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Grendel's Guide to Love and War by A.E. Kaplan (from a Two Thumbs Up reviewer)

by McNally Robinson - Monday, Apr 17, 2017 at 9:46am

Tom Grendel lives a quiet life—writing in his notebooks, mowing lawns for his elderly neighbors, and pining for Willow, the girl next door. But when Willow’s brother, Rex (the bro-iest bro ever to don a jockstrap), starts throwing wild parties, the idyllic senior citizens’ community where they live is transformed into a war zone. Tom is pissed, so he comes up with a plan to end the parties for good. One retaliation leads to another, and things quickly escalate out of control, driving Tom and Willow apart. Add to that an angsty existential crisis, a botched break-in at an artisanal pig farm, and ten years of unresolved baggage stemming from his mother’s death... and the question isn’t so much whether Tom Grendel will win the day and get the girl, but whether he’ll survive intact.

Grendel's Guide to Love and War wasn't a romance novel like it said on the cover. There was only a small amount of love and I also thought that it veered away from the plot too much for me to like it. It had lots of pranks and stuff, but I wouldn't have called it a 'war.' Overall, my rating of this book is 6/10.

- Elia, a Two Thumbs Up reviewer

Grendel's Guide to Love and War will be available April 18.

Categories: Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Two Thumbs Up

The Whole Thing Together by Ann Brashares (from a Two Thumbs Up reviewer)

by McNally Robinson - Saturday, Apr 15, 2017 at 4:22pm

The novel is about Ray and Sasha, and their families. Because of a nasty divorce between Ray's mom and Sasha's dad from before they were born, they've never met. Now, that wouldn't be too weird right? But just wait. While Ray's mom was still married to Sasha's dad, they had three daughters: Emma, Quinn and Mattie. These three girls are half-siblings to both Ray and Sasha, but Ray and Sasha aren't related at all. Despite the fact they've never met, they've seen evidence of each other their entire lives. It also doesn't help that they share a room in their lakefront house, even if they are never there at the same time. This creates a sort of bond between them at a young age; they considered each other their imaginary friend. So basically, this family is very complicated. It's not that I didn't understand who was who, it's just that the parents got married and re-married so many times that it took a while to keep track of it all. I actually ended up making a Family Tree on a piece of paper and used it as my bookmark, adding to it whenever I needed to.

I wasn't expecting to enjoy The Whole Thing Together as much as I did. I've read one of Ann Brashares' other books, The Here and Now, about a year ago and wasn't particularly fond of it. Thank goodness I gave her a second chance! The plot is very interesting and well thought through. You can see the strain that Lila and Robert's divorce puts on their children, and how it affects them each differently. This novel really teaches you about grudges and forgiveness, and what it means to be a family. I'd definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading about family hardships and second chances. I'd rate this as an 8/10.

- Lauren, a Two Thumbs Up reviewer

The Whole Thing Together will be available April 25.

Categories: Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Two Thumbs Up

The End of Our Story by Meg Haston (from a Two Thumbs Up reviewer)

by McNally Robinson - Wednesday, Apr 12, 2017 at 2:22pm

The End of Our Story is surprisingly dark and captivating. Wil and Bridge are former childhood best friends and lovers. They struggle to map out their lives together since they broke apart, but have since realized they still have feelings for one another. Unexpectedly, when push comes to shove, Bridge finds herself rushing back into Wil's life, determined to fix their relationship. But people change and Wil has a secret of his own. This may just be the end of their story.

Many issues this novel addresses are a bit overused in YA fiction. Despite this and the fact that they are not well polished, I did appreciate the author's effort to breathe fresh air into her novel. I also enjoy the wonderful portrayal of Bridge and Wil's pain and sadness, as well as their naivety and childish teenage flaws. These aspects were handled in a way that makes them seem more real and relatable. 

3.5/5 stars.

- Phuong, a Two Thumbs Up reviewer

Categories: Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Two Thumbs Up

Shadow Run by Michael Miller (from a Two Thumbs Up reviewer)

by McNally Robinson - Monday, Apr 10, 2017 at 6:17pm

Nev has just joined the crew of the starship Kaitan Heritage as the cargo loader. His captain, Qole, is the youngest-ever person to command her own ship. As for Nev, he’s a prince in hiding. He believes Qole holds the key to changing galactic civilization, and when her cooperation proves difficult to obtain, Nev resolves to get her to his home planet by any means necessary. Before they know it, a rival royal family is after Qole too, and they’re more interested in stealing her abilities than in keeping her alive. Nev’s mission becomes one to save Qole, and to survive, she’ll have to trust her would-be kidnapper. He may be royalty, but Qole is discovering a deep reservoir of power—and stars have mercy on whoever tries to hurt her ship or her crew.

I can be a big space person depending on the day and depending on the book or movie. I thought that Shadow Run would be up my alley, and the reviews I saw from friends certainly made me think so. Unfortunately, I was wrong. Right away Shadow Run gave off bad vibes; it took me a week to get into it but only one day to finish, and that was only because I wanted to be done with it already. If I was one of those people that DNF books (I don't for the most part), then I would have done just that with this one.

Overall I think that the story seemed like it was missing backstory, so when it jumped right into the main plot, it felt like I had missed something. I felt like the world-building—or I guess I should say universe in this case—could have been improved on more. Even if the story takes place in a spaceship, I feel as if the story literally locked me in a metal box. There is nothing creative about the story, and nothing that hooked me in. Honestly, I feel like Shadow Run was just way too similar to the movie Jupiter Ascending. I had hoped that Shadow Run would be a next favourite of mine, but in the end, things didn't work out that way. I probably won't be picking up the sequel in the future. 

- Stephanie, a Two Thumbs Up reviewer

Categories: Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Two Thumbs Up

The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco (from a Two Thumbs Up reviewer)

by McNally Robinson - Saturday, Apr 01, 2017 at 7:02pm

When Tea accidentally resurrects her brother from the dead, she learns she is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy means that she's a bone witch, a title that makes her feared and ostracized by her community. But Tea finds solace and guidance with an older, wiser bone witch, who takes Tea and her brother to another land for training. In her new home, Tea puts all her energy into becoming an asha—one who can wield elemental magic. But dark forces are approaching quickly, and in the face of danger, Tea will have to overcome her obstacles...and make a powerful choice.

The Bone Witch was somewhat disappointing. The whole world and the kingdoms seemed realistic but there were way too many terms that you needed to memorize in order for you to understand what was what. It was hard to keep track of. The characters on the other hand, were easy to remember and distinguish. Each character had distinct traits that made each of them unique. Lord Kalen, for example, was the tough bad boy that wouldn't put up with any weaknesses. While Prince Kance was a nice, polite guy that just wanted to please everyone.

I found myself looking forward to the party scenes and the ones with Prince Kance, Lord Kalen and Lady Mykaela. Those situations were always interesting in some way. Either you'd learn more about the "job description" of being a bone witch, or there would be a tense, surprising situation with Kance or Kalen. Those segments were thrilling but I felt like the rest of the novel was just focusing on the class system within their society. I understand that certain jobs or rankings make you better than others and that Dark Asha are the lowest of the low (to most people). I just believe that that was stated a few times too many. Overall, the novel was okay. I just wish the plot was moving at a quicker pace and that some of the scenes, which had no significance to the character's histories or the plot itself, were excluded. I give this books a 5/10.

- Lauren, a Two Thumbs Up reviewer

Categories: Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Two Thumbs Up
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