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On the Spectrum by Jennifer Gold (from a Two Thumbs Up reviewer)

by McNally Robinson - Tuesday, Sep 05, 2017 at 6:42pm

When Clara leaves New York to visit her father and his family in Paris, she is a little skeptical. A family she hardly knows, a little brother on the autism spectrum to deal with, and possibly worst of all; so much rich unhealthy food. But through it all, Clara ends up being surprised.

On the Spectrum attempts to deal with controversial issues which certainly set it apart from many light young adult romances. It provides an enrapturing look at the pressures of society and self-discovery. Clara, thought not perfect, certainly grows into an interesting character. While her brother, Alastair provides bright new eyes through which to see the city of light. Jennifer Gold brings this all neatly together to create a thought prevoking plotline, and a comforting novel.

- Sophia, a Two Thumbs Up reviewer

On the Spectrum will be available September 12.

Categories: Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Two Thumbs Up

Things I'm Seeing Without You by Peter Bognanni (from a Two Thumbs Up reviewer)

by McNally Robinson - Friday, Sep 01, 2017 at 7:19pm

Seventeen-year-old Tess Fowler has just dropped out of high school. She can barely function after learning of Jonah’s death. Jonah, the boy she’d traded banter with over texts and heartfelt e-mails. Jonah, the first boy she'd told she loved and the first boy to say it back. Jonah, the boy whose suicide she never saw coming. Tess continues to write to Jonah, as a way of processing her grief and confusion. But for now she finds solace in perhaps the unlikeliest of ways: by helping her father with his new alternative funeral business, where his biggest client is . . . a prized racehorse? As Tess’s involvement in her father’s business grows, both find comfort in the clients they serve and in each other. But love, loss, and life are so much more complicated than Tess ever thought. Especially after she receives a message that turns her life upside down.

This book is yet another story about a grief-driven protagonist that is sarcastically written. Joking aside, I do appreciate the writing - the author's attempt at dark humour to lighten the book's heavy atmosphere. It is addictive and really gets you into the book. There are just several things I can't relate to. One being Tess's relationship with Jonah. There's only a couple flashback about him and none, I feel, is enough to make the reader understand Tess's grief. In fact, I found it extremely unrealistic. I mean, I think meeting someone in real life for a couple of hours and then proceeding to fall in love with said person through the internet is cool. Once and For All is a good example of a book that does it perfectly. It's just... I didn't get expose to Jonah enough to feel something when he died. Jonah's depression also comes off as unrealistic and weird? We are told several times that he goes through these episodes, but not really why he is like that. Quoting things from famous dead people doesn't cut it. Seriously, the guy's terribly undeveloped, even for a dead character.

Then there's the one and only Tess Fowler. Yet another protagonist who is so grief-driven that she proceeds to blame the universe. At some point, I couldn't tell if she is just that mean and cruel to everyone around her, with or without Jonah's death. I couldn't believe this kid still has the support that she doesn't deserve. You think that having a character this unlikable means the author is leaving room for growth. I thought so too. And guess what doesn't happen? Tess gets even worse toward the end. If Jonah is undeveloped, Tess has absolutely zero development as far as I can tell. The only character that I can relate to in this book is Daniel. Sweet, precious Daniel. Don't get me wrong, he does some terrible things as well. But compare to our friend Tess over here, he is actually a really nice guy. Daniel does come around to his mistake and apologize for it, Tess just plainly refuses to admit her flaws and somehow still manages to get on her merry way. I know I'm supposed to feel sad and touched by all the great sayings this book has to offer, but her character just pretty much ruins it.

I don't recommend this book, there are many other books with a similar premise out there that are more worthy of your attention than this one. Once and For All, History is All You Left Me, and Everything All at Once are great examples. Once and For All is weirdly similar to this one, it has a protagonist that is mourning the loss of a boy she met once at a wedding, the two of them falls into a long distance relationship soon after. And she helps her mom plan weddings instead of funerals like in Things I'm Seeing Without You, but the book is just generally way better. 2/5 Stars.

- Phuong, a Two Thumbs Up reviewer

Things I'm Seeing Without You will be available October 3.

Categories: Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Two Thumbs Up

Nothing by Annie Barrows (from a Two Thumbs Up reviewer)

by McNally Robinson - Tuesday, Aug 29, 2017 at 5:26pm

Nothing ever happens to Charlotte and Frankie. Their lives are nothing like the lives of the girls they read about in their YA novels. They don’t have flowing red hair, and hot romantic encounters never happen—let alone meeting a true soul mate. They just go to high school and live at home with their parents, who are pretty normal, all things considered. But when Charlotte decides to write down everything that happens during their sophomore year—to prove that nothing happens and there is no plot or character development in real life—she’s surprised to find that being fifteen isn’t as boring as she thought.

Nothing by Annie Barrows was an ok read, I think I had higher expectations for it though. If I'm being honest it was a little bit of a letdown, the reason being is because as the book title says, nothing really happens. Obviously, some things happen, but all the stuff that does happen doesn't really affect the story development. The most interesting part of the story was the last chapter, which was the epilogue so I wouldn't really call it a chapter. I guess I shouldn't really be that surprised considering technically the book warned that nothing really happens, but in the description of the story it explains how Charlotte is surprised to find that being fifteen isn't as boring as she thought, this confused me a little because the part where Charlotte is surprised was not shown. Although I was slightly disappointed in the story, the book was well written and it wasn't boring. If you're looking for a quick and easy to read story, then you should read this book. But if you're interested in a deep plot with lots of character development and twists, this is not the book for you. Overall I’d rate it 3/5 stars.

- Sarah, a Two Thumbs Up reviewer

Nothing will be available September 5.

Categories: Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Two Thumbs Up

The Mosaic by Nina Berkhout (from a Two Thumbs Up reviewer)

by McNally Robinson - Monday, Aug 28, 2017 at 8:34pm

Twyla Jane Lee has one goal. To finish senior year so she can get out of her military hometown of Halo, Montana. But to graduate, she needs to complete forty hours of community service, and that means helping out a rude and reclusive former Marine named Gabriel Finch. A young veteran of the conflicts in the Middle East, Gabriel spends his days holed up in a decommissioned nuclear missile silo on his family farm. Twyla assumes he’s just another doomsday prepper, readying his underground shelter for Armageddon. But soon she finds out the truth, and it takes her breath away.

The Mosaic is an engaging artful novel. Full of loving descriptions of American Prarie, and moving stories of soldiers living with the after effects of war, this book really makes you think. Realistic portrayal of human emotions and the painstaking process of creating art, both take center stage in this heartbreaking read. Avid readers will finish this book in a matter of days. Maybe one of the best books I've ever read.

- Sophia, a Two Thumbs Up reviewer

The Mosaic will be available September 1.

Categories: Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Two Thumbs Up

Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman (from a Two Thumbs Up reviewer)

by McNally Robinson - Sunday, Aug 27, 2017 at 2:20pm

Kiko Himura has always had a hard time saying exactly what she’s thinking. With a mother who makes her feel unremarkable and a half-Japanese heritage she doesn’t quite understand, Kiko prefers to keep her head down, certain that once she makes it into her dream art school, Prism, her real life will begin. But then Kiko doesn’t get into Prism, at the same time her abusive uncle moves back in with her family. So when she receives an invitation from her childhood friend to leave her small town and tour art schools on the west coast, Kiko jumps at the opportunity in spite of the anxieties and fears that attempt to hold her back. And now that she is finally free to be her own person, Kiko learns life-changing truths about herself, her past, and how to be brave.

For a book that I read in one sitting, Starfish made me feel too many emotions at once for my own good. And this is a good thing. I can’t describe how difficult it is to come across a gem of a book that is just right in every way. The writing is inexplicably raw and honest, reading the book was like having a friend talk to you. I related to Kiko right off the bat. From her insecurity about being different to her anxiety and passion for art, I ached when she does. Kiko’s family issues are very difficult to read about, especially the stuff about her mother. I never disliked a character so much before, although I was more invested in the story because of it. The side characters are wonderfully done as well. Even if some doesn’t get to appear much, I found myself appreciating their contribution to their story. Now I need a Jamie in my life. Above all, the thoughtfulness of this story really blew me away for a debut novel. The author does a good job in tying any loose knot and she does so beautifully, leaving a reader like me satisfied when I finally closed the book.

What more to say beside the fact that Starfish is the one to watch for when it is released? It had everything one would think to discover in a contemporary book: main character with incredible development that you can relate to, a family that doesn’t stay in the background, good tackle on anxiety issues and races, a cute romance that isn’t too over the top, and something that you can take away from. Did I mention all the feels that Starfish has? I highly recommend this book. 5/5 Stars. 

- Phuong, a Two Thumbs Up reviewer

Starfish will be available September 26.

Categories: Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Two Thumbs Up
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