12 Books Set Outside USA | Top Ten Tuesday

July 19, 2016 / 10 Comments / Book List, Book Memes, Top Ten Tuesday

mostly ya lit top 12 books set outside usaI actually read a lot of fiction not set in the US, which should be obvious since I’m Canadian. But this list is (unsurprisingly?) Europe heavy!

1)  anne of green gables book cover 2)  Code Name Verity book cover by Elizabeth Wein  3) Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund book cover  4) illuminae book cover
Winter book cover by Marissa Meyer 5) Just One Day book cover by Gayle Forman 6) The Royal We Book cover by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan 7)  Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins 8)
9) Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro book cover 10) Dreambirds by Rob Nixon book cover 11) Sophomore Switch by Abby McDonald book cover 12) Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by JK Rowling book cover

Mostly YA Lit’s Top 12 Books Set Outside USA

1. Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery | PEI, Canada – who doesn’t love this series?
2. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein | Great Britain – Tears. All the tears. If you haven’t read it, you must.
3. Across A Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund | Post-apocalyptic New Zealand – if you’re a fan of Veronica Mars and sci-fi, you MUST read this.
4. Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff | Space – one of the best thriller sci-fis I read last year. And bonus, Aussie YA!
5. The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer | Futuristic China, France, Africa, space… – amazing series, again, really fun sci-fi.
6. Just One Day by Gayle Forman | Europe – slight cheat as part of this is set in the States, but when I think travel, I think of this book.
7. The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan | Europe – Wills & Kate fanfic – but REALLY good.
8. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins | Paris, France – even just thinking about the romance of Paris and this book gives me feels. And yeah, add Isla to this list, too!
9. Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro | Southern Ontario, Canada – I couldn’t do this post without mentioning this, my favorite Munro book. This is for anyone who had an awkward childhood and just wants to read great literary fiction.
10. Dreambirds by Rob Nixon | South Africa (and all over) – I’ve mentioned this gorgeous book before – it’s one of my favorite non-fiction books about the history of ostriches.
11. Sophomore Switch by Abby McDonald | Oxford, UK – another slight cheat as half of it is set in California. But it’s the Oxford part that really gets me. Also, this book has some serious feminist reading for those of you interested in that.
12. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling | UK – No explanation needed.

What books have you read that aren’t set in the US?  Leave a comment and I’ll try to stop by!
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toptentuesday3
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted at The Broke and the Bookish to highlight a top ten list related to book blogging, and to get to know fellow book bloggers.


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Mini-Reviews: June and July 2016 Releases!

July 18, 2016 / 3 Comments / Mini-Reviews, Review

mini-reviews mostly ya lit banner

Hi guys, apologies for the lack of posts recently…I’ve been sick, so I’ve been reading, but maybe not as much as I hoped. Anyway, I hope your summer has been great so far! I’ve been reading some pretty solid books recently, from middle grade to YA to women’s fiction, so check out these reviews and let me know if anything sparks your interest!

Middle Grade

Mini-Reviews: June and July 2016 Releases!The Distance to Home

Goodreads
Author: Jenn Bishop
Publication date: June 28th 2016
My rating:
Buy It: Indigo.ca | Amazon.ca | Amazon.com | B&N | IndieBound | The Book Depository | iTunes | Google Books

For fans of Lynda Mullaly Hunt and Rita Williams-Garcia, Jenn Bishop’s heartwarming debut is a celebration of sisterhood and summertime, and of finding the courage to get back in the game.   Last summer, Quinnen was the star pitcher of her baseball team, the Panthers. They were headed for the championship, and her loudest supporter at every game was her best friend and older sister, Haley.   This summer, everything is different. Haley’s death, at the end of last summer, has left Quinnen and her parents reeling. Without Haley in the stands, Quinnen doesn’t want to play baseball. It seems like nothing can fill the Haley-sized hole in her world. The one glimmer of happiness comes from the Bandits, the local minor-league baseball team. For the first time, Quinnen and her family are hosting one of the players for the season. Without Haley, Quinnen’s not sure it will be any fun, but soon she befriends a few players. With their help, can she make peace with the past and return to the pitcher’s mound?
"Recommend this poignant novel to fans of Keeping Score by Linda Sue Park and The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin."--School Library Journal 
"A piercing first novel...Bishop insightfully examines the tested relationships among grieving family members and friends in a story of resilience, forgiveness, and hope."--Publishers Weekly
"With appeal to both sports- and drama-minded girls, this will make a good book club selection and pass-it-among-your-friends read."--The Bulletin
"The life-and-death themes are thought-provoking, but readers may love the book even more for its many digressions."--Kirkus 
From the Hardcover edition.

Wonderful. Quinnen’s story is a classic one of loss, loved ones, and moving on, but it’s done in such a smooth, effortless way that it never feels cliche. I loved the uniqueness of the homestays and the friendships that Quinnen makes with the minor league baseball players. I also loved how true all of the characters were to their roles in this story – from Casey, Quinnen’s best friend, to her parents to Haley. Normally, I’m opposed to books where the main character knows more than the reader and the “suspense” of the book is finding out what she knows, but the “this summer vs. last summer” thing really worked for this story. Overall, I’d consider this really, really good middle-grade fiction, the kind that has a pitch-perfect (haha!) voice that never feels too young or too old. A great addition to any 4th-6th grade bookshelf, and a clean, enjoyable read for parents/teachers/librarians looking for a good summer book for kids.

Mini-Reviews: June and July 2016 Releases!Towers Falling

Goodreads
Author: Jewell Parker Rhodes
Publication date: July 12th 2016
Format: eARC
My rating:
Buy It: Indigo.ca | Amazon.ca | Amazon.com | B&N | IndieBound | The Book Depository | Google Books | Audible

From award-winning author Jewell Parker Rhodes, a powerful novel set fifteen years after the 9/11 attacks.
When her fifth-grade teacher hints that a series of lessons about home and community will culminate with one big answer about two tall towers once visible outside their classroom window, Deja can't help but feel confused. She sets off on a journey of discovery, with new friends Ben and Sabeen by her side. But just as she gets closer to answering big questions about who she is, what America means,and how communities can grow (and heal), she uncovers new questions, too. Like, why does Pop get so angry when she brings up anything about the towers?
Award-winning author Jewell Parker Rhodes tells a powerful story about young people who weren't alive to witness this defining moment in history, but begin to realize how much it colors their every day.

This book is a teacher’s gem. With the 15th anniversary of 9/11 coming up, Jewell Parker Rhodes has created a book about friendship and diversity in the midst of understanding history – both recent and very very far in the past.

Prickly Deja is a fifth grader who has recently moved to a community home because of poverty. Her father can’t hold a job, and her mother, though she works hard, can’t make enough to keep the family in their own home. Deja is naturally a bit defensive so when she starts at a new school, she suspicious of new friends Ben (a new student as well) and Sabeen. However, it’s through school that they all learn about two towers that fell in New York before they were born and how history and family can shape them.

If I had read this book as a middle grader now, I think I would have loved it. As an adult, I am deeply impressed with what Jewell Parker Rhodes has done – created, through her narrative, a way to teach what happened on September 11, 2001 to young students who were born after the terrible tragedy of that day. It’s a way of seeing and making sense of tragedy, but also understanding heroism and community and diversity.

I liked the simplicity of the narrative, and the complexity of Deja, Ben and Sabeen – they always felt like real kids to me. I also appreciated how smart and thoughtful they were in learning about something so nebulous as family and community.

If I have a qualm, it’s that as a Canadian, I don’t necessarily share the belief in America as the greatest nation in the world. While the book never explicitly says that, it is staunchly patriotic – and in a way that occasionally made me feel a bit uncomfortable. That said, I think if this book were taught in American schools, it would be well received, and it would certainly provide even more fodder for a Canadian classroom discussion.

Overall, a book that portrays the aftermath of 9/11 in a way that will make you think, no matter what age you are.

Young Adult

Mini-Reviews: June and July 2016 Releases!American Girls

Goodreads
Author: Alison Umminger
Publication date: June 7th 2016
Source: ARC from Raincoast Books (thank you!)
My rating:
Buy It: Indigo.ca | Amazon.ca | Amazon.com | B&N | IndieBound | The Book Depository | iTunes | Google Books | Audible

She was looking for a place to land.
Anna is a fifteen-year-old girl slouching toward adulthood, and she's had it with her life at home. So Anna "borrows" her stepmom's credit card an runs away to Los Angeles, where her half-sister takes her in. But LA isn't quite the glamorous escape Anna had imagined.
As Anna spends her days on TV and movie sets, she engrosses herself in a project researching the murderous Manson girls—and although the violence in her own life isn't the kind that leaves physical scars, she begins to notice the parallels between herself and the lost girls of LA, and of America, past and present.
In Anna's singular voice, we glimpse not only a picture of life on the B-list in LA, but also a clear-eyed reflection on being young, vulnerable, lost, and female in America—in short, on the B-list of life. Alison Umminger writes about girls, sex, violence, and which people society deems worthy of caring about, which ones it doesn't, in a way not often seen in YA fiction.

A strange and wonderfully written book that doesn’t really feel like a YA, but more like an adult book with YA characters (if that exists). American Girls is heavy on theme, low on plot, and uniquely fascinating, tying together the Manson girls, a coming of age story, the seediness and glamour of LA, and a family story. I’m a little floored by this book, and if I hadn’t been in a huge reading slump while reading it, this may well have been a 4.5 to 5 star book. It’s that different and special. Despite my slump, though, Anna’s story of running away for a summer in LA with her actress sister and the strange characters she encounters is tightly told and full of anecdotes and ideas that would be good for anyone 15 or older. I’m not sure I Would recommend this to a younger or less mature teen since the ideas are definitely complex. I appreciated the emphasis on the family dynamics, the very slow-burn romance, and the weirdness of spending time on TV and movie sets and watching artistic processes. I also appreciated that Anna was both incredibly smart and incredibly flawed. A really unusual debut, but one that will stick with me.

Women’s Fiction

Mini-Reviews: June and July 2016 Releases!Nine Women, One Dress

Goodreads
Author: Jane L. Rosen
Publication date: July 12th 2016
My rating:
Buy It: Indigo.ca | Amazon.ca | Amazon.com | B&N | IndieBound | The Book Depository | iTunes | Google Books | Audible

A charming, hilarious, irresistible romp of a novel that brings together nine unrelated women, each touched by the same little black dress that weaves through their lives, bringing a little magic with it.
Natalie is a Bloomingdale's salesgirl mooning over her lawyer ex-boyfriend who's engaged to someone else after just two months. Felicia has been quietly in love with her boss for seventeen years and has one night to finally make the feeling mutual. Andie is a private detective who specializes in gathering evidence on cheating husbands—a skill she unfortunately learned from her own life—and lands a case that may restore her faith in true love. For these three women, as well as half a dozen others in sparkling supporting roles—a young model fresh from rural Alabama, a diva Hollywood star making her Broadway debut, an overachieving, unemployed Brown grad who starts faking a fabulous life on social media, to name just a few—everything is about to change, thanks to the dress of the season, the perfect little black number everyone wants to get their hands on . . .
From the Hardcover edition.

A sweet look at the lives of several New Yorkers and one very special dress, this is a rom-com for people who like their romance in small, layered bites. Definitely inspired by Nora Ephron, Nine Women, One Dress is unabashedly a tribute to New York as well as to love and fashion. The book alternates through multiple narratives, each a little epistle of a life that is shaped or changed by the dress of the season, and centered around the themes of love and making a woman feel confident, beautiful, and able to change her life for the better.

There isn’t too much to differentiate between the various voices, but the writing is crisp and clean. I especially enjoyed the stories around Natalie, the Bloomingdale’s salesgirl, and Jeremy, the movie star, as well as that of Arthur Winters and his assistant Felicia. While there isn’t anything particularly new that Nine Women, One Dress adds to contemporary women’s fiction, it’s the kind of fluff that’s perfect for a beach or even better – a city vacation. A book that makes you feel good all the way through.


Have you read any of these recent June or July 2016 releases? Which were your favourites? If not, which ones are now on your TBR? Let me know in the comments!


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Ten Facts About Me | Top Ten Tuesday

July 12, 2016 / 13 Comments / Book Memes, Personal, Top Ten Tuesday

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is a fun and personal one: top ten facts about me! I have an about page, but sometimes I forget to talk about myself enough in my blogs, so I’m excited for you to get to know me better (and vice versa!).

In writing this post, I thought I’d try to focus on things that I don’t talk about a lot on this blog – my interests, obsessions, and just…life outside my blog.

Here we go:

Rachel Berry from Glee singing into hairbrush
Totally me. =p

1. I’m a singer. This is probably the biggest part of my life I don’t talk about! I’m a classically trained singer, and I’ve been singing since I was about six. I mostly sing opera and oratorio, but I like to throw in the occasional pop or Broadway song, too. I used to have a band with my husband and a few of our friends where we classic indie rock covers, but it disbanded because of life. =p

cheese plate
Source: TheGBrief.com

2. I’m a huge foodie. This is the other thing I don’t talk about that much. Honestly, I’m probably a food snob. Last year we went to Cuba for a week for some R&R and one of the things that almost ruined our vacation was that the food just…wasn’t good. I’m obsessed with great, delicious, fresh food cooked in unique ways.


Cats in garden.

A photo posted by Evan Schiller (@evan_schiller) on

 


3. I love gardening. Actually, my husband is way more garden obsessed than I am. We have a vegetable and herb garden in our backyard and a large flower garden in the front.

Game of Thrones - Dany is the best!
Game of Thrones – Dany is the best!

4. I’m a sci-fi/fantasy geek when it comes to movies, TV and film, but I mostly read contemporary. I don’t know what it is about fantasy that doesn’t work on the page, but for some reason…it doesn’t.

image from Shopaholic, the movie
Totally me.

5. I’m a shopaholic. Really, you probably did know this. I used to be a fashion blogger, but now I’m just a person who really likes pretty everything and wants to have it all. 

princess fashion6. I’m really into royalty. I mean, you probably knew this based on my reading habits. I’m not OBSESSED, but I’m pretty into the fashion and just the idea of royalty.

writing7. I’ve been writing a YA book for years, but I’m garbage at getting it done. I don’t really have words for this. Story of my life!

Gif of Homer and Bart making snow angels in their messy house
I mean, we’re not THIS bad.

8. My husband and I are slobs. If there’s a messier couple in the world, please introduce me. It’s the part of adulting that I’m still really crap at.


 


9. I’m lactose intolerant, but two of my favorite foods are fantastic cheese and gourmet ice cream. You always want what you can’t have.

10. I’m scared of unusually large things. This is probably the weirdest thing about me – my dad showed me this giant tomato (like, the size of my thigh) when I was little and told me it was a mutant. Ever since, I’ve been weirdly freaked out by things that are really big but aren’t normally that way. Especially if they’re plants or animals. I would have put in an image but honestly, even seeing pictures freaks me out.

What are some weird facts about you? Leave a comment and I’ll try to stop by! I love learning new things about my friends.
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toptentuesday3
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted at The Broke and the Bookish to highlight a top ten list related to book blogging, and to get to know fellow book bloggers.


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Defending Taylor by Miranda Kenneally | Review

July 8, 2016 / 2 Comments / Review

Defending Taylor by Miranda Kenneally | ReviewDefending Taylor

Goodreads
Author: Miranda Kenneally
Find the author: Website, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, Instagram
Also by this author: Breathe, Annie, Breathe, Jesse's Girl
Publication date: July 5th 2016
My rating:
Buy It: Indigo.ca | Amazon.ca | Amazon.com | B&N | IndieBound | The Book Depository | iTunes | Google Books

There are no mistakes in love.
Captain of the soccer team, president of the Debate Club, contender for valedictorian: Taylor's always pushed herself to be perfect. After all, that's what is expected of a senator's daughter. But one impulsive decision-one lie to cover for her boyfriend-and Taylor's kicked out of private school. Everything she's worked so hard for is gone, and now she's starting over at Hundred Oaks High.
Soccer has always been Taylor's escape from the pressures of school and family, but it's hard to fit in and play on a team that used to be her rival. The only person who seems to understand all that she's going through is her older brother's best friend, Ezra. Taylor's had a crush on him for as long as she can remember. But it's hard to trust after having been betrayed. Will Taylor repeat her past mistakes or can she score a fresh start?
Praise for Jesse's Girl:"A a fun, sexy, suck-me-in read."-Katie McGarry, author of Nowhere But Here and Pushing the Limits"An absorbing story...highly enjoyable."-Kirkus"Inspires as it entertains."-Publishers Weekly

Review: Defending Taylor by Miranda Kenneally

Taylor Lukens had a perfect life. With great support from her fantastic family, including a senator father, and two older siblings who love her, she’s captain of the soccer and debate team at her private boarding school and on the road to Yale. But everything changes after one evening in the woods where she takes the fall for her boyfriend Ben, who has a backpack full of prescription pills.

Expelled from her private school, Taylor is forced to do senior year at Hundred Oaks High, where she’s given the brush-off by most people who think she’s rich, elitist and snobby. And the soccer team is brutal to her, too. The one bright spot in her life is Ezra, her brother’s best friend and her lifelong crush, who’s showing a lot of interest in her these days, and helping her see that maybe, just maybe, there might be more to life than getting into Yale.

In some ways, Taylor is a classic case of privilege gone wrong, but this is Miranda Kenneally, and she would never let it go with just that. There are no easy answers in this book. Defending Taylor does a fantastic job of balancing a very realistic teen attitude with a very complex situation. Taylor did something wrong, but she also really pays the consequences.

She’s a girl who’s driven to succeed, so much so that she’s used to sacrifice, used to not sleeping a lot, and yes, used to occasionally taking an Adderall to help her focus. And it’s this drive, determination and self-sacrifice that leads her to possibly destroy her own life and her father’s career.

While I wish that the consequences of drug use in this book had been explored a bit further (taking prescription drugs is nothing to sneeze at), I honestly don’t think that I’ve read a YA contemporary book where the consequences of making a bad decision are so harsh. It’s a great exploration of how one mistake can define you -and whether it should. Do we allow the media to impact our ideas of people too much? Do we shame people who have made mistakes in an otherwise blameless life? I appreciate that Miranda Kenneally doesn’t shy away from these questions, or from the bad parts of Taylor’s life.

But it’s not all sadness. Because Ezra is there, and he’s not only a fantastic and sexy boyfriend (swoon), he’s also just as complex as Taylor. Watching them grow and help one another out…it’s such a great part of the book. Healthy relationships can sometimes be rare in YA, and I loved that this one is all about navigating one without a ton of drama.

This is a book about the ways that one mistake or decision can hurt or change you. But it’s also a book about how, if you let yourself have fun and listen to what your heart is telling you, you can move on…and sometimes to better things that you never knew were a possibility.

Bonuses:

Full House family photoFamily Matters: Miranda Kenneally always creates really amazing families, and Taylor’s is no exception. Her dad, in particular, has her best interests at heart, but obviously pushes her really hard – maybe too hard. Her brother and sister also play a huge role in how Taylor thinks about herself.

image from BendItLikeBeckhamBend It Like Beckham: As some of you know, I’m a huge YA sports reader, and I really enjoyed all of the scenes of Taylor on the field with her new team.

sexpositivitySex Positivity: I’ve long been a fan of the fact that Miranda Kenneally always has characters who aren’t afraid to be sexy and have sex in safe, consensual ways. I think it’s pretty realistic for teens in a small town and Kenneally makes it enjoyable and empowering.

 

Book Theme Song:

Get It Right from GLEE (sung by Lea Michele)

What have I done?
I wish I could run,
Away from this ship going under
Just trying to help
Hurt everyone else
Now I feel the weight of the world is on my shoulders

What can you do when your good isn’t good enough
And all that you touch tumbles down?
Cause my best intentions
Keep making a mess of things,
I just wanna fix it somehow
But how many times will it take?
Oh, how many times will it take for me to get it right, to get it right?

Can I start again, with my faith shaken?
Cause I can’t go back and undo this
I just have to stay and face my mistakes,
But if I get stronger and wiser, I’ll get through this

 

The Final Word:

Honestly, if DEFENDING TAYLOR had been written by anyone else, I’m not sure this concept would have worked. Miranda Kenneally is just a master at writing very, very realistic situations and characters that you believe in and root for. Taylor’s story is one of not only owning up to mistakes and dealing with consequences, but giving herself permission to have fun and try new things. It’s a light message, but it’s couched in a book that’s subtly complex. While Breathe, Annie, Breathe remains my favorite of Kenneally’s books, this one ranks second for me, and it’s definitely a worthy addition to the Hundred Oaks series.

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DEFENDING TAYLOR is out in bookstores now. Have you read it or any other Hundred Oaks books? Are you a sports book reader? What would you have done in Taylor’s situation? Let me know in the comments!


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10 YA Books That Promote LGBTQ, Diversity & Compassion | Top Ten Tuesday

10 YA Books That Promote LGBTQ, Diversity & Compassion | Top Ten Tuesday

I’m taking a few liberties with this week’s #TopTenTuesday topic, which is books we’re looking forward to for the back half of 2016. In the wake of what happened in Orlando on Sunday, and the scary and sometimes completely incomprehensible violence around us, I thought I’d use this week’s #TTT […]