Book Reviews, Lists, Discussions, and Displays

Tag: Family (Page 1 of 43)

Book Review: A Shot At Normal

A Shot At Normal – Marisa Reichardt – Farrar, Straus and Giroux – Published 16 February 2021

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Synopsis

Juniper Jade’s parents are hippies. They didn’t attend the first Woodstock, but they were there for the second one. The Jade family lives an all-organic homeschool lifestyle that means no plastics, no cell phones, and no vaccines. It isn’t exactly normal, but it’s the only thing Juniper has ever known. She doesn’t agree with her parents on everything, but she knows that to be in this family, you’ve got to stick to the rules. That is, until the unthinkable happens.

Juniper contracts the measles and unknowingly passes the disease along, with tragic consequences. She is shell-shocked. Juniper knows she is responsible and feels simultaneously helpless and furious at her parents, and herself.

Now, with the help of Nico, the boy who works at the library and loves movies and may just be more than a friend, Juniper comes to a decision: she is going to get vaccinated. Her parents refuse so Juniper arms herself with a lawyer and prepares for battle. But is waging war for her autonomy worth losing her family? How much is Juniper willing to risk for a shot at normal?

My thoughts

A Shot At Normal is a really intriguing novel and totally thought-provoking. It raises the issue of vaccinations, anti-vaccinations and the teenagers caught in the middle. Set against the backdrop of a loving family and a new and sweet romance, A Shot At Normal is a story about growing up, learning to make tough decisions and standing up for what you believe in.

Juniper wants to be normal. She’d give anything to attend high school like normal teens instead of being homeschooled with her younger siblings. She’d love to join a school team, make friends or get a job. None of that is possible, as she has never had the required vaccinations. Not that her alternative parents would every let her. When Juniper contracts the measles, she realises the consequences for not being vaccinated are far more serious than not being allowed to attend school and she must decide how far she wants to go to fight for her right to have the immunisation injections.

This novel is presented as clearly pro vaccinations. I thought maybe there would be more deliberating and weighing backwards and forwards, but once Juniper learns about the consequences of not being vaccinated, she very firmly becomes pro vaccinations. As a result of her contracting and spreading the measles, Juniper is faced with a whole lot of guilt and grief, as well as the negative response from the towns people.

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Book Review: Love in English

Love In English – Maria E. Andreu – Balzer+Bray – Published 2 February 2021

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Synopsis

Sixteen-year-old Ana has just moved to New Jersey from Argentina for her Junior year of high school. She’s a poet and a lover of language—except that now, she can barely understand what’s going on around her, let alone find the words to express how she feels in the language she’s expected to speak.

All Ana wants to do is go home—until she meets Harrison, the very cute, very American boy in her math class. And then there’s her new friend Neo, the Greek boy she’s partnered up with in ESL class, who she bonds with over the 80s teen movies they are assigned to watch for class (but later keep watching together for fun), and Altagracia, her artistic and Instagram-fabulous friend, who thankfully is fluent in Spanish and able to help her settle into American high school.

But is it possible that she’s becoming too American—as her father accuses—and what does it mean when her feelings for Harrison and Neo start to change? Ana will spend her year learning that the rules of English may be confounding, but there are no rules when it comes to love.

My thoughts

Love in English is a YA contemporary novel about fitting in and finding the words to speak in your own voice to reflect your heart. This book is written by an author who can relate to how hard it is to move to a new country and learn a new language, and how complicated it is to balance trying to fit in with the ‘American’ culture, but also retaining what is special and true about your own culture, self and family. 

When Ana moves from Argentina to New Jersey, she doesn’t expect it to be so hard or so isolating. Her father, having lived in the US for a few years, demands that she and her mother speak only English – a language of which she only knows a little. High school seems in some ways so different and yet so similar to the things she saw in movies. She is a poet and loves learning the strange idiosyncrasies of the English language, but she longs to be able to truly communicate. 

Set against powerful themes of immigration, belonging and challenging the ‘American Dream’, In Love in English Ana has to stand up to her father, to embrace what she is and where she came from, as well as where she is now. This book is about finding out who you truly are, even if that is not as clear or defined as you thought it once was.

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Book Review: You Have A Match

You Have A Match – Emma Lord – Wednesday Books – Published 12 January 2021

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Synopsis

When Abby signs up for a DNA service, it’s mainly to give her friend and secret love interest, Leo, a nudge. After all, she knows who she is already: Avid photographer. Injury-prone tree climber. Best friend to Leo and Connie…although ever since the B.E.I. (Big Embarrassing Incident) with Leo, things have been awkward on that front.

But she didn’t know she’s a younger sister.

When the DNA service reveals Abby has a secret sister, shimmery-haired Instagram star Savannah Tully, it’s hard to believe they’re from the same planet, never mind the same parents—especially considering Savannah, queen of green smoothies, is only a year and a half older than Abby herself.

The logical course of action? Meet up at summer camp (obviously) and figure out why Abby’s parents gave Savvy up for adoption. But there are complications: Savvy is a rigid rule-follower and total narc. Leo is the camp’s co-chef, putting Abby’s growing feelings for him on blast. And her parents have a secret that threatens to unravel everything.

My thoughts

I thought this might have some deep, family drama but You Have A Match is a light, fun, summery romance with a focus on sisterly relationships. 

When Abby signs up to a DNA match service along with her best friend Leo, she is shocked to discover she has a match – a slightly older sister. Determined to get to know her sister and discover how her parents kept such a massive secret from her and why, Abby ends up at a summer camp, along with her sister and Leo. 

The summer camp setting makes this book perfect for reading on a warm summer day sitting on a beach towel, enjoying the sun and sand. Or perhaps when you are dreaming of being able to do all those things. 

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Book Review: To Whatever End

To Whatever End – Lindsey Frydman –  Entangled:Teen – Published 4 January 2021

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Synopsis

What if with every person you met, after just one touch, you have a vision of the last time you’ll see each other? Ever. Normally, these visions are innocent—two friends just drifting apart, a random stranger that brushed past you then never crossed your path again.

But not today.

When I accidentally touch him, within only moments of our first meeting, I’m bombarded by visions of his death.

And from what I can see, I’m the reason he dies.

Now I just need to figure out why, and how to stop this from happening. Because not only am I to blame, but his very last words to me are…I love you.

My thoughts

Visions. Death. Visions of death. Romance. Count me in! At least, that’s what I thought I was getting. Instead, right from the first page you know there is going to be a whole lot of romantic tension, chemistry and flirting. This book ended up being completely about the romance and very little about the visions. This just didn’t grab me. It’s a book that I will sadly easily forget. 

Quinn is cursed to experience the end of every relationship she has with anyone she touches. While this is the underlying thread, Quinn’s curse doesn’t feature all that much in the story. Instead, Quinn and Griffin’s romance takes centre stage. Quinn states that she isn’t interested in romance or guys, yet just seconds after meeting Griffin, Quinn is pretty ready to give love a go. Quinn is a few years older and has finished school, so that gives the book an older feel. He is living by himself, while Quinn lives with grandmother. 

I would have liked to learn more about Quinn’s curse. Cursed seems a strong word for Quinn’s curse. It seems she only experiences the vision the first time she touches a person. Sometimes, with casual contacts, their relationship end is the same experience they have just had, never to meet again. With others, like the vision she has of Griffin, it’s a far more dramatic vision. The only explanation given for Quinn’s curse is that all the women in her family have experienced similar curses. Something I couldn’t understand is why do girls with special gifts or ‘curses’ only start experimenting with them or their ability to control that gift once a guy is involved? If I had special skills, especially one I didn’t like, I’d be playing, testing and learning from the day I first realised it. Not Quinn. Previously she has just shied away from people, except her one best friend, and she is only motivated to start investigating once Griffin’s life is threatened. 

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Book Review: A Cowboy For Keeps

A Cowboy for Keeps – Jody Hedlund – Colorado Cowboys #1 – Bethany House Publishers – Published 5 January 2021

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Synopsis

Greta Nilsson’s trip west to save her ailing little sister, Astrid, could not have gone more wrong. First, bandits hold up her stagecoach, stealing all her money. Then, upon arriving in Fairplay, Colorado, she learns the man she was betrothed to as a mail-order bride has died. Homeless, penniless, and jobless, Greta and her sister are worse off than when they started.

Wyatt McQuaid is struggling to get his new ranch up and running and is in town to purchase cattle when the mayor proposes the most unlikely of bargains. He’ll invest in a herd of cattle for Wyatt’s ranch if Wyatt agrees to help the town become more respectable by marrying and starting a family. And the mayor, who has promised to try to help Greta, has just the candidate in mind for Wyatt to marry.

My thoughts

This was exactly the book I needed to start my holidays with. It is extremely romantic, relaxing, exciting and so warming. It was also really easy to read – both a rest for my brain but also something that kept me eager to keep picking it back up. A Cowboy For Keeps is a charming historical romance and another fantastic offering from Jody Hedlund.

Greta and her younger sister have traveled west. As a mail-order bride, Greta hopes to finally be able to provide for herself and hopes the change will be good for her sister’s ailing health. But, when the stage is robbed, her savings stolen and she discovers that her intended is dead, Greta is scared about their prospects. Wyatt is working hard to build up his ranch, but with no funds and a competitor that is buying up many of the available livestock, he fears he will never be able to send for his mother and younger siblings. Then the town mayor proposes a deal – he’ll fund Wyatt’s herd if he marries Greta. What starts as a marriage of convenience has the chance to bloom into something real, if Greta and Wyatt can work past their hurts and fears.

Greta and Wyatt have a wonderful relationship. What starts as a slightly awkward arrangement that benefits them both slowly grows into a strong partnership. Neither of them are very good at communicating their feelings, but the chemistry between them is very sweet.

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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: Unchosen

Unchosen – Katharyn Blair – Katherine Tegen Books – Published 26 January 2021

 

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Synopsis

For Charlotte Holloway, the world ended twice.

The first was when her childhood crush, Dean, fell in love—with her older sister.

The second was when the Crimson, a curse spread through eye contact, turned the majority of humanity into flesh-eating monsters.

Neither end of the world changed Charlotte. She’s still in the shadows of her siblings. Her popular older sister, Harlow, now commands forces of survivors. And her talented younger sister, Vanessa, is the Chosen One—who, legend has it, can end the curse.

When their settlement is raided by those seeking the Chosen One, Charlotte makes a reckless decision to save Vanessa: she takes her place as prisoner.

The word spreads across the seven seas—the Chosen One has been found.

But when Dean’s life is threatened and a resistance looms on the horizon, the lie keeping Charlotte alive begins to unravel. She’ll have to break free, forge new bonds, and choose her own destiny if she has any hope of saving her sisters, her love, and maybe even the world.

Because sometimes the end is just a new beginning.

My thoughts

A deadly plague that turns people into vampire-like zombies? Pirates? Intense romance? A main character who isn’t the chosen one? There is so much to love about this book and I loved it!! I think my favourite part was the mix of modern setting and technology but the book has this old-school, ancient magic and legends feel. No – actually my favourite part was the romance. A long-held crush that is unattainable, slowly and passionately morphs into a romance that is intense, unexpected and so hot!! No, no, my actual favourite part was the sea captains and traders that are like pirates, smuggling the Cursedclean. Clearly I loved a lot about this book. There are just so many great things about how the book is put together.

Charlotte knows how to live in the shadows. Overshadowed by both her older and younger sister. When the Crimson spread, destroying families and life as people once knew it, Charlotte lost her parents. Now her older sister runs a survivor settlement and her younger sister holds the answers to saving the world. But when their camp is attacked – and it is Charlotte’s fault – she will stop at nothing to protect her family.

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Book Review: What We’ll Build

What We’ll Build: Plans for our Together Future – Oliver Jeffers – Philomel Books – Published 6 October 2020

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Synopsis

What shall we build, you and I?
We’ll build a watch to keep our time.
I’ll build your future
and you’ll build mine.

Inspired by the birth of his daughter, and in the same vein as Here We Are, What We’ll Build is a rhythmic and heartwarming father and daughter story from the beloved Oliver Jeffers. Told in rhyming text with Oliver’s signature art, What We’ll Build is the perfect story to cherish together.

My thoughts

Oliver Jeffers can do no wrong when it comes to beautiful picture books. His latest offering is a companion book to Here We Are. Here We Are was written for his son, while What We’ll Build has been written for his daughter. She is the main character alongside Jeffers himself in the story.

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Book Review: The Sowing Season

The Sowing Season – Katie Powner – Bethany House Publishers – Published 6 October 2020

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Synopsis

After he’s forced to sell the family farm he’s labored on his whole life, 63-year-old Gerrit Laninga doesn’t know what to do with himself. He sacrificed everything for the land–his time, his health, his family–with nothing to show for it but bitterness, regret, and two grown children who want nothing to do with him.

Fifteen-year-old Rae Walters has growing doubts and fears about The Plan–the detailed blueprint for high school that will help her follow in her lawyer father’s footsteps. She’s always been committed to The Plan, but now that the pressure to succeed is building, what was supposed to unite her family in purpose, may end up tearing it apart.

When their paths cross just as they each need a friend the most, Gerrit’s and Rae’s lives begin to change in unexpected ways. Can they discover together what really matters in life and learn it’s never too late for a second chance?

My thoughts

This is such a charming, inter-generational story about healing wounds and finding your purpose in life.

Rae Walters is a teenager with a plan. Or at least, her parents have a plan for her life. As Rae fits in as much study, volunteer time and gets everything perfect for the plan to become a lawyer, she struggles to put her heart in it, especially when she gets behind the wheel of a car. It might be the first time she has failed something, and it is set to derail her plan and her relationship with her parents. Gerrit has just sold his family farm. Generations in his family has ended and all his sacrifices – time with his wife and children – gone. Now, with little to do, Gerrit finds himself assessing his relationships, or lack of them, with his wife and grown children. He wants to do better, but isn’t sure where to start.

I loved so much about this book. Mainly, I loved how relaxing it was to pick this book up and sink between the pages. Gerrit is hilarious (and he doesn’t mean to be and he would absolutely hate me for finding him funny). His character is so clear and so strong. Katie Powner does a fantastic job of painting him as the grump, out-of-sorts, awkward farmer. He doesn’t know how to talk to his children, wife, or neighbours. He continually denies any softness, especially about his wife’s dog, Daisy.  But despite his gruff exterior, he really does want to change. Being inside Gerrit’s head, gives the reader an insight into his thoughts, crazy ideas and inner softy.

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