PASSIONATE ABOUT SCHOOL LIBRARIES

Tag: Alcoholism

Book Review: Where We Begin

Where We Begin – Christie Nieman – Pan Australia – 25 August 2020

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Synopsis

Seventeen-year-old Anna is running into the night. Fleeing her boyfriend, her mother, and everything she has known.

She is travelling into the country, to the land and the grandparents she has never met, looking for answers to questions that have never been asked.

For every family has secrets.

But some secrets – once laid bare – can never be forgiven.

My thoughts

Where We Begin is a beautiful story about belonging.

Everything is a bit of a mystery when you start reading Where We Begin. The blurb on the back of the book is vague and the start of the story places our main character alone on bus, we don’t know where she is going or why. We don’t know where she has come from. We don’t know why she left or what she is going to. We don’t even know her name. It’s hard to write a review without revealing these mysteries, so if you want the authentic experience, go, read the book and then come back.

Where We Begin weaves into its story powerful truths about the history of Australia, racism, teenage relationships, family and domestic violence, alcoholism and its effects, and storytelling. The title makes so much sense to so many aspects of the story once you’ve read the book. Honestly, there is so much to love about this book, from our studious and determined main character who is thrown into a spin over her new circumstances, the trauma she has experienced throughout her childhood and the new pain she experiences as she learns the truth about her family and past.

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Book Review: All Our Worst Ideas

All Our Worst Ideas – Vicky Skinner – Swoon Readers – Published 11 August 2020

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Synopsis

When Amy, on her way to becoming valedictorian of her graduating class and getting accepted to her dream school, gets dumped by her long-term boyfriend, she takes a job at a record store to ease the pain. She needs a distraction, badly.

Oliver, Amy’s record store co-worker, isn’t so sure about Amy—his complete opposite—but what he is sure of is his decision not to go to college. He just can’t figure out how to tell his mother.

As they work late-night shifts at the record store, Amy and Oliver become friends and then confidantes and then something more, but when Amy has a hard time letting go of what she thought was her perfect future with her ex, she risks losing the future she didn’t even know she wanted with Oliver.

My thoughts

If you are looking for a teenage true love story about finding the one, you’ll love All Our Worst Ideas. Touching on topics about following your dreams and dealing with family issues, All Our Worst Ideas is a sweet mature YA contemporary romance.

Amy is ready to finish her high schooling as valedictorian, get into Stanford with a full ride scholarship. Then every Friday night spent studying, every sacrifice will be worth it. Until her mother asks her to get a job while her stepdad is out of work. Until her boyfriend dumps her for not spending enough time with him. Until she starts to like hanging out with her new, if slightly grumpy co-worker. But Amy doesn’t have time for distractions and she will have to decide what is most important to her and what she is willing to risk to achieve her dreams.

Amy is your typical YA heroine who is excellent at school and spends her time studying. Oliver is a year older, finished with high school and working full time at the record store.

Amy starts the novel in a very serious, long-term relationship. Fortunately, she isn’t quick to fall out of love after her boyfriend ends their relationship nor quick to move straight onto a new relationship.

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Book Review: Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish

Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish – Bethany Turner – Revell – Published 5 May 2020

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Synopsis

Celebrity chef Maxwell Cavanaugh is known for many things: his multiple Michelin stars, his top-rated Culinary Channel show To the Max, and most of all his horrible temper. Hadley Beckett, host of the Culinary Channel’s other top-rated show, At Home with Hadley, is beloved for her Southern charm and for making her viewers feel like family.

When Max experiences a very public temper tantrum, he’s sent packing to get his life in order. When he returns, career in shambles, his only chance to get back on TV and in the public’s good graces is to work alongside Hadley.

As these polar-opposite celeb chefs begin to peel away the layers of public persona and reputation, they will not only discover the key ingredients for getting along, but also learn the secret recipe for unexpected forgiveness . . . and maybe even love. In the meantime, hide the knives.

My thoughts

Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish is everything I needed from this book. It’s light and funny, but doesn’t shy away from some deeper topics. It’s relaxing to read and just so much fun. It’s sexy but clean, redemptive but not preachy, has lots of yummy food to imagine eating, and have I mentioned how fun it is to read?

Hadley Beckett is an up and coming chef. She has Michelin stars, restaurants, magazines and even her own cooking show, At Home With Hadley. Her latest accomplishment is making it through the finals of America’s Fiercest Chef. But when her competitor, the foul-mouthed and rude Max Cavanaugh, throws a temper tantrum when she wins, her moment of triumph is dampened. A few months on, Hadley is offered the chance to feature on her most favourite cooking show, the only catch is that she must work alongside Max. Max claims he has changed, but Hadley’s not sure she can trust him.

Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish had me doing a complete 180 when reading it. I went from hating Max and thinking there was no way he was good enough for Hadley (after reading the first chapter, I even went back to check the synopsis because I thought he couldn’t possibly be the love interest) to rooting so hard for the characters. Oh my gosh. I loved them both so much. You know how some books just don’t give you enough time spent between the two love interests and it’s hard to believe their relationship or growing feelings? This is not that book. The majority of the book is spend with the two characters interacting, face-to-face, texting, phone calls, while shooting on the cooking show, cooking, arguing, facing off. We get to see them in so many situations and I adored their banter, teasing, full-out fighting and every moment in between.

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Book Review: Echoes Between Us

Echoes Between Us – Katie McGarry – Tor Teen – Published 14 January 2020

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Synopsis

Veronica sees ghosts. More specifically, her mother’s ghost. The afterimages of blinding migraines caused by the brain tumor that keeps her on the fringes and consumes her whole life haunt her, even as she wonders if it’s something more…

Golden boy Sawyer is handsome and popular, a state champion swimmer, but his adrenaline addiction draws him to Veronica.

A girl with nothing to live for and a boy with everything to lose–can they conquer their demons together?

My thoughts

As a devoted Katie McGarry fan I was a little worried when this book was marketed as a breakout novel and a move into a new genre. I shouldn’t have worried. Echoes Between Us is everything a Katie McGarry novel always is – heartbreaking, emotional, addictive, thrilling and romantic- with ghosts. It’s actually not much different from its companion novel Only A Breath Apart, which introduced a touch of the supernatural to the main story of family complexity and romance. Echoes Between Us encapsulates so many emotions and such important topics around grief, learning difficulties, illness and addiction.

Veronica can see her mother’s ghost. It, along with crippling migraines, is a constant reminder that she has a brain tumour, like the tumour that killed her mother. But she’s not afraid to die. Veronica is curious about the footsteps and rumbles in her own home, the rumours of ghosts that haunt the abandoned TB hospital, the stories of a girl who walks along the stretch of road where she died. When Sawyer moves into the rooms above Veronica’s house, he is sceptical of the warnings he receives about it being haunted. Even more sceptical of Veronica and her band of friends. He’s got bigger troubles, like taking care of his mother and sister, and resisting to urge to get adrenaline highs from cliff jumping. But Sawyer and Veronica are drawn together, and in order to hide a secret, Sawyer agrees to partner with Veronica on her ghost hunting senior project.

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Book Review: Smoke Screen

Smoke Screen – Terri Blackstock – Thomas Nelson – Published 5 November 2019

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Synopsis

Nate Beckett has spent his life fighting wildfires instead of the lies and rumors that drove him from his Colorado hometown. His mother begs him to come back now that his father has been released from prison, but it isn’t until he’s sidelined by an injury that he’s forced to return and face his past. But that means facing Brenna too.

Fourteen years ago, Nate was in love with the preacher’s daughter. When Pastor Strickland discovered Brenna defied him to sneak out with Nate, the fight between Strickland and Nate’s drunken dad was loud—and very public. Strickland was found murdered later that night, and everyone accused Roy Beckett. When the church burned down not long after, people assumed Nate set the fire to get even for his father’s conviction. He let the rumors fly and left town without looking back.

Brenna is stunned to learn that the man convicted of murdering her father has been pardoned. The events of that night set her life on a bad course, and now she’s fighting a brutal custody battle with her ex and his new wife where he’s using lies and his family’s money to sway the judge. Brenna is barely hanging on, and she’s turned to alcohol to cope. Shame and fear consume her.

As Nate and Brenna deal with the present—including new information about that fateful night and a wildfire that’s threatening their town—the past keeps igniting. Nate is the steady force Brenna has so desperately needed. But she’ll have to learn to trust him again first.

My thoughts

Smoke Screen is a story about family, love, wrongs dealt unjustly, reputations and the havoc of a messy divorce and custody battle.

Brenna is a mess after her husband left her for a much younger woman and is now fighting for custody of their two young children. Brenna has turned to alcohol to cope and the news that the man responsible for murdering her father has been pardoned only heightens her stress levels. When smoke jumper, Nate Beckett hears of his father’s pardon, he has no intention of returning to the small town that so quickly turned their backs on his family and accused Nate of burning down the church in revenge. But an injury while fighting large wild fires, means he must return, coming face-to-face with the woman who still holds his heart.

I was intrigued by the story in Smoke Screen. It is more a contemporary novel about romance, broken relationships and heartbreak, than suspense novel. There are two investigations in this story, both of which concluded, incorrectly, many years ago. But while these investigations are being re-evaluated now due to current events, they tick along in the background. It is Brenna’s story of alcohol abuse and battle for custody that drives the plot and brings tension to the book. I thought it was very obvious who the murderer would be and I was not surprised to be proven correct. The story just had too many easy fixes and neat endings not to go with that clean tie-up.

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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: They Danced On

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They Danced On – Carre Armstrong Gardner – Tyndale – Published 1 July 2016

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Synopsis

Nothing is more important to Jane Darling than her family. She’s dedicated her life to raising her children, and they all appear to be doing well. She can finally relax and enjoy life. But when her husband becomes seriously ill, Jane finds herself taking on the most difficult role of her life.

Laura Darling moved away to escape the expectations of her family. Ever since she went through rehab, they watch her like a hawk. Now she has a good job, new friends, and no one to criticize her or comment on everything she’s doing. But when everything begins to unravel, Laura’s heart turns toward home.

Follow the Darling family through triumph and tragedy as they struggle with an uncertain future. 

My thoughts

They Danced On is a beautiful book, heartfelt and moving. It encompasses every facet of a busy, flawed and loving family. There is romance, weddings, first kisses and even proposals. There are serious illnesses and diseases, both ALS and alcoholism. There are calls from the school principal, family secrets, and wrestling with faith.

This book takes place six months after the end of the previous book in the Darling Family series. It covers a long period of time and, judging from the epilogue, it will be the last book in the series.

Leander has ALS and a large part of the book focuses on Leander and Jane, as they both deal with the changes in their lives and settling scores with the past. We also get glimpses of the rest of the Darling family. Sephy and Justice are about to get married, Laura is still struggling with her alcohol consumption and is not in contact with her family, David is settling into married life, Amy is biding her time until she can pursue a future with Mitch, and Ivy and Nick are still getting the hang of raising three rambunctious kids, with DeShaun about to graduate high school and start cullinary school. Alternating chapters from various characters give readers an insight into the whole family’s continuing stories.    Continue reading

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