Book Reviews, Lists, Discussions, and Displays

Tag: Grief (Page 1 of 11)

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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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: None Shall Sleep

None Shall Sleep – Ellie Marney – Little, Brown Books for Young Readers – Published 1 September 2020

 

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Synopsis

In 1982, two teenagers—serial killer survivor Emma Lewis and US Marshal candidate Travis Bell—are recruited by the FBI to interview convicted juvenile killers and provide insight and advice on cold cases. From the start, Emma and Travis develop a quick friendship, gaining information from juvenile murderers that even the FBI can’t crack. But when the team is called in to give advice on an active case—a serial killer who exclusively hunts teenagers—things begin to unravel. Working against the clock, they must turn to one of the country’s most notorious incarcerated murderers for help: teenage sociopath Simon Gutmunsson. Despite Travis’s objections, Emma becomes the conduit between Simon and the FBI team. But while Simon seems to be giving them the information they need to save lives, he’s an expert manipulator playing a very long game…and he has his sights set on Emma.

My thoughts

Well that was terrifying. None Shall Sleep is a scary, psychological thriller for teens (or older teen readers, at least), perfect for crime and mystery fans.

Set in 1982, two teens are recruited to help the FBI interview teenage serial killers. Emma Lewis survived a serial killer. Now the FBI want her to work for them, interviewing convicted killers to help them catch new offenders. Her partner is Travis Bell, training to be a US Marshal and whose father was killed by Simon Gutmunsson, a convicted serial killer. But when teenagers continue to be killed, in horrific ways, Travis and Emma find that their interviews may have insight into the case.

If you are squeamish, this is not the book for you. If, however, you like murder, clues, lots of twist and turns, teamwork, a heroine survivor who isn’t afraid to take on some really bad guys, detective work and teenage sociopaths (coz they are lots of fun (in books, of course)) then this is the perfect book for you.

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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: Love and A Little White Lie

Love and A Little White Lie – Tammy L. Gray – Bethany House Publishers – Published 4 August 2020

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Synopsis

After hitting rock bottom, January decides she has nothing to lose in working at her aunt’s church–while hiding a lack of faith. A minor deception until she meets the church’s guitarist and sparks fly. Can she avoid disaster–especially when a handsome landscape architect has an annoying ability to push her to deal with feelings she’d rather keep buried?

My thoughts

I loved this romantic story about finding somewhere to belong and connecting with a faith. Love and A Little White Lie has a love triangle that provides a romance that is really fun and sweet as well as a romance that is full of connection and honesty.

January is looking to start over. Her last relationship failed just after she gave up her joy and spend all her savings moving across the country to be with her fiancé. Now she has returned to her Aunt’s property. Her aunt has also secured her a job at the local church. The only problem is that January doesn’t believe in God and isn’t an Christian. She decides not to tell anyone. But Grace Community is more welcoming than she expected, especially Cameron, one of the musicians, and she feels needed and like she is finally making a difference. Everything would be great if it wasn’t for Dillon, a landscaper working at her Aunt’s property, who calls January out on her deceit.

Love and A Little White Lie is a fun and easy book to read. I loved January’s voice. She is a genuinely nice character and reaches out to help others without even thinking about it. I was intrigued by the way she noticed little details and remembered information. While we are told this is one of her gifts (she considers it more a quirk), it’s also shown throughout the story, which made it really believable and nice detail in the story.

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