Book Review & Giveaway: Nice Try, Jane Sinner by Lianne Oelke

Book Review & Giveaway:  Nice Try, Jane Sinner by Lianne OelkeNice Try, Jane Sinner by Lianne Oelke
Published by Clarion Books on January 9th 2018
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Young Adult Fiction
Pages: 432
Source: Netgalley

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley. All opinions are my own.







If you’re looking for a fun and fresh read to start the new year off right, I’d like to highly recommend Lianne Oelke’s Nice Try, Jane SinnerNice Try, Jane Sinner follows the life of main character, Jane Sinner, a 17 year old who has just gone through a personal crisis, a crisis that has actually led to her being expelled from high school just shy of her graduation.



When the novel opens, Jane is at a loss.  Her friends are in their senior year of high school and getting ready to graduate and go to college, while Jane is on the sidelines.  Her friends keep trying to include her in school activities, but it just leads to endless awkward moments because everyone now only thinks of her as the girl from ‘the Incident.’  Jane is desperate to reinvent herself so when her parents push her enroll in a high school completion program at the nearby Elbow River Community College, Jane agrees – on one condition.  The only way she will attend the program is if her parents agree to let her move out on her own.  Jane’s parents aren’t totally excited about the idea but desperate to help her get back on her feet again, they agree.

Jane secures housing for herself by signing up to participate in House of Orange, which is a student-run reality TV show that is basically Big Brother, but for Elbow River Students.  At first, House of Orange is just a means to an end  — i.e. the rent is cheap.  But as the competition gets under way and the show’s audience grows, Jane’s competitive nature kicks in and she begins to see House of Orange as a way to reinvent herself.  She can be a winner and prove to herself (and of course everyone else) that she is not just the girl from ‘the Incident.’


The main character Jane Sinner was, by far, my favorite part of this novel.  Jane drew me in right away with her hilarious brand of dry humor.  It especially cracked me up the way she drove her dad crazy by intentionally using common idioms improperly:  “You’re meowing up the wrong tree,” “I’m trying to turn over a new silver lining,” etc.  I could practically feel his eyes roll every time she did it, and it made me laugh out loud several times as I was reading, as did the full blown psychotherapy sessions she conducted in her head throughout the story.  Jane is a funny girl, no doubt about it!

What appealed to me most about Jane though was that underneath of all that humor, she has a lot going on.  She’s a complex and very realistically drawn character and it turns out that a lot of her humor is actually a coping mechanism that she uses to deal with some pretty major issues that she is going through, including depression.  Yes, in addition to being a hilarious and entertaining book about living in a Big Brother-style reality TV house, Nice Try, Jane Sinner also delves into some more serious and important topics, such as mental health.  To that end, even more so than her humor, I came to admire Jane’s spunk and her determination to reinvent herself and make the most of the second chance she has been given.   That’s not to say that she is perfect either.  She is most definitely a flawed character who makes plenty of mistakes along the way, but that just adds to her overall appeal because who doesn’t make mistakes?

Aside from Jane herself, I also really enjoyed the college setting.  It doesn’t seem like there are many books out there that really capture college life and all that it entails.  (I’m sure there are others, but Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl is the only one that comes to mind at the moment).  I love books that focus on this time in a young adult’s life because I think it’s something we can all relate to – that defining moment when we’re turning 18 and starting out on our own, trying to define ourselves independently, and out from under our parents’ rules, etc. I know, for me, that was a messy time so it definitely made sense to me why Jane wanted to be out on her own, no matter what she had to do to make it happen.


I’m not even going to call these dislikes, more like just a couple of places that gave me pause as I was reading.

Journal Format:  Overall, I think the journal format is fabulous in that it is unique and because with the way the dialogue is presented, in a script-like format, it makes for a quick-paced read.  I also loved being in Jane’s head and seeing all of her innermost thoughts.  I found it a very effective way to present this kind of story.  That said, however, and this is just probably a nitpick/personal quirk with me, but I’m always a little confused when I see entire conversations recounted in what is supposed to be a journal.  Do people who keep journals actually jot down conversations?  I didn’t dwell on it too much and ultimately decided “It’s Jane’s journal. She can write whatever the heck she wants to in it” but I’ll admit thinking about that did distract me a little as I was reading.

Secondary Characters:  Again, this is just me because I always enjoy getting to know secondary characters almost as much as I enjoy following the main character, but I definitely would have liked to learn a little more about some of the other students Jane interacted with throughout the novel.  We barely scratched the surface when it came to Jane’s housemates and Alexander Park, the student who is the mastermind behind the whole House of Orange project.  The few details we got were great, but they left me wanting to know more.


I went into Nice Try, Jane Sinner expecting a fluffy and entertaining read about trying to attend college while simultaneously taking part in a reality TV series.  The reality (no pun intended) is that I got so much more than that.  Yes, it is an often hilarious read filled with reality TV-style pranks and shenanigans, but, more importantly, it is a moving read because of its focus on Jane’s mental health and second chances.  Nice Try, Jane Sinner shows readers that although the road to recovery is often difficult, it is definitely possible.



Thanks to Netgalley, Clarion Books, and of course, Lianne Oelke for allowing me to read and review this book on my blog in exchange for an honest review.  This in no way impacts my review.



The only thing 17-year-old Jane Sinner hates more than failure is pity. After a personal crisis and her subsequent expulsion from high school, she’s going nowhere fast. Jane’s well-meaning parents push her to attend a high school completion program at the nearby Elbow River Community College, and she agrees, on one condition: she gets to move out.

Jane tackles her housing problem by signing up for House of Orange, a student-run reality show that is basically Big Brother, but for Elbow River Students. Living away from home, the chance to win a car (used, but whatever), and a campus full of people who don’t know what she did in high school… what more could she want? Okay, maybe a family that understands why she’d rather turn to Freud than Jesus to make sense of her life, but she’ll settle for fifteen minutes in the proverbial spotlight.

As House of Orange grows from a low-budget web series to a local TV show with fans and shoddy T-shirts, Jane finally has the chance to let her cynical, competitive nature thrive. She’ll use her growing fan base, and whatever Intro to Psychology can teach her, to prove to the world—or at least viewers of substandard TV—that she has what it takes to win.


Formats: Hardcover, eBook

Find it: GoodreadsAmazonB&NiBooksTBD


Giveaway Details:

3 winners will receive a finished copy of NICE TRY JANE SINNER, US Only.


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 Tour Schedule:


Week One:

1/1/2018- Emily Reads Everything– Spotlight

1/2/2018- The Hermit Librarian– Review

1/3/2018- A Dream Within A Dream– Excerpt

1/4/2018- The Bookish Libra– Review

1/5/2018- Tales of the Ravenous Reader– Interview

Week Two:

1/8/2018- The Book Nut– Review

1/9/2018- Margie’s Must Reads– Guest Post

1/10/2018- Book-Keeping– Review

1/11/2018- BookHounds YA– Interview

1/12/2018- JustAddaWord– Review



About Lianne Oelke

Lianne lives in Vancouver, BC. A mere three years of working in the film industry has left her far more jaded, bitter, and misanthropic than she could have dreamed possible. Having worked on one too many made-for-TV movies featuring the mild romantic antics of generically attractive white people, she’s taken it upon herself to push back with some pretty substandard stories of her own.

Besides books, her three great passions in life are cats, craft beer, and camping. When she’s not working, Lianne likes to take off, eh in her ‘83 camper van. She maintains a steady hate/ love relationship with hiking, but is always up for exploring British Columbia- whatever it takes to find a nice spot to set up her hammock. Her hammock is her favorite place in the world.

Book Review: The Inexplicable Logic of My Life

Book Review:  The Inexplicable Logic of My LifeThe Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Published by Clarion Books on March 7th 2017
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Young Adult Fiction
Pages: 452
Source: Library

Goodreads Synopsis:  The first day of senior year:  Everything is about to change. Until this moment, Sal has always been certain of his place with his adoptive gay father and their loving Mexican-American family. But now his own history unexpectedly haunts him, and life-altering events force him and his best friend, Samantha, to confront issues of faith, loss, and grief.

Suddenly Sal is throwing punches, questioning everything, and discovering that he no longer knows who he really is—but if Sal’s not who he thought he was, who is he?



The Inexplicable Logic of My Life is a moving story about love and about what it means to be a family.  It follows the journey of Sal, a young man who is starting his senior year of high school.  Sal, who lost his mother at an early age and never knew his real father, lives with his adoptive gay father, Vicente, and has been raised in a loving Mexican-American family.  Up until now, Sal has always been sure of who he is and where he belongs, but when he unexpectedly starts getting into fights at school, he starts to question everything about himself. How can he have these random violent tendencies when he has been raised in such a loving environment and has never known violence?  He feels like he doesn’t even know who he is anymore.  As if questioning his very being wasn’t enough, Sal is confronted by mortality when a beloved family member is diagnosed with terminal cancer. It seems like his whole world is coming apart and Sal feels lost.  Thankfully his best friend Samantha is there to help him try to make sense of what he’s feeling, but when her world is turned upside down too, they are both left trying to make sense of the cards they’ve been dealt in life.  In many ways, this is a coming of age story for them both.



There’s so much to like about The Inexplicable Logic of My Life. I love the fact that it’s primarily character driven.  Sure, there’s a plot. Lots of things – big things actually – happen throughout the story.  But it’s not really so much about what happens, as it is about how the characters react to and learn and grow from what happens to them.

I really loved the characters and the relationships too.  Sal is a great kid and since we’re getting the story from his perspective, it’s impossible not to feel sympathetic towards him, especially with everything he goes through.  Thankfully he has an incredible support system in the people around him.

This book is filled with incredible relationships, and not the romantic kind.  I’m talking about familial relationships.  The father-son bond between Sal and his adoptive father is wonderful.  Vicente is a nurturing father who always seems to know the right thing to say to put Sal’s mind at ease.  He’s such a great dad that Sal’s friends, Samantha and Fito, have practically adopted him as their dad as well.

Speaking of Samantha and Fito, the friendships in this book are beautiful too.  Samantha and Sal have practically grown up together and are as close as if they were brother and sister.  Samantha has a less than ideal relationship with her mother and so she probably spends more time hanging out with Sal and his dad than she does with her own family. Like siblings, Samantha and Sal spend a lot of time mocking and teasing each other.  Their hilarious banter was actually one of my favorite things about the book.  But even though they constantly pick on each other, also like siblings, they always have each other’s backs no matter what.

Fito is a newer addition to Sal’s circle of friends.  Like Samantha, he has a pretty rough home life and, at one point, even gets kicked out and is living on the streets for a while until Sal and Samantha find out and find him a place to stay.   Fito isn’t used to anyone looking out for him and doing nice things for him so their kind gesture brings him near tears, which made me fall head over heels for this poor kid.

There were many other beautiful relationships too, including that between Sal and his adoptive grandmother, Mima.  Their bond reminded me of my relationship with my own grandmother.  When I was growing up, she was one of my best friends and biggest confidantes and that’s the way it is with Sal and Mima.  Growing up with such nurturing influences as Mima and Vicente in his life, I could understand all the more why Sal was so confused by the violent outbursts he keeps having at school.

Aside from the characters and relationships that drive the story what I also loved about The Inexplicable Logic of My Life is that it’s a book that makes you think.  It unflinchingly tackles big topics like love, family, death, grief, nature vs. nurture, and even homophobia and racism and how all of these things impact Sal and his family and friends.

My absolute favorite thing about this book though is its message about family.  The Inexplicable Logic of My Life beautifully illustrates that family has little to do with biology and genetics and everything to do with who you let into your heart and who lets you into theirs.  Blood may be thicker than water, but love is thicker than blood.



The only real criticism I have of this book is something that is hard to go into without giving away spoilers, but it’s about a loss that Sal, Samantha, and Fito each experience.  Even though it definitely added a moving and dramatic element to the story, I couldn’t help but think “What are the odds that that same tragedy would actually happen to all three friends?”  If you’ve read the book, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. And if you haven’t read it, you’ll figure it out.  Other than that one quibble, I was really pleased with this read.



If you’re looking for a moving and thought-provoking story about love and loss and what it means to be a family, I’d definitely recommend The Inexplicable Logic of My Life.




About Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Benjamin Alire Sáenz is an author of poetry and prose for adults and teens. He is the winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award and the American Book Award for his books for adults. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe was a Printz Honor Book, the Stonewall Award winner, the Pura Belpre Award winner, the Lambda Literary Award winner, and a finalist for the Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award. His first novel for teens, Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood, was an ALA Top Ten Book for Young Adults and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. His second book for teens, He Forgot to Say Goodbye, won the Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award, the Southwest Book Award, and was named a New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age. He teaches creative writing at the University of Texas, El Paso.

Book Review: Under Rose-Tainted Skies

Book Review:  Under Rose-Tainted SkiesUnder Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall
Published by Clarion Books on January 3rd 2017
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Young Adult Fiction
Pages: 320
Source: Library

Goodreads Synopsis:  At seventeen, Norah has accepted that the four walls of her house delineate her life. She knows that fearing everything from inland tsunamis to odd numbers is irrational, but her mind insists the world outside is too big, too dangerous. So she stays safe inside, watching others’ lives through her windows and social media feed.

But when Luke arrives on her doorstep, he doesn’t see a girl defined by medical terms and mental health. Instead, he sees a girl who is funny, smart, and brave. And Norah likes what he sees.

Their friendship turns deeper, but Norah knows Luke deserves a normal girl. One who can walk beneath the open sky. One who is unafraid of kissing. One who isn’t so screwed up. Can she let him go for his own good—or can Norah learn to see herself through Luke’s eyes?



Louise Gornall’s Under Rose-Tainted Skies is a contemporary young adult novel that focuses on what it’s like to live with a mental illness.  The novel follows protagonist, seventeen year old Norah Dean, and the day-to-day challenges she faces because she has agoraphobia and OCD.  Up until about four years ago, Norah was living the life of a typical teen – going to school, hanging out with her friends – until one day something abruptly changes and she gets caught in the grips of a terrifying panic attack, an attack so severe that she loses consciousness. When she wakes up, everything is different and she finds herself suddenly terrified of doing all of the things she used to do.  When we first meet Norah, she is basically housebound.  She no longer attends school, instead doing her coursework online, and the only time she ever leaves the house anymore is to attend weekly therapy sessions, which are emotionally exhausting for her, not so much because of the therapy itself, but more so because of the stress having to leave the safety of her home causes her.  Because she has stopped leaving her home, she and her friends gradually drift apart and, by the time we meet Norah, her main social interactions are now with her mom and her therapist.  That is, until Luke moves in next door.  When he spots Norah peeking at him from her bedroom window, he decides to come over and introduce himself.

After a few awkward false starts, such as when Luke catches Norah “fishing” for her groceries out the front door with a long-handled broom because she’s too afraid to step out and retrieve them, Luke and Norah do finally meet and become friends.  At first Norah tries to hide all of the details of her mental illness from Luke for fear of how he will react, but Luke is pretty perceptive and picks up on it anyway.  She still withholds the extent of it, but does start to try to explain what she is going through.  As their friendship slowly develops into something more, Norah struggles with the idea that she really is not worthy of Luke because she may never be able to do “normal” boyfriend/girlfriend activities with him and believes that he deserves much more than she has to offer him.  This creates even more turmoil to Norah’s life as she must decide what she is going to do about Luke – let him in or let him go…


Norah – I really adored Norah.  She’s smart and funny, incredibly resourceful when it comes to coping with her illness, and she’s also much braver than she gives herself credit for being.  I found Norah so likeable that I immediately wanted to know more about her condition since agoraphobia is something that I know next to nothing about.  Being in Norah’s head as she struggles through each day made the story especially powerful and gave me a much clearer picture of the illness and how truly crippling it can be.  Norah’s frustration is palpable throughout, especially the fact that she is very much aware that most of her fears were irrational, but still can’t stop their paralyzing effects.  By allowing us access to Norah’s thoughts, Gornall paints an authentic and vivid portrait of agoraphobia and allows us to see beneath the surface of what is often considered an “invisible” illness.

Luke – Luke is just as adorable as Norah is and I especially loved how determined he was to befriend Norah in the beginning of the story, no matter how much she tried to avoid him.  I don’t know that I completely bought into the idea of Luke and Norah as a romantic couple, but I was 100% into their friendship.  I liked that he really wanted to know more about Norah’s condition – not to judge her as Norah had initially feared – but so that he could interact with her in ways that would be most comfortable to her.

Romance is not a “cure” – Even though I didn’t completely buy into the romantic aspect of the story, I did really like how Gornall keeps it real.  Just as it wouldn’t happen in real life, having a boyfriend does not magically cure Norah.  Granted, she does have more of a support system now that she has Luke in her corner in addition to her mom and therapist, but the illness is clearly still there throughout the book.

Humor – Even though Norah’s struggles with mental illness are quite serious, I loved that the author was still able to incorporate some light and humorous moments into the story.  Norah occasionally finds herself in awkward situations, such as when she is shooing an obnoxious bird away from her window one day and new neighbor Luke sees her and thinks she is flirting with him.  As embarrassing as it was for Norah at the time, I liked that later in the book, as Norah gets more comfortable with Luke, she’s able to laugh that moment off and explain to Luke that she wasn’t flirting with him – It was that the bird was messing with her OCD.  Not that OCD is funny by any stretch of the imagination, but I did like that Norah was able to find humor and laugh at herself a bit rather than be humiliated about what happened.


I can’t really say that there’s anything I disliked about Under Rose-Tainted Skies, although I would have  liked a little more for the ending, mainly because I felt it wrapped up a little too quickly.  I think that’s mainly because I had become so invested in Norah that I just didn’t want her story to end.  I wanted to follow her longer and see how she was doing.


Norah’s story is one that needs to be told and Louise Grovall does a beautiful job in telling it.  If you’re looking for a raw and honest look at the life of someone who is coping with agoraphobia and OCD, you should definitely check out Under Rose-Tainted Skies.


There is mention of self-harm and Norah’s therapist talks to her at length about it.


4.5 stars


About Louise Gornall

Louise Gornall in her own words:  

“My name is Louise, and I write YA books. Sometimes contemp, sometimes horror, sometimes thriller. My debut YA contemp, Under Rose-Tainted Skies, will be published by HMH/Clarion (US), and Chicken House/Scholastic (UK) in the fall 2016/17.

Under Rose-Tainted Skies is about this chick, Norah, who suffers from agoraphobia, OCD and depression. Her life is one long blur of cheese sandwiches and trash tv, until she meets the new boy next door, Luke, and he starts to challenge her way of thinking.

I’m represented by the amazing Mandy Hubbard of Emerald City Literary.”