Madison's Library

Book Reviews, Lists, Discussions, and Displays

Book Review: You Were Never Here

You Were Never Here – Kathleen Peacock – HarperTeen – Published 20 October 2020

 

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Synopsis

Cat hasn’t been to Montgomery Falls, the town her family founded, since she was twelve years old. Since the summer she discovered she could do things that no normal twelve-year-old could do. Since she had her first kiss with Riley Fraser. Since she destroyed their friendship.

Now, five years later, she’s back and Riley has disappeared.

For the last three months no one has heard from or seen Riley. And while there are all sorts of conspiracy theories about where he went, neither the police nor his parents are any closer to finding him. When Noah, Riley’s brother, asks for help in discovering what happened, Cat is torn between wanting to learn the truth and protecting the secret that she’s been guarding ever since that summer she and Riley stopped speaking.

But then a girl is discovered floating in the river, barely alive with no knowledge of who attacked her or why. With the possibility that someone out there is hunting teens, Cat must make a choice: Use her unusual ability to discover the truth and find Riley or keep running away from a power she can’t control. Only one choice will put her in a killer’s sights…

My thoughts

Let’s hear it for books about murder and mystery and teenage investigators and slightly paranormal skills. You Were Never Here is an atmospheric mystery that hooked me right from the start. Fans of The Body Finder (and wow, do I have a lot of those fans in my library) are just going to adore You Were Never Here.

Cat hasn’t been to Montgomery Falls since she was twelve. Now her father is sending her there to stay with her aunt. Cat is dreading the summer, but it becomes a lot worse when she learns that her ex-best friend Riley has been missing for three months. Written off as a runaway, the police and town have no leads. Riley’s brother asks Cat to help discover what really happened, and after Cat and her new friends discover a girl floating half dead in the river, Cat agrees. But there is something most people don’t know about Cat – she can discover a person’s worse secrets just by touching them.

This book has so many things going for it. Alongside the mystery of the missing or hurt teenagers, the reader is also given the mystery of what happened last term at school that caused Cat to be so secretive about it and for her father to send her to Montgomery Falls, completely cut off from the world. There is also, of course, Cat’s unusual ability. How she got this ability is never explained, aside from the women in her family having special gifts for generations. Her father refuses her to talk or acknowledge it and while her aunt has her own gift, she too has been forbidden to speak of it. That’s okay, though, as the focus is not on the how or why of Cat’s gift, but rather  far more on her acceptance of it and how she might use it to help find Riley. And really, she uses her intellect and sleuthing to find the clues more than her ability.

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Book Review: Everything I Thought I Knew

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

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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.

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Book Review: Chasing Lucky

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

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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.

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Book Week 2020: Activity Ideas

Book Week 2020 – Activity Ideas

I don’t know about you, but Book Week has kind of snuck up on me this year. I went from super organised to, oh, it’s not happening until October, I’ll prepare later. The new dates means Book Week is being celebrated in the three schools I am working in this year from 17th to the 23rd of October.

More details are available on the CBCA website.

Here are some of the ideas for activities during, before (and maybe even after) Book Week this year. Most of them are pretty easy to throw together, especially if you are in a rush like I was.

Display Ideas

Story Box Library Activity Pack

God bless the team at Story Box Library. They send out a link to the most AMAZING teacher resource kit for Book Week. Download it here. It is chock full of amazing activity ideas. I have done the Solve A Curious Message in two of my schools. The students are LOVING it. They might be going a little crazing trying to solve them all! I cut out the 11 clues and stuck them up around the library, so the students must first find and then solve each of the 11 puzzles. And they are not easy. The students have been reading the shortlist books to find the answers, teaming up and generally having lots of fun.

The kit also includes a digital escape room plan, a letter template for writing to a curious creature, and so much more.

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Ramblings: Exciting Term 4 2020 Updates

Exciting Term 4, 2020 Updates

I know 2020 has been a massive, scary, horrible year for many. I have been blessed to ride through 2020 pretty smoothly, thanks to some wonderful employers and a great country in which to live.

Term 4, 2020 is set to be massive for those of us in Australia (and for many around the world, no doubt).  I am so pleased to say that I have taken on a Teacher Librarian contract for Term 4, working in the most beautiful junior school library. This means I am working across 3 schools during Term 4, 4 days a week as teacher librarian and 1 as a library aide. It’s going to be a very busy, but very exciting term.

Here are just a few of the exciting things that are happening in Term 4 to get involved with.

CBCA Book Week

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Book Review: Enola Holmes The Case of the Missing Marquess

Enola Holmes: The Case of the Missing Marquess – Enola Holmes #1 – Nancy Springer – Philomel Books – Published 2006

 

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Synopsis

When Enola Holmes, sister to the detective Sherlock Holmes, discovers her mother has disappeared, she quickly embarks on a journey to London in search of her. But nothing can prepare her for what awaits. Because when she arrives, she finds herself involved in the kidnapping of a young marquess, fleeing murderous villains, and trying to elude her shrewd older brothers–all while attempting to piece together clues to her mother’s strange disappearance. Amid all the mayhem, will Enola be able to decode the necessary clues and find her mother?

My thoughts

With the announcement of the Enola Holmes movie, we decided to read the first book in the Enola Holmes series, The Case of the Missing Marquess in our Year 6 book club. Unsurprisingly, the book is much better than the movie (even considering Henry Cavill – sorry Henry). The book is full of fun disguises and clever ways that Enola learns to consider her environment, to move around undetected and to start living on her own terms.

When Enola’s mother disappears and doesn’t return, Enola is forced to inform her two older brothers – Mycroft and Sherlock Holmes. Surprised at the state of the estate and Enola herself, Mycroft decides that Enola will be sent to boarding school. Enola has other ideas and escapes, heading to London to search for her mother. But along the way, she is intrigued by the case of another “missing” person and she decides to investigate.

Despite being written in this century, the writing has an old-style feeling, and draws heavily on period language. This was a great discussion point for out book club. The book also draws attention to many of the inequities of the time.

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Book Review: The Key To Love

The Key To Love – Betsy St. Amant – Revell – Published 13 October 2020

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Synopsis

The only thing Bri Duval loves more than baking petit fours is romance. So much so, she’s created her own version of the famous Parisian lovelock wall at her bakery in Story, Kansas. She never expects it to go viral–or for Trek Magazine to send travel writer Gerard Fortier to feature the bakery. He’s definitely handsome, but Bri has been holding out for a love story like the one her parents had, and that certainly will not include the love-scorned-and-therefore-love-scorning Gerard.

Just when it seems Bri’s bakery is poised for unprecedented success, a series of events threaten not just her business but the pedestal she’s kept her parents on all these years. Maybe Gerard is right about romance. Or maybe Bri’s recipe just needs to be tweaked.

My thoughts

The Key to Love is a very sweet (so many macaroons and petit fours!!) romance about finding love in unexpected places.

Bri is a romantic. She’s holding out for a big romance, just like the one her parents shared. But her aunts’ bakery, where she works and tries to recreate both her mother’s legacy and recipes, is in danger of being sold, demolished and replaced with a chain store. When a travel magazine sends a reporter to write about the bakery, Bri hopes it will be just what they need to save it. But the journalist, Gerard is nothing like she expected and seems against them and her from the start.

I really enjoyed the romance between Gerard and Bri. They are complete opposites. Bri has stayed in her comfort zone, living and working in her home town. She likes bitter coffee and sweet treats. She loves all things romance. Gerard has sworn off love after a relationship gone bad and words of advice from a trusted mentor. He lives a life with no strings holding him back and is cynical about relationships. Settling down is the very last thing on his plan. He also has no desire to write a sappy article about a bakery, but it’s the only thing between him and a promotion.

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Book Review: The Infamous Frankie Lorde – Stealing Greenwich

The Infamous Frankie Lorde: Stealing Greenwich – Brittany Geragotelis – Pixel+ink – Published 6 October 2020

 

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Synopsis

Frankie Lorde and her dad have been a team for as long as Frankie can remember. Being a tutor under the man responsible for some of the world’s biggest heists has given Frankie a unique perspective on the world. And a special set of life skills. Frankie can spot an FBI agent in a second. Pick a lock in two seconds. Steal a Bugatti in three. Then dad is arrested.

Frankie is sent to live with her uncle, her dad’s brother who she barely knows, and is, ironically a cop. Now Frankie has to go to middle school, learn what suburban kids wear and eat. But also ironically, Frankie is in Greenwich, CT, one of the richest towns in America. Seeing the starkness of super rich and the super not rich who support the community gives Frankie an idea. How to use her skills for doing good, to even the score…

My thoughts

Looking for a middle grade heist novel? Stealing Greenwich is a whole lot of fun and Frankie Lorde might just be the heroine you are looking for. She’s smart, clever, very good at disguises and knows how to run a con. This is the first book in a new and exciting series. With a good moral understory to justify the heists, this is a fun story for middle-grade readers, perfect for fans of Ally Carter’s Heist Society and heist novels.

Frankie Lorde and her dad are a team, taking on heists all around the world. When her father is captured and jailed, Frankie is sent to live with her uncle. Her uncle who is a cop. He has just a few house rules, one of which is no illegal activity. For Frankie, the plan is to stay off everyone’s radar, survive middle school and wait until her dad is released. But when her uncle takes a case that seems horribly unfair, Frankie decides to do a bit of investigating. Maybe she can turn her skills to a good cause?

I really enjoyed this novel. It is clearly the first in a series and sets up what we need to know about Frankie. The heist action doesn’t start until much later in the story. I did like that, while Frankie and her dad steal for profit, the case Frankie takes on in Greenwich is for the greater good, with no personal gain for herself. It raises a point about morals – stealing from the rich to benefit the poor, stealing from someone who is corrupt, opens up some great points that would be perfect for discussion.

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Book Review: The Price of Valor

The Price of Valor – Susan May Warren – Global Search and Rescure #3 – Revell – Published 6 October 2020

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Synopsis

Former Navy SEAL Hamilton Jones thought that the love of his life was dead. But when a girl claiming to be his daughter shows up with a dire message from his wife, Ham knows he will stop at nothing to find her and bring her home.

Kidnapped by rebels while serving as an interpreter in Ukraine, Signe Kincaid has spent the past decade secreting out valuable information about Russian assets in the US to her CIA handler. Fearing for her daughter after being discovered as an operative, Signe sends her to Ham for safekeeping. She’s ready to give her life for her country, and she can hardly expect Ham to rescue her after breaking his heart over and over.

When Ham discovers the reason Signe has kept her distance, he must choose between love for his wife and love for the nation he has vowed to protect. Will he save the many? Or the few?

My thoughts

Another thrilling offering from suspense pro Susan May Warren. While writing this review of Price of Valor, I had to go back and check my reviews of Warren’s previous books to make sure I wasn’t using the same lavish praise phrases, but you could read any of my reviews of any of her books and apply it to Price of Valor, because her books are just that consistently good and I loved this book just as much as all her other books.

Price of Valor is the third book in the Global Search and Rescue series. I recommend reading the series in chronological order, as the characters arcs overlap the books and it is much easier to follow their backstories by reading the lead-in to their stories in the previous books. Each book is as exciting and engaging as the last, so it’s no hardship to read them all.

Price of Valor features Ham, leader of the search and rescue company, ex-military, and father – surprise. He never knew he and his wife had a daughter, nor that his wife actually survived the incident he thought she had died in. Instead, she and his daughter have been living in a terrorist’s training camp. Another surprise – his wife is CIA operative. Now, she has sent their daughter to live with Ham while she tries to bring down the head of the terrorist organisation. Ham wants to help but he can’t risk his new-found daughter’s safety, nor does he know if Signe is the same woman he married all those years ago or if life undercover has changed her.

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