{Review} After the Storm (Angel Island #2) by Marie Landry

April 15, 2014 Review 0 ★★★★

{Review} After the Storm (Angel Island #2) by Marie LandryAfter the Storm by Marie Landry
Series: Angel Island #2
Published by Self-Published on April 8, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 247
Format: eARC
Source: Author
Add to Goodreads
Buy the Book @ Amazon

For most people, starting senior year at a new high school would be a nightmare, but for Ella O’Dell it’s the new beginning she desperately needs. Two months after her mother’s death, she’s ready to leave behind the rebellious, unhappy person she became when she found out her mom was dying. 

When Ella meets River Maracle and Sadie Fitzgerald, she begins to learn it’s okay to be herself, even if that means being different. River and Sadie aren’t ashamed of their misfit status—River grew up on a reservation, and his mother is the school counselor; Sadie stands out with her funky homemade clothes, and is a master at ignoring the whispered rumors that have plagued her since the beginning of high school. 

Ella finds a kindred spirit in Sadie, and something more in River. After almost a year of pretending to be someone she’s not, she finally embraces life and allows herself to have fun without constant guilt. But despite her budding happiness, something is off with her new life. She doesn’t want to dwell on the past, but Angel Island is a small place, and she soon realizes her demons are harder to outrun than she thought…

After the Storm is a standalone companion novel to Waiting for the Storm

Disclosure:I received this book for free from Author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

COVER TALK 

As I said in my After the Storm cover reveal post, I love how it continued the beach theme from Waiting for the Storm, but that it was also bright and much more cheerful looking. The multi-coloured umbrella is like the rainbow you see after the storm (… I see what you did there now, Marie!) and it adds great visual appeal.

EXPECTATIONS

I really loved Waiting for the StormAlmost a year later, I find myself thinking about Charlotte, especially when a storm is a brewing! When Marie told me that Charlotte’s sister, Ella, would be getting her own book I was really excited!

MY THOUGHTS

After the Storm picks up shortly where Waiting for the Storm left off, returning us to Angel Island, the O’Dell family and Ezra. When we last saw Ella, she was just at the beginning of her transformation, as she shed her mean girl persona and began the journey to dealing with the grief she felt from her mother’s recent death and the guilt for not being by her side during her last months. In After the Storm, she is starting high school on the island, and along the way, she forms a misfit friendship trio with the eccentric but fashionable Sadie, and her best friend, and River, a Mohawk boy from Tyendinaga.  While it continues the story from the first book, it can also be read as a standalone novel!

I really enjoyed seeing the real Ella in After the Storm! She’s not a mean spirited, wild party girl who doesn’t care for her family. She’s actually quite reserved, except when it comes to sticking up for her family or friends, and prefers a quiet night in with friends. Ella’s rebuilding her relationship with her sister and Dad, and learning to deal with her grief in a healthier manner. She doesn’t know if she is always making the right decision, but she tries her best. She’s empathetic and a good friend. I could actually see myself hanging out with her in high school, and I could relate a bit to her close knit misfit group of friends. Speaking of friends, I almost think that Sadie and River steal the show a bit! I absolutely fell in love with them, Sadie in particular. There provide the friendship and support that Ella needs, but they are fully developed, complex characters that stand on their own. We also got to Charlotte and Ezra’s relationship progress, and some plot lines continued from Waiting for the Storm, which was nice. I liked seeing their relationship through Ella’s POV, and I really liked Ezra’s friendship with Ella! 

Angel Island is a small town, and so there are hardships for anyone who is considered different, especially by their peers. The story also has a LGBT storyline that I think was done very well. I won’t go further into it because I don’t want to give too much away, but I just want to make note of it because the visibility of these stories and characters are important. Similarly, River is a teenager of colour, and is connected to his Mohawk culture, and grew up on the Tyendinaga reserve. He talks about stereotypes about indigenous people in Canada (Turtle Island/Kanata), and has experienced ostracization from his peers due to his heritage and race. For the most part, River’s storyline was also well done, although there were two instances that I was a bit weary about: River and his mother are described as stoic (a common stereotypical description of indigenous peoples) and a costume decision towards the end of the book (I’m still conflicted about whether it was problematic, or a chance to rebel against the media’s depiction….). River was a complex character, though, and didn’t fall into being a stereotype himself. I also liked how these two storylines and characters highlight the prejudice that still exists in Canada, much as it does in the US, as sometimes it isn’t talked about as much because we are seen as a diverse, multicultural, polite society. It’s nice to see it not swept under the rug in Canadian YA books!

In the end, After the Storm didn’t disappoint! I thoroughly enjoyed continuing on with these characters, and meeting new ones along the way. Marie Landry never fails to write engaging and emotional contemporary YA books! I highly recommend this book, whether you’ve read Waiting for the Storm or not, as you’ll be swept away by the characters before you know it.

JOIN THE CONVO!

Have you read Waiting for the Storm or After the Storm? If so, what are your thoughts? If not, are these books on your TBR list? Have you ever given a character a second chance? What is your favourite literary misfit friendship? 

4 Stars

Divider

{Blog Tour: Review & Giveaway!} Jewel of the Thames by Angela Misri

March 26, 2014 Blog Tour, Giveaways, Review 10 ★★★★

{Blog Tour: Review & Giveaway!} Jewel of the Thames by Angela Misri

{Blog Tour: Review & Giveaway!} Jewel of the Thames by Angela MisriJewel of the Thames: A Portia Adams Adventure by Angela Misri
Published by Fierce Ink Press on March 25, 2014
Genres: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Young Adult
Pages: 238
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
Add to Goodreads
Buy the Book @ Amazon

There’s a new detective at 221 Baker Street.

Set against the background of 1930s England, Jewel of the Thames introduces Portia Adams, a budding detective with an interesting — and somewhat mysterious — heritage. 

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.

Disclosure:I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

COVER TALK

How cute is that cover?! I absolutely love the colors, the simplicity, and how it all comes together so beautifully. The silhouette looks a bit like Nancy Drew but that doesn’t bother me too much. I really admire the designer’s attention to detail: all the little symbols (the rats, jewels, etc.) correspond to the cases and overall story! Overall, a wonderful cover!

EXPECTATIONS

While I haven’t ever actually read a Sir Arthur Conan Doyle book, I do love modern adaptations of the stories (BBC’s Sherlock and Elementary in particular), so I was excited when offered this interesting twist on the stories to review. I was excited to have a female sleuth as the main character this time, and to see where the author took the story!

MY THOUGHTS

Jewel of the Thames is a YA historic reimagining of Sherlock Holmes canon, set during the 1930s in both Toronto and England. After her beloved mother dies, a young Canadian woman named Portia Adams discovers that she has somehow come to be under the care of Mrs. Jones, her new guardian, and in possession of 221 Baker Street. Upon moving to England, Portia emerses herself in the casebooks of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, and her curious deductive nature (and the charming constable downstairs) leads her to her first mystery: that of a jewel thief. As Portia acclimates to her new surroundings, she begins to uncover mystery upon mystery, but they aren’t all criminal in nature as she has some suspicions and questions about her own heritage.

I enjoyed reading about Portia Adams and the mysteries she comes up against. She’s a young, smart and curious girl who has a sense of adventure! Angela Misri has certainly had some fun with the Holmes stories and canon, adapting them as she saw fit, but never playing around with them too much for it to feel sacrilegious to the fandom. I don’t think the mysteries of Portia’s heritage and the questions she has of 221 Baker Street and Mrs. Jones are hard to figure out at all, but it was nice to see Portia piece the puzzle together!

The book is made up of three of Portia Adams’ casebooks, and so the reader is presented with the tale of three mysteries: that of a jewel thief, a sick judge, and a kidnapped child on a moving train. While I wasn’t a big fan of the jewel thief story, it did a good job of helping to set the stage and aided in character development. The kidnapped child mystery was exciting and ended the story on an interesting note. My favourite by far though was the mystery of the sick judge. I figured out one part of the story, which was quite amusing, but there were quite a few twists and turns thrown in along the way to make for a shocking conclusion! I liked how the mysteries were varied, and at times, quite challenging, which helped Portia develop as an amateaur detective.

According to Misri’s Goodreads profile, there will be two more books in the Portia Adams series. As for me, I’m looking forward to seeing what other mysteries Portia ends up solving!

GIVEAWAY!

Fierce Ink Press is giving away an eBook of Jewel of the Thames to one lucky Bookish Comforts reader! If you want a chance to read this wonderful book, check out the Rafflecopter below. Contest is open internationally, with the exception of the UK (sorry! Publisher’s rules). 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

LET’S CHAT

Will Jewel of the Thames be making its way onto your TBR list? What do you think of the cover? Are you a fan of Sherlock or Elementary? Have you read the original stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle?

4 Stars

Divider

{Review} Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy

March 20, 2014 Review 3 ★★

{Review} Side Effects May Vary by Julie MurphySide Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy
Published by HarperCollins on March 18, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Pages: 336
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Add to Goodreads
Buy the Book @ AmazonBuy the Book @ The Book Depository

What if you’d been living your life as if you were dying—only to find out that you had your whole future ahead of you? 

When sixteen-year-old Alice is diagnosed with leukemia, her prognosis is grim. To maximize the time she does have, she vows to spend her final months righting wrongs—however she sees fit. She convinces her friend Harvey, whom she knows has always had feelings for her, to help her with a crazy bucket list that’s as much about revenge (humiliating her ex-boyfriend and getting back at her arch nemesis) as it is about hope (doing something unexpectedly kind for a stranger and reliving some childhood memories). But just when Alice’s scores are settled, she goes into remission.

Now Alice is forced to face the consequences of all that she’s said and done, as well as her true feelings for Harvey. But has she done irreparable damage to the people around her, and to the one person who matters most? 

Julie Murphy’s SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY is a fearless and moving tour de force about love, life, and facing your own mortality.

Disclosure:I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

COVER TALK 

I love the cover: the black background and the bright colours of the title make for a great contrast. I really like the little doodles, and they are all relevant to the book, which is always appreciated!

EXPECTATIONS

I can’t remember if I discovered this via Epic Reads Tea Time or before that, but whatever the case, I was interested in reading it because it sounded different and kinda fun. I hadn’t read any reviews going in so I didn’t have that clouding my reading experience.

MY THOUGHTS

Side Effects May Vary is a different kind of cancer book — it isn’t about the main character’s struggle to live and/or the effect her death has on family, friends and community, but rather, it’s a story about remission, and finding out that you are actually going to live after you’ve prepared yourself for dying and completed your bucket list. It focuses on the question, “now what?”. How do you go back to your normal, everyday life when you’ve been living like there is no tomorrow, and leaving some wreckage behind in your wake? Do you mend those fences or move on and create a new life for yourself? And if the later is the case, how exactly do you do that? These questions and choices are what Alice has to consider after learning that she has unexpectedly kicked cancer’s butt.

At first, I was really digging this book. I appreciated that it was telling a different story, one we don’t often hear in YA, that of the cancer survivor. It’s not completely focused on Alice’s struggle with cancer, nor is it a story about Harvey, her ‘more-than-just-best-friends’ friend mourning her loss. It’s about the aftermath: the messiness, almost cruelness of having to decide what next after you were resigned to dying. Murphy’s writing also grabbed me, and I could see some of the comparison’s to John Green’s work (not just The Fault in Our Stars, but his style). It was snarky, engaging and self-reflective, all things that really make me love an author’s writing!

But… then things started to fall apart for me. When done well, I really like dual POVs and flipping back and forth in the time in the books I read. However, when you use both in the same contemporary book it is quite confusing! You have two perspectives per character: Alice ‘Now’ and Alice ‘Then’ as well as Harvey ‘Now’ and Harvey ‘Then’. It wasn’t too bad the first few chapters, but then I found it increasingly hard to keep it straight what time period I was reading in each chapter, despite it being written on the chapter page. I often had to look for identifiers: was Alice doing chemo, did she still have her hair, etc. to try and figure it out. This resulted in the narrative all sort of melding together in my head, and I started to care less about the story because it was becoming difficult to keep track of. The writing also wasn’t as tight and snappy anymore (which may change in the final copy, who knows?) and had lost it’s ability to pull me into this story. At that point (about maybe 30-40% in), I had no clue where the story was going (I thought it was going to focus more heavily on a defined bucket list for some reason, but no) and it was just leaving me a bit frustrated.

That said, I appreciated the characters, even if I didn’t love them. Alice is a character that I think many people will find unlikeable, and honestly, they have some good reasons to. She could be brutally honest (“If ever my parents gave me a religion, it was the gospel of honesty.” pg. 6 in the ARC), and she had a wicked revenge streak in her. She wasn’t this young, frail girl who was going to inspire those around her to have hope and live life to the fullest simply because she had cancer. I think Murphy did a great job showing the trouble that Alice had in adjusting to remission: she had already begun to distance herself from loved ones, and she had been given a free pass on her snarky attitude when she was sick. Now she had to deal with the consequences of treating people badly. Harvey lacked a bit of personality at times, often characterized mainly by his love for Alice, but as the book went on and he started to call her out on her words and actions he seemed to grow more as a character.  Speaking of characterization, I do have a problem with the book’s ending: it’s just way too fast and it rushes the character development greatly. For a story that seemed to be celebrating the messiness of life, things wrapped up way too neatly for me, unfortunately.

I think that this book will really resonate with some people, and others will have similar issues with it as I did. That said, I look forward to what Julie Murphy brings us in the future, because at times her writing is exactly what I crave for in YA (I bookmarked about 7 quotes while reading!).

LET’S TALK!

Have you read Side Effects May Vary? Is it on your TBR list? What kind of writing do you like? What’s on your bucket list? 

2 Stars

Divider

{Top Ten Tuesday} Books On My Spring 2014 TBR List

March 18, 2014 Top Ten Tuesday 7

spring 2014 tbr list

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by 
The Broke and the Bookish.

This week’s topic is… Books On My Spring 2014 TBR List

I love doing these seasonal TBR lists, even if I don’t always stick to my list (I only read 4 of the books on my fall TBR list and DNF’d 2 of them). Although it’s not like I need to actually grow my TBR list anymore as there are SO many books coming out this spring (particularly in April)!

last forever
1 // The Last Forever by Deb Caletti 

I’ve read a few Caletti books and as a fan of contemporary stories, I enjoy them so I am looking forward to this one. This one features a road trip, and I haven’t read near enough road trip books so yay!

sekret
2 // Sekret (Sekret #1) by Lindsay Smith
A paranormal story set in Soviet Russia that focuses on KGB spies? YESSSSSS!!! I won an ARC copy and I’m really excited to be able to read it.

here and now
3 // The Here and Now by Anne Brashares
I loooooved reading Brashares The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants as a teen. Her latest sounds like it has feminism and an environmental focus which sounds cool. Plus, just some teenage nostalgia.

Far From You
4 // Far From You by Tess Sharpe
I’ve been hearing great things about this one!

vigilante poets
5 // The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy by Kate Hattemer
The cover really caught my eye — I love the styling of it! It sounds like a really funny book, with a reality show, English class and a  heroic gerbil named Baconnaise. Sounds like anything goes, haha!

ivy and sorrow
6 // House of Ivy & Sorrow by Natalie Whipple

I’m always down for a story about witches!

tease
7 // Tease by Amanda Maciel
A very timely topic: bullying and slut-shaming. Interesting that it isn’t about the girl dealing with the harassment, but the bully dealing with the consequences. Love the cover too!
bird on water street
8 // A Bird On Water Street by Elizabeth O. Dulemba
This one is about mining in the Appalachians, and that isn’t a topic you hear a lot about so it attracted my attention.

life by committee
9 // Life by Committee by Corey Ann Haydu
The whole tell a secret, get an assignment thing sounds intriguing, no? I mean, not realistic but it could be fun to read about!

guy in real life
10 // Guy in Real Life by Steve Brezenoff
A story of two nerdy teens randomly connecting and roleplay: this one sounds like it could be freaking adorable!!

I Want To Know…
Are any of these books on your spring TBR list? Read any of these? Will you be adding any of these to your ever growing TBR list?

Divider

{Review} Panic by Lauren Oliver

March 17, 2014 Review 2 ★★★★

{Review} Panic by Lauren OliverPanic by Lauren Oliver
Published by HarperCollins on March 6, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Pages: 416
Format: eARC
Add to Goodreads
Buy the Book @ AmazonBuy the Book @ The Book Depository

Panic began as so many things do in Carp, a dead-end town of 12,000 people in the middle of nowhere: because it was summer, and there was nothing else to do.

Heather never thought she would compete in Panic, a legendary game played by graduating seniors, where the stakes are high and the payoff is even higher. She’d never thought of herself as fearless, the kind of person who would fight to stand out. But when she finds something, and someone, to fight for, she will discover that she is braver than she ever thought.

Dodge has never been afraid of Panic. His secret will fuel him, and get him all the way through the game, he’s sure of it. But what he doesn't know is that he’s not the only one with a secret. Everyone has something to play for.

For Heather and Dodge, the game will bring new alliances, unexpected revelations, and the possibility of first love for each of them—and the knowledge that sometimes the very things we fear are those we need the most.

Disclosure:I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

COVER TALK

I’m a bit disappointed in this cover. Panic is such an interesting concept despite how messed up and dangerous it is, and so I think there were many scenes in the book that could have made for a better cover since “girl’s hair blowing in the wind” has been done so many times before. Seriously, it could have been the cliff scene, the Joust, even the betting slips! I do like the little pop of green for Lauren Oliver’s name.

EXPECTATIONS

This one sounded interesting to me, and since I wasn’t a huge fan of Delirium I wasn’t going into it with high expectations. I did, however, forget that it was contemporary and not dystopian, haha!

MY THOUGHTS

Panic is the name of the game in the small town of Carp where recent high school graduates compete in a series of challenges over the course of summer. The reward? $50,000. But the consequence of playing just may be death. Everyone has their own reasons for playing, but no one is prepared for what this year’s Panic has in store. Loyalties and friendships are tested, a life is lost, and along the way, the participants learn more about themselves than they would have thought possible.

Once I picked Panic up I could hardly put it down, and when I did, I found myself looking forward to my next chance to read and return to the story! For me, the story wasn’t perfect (there were some plot holes), and I wasn’t particularly drawn to the characters, but the game of Panic was compelling and the adrenaline of it all had me racing forward, desperate to find out what would happen next. While Panic wasn’t terribly realistic, due to the magnitude and great dangers involved, I also don’t think it was impossible, either. Teenagers will do incredibly dangerous and risky things (have you seen the video of teens climbing and doing stunts on this Russian water tower?!?!?) due to the fact that their prefrontal cortex (the decision making part of the brain) is still developing. I also absolutely loved how Lauren Oliver framed the story in her author’s note at the beginning, particularly this part:

“… in all of my books – including this one, my latest and possibly my favourite – there is a common theme: the desire, the need, to become whole, to be a part of something bigger, to find fulfillment in friendship and in shared community”.

I think friendship and a sense of community are things that a lot of teenagers desire, to the point of physically longing for it, so I could understand the mindset that went into creating and participating in Panic.

As for character development, I enjoyed seeing the characters grow and learn more about themselves and their friendships as they began to mature over the course of the novel. However, I think the ending tried to tie in almost too much character development and it ended up being very rushed, and it didn’t fit with the rest of the novel in my mind.

It isn’t a perfect book (but what book is?), and there are some problems with it, but I definitely would recommend Panic if you are looking for a fast paced, contemporary read that will have you on the edge of your seat!

LET’S CHAT!

Are you a fan of Lauren Oliver’s books? Have you read Panic? Is it on your TBR list? What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever done? 

4 Stars

Divider