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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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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Book Review: Breaking The Ice

Breaking The Ice – Julie Cross – Juniper Falls #2 – Entangled Publishing – Published 26 December 2017

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Synopsis

Haley Stevenson seems like she’s got it all together: cheer captain, “Princess” of Juniper Falls, and voted Most Likely to Get Things Done. But below the surface, she’s struggling with a less-than-stellar GPA and still reeling from the loss of her first love. Repeating her Civics class during summer school is her chance to Get Things Done, not angst over boys. In fact, she’s sworn them off completely until college.

Fletcher Scott is happy to keep a low profile around Juniper Falls. He’s always been the invisible guy, warming the bench on the hockey team and moonlighting at a job that would make his grandma blush. Suddenly, though, he’s finding he wants more: more time on the ice, and more time with his infuriatingly perfect summer-school study partner.

But leave it to a girl who requires perfection to shake up a boy who’s ready to break all the rules.

My thoughts

Once again, Julie Cross delivers with a light-hearted, yet deeply emotional story that is so much fun. Sport, romance, coming of age, friendship, family, fears and dreams all come together in a story that lets you sink in to it and happily stay awhile. No matter how many Julie Cross books I have read and loved, still she surprises me with characters that are deeply layered and stereotype-defying, and romance that just knocks my socks off.

Haley Stevenson is failing her high school civics class, still reeling from a relationship breakdown, and is stuck in summer school trying to save her grades. But all everyone else sees is her ‘perfect’ exterior, Juniper Falls Princess and cheer captain. Fletcher Scott is determine to not attract too much attention, working his way to a more permanent spot on the school ice hockey team, helping his father, brother, and grandfather on the family farm, working, and adding a summer school course so he can continue with advanced college courses in his senior year. This summer promises a chance for Haley and Fletcher to look beyond first impressions and to challenge everyone’s expectations, including their own.

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Book Review: Run Away With Me

Run Away With Me – Mila Gray – Simon Pulse – Published 28 November 2017

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Synopsis

Emerson Lowe and popular ice-hockey player Jake McCallister have been best friends since third grade but just as their friendship starts to morph into something more, a terrible event occurs that heralds the end of innocence for both of them. Within a week, Jake’s living on the other side of the country and Emerson is left alone to pick up the pieces of her life in a small town determined to paint her as a liar.

Seven years on and Emerson is still living on the beautiful Pacific West island of Bainbridge, helping her family run their outdoor adventure company. The last thing she needs is Jake turning up, bringing with him old memories and opening up old wounds. But Jake—even better looking than Emerson remembered and on the cusp of a bright sporting future—seems determined to revive their friendship no matter how much Emerson tries to push him away and soon they’re in the midst of a passionate summer romance that neither of them wants to end.

But if they’re to have any kind of future, they’re first going to need to confront the past, a past that most people want to stay buried.

My thoughts

I’m a huge fan of Sarah Alderson’s Hunting Lila series, but this is the first time I have read any of her Mila Gray books. She brings to this story the same level of detail and complicated human relationships. There is no shortage of tension, both romantic and dramatic, as the characters fight for each other and themselves.

Emerson’s whole life shattered when she was a teenager. In one day she lost her sense of trust and safety, the support of her community, and her best friend, Jake. Now, seven years later, she is still living in her small island hometown, running her parent’s adventure store and trying to outpace her memories. Until Jake, now a hulking ice hockey star, walks back into her life. He wants to be friends, wants to erase the past, but Em knows having Jake in her life again just might shatter her world all over again.

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Book Review: 180 Seconds

180 Seconds – Jessica Park – Skyscape – Published 25 April 2017

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Synopsis

After a life spent bouncing from one foster home to the next, Allison is determined to keep others at arm’s length. Adopted at sixteen, she knows better than to believe in the permanence of anything. But as she begins her third year in college, she finds it increasingly difficult to disappear into the white noise pouring from her earbuds.

One unsuspecting afternoon, Allison is roped into a social experiment just off campus. Suddenly, she finds herself in front of a crowd, forced to interact with a complete stranger for 180 seconds. Neither she, nor Esben Baylor, the dreamy social media star seated opposite her, is prepared for the outcome.

When time is called, the intensity of the experience overwhelms Allison and Esben in a way that unnerves and electrifies them both. With a push from her oldest friend, Allison embarks on a journey to find out if what she and Esben shared is the real thing—and if she can finally trust in herself, in others, and in love.

My thoughts

Wow. Wow. God save the Queen. God save the Queen wow. Whatever that was I was not expecting that. That!!! That mess of human emotions that was so achingly, amazingly, indulgently perfect. I want to read it again. Indulge and fall in love and feel it all again. I melted and laughed and overheated and cried buckets. This review may not be coherent because of reasons. Many reasons.

Allison is starting her junior years of college. She is happy her roommate never shows and is content to spend her college experience as she always has – hiding in her room, studying and blocking out the world. Her sixteen years in foster care taught her to never expect anything, to protect herself and build the walls around her heart as high and thick as she can. It’s safer to keep everyone out, even her adoptive father. Everyone except her best friend Steffi. And then, Allison finds herself pulled into a social experiment, where she unwittingly spends 180 seconds with (unbeknownst to her) social media celebrity Ebsen Baylor. 180 torturous, amazing, emotional-roller-coaster seconds. Her reaction: run. Steffi encourages her to chase after what could be and to be brave, but Allison isn’t sure if it could ever be worth the risk.

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Book Review: Off The Ice

Off The Ice

Off The Ice – Julie Cross – Juniper Falls #1 – Entangled Teen – Published 28 February 2017

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Synopsis

All is fair in love and hockey…

Claire O’Connor is back in Juniper Falls, but that doesn’t mean she wants to be. One semester off, that’s what she promised herself. Just long enough to take care of her father and keep the family business—a hockey bar beside the ice rink—afloat. After that, she’s getting the hell out. Again.

Enter Tate Tanley. What happened between them the night before she left town resurfaces the second they lay eyes on each other. But the guy she remembers has been replaced by a total hottie. When Tate is unexpectedly called in to take over for the hockey team’s star goalie, suddenly he’s in the spotlight and on his way to becoming just another egotistical varsity hockey player. And Claire’s sworn off Juniper Falls hockey players for good.

It’s the absolute worst time to fall in love.

For Tate and Claire, hockey isn’t just a game. And they both might not survive a body check to the heart.

My thoughts

Confession: I didn’t read the summary before deciding I wanted to read this book. All I needed to know was that it is written by Julie Cross and I was in. I love her contemporary novels.

At first, Off The Ice could have been any teen-y, high school drama, hockey novel. But let’s not forget that it’s written by Julie Cross, so pretty soon the characters started to expand and deepen in complexity, the situation got more complicated and basically it became totally addictive.

I was a little confused at first (probably because I didn’t read the summary) about who our main characters were and how they were connected. Tate is the younger brother of Claire’s best friend. The prologue starts the story and gives readers an insight into the big event of Claire’s last night in town that connects her and Tate. And it’s not something romantic, like I assumed. Instead it is far more complicated and terrible. At this point Tate has his own girlfriend but he has always had a crush on his sister’s best friend. It’s just that Tate was never on Claire’s radar and certainly not romantically. Now, one year later Claire is back in Juniper Falls and dealing with her own family problems. One glance at Tate and she suspects that his problems haven’t disappeared either. And also…Tate isn’t the scrawny kid he used to be.

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Book Review: 738 Days

738 Days

738 Days – Stacey Kade – Forge Books – Published 7 June 2016

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Synopsis

At fifteen, Amanda Grace was abducted on her way home from school. 738 days later, she escaped. Her 20/20 interview is what everyone remembers—Amanda describing the room where she was kept, the torn poster of TV heartthrob Chase Henry on the wall. It reminded her of home and gave her the strength to keep fighting.

Now, years later, Amanda is struggling to live normally. Her friends have gone on to college, while she battles PTSD. She’s not getting any better, and she fears that if something doesn’t change soon she never will.

Six years ago, Chase Henry defied astronomical odds, won a coveted role on a new TV show, and was elevated to super-stardom. With it, came drugs, alcohol, arrests, and crazy spending sprees. Now he’s sober and a Hollywood pariah, washed up at twenty-four.

To revamp his image, Chase’s publicist comes up with a plan: surprise Amanda Grace with the chance to meet her hero, followed by a visit to the set of Chase’s new movie. The meeting is a disaster, but out of mutual desperation, Amanda and Chase strike a deal. What starts as a simple arrangement, though, rapidly becomes more complicated when they realize they need each other in more ways than one. But when the past resurfaces in a new threat, will they stand together or fall apart?

My thoughts

The first half of 738 Days could have been a young adult contemporary/thriller, with plenty of heartbreak and family complications, but the second half was definitely new adult romance. I loved the story, love the characters (really, really loved both Chase and Amanda), and loved the mix of movie-star madness with the total heartbreaking reality of Amanda’s story of survival.

Amanda was kidnapped when she was sixteen and spent 738 horrible days as a prisoner and victim of abuse. Now, two years after her rescue, she is sick of being the shaking, terrified victim hiding in her closet. So when an unexpected visit from actor Chase Henry sends her running (literally) for her wardrobe, she takes up Chase’s offer to work together, to help him with his publicity and to hopefully spark her bravery so she can start living her life again and prevent her family from falling completely apart. Amanda doesn’t expect to fall for Chase, nor to finally feel something good, but can’t help her new-found feelings as she gets to know Chase as more than just an out-of-luck actor.

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Book Review: The Loose Ends List

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The Loose Ends List – Carrie Firestone- Little Brown Books for Young Readers -Published 7 June 2016

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Synopsis

Seventeen-year-old Maddie O’Neill Levine lives a charmed life, and is primed to spend the perfect pre-college summer with her best friends and young-at-heart socialite grandmother (also Maddie’s closest confidante), tying up high school loose ends. Maddie’s plans change the instant Gram announces that she is terminally ill and has booked the family on a secret “death with dignity” cruise ship so that she can leave the world in her own unconventional way – and give the O’Neill clan an unforgettable summer of dreams-come-true in the process.

Soon, Maddie is on the trip of a lifetime with her over-the-top family. As they travel the globe, Maddie bonds with other passengers and falls for Enzo, who is processing his own grief. But despite the laughter, headiness of first love, and excitement of glamorous destinations, Maddie knows she is on the brink of losing Gram. She struggles to find the strength to say good-bye in a whirlwind summer shaped by love, loss, and the power of forgiveness. 

My thoughts

The Loose Ends List is unlike any other book I’ve ever read. It is hilarious, frank, crude, beautiful, honest and so emotional. I know that from reading the summary you can gather that you will need tissues, but seriously. Pack tissues!

Maddie’s family is slightly crazy. They are passionate, fight lots, openly talk about sex and drugs, and swear like troopers. And Maddie’s grandmother is the craziest of the lot. She is Maddie’s favourite person, her confidant and idol. So the news that Grandma Astrid is dying and has booked the whole family on a death with dignity cruise hits them all, especially Maddie, really hard.

The writing in this book is fabulous. The story is crafted to draw you in, shock you and ultimately trap you within its web before you even know you are caught. This book not only discusses dying but euthanasia. This controversial topic is handled with humour and heart. Readers are presented with the argument for euthanasia through the view of the sick and dying, through those looking for dignity in their death, but we also see it through the view of the family who may not be ready to let go (though it’s interesting that no one raises any arguments against euthanasia). These themes and the level of coarse language and sexual content make this a book for mature readers (to the point that some readers may find the extensive sex jokes and references offensive), but it remains a very topical book.     Continue reading

Book Review: Shade Me

Shade Me

Shade Me – Jennifer Brown – Nikki Kill #1 – Katherine Tegen Books – Published 19 January 2016

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Synopsis

Nikki Kill does not see the world like everyone else. In her eyes, happiness is pink, sadness is a mixture of brown and green, and lies are gray. Thanks to a rare phenomenon called synesthesia, Nikki’s senses overlap, in a way that both comforts and overwhelms her.

Always an outsider, just one ‘D’ shy of flunking out, Nikki’s life is on the fast track to nowhere until the night a mysterious call lights her phone up bright orange—the color of emergencies. It’s the local hospital. They need Nikki to identify a Jane Doe who is barely hanging on to life after a horrible attack.

The victim is Peyton Hollis, a popular girl from Nikki’s school who Nikki hardly knows. One thing is clear: Someone wants Peyton dead. But why? And why was Nikki’s cell the only number in Peyton’s phone?

As she tries to decipher the strange kaleidoscope of clues, Nikki finds herself thrust into the dark, glittering world of the ultra-rich Hollis family, and drawn towards Peyton’s handsome, never-do-well older brother Dru. While Nikki’s colors seem to help her unravel the puzzle, what she can’t see is that she may be falling into a trap. The only truth she can be sure of is that death is a deep, pulsing crimson.

My thoughts

Shade Me is an intriguing mystery. The suspense starts from the very first page and only increases until you reach the dramatic ending. There are fights, clues, scary night scenes, a whole host of suspicious characters and a fierce, independent main character who can more than hold her own.

I really enjoyed this mystery novel. It read like a perfect crime show, but with more depth and twists. Nikki Kill is dragged into a criminal investigation when she receives a mysterious phone call, which is followed by a call from the hospital asking her to come and identify a girl who has been severely beaten. It seems that Nikki is the only one who can start untangling the complicated web of deceit surrounding Peyton Hollis. But the main question Nikki has is why she has been involved at all.  Continue reading

Book Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses

A Court of Thorns and Roses

A Court of Thorns and Roses – Sarah J. Maas – Bloomsbury Children’s – Published 5 May 2015

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Synopsis

Feyre’s survival rests upon her ability to hunt and kill – the forest where she lives is a cold, bleak place in the long winter months. So when she spots a deer in the forest being pursued by a wolf, she cannot resist fighting it for the flesh. But to do so, she must kill the predator and killing something so precious comes at a price.

Dragged to a magical kingdom for the murder of a faerie, Feyre discovers that her captor, his face obscured by a jewelled mask, is hiding far more than his piercing green eyes would suggest. Feyre’s presence at the court is closely guarded, and as she begins to learn why, her feelings for him turn from hostility to passion and the faerie lands become an even more dangerous place. Feyre must fight to break an ancient curse, or she will lose him forever.

My thoughts

I love beauty and the beast. Retellings of beauty and the beast are my absolute favourites, and this one ticked all the boxes. I was surprised by how enthralling this book was. It was incredibly rich in detail, sensual and also cruelly violent. The epic nature of this love story is matched by the clever plot and wonderfully strong characters. Totally addictive.

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