Book reviews, School libraries

Tag: September 2020 (Page 1 of 2)

Book Review: The Worrying Worries

The Worrying Worries – Rachel Rooney and Zehra Hicks (illustrator) – Affirm Press – Published September 2020

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Synopsis

Do you ever worry about your Worries?
They can be awful pests, and they hate to see you happy.
But if you follow some simple steps you can banish those worries for good!

My thoughts

The Worrying Worries is a wonderful story about what to do about those worries that seem to follow you around, the ones you just can’t shake.

The Worrying Worries is Rachel Rooney’s second similar picture book, following The Problem with Problems. Both are brightly illustrated by Zehra Hicks. I love how the illustrations resemble a child’s colourful drawings, especially the crayon circle worry creatures. This would be a great book to follow up with a craft and drawing activity, where students try to create their own similar illustrations.

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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: Far From Normal

Far From Normal – Becky Wallace – Page Street Kids – Published 22 September 2020

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Synopsis

Maddie McPherson is sick of Normal—both her hometown of Normal, Illinois and being the ‘normal’ sibling. But when she lands a summer internship with a sports marketing firm, she finally has a chance to crawl out of her genius brother’s shadow. Not to mention, a glowing letter of recommendation could secure her admission to her dream college.

But Maddie’s nickname is “CalaMaddie” for a reason, and when the company tasks her with repairing the image of teen soccer phenom Gabriel Fortunato, she wonders if she’s set herself up for embarrassment. Gabriel is a tabloid magnet, who’s best-known for flubbing Italy’s World Cup hopes. As Maddie works with him to develop “pleasant and friendly” content for social media, she also learns he’s thoughtful, multi-talented, and fiercely loyal—maybe even to a fault. Falling for a footballer is exactly how CalaMaddie would botch this internship, but with the firm pressuring her to get the job done, perhaps her heart is worth risking?

My thoughts

Far From Normal is a sweet and light YA romance about soccer, summer, and social media.

Maddie McPherson has landed an awesome summer internship working at her aunt’s sports marketing firm. Within ing days of being there, Maddie is presented with the opportunity to create and post the social media content for teen soccer star Gabriel Fortunato. The goal is to repair Gabe’s image, but Maddie has to decide between doing her job well enough to get a glowing recommendation letter for college and falling for the boy who is quickly capturing her heart.

Far From Normal is perfect if you are in the mood for something very light. There are meet-cutes (a bike, a dog and a soccer ball, you do the math), working relationships that cross into romantic territory, a mean-girl work colleague Maddie must contend with, and romantic meals in Italian restaurants.

While Gabe and Maddie do discuss a few things about Gabe’s life in the spotlight, the incidents he has been involved in are never fully discussed and they never have any really deep conversations about this, so the book remains on the fluffy side. Fine, if you like cute and light stories, but I usually enjoy something with a bit more depth, so I didn’t connect that much with the characters.

Despite this being about a soccer star and sports marketing, the sports side of things don’t come into the story at all, so I’ll be shelving this under romance and not sport.

A quick read, perfect if you are looking for a fun and light YA romance.

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: Romance, internships, soccer, social media, family, college applications.

Reading age guide: Ages 14 and up.

Advisory: References to drug and alcohol use and related accidents. Drunk driving. Sexual references and references to sexual relationships.

Published: 22 September 2020 by Page Street Kids.

Format: Hardcover, ebook. 240 pages.

ISBN: 9781645670568

Find it on Goodreads

Book Review: Dear Hero

Dear Hero – Hope Bolinger and Alyssa Roat – INtense Publications – Published 28 September 2020

 

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Synopsis

Cortex and V need a new nemesis. Cortex’s last villain dumped him, and V got a little overeager and took out her hero prematurely. They meet on Meta-Match, a nemesis pairing site for heroes and villains. After throwing punches at each other behind coffee shops and hiring henchman to do their bidding (mostly just getting them coffee), they realize they have a lot more in common than meets the eye. And they may have a lot more hero and villain inside than they realize.

My thoughts

I am always on the lookout for superhero novels. a) they are an awesome mix of action and either fantasy or science fiction and b) they are hard to come by, so I jumped at the chance to read Dear Hero. Dear Hero is written entirely in short messages shared between the two main characters, which makes for a creative novel, if one that leaves the backstory and world building a little unclear.

Cortex is a hero. When his last villain leaves him, he decides to reach out on Meta-Match to find a new one. V is looking for a hero to fight with. She and Cortex begin exchanging messages and then they start to meet to practice their hero villain routine, but when someone close to them is kidnapped, they have to team up.

My main problem with this books comes down to the format. I applaud the authors for giving it a go. Writing an entire book in text messages or DMs would not be easy. It’s creative and quick to read. The problem comes with the reader trying to get an accurate view of the characters, backstory, world and culture. All those things remained unclear. I needed, wanted to know more about the concept of how the hero and villain structure works, why they do what they do, more about the governance of heroes and villains and how they fit into the larger world picture, the pop culture that surrounds it and the world that had been created. Continue reading

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: 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: The Other Side of the Sky

The Other Side of the Sky – Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner – HarperTeen – Published 8 September 2020

 

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Synopsis

Prince North’s home is in the sky, in a gleaming city held aloft by intricate engines powered by technology. Nimh is the living goddess of her people on the surface, responsible for providing answers, direction—hope.

Linked by a terrifying prophecy and caught between duty and fate, they must choose between saving their people or succumbing to the bond that is forbidden between them.

My thoughts

The Other Side of the Sky is the start of a new epic fantasy by Kaufman and Spooner. Readers will be swept away in this intriguing story of doing what it takes to survive and having to choose between faith and knowledge, love and a future.

The Other Side of the Sky is a YA fantasy that feels like a mix between fantasy, science fiction and dystopian fiction. The world that has been crafted feels like a reflection of our world gone bad – mists of toxic pollution, a population that have found sanctuary in the skies leaving below a world they believe ruined. From the history has sprung up legends of gods who escaped to a world above.

Nimh is the Goddess Divine, one in a long line of divine, chosen to bring hope to her people. The only problem is that her powers have never materialised and her divinity is challenged by those who seek to overthrow her. A prophecy speaks of a falling star that could help her bring peace and prosperity to the land. Prince North lives on Alciel, a land that floats above the clouds. But their safety is challenged by the failings of the engines that keep their islands flying. North suggests returning to the land below their ancestors ascended from. When North’s glider fails and he finds himself falling.

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Book Review: Blood & Honey

Blood & Honey – Shelby Mahurin – Serpent & Dove – HarperTeen – Published 1 September 2020

 

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Synopsis

After narrowly escaping death at the hands of the Dames Blanches, Lou, Reid, Coco, and Ansel are on the run from coven, kingdom, and church—fugitives with nowhere to hide.

To elude the scores of witches and throngs of chasseurs at their heels, Lou and Reid need allies. Strong ones. But protection comes at a price, and the group is forced to embark on separate quests to build their forces. As Lou and Reid try to close the widening rift between them, the dastardly Morgane baits them in a lethal game of cat and mouse that threatens to destroy something worth more than any coven.

My thoughts

Blood & Honey is the second book in the Serpent & Dove series. Passionate and magical, this fantasy series has all the steamy kisses, witchcraft and quests to save the kingdom you could need.

I rather enjoy Shelby Mahurin’s writing style. It’s literally addictive. Funny, deadly and the action flows quickly, keeping the reader glued to the pages. The story picks up where the first book finished, as does the sexual tension between Reid and Lou.

Lou, Reid and their friends (or sort-of friends) have escaped near death at the hands of Morgane. Now they are on the run, both from the Chasseurs and from Morgane who has promised retribution. If they want to have any chance of besting her, they need to recruit an army, but they seem to have more enemies than friends and the kingdom is a dangerous place.

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Book Review: The Inheritance Games

The Inheritance Games – Jennifer Lynn Barnes – The Inheritance Games #1 – Little, Brown Books, – Published 1 September 2020

 

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Synopsis

Avery Grambs has a plan for a better future: survive high school, win a scholarship, and get out. But her fortunes change in an instant when billionaire Tobias Hawthorne dies and leaves Avery virtually his entire fortune. The catch? Avery has no idea why–or even who Tobias Hawthorne is. To receive her inheritance, Avery must move into sprawling, secret passage-filled Hawthorne House, where every room bears the old man’s touch–and his love of puzzles, riddles, and codes.

Unfortunately for Avery, Hawthorne House is also occupied by the family that Tobias Hawthorne just dispossessed. This includes the four Hawthorne grandsons: dangerous, magnetic, brilliant boys who grew up with every expectation that one day, they would inherit billions. Heir apparent Grayson Hawthorne is convinced that Avery must be a con-woman, and he’s determined to take her down. His brother, Jameson, views her as their grandfather’s last hurrah: a twisted riddle, a puzzle to be solved. Caught in a world of wealth and privilege, with danger around every turn, Avery will have to play the game herself just to survive.

My thoughts

And once again Jennifer Lynn Barnes proves why she is one of my top favourite authors. The Inheritance Games just grabbed me right from the first page and didn’t let go until, before I knew it, the book was over, my mind was blown and I wanted to start all over again.

Mystery, secrets, hidden passage ways, billions and billions of dollars, murder, revenge, cute boys (who are, thankfully, not Avery’s half-brothers) and a treasure hunt that promises answers…maybe.

Avery Grambs knows how to stay invisible. Do well in school but not so well that people notice her or notice that she is currently sleeping in her car to stay away from her sister’s boyfriend. She has a plan for college and a secure job for the future. Then a mysterious boy appears and demands her presence at a will reading. She has been left an inheritance by one of the richest men in America. He has left his billions of dollars to her and not his two daughters or four grandsons. To claim her inheritance, Avery must live for a year in his massive mansion, complete with more secret tunnels, passageways and compartments than a girl knows what to do with, and a family who would rather see her dead than living in the house they thought was theirs.

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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

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