and recommend Survive the Night to anyone looking for a little creepy in their life.

ARC received from Penguin Canada in exchange for my honest review. Thank you!

Review: Pie by Sarah Weeks

Pie Pie
by Sarah Weeks

ISBN-13: 9-780545-270113
Publication: October 2011 from Scholastic Press
Source: bought
Rating: 5 ♥ / 5 ♥ – I loved it!
Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

When Alice’s Aunt Polly, the Pie Queen of Ipswitch, passes away, she takes with her the secret to her world-famous pie-crust recipe. Or does she? In her will, Polly leaves the recipe to her extraordinarily fat, remarkably disagreeable cat, Lardo . . . and then leaves Lardo in the care of Alice.

Suddenly, the whole town is wondering how you leave a recipe to a cat. Everyone wants to be the next big pie-contest winner, and it’s making them pie-crazy. It’s up to Alice and her friend Charlie to put the pieces together and discover the not-so-secret recipe for happiness: Friendship. Family. And the pleasure of doing something for the right reason.

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I initially bought Pie to read aloud to my class – no other reason, besides the idea of a book revolving around pie appealed to the baker in me. I had so far exclusively read books that had male narrators (no real reason why, and nothing wrong with that at all) and my girl students were begging for a book with a female narrator. I had been recommended Sarah Weeks, and Pie seemed like the best choice. Before I even read the book, I used the Chocolate Cream Pie recipe inside and made one for my boyfriend (he loved it). Each chapter is started with a different pie recipe and my kids made me read each one – even though the measurements meant nothing to them.

I loved Pie. And so did my students! We were enthralled with the mystery of who owned the green Chevrolet, who broke into Polly’s pie shop, and who might want to catnap Lardo. We were enamoured with Alice and Charlie, and sad about Aunt Polly. We were made hungry from all the talk of pie, and learned some new tips and tricks for making them. We felt bad for Alice (because of her mother, and Aunt Polly) but then felt better at the end. We couldn’t figure out why Aunt Polly would leave a pie crust recipe to a cat and then all said “Ohhhhh!” at the end when we figured it all out. We were angry at Alice for comments she made to Charlie, and then were happy when things worked out.

5 heart

In Pie, Sarah Weeks tells a heartwarming story about a young girl who loses her beloved Aunt, but finds that even though she’s gone, her Aunt Polly still lingers in memories and recipes. She finds unexpected friends of both the human and cat variety, and grows her relationship with her mother. Alice’s story is interwoven with flashbacks of herself and her Aunt Polly, stories of the people who also loved her Aunt Polly and her pies, a few well-done mysteries and even a jump forward in time at the end, to see how it all turns out. I will definitely be picking up more books by Sarah Weeks, and I think my students will too.