Book Review: Lost and Found

Lost and Found – Orson Scott Card – Blackstone – Published 10 September 2019

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Synopsis

“Are you really a thief?”

That’s the question that has haunted fourteen-year-old Ezekiel Blast all his life. But he’s not a thief, he just has a talent for finding things. Not a superpower–a micropower. Because what good is finding lost bicycles and hair scrunchies, especially when you return them to their owners and everyone thinks you must have stolen them in the first place? If only there were some way to use Ezekiel’s micropower for good, to turn a curse into a blessing. His friend Beth thinks there must be, and so does a police detective investigating the disappearance of a little girl. When tragedy strikes, it’s up to Ezekiel to use his talent to find what matters most.

My thoughts

Orson Scott Card has a fantastic writing style that provides such a compelling and put-together story. Lost and Found had me hooked – I didn’t want to put it down and I just had to know what would happen next, all while loving every moment of this fun and unique story.

Ezekiel can find lost things. He’s not sure why he has this usual talent and it has certainly made his life hard, especially when everyone – from his classmates to the police- think he is a thief when he returns the lost items to their owners. His new friend Beth, a girl with her own reasons for staying away from other people, tries to convince him that his talent has the power to help people and encourages him to experiment with it. Then Ezekiel is approached by a police detective who thinks Ezekiel may be the key to solving a little girl’s kidnapping.

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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: 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: 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: 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: The Arrival of Someday

The Arrival of Someday – Jen Malone – HarperTeen – Published 23 July 2019

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Synopsis

Hard-charging and irrepressible eighteen-year-old Amelia Linehan could see a roller derby opponent a mile away—and that’s while crouched down, bent over skates, and zooming around a track at the speed of light. They don’t call her Rolldemort for nothing! What she couldn’t see coming, however, was the unexpected flare-up of a rare liver disorder she was born with. But now it’s the only thing she—and everyone around her—can think about.

With no guarantee of a viable organ transplant, everything Amelia’s been sure of—like her college plans, the mural she’d been commissioned to paint, or the possibility of one day falling in love—has become a huge question mark, threatening to drag her down into a sea of what-ifs she’s desperate to avoid.

Then a friend from the past shows up. With Will, it’s easy to forget about what’s lurking underneath the lightness of their time together. It’s easy to feel alive when all signs point elsewhere. On the other hand, with the odds decidedly not in her favor, Amelia knows this feeling couldn’t last forever. But what can?

My thoughts

I love books that make me cry. I also love books that can make me smile. And The Arrival of Someday had me doing both. I often call books uplifting. The Arrival of Someday goes past uplifting (though, that fits too) and is totally inspiring. It is surprising (that ending literally come out of nowhere and smacked me across the face), it is fun (simply a pleasure to sit down with and enjoy), and it combines everything I love about really good YA contemporary fiction – family, friendship and self-realisation.

Lia loves a good cause. Raising awareness, taking on the school board, even a good rally. She also loves roller derby and it’s for good reason they call her Rolldemort. With early entry into her college of choice, a mural competition awarded and awaiting completion and her best friend Sibby by her side, Lia’s life is good. Until she discovers that her liver disease, something she has had all her life, worsens and leaves Lia needing a liver transplant – and soon. Lia must navigate the transplant waiting list while trying to decide how she feels about putting some things in her life on hold and sorting out her family and friends’ reactions to her diagnosis.

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Book Review: Sorry For Your Loss

Sorry For Your Loss – Jessie Ann Foley – HarperTeen – Published 4 June 2019

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Synopsis

As the youngest of eight, painfully average Pup Flanagan is used to flying under the radar. He’s barely passing his classes. He lets his longtime crush walk all over him. And he’s in no hurry to decide on a college path. The only person who ever made him think he could be more was his older brother Patrick, the family’s golden child. But that was before Patrick died suddenly, leaving Pup with a family who won’t talk about it and acquaintances who just keep saying, “sorry for your loss.”

But when Pup excels at a photography assignment he thought he’d bomb, things start to come into focus. His dream girl shows her true colors. An unexpected friend exposes Pup to a whole new world, right under his nose. And the photograph that was supposed to show Pup a way out of his grief ultimately reveals someone else who is still stuck in their own. Someone with a secret regret Pup never could have imagined.

My thoughts

Gritty and deeply emotional, Sorry For Your Loss is, unsurprisingly, about grief. But it’s also about love, brothers, big drive-you-crazy families, finding your voice and learning to remember while also letting go. With an honest and realistic teen male protagonist, Sorry For Your Loss will appeal to older teen readers who enjoy moving books.

Pup is the youngest of eight. His family has been floundering, silently, since the death of one of his older brothers. Parents and siblings who won’t speak about Patrick, a brother who is losing himself to alcohol and Pup himself who is sinking – in his classes, his relationships and in the deafening silence at home. When his art teacher hands him a camera in the desperate hopes he can redeem his failing art grade, Pup is presented with a whole new lens with which to view the world, and maybe even the chance to bring his family together again.

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Book Review: Living Lies

Living Lies – Natalie Walters – Harbored Secrets #1 – Revell – Published 21 May 2019

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Synopsis

In the little town of Walton, Georgia, everybody knows your name–but no one knows your secret. At least that’s what Lane Kent is counting on when she returns to her hometown with her five-year-old son. Dangerously depressed after the death of her husband, Lane is looking for hope. What she finds instead is a dead body.

Lane must work with Walton’s newest deputy, Charlie Lynch, to uncover the truth behind the murder. But when that truth hits too close to home, she’ll have to decide if saving the life of another is worth the cost of revealing her darkest secret.

My thoughts

Living Lies is the first book in the Harbored Secrets series by debut novelist, Natalie Walters. Walters has done a superb job of crafting a thrilling suspense, with threads of heart-pounding romance and important messages about acceptance and removing the stigma of mental health and depression. I truly enjoyed this exciting book and I look forward to reading the subsequent titles in the series.

Lane Kent knows heartbreak. She knows the guilt of her past mistakes. Returning to her home town with her young daughter was supposed to be a fresh start but sometimes the secrets and family expectations feel suffocating. When Lane finds a dead body in the woods, she and Deputy Charlie Woods team up to solve the case.

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Book Review: Whose Waves These Are

Whose Waves These Are – Amanda Dykes – Whose Waves These Are #1 – Bethany House Publishers – Published 30 April 2019

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Synopsis

In the wake of WWII, a grieving fisherman submits a poem to a local newspaper asking readers to send rocks in honor of loved ones to create something life-giving but the building halts when tragedy strikes. Decades later, Annie returns to the coastal Maine town where stone ruins spark her curiosity and her search for answers faces a battle against time.

My thoughts

Simply stunning. Whose Waves These Are, with its beautifully descriptive and emotive writing style, characters who are brave, relatable, and so very loveable and story of family, love, loss and miraculous reunions, drew me in and refused to let go. Heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time, Whose Waves These Are is so very beautiful and a book that is simply a delight to read.

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