Book Reviews, Lists, Discussions, and Displays

Tag: Young adult fiction (Page 1 of 53)

Book Review: The Hollow Inside

The Hollow Inside – Brooke Lauren Davis – Bloomsbury YA – Published 25 May 2021

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Synopsis

Phoenix and mom Nina have spent years on the road, using their charm and wits to swindle and steal to get by. Now they’ve made it to their ultimate destination, Mom’s hometown of Jasper Hollow. The plan: bring down Ellis Bowman, the man who ruined Nina’s life.

After Phoenix gets caught spying, she spins a convincing story that inadvertently gives her full access to the Bowman family. As she digs deeper into their secrets, she finds herself entrenched in the tale of a death and a disappearance that doesn’t entirely line up with what Mom has told her. Who, if anyone, is telling the whole truth?

My thoughts

The Hollow Inside is completely addictive but I also kind of wanted to read it between my fingers while covering my eyes as there is a near constant feeling of impending dread. Revenges, lies, betrayal, longing – a mystery thriller with so much heart.

I was so caught up in the world and so torn between waning to rescue Phoenix from the woman she calls mother and rescue Nina, both from herself and from the pain of her past. On one hand I was totally, one hundred percent behind the notion of revenge – make that man hurt, ladies. And on the other it’s so easy to see the hurt and destruction Phoenix has to endure while her mother seeks this revenge. There really isn’t a right answer, yet Phoenix has to chose every single day what her right will be. She longs for her mother to acknowledge her and the sacrifices she is making, yet her mother is constantly upset with her, angry and takes it out on Phoenix.

As Phoenix and Nina arrive in Jasper Hollow the truth of what happened there is slowly revealed. Some of this Phoenix discovers as she goes undercover as a sad, homeless girl and finds herself invited to live with the Bowmans. Other, clearer details are revealed through flashbacks to Nina’s childhood. This is what really caught me between wanting a different life for Phoenix and wanting revenge for Nina, as we see the hurt through Nina’s eyes. Does it justify Nina’s actions now or explain them? The reader will have to decide, as does Phoenix.

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Book Review: Tiger Daughter

Tiger Daughter – Rebecca Lim – Allen & Unwin –  Published February 2021

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Synopsis

Wen Zhou is the only child of Chinese immigrants whose move to the lucky country has proven to be not so lucky. Wen and her friend, Henry Xiao — whose mum and dad are also struggling immigrants — both dream of escape from their unhappy circumstances, and form a plan to sit an entrance exam to a selective high school far from home. But when tragedy strikes, it will take all of Wen’s resilience and resourcefulness to get herself and Henry through the storm that follows.

My thoughts

A beautiful and powerful #OwnVoices novel about abusive family relationships and the possibility of freedom offered by friendship and education.

Tiger Daughter is a book that really quick and easy to devour. It address some very serious topics – domestic abuse and control, suicide – but does so in a way that makes it accessible for young readers, compelling but also sensitive.

I love books that make me feel and Tiger Daughter had me swinging wildly from raging hot mad to sad and back again.

Wen is the daughter of Chinese immigrants. Travelling to Australia didn’t bring them the new, grand life they expected. Wen is bound by the restrictions her father places on her and her mother. Honestly, her father comes across as awful, but there is more to his story, more to the relationship Wen has with him. This book in no way excuses domestic abuse and nor does Wen. She knows how her father treats her and her mother is wrong and is determined to stand up against it in the ways in which she can. She is brave and determined. Her only friend at school, Henry, understands. He too is the son of immigrants. Together, they have planned to sit an entrance exam for an elite school – a future that will give them a way out and up.

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Book Review: Where The Road Leads Us

Where the Road Leads Us – Robin Reul – Sourcebooks Fire –  Published 6 April 2021

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Synopsis

Jack is on the verge for leaving for college, but before he does, he wants to track down his estranged brother, Alex and find some closure in the wake of their father’s death. Meanwhile, Hallie has just found out some upsetting news about a friend in Oregon, and she has a small window to go see him before it’s too late.

Jack and Hallie are practically strangers. They shared a class together years ago and haven’t seen each other since, though they have more in common than they’d ever imagine. And when fate puts them into the same rideshare to the bus terminal, it kicks off an unconventional and hilarious adventure that may lead them to their own true selves…and maybe to each other.

My thoughts

Should you follow your heart and if so, how do you decide what your heart is telling you? That’s what Jack and Hallie must both answer in this road trip novel about finding forgiveness, finding your voice and finding your path in this world.

I love road trip novels. I love contemporary novels that combine hope for the future with hurts from the past. That’s exactly what you get in Where The Road Leads Us. Jack has a plan for the future – graduate, internship in New York and follow in his father’s footsteps to become a doctor. But when his girlfriend breaks up with him on graduation night and he spends his birthday alone, he decides to follow the clues in a note from his late father to his estranged brother and finally try to reconnect with his brother.

Hallie knows nothing in her future is certain, not going to college and not her health. When she is given one last chance to meet and say goodbye to an online friend, she decides to follow her heart. Even if it means going on a road trip with two guys she might have just met or sort of know from school.

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Book Review: The Prison Healer

The Prison Healer – Lynette Noni – The Prison Healer #1 – HMH Books for Young Readers – Published 13 April 2021

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Synopsis

Seventeen-year-old Kiva Meridan has spent the last ten years fighting for survival in the notorious death prison, Zalindov, working as the prison healer.

When the Rebel Queen is captured, Kiva is charged with keeping the terminally ill woman alive long enough for her to undergo the Trial by Ordeal: a series of elemental challenges against the torments of air, fire, water, and earth, assigned to only the most dangerous of criminals.

Then a coded message from Kiva’s family arrives, containing a single order: “Don’t let her die. We are coming.” Aware that the Trials will kill the sickly queen, Kiva risks her own life to volunteer in her place. If she succeeds, both she and the queen will be granted their freedom.

But no one has ever survived.

With an incurable plague sweeping Zalindov, a mysterious new inmate fighting for Kiva’s heart, and a prison rebellion brewing, Kiva can’t escape the terrible feeling that her trials have only just begun.

My thoughts

If you love Sarah J Maas or Maria V Snyder’s books you will fall in absolute love with Lynette Noni’s The Prison Healer. This book utterly entranced me and yet I wanted to savour it and enjoy every agonising, horrible, tortuous moment. This book is set in a horrible prison, features illness and death, and the character face lots of abuse, torture and trials designed to kill – and I loved every single moment!!! Crazy! But so, so good.

Kiva has survived ten long years in Zalindov prison. When her father was accused of meeting with a traitor and sentenced to life in prison, Kiva was also taken. After the death of her father, Kiva assumed the role of prison healer. It’s a role that provides her some sense of purpose within the treacherous walls, but it costs her dearly in other ways. In the depths of winter, the prison accepts two unexpected arrivals – a wounded man who, after she saves his life, seems to want to get close to Kiva and the Rebel Queen. The Rebel Queen is sentenced to face the Trials of Earth, Wind, Air and Water, but Kiva knows she is not well enough to survive. In a bold move and prompted by a secret message from her family waiting for her outside of the prison walls, Kiva takes the Rebel Queen’s place in the trials and seals her fate to the woman. 

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Book Review: Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet

Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet – Laekan Zea Kemp – Little, Brown Books for Young Readers – Published 6 April 2021

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Synopsis

As an aspiring pastry chef, Penelope Prado has always dreamed of opening her own pastelería next to her father’s restaurant, Nacho’s Tacos. But her mom and dad have different plans — leaving Pen to choose between disappointing her traditional Mexican-American parents or following her own path. When she confesses a secret she’s been keeping, her world is sent into a tailspin. But then she meets a cute new hire at Nacho’s who sees through her hard exterior and asks the questions she’s been too afraid to ask herself.

Xander Amaro has been searching for home since he was a little boy. For him, a job at Nacho’s is an opportunity for just that — a chance at a normal life, to settle in at his abuelo’s, and to find the father who left him behind. But when both the restaurant and Xander’s immigrant status are threatened, he will do whatever it takes to protect his new found family and himself.

Together, Pen and Xander must navigate first love and discovering where they belong — both within their families and their fiercely loyal Chicanx community — in order to save the place they all call home.

My thoughts

I love books about/that feature food. They are also slightly torturous because food and that makes me hungry. And this book had me serious hungry for Mexican flavours and culinary delights. Of course, what sits so beautifully alongside this story of passion for food and the love that goes into their cooking is a heartbreaking story of belonging.

Penelope Prado knows where she belongs. She dreams of running her own bakery, and building it right next to her family’s restaurant. Her father disagrees, and when Pen finally tells her parents she has dropped out of school and walked away from the life they wanted for her, they refuse to speak to her and her father fires her from the restaurant. Pen is an incredibly strong character – and not just because the guys in the kitchen completely and utterly fear her (which is awesome, by the way). Pen has a history of depression, anxiety and self harm. With her future so uncertainly and her risking everything to chase what feels right, but not really sure how to actually move forward, Pen finds herself wrestling with her mental demons again.

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Book Review: The Stolen Kingdom

The Stolen Kingdom – Jillian Boehme – Tor Teen – Published 2 March 2021

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Synopsis

For a hundred years, the once-prosperous kingdom of Perin Faye has suffered under the rule of the greedy and power-hungry Thungrave kings.

Maralyth Graylaern, a cacao farmer’s daughter, has no idea her hidden magical power is proof of a secret bloodline and claim to the throne.

Alac Thungrave, the king’s second son, has always been uncomfortable with his position as the spare heir—and the dark, stolen magic that comes with ruling.

When Maralyth becomes embroiled in a plot to murder the royal family and seize the throne, a cat-and-mouse chase ensues in an adventure of dark magic, court intrigue, and forbidden love.

My thoughts

I love stand-alone fantasy novels and The Stolen Kingdom is a fantastic example. It has everything you need from a complete trilogy or series: the intrigue and political scheming; romance which moves from enemies to reluctant allies to someone the other can wholly depend on; and there is also magic.

Maralyth Graylaern is the daughter of a renown vintners. She has a head for business and a heart for making a difference to others. Ever since her mother died, Maralyth has been confined to the kitchen, except for when she can make a quiet trip to the vines and use her secret magic to help them flourish.

Alac is a spare. His brother is set to inherit the thrown and Alac will only inherit should something happen to his brother. Alac wants no part in ruling the kingdom or the dark magic that forever changed him, but his father seems determined to teach Alac the ways of the dark magic and Alac is surprised by the pull it has on him.

Maralyth and Alac are both heirs in their own way. Yet, neither are prepared for taking over the kingdom nor did either dream they ever would. Maralyth has dreams of being a business woman and making conditions better for small wineries. Alac dreams of becoming a vineyard owner and finally escaping the shadow of his father, the memories of who his father was before being consumed by the magic and the darkness that seems to pervade the castle. When Maralyth is unwilling drawn into a plot to overthrow the king, she has to choose to step up to her destiny and equally Alac must decide how much the crown really means to him.

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Book Review: Things That Grow

Things That Grow – Meredith Goldstein – HMH Books for Young Readers – Published 9 March 2021

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Synopsis

When Lori’s Dorothy Parker–loving grandmother dies, Lori’s world is turned upside down. Grandma Sheryl was everything to Lori—and not just because Sheryl raised Lori when Lori’s mom got a job out of town. Now Lori’s mom is insisting on moving her away from her beloved Boston right before senior year. Desperate to stay for as long as possible, Lori insists on honoring her grandmother’s last request before she moves: to scatter Sheryl’s ashes near things that grow.

Along with her uncle Seth and Chris, best friend and love-of-her-life crush, Lori sets off on a road trip to visit her grandmother’s favorite gardens. Dodging forest bathers, scandalized volunteers, and angry homeowners, they come to terms with the shape of life after Grandma Sheryl. Saying goodbye isn’t easy, but Lori might just find a way to move forward surrounded by the people she loves.

My thoughts

Things That Grow is a novel about family and grief, about growing up, falling in love with your best friend but not wanting to risk the relationship and staying quiet about your feeling. It’s also got quite a few gardens in it (I love fiction that includes gardens, not sure why but they always make a story more beautiful) and you could almost call it a road tip novel, as the characters venture on their journey, which doesn’t span too many miles, but still forces them to consider their relationships with each other.

Lori has lived with her Grandma for a few years. She was happy for the stability after living with her mother who would move them regularly, changing jobs and locations as often as she changed boyfriends. So when Grandma Sheryl dies, Lori is reeling from both the loss of her home and the woman who felt more like a mother than her mother ever did. Lori’s mother demands Lori move back with her, despite it meaning Lori will have to change schools right at the start of her senior year and leave behind her best friend, Chris. Lori stalls by insisting they honour her grandmother’s last wish – to have her ashes scattered in four gardens.

Anyone who has had to deal with the aftermath of losing a loved one will relate to Lori’s feelings. This book explores grief in an honest way. Lori isn’t sure how to deal with her feelings and often uses humour to cope with the situations she finds herself in – like trying to find a cremation service for a Jewish woman. So yes, while this book is about death, funerals (they don’t really have one), spreading of ashes and grief, it’s actually a funny, realistic, ‘oh my gosh, no don’t do that’, hopeful novel.

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Book Review: The Secret Recipe for Moving On

The Secret Recipe for Moving On – Karen Bischer – Swoon Reads – Published 23 March 2021

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Synopsis

Home economics is supposed to be an easy A for Ellie Agresti, but, much like an imperfect souffle, her plans collapse epically when she’s dumped by her boyfriend, Hunter. Now Ellie has to mend her broken heart while watching Hunter fawn all over his new girlfriend, Brynn, in class. To make matters worse, Ellie is partnered with four of the biggest misfit guys in school: Jeremy, the loudmouth with temper issues; Isaiah, the solemn, silent horse racing obsessive; Andrew, who can’t take rejection; and Luke, the giant, tattooed stunt biker.

Over the course of a semester, Ellie works to overcome her feelings for Hunter, as well as deeper insecurities that have plagued her since middle school. As the weeks go by, she’s surprised to find friendships in unexpected places… and sparks flying with the last guy she’d expect.

My thoughts

From that beautiful, pastel cover to the romance and teen drama, this is a sugar-sweet YA novel about, well, life as a teenager.

This book was just a whole heap of fun. Yes, there is drama. Lots of drama. From high school gossip blogs to breakups in the worst of circumstances. Crying, losing tempers, showdowns and attacking classmates in the middle of class. There are also so many moments that just made me grin or happy dance. I adored the time Ellie spends with her Home Ec teammates. As they learn to work together and slowly learn more about each other, as they go on team excursions, they become a great group and it was this dynamic that I really loved about this book. You could have doubled these interactions in the book and I would have loved every minute spent with them.

Ellie is our narrator and she is a teenager who is struggling to find her place in the high school world. She was bullied in middle school and starting at a new high school was daunting. Finding a boyfriend so quickly and falling in with his friends seemed the perfect way to both fly under the radar but also not be invisible. Just when Ellie is ready to take the next, big step with Hunter, she finds him distant. It’s pretty obvious to the reader what is going to happen, but when he dumps her, Ellie is devastated. From my reader perspective, it was good riddance, but to Ellie, her heart and trust has been broken. Enter her new Home Ec class. She has to share it with her ex and his new girlfriend, and she is forced to join a team of – in here eyes – losers. But, those losers turn out to be great guys, and together they vow to beat the other teams. Ellie also finds herself romantically drawn to one of her teammates, Luke. But he is in a relationship and the last thing she wants to do is be on the other side of a messy breakup.

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Book Review: Firekeeper’s Daughter

Firekeeper’s Daughter – Angeline Boulley – Henry, Holt and Co – Published 16 March 2021

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Synopsis

As a biracial, unenrolled tribal member and the product of a scandal, eighteen-year-old Daunis Fontaine has never quite fit in, both in her hometown and on the nearby Ojibwe reservation. Daunis dreams of studying medicine, but when her family is struck by tragedy, she puts her future on hold to care for her fragile mother.

The only bright spot is meeting Jamie, the charming new recruit on her brother Levi’s hockey team. Yet even as Daunis falls for Jamie, certain details don’t add up and she senses the dashing hockey star is hiding something. Everything comes to light when Daunis witnesses a shocking murder, thrusting her into the heart of a criminal investigation.

Reluctantly, Daunis agrees to go undercover, but secretly pursues her own investigation, tracking down the criminals with her knowledge of chemistry and traditional medicine. But the deceptions—and deaths—keep piling up and soon the threat strikes too close to home.

Now, Daunis must learn what it means to be a strong Anishinaabe kwe (Ojibwe woman) and how far she’ll go to protect her community, even if it tears apart the only world she’s ever known.

My thoughts

Firekeeper’s Daughter is going to be one of THE books of 2021. If this isn’t on your radar yet, put it on there RIGHT NOW. #OwnVoices #DiverseBooks this book ticks all the boxes but it is so much more than just a book that is timely and Important (with a capital I). It is addictive and so powerful. I was hooked right from the start.

Daunis makes a great narrator. She is torn between two worlds – one her mother’s, old money and white, and her late father’s Firekeeper family from the Ojibwe reservation. When she meets the new player on her half-brother’s ice hockey team, Jamie, she is drawn to him but knows he has to remain off limits. She never wants to be ‘that’ girl. But when tragedy strikes, Daunis is shattered and her beliefs about her community rocked. Jamie is there for her and seems to understand exactly what is going on – more than can be explained. When Daunis is asked to go undercover to expose the horror that is destroying her community, she learns far more than she could have expected.

I love mystery novels. Love, love them and I also love contemporary novels that focus on family and relationships. This book is the perfect mix of both. This book reminds me of a book I read years ago and after reading it I searched desperately for something similar, something that mixed mystery and investigating with romance and and complex relationships. Years on, I have finally found the book I didn’t know I needed and it is even better than I could have imagined.

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Book Review: Amelia Unabridged

Amelia Unabridged – Ashley Schumacher – Wednesday Books – Published 16 February 2021

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Synopsis

Eighteen-year-old Amelia Griffin is obsessed with the famous Orman Chronicles, written by the young and reclusive prodigy N. E. Endsley. They’re the books that brought her and her best friend Jenna together after Amelia’s father left and her family imploded. So when Amelia and Jenna get the opportunity to attend a book festival with Endsley in attendance, Amelia is ecstatic. It’s the perfect way to start off their last summer before college.

In a heartbeat, everything goes horribly wrong. When Jenna gets a chance to meet the author and Amelia doesn’t, the two have a blowout fight like they’ve never experienced. And before Amelia has a chance to mend things, Jenna is killed in a freak car accident. Grief-stricken, and without her best friend to guide her, Amelia questions everything she had planned for the future.

When a mysterious, rare edition of the Orman Chronicles arrives, Amelia is convinced that it somehow came from Jenna. Tracking the book to an obscure but enchanting bookstore in Michigan, Amelia is shocked to find herself face-to-face with the enigmatic and handsome N. E. Endsley himself, the reason for Amelia’s and Jenna’s fight and perhaps the clue to what Jenna wanted to tell her all along.

My thoughts

Amelia Unabridged is a beautiful, beautiful story about grief and loss. It is also about magic. Magic that happens in the everyday world. The magic of books. The magic of friendship. The magic of a new love and the way it can bring out the very best in people and grapple them back from the edge. The magic of a perfectly amazing bookstore. Amelia Unabridged has all of this and more. It was exactly the book I was looking for – deep, heartbreaking, uplifting, inspiring and honestly so easy to read and snuggle up with, but also lyrical and poetic and metaphoric and so I felt a little bit smart reading it.

Amelia loves her best friend Jenna. They are alike as much as they are different. Jenna has the most amazing, loving, supportive parents. Amelia’s father checked out with his young girlfriend and her mother has checked out in the aftermath. Jenna has their future all planned out while Amelia isn’t sure what she wants. But they both love books. Especially the Orman Chronicles. When the chance to meet the reclusive author of their favourite series, they jump at it, only to be disappointed and torn apart by their experience. A few weeks later, Jenna is dead and Amelia is reeling from the loss. Weighed down by grief and guilt, a surprise package sends Amelia chasing something that feels like Jenna directing things from beyond the grave, and what Amelia finds is more than she could have ever imagined – if she is brave enough to reach and and grab it.

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