Book Reviews, Lists, Discussions, and Displays

Tag: April 2020

Book Review: The List of Things That Will Not Change

The List of Things That Will Not Change – Rebecca Stead – Wendy Lamb Books – Published 7 April 2020

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Synopsis

After her parents’ divorce, Bea’s life became different in many ways. But she can always look back at the list she keeps in her green notebook to remember the things that will stay the same. The first and most important: Mom and Dad will always love Bea, and each other.

When Dad tells Bea that he and his boyfriend, Jesse, are getting married, Bea is thrilled. Bea loves Jesse, and when he and Dad get married, she’ll finally (finally!) have what she’s always wanted–a sister. Even though she’s never met Jesse’s daughter, Sonia, Bea is sure that they’ll be “just like sisters anywhere.”

As the wedding day approaches, Bea will learn that making a new family brings questions, surprises, and joy

My thoughts

List of Things That Will Not Change is a beautiful uplifting novel about acceptance and family of all shapes and sizes. Perfect for those looking for a middle-grade novel about LGBT families, step-siblings, divorce, making mistakes and growing up.

Bea keeps a notebook that contains the List of Things That Will Not Change. Ever since her parents’ divorce she knows that some things are now different and some things will stay the same. When her Dad announces his engagement to his boyfriend, Jesse, Bea couldn’t be happier. But the best news of all is that she will be getting a sister. Meeting Sonia, Jesse’s daughter, is exciting for Bea, but Sonia has a lot of changes in her life and she isn’t exactly sure how she feels about those changes. Bea is sure she can help, but Bea is hiding her own secrets.

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Book Review: Please Don’t Hug Me

Please Don’t Hug Me – Kay Kerr – Text Publishing – Published 28 April 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

This is the book that everyone is talking about right now. Honestly, I was on board with the pink cover and cinnamon doughnuts, but bonus points for #ownvoices, local Aussie author, diverse character voice representation and a realistic story about growing up, fitting in and learning that it is okay to be different.

Please Don’t Hug Me is written entirely in the form of letters from our main character Erin, to her brother Rudy. We readers don’t know where or why Rudy isn’t at home anymore, but Erin is working through a few things and has been tasked by her therapist to write letters. Through these letters, which include enough dialogue and reflection on events to feel like you are in the middle of each situation, we readers learn about Erin’s friendships, her work, getting through the last year of school, looking forward to things like schoolies, but also feeling out of the loop as she is unable to read social cues or properly fit in with her best-friend’s group of school fiends. A new job, a new friend and working through her feelings about her brother and family, might just be the things she needs to make it through the year.

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Book Review: The Joy of Falling

The Joy of Falling – Lindsay Harrel – Thomas Nelson -Published 14 April 2020

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Synopsis

It has been fifteen months since Eva and Angela lost their thrill-seeking husbands in a scuba diving accident. Both women are trying to navigate their way through the grief, but neither one is making much progress. Angela is barely making ends meet, angry at her husband for leaving her to raise three children on her own. Meanwhile, Eva is stuck, unable to move forward after losing the love of her life and her source of inspiration.

But then Eva gets a life-changing phone call. Before Brent and Wes died, they had signed up for a race of a lifetime—an ultra-marathon in beautiful New Zealand. Eva begs Angela to run the race with her in their husbands’ place, and Angela finally agrees, hoping to finally understand her husband’s choices.

Training is exhausting, and the race is even more demanding. Their journey grows more complicated by the presence of two men—Marc is Brent’s best friend who is running the race with Eva and Angela, and Simon King is a writer who is covering their inspiring story. With every step, Eva and Angela must ask themselves questions that they haven’t had the courage to ask before. As the women literally put one foot in front of the other, they wonder: Is it possible to find their way forward in hope?

My thoughts

In the Joy of Falling, Lindsay Harrel has penned a beautiful story about the many faces of grief and about the journey of continuing to move forward and find joy again in life and relationships. This is equally a story about family as it is about individual growth. It is also a romance story, with two romances. At all times, it remains heartwarming and considerate.

Eva and Angela don’t have much in comment except that they both lost their husbands, brothers, in a scuba diving accident. Now, fifteen months on, Eva still has no creative drive or any desire to return to her work as a florist. She spends her time volunteering at the Heart Center and trying to honour her husband’s memory. Angela has three children and two jobs, so she has no time to mourn the husband she lost, nor much energy to confront the feelings of anger and abandonment she feels about his death. When Eva receives a phone call about an ultra-marathon the two brothers were going to complete with their best-friend, Eva convinces Angela to complete the marathon with her.

Set against the breathtaking backdrop of New Zealand and paced with the training Eva and Angela must complete, this is an easy book to fall into and enjoy. For all its beauty, it’s not hard to pick up on the grief, anger and range of emotions the characters are dealing with as they face the loss of husband, son, father and best-friend. Alongside Eva and Angela are their mother-in-law, Angela’s children and Marc, the brothers’ best friend who joins Eva and Angela in entering the marathon. Each form an important piece of the story. Each are feeling different emotions as they process (or ignore) their grief. This book is honest and doesn’t shy away from the very real emotions the characters are facing. Nor does it prevent this being a happy and heartwarming story.

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Book Review: What Grew In Larry’s Garden

What Grew in Larry’s Garden – Laura Alary and Kass Reich (ill) – Hachette Book Group – Published 7 April 2020

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Synopsis

Grace thinks Larry’s garden is one of the wonders of the world. In his tiny backyard next door to hers, Larry grows the most extraordinary vegetables. Grace loves helping him – watering and weeding, planting and pruning, hoeing and harvesting. And whenever there’s a problem – like bugs burrowing into the carrots or slugs chewing the lettuce – Grace and Larry solve it together. Grace soon learns that Larry has big plans for the vegetables in his special garden. And when that garden faces its biggest problem yet, Grace follows Larry’s example to find the perfect solution.

My thoughts

In this story about a little girl and a man with a garden sits a message about community and helping people to grow and flourish. Inspired by a true story, What Grew in Larry’s Garden is a book that shares a love of nature, problem solving and kindness.

Bright but soft illustrations bring the story to life in greens, browns and splashes of bright red watercolour.

There is much to cherish about this book. Initially it seems a simple story about a young girl who enjoys gardening with her older neighbour. I love the cross-generational friendship and the way the pair work together to creatively and kindly solve the problems they come across in their garden from bugs to squirrels. The tomato plants they grow together have a big future, though, and that’s where the true story comes into the book. Larry is a teacher and he grows tomato plants to share with his students. He then shares with Grace the letters they write to others as they give their tomato plants away. From overcoming broken friendships, sharing small acts of kindness, or giving thanks for service. The author shares a note at the back of the book explaining the inspiration of the book and how Larry’s work with his students and the giving away of tomato plants helped to grow a community and possibility within those students.

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Book Review: This is My Brain In Love

This is My Brain in Love – I.W. Gregorio – Little, Brown Books for Young Readers – Published 14 April 2020

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Synopsis

Jocelyn Wu has just three wishes for her junior year: To make it through without dying of boredom, to direct a short film with her BFF Priya Venkatram, and to get at least two months into the year without being compared to or confused with Peggy Chang, the only other Chinese girl in her grade.

Will Domenici has two goals: to find a paying summer internship, and to prove he has what it takes to become an editor on his school paper.

Then Jocelyn’s father tells her their family restaurant may be going under, and all wishes are off. Because her dad has the marketing skills of a dumpling, it’s up to Jocelyn and her unlikely new employee, Will, to bring A-Plus Chinese Garden into the 21st century (or, at least, to Facebook).What starts off as a rocky partnership soon grows into something more. But family prejudices and the uncertain future of A-Plus threaten to keep Will and Jocelyn apart. It will take everything they have and more, to save the family restaurant and their budding romance.

My thoughts

This is My Brain in Love celebrates family and is a wonderful representation of mental health in YA. From everything from a positive experience of therapy to overcoming the stigma of a diagnosis, cultural and family expectations and denial, this is a positive and inclusive portrayal of anxiety and depression. It’s also a wonderful mix of cultures and the wonderful food that comes with those cultures. If you enjoyed The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling, this is the perfect book for you.

Jocelyn Wu is surprised to learn her family’s restaurant is facing closure. Sure, it’s old and kind of rumpled around the edges, but it’s home. To prevent having to move away from her best friend, she sets out to improve the restaurant, including adding social media pages, new features and employing someone to help out and build them a website. Enter Will Domenici. They click and working together is fun, but both Will and Jocelyn are hiding secrets and saving the family restaurant might not be enough to save their budding romance.

Whoa. That prologue kind of threw me, giving this book a sort-of trigger warning for suicide. And while the narrator tries to reassure the reader, it kind of did the opposite. It certainly had me intrigued and ready to jump straight into the book to find out more.

And, actually, things never get as serious as hinted at at the start and a few times foreshadowed in the book. It’s a light book, despite the overtones of mental health and depression, financial difficulties and the possible failure of a family business.

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Book Review: What I Like About You

What I Like About You – Marisa Kanter – Simon and Schuster – Published 7 April 2020

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Synopsis

There are a million things that Halle Levitt likes about her online best friend, Nash.

He’s an incredibly talented graphic novelist. He loves books almost as much as she does. And she never has to deal with the awkwardness of seeing him in real life. They can talk about anything…

Except who she really is.

Because online, Halle isn’t Halle—she’s Kels, the enigmatically cool creator of One True Pastry, a YA book blog that pairs epic custom cupcakes with covers and reviews. Kels has everything Halle doesn’t: friends, a growing platform, tons of confidence, and Nash.

That is, until Halle arrives to spend senior year in Gramps’s small town and finds herself face-to-face with real, human, not-behind-a-screen Nash. Nash, who is somehow everywhere she goes—in her classes, at the bakery, even at synagogue.

Nash who has no idea she’s actually Kels.

If Halle tells him who she is, it will ruin the non-awkward magic of their digital friendship. Not telling him though, means it can never be anything more. Because while she starts to fall for Nash as Halle…he’s in love with Kels.

My thoughts

What I Like About You is about blogging, a love triangle with only two people, online relationships and friendships, books, cupcakes and more books. It’s also about family, growing up and learning to be a better friend. This reads like a great teen novel. The characters have realistic teen voices, from their integrated use of social media and text speech, to facing the problems of finishing high school. It’s a fun, lighthearted book.

Halle Levitt is better known to her many online followers as Kels, book reviewer, blogger and cupcake baker. When she and her brother move in with their grandfather while their parents go overseas for work, she doesn’t expect to come face-to-face with her online (and overall, let’s be honest) best friend, Nash. Shocked, she doesn’t tell him who she is, just introduces herself as Halle. As she gets to know Nash in real life, becomes friends with his friends and maybe even fall in love with him, it becomes harder for Halle to know how she is going to reveal that she and Kels are the same person.

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New Book Releases April 2020 – Young Adult Fiction

New Book Releases for April 2020 – Young Adult Fiction

Isolating? Need something new to read? Look no further than the new releases of April 2020. Support your local bookstore and authors in this difficult time. What’s on your reading list? Click on covers for more details.

Children’s Fiction/Non-fiction

The Boreal Forest: A Year in the World’s Largest Land Biome – L.E. Carmichael and Josee Bisaillon (ill) – Kids Can Press – Published 7 April 2020

The vast boreal forest spans a dozen countries in the northern regions like “a scarf around the neck of the world,” making it the planet’s largest land biome. Besides providing homes for a diversity of species, this spectacular forest is also vitally important to the planet: its trees clean our air, its wetlands clean our water and its existence plays an important role in slowing global climate change. In this beautifully written book, award-winning author L. E. Carmichael explores this special wilderness on a tour of the forest throughout the four seasons, from one country to another. Evocative watercolor and collage artwork by award-winning illustrator Josée Bisaillon provides a rare glimpse of one of the world’s most magnificent places.

Children’s non-fiction – Animals, environment


A Stopwatch from Grampa – Loretta Garbutt and Carmen Mok (ill.) – Hachette Book Group – Published 7 April 2020

“When summer started, I got Grampa’s stopwatch,” a small child says. “I don’t want his stopwatch. I want him.” Grampa used to time everything. A race to the end of the street and back: 24 seconds. Eating bubblegum ice cream: 1 minute, 58 seconds. But now, Grampa’s gone. “There are no more Grampa minutes, Grampa seconds,” the child says. “Time just stops.” As the seasons come and go, the stopwatch becomes a cherished symbol of remembrance, and the child uses it to carry on Grampa’s favorite pastimes and traditions.

Children’s fiction – Family


What Grew in Larry’s Garden – Laura Alary and Kass Reich (ill.) – Hachette Book Group – Published 7 April 2020

Grace thinks Larry’s garden is one of the wonders of the world. In his tiny backyard next door to hers, Larry grows the most extraordinary vegetables. Grace loves helping him – watering and weeding, planting and pruning, hoeing and harvesting. And whenever there’s a problem – like bugs burrowing into the carrots or slugs chewing the lettuce – Grace and Larry solve it together. Grace soon learns that Larry has big plans for the vegetables in his special garden. And when that garden faces its biggest problem yet, Grace follows Larry’s example to find the perfect solution.

Children’s fiction – Gardening


Young Adult Fiction

The Truth About Keeping Secrets – Savannah Brown – Sourcebooks Fire – Published 7 April 2020

Sydney’s dad is the only psychiatrist for miles in their small Ohio town. He knows everybody’s secrets. He is also dead.

Grief-stricken Sydney can’t understand why the police have no explanation for what happened the night of her dad’s car crash. And when June Copeland, the homecoming queen whose life seems perfect, shows up at the funeral, Sydney’s confusion grows.

Sydney and June grow closer in the wake of the accident, but it’s clear that not everyone is happy about their new friendship.

Young adult fiction: Thriller.


The Perfect Escape – Suzanne Park – The Perfect Escape #1 – Sourcebooks Fire – Published 7 April 2020

Nate Jae-Woo Kim wants to be rich. When one of his classmates offers Nate a ridiculous amount of money to commit grade fraud, he knows that taking the windfall would help support his prideful Korean family, but is compromising his integrity worth it?

Luck comes in the form of Kate Anderson, Nate’s colleague at the zombie-themed escape room where he works. She approaches Nate with a plan: a local tech company is hosting a weekend-long survivalist competition with a huge cash prize. It could solve all of Nate’s problems, and Kate needs the money too.

Young adult fiction: Contemporary

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Book Review: Don’t Call the Wolf

Don’t Call the Wolf – Aleksandra Ross – HarperTeen – Published 28 April 2020

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Synopsis

When the Golden Dragon descended on the forest of Kamiena, a horde of monsters followed in its wake.

Ren, the forest’s young queen, is slowly losing her battle against them. Until she rescues Lukasz—the last survivor of a heroic regiment of dragon slayers—and they strike a deal. She will help him find his brother, who vanished into her forest… if Lukasz promises to slay the Dragon.

But promises are all too easily broken.

My thoughts

I adored this gorgeous fantasy novel. It feels like a fairytale, but one of the original versions, with truly scary monsters and lots of bloodshed. It also feels like a unique fantasy quest novel, again one that is dark and devious. I loved the characters and loved how they oh so slowly came to like each other and learn to work together. I loved the twist at the end. I loved the magic, the monsters and the evil the characters must face, which brings them all together. But most of all, I loved the world that has been build and the beautiful, descriptive writing that ties it all together and brings it to life.

Ren is Queen of the Forest. With her lynx family and wolf friends, she tries to stave off the ever encroaching press of monsters and darkness that seeks to suck the life out of the forest. They must also avoid humans, who don’t understand them and who cause more harm than good. Lukasz, the youngest of ten brothers is now alone, the last of the Wolf-Lords to traverse the world, fighting monsters and evil. The brothers were exiled from their homeland after the Golden Dragon arrived and over the years, each of the brothers has felt the call to return and try and take their home back from the dragon. Now Lukasz must also return. But as he and Ren reluctantly join forces, they realise their goals are not so different from the other’s.

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