Confessions of a High School Disaster by Emma Chastain: Book Review

Confessions of a High School Disaster: Chloe Snow's Diary

Obtained: Simon & Schuster Canada, ARC
Pages: 352
Publish date: March 7, 2017
Rating: ★★★★

SUMMARY

Chloe Snow is just starting her freshman year of high school, and is still a kissing virgin. On top of joining extracurriculars, dealing with her drifting bestie, and the fact that her mom has gone to Mexico for 4 months to “work”, Chloe has a list of boys she’d like to kiss and has made it her personal mission to do so by New Year’s Eve. Because she gets so caught up with the idea of getting kissed, Chloe starts to lose sight of the other things that are going on around her.

WHAT I LIKED

Confession of a High School Disaster was one of the best young readers books I’ve read in a while on the topic of high school dating. The plot originally sounded fairly typical, but what I loved about this book was the fact that it’s so accurate. Chloe is fourteen. When a girl is just becoming a teenager, she is naive and selfish. And the way Chastain wrote from Chloe’s perspective was perfect – everything was about Chloe getting her kiss, or winning the guy, or getting a part in the school musical, that she just didn’t see anything else that was happening in her life.

I also loved the characters. There are only a handful of books where I finish and actually get sad because I feel like I can’t hang out with my friends anymore – the characters are so relatable and real to me. I feel that connection with Confessions. Not so much towards Chloe, honestly, but Tristan was my favourite, and I really loved Chloe’s dad. (I guess I relate more to the adults now, don’t I?)

AND WHAT I DIDN’T

There honestly wasn’t anything that really turned me off about this book. If there was one criticism, I’d say I felt like the antagonists could have been more dynamic, but again, the book was written from the perspective of a girl who would have thought these people to be evil, and not given them a second thought. Girls like Sienna and Bernadette do get their moments to flourish subtextually, but I wish I’d gotten to know them a little better.

RECOMMEND IF…

  • You like stories about growing up.
  • You want an easy, fun read that is also captivating.
  • You enjoy teen books about romance where the characters aren’t ridiculously mature for their age. (Pet peeve of mine – I hate when 14-year-olds talk like they’re 25).

Confessions of a High School Disaster is available online at Chapters Indigo, Book Depository, and Kobo.

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Split

We were perfect,
But we weren’t.

We didn’t want the same things,
But I wanted you.

I loved you far more than you could reciprocate,
But I loved you.

Our lives weren’t even entangled,
But you were my life.

We were happy,
But we weren’t.

Running by Cara Hoffman: Book Review

Running

Obtained: Simon & Schuster Canada, ARC
Pages: 288
Publish date: February 21, 2017
Rating: ★★★★

Summary

Running brings together an ensemble of outsiders who get by as “runners”—hustlers who sell tourists on low-end accommodations for a small commission and a place to stay.

Bridey Sullivan, a young American woman who has fled a peculiar and traumatic upbringing in Washington State, takes up with a queer British couple, the poet Milo Rollack and Eton drop-out Jasper Lethe. Slipping in and out of homelessness, addiction, and under-the-table jobs, they create their own kind of family as they struggle to survive.

Goodreads

What I Liked

If you know me, you know that I read the summary of this book and jumped at the chance to read it. A cast of anti-hero characters in 1980s Athens? This book had me at ‘hello’! The story was so well-crafted and the poetic writing brought me directly into the setting. And honestly, I feel like the realism of the characters and the setting were my favourite things about reading this book.

As I began reading, I found it sort of hard to get into the book (because of my own reading slump, not because the writing was bad in any way), but once I started reading the dialogue written in Milo’s accent, or got a description of where the characters were, I got pulled right in. I think I read most of this book in one sitting – it was just very captivating.

And What I Didn’t

Like I said earlier, it took me a little bit of time to get into the book, so once I was finally drawn in, it took me some time to catch up. Otherwise, I didn’t really have anything I didn’t like about this book!

Recommend if…

  • You read the summary and went “this sounds right up my alley!”;
  • You enjoyed books like Trainspotting;
  • You want to read about anti-heroes and LGBT characters living in a place that isn’t North America (for once) (what, who said that).

Running is available online at Chapters Indigo, Book Depository, and Kobo.

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February: Currently Reading

Guys, I am actually so excited to share with you the books I’m reading right now. Obviously not all of them at once, but I have quite the TBR pile building up, and for the first time in a long time, I’m not intimidated by the number of books sitting on my shelf (or on my “to-buy-ASAP” list). I’m actually so excited to read everything!

So here are books you can expect me to post reviews for in the next couple of months:

Running  Optimists Die First  Confessions of a High School Disaster: Chloe Snow's Diary  The Fall of Lisa Bellow: A Novel

The Gauntlet  When Dimple Met Rishi   One Day We'll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter   Goodbye Days

  1. Running – Cara Hoffman
  2. Optimists Die First – Susin Nielsen
  3. Confessions of a High School Disaster – Emma Chastain
  4. The Fall of Lisa Bellow – Susan Perabo
  5. The Gauntlet – Karuna Riazi
  6. When Dimple Met Rishi – Sandhya Menon
  7. One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter – Scaachi Koul
  8. Goodbye Days – Jeff Zentner

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The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak: Book Review

The Impossible Fortress

Obtained: Simon & Schuster Canada, ARC
Pages: 304
Publish date: February 7, 2017
Rating: ★★★

Summary

The Impossible Fortress is about Billy Marvin, a 14-year-old boy growing up in the 1980s who is addicted to his Commodore 64. This game-coding kid and his friends discover that Playboy has released some scandalous photos of Wheel of Fortune‘s Vanna White, and they need to get their hands on a copy. The mission to buy a Playboy ends up getting a little bit out of hand, and in order to impress the guys, Billy has to steal a security code from the girl at the corner store by flirting with her. But when he learns about Mary’s mad game-coding skills and the two of them begin creating their own game, he starts to actually care about her.

What I Liked

I thought it was great how Rekulak was able to capture being a teenager in 1987 so perfectly. Billy and his friends were crude, made disgusting comments, casually bullied each other – and despite how uncomfortable it made me sometimes, it is very accurate to what it was like growing up at that time. Billy’s character felt very real to me.

I also really enjoyed reading about gaming and coding, because they’re two things I find really interesting. And while I may not be the best at either of them, I know enough to appreciate these hobbies, and it definitely kept me interested in the book.

and What I Didn’t

I honestly had a hard time staying interested in this book. If it weren’t for the plot involving Mary and the video game coding, I honestly would have put the book down. The main plot involving the group of boys trying to break into a store to steal and sell Playboys just wasn’t interesting to me – maybe because I couldn’t relate.

I was also sort of offended that this book was compared to Ready Player One when I was given a summary. That set my expectations pretty high and honestly, let me down a lot.

Recommend if…

  • You enjoy young adult books set in the 80s
  • You like reading about characters who love video games
  • You are looking for a new, light read

The Impossible Fortress is available online at Chapters Indigo, Book Depository, and Kobo.

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The You I’ve Never Known by Ellen Hopkins: Book Review

The You I've Never Known

Obtained: Simon & Schuster Canada, ARC
Pages: 608
Publish date: January 24, 2017
Rating: ★★★★

I am a huge Ellen Hopkins fan. I loved the Crank series, and Identical is probably one of my favourite books ever. So when I heard she had a new book coming out, of course I had to read it. As soon as I opened it, I fell straight into Hopkins’s wonderful writing style and found it hard to put the book down.

The You I’ve Never Known tells two stories: The first is about Ariel, a girl who has grown up jumping home to home with her fairly abusive dad, staying with whichever of his latest women will keep them for a few months. When they finally settle in with a woman who looks like she could be something special, Ariel allows herself to make new friends, and falls for her best friend, Monica. The second story is about a girl named Maya who got pregnant when she was sixteen and got kicked out of her house by her Scientologist mother. Luckily, her soldier boyfriend proposed to her and they started a life  together.

As I will say again and again in Hopkins reviews, I love her writing style. It is very literally poetic. Not only is it a unique way to write a novel, but it also makes me as a reader feel better about reading 600 pages when I can fly through 150 of them easily in an hour. I also really enjoyed how the theme of the book really wrapped into the title, “The You I’ve Never Known” being a side to people you never expected to see – a large part in the case of Ariel, as she questions her sexual identity as bi and the validity of liking different things about different people at the same time. I really liked the way Hopkins portrayed Ariel and this internal struggle, because it felt very real, as something I have gone through before.

But this book didn’t get a perfect 5 stars from me, and here’s why: every Ellen Hopkins book that I’ve loved has a great twist. I love spending the entire book trying to figure out what it’s going to be. But the summary on the back of the book sort of gives it away. Luckily I didn’t read that far into it and just jumped into the book knowing nothing, but I read it afterwards and could see how that would ruin the story a little bit. Also, once I figured out the twist ending and it was revealed to me, there was another 200 pages to sift through. I understand it was important to not just end at the twist and have that development of the aftermath, but it could have been condensed a lot.

Overall, the book still earned 4/5 stars from me, and if you’re a fan of Hopkins or want to read a YA book that’s a little twisted, I highly recommend you don’t miss out on The You I’ve Never Known.

The You I’ve Never Known is available online at Chapters Indigo, Book Depository, and Kobo.

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The Strays by Emily Bitto: Book Review

The Strays
Obtained: Penguin Random House Canada, ARC
Pages: 290
Publish date: January 3, 2017
Rating: ★★★

I picked up this book because it sounded very interesting to me – modern artists in 1930s Australia? I was curious to see what the characters in this book would be like, and how my love of art and the bohemian-esque lifestyle would tie in.

The Strays is told from the perspective of young Lily, who explains how she got extremely wrapped up in her best friend, Eva, whose parents were modern artists at the time. When Lily’s parents are going through a hard time, they send Lily to stay with Eva’s family for an extended period and through this, we glean what Eva’s parents’ lives are like – and the lives of their friends who have also come to live with them.

For me, the positives and negatives of this book sort of weigh equally, so I’ll start with the positives. I loved the writing style. Bitto captures the world of Eva and her artistic family very well. She “paints the picture” very vividly – pun not entirely intended – of Eva and Lily’s friendship, of Eva’s father’s career, and of all of their artist friends’ lifestyle that includes lots of drugs, alcohol, and living for their work. There were parts of this book that really captured my attention – mostly ones that included Eva and Lily spending time with Eva’s sisters, or the parts that illustrated the problematic relationship between the girls and their mother.

On the negative side, I found the protagonist to be really lacking. Lily just seems like an empty vessel through which Eva and her family’s story gets to be told. She doesn’t really seem to have a personality of her own. So when the story starts to develop and show how this artist life has affected them all differently as they grew up, I didn’t really care how it affected Lily at all.

On the whole, I did enjoy reading the book, but I definitely enjoyed reading the sections about Eva and her sisters more than I did about Lily and her family. If the summary sounded at all interesting to you, I recommend you give it a go. It’s not even 300 pages, so it’s a fairly quick read.

The Strays is available online at Chapters Indigo, Book Depository, and Kobo.

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I Wrote This For You by Iain S. Thomas: Book Review

I Wrote This For You

Obtained: Purchased @ Chapters
Pages: 194
Publish date: December 20, 2011
Rating: ★★★★★

I’m not typically a reader of poetry. There are few poetry books I’ve read, and even fewer that I actually got emotionally attached and involved with. But in this case, I took this book to the park, sat on my favourite bench under a willow tree near the pond, and just immersed myself.

I Wrote This For You is a book of poetry that really connected with me this year. Thomas wrote this book of poetry and pairs each poem with a photograph that makes each piece feel that much more realistic, and something I could connect with.

Sometimes you just read the right book at the right time, and I’m so glad I got to this collection when I did. Thomas writes about the strength of being in love, and the pain of having someone you love disappear. There are also a good amount of hopeful pieces in this book that, by the end, made me feel confident in what the future may bring.

Unrequited love, love that once burned with an amazing fire and then fizzled out, love that continues to live strong – these are all themes that I found through the collection of poems, and they’re all probably the three most powerful feelings I’ve experienced in my life. So I could really relate to these poems. By the end of the book, I was really emotionally moved and may have shed a few tears.

I cannot wait to read more of Thomas’s writing, because I feel like I’ve finally found a poet whose work I can get emotionally attached to, and I want to re-experience that feeling.

I Wrote This For You is available online at Chapters Indigo, Book Depository, and Kobo.

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The Elephants in My Backyard by Rajiv Surendra: Book Review

The Elephants in My Backyard

Obtained: Penguin Random House Canada
Pages: 288
Publish date: November 8, 2016
Rating: ★★★★

I am very picky when it comes to memoirs written by celebrities. I find they’re often written by actors/musicians whose fame is on the decline and they’re grasping at straws to remain in the limelight. Or on the other hand, are written by actors/musicians who are super “in” right now, so publishers want to make money off them. I am SO FREAKIN’ HAPPY that this memoir is neither of those things. Rajiv Surendra has a story to tell that is both entertaining and emotional, and had me hooked from the beginning.

Most people know Rajiv as Kevin G – the rapping mathele from Mean Girls. He writes very deeply and descriptively, introducing the reader to his emotional family life growing up, then how he got into acting, and finally, what I find to be the core of the book: how the lead role in Life of Pi was written for him, and how he spent years researching the role – throwing his entire soul and purpose into becoming Pi in the book’s film adaptation.

Going to India, learning to swim, wanting to get entirely into the character of Yann Martel’s Pi – I found Rajiv’s dedication to his craft and to the role something that really drew me in. I am a huge fan of Martel’s novel, Life of Pi, and was really blown away by the movie adaptation, so I understand how Rajiv could get so swept up in the belief that he was meant to play this character.

As you may have noticed, I’m referring to the author by his first name and not the more formal, surname option. I guess I believe that once you have the very detailed image of a person’s genitals in your mind, you’re basically on a first-name basis (swimming lessons chapter – if that explains anything). One of the many things I didn’t think I’d learn about in this book, but alas. Rajiv gets very personal and honest with his readers, creating a very intimate author/reader relationship, which I think makes a memoir really special.

This isn’t just another celeb memoir that was written to sell books. It was written because Rajiv Surendra had a fantastic story to tell. His writing is captivating. He tells some funny stories, some more emotional or heart-breaking stories, but it all comes together beautifully.

The Elephants in My Backyard is available online at Chapters Indigo, Book Depository, and Kobo.

 

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