Wednesday, December 13, 2017

REVIEW: Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin

Title: Young Jane Young
Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Genre: Adult Contemporary
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Release Date: August 22, 2017
Acquired: Print ARC sent by publisher
Goodreads: ADD

From the bestselling author of the beloved The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry comes another perfect fable for our times--a story about women, choices, and recovering from past mistakes.

Young Jane Young's heroine is Aviva Grossman, an ambitious Congressional intern in Florida who makes the life-changing mistake of having an affair with her boss‑‑who is beloved, admired, successful, and very married‑‑and blogging about it. When the affair comes to light, the Congressman doesn’t take the fall, but Aviva does, and her life is over before it hardly begins. She becomes a late‑night talk show punchline; she is slut‑shamed, labeled as fat and ugly, and considered a blight on politics in general.

How does one go on after this? In Aviva’s case, she sees no way out but to change her name and move to a remote town in Maine. She tries to start over as a wedding planner, to be smarter about her life, and to raise her daughter to be strong and confident. But when, at the urging of others, she decides to run for public office herself, that long‑ago mistake trails her via the Internet like a scarlet A. For in our age, Google guarantees that the past is never, ever, truly past, that everything you’ve done will live on for everyone to know about for all eternity. And it’s only a matter of time until Aviva/Jane’s daughter, Ruby, finds out who her mother was, and is, and must decide whether she can still respect her.

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I think it's important to note that I was quite young and ignorant to politics when the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal exploded, so reading Young Jane Young didn't feel as reminiscent to me as it did to many others. What it felt like, was a beloved author creating magic, yet AGAIN. What it felt like was the exploration of a topic that should never cease to be discussed: what it's like to be a woman in a world where we're handed rulebooks before our first breaths.

Told in the narrative style I favour the most, multiple perspectives, Young Jane Young becomes whole through the eyes of four women: Rachel (Jane's mother), the congressman's wife, Ruby (Jane's daughter), and Aviva (a young Jane). It begins as a broken thing though, as we learn of scandals, and consequences of impulsive decisions, and the people who are affected in the worst ways by it all. 


Young Aviva Grossman has fallen in the kind of love that only loves you back in hushed voices and away from public eyes. She's begun a sordid love affair with a local Congressman, and numerous attempts on her mother's part cannot persuade her to still her heart--or her sexual rendezvous with this very married man. After the inevitable crash and burn, Aviva relocates out of shame and in the hopes of beginning anew. With a new baby to consider (and feed, and clothe and generally ensure the safety of), Aviva/Jane trades in her political robes for a much more low-key set and starts her own wedding planning business in Maine. She soon decides that her initial calling was the right one, and runs for Mayor of her town. It's around this time that Jane's daughter, Ruby, stumbles upon a much-regretted copy of the blog Aviva/Jane kept while schmoozing with the Congressman, and now Jane has to re-live nightmares and win back the respect of her only child.

Young Jane Young was such a far cry from the whimsical setting of The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, and a million kudos to Ms. Zevin for that. Not many authors can separate genres in a way that stays true to their talent, yet differs greatly from their surrounding works. The voices in this novel begged to be heard, and there wasn't a single one I didn't want to hear. It was the perfect blend of scandal, family bonds, and comedic relief. And for the love of all that is perfect, there is a CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE section that I cannot even begin to describe the genius of. Long-time readers of this author will find themselves at home here, and because of Young Jane Young's brilliant relevancy, I think many new readers of hers will pick it up as well.


Read if you liked:  Where'd You Go Bernadette? by Maria Semple (my review here), Sophia Kinsella, Marian Keyes, Women's Fiction
Key themes: family values, scandal, betrayal, self-discovery



Challenges: 


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credit: goodreadsi.com

Gabrielle Zevin is a New York Times bestselling author whose books have been translated into more than thirty languages. Her eighth novel, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry, spent more than four months on the New York Times Bestseller list, reached #1 on the National Indie Bestseller list, and has been a bestseller all around the world. She has also written books for children and young adults, including the award-winning Elsewhere.


CONTACT LINKS


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A huge thank-you to Algonquin Books for providing a print ARC of this book for review.

Monday, September 4, 2017

REVIEW: Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

Title: Words in Deep Blue
Author: Cath Crowley
Genre: Young Adult - Contemporary
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Release Date: June 6, 2017
Acquired: Print copy sent by publisher
Goodreads: ADD

Love lives between the lines.

Years ago, Rachel had a crush on Henry Jones. The day before she moved away, she tucked a love letter into his favorite book in his family’s bookshop. She waited. But Henry never came.

Now Rachel has returned to the city—and to the bookshop—to work alongside the boy she’d rather not see, if at all possible, for the rest of her life. But Rachel needs the distraction and the escape. Her brother drowned months ago, and she can’t feel anything anymore. She can’t see her future.

Henry’s future isn’t looking too promising, either. His girlfriend dumped him. The bookstore is slipping away. And his family is breaking apart.

As Henry and Rachel work side by side—surrounded by books, watching love stories unfold, exchanging letters between the pages—they find hope in each other. Because life may be uncontrollable, even unbearable sometimes. But it’s possible that words, and love, and second chances are enough.

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Words in Deep Blue was essentially a book about a bookstore owned by people who love books. Seriously. Do you need more reason than that to pick up this novel? I'll just end the review here. Ok, thanks for stopping by.

No, but honestly though, this narrative might as well have been birthed in my own brain. I feel like I've had dreams of being these exact characters, standing in those exact aisles of a bookshop, reading the exact same books and feeling the exact same feelings. It was the added theme of grief and the authenticity of the personalities that stopped it from being another typical "young adult love story". It was the obvious and genuine care put into making sure each sentence had an impact, that each moment held meaning.

Rachel has come back to her childhood hometown, with a heart that's wracked with pain after the loss of a brother, and filled with resentment for a boy who didn't love her back. Henry is the boy. Whose own heart is severely attached to a girl who would rather be without him, and who hasn't the slightest clue why his best friend Rachel skipped town without a goodbye.

It's the anticipation of these two storylines colliding that make Words in Deep Blue a read that you literally cannot stop reading. Cath Crowley created the most unique details, including a section in Henry's family-owned bookshop called the "Letter Library", where strangers can leave notes for each other within the pages of a selected book. The books are not for purchase, and they cannot be moved. It was the most romantic notion and the aspect that played a huge role in my tearful breakdown towards the end of the novel.

If you're into narratives that feature characters who you would befriend in real life, issues that almost mirror your own, and scenes that will leave you a sobbing mess, then this book should 100% be on your to-read list.

Read if you liked:  
The Dress Shop of Dreams by Menna van Praag, 
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin, or The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Key themes: 
loss, grief, family, friendship, and love



Challenges: 


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credit: cathcrowleyauthor.com




Cath Crowley is an award-winning author of young adult fiction. Her novels include Words in Deep Blue, Graffiti Moon, Chasing Charlie Duskin (A Little Wanting Song) and the Gracie Faltrain trilogy and Rosie Staples' Magical Misunderstanding.

Awards include The Prime Minister's Literary Award (2011), The Ethel Turner Prize for Young Adult Literature (2011), Winner of the Indie Book Awards (2017), YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults List (2013), Cooperative Children’s Book Centre (CCBC) Recommended Book.

Cath is also a freelance writer, editor, and teacher.

CONTACT LINKS
Website - Facebook - TwitterInstagram - Tumblr


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A huge thank-you to Knopf BFYR for providing a print copy of this book for review.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

REVIEW: The Leaf Reader by Emily Arsenault

Title: The Leaf Reader
Author: Emily Arsenault
Genre: YA Mystery
Publisher: Soho Teen
Release Date: June 13, 2017
Acquired: E-arc acquired via Edelweiss
Goodreads: ADD

Maybe, occasionally, some of the pictures I saw in teacups were not for the tea drinkers. Maybe some of them were for me.

Marnie Wells knows that she creeps people out. It’s not really her fault; her brother is always in trouble, and her grandmother, who’s been their guardian since Mom took off is…eccentric. So no one even bats an eye when Marnie finds an old book about reading tea leaves and starts telling fortunes. The ceremony and symbols are weirdly soothing, but she knows—and hopes everyone else does too—that none of it’s real.

Then basketball star Matt Cotrell asks for a reading. He’s been getting emails from someone claiming to be his best friend, Andrea Quinley, who disappeared and is presumed dead. And while they’d always denied they were romantically involved, a cloud of suspicion now hangs over Matt. But Marnie sees a kindred spirit: someone who, like her, is damaged by association.

Suddenly the readings seem real. And, despite the fact that they’re telling Marnie things about Matt that make him seem increasingly dangerous, she can’t shake her initial attraction to him. In fact, it’s getting stronger. And that could turn out to be deadly.


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

REVIEW: The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld

Title: The Child Finder
Author: Rene Denfeld
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Publisher: Harper
Release Date: September 5, 2017
Acquired: E-arc acquired via Edelweiss
Goodreads: ADD

Three years ago, Madison Culver disappeared when her family was choosing a Christmas tree in Oregon’s Skookum National Forest. She would be eight years old now—if she has survived. Desperate to find their beloved daughter, certain someone took her, the Culvers turn to Naomi, a private investigator with an uncanny talent for locating the lost and missing. Known to the police and a select group of parents as The Child Finder, Naomi is their last hope.

Naomi’s methodical search takes her deep into the icy, mysterious forest in the Pacific Northwest, and into her own fragmented past. She understands children like Madison because once upon a time, she was a lost girl too.

As Naomi relentlessly pursues and slowly uncovers the truth behind Madison’s disappearance, shards of a dark dream pierce the defenses that have protected her, reminding her of a terrible loss she feels but cannot remember. If she finds Madison, will Naomi ultimately unlock the secrets of her own life?


Saturday, June 3, 2017

REVIEW: Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg

Title: Modern Romance
Author: Aziz AnsariEric Klinenberg
Genre: Sociology, Comedic Non-fiction 
Publisher: Penguin Press
Release Date: June 16/2015
Acquired: Print copy sent by publisher
Goodreads: ADD

Now a New York Times Bestseller

A hilarious, thoughtful, and in-depth exploration of the pleasures and perils of modern romance from one of this generation’s sharpest comedic voices.

At some point, every one of us embarks on a journey to find love. We meet people, date, get into and out of relationships, all with the hope of finding someone with whom we share a deep connection. This seems standard now, but it’s wildly different from what people did even just decades ago. Single people today have more romantic options than at any point in human history. With technology, our abilities to connect with and sort through these options are staggering. So why are so many people frustrated?

Some of our problems are unique to our time. “Why did this guy just text me an emoji of a pizza?” “Should I go out with this girl even though she listed Combos as one of her favorite snack foods? Combos?!” “My girlfriend just got a message from some dude named Nathan. Who’s Nathan? Did he just send her a photo of his penis? Should I check just to be sure?”

But the transformation of our romantic lives can’t be explained by technology alone. In a short period of time, the whole culture of finding love has changed dramatically. A few decades ago, people would find a decent person who lived in their neighborhood. Their families would meet and, after deciding neither party seemed like a murderer, they would get married and soon have a kid, all by the time they were twenty-four. Today, people marry later than ever and spend years of their lives on a quest to find the perfect person, a soul mate.

For years, Aziz Ansari has been aiming his comic insight at modern romance, but for Modern Romance, the book, he decided he needed to take things to another level. He teamed up with NYU sociologist Eric Klinenberg and designed a massive research project, including hundreds of interviews and focus groups conducted everywhere from Tokyo to Buenos Aires to Wichita. They analyzed behavioral data and surveys and created their own online research forum on Reddit, which drew thousands of messages. They enlisted the world’s leading social scientists, including Andrew Cherlin, Eli Finkel, Helen Fisher, Sheena Iyengar, Barry Schwartz, Sherry Turkle, and Robb Willer. The result is unlike any social science or humor book we’ve seen before.

In Modern Romance, Ansari combines his irreverent humor with cutting-edge social science to give us an unforgettable tour of our new romantic world.