Book Review: All Rights Reserved

All Rights Reserved – Gregory Scott Katsoulis – Word$ #1 – Harlequin Teen – Published 29 August 2017

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Synopsis

Speth Jime is anxious to deliver her Last Day speech and celebrate her transition into adulthood. The moment she turns fifteen, Speth must pay for every word she speaks (“Sorry” is a flat ten dollars and a legal admission of guilt), for every nod ($0.99/sec), for every scream ($0.99/sec) and even every gesture of affection. She’s been raised to know the consequences of falling into debt, and can’t begin to imagine the pain of having her eyes shocked for speaking words that she’s unable to afford.

But when Speth’s friend Beecher commits suicide rather than work off his family’s crippling debt, she can’t express her shock and dismay without breaking her Last Day contract and sending her family into Collection. Backed into a corner, Speth finds a loophole: rather than read her speech rather than say anything at all she closes her mouth and vows never to speak again. Speth’s unexpected defiance of tradition sparks a media frenzy, inspiring others to follow in her footsteps, and threatens to destroy her, her family and the entire city around them.

My thoughts

All Rights Reserved is a clever and timely dystopian novel that introduces a world where speech and communication is controlled and monitored for capital gain. It is scary in its portrayal of a future world that is all too possible. With characters who quickly garner the reader’s support, All Rights Reserved is a highly thought-provoking novel.

Speth knows that at the exact moment of her fifteenth birthday every word she says, every gesture, every move of affection will be monitored, recorded, and she will be charged accordingly. But when her friend suicides just moments before her Last Day speech, Speth is horrified and knows no other option than to remain silent. She unwittingly creates a silent revolutionary protest. But it is hard to lead a revolution when you have no plan and can’t communicate. With her family falling apart around her Speth knows she must never stop fighting if she is to save herself and her family, or if she is to hopefully affect some change in her society.

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Book Review: Jane, Unlimited

Jane, Unlimited – Kristin Cashore – Kathy Dawson Books – Published 19 September 2017

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Synopsis

Jane has lived an ordinary life, raised by her aunt Magnolia—an adjunct professor and deep sea photographer. Jane counted on Magnolia to make the world feel expansive and to turn life into an adventure. But Aunt Magnolia was lost a few months ago in Antarctica on one of her expeditions.

Now, with no direction, a year out of high school, and obsessed with making umbrellas that look like her own dreams (but mostly just mourning her aunt), she is easily swept away by Kiran Thrash—a glamorous, capricious acquaintance who shows up and asks Jane to accompany her to a gala at her family’s island mansion called Tu Reviens.

Jane remembers her aunt telling her: “If anyone ever invites to you to Tu Reviens, promise me that you’ll go.” With nothing but a trunkful of umbrella parts to her name, Jane ventures out to the Thrash estate. Then her story takes a turn, or rather, five turns. What Jane doesn’t know is that Tu Reviens will offer her choices that can ultimately determine the course of her untethered life. But at Tu Reviens, every choice comes with a reward, or a price.

My thoughts

Jane Unlimited is another book I have read recently solely because of the author. I found the synopsis confusing and was a little unsure what type of story this would be, but I decided to pick it up anyway because I loved, loved Kristin Cashore’s Graceling series. The few things I did know about the story prior to reading it were: a) it is genre defying, b) it is almost a choose-your-own-ending book, but is written to be read in order, and c) umbrellas get mentioned quite a bit. Otherwise I was a tad confused about it all. Now that I have finished reading it I can say that, unfortunately, it wasn’t the right book for me. Jane, Unlimited is a combination of many classics with its own, very unique style and a mixture of mystery, science fiction, and fantasy.

Jane’s aunt made her promise to accept if she was ever invited to stay at the mysterious grand house Tu Reviens. So, when Jane’s friend Kiran offers just such an invitation, Jane agrees. But Tu Reviens contains many secrets and intriguing mysteries and Jane’s own choices will influence what she will uncover and how that will change her destiny.

In her author’s note Cashore indicates that Jane, Unlimited reflects a number of literary works including Jane Eyre, Rebecca, and The House of Mirth. Jane, Unlimited’s tone and style are very much reflective of these novels. It actually reminded me of a novel that I would be asked to read for senior English or a university course and then have to analyse it to death. Perhaps that’s why I didn’t enjoy it, because those are not my favourite type of books, but I can imagine someone who loved those classics really enjoying this book.

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Book Review: If There’s No Tomorrow

If There’s No Tomorrow – Jennifer L. Armentrout – Harlequin Teen – Published 5 September 2017

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Synopsis

Lena Wise is always looking forward to tomorrow, especially at the start of her senior year. She’s ready to pack in as much friend time as possible, to finish college applications, and to maybe let her childhood best friend Sebastian know how she really feels about him. For Lena, the upcoming year is going to be epic–one of opportunities and chances.

Until one choice, one moment, destroys everything.

Now Lena isn’t looking forward to tomorrow. Not when friend time may never be the same. Not when college applications feel all but impossible. Not when Sebastian might never forgive her for what happened.

For what she let happen.

With the guilt growing each day, Lena knows that her only hope is to move on. But how can she move on when she and her friends’ entire existences have been redefined? How can she move on when tomorrow isn’t even guaranteed?

My thoughts

Guilt and grief – a heartbreaking weight to bear. If There’s No Tomorrow is a story about love and life, friendship, self doubt, and learning to keep moving forward.

Lena plans to enjoy her senior year of high school. Once last year of parties, special events, volleyball games, time spent with her friends Abbi, Dary and Megan, and treasured moments with her best friend (the boy with whom she has been secretly in love with for years), Sebastian. But a tragedy none of them saw coming shakes Lena’s life. Now, nothing is like she planned. Worse is the grief and guilt she doesn’t know how to deal with and the simple fact that she doesn’t know who she is anymore or how to keep moving on with her life.

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Book Review: My Unexpected Hope

My Unexpected Hope – Tammy L. Gray – Waterfall Press – Published 23 June 2017

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Synopsis

After a year of grieving her divorce and living a life permanently stuck on pause, Laila Richardson is finally ready to have her own happy ending. Then a listing for a quaint cottage in another town answers her prayers for a fresh beginning—one that will bring her closer to her new boyfriend, Ben. Unfortunately, in her small town of Fairfield, Georgia, letting go of the past is virtually impossible. No one wants to see her move on, including the man who destroyed her heart to begin with.

Chad Richardson has spent years in misery but finally has his life on somewhat stable ground. When he learns his ex-wife is dating, he knows it’s time to go back and fight for the life he abandoned. Bolstered by his newfound sobriety, Chad has every intention of winning back the woman he loves, even if that means facing old demons that are waiting for him to fail.

Passions run deep as two souls searching for a second chance find the courage to let go of old patterns. Can they recognize that their dreams are still possible, even when forged from a broken past?

My thoughts

My Unexpected Hope is a realistic and enjoyable Christian contemporary novel. Strong characters and tough life situations combine in this story of love, broken marriages, second chances, addiction and recovery, and faith.

Laila is trying to put her life together and move on from her past. She is planing to move and has a new and wonderful boyfriend – embracing anything that puts her far from the small town of Fairfield where she has lived all her life and the hurt of her broken marriage. Chad Richardson knew that this was his last chance to get sober and stay sober. When he learns that Laila is starting to move on he knows it is time to return home and try to save his marriage. But his return home does not go as smoothly as he plans and he will have to give everything he has to start over and convince Laila he is a new man.

My Unexpected Hope is the companion novel to My Hope Next Door. They have crossover storylines but can both be read as standalone novels. I really enjoyed My Hope Next Door, and My Unexpected Hope brings the same mix of relateable, realistic, and flawed characters who are desperate to overcome their mistakes and create a new life for themselves.

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Book Review: The Two Of Us

The Two of Us – Victoria Bylin – Bethany House Publishers – Published 8 August 2017

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Synopsis

After two broken engagements, nurse practitioner Mia Robinson is done with dating. From now on, she only trusts herself and God, and she’s focused on her eighteen-year-old sister, Lucy, and caring for patients. Just as she applies to work for an international aid organization, a phone call from Lucy, who’s pregnant and running off to marry her twenty-one-year-old boyfriend, throws a wrench into all of Mia’s plans.

Jake Tanner may have recovered from the physical injuries he sustained on the job as a police officer, but his heart has yet to heal from losing his former partner in the tragedy. He’s poured himself into starting a camp for the sons of fallen officers and mentoring Sam, the adult son of his deceased partner, who’s asked him to be his best man at his wedding.
Mia is expecting a mess when she arrives to sort out the situation with Lucy, but she wasn’t expecting Jake. And Jake, who can’t help envying Sam and Lucy, doubts he’ll ever experience their happiness for himself. But maybe Jake’s courage and Mia’s caring spirit are just what they need to bring them a lifetime of healing and a forever kind of love. . . .

My thoughts

With The Two Of Us Victoria Bylin has created a delightful novel that perfectly captures the tumultuous emotions of falling in love, following your dreams, and making the very hard choice between those dreams. This is a story of love, family, and human fragility.

Mia is on the cusp of fulfilling her dreams – well, her plan B dream, that is. She is about to interview for a leadership position with Mission Medical, which will enable her to travel, help people in need, and use her nursing skills, putting her far away from the heartbreak of a second broken engagement and her dreams of a family of her own. But her baby sister’s sudden pregnancy announcement and impromptu wedding, has Mia worried. When the opportunity to move to Echo Falls to be near her sister and increase her chance of success in her upcoming interview arises, Mia takes it – even if it also puts her nearer to Jake Tanner. The handsome former detective has his own dreams to help people, particularly teens of police officers who have lost their lives in the face of duty. Mia’s entrance into Jake’s life offers him the chance to follow his other dream – love and a family, but Mia is scared of risking her heart again.

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Book Review: You Don’t Know Me But I Know You

You Don’t Know Me But I Know You – Rebecca Barrow – HarperTeen – Published 29 August 2017

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Synopsis

There’s a box in the back of Audrey’s closet that she rarely thinks about.

Inside is a letter, seventeen years old, from a mother she’s never met, handed to her by the woman she’s called Mom her whole life.

Being adopted, though, is just one piece in the puzzle of Audrey’s life—the picture painstakingly put together by Audrey herself, consisting not only of the greatest family ever but of a snarky, loyal, sometimes infuriating best friend, Rose; a sweet, smart musician boyfriend, Julian; and a beloved camera that turns the most fleeting moments of her day-to-day routine into precious, permanent memories.

But when Audrey realizes that she’s pregnant, she feels something—a tightly sealed box in the closet corners of her heart—crack open, spilling her dormant fears and unanswered questions all over the life she loves.

Almost two decades ago, a girl in Audrey’s situation made a choice, one that started Audrey’s entire story. Now Audrey is paralyzed by her own what-ifs and terrified by the distance she feels growing between her and Rose. Down every possible path is a different unfamiliar version of her life, and as she weighs the options in her mind, she starts to wonder—what does it even mean to be Audrey Spencer?

My thoughts

You Don’t Know Me But I Know You is another book that has left me with very mixed feelings. It has a writing style that is easy to read, but without characters who really grabbed me, I struggled with reading this book. In the end, I would pick it up only to put it down and distract myself with another book. I guess I was expecting something different. Something that broke all the moulds and would make me care about this story, care especially about this girl and her journey through a surprising discovery and hard decisions.

When Audrey discovers she is pregnant it forces her to evaluate her life and what she wants from it, who she wants to be. It brings into focus her relationships, with her supportive, musician, going-places boyfriend, her snarky, infuriating best friend, her wider group of friends, her adoptive mother, and even her biological mother, who has always remained somewhat of a mystery.

There are a lot of things to give the author points for in this book. Her main character is a person of colour. There is a bisexual best friend. There are plenty of other characters from diverse ethnicity. But sometimes it felt a little like they were also just boxes on a checklist that had been ticked off. There was nothing new or groundbreaking to make this story or the characters’ stories within jump out and grab me by the heartstrings.

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Book Review: Dress Codes for Small Towns

Dress Codes for Small Towns – Courtney C. Stevens – HarperTeen – Published 22 August 2017

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Synopsis

As the tomboy daughter of the town’s preacher, Billie McCaffrey has always struggled with fitting the mold of what everyone says she should be. She’d rather wear sweats, build furniture, and get into trouble with her solid group of friends: Woods, Mash, Davey, Fifty, and Janie Lee.

But when Janie Lee confesses to Billie that she’s in love with Woods, Billie’s filled with a nagging sadness as she realizes that she is also in love with Woods…and maybe with Janie Lee, too.

Always considered “one of the guys,” Billie doesn’t want anyone slapping a label on her sexuality before she can understand it herself. So she keeps her conflicting feelings to herself, for fear of ruining the group dynamic. Except it’s not just about keeping the peace, it’s about understanding love on her terms—this thing that has always been defined as a boy and a girl falling in love and living happily ever after. For Billie—a box-defying dynamo—it’s not that simple.

My thoughts

There was one reason I chose to pick up this book – it was written by Courtney C. Stevens. I have been hugely impressed with her books so far, I love sharing them with our readers and our readers love reading her books.

Dress Codes For Small Towns is a magnificent book. It is so heartfelt, honest, and true to itself, just like its main character. And Billie truly is the star of this show. It is her story and she won over my heart almost instantly.

Billie McCaffrey is the preacher’s daughter in a small town in Western Kentucky most famous for its harvest festival and annual Corn Dolly competition. Despite the many rude comments and judgemental looks, Billie dresses and acts in a way that is true to who she is. An artist. An adventurer. A member of the Hexagon, her group of friends who she has collected over the years. But as her feelings for two of her best friends grow and change into something unexpected and her relationship with another friend brings new experiences and freedom into her life, who Billie is and what she thinks about herself collides with her father’s (and the town’s), expectations.

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Book Review: How To Disappear

How To Disappear – Sharon Huss Roat – HarperTeen – Published 15 August 2017

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Synopsis

Vicky Decker has perfected the art of hiding in plain sight, quietly navigating the halls of her high school undetected except by her best (and only) friend, Jenna. But when Jenna moves away, Vicky’s isolation becomes unbearable.

So she decides to invent a social life by Photoshopping herself into other people’s pictures, posting them on Instagram under the screen name Vicurious. Instantly, she begins to get followers, so she adds herself to more photos from all over the world with all types of people. And as Vicurious’s online followers multiply, Vicky realizes she can make a whole life for herself without ever leaving her bedroom. But the more followers she finds online, the clearer it becomes that there are a lot of people out there who feel like her— #alone and #ignored in real life.

To help them, and herself, Vicky must find the courage to face her fear of being “seen,” because only then can she stop living vicariously and truly bring the magic of Vicurious to life.

My thoughts

This book had me laughing and nodding my head in shared understanding by the first chapter. Loneliness, social media, and friendship are all key themes which are handled beautifully in this novel. How To Disappear is funny, moving, and so very realistic.

Vicky’s best friend Jenna has just moved away, exposing Vicky’s social anxiety in a way she’s never before experienced. Now, there is no one to answer for her, no one to talk to when she can force words out of her mouth, no one who understands how hard it is to traverse the high school hallways and sit through class. And when Jenna begins to find new friends, Vicky feels even more alone. In an attempt to convince her mother she is doing fine without Jenna, Vicky Photoshops herself into an image with other teens. The success of the image gives her the idea to try it again, this time in disguise and on social media. Soon, Vicurious, Vicky’s new anonymous Instagram account, goes crazy and Vicky realises she is not the only one out there feeling #alone, and that maybe she can do something about it.

The power of social media. It can connect, reveal, hide, and isolate. Vicky is a wonderfully relatable character. I think anyone who has ever suffered some form of social anxiety, whether that is chronic or occasional, will relate to the embarrassment and fear Vicky feels. Despite her fear, every time Vicky opens her mouth something amazing (or funny or, yes, totally embarrassing) comes out. I loved her. I want to be her friend and just hang with her.

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Book Review: Lucky In Love

Lucky In Love – Kasie West – Scholastic – Published 25 July 2017

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Synopsis

Maddie doesn’t believe in luck. She’s all about hard work and planning ahead. But one night, on a whim, she buys a lottery ticket. And then, to her astonishment —

She wins!

In a flash, Maddie’s life is unrecognizable. No more stressing about college scholarships. Suddenly, she’s talking about renting a yacht. And being in the spotlight at school is fun… until rumors start flying, and random people ask her for loans. Now, Maddie isn’t sure who she can trust.

Except for Seth Nguyen, her funny, charming coworker at the local zoo. Seth doesn’t seem aware of Maddie’s big news. And, for some reason, she doesn’t want to tell him. But what will happen if he learns her secret?

My thoughts

Kasie West has, once again, given readers a simply delightful novel. One where you just have to smile and hug the novel (be it in paperback form or on one’s iPad) to your chest and spin around gleefully. I loved every second of this novel about a girl who wins everything but learns that the things truly worth winning come from hard work.

Maddie knows the meaning of hard work. She studies constantly, aiming for the best marks so she can go to college and hopefully earn a scholarship. She also works, trying to support her family both financially and emotionally. Alone on her birthday she is impulsively talked into buying a lottery ticket. And wins! Suddenly her life is completely different, her mother can quit her long-hours job, her father no longer has to worry about being unemployed, they won’t have to sell their family home, and her brother can go back to college. But soon, the problems start. Everyone wants something from her. Maddie doesn’t know who to trust. Her one solace is Seth, her work colleague at the zoo, friend, and someone who maybe, (dare she hope) likes her as much as she likes him. But she is scared to tell Seth about her lottery win for fear she will lose him, too.

I instantly connected with Maddie. We share the same nickname, after all. She is a hard working and studious girl, far more interested in her grades than her clothes and she constantly worries about her family. Winning the lottery is a curve ball for her. It’s not something she wants, but she does see how it could help the people around her, particularly her family. Maddie also has a wonderful, dry sense of humour.

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Book Review: Coming Up For Air

Coming Up For Air – Miranda Kenneally – Hundred Oaks – Sourcebooks Fire – Published 4 July 2017

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Synopsis

Swim. Eat. Shower. School. Snack. Swim. Swim. Swim. Dinner. Homework. Bed. Repeat.

All of Maggie’s focus and free time is spent swimming. She’s not only striving to earn scholarships—she’s training to qualify for the Olympics. It helps that her best friend, Levi, is also on the team and cheers her on. But Levi’s already earned an Olympic try out, so she feels even more pressure to succeed. And it’s not until Maggie’s away on a college visit that she realizes how much of the “typical” high school experience she’s missed by being in the pool.

Not one to shy away from a challenge, Maggie decides to squeeze the most out of her senior year. First up? Making out with a guy. And Levi could be the perfect candidate. After all, they already spend a lot of time together. But as Maggie slowly starts to uncover new feelings for Levi, how much is she willing to lose to win?

My thoughts

I fondly remember reading Catching Jordan – my first book by Miranda Kenneally. Since then I have greatly enjoyed her Hundred Oaks series. Coming Up for Air brings us almost full circle, once again providing a best-friends romance set against elite sport and coming of age issues.

Maggie’s life revolves around swimming. It has to if she wants to make it to an Olympics trial this year. Fortunately she has friends who are also athletes and understand that training comes first. Her best friend Levi is also a swimmer and they spend most of their time together, training, eating, and training some more. But a trip to her chosen college leaves Maggie feeling a little behind in the social department. Determined to stay focused on swimming and beating her rival, but also wanting to experiment a little she asks Levi for some guidance. But neither she nor Levi are prepared for the change it sparks in their relationship.

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