Book Review: Take The Shot

Take The Shot – Susan White – Affirm Press – Published 23 July 2019

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Synopsis

Bug has a secret. Actually, he has a lot of secrets.

1. He’s formed a basketball team at his new school based on a giant lie.
2. His parents don’t know he’s playing basketball again.
3. His new team-mates have no idea he isn’t allowed to play, and they definitely don’t know why.

Bug will do ANYTHING to keep his secrets, keep his new team and keep his life from falling apart. Because no one can know The Biggest Secret of All: Bug risks his life every time he steps out onto the basketball court.

My thoughts

I’m always on the lookout for YA sport novels. I love them, despite not liking sport myself, and we are always keen to add more titles to our library’s sport collection. Take The Shot has a great mix of sport action, complex family relationships and an authentic teen boy narrating the story. If stories about growing up and navigating your way through high school and new friendships, try Take The Shot.

Bug lives for basketball. It’s the only place he doesn’t feel freakishly tall or gangly, where he has friends and fits in. But when he and his father are diagnosed with Marfan Syndrome, his mother bans him from playing, saying it’s too dangerous. When he has to move in with his Nan, the change of school gives him the opportunity to hide his syndrome and join a mixed basketball team without telling his parents. Hiding these two secrets takes its toll, but it’s worth it to play. But it may be more dangerous that he realises.

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Book Review: The Rest of the Story

The Rest of the Story – Sarah Dessen – Balzer
+Bray – Published 4 June 2019

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Synopsis

Emma Saylor doesn’t remember a lot about her mother, who died when she was ten. But she does remember the stories her mom told her about the big lake that went on forever, with cold, clear water and mossy trees at the edges.

Now it’s just Emma and her dad, and life is good, if a little predictable…until Emma is unexpectedly sent to spend the summer with her mother’s family—her grandmother and cousins she hasn’t seen since she was a little girl.

When Emma arrives at North Lake, she realizes there are actually two very different communities there. Her mother grew up in working class North Lake, while her dad spent summers in the wealthier Lake North resort. The more time Emma spends there, the more it starts to feel like she is divided into two people as well. To her father, she is Emma. But to her new family, she is Saylor, the name her mother always called her.

Then there’s Roo, the boy who was her very best friend when she was little. Roo holds the key to her family’s history, and slowly, he helps her put the pieces together about her past. It’s hard not to get caught up in the magic of North Lake—and Saylor finds herself falling under Roo’s spell as well.

My thoughts

The Rest of the Story is the perfect summer read. Or the perfect book to pick up in winter when you are craving summer days at the beach. I’ve always loved Sarah Dessen’s writing and The Rest of the Story was no different. It’s a great blend of summer romance with deeper themes around family, memories and loss. It’s also funny and has a few teen hijinks that will have you craving ice cream, secret parties, and impromptu proms with loads of fairy lights.

Emma Saylor has only a few memories of her mother. When her plans to stay at a friend’s place while her father honeymoons with his new (really nice) wife, Emma volunteers to go and stay with her mother’s family at North Lake. While she visited as a small child, Emma has no recollection of the lake or her maternal family. Her arrival at her grandmother’s house and family-run motel is bumpy. Emma is the city girl who doesn’t know any of the people she’s surrounded with or the lake traditions. But it isn’t long before she is swept up into the big, loud extended family, volunteering at the motel and sharing stories of the past with the intriguing Roo.

Put your feet up, grab your shades and sink into The Rest of the Story. It’s the perfect way to enjoy this sweet summer story. Emma Saylor—Emma to her dad and everyone, Saylor to her mother and now her mother’s family—is an easy character to like. She’s a good girl, a good daughter, a good friend, makes good decisions and tries not to rock the boat. She’s also genuinely nice, so it’s easy to become immersed in her world. Emma also has anxiety, so travelling to a new place surrounded by unfamiliar faces is a challenge. But she finds that she fits at North Lake, fits with the people there and the relaxed vibe, even if she is fighting with her cousin, dodging the wrath of her other cousin’s girlfriend, or trying to get on the good side of her another cousin (it’s a big family).

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Book Review: A Constellation of Roses

A Constellation of Roses – Miranda Asebedo – HarperTeen – Published 5 November 2019

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Synopsis

Ever since her mother walked out, Trix McCabe has been determined to make it on her own. And with her near-magical gift for pulling valuables off unsuspecting strangers, Trix is confident she has what it takes to survive. Until she’s caught and given a choice: jail time, or go live with her long-lost family in the tiny town of Rocksaw, Kansas.

Trix doesn’t plan to stick around Rocksaw long, but there’s something special about her McCabe relatives that she is drawn to. Her aunt, Mia, bakes pies that seem to cure all ills. Her cousin, Ember, can tell a person’s deepest secret with the touch of a hand. And Trix’s great-aunt takes one look at Trix’s palm and tells her that if she doesn’t put down roots somewhere, she won’t have a future anywhere.

Before long, Trix feels like she might finally belong with this special group of women in this tiny town in Kansas. But when her past comes back to haunt her, she’ll have to decide whether to take a chance on this new life . . . or keep running from the one she’s always known.

My thoughts

A Constellation of Roses is a poignant novel about finding your family and a place to belong. With just a touch of magic, this is a realistic novel that is magical in every other way – from the magic of the scent of good baking, to the love and acceptance of family.

Trix has a gift. She can steal anything without being caught. It helps her to survive, especially since her mother left her and never came back. Living week-to-week in run-down motels, Trix is shocked when the police and then the foster system catch up with her. But nothing can prepare her for being told she has a family, that she has an aunt that she will be going to live with. The McCabe women, Trix’s Aunt, cousin and Great Aunt all have gifts, and for once, Trix may finally have found somewhere she could belong — if she can stop herself from running.

Trix is such an awesome character. So strong and brave, yet so heartbroken underneath all that bluster and confidence. I loved that Trix is a good friend. Loved that she is there for people, even if she doesn’t feel like she belongs. Loved that she makes good decisions and is smart and kind, even if she thinks she is not.

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Book Review: You Belong With Me

You Belong With Me – Tari Faris – Restoring Heritage #1 – Revell – Published 3 September 2019

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Synopsis

Small-town realtor Hannah Thornton has many talents–unfortunately, selling houses isn’t one of them. When a developer sets his sights on the historic homes in Heritage, Hannah turns to her best friend Luke for help. Will Luke risk his future and confront his past to help her succeed?

My thoughts

Two romances in one, a story about second chances at a love once thought missed and a compassionate reflection of learning to accept your path in life even when faced with challenges and disappointments. You Belong With Me is the first book in a new series by Tari Faris that explores love, family and belonging, set against the charming backdrop of a small town.

Hannah loves her home town of Heritage. Sure, a lot of businesses have closed down and the building have seen better days, but she believes with the right attention it could be so much more. When an opportunity arises to enter a competition to win prize money for the town’s redevelopment, Hannah jumps at it and volunteers her best friend Luke to help out. But with the return of her best friend, the engagement of her brother to a women who is all wrong for him, simmering unfinished tension between her and Luke and a series of disasters, Hannah despairs of ever being able to make Heritage the town she knows it could be.

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Book Review: The Girl The Sea Gave Back

The Girl the Sea Gave Back – Adrienne Young – Sky in the Deep – Wednesday Books – Published 3 September 2019

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Synopsis

For as long as she can remember, Tova has lived among the Svell, the people who found her washed ashore as a child and use her for her gift as a Truthtongue. Her own home and clan are long-faded memories, but the sacred symbols and staves inked over every inch of her skin mark her as one who can cast the rune stones and see into the future. She has found a fragile place among those who fear her, but when two clans to the east bury their age-old blood feud and join together as one, her world is dangerously close to collapse.

For the first time in generations, the leaders of the Svell are divided. Should they maintain peace or go to war with the allied clans to protect their newfound power? And when their chieftain looks to Tova to cast the stones, she sets into motion a series of events that will not only change the landscape of the mainland forever but will give her something she believed she could never have again—a home.

My thoughts

The Girl The Sea Gave Back is a thrilling and sweeping fantasy, with magic, fates, wars, betrayal and destiny, all linked together through two young people who wield the power to change their people’s futures.

I did not realise this was the second book in a series when I started reading it. I had not previously read the first book, Sky In The Deep, which is set ten years prior to The Girl The Sea Gave Back. Fortunately, The Girl The Sea Gave Back is a complete story in its own right, and while there are apparently some character and setting crossovers, both books can be read as standalones.

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Book Review: Promise Me Happy

Promise Me Happy – Robert Newton – Penguin Books Australia – Published 7 May 2019

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Synopsis

Nate’s had it tough. An abusive father. His mother dead. He’s done things he regrets.

But he’s never met anyone like Gem. She’s a tiny piece of wonderful and she’ll change everything he knows about himself. Is this the beginning of happiness? Or is there more hardship around the corner?

My thoughts

Promise Me Happy – a moving, authentically Aussie coming of age story at its best. Perfect for fans of YA contemporary fiction about relationships, family and finding a place to belong, Promise Me Happy is a soothing, gently-paced and touching novel.

Nate knows this is his last chance. Leaving juvie to live with an uncle he doesn’t know, Nate has low expectations about this next phase in his life, yet it can’t be worse than returning to live with his drunk and abusive father and memories of his dead mother. But living with uncle isn’t at all what he expects, nor the charming little fishing town, the slower lifestyle, space to breath, quirky young neighbour, Henry or the intriguing, combat-boot and tartan-wearing Gem. It may be just the second chance Nate needs, if he can hang on to it.

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Book Review: Past Perfect Life

Past Perfect Life – Elizabeth Eulberg – Bloomsbury YA – Published 9 July 2019

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Synopsis

Small-town Wisconsin high school senior Allison Smith loves her life the way it is-spending quality time with her widowed father and her tight-knit circle of friends, including best friend Marian and maybe-more-than-friends Neil. Sure she is stressed out about college applications . . . who wouldn’t be? In a few short months, everything’s going to change, big time.

But when Ally files her applications, they send up a red flag . . . because she’s not Allison Smith. And Ally’s-make that Amanda’s-ordinary life is suddenly blown apart. Was everything before a lie? Who will she be after? And what will she do as now comes crashing down around her?

My thoughts

What would you do when you discover you’re not who you thought you were? A homage to home, friendship and family, Past Perfect Life delves into the questions of what family really means and what it takes to discover where you truly belong. With a strong female lead character who walks that balance between determined and flexible, cautious but brave, and a wonderful cast of secondary characters, Past Perfect Life is a compelling YA contemporary novel.

Ally Smith’s life is turned inside out when, while applying to college, has her social security number denied. She discovers her dad – the dad she loves spending time with, who is her best friend and rock – isn’t who he said he was. Everything she thought she knew was a lie, but Ally isn’t so sure what to hang on to from her old life and what to embrace in her new one.

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Book Review: Rise of the Dragons

Rise of the Dragons – Angie Sage – Rise of the Dragons #1 – Scholastic Press – Published 26 February 2019

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Synopsis

Once our world was full of dragons who lived in harmony with humans. But after a group of rogue dragons, the Raptors, tried to take over Earth, all dragons were banished to another realm.

Most humans forgot about the dragons, claiming they never existed. Eleven-year-old Sirin knows the truth — she grew up with stories passed down through the generations. However, when her mother falls ill, even Sirin has trouble believing in magic . . . until she sees a mysterious streak of silver in the night sky.

Sirin becomes the first child to “lock” with a dragon in centuries — forming a deep friendship unlike anything she’s ever imagined. But Sirin learns that not all dragons returned with good intentions, and soon she finds herself at the center of a battle between the dragons who want to protect the humans . . . and those who want to destroy them.

My thoughts

I adored The Magyk series by Angie Sage and it remains a perennial favourite with our library’s young readers, and so I jumped at the chance to read and review the first book in her newest fantasy series, Rise of the Dragons. With the promise of game cards and a matching online game, Rise of the Dragons promised to be an exciting release. The new world Sage has created and her daring plot of intrigue, dragon battles and family bonds is both thrilling and thoroughly enjoyable. It is sure to be a hit with our middle-grade readers. After all, everything is better with dragons.

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Book Review: A Little Ray of Sunshine

A Little Ray of Sunshine – Kimberly Rae Jordan – The Callaghans & McFaddens #7 – Three Strand Press – Published 28 July 2018

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Synopsis

Ryan McFadden warns his BlackThorpe Security team that he senses something wrong with the plan that has been put in place for one of their missions. By the time they realize he’s right, the worst has happened. Trapped in darkness, he has lost track of his teammates as well as the days. Alone, Ryan is left to wonder when—or if—he will ever see his family again. Then he wakes one day to hear a woman’s voice singing a familiar hymn, but is she a friend or foe?

Hannah Walsh had joined a medical mission, CanadAids, to work with refugees in the Middle East. She’d become a nurse in order to help. To have a way to connect with people. Though she’d been aware of the danger, she’d felt it was worth it to serve and to be needed. Wanted. But then came the day when she and two other members of the mission were kidnapped. A year later, Hannah struggles to keep her faith while feeling abandoned by everyone else.

In the darkness, Ryan and Hannah begin a tentative friendship—neither one hundred percent certain that the other can be trusted. But as the days pass and they find things in common, their friendship grows. But as long as they are trapped in a dark room, unable to even see each other, their future seems bleak.

And even if they are rescued, can what began in the darkness, flourish in the light?

My thoughts

A Little Ray of Sunshine is another fantastic offering from Kimberly Rae Jordan. I love returning to the Callaghan and McFadden family, and Kimberly’s books are now automatic preorders for me.

A Little Ray of Sunshine is Ryan McFadden’s story. Readers who have been following the series, will know that Ryan was captured in the last book in the series, and this book picks up where that leaves off – with Ryan still being held by his kidnappers. After months of abuse and wondering if he will ever return home, Ryan is surprised to find he is moved into a cell with fellow captive, Hannah Wells. As weeks of darkness and fear bear down on them both, they find comfort in each other’s presence. When a chance to return home finally seems a possibility, Ryan and Hannah may have the opportunity to discover if their connection will expand pass their imprisonment.

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Book Review: Heart Land

Heart Land – Kimberly Stuart – Howard Books – Published 17 July 2017

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Synopsis

Grace Klaren has finally made her dream of living in the Big Apple and working in the fashion industry a reality. But when she’s unexpectedly fired and can’t afford the next month’s rent, Grace does something she never thought she’d do: she moves back home.

Back in Silver Creek, Iowa, Grace is determined to hate it. She rails against the quiet of her small town, where everything closes early, where there’s no nightlife, where everyone knows each other. She’s saving her pennies and plotting her return to New York when she almost runs over a man who’s not paying attention at a crosswalk. It turns out to be Tucker, her high school sweetheart whose heart she broke when she left ten years ago. They reconnect, and Grace remembers why she fell for him in the first place.

And her career begins to turn around when she finds a gorgeous but tattered vintage dress at a flea market. She buys it, rips it apart seam by seam, and re-creates it with new fabric, updating the look with some of her own design ideas. She snaps a picture and lists the dress online, and within a day, it sells for nearly $200. Suddenly, Grace has her ticket out of here.

But Grace can’t fight her growing feelings for Tucker. Sometimes when they’re together, Tucker paints a picture of what their future could be like, and it feels so real. And when she finally gains the funding to move her new business back to New York, Grace must decide where home really is—will she chase her long-held New York dream, or find a new dream here in the heartland?

My thoughts

Heart Land is a sweet romance, a story of love given a second chance, the cost of following your dreams, and a touch of the glamour of high fashion.

Grace Kleren has fought hard to follow her dreams of becoming a top fashion designer. After years of brutal, hard work on the lower rungs, Grace is on the verge of a promotion. But instead of being rewarded for her passion, Grace finds herself without a job and mounting debts she cannot pay. Giving herself time to regroup, Grace returns home to a small town in Iowa, to the love and care of her grandmother, Gigi. But Grace left many people behind in her mad dash to the city, including her first love, Tucker. After a shaky reunion, Tucker and Grace quickly return to their strong friendship and growing romantic feelings. But when a new design opportunity presents itself, Grace will have to choose between the draw of the big city lights of New York or the simple but true love she could only find in Tucker’s arms.

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