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Thursday, May 2, 2019

Re-Reading: Every You, Every Me | Book Review

Every You, Every Me

Written by David Levithan
Photographs by Jonathan Farmer 
Number of Pages: 248

Average Rating: 3.41 / 5 stars
My Rating: 4 / 5 stars

Published: September 13, 2011
First Read in May 2013
Re-Read in May 2019

Summary According to Goodreads

In this high school-set psychological tale, a tormented teen named Evan starts to discover a series of unnerving photographs - some of which feature him. Someone is stalking him…messing with him…threatening him. Worse, ever since his best friend Ariel has been gone, he’s been unable to sleep, spending night after night torturing himself for his role in her absence. And as crazy as it sounds, Evan’s starting to believe it’s Ariel that’s behind all of this, punishing him. But the more Evan starts to unravel the mystery, the more his paranoia and insomnia amplify, and the more he starts to unravel himself.

Creatively told with black-and-white photos interspersed between the text so the reader can see the photos that are so unnerving to Evan, Every You, Every Me is a one-of-a-kind departure from a one-of-a-kind author.

My Thoughts 

“Remember when you were happy? Well, it’s a lie.”

So I read this book exactly six years ago, and although my reading taste has matured substantially my rating for this stays the same. As many of you know I am an advocate for mental health representation, and I appreciate how this novel centres around an mental illness (specifics undisclosed), but from the perspectives of outside characters and not the sufferer. 

Ariel is the friend of Evan and ex-boyfriend of Jack, and suffers from a mental illness. Both boys reminisce on times when she was completely elated and happy, and other moments when she is threatening suicide. This shared bond is the only thing that these boys have in common, and the novel explores the journey as they both come to terms with the role they have played in Ariel’s mental health. I think that it was refreshing to get these outside perspectives as it provides insight as to how a mental disorder can affect so many different people in someone’s life, and how many are quick to take some of the blame on themselves when things go wrong. 

David Levithan will still continue to be one of my favourite young adult authors, and I look forward to his continuing works. I was very impressed when I read that this entire novel was inspired by photographs and each “chapter” or section was written based off of the next picture given to David by Jonathan Farmer one at a time. I think this was a very smart and interesting collaboration, and made for a much more interesting way of telling the story. The way that it was formatted and inclusion of the photographs also made for a very quick read, so if you are a fan of contemporaries surrounding mental illness I would recommend you pick this one up if you haven’t already. 

A picture is truly worth a thousand words. 

Monday, April 29, 2019

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn | Book Review | GUEST REVIEWER

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn 

Written by Betty Smith
Number of Pages: 493

Average Rating: 4.26 / 5 stars
Rhonda’s Rating: 5 / 5 stars

Published in 1943
Read in March 2019

Summary According to Goodreads

The beloved American classic about a young girl’s coming-of-age at the turn of the century, Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a poignant and moving tale filled with compassion and cruelty, laughter and heartache, crowded with life and people and incident. 

The story of young, sensitive, and idealistic Francie Nolan and her bittersweet formative years in the slums of Williamsburg has enchanted and inspired millions of readers for more than sixty years. By turns overwhelming, sublime, heartbreaking, and uplifting, the daily experiences of the unforgettable Nolans are raw with honesty and tenderly threaded with family connectedness - in a work of literary art that brilliantly captures a unique time and place as well as incredibly rich moments of universal experience. 

Rhonda’s Thoughts

This book is listed on the Top 100 Books to Read Before You Die, and justifiably so. This was a story like one I had never read before; it was devastating and hard to read at times, but it was also inspiring and uplifting at others. I never would have picked this book up on my own, but it was recommended to me by my local librarian and I am so grateful she did.

This story is written as a semi-autobiography about an adolescent girl growing up in Brooklyn in a poor family. The book takes us through five periods in Francie Nolan’s life starting when she was 11 years old, until she turns 17.  During this journey we also learn about the struggles faced by her parents trying to raise a family during this time period of a Great Depression, as well as their close relatives.  The book addresses many different issues including poverty and alcoholism, things still relevant in today’s society.   

The story follows Francie through all of her struggles and her refusal to give up on life and on herself, no matter the challenges that faced her or her family. There was nothing about this novel that was glamorized or exaggerated, it was down-to-earth and real no matter how rough it got. All of the characters in this book were described so well and I could easily picture Francie’s surrounding.

This was not an easy book to read. It took me longer than usual to finish, as it was a story that I needed to fully digest and not hurried along. I found it interesting that this book was one of the most popular Armed Services Edition books. meaning that it was published in a small enough edition that it could fit in a pocket. I would recommend this novel to adults that have a taste for reading, but would warn that it is a slow read (it took me nearly seven weeks), just because it captures you and you want to emerse yourself in every single detail. I came out of this novel with a renewed love of reading and developed an interest in joining a book club - I had so much that I wanted to discuss about this novel. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

HIIT Your Limit | Book Review

HIIT Your Limit: 
High-Intensity Interval Training for Fat Loss, Cardio, and Full Body Health

Written by: Dr. Len Kravitz
Number of Pages: 208

My Rating: 4 / 5 stars

I received an ebook copy of this novel to review as part of a blog tour, but that does not influence my opinion. 

If any of you follow my personal blog, you would know that in 2017 I lost 70lbs through a change in diet and exercise. For a while I was following a keto diet, but wanted something more sustainable as a continuous lifestyle choice and found that through weight lifting and cardio exercising. I don’t tend to read many non-fiction books about health and fitness, only because I consider myself to be very familiar on the subject and have enough knowledge to be able to sit and discuss it myself. However, when the opportunity to receive a copy of this book was presented, I was quite intrigued and interested since HIIT was something that I hadn’t tried before. 

What I enjoyed the most about this novel was that it is written and formatted in a way that is very suitable for beginners to HIIT, such as myself. HIIT is a program I hadn’t tried before, but thanks to this novel I have over 40 new workouts that I can try! If you didn’t know, HIIT stars for High-Intensity Interval Training, and is perfect for me because it involves very intense workouts that don’t take a lot of time for results. And because they are so fast-paced, you can’t get bored!

There was a fair amount of information all about the science of it all and the different fat loss strategies and cutting calories, which I found to be excessive and repetitive after a while. I would have much preferred more information and plans regarding HIIT specifically, only because I am so familiar with other weight loss programs. 

Overall I would recommend this book to anyone that is interested in starting an exercise regime or to anyone that has hit a plateau in their workout and needs something to change it up. I am looking forward to implementing some of the HIIT workouts that were included in this novel and will likely do a 30-Day experience and results related post on my other blog!

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Easy Prey | Book Review

Easy Prey

Written by: Catherine Lo
Number of Pages: 346

Average Rating: 3.70 / 5 stars
My Rating: 4 / 5 stars

Published: October 16, 2018
Read in April 2019

Summary According to Goodreads

Only three students had access to a teacher’s racy photos before they went viral. There’s Mouse, a brainy overachiever so desperate to escape his father and go to MIT that he would do almost anything, legal or not. Then there’s Drew, the star athlete who can get any girl’s number - and private photos - with his charm but has a history of passing those photos around. And finally there’s Jenna, a good girl turned rebel after her own shocking photos made the rounds at school last year, who is still waiting for justice. 

All three deny leaking the photos but someone has to take the fall. 

This edgy whodunit tackles hot-button issues of sexting and gossip, and will have readers tearing through the pages to reach the final reveal. 

My Thoughts

I received a physical ARC of this novel while attending BEA in 2018, as well as an ebook copy from NetGalley, but that does not affect my opinion.

If you have been keeping up with my social media, you will know that in January I went back to university and have been way too busy to read for pleasure. I am winding down the semester and over the holiday break decided I would pick up this book since I had been eyeing it for a while and I am SO glad that I did. I managed to break through my reading slump and finish this book in less than 48 hours, I could not seem to put it down!

My reading taste leans very heavily toward mystery and psychological thrillers, with a certain passion for dark contemporaries discussing “taboo” topics - and this novel had it all! There are essentially two mysteries being investigated in this novel, who posted the pictures of the teacher, and Jenna is still trying to find out who posted her own pictures a year prior. Throughout the novel the three characters become “friends” while working on a group project, and hints about both of these online incidents start coming to light. The ending was not one that I had anticipated, but I am glad that it unfolded as it did as it brought a new theme to the novel (which I won’t discuss for spoilers sake). 

I enjoyed all three of the characters, I think that they worked well together and reading from their perspectives. The novel takes place in multiple settings and I enjoyed reading they others perspectives when they would visit each others houses. Throughout the novel you could see slight developments in each of them, but the one that grew the most, and my favourite, was Jenna. Jenna started the novel as a quiet girl receding into herself after a trauma, still feeling victimized and bullied a year after her nude pictures were leaked. By the end of the novel Jenna was much more assertive and presented a strong character that I think is very important in these types of stories. 

I have read a few comments posted by fellow readers, and the biggest complaints seem to be the juvenile writing and the cliche ending. I understand these perspectives but I do have to disagree, specifically with the writing style. This novel changes between three perspectives, two male and one female seniors in high school. These students are barely eighteen years old, and I found it more realistic having their perspectives written as they’d be thinking, in an almost continuous thought process. My issue with this novel and the reason that I could not give it five stars does come from the writing, in that there were a few times where I struggled to differentiate between Mouse’s and Drew’s perspective. I would have preferred for them to have more distinct tones considering their personalities are quite different from each other.

Overall, I really enjoyed this novel and will likely purchase a finished copy for my shelves; not necessarily because I will reread it but because I want to support more Canadian authors. I thought that this novel was well-written in both the plot development and that it kept me interested, and I will definitely be reading more of this authors work in the future.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Prep School Confidential | Book Review

Prep School Confidential

Written by: Kara Taylor
Number of Pages: 310

Average Rating: 3.97 / 5 stars
My Rating: 2.5 / 5 stars

Published in July 2013
Read in January 2019

Summary According to Goodreads

Anne Dowling practically runs her exclusive academy on New York’s Upper East Side - that is, until she accidentally burns part of it down and gets sent to a prestigious boarding school outside of Boston. Determined to make it back to New York, Anne couldn’t care less about making friends at the preppy Wheatley School. That is, until her roommate Isabella’s body is found in the woods behind the school.

When everyone else is oddly silent, Anne becomes determined to uncover the truth no matter how many rules she has to break to do it. With the help of Isabella’s twin brother Anthony, and a cute classmate named Brent, Anne discovers that Isabella wasn’t quite the innocent nerdy girl she pretended to be. But someone will do anything to stop Anne’s snooping in this fast-paced, unputdownable read - even if it means framing her for Isabella’s murder. 

My Thoughts

I have been holding onto this novel for far too long, and actually own all three books of the trilogy. In 2018 I put this novel on my “Read or Unhaul” list but I never got around to it. This is the first book that I have read in 2019, and I am disappointed that it took me over two weeks to read. 

I am a huge fan of thrillers and murder mysteries, and had heard good things about this story from my friend Geraldine. The plot started out engaging, but slowly got slower, and slower paced. At no point while reading this was I sitting on the edge of my seat, and instead found it easy to put down and move on to other things. 

What hurt this novel the most for me were the weak characters thrown into such an atmospheric setting. Our main character Anne was complex, but displayed too much entitlement and recklessness for my taste. Her friends were flat minions that seemed to have no storyline outside of Anne, even though she’d only been at that school for a couple of weeks. The tip of the iceberg where I knew I couldn’t rate this novel high was the unnecessary love triangle. In this kind of mystery/thriller, it was a waste to throw in two guys for Anne who already had enough going on. This triangle just added too much angst in my opinion and took away from the true point of the novel. 

Overall, I was quite disappointed with the pacing of this novel, and how many cliches it ended up hitting. As I said, I own the other two books in the series but I will likely end up unhauling them and giving them to someone that will enjoy them. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Witchborn | Book Review | Guest Reviewer


Written by: Nicholas Bowling
Number of Pages: 368

Average Rating: 3.40 / 5 stars
Rhonda’s Rating: 1 / 5 stars

Published September 25, 2018
Read in December 2018

Summary According to Goodreads

Alyce’s mother has just been burnt at the stake for practicing witchcraft. With only a thin set of instructions and a witch’s mommet for guidance, Alyce must face the world that she’s been sealed off from - a world of fear and superstition. With a witch hunter fast on her trail, she’ll need the help of an innkeeper and a boy looking to discover the truth behind his own mother’s past. 

But as her journey continues, another war rages: a hidden war of the supernatural, of the living and the dead. Good and evil are blurred, and nobody’s motives can be trusted. And Alyce finds herself thrown unwillingly into the conflict. Struggling to understand her own powers, she is quickly drawn into a web of secrets, lies, and dark magic that could change the fate of the world she is just coming to know. 

Rhonda’s Thoughts

Witch Born by Nicholas Bowling intrigued me immediately upon reading the synopsis. The year was 1577 and it started with a woman being accused of practising witchcraft while she tried to keep her daughter Alyce safe. By page eight I found myself to be totally intrigued, but by page 90 I felt that there was still no plot developed. Leading up to this point there had been plot points and hints suggesting something big, but the actual climax of the story was not coming to life for me. 

The author used very descriptive vocabulary throughout the entire story, which brought the scenery to life and made it worth reading for me. Many new characters where being introduced but only one, Solomon, seemed of any relevance, and the rest were just to take up space. When the author finally revealed the plot I did not like that he used real characters including Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary of Scots, and wrote them as witches.  I am usually a fan of historical fiction novels, but using these non-fictional characters actually made me stop reading the book. I needed to take some time to decide if I wanted to continue with the story because knowing these characters true stores, it pulled me out to the world that he had so beautifully created. 

I hate giving novels such negative reviews, and I can only hope that the more he writes the stronger he will get since this was only his first published work. The story idea was good, the descriptive writing was fantastic but the characters and their purpose in the story never really came together for a good novel. 

Check out Rhonda’s GoodReads page: