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: Access Restricted

Access Restricted – Gregory Scott Katsoulis – Word$ #2 – Harlequin Teen – Published 28 August 2018

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Synopsis

At the end of All Rights Reserved, Speth and her friends freed the city of Vermaine from Silas Rog and his oppressive litigation. But now, with the Wi-Fi untethered, the citizens of her city are looking to Speth to lead them. Just as Speth never intended to lead a rebellion of Silents, she has no idea how to begin putting Vermaine back to rights. All she wants to do is break out of the dome and track down her parents, who were sold into indentured servitude years before. Leaving the care of the city in the hands of her friend and mentor, Kel, Speth and a few friends embark on a journey to explore the rest of their world and spread the cause of freedom.

My thoughts

Access Restricted is the sequel to the amazing and scarily possible All Rights Reserved. With just as much action and intrigue, Access Restricted once again delves into a world where every form of communication is owned and fees charged accordingly, where history and knowledge have become propriety information only accessible to those with wealth and standing, where one girl unwittingly became the leader in an uprising, and where that girl must once again risk everything for a chance of a better future.

There has been much debate in my high-schoolers book club, who all adored All Rights Reserved, if a sequel was needed. The first book could, arguably, be concluded and left as it was. Others suggested they were happy with the ending, and that any more could possibly ruin the awesomeness of the first book. Others still, myself included, desperately wanted more -more of Speth, more of her accidental rebellion and uprising, and more explanation of the world in which she lives and the consequences for her actions. Would everything she had already done and sacrificed really change things? Had it really made a difference?

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Book Review: Jinxed

Jinxed – Amy McCulloch – Simon & Schuster (Aus) – Published 9 August 2018

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Synopsis

Lacey Chu has big dreams of becoming a companioneer for MONCHA, the largest tech firm in North America and the company behind the  “baku” – a customisable smart pet that functions as a phone but makes the perfect companion too. When Lacey finds out she hasn’t been accepted into Profectus – the elite academy for cutting edge tech – it seems her dreams are over. Worst of all, rather than getting to choose one of the advanced bakus, she’s stuck with a rubbish insect one. 

Then, one night, Lacey comes across the remains of an advanced baku. Once it might’ve been in the shape of a cat but it’s now mangled and broken, no sign of electronic life behind its eyes. Days of work later and the baku opens its eyes. Lacey calls him Jinx – and Jinx opens up a world for her that she never even knew existed, including entry to the hallowed halls of Profecus. Slowly but surely, Jinx becomes more than just a baku to Lacey – he becomes her perfect companion. But what is Jinx, really? His abilities far surpass anything written into his code or built into his motherboard. He seems to be more than just a robotic pet. He seems … real.

My thoughts

Jinxed is a fun, near-futuristic science-fiction novel that will appeal to young teen readers, especially those interested in STEM.

Lacey Chu’s one dream is to become a companioneer with the biggest tech company Moncha, the creators of the Baku – part smartphone part animal companion. But when she is rejected entry to the prestigious academy Profectus, a second chance unexpectedly arrives in the form of a broken Level 3 Baku. Lacey spends the summer fixing the robotic cat before joining her new classmates. She hopes no one will discover the way she was admitted or Jinx’s secret – he doesn’t act or communicate like a normal Baku. But the school-run Baku Battles throw Lacey and Jinx into the spotlight.

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Book Review: I Am Still Alive

I Am Still Alive – Kate Alice Marshall – Viking Books – Published 24 July 2018

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Synopsis

After
Jess is alone. Her cabin has burned to the ground. She knows if she doesn’t act fast, the cold will kill her before she has time to worry about food. But she is still alive–for now.

Before
Jess hadn’t seen her survivalist, off-the-grid dad in over a decade. But after a car crash killed her mother and left her injured, she was forced to move to his cabin in the remote Canadian wilderness. Just as Jess was beginning to get to know him, a secret from his past paid them a visit, leaving her father dead and Jess stranded.

After
With only her father’s dog for company, Jess must forage and hunt for food, build shelter, and keep herself warm. Some days it feels like the wild is out to destroy her, but she’s stronger than she ever imagined.

My thoughts

I Am Still Alive is a pulse-pounding survival novel, epic and wild. There is no better beginning to an action adventure story than the character informing the reader that they are still alive when they should be dead. The prologue certainly gets the heart racing and it had me hooked on Jess’s story.

Before, Jess has been flown to the middle of nowhere to live with her dad. Injured from the car accident that killed her mother, the last place she wants to be is living in the wilderness with a man she hardly knows. After, Jess is alive – barely. She must rely on her basic knowledge of the forest to build shelter, hunt for food and survive, with nothing but her dad’s dog, an empty rifle, a bow and quiver of arrows and her wits.

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Book Review: The Brink of Darkness

The Brink of Darkness – Jeff Giles – The Edge of Everything #2 – Bloomsbury – Published 12 July 2018

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Synopsis

Things have changed for seventeen-year-old Zoe ever since the otherworldly events that brought her together with the mysterious bounty hunter she calls X. In order to save Zoe and her family, X has done the unthinkable – he’s given up his freedom and returned to captivity in the Lowlands.

X is determined to break the lords’ hold on him once and for all, but being stripped of his power pushes him toward a darkness he’s never experienced and a past he’s never known. The secrets that surface could be the key to reuniting X and Zoe… or they could mean the destruction of everything they have been fighting for.

My thoughts

The Brink of Darkness is the sequel to the amazing and thrilling The Edge of Everything. As divine as it is horrid, as funny as it is touching and sad, as sweet as it is rough around the edges, The Brink of Darkness is a stunningly crafted – wild, thrilling and beautiful.

The Brink of Darkness continues the story of Zoe, a young human teenager whose life has been thrown into chaos after meeting X, a boy raised in the Lowlands, the only living person amongst thousands of damned souls. In The Edge of Everything, Zoe and X risked everything for a chance to be together, yet to save Zoe and her family, X sacrificed his freedom and was forced to return to the Lowlands. No longer allowed to walk the earth as a bounty-hunter, X doesn’t know when he will see Zoe again – but neither he nor Zoe have given up hope of a brighter future.

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Book Review: The Queen’s Rising

The Queen’s Rising – Rebecca Ross – The Queen’s Rising #1 – HarperTeen – Published 6 February 2018

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Synopsis

When her seventeenth summer solstice arrives, Brienna desires only two things: to master her passion and to be chosen by a patron.

Growing up in the southern Kingdom of Valenia at the renowned Magnalia House should have prepared her for such a life. While some are born with an innate talent for one of the five passions—art, music, dramatics, wit, and knowledge—Brienna struggled to find hers until she belatedly chose to study knowledge. However, despite all her preparations, Brienna’s greatest fear comes true—the solstice does not go according to plan and she is left without a patron.

Months later, her life takes an unexpected turn when a disgraced lord offers her patronage. Suspicious of his intent, and with no other choices, she accepts. But there is much more to his story, and Brienna soon discovers that he has sought her out for his own vengeful gain. For there is a dangerous plot being planned to overthrow the king of Maevana—the archrival kingdom of Valenia—and restore the rightful queen, and her magic, to the northern throne. And others are involved—some closer to Brienna than she realizes.

My thoughts

The Queen’s Rising is a gorgeous fantasy, spectacularly crafted, imaginative, unique and so deliciously easy to be swept up in. It came as a complete surprise and I loved every minute of it.

For seven years, Brienna has struggled to master a passion – music, art, whit, drama and finally knowledge. On the eve of her seventeenth solstice, Brienna will have to prove she has the right to become a Passion and earn a patron. When her fears of failing are realised, she is granted reprieve when a lord agrees to become her patron father. But he seems less interested in her knowledge passion than he is in her new and volatile ability to flash back hundreds of years ago, to a time when the realm to the north was rightfully ruled by a queen. Brienna must decide if she is to become entangled in a plot to over throw a king, and if it is worth the risk to discover more about her secret paternal heritage.

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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: Sweet Adversity

Sweet Adversity – Sheryl Gwyther – HarperCollins Australia – Published 18 June 2018

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Synopsis

There’s never a good time to be orphaned – or abandoned … especially when you are twelve years old, and it’s the Great Depression.

In 1928, Shakespearean actors, the McAllisters, are forced to leave their daughter Adversity at the Emu Swamp Children’s Home.

They fully intend to return, but things don’t go according to plan.

Then, to make matters worse, Scrimshaw, a villainous theatrical agent, hears the talented Addie sing. He plots to use her in his next money-making venture, but when he turns up at Emu Swamp to collect his prize, Scrimshaw finds she’s run away.

Together with Macbeth, her Shakespeare-quoting cockatiel, Addie is about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime.

My thoughts

Sweet Adversity, set in Australia during the Great Depression of the 1930s, is an exciting middle-grade adventure, complete with a strong and brave young heroine, an awesome sidekick talking cockatiel, and thrilling baddies. It is sure to delight young readers who enjoy stories about history, acting, friendship and adventure.

Adversity McAllister knows she belongs on the stage. Acting alongside her parents and her Shakespeare-quoting cockatiel, Macbeth, is all she wants to do. But money and food is short, so her parents leave Addie at an orphanage, with plans to collect her when they can. However, the orphanage operator, Matron Maddock, plans to sell Adversity to an evil theatre agent. Addie must flee from the orphanage with Macbeth, and, with the help of many friends along the way, embark on an epic adventure to find her freedom.

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