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What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum (from a Two Thumbs Up reviewer)

by McNally Robinson - Tuesday, Jul 04, 2017 at 11:20am

What to Say Next is a cute, heartwarming contemporary read. The story is told in duel first person perspective. One belongs to David, an autistic teen who is socially isolated among his peers. The other belongs to Kit, the popular girl at school and also the first person to sit at David’s lunch table. An unlikely, yet expected friendship blooms. When Kit turns to David to solve the reason behind her father’s tragic car accident, what they find may threaten to unravel their friendship for good.

This is a pretty much a character-driven story. We do get quite a lot of development from our two leads, but not as much from the side characters as I would like. Julie Buxbaum does a great job portraying David’s autism. From his actions to thoughts and feelings, she has got it all down, making his character extremely realistic and three dimensional. David himself is also very sweet and adorable. I particularly enjoy his general carelessness when it comes to how his peers treat him, making him one of my favourite characters. His sister Lauren is all wit and protective, and their relationship is a delight to read.

Kit, on the other hand, is quite difficult to relate to at first due to how self-absorbed she is. While it is natural for one to grieve the death of a loved one, I find that Kit takes it a little far. She shuts out her friends and blames basically everyone for their unwillingness to understand her situation. Meanwhile, her friends are described as incredibly supportive and nice. They stick with her despite her bad treatment of them. It’s a shame they have very little character development for they would have become my favourite characters as well. Fortunately though, Kit does become more tolerable toward the end as she confronts her demons. I’d say that David makes a better character out of her, which is a trope I despise but will ignore because how much I adore David’s character.  

The plot is well-paced, and there are a lot of things going on that keep it moving forward. With my totally obvious predilection for David, I’d say read the book for him. 3.5/5 stars. 

- Phuong, a Two Thumbs Up reviewer

What to Say Next will be available July 11.

Categories: Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Two Thumbs Up

Midnight at the Electric by Jody Lynn Anderson (from a Two Thumbs Up reviewer)

by McNally Robinson - Monday, Jul 03, 2017 at 10:35am

Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson is the story of three girls: Adri, who is soon moving to Mars to help start a colony; Catherine, who lived on a farm in Oklahoma in 1934; and Lenore, who is grieving her brother who died in World War I.

Originally, the premise of a girl going to Mars drew me to this book as I'm quite fond of science fiction. However, as much of this book takes place in the 1900s, the story doesn't really focus on space travel or sci-fi aspects. It didn't bother me, but keep in mind that if you pick up this book expecting a sci-fi about space travel and the future, you'll likely be disappointed.

Honestly, my biggest issue with Midnight at the Electric is Adri. I had a very hard time getting into this book because she was an incredibly unlikeable character. I feel like she's supposed to come across as socially awkward, but she often crossed the line into hostile. At one point in the story, Adri claims she's trying to be polite but distant to her fellow Mars colonist crew members, but when one of them tries to talk to her during lunch, she says she has to go to the bathroom then never comes back. Her constant rudeness and hostility to the other characters made me care very little about her and I struggled to get through the first part of the book as a result. Midnight at the Electric is divided in sections about Adri, Catherine, and Lenore, and luckily the other two characters were much more likeable than Adri. Lenore's sections were my favorite.

After my initial distaste for Adri, I was able to get into the book and I ended up actually enjoying this story. The way the lives of the three girls intertwine is interesting and I really liked Lenore's character, so despite Adri, I recommend this book.

- Niina, a Two Thumbs Up reviewer

Categories: Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Two Thumbs Up

The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy (from a Two Thumbs Up reviewer)

by McNally Robinson - Wednesday, Jun 28, 2017 at 6:15pm

The Disappearances is a book I adore to pieces, but will say little about. You'll just have to go in blind for this gem to work its magic. Not only is it a great blend of contemporary and magical realism, the 1940s setting brings forth a breath of fresh air. Although I was hoping for more focus on the time period itself, the spotlight is concentrated on the "Disappearances." While that is a good thing, I often found myself wondering why everyone is writing letters instead of texting. 

The story follows Aila who, along with her little brother Miles, is sent to live in Sterling after their mother's passing. The siblings soon discover that their beloved mother may have hidden many secrets from them. One of these secrets concerns Sterling itself, a rural town that seems to have ordinary experiences—like its sense of smell—plucked from them every seven years. As the next Disappearance grows near, Aila is pulled into the heart of the mystery. Either she unravels its secret, or is swallowed by it forever. 

Aila is such a lovable character. Her journey to overcome her grief and the struggle to fill the blank space left by her mother for Miles is emotional to read about, yet she remains strong the entire time. I love the fact that she isn't made to be the next Chosen One, since without the support of others, Aila wouldn't have gone as far as she eventually goes. Rest assured that the rest of the characters are as lovely as our heroine, perhaps even more. I can't stress the importance of having 3-dimensional supporting characters enough. A book is guaranteed to be good if the author gets this right and Emily Bain Murphy certainly does. Also, yes for having a strong representation of girl love! 

If you haven't noticed, my entire review is basically me screaming at you to read this book. It has everything: awe-inspiring moments, life lessons, lyrical writing, suspense, and literal magic. There are a few thing that I'd have liked polished, like how the buildup isn't as satisfying as I had hoped, but despite that I still can't get enough of this book. The finishing word (a reference that you'll get if you read the book) is delightful. A definite 5/5 starred read for me.

- Phuong, a Two Thumbs Up reviewer

Categories: Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Two Thumbs Up

And Then There Were Four by Nancy Werlin (from a Two Thumbs Up reviewer)

by McNally Robinson - Sunday, Jun 25, 2017 at 1:56pm

When a building collapses around five teenagers—and they just barely escape—they know something strange is going on. Little by little, the group pieces together a theory: Their parents are working together to kill them all. Is it true? And if so, how did their parents come together—and why? And, most importantly, how can the five of them work together to save themselves?

And Then There Were Four is about five teenagers who are each wanted dead by their guardians for unknown reasons. It has a gripping storyline, but I had a problem with the way it was written. The author has a lot of run-on sentences, and while this wouldn't have been too bad, sometimes I couldn't understand what message Nancy Werlin was trying to get across. It was kind of confusing and made me have to read over each sentence a few times to understand it. Otherwise, the book was pretty fascinating.

The author tells the story from two perspectives: Saralinda and Caleb. Saralinda's chapters are told in first-person narration and Caleb's in second-person. I've only ever read a few novels from second-person perspective, so Caleb's portions of the book were kind of weird for me, but a good weird.

I'd definitely recommend this to people who can handle the change in perspectives and who like thrillers.

- Lauren, a Two Thumbs Up reviewer

Categories: Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Two Thumbs Up

Little Monsters by Kara Thomas (from a Two Thumbs Up reviewer)

by McNally Robinson - Saturday, Jun 24, 2017 at 3:33pm

Filled with suspense and unexpected twists, Little Monsters is a dark thriller about deception, obsession and the danger of a toxic friendship. Kacey moves to Broken Falls with her father's adoring family to escape her troubled mom. As the new girl in town, she's soon welcomed into Bailey and Jade's circle. For a while, Kacey thinks her life has taken a turn for the better... until her friends suddenly grow strange and distant. Before she knows it, Bailey goes missing, rumours spread and Kacey is caught in the middle of it all.

I read somewhere that the prolonged suspense of this book makes the ultimate reveal at the end less satisfying. For me though, it was the opposite. It could be because I'm relatively new to the genre, but I had a great time reading this book. I feel that there is just enough mystery and question marks to keep me on my toes leading up to the ending (which was totally unexpected and creepy). I like Kacey as a narrator, and although she does make some questionable choices, her actions are ultimately justified and the relationship that she has with her new family is adorable and heartwarming. Bailey and Jade are something else entirely. I won't reveal too much but trust me that their complexities are crafted by the author with care. This is a 4/5 star-read for me and I definitely recommended it if you are a fan of the genre or looking for something to spice you up.

- Phuong, a Two Thumbs Up reviewer

Little Monsters will be available July 25.

Categories: Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Two Thumbs Up
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