Book Review: The Two Of Us

The Two of Us – Victoria Bylin – Bethany House Publishers – Published 8 August 2017

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Synopsis

After two broken engagements, nurse practitioner Mia Robinson is done with dating. From now on, she only trusts herself and God, and she’s focused on her eighteen-year-old sister, Lucy, and caring for patients. Just as she applies to work for an international aid organization, a phone call from Lucy, who’s pregnant and running off to marry her twenty-one-year-old boyfriend, throws a wrench into all of Mia’s plans.

Jake Tanner may have recovered from the physical injuries he sustained on the job as a police officer, but his heart has yet to heal from losing his former partner in the tragedy. He’s poured himself into starting a camp for the sons of fallen officers and mentoring Sam, the adult son of his deceased partner, who’s asked him to be his best man at his wedding.
Mia is expecting a mess when she arrives to sort out the situation with Lucy, but she wasn’t expecting Jake. And Jake, who can’t help envying Sam and Lucy, doubts he’ll ever experience their happiness for himself. But maybe Jake’s courage and Mia’s caring spirit are just what they need to bring them a lifetime of healing and a forever kind of love. . . .

My thoughts

With The Two Of Us Victoria Bylin has created a delightful novel that perfectly captures the tumultuous emotions of falling in love, following your dreams, and making the very hard choice between those dreams. This is a story of love, family, and human fragility.

Mia is on the cusp of fulfilling her dreams – well, her plan B dream, that is. She is about to interview for a leadership position with Mission Medical, which will enable her to travel, help people in need, and use her nursing skills, putting her far away from the heartbreak of a second broken engagement and her dreams of a family of her own. But her baby sister’s sudden pregnancy announcement and impromptu wedding, has Mia worried. When the opportunity to move to Echo Falls to be near her sister and increase her chance of success in her upcoming interview arises, Mia takes it – even if it also puts her nearer to Jake Tanner. The handsome former detective has his own dreams to help people, particularly teens of police officers who have lost their lives in the face of duty. Mia’s entrance into Jake’s life offers him the chance to follow his other dream – love and a family, but Mia is scared of risking her heart again.

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Book Review: Dress Codes for Small Towns

Dress Codes for Small Towns – Courtney C. Stevens – HarperTeen – Published 22 August 2017

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Synopsis

As the tomboy daughter of the town’s preacher, Billie McCaffrey has always struggled with fitting the mold of what everyone says she should be. She’d rather wear sweats, build furniture, and get into trouble with her solid group of friends: Woods, Mash, Davey, Fifty, and Janie Lee.

But when Janie Lee confesses to Billie that she’s in love with Woods, Billie’s filled with a nagging sadness as she realizes that she is also in love with Woods…and maybe with Janie Lee, too.

Always considered “one of the guys,” Billie doesn’t want anyone slapping a label on her sexuality before she can understand it herself. So she keeps her conflicting feelings to herself, for fear of ruining the group dynamic. Except it’s not just about keeping the peace, it’s about understanding love on her terms—this thing that has always been defined as a boy and a girl falling in love and living happily ever after. For Billie—a box-defying dynamo—it’s not that simple.

My thoughts

There was one reason I chose to pick up this book – it was written by Courtney C. Stevens. I have been hugely impressed with her books so far, I love sharing them with our readers and our readers love reading her books.

Dress Codes For Small Towns is a magnificent book. It is so heartfelt, honest, and true to itself, just like its main character. And Billie truly is the star of this show. It is her story and she won over my heart almost instantly.

Billie McCaffrey is the preacher’s daughter in a small town in Western Kentucky most famous for its harvest festival and annual Corn Dolly competition. Despite the many rude comments and judgemental looks, Billie dresses and acts in a way that is true to who she is. An artist. An adventurer. A member of the Hexagon, her group of friends who she has collected over the years. But as her feelings for two of her best friends grow and change into something unexpected and her relationship with another friend brings new experiences and freedom into her life, who Billie is and what she thinks about herself collides with her father’s (and the town’s), expectations.

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Book Review: The Way It Hurts

The Way It Hurts – Patty Blount – Sourcebooks Fire – Published 1 August 2017

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Synopsis

Music is Elijah’s life. His band plays loud and hard, and he’ll do anything to get them a big break. He needs that success to help take care of his sister, who has special needs. So he’d rather be practicing when his friends drag him to a musical in the next town…until the lead starts to sing.

Kristen dreams of a career on stage like her grandmother’s. She knows she needs an edge to get into a competitive theater program―and being the star in her high school musical isn’t going to cut it. The applause and the attention only encourage her to work harder.

Elijah can’t take his eyes off of Kristen’s performance, and his swooning face is captured on camera and posted with an out-of-context comment. It goes viral. Suddenly, Elijah and Kristen are in a new spotlight as the online backlash spins out of control. And the consequences are bigger than they both could have ever imagined because these threats don’t stay online…they follow them into real life.

My thoughts

The Way It Hurts is a story about music and the passion to take that music to as many people as possible. It is also a story about the impact of social media. The Way It Hurts is a novel with plenty of drama and characters with very strong emotions.

Kristin is counting on a summer music program to give her an edge when it comes time for her conservatory application. For Kristin, singing, performing, and dancing is everything. Elijah wants to take his heavy metal band all the way. He dreams of fame. When he sees Kristin perform, he knows her voice could be the thing to promote his band. He posts a picture of her and a comment about wanting her in his band. But convincing Kristin to sing with them might be hard after she discovers he is the one she spars with online and his post quickly sparks a derogatory backlash. But Kristin decides that performing with Ride Out could benefit her, and so starts to use the social media outcry to her own advantage. But when the comments online become increasingly sinister and her relationship with Elijah’s band mates struggles from the beginning, Elijah and Kristin will have to decide how much they will risk for what they want.

Firstly, let me state that I found the synopsis originally provided with this book misleading. There is no picture taken of Eli’s swooning face, he takes a photo of Kristen and posts his own, easily misconstrued, comment. And I don’t think Elijah and Kristen finds themselves in the midst of a social media maelstrom – they have a large part in creating it. As it escalates, Kristin is forced to bear the brunt of rude comments and disgusting photos and suggestions, which Elijah largely dismisses until it begins to effect him.

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Book Review: Our Broken Pieces

Our Broken Pieces – Sarah White – HarperTeen – Published 8 August 2017

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Synopsis

The only thing worse than having your boyfriend dump you is having him dump you for your best friend. For Everly Morgan the betrayal came out of nowhere. One moment she had what seemed like the perfect high school relationship, and the next, she wanted to avoid the two most important people in her life. Every time she sees them kiss in the hallways her heart breaks a little more.

The last thing on Everly’s mind is getting into another relationship, but when she meets Gabe in her therapist’s waiting room she can’t deny their immediate connection. Somehow he seems to understand Everly in a way that no one else in her life does, and maybe it’s because Gabe also has experience grappling with issues outside of his control. Just because they share so many of the same interests and there is an undeniable spark between them doesn’t mean Everly wants anything more than friendship. After all, when you only barely survived your last breakup, is it really worth risking your heart again?

My thoughts

Our Broken Pieces is a passionate YA romance, light, fun to read, and with a touch of sentimentality.

This book begins with the flip side to the usual YA happily-ever-after, found-my-soul-mate story. Everly lost her boyfriend and her best friend at the same time when they began a relationship behind her back. Now, she is battling anxiety and dodging them in the school hallways rather than fulfilling her dreams of senior year. But when she meets Gabe in her therapist’s office, they begin a new friendship that, amidst the trauma in their lives, soon becomes much more.

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Book Review: Lucky In Love

Lucky In Love – Kasie West – Scholastic – Published 25 July 2017

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Synopsis

Maddie doesn’t believe in luck. She’s all about hard work and planning ahead. But one night, on a whim, she buys a lottery ticket. And then, to her astonishment —

She wins!

In a flash, Maddie’s life is unrecognizable. No more stressing about college scholarships. Suddenly, she’s talking about renting a yacht. And being in the spotlight at school is fun… until rumors start flying, and random people ask her for loans. Now, Maddie isn’t sure who she can trust.

Except for Seth Nguyen, her funny, charming coworker at the local zoo. Seth doesn’t seem aware of Maddie’s big news. And, for some reason, she doesn’t want to tell him. But what will happen if he learns her secret?

My thoughts

Kasie West has, once again, given readers a simply delightful novel. One where you just have to smile and hug the novel (be it in paperback form or on one’s iPad) to your chest and spin around gleefully. I loved every second of this novel about a girl who wins everything but learns that the things truly worth winning come from hard work.

Maddie knows the meaning of hard work. She studies constantly, aiming for the best marks so she can go to college and hopefully earn a scholarship. She also works, trying to support her family both financially and emotionally. Alone on her birthday she is impulsively talked into buying a lottery ticket. And wins! Suddenly her life is completely different, her mother can quit her long-hours job, her father no longer has to worry about being unemployed, they won’t have to sell their family home, and her brother can go back to college. But soon, the problems start. Everyone wants something from her. Maddie doesn’t know who to trust. Her one solace is Seth, her work colleague at the zoo, friend, and someone who maybe, (dare she hope) likes her as much as she likes him. But she is scared to tell Seth about her lottery win for fear she will lose him, too.

I instantly connected with Maddie. We share the same nickname, after all. She is a hard working and studious girl, far more interested in her grades than her clothes and she constantly worries about her family. Winning the lottery is a curve ball for her. It’s not something she wants, but she does see how it could help the people around her, particularly her family. Maddie also has a wonderful, dry sense of humour.

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Book Review: Coming Up For Air

Coming Up For Air – Miranda Kenneally – Hundred Oaks – Sourcebooks Fire – Published 4 July 2017

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Synopsis

Swim. Eat. Shower. School. Snack. Swim. Swim. Swim. Dinner. Homework. Bed. Repeat.

All of Maggie’s focus and free time is spent swimming. She’s not only striving to earn scholarships—she’s training to qualify for the Olympics. It helps that her best friend, Levi, is also on the team and cheers her on. But Levi’s already earned an Olympic try out, so she feels even more pressure to succeed. And it’s not until Maggie’s away on a college visit that she realizes how much of the “typical” high school experience she’s missed by being in the pool.

Not one to shy away from a challenge, Maggie decides to squeeze the most out of her senior year. First up? Making out with a guy. And Levi could be the perfect candidate. After all, they already spend a lot of time together. But as Maggie slowly starts to uncover new feelings for Levi, how much is she willing to lose to win?

My thoughts

I fondly remember reading Catching Jordan – my first book by Miranda Kenneally. Since then I have greatly enjoyed her Hundred Oaks series. Coming Up for Air brings us almost full circle, once again providing a best-friends romance set against elite sport and coming of age issues.

Maggie’s life revolves around swimming. It has to if she wants to make it to an Olympics trial this year. Fortunately she has friends who are also athletes and understand that training comes first. Her best friend Levi is also a swimmer and they spend most of their time together, training, eating, and training some more. But a trip to her chosen college leaves Maggie feeling a little behind in the social department. Determined to stay focused on swimming and beating her rival, but also wanting to experiment a little she asks Levi for some guidance. But neither she nor Levi are prepared for the change it sparks in their relationship.

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Book Review: Changes in Latitudes

Changes in Latitudes – Jen Malone – HarperTeen – Published 25 July 2017

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Synopsis

After concluding that her is to blame for her parents’ recent divorce, Cassandra McClure is hoping to stay as far away from her as possible. With a summer of freedom right around the corner, it shouldn’t be too hard. But when a forty-foot sailboat appears in her driveway and her mom announces that Cassie and her brother Drew will be accompanying her on a four-month sailing trip down to Mexico, Cassie’s plans for the summer go, quite literally, overboard.

Once the three set sail, tensions quickly rise. So meeting Jonah—a gorgeous, whip-smart deckhand—is an unexpected bright spot on an otherwise dim horizon. Though she tries to keep him at a distance—considering the upheaval of her home life—their chemistry is impossible to ignore, and Cassie soon finds herself questioning everything: Should she go for it with Jonah? Can she forgive her mom? Will home ever feel the same? With life’s unpredictable tides working against her, Cassie must decide whether to swim against them, or dive right in.

My thoughts

Changes is Latitudes is a road trip novel set at sea. A story about big changes, facing the difficulties life throws up, family – whether it is broken or healing – and maybe even a chance at love.

Cassie’s life has been one curve ball after another recently. Like her parents’ divorce and her father moving to Hong Kong. But the sailboat that appears in her driveway might beat it all, especially when her mother explains that she, Cassie, and Cassie’s brother Drew will be skipping their summer plans and sailing the yacht down the coast to Mexico. Life on board is just as awful as Cassie expects – seasickness, tight quarters, separation from her friends and their summer plans, and no distance from her mother who Cassie blames for all the recent changes in her life. But there might also be a few unexpected benefits, like the cute guy who is sailing on another boat in their group. It’s a summer of big changes, but it might also be a summer of new discoveries and healing old hurts.

Who doesn’t love a road trip and this book takes that to the next level by setting the trip at sea along the West Coast of USA. Rugged weather, gorgeous animal encounters, and amazing scenery provide a fantastic backdrop for the story.

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Book Review: On Love’s Gentle Shore

On Love’s Gentle Shore – Liz Johnson – Prince Edward Island Dreams #3 – Revell – Published 4 July 2017

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Synopsis

When Natalie O’Ryan returns to Prince Edward Island to plan her wedding, she runs into her childhood best friend–and discovers that the love she’s been looking for is right where she left it.

Fifteen years after she left Prince Edward Island, Natalie O’Ryan had no plans to return. But when her fiancé, music producer Russell Jacobs, books their wedding in her hometown and schedules a summer at Rose’s Red Door Inn, she sets out to put the finishing touches on the perfect wedding. But she can’t possibly prepare for a run-in with Justin Kane–the best friend she left behind all those years ago after promising to stay.

Justin’s never forgotten Natalie or the music career he always dreamed of pursuing. He’d been prepared to follow her off the island until his dad died and he was left to run the family dairy farm. He’s done the best he can with the life that was thrust upon him–but with Natalie back in the picture, he begins to realize just how much joy he’s been missing.

After Natalie’s reception venue falls through, she must scramble to find an alternative, and the only option seems to be a barn on Justin’s property. As they work together to get the dilapidated building ready for the party, Natalie and Justin discover the groundwork for forgiveness–and that there may be more than an old friendship between them.

My thoughts

What fun to return to the shores of Prince Edward Island. This series has continued to delight, and the third book, On Love’s Gentle Shore, share the same mix of love story and characters who yearn to find a place to call home.

For Natalie, returning home to Prince Edward Island only brings back the childhood trauma that she tried to outrun years ago. But her fiancé, music producer Russell Jacobs, decides that PEI is the perfect place to hold their wedding. Before Natalie knows it, she is back home neck deep in wedding preparations and face to face with old memories and people she would rather have never seen again. And then there is Justin. Her childhood best friend, he was her everything until she ran and he never followed. Thrown together with Justin, Natalie will have to face her past if she wants to follow her heart in the future.

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Book Review: A Matter of Trust

A Matter of Trust – Susan May Warren – Montana Rescue #3 – Revell – Published 4 July 2017

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Synopsis

Champion backcountry snowboarder Gage Watson has left the limelight behind after the death of one of his fans. After being sued for negligence and stripped of his sponsorships, he’s remade his life as a ski patrol in Montana’s rugged mountains, as well as serving on the PEAK Rescue team. But he can’t seem to find his footing–or forget the woman he loved, who betrayed him.

Senator and former attorney Ella Blair spends much of her time in the limelight as the second-youngest senator in the country. But she has a secret–one that cost Gage his career. More than anything, she wants to atone for her betrayal of him in the courtroom and find a way to help him put his career back on track.

When Ella’s brother goes missing on one of Glacier National Park’s most dangerous peaks, Gage and his team are called in for the rescue. But Gage isn’t so sure he wants to help the woman who destroyed his life. More, when she insists on joining the search, he’ll have to keep her safe while finding her reckless brother, a recipe for disaster when a snowstorm hits the mountain.

But old sparks relight as they search for the missing snowboarder–and suddenly, they are faced with emotions neither can deny. But when Ella’s secret is revealed, can they learn to trust each other–even when disaster happens again?

My thoughts

There is something about Susan May Warren’s writing that grabs you and drags you into the story. Not that I mind that one bit. Her writing is truly evocative. In A Matter of Trust, readers are taken on a wild, death-defying adventure through the snowy peaks of Montana. I could practically smell the fresh, crisp snow and feel the sharp snap of the freezing air. But don’t worry, there is plenty of romance to keep you warm.

Gage left behind his life as a champion freestyle snowboarder after a tragic death and vicious lawsuit left him stripped of sponsors and determined to never take such risks again. Now he is a member of the PEAK Rescue team and the snow patrol unit, working to save lives. But then Ella Blair, the girl who he once upon a time thought might be the love of his life and who played a role in the lawsuit that saw him lose everything, renters his life. Together Ella and Gage face the dangers of untamed wilderness and the secrets and hurts of their past as they fight to rescue Ella’s brother.

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Book Review: Burnin’ for You

Burnin’ For You – Susan May Warren – Montana Fire #3 – Published 2 August 2016

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Synopsis

He’s loved her for years . . . 

Smoke jumper Reuben Marshall harbors a deep regret—a split second decision he made that cost the life of his crew boss. His paralyzing grief has kept him from pursuing his long-burning interest in pretty, petite smoke jumper/bomber pilot Gilly Priest. Not that he has a prayer at winning her heart. Not only is she not interested in dating a teammate, she’s also the preacher’s daughter. And while Rueben’s not the chiefest of sinners, he’s no saint… 

A dark secret that keeps her from trusting . . . 

Gilly Priest has worked hard to carve out her niche as a female bomber pilot in the dangerous world of firefighting. Sure she’s small, but she’s made up for her statue in courage, grit and the tenacity to face danger other pilots wouldn’t dare. And yes, she’s noticed handsome Rueben Marshall—who wouldn’t? Dependable and strong, he takes up most of the space in the room. But Gilly’s dark secrets won’t allow her close enough to talk to him, let alone let herself fall for him. 

A race to rescue the people they love . . . 

When their smokejumper plane goes down in the northwestern Montana mountains, wounding their team, Gilly and Reuben are the only ones capable of hiking out to find help. But when their rescue mission turns out to be a fight for their lives against the elements, a saboteur, and a forest fire, they discover they’ll have to put aside their fears and learn to trust each other. But will trust ignite something they both long for . . .and fear? And can they save their team before tragedy strikes—again?

My thoughts

I loved this book! Awesomeness, the whole lot of it. Romance (such romance, I think Susan May Warren might be my favourite author for building romantic tension and then letting the sparks fly), with a huge helping of suspense as the characters fight for their lives. There is also such a feeling of team connectedness. It so much fun joining these brave men and women as they jump from planes, fight fires, fly over dangerous terrain, and fall in love.

Gilly knows what it takes to face her fears and prove herself every single day. It’s what she must do to hold onto her place as pilot for the smokejumper team. For Reuben, smoke jumping is something he is good at, it gave him a chance at a new life, but he has many regrets, especially surrounding the deaths of his teammates. Gilly has decided to never trust a man again. Reuben knows Gilly deserves more than he could offer her, particularly when he can hardly construct a sentence when she is near. But when a simple jump turns deadly and it is revealed that someone is targeting the team, Gilly and Reuben will have to work together to save both their and their team’s lives.

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