Book Review: Just Lucky

Just Lucky – Melanie Florence – Second Story Press – Published 17 September 2019 

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Synopsis

Fifteen-year-old Lucky loves her grandparents. True, her grandmother forgets things, like turning the stove off, or Lucky’s name, but her grandfather takes such good care of them that Lucky doesn’t realize how bad things are . . . until she loses her grandfather and is left caring for her grandmother on her own. When her grandma sets the kitchen on fire, Lucky can’t hide what’s happening any longer, and she is sent into foster care. She quickly learns that some families are okay, and some aren’t. And some really, really aren’t. None of them feel like home. And they’re certainly not family.

My thoughts

Just Lucky is a touching story about a girl’s journey through losing the only home and family she has ever known and a series of foster homes as she learns to embrace her new reality.

When Lucky’s grandfather suddenly dies, it’s not long before someone realises that her grandmother is unwell and unable to care for herself or Lucky. As her grandmother is taken to a care facility, Lucky is placed in one foster home after another. Finding somewhere to belong is hard when you’ve already lost your home.

What you see is what you get in Just Lucky. Lucky is a straightforward narrator. Short, sharp chapters divide this book into easy to read chunks. There is lots of dialogue, and minimal extra details. We don’t learn a lot about life for Lucky before the start of the book and events move quickly. It’s a short book and will be perfect and easy to read for reluctant readers.

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Book Review: Impossible Music

Impossible Music – Sean Williams – Clarion Books – Published 2 July 2019 

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Synopsis

Music is Simon’s life—which is why he is devastated when a stroke destroys his hearing. He resists attempts to help him adjust to his new state, refusing to be counselled, refusing to learn sign-language, refusing to have anything to do with Deaf culture. Refusing, that is, until he meets G, a tough-as-nails girl dealing with her own newly-experienced deafness.

My thoughts

If music was your everything, what would you do if you suddenly went deaf? This is the question Sean Williams explores in his gritty, upfront novel, Impossible Music. Questions about family, relationships, facing the future and following your dreams, even when they seem impossible, are the focus of Impossible Music. With a realistic teen male narrator, this book is gripping and compelling.

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Book Review: The How and the Why

The How and the Why – Cynthia Hand – HarperTeen – Published 5 November 2019

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Synopsis

Today Melly had us writing letters to our babies…

Cassandra McMurtrey has the best parents a girl could ask for. They’ve given Cass a life she wouldn’t trade for the world. She has everything she needs—except maybe the one thing she wants. Like, to know who she is. Where she came from. Questions her adoptive parents can’t answer, no matter how much they love her.

But eighteen years ago, someone wrote Cass a series of letters. And they may just hold the answers Cass has been searching for.

My thoughts

The How and the Why is a touching, remarkable novel about family. Cynthia Hand delivers sad and funny moments that will have readers chuckling even as they wipe away tears. A story about adoption, belonging, acceptance and love.

Cass has always known she was adopted. It’s something her parents have shared with her, even if there were no details about her birth parents, their lives or why they gave her up for adoption. But as Cass’s mother waits for a heart transplant that seems increasingly unlikely, Cass is struck by a desire to find her birth mother.

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Book Review: Chasing the Shadows

Chasing the Shadows – Maria V. Snyder – Sentinels of the Galaxy #2 – HarperCollins – Published 18 November 2019

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Synopsis

Lyra Daniels is dead. Okay, so I only died for sixty-six seconds. But when I came back to life, I got a brand new name and a snazzy new uniform. Go me! Seriously, though, it’s very important that Lyra Daniels stays dead, at least as far as my ex-friend Jarren, the murdering looter, knows.

While dying is the scariest thing that’s happened to me, it morphed my worming skills. I can manipulate the Q-net like never before. But Jarren has blocked us from communicating with the rest of the galaxy and now they believe we’ve gone silent, like Planet Xinji (where silent really means dead).

A Protector Class spaceship is coming to our rescue, but we still have to survive almost two years before they arrive – if they arrive at all. Until then, we have to figure out how to stop an unstoppable alien threat. And it’s only a matter of time before Jarren learns I’m not dead and returns to finish what he started.

There’s no way I’m going to let Jarren win. Instead I’ll do whatever it takes to save the people I love. But even I’m running out of ideas…

My thoughts

Chasing the Shadows is the exciting second book in the Sentinels of the Galaxy series. As a huge Maria V. Snyder fan, I was thrilled to be able to continue this story that is one part archaeology-action and the other technology-hacking, space science-fiction.

Chasing the Shadows picks up right where the first book left off, and continues Lyra’s investigation into the Terracotta Warriors that grace planets across the galaxy, the looters who are destroying the Warriors, the invisible creatures who attack, leaving planets desolate, and the hacker who has put a target on Lyra’s back. But Lyra, with the help of her archaeologist parents, security officer boyfriend and his head of security father, is more than up for the task of this four-pronged investigation. Especially, as Lyra’s already exceptional worming skills (her ability to navigate the Quantum Net ((think internet on steroids)) without detection) are increasing with surprising results.

Lyra is, once again, our narrator, with her usual humour and propensity of mischief. The writing style puts the reader right alongside Lyra and it’s as if Lyra is chatting to the reader. She continuously makes little asides to the reader, comments on what she is saying or thinking, often as a way to explain or excuse something. This gives her a young voice, which is a little in contrast to her age, her worming abilities, her ideas for improving security and even mature leadership skills (not to mention her increasingly physical relationship with Niall).

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Book Review: War Girls

War Girls – Tochi Onyebuchi – War Girls #1 – Razorbill – Published 15 October 2019

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Synopsis

The year is 2172. Climate change and nuclear disasters have rendered much of earth unlivable. Only the lucky ones have escaped to space colonies in the sky.

In a war-torn Nigeria, battles are fought using flying, deadly mechs and soldiers are outfitted with bionic limbs and artificial organs meant to protect them from the harsh, radiation-heavy climate. Across the nation, as the years-long civil war wages on, survival becomes the only way of life.

Two sisters, Onyii and Ify, dream of more. Their lives have been marked by violence and political unrest. Still, they dream of peace, of hope, of a future together.

And they’re willing to fight an entire war to get there.

My thoughts

With heartbreaking reflection of the Nigerian Civil War but with a high-tech futurist twist, War Girls is a homage to sisterhood and family forged by the bonds of loss in a detailed sci-fi war novel.

Onyii and Ify are sisters, living in hiding in a secret camp for girls. Both their lives have been touched by the violence of the war in Nigeria. Climate change, nuclear destruction, famine and political unrest have left the country war-torn by battles led by drones, droids and augmented soldiers (those with bionic limbs and tech implants). When a raid on the camp sees the sisters torn apart, they must reconcile their new positions on opposite sides of the war.

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Book Review: Fireborne

Fireborne – Rosaria Munda – The Aurelian Cycle #1 – G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books For Young Readers – Published 15 October 2019

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Synopsis

Annie and Lee were just children when a brutal revolution changed their world, giving everyone—even the lowborn—a chance to test into the governing class of dragonriders.

Now they are both rising stars in the new regime, despite backgrounds that couldn’t be more different. Annie’s lowborn family was executed by dragonfire, while Lee’s aristocratic family was murdered by revolutionaries. Growing up in the same orphanage forged their friendship, and seven years of training have made them rivals for the top position in the dragonriding fleet.

But everything changes when survivors from the old regime surface, bent on reclaiming the city.

With war on the horizon and his relationship with Annie changing fast, Lee must choose to kill the only family he has left or to betray everything he’s come to believe in. And Annie must decide whether to protect the boy she loves . . . or step up to be the champion her city needs.

My thoughts

Magnificent. Truly and wonderfully magnificent, this is everything I need and love in a fantasy book. Actually it’s just everything I need and love in a book, full stop. So carefully crafted, so beautifully written, such strong, complex characters, such a unique position to place the characters in, not facing a revolution but living in the aftermath of one, so compelling and unputdownable. Fireborne is a book I devoured and the first book in a series I can’t wait to continue.

Annie and Lee are children of the revolution. Yet, despite their diverse backgrounds, Lee the son of aristocracy, Annie the daughter of peasant farmers, they formed a bond of friendship. Orphans, they tested into the role of Guardians —dragonriders—, a role previously only reserved for the leading rulers. Now, Annie and Lee are in the midst of the tournaments to determine who will be the FirstRider. But with the looming threat of the old regime, their loyalties and friendship will be tested.

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Book Review: The Athena Protocol

The Athena Protocol – Shamim Sarif – HarperTeen – Published 8 October 2019

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Synopsis

Jessie Archer is a member of the Athena Protocol, an elite organization of female spies who enact vigilante justice around the world.

Athena operatives are never supposed to shoot to kill—so when Jessie can’t stop herself from pulling the trigger, she gets kicked out of the organization, right before a huge mission to take down a human trafficker in Belgrade.

Jessie needs to right her wrong and prove herself, so she starts her own investigation into the trafficking. But going rogue means she has no one to watch her back as she delves into the horrors she uncovers. Meanwhile, her former teammates have been ordered to bring her down. Jessie must face danger from all sides if she’s to complete her mission—and survive.

My thoughts

The Athena Protocol is a fantastic YA action thriller with a whole cast of strong and diverse women who are unafraid to take risks to bring the bad guys down. High action scenes, surveillance with cool tech, hand-to-hand combat and sniper shootouts all with a positive message about working together, family, belonging and righting the wrongs of the world. I seriously loved this book and can’t wait to see where the next book in the series leads.

Jessie is part of the Athena Protocol, a secret group of three highly-trained female operatives led by a group of powerful women. Jessie may only be young, but she has been trained by the best of the best in surveillance, combat, research, weapons, coding, and hacking. Which is why she and her team are surprised when, on their most recent mission, Jessie breaks orders and shoots their target. Suspended from the team, Jessie knows they will need her help as they go after a human trafficker with extensive resources. So, Jessie does her own research and fieldwork, but going rouge means she is without the support of her teammates and when things get really dangerous, she will have to watch her back.

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Book Review: Now Entering Addamsville

Now Entering Addamsville – Francesca Zappia – Greenwillow Books – Published 1 October 2019

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Synopsis

Zora Novak has been framed.

When someone burns down the home of the school janitor and he dies in the blaze, everyone in Addamsville, Indiana, points a finger at Zora. Never mind that Zora has been on the straight and narrow since her father was thrown in jail. With everyone looking for evidence against her, her only choice is to uncover the identity of the real killer. There’s one big problem—Zora has no leads. No one does. Addamsville has a history of tragedy, and thirty years ago a similar string of fires left several townspeople dead. The arsonist was never caught.

Now, Zora must team up with her cousin Artemis—an annoying self-proclaimed Addamsville historian—to clear her name. But with a popular ghost-hunting television show riling up the townspeople, almost no support from her family and friends, and rumors spinning out of control, things aren’t looking good. Zora will have to read between the lines of Addamsville’s ghost stories before she becomes one herself.

My thoughts

I don’t read a lot of paranormal YA and even fewer ghosts stories, but I added this to my reading pile because it is written by Francesca Zappa. And I’m so glad I did. Take-no-prisoners female lead character (armed with an axe, seriously), a story of intrigue, murder, and mystery, and yes, ghosts, but with a complex storyline and plenty of layers of details about the rules for this paranormal version of a small town with plenty of secrets, all contribute to make Now Entering Addamsville an intense and compelling read.

When the school’s janitor is killed as his house burns down, the town of Addamsville blame Zora Novak. With her father in jail for a failed Ponzi scheme, her mother still missing after she disappeared five years ago and the fire incident that left a field burnt and Zora untouched save for two missing fingers, Zora is the easy target. But Zora knows the truth. She is being framed and the person framing her isn’t a person, it’s a firestarter, a demon-like creature who can inhabit people and set fires at will, and Zora, who inherited her ability to see ghosts from her mother, along with her ghost-sensing cousin, is the only one who can stop it.

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Book Review: Michigan vs. the Boys

Michigan vs. The Boys – Carrie S. Allen – Kids Can Press – Published 1 October 2019

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Synopsis

Michigan Manning lives for hockey, and this is her year to shine. That is, until she gets some crushing news: budget cuts will keep the girls’ hockey team off the ice this year.

If she wants colleges to notice her, Michigan has to find a way to play. Luckily, there’s still one team left in town …

The boys’ team isn’t exactly welcoming, but Michigan’s prepared to prove herself. She plays some of the best hockey of her life, in fact, all while putting up with changing in the broom closet, constant trash talk and “harmless” pranks that always seem to target her.

But once hazing crosses the line into assault, Michigan must weigh the consequences of speaking up – even if it means putting her future on the line.

My thoughts

Michigan vs. The Boys is a book that is as equally heartbreaking as it is uplifting. It is a story about overcoming insurmountable odds, facing abuse, weighing the costs of speaking up against the burden of silence, the power of a true team and the love of a sport.

Michigan loves ice hockey. She loves her team and time spent on the ice, both training and playing. But she doesn’t realise how much she loves the sport until the girl’s ice hockey team is cut. While her best friend leaves to play at a boarding school and other members of the team scatter between the swim team and the local team, Michigan decides to try out for the boy’s team. But the boys are far from welcoming and soon Michigan must decide if her love of the sport is worth the abuse she faces.

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Book Review: Suggest Reading

Suggested Reading – Dave Connis – Katherine Tegen Books – 17 September 2019

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Synopsis

Clara Evans is horrified when she discovers her principal’s “prohibited media” hit list. The iconic books on the list have been pulled from the library and aren’t allowed anywhere on the school’s premises. Students caught with the contraband will be sternly punished.

Many of these stories have changed Clara’s life, so she’s not going to sit back and watch while her draconian principal abuses his power. She’s going to strike back.

So Clara starts an underground library in her locker, doing a shady trade in titles like Speak and The Chocolate War. But when one of the books she loves most is connected to a tragedy she never saw coming, Clara’s forced to face her role in it.

Will she be able to make peace with her conflicting feelings, or is fighting for this noble cause too tough for her to bear?

My thoughts

As a librarian, I don’t need to be told about the benefits of reading – I see them every day. Suggested Reading is an ode to everything librarians stand up for. The right to read for pleasure, the right to choose your reading material, the right to free and unchallenged access to reading material that stretches and challenges the reader. I highly enjoying this book, as will all lovers of books, libraries and reading.

When Clara, a regular library volunteer, starter of a tiny library community scheme and avid reader, discovers that her school has banned 50 books and plans to remove them from the school library’s shelves, she unwittingly starts a rebellion when she creates a library in her school locker. What starts as a mini rebellion soon has far reaching consequences and Clara must decide if her stance against the banned books policy is worth the cost.

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