ARC Review: The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr

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I received an e-ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Title: The One Memory of Flora Banks
Author: Emily Barr
Publisher: Philomel Books
Publication Date: May 2, 2017
Stars: 4.5/5

Summary (from Goodreads): Seventeen-year-old Flora Banks has no short-term memory. Her mind resets itself several times a day, and has since the age of ten, when the tumor that was removed from Flora’s brain took with it her ability to make new memories. That is, until she kisses Drake, her best friend’s boyfriend, the night before he leaves town. Miraculously, this one memory breaks through Flora’s fractured mind, and sticks. Flora is convinced that Drake is responsible for restoring her memory and making her whole again. So when an encouraging email from Drake suggests she meet him on the other side of the world, Flora knows with certainty that this is the first step toward reclaiming her life.

With little more than the words “be brave” inked into her skin, and written reminders of who she is and why her memory is so limited, Flora sets off on an impossible journey to Svalbard, Norway, the land of the midnight sun, determined to find Drake. But from the moment she arrives in the arctic, nothing is quite as it seems, and Flora must “be brave” if she is ever to learn the truth about herself, and to make it safely home.

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The One Memory of Flora Banks is the kind of book that will keep you hooked. This story is about a girl who is unable to create new memories and travels to Norway in hopes of restoring her memory. I loved the suspense that comes along with the unreliable narrator and the bond between Flora and her brother. I absolutely recommend this book!

This book has a concept that drew me in right from the beginning. Flora Banks is a girl with amnesia who is unable to create new memories for herself. She has to remind herself who she is and what she’s doing every few hours. However, after kissing her best friend’s boyfriend, she is able to retain that memory, so she secretly follows him to Norway where he is studying. As Flora frequently forgets her identity, she has to give herself reminders often, which took a bit of getting used to. Getting a recap on everything Flora knows about her life does get a bit old. Nevertheless, the content of the book is still amazing, and there are some epic plot twists.

Because of Flora’s amnesia, she is a very unreliable narrator. I love the suspense that comes along with these types of narrators, so I really enjoyed Flora’s character. She is also so determined to find Drake and hopefully remember more about herself, which I admired. I really sympathized with Flora because of her inability to make memories, but also because others know more about her than she does. I can’t imagine a life that resets every day, but Flora is good at enduring that and staying strong. Her personal motto is “Be brave,” and she definitely abides by it during her adventures.

Another aspect of the book that I adored is the bond between Flora’s brother, Jacob, and herself. Jacob is the ideal brother. He is living in another country, but is still so supportive. He is patient with Flora when she forgets who she is and is protective of her despite being severely ill himself. I can’t say much else about Jacob’s efforts to help Flora for fear of spoilers, but prepare yourselves for a super emotional ending.

The One Memory of Flora Banks is a story about a girl with amnesia. The main character is brave and creates so much suspense. I loved the strong relationship between Flora and her brother, as well. This is such an incredible novel that I would definitely recommend, even if it is a bit of a tear-jerker.

Blog Tour, ARC Review & Giveaway: Just a Normal Tuesday by Kim Turrisi

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Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Just a Normal Tuesday by Kim Turrisi! This is a powerful and well-written book that explores some deep issues. Read on to discover all of the details about the book, the tour stops and enter to win in the giveaway at the end.

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Title: JUST A NORMAL TUESDAY
Author: Kim Turrisi
Pub. Date: May 2, 2017
Publisher: Kids Can Press
Pages: 256
Formats: Hardcover, eBook
Find it: AmazonBarnes & NobleGoodreads

It’s just a normal Tuesday for sixteen-year-old Kai, until suddenly it’s anything but. She’s received a letter from her beloved older sister, Jen, a letter that begins, My very bestest sister, Kai, if you are reading this, I am already gone. From that moment on, Kai’s life will never be the same, as she is forced to deal with the shock and horror of losing Jen to suicide.

Consumed with grief, Kai looks for answers, lashes out at people who love her and eventually turns to excessive drinking and drugs, all with disastrous results and no relief from her suffering. Struggling with their own sorrow, Kai’s parents realize she needs more help than they can give, and they enroll her in the Tree House, a “grief camp” for children. Though reluctant to go, once she’s there, Kai finally finds others who truly understand her loss. No longer alone, she’s able to begin dealing with her pain. And to see light at the end of the dark tunnel.

Kim Turrisi’s beautiful, wrenching young-adult novel sheds a much-needed light on the subjects of mental illness and suicide. Using the unique idea of a grief camp, Turrisi lays out a process for healing and moving forward for readers who have been touched by loss. But this book’s appeal reaches beyond that. With combined elements of tragedy and romance, compellingly told in Kai’s authentic voice, this ultimately hopeful story will be an unputdownable read for any teen.

About the Author
KimA graduate of Florida State University, Kim Turrisi began her career in film and television. After a year of on-set production (getting coffee, wrangling actors and taking lunch orders) Kim segued to the development side of the business. First working as a development executive at Columbia-Tri-Star and eventually shepherding many projects in family entertainment for Disney, Viacom and Hallmark.

Kim created and wrote an online web series for which she won a Daytime Emmy. She wrote for ABC Family’s webisode series, PRETTY DIRTY SECRETS, an internet companion piece to smash hit PRETTY LITTLE LIARS.

While she’s always been a voracious reader and writer, she never thought about writing for teens until she immersed herself in the children’s publishing world as the Director of Special Projects for the Society of Book writers and Illustrators. There, reading children’s literature is a big part of her job.

Her debut Young Adult novel JUST A NORMAL TUESDAY is loosely based on the author’s own experience, the debut YA novel follows 16-year-old Kai as she struggles through the emotional aftermath of her sister’s suicide. Kai spends a month at grief camp, discovering a roadmap to piecing her broken heart back together.

One of Kim’s favorite parts of the writing process is to create playlists for her characters that she listens to when she writes. When she revises her manuscripts, she’s generally in mismatched plaid and her desk is riddled with junk food. She collects Chuck Taylor’s, Van’s, and has a killer sock collection.

Born in Hawaii, she credits her love of travel to her life as an Air Force brat moving every two years. When she isn’t writing or reading, she can be found obsessing over her dogs, Riley and Rocco.

Represented by Tricia Lawrence at EMLA

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

Review

Just a Normal Tuesday is a beautifully written book that explores the aftermath of suicide. The main character, Kai, is a raw and relatable teen who has to learn to deal with the death of her beloved sister. Turrisi’s message is one that resonates throughout the narrative and really turns it into a guide for grief as well as a story of those who are left to pick up the pieces.

Turrisi’s writing is so captivating and right from the explosive beginning to its heart-wrenching end, the reader will have a hard time setting this one down. One of the wonderful aspects of this story is the way in which the author describes the strong feelings that Kai is having during the book. The descriptions are both vivid and real, drawing the reader into Kai’s mindset while she struggles with her grief, substance abuse, and eventual acceptance.

Kai is a character that is easily identifiable to readers. The fact that she is flawed, gives her a realistic and interesting personality. As the book progresses and Kai starts to discover and understand herself, it is her sense of hope that makes her relatable. She is also quite a resilient character who undergoes so many changes, yet is able to somehow overcome them.

One of the themes that pulses throughout Just a Normal Tuesday is: you are not alone. Kai learns that she has a network of people that she can rely on, such as her friends and parents, as well as those she meets at grief camp. It is this message that sets this book apart from other books for teens that have the theme of suicide. The reader comes away with a message that people grieve differently and there are many ways to cope.

The wonderful writing, relatable protagonist and strong themes make Just a Normal Tuesday not your normal book about teen suicide. Readers will come away from this novel with a set of strategies and a deeper understanding of what it is to grieve the loss of a loved one. Ensure that your box of tissues is nearby when you read this one!


Giveaway Details

3 winners will receive a signed finished copy of JUST A NORMAL TUESDAY & swag including a bookmark, magnet, & temporary tattoo, US Only.

1 winner will receive JUST A NORMAL TUESDAY swag including a bookmark, magnet, & temporary tattoo, US Only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Tour Schedule

Week One:
4/24/2017- BookHounds YA– Interview
4/25/2017- The Candid Cover– Review
4/26/2017- Wandering Bark Books– Guest Post
4/27/2017- Angel Reads– Review
4/28/2017- A Gingerly Review– Excerpt

Week Two:

5/1/2017- Here’s to Happy Endings– Review
5/2/2017- Margie’s Must Reads– Guest Post
5/3/2017- The Bookworm Central– Review
5/4/2017- Literary Meanderings – Interview
5/5/2017- Just Commonly– Review

ARC Review: Maud by Melanie J. Fishbane

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I received an e-ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Title: Maud: A Novel Inspired by the Life of L.M. Montgomery
Author: Melanie J. Fishbane
Publisher: Razorbill Canada
Publication Date: April 25, 2017
Stars: 5/5

Summary (from Goodreads): For the first time ever, a young adult novel about the teen years of L.M. Montgomery, the author who brought us ANNE OF GREEN GABLES.

Fourteen-year-old Lucy Maud Montgomery — Maud to her friends — has a dream: to go to college and become a writer, just like her idol, Louisa May Alcott. But living with her grandparents on Prince Edward Island, she worries that this dream will never come true. Her grandfather has strong opinions about a woman’s place in the world, and they do not include spending good money on college. Luckily, she has a teacher to believe in her, and good friends to support her, including Nate, the Baptist minister’s stepson and the smartest boy in the class. If only he weren’t a Baptist; her Presbyterian grandparents would never approve. Then again, Maud isn’t sure she wants to settle down with a boy — her dreams of being a writer are much more important.

But life changes for Maud when she goes out West to live with her father and his new wife and daughter. Her new home offers her another chance at love, as well as attending school, but tensions increase as Maud discovers her stepmother’s plans for her, which threaten Maud’s future — and her happiness forever.

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If you are a fan of anything related to Anne of Green Gables, this book is going to take you right back to Lover’s Lane and beyond. Fishbane has created an historical fiction that tells a story of what L.M. Montgomery’s life may have been like and has written it in the style of the infamous Anne books. There are also some interesting aspects to this novel that explore the treatment of the Métis and the last section of the book that describes the extensive research conducted by the author to piece the whole story together.

What is most intriguing about this story is the style in which Fishbane has written it. The whole aura of the narrative is old fashioned and really seems to mimic the way all of those Anne stories feel. There are many heartfelt narratives as well as gorgeous descriptions of the scenery and natural landscape of P.E.I. all the way to Saskatchewan. Also, the humour that is peppered throughout the book gives the reader a sense of how Montgomery was able to laugh even when she faced adversity.

The inclusion of a diverse character, Edie, and the observations that Maud makes about the way the Métis people of Western Canada were treated during her lifetime was a very interesting component of the story. Maud often talks to her friend, Edie, about her struggles and asks her questions about her people. It really gives the reader a mini history lesson, as Maud learns some of the obstacles and harsh treatment of the Canadian Aboriginal people.

Towards the end of the novel, Fishbane gives the reader information on how she conducted her research to write the book and it is quite impressive. There is an extensive reference list that includes various works, people, and places. Fishbane also indicates that this novel is not intended to be a biography, but an historical fiction that is based on L.M. Montgomery’s life and times. The inclusion of information about the time period Maud lived in and what became of her real life friends and family was something I found very insightful.

I highly recommend this novel to anyone who loves the nostalgia of Anne of Green Gables and historical fiction. The writing is reminiscent of L.M. Montgomery and the addition of a diverse character as well as the research information orchestrated by Fishbane makes this one book that is not to be missed.

ARC Review: Barbecue Sauces, Rubs, and Marinades by Steven Raichlen

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I received an e-ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Title: Barbecue Sauces, Rubs, and Marinades–Bastes, Butters & Glazes, Too
Author: Steven Raichlen
Publisher: Workman Publishing Company
Publication Date: May 2, 2017
Stars: 5/5

Summary (from Goodreads): Barbecue sauces, rubs, and marinades are every griller’s secret weapon—the flavor boosters that give grilled food its character, personality, depth, and soul.

Steven Raichlen, America’s “master griller” (Esquire), has completely updated and revised his bestselling encyclopedia of chile-fired rubs, lemony marinades, buttery bastes, pack-a-wallop sauces, plus mops, slathers, sambals, and chutneys. It’s a cornucopia of all the latest flavor trends, drawing from irresistible Thai, Mexican, Indian, Cajun, Jamaican, Italian, and French cuisines, as well as those building blocks from America’s own barbecue belt.

There are over 200 recipes in all, including a full sampler of dinner recipes using the sauces. And the book now has full-color photographs throughout. It’s the essential companion cookbook for every at-home pitmaster looking to up his or her game.

Goodreads | Book Depository | Amazon

I have always enjoyed grilling season, and while I am not the one typically doing the grilling, I thought that this collection of recipes would give me some inspiration. There are so many different types of marinades and rubs in this book that it is actually mind-boggling! If you are in the market for some barbecue ideas or tips, this is the recipe book that has it all.

Grilling season has just barely begun and I cannot wait to try out some of these interesting recipes in Barbecue Sauces, Rubs, and Marinades. Raichlen has written this book to give help to those who are new to barbecuing and there are so many ideas and how-tos alongside the directions. Important concepts, such as how not to cross-contaminate foods are addressed, yet those more experienced cooks will enjoy the interesting variety of recipes.

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Desserts are not something I would associate with my grill, however my eyes have been opened to new possibilities! I tried the grilled pineapple rub and found it not only tasty, it was simple and easy to put together with just a few ingredients, such as sugar and cinnamon. I really enjoy the simplicity of these recipes and they take ordinary foods and kick them up a notch with an easy to assemble rub or marinade.

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Another recipe that I tried was Raichlen’s, “The Only Marinade You’ll Ever Need.” Well, this simple and zesty Mediterranean marinade is very versatile and can be used for so many different meats. It is essentially an oil and lemon juice mixture that has some added spice to it. I used this recipe to marinade some chicken pieces and it made my chicken flavourful and moist. This is definitely a recipe that I will be coming back to over and over again.

Barbecue Sauces, Rubs and Marinades is pretty much your one stop shop for any grilling recipe out there. Along with its tips and ideas for how to handle food, this book makes a great addition to any collection. I am going to be gifting this cookbook to a few grillers on my list this year, for sure!

wkendcooking I have linked this post to Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking.

ARC Review: Fireworks by Katie Cotugno

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I won an ARC from the publisher in a giveaway.

Title: Fireworks
Author: Katie Cotugno
Publisher: HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: April 18, 2017
Stars: 4/5

Summary (from Goodreads): From Katie Cotugno, bestselling author of 99 Days, comes Fireworks—about a girl who is competing with her best friend to become the new pop star of the moment—and all the drama and romance that comes with it—set in Orlando during the late-’90s boy-and-girl-band craze.

It was always meant to be Olivia. She was the talented one, the one who had been training to be a star her whole life. Her best friend, Dana, was the level-headed one, always on the sidelines, cheering her best friend along.

But everything changes when Dana tags along with Olivia to Orlando for the weekend, where superproducer Guy Monroe is holding auditions for a new singing group, and Dana is discovered too. Dana, who’s never sung more than Olivia’s backup. Dana, who wasn’t even looking for fame. Next thing she knows, she and Olivia are training to be pop stars, and Dana is falling for Alex, the earnest, endlessly talented boy who’s destined to be the next big thing.

It should be a dream come true, but as the days of grueling practice and constant competition take their toll, things between Olivia and Dana start to shift . . . and there’s only room at the top for one girl. For Olivia, it’s her chance at her dream. For Dana, it’s a chance to escape a future that seems to be closing in on her. And for these lifelong best friends, it’s the adventure of a lifetime—if they can make it through.

Set in evocative 1990s Orlando, New York Times bestselling author Katie Cotugno’s Fireworks brings to life the complexity of friendship, the excitement of first love, and the feeling of being on the verge of greatness.

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Fireworks is the 90s stardom book I never knew I wanted. The hard work and intense training shown in the story is exactly what I love to see, and the main character has a complex backstory and is so likeable. What I especially adored is the female friendship between the two main characters, since it is actually goals. Fans of Katie Cotugno’s previous books will not be disappointed with her latest work!

As a sucker for any book related to the arts, I naturally loved this one. What I especially enjoyed is the fact that this book doesn’t skip over the intense training of the band members and just mention the performances. The story is filled with voice lessons and intense dance practise, which I could never survive. However, there is also a cute boy band included, which I could definitely live with.

I loved Dana’s character. She doesn’t have an easy life and has a hard time fitting in with the other girls in the band. Dana is so considerate to her friends and just wants everyone to have a good time. I sympathized with her because she is such a nice person and has a hard time saying no to the other girls. Her character is also so complex and well-developed, which I always love to see.

One of my favourite things about Fireworks is the strong female friendship. Dana and Olivia have been best friends their entire lives and are basically sisters. Olivia even put an extra bed in her room for Dana to use during their frequent sleepovers. It really hurt to see the pressure of the music world start to come between them and watch them slowly start to drift apart. Even so, I think that the fact that Dana goes along with Olivia to live a dream that isn’t really hers is absolute friendship goals.

Fireworks is a musical book filled with the behind-the-scenes aspects of a rising girl band. The main character is so complex and likeable, and the strong friendship is so adorable. I would definitely recommend this book, especially to fans of 90s music.

Waiting on Wednesday #101: Because You Love to Hate Me by Various Authors

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Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

This week’s book:

31450752Title: Because You Love to Hate Me
Authors: Various
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Publication Date: July 11, 2017

Summary (form Goodreads): Leave it to the heroes to save the world–villains just want to rule the world.

In this unique YA anthology, thirteen acclaimed, bestselling authors team up with thirteen influential BookTubers to reimagine fairy tales from the oft-misunderstood villains’ points of view.

These fractured, unconventional spins on classics like “Medusa,” Sherlock Holmes, and “Jack and the Beanstalk” provide a behind-the-curtain look at villains’ acts of vengeance, defiance, and rage–and the pain, heartbreak, and sorrow that spurned them on. No fairy tale will ever seem quite the same again!

Featuring writing from . . .

Authors: Renée Ahdieh, Ameriie, Soman Chainani, Susan Dennard, Sarah Enni, Marissa Meyer, Cindy Pon, Victoria Schwab, Samantha Shannon, Adam Silvera, Andrew Smith, April Genevieve Tucholke, and Nicola Yoon

BookTubers: Benjamin Alderson (Benjaminoftomes), Sasha Alsberg (abookutopia), Whitney Atkinson (WhittyNovels), Tina Burke (ChristinaReadsYA blog and TheLushables), Catriona Feeney (LittleBookOwl), Jesse George (JessetheReader), Zoë Herdt (readbyzoe), Samantha Lane (Thoughts on Tomes), Sophia Lee (thebookbasement), Raeleen Lemay (padfootandprongs07), Regan Perusse (PeruseProject), Christine Riccio (polandbananasBOOKS), and Steph Sinclair & Kat Kennedy (Cuddlebuggery blog and channel).

Goodreads | Book Depository | Amazon | iBooks

Thoughts: 

This anthology looks so different from anything I’ve ever seen before! It is so interesting how 13 authors and 13 BookTubers teamed up to create a collection of short stories about villains. Some of my favourite authors have contributed to this book, and I am excited to see what’s in store. Fractured fairy tales are among my favourite topics in YA, so I am sure that I will love this book. I can’t wait until the summer to have this is my hands.

ARC Review: This is Really Happening by Erin Chack

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I received an e-ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Title: This is Really Happening
Author: Erin Chack
Publisher: Razorbill
Publication Date: April 25, 2017
Stars: 4/5

Summary (from Goodreads): BuzzFeed senior writer Erin Chack provides a collection of personal essays for the Snapchat generation.

Erin recounts everything from meeting her soulmate at age 14 to her first chemotherapy session at age 19 to what really goes on behind the scenes at a major Internet media company.

She authentically captures the agony and the ecstasy of the millennial experience, whether it’s her first kiss (“Sean’s tongue! In my mouth! Slippery and wet like a slug in the rain.”) or her struggles with anxiety (“When people throw caution to the wind, I am stuck imagining the poor soul who has to break his back sweeping caution into a dustpan”).

Yet Erin also offers a fresh perspective on universal themes of resilience and love as she writes about surviving cancer, including learning of her mother’s own cancer diagnosis within the same year, and her attempts to hide the diagnosis from friends to avoid “un-normaling” everything.

Goodreads | Book Depository | Amazon | iBooks

I am not normally much of a non-fiction reader, but I was really drawn to This is Really Happening. This memoir contains a variety of stories, from Erin Chack’s experience with cancer to childhood memories. The writing is intimate and hilarious, which I really enjoyed. This is an inspiring and quick read that will definitely make the reader laugh.

This book has the perfect mix of serious topics and hilarious encounters. Erin Chack was diagnosed with cancer at a young age, and describes the hardship of things such as shaving your head. The whole book isn’t about her overcoming this, however, which provided some comic relief. There are some wildly entertaining stories, such as the time Erin peed her pants in elementary school, which created a nice balance. It makes sense that this book is so funny, since the author is a writer for Buzzfeed.

One of my favourite stories in this collection is Find Your Carrot. This one tells the story of Erin sneaking onto the roof of a building and being overly paranoid about getting caught and fired from her job. There is an epic plot twist that I was not expecting at all, and I was laughing so hard by the end. I related to Erin’s paranoia so much, and I think that this story has got to be the funniest in the book.

I adored Erin Chack’s writing style. As I was reading, it felt more like a conversation than a book, if you know what I mean. Erin really tells it like it is and has such a funny tone in her writing. She has an interesting outlook on life, and in 240 pages, it really felt like I knew her personally. I haven’t read too many memoirs, but this one has got to be up there with my favourites.

This is Really Happening is a memoir with a huge range of stories–from serious to light and back again. The writing style is very personal and reading it is like an intimate conversation. I would recommend this book, especially to younger adults.

 

ARC Review: The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

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I won an ARC in a giveaway from the publisher.

Title: The Upside of Unrequited
Author: Becky Albertalli
Publisher: Balzer & Bray/HarperTeen
Publication Date: April 11, 2017
Stars: 4.5/5

Summary (from Goodreads): Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love. No matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. If Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.

There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker, Reid. He’s a chubby Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him.

Right?

Goodreads | Book Depository | Amazon | iBooks

After reading Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda last year, I have placed Becky Albertalli on my auto-buy list. I can definitely say that The Upside of Unrequited did not disappoint. This is an extremely diverse and relatable book with a main character who is hilarious and inspiring. What I especially enjoyed is the teen-like writing style. If this book is not already on your TBR, I strongly encourage you to add it to your list!

This book is so full of diversity! There are a variety of characters with different religions, sexualities, and races. This makes the story even more relatable, and refreshing to read. What I really enjoyed is how all these diverse characters don’t feel forced. It is so annoying when you pick up a book and you can tell that the author just threw in a diverse character for the sake of it. The characters in this book are all so genuine and I feel like they were portrayed accurately.

I loved Molly so much! She is so relatable and hilarious. I really enjoyed reading about her relationship with her twin, and I 100% understood her feeling left out when her sister gets a girlfriend. One of the things I adored about Molly is her confidence about her body. She is chubby, but she doesn’t spend the entire book hating herself. She sends such a great message that you don’t need to be skinny to love yourself, and this is so important for everyone to understand.

Becky Albertalli’s writing style has got to be among my all-time favourites. The writing in The Upside of Unrequited is like a teen would speak, and you have no idea how much I appreciated that. The reader can really see into the mind of Molly, who actually acts like someone her age. It makes the book so real. Also, some of the characters from Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda make some brief cameos, which had me screaming, so prepare yourselves for that.

The Upside of Unrequited is a diverse book with a main character who seems so real. Becky Albertalli really understands the teenage mind, which is made clear in her relatable and sarcastic writing. I would recommend this book to everyone, especially if you loved Becky’s first book as much as I did.

ARC Review: A Year of Picnics by Ashley English

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Title: A Year of Picnics
Author: Ashley English
Publisher: Roost Books
Publication Date: April 4, 2017
Stars: 4/5

Summary (from Goodreads): Everyone loves picnicking—dining in the great outdoors, cozied up on blankets, and surrounded by the beauty of the natural world. Now imagine doing it year-round, where the setting speaks to the foods served, and you’ve got A Year of Picnics!

All it takes is a picnic blanket and some inspiration to take a meal from so-so to sensational. Pair the perfect location with the right foods, and you can take your picnicking to the next level. On mountaintops or rooftops, in nocturnal settings or in daylight, even in winter, this book invites readers to look at picnics in a whole new way. The twenty themed, seasonal picnics are made all the more special with activities, games, and crafts that encourage people to explore the outdoors and connect to one another—over food, perhaps on a blanket, in a special place. Grab a blanket and a basket, get outside, and start experiencing the joy that picnicking provides.

Goodreads | Amazon

If you are looking for a recipe book that is a little bit different from your typical book of tips and recipes, A Year of Picnics by Ashley English is sure to provide you with some inspiration. Not only are there themed picnics based on the four seasons, there are activities and ideas that revolve around the theme of each picnic. This book is full of fun ways to take your standard picnic and transform it into an event with its beautiful photographs and interesting approach.

As you can imagine, the most opportune time to venture out on a picnic is during the warmer months and when the weather is just right. The themed picnics included in this collection range from a coffee break picnic to a full on high altitude picnic. I am really looking forward to trying some of these ideas once it becomes a little bit warmer outside. I have already got the bird-watching picnic penciled in my daytimer, as the Carbonara Nests and Bird Seed Cookie recipes look divine and I just love the fact that they fit the whole idea of being outside with the birds.

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Each of the picnics contains a collection of activities to go along with the menu and the venue. Some picnics have things that the whole family can do and others are as simple as stretching on your coffee break. There is something that will interest anyone.

picnicSince we are just barely past winter here in Southern Ontario, I was only able to give the Winter Picnic a try. My family really enjoyed our wintry walk and we had a blast blowing bubbles and spraying the snow with food colouring to make interesting designs in the snow. The S’mores Brownies were an instant hit, as they are chocolate brownies baked on a graham cracker crust and topped with lots of gooey marshmallows.

For anyone who enjoys spending time outdoors and loves to picnic, this is a must-have in your collection. While it is fun to go picnicking, it is even more fun when you add some interesting foods and different ideas to kick it up a notch. I am definitely inspired to get out and picnic more often this year.

wkendcooking

I have linked this post to Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking.

ARC Review: By Any Name by Cynthia Voigt

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Title: By Any Name
Author: Cynthia Voigt
Publisher: Diversion Publising
Publication Date: April 4, 2017
Stars: 4/5

Summary (from Goodreads): From the award-winning author of Homecoming and Dicey’s Song comes a heartfelt adult novel perfect for readers of Judy Blume.
Rida is an orphan out of California who dances for the troops in the USO. Spencer is a naval officer with roots deep in New England’s upper crust. They meet during World War II at an Officer’s Club dance, and Spencer might have been dissuaded if he saw just one engagement ring on her finger, but instead, he sees four.

The courtship is easy, Rida wins him and wears his ring alone. But Rida is a wild card, and Spencer’s family can’t accept her unconventional approach to marriage, motherhood, and life.
Even Rida’s four daughters struggle to understand her, but for them it becomes a quest–to untangle the mystery of their stubborn, off-beat, clear-sighted, loving, and above all mesmerizing mother.

Award-winning author Cynthia Voigt has penned a novel for readers who grew up loving her Newbery Award-winning novels for children and young adults. By Any Name features an indelible woman who sees lines as meant to be crossed, changing the lives of all who come into contact with her indefatigable spirit.

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As a fan of Cynthia Voigt’s many novels for teens, such as Dicey’s Song, I was thrilled to discover this new adult contemporary. By Any Name is an historical fiction that is reminiscent of Margaret Laurence’s The Stone Angel. The story of Rida’s life is told through the eyes of her daughter Beth and really captures the era beautifully. Also, the references to Little Women by Louisa May Alcott that are sprinkled throughout the story add to its theme in a unique way.

I might be presumptuous in referring By Any Name to The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence because it is probably more recognizable to Canadians. However, By Any Name has so many timeless themes, such as aging and reminiscing that one cannot help but connect these two literary works. Voigt has created a spunky main character in Rida who exudes strength and independence in a time where women were typically oppressed. Rida is definitely inspirational and those familiar with Cynthia Voigt’s other works will find a similar well-developed fierce female in this book as well.

One really interesting aspect of this novel is that it is told through the perspective of Rida’s daughter, Beth. This point of view actually makes for a more reliable narrator, as Beth is looking at Rida’s life from the outside and has a much more accurate memory. Through Beth, the reader can get a sense of what having a mother like Rida was like and how she had a profound influence on her daughters. Beth is putting all of the pieces together about her mother’s past throughout the book and it all comes together wonderfully towards the end.

For those who enjoy classics, Little Women in particular, you will enjoy the allusions and connections that By Any Name has to this much loved novel. Rida names her daughters after the ones in Little Women and the girls themselves are definitely similar in personality to the March sisters. The shared theme of raising well-adjusted daughters adds to the flavour of Voight’s novel, as the reader can relate to the characters and story of Little Women.

By Any Name is a novel that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys historical fiction. The story is a unique look at women’s issues and the aging process as told by the main character’s daughter. It  is a novel that is both inspiring and sentimental, and will become a favourite of those who enjoy the genre.