Book Review: Renegades

Renegades – Marissa Meyer – Renegades #1 – Feiwel and Friends – Published 7 November 2017

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Synopsis

The Renegades are a syndicate of prodigies — humans with extraordinary abilities — who emerged from the ruins of a crumbled society and established peace and order where chaos reigned. As champions of justice, they remain a symbol of hope and courage to everyone… except the villains they once overthrew.

Nova has a reason to hate the Renegades, and she is on a mission for vengeance. As she gets closer to her target, she meets Adrian, a Renegade boy who believes in justice — and in Nova. But Nova’s allegiance is to a villain who has the power to end them both.

My thoughts

Well. This. Was. AWESOME. Seriously, how have I not read this before? I love superhero novels but I’m really picky and struggle to find good ones. This was just fabulous from beginning to startling end.

Nova is a villain. Has been ever since her uncle, Ace Anarchy took her in when her family was murdered and the Renegades – superheroes- did nothing to save them. When Nova’s attempt on the life of the head superhero, Captain Chromium goes awry, she has to take a new tact for taking down the Renegades – this time from the inside.

Nova is just the kind of character I love. Conflicted, hiding multiple secrets and secret identities, trying to be moral and do the right thing bust also working on the “bad guys” team, industrious and clever and also slightly sarcastic.

Our second main character is Adrian. He is a Renegade Team Captain, adoptive son to the two lead superheroes and a believer in the Renegade justice system. He is also hiding a secret. His prodigy power, to bring anything he draws into reality, has allowed him to create an extra superhero identity. Adrian is the perfect offset to Nova. And they connect almost straight away, after fighting each other in their other identities, of course. As Nova works her way into the Renegade program and onto Adrian’s team, she gathers a lot more information about the Renegades. Maybe they are not all bad, but she is determined to get revenge for her family’s deaths.

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Book Review: Spirits of the Coast

Spirits of the Coast: Orcas in science, art and history – Martha Black (ed), Lorne Hammond (ed), Gavin Hanke (ed), Nikki Sanchez (ed) – The Royal British Columbia Museum – Published 15 May 2020

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Synopsis

Spirits of the Coast brings together the work of marine biologists, Indigenous knowledge keepers, poets, artists, and storytellers, united by their enchantment with the orca. Long feared in settler cultures as “killer whales,” and respected and honored by Indigenous cultures as friends, family, or benefactors, orcas are complex social beings with culture and language of their own. With contributors ranging from Briony Penn to David Suzuki, Gary Geddes and Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas, this collection brings together diverse voices, young and old, to explore the magic, myths, and ecology of orcas. A literary and visual journey through past and possibility, Spirits of the Coast illustrates how these enigmatic animals have shaped us as much as our actions have impacted them, and provokes the reader to imagine the shape of our shared future.

My thoughts

As a lover of all thing orca I knew I just had to read this book. And it was beautiful from cover to cover. There are many books out there about orcas, from introductory marine science books for kids to exposés about orcas in captivity. Spirits of the Coast captures all of that, as well as the elements I have often found to be missing from previous books, most notably that of an indigenous perspective. Through stories, poems, retellings, drawings, photographs, sculpture, museum exhibits, reflections, and articles, Spirits of the Coast captures a wide perspective on the amazing orcas and their history of interactions with humans. From the heartbreaking and despairing to the hopeful and uplifting, Spirits of the Coast is a powerful compendium.

Spirits of the Coast is divided into three main sections: Connection, Captivity and Consciousness. Throughout each, the power and magnificence of the orca is clearly portrayed. There is respect and awe and it seeps through every word, photograph and artwork.

At all times this is a book about orcas from a human perspective. That perspective spans many generations, cultures, opinions and angles. I loved that it contains many works of art, stories, and retellings from an indigenous perspective. Other books on orcas and their interactions with humans often neglect this perspective. It is so important.

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Book Review: 100 Days of Sunlight

100 Days of Sunlight – Abbie Emmons – Published 7 August 2019

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Synopsis

Terrified that her vision might never return, Tessa feels like she has nothing left to be happy about. But when her grandparents place an ad in the local newspaper looking for a typist to help Tessa continue writing and blogging, an unlikely answer knocks at their door: Weston Ludovico, a boy her age with bright eyes, an optimistic smile…and no legs.

Knowing how angry and afraid Tessa is feeling, Weston thinks he can help her. But he has one condition — no one can tell Tessa about his disability. And because she can’t see him, she treats him with contempt: screaming at him to get out of her house and never come back. But for Weston, it’s the most amazing feeling: to be treated like a normal person, not just a sob story. So he comes back. Again and again and again.

Tessa spurns Weston’s “obnoxious optimism”, convinced that he has no idea what she’s going through. But Weston knows exactly how she feels and reaches into her darkness to show her that there is more than one way to experience the world. As Tessa grows closer to Weston, she finds it harder and harder to imagine life without him — and Weston can’t imagine life without her. But he still hasn’t told her the truth, and when Tessa’s sight returns he’ll have to make the hardest decision of his life: vanish from Tessa’s world…or overcome his fear of being seen.

My thoughts

What if you couldn’t see? What if someone couldn’t see you? Does it change how you judge people, judge the world? 100 Days of Starlight is a teenage love story, but it is also a story about resilience and learning to get back up when knocked down by life.

A car crash leaves Tessa temporarily blind. Now Tessa refuses to write her poetry or leave the house, so her grandparents place an ad for a helper. Weston sees the ad at his father’s paper just before it’s pulled from publication and decides Tessa is someone he can help. As a double amputee, the idea of someone getting to know him without seeing him is very appealing. At first reluctant to work with Weston, Tessa pushes him away in every way she can, but he doesn’t give up – determined to show her that life is about more than what she can see. Continue reading

Book Review: Fragments of Fear

Fragments of Fear – Carrie Stuart Parks – Thomas Nelson – Published 23 July 2019

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Synopsis

Evelyn McTavish’s world came crashing down with the suicide of her fiancé. As she struggles to put her life back together and make a living from her art, she receives a call that her dog is about to be destroyed at the pound. Except she doesn’t own a dog. The shelter is adamant that the microchip embedded in the canine with her name and address makes it hers.

Evelyn recognizes the dog as one owned by archaeologist John Coyote because she was commissioned to draw the two of them. The simple solution is to return the dog to his owner—but she arrives only to discover John’s murdered body.

As Evelyn herself becomes a target, she crosses paths with undercover FBI agent Sawyer Price. The more he gets to know her, the more personally invested he becomes in keeping her safe. Together, they’re desperate to find the links between so many disparate pieces.

And the clock is ticking.

My thoughts

Fragments of Fear is a thrilling and intricately woven suspense novel. With endless twists and loads of action, it is a novel that continued to keep me guessing and marvelling at the unexpected strength of the main character. Fragments of Fear is the first novel I have read by Carrie Stuart Parks and I was impressed with her storytelling and mastery of the suspense details.

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Book Review: The Arrival of Someday

The Arrival of Someday – Jen Malone – HarperTeen – Published 23 July 2019

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Synopsis

Hard-charging and irrepressible eighteen-year-old Amelia Linehan could see a roller derby opponent a mile away—and that’s while crouched down, bent over skates, and zooming around a track at the speed of light. They don’t call her Rolldemort for nothing! What she couldn’t see coming, however, was the unexpected flare-up of a rare liver disorder she was born with. But now it’s the only thing she—and everyone around her—can think about.

With no guarantee of a viable organ transplant, everything Amelia’s been sure of—like her college plans, the mural she’d been commissioned to paint, or the possibility of one day falling in love—has become a huge question mark, threatening to drag her down into a sea of what-ifs she’s desperate to avoid.

Then a friend from the past shows up. With Will, it’s easy to forget about what’s lurking underneath the lightness of their time together. It’s easy to feel alive when all signs point elsewhere. On the other hand, with the odds decidedly not in her favor, Amelia knows this feeling couldn’t last forever. But what can?

My thoughts

I love books that make me cry. I also love books that can make me smile. And The Arrival of Someday had me doing both. I often call books uplifting. The Arrival of Someday goes past uplifting (though, that fits too) and is totally inspiring. It is surprising (that ending literally come out of nowhere and smacked me across the face), it is fun (simply a pleasure to sit down with and enjoy), and it combines everything I love about really good YA contemporary fiction – family, friendship and self-realisation.

Lia loves a good cause. Raising awareness, taking on the school board, even a good rally. She also loves roller derby and it’s for good reason they call her Rolldemort. With early entry into her college of choice, a mural competition awarded and awaiting completion and her best friend Sibby by her side, Lia’s life is good. Until she discovers that her liver disease, something she has had all her life, worsens and leaves Lia needing a liver transplant – and soon. Lia must navigate the transplant waiting list while trying to decide how she feels about putting some things in her life on hold and sorting out her family and friends’ reactions to her diagnosis.

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Book Review: Infinite Blue

Infinite Blue – Darren Groth and Simon Groth – Orca Book Publishers – Published 11 September 2018

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Synopsis

Ashley Drummond is an elite swimmer. Clayton Sandalford is a talented artist. From the  moment of their first meeting, they were destined to be together.

Staying together, however, will test the limits of their love. A world-record swim, and the strange vision that accompanies it, raises questions about the couple’s connection.

Then a life-altering incident triggers a mystical change, which will demand that both of them let go in ways never imagined.

My thoughts

Just like its cover, Infinite Blue is beautiful, ethereal and just a little bit magic. Mixing fantasy with realism, Infinite Blue is an epic love story about accepting your destiny and letting go.

The day Ashley and Clayton meet seems fated. Ashley appears almost out of nowhere to save Clayton’s life. As Ashley’s swimming career progresses to new heights, Clayton is her steadfast support. Yet as they face the challenges of time and distance they promise each other forever. Yet, neither could predict the impact that a terrible accident will have or the ways in which they will both have to let go.

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Book Review: Hurricane Season

Hurricane Season – Lauren K. Denton – Thomas Nelson – Published 3 April 2018

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Synopsis

Betsy and Ty Franklin, owners of Franklin Dairy Farm in southern Alabama, have decided to put life’s disappointments behind them. At least in theory. Ty manages their herd of dairy cows, while Betsy busies herself with the farm’s day-to-day operations and tries to forget the longing for motherhood set deep in her heart. But when Betsy’s free-spirited younger sister Jenna drops her young daughters off at the farm to attend a two-week art retreat in Florida, Betsy’s carefully constructed wall of self-protection begins to crumble.

As those two weeks stretch much farther into the hot Alabama summer, Betsy and Ty learn to navigate the new additions in their world and revel in a home that’s suddenly filled with the sound of laughter and life. Meanwhile, record heat promises to usher in the most active hurricane season in decades.

Four hundred miles away, Jenna is fighting her own battles. She’d once been free to travel and pursue a career in photography, but all that changed with the appearance of two pink lines on a plastic stick and a boyfriend who hit the road. At Halcyon art retreat, she finally has the time and energy to focus on her photography. As the summer continues, she wonders how her rediscovered passion can fit in with the life she’s made back home with her two children.

When Hurricane Ingrid aims her steady eye at the Alabama coast, Jenna must make a decision that could affect both her and her children’s futures, and Betsy and Ty find themselves protecting their beloved farm as well as their own hearts.

My thoughts

Storms can bring great destruction, but they can also bring a time for discovering what lasts, what holds together even through the harshest weather, and what comes out better for the rain. Hurricane Season is a book truly evocative of Southern summer and which captures the complications of family relationships, the desire to see dreams fulfilled, and the trials that test marriages and break hearts.

When Betsy receives a voice message from her sister, Jenna, asking if she can leave her two young girls with her while she attends a photography camp, Betsy knows it will test everything inside her. It will bring back the harsh memories of negative test results and the guest room that never became a nursery. It will strain further her relationship with her husband, something that was only now slowly returning to normal. But Betsy never says no to her sister and so two sweet, young girls descend on Betsy and Ty’s farm and home. For Jenna it is a time to finally follow her dreams of photography. For Betsy and Ty it is a time of facing the past’s hurt and faded dreams, while reconnecting as a couple. But as a hurricane looms, will this family survive everything the summer has in store for them?

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Book Review: Love, Life, and the List

Love, Life, and the List – Kasie West – HarperTeen – Published 26 December 2017

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Synopsis

Seventeen-year-old Abby Turner’s summer isn’t going the way she’d planned. She has a not-so-secret but definitely unrequited crush on her best friend, Cooper. She hasn’t been able to manage her mother’s growing issues with anxiety. And now she’s been rejected from an art show because her work “has no heart.” So when she gets another opportunity to show her paintings Abby isn’t going to take any chances.

Which is where the list comes in.

Abby gives herself one month to do ten things, ranging from face a fear (#3) to learn a stranger’s story (#5) to fall in love (#8). She knows that if she can complete the list she’ll become the kind of artist she’s always dreamed of being. But as the deadline approaches, Abby realizes that getting through the list isn’t as straightforward as it seems… and that maybe—just maybe—she can’t change her art if she isn’t first willing to change herself.

This is the first in a set of three standalone books with crossover characters.

My thoughts

Can you make your best friend fall in love with you? Can you change your heart, become a better person with a few simple steps? Maybe, maybe not. But it’s what Abby learns in the process that makes Love, Life and the List such a fun, contemporary YA novel.

Abby’s goal is to make it into a prestigious art program. The one obstacle in her way is showing her art in an exhibit. When her work is turned away as ‘lacking in heart’, she creates a list of things to help her develop a deeper understand and appreciation of the world that will hopefully translate to her paintings. As she and her best friend Cooper work their way through Abby’s list, Abby is determined to make the experience a chance to finally get over her unrequited feelings for Cooper and hopeful fulfill her art goals at the same time.

A list that can change a person’s heart? Well, maybe it’s not as crazy as it sounds. I actually really love how Abby creates her list. It isn’t the typical flighty, ridiculous list of summer plans gone awry. Instead, Abby chooses things she likes best about each of her friends and family members and adds something that will help her become more like that. It’s a beautiful idea.

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Book Review: All This Time

All This Time – Melissa Tagg – Walker Family #4 – Published 28 September 2017

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Synopsis

Ten years ago, Bear gave up everything—his freedom and his reputation—for his mess of a family. But after years of distance and too many attempts at starting over, he finally has a new life doing noble work in Brazil . . . until his past catches up to him once again. Suddenly he finds himself back in Maple Valley, charged with the care of his missing brother’s children, convinced he’s out of second chances to make his life count. And yet, with every day that passes, these kids, this quirky town and the woman he never stopped missing help patch the holes in his heart. Maybe this is the fresh start he’s been longing for all along. But as his newfound hope grows, so does the mystery surrounding his brother’s activities—and when the threat reaches into the lives of those he loves, it’s clear he can’t run away this time.

Raegan Walker is fine. She’s happy working a slew of part-time jobs, still living in her childhood bedroom and rarely venturing from her hometown. At least, that’s what she tells everyone . . . and herself. But she can’t help wondering what might’ve happened if she hadn’t abandoned her art so many years ago—and if Bear McKinley had never left. When Bear returns and she’s commissioned for a painting that just might revive her artistic ambition all in one week, it’s time to finally reach for more than fine. But doing so means facing the fears that have held her back all this time, including admitting the secret she’s kept from Bear and her family. With her dream and her heart on the line, how much will Raegan have to risk to finally chase her happy ending?

My thoughts

As I finished this amazing book I was torn in equal parts. Half of me was shouting yes, yes, YES! Because it really was that good. I knew it would be good. I have read and loved every single book and novella in this gorgeous Walker Family series, I have longed for Raegan and Bear’s story, and yet I was still surprised by just how much I loved this sorry. But while I was internally celebrating (because who wouldn’t love that ending) I was also mourning. Because this is the last book. Have I mentioned how much I love this family? Perhaps Melissa Tagg could be persuaded to extend the series. I would be totally up for a novella about Chase Walker. Or what about a book set in the future a little, I’m sure Jamie or even Erin have a story to tell…

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Book Review: A New Shade of Summer

A New Shade of Summer – Nicole Deese – Love in Lenox – Waterfall Press – Published 12 September 2017

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Synopsis

Tess O’Rourke dreams of becoming the first female chief of police in Long Beach, California. As commander of the East Division, she is well on her way . . . until the night she responds to an officer-needs-assistance call and fatally shoots an unarmed teenager. Despite being cleared of wrongdoing by a grand jury, Tess is so hounded by the public that she takes a job in Oregon to escape the bad press.

Winning over the residents of Rogue’s Hollow might be more difficult than adjusting to her new role as police chief in the small, backwater town. Especially when her closest friend, the pastor’s wife, goes missing and the woman’s cousin is found shot. Tess finds an ally in sheriff’s deputy Steve Logan, but as they track down Rogue’s Hollow’s first murderer, she worries that she’s breaking one of her rules and getting too close to him.

My thoughts

A New Shade of Summer is a vibrant and truly gorgeous novel that was such a delight to read.

Callie has spent her life on the road, moving from one art commission to the next, relishing her freedom. The only place she ever returns to is Lenox, the home of her sister, brother-in-law, niece and nephew. They are the reason for her visit to the charming town this summer. She certainly doesn’t expect to kindle an attraction to local vet Davis, nor form a bond with his twelve-year-old son, and budding artist, Brandon. But if Callie isn’t used to risking her heart, nor of dreaming of a future that involves staying in one place, is it worth building a relationship?

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