Book Reviews, Lists, Discussions, and Displays

Tag: Contemporary (Page 1 of 43)

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 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: Thoughts & Prayers

Thoughts & Prayers – Bryan Bliss – Greenwillow Books – Published 29 September 2020

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Synopsis

Claire, Eleanor, and Brezzen have little in common. Except for the fact that a year ago, they all hid under the same staircase and heard the shots that took the lives of some of their classmates and a teacher.

Now, each one copes with the trauma as best as they can as the world around them keeps moving. Thoughts and Prayers is a story about gun violence, but more importantly it is the story of what happens after the reporters leave and the news cycle moves on to the next tragedy. It is the story of three unforgettable teens who feel forgotten.

My thoughts

Thank goodness for this book. It is beautiful, insightful, reflective, powerful and conveys so much with such a simple, non-preachy style. Three teenagers. Three separate stories. And yet their lives crossed for just a few moments on one fateful day under a school staircase.

Claire, Eleanor and Brezzen survived the school shooting that killed a teacher and fellow classmates. They have each continued their lives, coping with the trauma and fallout in their own ways.

Thoughts & Prayers starts with Claire and her story. Part one starts with Claire and her brother having made a new life after moving towns. Claire is about to start at a new school. Each morning, she and her brother escape to a local skating park after hours – it’s the only time Claire can move without thinking about everyone around her and constantly scanning the environment. She meets three guys at the park, Leg, God and Dark. They seem like they could become friends, they are supportive of her need for space, cope with her panic attacks. But as she spends more time with them, there seems to be something wrong, a little off, with Dark and Claire knows the risks of not speaking up. Claire has an intriguing story and it brings such a powerful message of how hard it is to do the right thing – to even know what the right thing is. She risks everything to speak out, just as she would risk everything by staying silent. Her story is also about the debilitating panic, fear and gamut of emotions that can occur after experiencing such a traumatic event.

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Book Review: Far From Normal

Far From Normal – Becky Wallace – Page Street Kids – Published 22 September 2020

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Synopsis

Maddie McPherson is sick of Normal—both her hometown of Normal, Illinois and being the ‘normal’ sibling. But when she lands a summer internship with a sports marketing firm, she finally has a chance to crawl out of her genius brother’s shadow. Not to mention, a glowing letter of recommendation could secure her admission to her dream college.

But Maddie’s nickname is “CalaMaddie” for a reason, and when the company tasks her with repairing the image of teen soccer phenom Gabriel Fortunato, she wonders if she’s set herself up for embarrassment. Gabriel is a tabloid magnet, who’s best-known for flubbing Italy’s World Cup hopes. As Maddie works with him to develop “pleasant and friendly” content for social media, she also learns he’s thoughtful, multi-talented, and fiercely loyal—maybe even to a fault. Falling for a footballer is exactly how CalaMaddie would botch this internship, but with the firm pressuring her to get the job done, perhaps her heart is worth risking?

My thoughts

Far From Normal is a sweet and light YA romance about soccer, summer, and social media.

Maddie McPherson has landed an awesome summer internship working at her aunt’s sports marketing firm. Within ing days of being there, Maddie is presented with the opportunity to create and post the social media content for teen soccer star Gabriel Fortunato. The goal is to repair Gabe’s image, but Maddie has to decide between doing her job well enough to get a glowing recommendation letter for college and falling for the boy who is quickly capturing her heart.

Far From Normal is perfect if you are in the mood for something very light. There are meet-cutes (a bike, a dog and a soccer ball, you do the math), working relationships that cross into romantic territory, a mean-girl work colleague Maddie must contend with, and romantic meals in Italian restaurants.

While Gabe and Maddie do discuss a few things about Gabe’s life in the spotlight, the incidents he has been involved in are never fully discussed and they never have any really deep conversations about this, so the book remains on the fluffy side. Fine, if you like cute and light stories, but I usually enjoy something with a bit more depth, so I didn’t connect that much with the characters.

Despite this being about a soccer star and sports marketing, the sports side of things don’t come into the story at all, so I’ll be shelving this under romance and not sport.

A quick read, perfect if you are looking for a fun and light YA romance.

The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.

More information

Category: Young adult fiction

Genre: Contemporary

Themes: Romance, internships, soccer, social media, family, college applications.

Reading age guide: Ages 14 and up.

Advisory: References to drug and alcohol use and related accidents. Drunk driving. Sexual references and references to sexual relationships.

Published: 22 September 2020 by Page Street Kids.

Format: Hardcover, ebook. 240 pages.

ISBN: 9781645670568

Find it on Goodreads

Book Review: Autumn Skies

Autumn Skies – Denise Hunter – Bluebell Inn Romance #3 – Thomas Nelson – Published 20 October 2020

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Synopsis

When a mysterious man turns up at Grace’s family-run inn, it’s instant attraction. But she’s already got a lot on her plate: running the Bluebell Inn, getting Blue Ridge Outfitters off the ground, and coping with a childhood event she’d thought was long past.

A gunshot wound has resurrected the past for secret service agent Wyatt Jennings, and a mandatory leave of absence lands him in Bluebell, North Carolina. There he must try and come to grips with the crisis that altered his life forever.

Grace needs experience for her new outfitters business, so when Wyatt needs a mountain guide, she’s more than happy to step up to the plate. As their journey progresses, Grace soon has an elusive Wyatt opening up, and Wyatt is unwittingly drawn to Grace’s fresh outlook and sense of humor.

There’s no doubt the two have formed a special bond, but will Wyatt’s secrets bring Grace’s world crashing down? Or will those secrets end up healing them both?

My thoughts

What an absolutely wonderful book. Autumn Skies is just so good. Denise Hunter’s novels just get better and better and better; this series just got better and better. In this conclusion to a three book series, it was so lovely to see the final part of the three siblings’ stories and work in getting their inn up and running.

Autumn Skies follows Grace, the youngest of the three Bennett siblings. We have watched her grow up a little over the previous two novels. Now she is a young woman. She has started her own business, helped her siblings finish and run the inn, but she still grapples with grief and guilt from her parents’ deaths and a traumatic event in her childhood. Wyatt Jennings is a secret service agent. Suffering trauma and flashbacks, he is suspended. He decides to return to the place of his childhood memories, Bluebird Inn. Wyatt enlists the help of Grace to help him find a particular spot in the surrounding mountains. Their chemistry is intense, but neither is looking for a relationship.

I read this book in one sitting. I just didn’t want to put it down, didn’t want to leave the wonderful world Denise Hunter brings to life. Now I just want to reread it again. I loved everything about this book. The characters, the heartbreaking story, the now familiar setting, the usual banter between the Bennett siblings, but I really, really loved the romance in this one.

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Book Review: Charming As A Verb

Charming As A Verb – Ben Philipp – Balzer + Bray – Published 8 September 2020

 

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Synopsis

Henri “Halti” Haltiwanger can charm just about anyone. He is a star debater and popular student at the prestigious FATE academy, the dutiful first-generation Haitian son, and the trusted dog walker for his wealthy New York City neighbors. But his easy smiles mask a burning ambition to attend his dream college, Columbia University.

There is only one person who seems immune to Henri’s charms: his “intense” classmate and neighbor Corinne Troy. When she uncovers Henri’s less-than-honest dog-walking scheme, she blackmails him into helping her change her image at school. Henri agrees, seeing a potential upside for himself.

Soon what started as a mutual hustle turns into something more surprising than either of them ever bargained for. . . .

My thoughts

As charming as its title and main character, Charming As A Verb is a sweet realistic novel about growing up, falling in love, and finishing high school.

Henri Haltiwanger, Halti to his friends, is a hard worker. He needs to be if he’s going to make into his dream college, the college he and his father have always planned. As well as balancing debate team and maintaining his grades at the prestigious FATE academy, Henri runs his own dog walking business. When a classmate figures out his business is less of a corporate company and more a one-man show, she blackmails him into helping her fix her image at school. If anyone can charm their way into the popular crowd, it’s Henri. But what starts as blackmail, quickly turns to friendship.

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Book Review: Early Departures

Early Departures – Justin A. Reynolds – Katherine Tegen Books – Published 22 September 2020

 

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Synopsis

What if you could bring your best friend back to life—but only for a short time?

Jamal’s best friend, Q, doesn’t know that he died, and that he’s about to die . . . again. He doesn’t know that Jamal tried to save him. And that the reason they haven’t been friends for two years is because Jamal blames Q for the accident that killed his parents.

But what if Jamal could have a second chance? A new technology allows Q to be reanimated for a few weeks before he dies . . . permanently. And Q’s mom is not about to let anyone ruin this miracle by telling Q about his impending death. So how can Jamal fix everything if he can’t tell Q the truth?

My thoughts

An honest, heartbreaking yet humorous look at death and saying goodbye, Justin A. Reynolds brings his trademark style and humour to this incredible story you’ll have to read to believe.

What would you do if you could bring someone back from the dead? Even if it was only for a short time? That’s exactly the question Jamal must face when his ex-best friend dies in his arms. When Quincy’s mother and Jamal are taken to a secret facility they are offered a mind-blowing option – reanimate Quincy. But it will only be for a few days. For Jamal, it’s a chance to make things right with his once best friend, to heal the hurt between them, a chance to finally speak his mind and a chance to say goodbye, a chance he never got with his parents. But Quincy’s mother doesn’t want to tell Quincy he only has a few days left on earth and Jamal isn’t sure that’s the right way to handle things.

This book just felt so incredibly authentic. The grief, the hurt Jamal is carrying, and most especially the wonderful, broken but still clicked-in friendship bond the two boys share. Flashbacks in the form of videos the two boys made show the depth of connection they share.

Parts of this book are heartbreaking. Yet other parts of this book are honestly hilarious. Jamal and Quincy both have a wonderful sense of humour and are constantly making witty quips and jokes. Quincy dreams of making it big as a comedian. But it’s not just Jamal and Quincy that bring the laughs in the book. Despite the topics of grief and loss, the death of Jamal’s parents and the impending death of Quincy, there are some wonderful light-hearted moments in this book and that’s what brings home the message about living well and enjoying every minute.

As much as I adored Jamal and Quincy, there are some fantastic side characters, especially Jamal’s sister and Quincy’s mother, both who play important roles in the story.

Looking for a meaningful yet lighthearted novel that will have you smiling, crying and rejoicing all at once, then look no farther than Early Departures.

The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.

More information

Category: Young adult fiction

Genre: Contemporary

Themes: Death, grief, friendship, best friends, humour, comedy, family,

Reading age guide: Ages 13 and up.

Advisory: References to death. Vague sexual references. F*** (16), sh** (24), pi** (5), di** (1), as***** (4).

Representation: Main characters and side characters african american. Heterosexual relationships.

Published: 22 September 2020 by Katherine Tegen Books

Format: Hardcover, ebook. 400 pages.

ISBN: 9780062748409

Find it on Goodreads

Book Review: Aftershocks

Aftershocks – Marisa Reichardt – Amulet Books – Published 29 September 2020

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Synopsis

When a magnitude 7.8 earthquake hits California, Ruby is trapped in a laundromat with Charlie, a boy she had her first conversation with only moments before. She can’t see anything beyond the rubble that she’s trapped beneath, but she’s sure someone will come save them soon. As the hours and days tick by, Ruby and Charlie struggle to stay hopeful—and stay alive. Ruby has only Charlie’s voice and her memories to find the hope to keep holding on. Will the two make it out alive? And if they do, what will they have lost to the earthquake?

My thoughts

How long could you survive? Faced with life and death, could you do what it takes to make it through a major natural disaster? And if you do survive, how do you know what to do next? Aftershock is an original and insightful novel about survival, friendship, doing the right thing, facing your mistakes and learning to continue to live after surviving it all, all set against the heart-stopping suspense of an earthquake.

We often hear about natural disasters on the news. The number count of who survived and who didn’t. But what about the stories of those who live through such an event? I don’t often see disaster novels come across my radar and I’m so glad I found this one. It a great mix of realistic fiction and action. Every moment is both tense and yet also introspective. It’s a story about connections. It’s a story about mistakes and learning to live with them. It’s also a story about doing the right thing in really hard situations. Aftershock touches on some interesting and important themes alongside the main story of surviving an earthquake.

Ruby has blown off water polo practice after learning her mother is dating her coach. She knows how her friends will react, especially volatile Mila. Her plan is to convince the cute guy waiting at the laundromat to buy her alcohol. What better way to drown her sorrows than getting drunk? That plan goes awry when a massive earthquake brings the building down around them. Trapped and alone, Ruby and the guy – Charlie, she learns – struggle to survive. But as they wait hours for a rescue that might never come, they find themselves sharing their secrets, regrets and a desire to do things differently once they escape.

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Book Review: Until I Met You

Until I Met You – Tari Faris – Restoring Heritage #2 – Revell – Published 8 September 2020

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Synopsis

When she hears that the small town of Heritage, Michigan, is looking for a new librarian, Libby Kingsley jumps at the opportunity. Little did she know the library is barely more than a storage closet stuffed with dusty, outdated books. What the community really needs is a new building. But the only funds available are those being channeled into the new town square, and the landscape architect in charge of the project wants nothing to do with her plans.

All Austin Williams wants to do is get the town square project finished so he can do right by the family business and then extricate himself from the town that reveres the brother who cost him so much. But the local media and the town’s new librarian seem to be conspiring against him at every turn. Will the determined bookworm find her way into his blueprints–and possibly even his heart?

My thoughts

Small towns, romance and a construction project with no budget and a strict deadline – what could possibly go wrong? Throw in a nosy journalist, bad publicity and some miscommunication and everything that could go wrong does. Until I Met You is a sweet and charming story about finding the right person at the wrong time, moving on from the past and learning to make the most of every day and every situation.

Libby Kingsley is a librarian (yay librarians in fiction). She’s feeling pretty down about life and is happy to take a position as the new librarian in Heritage, Michigan. The only problem is the library is more of a desolate basement that should be condemned. She finds the perfect solution – she just has to convince the town and construction company that moving an old building into the new town centre is a good idea. Austin Williams is trying to save his family’s construction company, redesign the town square with no help and little budget and now he has to contend with the ideas of Libby Kingsley. He just needs to make it through the next few months unscathed, but it seems like everything and everyone – including his brother – is against him.

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