Book Reviews, Lists, Discussions, and Displays

Tag: Grief (Page 1 of 11)

Book Review: Tiger Daughter

Tiger Daughter – Rebecca Lim – Allen & Unwin –  Published February 2021

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Synopsis

Wen Zhou is the only child of Chinese immigrants whose move to the lucky country has proven to be not so lucky. Wen and her friend, Henry Xiao — whose mum and dad are also struggling immigrants — both dream of escape from their unhappy circumstances, and form a plan to sit an entrance exam to a selective high school far from home. But when tragedy strikes, it will take all of Wen’s resilience and resourcefulness to get herself and Henry through the storm that follows.

My thoughts

A beautiful and powerful #OwnVoices novel about abusive family relationships and the possibility of freedom offered by friendship and education.

Tiger Daughter is a book that really quick and easy to devour. It address some very serious topics – domestic abuse and control, suicide – but does so in a way that makes it accessible for young readers, compelling but also sensitive.

I love books that make me feel and Tiger Daughter had me swinging wildly from raging hot mad to sad and back again.

Wen is the daughter of Chinese immigrants. Travelling to Australia didn’t bring them the new, grand life they expected. Wen is bound by the restrictions her father places on her and her mother. Honestly, her father comes across as awful, but there is more to his story, more to the relationship Wen has with him. This book in no way excuses domestic abuse and nor does Wen. She knows how her father treats her and her mother is wrong and is determined to stand up against it in the ways in which she can. She is brave and determined. Her only friend at school, Henry, understands. He too is the son of immigrants. Together, they have planned to sit an entrance exam for an elite school – a future that will give them a way out and up.

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Book Review: Where The Road Leads Us

Where the Road Leads Us – Robin Reul – Sourcebooks Fire –  Published 6 April 2021

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Synopsis

Jack is on the verge for leaving for college, but before he does, he wants to track down his estranged brother, Alex and find some closure in the wake of their father’s death. Meanwhile, Hallie has just found out some upsetting news about a friend in Oregon, and she has a small window to go see him before it’s too late.

Jack and Hallie are practically strangers. They shared a class together years ago and haven’t seen each other since, though they have more in common than they’d ever imagine. And when fate puts them into the same rideshare to the bus terminal, it kicks off an unconventional and hilarious adventure that may lead them to their own true selves…and maybe to each other.

My thoughts

Should you follow your heart and if so, how do you decide what your heart is telling you? That’s what Jack and Hallie must both answer in this road trip novel about finding forgiveness, finding your voice and finding your path in this world.

I love road trip novels. I love contemporary novels that combine hope for the future with hurts from the past. That’s exactly what you get in Where The Road Leads Us. Jack has a plan for the future – graduate, internship in New York and follow in his father’s footsteps to become a doctor. But when his girlfriend breaks up with him on graduation night and he spends his birthday alone, he decides to follow the clues in a note from his late father to his estranged brother and finally try to reconnect with his brother.

Hallie knows nothing in her future is certain, not going to college and not her health. When she is given one last chance to meet and say goodbye to an online friend, she decides to follow her heart. Even if it means going on a road trip with two guys she might have just met or sort of know from school.

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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: 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: 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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