Book Reviews, Lists, Discussions, and Displays

Tag: Contemporary (Page 1 of 44)

Book Review: Amelia Unabridged

Amelia Unabridged – Ashley Schumacher – Wednesday Books – Published 16 February 2021

♥♥♥♥♥

 

Synopsis

Eighteen-year-old Amelia Griffin is obsessed with the famous Orman Chronicles, written by the young and reclusive prodigy N. E. Endsley. They’re the books that brought her and her best friend Jenna together after Amelia’s father left and her family imploded. So when Amelia and Jenna get the opportunity to attend a book festival with Endsley in attendance, Amelia is ecstatic. It’s the perfect way to start off their last summer before college.

In a heartbeat, everything goes horribly wrong. When Jenna gets a chance to meet the author and Amelia doesn’t, the two have a blowout fight like they’ve never experienced. And before Amelia has a chance to mend things, Jenna is killed in a freak car accident. Grief-stricken, and without her best friend to guide her, Amelia questions everything she had planned for the future.

When a mysterious, rare edition of the Orman Chronicles arrives, Amelia is convinced that it somehow came from Jenna. Tracking the book to an obscure but enchanting bookstore in Michigan, Amelia is shocked to find herself face-to-face with the enigmatic and handsome N. E. Endsley himself, the reason for Amelia’s and Jenna’s fight and perhaps the clue to what Jenna wanted to tell her all along.

My thoughts

Amelia Unabridged is a beautiful, beautiful story about grief and loss. It is also about magic. Magic that happens in the everyday world. The magic of books. The magic of friendship. The magic of a new love and the way it can bring out the very best in people and grapple them back from the edge. The magic of a perfectly amazing bookstore. Amelia Unabridged has all of this and more. It was exactly the book I was looking for – deep, heartbreaking, uplifting, inspiring and honestly so easy to read and snuggle up with, but also lyrical and poetic and metaphoric and so I felt a little bit smart reading it.

Amelia loves her best friend Jenna. They are alike as much as they are different. Jenna has the most amazing, loving, supportive parents. Amelia’s father checked out with his young girlfriend and her mother has checked out in the aftermath. Jenna has their future all planned out while Amelia isn’t sure what she wants. But they both love books. Especially the Orman Chronicles. When the chance to meet the reclusive author of their favourite series, they jump at it, only to be disappointed and torn apart by their experience. A few weeks later, Jenna is dead and Amelia is reeling from the loss. Weighed down by grief and guilt, a surprise package sends Amelia chasing something that feels like Jenna directing things from beyond the grave, and what Amelia finds is more than she could have ever imagined – if she is brave enough to reach and and grab it.

Continue reading

Book Review: A Shot At Normal

A Shot At Normal – Marisa Reichardt – Farrar, Straus and Giroux – Published 16 February 2021

♥♥♥♥♥

 

Synopsis

Juniper Jade’s parents are hippies. They didn’t attend the first Woodstock, but they were there for the second one. The Jade family lives an all-organic homeschool lifestyle that means no plastics, no cell phones, and no vaccines. It isn’t exactly normal, but it’s the only thing Juniper has ever known. She doesn’t agree with her parents on everything, but she knows that to be in this family, you’ve got to stick to the rules. That is, until the unthinkable happens.

Juniper contracts the measles and unknowingly passes the disease along, with tragic consequences. She is shell-shocked. Juniper knows she is responsible and feels simultaneously helpless and furious at her parents, and herself.

Now, with the help of Nico, the boy who works at the library and loves movies and may just be more than a friend, Juniper comes to a decision: she is going to get vaccinated. Her parents refuse so Juniper arms herself with a lawyer and prepares for battle. But is waging war for her autonomy worth losing her family? How much is Juniper willing to risk for a shot at normal?

My thoughts

A Shot At Normal is a really intriguing novel and totally thought-provoking. It raises the issue of vaccinations, anti-vaccinations and the teenagers caught in the middle. Set against the backdrop of a loving family and a new and sweet romance, A Shot At Normal is a story about growing up, learning to make tough decisions and standing up for what you believe in.

Juniper wants to be normal. She’d give anything to attend high school like normal teens instead of being homeschooled with her younger siblings. She’d love to join a school team, make friends or get a job. None of that is possible, as she has never had the required vaccinations. Not that her alternative parents would every let her. When Juniper contracts the measles, she realises the consequences for not being vaccinated are far more serious than not being allowed to attend school and she must decide how far she wants to go to fight for her right to have the immunisation injections.

This novel is presented as clearly pro vaccinations. I thought maybe there would be more deliberating and weighing backwards and forwards, but once Juniper learns about the consequences of not being vaccinated, she very firmly becomes pro vaccinations. As a result of her contracting and spreading the measles, Juniper is faced with a whole lot of guilt and grief, as well as the negative response from the towns people.

Continue reading

Book Review: Love in English

Love In English – Maria E. Andreu – Balzer+Bray – Published 2 February 2021

♥♥♥♥

Synopsis

Sixteen-year-old Ana has just moved to New Jersey from Argentina for her Junior year of high school. She’s a poet and a lover of language—except that now, she can barely understand what’s going on around her, let alone find the words to express how she feels in the language she’s expected to speak.

All Ana wants to do is go home—until she meets Harrison, the very cute, very American boy in her math class. And then there’s her new friend Neo, the Greek boy she’s partnered up with in ESL class, who she bonds with over the 80s teen movies they are assigned to watch for class (but later keep watching together for fun), and Altagracia, her artistic and Instagram-fabulous friend, who thankfully is fluent in Spanish and able to help her settle into American high school.

But is it possible that she’s becoming too American—as her father accuses—and what does it mean when her feelings for Harrison and Neo start to change? Ana will spend her year learning that the rules of English may be confounding, but there are no rules when it comes to love.

My thoughts

Love in English is a YA contemporary novel about fitting in and finding the words to speak in your own voice to reflect your heart. This book is written by an author who can relate to how hard it is to move to a new country and learn a new language, and how complicated it is to balance trying to fit in with the ‘American’ culture, but also retaining what is special and true about your own culture, self and family. 

When Ana moves from Argentina to New Jersey, she doesn’t expect it to be so hard or so isolating. Her father, having lived in the US for a few years, demands that she and her mother speak only English – a language of which she only knows a little. High school seems in some ways so different and yet so similar to the things she saw in movies. She is a poet and loves learning the strange idiosyncrasies of the English language, but she longs to be able to truly communicate. 

Set against powerful themes of immigration, belonging and challenging the ‘American Dream’, In Love in English Ana has to stand up to her father, to embrace what she is and where she came from, as well as where she is now. This book is about finding out who you truly are, even if that is not as clear or defined as you thought it once was.

Continue reading

Book Review: You Have A Match

You Have A Match – Emma Lord – Wednesday Books – Published 12 January 2021

♥♥♥♥

 

Synopsis

When Abby signs up for a DNA service, it’s mainly to give her friend and secret love interest, Leo, a nudge. After all, she knows who she is already: Avid photographer. Injury-prone tree climber. Best friend to Leo and Connie…although ever since the B.E.I. (Big Embarrassing Incident) with Leo, things have been awkward on that front.

But she didn’t know she’s a younger sister.

When the DNA service reveals Abby has a secret sister, shimmery-haired Instagram star Savannah Tully, it’s hard to believe they’re from the same planet, never mind the same parents—especially considering Savannah, queen of green smoothies, is only a year and a half older than Abby herself.

The logical course of action? Meet up at summer camp (obviously) and figure out why Abby’s parents gave Savvy up for adoption. But there are complications: Savvy is a rigid rule-follower and total narc. Leo is the camp’s co-chef, putting Abby’s growing feelings for him on blast. And her parents have a secret that threatens to unravel everything.

My thoughts

I thought this might have some deep, family drama but You Have A Match is a light, fun, summery romance with a focus on sisterly relationships. 

When Abby signs up to a DNA match service along with her best friend Leo, she is shocked to discover she has a match – a slightly older sister. Determined to get to know her sister and discover how her parents kept such a massive secret from her and why, Abby ends up at a summer camp, along with her sister and Leo. 

The summer camp setting makes this book perfect for reading on a warm summer day sitting on a beach towel, enjoying the sun and sand. Or perhaps when you are dreaming of being able to do all those things. 

Continue reading

Book Review: To Whatever End

To Whatever End – Lindsey Frydman –  Entangled:Teen – Published 4 January 2021

♥♥♥

 

Synopsis

What if with every person you met, after just one touch, you have a vision of the last time you’ll see each other? Ever. Normally, these visions are innocent—two friends just drifting apart, a random stranger that brushed past you then never crossed your path again.

But not today.

When I accidentally touch him, within only moments of our first meeting, I’m bombarded by visions of his death.

And from what I can see, I’m the reason he dies.

Now I just need to figure out why, and how to stop this from happening. Because not only am I to blame, but his very last words to me are…I love you.

My thoughts

Visions. Death. Visions of death. Romance. Count me in! At least, that’s what I thought I was getting. Instead, right from the first page you know there is going to be a whole lot of romantic tension, chemistry and flirting. This book ended up being completely about the romance and very little about the visions. This just didn’t grab me. It’s a book that I will sadly easily forget. 

Quinn is cursed to experience the end of every relationship she has with anyone she touches. While this is the underlying thread, Quinn’s curse doesn’t feature all that much in the story. Instead, Quinn and Griffin’s romance takes centre stage. Quinn states that she isn’t interested in romance or guys, yet just seconds after meeting Griffin, Quinn is pretty ready to give love a go. Quinn is a few years older and has finished school, so that gives the book an older feel. He is living by himself, while Quinn lives with grandmother. 

I would have liked to learn more about Quinn’s curse. Cursed seems a strong word for Quinn’s curse. It seems she only experiences the vision the first time she touches a person. Sometimes, with casual contacts, their relationship end is the same experience they have just had, never to meet again. With others, like the vision she has of Griffin, it’s a far more dramatic vision. The only explanation given for Quinn’s curse is that all the women in her family have experienced similar curses. Something I couldn’t understand is why do girls with special gifts or ‘curses’ only start experimenting with them or their ability to control that gift once a guy is involved? If I had special skills, especially one I didn’t like, I’d be playing, testing and learning from the day I first realised it. Not Quinn. Previously she has just shied away from people, except her one best friend, and she is only motivated to start investigating once Griffin’s life is threatened. 

Continue reading

Book Review: In the Penalty Box

In The Penalty Box – Lynn Rush and Kelly Anne Blount – Entangled:Teen – Published 5 January 2021

♥♥♥/♥

 

Synopsis

Willow Covington has conquered every obstacle thrown at her to become one of the best figure skaters in the nation, until a devastating injury shatters her Olympic dreams. Instead of hanging up her skates, she switches to hockey; blocking shots and slapping the puck around takes her love of the ice to a whole new level, and suddenly she has a new goal—earning a hockey scholarship to Boston College. If only the team, especially the super talented (and, okay, hot) Brodie Windom, wasn’t so frigid toward her…

Hockey sensation Brodie Windom has one goal for his senior year: to win the state tournament, which would secure a spot on the famed Boston College hockey team. His eyes are on the prize and there’s no room for distractions—until figure skater Willow Covington joins the team and throws him off his game.

My thoughts

Despite not playing or watching sport, I love reading sport novels. There is a just such a great mix of adrenaline, action, team dynamics, hard work and – usually – romance. In The Penalty Box ticks all those boxes.

Willow is a figure skater – it’s all she has worked towards and dreamed about. Until, that is, she injured her Achilles. Dropped by her team, Willow is surprised to be asked to help at the local pick-up hockey game. What began as a few moments of fun turns serious when she tries out for the team. There is also the matter of the very cute team captain – and the no dating team mates rule.

From the cover I initially thought this was an adult or a new adult novel. When I saw it was YA, I quickly added it to my to-read pile. I still thought it would be more mature that it was – despite the characters being at the upper level of high school, it still has a youthful, juvenile vibe. Which is absolutely fine, just not a mature as I expected from the cover.

Continue reading

Book Review: The Sowing Season

The Sowing Season – Katie Powner – Bethany House Publishers – Published 6 October 2020

♥♥♥♥♥

 

Synopsis

After he’s forced to sell the family farm he’s labored on his whole life, 63-year-old Gerrit Laninga doesn’t know what to do with himself. He sacrificed everything for the land–his time, his health, his family–with nothing to show for it but bitterness, regret, and two grown children who want nothing to do with him.

Fifteen-year-old Rae Walters has growing doubts and fears about The Plan–the detailed blueprint for high school that will help her follow in her lawyer father’s footsteps. She’s always been committed to The Plan, but now that the pressure to succeed is building, what was supposed to unite her family in purpose, may end up tearing it apart.

When their paths cross just as they each need a friend the most, Gerrit’s and Rae’s lives begin to change in unexpected ways. Can they discover together what really matters in life and learn it’s never too late for a second chance?

My thoughts

This is such a charming, inter-generational story about healing wounds and finding your purpose in life.

Rae Walters is a teenager with a plan. Or at least, her parents have a plan for her life. As Rae fits in as much study, volunteer time and gets everything perfect for the plan to become a lawyer, she struggles to put her heart in it, especially when she gets behind the wheel of a car. It might be the first time she has failed something, and it is set to derail her plan and her relationship with her parents. Gerrit has just sold his family farm. Generations in his family has ended and all his sacrifices – time with his wife and children – gone. Now, with little to do, Gerrit finds himself assessing his relationships, or lack of them, with his wife and grown children. He wants to do better, but isn’t sure where to start.

I loved so much about this book. Mainly, I loved how relaxing it was to pick this book up and sink between the pages. Gerrit is hilarious (and he doesn’t mean to be and he would absolutely hate me for finding him funny). His character is so clear and so strong. Katie Powner does a fantastic job of painting him as the grump, out-of-sorts, awkward farmer. He doesn’t know how to talk to his children, wife, or neighbours. He continually denies any softness, especially about his wife’s dog, Daisy.  But despite his gruff exterior, he really does want to change. Being inside Gerrit’s head, gives the reader an insight into his thoughts, crazy ideas and inner softy.

Continue reading

Book Review: The Cul-de-Sac War

The Cul-de-Sac War – Melissa Ferguson – Thomas Nelson – Published 10 November 2020

♥♥♥♥

 

Synopsis

Bree Leake doesn’t want to be tied down. She’s had more jobs than she can count, and she plans to move as soon as the curtains fall on her less-than-minor stage role at The Barter—the oldest live performance theater in the US. But just when it’s time to move on again, Bree’s parents make her an offer: hold steady for a full year, and they will give her the one thing she’s always wanted—her grandmother’s house. Her dreams are coming true . . . until life at the theater throws her some curve balls.

And then there’s Chip McBride—her handsome and infuriating next-door neighbor.

Chip just might be the only person whose stubborn streak can match Bree’s. She would move heaven and earth to have him off her cul-de-sac and out of her life, but according to the bargain she’s struck, she can’t move out of her house and away from the man who’s making her life miserable. So begins Bree’s obsessive new mission: to drive Chip out of the neighborhood—and fast.

Bree isn’t the only one who’s a tad competitive, and Chip is more than willing to fight fire with fire. But as their pranks escalate, the line between love and hate starts to blur—and their heated rivalry threatens to take a hilarious, heartwarming, and romantic new turn. 

My thoughts

Aside from having my mouth open in stunned disbelief for the majority of this book, it is actually quite a fun read and quite amazingly hilarious. From gentle animosity to full out war, The Cul-de-Sac War is the very definition of a hate to love romance. With pranks.

Bree wants to hold down her job at the theatre and maybe, one day reclaim her Grandmother’s home as her own. The only thing standing in her way is job cuts at the theatre and her new, extremely annoying neighbour. Chip has just moved in, is planning to renovate the house and start his new construction company, away from the restrictions of his family’s company. But when his neighbour declares war, he has no choice but to retaliate. And he can’t help it if he is enjoying annoying Bree a little too much.

Continue reading

Book Review: Everything I Thought I Knew

Everything I Thought I Knew – Shannon Takaoka – Candlewick Press – Published 13 October 2020

♥♥♥♥♥

 

Synopsis

Seventeen-year-old Chloe had a plan: work hard, get good grades, and attend a top-tier college. But after she collapses during cross-country practice and is told that she needs a new heart, all her careful preparations are laid to waste.

Eight months after her transplant, everything is different. Stuck in summer school with the underachievers, all she wants to do now is grab her surfboard and hit the waves—which is strange, because she wasn’t interested in surfing before her transplant. (It doesn’t hurt that her instructor, Kai, is seriously good-looking.)

And that’s not all that’s strange. There’s also the vivid recurring nightmare about crashing a motorcycle in a tunnel and memories of people and places she doesn’t recognize.

Is there something wrong with her head now, too, or is there another explanation for what she’s experiencing?

As she searches for answers, and as her attraction to Kai intensifies, what she learns will lead her to question everything she thought she knew—about life, death, love, identity, and the true nature of reality.

My thoughts

While the start and middle of Everything I Thought I Knew have everything I love in a book – heartwarming story, building romance, struggling friendship, introspection following trauma – it is the ending, the glorious, surprising, on-my-gosh-no-way, ending that makes this book so gosh-darned amazing. I was shocked, stunned, honestly a little traumatised. It is honest, brilliant, amazing, and defies the realms of possibility just enough to have you questioning everything you thought you knew.

Chloe is lucky. Or so everyone tells her. Lucky when she collapsed and her heart failed that she didn’t die. Lucky that she received a heart transplant. Lucky she can continue her life. Eight months after her transplant, Chloe is finishing high school via summer school and watching her friends move away to college. Things are changing for Chloe. She does’t feel like the same person. She is sneaking away to take surfing lessons from the gorgeous Kai and has recurring dreams about crashing a motorcycle. Flashbacks, seeing people, knowing things she shouldn’t know. Something is wrong and so she starts to search for answers.

Continue reading

Book Review: Chasing Lucky

Chasing Lucky – Jenn Bennett – Simon Pulse – Published 10 November 2020

♥♥♥♥♥

 

Synopsis

Budding photographer Josie Saint-Martin has spent half her life with her single mother, moving from city to city. When they return to her historical New England hometown years later to run the family bookstore, Josie knows it’s not forever. Her dreams are on the opposite coast, and she has a plan to get there.

What she doesn’t plan for is a run-in with the town bad boy, Lucky Karras. Outsider, rebel…and her former childhood best friend. Lucky makes it clear he wants nothing to do with the newly returned Josie. But everything changes after a disastrous pool party, and a poorly executed act of revenge lands Josie in some big-time trouble—with Lucky unexpectedly taking the blame.

Determined to understand why Lucky was so quick to cover for her, Josie discovers that both of them have changed, and that the good boy she once knew now has a dark sense of humor and a smile that makes her heart race. And maybe, just maybe, he’s not quite the brooding bad boy everyone thinks he is…

My thoughts

Well, Jenn Bennett has done it again. Just when I thought I was in a book slump that would last forever, Jenn swept in with her tales growing up, dealing with complicated family circumstances, aching and swoony romance. Combined with addictive storytelling, I rejoiced in having found such a wonderful book once again. If you are a fan of Jenn Bennett’s other books (and by that I mean you’ve read one) you will be delighted by Chasing Lucky.

Josie knows how to pack light. She’s used to throwing together her things as her mother moves them from town to town, sometimes in the dead of night. Ever since the great blow up between her mother and grandmother when she was 12, Josie has been on the move. Now, thanks to her grandmother taking an overseas trip, Josie and her mother are finally returning to their hometown, Beauty. Confronted by her past, her ex-best friend and now rather gorgeous Lucky Karras, a chance to realise her dreams of moving to live with her professional photographer father and maybe even get to the bottom of her mother’s history in Beauty, Josie’s return is far from smooth but it might also be everything she’s looking for.

Continue reading

« Older posts

© 2021 Madison's Library

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑