Book reviews, School libraries

Tag: Relationships (Page 1 of 15)

Book Review: Provenance

 

Provenance

– Carla Laureano –

Tyndale House Publishers

Published 3 August 2021

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I always enjoy the work of Carla Laureano. I adored her The Supper Club series (food – yum!) and now she has created another fantastic Christian contemporary romance. Provenance is set in a small (very cold) Colorado town. The snow storms and mountainous setting are the perfect backdrop to this story about discovering your past and falling in love.

When Kendall Green learns that she is the beneficiary of a grandmother she never knew, only desperation for some cash to keep her interior design business and home in California afloat, prompts her to respond. She’s not sure she wants anything from the grandmother who let her grow up in foster care, moving from home to home and when Kendall learns that her inheritance are 5 historic Victorian homes, she is half devastated and half delighted. She is ready to sell to the highest bidder when the young mayor of the town, delightfully handsome Gabriel Brandt, asks her to consider another option to help save the town’s history and community from circling developers. Staying gives Kendall the chance to learn the truth about her mother, her grandmother and the reason she was abandoned when she was a child, but it also means growing closer to Gabriel, and with her life in California, Kendall’s not sure that’s a risk she should take.

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Book Review: Love and the Silver Lining

Love and the Silver Lining – Tammy L. Gray – State of Grace #2 – Bethany House Publishers – Published 3 August 2021

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Synopsis

Darcy Malone’s dreams of mission work are dashed on her eve of fulfilling them: The Guatemalan school she was to teach at has closed. Devastated because she’s already quit her job and given up her apartment, she also loses the perfect escape from the aftermath of her parents’ divorce. Stuck in her worst-case scenario, Darcy takes an unexpected offer to move in with Bryson Katsaros’s little sister, despite the years of distrust that’s grown between her and Bryson, the lead singer in her best friend Cameron’s band. As she meets those close to him, Darcy realizes that Bryson is more than she believed.

Struck with the need to find a purpose, Darcy jumps at the chance to care for and train a group of dogs, with the aim of finding each a home before their bereaved owner returns them to animal control. But it’s Darcy herself who will encounter a surprising rescue in the form of unexpected love, forgiveness, and the power of letting go.

My thoughts

Love and the Silver Lining is the extremely enjoyable second book in the State of Grace series. I adored this book – even more than the first book. While they form part of a series and there are character and setting cross overs, you can read both books as standalones.

I think this was exactly the book I needed. It was light and heartwarming and so addictive. I really struggled to put it down to return to work and sleep. It was funny and heartbreaking and had so much story that made it just a delight to read.

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Book Review: The Right Side of Reckless

The Right Side of Reckless – Whitney D. Grandison –  Inkyard Press – Published 13 July 2021

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Synopsis

They were supposed to ignore each other and respect that fine line between them…

Guillermo Lozano is getting a fresh start. New town, new school, and no more reckless behavior. He’s done his time, and now he needs to right his wrongs. But when his work at the local community center throws him into the path of the one girl who is off-limits, friendship sparks…and maybe more.

Regan London needs a fresh perspective. The pressure to stay in her “perfect” relationship and be the good girl all the time has worn her down. But when the walls start to cave in and she finds unexpected understanding from the boy her parents warned about, she can’t ignore her feelings anymore.

The disapproval is instant. Being together might just get Guillermo sent away. But when it comes to the heart, sometimes you have to break the rules and be a little bit reckless…

My thoughts

I wrote two different reviews for this book. One when I was only a quarter of the way through the story and the other one after I had finished reading the book. One review was entirely disparaging and the other was far more positive. I’m going to give a review that sits somewhere in between. I was ready to give up on this book at the quarter mark. I am glad I didn’t as my feelings changed widely between the first and last portion of this book.

When I started this book, after reading just a few chapters I wished I had done some more research before requesting and reading this book. I judged it on its cover and synopsis alone, which sounded great, but as soon as I started reading I knew I wasn’t going to enjoy this book. Or at least, that’s what I thought to begin with. The characters seemed two dimensional. The writing needed a really good edit and everything is told instead of shown. I wasn’t even a quarter into the book and I was already sick of Regan putting up with rubbish from her boyfriend and Guillermo reads like a bad boy who isn’t actually bad, he just went along with his friends who did the bad stuff and now he is being misjudged and he’s actually a good guy, so he just needs to prove it, so no character development needed. At this point I jumped online to do a bit of research about the publisher and author and found that reviewers suggested that the author’s first book suffered from all the same points. The author is also a Wattpad star and while I love that people are getting published in this way, it doesn’t mean these stories should be published without some really thorough editing. I’m going to give some passages to my writing class so they can practice editing and rewriting to show not tell. It should be pretty easy for them to spot the areas that need improvement.

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Book Review: In the Same Boat

In The Same Boat – Holly Green – Scholastic Press – Published 24 July 2021

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Synopsis

Sadie Scofield is just a few days away from the race of a lifetime. The Texas River Odyssey may be 260 miles and multiple days of arduous canoeing where every turn of the river reveals new dangers-downed trees, alligators, pitch black night-but those dangers pale in comparison to going another year knowing that her father is ashamed of her.

Last year, Sadie caused a disastrous wreck that ended her father’s twenty year streak of finishes, and he’s never looked at her the same. Now, she knows that finishing the race with her brother, Tanner, is her one shot to redeem herself. She’s ready for anything…except Tanner ditching her for another team at the last minute.

Sadie grits her teeth and accepts that she has to team up with Cully, her former best friend turned worst enemy. It’s irritating enough that he grew up to be so attractive, but once they’re on the river it turns out he’s ill-prepared for such a dangerous race. But as the miles pass, the pain of the race builds, they uncover the truth about their feuding families, and Sadie’s feelings for Cully begin to shift. Could this race change her life more than she ever could have imagined?

My thoughts

I do so enjoy a good, lighthearted realistic YA novel with best friends falling in love, but with an enemies to lovers twist, and some really heartbreaking family drama. In The Same Boat ticks all those boxes, along with being a really epic story of strength, survival and athleticism. Let me just say I am never, ever getting in a canoe and paddling for 265 miles. Ever. I can’t even understand why someone would want to. Nope. But, I can appreciate a good story about a character who has the determination to do just that. And that’s exactly what In The Same Boat captures.

For Sadie, all her family members have finished the Texas River Odyssey. But when she and her dad partnered for her first race it was a disaster, with her being injured and her dad not finishing the race for the first time in 20 years. After a year of tension between them, Sadie knows finishing the Odyssey is the only way to fix her relationship with her dad. But when her brother abandons her to join another crew right at the last second, Sadie must partner with her ex-best friend or pull out altogether. 3 days, 2 nights in the same canoe as the boy who hates her in the toughest race of their lives. What could possibly go wrong?

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Book Review: Ace of Spades

Ace of Spades – Faridah Abike-Iyimide – Feiwel Friends – Published 1 June 2021

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Synopsis

When two Niveus Private Academy students, Devon Richards and Chiamaka Adebayo, are selected to be part of the elite school’s senior class prefects, it looks like their year is off to an amazing start. After all, not only does it look great on college applications, but it officially puts each of them in the running for valedictorian, too.

Shortly after the announcement is made, though, someone who goes by Aces begins using anonymous text messages to reveal secrets about the two of them that turn their lives upside down and threaten every aspect of their carefully planned futures.

As Aces shows no sign of stopping, what seemed like a sick prank quickly turns into a dangerous game, with all the cards stacked against them. Can Devon and Chiamaka stop Aces before things become incredibly deadly?

My thoughts

Ace of Spades is heartbreakingly devastatingly yet as I was reading I knew that this is the reality for so many people and young people. It is thrilling, twisty and kept me guess right up until the last page. My main concern was how on earth the author could give me a satisfactory ending that was still realistic and boy, did Faridah deliver. Absolutely superb.

I was on the edge of my seat while reading this and often had my head in my hands and heart in my mouth. All the emotions and all the feels. Honestly, it wasn’t an easy book to read but oh my gosh it is such a powerful and reflective book of our current political and social landscapes.

Ace of Spades is a thriller, a mystery and realistic novel all in one. It’s #Diverse #OwnVoices #ReadWoke and every other on trend hashtag you could want. It’s gut punching and shows just how much resilience and strength it requires for people to survive in a society that seeks to destroy them. Ace of Spades is a debut novel and my gosh it is impressive.

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Book Review: Fire With Fire

Fire With Fire – Destiny Soria – HMH Books for Young Readers – Published 8 June 2021

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Synopsis

Dani and Eden Rivera were both born to kill dragons, but the sisters couldn’t be more different. For Dani, dragon slaying takes a back seat to normal high school life, while Eden prioritizes training above everything else. Yet they both agree on one thing: it’s kill or be killed where dragons are concerned.

Until Dani comes face-to-face with one and forges a rare and magical bond with him. As she gets to know Nox, she realizes that everything she thought she knew about dragons is wrong. With Dani lost to the dragons, Eden turns to the mysterious and alluring sorcerers to help save her sister. Now on opposite sides of the conflict, the sisters will do whatever it takes to save the other. But the two are playing with magic that is more dangerous than they know, and there is another, more powerful enemy waiting for them both in the shadows.

My thoughts

I do love a good dragon book and this one is unique, taking us away from the traditional fantasy world and into a very familiar landscape of high school, modern society and dragons, of course. Most people don’t think dragons exist – why would they?, but Eden and Dani know the truth. They have been raised as the next generation of dragon hunters. Taught by their parents, legendary slayers in their own right, to keep humans safe from the furious beasts.

When Dani discovers a dragon close to home and becomes soul bonded with it, everything she ever knew or was taught about dragons is challenged. Nox is powerful and can breath fire, with a deadly tail, but he doesn’t wish to harm anyone. Instead, he protects the dragon eggs entrusted to him and wants Dani’s help to hatch and raise them. Dani is torn between her old and new worlds and has no idea how to tell her parents. Eden is Dani’s elder sister. She trained Dani and only wishes it was she that people referred to as destined to be the greatest slayer. Instead, her dedication to the craft is unrecognised and her skills surpasses by the uninterested Dani. When The High Sorcerer enlists Eden’s help she is flattered and wants to use the opportunity to show everyone that she has what it takes to be the best slayer.

Written in alternating chapters, we readers get to see this story from both Eden and Dani’s perspective. They are both equally likeable as much as they are flawed and make some really silly mistakes. They are teens in a world of dragons and magic and choices that mean life or death. I found myself rooting for first one sister and then the other and then switching again. It’s easy to judge Eden’s choices yet harder to know see how easy it is for her to by lured by the promises she is made. Same with Dani, she makes some obvious mistakes trusting the wrong people and then not trusting those allied to her – like Nox, she’s rather mean to him I think – but this is so true to her character and upbringing and it makes both Dani and Eden genuine and authentic teen characters, trying to figure out school (high school for Dani, online college for Eden), friendships, romantic relationships and getting along as sisters – or at least not betraying, capturing and killing each other (though a far big of that does happen).

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Book Review: Where We Begin

Where We Begin – Christie Nieman – Pan Australia – 25 August 2020

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Synopsis

Seventeen-year-old Anna is running into the night. Fleeing her boyfriend, her mother, and everything she has known.

She is travelling into the country, to the land and the grandparents she has never met, looking for answers to questions that have never been asked.

For every family has secrets.

But some secrets – once laid bare – can never be forgiven.

My thoughts

Where We Begin is a beautiful story about belonging.

Everything is a bit of a mystery when you start reading Where We Begin. The blurb on the back of the book is vague and the start of the story places our main character alone on bus, we don’t know where she is going or why. We don’t know where she has come from. We don’t know why she left or what she is going to. We don’t even know her name. It’s hard to write a review without revealing these mysteries, so if you want the authentic experience, go, read the book and then come back.

Where We Begin weaves into its story powerful truths about the history of Australia, racism, teenage relationships, family and domestic violence, alcoholism and its effects, and storytelling. The title makes so much sense to so many aspects of the story once you’ve read the book. Honestly, there is so much to love about this book, from our studious and determined main character who is thrown into a spin over her new circumstances, the trauma she has experienced throughout her childhood and the new pain she experiences as she learns the truth about her family and past.

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Book Review: When We Are Invisible

When We Are Invisible – Claire Zorn – The Sky So Heavy #2 – University of Queensland Press – Published 30 March 2021

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Synopsis

In the midst of a nuclear winter, Lucy, Fin and Max flee the chaos of Sydney with blood on their clothes, a gun and handwritten directions to safety. When they reach Wattlewood, it seems like their struggle to survive might be over. There is food, warmth and adults in charge. So why can’t Lucy shake the feeling they’re still in danger?

Lucy’s survived the apocalypse, but can she escape a more insidious threat?

My thoughts

I am proud to be sharing this review as part of the AusYABloggers review tour. You can find the tour on the AusYABloggers website.

When We Are Invisible is the sequel to The Sky So Heavy. Published eight years after the first book, some might say this is a very long awaited sequel. It doesn’t disappoint.

Readers are reunited with Lucy, Max and Fin. When We Are Invisible picks up where The Sky So Heavy left off. Lucy, Fin and Max are running for their lives. Fleeing the bloodshed and horror of Sydney, they head for the hope of safety and food at the Wattlewood commune. Finally surrounded by enough food and water, safety, blessed warmth and adults who are taking a stand to protect them, things at Wattlewood are good. But Lucy isn’t sure everything is as safe as it appears.

While When We Are Invisible is a continuation of The Sky So Heavy’s story, it is its own book. The first book was written from Fin’s perspective, while in the sequel, Lucy takes over the narration. It is amazing to see the world through her eyes. We learn more about her family and the life she left behind, as well as the events that haunt her and the things are troubling her now. It creates a different perspective and a different focus for the story.

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Book Review: Peta Lyre’s Rating Normal

Peta Lyre’s Rating Normal – Anna Whateley – Allen & Unwin – Published 28 April 2020

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Synopsis

At sixteen, neurodivergent Peta Lyre is the success story of social training. That is, until she finds herself on a school ski trip – and falling in love with the new girl. Peta will need to decide which rules to keep, and which rules to break…

‘I’m Peta Lyre,’ I mumble. Look people in the eye if you can, at least when you greet them. I try, but it’s hard when she is smiling so big, and leaning in.

Peta Lyre is far from typical. The world she lives in isn’t designed for the way her mind works, but when she follows her therapist’s rules for ‘normal’ behaviour, she can almost fit in without attracting attention.

When a new girl, Sam, starts at school, Peta’s carefully structured routines start to crack. But on the school ski trip, with romance blooming and a newfound confidence, she starts to wonder if maybe she can have a normal life after all.

When things fall apart, Peta must decide whether all the old rules still matter. Does she want a life less ordinary, or should she keep her rating normal?

My thoughts

For all Peta’s internal turmoil and the sad situations in the book, this is an uplifting and happy story. I found myself enthralled with the plot, loving Peta’s voice and genuinely enjoying every minute of the book. While it does tackle some mature topics, including sexual harassment, relationship breakdown, domestic violence and physical abuse, it is a positive story about accepting your differences and being okay with them and finding your people.

This is not an LGBT discovery or exploration novel. And yet it is. What I’m trying to say that no big deal is made of Peta being gay or not. It’s not really even referenced. She likes guys. She likes girls. There is no exploration of this, it just is, which makes it so authentic and accepting. This is one side of Peta that she doesn’t question or challenge, unlike her diagnosis letters, as she calls them. Continue reading

Book Review: Hooked On You

Hooked On You – Kathleen Fuller – Maple Falls #1 – Thomas Nelson – Published 11 May 2021

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Synopsis

Riley McAllister left the small Arkansas town of Maple Falls after graduating high school, hoping to make it big in New York as a mixed media artist. She’s still pursuing her dream when her grandmother begs her to come home and help her manage the store while she recovers from a broken leg she got after sliding into third base during a church softball game (she was safe, by the way). Riley agrees, planning to convince her grandmother to sell the old shop and retire so Riley can get back to the big city. New York is where she belongs, not some hick town that doesn’t even have a decent coffee shop.

Hayden Price’s life hasn’t turned out as he expected either. He still works in the hardware store his family has owned for several generations after his chance to make it out of Maple Falls ended when he blew out his pitching arm during a minor league game. Stuck with debt from college and a broken engagement, he decides to make the best of things when he comes back to Maple Falls and puts together the town’s first church softball team–with him as coach, of course.

Riley and Hayden went to high school together but ran in totally different circles. In fact, it’s safe to say they hated each other. Will that change when the softball team unexpectedly brings them together? Or will the pain and disappointment of their past failures keep them from discovering love in Maple Falls?

My thoughts

Hooked on You has all the makings of a great romance novel – returning to one’s hometown to help rejuvenate a family business, a burnt out sports star finding a new direction for his life, a small town setting and a quirky group of old friends who like to meddle. Sadly, I wasn’t able to connect with the main characters in the way that I wanted and the writing and dialogue was a bit stilted, leaving me unsatisfied with the plot. A light and easy read, but not one of my favourites of the genre.

Hayden has returned home to Maple Falls to help run his father’s hardware business. After finally making it to the Majors in baseball, he blew out his shoulder on his first pitch. Riley has returned to Maple Falls after her grandmother is injured during a softball game. Riley is just counting down the days until she can return to New York and finding her place as a mixed media artist, but being ‘home’ and getting to know Hayden again makes her reassess her life goals.

A sweet book, it was the lack of depth to the characters and their background stories that made this an okay book for me, rather than one I adored. Not a lot happens in the story and I found it hard to believe in Riley and Hayden’s connection. The prose and dialogue is a little stilted, and I’m not sure how realistic Hayden’s voice was at times. The drama introduced at the end was overly dramatic and just added to my overall disinterest in the story.

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