Monday, January 16, 2017

Review: Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand

From Goodreads: Things Finley Hart Doesn't Want To Talk About: 1) Her parents, who are having problems. (But they pretend like they’re not.) 2) Being sent to her grandparents’ house for the summer. 3) Never having met said grandparents. 4) Her blue days - when life feels overwhelming, and it’s hard to keep her head up. (This happens a lot.) Finley’s only retreat is the Everwood, a forest kingdom that exists in the pages of her notebook. Until she discovers the endless woods behind her grandparents’ house and realizes the Everwood is real - and holds more mysteries than she'd ever imagined, including a family of pirates that she isn’t allowed to talk to, trees covered in ash, and a strange old wizard living in a house made of bones. With the help of her cousins, Finley sets out on a mission to save the dying Everwood and uncover its secrets. But as the mysteries pile up and the frightening sadness inside her grows, Finley realizes that if she wants to save the Everwood, she’ll first have to save herself. 

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Having enjoyed Claire Legrand’s previous novels for the most part, I decided to give Some Kind of Happiness a try without reading its synopsis. Therefore, I wasn’t expecting this MG novel to be so heavy, with a main character battling anxiety and depression but unable to put her feelings into words. To cope with her feelings, which worsen as her parents’ marriage falls apart and she meets her perfect, estranged extended family, Finley creates and writes about an imaginary world that the reader reads about as well.

To be honest, I’m not sure who I’d recommend Some Kind of Happiness to. The book felt quite long – the plot dragged in the middle – and there are much better novels that revolve around family or mental health. Moreover, the metaphor of the Everwood to describe Finley’s problems in real life may be lost on younger readers.

Some Kind of Happiness was released in May 2016 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

Comments About the Cover: The dark colours match the book's mood well, and the solitary person gives off a sense of loneliness, which is how Finley often feels. 

Monday, January 09, 2017

Mini Reviews: The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett by Chelsea Sedoti and The Secret of a Heart Note by Stacey Lee

From Goodreads: A teenage misfit named Hawthorn Creely inserts herself in the investigation of missing person Lizzie Lovett, who disappeared mysteriously while camping with her boyfriend. Hawthorn doesn't mean to interfere, but she has a pretty crazy theory about what happened to Lizzie. In order to prove it, she decides to immerse herself in Lizzie's life. That includes taking her job ... and her boyfriend. It's a huge risk - but it's just what Hawthorn needs to find her own place in the world. 

My Rating: 1 heart 

Thoughts on the Novel: Chelsea Sedoti’s The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett was a book that I decided to read because I was in the mood for a good mystery. It’s too bad then that this book fell far below my expectations. I found the protagonist, Hawthorn, to be really judgemental and seriously weird. Furthermore, the secondary characters lacked depth and the plotline was boring as it revolved around Hawthorn investigating the disappearance of twenty-one year old Lizzie Lovett, a girl who goes missing while on a camping trip with her boyfriend. Obsessed with Lizzie, Hawthorn finally concludes that she turned into a werewolf. Like, WTF?! I thought Hawthorn was kidding, but the high school senior legitimately believed in her ridiculous theory! On top of that, she then hooks up with Lizzie’s twenty-five year old boyfriend, who I thought was really sleazy (since he kept hooking up with girls in high school). 

The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett was released on January 3, 2017 by Sourcebooks Fire. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Sourcebooks) for free via NetGalley.
From Goodreads: Sometimes love is right under your nose. As one of only two aromateurs left on the planet, sixteen-year-old Mimosa knows what her future holds: a lifetime of weeding, mixing love elixirs, and matchmaking - all while remaining incurably alone. For Mim, the rules are clear: falling in love would render her nose useless, taking away her one great talent. Still, Mimosa doesn’t want to spend her life elbow-deep in soil and begonias. She dreams of a normal high school experience with friends, sports practices, debate club, and even a boyfriend. But when she accidentally gives an elixir to the wrong woman and has to rely on the lovesick woman’s son, the school soccer star, to help fix the situation, Mim quickly begins to realize that falling in love isn’t always a choice you can make. 

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: The Secret of a Heart Note by Stacey Lee had several things going for it. For example, it had an interesting premise since its main character and her mom are able to smell scents that regular humans can’t detect, and then use this information to create elixirs (for free) to help love blossom. Lee also did a phenomenal job of describing various scents (e.g. that of emotions, different flowers, etc.) and the beauty of Mim’s family garden. Unfortunately, I didn’t like The Secret of a Heart Note as much as I thought I would because I didn’t buy the romance in it and got annoyed by Mim making one stupid mistake after another. 

The Secret of a Heart Note was released by Katherine Tegen Books in December 2016. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (HarperCollins) for free via Edelweiss.

Monday, January 02, 2017

Reviews: A Good Trade and When the Rain Comes by Alma Fullerton

Thoughts on the Novels: When I was contacted by Pajama Press asking if I’d like to review any of their books, I looked through their catalogue carefully. Despite never reviewing picture books, two of Alma Fullerton’s books caught my eye because I figured that I could use them at work and because I like picture books that feature life in other countries.

Set up of Plot: In a small village in Uganda, Kato has to wake up early each morning and walk barefoot a long distance so that he can get water from the village well. This day, when he comes back home, there is an aid worker's truck in the village square, waiting to give something special - a new pair of shoes - to all the children. In exchange, Kato gives the aid worker a single, white poppy.
A Good Trade’s title is somewhat misleading as it implies that there’s a real trade between two people. However, in reality, Kato gives an aid worker a poppy to thank her for giving him a pair of shoes. Overall, I liked A Good Trade, and believe that it can be used to launch a discussion about gratitude and what it’s like to live in a third world country. 

Set up of Plot: In a Sri Lankan village, Malini wakes up nervous and excited about learning how to plant rice seedlings, which will provide food and income for her community. When she is asked to watch an ox carrying the seedlings so the driver can take a break, a sudden monsoon separates Malini and the ox from the driver and her family. Malini must now find the courage to try and save the ox and the cart carrying the precious rice seedlings.

I liked When the Rain Comes even more. The illustrations and text in this book work really well together to highlight Malini’s feelings and show the importance of rice to her village and the dangers of a monsoon. The back of the book tells a little bit more about Sri Lanka and how reliant the country’s population is on rice. 

In exchange for an honest review, both A Good Trade and When the Rain Comes were received from the publisher (Pajama Press) for free.