Book Review: When Elephants Fly

When Elephants Fly – Nancy Richardson Fischer – Harlequin Teen – Published 4 September 2018

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Synopsis

T. Lily Decker is a high school senior with a twelve-year plan: avoid stress, drugs, alcohol and boyfriends, and take regular psych quizzes administered by her best friend, Sawyer, to make sure she’s not developing schizophrenia.Genetics are not on Lily’s side.

When she was seven, her mother, who had paranoid schizophrenia, tried to kill her. And a secret has revealed that Lily’s odds are even worse than she thought. Still, there’s a chance to avoid triggering the mental health condition, if Lily can live a careful life from ages eighteen to thirty, when schizophrenia most commonly manifests.

But when a newspaper internship results in Lily witnessing a mother elephant try to kill her three-week-old calf, Swifty, Lily can’t abandon the story or the calf. With Swifty in danger of dying from grief, Lily must choose whether to risk everything, including her sanity and a first love, on a desperate road trip to save the calf’s life, perhaps finding her own version of freedom along the way.

My thoughts

An incredible story of survival and finding something to believe in and fight for, When Elephants Fly will have you laughing, crying buckets and wildly cheering for Lily and her battle to save elephant calf, Swifty.

Lily is working off a tight plan to control the likelihood of her developing schizophrenia. The genetic odds are not in her favour but by living carefully she hopes to avoid following the same journey her mother took. But, when on assignment for her journalism internship, she witnesses an elephant reject her calf and Lily can’t help but see the parallels between their stories. Lily must decide if it is worth risking everything she has worked so hard to control to try and save the life of the elephant she is quickly coming to love.

Beautiful. Beautiful. Beautiful. Beautifully written, beautiful message, beautiful characters (and yes, that includes elephant calf, Swifty). Alone, Lily’s story or Swifty’s story would be enough in themselves to be both moving and motivational, enough for any book. Yet together they become phenomenal. The compassion between humans and animals, the loss Swifty and Lily both share, and they ways in which they help each other is stunningly conceived and written.

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Book Review: The Leading Edge of Now

The Leading of Edge of Now – Marci Lyn Curtis – Kids Can Press – Published 4 September 2018

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Synopsis

Just when Grace is beginning to get used to being an orphan, her estranged uncle suddenly comes forward to claim her. That might have been okay if he’d spoken to her even once since her father died. Or if moving in with Uncle Rusty didn’t mean returning to New Harbor.

Grace once spent the best summers of her life in New Harbor. Now the place just reminds her of all she’s lost: her best friend, her boyfriend and any memory of the night that changed her forever.

People say the truth will set you free, but Grace isn’t sure about that. Once she starts looking for it, the truth about that night is hard to find — and what happens when her healing hurts the people she cares about the most?

My thoughts

The Leading Edge of Now is a novel that is powerful and touching and yet is easy-going and charming. It is a story of friendship and bravery, of finding a place to call home, of challenging everything you thought you knew to be true, and it is a story of one incredibly strong and admirable young lady.

Grace’s life has been thrown into chaos – but she’s been living that reality for two years. Since her father died, Grace has been living in foster care, waiting for her uncle to finally claim her and bring her home to the town of New Harbor. But returning to the house that has so many fond memories of summers spent with her dad also brings back memories of the night that changed everything for Grace. Forced to confront the people and memories of that night, Grace starts to uncover the details of what happened -but the truth is something she never expected.

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Book Review: Saving Winslow

Saving Winslow – Sharon Creech – HarperCollins – Published 11 September 2018

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Synopsis

Louie doesn’t have the best luck when it comes to nurturing small creatures. So when his father brings home a sickly newborn mini donkey, he’s determined to save him. He names him Winslow. Taking care of him helps Louie feel closer to his brother, Gus, who is far, far away in the army.

Everyone worries that Winslow won’t survive, especially Louie’s quirky new friend, Nora, who has experienced loss of her own. But as Louie’s bond with Winslow grows, surprising and life-altering events prove that this fragile donkey is stronger than anyone could have imagined.

My thoughts

A heartwarming story of a young donkey, the boy who is determined to save him, and the way in which small things can sometimes have the biggest impact. Lyrical and sweet, Saving Winslow is a simple but touching story for young and middle-grade readers.

When Louie is given another of his Uncle Pete’s orphan animals, a newborn donkey, everyone warns him not to get too attached, as it will probably die anyway. But there is something about the tiny, grey bundle that whispers to Louie that here is an animal who wants to survive, and Louie is determined to be the one to save him. So, Louie names him Winslow and begins raise him.

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Book Review: How We Roll

How We Roll – Natasha Friend – Farrar Straus Giroux – Published 5 June 2018

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Synopsis

Quinn is a teen who loves her family, skateboarding, basketball, and her friends, but after she’s diagnosed with a condition called alopecia which causes her to lose all of her hair, her friends abandon her. Jake was once a star football player, but a freak accident—caused by his brother—he loses both of his legs. Quinn and Jake meet and find the confidence to believe in themselves again, and maybe even love.

My thoughts

I devoured How We Roll in a matter of hours. I enjoyed this sweet story, with its gentle message of resilience, bravery, acceptance and friendship.

Quinn is ready for a new start, and her family moving to a new town for her brother, who has autism, to attend a new school, provides Quinn with the perfect opportunity to hit the reset button. Leaving behind the nasty rumours and ex-best-friends, Quinn uses the new school and new wigs to hide her alopecia. But old habits die hard and Quinn finds it hard not to be weary of her new friends. When Quinn meets Nick, an angry teen who lost both his legs in an accident, she connects with him, even if she doesn’t reveal her full story.

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Book Review: The Other Side of Lost

The Other Side of Lost – Jessi Kirby – HarperTeen – published 7 August 2018

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Synopsis

Mari Turner’s life is perfect. That is, at least to her thousands of followers who have helped her become an internet starlet. But when she breaks down and posts a video confessing she’s been living a lie—that she isn’t the happy, in-love, inspirational online personality she’s been trying so hard to portray—it goes viral and she receives major backlash. To get away from it all, she makes an impulsive decision: to hike the entire John Muir trail. Mari and her late cousin, Bri, were supposed to do it together, to celebrate their shared eighteenth birthday. But that was before Mari got so wrapped up in her online world that she shut anyone out who questioned its worth—like Bri.

With Bri’s boots and trail diary, a heart full of regret, and a group of strangers that she meets along the way, Mari tries to navigate the difficult terrain of the hike. But the true challenge lies within, as she searches for the way back to the girl she fears may be too lost to find: herself.

My thoughts

Jessi Kirby is no stranger to writing heartfelt stories that touch on grief and strength in the face of it, and she does it again so expertly in The Other Side of Lost. Grief, loneliness, the cost of false facades and things you can’t undo are combined with the beauty of nature, the importance of friendship and the strength and resilience that can be found within. The Other Side of Lost made me want to grab a pair of hiking boots and hit a trail.

Mari has constructed an identity online, carefully editing and filtering for optimum followers and likes. But online celebrity cost her a relationship with her cousin, and on her eighteenth birthday, evaluating where’s she come from and all that she has lost, she decides to throw everything away. After posting a video online outing herself and her false identity, she takes up her cousin’s plans to hike the John Muir Trail. Over 200 miles will push Mari to her limits, but it just might give her the chance to start over.

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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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Book Review: All That I Can Fix

All That I Can Fix – Crystal Chan – Simon Pulse – Published 12 June 2018

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Synopsis

In Makersville, Indiana, people know all about Ronney—he’s from that mixed-race family with the dad who tried to kill himself, the pill-popping mom, and the genius kid sister. If having a family like that wasn’t bad enough, the local eccentric at the edge of town decided one night to open up all the cages of his exotic zoo—lions, cheetahs, tigers—and then shoot himself dead. Go figure. Even more proof that you can’t trust adults to do the right thing.

Overnight, news crews, gun control supporters, and gun rights advocates descend on Makersville, bringing around-the-clock news coverage, rallies, and anti-rallies with them. With his parents checked out, Ronney is left tending to his sister’s mounting fears of roaming lions, stopping his best friend from going on a suburban safari, and shaking loose a lonely boy who follows Ronney wherever he goes. Can Ronney figure out a way to hold it together as all his worlds fall apart?

My thoughts

What to say about a book that is one part humorous, two parts ridiculous, and the rest a bundle of important messages, from mental health, stigma, and racism, to gun control and animal cruelty? All That I Can Fix is a novel that faces difficult topics straight on, with an abruptness that is both disconcerting and refreshing.

When the local exotic zoo owner shoots himself and lets loose his animals, Ronney isn’t fazed. What’s a camel on the loose compared to a father who might be continually physically present but never mentally, a mother who doesn’t know how to cope anymore, a sister on the verge of a meltdown, and a list of things he must do to keep the whole family from falling apart?

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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: Just Let Go

Just Let Go – Courtney Walsh – Harbor Pointe #2 – Tyndale – Published 5 June 2018

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Synopsis

For Quinn Collins, buying the flower shop in downtown Harbor Pointe fulfills a childhood dream, but also gives her the chance to stick it to her mom, who owned the store before skipping town twenty years ago and never looking back. Completing much-needed renovations, however, while also competing for a prestigious flower competition with her mother as the head judge, soon has Quinn in over her head. Not that she’d ever ask for help.

Luckily, she may not need to. Quinn’s father and his meddling friends find the perfect solution in notorious Olympic skier Grady Benson, who had only planned on passing through the old-fashioned lakeside town. But when a heated confrontation leads to property damage, helping Quinn as a community-service sentence seems like the quickest way out–and the best way to avoid more negative press.

Quinn finds Grady reckless and entitled; he thinks she’s uptight and too regimented. Yet as the two begin to hammer and saw, Quinn sees glimpses of the vulnerability behind the bravado, and Grady learns from her passion and determination, qualities he seems to have lost along the way. But when a well-intentioned omission has devastating consequences, Grady finds himself cast out of town–and Quinn’s life–possibly forever. Forced to face the hurt holding her back, Quinn must finally let go or risk missing out on the adventure of a lifetime.

My thoughts

Just Let Go is as delightful as its gorgeous cover; a beautiful story of redemption, forgiveness, and starting over, of learning to work for your dreams and learning when to let go.

Grady is a professional skier, Olympian, and, according to the world, a wash-up bound for forced retirement. A self-imposed road trip leads Grady to Harbor Pointe, where a judgmental comment leads to a fist-fight, which leads to Grady being sentenced to weeks of community service and being stuck in the infuriatingly small town. As soon as she sets eyes on Grady Benson, Quinn Collins knows he is bad news. They come from different worlds – while he was off living the high life and has no qualms putting holes in the walls of diners, she has lived her whole life in Harbor Pointe, working towards her dream of owning her own flower shop, creating the best design for the upcoming Winter Carnival, and entering her designs into the Floral Expo. She is on the verge of realising that dream and the last thing she needs is to babysit the egotistical skier for the duration of his community service. But there is more to Grady than is reported in the tabloids, and Quinn is holding onto her own hurts. Can the two learn to work together?

Just Let Go was one of my most anticipated reads of the year, and it was everything I expected it to be. After reading Just Look Up and loving it, I was excited to read this second novel in the Harbor Pointe series. Each of the two books can be read as standalones, with complete story lines, a few character crossovers, and the same delightful, small-town setting. Just Let Go is a complicated and layered story of relationships, dreams, and the faith needed to overcome the hurts of the past.

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