Book Review: Everything, Everything

everything-everything

Everything, Everything – Nicola Yoon – Delacorte Books – Published 1 September 2015

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Synopsis

My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.

My thoughts

Fast five favourites: the beautiful drawings that are scattered throughout this book and which bring it to life. Olly’s desire to climb and move. The references to The Little Prince. The use of symbols, such as colour. And Madeline, wonderful narrator and protagonist.

I am a little late to the party with reading Everything, Everything, but after reading The Sun Is Also A Star, I knew I had to put Everything, Everything on my reading list. And, as most would agree, Everything, Everything is well worth reading. Beautiful, evocative, and compelling, it is so very easy to devour, while standing outside of the plethora of YA contemporaries for its diversity and uniqueness.

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Book Review: Becoming Aurora

Becoming Aurora

Becoming Aurora – Elizabeth Kasmer – University of Queensland Press – Published 19 September 2016

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Synopsis

Tonight we are wolves. Our pack moves as one, past empty shop fronts and faded billboards.

Sixteen-year-old Rory is at a crossroads in her life. While her gang plans its next move in a racially motivated turf war, Rory is sentenced to spend her summer at an aged care facility. She’s proud of taking the rap for a crime her gang committed and reading to a feisty old boxing champion isn’t going to change that.

But what happens when Rory’s path intersects with migrant boxer Essam’s and she becomes the victim, not the perpetrator? Can she find the courage to face her past and become the girl her dad called Aurora?

My thoughts

Becoming Aurora is a beautifully told story of a young girl’s journey from a place of hatred and misunderstanding to friendship, acceptance, and choosing to become who she would rather be.

Becoming Aurora touches on some timely topics, namely racism and prejudice. But it never feels preachy, because while those topics are addressed it is Aurora (Rory) who lies at the heart of this story. It is her story. It’s not a grand, fix-everything kind of story, it instead focuses on one girl. It may be about changing the world, but though one person at a time.

There is just something about Rory that grabbed me right from the start. She has so many things going on in her life – her father’s recent death and the guilt she feels over that, minding her younger brother, a mother who works many long hours to care for them, her friend Cam who seems to be changing so quickly, her friends who have grown increasingly antagonistic, and her having to face the fallout alone over their last attack. When we start this book Aurora has been sentenced to community service at the local nursing home. While her friends focus in on their next target she is stuck weeding gardens and washing dishes. And reading to the resident grouch. But she slowly gets to know the mysterious resident Jack and through him meets Essam, a local boxer.

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Book Review: Keep Holding On

Keep Holding On

Keep Holding On – Melissa Tagg – Walker Family #3 – Larkspur Press – Published 27 September 2016

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Synopsis

Beckett Walker hasn’t stepped foot in Maple Valley in years. There’s no getting past the painful memories, and there’s every chance he’ll be arrested as soon as he shows his face. Which is exactly what happens when he finally returns. Suddenly his dream of adventure as a military lawyer comes skidding to a halt.

Horticulturist Kit Danby has spent too much time missing home and her childhood best friend–Beckett Walker. Now she might have a shot at reclaiming both. After years of living abroad, she returns to run her family’s apple orchard. She has one season to turn a profit and impress the father she barely knows. But she can’t do it alone.

It should be simple: Beckett needs community service hours. Kit needs a helping hand. But there’s more at stake than either of them planned. With a tangled past and futures that look nothing alike, they’ll have to find a way to weather the storms of the present . . . or risk losing everything.

My thoughts

Once again Melissa Tagg has delivered with an achingly beautiful story of family (crazy, big, loud, loveable family), friendship (childhood best friends falling in love – my favourite kind of friendship), and life, love, laughter and tears. I wanted to both savour this book and devour it.

It’s lovely to return once again to Maple Valley and the Walker family. I loved catching up with Logan, Amelia and Charlie, Kate and Colton, Seth and Ava, Raegan, Megan, Case and all the familiar faces of Maple Valley. But it is Beckett Walker who is the star of this story. Beckett has been absent from Maple Valley for six years. He left one night six years ago when the hurt of his life had tangled around him and he just needed to get out. Since then he attended college and has been working as a lawyer in Boston, but a chance to become a JAG officer has him finally returning to Maple Valley, where he knows he must face his past (including the criminal arrest warrant waiting for him), his family and his childhood best-friend, Kit Danby.

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Book Review: Afterward

Afterward

Afterward – Jennifer Mathieu – Roaring Brook Press – Published 20 September 2016

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Synopsis

When Caroline’s little brother is kidnapped, his subsequent rescue leads to the discovery of Ethan, a teenager who has been living with the kidnapper since he was a young child himself. In the aftermath, Caroline can’t help but wonder what Ethan knows about everything that happened to her brother, who is not readjusting well to life at home. And although Ethan is desperate for a friend, he can’t see Caroline without experiencing a resurgence of traumatic memories. But after the media circus surrounding the kidnappings departs from their small Texas town, both Caroline and Ethan find that they need a friend–and their best option just might be each other.

My thoughts

Afterward is as much about relationships as it is about the story of two teens. It’s about diverging paths, alternate universes and yet it’s certainly not a sci-fi. It’s about coping with the situations with which you are dealt, serious trauma and other types of trauma and coping with them both and never comparing which is worse, and with just getting through as best you can.

The day Caroline’s brother was kidnapped was day that changed everything for her family. But it also changed everything for another family because it led discovery of another boy kidnapped four years ago.

Afterward is the story of Ethan and Caroline. How they meet, how their lives converge, the choices they make that bring them together and how they become friends, test boundaries and learn to laugh again.

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Book Review: Frost Like Night

Frost Like Night

Frost Like Night – Sara Raasch – Snow Like Ashes #3 – Balzer + Bray – published 20 September 2016

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Synopsis

Angra is alive, his Decay is spreading—and no one is safe.

Meira will do anything to save her world. With Angra trying to break through her mental defences, she desperately needs to learn to control her own magic—so when the leader of a mysterious Order from Paisly offers to teach her, she jumps at the chance. But the true solution to stopping the Decay lies in a labyrinth deep beneath the Season Kingdoms. To defeat Angra, Meira will have to enter the labyrinth, destroy the very magic she’s learning to control—and make the biggest sacrifice of all.

Mather will do anything to save his queen. He needs to rally the Children of the Thaw, find Meira—and finally tell her how he really feels. But with a plan of attack that leaves no kingdom unscathed and a major betrayal within their ranks, winning the war—and protecting Meira—slips farther and farther out of reach.

Ceridwen will do anything to save her people. Angra had her brother killed, stole her kingdom, and made her a prisoner. But when she’s freed by an unexpected ally who reveals a shocking truth behind Summer’s slave trade, Ceridwen must take action to save her true love and her kingdom, even if it costs her what little she has left.

As Angra unleashes the Decay on the world, Meira, Mather, and Ceridwen must bring the kingdoms of Primoria together…or lose everything.

My thoughts

Frost Like Night is the third and final instalment in the Snow Like Ashes series. I have truly loved and treasured this series. A deeply layered and creative fantasy world, an abundance of loveable characters, the end of a love triangle that is very satisfying, epic adventure, danger, fighting, makeshift families, love, friendship, fabulous scenery, a strong and likeable female lead character and romance (multiple romances) that has your toes curling and you jumping up and down in glee (or maybe that’s just me). Who wouldn’t love fantasy books when they are written like this!!

Finally we get to return to Primoria, return to the Winter Princess Meira as she fights to save not only her homeland and people but all inhabitants of Primoria. This battle will be the culmination of everything Meria, Mather, Sir, and the people of Winter have spent their lives fighting for.

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Book Review: What Light

This book cover image released by Razorbill shows "What Light," the latest book by Jay Asher, his first solo work of fiction in nearly a decade. The book is set for release on Oct. 11, 2016. (Razorbill via AP)

What Light – Jay Asher – Razorbill – Published 11 October 2016

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Synopsis

Sierra’s family runs a Christmas tree farm in Oregon—it’s a bucolic setting for a girl to grow up in, except that every year, they pack up and move to California to set up their Christmas tree lot for the season. So Sierra lives two lives: her life in Oregon and her life at Christmas. And leaving one always means missing the other.

Until this particular Christmas, when Sierra meets Caleb, and one life eclipses the other.

By reputation, Caleb is not your perfect guy: years ago, he made an enormous mistake and has been paying for it ever since. But Sierra sees beyond Caleb’s past and becomes determined to help him find forgiveness and, maybe, redemption. As disapproval, misconceptions, and suspicions swirl around them, Caleb and Sierra discover the one thing that transcends all else: true love.

My thoughts

After just finishing a book set during winter, I was primed for another, feel-good wintry Chrismas story which is exactly what I got in What Light. This is a fun, light, romantic story.

Every Christmas Sierra’s family relocates to California for the holidays to sell Christmas trees. It means a whole new set of friends, a new school and a moderately warm Christmas away from her snowy home in Oregon. But this might be their last. Sierra doesn’t want this family tradition to end, nor does she want to say a final goodbye to her friend, Hannah. It’s also why she is reluctant to start anything romantic with the good looking and charming Caleb. But Caleb’s intrigue (and dimples) might be too much to resist, despite the many people who want to warn her away from Caleb and his shadowy past.

At its heart this is a simple romance. Caleb’s past isn’t that big of a deal and he certainly isn’t any sort of bad boy, despite his outcast status in town. The romance between Caleb and Sierra is very sweet and lots of fun, despite a few eye-roll-worthy lines. This book might be a little cheesy, but still very enjoyable.

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Book Review: Ripple

Rippl

Ripple – Heather Smith Meloche – G.P Putnam’s Sons – Published 20 September 2016

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Synopsis

With her impossible-to-please grandmother on her back about college and her disapproving step-dad watching her every move, Tessa would do anything to escape the pressure-cooker she calls home. So she finds a shot of much-needed power and confidence by hooking up with boys, even though it means cheating on her boyfriend. But when she’s finally caught red-handed, she’ll do anything she can to cover up what she’s done.

Jack is a prankster who bucks the system every chance he gets—each transgression getting riskier and riskier. He loves the thrill, and each adventure allows a little release because his smug smile and suave demeanor in the face of authority doesn’t make life at home with his mom any less tough. He tries to take care of her, but the truth is he’s powerless in the face of her fragile mental health. So he copes in his own way, by defacing public property and pulling elaborate pranks, though he knows in the end this’ll only screw up his life even more.

As they both try not to let their self-destructive patterns get the best of them, Tessa and Jack gravitate toward one another, discovering the best parts of themselves in the process. An honest portrayal of the urges that drive us and finding the strength to overcome them.

My thoughts

As expected, Ripple was an edgy mix of heartbreak, rough life, tough choices and just a touch of hope. It is beautifully told in alternating chapters, with the voices of Tessa and Jack shining.

Tessa’s life is complicated. A stepfather who drinks and is verbally abusive, a family struggling to stay financially afloat, a grandmother who seeks to control everything, the seemingly perfect boyfriend. Everything she shows people is a façade to cover up what she feels inside, especially when she finds comfort in the arms of guys other than her boyfriend. Jack, too, is hiding things. He and his mother have recently moved to town in an effort to stave off running out of money and people finding out the truth about his mother’s mental health. Pulling pranks keeps Jack from exploding under the pressure.

What I find most amazing about Ripple is how much I liked the characters. I didn’t like their choices, especially Tessa’s, but right from the start I was on their side, understood why they did what they do and hoped everything would work out for them. I think this was due to the wonderful writing style. Tessa and Jack’s voices were so clear and so unique. I think the positioning of other characters was also helpful, Tessa’s boyfriend for example. Yes, it’s not great she’s cheating on him, but I was concerned for Tessa and not Seth.

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New Book Releases September 2016

New Book Releases for September 2016

Need to top up your to-read pile? Here are the newly released books that have caught my eye for September 2016. Click on the covers for more information.

Young Adult Fiction

The OnesThe Ones – Daniel Sweren-Becker – Imprint – Published 6 September 2016

Cody has always been proud of being a One. She and her boyfriend James were two of the lucky babies from the 1% of the U.S. population that were randomly selected to benefit from genetic engineering. Now, she and the rest of The Ones are excelling. They are healthy, beautiful, and talented. They aren’t otherworldly, just perfect. And to some, that’s not fair.

Young adult fiction: Science-fiction


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Book Review: When Love Arrives

When Love Arrives

When Love Arrives – Johnnie Alexander – Misty Willows #3 – Revell- Published 20 September 2016

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Synopsis

Dani Prescott came to the children’s hospital to spy on Brett Somers–so how did she end up on a date with him? Weeks earlier she’d seen an interview in which he blamed her mother for the plane crash that had killed his parents. But the crash had killed her mother as well, so Dani can’t believe the story Brett’s trying to sell to the media.
Vowing to find a way to discredit the privileged–and maddeningly handsome–Brett, Dani has been following him and taking photos, hoping to find something she can use against him. But when she catches his eye instead, she quickly finds herself offering up a fake name and agreeing to a date. Brett knows this mystery girl is hiding something–but he’s got his own secrets to keep. What will happen when he discovers who she really is? Will Dani and Brett look beyond their own heartaches to discover a love that could heal their deepest pain?

My thoughts

When Love Arrives is a fantastic story of the moving and sometimes tumultuous journey through anger and guilt to friendship and then love. I really enjoyed this book. I wasn’t sure at the start, grew addicted in the middle and by the end I was gingerly turning the pages hoping, begging for one more chapter and that, please, don’t let it be over.

This is the second book in the Misty Willows series. It would be best to read these in series order. I enjoyed When Love Arrives more than I did the first book, Where She Belongs, but it is worth reading the first book first, not only because it is a great story in its own right but because it perfectly sets up this story to follow on.

Dani Prescott is stalking the man that ruined her mother’s reputation. She is determined to have her revenge, but she certainly doesn’t expect to get caught by the man in the focus of her camera lens – nor to be asked on a date by him. Brett Somers has a past he is starting to wrestle with and a future that seems undetermined. The brunette taking photos outside the hospital catches his eye. She is unlike the many girls he has wined and dined before, so he’s not sure why he asked her out. Both Brett and Dani are hiding things from the other. They agree that their relationship will never be anything more than a casual friendship.

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Book Review: My Hope Next Door

My Hope Next Door

My Hope Next Door – Tammy L. Gray – Waterfall Press – Published 13 September 2016

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Synopsis

Former bad girl Katie Stone can feel the weight of her reputation settle over her as she drives home for the first time in years. Feeling deeply guilty about her past mistakes, Katie wants to do the right thing for once. But the small town where she grew up is not nearly as forgiving as she’d hoped. Despite it all, she’s determined to help her parents cope with her mother’s recent illness, and Katie finds a surprise ally in the man next door.

Asher Powell never minded being the son of a small-town pastor until a recent breakup leaves him wounded by lifelong members of his church. He remembers his new neighbor as a mean-spirited high school troublemaker, but he senses that her newfound faith and desire for forgiveness are sincere.

Through an unexpected friendship, two people from different worlds find peace, hope, and a second chance they never dreamed was possible.

My thoughts

My Hope Next Door is a sweet and heartfelt story of second chances, regrets, guilt, mistakes, finding peace and starting again.

Katie never thought she would come home. She left town four years ago after making some of the biggest mistakes of her life. But a new-found faith and her mother’s declining health give her a chance to face her mistakes and maybe find some peace to start over. But she never expected how her next-door neighbour, the paster’s son now all grown up, could make her want to look more deeply at her life, fall in love and maybe even stay.

Katie is a flawed and realistic character. Headstrong, fiery, beautiful, stubborn and deeply troubled by her past. I loved how realistic this book is, especially on the topic of mistakes and the guild one feels. Katie has a big reputation in town, and certainly not a good one, so returning home is hard. I felt her guilt, anger, fear and sorrow pour through the pages. I also thought the way that her pathway to peace and understanding forgiveness was realistic and never rushed.      Continue reading