Book Reviews, Lists, Discussions, and Displays

Tag: Resilience

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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Book Review: The Stars at Oktober Bend

The Stars at Oktober Bend

The Stars at Oktober Bend – Glenda Millard – Allen & Unwin – Published 1 February 2016

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Synopsis

A powerful, captivating story about Alice, who is reaching out to express herself through her beautiful-broken words, and Manny who is running to escape his past. When they meet they find the tender beginnings of love and healing.

Alice is fifteen, with hair as red as fire and skin as pale as bone, but something inside her is broken. She has acquired brain injury, the result of an assault, and her words come out slow and slurred. But when she writes, heartwords fly from her pen. She writes poems to express the words she can’t say and leaves them in unexpected places around the town.

Manny was once a child soldier. He is sixteen and has lost all his family. He appears to be adapting to his new life in this country, where there is comfort and safety, but at night he runs, barefoot, to escape the memory of his past. When he first sees Alice, she is sitting on the rusty roof of her river-house, looking like a carving on an old-fashioned ship sailing through the stars.

My thoughts

Sometimes a book will just sweep you away with its light and beauty. Stars at Oktober Bend was a dream to read, surprising, ethereal and consuming, yet grounded in the muddy fields and gum trees of country Australia. Where family and love combine in a story of one girl’s bravery.

This book was suggested to me by a colleague, written by an Australian set in Australia, and promised to be both heartfelt and moving, everything that would draw me to a book. And yet I was surprised by how much I fell in love with this book. It started off slowly, until the pieces of this tale started falling into place and I found myself swept up in this delightful story.

Alice lives with her brother Joey and her Gram in a little stilted house on Oktober Bend. She is a poet and a dreamer. She cannot clearly remember what happened to make her forever twelve or her electrics go crazy. Writing is easier than trying to make her words work and it is much better to stay far away from the people in town who judge and point and do not care to understand. Stars at Oktober Bend is the story of Alice learning to feel fifteen, of Alice meeting Manny, the boy who reads her poetry, and of Alice remembering what happened that night under the Stars at Oktober Bend.      Continue reading

Book Review: The Way I Used To Be

The Way I Used To Be

The Way I Used To Be – Amber Smith – Margaret K. McElderry Books – Published 22 March 2016

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Synopsis

Eden was always good at being good. Starting high school didn’t change who she was. But the night her brother’s best friend rapes her, Eden’s world capsizes.

What was once simple, is now complex. What Eden once loved—who she once loved—she now hates. What she thought she knew to be true, is now lies. Nothing makes sense anymore, and she knows she’s supposed to tell someone what happened but she can’t. So she buries it instead. And she buries the way she used to be.

My thoughts

The Way I Used To Be is beautiful and horrible book. Beautiful because of the way it is written, the characters and the messages of resilience and strength, horrible because it is completely agonising to see Eden go through what she does. And the way these two aspects are combined, balanced perfectly is what makes this such a great book.

Told in four sections, the four years of high school, we experience the initial impact of Eden’s sexual assault and the way it slowly changes her life. In this way we see how long-lasting the effect of the attack is, and how it affects all aspects of her life, including her trust in her family, her friendship with Mana, the way she dresses, and how she interacts with others.

Eden’s major changes in her life are prompted by others, especially when rumours are spread about her promiscuity. While the opposite is true, it seems easier for Eden to fall into this role, wrap it around her as it offers some form of protection even as it pushes everyone away.   Continue reading

Book Review: The Distance from Me to You

Distance from me to you

The Distance from Me to You – Marina Gessner – G.P Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers – Published 20 October 2015

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Synopsis

McKenna Berney is a lucky girl. She has a loving family and has been accepted to college for the fall. But McKenna has a different goal in mind: much to the chagrin of her parents, she defers her college acceptance to hike the Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia with her best friend. And when her friend backs out, McKenna is determined to go through with the dangerous trip on her own. While on the Trail, she meets Sam. Having skipped out on an abusive dad and quit school, Sam has found a brief respite on the Trail, where everyone’s a drifter, at least temporarily.

Despite lives headed in opposite directions, McKenna and Sam fall in love on an emotionally charged journey of dizzying highs and devastating lows. When their punch-drunk love leads them off the trail, McKenna has to persevere in a way she never thought possible to beat the odds or risk both their lives.

My thoughts

The Distance From Me To You is an inspiring and slightly exhausting tale of resilience, strength and determination, mixed in with a good amount of dangerous escapades, trail adventures and romance. It’s a fun read, one that makes you want to slap on a pair of hiking boots, grab a map and hit the trail. But ultimately it is a story of one girl who sets out to challenge herself and who surprises herself with what she can accomplish.

McKenna is my kind of girl. She craves solitude and adventure, wants to see the world outside the town she has lived in all her life and she loves nature, determined to never become someone who has traded in fresh air and spectacular views for a electronic alternative reality. Her plan has always been to defer her first year of college and trek the Appalachian Trail with her best friend. But when Courtney pulls out of the arrangement to instead spend the next year with her boyfriend, McKenna decides to lie to her parents and go solo.  Continue reading

Book Review: The Protected

The Protected

The Protected – Claire Zorn – University of Queensland Press – Published 23 July 2014

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Synopsis

I have three months left to call Katie my older sister. Then the gap will close and I will pass her. I will get older. But Katie will always be fifteen, eleven months and twenty-one days old.

Hannah’s world is in pieces and she doesn’t need the school counsellor to tell her she has deep-seated psychological issues. With a seriously depressed mum, an injured dad and a dead sister, who wouldn’t have problems?

Hannah should feel terrible but for the first time in ages, she feels a glimmer of hope and isn’t afraid anymore. Is it because the elusive Josh is taking an interest in her? Or does it run deeper than that?

In a family torn apart by grief and guilt, one girl’s struggle to come to terms with years of torment shows just how long old wounds can take to heal.

My thoughts

What a heartbreaking story. Grief and bullying, family, friends and sisters – the relationships that break you, and how you learn to survive them. 

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