PASSIONATE ABOUT SCHOOL LIBRARIES

Tag: August 2020

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: The Con Code

The Con Code – Shana Silver – Swoon Reads – Published 25 August 2020

 

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Synopsis

By day, seventeen-year-old Fiona Spangler runs small cons for her ritzy prep-school classmates: getting them out of tests and forging fake hall passes. But by night, Fiona joins her dad on riskier heists: stealing back the clue-filled forgeries her mom scattered across the country before she disappeared. Fiona desperately hopes that her mother will be waiting at the end of the scavenger hunt she left behind.

And they are SO close. Just three more heists remain, but then disaster strikes when Fiona’s dad is captured by the FBI. Desperate to finish the job and save what’s left of her family, Fiona assembles of crew of teen criminals: a master of disguise who can transform into anyone, a talented hacker who only communicates in glares, and a rival con artist with a vendetta against—and possible crush on—Fiona.

My thoughts

The Con Code brings together mystery and action in a fast-paced race to find and solve the clues while trying to outrun the FBI. How do you do that? Recruit your enemy of course and try not to fall for him. The Con Code will be great for YA mystery fans looking for a light read with lots of disguises, romance and heist hijinks.

Fiona Spangler knows how to run a con. Her parents trained her well. Now she and her father are trying to track down and steal forgeries her mother left scattered around the country before her disappearance. If Fiona and her dad can piece together the clues, they have a chance to find her mother before the FBI. But when the FBI Director’s son joins Fiona’s high school and her father is arrested, Fiona has no choice but to finish the mission herself – recruiting both her friends and her number one enemy. Continue reading

Book Review: A Life Once Dreamed

A Life Once Dreamed – Rachel Fordham – Revell – Published 4 August 2020

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Synopsis

Six years ago, a shocking secret sent Agnes Pratt running in search of a new start. She found it in Penance, a rugged town of miners and lumberjacks in the Dakota Territory, where she became Miss Aggie, respected schoolteacher and confirmed old maid. But the past has a way of catching up with people.

When childhood friend and former sweetheart James Harris accepts a position as the town doctor, Aggie’s pleasantly predictable days suddenly become anything but. James wants to know why Agnes left behind the life they had dreamed of creating for themselves–but he is the one person who can never know.

In the shadows of the Black Hills, can a healing light be shed on the past? Or will the secret Agnes can’t seem to outrun destroy her chance at happiness?

My thoughts

Rachel Fordham returns to the 1880s frontier in her latest novel, A Life Once Dreamed. This is a historical romance that plunges readers into a setting where disease can wipe out families, birth holds many dangers and morals dictate social standing. This is a story about belonging and acceptance and finding your true family.

Agnes Pratt left Boston six years ago. She left behind the love of her life, but she knew they could never had a future together. Now she is teacher in a small frontier town. When James Harris appears in town as the new doctor, it brings up all their past and Aggie’s hurt. But she refuses to share the secret of why she left him all those years ago. When two disasters chance the course of their lives, Aggie and James will need to decide if what they share is enough to overlook all the obstacles that stand between them.

The setting Fordham creates feels very realistic. Times are hard and facilities basic for the people of Penance. The arrival of a doctor is cause for celebration – for everyone that is, except Aggie. Seeing James again shows her that her feelings haven’t changed, a love that is built on years of friendship and shared adventure, which we readers learn about through reflections, flashbacks and letters. Aggie closely guards her secret, even from readers for a good part of the book. I didn’t guess the direction her secret would take the book until the first disaster. I won’t spoil anything here.

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Book Review: Acceptable Risk

Acceptable Risk – Lynette Eason – Danger Never Sleeps #2 – Revell – Published 4 August 2020

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Synopsis

Sarah Denning is a military journalist with the Army in the Middle East when her convoy is attacked and she’s taken hostage. When former Army Ranger Gavin Black is asked by his old unit commander–Sarah’s imposing father–to plan an extremely risky rescue, he reluctantly agrees and successfully executes it.

Back in the US, Sarah is livid when she’s discharged on a false psychiatric evaluation and vows to return to the Army. Until she learns of her brother’s suicide. Unable to believe her brother would do such a thing, she puts her plans on hold and enlists Gavin to help her discover the truth. What they uncover may be the biggest story of Sarah’s career–if she can survive long enough to write it.

My thoughts

Acceptable Risk is a thrilling novel about deadly secrets, cover ups and the people willing to risk everything to expose the evil that lurks behind it all.

When Sarah Denning, an Army journalist, is kidnapped while in the Middle East, she is taken hostage along with a group of school girls. Luckily she has a security plan, and it isn’t long until her father sends a team, lead by ex-Army Ranger Gavin Black, to rescue them. What Sarah isn’t expecting is for her father to have her discharged from the Army with a false physc evaluation. It destroys their already tenuous relationship. But when Sarah witnesses something in the hospital and her brother dies under suspicious circumstances, Sarah vows to investigate and Gavin isn’t going to let her out of his sight while she puts herself in the crosshairs.

We first met Sarah in the first book in the Danger Never Sleeps series. You can, however, read the books as standalone titles, as each follows its own story of a strong and brave woman who is determined to do the right thing, despite the danger to themselves.

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Book Review: Dating Makes Perfect

Dating Makes Perfect – Pintip Dunn – Entangled:Teen – Published 18 August 2020

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Synopsis

The Tech sisters don’t date in high school. Not because they’re not asked. Not because they’re not interested. Not even because no one can pronounce their long, Thai last name—hence the shortened, awkward moniker. But simply because they’re not allowed. Until now.

In a move that other Asian American girls know all too well, six months after the older Tech twins got to college, their parents asked, “Why aren’t you engaged yet?” The sisters retaliated by vowing that they won’t marry for ten (maybe even twenty!) years, not until they’ve had lots of the dating practice that they didn’t get in high school.

In a shocking war on the status quo, her parents now insist that their youngest daughter, Orrawin (aka “Winnie”), must practice fake dating in high school. Under their watchful eyes, of course—and organized based on their favorite rom-coms. ’Cause that won’t end in disaster.

The first candidate? The son of their longtime friends, Mat Songsomboon—arrogant, infuriating, and way too good-looking. Winnie’s known him since they were toddlers throwing sticky rice balls at each other. And her parents love him.

If only he weren’t her sworn enemy.

My thoughts

What would you do if the only way your parents would let you date in high school was to date your sworn enemy/ex-best friend. That’s what happens to Winnie in this fun and flirty YA romance. Alongside an awesome sister relationship, a series of dates that have come straight from the movies (literally) and two cute love interests, Dating Makes Perfect is #OwnVoices and lots of fun, perfect if you are in the mood for something lighthearted.

Winnie doesn’t have any intentions of dating during high school, no partner for the prom. It’s a family rule that the Tech sisters are not allowed to date in high school. But when her mother asks Winnie’s older sisters why they haven’t found partners yet now they are in college, the girls turn the tables on their parents and convince them that Winnie should be allowed to date in high school. But their parents have one condition: they will choose who Winnie dates and where they go. Winnie is horrified that, despite a perfectly handsome new boy in town, her parents decide she is to date her sworn enemy Mat Songsomboon.

I know Winnie and Mat are meant to be sworn enemies, but it’s easy to see their feelings underneath their hilarious ‘fighting’. Their insults and arguing is more like banter and flirting. But there is some hurt buried after their friendship broke down and I loved that they are able to finally talk about this and offer each other an explanation. This book is more best friends to lovers than enemies to lovers romance, simply because it’s hard not to imagine Mat and Winnie together. The other love interest just provides some motivation, shall we say.

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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: All Eyes on Her

All Eyes on Her – Laurie Elizabeth Flynn – Imprint – Published 18 August 2020

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Synopsis

You heard the story on the news. A girl and a boy went into the woods. The girl carried a picnic basket. The boy wore bright yellow running shoes. The girl found her way out, but the boy never did….

Everyone thinks they know what happened. Some say Tabby pushed him off that cliff— she didn’t even like hiking. She was jealous. She had more than her share of demons. Others think he fell accidentally—she loved Mark. She would never hurt him…even if he hurt her.

But what’s the real story? All Eyes On Her is told from everyone but Tabby herself as the people in her life string together the events that led Tabby to that cliff. Her best friend. Her sister. Her enemy. Her ex-boyfriend. Because everybody thinks they know a girl better than she knows herself.

My thoughts

If you like gritty, edgy novels about sex, the teenage party scene and a little bit of murder (maybe?) you’ll love All Eyes On Her.

Tabitha went into the woods for a hike with her boyfriend, Mark. Tabby made it out alive. Mark didn’t. Everyone thinks they know what happened. Everyone thinks they know what kind of girl Tabby is and they fondly remember Mark. But what really happened that day?

I would be amiss in not first discussing the writing style and layout of the book. Each section is written from the perspective of many different characters, main and side characters. All except Tabby and Mark themselves. This works perfectly for emphasising the message of perspective, assumptions, labels and making up your own mind about what happened and why, but also being aware of the things that impact this decision. Honestly, it would make a perfect book for group discussion. While the ending does provide some closure, which I was happy about, because if it was an open ending I was going to be be mega cross! But there is room for doubt. The author at no point gives a final retelling, or she does but you still have to decide what you believe. You have all the stories and truths and lies to wade through, so it would be perfect for getting a group to decide themselves and argue about why they think that.

Speaking of plot, the author does a superb job of piecing together the story, bringing in clues just when you need them. The middle section is a bit slow and repetitive, but a bombshell twist caught my attention again just in time.

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Book Review: More Than Just A Pretty Face

More Than Just A Pretty Face – Syed M. Masood – Little, Brown Books for Young Readers – Published 4 August 2020

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Synopsis

Danyal Jilani doesn’t lack confidence. He may not be the smartest guy in the room, but he’s funny, gorgeous, and going to make a great chef one day. His father doesn’t approve of his career choice, but that hardly matters. What does matter is the opinion of Danyal’s longtime crush, the perfect-in-all-ways Kaval, and her family, who consider him a less than ideal arranged marriage prospect.

When Danyal gets selected for Renaissance Man–a school-wide academic championship–it’s the perfect opportunity to show everyone he’s smarter than they think. He recruits the brilliant, totally-uninterested-in-him Bisma to help with the competition, but the more time Danyal spends with her…the more he learns from her…the more he cooks for her…the more he realizes that happiness may be staring him right in his pretty face.

My thoughts

More Than Just A Pretty Face is an uplifting, fun book that also comes with sweet romance and a feel-good, save the world message. Diverse representation – both ethnically and faith based, #OwnVoices, this has all the boxes ticked to make it an “important” book, but basically it’s just lots of fun to read.

Danyal is going to be a chef. Sure, his teachers and classmates think he’s a joke and his father disapproves of pretty much everything he does, but Danyal isn’t fazed. His goal is to get his best-friend’s twin, Kaval to value him as he is, even if their parents might not approve an arranged marriage match. When his mother sets up a meeting with Bisma, he is shocked with her open honesty and the way she gets him, even if she says she’s not interested in him. When he is selected for a school academic championship, he asks Bisma for help researching his topic – a topic everyone else has cautioned him against. But working with Bisma makes him feel like nothing else does and it might just mean he has to reevaluate his other goals too.

More Than Just A Pretty Face is Syed M. Mason’s YA debut and I really hope he sticks with it, as I would love to read another YA contemporary novel from him. He has such a great way of capturing the characters’ voices and bringing them to life. The situations are almost ridiculous – people don’t treat their family that way, right? – but it is so ridiculous it feels entirely true and hits home. The teens in this book struggle to balance their faith and personal values with the ideals and standards of the world – something that brings conflict into their relationships with friends and family. Danyal is open about his faith, but can’t quite relate to the more devout devotion his friend is showing.

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Book Review: The Infographic Guide to Grammar

The Infographic Guide to Grammar: A Visual Reference for Everything You Need to Know – Jara Kern, Carissa Lytle – Adams Media – Published 4 August 2020

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Synopsis

This illustrated guide to English grammar gives you everything you need for a better understanding of how to write and punctuate correctly. From proper comma usage to the correct form of there, their, or they’re—understanding grammar has never been easier.

Is it who or whom? Affect or effect? And what is a prepositional phrase? With The Infographic Guide to Grammar, you’ll learn the answers to all of these questions, and so much more. Filled with colorful, easy-to-understand entries, this book includes topics like:

–Basic sentence structure
–The parts of speech
–Common mistakes and how to avoid them

My thoughts

Is it wrong of me to say I really want to cut this book up and hang all the pages up around my library like beautiful posters? Well, right or wrong that’s exactly what I wanted to do. I really think this book should come in a pull-apart, poster version so everyone can see, use and be helped by the colourful infographics that cover everything from punctuation to commonly confused words.

Five chapters break the content down into sections: parts of speech, sentence structure, punctuation, writing style and common mistakes. Each sub-section, nouns for example, are given a two page spread infographic that provides a basic explanation, uses, fun facts, more details, and handy to know tips. All this, presented as beautiful, highly colourful infographics.

The graphic design work in this book is fabulous. The information given is simple. Clear examples are provided. The layout of each infographic is pleasing to the eye and did I mention colour? So much colour, different texts, and fun graphics. There isn’t a lot of text on each page and the font is big and bold.

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Book Review: It Came From the Sky

It Came From the Sky – Chelsea Sedoti – Sourcebooks Fire – Published 1 August 2020

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Synopsis

This is the absolutely true account of how Lansburg, Pennsylvania was invaded by aliens and the weeks of chaos that followed. There were sightings of UFOs, close encounters, and even abductions. There were believers, Truth Seekers, and, above all, people who looked to the sky and hoped for more.

Only…there were no aliens.

Gideon Hofstadt knows what really happened. When one of his science experiments went wrong, he and his older brother blamed the resulting explosion on extraterrestrial activity. And their lie was not only believed by their town―it was embraced. As the brothers go to increasingly greater lengths to keep up the ruse and avoid getting caught, the hoax flourishes. But Gideon’s obsession with their tale threatened his whole world. Can he find a way to banish the aliens before Lansburg, and his life, are changed forever?

My thoughts

Well that was a whole heap of fun. Great plot – tick. Interesting premise – tick. Unique (diverse representation) character voice – tick. Writing style that mixes character narration with document files and interviews with other characters – tick. Laugh out loud funny and with a touch of lgbt romance – tick tick. Seriously It Came From The Sky has it all and is an enjoyable, make-you-smile kind of story.

When a science experiment causes a larger than expected explosion and creates a massive crater on their family farm, Gideon and his brother Ishmael decide to create the most epic prank/sociology research experiment by trying to convince their town that the crater was caused by aliens. Neither of them expect how big the hoax gets, drawing attention nationally and having far reaching consequences.

I loved so much about this book. It’s easy to read – the narrative is all written from Gideon’s perspective broken up by files, text conversations, interview transcripts and other asides. The book is meant to represent Gideon’s research case notes, but it makes for some funny insights.

While the plot is fun and there is never a dull moment as the hoax gets wilder and more complex, my favourite thing about It Came From the Sky is the characters.

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