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The Lost Causes by Jessica Etting & Alyssa Schwartz (from a Two Thumbs Up reviewer)

by McNally Robinson - Friday, Aug 18, 2017 at 5:06pm

They're the kids that no one knows. The rich depressive, the OCD chick, the hypochondriac, the drug abuser, the athlete with anger management issues. All chosen for intensive group therapy because they're out of other options. They're lost causes, the therapist tells them. She promises this support group will help them heal. There's only one problem. She's not a therapist. And that water she offers? It contains a dangerous serum that gives each of the kids a psychic power. Suddenly, they can think clearly, speak to ghosts, even move objects with their mind. Their new powers will help them uncover clues and follow leads. Their outsider status gives them the perfect cover. But the same traits that make them top investigators also make them vulnerable.

I really enjoyed The Lost Causes because it was a entertaining read. It also was a really good mystery book because I didn't know who the culprit was ‎till the authors ‎wanted me to‎o. I really liked the characters, Z and Sabrina because they realistically became friends throughout the book and not right at the beginning of the novel.

- Emily, a Two Thumbs Up reviewer

The Lost Causes will be available September 5.

Categories: Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Two Thumbs Up

If There's No Tomorrow by Jennifer L Armentrout (from a Two Thumbs Up reviewer)

by McNally Robinson - Saturday, Aug 12, 2017 at 4:20pm

Lena Wise is always looking forward to tomorrow, especially at the start of her senior year. She's ready to pack in as much friend time as possible, to finish college applications and to maybe let her childhood best friend Sebastian know how she really feels about him. For Lena, the upcoming year is going to be epic. Until one choice, one moment, destroys everything. Now Lena isn't looking forward to tomorrow. Not when friend time may never be the same. Not when college applications feel all but impossible. Not when Sebastian might never forgive her for what happened. For what she let happen. With the guilt growing each day, Lena knows that her only hope is to move on. But how can she move on when her and her friends' entire existences have been redefined? How can she move on when tomorrow isn't even guaranteed?

Jennifer L. Armentrout has never let me down before, and she didn't this time either. Her novels take a hold of you until the very last page, when you're begging for more. If There's No Tomorrow did just that. She captured what it feels like to lose a loved one perfectly, and her writing is just so hauntingly beautiful.

Lena, the main character, puts into perspective what's important in life and what moments you need to hold onto and which to let go. It's like the novel held an underlying message and you had to figure it out for yourself. This novel definitely has it all: a smooth plot, hilarious moments, romance, and even grief. It had me crying along with the characters and feeling completely at a loss. It's remarkable just how much a story can get to you, and this one really does. I'd recommend this to anyone who has already read some of Jennifer L. Armentrout's other novels, or anyone that likes to feel a wide range of emotions while reading.

- Lauren, a Two Thumbs Up reviewer

If There's No Tomorrow will be available September 5.

Categories: Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Two Thumbs Up

Wild Beauty Anna-Marie McLemore (from a Two Thumbs Up reviewer)

by McNally Robinson - Friday, Aug 11, 2017 at 12:33pm

For nearly a century, the Nomeolvides women have tended the grounds of La Pradera, the lush estate gardens that enchant guests from around the world. They’ve also hidden a tragic legacy: if they fall in love too deeply, their lovers vanish. But then, after generations of vanishings, a strange boy appears in the gardens. The boy is a mystery to Estrella, the Nomeolvides girl who finds him, and to her family, but he’s even more a mystery to himself; he knows nothing more about who he is or where he came from than his first name. As Estrella tries to help Fel piece together his unknown past, La Pradera leads them to secrets as dangerous as they are magical in this stunning exploration of love, loss, and family.

Wild Beauty is so beautiful, it had me in tears. I've had bad experience with magical realism, the genre itself in the past and this very book reminded me of how much I used to love it. Wild Beauty is a story of love, loss, belonging and a little something more. It will lure you in, make you curl your fist in anger, then tug at your heart until it melts like chocolate. The writing, too, is divine. It feels like the author doesn't even try to create such beautiful prose, they simply take root on their own. If I sound dreamy, that's just the effect this book has on me.

Wild Beauty also features one of the loveliest sister/cousin relationship. The bond that these girls have for each other is heartwarming to read about, even more so when a certain obstacle comes in their way. Although, each girl, except Estrella, is a bit undeveloped. I'd like to see more of them if I could. The romance, I admit, comes out of nowhere. There's no instant love per se, and it was very much anticipated, but I just didn't feel a strong build leading up to the moment. But believe me when it finally pulled me under, I had the most ridiculous grin on my face at those last few pages. The book itself addresses a very important subject toward immigrants which is much needed. Not only that, but there is a good representation of diversity in this too, most of the characters are brown-skinned and identified themselves as gay or bisexual. I just loved how positive these topics are portrayed. All and all, this book is as magical as I imagined it to be. I will definitely be checking out this author's previous titles. Need I say more? Go read it. I give Wild Beauty a 4.5/5 Stars.

- Phuong, a Two Thumbs Up reviewer

Wild Beauty will be available September 26.

Categories: Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Two Thumbs Up

No Good Deed by Kara Connolly (from a Two Thumbs Up reviewer)

by McNally Robinson - Thursday, Aug 10, 2017 at 8:22pm

Ellie Hudson is the front-runner on the road to gold for the U.S. Olympic archery team. All she has to do is qualify at the trials in jolly old England. When Ellie makes some kind of crazy wrong turn in the caverns under Nottingham Castle she ends up in medieval England. Ellie doesn’t care how she got to the Middle Ages; she just wants to go home before she gets the plague. But people are suffering in Nottingham, and Ellie has the skills to make it better. What’s an ace archer to do while she’s stuck in Sherwood Forest but make like Robin Hood? Only, Ellie is on the brink of rewriting history, and when she picks up her bow and arrow, her next shot could save her past—or doom civilization’s future.

No Good Deed can be considered a 'fun read,' and maybe that's why I wasn't as invested in the story as much as I should have been. Considering the synopsis, I was really excited for this read. I've always liked a good retelling, and for someone to put a spin on a classic story that isn't as thoroughly well known as others, especially considering Robin Hood was of my favorites, yet this story fell flat to me with such disappointment that I once threw the book across the room because I was so frustrated. There was always this nagging feeling while I was reading this that just didn't feel...right. I always felt distracted while I was reading and was dreading to pick it back up every time I set it down.

Going back and rereading some parts, I found out 2 main reasons why I didn't like this book as much as I hoped. 1) The main character. Ellie Hudson, the Olympic winning archer who's strong, brave, selfless, pretty, everyone's favorite, blah blah blah. Ugh. This character is an archetype of what a manic-pixie-dream-girl slash Mary Sue character would look like. I mean does she not have any flaws?! If Ellie had made some crappy decisions along the way, it would of made her look more interesting and showcase her abilities to survive. Robin Hood was a character of wit and selflessness. He was clever and cunning with amazing survival instincts and he knew how to persevere. Ellie was a great disappointment since she was never put in a tough situation to display any of these skills. She was never tested and she never had to make agonizing decisions in the name of her survival. 2) The writing. Just the way this author describes certain things made me seriously roll my eyes. There are countless filler words or paragraphs that doesn't sit well with the rest of the context. And the dialogue. Oh gosh. Where do I start? You can tell that Kara Connolly struggles with dialogue by just reading a couple exchanges between Ellie and a character from the medieval-England town. Because of the time period, isn't the dialogue between medieval times and modern day suppose to be vastly different? No, I'm not asking the author to write the dialogue like it literally came out of a Geoffrey Chaucer poem (although that would be cool), I'm just looking for a little bit of a distinct difference.
Overall, No Good Deed is a series I will not be continuing (if it is a series). It had so much potential but the author played it safe. With this, the highest rating I can give this book is a 2/5 stars.

- Yen Anh, a Two Thumbs Up reviewer

Categories: Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Two Thumbs Up

Even the Darkest Stars by Heather Fawcett (from a Two Thumbs Up reviewer)

by McNally Robinson - Tuesday, Aug 08, 2017 at 8:10pm

Kamzin has always dreamed of becoming one of the Emperor’s royal explorers, the elite climbers tasked with mapping the wintry, mountainous Empire. She knows she could be the best in the world, if only someone would give her a chance. But everything changes when the mysterious River Shara, the greatest explorer ever known, arrives and demands to hire Kamzin—not her older sister Lusha, as everyone had expected—for his next expedition. This is Kamzin’s chance to prove herself—even though River’s mission to retrieve a rare talisman which means climbing Raksha, the tallest and deadliest mountain in the Aryas. Then, Lusha sets off on her own mission to Raksha, and Kamzin must decide what’s most important to her: protecting her sister from the countless perils of the climb or beating her to the summit.

This book starts off with an exciting adventure with tensions and high stakes. Until it turns into a train wreck that you'll never see coming, everything kind of crashes and burn's from there. And the truth is, I can't tell you if it's a good thing or a bad thing that the ending left me in a state somewhere between shocked and emotionally scared. My mouth is still hanging open as we speak. What just happened? I'll try my best to elaborate. Finishing Even the Darkest Stars felt like I just climbed a mountain myself. It was fast paced enough, I was invested in Kamzin's story and Kamzin is not even a likeable character herself. She is selfish and naive, but I warmed up to her quickly despite those flaws. The tension she has with River is great to read about, I just wished that she was nicer to Tem. The true problem lies in the fact of how this book could've been 100 pages shorter. So many scenes are just completely unnecessary toward the end, it frustrated me. The author properly tries to craft an intricate plot so everything makes sense, but I don't need to see something like people getting injured, healed and then get knocked out over again.

The good news? Despite my problem with its length, this book doesn't drag at all, at least for me. It is properly one of most well done travelling type of book that didn't bore me to death, which happens more often than you think. There are enough high stakes, mysteries, hints of romance (yes I said it), and plot twists to keep those pages flipping. You probably won't notice how unnecessary some of them are. And about the ending. Since my opening rant, I guess you will want to hear about it and how it left me more confused than ever. To keep it spoiler free, let's say that there's a plot twist involves a character that I may or may not have seen coming. Said character then proceeds to cause the train wreck, in which a certain development in the past chapters ceases to exist? Or it seemed like it to me. That character is also so confusing, their personality is all over the place. Of course, the train wreck doesn't concern this one character alone and... let's just say, that I am not okay!

But in the end, do I recommend this book? Yes. Despite all the things. I may have confused you, but I do think that Even the Darkest Stars is a promising starter to the series (trilogy? duology?), I can't wait to see all the things that are promised to go down in the next instalment. And look at that cover, it's an actual scene from the book (!!!) and you should just read it for this stunner alone. 4/5 Stars

- Phuong, a Two Thumbs Up reviewer

Even the Darkest Stars will be available September 5.

Categories: Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Two Thumbs Up
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