Book Review: Ordinary Girls by Blair Thornburgh

At the Frenzy Presents event earlier this year, I received an ARC of Ordinary Girls by Blair Thornburgh. I was excited to read this novel as it was a retelling of Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, a story that I know and love.

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary, Retelling

Blurb:

For two sisters as different as Plum and Ginny, getting on each other’s nerves is par for the course. But when the family’s finances hit a snag, sending chaos through the house in a way only characters from a Jane Austen novel could understand, the two drift apart like they never have before. Plum, a self-described social outcast, strikes up a secret friendship with the class jock, while Ginny’s usual high-strung nature escalates to pure hysterics.

But this has always been the sisters’ dynamic. So why does everything feel different this year? Maybe because Ginny is going to leave for college soon. Maybe because Plum finally has something that she doesn’t have to share with her self-involved older sister. Or maybe because the girls are forced to examine who they really are instead of who their late father said they were. And who each girl discovers—beneath the years of missing their dad—could either bring them closer together…or drive them further apart.

My thoughts:

I expected a retelling of Sense and Sensibility and I was a little disappointed – the connection to Austen’s novel is very slim as there is too much that has been changed. Yes, the story describes the relationship between two sisters who are trying to find themselves in the world but that is about it.

The novel, however, does stand out in its own right. My favourite character was Plum. I enjoyed her snarkiness as well as her independence. She is a girl who realises what the problems are and seeks out to solve them – even though sometimes her attempts fail. She is definitely a girl after my own heart. Unlike her sister Ginny who can be annoying (which was, I am sure, the author’s intention).

There were moments in the novel that I could not help but smile – definitely enjoyable moments. Plum grows in inner strength – a facet which I always appreciate in young adult novels. Ordinary Girls is a book that will be enjoyed by young readers; it is a story that will show them that your own inner strength can help you get by. And that even though, at times, your sibling annoys you, you will do anything for them. This novel is an easy read that focuses on the relationships between siblings and how they support one another.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 52nd in my book pledge for 2019)

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Book Review: Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds

I received a copy of Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds at the Spring Frenzy Presents event held by Harper Collins Canada. I loved the cover when I received it and was told that the story would be a good one.

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary, Young Adult Romance

Blurb:

Jack Ellison King. King of Almost.

He almost made valedictorian.

He almost made varsity.

He almost got the girl . . . 

When Jack and Kate meet at a party, bonding until sunrise over their mutual love of Froot Loops and their favorite flicks, Jack knows he’s falling—hard. Soon she’s meeting his best friends, Jillian and Franny, and Kate wins them over as easily as she did Jack. Jack’s curse of almost is finally over.

But this love story is . . . complicated. It is an almost happily ever after. Because Kate dies. And their story should end there. Yet Kate’s death sends Jack back to the beginning, the moment they first meet, and Kate’s there again. Beautiful, radiant Kate. Healthy, happy, and charming as ever. Jack isn’t sure if he’s losing his mind. Still, if he has a chance to prevent Kate’s death, he’ll take it. Even if that means believing in time travel. However, Jack will learn that his actions are not without consequences. And when one choice turns deadly for someone else close to him, he has to figure out what he’s willing to do—and let go—to save the people he loves.

My thoughts:

I was enjoying the novel until I was asked to suspend my disbelief and to go back in the past with the protagonist and re-experience an event – more than once. Reliving the same episode was difficult for me especially when I realised that the character had actually gone back in the past with his knowledge of the future. Re-experiencing the past was not a reflection on what he could have done differently; instead it was actually reliving the events and changing the story of the characters.

The repetition of the same event with minor changes did become a bit tedious to read and I found myself skimming paragraphs (not a good sign). I was a little disappointed, too, that the story ended on a happy note. I am of the realistic bent and, even though I enjoy happy endings in stories, some tales do not merit it. And this one, I feel, should not have had it as the girl does have an illness that affects her longevity.

Having said all of the above, I did enjoy Jack, the main character. He reads like a typical teenager who is experiencing his first relationship. He falls head over heels with a girl an reacts in the way a young boy would. I believed the description of his experience easily and had no doubt of his charm. It was interesting to see how he developed as a character in the story, and how he came to certain realisations of his friendship with the girl he loved as well as his close friends and parents. The characterisation of Jack was, for me, the saving grace of this novel.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️ 2 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 25th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: Heroine by Mindy McGinnis

The blurb of Heroine by Mindy McGinnis is definitely what encouraged me to request this ARC from Harper Collins Canada, and I was so pleased when the novel was sent on to me. I was curious to see how much in depth McGinnis would describe opioid addition.

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary

Blurb: 

A captivating and powerful exploration of the opioid crisis—the deadliest drug epidemic in American history—through the eyes of a college-bound softball star. Edgar Award-winning author Mindy McGinnis delivers a visceral and necessary novel about addiction, family, friendship, and hope.

When a car crash sidelines Mickey just before softball season, she has to find a way to hold on to her spot as the catcher for a team expected to make a historic tournament run. Behind the plate is the only place she’s ever felt comfortable, and the painkillers she’s been prescribed can help her get there.

The pills do more than take away pain; they make her feel good.

With a new circle of friends—fellow injured athletes, others with just time to kill—Mickey finds peaceful acceptance, and people with whom words come easily, even if it is just the pills loosening her tongue.

But as the pressure to be Mickey Catalan heightens, her need increases, and it becomes less about pain and more about want, something that could send her spiraling out of control.

My thoughts: 

Getting addicted to opioids is a scary thing – and it is so easy when the drug is prescribed as a painkiller by your family doctor. McGinnis describes the ease with which Mickey, a successful athlete, goes down the slippery slope of drug addiction. The author describes the experience and the decisions made with honesty and forthrightness. As I was reading the novel, I could only shake my head in sadness of the path our heroine takes from using oxycontin to heroin. This novel is definitely not filled with fluff. Instead it is brutal and realistic.

Heroine was a book that I could not put down. While reading, Mickey Catalan became someone that I cared about. There were times in the novel when I hoped for a good outcome for her – and yet wasn’t sure she would get it. She is loved – by family and friends – and yet she moves freely and with conscious thought towards addition. The novel shows how easy it is for her to do so – and how she advocates for herself to go down the path she has chosen.

This novel is described as a Young Adult novel and discusses an issue that some teens are faced with. The content, however, is too mature for the younger teen – or one that would not have the ability to process such a harsh reality. However, it is a reality that needs to come out into the open; it is a reality that young people need to consider as drug addiction is so easy to fall into.

I enjoyed this well-written novel and recommend that should be read by both young and older readers as it deals with a topic that affects so many lives.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 17th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

I was still in the mood for a little romance so I picked up What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera. I had seen so many positive comments about this novel over social media that I hoped I would not be disappointed.

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Blurb: 

Arthur is only in New York for the summer, but if Broadway has taught him anything, it’s that the universe can deliver a showstopping romance when you least expect it.

Ben thinks the universe needs to mind its business. If the universe had his back, he wouldn’t be on his way to the post office carrying a box of his ex-boyfriend’s things.

But when Arthur and Ben meet-cute at the post office, what exactly does the universe have in store for them?

Maybe nothing. After all, they get separated.

Maybe everything. After all, they get reunited.

But what if they can’t quite nail a first date . . . or a second first date . . . or a third?

What if Arthur tries too hard to make it work . . . and Ben doesn’t try hard enough?

What if life really isn’t like a Broadway play? But what if it is?

My thoughts: 

Arthur and Ben: the encounter of two young boys who are meant to meet. The story is told from two points of view: Ben’s and Arthur’s. Ben is the New Yorker who has just come out of a broken relationship. Arthur is in New York for the summer. He is starry-eyed and never been in love. It is his determination and enthusiasm that changes a chance meeting in a post office to the chance to get to know another. I love the naivete of Arthur and how his enthusiasm makes Ben a believer in the possibilities.

This novel definitely made me smile. Who can’t but love the description of first love? And what makes this story relevant for teens today is that it is a love story between two boys who are finding their place in the world and who are learning to be comfortable with who they are. The novel fills in a gap that has existed in the reading world and shows boys that it is okay to fall in love with someone of the same sex – that it is not something to be ashamed of.

Without giving much away, I will say that I liked the ending. It is not a traditional ending for a romance; but it is an ending that is perfect for a teen novel. I started this book wondering if the social media hype was accurate; and ended it with the conclusion that What If It’s Us was well worth the read.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 8th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: Geekerella by Ashley Poston

A Cinderella retell, geekiness, and fan fiction. I could not resist reading Geekerella by Ashley Poston.

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Retelling

Blurb:

Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic science-fiction series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a new Starfield movie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. With savings from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck and her dad’s old costume, Elle’s determined to win – unless her stepsisters get there first.

Teen actor Darien Freeman used to live for cons – before he was famous. Now they’re nothing but autographs and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Carmindor is all he has ever wanted, but Starfield fandom has written him off as just another dumb heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, Darien feels more and more like a fake – until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise. But when she disappears at midnight, will he ever be able to find her again?

Part-romance, part-love letter to nerd culture, and all totally adorbs, Geekerella is a fairy tale for anyone who believes in the magic of fandom.

My thoughts: 

This was a sweet romance between two young people that reminded me of my young daughter – who  definitely has her fandoms. Not only does she have her fandoms, but as a young girl she loved the Cinderella story. I enjoyed the modern retelling of her favourite Disney princess – and loved how the aspect of fandom was woven within it. When reading the blurb, I was intrigued by the suggestion of the combination. Did the writer do a good job? Yes, I believe she did. The utter seriousness of those following fandoms is integrated with the notion of an uncaring stepmother who takes advantage of her stepchild.

Geekerella is a simple story that kept me smiling. It is a modern tale that embraces the magic of fandom, and which encouraged me to keep turning thepages. It is the perfect read for those like my daughter – a teen who will understand the seriousness of fandoms, and who wishes for a little romance. I enjoyed this lighthearted read and look forward to reading Postons upcoming book The Princess and the Fangirl. 

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 7th in my book pledge for 2019)

Frenzy Presents Ben Philippe

Yesterday evening I attended an event to celebrate the release of Ben Philippe’s debut novel The Field Guide to the North American Teenager (you can read my review here). The event, held by Harper Collins Canada for book bloggers, took place at a pie and coffee shop in the Kensington area of Toronto. As my daughter and I walked along the street, we recognised that we had strolled along the same road during the past summer and that we had actually walked past this store front but not gone in. We walked in, curious about this venue that had been chosen by the organisers of the event.

The vibe at the venue was thrumming once everyone had arrived and we were all keen to hear Ben Philippe speak. Most of us had already read his novel and wished to learn a little more about the writer. Unfortunately he did not speak long to the large group as the venue was noisy and he could not be heard clearly. However when he personalised the copies of our books, we had the opportunity to speak to him a bit. I loved that he is enthusiastic about his story, and that he was curious how people responded to the ending. I agree with the way he ended the story, though not everyone in attendance did.

My daughter and I had a lovely evening at the event. We met new people, had the chance to meet a wonderful debut author, and had some key lime pie (which is often mentioned in the novel 🙂 )

Do you wish to read The Field Guide to the North American Teenager?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This post was inspired by Trent’s Weekly Smile, a challenge which focuses on sharing all things positive.)