Book Review: Wild Blue Wonder

Wild Blue Wonder – Carlie Sorosiak – HarperTeen – Published 26 June 2018

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Synopsis

Ask anyone in Winship, Maine, and they’ll tell you the summer camp Quinn’s family owns is a magical place. Paper wishes hang from the ceiling. Blueberries grow in the dead of winter. According to local legend, a sea monster even lurks off the coast. Mostly, there’s just a feeling that something extraordinary could happen there.

Like Quinn falling in love with her best friend, Dylan.

After the accident, the magic drained from Quinn’s life. Now Dylan is gone, the camp is a lonely place, and Quinn knows it’s her fault.

But the new boy in town, Alexander, doesn’t see her as the monster she believes herself to be. As Quinn lets herself open up again, she begins to understand the truth about love, loss, and monsters—real and imagined.

My thoughts

Stunning and heart wrenching, Wild Blue Wonder is a beautifully written book. Right from the first chapter it is clear that Wild Blue Wonder is magical. Whether it springs from the legends that surround Quinn’s family campground complete with ancient forests and a lake monster or perhaps from the captivating writing style, everything about Wild Blue Wonder seems to glow.

Quinn Sawyer has always known her family’s campground, The Hundreds, was special. But recent events have shown her that even things that seem magical can be dangerous – deadly. Before, the camp was filled with laughter and sunshine. Now her siblings no longer speak to her. Before, water was Quinn’s haven. Now it holds the darkest secrets and the deepest hurts.

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Book Review: Thief of Happy Endings

Thief of Happy Endings – Kristen Chandler – Viking Books for Young Readers – Published 19 June 2018

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Synopsis

Cassidy Carrigan wasn’t planning to ever get on a horse again. She wasn’t even planning on going to back to school after her dad moved out, her best friend ditched her, and her anxiety took over. But then she wasn’t planning on being shipped off to a ranch in the mountains of Wyoming as a charity case either. Or falling for a cowboy with a broken nose and an even more broken soul. But sometimes you just have to do a stupid, dangerous thing to have the time of your life.

My thoughts

Horses, mountains, romance and new beginnings – Thief of Happy Endings has all the makings of a perfect YA contemporary that grabs your heart. Thief of Happy Endings is thoroughly charming in a down-to-earth, back-to-basics, raw and real way. It touches on so many important themes, from racism and prejudice, bullying and relationships, and divorce and parenting to anxiety and mental health, physical abuse, and the capture and treatment of wild mustangs. All these elements come together in a beautiful story that is utterly moving.

Cassidy’s parents are sending her to the middle of nowhere, Wyoming, to a horse ranch. Cassidy hasn’t been around horses since she was a young girl and suffered serious injuries from a fall. But fear of horses is just one more thing turning her stomach to knots. Settling into the ranch, fighting with her new bunkmates, and working with wild horses is nothing like she expected. This summer Cassidy will do more than just face some of her fears, sh might even learn to embrace them.

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Book Review: Save The Date

Save The Date – Morgan Matson – Simon Schuster – Published 5 June 2018

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Synopsis

Charlie Grant’s older sister is getting married this weekend at their family home, and Charlie can’t wait—for the first time in years, all four of her older siblings will be under one roof. Charlie is desperate for one last perfect weekend, before the house is sold and everything changes. The house will be filled with jokes and games and laughs again. Making decisions about things like what college to attend and reuniting with longstanding crush Jesse Foster—all that can wait. She wants to focus on making the weekend perfect.

The only problem? The weekend is shaping up to be an absolute disaster.

There’s the unexpected dog with a penchant for howling, house alarm that won’t stop going off, and a papergirl with a grudge.

There are the relatives who aren’t speaking, the (awful) girl her favorite brother brought home unannounced, and a missing tuxedo.

Not to mention the neighbor who seems to be bent on sabotage and a storm that is bent on drenching everything. The justice of the peace is missing. The band will only play covers. The guests are all crazy. And the wedding planner’s nephew is unexpectedly, distractingly…cute.

Over the course of three ridiculously chaotic days, Charlie will learn more than she ever expected about the family she thought she knew by heart. And she’ll realize that sometimes, trying to keep everything like it was in the past means missing out on the future.

My thoughts

Save The Date is a hilarious novel about family, growing up, and learning to accept change. In the midst of a wedding where everything that could go wrong does, the characters of Save The Date will warm your heart and make you smile.

Charlie Grant loves her big, loud, crazy family. So Charlie can’t wait for this weekend, her sister’s wedding and a chance for all her siblings to return home, for them to be a united family unit again. But when the wedding planner bails, Charlie’s absentee brother actually turns up, and Good Morning America plans to do a home interview upon the conclusion of her mother’s famous cartoon, Charlie knows that she will have to fight to ensure everything is perfect.

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Book Review: Puddin’

Puddin’ – Julie Murphy – Dumplin’ #2 – Balzer+Bray – Published 8 May 2018

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Synopsis

Millie Michalchuk has gone to fat camp every year since she was a girl. Not this year. This year she has new plans to chase her secret dream—and to kiss her crush. Callie Reyes is the pretty girl who is next in line for dance team captain and has the popular boyfriend. But when it comes to other girls, she’s more frenemy than friend. When circumstances bring the girls together over the course of a semester, they will surprise everyone (especially themselves) by realizing they might have more in common than they ever imagined.

My thoughts

Puddin’ is a delightful, uplifting, and empowering novel about friendship, fitting in and standing out – for all the right reasons.

Millie has no intention of returning to Fat Camp this summer. She just hasn’t told her mother yet. Millie dreams of becoming a journalist, even if it means she must stand up to the people who would attempt to dissuade her. Callie has the perfect life -boyfriend and co-captaincy of the dance team. But when a dance-team revenge prank gets out of hand, Callie ends up taking the fall – alone. Thrown together, Millie and Callie seemingly have nothing in common. But if anyone can break through Callie’s rough exterior, it is Millie. What starts as forced slowly becomes a strong friendship and the girls realise they might have more in common than they first thought.

Puddin’ is (I’m a little ashamed to admit) the first book I have read by Julie Murphy. Many of her other novels, especially Dumplin’, have been on my to-read list for ages, but for some reason I have never got around to reading them. That will change in the immediate future. While Puddin’ is a companion novel to Dumplin’ I was able to read, enjoy, and understand everything in Puddin’ without any trouble as it is a complete story in its own right and a standalone title. There were a few references that left me very intrigued, though, so I am really looking forward to finally reading Dumplin’. And seriously, how awesome is Willowdean?

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Book Review: We’ll Fly Away

We’ll Fly Away – Bryan Bliss – Greenwillow Books – Published 8 May 2018

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Synopsis

Luke feels like he’s been looking after Toby his entire life. He patches Toby up when Toby’s father, a drunk and a petty criminal, beats on him, he gives him a place to stay, and he diffuses the situation at school when wise-cracking Toby inevitably gets into fights. Someday, Luke and Toby will leave this small town, riding the tails of Luke’s wrestling scholarship, and never look back.

But during their senior year, they begin to drift apart. Luke is dealing with his unreliable mother and her new boyfriend. And Toby unwittingly begins to get drawn into his father’s world, and falls for an older woman. All their long-held dreams seem to be unraveling.

My thoughts

We’ll Fly Away is a well-written, hard-hitting YA novel with important messages about poverty, child abuse, the justice system, and friendship. I knew We’ll Fly Away would be heartbreaking. I also expected it to be raw, upfront, exposed, and almost crude. It certainly is an unflinching book, with threads of hope (but mainly heartbreak) and a positive message.

Luke and Toby are best friends – the only ones to see inside the truths of the other’s life, the only ones who could understand. But Luke struggles to maintain his wrestling record for a college scholarship with his mother’s ever increased neglect and caring for his two younger brothers, and Toby falls into a relationship with an older woman while continuing to face his father’s abuse. Events will come to a head as the boys fight for their friendship, their future, and their freedom.

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Book Review: Summer Constellations

Summer Constellations – Alisha Sevigny – Kids Can Press – Published 1 May 2018

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Synopsis

Julia Ducharme is ready for a fresh start. Her little brother has finally recovered from a serious illness, and now she just wants to enjoy peak season at the campground her family owns. Maybe this will be the year her annual summer fling with Dan Schaeffer becomes something more?

But her summer dreams are quickly shattered. First, Dan arrives for vacation with a new girlfriend in tow, and then Julia discovers this may be her last summer in the only home she’s ever known.

Crushing medical bills have brought her single mom to the brink of bankruptcy, and a wealthy developer is sniffing around the campground. He sees what Julia sees: lush woods, a pristine lake, miles of trails for adventure. Unlike Julia, he thinks this is the perfect spot for a casino resort.

Heartbroken and afraid, Julia looks to the stars for some perspective. Taking her telescope down to the dock one night, she has a chance encounter with a guitar-playing boy who offers some helpful advice. Too bad this handsome stranger is the developer’s son, Nick Constantine.

As plans for a resort move forward, Julia is desperate to find a solution that doesn’t mean leaving the lake. Nick, in turn, is desperate to separate himself from his father’s aggressive business tactics. He promises that, together, they can thwart the sale.

But can Julia trust him to conspire against his own father? And could she ever she trust him with her heart?

My thoughts

A passionate, summer romance, a last-ditch attempt to save her family’s home, a touch of mystery and adventure. While Summer Constellations has all the right elements for an epic summer read, it was merely a solid book, one that I enjoyed reading but didn’t love as much as I expected to.

Julia’s summer isn’t mapping out the way she planned. First her best friend leaves for the holidays, then her mother announces she might have to sell their family home, a gorgeous lakeside campgrounds, to pay off their medical debts. And to top it off, Julia’s crush and maybe boyfriend just turned up with his new girlfriend in tow. So, not great. Then she meets the charming and gorgeous Nick. But that too only hides more hurt, when Julia discovers he is the son of the man planning to take her beloved home from her. But she and Nick have some serious chemistry, and, together with her little brother, they make plans to prevent the sale of Julia’s home.

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Book Review: The Academy

The Academy – Katie Site – Balzer+Bray – Published 22 May 2018

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Synopsis

Frankie Brooks knows what she wants in life: to become the world’s next great fashion editor. All she needs to do is get into the elite American Fashion Academy in New York City. If she gets in, her life plans will be going right on schedule. Anna Wintour, watch out.

But after Frankie messes up one too many times—hey, it’s hard keeping up with classwork and an acclaimed fashion blog—her parents come up with entirely different plans for her future: Military school. How is Frankie, the least athletic person in the world, who knows absolutely nothing about the military, going to survive a whole semester at the famed—and feared—Academy?

With students who seem to be totally uninterested in her, a course-load that’s even more difficult than at her old school, and the weird athletic War Games competition Frankie has to join—her life is way harder than it used to be. And no one, including her roommate Joni, seems to understand Frankie at all.

As she learns how to cope in about a million drills, a hundred different specialized classes, and is maybe even falling for super-hot and super-smart cadet Jack Wattson, can Frankie prove to everyone that being a fashionista doesn’t mean she can’t succeed?

My thoughts

Secret confession: I adore the movie Cadet Kelly. You know, the one staring Hilary Duff about an artistic young girl who gets sent to military school. Mayhem ensues. So this book, The Academy, just called my name and insisted that I read it. The Devil Wears Prada meets Private Benjamin? Yes, please! Sign me up. It shares many similarities to the above mentioned movies. The Academy is at times laugh-out-loud funny and adventurous, but also focuses on the main character learning something about herself and about how she views and treats others.

Frankie dreams of becoming an editor for a top fashion magazine. Her fashion blog is already popular and she has applied to an elite fashion school. But when her parents discover she hosted a party at their home and cheated on her chemistry test, they decide to send Frankie to Albany Military Academy. Frankie is determined to get sent home as soon as possible (the military outfit really doesn’t work with her style), but is surprised to find that her position at the academy just might be worth fighting for after all.

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Book Review: Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now

Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now – Dana L. Davis – Harlequin Teen – Published 1 May 2018

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Synopsis

For sixteen-year-old Tiffany Sly, life hasn’t been safe or normal for a while. Losing her mom to cancer has her a little bit traumatized and now she has to leave her hometown of Chicago to live with the biological dad she’s never known.

Anthony Stone is a rich man with four other daughters—and rules for every second of the day. Tiffany tries to make the best of things, but she doesn’t fit into her new luxurious, but super-strict, home—or get along with her standoffish sister London. The only thing that makes her new life even remotely bearable is the strange boy across the street. Marcus McKinney has had his own experiences with death, and the unexpected friendship that blossoms between them is the only thing that makes her feel grounded.

But Tiffany has a secret. Another man claims he’s Tiffany’s real dad—and she only has seven days before he shows up to demand a paternity test and the truth comes out. With her life about to fall apart all over again, Tiffany finds herself discovering unexpected truths about her father, her mother and herself, and realizing that maybe family is in the bonds you make—and that life means sometimes taking risks.

My thoughts

Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now is a magical kind of book. It is a book that made me laugh and cry, a book that challenges the reader on everything from the definition of family and existential life questions, to acceptance, forgiveness, and the crazy things we do to make the world make sense. It’s a book about never giving up – on life or people. It’s a book about looking past the surface. It’s a book about life. And I loved it.

Tiffany Sly is on a plane to meet her father for the first time. A father she only just learnt about. Still reeling from the death of her mother, a new father is the least of Tiffany’s troubles. Because there is another guy who claims to be her father – and who wants a court-ordered DNA test to prove it. Tiffany has just seven days to meet her ‘father’, find a place in his family, and decide if staying is what she wants.

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Book Review: Out of Left Field

Out of Left Field – Kris Hui Lee – Sourcebooks Fire – Published 1 May 2018

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Synopsis

There’s no playing it safe in love or baseball in this sparkling debut, perfect for fans of Morgan Matson and Kasie West.

Marnie has never had a hard time fitting in with the guys. It would take a lot more than their goofy antics to keep her from joining them at the neighborhood sandlot to do what she loves best: play ball.

An added perk of hanging out at the sandlot? Spending time with Cody Kinski, their high school’s star pitcher and Marnie’s best friend. Sure, he can be stubborn and annoying. He also knows how to make her laugh and respects her skills on the field. And when he gets nailed in the arm by a bone-fracturing pitch, Marnie becomes the team’s best chance at making it to the playoffs. Except no one told the guys they’re supposed to be on her side.

With her own team against her, Marnie begins questioning her abilities. And when fate throws her a curveball, can she play without losing the game, Cody, and her belief in herself?

My thoughts

Out of Left Field is a lighthearted, sport-adoring, lots-of-fun novel that revels in the celebration of strong friendship, pushing the boundaries, and finding the courage to chase your dream. I highly enjoying reading Out of Left Field, and highly recommend it to readers who love playful, sport-centred YA contemporary.

Marnie loves playing baseball with her friends in the neighbourhood park. She loves baseball. But after an incident while pitching for the softball team, Marnie only plays for fun and not competitively. Until, when her best-friend, Cody, is injured, the opportunity arises for her to take his spot as the pitcher on the boy’s baseball team. Trying out for the position challenges Marnie’s faith in herself, her friendships with the other boys on the team, and her relationship (friendship that has the possibility to become so much more) with Cody.

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Book Review: Starry Eyes

Starry Eyes – Jenn Bennett – Simon Pulse – Published 3 April 2018

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Synopsis

Ever since last year’s homecoming dance, best friends-turned-best enemies Zorie and Lennon have made an art of avoiding each other. It doesn’t hurt that their families are the modern day, Californian version of the Montagues and Capulets.

But when a group camping trip goes south, Zorie and Lennon find themselves stranded in the wilderness. Alone. Together.

What could go wrong?

With no one but each other for company, Zorie and Lennon have no choice but to hash out their issues via witty jabs and insults as they try to make their way to safety. But fighting each other while also fighting off the forces of nature makes getting out of the woods in one piece less and less likely.

And as the two travel deeper into Northern California’s rugged backcountry, secrets and hidden feelings surface. But can Zorie and Lennon’s rekindled connection survive out in the real world? Or was it just a result of the fresh forest air and the magic of the twinkling stars?

My thoughts

Starry Eyes – a tale of friendship, second chances, family breakdown, intense love, and learning to be spontaneous, trust yourself, and survive in the wilderness. Starry Eyes made me want to pack a backpack and hit a hiking trail. It is both fun and romantic.

Shocked when she discovers a family secret, Zorie is happy to escape by accepting an invitation to go glamping with some of her classmates. But she is not so happy to discover that Lennon – once her best friend turned something more and now her biggest enemy – has also been invited. When she and Lennon are separated from the others, the two of them must trek their way through the wilderness together.

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