Book Reviews, Lists, Discussions, and Displays

Tag: Parents (Page 1 of 2)

Book Review: The List of Things That Will Not Change

The List of Things That Will Not Change – Rebecca Stead – Wendy Lamb Books – Published 7 April 2020

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Synopsis

After her parents’ divorce, Bea’s life became different in many ways. But she can always look back at the list she keeps in her green notebook to remember the things that will stay the same. The first and most important: Mom and Dad will always love Bea, and each other.

When Dad tells Bea that he and his boyfriend, Jesse, are getting married, Bea is thrilled. Bea loves Jesse, and when he and Dad get married, she’ll finally (finally!) have what she’s always wanted–a sister. Even though she’s never met Jesse’s daughter, Sonia, Bea is sure that they’ll be “just like sisters anywhere.”

As the wedding day approaches, Bea will learn that making a new family brings questions, surprises, and joy

My thoughts

List of Things That Will Not Change is a beautiful uplifting novel about acceptance and family of all shapes and sizes. Perfect for those looking for a middle-grade novel about LGBT families, step-siblings, divorce, making mistakes and growing up.

Bea keeps a notebook that contains the List of Things That Will Not Change. Ever since her parents’ divorce she knows that some things are now different and some things will stay the same. When her Dad announces his engagement to his boyfriend, Jesse, Bea couldn’t be happier. But the best news of all is that she will be getting a sister. Meeting Sonia, Jesse’s daughter, is exciting for Bea, but Sonia has a lot of changes in her life and she isn’t exactly sure how she feels about those changes. Bea is sure she can help, but Bea is hiding her own secrets.

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Book Review: If For Any Reason

If For Any Reason – Courtney Walsh – Tyndale House Publishers – Published 3 February 2020

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Synopsis

Emily Ackerman has traveled the world, her constant compass and companion a book of letters her mother left for her when she died. With no father in the picture, her mom’s advice has been her only true north. But when professional failure leads Emily back to Nantucket to renovate and sell the family cottage she inherited, she wonders if her mom left advice to cover this . . . especially when her grandmother arrives to “supervise.” And especially when her heart becomes entangled with Hollis McGuire, the boy next door-turned-baseball star who’s back on the island after a career-ending injury.

As sparks fly between her and Hollis, Emily is drawn to island life, even as she uncovers shocking secrets about the tragic accident that led to her mother’s death. With her world turned upside down, Emily must choose between allowing the voices from her past to guide her future or forging her own path forward.

My thoughts

If For Any Reason is a charming summer read about second chances, connecting with your purpose in life and looking beyond the mistakes of your past. It’s a story about family and belonging. It’s easy to read with relatable characters and Courtney Walsh’s fantastic writing style. If For Any Reason is perfect fans of Christian contemporary romance.

Emily is returning to Nantucket Island. It holds good and bad memories- fun summers spent in the community theatre program and the year an accident took her mother away for ever. Now, after travelling aimlessly and an opportunity to direct her own play that ended in disaster, Emily has no choice but to return and claim the beach house her grandfather left her. She plans to do it up and sell it as quickly as possible, but she didn’t count on running into boy-next-door Hollis, who is now all grown up, or his charming daughter who inspires Emily to revive her love of theatre. As the summer warms up, Emily will have the chance to uncover the truth about her mother’s death, but it might change things forever.

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Book Review: Jane Anonymous

Jane Anonymous – Laurie Faria Stolarz – Wednesday Books – Published 7 January 2020

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Synopsis

Then, “Jane” was just your typical 17-year-old in a typical New England suburb getting ready to start her senior year. She had a part-time job she enjoyed, an awesome best friend, overbearing but loving parents, and a crush on a boy who was taking her to see her favorite band. She never would’ve imagined that in her town where nothing ever happens, a series of small coincidences would lead to a devastating turn of events that would forever change her life.

Now, it’s been three months since “Jane” escaped captivity and returned home. Three months of being that girl who was kidnapped, the girl who was held by a “monster.” Three months of writing down everything she remembered from those seven months locked up in that stark white room. But, what if everything you thought you knew―everything you thought you experienced―turned out to be a lie?

My thoughts

Jane Anonymous is a thriller that explores both the emotional trauma of being kidnapped and surviving captivity and the fallout and struggle and pressure to return to ‘normal’ post escape. It’s a heart wrenching book that made me want to slap the adults in Jane’s life. It’s a story about the power of emotions. It’s a story about fear and trust and starting over.

One morning, while stopping in early at work to grab her best-friend’s birthday present, Jane Anonymous is kidnapped. Shoved into a car trunk, drugged and then taken to a small, white room, she is given food, a list of instructions and little hope for escape. Fast forward seven months, Jane has escaped, but share carries the physical and mental scars of her captivity.

Jane Annoymous is written as if Jane herself is reliving her story, sharing it with the reader. The book is divided into Now and Then sections, flipping between the two. This gives readers the opportunity to experience Jane’s fear and torment of the kidnapping as it happened, and at the same time, understanding the struggle she has with returning to her old life and the expectations that are placed upon her. Thanks to the power of Jane’s emotions and little details, like the names and place names used—Jane Anonymous, No Name High School—it is all too easy to image this is a retelling of true events.

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Book Review: It’s My Life

It’s My Life – Stacie Ramey – Sourcebooks Fire – Published 7 January 2020

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Synopsis

Jenna’s never let her cerebral palsy get her down. But when she discovers that her condition was actually caused by an injury at birth, she’s furious with her parents, who withheld the truth. And as they push her to get yet another difficult procedure, Jenna feels her control over her life starting to slip.

Enter Julian, Jenna’s childhood crush. He’s just moved back to town, and he’s struggling in school, so Jenna reaches out to him—anonymously— to help. Soon, their conversations are about so much more than class. She’s falling for him all over again, hard and fast. But would Julian still be interested in her if he knew who she really was? And can she find a way to take back her own narrative before she pushes away everyone she loves?

My thoughts

It’s My Life is a story about growing up, finding your voice and asserting control over your life, while also learning to accept others for the choices they make. Unfortunately, an awkward text-based romance drives what should be a sweet story of first love, but overall It’s My Life is about empowerment and family.

When Jenna discovered that her Cerebral Palsy was caused rather than just happened, it changed how she views her parents, the medical system, her lack of say in the decisions happening about her body, even her body’s limits. When an old friend—and longtime crush— returns to town, Jenna is torn between avoiding the inevitable rejection and a chance to get close to him. She starts chatting with him via text, refusing to reveal her identity. Meanwhile, as her parents discuss yet another surgery, Jenna considers medical emancipation.

I know this is just one girl’s story and every person with Cerebral Palsy and a disability is different, prefers different terms, has a different approach to their abilities, life, etc, but I know that the perspective in this story is a powerful message about abilities and empowerment, control and strength. Jenna, at times, refuses to let her CP stop her. Ice skating? No problem. Sneaking out? If her siblings can, she can too. But on the other hand, how she views herself—as something that boys will not want to date— is negative and destructive. This negativity extends outside her disability and into body image as well.

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Book Review: Field Notes on Love

Field Notes on Love – Jennifer E. Smith – Delacorte Press – Published March 5 2019

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Synopsis

Having just been dumped by his girlfriend, British-born Hugo is still determined to take his last-hurrah-before-college train trip across the United States. One snag: the companion ticket is already booked under the name of his ex, Margaret Campbell. Nontransferable, no exceptions.

Enter the new Margaret C. (Mae for short), an aspiring filmmaker with big dreams. After finding Hugo’s spare ticket offer online, she’s convinced it’s the perfect opportunity to expand her horizons.

When the two meet, the attraction is undeniable, and both find more than they bargained for. As Mae pushes Hugo to explore his dreams for his future, he’ll encourage her to channel a new, vulnerable side of her art. But when life off the train threatens the bubble they’ve created for themselves, will they manage to keep their love on track?

My thoughts

Okay, I loved every bit of this cheery, fun, train-riding, sweet-kisses story. Field Notes on Love is about growing up and deciding who you want to be, about finding where and with whom you belong, and it’s about falling in love and enjoying the ride. It’s sweet, romance and utterly delectable.

The last thing Hugo expects just before he and his girlfriend depart on a trip across the US is to be dumped. But that’s exactly what happens. And it turns out her parting gift, the tickets for the trip, are all in her name, non-transferable. So Hugo, with a little help from his five siblings, creates an ad for a Margaret Campbell to join him on his journey. For Mae, the ad looking for someone with her name to share a train trip seems the perfect opportunity to get away from the rejection of not getting into the film program at college. Hugo and Mae aren’t looking for love – they’re not really even looking for friendship. But it’s hard to ignore the deepening connection between them. But if life is pulling them in different directions is it wise to start something?

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Book Review: Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now

Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now – Dana L. Davis – Harlequin Teen – Published 1 May 2018

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Synopsis

For sixteen-year-old Tiffany Sly, life hasn’t been safe or normal for a while. Losing her mom to cancer has her a little bit traumatized and now she has to leave her hometown of Chicago to live with the biological dad she’s never known.

Anthony Stone is a rich man with four other daughters—and rules for every second of the day. Tiffany tries to make the best of things, but she doesn’t fit into her new luxurious, but super-strict, home—or get along with her standoffish sister London. The only thing that makes her new life even remotely bearable is the strange boy across the street. Marcus McKinney has had his own experiences with death, and the unexpected friendship that blossoms between them is the only thing that makes her feel grounded.

But Tiffany has a secret. Another man claims he’s Tiffany’s real dad—and she only has seven days before he shows up to demand a paternity test and the truth comes out. With her life about to fall apart all over again, Tiffany finds herself discovering unexpected truths about her father, her mother and herself, and realizing that maybe family is in the bonds you make—and that life means sometimes taking risks.

My thoughts

Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now is a magical kind of book. It is a book that made me laugh and cry, a book that challenges the reader on everything from the definition of family and existential life questions, to acceptance, forgiveness, and the crazy things we do to make the world make sense. It’s a book about never giving up – on life or people. It’s a book about looking past the surface. It’s a book about life. And I loved it.

Tiffany Sly is on a plane to meet her father for the first time. A father she only just learnt about. Still reeling from the death of her mother, a new father is the least of Tiffany’s troubles. Because there is another guy who claims to be her father – and who wants a court-ordered DNA test to prove it. Tiffany has just seven days to meet her ‘father’, find a place in his family, and decide if staying is what she wants.

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Book Review: The Astonishing Color of After

The Astonishing Color of After – Emily X.R. Pan – Little, Brown Books for Young Readers – Published 20 March 2018

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Synopsis

Leigh Chen Sanders is absolutely certain about one thing: When her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird.

Leigh, who is half Asian and half white, travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. There, she is determined to find her mother, the bird. In her search, she winds up chasing after ghosts, uncovering family secrets, and forging a new relationship with her grandparents. And as she grieves, she must try to reconcile the fact that on the same day she kissed her best friend and longtime secret crush, Axel, her mother was taking her own life.

My thoughts

Imaginative, and with lyrical writing, The Astonishing Color of After is perfect if you enjoy a touch of magical realism served alongside plenty of heartbreak. Addressing the impact of suicide and the devastation it brings to the surrounding family members and friends, The Astonishing Color of After tackles this sensitive topic with delicacy, magic, and a sincere forthrightness.

When Leigh’s mother dies by suicide, Leigh’s world is thrown into chaos. One thing of which she is sure: her mother has turned into a beautiful, red bird. And that bird wants her to travel to Taiwan. Meeting her grandparents for the first time, exploring the places her mother once visited, and trying to uncover the long-buried truths of her family, Leigh slowly starts to face her mother’s death and the events leading up to it.

Over the years I have called many a book ‘important’. And yet, The Astonishing Color of After is important with a capital I. The Astonishing Color of After tackles the topic of suicide and the aftermath of suicide in an upfront way, which is so very needed in today’s society. The author’s note only expands on the very clear level of care, understanding and personal experience that has gone into making this book as considered and profound as it is.

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Book Review: You Don’t Know Me But I Know You

You Don’t Know Me But I Know You – Rebecca Barrow – HarperTeen – Published 29 August 2017

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Synopsis

There’s a box in the back of Audrey’s closet that she rarely thinks about.

Inside is a letter, seventeen years old, from a mother she’s never met, handed to her by the woman she’s called Mom her whole life.

Being adopted, though, is just one piece in the puzzle of Audrey’s life—the picture painstakingly put together by Audrey herself, consisting not only of the greatest family ever but of a snarky, loyal, sometimes infuriating best friend, Rose; a sweet, smart musician boyfriend, Julian; and a beloved camera that turns the most fleeting moments of her day-to-day routine into precious, permanent memories.

But when Audrey realizes that she’s pregnant, she feels something—a tightly sealed box in the closet corners of her heart—crack open, spilling her dormant fears and unanswered questions all over the life she loves.

Almost two decades ago, a girl in Audrey’s situation made a choice, one that started Audrey’s entire story. Now Audrey is paralyzed by her own what-ifs and terrified by the distance she feels growing between her and Rose. Down every possible path is a different unfamiliar version of her life, and as she weighs the options in her mind, she starts to wonder—what does it even mean to be Audrey Spencer?

My thoughts

You Don’t Know Me But I Know You is another book that has left me with very mixed feelings. It has a writing style that is easy to read, but without characters who really grabbed me, I struggled with reading this book. In the end, I would pick it up only to put it down and distract myself with another book. I guess I was expecting something different. Something that broke all the moulds and would make me care about this story, care especially about this girl and her journey through a surprising discovery and hard decisions.

When Audrey discovers she is pregnant it forces her to evaluate her life and what she wants from it, who she wants to be. It brings into focus her relationships, with her supportive, musician, going-places boyfriend, her snarky, infuriating best friend, her wider group of friends, her adoptive mother, and even her biological mother, who has always remained somewhat of a mystery.

There are a lot of things to give the author points for in this book. Her main character is a person of colour. There is a bisexual best friend. There are plenty of other characters from diverse ethnicity. But sometimes it felt a little like they were also just boxes on a checklist that had been ticked off. There was nothing new or groundbreaking to make this story or the characters’ stories within jump out and grab me by the heartstrings.

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Book Review: Changes in Latitudes

Changes in Latitudes – Jen Malone – HarperTeen – Published 25 July 2017

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Synopsis

After concluding that her is to blame for her parents’ recent divorce, Cassandra McClure is hoping to stay as far away from her as possible. With a summer of freedom right around the corner, it shouldn’t be too hard. But when a forty-foot sailboat appears in her driveway and her mom announces that Cassie and her brother Drew will be accompanying her on a four-month sailing trip down to Mexico, Cassie’s plans for the summer go, quite literally, overboard.

Once the three set sail, tensions quickly rise. So meeting Jonah—a gorgeous, whip-smart deckhand—is an unexpected bright spot on an otherwise dim horizon. Though she tries to keep him at a distance—considering the upheaval of her home life—their chemistry is impossible to ignore, and Cassie soon finds herself questioning everything: Should she go for it with Jonah? Can she forgive her mom? Will home ever feel the same? With life’s unpredictable tides working against her, Cassie must decide whether to swim against them, or dive right in.

My thoughts

Changes is Latitudes is a road trip novel set at sea. A story about big changes, facing the difficulties life throws up, family – whether it is broken or healing – and maybe even a chance at love.

Cassie’s life has been one curve ball after another recently. Like her parents’ divorce and her father moving to Hong Kong. But the sailboat that appears in her driveway might beat it all, especially when her mother explains that she, Cassie, and Cassie’s brother Drew will be skipping their summer plans and sailing the yacht down the coast to Mexico. Life on board is just as awful as Cassie expects – seasickness, tight quarters, separation from her friends and their summer plans, and no distance from her mother who Cassie blames for all the recent changes in her life. But there might also be a few unexpected benefits, like the cute guy who is sailing on another boat in their group. It’s a summer of big changes, but it might also be a summer of new discoveries and healing old hurts.

Who doesn’t love a road trip and this book takes that to the next level by setting the trip at sea along the West Coast of USA. Rugged weather, gorgeous animal encounters, and amazing scenery provide a fantastic backdrop for the story.

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Book Review: If Birds Fly Back

If Birds Fly Back – Carlie Sorosiak – HarperTeen – Published 27 June 2017

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Synopsis

Linny has been fascinated by disappearances, ever since her sister Grace ran away in the middle of the night without saying goodbye.

Sebastian can tell you how many galaxies there are, and knows how much plutonium weighs. But the one thing he can’t figure out is the identity of his birth father. 

They’ve never met, but Linny and Sebastian have one thing in common: an obsession with famous novelist and filmmaker Alvaro Herrera, who went missing three years ago and has just reappeared. As they learn more about the mystery of Alvaro, Linny and Sebastian uncover the answers they’ve been searching for.

My thoughts

If Birds Fly Back is a poignant debut. This book is refreshingly heartwarming. A little sad, a lot realistic, and something a bit magical.

Linny is obsessed with people who disappear and then reappear again. Her sister Grace left home one night and hasn’t been seen since. Linny believes if she can study enough reappearances she might be able to bring Grace back somehow. So, when Linny spots Alvero Herera – missing, presumed dead for three years – at the nursing home where she volunteers, she knows she needs to learn his secrets. Sebastian too wonders why people leave, why they can turn their backs on their families. He, too wants to know Alvero, to know his secrets. But Sebastian has a secret of his own.

At first Sebastian and Linny repel each other. They get in each other’s way, they think they are so different from the other. I love it when characters begin by disliking each other. It brings so much more growth to the story. As Sebastian and Linny start to share their secrets, they learn that they have more in common than they originally thought. And, through a summer of piecing together secrets, they form a strong relationship.

If Birds Fly Back is told in alternating chapters, which switch between Sebastian and Linny’s points of view. They both have experienced the grief of losing someone who disappears without warning. They both are compelled by mysteries and questions, disappearances, theories, and reappearances. They are both wonderful characters. And yet their voices are unique. Sebastian has a colourful imagination, enhanced by his love of science and theories and testing the unknown. Linny has an artful creativity. Added to her chapters are sections from the screenplay that she is writing about losing her sister and trying to find her again.

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