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: Dear Sweet Pea

Dear Sweet Pea – Julie Murphy – Balzer+Bray – Published 1 October 2019

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Synopsis

Patricia “Sweet Pea” DiMarco wasn’t sure what to expect when her parents announced they were getting a divorce. She never could have imagined that they would have the “brilliant” idea of living in nearly identical houses on the same street. In the one house between them lives their eccentric neighbor Miss Flora Mae, the famed local advice columnist behind “Miss Flora Mae I?”

Dividing her time between two homes is not easy. And it doesn’t help that at school, Sweet Pea is now sitting right next to her ex–best friend, Kiera, a daily reminder of the friendship that once was. Things might be unbearable if Sweet Pea didn’t have Oscar—her new best friend—and her fifteen-pound cat, Cheese.

Then one day Flora leaves for a trip and asks Sweet Pea to forward her the letters for the column. And Sweet Pea happens to recognize the handwriting on one of the envelopes.

What she decides to do with that letter sets off a chain of events that will forever change the lives of Sweet Pea DiMarco, her family, and many of the readers of “Miss Flora Mae I?”

My thoughts

Dear Sweet Pea is the middle-grade debut from successful YA author Julie Murphy. Dear Sweet Pea is a delightful story about growing up, figuring your way through friendships, facing challenging family changes like divorce and the coming out of a parent, and finding your voice in the progression from middle school to high school.

When Sweet Pea’s parents announce their divorce and promise her nothing will change she didn’t expect them to set up nearly identical houses for her on the same street. The only thing between them is the house of Miss Flora Mae, who writes the local advice columns. When Miss Flora Mae goes away on a trip, she asks Sweet Pea to forward her letters to her, but Sweet Pea is drawn to the mystery of the letters and finds herself opening and responding to them herself.

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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: 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: Returning to Eden

Returning To Eden – Rebecca Hartt – Acts of Valor #1 – Rise UP Publications – Published 1 October 2019

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Synopsis

Declared MIA a year prior, the Navy wrote him off as dead. Now, Eden’s husband, Navy SEAL Jonah Mills has returned after three years to disrupt her tranquility. Diagnosed with PTSD and amnesia, he has no recollection of their marriage or their fourteen-year-old step-daughter. Still, Eden accepts her obligation to nurse Jonah back to health while secretly longing to regain her freedom, despite the reminiscent attraction she feels.

Jonah Mills knows he has work to do. Unfit for active duty, he commits himself to therapy and relies on faith in the loving God who sustained him through torture and hardship to also heal his body, mind and family.

But as the memories lurking in his wife’s haunted eyes and behind his step-daughter’s uncertain smile begin to return to him, a disturbing chain of events is revealed. If his memories are truly real, not only is his career at stake, but so is the welfare of his small, cherished family.

My thoughts

I am always on the lookout for new authors within the Christian genre and so I was excited to give Rebecca Hartt’s Returning To Eden a try. Exciting, and tense, Returning To Eden is part romance and part suspense.

When Eden receives a phone call saying her husband, missing in action presumed dead, is actually alive and on his way home, it’s a shock. And not necessarily a good one. Eden and her daughter were just getting used to their freedom without a neglectful and controlling husband and stepfather. But Eden is resolved to offer Jonah support in his recovery, especially when she discovers he has no memory of the past two years, no memory of her or their marriage, and it seems he is a new and changed man. But Jonah is certain the dangers of the past year have followed him home and he is determined to protect his family, even if following his hunch means he could lose them forever.

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Book Review: Frankly in Love

Frankly in Love – David Yoon – G.P. Putnam’s Sons – Published 10 September 2019

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Synopsis

High school senior Frank Li is a Limbo–his term for Korean-American kids who find themselves caught between their parents’ traditional expectations and their own Southern California upbringing. His parents have one rule when it comes to romance–“Date Korean”–which proves complicated when Frank falls for Brit Means, who is smart, beautiful–and white. Fellow Limbo Joy Song is in a similar predicament, and so they make a pact: they’ll pretend to date each other in order to gain their freedom. Frank thinks it’s the perfect plan, but in the end, Frank and Joy’s fake-dating maneuver leaves him wondering if he ever really understood love–or himself–at all.

My thoughts

Dramatic writing and a strong and humorous narrator drive this coming-of-age story about acceptance and belonging, falling in love and growing up.

Frank has two names. His American name and his Korean name. He has two sides – perpetually separated. When his parents strongly encourage a relationship with a fellow Korean-American family friend, Joy, and Frank finds himself falling in love with a definitely-not-parental-approved White girl, he and Joy concoct a plan to secretly date to give each other the freedom to be who (and date whomever) they want to be.

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Book Review: Six Goodbyes We Never Said

Six Goodbyes We Never Said – Candace Ganger – Wednesday Books – Published 24 September 2019

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Synopsis

Naima Rodriguez doesn’t want your patronizing sympathy as she grieves her father, her hero—a fallen Marine. She’ll hate you forever if you ask her to open up and remember him “as he was,” though that’s all her loving family wants her to do in order to manage her complex OCD and GAD. She’d rather everyone back the-eff off while she separates her Lucky Charms marshmallows into six, always six, Ziploc bags, while she avoids friends and people and living the life her father so desperately wanted for her. 

Dew respectfully requests a little more time to process the sudden loss of his parents. It’s causing an avalanche of secret anxieties, so he counts on his trusty voice recorder to convey the things he can’t otherwise say aloud. He could really use a friend to navigate a life swimming with pain and loss and all the lovely moments in between. And then he meets Naima and everything’s changed—just not in the way he, or she, expects.

My thoughts

Six Goodbyes We Never Said is an honest reflection of the complications and messiness of grief, an upfront and realistic portrayal of mental health and an ode to friendship and family, which can sometimes be as weird and tangled as it can be necessary and life saving. This book unfurls the journey of grief in a compelling and frank way, at times moving while other times delightfully amusing. It’s the perfect book for reflective readers or those who need something or someone to relate to when the world around them doesn’t reflect back what they see in the mirror.

Naima and Dew are what mainstream society would wrongly label as outsiders. Those who are different or who behave differently from society’s perception of acceptable or normalised behaviour. Both are struggling, not only under the heavy burden of grief so complex they can hardly speak of it, but with social anxiety (Dew) and the rituals and counting patterns (Naima) that has become a part of their every day existences. In each other they find someone who is facing the same complex emotional roller coaster.

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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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