Book review: The Summer of Us by Cecilia Vinesse

35833029*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: The Summer of Us

Author: Cicelia Vinesse

Publisher: Poppy (imprint of Little, Brown & Company)

Publication Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 9780316391139

Synopsis from Goodreads:
American expat Aubrey has only two weeks left in Europe before she leaves for college, and she’s nowhere near ready. Good thing she and her best friend, Rae, have planned one last group trip across the continent. From Paris to Prague, they’re going to explore famous museums, sip champagne in fancy restaurants, and eat as many croissants as possible with their friends Clara, Jonah, and Gabe. But when old secrets come to light, Aubrey and Rae’s trip goes from a carefree adventure to a complete disaster. For starters, there’s Aubrey and Gabe’s unresolved history, complicated by the fact that Aubrey is dating Jonah, Gabe’s best friend. And then there’s Rae’s hopeless crush on the effortlessly cool Clara. How is Rae supposed to admit her feelings to someone so perfect when they’re moving to different sides of the world in just a few weeks?


If you’re looking for a light and fluffy summer read, this is the book for you! The Summer of Us has everything you’re looking for if you like cute, whirlwind romance novels with the perfect mix of friendship, love, and beautiful cities thrown together. This book delivers exactly what it promises, a summer of crushes and romance, and many a gorgeous European city. The characters have known each other for their high school years, forming the kind of friendships that one can only form in those important formative years. They are facing an end of an era with college fast approaching in the fall. Their weeks together in the summer are wrought with fear of the unknown and uncertainty in the face of change, with an intense desire to hold on to what they’ve got in one another.

I do enjoy a good fluffy read. This one was light and breezy and didn’t ask too much of the reader. It’s here to make you smile and warm your heart. I did struggle with one of the protagonists, Aubrey, as so many of her problems could be solved if she was just open and honest about her feelings. Conflict that arises when there is a break down in communication can drive me a bit nuts sometimes. However, I’m willing to forgive Aubrey a bit because she’s at a tumultuous point in her life where so much upheaval is occurring and as a teen, she’s just on the cusp of learning who she is.

I enjoyed how much of this book is focused on friendships, in tandem with the focus on relationships. Not only are the characters falling in love and learning what it means to be in love, they are also navigating their friendships as they experience incredible change. They navigate their transforming relationships with uncertainty.

I actually think this novel would have been a lot better if it had focused on Rae and Clara’s developing relationship. Rae has been out as a lesbian for a while and she’s developed a huge crush on Clara, but she’s not sure if Clara is attracted to girls. They’ve been friends for such a long time and Rae doesn’t want to risk ruining things before she moves to the opposite side of the globe for school. All she wants is for a fresh start. Her story becomes all the more complicated when things get sticky in her friendship with Aubrey. This story is so much more interesting and complicated. We could have done away with the Aubrey story line and really delved into Rae’s world. Cecilia, can you write a Rae only story please?

This book is fun, but not life changing. It was light and easy reading. It’ll be perfect for the beach side if you get a chance to get out this summer.

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Book review: An Ocean of Minutes by Thea Lim

36622743*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: An Ocean of Minutes

Author: Thea Lim

Publisher: Viking Canada

Publication Date: June 26, 2018

ISBN: 9780735234918

Synopsis from Goodreads:
America is in the grip of a deadly flu pandemic. When Frank catches the virus, his girlfriend Polly will do whatever it takes to save him, even if it means risking everything. She agrees to a radical plan—time travel has been invented in the future to thwart the virus. If she signs up for a one-way-trip into the future to work as a bonded labourer, the company will pay for the life-saving treatment Frank needs. Polly promises to meet Frank again in Galveston, Texas, where she will arrive in twelve years. But when Polly is re-routed an extra five years into the future, Frank is nowhere to be found. Alone in a changed and divided America, with no status and no money, Polly must navigate a new life and find a way to locate Frank, to discover if he is alive, and if their love has endured.


I’m loving the post-apocalypse trend that’s been happening in fiction lately. More and more really awesome and imaginative novels have been coming out over the past few years and it’s a really intriguing and gripping premise that’s being explored. An Ocean of Minutes falls very solidly into the intense post-apocalypse genre with some sci-fi thrown in. The result is a heart-stopping and emotional novel about two lovers who hope that their love can transcend time, if only they are both able to survive the pandemic that is sweeping the nation and the incredible changes that their world is undergoing in the face of mass death.

The story is told from Polly’s perspective, flipping between 1981 and 1998. Frank is the love of her life, but when he tests positive for the deadly virus, Polly has no choice but to make the decision to sell herself to the conglomerate, TimeRaiser, to work in the future so that Frank might be saved. They make a plan to meet in the future, hoping that things will not have changed so much that they won’t be able to find one another. However, the future is nothing like Polly could have ever imagined and suddenly she is facing the possibility that she may never see Frank again.

I absolutely loved this novel for it’s incredible ability to keep me guessing the entire way through. Lim is a masterful and imaginative world builder. She’s created a very bleak and drastically different future in 1998, one that we can’t even imagine. I couldn’t guess what things were going to be like or how the world was going to change. It was impossible to guess how the story was really going to play out because the world in which Polly lands is one of indentured servitude, layers of secrecy, and incredible apathy. Her world is terrifying, yet also distantly removed from our own. I enjoyed that Lim chose to place the story in the reader’s past, establishing this story as fictional and not supposing it to be in our own future a few hundred years from now. It takes a unique approach compared to other post-apocalyptic stories that have more of a doomsday feel that supposes how our current world will fall apart, forcing the reader to imagine themselves in the scenario. Lim’s novel reads like Orwell’s 1984, clearly fictional as it’s set in the past, however the themes and government structure is a commentary that closely applies to our own world today.

My only criticism was that I felt that the resolution was too quick. I was hoping for a cathartic relief in the ending, but it was wrapped up so fast that I felt a bit cheated of the ending. This story is very stressful and bleak that you want to revel in a nice resolution, but it was trim and over far too soon. I would have liked a few more pages at least.

I highly recommend this one. It’s got a beautiful cover, an amazing story, and a love that transcends time. What more could you ask for?

Happy reading!

 

Review: Tin Man by Sarah Winman

36875322.jpg*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Tin Man

Author: Sarah Winman

Publisher: Viking Canada

Publication Date: July 27, 2017

ISBN: 9780735235151

Synopsis from Goodreads:
4 hours, 33 minutes

This is almost a love story.

Ellis and Michael are twelve when they first become friends, and for a long time it is just the two of them, cycling the streets of Oxford, teaching themselves how to swim, discovering poetry, and dodging the fists of overbearing fathers. And then one day this closest of friendships grows into something more.

But then we fast forward a decade or so, to find that Ellis is married to Annie, and Michael is nowhere in sight. Which leads to the question, what happened in the years between?

This is almost a love story. But it’s not as simple as that.


Wow! If ever there was a book to take your breath away, Tin Man is the one. It’s not often that a beautiful book comes into being and moves you so completely. Winman’s story is an absolutely must-read. No joke. Go get a copy RIGHT NOW! I knew I was going to like this book the second I read the synopsis, but I didn’t realize how much I would like it. It’s safe to say that Tin Man is the best book that I’ve read in 2018, hands down. Ok, now that I’ve gushed enough, let me tell you a bit about what I L.O.V.E.D.

First off, Winman’s writing. Let’s talk about that. You know someone has boatloads of talent when you start on page one and then it’s been 3 hours and your done the book without even realizing it. The writing is so elegant and delicate and breathtaking. Every sentence holds so much power, I would have to pause and re-read, then re-read again, just to savour the words on the page. I was enchanted right from the get go. This is a story about love, written so lovingly and with such detail that it unfolds like a painting in front of you. Central to the book’s plot is the Van Gogh painting, Sunflowers. It is like it’s own character throughout the book, captivating many of the characters for the power it held over another. Like the painting, this story holds that same kind of power, bringing you back to it again and again to study, appreciate, be swept away by, and enjoy. There’s so much to be gained in these pages, one read just won’t suffice.

Next, this is a love story on so many levels. Friendship, romance, lust, companionship, family–these are the themes that run deeply through this book, highlighting what it means to be human and to love and have lost. This book will give you ALL the feels. I was crying by the end of the first section, and then for 200 pages thereafter. As someone who’s more emotional, and quite empathetic, I was swept away in the emotions of the characters, relating to them on so many levels and connecting with them in ways that I rarely connect with characters. Winman is an artist, I swear. Ellis and Michael’s story is just so heart-breaking but also heart-warming. As is each of their relationship with Ellis’s wife, Annie. There is nothing but pure love and kindness between these three, despite time and differences, they still manage to make it through, forgiving faults, overcoming difficult pasts, enduring unbearable presents.

Winman presents the true essence of humanity with this lovely, powerful novel. She reminds the reader what is worth living for and to endure against even the darkest of trials. This novel is a beacon of hope and peace, of overcoming grief and loss, of the purest forms of love. It’s a love story, but it’s about so much more than love.

If you choose not to read this one, I promise you, you’re missing out on something great. So read it and share your thoughts!

Happy reading!

The Home for Wayward Parrots by Darusha Wehm

36927444*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: The Home for Wayward Parrots

Author: Darusha Wehm

Publisher: NeWest Press

Publication Date: May 1, 2018

ISBN: 9781988732275

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Accustomed to being an only child, adoptee Brian “Gumbo” Guillemot’s teenage hobby was searching for his birth parents. But when he finally finds his birth mother, Kim, he’s unprepared for the boisterous instant family that comes with her. Besides Kim, no one knows anything about Brian’s birth father. With Kim refusing to answer any questions about him, Brian must choose whether to continue the search, even if it means alienating his few friends and both his families. But the more he learns, the more he wonders whether some things are better left unknown.


The Home for Wayward Parents is the endearing coming of age story that takes place across time in a journey of one man as he seeks to discover himself, his past, and the birth parents that he’s never known. Brian (Gumbo–although he has a silly nickname) is an ordinary guy who’s a bit of a geek, is a bit of a softy, and is just an overall goofball. He’s always known he’s adopted and that he wants to find his birth parents, although he’s not quite sure how to tell his adoptive parents, especially once the search is well underway. Throughout his search, Gumbo reflects back on his past, his own thoughts on teenage parenthood, his relationships–both familial and romantic, and his growth from boy to adulthood. He’s not sure what to expect when he meets his birth mom, but what he finds is more than he could have ever hoped.

This story really warmed my heart. Brian (Gumbo) is relatable and is a bit of a big softy, which makes him completely adorable. He’s an idiot at times, but you can’t help but want to give him a hug. It’s easy to picture yourself in his shoes as he bumbles along his young adult life. Like any teen, he’s a bit of a wayward soul with little to no direction. As an adult, his life really starts to take a tangible shape as he begins to discover himself and the secrets of his past that not even he was aware of. Brian learns what the true meanings of family and love really are. His reality becomes more concrete the more he discovers and he begins to form unbreakable bonds with those around him.

Wehm’s writing is really open in this novel. She writes with clarity, understanding, and great wit and humour. Her characters are so lifelike and moving, creating a story that will tug at your heartstrings and bring a smile to your face. I recommend this book to any reader looking for a journey of love, family, friendship, and so much more.

 

Review: Motherhood by Sheila Heti

36867983.jpg*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Motherhood

Author: Sheila Heti

Publisher: Knopf Canada

Publication Date: May 1, 2018

ISBN: 9780345810540

Synopsis from Goodreads:
After the tumult of her 20s, the narrator of Sheila Heti’s new novel finds herself living a life into which she could bring a child. She’s with a man who has promised his support if she decides she wants to be a mother, “but you have to be sure.” Motherhood chronicles her struggle, under pressure from friends, culture and time, and seeking answers from family, strangers, mysticism and chance, to make a wise and moral choice, and to truly understand what is gained, and what is lost, when a woman becomes a mother. Heti treats the most universal and consequential decision of early to mid-adulthood–whether to have kids–with the candour and originality that have won her international acclaim, and that made How Should a Person Be? required reading for a generation of young women. The result is a courageous, funny and ultimately moving novel about motherhood, selfhood, and how–and for whom–to live.


Motherhood is an intense journey and rumination on what it means to be a mother and how that affects one’s relationships with friends, family, romantic partners, and even with oneself. The narrator explores her own thoughts and feelings versus the expectations that society and other outside forces impose on her. She shares her findings and her experiences with herself in a sort of journal/chronicle on womanhood and becoming a mother, but she also shares with the reader in an almost autobiographical way. The book is not super plot driven, however it presents more of an intellectual discussion, creating more of a conversational presentation rather than a story. We still get a glimpse into the window of the narrator’s life, her relationship troubles and triumphs, her friendships as they change over time as others choose the path of motherhood.

What I really enjoyed about this book was the very real confrontation that motherhood is not always an easy choice–that although one might feel a strong pull to become a mother sometimes, it is not always the right choice for that person. It is a decision that only each individual can make fore themselves. It’s not an easy choice and there is a lot of hope, anger, pain, fear, and excitement associated with either option. The narrator gets into the fine details of her feelings and her emotional highs and lows. She seeks out all options and confronts them, despite her own deep seeded anxieties, imagining what her life would be like in each scenario and if that outcome would really bring her life changing joy. She often avoids responsibility for her decisions by using fate and mysticism to address particular outcomes. The toss of a coin results in a yes or no answer as she navigates through series of questions about both really important and more mundane aspects of her life.

Ultimately, the narrator is on a voyage of self-discovery and self-learning. She is seeking out an understanding of meaning and motivation in her life. This book is cyclical, reflecting the essence of what it means to be a woman. Heti writes a beautiful and very feminine narration that I think many women will relate to. The narrator of this book could be any woman. She is so open and honest that I did feel like it was so easy to insert myself into her position, to understand her fears and frustrations, and to think that I myself have also had similar thoughts. It’s a wonderful introduction to starting a conversation about motherhood and where society places value (or doesn’t) on women and reproduction. An excellent read if you’re looking for something to get the wheels turning.

Happy reading!

Review: Invisible Ghosts by Robyn Schneider

35230429.jpg*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Invisible Ghosts

Author: Robyn Schneider

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

Publication Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 9780062568106

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Rose Asher believes in ghosts. She should, since she has one for a best friend: Logan, her annoying, Netflix-addicted brother, who is forever stuck at fifteen. But Rose is growing up, and when an old friend moves back to Laguna Canyon and appears in her drama class, things get complicated. Jamie Aldridge is charming, confident, and a painful reminder of the life Rose has been missing out on since her brother’s death. She watches as Jamie easily rejoins their former friends–a group of magnificently silly theater nerds–while avoiding her so intensely that it must be deliberate. Yet when the two of them unexpectedly cross paths, Rose learns that Jamie has a secret of his own, one that changes everything. Rose finds herself drawn back into her old life–and to Jamie. But she quickly starts to suspect that he isn’t telling her the whole truth. All Rose knows is that it’s becoming harder to choose between the boy who makes her feel alive and the brother she isn’t ready to lose.


Invisible Ghosts is the perfect, quick, and relatively light summer read that you’re looking for this year. It’s a story that takes place a few years after the death of a young boy, Rose Asher’s brother, Logan. A terrible tragedy befell Logan and left Rose an only child. Life stopped for her at that point of his death and she retreated into herself. What she didn’t account for is Logan’s ghost sticking around to keep her company. Rose is now in high school and has caught the attention of an old friend and classmate of hers. As Jamie and Rose become closer, more strain is put on Rose’s relationship with her brother’s spirit.

This story is at times a little silly, however I found the characters to be really sweet and endearing. There was no crazy relationship drama, just kids falling for one another in an innocent and quite lovely way. The ghost aspect was a bit cutesy and was the source of the main drama, but I think it was an excellent vehicle for issues such as growing up, grief, mourning, letting go, coming-of-age, and conflict resolution. Rose is at a pivotal moment in her life where she can choose to remain where she is, or she can make decisions for her future. She can hold onto the past and reject growth and recovery, or she can accept the past and embrace the future, all while holding tightly onto the memories of her dear loved one.

It wasn’t an absolutely mind-blowing story, but it was an enjoyable bit of teenage fluff. It’s not too serious and not too heavy boots. The characters are all sweet and entertaining without getting too intense. If you need an easy pool/beach-side read, this is the one.

Happy reading!

Review: Defy the Worlds by Claudia Gray

35959679*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Defy the Worlds

Author: Claudia Gray

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: April 3, 2018

ISBN: 9780316394109

Synopsis from Goodreads:
An outcast from her home — Shunned after a trip through the galaxy with Abel, the most advanced cybernetic man ever created, Noemi Vidal dreams of traveling through the stars one more time. And when a deadly plague arrives on Genesis, Noemi gets her chance. As the only soldier to have ever left the planet, it will be up to her to save its people…if only she wasn’t flying straight into a trap. A fugitive from his fate — On the run to avoid his depraved creator’s clutches, Abel believes he’s said good-bye to Noemi for the last time. After all, the entire universe stands between them…or so he thinks. When word reaches him of Noemi’s capture by the very person he’s trying to escape, Abel knows he must go to her, no matter the cost. But capturing Noemi was only part of Burton Mansfield’s master plan. In a race against time, Abel and Noemi will come together once more to discover a secret that could save the known worlds, or destroy them all.


Defy the Worlds continues the story of Noemi and Abel in the second instalment of the Constellation series. Noemi is an outcast at her home planet and Abel is on the run. A scheme thought up be Abel’s creator, Burton Mansfield, quickly puts both characters back into danger, pawns to other peoples’ plans with very few option to escape or succeed. Gray’s writing is as intense and fast-paced as ever as these two race against the clock to save the lives of so many innocent people, and hopefully, themselves.

Although this is still an excellent book, I think it’s my least favourite of Gray’s so far. I still really like Noemi as a character with her defiant attitude and her set mindset that is not to be defeated. Her relationship with Abel pushes boundaries and comes up against barriers at all turns, yet she moves forward with him unflinchingly. Even in the worst of circumstances, she’s always thinking on her feet and searching for solutions to better things for the greater good. In this series, Gray has created an expansive and ever growing world with new surprises to behold as the story unfolds. I believe I’ve said this once, but I’ll say it again, Gray is a master world-builder. Her imagination is boundless and even if the plot isn’t your thing, the world is sure to mesmerize you.

POTENTIAL SPOILIES. READERS BE WARNED:

I only gave this book three stars on Goodreads because I feel like it tried to do too much, reaching a little too far and not in a great way. As new characters are introduced and new plot lines explored, the story becomes quite erratic. I will try to not reveal to much, but there is a young character that we meet for the first time who is representative of an enormous technological change in this world, however who causes undue chaos in the plot–an unnecessary device that is seemingly meant to cause more suspense and action, but in my opinion, only serves to distract from the main story. The chaos is not what I first imagined it would be, but quickly becomes more of an annoyance to get through when reading. When there are so many antagonists and threats in this book, it seemed to be a bit superfluous to add an additional one.

Still, Gray has become one of my top YA authors to read and that remains the case despite the few issues that I have with this recent edition. She crafts beautiful and clever characters and settings, so I will most assuredly be on the lookout for more of her stories in the future.


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