Review: 10 Blind Dates

Title: 10 Blind Dates
Author: Ashley Elston
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Source: Indigo Fall Preview
Format: Paperback
Release Date: October 1, 2019
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Sophie wants one thing for Christmas-a little freedom from her overprotective parents. So when they decide to spend Christmas in South Louisiana with her very pregnant older sister, Sophie is looking forward to some much needed private (read: make-out) time with her long-term boyfriend, Griffin. Except it turns out that Griffin wants a little freedom from their relationship. Cue devastation.

Heartbroken, Sophie flees to her grandparents’ house, where the rest of her boisterous extended family is gathered for the holiday. That’s when her nonna devises a (not so) brilliant plan: Over the next ten days, Sophie will be set up on ten different blind dates by different family members. Like her sweet cousin Sara, who sets her up with a hot guy at an exclusive underground party. Or her crazy aunt Patrice, who signs Sophie up for a lead role in a living nativity. With a boy who barely reaches her shoulder. And a screaming baby.

When Griffin turns up unexpectedly and begs for a second chance, Sophie feels more confused than ever. Because maybe, just maybe, she’s started to have feelings for someone else . . . Someone who is definitely not available.

This is going to be the worst Christmas break ever… or is it?

Review:

This is the cutest holiday story!

When Sophie and her boyfriend break up, her family decides to set her up on 10 blind dates over Christmas. Some of the dates were good, such as going to a hockey game. Others were not so good, but kind of hilarious. While these dates were happening, Sophie reconnected with her cousins who she used to be her best friends.

The story also had a lot of tension. Sophie’s parents were staying with her sister, who was having a complicated pregnancy. It was tense and scary at times. However, the light tone of the blind dates kept the story upbeat.

I loved this book! It’s the perfect book to read over the holidays!

Thank you Chapters Indigo for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

Save the Date by Morgan Matson

Have you read 10 Blind Dates? What did you think of it?

Review: Jackpot

Title: Jackpot
Author: Nic Stone
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Crown Books
Source: Publisher
Format: Paperback
Release Date: October 15, 2019
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

From the author of the New York Times bestseller Dear Martin–which Angie Thomas, the bestselling author of The Hate U Give, called “a must read”–comes a pitch-perfect romance that examines class, privilege, and how a stroke of good luck can change an entire life. 

Meet Rico: high school senior and afternoon-shift cashier at the Gas ‘n’ Go, who after school and work races home to take care of her younger brother. Every. Single. Day. When Rico sells a jackpot-winning lotto ticket, she thinks maybe her luck will finally change, but only if she–with some assistance from her popular and wildly rich classmate Zan–can find the ticket holder who hasn’t claimed the prize. But what happens when have and have-nots collide? Will this investigative duo unite…or divide?

Nic Stone, the New York Times bestselling author of Dear Martinand Odd One Out, creates two unforgettable characters in one hard-hitting story about class, money–both too little and too much–and how you make your own luck in the world. 

Review:

This book was heartbreaking and beautiful.

There was so much tension throughout the story. I kept holding my breath, waiting for Rico to find the ticket. I hoped she hoped she would find it every step of the way. There was the added tension of Rico’s family’s hardships. Their finances were stuck in a downward spiral, and the only way out appeared to be the lottery jackpot.

There were some lighter parts of the story too. The main narrative was narrated by Rico, but there were brief passages narrated by inanimate objects, such as hundred dollar bills or a wood stove. These little interludes were a funny break from the serious story.

This is another great book from Nic Stone! I loved it!

Thank you Penguin Random House Canada for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

Odd One Out by Nic Stone

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Have you read Jackpot? What did you think of it?

Review: Our Wayward Fate

Title: Our Wayward Fate
Author: Gloria Chao
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Canada
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: October 15, 2019
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Seventeen-year-old Ali Chu knows that as the only Asian person at her school in middle-of-nowhere Indiana, she must be bland as white toast to survive. This means swapping her congee lunch for PB&Js, ignoring the clueless racism from her classmates and teachers, and keeping her mouth shut when people wrongly call her Allie instead of her actual name, pronounced Āh-lěe, after the mountain in Taiwan.

Her autopilot existence is disrupted when she finds out that Chase Yu, the new kid in school, is also Taiwanese. Despite some initial resistance due to the “they belong together” whispers, Ali and Chase soon spark a chemistry rooted in competitive martial arts, joking in two languages, and, most importantly, pushing back against the discrimination they face.

But when Ali’s mom finds out about the relationship, she forces Ali to end it. As Ali covertly digs into the why behind her mother’s disapproval, she uncovers secrets about her family and Chase that force her to question everything she thought she knew about life, love, and her unknowable future.

Snippets of a love story from nineteenth-century China (a retelling of the Chinese folktale The Butterfly Lovers) are interspersed with Ali’s narrative and intertwined with her fate.

Review:

This is an amazing second novel from Gloria Chao!

Ali had to deal with a ton of racism, living in a predominantly “white” town. I couldn’t believe the way that her peers and teachers would talk to her, including commenting on how good she must be at math and putting on a Chinese accent in front of her. She was born in America so she was just as much of an American as them. These racist people also assumed that she must date the new Asian boy in the school. It was heartbreaking to read the way people spoke to her.

I learned a lot about Chinese culture in this book. There was a Chinese folktale that was threaded throughout the story and united with the main plot in the end. It had to do with Ali’s mother’s secrets, which was another amazing and suspenseful subplot!

I liked that the Mandarin words weren’t translated directly into English. It brings the reader into Ali’s position of being on the outside of the culture she lives in. I could figure out what most of the words meant from the context, but I liked that it kept Ali’s culture prevalent in the story.

I loved this book!

Thank you Simon and Schuster Canada for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

American Panda by Gloria Chao

Somewhere Only We Know by Maurene Goo

Have you read Our Wayward Fate? What did you think of it?

Review: Rising Star (Cross Ups #3)

Title: Rising Star (Cross Ups #3)
Author: Sylv Chiang
Genre: Middle Grade, Contemporary
Publisher: Annick Press
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: October 8, 2019
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

The continuing adventures of Jaden, Cali, and the Cross Ups crew.

When Jaden gets a call inviting him to Comicon to test out a new version of his favorite game, Cross Ups, he is thrilled . . . sort of. He’ll get to go with his best friend, Cali, they’ll be in New York City, and best of all, he’ll meet his idol and the greatest gamer of all time, Yuudai Sato. But he’s got no time to practice, and worse, his signature moves no longer work. His trip starts to feel less and less exciting, and more and more like one big problem. Jaden has to come up with some solutions—fast. He looks to some older gamers for guidance, but is JStar willing to change who he is for the sake of a game?
With its sharp dialogue and relatable characters, Rising Star, the third book in the Cross Ups series, chronicles the ups and downs of middle school with a relevant, contemporary twist.

Review:

This is another great book in the Cross-Ups series.

The kids go to New York Comic Con in this story. It was timely, since it just happened a couple of weeks ago. Comic Con is the biggest event for gaming and pop culture, so it was so cool to see Jaden and Cali living out this dream. I went to BookCon a couple of years ago, which is held at the same convention centre as Comic Con, so I could relate to that part of the story.

A great part about this series is that there are both a boy and a girl main character. Jaden narrates the story but his best female friend, Cali, plays a lead role in the story. Though video games are typically thought of as a “boy’s” activity, girls play video games too. I’m glad that girl gamers are represented in this series.

I really enjoyed this story!

Thank you Annick Press for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

Fan the Fame by Anna Priemaza

In Real Life by Cory Doctorow, Jen Wang

Have you read Rising Star? What did you think of it?

Review: SLAY

Title: SLAY
Author: Brittney Morris
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Canada
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: September 24, 2019
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

By day, seventeen-year-old Kiera Johnson is an honors student, a math tutor, and one of the only Black kids at Jefferson Academy. But at home, she joins hundreds of thousands of Black gamers who duel worldwide as Nubian personas in the secret multiplayer online role-playing card game, SLAY. No one knows Kiera is the game developer, not her friends, her family, not even her boyfriend, Malcolm, who believes video games are partially responsible for the “downfall of the Black man.”

But when a teen in Kansas City is murdered over a dispute in the SLAY world, news of the game reaches mainstream media, and SLAY is labeled a racist, exclusionist, violent hub for thugs and criminals. Even worse, an anonymous troll infiltrates the game, threatening to sue Kiera for “anti-white discrimination.”

Driven to save the only world in which she can be herself, Kiera must preserve her secret identity and harness what it means to be unapologetically Black in a world intimidated by Blackness. But can she protect her game without losing herself in the process?

Review:

I love video games so I was super excited to read this book! I kept my gaming side a secret when I was younger, because my friends didn’t like playing games. I could relate to Kiera, since she had to keep that part of her life a secret too. However, she had the even bigger secret that she actually created the popular game that she plays!

Race was a huge issue in this book. Kiera created the game as a place for black gamers to celebrate themselves in a game. The cards in the game were named after references to black culture or famous black figures in history. The game became controversial when a boy was killed for playing the game. Then, Kiera had to face the possibility of real life consequences for creating this game.

One thing that the critics of this game in the book often said was that the game excluded people of other races because you had to be black to be invited. It wasn’t created as an exclusionary game, but instead as a safe place for gamers to play a game where they wouldn’t be attacked due to their appearance. Kiera walked a fine line when her game was analyzed by the news, but it’s important for everyone to have a safe space to do what they love.

I loved this book so much!

Thank you Simon and Schuster Canada for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Have you read SLAY? What did you think of it?

Review: Six Goodbyes We Never Said

Title: Six Goodbyes We Never Said
Author: Candace Ganger
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: September 24, 2019
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Two teens meet after tragedy and learn about love, loss, and letting go

Naima Rodriguez doesn’t want your patronizing sympathy as she grieves her father, her hero—a fallen Marine. She’ll hate you forever if you ask her to open up and remember him “as he was,” though that’s all her loving family wants her to do in order to manage her complex OCD and GAD. She’d rather everyone back the-eff off while she separates her Lucky Charms marshmallows into six, always six, Ziploc bags, while she avoids friends and people and living the life her father so desperately wanted for her. 

Dew respectfully requests a little more time to process the sudden loss of his parents. It’s causing an avalanche of secret anxieties, so he counts on his trusty voice recorder to convey the things he can’t otherwise say aloud. He could really use a friend to navigate a life swimming with pain and loss and all the lovely moments in between. And then he meets Naima and everything’s changed—just not in the way he, or she, expects. 

Candace Ganger’s Six Goodbyes We Never Said is no love story. If you ask Naima, it’s not even a like story. But it is a story about love and fear and how sometimes you need a little help to be brave enough to say goodbye. 

Review:

This was a beautiful story about grieving.

There was some great representation of mental health in this book. Dew has anxiety and panic attacks. Naima has anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder. I really liked the way her OCD was represented in the repetition of words and sentences. It showed the way she repeated actions and words right on the page.

Though both Dew and Naima were orphans, they had very different experiences. Dew had been adopted by his foster parents, and had a new family. Naima had just lost her father and couldn’t reconcile her final goodbye to him, when she ignored him. They had some things in common, but they dealt with their problems differently.

I loved this book!

Thank you Wednesday Books for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

The Inevitable Collision of Birdie and Bash by Candace Ganger

Have you read Six Goodbyes We Never Said? What did you think of it?

Review: Harvey Comes Home

Title: Harvey Comes Home
Author: Colleen Nelson
Genre: Middle Grade, Contemporary
Publisher: Pajama Press
Source: Publisher
Format: Hardcover
Release Date: September 19, 2019
Rating: ★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

A dog’s world is a world of scents, of adventure. When a runaway West Highland Terrier named Harvey wanders out of his old life guided only by his nose and his heart, lives begin to converge.

Austin, a young volunteer at Brayside retirement home, quickly finds that the audacious Harvey inspires Mr. Pickering, a bitter resident coping with memory loss, to tell stories of his childhood. Moved by the elderly man’s Dust Bowl recollections of grinding poverty and the perseverance of his friends and family, Austin begins to trade his preconceived notions for empathy. But is it enough to give him the resolve to track down Harvey’s original owner?

Supported by striking illustrations from acclaimed artist Tara Anderson, Colleen Nelson immerses readers in a rich and unflinchingly human tale of struggle and hope—all inspired by one curious dog. 

Review:

This story had a unique format. The chapters alternate perspectives between Austin (the boy who found Harvey), Maggie (the girl whose family owns Harvey), and Harvey (the dog). I liked that we got to see the different sides to the story including the girl who desperately wanted her pet returned and the boy who had always longed for a dog. The dog’s perspective was original because he was stuck in between wanting to go home to Maggie and wanting to stay with Austin.

There were some upsetting parts to this story. The idea of losing my dog kept running through my head while I was reading this story. There were also some disturbing flashbacks to when Mr. Pickering, one of the retirement home residents who loved Harvey, was a child and his own experience with his own dog. That included when his dog lost his leg and eventually died. Those parts were incredibly sad to read.

Though this story broke my heart a little, the optimistic title kept me reading. I enjoyed the overall book, though there were some difficult scenes.

Thank you Pajama Press for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

Sadia by Colleen Nelson

Have you read Harvey Comes Home? What did you think of it?