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Now I Rise by Kiersten White (from a Two Thumbs Up reviewer)

by McNally Robinson - Saturday, May 13, 2017 at 4:47pm

After failing to secure the Wallachian throne, Lada Dracul is out to punish anyone who dares to cross her path. Filled with a white-hot rage, she storms the countryside with her men. But brute force isn’t getting Lada what she wants, and thinking of Mehmed brings little comfort. What Lada needs is her younger brother, Radu, but Mehmed has sent him to Constantinople—and it’s no diplomatic mission. Mehmed wants control of the city, and Radu has earned a place as a double-crossing spy behind enemy lines. Radu longs for his sister’s fierce confidence—but torn between loyalties to faith, to the Ottomans, and to Mehmed, Radu knows if Lada dies, he could never forgive himself. But if he fails in Constantinople, will Mehmed ever forgive him?

Now I Rise by Kiersten White is the sequel to Now I Darken, so let me start off by formally saying that I did enjoy this book a lot more than the first. The author made up for the areas the first book were lacking in this text, and stepping back into this world felt right. The history of the lands were mixed into the story telling process and filled-in the information I needed to enjoy this book. With the history and story better unfolding, I felt like there was more meaning to this book and the characters' actions. The characters were who they were in the first book, but evolved into better people in this one. The development needed for each character was accomplished, making them easier to connect with.

Along with the thickening plot, we are also introduced to astounding new side characters. My new favourite has to be Cyprian. This character is so awesome and made the story even more awesome. I also really enjoyed Nicolae, another awesome character I connected.

Overall, if you had second thoughts after reading the first book, my suggestion would be to pick this one up with a clear mind. Questions are answered and the world unfolds to even greater stakes. I would highly recommend Now I Rise because it really is my favourite of the two. I would rate this book a 4.5/5 stars.

- Sabrina, a Two Thumbs Up reviewer

Now I Rise will be available June 27.

Categories: Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Two Thumbs Up

Dreamfall by Amy Plum (from a Two Thumbs Up reviewer)

by McNally Robinson - Thursday, May 04, 2017 at 11:03am

Absolutely amazing! I started and finished Dreamfall in two days and it's STILL on my mind, even after I've read a few books since. There were so many aspects of this novel that peeked my interest, but despite that, the nightmares were probably my favourite part of the book. They were thrilling and absolutely horrifying. Each dream was unexpected and different than the last, and creepy in its own way. I found myself freaking out along with the characters. What an experience!

As I mentioned, there are many different parts to this novel. It was cool seeing the medical side of the situation, while also knowing what was happening to the patients subconsciously. It really focused on the different conditions the patients had. Before reading this, I knew vaguely of the different challenges, but I didn't know what they actually were. Take dissociation for example; Cata dissociates when she's either in a traumatic situation, extremely frightened, or emotional. It's how she copes with scenarios she can't handle, and it happens accidentally. It was interesting reading about this from the person's perspective, and it helped me understand what it was like.

It was also intriguing that we learned about each patients' past in portions and not all at once. It added suspense not knowing who they were and what had happened to them. And like any great book with a sequel to follow, it ends in a major plot twist. Well, many actually, and they aren't even obvious. I only saw one of them coming, and the rest were completely out of the blue (but made sense). Overall, I'd rate this book a 10/10. I literally recommend this to everyone.

- Lauren, a Two Thumbs Up reviewer

Categories: Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Two Thumbs Up

Windfall by Jennifer E Smith (from a Two Thumbs Up reviewer)

by McNally Robinson - Monday, May 01, 2017 at 5:21pm

Windfall is a predictable novel about luck and the taste of first love. How would you react when fortune come knocking? Alice, doesn't have to because the winning lottery ticket she bought was for her best friend and long time crush, Teddy. Teddy who has a father that gambled all of his family savings away, who has a reputation for breaking hearts, who has promised to never change when he becomes a millionaire. We all know how that goes.

I read somewhere that if a book is selling a premise about winning a lottery, your mind goes to a certain place, a place that you hope said book didn't go to. Alas, Windfall was just as predictable as I've imagined. Not that it was a bad book, I just lost interest in it very quickly. The cast of characters didn't do much to hold me back, it was hard for me to develop a connection for them all. Alice is so insistent in being the nice girlfriend next door, it's annoying. Teddy is made to be a jerk but he turns out better than Alice does. He isn't being a jerk for the sake of being one, the reason of his actions are more realistically justified. Leo, Alice's gay cousin is properly the only ray of sunshine in this novel. Yet he is such a background character with little to no dimension that he fell flat for me.

The relationship and issues that Windfall deals with are properly the only aspects that saved this book for me. This is right in Jennifer E. Smith's domain. Besides the stuff with Teddy's newly found wealth. She doesn't rush by the fact that Alice feels out of place in her aunt's family, how Teddy's dad never comes back, even how Leo decides to abandon his dream to be with his boyfriend. No, she finds solutions to work around these issues and attemps to wrap them up in the end. The solutions may not be understadably perfect, but those attemps are nicely done. Even Alice and Teddy's relationship manages to be quite adorable. With no connection to neither of their charactes, they still made me giggle at school while reading like a crazy fool. I give this book a 3/5 Stars.

- Phuong, a Two Thumbs Up reviewer

Windfall will be available May 2.

Categories: Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Two Thumbs Up

Who Killed Christopher Goodman? by Allan Wolf (from a Two Thumbs Up reviewer)

by McNally Robinson - Saturday, Apr 29, 2017 at 3:29pm

Everybody likes Chris Goodman. Sure, he’s a little odd. He wears those funny bell-bottoms and he really likes the word ennui and he shakes your hand when he meets you, but he’s also the kind of guy who’s always up for a good time, always happy to lend a hand. Everybody likes Chris Goodman, which makes it especially shocking when he’s murdered. Here, in a stunning multi-voiced narrative — including the perspective of the fifteen-year-old killer — and based on a true and terrible crime that occurred when he was in high school, author Allan Wolf sets out to answer the first question that comes to mind in moments of unthinkable tragedy: how could a thing like this happen?

Who Killed Christopher Goodman is a very intriguing book from the start. Knowing that the book is a murder mystery, the suspense is there from beginning till end. Each chapter is just one step closer to finding out who killed him, and you just can’t wait to find out! The format and layout of the book is really unique, it switches perspectives a lot, but it’s fun to read. I think my favourite part of the book (as strange as this sounds) was the Author’s Note. It was then that I really realized I wasn't just reading some fictional murder mystery, it was based off of a true story. Reading about which parts of the book were fictional, and which were not, as well as about the real victim Ed Disney, was so touching. It made me sad, but it made me do a lot of thinking. Don’t read the Author’s Note before you’re done the book though! Overall great read, I would highly recommend.

- Martina, a Two Thumbs Up reviewer

Categories: Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Two Thumbs Up

The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord (from a Two Thumbs Up reviewer)

by McNally Robinson - Wednesday, Apr 26, 2017 at 6:21pm

Lucy Hansson was ready for a perfect summer with her boyfriend, working at her childhood Bible camp on the lake and spending quality time with her parents. But when her mom's cancer reappears, Lucy falters-in her faith and in her ability to cope. When her boyfriend pauses" their relationship and her summer job switches to a different camp-one for troubled kids-Lucy isn't sure how much more she can handle. Attempting to accept a new normal, Lucy slowly regains footing among her vibrant, diverse coworkers, Sundays with her mom, and a crush on a fellow counselor. But when long-hidden family secrets emerge, can Lucy set aside her problems and discover what grace really means?

The Names They Gave Us was a heartbreak I was not prepared for. Emery Lord is amazing at making swoon worthy characters, and this book had it but it also had a deeper surface that was graced. It made my heart hurt. I cried twice over and still managed to fall in love with this book. The characters were amazing, and th story was well planned throughout the entire read. This book covers a lot about Lucy and staying but struggling to live by her faith. She is handed with temptations and dished the worst possible fates a teenage girl could face. She questions her God and wonders why hurt the people she cares dearly about. I love the meanings this story has to offer even if I am not a super religious person. But thats what made this book so good, even if you aren't a huge faith follower this book had important lessons to be learned and shared. So Emery did a tremendous job at illustrating just that.

The characters were also top notch, but thats something Emery Lord does well. She creates a range of characters who range in traits, and she makes unlikely situations turn likely. Each character spoke to me in a way that made me feel completely connected with the story and what was happening. Lucy was a tremendous character, she was strong but still struggled with making choices that could greatly effect her life. That however is how life is, and thats what made this book so real.

Overall The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord is another book to add to her great collection of fables. She knows how to tell a story and make readers connect with them in every way possible. I highly recommend this book to those who have read Emery's work before, and for those who like reading realistic YA fiction with very real characters. I would rate this book a 5 out of 5 stars.

- Sabrina, a Two Thumbs Up reviewer

The Names They Gave Us will be available May 16.

Categories: Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Two Thumbs Up
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