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: Rogue

Rogue – A.J. Betts – The Vault #1 – Pan Australia – Published 26 June 2018

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Synopsis

There was no going back; there was no choice, anymore. I’d chosen out and this was it: hot-cold, dry-wet, bright-dark and lonely.

Hayley has gone rogue.

She’s left everything she’s ever known – her friends, her bees, her whole world – all because her curiosity was too big to fit within the walls of the underwater home she was forced to flee.

But what is this new world she’s come to? Has Hayley finally found somewhere she can belong?

Or will she have to keep running?

My thoughts

Rogue is the second book in the two book dystopian series, The Vault. As the follow-up to Hive, Rogue took the world of Hive and blew it wide open. With the same curious and ever-searching main character and even more incredible descriptions of the surrounding landscape, Rogue gives readers and Hayley the answers they were searching for in book one.

Hayley had so many questions and when the son gave her the option to leave her confined life behind and explore what else was out there, she took it. Now, Hayley finds herself in a place she never could have imagined, with new creatures, landscapes and rules. But she can’t forget the people she left behind, and, as she learns more about this new world, she isn’t sure if she should let her old world go or if she should share her new-found discoveries.

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Book Review: Cracking the Bell

Cracking the Bell – Geoff Herbach – Katherine Tegen Books – Published 10 September 2019

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Synopsis

Isaiah loves football. In fact, football saved Isaiah’s life, giving him structure and discipline after his sister’s death tore his family apart. Now, nothing makes Isaiah happier than setting up the perfect defense and delivering a big hit. But when Isaiah gets knocked out cold on the field, he learns there’s a lot more to lose than football.

While recovering from another concussion, Isaiah wonders what his life would look without football. All his friends are on the team, and Isaiah knows they can’t win without him. There’s also the scholarship offer from Cornell, which is only on the table if he keeps playing. And without football, what would keep his family together? What would prevent him from sliding back into the habits that nearly destroyed him?

As Isaiah begins to piece his life together with help from unexpected places, he must decide how much he’s willing to sacrifice for the sport that gave him everything, even if playing football threatens to take away his future.

My thoughts

I love YA sports novels and Geoff Herbach knows exactly how to write one that is on-trend, poignant, realistic, gritty and doesn’t pull its punches. And that’s exactly what I got from Cracking The Bell.

Isaiah lives for football. It’s what keeps him busy and away from the temptations that come with down time. It saved him when he fell into bad habits and did things he wishes he could forget. It helps keep what remains of his broken family together. It keeps him from mourning too deeply his sister. But when Isaiah sustains a serious concussion, the lifeline of football may be removed from him and Isaiah must decide if the safety of football are worth the risks.

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Book Review: Hive

Hive – A.J. Betts – The Vault #1 – Pan Australia – Published 26 June 2018

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Synopsis

Hayley tends to her bees and follows the rules in the only world she has ever known.

Until she witnesses the impossible: a drip from the ceiling.

A drip? It doesn’t make sense.

Yet she hears it, catches it. Tastes it.

Curiosity is a hook.

What starts as a drip leads to a lie, a death, a boy, a beast, and too many awful questions.

My thoughts

Hive is a unique dystopian story. Intricately crafted, the world beautifully written, this gentle and compelling story is just the start of an exciting two-book series. The narrator, alongside the reader, knows only of the day-to-day rhythm of life and the stories she has been told. As she questions, explores and discovers scant details, she, and the reader, learns there is far more to the world than she could have expected.

Hayley is a beekeeper. It is her job to tend the Hive, just one of the gardeners in the gardener house, one of the six houses, that rely on water from the source and follow the patterns set out by the generations before them. But Hayley has a secret, one that has her questioning everything around and soon the walls of her world seem to hem her in. But will questioning provide the answers she is looking for?

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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: Fan the Fame

Fan The Fame – Anna Priemaza – HarperTeen – Published 20 August 2019

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Synopsis

Lainey wouldn’t mind lugging a camera around a video game convention for her brother, aka YouTube superstar Codemeister, except for one big problem. He’s funny and charming online, but behind closed doors, Cody is a sexist jerk.

SamTheBrave came to this year’s con with one mission: meeting Codemeister—because getting his idol’s attention could be the big break Sam needs.

ShadowWillow is already a successful streamer. But when her fans start shipping her with Code, Shadow concocts a plan to turn the rumors to her advantage.

The three teens’ paths collide when Lainey records one of Cody’s hateful rants on video. Because she’s determined to spill the truth to her brother’s fans—even if that means putting Sam and Shadow in the crosshairs.

My thoughts

Fan The Fame is a relatable novel about responsibility, doing and saying the right thing and speaking up – or choosing not to. With three distinct character perspectives and voices, this is a clever and thought-provoking novel.

Lainey: not much into gaming. Her brother is a huge YouTube star and she can’t quite understand why so many people subscribe to his videos when he so racist, sexist and rude. Working for Cody, aka Codemeister, this summer means carting around his video gear at the gaming conference and seeing his jerkiness up close.
ShadowWillow: an up and coming successful, and very good, female gamer and streamer. When her fans start shipping her with Codemeister, she knows joining someone so famous would really up her subscriber numbers.
SamTheBrave: young gamer with not many subscribers, but hilarious jokes. Feels like the gaming world is the one place he might actually belong. Also wants to get the attention of Codemeister at the conference.

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Book Review: 100 Days of Sunlight

100 Days of Sunlight – Abbie Emmons – Published 7 August 2019

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Synopsis

Terrified that her vision might never return, Tessa feels like she has nothing left to be happy about. But when her grandparents place an ad in the local newspaper looking for a typist to help Tessa continue writing and blogging, an unlikely answer knocks at their door: Weston Ludovico, a boy her age with bright eyes, an optimistic smile…and no legs.

Knowing how angry and afraid Tessa is feeling, Weston thinks he can help her. But he has one condition — no one can tell Tessa about his disability. And because she can’t see him, she treats him with contempt: screaming at him to get out of her house and never come back. But for Weston, it’s the most amazing feeling: to be treated like a normal person, not just a sob story. So he comes back. Again and again and again.

Tessa spurns Weston’s “obnoxious optimism”, convinced that he has no idea what she’s going through. But Weston knows exactly how she feels and reaches into her darkness to show her that there is more than one way to experience the world. As Tessa grows closer to Weston, she finds it harder and harder to imagine life without him — and Weston can’t imagine life without her. But he still hasn’t told her the truth, and when Tessa’s sight returns he’ll have to make the hardest decision of his life: vanish from Tessa’s world…or overcome his fear of being seen.

My thoughts

What if you couldn’t see? What if someone couldn’t see you? Does it change how you judge people, judge the world? 100 Days of Starlight is a teenage love story, but it is also a story about resilience and learning to get back up when knocked down by life.

A car crash leaves Tessa temporarily blind. Now Tessa refuses to write her poetry or leave the house, so her grandparents place an ad for a helper. Weston sees the ad at his father’s paper just before it’s pulled from publication and decides Tessa is someone he can help. As a double amputee, the idea of someone getting to know him without seeing him is very appealing. At first reluctant to work with Weston, Tessa pushes him away in every way she can, but he doesn’t give up – determined to show her that life is about more than what she can see. Continue reading

Book Review: How To Make Friends With The Dark

How To Make Friends With The Dark – Kathleen Glasgow – HarperCollins AU – Published 1 April 2019

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Synopsis

It’s the brightest day of summer and it’s dark outside. It’s dark in your house, dark in your room, and dark in your heart. You feel like the darkness is going to split you apart.

Here is what happens when your mother dies.

That’s how it feels for Tiger. It’s always been Tiger and her mother against the world. Then, on a day like any other, Tiger’s mother dies. And now it’s Tiger, alone.

Here is how you learn to make friends with the dark.

My thoughts

How To Make Friends With The Dark is an honest look at the journey of grief, complicated and messy, as well as the variety of conditions and struggle for normalcy faced by children who lose a parent or are removed from unsafe living conditions. It is a delicately crafted novel, unflinching and considered.

Tiger and her mother are a unit – it’s them against the world. Things might be tight and Tiger might chafe against the close rein her mother keeps her on, but everything is okay, or at least sort of, when they are together. But when her mother suddenly dies, Tiger is thrown into a whirlpool of foster homes, halfway houses and uncertainty. She battles unrelenting grief and can only liken it to standing on the edge of a black hole ready to swallow her up. As family secrets are revealed, she questions if she ever really knew her mother, or what she can expect from life now that everything that she knows has been stolen from her.

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Book Review: Hello Girls

Hello Girls – Brittany Cavallaro and Emily Henry – Katherine Tegen Books – Published 6 August 2019

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Synopsis

Best friends are forged by fire. For Winona Olsen and Lucille Pryce, that fire happened the night they met outside the police station—both deciding whether to turn their families in.

Winona has been starving for life in the seemingly perfect home that she shares with her seemingly perfect father, celebrity weatherman Stormy Olsen. No one knows that he locks the pantry door to control her eating and leaves bruises where no one can see them.

Lucille has been suffocating beneath the needs of her mother and her drug-dealing brother, wondering if there’s more out there for her than disappearing waitress tips and generations of barely getting by.

One harrowing night, Winona and Lucille realize they can’t wait until graduation to start their new lives. They need out. Now. All they need is three grand, fast. And really, a stolen convertible to take them from Michigan to Las Vegas can’t hurt.

My thoughts

Hello Girls is an epic road trip novel slash crime novel slash ode to friendship slash feminist piece de resistance. With razor-sharp wit and punchy action, this book swings from hilarious to what the hell to hell yeah and back again.

To everyone else, Winona’s father is charming and kind. To her, he is both jailer and torturer. Lucille works hard to keep a roof over her mother’s head and her hard-earned savings away from the grubby hands of her drug-dealing brother. The only peace the two girls find is with stolen moments together in a run-down bar outside of town and dreams of starting over. One night, Winona leaves, steals her grandfather’s convertible and a hand full of valuables. Together, Winona and Lucille start off across the country. Towards what, they’re not sure but it can’t be worse than what they’re leaving behind.

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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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