Book Reviews, Lists, Discussions, and Displays

Tag: Death (Page 1 of 6)

Book Review: The Prison Healer

The Prison Healer – Lynette Noni – The Prison Healer #1 – HMH Books for Young Readers – Published 13 April 2021

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Synopsis

Seventeen-year-old Kiva Meridan has spent the last ten years fighting for survival in the notorious death prison, Zalindov, working as the prison healer.

When the Rebel Queen is captured, Kiva is charged with keeping the terminally ill woman alive long enough for her to undergo the Trial by Ordeal: a series of elemental challenges against the torments of air, fire, water, and earth, assigned to only the most dangerous of criminals.

Then a coded message from Kiva’s family arrives, containing a single order: “Don’t let her die. We are coming.” Aware that the Trials will kill the sickly queen, Kiva risks her own life to volunteer in her place. If she succeeds, both she and the queen will be granted their freedom.

But no one has ever survived.

With an incurable plague sweeping Zalindov, a mysterious new inmate fighting for Kiva’s heart, and a prison rebellion brewing, Kiva can’t escape the terrible feeling that her trials have only just begun.

My thoughts

If you love Sarah J Maas or Maria V Snyder’s books you will fall in absolute love with Lynette Noni’s The Prison Healer. This book utterly entranced me and yet I wanted to savour it and enjoy every agonising, horrible, tortuous moment. This book is set in a horrible prison, features illness and death, and the character face lots of abuse, torture and trials designed to kill – and I loved every single moment!!! Crazy! But so, so good.

Kiva has survived ten long years in Zalindov prison. When her father was accused of meeting with a traitor and sentenced to life in prison, Kiva was also taken. After the death of her father, Kiva assumed the role of prison healer. It’s a role that provides her some sense of purpose within the treacherous walls, but it costs her dearly in other ways. In the depths of winter, the prison accepts two unexpected arrivals – a wounded man who, after she saves his life, seems to want to get close to Kiva and the Rebel Queen. The Rebel Queen is sentenced to face the Trials of Earth, Wind, Air and Water, but Kiva knows she is not well enough to survive. In a bold move and prompted by a secret message from her family waiting for her outside of the prison walls, Kiva takes the Rebel Queen’s place in the trials and seals her fate to the woman. 

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Book Review: Is It Any Wonder

Is It Any Wonder – Courtney Walsh – Nantucket Love Story #2 – Published 6 April 2021

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Synopsis

Twelve years ago, Cody Boggs and Louisa Chambers made a pact that no matter where their lives took them, they’d return to Nantucket Island’s Brant Point Lighthouse on July 30, their shared golden birthday, and continue their tradition of exchanging birthday wishes. But that was before a tragic accident upended both of their lives, irrevocably pulling them apart.

Their worlds collide just months before that particular day when Louisa’s fledgling event planning company is hired by the local Coast Guard station, where she discovers Cody has recently returned to the island as the second in command. As they plan a regatta fundraiser, hoping to promote positive PR in the community, neither can deny the fireworks each encounter ignites. But working together also brings up memories of the day Cody’s father died, revealing secrets that have Cody and Louisa questioning everything they thought they knew and felt about their families and each other.

My thoughts

I do so love a romantic novel set by the sea. It provides an instant feeling of summer and holidays, no matter the season or actual timing of the novel. And I’m feeling a lot of people could use a portal to a seaside vacation right now.

I love Courtney Walsh’s writing style and ability to bring characters to life on the page. In Is It Any Wonder, our main characters are Louisa and Cody. Childhood best friends, separated by a tragedy that tore them and their families apart in their teen years. Now, as they near their 30th birthday, Louisa lives full time on Nantucket and has started her own concierge business. Cody has just reluctantly returned to Nantucket, stationed at the Coast Guard base. When a kayak trip goes wrong, Louisa finds herself in need of rescue and is shocked to come face to face with Cody. They are forced to face their past, forced to work together and both have to decide if the lingering feelings they carry for the other is worth wading though the burden of the guilt and grief they carry.

Is It Any Wonder is another great romantic novel from Courtney Walsh. Family, grief, hurts from the past, best friends, secrets, a bit of amateur sleuthing and a gorgeous seaside setting – what more could you want?

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Book Review: Things That Grow

Things That Grow – Meredith Goldstein – HMH Books for Young Readers – Published 9 March 2021

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Synopsis

When Lori’s Dorothy Parker–loving grandmother dies, Lori’s world is turned upside down. Grandma Sheryl was everything to Lori—and not just because Sheryl raised Lori when Lori’s mom got a job out of town. Now Lori’s mom is insisting on moving her away from her beloved Boston right before senior year. Desperate to stay for as long as possible, Lori insists on honoring her grandmother’s last request before she moves: to scatter Sheryl’s ashes near things that grow.

Along with her uncle Seth and Chris, best friend and love-of-her-life crush, Lori sets off on a road trip to visit her grandmother’s favorite gardens. Dodging forest bathers, scandalized volunteers, and angry homeowners, they come to terms with the shape of life after Grandma Sheryl. Saying goodbye isn’t easy, but Lori might just find a way to move forward surrounded by the people she loves.

My thoughts

Things That Grow is a novel about family and grief, about growing up, falling in love with your best friend but not wanting to risk the relationship and staying quiet about your feeling. It’s also got quite a few gardens in it (I love fiction that includes gardens, not sure why but they always make a story more beautiful) and you could almost call it a road tip novel, as the characters venture on their journey, which doesn’t span too many miles, but still forces them to consider their relationships with each other.

Lori has lived with her Grandma for a few years. She was happy for the stability after living with her mother who would move them regularly, changing jobs and locations as often as she changed boyfriends. So when Grandma Sheryl dies, Lori is reeling from both the loss of her home and the woman who felt more like a mother than her mother ever did. Lori’s mother demands Lori move back with her, despite it meaning Lori will have to change schools right at the start of her senior year and leave behind her best friend, Chris. Lori stalls by insisting they honour her grandmother’s last wish – to have her ashes scattered in four gardens.

Anyone who has had to deal with the aftermath of losing a loved one will relate to Lori’s feelings. This book explores grief in an honest way. Lori isn’t sure how to deal with her feelings and often uses humour to cope with the situations she finds herself in – like trying to find a cremation service for a Jewish woman. So yes, while this book is about death, funerals (they don’t really have one), spreading of ashes and grief, it’s actually a funny, realistic, ‘oh my gosh, no don’t do that’, hopeful novel.

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Book Review: Firekeeper’s Daughter

Firekeeper’s Daughter – Angeline Boulley – Henry, Holt and Co – Published 16 March 2021

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Synopsis

As a biracial, unenrolled tribal member and the product of a scandal, eighteen-year-old Daunis Fontaine has never quite fit in, both in her hometown and on the nearby Ojibwe reservation. Daunis dreams of studying medicine, but when her family is struck by tragedy, she puts her future on hold to care for her fragile mother.

The only bright spot is meeting Jamie, the charming new recruit on her brother Levi’s hockey team. Yet even as Daunis falls for Jamie, certain details don’t add up and she senses the dashing hockey star is hiding something. Everything comes to light when Daunis witnesses a shocking murder, thrusting her into the heart of a criminal investigation.

Reluctantly, Daunis agrees to go undercover, but secretly pursues her own investigation, tracking down the criminals with her knowledge of chemistry and traditional medicine. But the deceptions—and deaths—keep piling up and soon the threat strikes too close to home.

Now, Daunis must learn what it means to be a strong Anishinaabe kwe (Ojibwe woman) and how far she’ll go to protect her community, even if it tears apart the only world she’s ever known.

My thoughts

Firekeeper’s Daughter is going to be one of THE books of 2021. If this isn’t on your radar yet, put it on there RIGHT NOW. #OwnVoices #DiverseBooks this book ticks all the boxes but it is so much more than just a book that is timely and Important (with a capital I). It is addictive and so powerful. I was hooked right from the start.

Daunis makes a great narrator. She is torn between two worlds – one her mother’s, old money and white, and her late father’s Firekeeper family from the Ojibwe reservation. When she meets the new player on her half-brother’s ice hockey team, Jamie, she is drawn to him but knows he has to remain off limits. She never wants to be ‘that’ girl. But when tragedy strikes, Daunis is shattered and her beliefs about her community rocked. Jamie is there for her and seems to understand exactly what is going on – more than can be explained. When Daunis is asked to go undercover to expose the horror that is destroying her community, she learns far more than she could have expected.

I love mystery novels. Love, love them and I also love contemporary novels that focus on family and relationships. This book is the perfect mix of both. This book reminds me of a book I read years ago and after reading it I searched desperately for something similar, something that mixed mystery and investigating with romance and and complex relationships. Years on, I have finally found the book I didn’t know I needed and it is even better than I could have imagined.

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Book Review: Amelia Unabridged

Amelia Unabridged – Ashley Schumacher – Wednesday Books – Published 16 February 2021

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Synopsis

Eighteen-year-old Amelia Griffin is obsessed with the famous Orman Chronicles, written by the young and reclusive prodigy N. E. Endsley. They’re the books that brought her and her best friend Jenna together after Amelia’s father left and her family imploded. So when Amelia and Jenna get the opportunity to attend a book festival with Endsley in attendance, Amelia is ecstatic. It’s the perfect way to start off their last summer before college.

In a heartbeat, everything goes horribly wrong. When Jenna gets a chance to meet the author and Amelia doesn’t, the two have a blowout fight like they’ve never experienced. And before Amelia has a chance to mend things, Jenna is killed in a freak car accident. Grief-stricken, and without her best friend to guide her, Amelia questions everything she had planned for the future.

When a mysterious, rare edition of the Orman Chronicles arrives, Amelia is convinced that it somehow came from Jenna. Tracking the book to an obscure but enchanting bookstore in Michigan, Amelia is shocked to find herself face-to-face with the enigmatic and handsome N. E. Endsley himself, the reason for Amelia’s and Jenna’s fight and perhaps the clue to what Jenna wanted to tell her all along.

My thoughts

Amelia Unabridged is a beautiful, beautiful story about grief and loss. It is also about magic. Magic that happens in the everyday world. The magic of books. The magic of friendship. The magic of a new love and the way it can bring out the very best in people and grapple them back from the edge. The magic of a perfectly amazing bookstore. Amelia Unabridged has all of this and more. It was exactly the book I was looking for – deep, heartbreaking, uplifting, inspiring and honestly so easy to read and snuggle up with, but also lyrical and poetic and metaphoric and so I felt a little bit smart reading it.

Amelia loves her best friend Jenna. They are alike as much as they are different. Jenna has the most amazing, loving, supportive parents. Amelia’s father checked out with his young girlfriend and her mother has checked out in the aftermath. Jenna has their future all planned out while Amelia isn’t sure what she wants. But they both love books. Especially the Orman Chronicles. When the chance to meet the reclusive author of their favourite series, they jump at it, only to be disappointed and torn apart by their experience. A few weeks later, Jenna is dead and Amelia is reeling from the loss. Weighed down by grief and guilt, a surprise package sends Amelia chasing something that feels like Jenna directing things from beyond the grave, and what Amelia finds is more than she could have ever imagined – if she is brave enough to reach and and grab it.

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Book Review: Playing With Fire

Playing With Fire – April Henry – Henry Holt and Co – Published 19 January 2021

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Synopsis

Natalia is not the kind of girl who takes risks. Six years ago, she barely survived the house fire that killed her baby brother. Now she is cautious and always plays it safe. For months, her co-worker Wyatt has begged her to come hiking with him, and Natalia finally agrees.

But when a wildfire breaks out, blocking the trail back, a perfect sunny day quickly morphs into a nightmare. With no cell service, few supplies, and no clear way out of the burning forest, a group of strangers will have to become allies if they’re going to survive. Hiking in the dark, they must reach the only way out―a foot bridge over a deep canyon―before the fire catches them.

My thoughts

Fires, bush, wild, deliberately lit and with devastating impacts, are a fact of life for many. You have only to look to the previous summer or two to see the evidence of their far reaching effects. Sadly, so many of them are deliberately lit or caused by stupidity or carelessness and that is exactly what happens in Playing With Fire. The book does a fantastic job of exploring the horrific consequences of fires and the importance of treating it responsibly, without being sanctimonious, and all  within the plot of adventure and survival.

Natalia knows first hand just how bad fire can be. She survived the house fire that killed her baby brother, but she carries the heavy burden of guilt and grief. When she goes hiking with her co-worker Wyatt, she is both prepared and playing it safe. She could never have planned for a wildfire that blocks them in with no choice to trek deeper into the woods, trying to outrun the flames. 

Natalia and Wyatt are not alone. With them are the others in the same clearing. From different walks of life and some not at all prepared for a fast and dangerous race through thick terrain. Wyatt and Natalia make a great team. It’s easy to see their connection, though Natalia is playing it safe and keeping the walls up around her heart, knowing Wyatt may not look at her in the same way once he knows the truth about what her past holds. 

As Natalia faces the wildfires, she has flashbacks to six years ago and the fire that changed her life. This allows the reader to learn more about why she fears fire so much and the trauma she is facing now she is confronted with flames again.

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Book Review: Every Single Lie

Every Single Lie – Rachel Vincent – Bloomsbury YA – Published 12 January 2021

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Synopsis

Nobody in Beckett’s life seems to be telling the whole story. Her boyfriend Jake keeps hiding texts and might be cheating on her. Her father lied about losing his job before his shocking death. And everyone in school seems to be whispering about her and her family behind her back.

But none of that compares to the day Beckett finds the body of a newborn baby in a gym bag-Jake’s gym bag -on the floor of her high school locker room. As word leaks out, rumors that Beckett’s the mother take off like wildfire in a town all too ready to believe the worst of her. And as the police investigation unfolds, she discovers that everyone has a secret to hide and the truth could alter everything she thought she knew.

My thoughts

What is the truth? Can you find it? I love YA mystery novels and while this one feels more like a contemporary novel, Every Single Lie is a compelling mystery that has many half-truths and twists.

Beckett knows something is wrong. Her boyfriend is hiding text messages from her. She knows better than to trust men who tell her things – her father lied about many things before he died. His death was a massive shock to Beckett and extremely traumatic. This thread underpins the story, as does Beckett’s working through of her grief and reaction to her father’s death and the rumours that surround it. It is just one of the mysteries that Beckett starts to unravel.

Then, Beckett finds a dead baby in the girl’s locker room. She calls it in and the case is given to her mother – their town’s police detective. Things spiral out of control when Beckett learns that it was her boyfriend’s gym bag the baby was wrapped in and a Twitter account starts to spread rumours that is was Beckett’s baby.

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Book Review: In the Penalty Box

In The Penalty Box – Lynn Rush and Kelly Anne Blount – Entangled:Teen – Published 5 January 2021

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Synopsis

Willow Covington has conquered every obstacle thrown at her to become one of the best figure skaters in the nation, until a devastating injury shatters her Olympic dreams. Instead of hanging up her skates, she switches to hockey; blocking shots and slapping the puck around takes her love of the ice to a whole new level, and suddenly she has a new goal—earning a hockey scholarship to Boston College. If only the team, especially the super talented (and, okay, hot) Brodie Windom, wasn’t so frigid toward her…

Hockey sensation Brodie Windom has one goal for his senior year: to win the state tournament, which would secure a spot on the famed Boston College hockey team. His eyes are on the prize and there’s no room for distractions—until figure skater Willow Covington joins the team and throws him off his game.

My thoughts

Despite not playing or watching sport, I love reading sport novels. There is a just such a great mix of adrenaline, action, team dynamics, hard work and – usually – romance. In The Penalty Box ticks all those boxes.

Willow is a figure skater – it’s all she has worked towards and dreamed about. Until, that is, she injured her Achilles. Dropped by her team, Willow is surprised to be asked to help at the local pick-up hockey game. What began as a few moments of fun turns serious when she tries out for the team. There is also the matter of the very cute team captain – and the no dating team mates rule.

From the cover I initially thought this was an adult or a new adult novel. When I saw it was YA, I quickly added it to my to-read pile. I still thought it would be more mature that it was – despite the characters being at the upper level of high school, it still has a youthful, juvenile vibe. Which is absolutely fine, just not a mature as I expected from the cover.

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Book Review: Lies Like Poison

Lies Like Poison – Chelsea Pitcher – Margaret K. McElderry Books – Published 10 November 2020

 

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Synopsis

Poppy, Lily, and Belladonna would do anything to protect their best friend, Raven. So when they discovered he was suffering abuse at the hands of his stepmother, they came up with a lethal plan: petals of poppy, belladonna, and lily in her evening tea so she’d never be able to hurt Raven again. But someone got cold feet, the plot faded to a secret of the past, and the group fell apart.

Three years later, on the eve of Raven’s seventeenth birthday, his stepmother turns up dead. But it’s only belladonna found in her tea, and it’s only Belladonna who’s carted off to jail. Desperate for help, Belle reaches out to her estranged friends to prove her innocence. They answer the call, but no one is prepared for what comes next.

Now, everyone has something to lose and something equally dangerous to hide. And when the tangled web of secrets and betrayal is finally unwound, what lies at its heart will change the group forever.

My thoughts

I love, love YA mysteries and Lies Like Poison was just as compelling, twisty, and intriguing as expected but totally surprised me with its complex romance and relationships.

Belle and Poppy had a plan to save their friend Raven from his evil stepmother. Circumstances forced them to abandon their plan. Now, years on, Raven’s stepmother has been murdered – using Belle and Poppy’s plan. Only one other person knew and now Lily, Poppy (aka Jack) and Belle must decipher the secrets of the past and present if they are to find the person responsible and clear their own names.

The romance in this book is less like a love triangle and more like a triangle crossed with a venn diagram. I’m not going to label any of the characters or their relationships – they are just figuring out who they are and what they want and labels aren’t helpful here, but suffice to say they all fall under the LGBTQIA+ banner. A chunk of the story is actually devoted to the characters going through their ‘coming out’ process as well as becoming more accepting of themselves and each other. Continue reading

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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