Book Review: Winterfolk

Winterfolk – Janel Kolby – HarperTeen – Published 6 February 2018

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Synopsis

A gritty yet beautiful debut novel about a homeless teen who relies on the magic she sees in the world around her to help her find her place, perfect for fans of Laura Ruby’s Bone Gap

Rain is a homeless teen living with her father in the woods outside Seattle, near a community of other homeless people called the Winterfolk. She finds safety and sanctuary in this hidden world—until the day that safety is shattered when she learns the city plans to clear the woods of everyone who lives there. Now she’s forced to confront Seattle, which is full of strange sights, sounds, people—and memories.…

My thoughts

How shall I describe this book? At once both hopeful and sad, gritty and yet filled with magic, Winterfolk pairs the harsh reality of homelessness with a magical, lyrical writing style to create an ethereal novel about love, family, belonging, acceptance, and community.

Rain lives in the Jungle, the forest outside of town that shelters the Winterfolk. Rain knows how to be invisible, living with her father, King – who is friend, protector, everything – and a collection of souls who use the forest to take what protection they can to hide from the world. When the Winterfolk’s home is threatened by destruction, Rain knows her home is in danger. On Rain’s fifteenth birthday, King takes her into town. But a simple trip to see what lies outside the protection of their trees becomes a life-changing journey.

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Book Review: The Calculus of Change

The Calculus of Change – Jessie Hilb – Clarion Books – Published 27 February 2018

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Synopsis

Aden isn’t looking for love in her senior year. She’s much more focused on things like getting a solo gig at Ike’s and keeping her brother from illegal herbal recreation. But when Tate walks into Calculus class wearing a yarmulke and a grin, Aden’s heart is gone in an instant.

The two are swept up in a tantalizingly warm friendship, complete with long drives with epic soundtracks and deep talks about life, love, and spirituality. With Tate, Aden feels closer to her mom—and her mom’s faith—than she has since her mother died years ago. Everyone else—even Aden’s brother and her best friend—can see their connection, but does Tate?

Navigating uncertain romance and the crises of those she loves, Aden must decide how she chooses to see herself and how to honor her mom’s memory.

My thoughts

I expected Calculus of Change to be light-hearted contemporary, where math meets romance and trivial high school problems create light drama and much fun. Instead, Calculus of Change is a deep novel and touches on numerous heavy issues, from sexual assault to body image, relationship problems and self perception. It is thought provoking and written in an original style.

When Aden falls she falls. Head over heels, totally discombobulated falls in love. That’s what happened when Tate walked into their calculus classroom wearing a yarmulke and a smile that seemed only for her. But Tate has a girlfriend, and as Aden and Tate become friends and spend increasing amounts of time together, Aden finds it harder to hide her true feelings. But her unrequited love isn’t the only thing not going to plan, like her father’s endless grief and anger, her brother’s impending destruction, and her best friend’s own dangerous relationships. As Aden struggles to reconcile her feelings with her perceived self worth, she must decide how she will view herself, her family, her friendships, and her memory of her mother.

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Book Review: Say You’ll Remember Me

Say You’ll Remember Me – Katie McGarry – Harlequin Teen Australia – Published 22 January 2018

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Synopsis

When Drix was convicted of a crime–one he didn’t commit–he thought his life was over. But opportunity came with the new Second Chance Program, the governor’s newest pet project to get delinquents off the streets, rehabilitated and back into society. Drix knows this is his chance to get his life back on track, even if it means being paraded in front of reporters for a while.

Elle knows she lives a life of privilege. As the governor’s daughter, she can open doors with her name alone. But the expectations and pressure to be someone she isn’t may be too much to handle. She wants to follow her own path, whatever that means.

When Drix and Elle meet, their connection is immediate, but so are their problems. Drix is not the type of boy Elle’s parents have in mind for her, and Elle is not the kind of girl who can understand Drix’s messy life.

But sometimes love can breach all barriers.

My thoughts

Say You’ll Remember Me is simply stunning. Incredibly powerful, emotive, and heartbreaking, with characters that slip into your heart and refuse to leave, Say You’ll Remember Me demonstrates the importance of grace and understanding in this story of family and love. Once again Katie McGarry delivers a wonderful book. I have come to expect nothing less from this extraordinary writer, but nevertheless, McGarry seems to pass all expectations. In my opinion, Say You’ll Remember Me is her very best book to date.

Elle knows she is blessed – good parents, a safe and secure life, endless opportunities – but still she feels trapped. Trapped by the expectations of a life in the spotlight thanks to her father’s political career. Trapped by her own feelings of failure to live up to those expectations. For Drix, fresh out of juvenile detention and a second chance program, life has been against him since he was born. Now he has been given a chance to start over, but he too is constrained by expectations. Elle and Drix are not supposed to meet, not supposed to build a friendship against everyone’s orders to stay apart, and not supposed to connect in such a powerful way. But sometimes, there is one person in life who can see past all the facades and lies, and who believes in you, no matter what, and they are worth fighting for.

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Book Review: The Traitor Prince

The Traitor Prince – C.J Redwine – Ravenspire #3 – Balzer+Bray – Published 13 February 2018

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Synopsis

Javan Najafai, crown prince of Akram, has spent the last ten years at an elite boarding school, far away from his kingdom. But his eagerly awaited return home is cut short when a mysterious imposter takes his place—and no one believes Javan is the true prince.

After barely escaping the imposter’s assassins, Javan is thrown into Maqbara, the kingdom’s most dangerous prison. The only way to gain an audience with the king — and reveal Javan’s identity — is to fight in Maqbara’s yearly tournament. But winning is much harder than acing competitions at school, and soon Javan finds himself beset not just by the terrifying creatures in the arena, but also a band of prisoners allied against him, and even the warden herself.

The only person who can help him is Sajda, who has been enslaved by Maqbara’s warden since she was a child, and whose guarded demeanor and powerful right hook keep the prisoners in check. Working with Sajda might be the only way Javan can escape alive — but she has dangerous secrets.

Together, Javan and Sajda have to outwit the vicious warden, outfight the deadly creatures, and outlast the murderous prisoners intent on killing Javan. If they fail, they’ll be trapped in Maqbara for good—and the secret Sajda’s been hiding will bury them both.

My thoughts

With The Traitor Prince, C.J. Redwine once again delivers an epic fantasy, with aching romance, adventure, heart-pounding injustice, and high stakes as the characters fight for their survival.

Prince Javan has spent the last ten years away at school, working harder than all his classmates to fulfil the promise he made to his mother to be the best, learn the most, so that he can become a just and strong ruler. But when he is attacked on the eve of his return home, Javan knows he must now fight for his future and the safety of his kingdom. Thrown into the treacherous prison, Maqbara, while a traitor takes his rightful place, Javan tries to befriend the prison slave girl, Sajda, who has her own dangerous secret to protect. Forced to fight against monsterous creatures and defend himself against the other prisoners, Javan and his few allies put into place a plan to return him to his throne, but it will not be without sacrifice.

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Book Review: Your One & Only

Your One & Only – Adrianne Finlay – HMH Books for Young Readers – 6 February 2018

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Synopsis

Jack is a walking fossil. The only human among a sea of clones. It’s been hundreds of years since humanity died off in the slow plague, leaving the clones behind to carry on human existence. Over time they’ve perfected their genes, moving further away from the imperfections of humanity. But if they really are perfect, why did they create Jack?

While Jack longs for acceptance, Althea-310 struggles with the feeling that she’s different from her sisters. Her fascination with Jack doesn’t help. As Althea and Jack’s connection grows stronger, so does the threat to their lives. What will happen if they do the unthinkable and fall in love?

My thoughts

Your One and Only is a compelling YA science-fiction novel that tackles the complexity of love, compassion, community, genetic engineering, and what it means to be human.

Althea-310 is one of ten Althea sisters from the 310 generation, one of nine homo factus models that make up their community. When the leaders of the community reveal that they have created a human from genetic remains, Althea-310 is shocked by how unlike one of her brothers and sisters he is. Jack has been raised alone outside of the clone community, raised as a human, and so it is not only his face and build that differs so greatly from the nine models. The clones are unwilling to trust Jack but Althea-310 is strangely drawn to the outsider.

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Book Review: The Saturday Night Supper Club

The Saturday Night Supper Club – Carla Laureano – Tyndale – Published 6 February 2018

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Synopsis

Denver chef Rachel Bishop has accomplished everything she’s dreamed and some things she never dared hope, like winning a James Beard Award and heading up her own fine-dining restaurant. But when a targeted smear campaign causes her to be pushed out of the business by her partners, she vows to do whatever it takes to get her life back . . . even if that means joining forces with the man who inadvertently set the disaster in motion.

Essayist Alex Kanin never imagined his pointed editorial would go viral. Ironically, his attempt to highlight the pitfalls of online criticism has the opposite effect: it revives his own flagging career by destroying that of a perfect stranger. Plagued by guilt-fueled writer’s block, Alex vows to do whatever he can to repair the damage. He just doesn’t expect his interest in the beautiful chef to turn personal.

Alex agrees to help rebuild Rachel’s tarnished image by offering his connections and his home to host an exclusive pop-up dinner party targeted to Denver’s most influential citizens: the Saturday Night Supper Club. As they work together to make the project a success, Rachel begins to realize Alex is not the unfeeling opportunist she once thought he was, and that perhaps there’s life–and love–outside the pressure-cooker of her chosen career. But can she give up her lifelong goals without losing her identity as well?

My thoughts

The Saturday Night Supper Club is simply delicious. Perfectly put together, this book surprised and delighted me, made me incredibly hungry, had me swooning and craving best-friend chats over waffles and coffee, and made it all too easy to fall in love with the characters, the charming setting, and the beautiful writing of Carla Laureano.

Rachel Bishop has worked tirelessly all her life to realise her dreams of running and owning her own restaurant. But a scathing critique, an online essay follow up, and an ill-timed comment are all it takes to bring her dreams, and her reputation, crumbling down around her. Alex Kanin never meant for his essay on the downsides of social media to have such a negative impact on a chef’s career. Determined to atone for his part in the whole thing, Alex apologises and offers to make it up to Rachel. Together, they hatch the idea of a supper club, him the host, Rachel the chef. But neither plan on the effect their partnership will have, both professionally and personally.

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Book Review: When My Heart Joins The Thousand

When My Heart Joins The Thousand – A.J. Steiger – HarperTeen – Published 6 February 2018

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Synopsis

Alvie Fitz doesn’t fit in, and she doesn’t care. She’s spent years swallowing meds and bad advice from doctors and social workers. Adjust, adapt. Pretend to be normal. It sounds so easy.

If she can make it to her eighteenth birthday without any major mishaps, she’ll be legally emancipated. Free. But if she fails, she’ll become a ward of the state and be sent back to the group home.

All she wants is to be left alone to spend time with her friend, Chance, the one-winged hawk at the zoo where she works. She can bide her time with him until her emancipation. Humans are overrated anyway. Then she meets Stanley, a boy who might be even stranger than she is—a boy who walks with a cane, who turns up every day with a new injury, whose body seems as fragile as glass. Without even meaning to, she finds herself getting close to him. But Alvie remembers what happened to the last person she truly cared about.

Her past stalks her with every step, and it has sharp teeth. But if she can find the strength to face the enemy inside her, maybe she’ll have a chance at happiness after all.

My thoughts

When My Heart Joins The Thousand offers a beautiful insight into growing up and learning to accept your self.

Alvie has only another year until she will legally be free – free from fear of being returned to the foster care system, free to continue living on her own terms, free from the continual assessment of others as seeing her as something different, something other. When a young man enters the sphere of her daily routine she is at first shaken, but then takes up the opportunity to prove that even she can enjoy the closeness of others. But her relationship with Stanley is nothing like she imagined. As Alvie faces the challenges of living alone, fights for her freedom, and faces her past, it is her relationship with Stanley that prompts her to reassess everything she knows about herself and love.

Well, that is one intense prologue. Talk about getting thrown right into the story. Actually, intense is the perfect descriptor for this book. It tackles so many important themes in an upfront and honest way. It is intense in an unputdownable way and I greatly enjoyed reading Alvie’s story.

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New Book Releases January 2018

New Book Releases for January 2018

January 2018 promises plenty of choices for those who have made a New Year’s resolution to read more. Click on covers for more information and reviews.

 

Young Adult Fiction

Busted – Gina Ciocca – Sourcebooks Fire – Published 2 January 2018

Marisa wasn’t planning to be a snoop for hire—until she accidentally caught her best friend’s boyfriend making out with another girl. Now her reputation for sniffing out cheaters has spread all over school, and Marisa finds herself the reluctant queen of busting two-timing boys.

Young adult fiction: Contemporary


Together at Midnight – Jennifer Castle – HarperTeen – Published 2 January 2018

Kendall, just home from a year studying abroad, doesn’t want to resume her regular life, including returning to her old high school. So she flees to New York to stay with her brother and reconnect with an old friend-and unrequited crush-hoping that the past months talking online mean there is a chance for a romantic future. She doesn’t expect to run into Max, Jamie’s friend, and the guy who saw her breakdown over Jamie’s rejection last year. She certainly doesn’t expect to bond with him after witnessing a traumatic event. But as they traverse the streets of New York, working together on a dare to spread kindness and hopefully make up for their previous lack of action, there is no denying their growing connection.

Young adult fiction – Contemporary

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Book Review: Someone Like You

Someone Like You – Victoria Bylin – Bethany House Publishers – Published 3 May 2016

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Synopsis

Julia Dare is trying to run her own business, raise her young son, Max, and help her widowed mother. Her biggest worry, though, is keeping Max’s father from being a bad influence while still allowing the boy to spend time with his dad. When an account from her event-planning business sends her to Caliente Springs resort, she’s shocked to encounter Zeke Monroe, her college sweetheart.

Zeke is determined to keep Caliente Springs running despite financial trouble. When Julia walks back into his life, he’s surprised at the feelings she stirs up. As they work together on an important client’s wedding, the fate of the resort soon depends on their success. With Zeke and Julia both pushed to their limits, will their history put up walls between them or bring them together?

My thoughts

I have come to really enjoy Victoria Bylin’s writing. Realistic, flawed characters facing relatable challenges come together to confront everything that life throws at them. Someone Like You also celebrates second chances, family, and those special moments in life (even if they sometimes don’t go quite as planned).

Julia Dare is slowly rebuilding her life. She has started her own event planning business, has left her emotionally abusive partner, and is enjoying spending time with her delightful four-year-old, Max. An event planning opportunity leads her to Caliente Springs resort and into the path of old friend and boyfriend, Zeke Monroe. For Zeke, Julia is the bright spot in an otherwise challenge point in his life. The resort is in serious trouble, along with his job, his faith is on the rocks, and he is uncertain about what his future will hold. As Julia and Zeke reconnect, reminisce over their history, and face their current challenges together, they have a chance to rebuild a truly special relationship.

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Book Review: The Undercurrent

The Undercurrent – Paula Weston – Text Publishing – Published 31 July 2017

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Synopsis

Eighteen-year-old Julianne De Marchi is different. As in: she has an electrical undercurrent beneath her skin that stings and surges like a live wire. She can use it—to spark a fire, maybe even end a life—but she doesn’t understand what it is. And she can barely control it, especially when she’s anxious.

Ryan Walsh was on track for a stellar football career when his knee blew out. Now he’s a soldier—part of an experimental privatised military unit that has identified Jules De Marchi as a threat. Is it because of the weird undercurrent she’s tried so hard to hide? Or because of her mother Angie’s history as an activist against bio-engineering and big business?

It’s no coincidence that Ryan and Jules are in the same place at the same time—he’s under orders to follow her, after all. But then an explosive attack on a city building by an unknown enemy throws them together in the most violent and unexpected way.

My thoughts

The Undercurrent is a fantastic book, Australian futuristic, speculative sci-fi at its very best. Paula Weston delivers on action, family dynamics, politics, environmental destruction, romance with chemistry that is off-the-charts hot, and a genuine Aussie-ness that made me feel totally at home among the gumtrees.

Julianne De Marchi knows she is a little different from everyone else. No one else has an electrical undercurrent inside them, a current that seems impossible to control and is deadly to others. The current stole her normal life, ended her mother’s career and is responsible for leaving them so broke Julianne is willing to interview at Paxton Federation -the enemy- to get a job. But when protests turn violent, Jules is forced to turn to the mysterious Ryan Walsh, who seemingly just happened to be in the same place at the same time, for help. The Feds want to know if Jules and her mother are responsible for the latest attack, the Army, including Ryan, have their own interests in the De Marchi women, and the Paxtons are out for blood. It’s going to be interesting – if Jules can stay alive long enough to find some answers.

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