Book Reviews, Lists, Discussions, and Displays

Tag: High school (Page 1 of 3)

Book Review: Charming As A Verb

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

 

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Synopsis

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

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

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

My thoughts

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

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

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Book Review: More Than Just A Pretty Face

More Than Just A Pretty Face – Syed M. Masood – Little, Brown Books for Young Readers – Published 4 August 2020

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Synopsis

Danyal Jilani doesn’t lack confidence. He may not be the smartest guy in the room, but he’s funny, gorgeous, and going to make a great chef one day. His father doesn’t approve of his career choice, but that hardly matters. What does matter is the opinion of Danyal’s longtime crush, the perfect-in-all-ways Kaval, and her family, who consider him a less than ideal arranged marriage prospect.

When Danyal gets selected for Renaissance Man–a school-wide academic championship–it’s the perfect opportunity to show everyone he’s smarter than they think. He recruits the brilliant, totally-uninterested-in-him Bisma to help with the competition, but the more time Danyal spends with her…the more he learns from her…the more he cooks for her…the more he realizes that happiness may be staring him right in his pretty face.

My thoughts

More Than Just A Pretty Face is an uplifting, fun book that also comes with sweet romance and a feel-good, save the world message. Diverse representation – both ethnically and faith based, #OwnVoices, this has all the boxes ticked to make it an “important” book, but basically it’s just lots of fun to read.

Danyal is going to be a chef. Sure, his teachers and classmates think he’s a joke and his father disapproves of pretty much everything he does, but Danyal isn’t fazed. His goal is to get his best-friend’s twin, Kaval to value him as he is, even if their parents might not approve an arranged marriage match. When his mother sets up a meeting with Bisma, he is shocked with her open honesty and the way she gets him, even if she says she’s not interested in him. When he is selected for a school academic championship, he asks Bisma for help researching his topic – a topic everyone else has cautioned him against. But working with Bisma makes him feel like nothing else does and it might just mean he has to reevaluate his other goals too.

More Than Just A Pretty Face is Syed M. Mason’s YA debut and I really hope he sticks with it, as I would love to read another YA contemporary novel from him. He has such a great way of capturing the characters’ voices and bringing them to life. The situations are almost ridiculous – people don’t treat their family that way, right? – but it is so ridiculous it feels entirely true and hits home. The teens in this book struggle to balance their faith and personal values with the ideals and standards of the world – something that brings conflict into their relationships with friends and family. Danyal is open about his faith, but can’t quite relate to the more devout devotion his friend is showing.

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Book Review: Please Don’t Hug Me

Please Don’t Hug Me – Kay Kerr – Text Publishing – Published 28 April 2020

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Synopsis

Budding photographer Josie Saint-Martin has spent half her life with her single mother, moving from city to city. When they return to her historical New England hometown years later to run the family bookstore, Josie knows it’s not forever. Her dreams are on the opposite coast, and she has a plan to get there.

What she doesn’t plan for is a run-in with the town bad boy, Lucky Karras. Outsider, rebel…and her former childhood best friend. Lucky makes it clear he wants nothing to do with the newly returned Josie. But everything changes after a disastrous pool party, and a poorly executed act of revenge lands Josie in some big-time trouble—with Lucky unexpectedly taking the blame.

Determined to understand why Lucky was so quick to cover for her, Josie discovers that both of them have changed, and that the good boy she once knew now has a dark sense of humor and a smile that makes her heart race. And maybe, just maybe, he’s not quite the brooding bad boy everyone thinks he is…

My thoughts

This is the book that everyone is talking about right now. Honestly, I was on board with the pink cover and cinnamon doughnuts, but bonus points for #ownvoices, local Aussie author, diverse character voice representation and a realistic story about growing up, fitting in and learning that it is okay to be different.

Please Don’t Hug Me is written entirely in the form of letters from our main character Erin, to her brother Rudy. We readers don’t know where or why Rudy isn’t at home anymore, but Erin is working through a few things and has been tasked by her therapist to write letters. Through these letters, which include enough dialogue and reflection on events to feel like you are in the middle of each situation, we readers learn about Erin’s friendships, her work, getting through the last year of school, looking forward to things like schoolies, but also feeling out of the loop as she is unable to read social cues or properly fit in with her best-friend’s group of school fiends. A new job, a new friend and working through her feelings about her brother and family, might just be the things she needs to make it through the year.

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Book Review: Accidental

Accidental – Alex Richards – Bloomsbury YA – Published 7 July 2020

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Synopsis

Johanna has had more than enough trauma in her life. She lost her mom in a car accident, and her father went AWOL when Johanna was just a baby. At sixteen, life is steady, boring . . . maybe even stifling, since she’s being raised by her grandparents who never talk about their daughter, her mother Mandy.

Then he comes back: Robert Newsome, Johanna’s father, bringing memories and pictures of Mandy. But that’s not all he shares. A tragic car accident didn’t kill Mandy–it was Johanna, who at two years old, accidentally shot her own mother with an unsecured gun.

Now Johanna has to sort through it all–the return of her absentee father, her grandparents’ lies, her part in her mother’s death. But no one, neither her loyal best friends nor her sweet new boyfriend, can help her forgive them. Most of all, can she ever find a way to forgive herself?

My thoughts

What would happen if you discovered you were the reason your mother was dead? That’s exactly what Johanna learns in Accidental. It’s a heartbreaking novel about family, death, grief, uncontrollable emotions, huge letdowns, and broken relationships, yet it is also about learning to breath again, hanging onto those friendships, mending relationships and letting go of others, about making a difference, fall in love and even making out.

Jo has always missed her mother, but respected the boundaries her grandparents have put in place – no talking about her, no photos, no memories. They put their life on hold to raise a granddaughter. But when Jo’s father suddenly appears in her life and tells her that she accidentally shot her own mother, Jo’s life is upended. Not sure what to do, not sure what to believe, Jo relies on her friendship and growing relationship with new student, Milo, to navigated the complex emotions she is feeling.

Gut punch comes to mind from the emotions in this book that feel so big and real. The roller coaster Jo rides from before she knew to the absolute devastation she feels after discovering the truth of her mother’s death is compelling. It’s messy and complicated. There are also so happy times. I loved the friendship she has with Leah and Gabby. Those two friends are there for her and even when they hit hard times, they stick together. Jo, despite everything she’s going through is a decent friend. All three girls must learn how to cope and support each other.

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Book Review: All Your Twisted Secrets

All Your Twisted Secrets – Diana Urban – HarperTeen – Published 17 March 2020

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Synopsis

Welcome to dinner, and again, congratulations on being selected. Now you must do the selecting.

What do the queen bee, star athlete, valedictorian, stoner, loner, and music geek all have in common? They were all invited to a scholarship dinner, only to discover it’s a trap. Someone has locked them into a room with a bomb, a syringe filled with poison, and a note saying they have an hour to pick someone to kill … or else everyone dies.

Amber Prescott is determined to get her classmates and herself out of the room alive, but that might be easier said than done. No one knows how they’re all connected or who would want them dead. As they retrace the events over the past year that might have triggered their captor’s ultimatum, it becomes clear that everyone is hiding something. And with the clock ticking down, confusion turns into fear, and fear morphs into panic as they race to answer the biggest question: Who will they choose to die?

My thoughts

Well, that’s how you start a book. Talk about getting hooked. All Your Twisted Secrets, as the title implies, is a thrilling book told in now and then sections about the secrets six teens will reveal when faced with a life-threatening situation. This book is compelling, addictive and shocking – I know teen readers will soak this up.

When six teens are invited to a prestigious dinner as scholarship recipients, they are shocked to discover they are locked in the room with a bomb, a syringe filled with deadly poison and a choice – kill one person or all be killed. Amber knows there must be another way to get everyone to safety, if she could just get the others to stop fighting. But as the clock ticks down, the six must face the events of the past year, and reveal the secrets they have kept hidden.

This book is thrilling from beginning to end. The short countdown chapters are perfectly spaced between the longer flashback sections. I won’t say too much about the characters or plot because the book is so brilliantly done I don’t remember what I didn’t know at the start and what I learnt as each fragment and detail is revealed throughout the book. I desperately wanted to flip to the back of the book to see how it would end and I’m so glad I didn’t. The build up and reveals are worth it. Stay away from spoilers if you can and enjoy the journey Diana Urban has masterfully created. With some important messages about friendship, bullying and social justice, this book has heart as well as guts.

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Book Review: Michigan vs. the Boys

Michigan vs. The Boys – Carrie S. Allen – Kids Can Press – Published 1 October 2019

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Synopsis

Michigan Manning lives for hockey, and this is her year to shine. That is, until she gets some crushing news: budget cuts will keep the girls’ hockey team off the ice this year.

If she wants colleges to notice her, Michigan has to find a way to play. Luckily, there’s still one team left in town …

The boys’ team isn’t exactly welcoming, but Michigan’s prepared to prove herself. She plays some of the best hockey of her life, in fact, all while putting up with changing in the broom closet, constant trash talk and “harmless” pranks that always seem to target her.

But once hazing crosses the line into assault, Michigan must weigh the consequences of speaking up – even if it means putting her future on the line.

My thoughts

Michigan vs. The Boys is a book that is as equally heartbreaking as it is uplifting. It is a story about overcoming insurmountable odds, facing abuse, weighing the costs of speaking up against the burden of silence, the power of a true team and the love of a sport.

Michigan loves ice hockey. She loves her team and time spent on the ice, both training and playing. But she doesn’t realise how much she loves the sport until the girl’s ice hockey team is cut. While her best friend leaves to play at a boarding school and other members of the team scatter between the swim team and the local team, Michigan decides to try out for the boy’s team. But the boys are far from welcoming and soon Michigan must decide if her love of the sport is worth the abuse she faces.

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Book Review: Suggest Reading

Suggested Reading – Dave Connis – Katherine Tegen Books – 17 September 2019

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Synopsis

Clara Evans is horrified when she discovers her principal’s “prohibited media” hit list. The iconic books on the list have been pulled from the library and aren’t allowed anywhere on the school’s premises. Students caught with the contraband will be sternly punished.

Many of these stories have changed Clara’s life, so she’s not going to sit back and watch while her draconian principal abuses his power. She’s going to strike back.

So Clara starts an underground library in her locker, doing a shady trade in titles like Speak and The Chocolate War. But when one of the books she loves most is connected to a tragedy she never saw coming, Clara’s forced to face her role in it.

Will she be able to make peace with her conflicting feelings, or is fighting for this noble cause too tough for her to bear?

My thoughts

As a librarian, I don’t need to be told about the benefits of reading – I see them every day. Suggested Reading is an ode to everything librarians stand up for. The right to read for pleasure, the right to choose your reading material, the right to free and unchallenged access to reading material that stretches and challenges the reader. I highly enjoying this book, as will all lovers of books, libraries and reading.

When Clara, a regular library volunteer, starter of a tiny library community scheme and avid reader, discovers that her school has banned 50 books and plans to remove them from the school library’s shelves, she unwittingly starts a rebellion when she creates a library in her school locker. What starts as a mini rebellion soon has far reaching consequences and Clara must decide if her stance against the banned books policy is worth the cost.

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Book Review: Jinxed

Jinxed – Amy McCulloch – Simon & Schuster (Aus) – Published 9 August 2018

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Synopsis

Lacey Chu has big dreams of becoming a companioneer for MONCHA, the largest tech firm in North America and the company behind the  “baku” – a customisable smart pet that functions as a phone but makes the perfect companion too. When Lacey finds out she hasn’t been accepted into Profectus – the elite academy for cutting edge tech – it seems her dreams are over. Worst of all, rather than getting to choose one of the advanced bakus, she’s stuck with a rubbish insect one. 

Then, one night, Lacey comes across the remains of an advanced baku. Once it might’ve been in the shape of a cat but it’s now mangled and broken, no sign of electronic life behind its eyes. Days of work later and the baku opens its eyes. Lacey calls him Jinx – and Jinx opens up a world for her that she never even knew existed, including entry to the hallowed halls of Profecus. Slowly but surely, Jinx becomes more than just a baku to Lacey – he becomes her perfect companion. But what is Jinx, really? His abilities far surpass anything written into his code or built into his motherboard. He seems to be more than just a robotic pet. He seems … real.

My thoughts

Jinxed is a fun, near-futuristic science-fiction novel that will appeal to young teen readers, especially those interested in STEM.

Lacey Chu’s one dream is to become a companioneer with the biggest tech company Moncha, the creators of the Baku – part smartphone part animal companion. But when she is rejected entry to the prestigious academy Profectus, a second chance unexpectedly arrives in the form of a broken Level 3 Baku. Lacey spends the summer fixing the robotic cat before joining her new classmates. She hopes no one will discover the way she was admitted or Jinx’s secret – he doesn’t act or communicate like a normal Baku. But the school-run Baku Battles throw Lacey and Jinx into the spotlight.

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Book Review: The Disappearance of Sloane Sullivan

The Disappearance of Sloane Sullivan – Gia Cribbs – Harlequin Teen – Published 29 May 2018

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Synopsis

Seventeen-year-old Sloane Sullivan has survived witness protection by learning three important lessons: blend in, don’t let anyone get too close, and follow the rules.

After nearly eight years and countless identities, blending in is easy. Now that someone has confessed to the murder she witnessed, Sloane’s been given her final identity. All she has to do is turn eighteen and coast through the last two months of her senior year without any complications, and she’ll be officially released from WITSEC. Piece of cake.

Then on her first day she runs into Jason Thomas—literally the boy next door from her childhood. She knows she shouldn’t have contact with him, but she doesn’t expect the feelings that come with seeing Jason again. Feelings of finally belonging somewhere, of remembering who she really is, and of suspicion that there’s more to the crime she witnessed than she ever knew.

Sloane knows the rule for this situation, but telling the Marshals about Jason would mean getting whisked away to yet another new identity, leaving both Jason and the future she’s painstakingly planned behind. If she can keep Jason a secret, Sloane has a chance to take back her life in a way that she never imagined possible. But doing so puts both their lives at risk: the closer Sloane gets to Jason, the more she remembers and the clearer it becomes that someone is still after her.

My thoughts

The Disappearance of Sloane Sullivan is a mystery thriller with some amazing twists that I never saw coming and it touches upon some pretty dark crimes, but on the whole it is quite a lighthearted book, focusing on interpersonal relationships, high-school drama, and romance. The Disappearance of Sloane Sullivan is an easy book to read and enjoy, with a likeable main protagonist and some intense relationships.

Sloane knows how to stay hidden in plain sight. This move and name change will be her nineteenth in eight years, ever since she witnessed a horrible crime and was forced to enter witness protection. Now Sloane is restarting her final year of high school, counting down the weeks until she will be finally free, but is thrown when one of the first people she meets is her childhood best friend, Jason Thomas. Sloane is convinced she can maintain her new identity to prevent having to move again, but staying means putting Jason in danger and risking her own future.

The Disappearance of Sloane Sullivan starts with a bang and a seriously awesome prologue. Immediately gripping and then downright clever, I was hooked right from the very first page and couldn’t wait to jump into the rest of the story. The details of Sloane’s life emerge slowly, woven through the story of Sloane starting yet another high school and through flashback snippets from the past eight years.

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Book Review: Puddin’

Puddin’ – Julie Murphy – Dumplin’ #2 – Balzer+Bray – Published 8 May 2018

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Synopsis

Millie Michalchuk has gone to fat camp every year since she was a girl. Not this year. This year she has new plans to chase her secret dream—and to kiss her crush. Callie Reyes is the pretty girl who is next in line for dance team captain and has the popular boyfriend. But when it comes to other girls, she’s more frenemy than friend. When circumstances bring the girls together over the course of a semester, they will surprise everyone (especially themselves) by realizing they might have more in common than they ever imagined.

My thoughts

Puddin’ is a delightful, uplifting, and empowering novel about friendship, fitting in and standing out – for all the right reasons.

Millie has no intention of returning to Fat Camp this summer. She just hasn’t told her mother yet. Millie dreams of becoming a journalist, even if it means she must stand up to the people who would attempt to dissuade her. Callie has the perfect life -boyfriend and co-captaincy of the dance team. But when a dance-team revenge prank gets out of hand, Callie ends up taking the fall – alone. Thrown together, Millie and Callie seemingly have nothing in common. But if anyone can break through Callie’s rough exterior, it is Millie. What starts as forced slowly becomes a strong friendship and the girls realise they might have more in common than they first thought.

Puddin’ is (I’m a little ashamed to admit) the first book I have read by Julie Murphy. Many of her other novels, especially Dumplin’, have been on my to-read list for ages, but for some reason I have never got around to reading them. That will change in the immediate future. While Puddin’ is a companion novel to Dumplin’ I was able to read, enjoy, and understand everything in Puddin’ without any trouble as it is a complete story in its own right and a standalone title. There were a few references that left me very intrigued, though, so I am really looking forward to finally reading Dumplin’. And seriously, how awesome is Willowdean?

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