Book Review: Just Look Up

Just Look Up – Courtney Walsh – Tyndale House – Published 4 July 2017

♥♥♥♥/♥

 

 

Synopsis

After tirelessly climbing the ranks of her Chicago-based interior design firm, Lane Kelley is about to land her dream promotion when devastating news about her brother draws her back home–a quaint tourist town full of memories she’d just as soon forget. With her cell phone and laptop always within reach, Lane aims to check on her brother while staying focused on work–something her eclectic family doesn’t understand.

Ryan Brooks never expected to settle down in Harbor Pointe, Michigan, but after his final tour of duty, it was the only place that felt like home. Now knee-deep in a renovation project that could boost tourism for the struggling town, he is thrilled to see Lane, the girl he secretly once loved, even if the circumstances of her homecoming aren’t ideal.

Their reunion gets off to a rocky start, however, when Ryan can’t find a trace of the girl he once knew in the woman she is today. As he slowly chips away at the walls Lane has built, secrets from his past collide with a terrible truth even he is reluctant to believe. Facing a crossroads that could define his future with Lane and jeopardize his relationship with the surrogate family he’s found in the Kelleys, Ryan hopes Lane can see that maybe what really matters has been right in front of her all along–if only she’d just look up.

My thoughts

Just Look Up is an enthralling contemporary novel, with a very relatable message of discovering one’s self worth and beauty. I was wonderfully content to settle within the pages of this story and surround myself with the vibrant characters.

Lane Kelley left her home town of Harbor Pointe and never looked back. She surrounds herself with work and is content to let that dictate her life – work can’t hurt her like a relationship or family could. But a family accident drags Lane back home, risking a promotion and subjecting her to the shame of the past that she was so eager to escape. Ryan Brooks found solace in Harbor Pointe. To him, it is a refuge away from the trauma of war and his childhood. But the accident that nearly claims both his and his friend’s life brings up his past, as does Lane returning home. He hopes that he can show Lane that she is worth far more than her work life and that in taking the time to slow down she might find contentment and be willing to risk her heart again.

I am so glad I read this novel. I didn’t overly enjoy Paper Hearts, the only other book I have previously read by this author, and I was a little reluctant to take the risk on this, her latest release. But I am so glad I did read it because it was so worth it. Just Look Up was simply wonderful. The characters and settings, both Lane’s busy work of Chicago and the small-town Harbor Pointe, leapt off the page.

Continue reading

Book Review: The Secret Science of Magic

The Secret Science of Magic – Melissa Keil – Hardie Grant Egmont – Published 1 April 2017

♥♥♥♥

 

 

Synopsis

Sophia is smart, like genius-calculator-brain smart. But there are some things no amount of genius can prepare you for, and the messiness of real life is one of them. When everything she knows is falling apart, how can she crack the puzzle of what to do with her life?

Joshua spends his time honing magic tricks and planning how to win Sophia’s heart. But when your best trick is making schoolwork disappear, how do you possibly romance a genius?

In life and love, timing is everything.

My thoughts

I have come to really love Melissa Keil’s writing and I was eagerly awaiting the release of this, her latest title. The Secret Science of Magic was one part wonderful, one part heartwarming, and totally teenagery (yes, that’s a word).

Sophia is a genius. She excels at maths and calculations, but struggles with social situations. Without her friend Elsie, she would be isolated. Joshua sees Sophia. For years he has longed to connect with her, really get to know her rather than observing from afar. But he knows she deserves more than a guy who is only good at magic tricks and doesn’t have a plan for his life. But as Joshua will tell you, timing is everything, and, maybe, it is the right time for Sophia and Joshua to finally connect.

I really enjoyed reading this book. I especially loved the characters. Sophia is awesome. She is incredibly smart when it comes to maths, but she is also terribly unsure about everything else, from reading facial expressions to understand others’ emotions. She knows she is different from the people around her, she longs to understand how to fit in better, and she really struggles with the feeling that different equals bad. Also, her favourite Doctor Who is Matt Smith, so clearly we are soul mates. Joshua is also an excellent character. A magician, he is constantly fidgeting or shuffling cards. He cares about Sophia but has a lot to learn about his role in her life and the role he should play in his own life. I loved his journey of discovery, I loved his friends, and I loved the way he loved Sophia.

Continue reading

New Book Releases June 2017

New Book Releases for June 2017

What’s new for YA and Christian fiction in June 2017? Read on to see what has made it onto my to-read list. Click on covers for more information and reviews.

Young Adult Fiction

The Unlikelies – Carrie Firestone – Little, Brown and Company – Published 6 June 2017

Rising high school senior Sadie is bracing herself for a long, lonely, and boring summer. But things take an unexpected turn when she steps in to help rescue a baby in distress and a video of her good deed goes viral.

Suddenly internet-famous, Sadie’s summer changes for the better when she’s introduced to other “hometown heroes.” These five very different teens form an unlikely alliance to secretly right local wrongs, but when they try to help a heroin-using friend, they get in over their heads and discover that there might be truth in the saying “no good deed goes unpunished.” Can Sadie and her new friends make it through the summer with their friendships–and anonymity–intact?

Young adult fiction: Contemporary

Continue reading

Book Review: If I Were a Wizard

If I Were A Wizard – Paul Hamilton – EdTech Team Press – Published 1 November 2016

♥♥♥♥

 

 

Synopsis

While his fellow classmates dream of becoming football players, architects, and doctors, Ralph wants to be a wizard. With his magic, he would help his friends and family members—and even make the world a better place!

If I Were A Wizard introduces coding concepts through the enchanting imagination of a young boy. From Repeats and Loops to Algorithms, If I Were a Wizard prompts discussion and helps build conceptual understanding of coding.

My thoughts

If I Were A Wizard introduces the concepts of coding to children (and adults) in this imaginative picture book.

When Ralph’s teacher asks the class what they want to be when they grow up, there is the predictable reply of football player and doctor and architect. But Ralph wants to be a wizard. When his teacher asks why, Ralph explains all the ways in which he could help his family with his magic.

This book can be read as a simple but lovely story about a little boy who wants to help people, but cleverly hidden are the basic coding concepts. For example, when Ralph explains that he wants to make ten perfect waves for his father, this introduces the concepts of repeats and loops, and when he wants to help his grandfather retrace his steps to find his glasses this introduces sequence and order. Luckily for those of us who might be a little unsure about these concepts, they are all included in a glossary at the end of the book, which links the page to the concepts and provides an explanation.

Continue reading

Book Review: Dark Deception

Dark Deception – Nancy Mehl – Defenders of Justice #2 – Bethany House Publishers – Published 2 May 2017

♥♥♥

 

 

Synopsis

Kate O’Brien has been leading a quiet life in small-town Shelter Cove, Arkansas, for the past four years when her past suddenly comes roaring back to life. Four years ago, she and her twin sister were attacked by an elusive serial killer. Only Kate survived, and it was her drawing of the attacker–along with some last-minute evidence–that convicted the suspect. 
She’s been in witness protection ever since, but new evidence suggests the convicted man isn’t the murderer and she’s been subpoenaed to testify in the new trial. Nervous about the risk, she’ll only agree if the same marshal who protected her during the original trial escorts her to St. Louis. 

Deputy U.S. Marshal Tony DeLuca accepts the assignment to bring Kate to the trial, remembering how her strength impressed him. While in Shelter Cove, however, he gets a call from his chief, advising them to stay in Shelter Cove until a new development in the case can be straightened out. But when Kate’s safety is threatened, Tony must race against the clock to keep her alive and put this ugly case to rest before anyone else gets killed.

My thoughts

Unfortunately, I was quite disappointed with this novel. Dark Deception didn’t live up to the same standards as book one in the series, which combined romance with lots of suspense and good mystery solving. While Dark Deception combined the same three components, I was frustrated by this story that I thought predictable and lacking in romantic development.

Kate O’Brien survived a brutal attack that killed her sister. Kate’s testimony helped put a serial killer in jail. Now, new evidence suggest that Kate might have been wrong and her attacker has been released. U.S. Marshal Tony DeLuca is tasked with returning to Kate and convincing her to stand as a witness once again. But when Kate is kidnapped, Tony will have to uncover the truth about the Blue-Eyed Killer once and for all if he is to save her life.

Continue reading

Book Review: If Birds Fly Back

If Birds Fly Back – Carlie Sorosiak – HarperTeen – Published 27 June 2017

♥♥♥♥

 

 

Synopsis

Linny has been fascinated by disappearances, ever since her sister Grace ran away in the middle of the night without saying goodbye.

Sebastian can tell you how many galaxies there are, and knows how much plutonium weighs. But the one thing he can’t figure out is the identity of his birth father. 

They’ve never met, but Linny and Sebastian have one thing in common: an obsession with famous novelist and filmmaker Alvaro Herrera, who went missing three years ago and has just reappeared. As they learn more about the mystery of Alvaro, Linny and Sebastian uncover the answers they’ve been searching for.

My thoughts

If Birds Fly Back is a poignant debut. This book is refreshingly heartwarming. A little sad, a lot realistic, and something a bit magical.

Linny is obsessed with people who disappear and then reappear again. Her sister Grace left home one night and hasn’t been seen since. Linny believes if she can study enough reappearances she might be able to bring Grace back somehow. So, when Linny spots Alvero Herera – missing, presumed dead for three years – at the nursing home where she volunteers, she knows she needs to learn his secrets. Sebastian too wonders why people leave, why they can turn their backs on their families. He, too wants to know Alvero, to know his secrets. But Sebastian has a secret of his own.

At first Sebastian and Linny repel each other. They get in each other’s way, they think they are so different from the other. I love it when characters begin by disliking each other. It brings so much more growth to the story. As Sebastian and Linny start to share their secrets, they learn that they have more in common than they originally thought. And, through a summer of piecing together secrets, they form a strong relationship.

If Birds Fly Back is told in alternating chapters, which switch between Sebastian and Linny’s points of view. They both have experienced the grief of losing someone who disappears without warning. They both are compelled by mysteries and questions, disappearances, theories, and reappearances. They are both wonderful characters. And yet their voices are unique. Sebastian has a colourful imagination, enhanced by his love of science and theories and testing the unknown. Linny has an artful creativity. Added to her chapters are sections from the screenplay that she is writing about losing her sister and trying to find her again.

Continue reading

Book Review: A Patch From Scratch

A Patch from Scratch – Megan Forward – Penguin/ Viking – Published 28 March 2017

♥♥♥♥

 

Synopsis

Jesse and Lewis want to grow their own fruit and vegies, just like people do on a farm. They’re going to dig and build, plant and grow, and when they’re finished they’re going to have a feast!

My thoughts

A Patch From Scratch is the story of Jesse who, with his mum and his dad and his big brother Lewis, creates a veggie patch.

There is something so deliciously earthy about this book, from the avocado-green end pages to the beige backgrounds on each page. This book is packed with heaps of content. The story flows nicely as the family first dream about their new veggie garden, then create a plan, begin building the chicken coop and raised garden bed, and start their planting. Everything from composting to companion planting, seed raising to pest control is covered within the story. There is enough information for this to become a wonderful guide for children who want to create their own veggie patch. Jesse even creates his own plant diary. The back of the book also contains information about the history of home veggie patches, where to find more information, the cycle of the veggie patch creation and maintenance and even some recipes to try.

Continue reading

Book Review: Stray

Stray – Joni Johnson – Independently Published – published 22 March 2017

♥♥♥

 

 

Synopsis

Lila Baxter, 17, is abandoned at a gas station in a small town when her father, who was taking her to live with her grandmother, has a lapse in sobriety. Lila is left alone, unsure of where she is, with no money, and no cell phone. Gas station cashier Vance Larson, 18, offers to help the unwanted girl. And how does Lila repay him? By unwittingly unhinging Vance’s whole life. Fixing the trouble she’s caused is next to impossible. And will any of it matter when her father returns?

My thoughts

Stray’s synopsis promised exactly what I love in YA fiction – tortured teens and a touch of romance. It reminded me of a story I read and loved many years ago by Cindy C. Bennett.

Lila has just graduated high school. She knows she only has a few days until she must find her own place to live, but she doesn’t expect her father to pack her into his truck and drive halfway across the country. And, despite his disinterest over the past years, nor does she expect him to abandon her in a small town in the middle of nowhere. Alone and unsure what to do she accepts the help of Vance, a (admittedly handsome) guy she meets, who takes her home. There she experiences the love of a family for the first time as Vance and his mother, Vicki, welcome Lila into their home and lives.

Continue reading

Book Review: Twig

Twig – Aura Parker – Scholastic – Published November 2016

♥♥♥♥

 

 

Synopsis

Finding friends isn’t easy when no one can find you!

One, two, three. One, two three.

Why won’t someone play with me?

Heidi is a stick insect, long and thin like the twig of a tree. It’s her first day at Bug School, where she hopes to learn lots and make new friends. But no one will talk to her . . . and no one will play with her at lunch. No one notices her at all – not even her teacher Miss Orb. Perhaps she’s blending in with the branches a little too well! Finally, Heidi speaks up for herself and Miss Orb comes up with a plan to help Heidi stand out.

Aura Parker’s winsome illustrations are a pure delight. Kids of all ages will pore over the adorable details and enjoy the numbers and counting elements throughout the story. The endpapers are a delight and each includes a search-and-find activity.

My thoughts

I fell in love with this picture book when I first saw the end pages. I didn’t even need to read the story or flick through further to know it was going to be a gorgeous book.

Are you a bit different from those around you? Do you stand out? Or maybe you are so different no one even sees you? That’s the problem Heidi has. No one sees her. Heidi is tall and thin, just like the twig of a tree. It is her first day of school, but it is hard to make friends when no one notices you in the playground and you can’t join in the classroom activities if no one knows you’re there.

Continue reading

Book Review: Life After

Life After – Katie Ganshert – Waterbrook – Published 18 April 2017

♥♥♥♥♥

 

 

Synopsis

It could have been me.

Snow whirls around an elevated train platform in Chicago. A distracted woman boards the train, takes her seat, and moments later a fiery explosion rips through the frigid air, tearing the car apart in a horrific attack on the city’s transit system. One life is spared. Twenty-two are lost.

A year later, Autumn Manning can’t remember the day of the bombing and she is tormented by grief—by guilt. Twelve months of the question constantly echoing. Why? Why? Why? Searching for answers, she haunts the lives of the victims, unable to rest.

Paul Elliott lost his wife in the train bombing and wants to let the dead rest in peace, undisturbed and unable to cause more pain for his loved ones. He wants normalcy for his twelve-year-old daughter and young son, to see them move beyond the heartbreak. But when the Elliotts and Autumn are unexpectedly forced together, he fears she’ll bring more wreckage in her wake.

My thoughts

Confession: I’ve never read a book by Katie Ganshert before. Now, I am asking myself why? WHY NOT? Exaggerated forehead smack, Tate style. So I picked up Life After because it sounded really good and my Goodreads friends were giving it great reviews. And now I have learned my lesson and I will definitely be reading more of Katie Ganshert’s books. Life After is a beautiful, incredible book. Moving, sad, and uplifting. It digs deep, faces some really hard questions and packages it all up in a story that is incredibly enjoyable to read.

Autumn Manning was the sole survivor in a tragic attack that killed twenty-two others. Twenty-two lives that she obsesses and worries over each night. Twenty-two unfinished stories. When Reese Elliott, the daughter of one of those twenty-two people, reaches out to Autumn, their lives become entangled, forcing hidden truths into the light and maybe even starting a new future for Autumn and the Elliott family. Continue reading