Book Review: The Rest of the Story

The Rest of the Story – Sarah Dessen – Balzer
+Bray – Published 4 June 2019

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Synopsis

Emma Saylor doesn’t remember a lot about her mother, who died when she was ten. But she does remember the stories her mom told her about the big lake that went on forever, with cold, clear water and mossy trees at the edges.

Now it’s just Emma and her dad, and life is good, if a little predictable…until Emma is unexpectedly sent to spend the summer with her mother’s family—her grandmother and cousins she hasn’t seen since she was a little girl.

When Emma arrives at North Lake, she realizes there are actually two very different communities there. Her mother grew up in working class North Lake, while her dad spent summers in the wealthier Lake North resort. The more time Emma spends there, the more it starts to feel like she is divided into two people as well. To her father, she is Emma. But to her new family, she is Saylor, the name her mother always called her.

Then there’s Roo, the boy who was her very best friend when she was little. Roo holds the key to her family’s history, and slowly, he helps her put the pieces together about her past. It’s hard not to get caught up in the magic of North Lake—and Saylor finds herself falling under Roo’s spell as well.

My thoughts

The Rest of the Story is the perfect summer read. Or the perfect book to pick up in winter when you are craving summer days at the beach. I’ve always loved Sarah Dessen’s writing and The Rest of the Story was no different. It’s a great blend of summer romance with deeper themes around family, memories and loss. It’s also funny and has a few teen hijinks that will have you craving ice cream, secret parties, and impromptu proms with loads of fairy lights.

Emma Saylor has only a few memories of her mother. When her plans to stay at a friend’s place while her father honeymoons with his new (really nice) wife, Emma volunteers to go and stay with her mother’s family at North Lake. While she visited as a small child, Emma has no recollection of the lake or her maternal family. Her arrival at her grandmother’s house and family-run motel is bumpy. Emma is the city girl who doesn’t know any of the people she’s surrounded with or the lake traditions. But it isn’t long before she is swept up into the big, loud extended family, volunteering at the motel and sharing stories of the past with the intriguing Roo.

Put your feet up, grab your shades and sink into The Rest of the Story. It’s the perfect way to enjoy this sweet summer story. Emma Saylor—Emma to her dad and everyone, Saylor to her mother and now her mother’s family—is an easy character to like. She’s a good girl, a good daughter, a good friend, makes good decisions and tries not to rock the boat. She’s also genuinely nice, so it’s easy to become immersed in her world. Emma also has anxiety, so travelling to a new place surrounded by unfamiliar faces is a challenge. But she finds that she fits at North Lake, fits with the people there and the relaxed vibe, even if she is fighting with her cousin, dodging the wrath of her other cousin’s girlfriend, or trying to get on the good side of her another cousin (it’s a big family).

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Book Review: Tweet Cute

Tweet Cute – Emma Lord – Wednesday Books- Published 21 January 2020

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Synopsis

Meet Pepper, swim team captain, chronic overachiever, and all-around perfectionist. Her family may be falling apart, but their massive fast-food chain is booming ― mainly thanks to Pepper, who is barely managing to juggle real life while secretly running Big League Burger’s massive Twitter account.

Enter Jack, class clown and constant thorn in Pepper’s side. When he isn’t trying to duck out of his obscenely popular twin’s shadow, he’s busy working in his family’s deli. His relationship with the business that holds his future might be love/hate, but when Big League Burger steals his grandma’s iconic grilled cheese recipe, he’ll do whatever it takes to take them down, one tweet at a time.

All’s fair in love and cheese ― that is, until Pepper and Jack’s spat turns into a viral Twitter war. Little do they know, while they’re publicly duking it out with snarky memes and retweet battles, they’re also falling for each other in real life ― on an anonymous chat app Jack built.

My thoughts

Tweet Cute is seriously cute. But not in a cringey, saccharine way. It is one of the most genuine, adorable but realistic and heartfelt and, yes, cute books I’ve read in ages-maybe ever. It’s a story about social media, a story about family and the ways in which we fight for them. A story about growing up and trying to decide what to do with your life. It’s a story about the most incredible baking and comfort food. Seriously. Pack snacks. And it’s a story about falling in love, and YA contemporary readers are sure to fall in love with this delightful book.

Pepper is in control of her life. Swim team captain, top grades, and a place amongst the genius students of her fancy New York high school. So what if she feels like she doesn’t really belong, would rather have her family whole again and be living in Nashville, and maybe even have some genuine friends. When her mother insists that she take over their company’s Twitter feed as they launch new stores around the country, Pepper doesn’t expect to have one of her tweets directly challenge a local family-owned deli or for her to have to go head to head with a fellow classmate as he seeks to defend his family’s deli. As Pepper and Jack wage war on Twitter, their paths keep crossing in real life.

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Book Review: End Game

End Game – Rachel Dylan – Capital Intrigue #1 – Bethany House Publishers – Published 7 January 2020

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Synopsis

When elite members of the military are murdered on the streets of Washington, DC, FBI Special Agent Bailey Ryan and NCIS Special Agent Marco Agostini must work together to bring the perpetrator to justice. Unfortunately, all evidence points to a Navy SEAL sniper whom Bailey refuses to believe is guilty.

When Bailey and Marco start to connect the dots between the victims, including a link to a powerful defense contractor, they wonder if there’s a deeper cover-up at play. Then Bailey is targeted, and it becomes clear that someone is willing to kill to keep their dark secrets.

With the stakes getting higher by the moment in a twisted conspiracy, there’s a rush against the clock to determine whom they can really trust. As allies turn to enemies, the biggest secret yet to be uncovered could be the end of all of them.

My thoughts

End Game reads like my favourite crime-fighting tv show. The focus is entirely on the investigation of a series of murders. Teamwork between agencies, searching through paperwork, interviews and interrogations, going where the evidence leads, it all works together to form a really interesting detective mystery with just a bit of suspense and life-threatening action. Quick dialogue and a great rapport between the large cast of characters involved in solving the crimes makes End Game a captivating book to read.

I really loved the focus on the investigation and the detective work the team do. While there are moments of suspense and the characters’ own lives are at stake, the action and thrills are not the focus of the story. I thought this was a much more realistic portrayal of criminal investigation work. It also made for very interesting reading as the legal ramifications of the case are considered, the team have to wait for evidence to be found, and they have to really work hard for the leads they discover.

FBI Special Agent Bailey Ryan and NCIS Special Agent Marco Agostini are our main characters. They have been asked to work together to solve two murders that may be linked together – the deaths of a construction worker and a Navy SEAL. When more bodies turn up and it looks more like a larger conspiracy cover-up, the two, with the help of their team, will have to outrun the target on their backs to find the people responsible.

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Book Review: Rogue Princess

Rogue Princess – B.R. Myers – Swoon Reads – Published 21 January 2020

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Synopsis

Princess Delia knows her duty: She must choose a prince to marry in order to secure an alliance and save her failing planet. Yet she secretly dreams of true love, and feels there must be a better way. Determined to chart her own course, she steals a spaceship to avoid the marriage, only to discover a handsome stowaway.

All Aidan wanted was to “borrow” a few palace trinkets to help him get off the planet. Okay, so maybe escaping on a royal ship wasn’t the smartest plan, but he never expected to be kidnapped by a runaway princess!

Sparks fly as this headstrong princess and clever thief battle wits, but everything changes when they inadvertently uncover a rebel conspiracy that could destroy their planet forever.

My thoughts

I love fairytale retelling and Rogue Princess was such a wonderful surprise. It’s fresh, clever, unique, romantic and has such a fantastic cast of strong, diverse characters.

Princess Delia knows her duty. Choose a husband that will benefit the kingdom. That doesn’t mean her heart doesn’t long for a love match. Determined to find another way to secure the energy source her planet needs, she attempts to steal a space ship and broker a deal. Aidan wants to find a better life away from the control of his stepfather and step brothers. Stealing items while working at the palace has enabled him to secure a new future for himself. But when he steals a valuable item from a prince he must run, and finds himself on Delia’s spaceship. The two don’t make it far, intercepted by pirates. Delia must return to the palace and face the wrath of the queen, Aidan to his stepfather. But the two have a connection and together begin to uncover a plot to over throw the monarchy.

Rogue Princess is a sci-fi romantic adventure, with themes of sustainability issues and equality. Advanced technology means there are servant androids and mini personal flying craft, spaceships and mentions of other planets, but the story remains firmly grounded on Delia’s home planet.

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Book Review: The Finder

The Finder – Kate Hendrick – Text Publishing – Published 1 August 2018

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Synopsis

When Lindsay meets Elias the signs aren’t promising. She’s a grungy introvert who doesn’t want to talk to anyone. He’s a teen fashionista who can’t shut the hell up.

But since Lindsay tracked down a runaway kid, word’s got around that she knows how to find people. And Elias is looking for his birth mother. And he has money, and Lindsay’s perpetually broke… So that’s how this oddest of odd couples teams up.

But the thing is, Lindsay wasn’t actually trying to find the runaway. It’s just how she looks at the world. Not idly, like most people, but really looking. Scanning every house, every face, every car. That’s because someone is missing in Lindsay’s life: her identical twin Frankie, who disappeared when they were eight. Since then, her parents have kept themselves busy. And angry. And Lindsay has been…looking.

My thoughts

The Finder is a light mystery with plenty of heart. I recently read and loved Lost and Found by Orson Scott Card, so I was delighted when I discovered The Finder has a similar tone, with a very Aussie setting. Family, friendship and mystery combine in this book to provide a remarkably uplifting story about loss and the people left behind.

Lindsay has spent her life looking. It’s how she survived since her twin sister went missing when they were kids. Now with a family full of younger siblings, a busy mother and an absent father, Lindsay craves silence. She’s not surprised when she accidentally finds teen runaway, but she is surprised when it brings teen fashionista, Elias to her door asking for her help in locating his birth mother. She agrees, just as an excuse to get out of her crowded house. But even though Elias drives her crazy with his overly styled hair and non-stop chatter, Lindsay finds it comforting to finally have someone to look with.

The Finder brings such a delightful mix of humour and light-hearted joy combined with sorrow and grief. The themes touched upon in the story are quite deep. Lindsay’s discovery of Vogue and being asked to join in Elias’ search bring to the forefront the continued grief and guilt she carries from her twin sister’s disappearance. The trauma tore her family apart. Now her mother is busy with all Lindsay’s new siblings, her father is constantly at work and angry in those rare times he is home and Lindsay is forbidden from even mentioning her sister. This grief has been bottled up and Lindsay is ready to explode. The book captures the raw emotions Lindsay and her family are experiencing. There is also some mystery surrounding what transpired in Lindsay’s sister’s disappearance.

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Book Review: Collateral Damage

Collateral Damage – Lynette Eason – Danger Never Sleeps #1 – Revell – Published 7 January 2020

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Synopsis

Honorably discharged from the Army after an explosion nearly killed her, former military psychiatrist Brooke Adams has set up shop to help others–but her days of helping military personnel are over. She’s got her own battles to fight from her time overseas, and she’s not equipped to take on more. Former Army Special Ops Sergeant First Class Asher James could handle anything that war sent his way–terrorists, bombs, bullets. The only thing that scares him now is sleep. As the shadows close in, the nightmares begin.

Finally convinced that he needs help, Asher makes an appointment with a counselor, and Brooke is pressed by her boss to take him on. When he arrives at her office she isn’t there–but a dead body is. Brooke is devastated when she walks in, and Asher is a conveniently strong shoulder to cry on. But she can’t take him on as a client after sharing such an intimate and unprofessional moment, can she? And he’s not sure he can handle sharing his deepest fears with such a beautiful woman.

When it becomes clear that Brooke was the real target of the attack–and that her secrets go even deeper than his own–Asher vows to protect her no matter what.

My thoughts

There is so much to love about this suspense novel. Multiple storylines come together to reveal a complex plot that has a devastating impact. A team of highly trained professionals, from detectives and medical examiners and investigative journalists, to military men and women and psychiatrist, work together to uncover the threads of this international case. With two main characters that have a great chemistry as well as a heartbreaking connection via shared trauma, this romantic suspense novel is the perfect start to a new series.

Military psychiatrist Brooke Adams left the army after giving her all—and nearly her life—in Afghanistan. Now she is back on American soil and working again as a psychiatrist, she just no longer works with service men or women and struggles with her own traumatic memories and nightmares of the explosion she survived. So when she is assigned a session with former Army Special Ops Sergeant First Class Asher James, she is not sure how she is going to face the memories or the man who helped save her life. When Asher intercepts an attempt on Brooke’s life, the two team up to stay alive and discover how the current attacks fit in with their pasts.

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Book Review: Echoes Between Us

Echoes Between Us – Katie McGarry – Tor Teen – Published 14 January 2020

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Synopsis

Veronica sees ghosts. More specifically, her mother’s ghost. The afterimages of blinding migraines caused by the brain tumor that keeps her on the fringes and consumes her whole life haunt her, even as she wonders if it’s something more…

Golden boy Sawyer is handsome and popular, a state champion swimmer, but his adrenaline addiction draws him to Veronica.

A girl with nothing to live for and a boy with everything to lose–can they conquer their demons together?

My thoughts

As a devoted Katie McGarry fan I was a little worried when this book was marketed as a breakout novel and a move into a new genre. I shouldn’t have worried. Echoes Between Us is everything a Katie McGarry novel always is – heartbreaking, emotional, addictive, thrilling and romantic- with ghosts. It’s actually not much different from its companion novel Only A Breath Apart, which introduced a touch of the supernatural to the main story of family complexity and romance. Echoes Between Us encapsulates so many emotions and such important topics around grief, learning difficulties, illness and addiction.

Veronica can see her mother’s ghost. It, along with crippling migraines, is a constant reminder that she has a brain tumour, like the tumour that killed her mother. But she’s not afraid to die. Veronica is curious about the footsteps and rumbles in her own home, the rumours of ghosts that haunt the abandoned TB hospital, the stories of a girl who walks along the stretch of road where she died. When Sawyer moves into the rooms above Veronica’s house, he is sceptical of the warnings he receives about it being haunted. Even more sceptical of Veronica and her band of friends. He’s got bigger troubles, like taking care of his mother and sister, and resisting to urge to get adrenaline highs from cliff jumping. But Sawyer and Veronica are drawn together, and in order to hide a secret, Sawyer agrees to partner with Veronica on her ghost hunting senior project.

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Book Review: The Way of the Brave

The Way of the Brave – Susan May Warren – Global Search and Rescue #1 – Revell – Published 7 January 2020

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Synopsis

Former pararescue jumper Orion Starr is haunted by the memory of a rescue gone wrong. He may be living alone in Alaska now, but the pain of his failure–and his injuries–has followed him there from Afghanistan. He has no desire to join Hamilton Jones’s elite rescue team, but he also can’t shirk his duty when the call comes in to rescue three lost climbers on Denali.

Former CIA profiler and psychiatrist Jenny Calhoun’s yearly extreme challenge with her best friends is her only escape from the guilt that has sunk its claws into her. As a consultant during a top-secret mission to root out the Taliban, she green-lighted an operation that ended in ambush and lives lost. When her cathartic climb on Denali turns deadly, she’ll be forced to trust her life and the lives of her friends to the most dangerous of heroes–the man she nearly killed.

Her skills and his experience are exactly what’s needed to prevent another tragedy–but in order to truly set Orion free from his painful past, Jenny will have to reveal hers. They’ll have to put their wounds behind them to survive, but at what cost?

My thoughts

The Way of the Brave launches a new series by pro writer Susan May Warren. With her trademark breathtaking romance, fearless heroes and endless suspense and action, The Way of the Brave is a thrilling and slightly daunting read.

Jacie is haunted by mistakes she made while working as an undercover CIA profiler – mistakes that led to good service men being injured and killed. Now, with her two best friends, she is attempting to scale Denali, a ruthless mountain, in a bid to remind herself she is strong and not being held back by her mistakes. Orion lost the only remaining family in the attack on his Parajumping team that left him injured and his teammates dead or taken captive. Coming across Jacie, now going by Jenny, Orion thinks might have a chance of rekindling what they once started, but he has no idea she is the one who holds the answers he seeks or the one to whom his anger is unknowingly directed. When Jacie and her friends are blown off the mountain it will take the strength of both her team and Orion’s to get back to safety.

Mountain climbing is definitely not on my to-do list. In fact, it’s something I just cannot see the appeal of. So it was a little hard to connect with the characters and their drive to scale Mount McKinley. It does, however, make for stunning backdrop scenery and a perfect setup for a suspense novel where everything that could go wrong, does go wrong. Whiteouts, avalanches, falls, injuries, altitude sickness – why do people go mountain climbing again? But it tests the characters, pushes them to their limits and force them to reevaluate their lives, faith and pasts. It also gives them the excuse to snuggle close to keep warm.

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Book Review: Keystone

Keystone – Katie Delahanty – Entangled: Teen – Published 7 January 2020

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Synopsis

When Ella Karman debuts on the Social Stock Exchange, she finds out life as a high-profile “Influencer” isn’t what she expected. Everyone around her is consumed by their rankings, in creating the smoke and mirrors that make them the envy of the world.

But then Ella’s best friend betrays her, her rankings tank, and she loses—everything.

Leaving her old life behind, she joins Keystone, a secret school for thieves, where students are being trained to steal everything analog and original because something—or someone—is changing history to suit their needs.

Partnered with the annoyingly hot—and utterly impossible—Garrett Alexander, who has plenty of his own secrets, Ella is forced to return to the Influencer world, while unraveling a conspiracy that began decades ago.

One wrong move and she could lose everything—again.

My thoughts

I went through a whole range of reactions while reading Keystone. I couldn’t have hated the beginning more. I was disconnected, confused and ready to put the book down and never pick it back up. However, I reasoned I was very busy at work and was only reading the book in short fits and I really should give it a better chance to capture my attention. I’m glad I did. One week into my holiday, I picked it up again. There were sections in the middle that made me cringe, but the story comes together and I was intrigued by the mix of social commentary, dystopian story and heist novel. By the end, I was hooked. What a fabulous turn around. The end reads like a thrilling action movie. I’m intrigued about where the series is going to go next.

Keystone dumps the reader right into the middle of the plot and action. So much so, that I actually stopped reading and went to check if this was a second book in a series. The story starts in the middle of big events for Elisha, the main character, and readers must just go along for the ride, picking up details about who she is, why she’s just jumped off an exploding yacht, who and what the Disconnects are, the slightly futuristic world, and what on earth is going on, along the way. This sudden start makes it hard to connect or care about Elisha’s trauma (because we are not sure what really happened anyway) or grief (how can we mourn characters we never met?). It only gets more confusing from there, as she somehow joins (or has already joined??) a group of spies. After reading on a bit and some backstory is provided via journaled flashbacks, it made a lot of sense for the book to start after Elisha (or Ella) has left her Influencer life as she is rather unlikeable before and that is more palatable as she reflects on her mistakes and how she wants to change. I would have liked a few more details about what she knew of the Disconnects and Keystone as she started there, but I did eventually figure out the essential details.

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Book Review: The Solid Grounds Coffee Company

The Solid Grounds Coffee Company – Carla Laureano – Supper Club #3 – Tyndale – Published 4 February 2020

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Synopsis

Analyn Sanchez can handle the long hours and arrogant clients that come with her job as a crisis management associate at Denver’s largest publicity firm. The high-powered job, expensive condo, and designer wardrobe are all part of her plan to prove to her family that her life choices haven’t been in vain. But when she’s asked to cover up a client’s misdeeds with serious moral and legal ramifications, she can no longer sacrifice her conscience for her career . . . and the cost is no less than her job.

Ever since a devastating climbing accident in South America eight months ago, and a bad decision that dried up his sponsorships, professional rock climber Bryan Shaw has found himself at similar loose ends. When the opportunity to buy a coffee farm in Colombia arises, he jumps on it–only to discover his wandering ways have left him utterly unprepared to run a business.

When Bryan returns home and offers Ana a role in his company as a solution to both their problems, she’s desperate enough to consider working with the far-too-flippant and far-too-handsome climber, even though he’s the polar opposite of her type A nature. As they delve deeper into the business, however, she begins to suspect there’s much more to Bryan than she’s given him credit for . . . and that sometimes the best plans are the ones you never see coming.

My thoughts

The Solid Grounds Coffee Company is such a delightful novel. I adored books one and two in this series and I was so keen to read this one I pushed it to the top of my rather large reading pile. And I’m so glad I did. I seriously love this series and I fell in love with Ana, Bryan, their coffee company venture and their romance. This book has everything I need – good food, great friendship, passionate kisses, faith and so much heart. I highly recommend this book and highly recommend the entire Supper Club series.

Ana is a publicist. It’s a high-style life, where keeping up appearances is a 24/7 occupation. But when a client asks her to cross moral and legal grounds and Ana refuses, she is asked to take a four month break from work. Bryan is a changed man. After a personal disaster and professional accident he left the world of rock climbing and purchased a coffee bean farm in Columbia. But his plans for creating a coffee roasting company could do with the guidance of a marketing guru. Ana and Bryan join forces, but they each vow to ignore the the physical attraction they’ve been dancing around for years.

This is a powerful story of second chances and learning from past mistakes. Bryan is very open about his past lifestyle and how he has now moved away from that. But he knows there are consequences and a long journey ahead of making different choices. Ana is only just starting to realise her life choices may not be want she actually wants, and she, too, has a past she’s kept very well hidden from the world. Ana and Bryan have far more in common than they realised and watching their friendship grow and mature, even as they fight the sparks of attraction, was so much fun.

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