Book Review: Serpent & Dove

Serpent & Dove – Shelby Mahurin – Serpent & Dove #1 – HarperTeen – Published 3 September 2019

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Synopsis

Two years ago, Louise le Blanc fled her coven and took shelter in the city of Cesarine, forsaking all magic and living off whatever she could steal. There, witches like Lou are hunted. They are feared. And they are burned.

Sworn to the Church as a Chasseur, Reid Diggory has lived his life by one principle: thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. His path was never meant to cross with Lou’s, but a wicked stunt forces them into an impossible union—holy matrimony.

The war between witches and Church is an ancient one, and Lou’s most dangerous enemies bring a fate worse than fire. Unable to ignore her growing feelings, yet powerless to change what she is, a choice must be made.

My thoughts

Serpent & Dove is an evocative fantasy, with witches and the clergymen that hunt them, one girl torn between two worlds, determined to survive, and very steamy romance.

Lou is a witch. Having left her coven, her magic is something she keeps hidden from most people to avoid the stake and the Chasseurs who hunt witches. But Lou also has another secret, one that makes her do dangerous things. When she and her friend and fellow witch, Coco, attempt to steal a magical ring, she unwittingly puts herself in the crosshairs of Chasseur Reid Diggory. Neither she nor Reid could ever work together, but their paths are irrevocable tied when they are forced into an arranged marriage. As the Chasseurs continue their hunts and the witches grow more bold in their attacks, Lou must keep her identity hidden or risk certain death – from both sides.

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Book Review: Wooing Cadie McCaffrey

Wooing Cadie McCaffrey – Bethany Turner – Revell – Published 21 May 2019

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Synopsis

After four years with her boyfriend, Cadie McCaffrey is thinking of ending things. Convinced Will doesn’t love her in the “forever” way she loves him, Cadie believes it’s time for her to let him go before life passes her by. When a misunderstanding leads to a mistake, leaving her hurt, disappointed, and full of regret, she finally sends him packing.

But for Will, the end of their relationship is only the beginning of his quest to figure out how to be the man Cadie wanted him to be. With the dubious guidance of his former pro-athlete work friends and tactics drawn from Cadie’s favorite romantic comedies, Will attempts to win her back. It’s a foolproof plan. What could possibly go wrong?

My thoughts

Wooing Cadie McCaffrey is a humorous and refreshing novel – it’s also a lesson in miscommunication and how to complicate a relationship by NOT TALKING! So if you like rom-coms, epic romantic moments or enjoy reading a book from between your fingers due to agony from misunderstandings, then this is the book for you.

Cadie McCaffrey has been waiting for her boyfriend, Will, to propose for years. Every time she thinks he has finally decided to get down on bended knee, she is tragically disappointed. When another misunderstanding leads Will and Cadie to take their physical relationship further than either of them planned, Cadie decides it’s time to break up from Will and keep moving on with her life. Will is devastated and is determined to win Cadie back, even if that means he has to sit through dozens of romantic movies and plan romantic moments to woo Cadie into giving them another chance.

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Book Review: Save The Date

Save The Date – Morgan Matson – Simon Schuster – Published 5 June 2018

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Synopsis

Charlie Grant’s older sister is getting married this weekend at their family home, and Charlie can’t wait—for the first time in years, all four of her older siblings will be under one roof. Charlie is desperate for one last perfect weekend, before the house is sold and everything changes. The house will be filled with jokes and games and laughs again. Making decisions about things like what college to attend and reuniting with longstanding crush Jesse Foster—all that can wait. She wants to focus on making the weekend perfect.

The only problem? The weekend is shaping up to be an absolute disaster.

There’s the unexpected dog with a penchant for howling, house alarm that won’t stop going off, and a papergirl with a grudge.

There are the relatives who aren’t speaking, the (awful) girl her favorite brother brought home unannounced, and a missing tuxedo.

Not to mention the neighbor who seems to be bent on sabotage and a storm that is bent on drenching everything. The justice of the peace is missing. The band will only play covers. The guests are all crazy. And the wedding planner’s nephew is unexpectedly, distractingly…cute.

Over the course of three ridiculously chaotic days, Charlie will learn more than she ever expected about the family she thought she knew by heart. And she’ll realize that sometimes, trying to keep everything like it was in the past means missing out on the future.

My thoughts

Save The Date is a hilarious novel about family, growing up, and learning to accept change. In the midst of a wedding where everything that could go wrong does, the characters of Save The Date will warm your heart and make you smile.

Charlie Grant loves her big, loud, crazy family. So Charlie can’t wait for this weekend, her sister’s wedding and a chance for all her siblings to return home, for them to be a united family unit again. But when the wedding planner bails, Charlie’s absentee brother actually turns up, and Good Morning America plans to do a home interview upon the conclusion of her mother’s famous cartoon, Charlie knows that she will have to fight to ensure everything is perfect.

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Book Review: We’ll Fly Away

We’ll Fly Away – Bryan Bliss – Greenwillow Books – Published 8 May 2018

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Synopsis

Luke feels like he’s been looking after Toby his entire life. He patches Toby up when Toby’s father, a drunk and a petty criminal, beats on him, he gives him a place to stay, and he diffuses the situation at school when wise-cracking Toby inevitably gets into fights. Someday, Luke and Toby will leave this small town, riding the tails of Luke’s wrestling scholarship, and never look back.

But during their senior year, they begin to drift apart. Luke is dealing with his unreliable mother and her new boyfriend. And Toby unwittingly begins to get drawn into his father’s world, and falls for an older woman. All their long-held dreams seem to be unraveling.

My thoughts

We’ll Fly Away is a well-written, hard-hitting YA novel with important messages about poverty, child abuse, the justice system, and friendship. I knew We’ll Fly Away would be heartbreaking. I also expected it to be raw, upfront, exposed, and almost crude. It certainly is an unflinching book, with threads of hope (but mainly heartbreak) and a positive message.

Luke and Toby are best friends – the only ones to see inside the truths of the other’s life, the only ones who could understand. But Luke struggles to maintain his wrestling record for a college scholarship with his mother’s ever increased neglect and caring for his two younger brothers, and Toby falls into a relationship with an older woman while continuing to face his father’s abuse. Events will come to a head as the boys fight for their friendship, their future, and their freedom.

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Book Review: Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now

Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now – Dana L. Davis – Harlequin Teen – Published 1 May 2018

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Synopsis

For sixteen-year-old Tiffany Sly, life hasn’t been safe or normal for a while. Losing her mom to cancer has her a little bit traumatized and now she has to leave her hometown of Chicago to live with the biological dad she’s never known.

Anthony Stone is a rich man with four other daughters—and rules for every second of the day. Tiffany tries to make the best of things, but she doesn’t fit into her new luxurious, but super-strict, home—or get along with her standoffish sister London. The only thing that makes her new life even remotely bearable is the strange boy across the street. Marcus McKinney has had his own experiences with death, and the unexpected friendship that blossoms between them is the only thing that makes her feel grounded.

But Tiffany has a secret. Another man claims he’s Tiffany’s real dad—and she only has seven days before he shows up to demand a paternity test and the truth comes out. With her life about to fall apart all over again, Tiffany finds herself discovering unexpected truths about her father, her mother and herself, and realizing that maybe family is in the bonds you make—and that life means sometimes taking risks.

My thoughts

Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now is a magical kind of book. It is a book that made me laugh and cry, a book that challenges the reader on everything from the definition of family and existential life questions, to acceptance, forgiveness, and the crazy things we do to make the world make sense. It’s a book about never giving up – on life or people. It’s a book about looking past the surface. It’s a book about life. And I loved it.

Tiffany Sly is on a plane to meet her father for the first time. A father she only just learnt about. Still reeling from the death of her mother, a new father is the least of Tiffany’s troubles. Because there is another guy who claims to be her father – and who wants a court-ordered DNA test to prove it. Tiffany has just seven days to meet her ‘father’, find a place in his family, and decide if staying is what she wants.

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Book Review: Your One & Only

Your One & Only – Adrianne Finlay – HMH Books for Young Readers – 6 February 2018

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Synopsis

Jack is a walking fossil. The only human among a sea of clones. It’s been hundreds of years since humanity died off in the slow plague, leaving the clones behind to carry on human existence. Over time they’ve perfected their genes, moving further away from the imperfections of humanity. But if they really are perfect, why did they create Jack?

While Jack longs for acceptance, Althea-310 struggles with the feeling that she’s different from her sisters. Her fascination with Jack doesn’t help. As Althea and Jack’s connection grows stronger, so does the threat to their lives. What will happen if they do the unthinkable and fall in love?

My thoughts

Your One and Only is a compelling YA science-fiction novel that tackles the complexity of love, compassion, community, genetic engineering, and what it means to be human.

Althea-310 is one of ten Althea sisters from the 310 generation, one of nine homo factus models that make up their community. When the leaders of the community reveal that they have created a human from genetic remains, Althea-310 is shocked by how unlike one of her brothers and sisters he is. Jack has been raised alone outside of the clone community, raised as a human, and so it is not only his face and build that differs so greatly from the nine models. The clones are unwilling to trust Jack but Althea-310 is strangely drawn to the outsider.

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Book Review: The Upside of Unrequited

Upside of Unrequited

The Upside of Unrequited – Becky Albertalli – Balzer+Bray – Published 11 April 2017

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Synopsis

Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love. No matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. If Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.

There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker, Reid. He’s a chubby Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him.

My thoughts

A forthright book about love, falling in love, that crazy feeling of falling in love, family, dating, and relationships.

Molly had has twenty-six crushes and counting. Her twin sister has had many dates, kisses and relationships, even if they only last a short time. But when Molly’s sister falls in love – for real this time – Molly senses that their close relationship is changing. And then there are the two boys – one, the boy her sister would like her to date and the other her geeky, new co-worker who makes her laugh and not totally tongue tied.

I admired Molly’s voice. It is so authentically and uniquely her. Her character is layered and realistic. I liked how there were so many little things that were just a part of who she is. For example, Molly has anxiety. She takes medication for it and she mentions it offhandedly a few times and feels anxious about some things and laughed about a few times anxiety got the better of her, but her anxiety wasn’t a defining feature of her character, especially not in her eyes. The same goes for her weight. She is totally upfront about her weight but she herself is ok with her size. The only thing she worries about is how others view her. She wishes they could be as accepting of her as she is. Again, just another facet that makes up Molly. But the majority of her focus and that of the book’s is on dating and falling in love.

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Book Review: Defending Taylor

Defending Taylor

Defending Taylor – Miranda Kenneally – Hundred Oaks – Sourcebooks Fire – Published 5 July 2016

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Synopsis

Captain of the soccer team, president of the Debate Club, contender for valedictorian: Taylor’s always pushed herself to be perfect. After all, that’s what is expected of a senator’s daughter. But one impulsive decision—one lie to cover for her boyfriend—and Taylor’s kicked out of private school. Everything she’s worked so hard for is gone, and now she’s starting over at Hundred Oaks High.

Soccer has always been Taylor’s escape from the pressures of school and family, but it’s hard to fit in and play on a team that used to be her rival. The only person who seems to understand all that she’s going through is her older brother’s best friend, Ezra. Taylor’s had a crush on him for as long as she can remember. But it’s hard to trust after having been betrayed. Will Taylor repeat her past mistakes or can she score a fresh start?

My thoughts

Taylor has a new mantra – no more boys. Well, that’s not going to work for a contemporary young adult romance, now is it… Equal parts coming of age, self discovery and family relationships, and with a heavy dose of romance, Defending Taylor continues Miranda Kenneally’s Hundred Oaks series.

Taylor has sworn off boys after taking the fall for her boyfriend. But she never could have predicted just how big the fallout was going to be. Expelled from school, dumped from her soccer team, and the reason her father has dropped in polls during the key time in his political campaign, Taylor is ordered back home where she is to start a new school and hide out until the bad press dies down. But the other girls on Taylor’s new soccer team don’t seem to want her there and bumping into her older brother’s best friend only adds more complications to her already complicated life.

Does giving up boys count if it’s a guy you fell for years ago? You can hardly blame Taylor for falling again for Ezra, he with the wicked smile, green eyes and construction worker’s muscles. And the whole brother’s best friend thing usually brings a complication that I enjoy in romances. But their relationship wasn’t all that complicated, really. Once Taylor and Ezra reconnect and straighten out the past miscommunications, their relationship develops quickly.       Continue reading

Book Review: Firsts

Firsts

Firsts – Laurie Elizabeth Flynn – St. Martin’s Griffin – Published 5 January 2016

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Synopsis

Seventeen-year-old Mercedes Ayres has an open-door policy when it comes to her bedroom, but only if the guy fulfills a specific criteria: he has to be a virgin. Mercedes lets the boys get their awkward, fumbling first times over with, and all she asks in return is that they give their girlfriends the perfect first time- the kind Mercedes never had herself.

Keeping what goes on in her bedroom a secret has been easy- so far. Her absentee mother isn’t home nearly enough to know about Mercedes’ extracurricular activities, and her uber-religious best friend, Angela, won’t even say the word “sex” until she gets married. But Mercedes doesn’t bank on Angela’s boyfriend finding out about her services and wanting a turn- or on Zach, who likes her for who she is instead of what she can do in bed.

When Mercedes’ perfect system falls apart, she has to find a way to salvage her reputation and figure out where her heart really belongs in the process.

My thoughts

What a book. It’s like a car crash, crossed with an erupting volcano, crossed with a (insert disaster of your choice here). I knew it would be messy and upsetting, but I couldn’t look away. And yet, Firsts manages to pull it off. I was really hoping for a beautiful ending that would make the agony of the rest of the book worth it. And I’m very happy to say I think I got that ending.

I knew, going into this book, that it would be controversial and dramatic, but I wanted to see how the author would tackle such a sensitive area and what sort of messages were being sent. And by the end, the messages surrounding the themes of sexual harassment and abuse, judgement and bullying, and even understanding and valuing yourself were clearly and cleverly conveyed. Never preachy, this book might in fact be the opposite, drawing readers into a situation where they make judgements before being exposed to the whole story, which then changes everything they initially thought. It’s a very clever way to get readers thinking.

As the story progresses, the reader slowly learns more about Mercedes, her past and why she is at where she’s at, including a Botox-using, boyfriend-jumping, phase-driven, absentee mother, a father who deserted Mercedes when she was eight, and her past with the boy who was her own first, Luke. And you think you know what she’s going through, but you don’t. This helped explain, a little, about Mercedes’ choices. I couldn’t say I liked Mercedes, but I could certainly sympathise and ultimately marvel at her resilience. And as a character she was perfect for highlighting the point about not judging those you don’t know or truly understand. At first Mercedes seemed so out of control of her life and continually made the same mistakes. Agonising. But I have to say I was impressed with how, in the end, she stood up, took responsibility for her mistakes and tried to make right what she could. The end of the book, say last third, was really compelling – some parts shocking, others completely heartbreaking – and just the perfect way to end this book.

Controversial, edgy and doesn’t pull its punches, if you are looking for a book that will fascinate and provoke, then Firsts is the book for you.

The publishers provided a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

More information

Category: Young adult fiction.

Genre: Contemporary.

Themes: Sex and dating. Relationships. Family. Mothers and daughters. Friendship. Bullying and abuse. Sexual harassment and abuse. SPOILER … Continue reading