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!

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Review: Molly Miranda: Thief for Hire by Jillianne Hamilton

Molly Miranda Molly Miranda: Thief for Hire
by Jillianne Hamilton

ISBN-13: 9-780993-987021
Publication: February 2015 from Tomfoolery Press
Source: Editor
Rating: 4.5 ♥ / 5 ♥ – I really liked it!
Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

Professional, experienced contract burglar.
It’s not exactly something you can put on a business card.

Molly Miranda has made a successful living from “acquiring” valuables and delivering them to clients who pay buckets of cash for her unique services.

So what if she has to lie about her lavish lifestyle in Manhattan and her frequent trips out of the country? Molly has everything under control.

Things go astray when she knocks boots with her charming roommate right before taking off to Scotland with an untrustworthy wildcard on a job assignment that doesn’t go quite as planned.

It doesn’t help that this new partner-in-crime is super annoying. And attractive…

Join Molly on her hilarious adventures as she dodges bullets, trespasses, wears disguises, and steals her way into trouble.

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It’s rare that I take a break from reading YA and MG, but I couldn’t say no when Savvy Fox offered me an e-ARC of Jillianne Hamilton’s Molly Miranda: Thief for Hire and I am SO glad I said yes! It’s a short read, at only around 150 pages, but still. I was planning to read it in bits and pieces as a break from lesson planning and correcting. Instead, I sat down to start reading and didn’t put it down until I had hit 100% read. I read through lunch and was starving, but it was so worth it.

Molly Miranda is a professional thief. She’s hired by a middle-man (or in this case, woman) to steal items for clients. Of course, or good-looking nice-guy roommate things her parents own a ski resort and pay for her gorgeous NYC apartment, but what are a few lies between roommates? Nthing, until things heat up between them! Of course, we can’t be good chick lit with the sexy, kind-of-a-dick at first professional thief she’s hired to do an assignment with. Rhys is all charm and Scottish accent, with a head for stealing and gadgets. But he’s not the nicest in the beginning. He flips attitudes pretty fast, but it fits. Thankfully, this book is not a full on crazy love-triangle or I might not have liked it as much! I thoroughly enjoyed the mystery, thieving, car chasing and gun-slinging going on in Molly Miranda: Thief for Hire. It kept me on my toes and turning pages!

4.5 heart

Molly is definitely the best part of this book. Boys, guns and cars aside, we send the book in Molly’s head and it’s awesome. She’s a smart (but not good at geography), sarcastic, kind narrator who loves to steal and get paid for it. She tries the 9-5 thing and it does not go well. She has boy troubles, enemies, a best friend who’s not as straight in business (or in love, which was awesome) as you’d first expect when Molly mentions her, and a dad who can order a hit. Kind of awesome! I would have loved to read another 100 pages of Molly’s thieving ways and am hoping for a sequel!

e-ARC recieved from Savvy Fox Author Services in exchange for my honest review. Thank you!

Review: The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

The Dream Thieves The Dream Thieves
by Maggie Stiefvater

ISBN-13: 9-780545-424943
Publication: September 2013 from Scholastic Press
Source: BEA/Scholastic/bought
Rating: 4.5 &hearts/ 5 ♥ – I really liked it!
Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

Now that the ley lines around Cabeswater have been woken, nothing for Ronan, Gansey, Blue, and Adam will be the same.

Ronan, for one, is falling more and more deeply into his dreams, and his dreams are intruding more and more into waking life.

Meanwhile, some very sinister people are looking for some of the same pieces of the Cabeswater puzzle that Gansey is after…

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As some of you may remember, I loved The Raven Boys by Maggie Stievfater. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on The Dream Thieves – which I did, at BEA 2013 and later from Scholastic Canada. I was pumped! I sat down to read it…and couldn’t. Now wait! That doesn’t mean it was because it was horrible (obviously not, I gave it 4.5 stars) but because I could only hear Will Patton’s voice in my head while I was reading! So I bought the audiobook and listened to it in my car to and from work every day.

This second book introduces the reader to a couple intriguing new characters – Kavinsky and they Greyman. I loved the fact we got more Ronan and Adam point of view, and Calla is still my favourite of the ladies from 300 Fox Way (besides Blue!). The Dream Thieves builds wonderfully on the story from the first book and takes us deeper into Ronan’s dreaming abilities, and his family history. He and Kavinsky get into some major issues that result in an epic blowout at the end of the book. Blue has some boy troubles between Adam and Gansey (Gansey all the way!) and honestly, she just needs to TELL Adam about her “prophecy”.

4.5 heart

The Dream Thieves is an awesome sequel to an awesome book! The boys are ridiculous in that “oh geez” kind of way. I love how driven Gansey is, and how protective they are of Blue (even Ronan, though he doesn’t admit or show it). The introduction of the Greyman gives an air of suspense to the in-your-face crazyness that is Kavinsky and Ronan. There’s something going on with the Greyman and Maura and he is definitely going to be around for book 3 (which I just finished this week and I loved, and the review will be up next week!). I can honestly say I think this is Maggie Stievfater at her best.

ARCs received from BEA, and Scholastic Canada in exchange for my honest review. Thank you! Audio purchased myself.

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!

Review: Ink by Amanda Sun

Ink Ink
by Amanda Sun

ISBN-13: 9-780373-210718
Publication: June 2013 from Harlequin Teen
Source: BEA 2013
Rating: 4.5 ♥ / 5 ♥ – I really liked it!
Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

When orphan Katie Green goes to live in Japan with an aunt she barely knows, she must learn to embrace a foreign world that will open her eyes forever to the unimaginable. Katie can’t deny her attraction to the aloof Tomohiro, but there’s something unnerving about him. Ink reacts strangely around him. Drawings seem to come to life in dangerous ways.

Somehow Tomo is connected to the kami, ancient beings who once ruled Japan as gods, and being close to Katie is making his powers spiral dangerously out of control. Hunted by the Yakuza, the Japanese mafia, and an even darker underworld, Katie and Tomo must find a way to control the ink before their relationship unleashes a power that will shake the very foundations of Japan – and the entire world.

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I had so much fun reading Amanda Sun’s debut novel Ink. Set in Japan, Ink follows Katie as she meets and falls for Yuu Tomohiro, finds out kami (gods) are real, and that she has more to do with everything than she thinks.

There are so many aspects of Ink that worked for me. I’m going to break it down and talk about a few reasons why. First, characters. I loved Katie. She’s very smart, determined and capable of looking after herself (with a bit of help sometimes, but everyone needs help sometimes). Katie is incredibly curious, a little awkward, sad (understandable, considering the reason she is living with her aunt in Japan is because her mother passed away) and even a little lonely. Throw in Tomohiro who is mysterious, protective, artistic and caring with a dash of angry loner boy thrown in and there is some awesome scenes and interactions between the two. The pacing of the book works very well with a mix of quieter moments and action packed, breath-catching ones. There are some secondary characters that throw quite a wrench in things, and really help flesh out the mystery and mythology of the story.

Which leads me into the love I have for the setting and mythology of Ink. I’ve always had a fascination with Japanese history and culture (it’s the history major in me, that I love old cultures, I swear) and I feel that Ink delivered a descriptive and engaging, though brief, glimpse into Japanese society. Amanda Sun herself lived in Japan for a time, so I felt comfortable trusting the picture she is showing us. Language is used wonderfully, and there is a glossary in the back for the Japanese words and terms that may be unfamiliar to the reader. The mythology that Amanda Sun created around the kami is very well developed and intricate – and though I’m still a little confused where some of the ink that is a sign of the kami comes from, I still quite enjoyed it!

4.5 heart

Ink by Amanda Sun is a slow-burn romance that winds its way through Yakuza thugs, gods in human flesh, high school, mysterious pasts, secret societies and family. There is a wider threat to Tomo and Katie that comes because of Tomohiro’s connection to the kami, and this first book only touches the tip of it. The out of control powers and the interest from the Yakuza are only the beginning. I am very excited to see where the sequel takes Katie, Tomohiro and the others involved. Should be an interesting ride!

ARC received at BEA through an author signing at the Harlequin booth.