Tag Archives: Romance

Mind the Gap, Dash & Lily – Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

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Allen & Unwin

October 2020

ISBN:9781760526214

Publisher:A&U Children’s

Imprint:A & U Children

RRP: $19.99

This is my first encounter with Dash and Lily – and I’m in love with them! As it happens I had put this title on our orders list because I liked the sound of it so much – and as it happens, with a Netflix adaptation on its way – I was pretty confident my keen beans would also enjoy it.

Now I can’t wait to talk it up at our ChocLit meeting this week because I know for sure they will love it!! It may sound cliched but I make no apologies for that – this is exactly the kind of ‘witty and sparkling’ writing that thrills me. I gobbled it up over a couple of nights and it was just pure joy to read.

Dash and Lily have been a couple for around two years and now they are finished school, their lives are changing. Dash is accepted to Oxford – his life-long dream – and while Lily knows she will miss him terribly she in no way wants to hold him back. On the other hand, she is floundering somewhat with her options. Her dog-walking business, Insta following and dog ‘crafting’ skills are really taking off and she is very determined not to follow the generations of women in her family in attending Barnard College. When Dash decides to stay in England for Christmas, Lily splurges on a trip to surprise him (her doggy entrepreneurship is REALLY successful!) in what she sees as a truly romantic gesture. But as many of us know, sometimes romantic gestures do not realise themselves in quite the same way as we have imagined them.

There are moments of real disconnection and none of it is helped by both young people doubting their choices around their chosen paths. However, as both are super intelligent and emotionally aware, they are able to work out not only their relationship but their futures.

There is so much to love about this book! Firstly, I adore that while it outlines completely relatable problems there is none of the intense teeth-gnashing, maudlin introspection and egocentric thinking that seems to pervade so many YA novels. There is a lot of humour – and I particularly love the ‘punny’ expressions throughout – and these two as well as secondary characters are genuinely likeable. I also really appreciate that while the couple do have a physical relationship there is nothing overt that could cause problems with your younger readership and similarly, there is no swearing!

Your readers from around Year 7 are likely to connect with these two as much as I have and I highly recommend it for your astute readers who will fully appreciate the humour, the dilemmas and the joy of the narrative.

The Jane Austen Society – Natalie Jenner

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Hachette Australia

MAY 26, 2020 | 9781409194118 | RRP $32.99

Wow! This is certainly one impressive debut novel and well worth putting on your TBR list, particularly if you love books like The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and others of its ilk.

Beautifully articulated characters who drive this narrative, which has some basis in historical fact but is purely fictional, will absolutely enthrall you from the first chapter.

In the small village of Chawton, where Jane Austen made her home for some years, a collection of village residents are all dealing with the post-war years and their troubles in their various ways.

Local GP Dr Bray is still struggling with his grief after the accidental death of his wife ten years previously and dangerously self-medicating, even though he is arguably the most well-respected member of the community.

Young and vivacious Adeline has become the newest teacher at the village school but is constantly falling foul of the trustees for her innovative methods.

Miss Knight, last direct descendant of Jane Austen’s brother, still lives in the Knight family home and is dominated by her mean-spirited and cruel ailing father, while at the time anxious about the dwindling finances of the estate.

Adam Berwick, trusted local farmer by day, romantic reader and Jane Austen devotee by night, feels lost and despondent over the death of his father and both his brothers during the war.

Young Evie Stone, bright star pupil, has been forced by her father’s incapacitating accident to leave school and enter service at the big house, where she secretly revels in the vast library which she is assiduously cataloguing.

Solicitor Andrew Forrester who has proven his astute knowledge of the law time and time again, is conflicted over his legal duty to old Mr Knight whilst still holding his youthful flame for Miss Knight.

Together this core group decide to form The Jane Austen Society and establish a museum and trust in honour of their famous local author, before all evidence and tokens of her existence are obliterated. They are, in due course, joined by Hollywood star Mimi Harrison (or Mary Anne really) and Sotheby’s agent Yardley Sinclair, both passionate Austen fans as well.

There are twists and turns a-plenty as the interactions and relationships of all involved come into play, while all the time none deviate from their shared purpose. Emotions run high at times as old histories and long-held secrets are brought to light, their fledgling trust and society is threatened from more than one quarter and relationships become as complicated as anything the celebrated author might have written.

This is just a beautiful read and the reader becomes completely involved with these characters, their foibles and their strengths. The gathering up of all the disparate threads and their subsequent weaving into one delicious narrative cloth has been achieved skillfully and it would be a hard-to-please reader who will not enjoy this gentle but thoughtful excursion into another time and place.

Highly recommended for readers from YA to adult – I have already been talking it up in my bookish circles.

The Happy Prisoner – Monica Dickens

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First published in 1946 I originally read this when a friend gave me  a copy as a birthday gift many (many!) years ago. I loved it so much and re-read it so often that the paperback disintegrated over time and was reluctantly abandoned.

A few weeks ago the wonderful Pat Pledger of ReadPlus invited some of us (t-l’s) to contribute to a ‘feel good’ reading list for the holidays and this was the first book that came into my head. I realised just how long it was since I had read it so immediately sourced a copy (it’s now out of print it seems). It arrived yesterday and I binge-read it last night and what a joy that was!

The Dickens talent for creating memorable characters touched with both drama and humour seems to be genetic and I’ve also enjoyed Monica’s other books – now about to source a copy of both One Pair of Hands and One Pair of Feet!

Here’s a precis -taken from GoodReads of this delightful excursion into post-war English family life.

 

It is the end of WW II and the household of Mrs. North, a well-to-do widow with a country cottage, is very busy. War circumstances brought both of her daughters home: loud but good-hearted tomboy, Violet, and highly-strung and over sensitive Heather with her two small children. Mrs. North is also taking care of her young niece, Evelyn, a lively child who loves to play on the local farm and has a great passion for animals. But at the center of all this is Oliver, Mrs. North’s only son who lost his leg during the war service abroad.

Recovering from his injuries, bed-ridden Oliver has nothing better to do but observe the busy lives of the people around him. Treated as a hero and a confidant by all the women in his family, Oliver begins to enjoy his new role as a self-proclaimed counselor. Due to his advice, Violet, an independent spinster, unexpectedly accepts the marriage proposal from a local farmer. Her wedding is a success and Violet finds a new happiness in her marriage, but soon Oliver’s meddling in his family affairs goes too far. Will his risky instructions save or ruin Heather’s marriage, which is at the brink of crisis, when her husband comes back from Australia after a few years of separation? Will Oliver learn to accept his new circumstances? Will he finally face to the reality and start to rebuild his own life?

In this compendium plot, Monica Dickens, with her typical attention to detail, humor and talent for creating vivid characters, explores complicated life stories of the close-knit family and their friends at the end of the war. The Happy Prisoner was first published in 1946.

Why not explore some Monica Dickens for yourself? In these rather anxiety-filled times, some light relief is so very welcome.

 

The Long Distance  Playlist – Tara Eglington

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Harper Collins Australia

January 2020

ISBN: 9781460755211

ISBN 10: 1460755219

Imprint: HarperCollins – AU

RRP: $19.99

Well if you told me I would absolutely fall in love with a YA (primarily) romantic novel I would no doubt have scoffed loudly. However, this is just delightful and so so much more than just romance. Eglington explores contemporary culture, family relationships, aspirations, dreams and music with such a deft and ‘spot on’ ability that this will be a sure-fire hit with your teen readers.

It’s an immediately engaging format told for the greater part through Instagram messages, Skype, email and texts, accompanied by playlists (readers will love these!) which bounce with growing rapidity between Isolde in Sydney and Taylor in Queenstown. This young pair has been best friends all their lives, with a quirky but cool family connection, until a big bust-up when each speaks their mind and a rift of Cold War proportions extends over eighteen months.

In that space of time momentous things have happened to both. Taylor, who had been a rising snowboarding champion, lost his lower leg in a car accident which has effectively rendered him gloomy and despondent. Isolde has studied  – actually lived and breathed – ballet her entire life and has her sights set on the National Ballet company but within a year she has muffed her first audition badly and also been terribly hurt in her first romantic relationship and feels similarly.

However the two do reconnect and forgive each other and over a space of almost a year their online conversations become deeper and more meaningful and are headed, for both, towards feelings that run much deeper than childhood friendship. The growing warmth between them is not without hiccups though as (don’t we all know it?) the medium of cyber conversations can lead to missteps and misunderstandings. Happily though there is a completely satisfying resolution – though the ending does lend itself to a continuation at some point down the track.

It is charming, refreshing, often humorous but also sobering at times with serious family issues with which both teens are faced. The trans-Tasman relationship will most certainly be of appeal to a wide readership and the insight into both settings, not to mention both passionate pursuits,  is fascinating.

Unlike others in this genre there is nothing which might preclude readers who may be younger or more ‘sheltered’. Even swear words are not explicit which will mightily please many who would want to include it in their collections but otherwise might have to pass it up.

Highly recommended for readers from around 12 years upwards. Loved it!

Letters to the Lost – Brigid Kemmerer

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Allen & Unwin

ISBN:9781408883525

Publisher:

Bloomsbury UK

Imprint :Bloomsbury Child

March 2017

RRP $16.99

Juliet’s mother died in a terrible hit-and-run accident. On her way home from yet another international photography mission documenting the heartbreak of war zones and disasters, she returned early at Juliet’s request and on her way from the airport was suddenly and terribly gone forever. Like so many of us who have lost someone so dear, Juliet cannot let go, especially of rituals, like writing letters to her mother as she has done all her life. Only now she leaves them at the cemetery.

Declan Murphy is known by his ‘reputation’. He’s tough looking and constantly confrontational, he’s spent time in jail, he’s doing community service and he spends most of his time skulking around trying to be invisible. Nobody knows the truth behind his attitude, not even his best friend realises the full depths of Declan’s story.

When Declan, as part of his mowing community service at the cemetery, reads one of Juliet’s letters, he is so overcome with empathy that he responds with his own comment.  Outraged beyond belief at the invasion of her privacy, Juliet responds to him with undisguised contempt and rage. And thus a strange correspondence begins.

Along with that, a close and trusting relationship between two dreadfully despairing young people who do not know each other slowly builds. Or are they strangers?

Slowly but surely each is unravelling the real identity of the other and along with that an antipathy which belies the honesty and trust of their anonymous letter exchanges.

For both the healing process and the road to hope is their unfailing support for each other as their separate tragedies unfold and their defences are lowered.

The characterisation in this is excellent – even relatively minor characters bristle with life and emotion.  I particularly like the ‘voice’ of both Juliet and Declan – though Declan’s intellect has been shrouded by other details this as well as his inherent compassion shines through. There is, as one might expect, from seventeen year old protagonists some low level swearing but it is all totally in context and expressive in itself.

There is a real twist in the tale which avoids cliché or triteness and is exactly the kind of ‘messiness’ that might happen in families. All in all it’s a terrifically engaging read and the reader develops a real affection for these characters.

Highly recommended for readers from around 14 upwards.

 

 

Hello, Goodbye & Everything in Between – Jennifer E. Smith

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Hachette Australia


  • ISBN:
    9781472235565
  • Publication date:26 Apr 2016
  • Page count:256
  • Imprint:Headline

RRP $19.99

If, like me, you have often struggled to find a romance for tweens without graphic or inappropriate content, this is one to put on your list.

From the author of The Statistical Probability of Love at First and The Geography of You and Me this is the thoroughly enjoyable story of Clare and Aidan – and a list.

These two seniors have been an item for the final years of high school and along with their best friends, Stella and Scotty, are about to embark on the thrilling but anxiety-making adventure of college.

The conflict lies in the fact that these two are bound for colleges on opposite sides of the country and their last night is one of very mixed emotions. Clare has made a list – that’s something she is very good at – and the pair re-visit their favourite haunts, the scenes of ‘firsts’, catch up with their friends and toss the problem of whether to break up or not back and forth. The very thought of being apart after their two years of being virtually inseparable is completely distressing for both and they postulate on whether it might be less painful to break up rather than let the relationship die away from long distance constraints.

Along with their own personal dilemma the night holds many other complications as tensions run high while they hang out with each other and others. Of all the events that impact on the pair probably the most confounding is that Stella and Scotty who have sniped at each other incessantly since kindergarten have suddenly become a couple. And it is this that influences their respective thoughts as much as anything else.

All in all this is a really engaging novel with very likeable characters for which the reader can really care. One cannot help but wish them the happiest of endings as they are such funny and endearing people.

Recommended for your romantically inclined readers from around 12 years up.