Book Review: The Theory of Happily Ever After

The Theory of Happily Ever After – Kristen Billerbeck – Revell – Published 1 May 2018

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Synopsis

According to Dr. Maggie Maguire, happiness is serious science, as serious as Maggie takes herself. But science can’t always account for life’s anomalies–for instance, why her fiancé dumped her for a silk-scarf acrobat and how the breakup sent Maggie spiraling into an extended ice cream-fueled chick flick binge.

Concerned that she might never pull herself out of this nosedive, Maggie’s friends book her as a speaker on a “New Year, New You” cruise in the Gulf of Mexico. Maggie wonders if she’s qualified to teach others about happiness when she can’t muster up any for herself. But when a handsome stranger on board insists that smart women can’t ever be happy, Maggie sets out to prove him wrong. Along the way she may discover that happiness has far less to do with the head than with the heart.

My thoughts

The Theory of Happily Ever After is a romantic comedy with a hidden, tender heart.

Maggie might be a doctor on the science of happiness- and she has a bestseller to prove it- but that doesn’t mean she has all the answers. So when her fiancé leaves her for another woman, she is unsure how to move forward. Overwhelmed with the choices she must now make to direct her future research, resume her employment in the same place as her ex, and finish (or actually start) her next book, she finds that ice cream and movies are the only cure. Until her friends drag her on a cruise for singles where, surprise, Maggie is to be a guest speaker. Can Maggie prove to her friends, the handsome stranger who challenges her research, and ultimately to herself that she has the power to change her life and choose what she wants?

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Book Review: We’ll Fly Away

We’ll Fly Away – Bryan Bliss – Greenwillow Books – Published 8 May 2018

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Synopsis

Luke feels like he’s been looking after Toby his entire life. He patches Toby up when Toby’s father, a drunk and a petty criminal, beats on him, he gives him a place to stay, and he diffuses the situation at school when wise-cracking Toby inevitably gets into fights. Someday, Luke and Toby will leave this small town, riding the tails of Luke’s wrestling scholarship, and never look back.

But during their senior year, they begin to drift apart. Luke is dealing with his unreliable mother and her new boyfriend. And Toby unwittingly begins to get drawn into his father’s world, and falls for an older woman. All their long-held dreams seem to be unraveling.

My thoughts

We’ll Fly Away is a well-written, hard-hitting YA novel with important messages about poverty, child abuse, the justice system, and friendship. I knew We’ll Fly Away would be heartbreaking. I also expected it to be raw, upfront, exposed, and almost crude. It certainly is an unflinching book, with threads of hope (but mainly heartbreak) and a positive message.

Luke and Toby are best friends – the only ones to see inside the truths of the other’s life, the only ones who could understand. But Luke struggles to maintain his wrestling record for a college scholarship with his mother’s ever increased neglect and caring for his two younger brothers, and Toby falls into a relationship with an older woman while continuing to face his father’s abuse. Events will come to a head as the boys fight for their friendship, their future, and their freedom.

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Book Review: Lone Witness

Lone Witness – Rachel Dylan – Atlanta Justice #2 – Bethany House Publishers – Published 1 May 2018

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Synopsis

When prosecutor Sophie Dawson is the lone witness to a gang-related double homicide, her world is turned upside down. Private security guard Cooper Knight is hired to protect Sophie from the gang, but she’s more concerned about prosecuting her latest case than the threat to her life. Sophie wants to stand for what’s right, but can Cooper keep her safe?

My thoughts

Lone Witness is the second book in the Atlanta Justice series. Lone Witness is inspirational suspense meets legal drama, and features two cases that become deadly and one woman who dares to stand and fight for justice.

Sophie Dawson is devoted to finding justice for those who can’t fight for themselves, and a recent career move into white-collar crime as a prosecutor gives her the opportunity to do just that. But a late-night snack stop turns into a nightmare when she witnesses the murder of two people. Sophie must straddle both sides of the courtroom, as a witness and as prosecutor, as she juggles being a key witness in the shooting case and her own investigation into a money theft scheme. When her life is threatened, she must rely on private security guard Cooper Knight to keep her safe – even if spending more time with Cooper endangers her heart.

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Book Review: Storm Front

Storm Front – Susan May Warren – Montana Rescue #5 – Revell – Published 1 May 2018

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Synopsis

A tornado has destroyed a small Minnesota community and among the missing are not only a group of students but PEAK Rescue team leader Chet King. Ty Remington will stop at nothing to rescue his mentor, not even when the girl he loved–and lost–walks back into his life. But Brette needs his help more than he knows, despite her stubborn determination to push him away. And when he gets a second chance, loving her just might cost him more than he can imagine.

A blogger for Vortex Storm Chasers, Brette Arnold didn’t expect her adventures to land her in the same place as Ty, the guy who she walked–no, ran–from over a year ago. She had her reasons–good ones. The kind that tell her that falling for him again would only lead to heartache. But Ty isn’t the kind of man to give up–not on the missing students, or on her.

My thoughts

Five stars are not enough to convey the true awesomeness of Storm Front. What is it about this Montana Rescue series? It just gets better and better and better with each book – and they were pretty darn good to start off with.

Brette Arnold is tired of facing the challenges constantly thrown her way – the death of first her father then her mother, cancer, assault and now mounting debt – she’s tired of believing in hope when everything seems hopeless. It’s why she ran from the protection of Ty Remington’s embrace and the support he offered. But her current job as a photographer in a storm chasing team brings her face-to-face with Ty as a massive storm cell brings destruction and endangers the life of PEAK team leader, Chet King.

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Book Review: Things I Never Told You

Things I Never Told You – Beth K. Vogt – Tyndale House Publishers – Published 8 May 2018

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Synopsis

It’s been ten years since Payton Thatcher’s twin sister died in an accident, leaving the entire family to cope in whatever ways they could. No longer half of a pair, Payton reinvents herself as a partner in a successful party-planning business and is doing just fine–as long as she manages to hold her memories and her family at arm’s length.

But with her middle sister Jillian’s engagement, Payton’s party-planning skills are called into action. Which means working alongside her opinionated oldest sister, Johanna, who always seems ready for a fight. They can only hope that a wedding might be just the occasion to heal the resentment and jealousy that divides them . . . until a frightening diagnosis threatens Jillian’s plans and her future. As old wounds are reopened and the family faces the possibility of another tragedy, the Thatchers must decide if they will pull together or be driven further apart.

My thoughts

Things I Never Told You is both heartbreaking and uplifting, a story of sisters, grief, long-held secrets, the things that pull a family apart and the steps needed to bring healing to broken relationships.

Ten years ago, Payton Thatcher’s twin sister died. The Thatcher family coped in different ways, with Payton pulling away from her two older sisters. Now, Payton helps run an event planning business and is forced into working with her eldest sister, Johanna, to plan their middle sister, Jillian’s wedding. But a shocking diagnosis leaves Jillian reeling, while the ten-year anniversary of Pepper’s death has Payton caught in a web of grief and guilt. As the Thatcher sisters face life’s challenges, present and past, they have the opportunity to reassess – both their individual life choices and aspirations, and their relationship as sisters.

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Book Review: Summer Constellations

Summer Constellations – Alisha Sevigny – Kids Can Press – Published 1 May 2018

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Synopsis

Julia Ducharme is ready for a fresh start. Her little brother has finally recovered from a serious illness, and now she just wants to enjoy peak season at the campground her family owns. Maybe this will be the year her annual summer fling with Dan Schaeffer becomes something more?

But her summer dreams are quickly shattered. First, Dan arrives for vacation with a new girlfriend in tow, and then Julia discovers this may be her last summer in the only home she’s ever known.

Crushing medical bills have brought her single mom to the brink of bankruptcy, and a wealthy developer is sniffing around the campground. He sees what Julia sees: lush woods, a pristine lake, miles of trails for adventure. Unlike Julia, he thinks this is the perfect spot for a casino resort.

Heartbroken and afraid, Julia looks to the stars for some perspective. Taking her telescope down to the dock one night, she has a chance encounter with a guitar-playing boy who offers some helpful advice. Too bad this handsome stranger is the developer’s son, Nick Constantine.

As plans for a resort move forward, Julia is desperate to find a solution that doesn’t mean leaving the lake. Nick, in turn, is desperate to separate himself from his father’s aggressive business tactics. He promises that, together, they can thwart the sale.

But can Julia trust him to conspire against his own father? And could she ever she trust him with her heart?

My thoughts

A passionate, summer romance, a last-ditch attempt to save her family’s home, a touch of mystery and adventure. While Summer Constellations has all the right elements for an epic summer read, it was merely a solid book, one that I enjoyed reading but didn’t love as much as I expected to.

Julia’s summer isn’t mapping out the way she planned. First her best friend leaves for the holidays, then her mother announces she might have to sell their family home, a gorgeous lakeside campgrounds, to pay off their medical debts. And to top it off, Julia’s crush and maybe boyfriend just turned up with his new girlfriend in tow. So, not great. Then she meets the charming and gorgeous Nick. But that too only hides more hurt, when Julia discovers he is the son of the man planning to take her beloved home from her. But she and Nick have some serious chemistry, and, together with her little brother, they make plans to prevent the sale of Julia’s home.

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Book Review: The Academy

The Academy – Katie Site – Balzer+Bray – Published 22 May 2018

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Synopsis

Frankie Brooks knows what she wants in life: to become the world’s next great fashion editor. All she needs to do is get into the elite American Fashion Academy in New York City. If she gets in, her life plans will be going right on schedule. Anna Wintour, watch out.

But after Frankie messes up one too many times—hey, it’s hard keeping up with classwork and an acclaimed fashion blog—her parents come up with entirely different plans for her future: Military school. How is Frankie, the least athletic person in the world, who knows absolutely nothing about the military, going to survive a whole semester at the famed—and feared—Academy?

With students who seem to be totally uninterested in her, a course-load that’s even more difficult than at her old school, and the weird athletic War Games competition Frankie has to join—her life is way harder than it used to be. And no one, including her roommate Joni, seems to understand Frankie at all.

As she learns how to cope in about a million drills, a hundred different specialized classes, and is maybe even falling for super-hot and super-smart cadet Jack Wattson, can Frankie prove to everyone that being a fashionista doesn’t mean she can’t succeed?

My thoughts

Secret confession: I adore the movie Cadet Kelly. You know, the one staring Hilary Duff about an artistic young girl who gets sent to military school. Mayhem ensues. So this book, The Academy, just called my name and insisted that I read it. The Devil Wears Prada meets Private Benjamin? Yes, please! Sign me up. It shares many similarities to the above mentioned movies. The Academy is at times laugh-out-loud funny and adventurous, but also focuses on the main character learning something about herself and about how she views and treats others.

Frankie dreams of becoming an editor for a top fashion magazine. Her fashion blog is already popular and she has applied to an elite fashion school. But when her parents discover she hosted a party at their home and cheated on her chemistry test, they decide to send Frankie to Albany Military Academy. Frankie is determined to get sent home as soon as possible (the military outfit really doesn’t work with her style), but is surprised to find that her position at the academy just might be worth fighting for after all.

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Book Review: Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now

Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now – Dana L. Davis – Harlequin Teen – Published 1 May 2018

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Synopsis

For sixteen-year-old Tiffany Sly, life hasn’t been safe or normal for a while. Losing her mom to cancer has her a little bit traumatized and now she has to leave her hometown of Chicago to live with the biological dad she’s never known.

Anthony Stone is a rich man with four other daughters—and rules for every second of the day. Tiffany tries to make the best of things, but she doesn’t fit into her new luxurious, but super-strict, home—or get along with her standoffish sister London. The only thing that makes her new life even remotely bearable is the strange boy across the street. Marcus McKinney has had his own experiences with death, and the unexpected friendship that blossoms between them is the only thing that makes her feel grounded.

But Tiffany has a secret. Another man claims he’s Tiffany’s real dad—and she only has seven days before he shows up to demand a paternity test and the truth comes out. With her life about to fall apart all over again, Tiffany finds herself discovering unexpected truths about her father, her mother and herself, and realizing that maybe family is in the bonds you make—and that life means sometimes taking risks.

My thoughts

Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now is a magical kind of book. It is a book that made me laugh and cry, a book that challenges the reader on everything from the definition of family and existential life questions, to acceptance, forgiveness, and the crazy things we do to make the world make sense. It’s a book about never giving up – on life or people. It’s a book about looking past the surface. It’s a book about life. And I loved it.

Tiffany Sly is on a plane to meet her father for the first time. A father she only just learnt about. Still reeling from the death of her mother, a new father is the least of Tiffany’s troubles. Because there is another guy who claims to be her father – and who wants a court-ordered DNA test to prove it. Tiffany has just seven days to meet her ‘father’, find a place in his family, and decide if staying is what she wants.

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Book Review: Falling for You

Falling For You – Becky Wade – Bradford Sisters Romance #2 – Bethany House – Published 1 May 2018

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Synopsis

Willow Bradford is content taking a break from modeling to run her family’s inn until she comes face-to-face with NFL quarterback Corbin Stewart, the man who broke her heart–and wants to win her back. When a decades-old missing-persons case brings them together, they’re forced to decide whether they can risk falling for one another all over again.

My thoughts

My heart just sighed with happiness. There is so much to love about Falling For You – a beautifully sweet love story of second chances, a return to wonderful sibling relationships, a decades-old mystery to solve, love, humour, faith, and family all wrapped up in a parcel of deliciousness.

Willow has returned to her family home – taking time off from her modelling career and stepping in to help run her parents’ BnB. Willow doesn’t expect to run into her ex-boyfriend and biggest regret, Corbin Stewart. Willow’s plan is to avoid and ignore Corbin and the hurt she still carries over the way their relationship ended, but when Corbin’s niece Charlotte requests Willow’s help to solve a family mystery, Willow finds it hard to say no, even if it means working (and spending time) with Corbin.

Ahhhh. The sweet romance of second chances. Relationship do-overs are so much fun, and I particularly liked Corbin and Willow’s journey from hurt and shame to reconciliation. At first, I wasn’t sure if I liked Corbin all that much. He seemed a little too showman-like, sure of himself and loudly confident. But he grew on me and, as Willow similarly discovered, it is hard to resist Corbin’s charm. As the story unfolds, it was also easier to see Corbin’s charisma as a protective facade, and the times he lets his vulnerability show were precious.

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Book Review: Honeysuckle Dreams

Honeysuckle Dreams – Denise Hunter – Thomas Nelson – Published 1 May 2018

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Synopsis

After Brady Collins’ ex-wife dies, he receives devastating news—his nine-month-old son Sam isn’t his son at all. And Sam’s wealthy maternal grandparents want custody of the child. Brady knows he’s in for the fight of his life. But regardless of what any blood test says, Sam is his son, and Brady will go to any lengths to keep him.

Brady’s attorney tips him off that one major life change would virtually assure him of winning guardianship of baby Sam at the final hearing: an impending marriage. And his friend Hope is willing to step in as the loving and devoted fiance.

Local radio celebrity Hope Daniels has been driven by a solitary goal her entire life, and after a happy accident she’s finally offered her dream job. But if the truth comes out about her arrangement with Brady, she may miss the chance of a lifetime and stand in the way of a dear friend’s dreams.

As Brady and Hope make sacrifices to help each other in their times of need, they risk uncovering a truth neither of them expects to find.

My thoughts

Honeysuckle Dreams is the second novel in the Blue Ridge Romance series (third if you consider the loosely related companion novel, Sweetbriar Cottage). Honeysuckle Dreams shares with these sister books a sweetly romantic story of second chances, facing fears and finding happily ever after.

Hope Daniels would do just about anything for her friend Brady Collins. So when Brady’s life is turned upside down and he faces losing the custody rights of his young son, Hope shocks herself by agreeing to a marriage of convenience. What starts as a way to hopefully secure Brady and Sam’s future, slowly begins to morph into something more as Hope and Brady spend more time together and begin to integrate their lives.

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