Reading

Everything I Thought I Knew – Shannon Takaoka | A Book Review

Everything I Thought I Knew - Shannon Takaoka

Title: Everything I Thought I Knew

Author: Shannon Takaoka

Genre: Contemporary (Young Adult)

About the book: It’s a standalone novel that follows seventeen-year-old Chloe who gets a heart transplant. She finds herself stuck in summer school and wanting to surf. Chloe also begins to have the same recurring nightmare about crashing a motorcycle in a tunnel. She remembers memories that aren’t her own, which makes her question everything she thought she knew.

I received an advanced reader copy from Candlewick Press in exchange for an honest review.

First impressions: The cover is beautiful. I was intrigued by the premise because I haven’t read anything quite like it. I found myself getting more and more interested in the story.

Characters: Chloe is a likeable and relatable teenager. She faces many challenges after getting a new heart. I enjoyed her character development as well as her interactions with family members and friends.

Quote:

“Live your life for you without the burden of also living your life for someone else.”

Writing: It’s a little over 300 pages long. The story is mainly told in Chloe’s point of view. I liked that the author included chapter titles.

Final thoughts: I wasn’t sure how the novel was going to end, so the ending took me by surprise. There were some twists and turns I didn’t see coming. I highly recommend Everything I Thought I Knew for fans of realistic young adult novels about life and love.


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Reading

When We Were Young & Brave – Hazel Gaynor | A Book Review

When We Were Young & Brave - Hazel Gaynor

Title: When We Were Young & Brave

Author: Hazel Gaynor

Genre: Historical Fiction

About the book: It’s a novel inspired by true events set in China during World War 2. The story follows a group of teachers and students from a missionary school who are sent to a Japanese internment camp.

I received an advanced reader copy from HarperCollins Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

First impressions: I haven’t read any historical novel about the wars set in China, so I was intrigued. The title and cover lend readers an idea of what to expect. Also, the beginning caught my attention and gave me chills.

Characters: The main protagonists are Elspeth Kent, a teacher who wants to return home to England, and Nancy Plummer, a ten year old British girl. I grew to admire both of them as well as some of the secondary characters.

Quote:

“And yet there is a curel irony in that the memories I would rather forget are precisely the ones that I recall most often.”

Writing: It’s a little more than 400 pages. The story is told in first person alternating point of view between Elspeth and Nancy. There’s also some additional content at the end of the book with a brief history of the Girl Guides, a list of resources for further reading, and a reading group guide with dicussion questions.

Final thoughts:  I enjoyed the ending. Ultimately, it’s a sad story that examines grief and loss but also kindness and hope. If you want to learn more about internment camps in China, check out When We Were Young & Brave.


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Reading

Beauty Mark – Carole Boston Weatherford | A Book Review

Beauty Mark - Carole Boston Weatherford

Title: Beauty Mark: A Verse Novel of Marilyn Monroe

Author: Carole Boston Weatherford

Genre: Poetry

About the book: It’s a novel in verse about the life of Marilyn Monroe from her childhood to her career. There are also photographs throughout that complement the poems.

I received an advanced reader copy from Candlewick Press in exchange for an honest review.

First impressions: I love poetry, but I haven’t read too many verse novels. Although I don’t know much about Marilyn Monroe, I wanted to read this book and learn more about her. I had no idea that she had such a difficult childhood, going from one foster home to another.

Content: I love how the photographs seem to frame the poems, letting the story of Marilyn Monroe take center stage. The book touches upon relatable themes, and many of the lines resonated with me. It’s a little less than 200 pages.

Quote:

“In truth, the best defenrse against old age / is dying young.”

Writing: The poems vary in length. Most of them are quite short and simple but still deep. Weatherford is a talented poet, writing in first person from the perspective of Marilyn Monroe.

Final thoughts: When I finished the book, I wanted to read more. I highly recommend Beauty Mark, especially if you’re a fan of Marilyn Monroe. Even if you aren’t, it’s a fascinating read about an individual who had a difficult childhood but grew up to become a strong woman.


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Reading

Standoff – Patricia Bradley | A Book Review

Standoff - Patricia Bradley

Title: Standoff

Author: Patricia Bradley

Genre: Romantic Suspense

About the book: It’s the first in the Natchez Trace Park Rangers series, following Luke Fereday who infiltrates a drug organization and Brooke Danvers who investigates her father’s murder.

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

First impressions: The premise sounded interesting, especially since I enjoy a fast-paced suspense novel as much as anyone. There’s a prologue, and the beginning sets up the rest of the story.

Characters: I liked Luke as well as Brooke because they felt like real people. Luke’s protectiveness and Brooke’s independence made for some interesting scenes. I didn’t have a problem keeping track of all the secondary characters either.

Quote:

“You’ll learn that it’s not always in your best interest to tell everything you know, especially when you’re not certain who’s trustworthy.”

Writing: The book is almost 400 pages long. I enjoyed the short chapters that make me want to continue reading to find out what happens next. Bradley includes a bit of romance but not too much as to overwhelm the main plot.

Final thoughts: It wasn’t difficult to predict certain events, which is why the reveal of the different villains didn’t surprise me. That being said, I enjoyed the ending nonetheless. It wraps up loose ends and gives readers closure. If you enjoy a solid mystery with some romance sprinkled in, consider checking out Standoff.


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Reading

Dark Age – Pierce Brown | A Book Review

Dark Age - Pierce Brown

Title: Dark Age

Author: Pierce Brown

Genre: Science Fiction

About the book: It’s the fifth book in the Red Rising series that follows multiple characters in Darrow, Lysander, Virginia, Lyria, and Ephraim. Brown explores power, violence, love, as well as hope.

First impressions: I enjoyed reading the previous books, so I was excited to read this novel. It took some time for me to get back into the story because I didn’t remember everything that happened in Iron Gold.

Characters: There are so many characters that at first I found it hard to keep track of who was who. I’m glad there’s a character list at the beginning. I gravitated towards the storylines of Lysander and Lyria. They aren’t perfect, yet I still wanted to cheer them on.

Quote:

“But we are entitled only to the moment, and owe nothing to the future except that we follow our convictions.”

Writing: The novel is almost 800 pages, so it’s longer than the other books. Brown spends a good amount of time building the world and describing things in detail. The chapters alternate point of view with each being told in the first person.

Final thoughts: Overall, I preferred the ending over the beginning. I would recommend reading the entire series in order before delving into Dark Age. This science fiction story isn’t for everyone, as it’s a mature read with violent and graphic scenes.


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The Canadian Writer’s Handbook 6th Edition by William E. Messenger | A Book Review

The Canadian Writer's Handbook 6th Edition by William E. Messenger

Title: The Canadian Writer’s Handbook 6th Edition

Author: William E. Messenger, Jan de Bruyn, Judy Brown, Ramona Montagnes

Genre: Nonfiction (Writing)

About the book: The sixth edition of the handbook contains updated information about drafting proposals, writing essays, documenting sources (MLA, APA, Chicago, CSE formatting), and everything in between. The authors break down diction, punctuation, etc., in detail. It is over 600 pages long.

First impressions: I wanted to brush up on my grammar, so I decided to read the entire handbook. The title is fine, but I wish the cover was more visually appealing.

Content: There is a table of contents, an index, and a few appendices at the end. The authors take a Canadian approach to spelling as well as style. I like how they included many examples, exercises, checklists, and tips.

Quote:

“But it is usually preferable to adopt a straightforward, moderate style, a level of diction that both respects the intelligence of the reader and strives to communicate with the reader as effectively as possible.”

Writing: The book is well-written, and there’s a lot of information. Even though I read the book cover to cover, the handbook is a great resource to reference because the authors make it easy to find what you’re looking for.

Final thoughts: I would recommend picking up The Canadian Writer’s Handbook if you’re interested in learning more about writing. The research and documentation chapters are especially helpful for students.


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A Court of Wings and Ruin – Sarah J. Maas | A Book Review

A Court of Wings and Ruin - Sarah J. Maas

Title: A Court of Wings and Ruin

Author: Sarah J. Maas

Genre: Fantasy

About the book: It’s the third book in the series that follows Feyre as she returns to the Spring Court to gather information. With war on the horizon, she has to decide which High Lords and allies she can trust.

First impressions: I’ve read the first two novels a while ago, and I was looking forward to finding out what happens next. It took me a while to get into the story because I didn’t remember everything, so I had to refamiliarize myself with the world. For this reason, I recommend picking up A Court of Thorns and Roses along with A Court of Mist and Fury first.

Characters: I liked learning more about everyone’s backstory and seeing the characters develop. The novel is mainly told in Feyre’s point of view, but readers also get to know a lot about her friends. There’s also LGBTQ+ representation as well, which I didn’t expect.

Quote:

“There are many types of strength beyond the ability to wield a blade and end lives.”

Writing: The book is 700 pages, so it’s the longest in the series so far. There are some mature, explicit scenes. I’m not the biggest romance fan, so I preferred the action and fighting more.

Final thoughts: I liked the ending better than the beginning and middle, as the pacing picks up. A Court of Wings and Ruin isn’t for everyone, but if you enjoy fantastical stories with romantic relationships, check it out.


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You’re Next – Kylie Schachte | A Book Review

You're Next - Kylie Schachte

Title: You’re Next

Author: Kylie Schachte

Genre: Mystery (Young Adult)

About the book: Flora Calhoun puts herself and those around her in danger when she starts investigating the death of Ava, a girl she was once close with. Flora uncovers secrets about her school, specifically illicit activities involving her classmates. Not only is she trying to get justice for Ava, but Flora also has to keep more people from being killed.

I received an advanced reader copy from Hachette Book Group in exchange for an honest review.

First impressions: You’re Next is pitched as Riverdale meets Fight Club. I like a good murder mystery as much as the next person, so I was excited for this novel.

Characters: Flora is flawed, and she makes a lot of mistakes. Even when she messes up, Flora doesn’t quit on her quest to find out who killed Ava. The secondary characters like Flora’s best friend, her grandfather, and sister grew on me. There’s LGBTQ+ representation and racial diversity, which I appreciated.

Quote:

“Been pushing everybody away for so long, but it hasn’t made me any better.”

Writing: The book is a little over 450 pages. I enjoyed the pacing at the beginning and end of the story more than the middle. Schachte balances description with dialogue.

Final thoughts: I wasn’t sure how the story was going to end, but the ending is so sad and unsatisfying in my opinion. You’re Next isn’t for everyone, but if you like YA murder mysteries featuring diverse characters, consider picking it up.


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