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: Second Star by Alyssa B. Sheinmel

Second Star Second Star
by Alyssa B. Sheinmel

ISBN-13: 9-780374-382674
Publication: May 2014 from Farrar, Straus & Giroux (BYR)
Source: Netgalley
Rating: 4 ♥ / 5 ♥ – I really liked it!
Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

A twisty story about love, loss, and lies, this contemporary oceanside adventure is tinged with a touch of dark magic as it follows seventeen-year-old Wendy Darling on a search for her missing surfer brothers.

Wendy’s journey leads her to a mysterious hidden cove inhabited by a tribe of young renegade surfers, most of them runaways like her brothers. Wendy is instantly drawn to the cove’s charismatic leader, Pete, but her search also points her toward Pete’s nemesis, the drug-dealing Jas. Enigmatic, dangerous, and handsome, Jas pulls Wendy in even as she’s falling hard for Pete.

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I love the story of Peter Pan, so I knew right away that Second Star by Alyssa B. Sheinmel would be finding its way into my hands. While not a traditional retelling by any means, it is a wonderful interpretation of the story of Peter, Wendy and the Lost Boys. Surfers, drugs, run aways and a narrator who is not all that reliable make for an addictive read.

I figured out fairly early on that we as readers would need to come to our own conclusions about whether Wendy was really experiencing life in the cove with Pete, Belle and the boys or if she was lost in her own mind. Alyssa B. Sheinmel does a wonderful job of keeping the Peter Pan narrative alive in this entirely modern story. Instead of a pirate, Jas is a drug-dealing bad boy who Wendy finds herself falling for. But at the same time, she has feelings for Pete. I know I usually hate love triangles and insta-love, but this is different. Not quite either, but so real to Wendy. Her search for her brothers is heartbreaking and the run-around she gets from Pete and Jas, and Belle (so like jealous Tinkerbell, I loved her) makes you feel so badly for her. Wendy has a tough time in the book, so while I may not have loved her actions the entire time, it all makes sense for the plot.

4.5 heart

The idea that Wendy is just hallucinating the whole experience due to drug use and desperate need to believe that her brothers are alive and waiting to be found and brought home permeates the second half and end of the book. Second Star takes you through this journey to reunite Wendy, Michael and John and then drops you into the hospital with Wendy. But like all good books, it leaves you guessing. The smallest bit of evidence that maybe, Pete and Jas and Belle do exist, and her brothers are out there arises – but so does the idea that Wendy is just hallucinating again. It’s very well done!

e-ARC received for review through publisher and Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion. Thank you!

Review: Jewel of the Thames by Angela Misri [blog tour]

Jewel of the Thames Jewel of the Thames
by Angela Misri

ISBN-13: 9-781927-746424
Publication: March 2014 from Fierce Ink Press
Source: publisher
Rating: 4 ♥ / 5 ♥ – I really liked it

There’s a new detective at 221 Baker Street

Nineteen-year-old Portia Adams has always been inquisitive. There’s nothing she likes better than working her way through a mystery. When her mother dies, Portia puzzles over why she was left in the care of the extravagant Mrs. Jones but doesn’t have long to dwell on it before she is promptly whisked from Toronto to London by her new guardian. Once there Portia discovers that she has inherited 221 Baker Street — the former offices of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.

Portia settles into her new home and gets to know her downstairs tenants, including the handsome and charming Brian Dawes. She also finds herself entangled in three cases: the first involving stolen jewelry, the second a sick judge and the final case revolving around a kidnapped child. But the greatest mystery of all is her own. How did she come to inherit this townhouse? And why did her mother keep her heritage from her? Portia has a feeling Mrs. Jones knows more than she is letting on. In fact, she thinks her new guardian may be the biggest clue of all.

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Jewel of the Thames by Angela Misri is a wonderfully light-hearted mystery novel. Portia Adams is a delight – nineteen years old in 1930, Portia inherits 221 Baker St. and is whisked from Toronto, Canada to London, England with her guardian Mrs. Jones. Once there, Portia finds herself going to law school, aiding in solving crimes and delving into her own family tree.

Divided into three case files, Jewel of the Thames presents the reader with three different mysteries (a jewel thief, a murder and a kidnapping) that Portia finds herself participating in solving all while efficiently stacking up the clues for Portia to dig deeper into her family history, and the history of John Watson and Sherlock Holmes, the famous tenants of 221B Baker St. I highly enjoyed Portia. An intelligent, capable, kind young lady who possess the wits and desire to help and solve cases around her. She has great interactions with her downstairs neighbours the Dawes family. Son Brian is a Constable at Scotland Yard and enables Portia to better access the information she needs to solve her cases. Despite the flirty undertones to their interactions, there is no real romance in the book and I, for one, found it quite refreshing.

4 heart

The writing in Jewel of the Thames is intriguing and unique. Angela Misri has managed to convey both a sense of the 1930s and old Sherlock Holmes novels through her prose and dialogue. I was very easily able to see myself in 1930s London with Portia as a proper young lady, and as the detective – the language used is very methodical and calculated. And while the mysteries to her past are quickly hinted at and any Sherlockian will pick them up immediately, it was still fun to see Portia put everything together. Jewel of the Thames is a wonderful addition to the Sherlock Holmes universe and I can’t wait for book two!

Jewel of the Thames Banner

Thanks to Fierce Ink Press I have on e-Copy of Jewel of the Thames to give away! Giveaway is open worldwide except for the UK. Please fill out this form to be entered.

Review: Broken by CJ Lyons

Broken Broken
by CJ Lyons

ISBN-13: 9-781402-285455
Publication: November 2013 from Sourcebooks Fire
Source: publisher/Netgalley
Rating: 3.5 ♥ / 5♥ – I liked it
Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

The only thing fifteen-year-old Scarlet Killian has ever wanted is a chance at a normal life. Diagnosed with a rare and untreatable heart condition, she has never taken the school bus. Or giggled with friends during lunch. Or spied on a crush out of the corner of her eye. So when her parents offer her three days to prove she can survive high school, Scarlet knows her time is now… or never. Scarlet can feel her heart beating out of control with every slammed locker and every sideways glance in the hallway. But this high school is far from normal. And finding out the truth might just kill Scarlet before her heart does.

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Broken by CJ Lyons is an intriguing medical mystery that you think is heading in one direction, and then completely changes trajectory – and that’s cool. Scarlet has a condition called Long QT Syndrome that means her heart could stop at any time. She gets three days to prove that she can handle high school (she wants to live a little after spending most of her life in hospitals and home) but what starts as a trial run to see if she can survive her condition, turns into a race to see if she can help herself and her new friends survive something much worse.

Scarlet is a hard character to pin down. She’s spent her life listening to her mother about everything to do with nutrition, health and activities. So she’s fairly meek in some instances. But in others, Scarlet is defiant. She wants to be at school, to have friends and to live. In small ways, she is trying to break out from under her mother who she knows has good intentions, but is smothering her. With a father who is mostly absent due to work, Scarlet starts to find acceptance and companionship in her support group at the school. And the cute boy Tony in her biology class.

The book is a decent size, with small chapters. The writing is very engaging and the pace keeps up well throughout the book. The mystery builds through Scarlet’s friends – finding out why they are in the support group, why her mother dislikes them, and what’s really in her medical records that she can’t see. In three days, Scarlet’s life is turned upside down – and it’s not because of her illness.

3.5 heart

Broken turned out to be so much more than I was expecting, and I really enjoyed it. As for the final mystery, the reveal and solution, I’m a little sceptical that no one uncovered anything over fifteen years worth of hospital visits and medical records and that a high school sophomore put all the clues together. Also that Scarlet takes very little time to come to terms with things (she does freak out a bit, but it goes very fast once we hit the end section of the book). But it works in this case, and didn’t detract from the story and plot. I would definitely read more from CJ Lyons.

e-ARC received through Netgalley from Sourcebooks Fire. Thank you!

Review: Game Plan by Natalie Corbett Sampson

Game Plan Game Plan
by Natalie Corbett Sampson

ISBN-13: 9-781927-746097
Publication: November 2013 from Fierce Ink Press
Source: publisher
Rating: 4.5 ♥ / 5 ♥ – I really liked it!
Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

Just because the play goes wrong, doesn’t mean you quit the game.

Ella Parker seems to have everything: great friends, an awesome family and a star position on her high school basketball team. The only thing missing from her life is a boyfriend. That changes once she catches the eye of Sam Cleveland. With Sam by her side Ella has it all. When a drunken night results in an unwanted pregnancy, her perfect life is turned upside down and she’s faced with an impossible decision.

Katherine Frayne has always wanted to be a mother. But with the last results of her in vitro fertilization pointing to no chance of a baby, her hopes are dashed. Then her husband Danny suggests they adopt. At first Kat is resistant, but she soon warms to the idea.

Ella and Katherine must navigate their lives amidst tough decisions, the consequences of which not only affect them but those they love the most.

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Game Plan by Natalie Corbett Sampson is an enthralling, emotional trek through a teen girls experience with an unplanned pregnancy and a couples desire for a child of their own. Through alternating narratives, Ella’s and Katherine and Danny’s lives slowly converge to a heartbreaking but heartwarming conclusion.

In the beginning, I was worried I’d have flashbacks to the movie Juno while reading this book, but that is definitely not the case! The two couldn’t be more different. Ella is a junior in high school. A talented basketball player, she has a plan for how her life is going to unfold in the next few years. Unfortunately, after Halloween night and her only time having sex with her boyfriend Sam, Ella finds herself pregnant. Everything is immediately turned upside down for Ella, but she handles everything with an inner strength that everyone can see but she doubts she has. With a supportive family and some great friends, Ella makes some very grown up decisions and comes through the other side intact and maybe even a bit stronger. Katherine and Danny, having failed again at trying to have a child of their own decide to go the route of adoption. After many ups and downs that test their resolve, they finally have a silver lining in Ella and her baby.

I very much enjoyed Natalie Corbett Sampsons writing style and characterization. The narrative flowed very well, with months of the pregnancy outlined by major events in the characters lives as Ella finishes school, handles a less than ideal situation surrounding Sam, and Katherine and Danny struggle to adopt a child. One of Ella’s friends, Karen, irked me a little. Let’s just say she’s a less than good friend and I just don’t understand people like that (though I know they exist). Alex, her brother Ben and Ben’s best friend Charlie, on the other hand, certainly make up for Karen and others. They are absolutely awesome.

4.5 heart

Game Plan is very emotional, and while I have never gone through either trying to adopt a child, or trying to decide to give one up, I feel the book really highlights the experiences and emotions involved and handles both with care. By the end of the book I was as torn as Ella in deciding what to do, but anxiously nervous with Katherine and Danny and hoping everything would work for them. It’s an interesting feeling and one that just made me enjoy the book more. I definitely think this is a great one to add to your reading list, especially if you’re a fan of contemporary fiction. Well worth the read!

e-ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest review. Thank you!

Giveaway
The publisher has very kindly offered up one eCopy of Game Plan to a lucky winner! To enter, just leave me a comment with your favourite contemporary book and an e-mail address. Giveaway ends at 11:49pm EST November 26, 2013, international. Must be 13 or older to enter.

Review: Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

Grave Mercy Grave Mercy
by Robin LaFevers

ISBN-13: 9-780547-628349
Publication: April 2012 from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Source: Thomas Allen & Son/audiobooksync.com
Rating: 4.5 ♥ / 5 ♥ – I really liked it!
Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

Escaping from the brutality of an arranged marriage, seventeen-year-old Ismae finds sanctuary at the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts – and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must be willing to take the lives of others.

Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany, where she must pose as mistress to the darkly mysterious Gavriel Duval, who has fallen under a cloud of suspicion. Once there, she finds herself woefully underprepared – not only for the deadly games of love and intrigue, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?

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Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers had me hooked and entranced right from the beginning. Robin LaFevers has managed to evoke a strong since of the time period and place that she is writing about, to the extent that I felt as if I myself was embroiled in the court politics and romance.

Ismae is whisked away from a brutal marriage (on her wedding night) and taken to the convent of Saint Mortain, a place where she – who is believed to be sired by the god of death himself – can be safe and serve her father, Mortain. How? Oh, assassination. Yupp, by being a handmaiden of death, Ismae will help serve. I found Ismae to be a compelling character. She starts off with a sense of strength, and while her time at the convent led her to believe that no man would ever hold her interest and that many deserved death if they acted against the court, and that her abbess is always correct in her orders, through the assignment she is given, Ismae slowly learns that there is more to being a daughter of Mortain than just inflicting death and that she can learn to stand on her own. Duval helps a lot in growing Ismae’s sense of self and purpose. I really enjoyed the slow burn romance, and that while we could tell it was coming, the mystery and politics took center stage.

Grave Mercy is a large book, and a long audiobook, but its length is supported by a rich cast of main and secondary characters, wonderfully woven plots and intrigue, a teasing bit of romance and absolutely fantastic character development and world building. Each introduced characters had a part to play and served in keeping the real traitor hidden until the ultimate climax of the book. I had my suspicions, but would not believe them to be true (until the were) due to the twisting way that Robin LeFevers gives us hints and then seems to contradict them – but not. It’s wicked. No one can be trusted. Ismae can rely only on herself in the end to try and figure out the best way to save the Duchess Anne and still serve Saint Mortain.

4.5 heart

I listened to Grave Mercy during the many long and not-so-long car trips this summer (I spend a lot of time in my car…) and I am definitely glad I did. The narrator is simply awesome, lending voices and accents to the characters to help create a sense of the time and place. I was initially wary of this book (historical fiction with assassins from a convent?) and had moments in the beginning of wondering if I’d connect with Ismae, but as the story continues, this is one novel you can really sink your teeth into and get lost in the action. I definitely recommend it, and highly suggest the audiobook!

Hardcover copy provided by Thomas Allen & Son in exchange for my honest review. Audiobook, upon which this review is based, was downloaded courtesy of audiobooksync.com‘s YA summer sync program. Thank you!

Review: Tumble & Fall by Alexandra Coutts

Tumble and Fall Tumble & Fall
by Alexandra Coutts

ISBN-13: 9-780374-378615
Publication: September 2013 from Farrar, Straus and Giroux BYR
Source: BEA 2013
Rating: 4.5 ♥ / 5 ♥ – I really liked it!
Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

If you live afraid to tumble and fall – you may never get to live at all.

The world is spinning in the shadow of oncoming disaster. An asteroid is set to strike the earth in just one week’s time; catastrophe is unavoidable. The question isn’t how to save the world – the question is, What to do with the time that’s left? Against this stark backdrop, three teens are swept into intertwining stories of love, friendship, and family. And with the ultimate stakes at hand, each has every reason to do extraordinary things. Irresistible and inspiring, Tumble & Fall is a powerful novel of courage, love, and hope at the end of days.

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Tumble & Fall by Alexandra Coutts is a story about the end of the world that doesn’t really revolve around the end of the world. Told from the point of view of three teenagers, the story is one of family, friendship, love, lose and surprisingly, new beginnings. When you know your way of life is about to end, maybe permanently, how do you spend those last few days? Zan, Sienna and Caden each go through an incredible journey over the course of the novel.

All three characters are living on the same island and while their stories never really intertwine, they do cross paths at moments to create a cohesive end to the story. Caden lives with his sister and their alcoholic mother, and while he doesn’t have any spectacular plans for his last few days before the asteroid hits, that all changes when his father shows and takes Caden away to the mainland for very sketchy reasons. Caden’s point of view was probably my least favourite, mostly because a lot of the motivations didn’t make sense to me, and it was very removed from the tone of the rest of the book. Zan’s scavenger hunt for a girl her deceased boyfriend Leo had a phone number written down on a receipt for was my favourite storyline. Along with Leo’s best friend Nick, Zan takes off for Boston to see if she can locate this girl and put to rest the question of whether Leo had been cheating on her. It’s an interesting view on questioning every thing you had known, and not being able to get answers from the person involved. It talks about trust, moving on, guilt and love. Sienna also has an interesting story, revolving more around family and what it means, and young love. I definitely felt she and Owen, a boy she knew from when her family used to summer on the island, fell in love extremely quickly, but Sienna is a teenager, and it’s the end of the world. Why wouldn’t she think she was in love. Usually I’m very against insta-love in books, but this time it made sense and worked.

The idea that an impending asteroid hitting the earth could wipe out life as we know it creates an intriguing background for a story that deals with a lot of tough themes; from depression, alcoholism, love and kidnapping to trust, what it means to be family, and kindness. Caden, Sienna and Zan all have a moment where their lives cross near the end of the book and then the last day before the asteroid is supposed to hit and everyone on the island comes together in moments of solidarity and hope and fear and waiting. I was extremely happy with the ending and even though some may not like the ultimately unresolved nature of it, I felt it fit the book perfectly and couldn’t have been done any other way.

4.5 heart

Tumble & Fall by Alexandra Coutts is a quiet sort of disaster book. Focused more on the characters and how they choose to spend their possibly last days, the ideas of forgiveness, togetherness and hope in the face of despair really underline and highlight this slice-of-life story. Zan, Caden and Sienna all have wonderfully distinct voices that draw you in to their predicaments, decisions and lives. I couldn’t help myself from wondering what I would decide to do with my time if I knew the end was mostly inevitable. Who would I surround myself with and what would I do? What would you do?

ARC received at Book Expo America 2013 from the publisher. Thank you!