Book Review: The Calculus of Change

The Calculus of Change – Jessie Hilb – Clarion Books – Published 27 February 2018

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Synopsis

Aden isn’t looking for love in her senior year. She’s much more focused on things like getting a solo gig at Ike’s and keeping her brother from illegal herbal recreation. But when Tate walks into Calculus class wearing a yarmulke and a grin, Aden’s heart is gone in an instant.

The two are swept up in a tantalizingly warm friendship, complete with long drives with epic soundtracks and deep talks about life, love, and spirituality. With Tate, Aden feels closer to her mom—and her mom’s faith—than she has since her mother died years ago. Everyone else—even Aden’s brother and her best friend—can see their connection, but does Tate?

Navigating uncertain romance and the crises of those she loves, Aden must decide how she chooses to see herself and how to honor her mom’s memory.

My thoughts

I expected Calculus of Change to be light-hearted contemporary, where math meets romance and trivial high school problems create light drama and much fun. Instead, Calculus of Change is a deep novel and touches on numerous heavy issues, from sexual assault to body image, relationship problems and self perception. It is thought provoking and written in an original style.

When Aden falls she falls. Head over heels, totally discombobulated falls in love. That’s what happened when Tate walked into their calculus classroom wearing a yarmulke and a smile that seemed only for her. But Tate has a girlfriend, and as Aden and Tate become friends and spend increasing amounts of time together, Aden finds it harder to hide her true feelings. But her unrequited love isn’t the only thing not going to plan, like her father’s endless grief and anger, her brother’s impending destruction, and her best friend’s own dangerous relationships. As Aden struggles to reconcile her feelings with her perceived self worth, she must decide how she will view herself, her family, her friendships, and her memory of her mother.

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Book Review: Say You’ll Remember Me

Say You’ll Remember Me – Katie McGarry – Harlequin Teen Australia – Published 22 January 2018

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Synopsis

When Drix was convicted of a crime–one he didn’t commit–he thought his life was over. But opportunity came with the new Second Chance Program, the governor’s newest pet project to get delinquents off the streets, rehabilitated and back into society. Drix knows this is his chance to get his life back on track, even if it means being paraded in front of reporters for a while.

Elle knows she lives a life of privilege. As the governor’s daughter, she can open doors with her name alone. But the expectations and pressure to be someone she isn’t may be too much to handle. She wants to follow her own path, whatever that means.

When Drix and Elle meet, their connection is immediate, but so are their problems. Drix is not the type of boy Elle’s parents have in mind for her, and Elle is not the kind of girl who can understand Drix’s messy life.

But sometimes love can breach all barriers.

My thoughts

Say You’ll Remember Me is simply stunning. Incredibly powerful, emotive, and heartbreaking, with characters that slip into your heart and refuse to leave, Say You’ll Remember Me demonstrates the importance of grace and understanding in this story of family and love. Once again Katie McGarry delivers a wonderful book. I have come to expect nothing less from this extraordinary writer, but nevertheless, McGarry seems to pass all expectations. In my opinion, Say You’ll Remember Me is her very best book to date.

Elle knows she is blessed – good parents, a safe and secure life, endless opportunities – but still she feels trapped. Trapped by the expectations of a life in the spotlight thanks to her father’s political career. Trapped by her own feelings of failure to live up to those expectations. For Drix, fresh out of juvenile detention and a second chance program, life has been against him since he was born. Now he has been given a chance to start over, but he too is constrained by expectations. Elle and Drix are not supposed to meet, not supposed to build a friendship against everyone’s orders to stay apart, and not supposed to connect in such a powerful way. But sometimes, there is one person in life who can see past all the facades and lies, and who believes in you, no matter what, and they are worth fighting for.

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Book Review: The Saturday Night Supper Club

The Saturday Night Supper Club – Carla Laureano – Tyndale – Published 6 February 2018

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Synopsis

Denver chef Rachel Bishop has accomplished everything she’s dreamed and some things she never dared hope, like winning a James Beard Award and heading up her own fine-dining restaurant. But when a targeted smear campaign causes her to be pushed out of the business by her partners, she vows to do whatever it takes to get her life back . . . even if that means joining forces with the man who inadvertently set the disaster in motion.

Essayist Alex Kanin never imagined his pointed editorial would go viral. Ironically, his attempt to highlight the pitfalls of online criticism has the opposite effect: it revives his own flagging career by destroying that of a perfect stranger. Plagued by guilt-fueled writer’s block, Alex vows to do whatever he can to repair the damage. He just doesn’t expect his interest in the beautiful chef to turn personal.

Alex agrees to help rebuild Rachel’s tarnished image by offering his connections and his home to host an exclusive pop-up dinner party targeted to Denver’s most influential citizens: the Saturday Night Supper Club. As they work together to make the project a success, Rachel begins to realize Alex is not the unfeeling opportunist she once thought he was, and that perhaps there’s life–and love–outside the pressure-cooker of her chosen career. But can she give up her lifelong goals without losing her identity as well?

My thoughts

The Saturday Night Supper Club is simply delicious. Perfectly put together, this book surprised and delighted me, made me incredibly hungry, had me swooning and craving best-friend chats over waffles and coffee, and made it all too easy to fall in love with the characters, the charming setting, and the beautiful writing of Carla Laureano.

Rachel Bishop has worked tirelessly all her life to realise her dreams of running and owning her own restaurant. But a scathing critique, an online essay follow up, and an ill-timed comment are all it takes to bring her dreams, and her reputation, crumbling down around her. Alex Kanin never meant for his essay on the downsides of social media to have such a negative impact on a chef’s career. Determined to atone for his part in the whole thing, Alex apologises and offers to make it up to Rachel. Together, they hatch the idea of a supper club, him the host, Rachel the chef. But neither plan on the effect their partnership will have, both professionally and personally.

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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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New Book Releases January 2018

New Book Releases for January 2018

January 2018 promises plenty of choices for those who have made a New Year’s resolution to read more. Click on covers for more information and reviews.

 

Young Adult Fiction

Busted – Gina Ciocca – Sourcebooks Fire – Published 2 January 2018

Marisa wasn’t planning to be a snoop for hire—until she accidentally caught her best friend’s boyfriend making out with another girl. Now her reputation for sniffing out cheaters has spread all over school, and Marisa finds herself the reluctant queen of busting two-timing boys.

Young adult fiction: Contemporary


Together at Midnight – Jennifer Castle – HarperTeen – Published 2 January 2018

Kendall, just home from a year studying abroad, doesn’t want to resume her regular life, including returning to her old high school. So she flees to New York to stay with her brother and reconnect with an old friend-and unrequited crush-hoping that the past months talking online mean there is a chance for a romantic future. She doesn’t expect to run into Max, Jamie’s friend, and the guy who saw her breakdown over Jamie’s rejection last year. She certainly doesn’t expect to bond with him after witnessing a traumatic event. But as they traverse the streets of New York, working together on a dare to spread kindness and hopefully make up for their previous lack of action, there is no denying their growing connection.

Young adult fiction – Contemporary

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Book Review: Someone Like You

Someone Like You – Victoria Bylin – Bethany House Publishers – Published 3 May 2016

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Synopsis

Julia Dare is trying to run her own business, raise her young son, Max, and help her widowed mother. Her biggest worry, though, is keeping Max’s father from being a bad influence while still allowing the boy to spend time with his dad. When an account from her event-planning business sends her to Caliente Springs resort, she’s shocked to encounter Zeke Monroe, her college sweetheart.

Zeke is determined to keep Caliente Springs running despite financial trouble. When Julia walks back into his life, he’s surprised at the feelings she stirs up. As they work together on an important client’s wedding, the fate of the resort soon depends on their success. With Zeke and Julia both pushed to their limits, will their history put up walls between them or bring them together?

My thoughts

I have come to really enjoy Victoria Bylin’s writing. Realistic, flawed characters facing relatable challenges come together to confront everything that life throws at them. Someone Like You also celebrates second chances, family, and those special moments in life (even if they sometimes don’t go quite as planned).

Julia Dare is slowly rebuilding her life. She has started her own event planning business, has left her emotionally abusive partner, and is enjoying spending time with her delightful four-year-old, Max. An event planning opportunity leads her to Caliente Springs resort and into the path of old friend and boyfriend, Zeke Monroe. For Zeke, Julia is the bright spot in an otherwise challenge point in his life. The resort is in serious trouble, along with his job, his faith is on the rocks, and he is uncertain about what his future will hold. As Julia and Zeke reconnect, reminisce over their history, and face their current challenges together, they have a chance to rebuild a truly special relationship.

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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: Together At Midnight

Together At Midnight – Jennifer Castle – HarperTeen – Published 2 January 2018

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Synopsis

What does it really mean to be kind . . . and why does it sometimes feel like the hardest thing in the world to do? High school senior Kendall, who just returned from a life-changing semester in Europe, and Max, who is drifting his way through a gap year before college, struggle with these questions when they witness a tragic accident in New York City during the holiday season. Racked with guilt, the two accept a dare to perform random acts of kindness to strangers. The challenge pulls these two teens, who have a history together from back home, closer and closer as they explore a vibrant city filled with other people’s stories and secrets.

Kendall and Max can’t deny their growing bond, even though they both have other romantic entanglements and uncertain futures. As the clock counts down on New Year’s Eve, will they find themselves together at midnight?

My thoughts

Together At Midnight is an inspiring YA novel – romantic, but also so much more about kindness, society, and being brave enough to step outside yourself to help others.

Kendall, just home from a year studying abroad, doesn’t want to resume her regular life, including returning to her old high school. So she flees to New York to stay with her brother and reconnect with an old friend-and unrequited crush-hoping that the past months talking online mean there is a chance for a romantic future. She doesn’t expect to run into Max, Jamie’s friend, and the guy who saw her breakdown over Jamie’s rejection last year. She certainly doesn’t expect to bond with him after witnessing a traumatic event. But as they traverse the streets of New York, working together on a dare to spread kindness and hopefully make up for their previous lack of action, there is no denying their growing connection.

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Book Review: A Taxonomy of Love

A Taxonomy of Love – Rachael Allen – Amulet Books – Published 9 January 2018

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Synopsis

The moment Spencer meets Hope the summer before seventh grade, it’s . . . something at first sight. He knows she’s special, possibly even magical. The pair become fast friends, climbing trees and planning world travels. After years of being outshone by his older brother and teased because of his Tourette syndrome, Spencer finally feels like he belongs. But as Hope and Spencer get older and life gets messier, the clear label of “friend” gets messier, too.

Through sibling feuds and family tragedies, new relationships and broken hearts, the two grow together and apart, and Spencer, an aspiring scientist, tries to map it all out using his trusty system of taxonomy. He wants to identify and classify their relationship, but in the end, he finds that life doesn’t always fit into easy-to-manage boxes, and it’s this messy complexity that makes life so rich and beautiful.

My thoughts

Is there a way to understand and capture the complexities of life, friendship, and love? A Taxonomy of Love is a sweet story that captures all the magic and heartbreak of friendship and growing up.

When the new girl moves in next door, she and Spencer become strong friends. Who else but Hope could understand Spencer’s love of bugs and climbing trees. Who else could understand the ways in which he is different and yet not treat him as if he is any different at all. But sometimes life is messy and not as easy to categorise as Spencer would like. Friends, more than friends, not friends at all?

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Book Review: Mallee Boys

Mallee Boys – Charlie Archbold – Wakefield Press – Published 30 September 2017

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Synopsis

‘Sometimes I feel like I’m neither one thing nor another. I live in the Mallee but I don’t like the desert. I live on a farm but I get hay fever and I’m scared of goats. I like school but my best mates don’t.’

Sandy Douglas knows that life at fifteen is hard, but it’s even harder when your mother died a year ago and nothing’s gone right since. Sandy’s brother Red, on the other hand, is eighteen now and working the farm. He’s amped up on rage and always looking for a fight. And then there’s their dad Tom. He does his best, but – really – he doesn’t have a clue.

As Sandy and Red deal with girls, dirt biking, footy and friendship, both boys have to work out who they want to be, without their mum around. The Mallee, where they live, may seem like the middle of nowhere, but it turns out this is going to be one hell of a year.

My thoughts

Mallee Boys is an enthralling novel that captures the unique voices and lives of two young brothers living in rural Australia as they bridge the gap from childhood to adulthood. Parties, schooling, farming, deadly snakes, grief and loss, family, and friends, Mallee Boys encompasses the simplicity of everyday life and the many complications it brings.

Sandy has only months left of Year Ten. Months to decide if or where he can continue his schooling. Red is happy his school days are behind him. Now he can help his dad on their farm, play footy and hang with his mates. Both boys are still grieving the sudden loss of their mother who suddenly died only one year ago. As their days fill with work, dirt biking, friendship complications, and trouble with girls, both Sandy and Red face decisions that will shape their futures.

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