New Middle Grade Book: Tournament Trouble (Cross Ups Book 1) #BookReview #SpoilerFree #CrossUps #Netgalley

I received an advanced copy in exchange for my honest, unbiased opinion. Thank you to the publisher, author, and NetGalley, for allowing me to review.

Tournament Trouble

 

Title: Tournament Trouble

Author: Sylv Chiang

Genre: Children’s Fiction, Teen,

Publisher: Annick Press

Date published: March 13, 2018

Page Count: 200

 

 

synopsis

“An exciting new middle reader series from a debut author. All twelve-year-old Jaden wants to do is be the best at Cross Ups, the video game he and his friends can’t stop playing. He knows he could be—if only he didn’t have to hide his gaming from his mom, who’s convinced it will make him violent. After an epic match leads to an invitation to play in a top tournament, Jaden and his friends Devesh and Hugh hatch a plan to get him there. But Jaden’s strict parents and annoying siblings, not to mention a couple of bullies and his confusing feelings for his next-door neighbor Cali, keep getting in the way! Tournament Trouble marks the first book in a planned series by Sylv Chiang, a captivating new voice in middle reader fiction. With sharp dialogue and relatable characters, it chronicles the ups and downs of middle school with a relevant, contemporary twist. Accompanied by Connie Choi’s lively illustrations, Tournament Trouble invites readers into Jaden’s world, and will leave them eagerly awaiting his next adventure. Look for Book 2, coming in Fall 2018”.

My Review

According to the publisher, Tournament Trouble is the first book of a series expected to have 3-4 books total. The next book, Anyone’s Game, is expected to be published in Fall 2018.

Jaden is a likeable character who learns a practical lesson while gaining self-confidence. The characters have different races and backgrounds, Jaden, his family, and next door neighbor are Chinese, and Jaden’s friend Dev is Indian. This will enable children to see themselves represented in the narrative.

 

 

A fun, quick read for the whole family. Perfect for young hesitant readers who like video games.

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Every Note Played #newbook #bookreview

Author of Still Alice has a new book out this month called Every Note Played. I received an advanced copy in exchange for my honest, unbiased opinion. This review is spoiler-free 🙂 Thank you to the publisher, author, and NetGalley, for allowing me to review.

Every Note Played

 

Title: Every Note Played

Author: Lisa Genova

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Publisher: Scout Press

Date published: March 20, 2018

Page Count: 320

 

 

synopsis

“From neuroscientist and New York Times bestselling author of Still Alice comes a powerful exploration of regret, forgiveness, freedom, and what it means to be alive.

An accomplished concert pianist, Richard received standing ovations from audiences all over the world in awe of his rare combination of emotional resonance and flawless technique. Every finger of his hands was a finely calibrated instrument, dancing across the keys and striking each note with exacting precision. That was eight months ago.

Richard now has ALS, and his entire right arm is paralyzed. His fingers are impotent, still, devoid of possibility. The loss of his hand feels like a death, a loss of true love, a divorce—his divorce.

He knows his left arm will go next.

Three years ago, Karina removed their framed wedding picture from the living room wall and hung a mirror there instead. But she still hasn’t moved on. Karina is paralyzed by excuses and fear, stuck in an unfulfilling life as a piano teacher, afraid to pursue the path she abandoned as a young woman, blaming Richard and their failed marriage for all of it.

When Richard becomes increasingly paralyzed and is no longer able to live on his own, Karina becomes his reluctant caretaker. As Richard’s muscles, voice, and breath fade, both he and Karina try to reconcile their past before it’s too late.

Poignant and powerful, Every Note Played is a masterful exploration of redemption and what it means to find peace inside of forgiveness.”

My Review

After thoroughly enjoying Still Alice (about early onset Alzheimer’s disease) and Left Neglected (about traumatic brain injury), I was extremely excited to receive a complimentary copy of Lisa Genova’s new novel Every Note Played. This is a heart-breaking drama about Richard’s struggle with ALS, told from both his perspective and that of his ex-wife Karina. When we meet Richard he is at the top of his game, preparing for yet another big concert where he gets to flaunt his fantastic piano playing. He’s a narcissistic, sexist jerk, and I thought there was no way I could ever care about him. Flash forward to me, crying many tears many times while reading this touching story.

Richard and Karina have a daughter, Grace, who is attending University. After the divorce Grace distanced herself from her father because while growing up it seemed like he was never home. Richard is lucky enough to have an amazing care worker named Bill, a strong, professional, compassionate, homosexual man who made me chuckle and weep.

I didn’t know a lot about ALS going into this, and feel grateful to read a novel that gives a description in a clear way that the average reader could understand. Although this is a somber story about disappointment, resentment, and betrayal, it’s also about love, forgiveness, and hope. I am left in awe of the ALS warriors and the champion care-givers.

About the author.jpg

Lisa graduated valedictorian from Bates College with a degree in Biopsychology and has a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Harvard University. She has captured a special place in contemporary fiction, writing stories that are equally inspired by neuroscience and the human spirit. Her books focus on people living with neurological diseases and disorders who tend to be ignored, feared, or misunderstood, portrayed within a narrative that is accessible to the general public. Through fiction, she is dedicated to describing with passion and accuracy the journeys of those affected by neurological diseases, thereby educating, demystifying, and inspiring support for care and scientific research. She has written about Alzheimer’s disease, traumatic brain injury, autism, Huntington’s disease, and ALS.

STILL ALICE was adapted into a film starring Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin, Kristen Stewart, Kate Bosworth, and Hunter Parrish. Julianne Moore won the 2015 Best Actress Oscar for her role as Alice Howland.

In 2015, Lisa was named one of the U.S. Top 50 Influencers in Aging. She received The Pell Center Prize for Story in the Public Square,The Sargent and Eunice Shriver Profiles in Dignity Award, The Global Genes RARE Champions of Hope Award, and The American College of Neuropsychopharmacology Media Award for Informing the Public about Treatment and Ongoing Research in Medical Illness.

In 2016, she received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Bates College, The Alzheimer’s Association’s Rita Hayworth Award, and The Huntington’s Disease Society of America Community Awareness Award.

Her 2017 TED talk, “What You Can Do To Prevent Alzheimer’s,” was seen by over 2.5 million viewers in its first few months and was one of the most popular TED talks of 2017.

Her fifth novel, EVERY NOTE PLAYED, is about ALS and will be published in early 2018.”

www.lisagenova.com

www.Facebook.com/authorlisagenova

www.Instagram.com/authorlisagenova

One of the best books I’ve read this year – The Astonishing Color of After #BookReview

I feel incredibly grateful to have received an advanced copy of The Astonishing Color of After in exchange for my honest, unbiased opinion. Thank you to the publisher, author, and NetGalley, for allowing me to review. This is one of my most favorite books ever. I can’t wait to buy my own copy!

the astonishing color of after

 

Title: The Astonishing Color of After

Author: Emily X.R. Pan

Genre: Teen/YA Contemporary Romance

Publisher: Little Brown Books

Date published: Expected March 20, 2018

Page Count: 480

 

 

synopsis

“Leigh Chen Sanders is absolutely certain about one thing: When her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird.
Leigh, who is half Asian and half white, travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. There, she is determined to find her mother, the bird. In her search, she winds up chasing after ghosts, uncovering family secrets, and forging a new relationship with her grandparents. And as she grieves, she must try to reconcile the fact that on the same day she kissed her best friend and longtime secret crush, Axel, her mother was taking her own life.
Alternating between real and magic, past and present, friendship and romance, hope and despair, The Astonishing Color of After is a stunning and heartbreaking novel about finding oneself through family history, art, grief, and love.”

My Review

The Astonishing Color of After is a freeing, haunting, quirky, contemporary romance novel about depression, suicide, grief, family secrets, forgiveness, and love. This story takes place in America and Taiwan. Told with luxuriant writing, I wish I could share some of my favorite passages, however because this is an advance copy I’m not allowed. The writing quality is exquisite.

Leigh, the main character, is a girl who thinks of every life event as a color, yet only sketches in black and white. Leigh’s best friend is a guy named Axel, who creates pictures using colors and shapes to match the song in his head, then he makes the music to match the image. He calls it opera electronica. And yes, he is as cool as he sounds. Though Leigh has a secret crush on Axel, this is not an insta-love situation. Her other close friend, Caro, is a lesbian with a super quirky, loving family. Caro’s grandparents are absolutely adorable, and definitely a couple of my favorite characters.

When Leigh travels to Taiwan we get to meet her grandparents. As Leigh travels around Taiwan, visiting her mother’s favorite places, we get to learn a lot about the food and places. Feng is a close family friend who accompanies Leigh during her travels, teaching her more about the traditions and language. In her room at her grandparents place, Leigh finds some very dark sticks of incense. Burning each incense stick transports Leigh to a world of “Smoke & Memories” where she gets to relive moments of the past from her loved ones perspective. Flashbacks can sometimes be annoying, however these “Smoke & Memories” chapters are absolutely fantastic. Leigh’s mother always wore a cicada necklace, and I was curious about what the symbolism was for this. I learned that the cicada is a symbol of immortality or rebirth, which fits perfectly.

I appreciate how much time and careful consideration it must have taken to create a narrative centered on suicide in such an authentic and gracious manner. I smiled, I laughed, I cried tears of sadness and joy. I even got goosebumps many times reading the last 15% of this magical tale. I can’t recommend this one enough – 5 STARS!

 

About the author.jpg

Emily X.R. Pan lives in Brooklyn, New York, but was born in the Midwestern United States to immigrant parents from Taiwan. She received her MFA from NYU, where she was a Goldwater Fellow. She is a co-creator of FORESHADOW: A Serial YA Anthology, and a 2017 Artist-in-Residence at Djerassi. She logs the books she reads in an Excel spreadsheet and a secret other Goodreads account.Goodreads

Emily Pan’s Website

Pre-Order “The Astonishing Color of After”

Stray City #bookreview #MarchBookRelease #LGBTQ

All of my reviews are always SPOILER FREE 🙂

I received an advanced copy in exchange for my honest, unbiased opinion. Thank you to the publisher, author, and Edelweiss, for allowing me to review.

Stray City

 

Title: Stray City

Author: Chelsey Johnson

Genre: Adult Literary Fiction, LGBTQ

Publisher: Custom House

Date published: March 20, 2018

Page Count: 432

 

 

synopsis

“A warm, funny, and whip-smart debut novel about rebellious youth, inconceivable motherhood, and the complications of belonging—to a city, a culture, and a family—when none of them can quite contain who you really are.

All of us were refugees of the nuclear family . . .

Twenty-four-year-old artist Andrea Morales escaped her Midwestern Catholic childhood—and the closet—to create a home and life for herself within the thriving but insular lesbian underground of Portland, Oregon. But one drunken night, reeling from a bad breakup and a friend’s betrayal, she recklessly crosses enemy lines and hooks up with a man. To her utter shock, Andrea soon discovers she’s pregnant—and despite the concerns of her astonished circle of gay friends, she decides to have the baby.

A decade later, when her precocious daughter Lucia starts asking questions about the father she’s never known, Andrea is forced to reconcile the past she hoped to leave behind with the life she’s worked so hard to build.

A thoroughly modern and original anti-romantic comedy, Stray City is an unabashedly entertaining literary debut about the families we’re born into and the families we choose, about finding yourself by breaking the rules, and making bad decisions for all the right reasons.”

 

My Review

 

Stray City is a nostalgic read, especially for those born in the 80s, teens who listened to music on walk-mans, made mixed tapes, and had Myspace profiles. There are parts of this story that are heart-wrenching, but also humour, and a big dollop of quirky-ness.

Gender, sexism, sexuality, family, acceptance, and identity are some big themes talked about, but not in a preachy way. I think we all struggle with identity, and many of us change how we act in front of different groups of people. Even if you’re not gay, I think you’ll find you can relate to the main character’s feelings.

The main character is Andrea, raised in Nebraska by an extremely religious mother, forced to hide the fact that she is a lesbian. Nebraska was a great choice for her birth place because it gave the opportunity to share Brandon Teena’s story, a trans murdered in Nebraska. Having the reader reminded of that heart-breaking story brings a heavier, darker, authentic feeling to Andrea’s stress of living in Nebraska and helps to explain why Portland was such a haven for her.

I admire how independent Andrea is. As a young person, on her own, with no family financial support, she is working three jobs, successfully paying her rent and doing okay. She has created a new family in Portland, a family that accepts her for who she is. During a night out with her friends she sees two of her ex-girlfriends flirting with each other. Devastated, she meets Ryan at the bar, and after a drunken kiss she finds herself in a secret relationship with him. Forced to hide her true self from her friends, like she did while living in Nebraska. Just when her life couldn’t feel more complicated, she gets pregnant.

 

“Smart and delightful . . . A chief pleasure of the novel is its shagginess, reflected in Andrea’s ‘mostly hopeful,’ unambitious, but inquisitive life. Johnson taps into a nostalgia for a reader’s youth and a simpler time, and the story keeps its vitality and humor throughout.” -Publishers Weekly

“Stray City has it all; as funny as it is moving, as joyful, as radically communal, as it is lonesome, the story covers the varied complications of place, home, sex, city—but mostly it’s about the necessary and unexpected revolutions of the self, and about how queerly we make our way through this world. Honestly, one of the most absorbing, finely-tuned books I’ve had the pleasure of falling down into. Chelsey Johnson is a wonder.” -Justin Torres, bestselling author of We the Animals

 

The plot is a little predictable and I really didn’t like Ryan leaving, it felt completely out of character to me. I would have loved to know more about his family and upbringing, perhaps that would have made his choices a bit more believable. That’s about the only fault I can find. Absolutely loved this book! I devoured Stray City in two days and cannot wait to read more of Chelsey Johnson’s writing.

About the author.jpg

“Chelsey Johnson received an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a Stegner Fellowship from Stanford University. Her stories and essays have appeared in Ploughshares, One Story, Ninth Letter, The Rumpus, and on NPR’s Selected Shorts, among other outlets. She has received fellowships to the MacDowell Colony, the Virginia Center for Creative Arts, and Signal Fire Arts. She currently lives in Richmond, Virginia, and is an assistant professor at the College of William & Mary. This is her first novel.”

Currently Reading: Stray City #LGBT #AdultFiction #Contemporary

Stray City.jpg

Stray City is expected to be published March 20, 2018, I was sent a complimentary copy in advance in exchange for my unbiased review.

Title: Stray City

Author: Chelsey Johnson

Expected Publication: March 20, 2018

Publisher: Custom House

432 pages

Adult Fiction, Literary, LGBT, Contemporary

 

“One of the most anticipated debuts in years, Stray City strikes a perfect balance of hipster charm, sparkling literary acumen, and the sort of timely themes that make for the most popular book club selections.” Edelweiss+

A warm, funny, and whip-smart debut novel about rebellious youth, inconceivable motherhood, and the complications of belonging—to a city, a culture, and a family—when none of them can quite contain who you really are.

All of us were refugees of the nuclear family . . .

Twenty-four-year-old artist Andrea Morales escaped her Midwestern Catholic childhood—and the closet—to create a home and life for herself within the thriving but insular lesbian underground of Portland, Oregon. But one drunken night, reeling from a bad breakup and a friend’s betrayal, she recklessly crosses enemy lines and hooks up with a man. To her utter shock, Andrea soon discovers she’s pregnant—and despite the concerns of her astonished circle of gay friends, she decides to have the baby.

A decade later, when her precocious daughter Lucia starts asking questions about the father she’s never known, Andrea is forced to reconcile the past she hoped to leave behind with the life she’s worked so hard to build.

A thoroughly modern and original anti-romantic comedy, Stray City is an unabashedly entertaining literary debut about the families we’re born into and the families we choose, about finding yourself by breaking the rules, and making bad decisions for all the right reasons.” Goodreads

  • Stray City will appeal to readers of LGBTQ-themed titles such as Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, Emily M. Danforth’s The Miseducation of Cameron Post, Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts, and Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City, as well as fans of general coming-of-age stories such as the ‘90s cult classic Reality Bites, or Nick Hornby’s classics High Fidelity and About a Boy.” (Edelweiss+)

 

Book Review: Children of Daedala by Caighlan Smith

All of my reviews are always SPOILER FREE 🙂

I received an advanced copy in exchange for my honest, unbiased opinion. Thank you to the publisher, author, and NetGalley, for allowing me to review.

Children of Daedala

 

Title: Children of Daedala (Children of Icarus #2)

Author: Caighlan Smith

Genre: YA, Sci-Fi, Dystopian

Publisher: Capstone http://www.capstonepub.com/library/

Date published: Expected Publication April 2018

Page Count: 336

 

 

synopsis

Sequel to Children of Icarus.

Six months alone in the labyrinth has made her strong. But the search for the exit means gambling on an old ‘friend’ and going against everything she’s been taught to survive. You know the labyrinth will have yet more horrors lurking in its depths. You’ve learned few people can be trusted. But freedom is tantalizingly close. Are you ready to take the risk?” (Goodreads) https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36049722-children-of-daedala

My Review

I haven’t read the first book in this series. I searched for the e-book high and low, but couldn’t find it. I didn’t want to shell out $20 for the first book at Chapters without knowing if I would like it. My local library did not have a copy, there was no ebook available on Amazon.ca or KOBO. If the publisher or author somehow see this review – please consider making the first book more readily available. I ALMOST didn’t read Children of Daedala because I didn’t read Children of Icarus. Now that I have read the book, and know that I LOVED it, I will go purchase the first book.

When I reached the final page of the Children of Daedala e-book, I discovered the author was born and raised in the same province as me, and is attending the same University that I did! I had no idea Caighlan Smith was from Newfoundland, but now that I do, I will most certainly purchase and read everything she writes. Be assured, my opinion of this book was formed well before I knew the author was a fellow Newfoundlander. As I was reading, I kept raving to my husband about how much I was enjoying the story, characters, and monsters.

Children of Daedala, inspired by Greek mythology (Icarus and Daedalus), takes place in a labyrinth filled with deadly creatures. The story begins six months after our female main character was kicked out of Fates and entered the soul-crushing maze. She has not given us her birth name, but we know she has been called Clara, and Fey Bell, by other Icaari. Fey’s mentor, the Executioner, has died, and she’s been surviving on her own. Within this giant labyrinth there are other groups of Icaari: Kleos, a group of male Icaari led by Gammon; and Harmonia, a group of female Icaari, led by Polina.

While hunting, she comes across a group of Icaari from Fates. Members of this group have treated her badly in the past. She tackles Ryan and holds him hostage. She wants to trade him for another Fates member named Addie. They make an agreement to meet for the exchange. Fey arrives hours early, without Ryan, to spy on them when they arrive. Collin comes with a few others, but no Addie. She overhears them say they were never going to do the trade, and Collin made the deal so he could try to capture Fey.

Fey returns to her secret underground base where she left Ryan bound and drugged. As she opens the door he knocks her down. After a struggle, Fey manages to get his arms and legs bound. She confesses that she wanted Addie to decipher a journal she found. Ryan says he knows some Ancient Daedalic and thinks he can decipher it. They make a pact to help each other escape the labyrinth. The war between Harmonia, Kleos, and Fates complicates Ryan and Fey’s plan to decipher the map and escape the labyrinth.

Can we talk about the cover? WOW! Isn’t it fantastic? I absolutely love it. The story is told from Fey Bell’s first person perspective, which effectively leaves the reader out of the loop. Fey Bell is a badass female protagonist who has become hard, calculating, cunning, and extremely skilled thanks to her training from the Executioner and Fey’s time alone in the labyrinth. There are a lot of characters introduced early on in the story from both the Kleos and Harmonia groups. Ryan is one of my favorite characters, but my absolutely most favorite is the Mud Maid. The short chapters and suspenseful writing worked together to create a thrilling page-turning story. I will warn you – you may end up staying well past your bedtime wanting to read “just one more”. The ending is a cliffhanger that will leave you on the edge of your seat.

There are only a couple of small things that hindered me from giving Children of Daedala 5 Stars. I don’t like Elle at all. I found her terribly annoying, and I couldn’t care less if she was kidnapped or killed. Which is problematic because I think I was supposed to care about her. I would have loved a map at the beginning of the book to help visualize the labyrinth. Some of the dialogue was a little clunky and didn’t feel authentic.

Children of Daedala is a dark tale filled with conflict that reminds me of Lord of the FliesThe Maze Runner, and The Hunger Games, all rolled into one.

Children of Icarus (Book One) Amazon.ca

Children of Daedala (Book Two) Amazon.ca

About the author.jpg

As a child, Caighlan Smith loved to build and navigate pillow mazes. An adoration of Greek mythology soon followed. Canadian born and raised, Smith studied English Literature and Classics at Memorial University of Newfoundland. Her first novel was published when she was nineteen.

https://www.caighlansmith.com/