All the Colors Came Out – Kate Fagan

This book has the most beautiful cover I’ve seen this year. It’s more astounding in real life, so if you ever get the chance to get your hands on the hardcover copy, go for it. Having read Kate Fagan’s former book – What Made Maddy Run – I was very interested in this book, particularly because she discusses herself and her family, whereas her first book focuses on another family entirely and one particular tragic event.

Both are good, honestly, but very different. In All the Colors Came Out, Kate Fagan talks mainly about her father who was diagnosed with ALS a couple of years ago, and chronicles everything that happened after the diagnosis until the day he dies from the illness. She also reflects on many childhood memories and tells us what it was like to grow up with a father like hers and what lead to their distancing later in life.

Seeing Kate Fagan try to reconnect with her dying father was very beautiful. Spending time with her family and writing about it also made her understand her own mother and wife better. Her sister is not mentioned as much, but with reason since she is busy raising kids and does not live with her father anymore. Kate, on the other hand, decided to spend half the time with her father and half with her wife, so she can take care of him and make up for all the times she prioritized her career over her family.

Although this is a short nonfiction book, with less than two hundred pages, it is not the type of book you can easily read in an afternoon or one sitting. It may be short, but it is filled with experience, wisdom, regret, hope, love, understanding, lessons and sadness. Normally, a book this size would take me an entire day to read at most, but I’ve spent the last three days reading it little by little. There is no clear ‘‘storyline’’ per se, even if it’s divided in multiple parts. At times it feels random, like Kate wrote all that was on her mind out of order. At times the chapters also feel like blog posts, barely edited, just Kate and what’s cursing through her. Reflection after reflection. But one thing it always is is authentic. I wasn’t always very happy with Kate, because some of the things she says and does are selfish or childish and I expected better from a grown woman, but what softened me was seeing how well Kate tried to understand her own shortcomings and how she maybe didn’t deserve me being so hard on her.

I feel honoured to have had the chance to get to know Kate’s father and Kate herself better. Though I cannot compare this to anything I’ve read before, I think you’ll like Kate’s writing style and personality if you enjoyed Shrill by Lindy West.

Thank you Hachette Book Group Canada for the copy in exchange for a review.

Not Our Summer – Casie Bazay

I started this book after coming out of a book slump that went on for a long time, and yet I only finished it a couple of minutes ago. It took me about three weeks to read because it’s the type of book that has an adequate amount of good things—things that I like in my reads—but never enough to really keep my attention for a long time or to make me want to pick it up again after I put it down. For example, it has nice writing, family relationships, some mystery, adventure, deep talks, energy, realistic characters and scenes… but none of these elements really stand out.

In other words, it’s a debut novel through and through. I don’t like to say this, because some debut novels are actually pretty spectacular, but there is a lot that this author can improve and I’m sure she has the ability to. I would say that one of the things that kept me from being too intrigued was how planned the story seemed to be. From the beginning, we know which activities the two cousins will be doing. Why not keep those a secret until they have to happen? There is one revelation that I did not see coming, but overall it is not a story that keeps you on your feet.

That does not mean that it doesn’t have value. As mentioned in the first paragraph, it contains various elements that can give meaning to a story or make it enjoyable to read. I do admit that there is quite a lot of teen angst, which makes it hard sometimes to emotionally connect with the heroines, since they are often driven by their own anger, ego, annoyances and hormones to be in touch with their more humane and vulnerable thoughts, emotions and welcome the input of others around them. With that being said, I was touched by their grandfather’s letters to them and their slowly growing connection. We have here an enemy-to-friends type of dynamic, so if you enjoy those this could work for you. On the other hand, if you have no patience for lots of teen angst, you might want to skip it. My last point is that the author managed to wrote a beautiful ending. Everything comes together rather nicely. Well done!

Thank you Hachette Book Group for the copy in exchange for a review.

Beverly, Right Here – Kate DiCamillo

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Beverly, Right Here by Kate DiCamillo

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Received: Penguin Random House Canada
Published: September 2019
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Recommended Age: 7+
Genres & Themes: Middle Grade, Family, Death, Friendship, Love


REVIEW:

It is so clear, to me, why Kate DiCamillo is such a beloved children’s writer. She writes with such thoughtfulness and elegance. She gives voice to young girls who don’t always realize that they have one and that it most certainly deserves to be heard. She makes you want to listen to children more often and actually consider their words carefully. Continue reading

10 Blind Dates – Ashley Elston

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10 Blind Dates by Ashley Elston

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Received: HBG Canada
Published: October 1st, 2019
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Recommended Age: 14+
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, Romance, Family, Friendship, Christmas


REVIEW:

This was FUN.

Everything about it promises fun—the cover, title, synopsis—but it’s one thing to expect something and another thing to be delivered that thing. Also, I read the author’s This Is Our Story, a YA mystery, so I couldn’t wait to see her deliver a feel-good Christmassy romance. Continue reading

Meet Cute – Helena Hunting

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Meet Cute by Helena Hunting

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Received: HBG Canada
Published: April 2019
Publisher: Forever
Recommended Age: 14+
Genres & Themes: Adult, Fiction, Romance, Family Relationships, Siblings, Drama


REVIEW:

Some covers lie. That’s just the way it is. You can scream, you can cry, but it won’t change a thing. That is the way if the book world.

A bit dramatic, okay, but the truth is this is not the super cute/adorable/funny story the cover promises. There is indeed a ‘‘meet cute’’ happening in the very beginning… but that’s it. The rest is not exactly rom-com-worthy. Continue reading

The Overdue Life of Amy Byler – Kelly Harms

The Overdue Life of Amy BylerThe Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Received: Thomas Allen & Son
Published: May 2019
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Recommended Age: 14+
Genres & Themes: Adult, Fiction, Romance, Family, Marriage, Vacation, Humour


REVIEW:

Amy’s husband John abandoned her three years ago and though it was hard on her, she found a way to make life as a single mother work. But now John is back and wants to spend time with the kids. Reluctantly, Amy agrees and decides to go to New York where she ends up having a blast. #momspringa is on. Continue reading

The Revolution of Birdie Randolph – Brandy Colbert

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The Revolution of Birdie Randolph by Brandy Colbert

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Received: Hachette Book Group Canada
Published: August 20th, 2019
Publisher: Little, Brown BFYR
Recommended Age: 12+
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction, Family Dynamics, Romance, Substance Abuse


REVIEW:

This is a book that truly surprised me. First, Brandy Colbert completely improved upon her previous release—Finding Yvonne—a book I did not care to finish. I enjoyed Little & Lion from her, but this was twice as good and well developed. I dare say it’s a page turner from the start. Another reason why this book and author surprised me was Booker, Birdie’s love interest. The way he is presented in the beginning makes the reader think he is trouble. I mean, any guy who encourages a girl to sneak out of the house is a no-no for me. But then I got to know him better and saw how sweet he was to Birdie and began to like him quite a lot. Continue reading

Full Disclosure – Camryn Garrett

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Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Received: Penguin Random House Canada
Published: October 29th, 2019
Publisher: Knopf BFYR
Recommended Age: 12+
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, Romance, Health, Family, LGBTQIA+. Friendship, High School, Theater


REVIEW:

I knew this was going to be an important and memorable story from the very first chapter. This was my first time reading about an HIV positive character and their struggles so I was paying very close attention to everything that was being said about the virus and how it affected Simone’s daily life. I did feel overwhelmed in the beginning because the author does not wait long to explain Simone’s situation to us and so it feels as though we are info-dumped. At the same time, I am really glad I know more about HIV and the U=U rule (undetectable = untransmittable) today. This book made me realize my own ignorance and corrected it. Continue reading

Shouting at the Rain – Lynda Mullaly Hunt

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Shouting at the Rain by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Received: Penguin Random House Canada
Published: May 2019
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books
Recommended Age: 8+
Genres & Themes: Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction, Family, Friendship Dynamics, Summer


REVIEW:

I don’t typically dislike being in the minority because I can stand my ground, especially when it comes to book preferences, but I can’t help but be disappointed right now. This is an author that I have read twice before and both times she managed to impress me, plus this book was enjoyed by 98% of the people who have read it. Yet Shouting at the Rain is not as entertaining as Fish in a Tree or as moving as One for the Murphys. Actually, it’s somewhat annoying. Continue reading

The Test – Sylvain Neuvel

41940388The Test by Sylvain Neuvel

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Received: Raincoast Books
Published: March 2019
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Recommended Age: 14+
Genres & Themes: Adult, Dystopia, Suspense, Family, Morality


REVIEW:

This is so messed up. I mean that in the best way possible. Do you want to read a soft dystopian that has been done before over and over again or something daring, captivating and all sorts of terrifying? I love an author who dares because tame stories are not for me. I want to be surprised and shocked and thrown into suspense instead of gently nudged in one direction or the other. Continue reading