Book Review: Nantucket Blue by Leila Howland

Nantucket Blue is a solid choice for a relaxing summer read. There’s lots I liked about this book: Jules and Cricket’s friendship, the subtle romance, the way sex was handled in a realistic and positive way, the subplot involving Cricket’s mother. Though Nantucket Blue won’t be going down as a personal favourite, this is a good read and worth checking out.

For Cricket Thompson, a summer like this one will change everything. A summer spent on Nantucket with her best friend, Jules Clayton, and the indomitable Clayton family. A summer when she’ll make the almost unattainable Jay Logan hers. A summer to surpass all dreams.

Some of this turns out to be true. Some of it doesn’t.

When Jules and her family suffer a devastating tragedy that forces the girls apart, Jules becomes a stranger whom Cricket wonders whether she ever really knew. And instead of lying on the beach working on her caramel-colored tan, Cricket is making beds and cleaning bathrooms to support herself in paradise for the summer.

But it’s the things Cricket hadn’t counted on–most of all, falling hard for someone who should be completely off-limits–that turn her dreams into an exhilarating, bittersweet reality.

A beautiful future is within her grasp, and Cricket must find the grace to embrace it. If she does, her life could be the perfect shade of Nantucket blue.

Nantucket Blue is about discovering yourself and who you want to be. Cricket, determined to be there for her best friend following the death of her mother, gets a job in Nantucket Blue, so she’ll be nearby if Jule’s needs her. But, as often happens in life, the death of someone who was a mother figure to both girls causes them to grow apart and Cricket has to figure out who she is without Jules. I thought the cracks in their relationship, the hurtful comments, the betrayal of confided secrets and little signs of how much they still cared was very well drawn. We’ve all experienced the sadness that comes from outgrowing a friendship and I thought Howland captured it realistically.

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Book Review: A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley

Publisher: Random House Children’s Books

Published: 11th October 2011

First Published: 28th April 2005

Format: Paperback

Pages: 288

Genre: Contemporary,  YA

Recommended Reading Age: 16+

Rating: 8/10

Amazon/Goodreads

CHARLIE DUSKIN loves music, and she knows she’s good at it. But she only sings when she’s alone, on the moonlit porch or in the back room at Old Gus’s Secondhand Record and CD Store. Charlie’s mom and grandmother have both died, and this summer she’s visiting her grandpa in the country, surrounded by ghosts and grieving family, and serving burgers to the local kids at the milk bar. She’s got her iPod, her guitar, and all her recording equipment, but she wants more: A friend. A dad who notices her. The chance to show Dave Robbie that she’s not entirely unspectacular.

ROSE BUTLER lives next door to Charlie’s grandfather and spends her days watching cars pass on the freeway and hanging out with her troublemaker boyfriend. She loves Luke but can’t wait to leave their small country town. And she’s figured out a way: she’s won a scholarship to a science school in the city, and now she has to convince her parents to let her go. This is where Charlie comes in. Charlie, who lives in the city, and whom Rose has ignored for years. Charlie, who just might be Rose’s ticket out.

I don’t want to say too much about this book, other than please pick this one up the next time you’re looking for an unassuming, quiet contemporary. With some writers you just know that when you sit down to read one of their books you’ll be left contented and with a smile on your face.

While I didn’t like A Little Wanting Song as much as Graffiti Moon, Cath Crowley has definitely become one of those writers for me. Continue reading

Book Review: Prisoner of the Inquisition by Theresa Breslin

Publisher: Corgi Children’s

Published: 2nd June 2011

Format: Paperback

Pages: 320

Genre: Historical, YA

Recommended Reading Age: 14+

Rating: 7/10

Amazon/Goodreads

‘Zarita is used to basking in the pampered lifestyle being the only daughter of the town magistrate affords; she is free to roam the town as she likes, consort with the son of a nobleman and spend her days studying the arts. Saulo’s family have fallen on hard times, and when his father is hanged for an assault on Zarita he did not commit and Saulo is hauled off to be a slave at sea, Saulo swears revenge. But when Zarita’s mother dies in childbirth, and the formidable and frightening Inquisition arrives in the area, a curtain of suspicion and brutality comes down on her old life for good. Saulo may believe that Zarita is his sworn enemy, but in a time when the whole of Spain is in turmoil, are him and Zarita each other’s only hope of survival?’

Prisoner of the Inquisition is good choice for those who enjoy historical fiction. It’s rich in detail and Breslin really captures the atmosphere of the time, the religion, the politics, the ins and outs of everyday life, as well as life at sea in the 1400’s.  Continue reading

Book Review: Plain Kate by Erin Bow

Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books

Published: 1st September 2010

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 314

Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade

Recommended Reading Age: 12+

Rating: 9/10

Amazon/Goodreads

‘Plain Kate lives in a world of superstitions and curses, where a song can heal a wound and a shadow can work deep magic. As the wood-carver’s daughter, Kate held a carving knife before a spoon, and her wooden talismans are so fine that some even call her “witch-blade”: a dangerous nickname in a country where witches are hunted and burned in the square. 

For Kate and her village have fallen on hard times. Kate’s father has died, leaving her alone in the world. And a mysterious fog now covers the countryside, ruining crops and spreading fear of hunger and sickness. The townspeople are looking for someone to blame, and their eyes have fallen on Kate. 

Enter Linay, a stranger with a proposition: In exchange for her shadow, he’ll give Kate the means to escape the angry town, and what’s more, he’ll grant her heart’s wish. It’s a chance for her to start over, to find a home, a family, a place to belong. But Kate soon realizes she can’t live shadowless forever — and that Linay’s designs are darker than she ever dreamed.’

So I’ll admit, I bought this book purely because of the cover (isn’t it just lovely) and because its been a while since I read a really good children’s fantasy book that adults could equally enjoy.

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Book Review: You Are My Only by Beth Kephart

Publisher: Egmont USA

Published: 25th October 2011

Format: e-book

Genre: Contemporary, YA

Recommended Reading Age: 14+

Rating: 8/10

Amazon/Goodreads

‘Emmy Rane is married at nineteen, a mother by twenty. Trapped in a life with a husband she no longer loves, Baby is her only joy. Then one sunny day in September, Emmy takes a few fateful steps away from her baby and returns to find her missing. All that is left behind is a yellow sock.

Fourteen years later, Sophie, a homeschooled, reclusive teenage girl is forced to move frequently and abruptly from place to place, perpetually running from what her mother calls the “No Good.” One afternoon, Sophie breaks the rules, ventures out, and meets Joey and his two aunts. It is this loving family that gives Sophie the courage to look into her past. What she discovers changes her world forever. . . .’

I almost didn’t read this one. I found the opening chapters, especially Emmy’s, very awkward. It takes a while to settle into the rhythm of Kephart’s writing. But the overwhelming good reviews urged me to keep going and I’m so glad that I did.

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Mini Book Review: Fallen Grace by Mary Hooper

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC

First Published: 7th June 2010

Format: Paperback

Pages: 320

Genre: Historical, YA

Recommended Reading Age: 14+

Rating: 7/10

Amazon/Goodreads

‘London, 1861. Grace Parkes, a pale but determined figure, clutches a precious bundle closely to her. Grace has a heartbreaking duty to carry out…Each day Grace must find a new way of earning enough money to pay the rent for the bleak, cold room that she and her sister live in, and to buy them enough — just — to eat. But there is a another danger threatening Grace, a danger linked to an event in her past that she is desperate to forget. Grace has caught the eye of the Unwins, an unscrupulous family whose shady business dealings are those of death and mourning. The Unwins will stop at nothing to defraud Grace of what is rightfully hers…

I’ve haven’t had much luck with the two Mary Hooper’s books I’d read previously before picking this one up. She writes about such fascinating periods with such interesting subjects to anchor her story that I should love them, but I always find myself slightly disconnected, usually from the main character. I’m happy to say that wasn’t the case with Fallen Grace. In fact, I really enjoyed this book and am eagerly anticipating Hooper’s next release, Velvet, because of it. Continue reading

Mini Book Review: Dragonfly by Julia Golding

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Published: 1st may 2008

Format: Paperback

Pages: 398

Genre: Fantasy Adventure, Romance, YA

Recommended Reading Age: 11+

Rating: 6/10

Amazon/Goodreads

‘Princess Taoshira is appalled when she is ordered to marry Prince Ramil ac Burinholt in order to unite their lands. And he’s not too pleased either. They hate each other on sight. So when she and Ramil are kidnapped, they fear there’s no escape – either from their kidnappers or from each other. Can they put aside their differences long enough to survive ambush, unarmed combat, brainwashing and imprisonment? And will the people they meet on their adventure – including a circus strongman, a daring rebel leader, a sinister master of spies and the best female fighter they have ever seen – help them or betray them to the enemy…?’

This is definitely a book for younger readers. I say that because the narrative had an edge of simplicity to it, as well as the characters, who were likeable, but child-like in their actions and dialogue. Dragonfly is the sort of book I would have eaten up at 11, as an adult, while I still love the genre, I was looking for more. Continue reading

Book Review: This Girl is Different by J.J Johnson

 

‘Evie is different. Not just her upbringing-though that’s certainly been unusual-but also her mindset. She’s smart, independent, confident, opinionated, and ready to take on a new challenge: The Institution of School. 

It doesn’t take this homeschooled kid long to discover that high school is a whole new world, and not in the way she expected. It’s also a social minefield, and Evie finds herself confronting new problems at every turn, failing to follow or even understand the rules, and proposing solutions that aren’t welcome or accepted. 

Not one to sit idly by, Evie sets out to make changes. Big changes. The movement she starts takes off, but before she realizes what’s happening, her plan spirals out of control, forcing her to come to terms with a world she is only just beginning to comprehend. ‘

This is a light, refreshing story, one I enjoyed reading, though parts did get a bit too melodramatic towards the end. Continue reading

Mini Book Review: I Was Jane Austen’s Best Friend by Cora Harrison

 

‘When shy Jenny Cooper goes to stay with her cousin Jane Austen, she knows nothing of the world of beautiful dresses, dances, secrets, gossip, and romance that Jane inhabits. At fifteen, Jane is already a sharp observer of the customs of courtship. So when Jenny falls utterly in love with Captain Thomas Williams, who better than Jane to help her win the heart of this dashing man?

But is that even possible? After all, Jenny’s been harboring a most desperate secret. Should it become known, it would bring scandal not only to her, but also to the wonderful Austen family. What’s a poor orphan girl to do?

In this delicious dance between truth and fiction, Cora Harrison has crafted Jenny’s secret diary by reading everything Jane Austen wrote as a child and an adult, and by researching biographies, critical studies, and family letters. Jenny’s diary makes the past spring vividly to life and provides insight into the entire Austen family—especially the beloved Jane.’

I Was Jane Austen’s Best Friend follows the teenage life of Jane Austen, her cousin Jenny, and Jane’s immediate family, in a diary-like format. There are little illustrations dotted about, supposedly drawn by Jenny (and mostly of the handsome men she happens to meet!) with scraps of Jane’s writing attached for safe keeping. Continue reading

Book Review: Perfect Chemistry and Rules of Attraction by Simone Elkeles

Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

When Brittany Ellis walks into chemistry class on the first day of senior year, she has no clue that her carefully created “perfect” life is about to unravel before her eyes. She’s forced to be lab partners with Alex Fuentes, a gang member from the other side of town, and he is about to threaten everything she’s worked so hard for—her flawless reputation, her relationship with her boyfriend, and the secret that her home life is anything but perfect.

Alex is a bad boy and he knows it. So when he makes a bet with his friends to lure Brittany into his life, he thinks nothing of it. But soon Alex realizes Brittany is a real person with real problems, and suddenly the bet he made in arrogance turns into something much more.

In a passionate story about looking beneath the surface, Simone Elkeles breaks through the stereotypes and barriers that threaten to keep Brittany and Alex apart.’

I can’t remember now which blogger (or multiple bloggers), first convinced me to read these books, but I’m sending a big fat thank you out there to whoever you were! I would never have discovered these on my own, (for some reason I’ve never been drawn to contemporary YA – though thats changing quickly) and Simone Elkeles has quickly become one of my favourite authors. She certainly knows how to bring the swoon! Continue reading