Review: Dead To You by Lisa McMann

Ethan was abducted from his front yard when he was just seven years old. Now, at sixteen, he has returned to his family. It’s a miracle… at first. Then the tensions start to build. His reintroduction to his old life isn’t going smoothly, and his family is tearing apart all over again. If only Ethan could remember something, anything, about his life before, he’d be able to put the pieces back together. But there’s something that’s keeping his memory blocked. Something unspeakable…

Wow, I read this book at record-breaking speed. I could not put it down. I found myself reading faster and faster to get to the shocking ending.  As you read through this book, expect to feel a wide range of emotions as you follow the very lost and confused character of Ethan.  The story is told entirely from his perspective, so I found myself empathizing with his frustration at his lack of early childhood memories. At first, I was so shocked and angered at how Ethan’s younger brother Blake treated him, but as Blake aggressively continued, I too began to wonder—what if he’s right? It’s the character of Blake and Gracie (the ‘replacement child’)that help to hook the readers into the story. I really liked how Gracie eased the tension too.  The whole situation (parent’s worse nightmare come true) felt really authentic as they tried to adjust and put together their new life as a family. Without a doubt, it would be a messy difficult task, and I’m glad that McMann showed them obtaining professional help.  Overall, it is a darker themed book and will not appeal to all readers but I’m glad I picked it up.

*Just a warning note- since the story is told from Ethan’s unfiltered perspective, there are some sexual references, and explicit language.

Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 12, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs… for now.

Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.

Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.

All John Green fans were eager and excited to get their hands on one of the most hyped books of 2012. Often labelled a ‘cancer book’, it undeniably includes content on death and philosophical ideas on the afterlife. However, it was the love element between the two fabulous characters of Hazel and Augustus that really touched me.

John Green fans know and expect phenomenal writing and there was no let down there. Chalk full of raw emotion, Green was even able to make me tear up. Yet, I also enjoyed the humour to break up some of the sad moments. For example, when Hazel and Augustus are talking about their ‘make a wish’ wishes, Augustus pokes fun of Hazel for using a wish on Disneyland, telling her “I can’t believe I have a crush on a girl with such cliché wishes.” Another part I loved was when the two put Hazel’s swing set for sale online with the ad ‘Desperately Lonely Swing Set Needs Loving Home’. It has a hilarious description of the swing set that will undoubtedly illicit memories from the buyer. All ads should be written like that!

Overall, Green does provide perspective of what it may feel like to know you are dying (both physically and emotionally) and doesn’t shy away from the uglier aspects. I appreciated that. Without a doubt, it can be a depressing read but I feel like it does capture the tragedy of children with cancer.

B’s in Bookshops Youtube Video

WordPress won’t allow me to write the real name of the video, but click to check it out!

I READ SO HARD TOO!

Review: Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms: Magic, Mystery, & a Very Strange Adventure by Lissa Evans

 As if being small for his age and also having S. Horten as his name isn’t bad enough, now 10-year-old Stuart is forced to move far away from all his friends. But on his very first day in his new home, Stuart’s swept up in an extraordinary adventure: the quest to find his great-uncle Tony–a famous magician who literally disappeared off the face of the earth–and Tony’s marvelous, long-lost workshop.  Along the way, Stuart reluctantly accepts help from the annoying triplets next door… and encounters trouble from another magician who’s also desperate to get hold of Tony’s treasures. 

Horten's Miraculous Mechanisms: Magic, Mystery, & a Very Strange Adventure

Expected publication: April 3rd, 2012

The strange and wonderful cover art of Horton’s Miraculous Mechanisms immediately caught my eye at OLA 2012.  What a fun, adventurous story for middle graders. The readers follow Stuart on his quest to solve a series of puzzles from his uncle (a magician that has mysteriously disappeared). This story was very fast paced and will keep the attention of the most reluctant of readers. It even sneakily teaches new vocab words through Stuart’s father love of words (he is a crossword puzzle designer).  For those that love Willy Wonka and Lemony Snickett—this book is for you!

Look for the second installment of this series to be released this Fall.

Review: Crush. Candy.Corpse. by Sylvia McNicoll

I received this ARC from McNicoll’s publisher Lorimer at OLA last month. The book follows high school student Sonja (Sunny) Ehret and she stands trial for manslaughter. Every chapter alternates between last year (Sunny serving volunteers hours on an Alzheimer’s ward), and this year (Sunny’s manslaughter trial). So just how are the two connected? Well you have to pick up this uh-mazing book to find out! I actually read this book in less than a day as I could just not put it down.

Since McNicoll is a Canadian author, I really appreciated the Canadiana infused throughout the book. From the Canadian justice system, to everyone’s favourite-Timmies doughnuts! I especially related to the high school graduation requirement of 40 hours of volunteer work. Rather than having a choice of placement, Sunny is reluctantly sited at an elder care facility called ‘Paradise Manor’. In comparison, I really enjoyed completing my forty hours of volunteer work and hope it remains a requirement for years to come.  However, I think it is crucial that students pick their own placements rather than be forced to be somewhere they don’t want to be.  I chose to volunteer at a wide spread of organizations-including an elderly home!  Due to this experience, I could definitely sympathize with some of the sights and smells Sunny complained about. I wish I thought of making a coffee bean necklace…

I loved how the elderly residents really started to change the way Sunny felt about volunteering at Paradise Manor. Each individual had a unique personality and made me laugh. My favourite was Jeanette with her love of lipstick and how she complimented Sunny on her non-existent fashions. Despite the lighter moments, this book definitely deals with heavy, mature content. I liked how McNicoll was able to describe the devastating disease of Alzheimer’s through Sunny’s class presentation so readers are aware of all that it entails without it feeling too medical or pushed. The book also skims the surface of the euthanasia debate and whether a suffering person with a terminal illness has the right to die on their own terms. It truly is a legitimate concern since the Alzheimer’s rate is likely to skyrocket as baby boomers in Canada age. Hopefully, a treatment or cure can be realized so Alzheimer’s won’t become the defining disease of the Baby Boom Generation.

Look for Crush.Candy.Corpse. at bookstores and libraries March 12, 2012.

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