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Mr. 60% by Clete Barrett Smith (from a Two Thumbs Up reviewer)

by McNally Robinson - Friday, Aug 25, 2017 at 10:04pm

Mr. 60% is about Matt, a drug dealer who does what he does to help his Uncle Jack with his pain killers. You guessed it-- he's 60% in all of his classes! He only goes to school to reach his customers, while his vice principal and school counselor are consistently on his back to pick up his grades, or alternatively expel him from high school. A new school rule comes along that requires Matt to join a club and the only one he qualifies for is the community service club. Here, he meets Amanda, a fat girl with aspirations to go to nursing school. And they soon start a wonderful friendship.

This was a pretty bland book. There's nothing to critique, rant about, or acclaim. It's almost like what the title says, 60%. Although there were some heartwarming and touching scenes, nothing outstanding or memorable really happened. Matt and Amanda's relationship starts off rocky at first, but later unfolds in a heartwarming friendship. Amanda starts helping Matt with his uncle; basically becoming his uncle's caretaker and even misses some school so she can babysit him. Matt becomes almost a miracle to her life since she has no friends up to this point. Reason? She's fat. Really? I mean…really? Just because a girl is fat she has no friends? I find this so unrealistic and just straight out unnecessary. Excuse me for saying so, but there are plenty of people out there who look past exteriors and into a person’s heart and personality.

I find this book wishy-washy; overall a 2.5/5 star read. This book had potential to becoming a heart-wrenching, emotional, contemporary novel, but the author just didn't execute the story well enough. The ending was bittersweet, but I couldn't find it in myself to care anymore.

- Yen Anh, a Two Thumbs Up reviewer

Categories: Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Two Thumbs Up

The Art of Feeling by Laura Tims (from a Two Thumbs Up reviewer)

by McNally Robinson - Wednesday, Aug 23, 2017 at 1:09pm

Samantha Herring has been in constant pain ever since the car accident that injured her leg and killed her mother. After pushing her friends away, Sam has receded into a fog of depression until she meets Eliot, a carefree, impulsive loner who, is unable to feel any pain at all. At first, Sam is jealous. She would give anything to not feel the pain she’s felt for the past year. But the more she learns about Eliot’s medical condition, the more she notices his self-destructive tendencies. In fact, Eliot doesn’t seem to care about anything—except Sam. And as they grow closer, they begin to confront Sam’s painful memories of the accident, memories that hold a startling truth about what really happened that day.

The Art of Feeling by Laura Tims is such a well-written story, from beginning to end it was interesting. I did not want to put the book down! The plot pulled me in right away and there wasn't a dull moment throughout. I could definitely see a lot of character development with Sam and Eliot as their friendship grows, their fondness for each other shows as they help each other with their problems and fears. It also showed the relationship in Sam’s family as they deal with the loss of her mother, showing how each member of the family is dealing with their grief in different ways and how it affects them. The Art of Feeling deals with friendship, loss, pain, forgiveness, and acceptance. I absolutely loved this book and I would definitely recommend this book to a friend, I’d rate it 4.5 out of 5 stars, only because I wish it was longer!

- Sarah, a Two Thumbs Up reviewer

Categories: Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Two Thumbs Up

Finding You by Lydia Albano (from a Two Thumbs Up reviewer)

by McNally Robinson - Tuesday, Aug 22, 2017 at 6:27pm

Isla is kidnapped from a train platform in broad daylight and thrust into a nightmare when she is sold to a sadistic aristocrat. Locked in a dungeon with a dozen other girls, Isla's only comfort is a locket and the memory of the boy she loves. But as the days pass and more girls disappear, she realizes that help is not coming... If they're going to survive, they'll have to escape on their own.

Finding You was definitely not what I expected. First of all, I didn't realize this took place in the 1900's until a few pages in, when it became very obvious. I'm used to there being a separate page at the front that says the year when a book takes place in a different time period, so this took me by surprise. It was good though. It was different seeing how women were depicted and the poverty that took over the country. I expected this to be your classic kidnapped-then-sold-to-a-very-rich-sexist-man type of book, but it wasn't. Instead I was led into a world where a rebellion is brewing and the kidnapping was only a sideline issue to others. It didn't take presidency over what others were doing. Nobody dropped everything to help the girls. They had to try to solve everything for themselves and become the brave warriors they were meant to be. This was really interesting to witness because you could actually see the change occurring in each girl throughout the novel. It wasn't just in the main character, but all of them.

Lydia Albano wrote about some sensitive issues in her novel. She focussed mainly on rape and its affects on women, but she also went into PTSD a little bit and the guilt of killing another human being, even if by accident. She handled the topics well and really helped you understand what it can be like for others. I'd rate this as a 7/10.

- Lauren, a Two Thumbs Up reviewer

Finding You will be available September 19.

Categories: Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Two Thumbs Up

Strange Alchemy by Gwenda Bond (from a Two Thumbs Up reviewer)

by McNally Robinson - Monday, Aug 21, 2017 at 5:19pm

On Roanoke Island, the legend of the Lost Colony — and the 114 colonists who vanished without a trace — still haunts the town. But that's just a story told for the tourists. When 114 people suddenly disappear from the island in present day, it seems history is repeating itself and an unlikely pair of seventeen-year-olds might be the only hope of bringing the missing back. Miranda Blackwood, a member of one of island's most infamous families, and Grant Rawling, the sherrif's son, find themselves at the center of the mystery. As the unlikely pair works to uncover the secrets of the new Lost Colony, they must dodge everyone from the authorities as they race against time to save their family and friends before they too are gone for good.

Strange Alchemy has such an interesting and promising premise. I was so excited to dive in this story. At the time, it was exactly what I needed, a murder mystery mixed with historical fiction. The first half of the book was absolutely captivating, I couldn't stop reading since I had to know what was going to happen. But, sadly it ends there. I really wanted to love this book. I really did. I gave it so many chances to redeem itself; I kept telling myself (after I hit the halfway mark) that this was just filler and the real exciting part is just around the corner. The problem is, the 'real exciting part' never happened. It was simply just filler and got more confusing. When the climax happened, I just really didn't care. It was a jumbled mess the last half of the book, which made me really sad because the first half was amazing! Overall, it was okay, my expectations were not met, but it was still a meh kind of book. I give this a 3/5 stars for the first half and the originality of the story.

- Yen Anh, a Two Thumbs Up reviewer

Categories: Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Two Thumbs Up

Blight by Alexandra Duncan (from a Two Thumbs Up reviewer)

by McNally Robinson - Saturday, Aug 19, 2017 at 5:49pm

Blight focuses on the story of Tempest Torres, who, for most of her life, lived and worked on a mass scale farm. But when rebels set off an explosion that releases a blight killing everything in its wake, she must team up with scavenger boy Alder, in order to bring the only blight resistant seeds to the only ones who can supposedly duplicate them. But what happens when Tempest begins to doubt the world in which she was raised? And what if there is a bigger plot behind the blight?

Though a bit slow at first, this somewhat futuristic novel captures the imagination with engaging characters and a carefully crafted world. Alexandra Duncan also artfully educates the reader on mass scale farming, as well as seed saving. Certainly a book that inspires thought on many of these systems in our lives. Nonetheless an enjoyable summer read.

- Sophia, a Two Thumbs Up reviewer

Categories: Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Two Thumbs Up
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