Book Review: Wild Blue Wonder

Wild Blue Wonder – Carlie Sorosiak – HarperTeen – Published 26 June 2018

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Synopsis

Ask anyone in Winship, Maine, and they’ll tell you the summer camp Quinn’s family owns is a magical place. Paper wishes hang from the ceiling. Blueberries grow in the dead of winter. According to local legend, a sea monster even lurks off the coast. Mostly, there’s just a feeling that something extraordinary could happen there.

Like Quinn falling in love with her best friend, Dylan.

After the accident, the magic drained from Quinn’s life. Now Dylan is gone, the camp is a lonely place, and Quinn knows it’s her fault.

But the new boy in town, Alexander, doesn’t see her as the monster she believes herself to be. As Quinn lets herself open up again, she begins to understand the truth about love, loss, and monsters—real and imagined.

My thoughts

Stunning and heart wrenching, Wild Blue Wonder is a beautifully written book. Right from the first chapter it is clear that Wild Blue Wonder is magical. Whether it springs from the legends that surround Quinn’s family campground complete with ancient forests and a lake monster or perhaps from the captivating writing style, everything about Wild Blue Wonder seems to glow.

Quinn Sawyer has always known her family’s campground, The Hundreds, was special. But recent events have shown her that even things that seem magical can be dangerous – deadly. Before, the camp was filled with laughter and sunshine. Now her siblings no longer speak to her. Before, water was Quinn’s haven. Now it holds the darkest secrets and the deepest hurts.

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Book Review: Thief of Happy Endings

Thief of Happy Endings – Kristen Chandler – Viking Books for Young Readers – Published 19 June 2018

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Synopsis

Cassidy Carrigan wasn’t planning to ever get on a horse again. She wasn’t even planning on going to back to school after her dad moved out, her best friend ditched her, and her anxiety took over. But then she wasn’t planning on being shipped off to a ranch in the mountains of Wyoming as a charity case either. Or falling for a cowboy with a broken nose and an even more broken soul. But sometimes you just have to do a stupid, dangerous thing to have the time of your life.

My thoughts

Horses, mountains, romance and new beginnings – Thief of Happy Endings has all the makings of a perfect YA contemporary that grabs your heart. Thief of Happy Endings is thoroughly charming in a down-to-earth, back-to-basics, raw and real way. It touches on so many important themes, from racism and prejudice, bullying and relationships, and divorce and parenting to anxiety and mental health, physical abuse, and the capture and treatment of wild mustangs. All these elements come together in a beautiful story that is utterly moving.

Cassidy’s parents are sending her to the middle of nowhere, Wyoming, to a horse ranch. Cassidy hasn’t been around horses since she was a young girl and suffered serious injuries from a fall. But fear of horses is just one more thing turning her stomach to knots. Settling into the ranch, fighting with her new bunkmates, and working with wild horses is nothing like she expected. This summer Cassidy will do more than just face some of her fears, sh might even learn to embrace them.

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Book Review: Just Let Go

Just Let Go – Courtney Walsh – Harbor Pointe #2 – Tyndale – Published 5 June 2018

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Synopsis

For Quinn Collins, buying the flower shop in downtown Harbor Pointe fulfills a childhood dream, but also gives her the chance to stick it to her mom, who owned the store before skipping town twenty years ago and never looking back. Completing much-needed renovations, however, while also competing for a prestigious flower competition with her mother as the head judge, soon has Quinn in over her head. Not that she’d ever ask for help.

Luckily, she may not need to. Quinn’s father and his meddling friends find the perfect solution in notorious Olympic skier Grady Benson, who had only planned on passing through the old-fashioned lakeside town. But when a heated confrontation leads to property damage, helping Quinn as a community-service sentence seems like the quickest way out–and the best way to avoid more negative press.

Quinn finds Grady reckless and entitled; he thinks she’s uptight and too regimented. Yet as the two begin to hammer and saw, Quinn sees glimpses of the vulnerability behind the bravado, and Grady learns from her passion and determination, qualities he seems to have lost along the way. But when a well-intentioned omission has devastating consequences, Grady finds himself cast out of town–and Quinn’s life–possibly forever. Forced to face the hurt holding her back, Quinn must finally let go or risk missing out on the adventure of a lifetime.

My thoughts

Just Let Go is as delightful as its gorgeous cover; a beautiful story of redemption, forgiveness, and starting over, of learning to work for your dreams and learning when to let go.

Grady is a professional skier, Olympian, and, according to the world, a wash-up bound for forced retirement. A self-imposed road trip leads Grady to Harbor Pointe, where a judgmental comment leads to a fist-fight, which leads to Grady being sentenced to weeks of community service and being stuck in the infuriatingly small town. As soon as she sets eyes on Grady Benson, Quinn Collins knows he is bad news. They come from different worlds – while he was off living the high life and has no qualms putting holes in the walls of diners, she has lived her whole life in Harbor Pointe, working towards her dream of owning her own flower shop, creating the best design for the upcoming Winter Carnival, and entering her designs into the Floral Expo. She is on the verge of realising that dream and the last thing she needs is to babysit the egotistical skier for the duration of his community service. But there is more to Grady than is reported in the tabloids, and Quinn is holding onto her own hurts. Can the two learn to work together?

Just Let Go was one of my most anticipated reads of the year, and it was everything I expected it to be. After reading Just Look Up and loving it, I was excited to read this second novel in the Harbor Pointe series. Each of the two books can be read as standalones, with complete story lines, a few character crossovers, and the same delightful, small-town setting. Just Let Go is a complicated and layered story of relationships, dreams, and the faith needed to overcome the hurts of the past.

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Book Review: A Touch of Romance

A Touch of Romance – Kimberly Rae Jordan – The Callaghans & McFaddens #6 – Three Strand Press – Published 29 April 2018

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Synopsis

Mitch Callaghan had a great example of a wonderful relationship as he grew up. Watching his dad show his love for Emily, Mitch’s step-mom, through the years has made Mitch want to do the same for a special woman in his life. But instead, he’s watched as his brothers and sisters have found love while it has continued to elude him.

Belle Jacobs spent most of her growing up years watching her mom’s never-ending search for her prince charming. As an adult, she found out the hard way that flowery declarations of love and gifts of bouquets and candy didn’t mean the feelings were genuine. So while she’s busy running Belles and Beaus, the wedding planner/bridal clothing business her mom had started years ago, Belle has no plans to make use of the services for herself.

When Mitch accompanies Maya, his twin brother’s fiancée, to the meeting with the wedding planner, it’s under duress. He soon realizes, though, that what he’d seen as a favor for Gabe and Maya has become a life changing moment for him. But only him. Though Mitch has hoped for a love-at-first-sight type start to the most important relationship of his life, he’s also kind of assumed it would work that way for both of them.

Belle trusts very few people in her life, and she trusts emotions even less. So when a client’s brother seems interested in her, she tries to gently dissuade him while still keeping their business. Unfortunately, she has a situation in her life that he is perfect to help her out with.

Mitch never figured he’d have to battle for the love of his life, or that she would resist his attempts to romance her. Will the challenge scare Mitch away? Will Belle trust her heart once again? Or will she let fear of history repeating itself keep her from opening up?

My thoughts

A Touch of Romance is the sixth book in the Callaghans & McFaddens series. It continues the story of this large, loud, and loving blended family that I have come to love so much. A Touch of Romance is Mitch Callaghan’s story. And what could be more touching, sweet and romantic than a young man finally finding the answer of his dreams to fall in love?

Mitch Callaghan has watched his brothers and sisters one by one find their perfect match, fall in love and, in some cases, tie the knot. If you had asked him years ago, he would have said that he would have been the first sibling down the isle. Yet lasting love has eluded him so far. When his twin brother asks him to step in for him at a wedding planning meeting, Mitch meets Belle Jacobs. Yet, Belle, after years of planning weddings and experiencing her own crushing relationship that has left her weary of men, has no desire for anything other than a friendship with Mitch. Mitch is sure Belle is the girl for him, but he knows that pushing her too hard might mean losing her forever.

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Book Review: Save The Date

Save The Date – Morgan Matson – Simon Schuster – Published 5 June 2018

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Synopsis

Charlie Grant’s older sister is getting married this weekend at their family home, and Charlie can’t wait—for the first time in years, all four of her older siblings will be under one roof. Charlie is desperate for one last perfect weekend, before the house is sold and everything changes. The house will be filled with jokes and games and laughs again. Making decisions about things like what college to attend and reuniting with longstanding crush Jesse Foster—all that can wait. She wants to focus on making the weekend perfect.

The only problem? The weekend is shaping up to be an absolute disaster.

There’s the unexpected dog with a penchant for howling, house alarm that won’t stop going off, and a papergirl with a grudge.

There are the relatives who aren’t speaking, the (awful) girl her favorite brother brought home unannounced, and a missing tuxedo.

Not to mention the neighbor who seems to be bent on sabotage and a storm that is bent on drenching everything. The justice of the peace is missing. The band will only play covers. The guests are all crazy. And the wedding planner’s nephew is unexpectedly, distractingly…cute.

Over the course of three ridiculously chaotic days, Charlie will learn more than she ever expected about the family she thought she knew by heart. And she’ll realize that sometimes, trying to keep everything like it was in the past means missing out on the future.

My thoughts

Save The Date is a hilarious novel about family, growing up, and learning to accept change. In the midst of a wedding where everything that could go wrong does, the characters of Save The Date will warm your heart and make you smile.

Charlie Grant loves her big, loud, crazy family. So Charlie can’t wait for this weekend, her sister’s wedding and a chance for all her siblings to return home, for them to be a united family unit again. But when the wedding planner bails, Charlie’s absentee brother actually turns up, and Good Morning America plans to do a home interview upon the conclusion of her mother’s famous cartoon, Charlie knows that she will have to fight to ensure everything is perfect.

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Book Review: Orca

Orca: How We Came To Know And Love The Ocean’s Greatest Predator – Jason M. Colby – Oxford University Press – Published 1 June 2018

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Synopsis

Since the release of the documentary Blackfish in 2013, millions around the world have focused on the plight of the orca, the most profitable and controversial display animal in history. Yet, until now, no historical account has explained how we came to care about killer whales in the first place.

Drawing on interviews, official records, private archives, and his own family history, Jason M. Colby tells the exhilarating and often heartbreaking story of how people came to love the ocean’s greatest predator. Historically reviled as dangerous pests, killer whales were dying by the hundreds, even thousands, by the 1950s–the victims of whalers, fishermen, and even the US military. In the Pacific Northwest, fishermen shot them, scientists harpooned them, and the Canadian government mounted a machine gun to eliminate them. But that all changed in 1965, when Seattle entrepreneur Ted Griffin became the first person to swim and perform with a captive killer whale. The show proved wildly popular, and he began capturing and selling others, including Sea World’s first Shamu.

Over the following decade, live display transformed views of Orcinus orca. The public embraced killer whales as charismatic and friendly, while scientists enjoyed their first access to live orcas. In the Pacific Northwest, these captive encounters reshaped regional values and helped drive environmental activism, including Greenpeace’s anti-whaling campaigns. Yet even as Northwesterners taught the world to love whales, they came to oppose their captivity and to fight for the freedom of a marine predator that had become a regional icon.

Orca is the definitive history of how the feared and despised “killer” became the beloved “orca”–and what that has meant for our relationship with the ocean and its creatures.

My thoughts

Orca: How We Came To Know and Love the Ocean’s Greatest Predator is an incredible book. It seemingly borders the divide between research tome and story, drawing upon well-written narrative to convey a thorough recall of the history of the interactions between humans and orca.

Like many, I have watched the documentary Blackfish. Like many others, I have been long enthralled with the awesome power and grace of the Orcinus Orca, starting from my childhood love of whales and dolphins. I have seen students complete assignments on the now-popular aforementioned documentary, but wondered what parts of the story might have been missing, what other truths there are to be revealed about the history of humans and orcas. It was with great pleasure that I discovered Orca. Not only could I satisfy my own curiosity, but I could add to our library’s collection and our students’ research a source that provides a thorough investigation of this history, and one that considers all sides of the story.

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Book Review: More Than Meets The Eye

More Than Meets The Eye – Karen Witemeyer – Patchwork Family #1 – Bethany House Publishers – Published 5 June 2018

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Synopsis

Seeking justice against the man who destroyed his family, Logan Fowler arrives in Pecan Gap, Texas, to confront the person responsible. But his quest is derailed when, instead of a hardened criminal, he finds an ordinary man with a sister named Evangeline–an unusual beauty with mismatched eyes and a sweet spirit that he finds utterly captivating.

My thoughts

More Than Meets The Eye is a delightful historical Christian romance, with a touch of mystery, plenty of suspense, and a warm heart that celebrates family and belonging. From the gorgeous cover to the heartwarming story where family is the people you choose, More Than Meets The Eye was wonderful from start to finish.

Evangeline Hamilton knows the cost of heartbreak. Yet she chooses to remain optimistic, celebrating the family God gave her and the simply joys in life. When a stranger purchases the land adjoining her brothers’ land, she intends to discover his true intentions, and if she shows him a little happiness and kindness along the way, all the better. Logan never intended to entwine Evie in his quest for revenge on her brother, but the Hamilton family is not what he expected. Evie and Logan must face the truth of the past and the dangers and mystery of the present if they are to have a future together.

Karen Witemeyer writes such excellent romance, and More Than Meets The Eye was certainly no exception. Logan and Evie’s connection is undeniable, tangible and so much fun to revel in. But Logan’s secrets and his plan for justice threaten the foundation of their growing friendship and romance.

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Book Review: The Disappearance of Sloane Sullivan

The Disappearance of Sloane Sullivan – Gia Cribbs – Harlequin Teen – Published 29 May 2018

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Synopsis

Seventeen-year-old Sloane Sullivan has survived witness protection by learning three important lessons: blend in, don’t let anyone get too close, and follow the rules.

After nearly eight years and countless identities, blending in is easy. Now that someone has confessed to the murder she witnessed, Sloane’s been given her final identity. All she has to do is turn eighteen and coast through the last two months of her senior year without any complications, and she’ll be officially released from WITSEC. Piece of cake.

Then on her first day she runs into Jason Thomas—literally the boy next door from her childhood. She knows she shouldn’t have contact with him, but she doesn’t expect the feelings that come with seeing Jason again. Feelings of finally belonging somewhere, of remembering who she really is, and of suspicion that there’s more to the crime she witnessed than she ever knew.

Sloane knows the rule for this situation, but telling the Marshals about Jason would mean getting whisked away to yet another new identity, leaving both Jason and the future she’s painstakingly planned behind. If she can keep Jason a secret, Sloane has a chance to take back her life in a way that she never imagined possible. But doing so puts both their lives at risk: the closer Sloane gets to Jason, the more she remembers and the clearer it becomes that someone is still after her.

My thoughts

The Disappearance of Sloane Sullivan is a mystery thriller with some amazing twists that I never saw coming and it touches upon some pretty dark crimes, but on the whole it is quite a lighthearted book, focusing on interpersonal relationships, high-school drama, and romance. The Disappearance of Sloane Sullivan is an easy book to read and enjoy, with a likeable main protagonist and some intense relationships.

Sloane knows how to stay hidden in plain sight. This move and name change will be her nineteenth in eight years, ever since she witnessed a horrible crime and was forced to enter witness protection. Now Sloane is restarting her final year of high school, counting down the weeks until she will be finally free, but is thrown when one of the first people she meets is her childhood best friend, Jason Thomas. Sloane is convinced she can maintain her new identity to prevent having to move again, but staying means putting Jason in danger and risking her own future.

The Disappearance of Sloane Sullivan starts with a bang and a seriously awesome prologue. Immediately gripping and then downright clever, I was hooked right from the very first page and couldn’t wait to jump into the rest of the story. The details of Sloane’s life emerge slowly, woven through the story of Sloane starting yet another high school and through flashback snippets from the past eight years.

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Book Review: Where Hope Begins

Where Hope Begins – Catherine West Thomas Nelson – Published 22 May 2018

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Synopsis

In the aftermath of her husband’s act of adultery and abandonment, Savannah must finally face the ghosts that haunt her and discover for herself whether authentic faith, grace, and ultimate healing really do exist.

When her husband of twenty-one years leaves her, Savannah Barrington believes she’s lost almost everything she’s ever loved. With her daughter in college and her son in boarding school, Savannah retreats to her parents’ lake house in the Berkshires, where hope and healing come in the form of an old woman’s wisdom, a little girl’s laughter, a touch of magic, and a handsome man who’s willing to risk his own heart to prove she’s still worth loving.

But when her husband asks to reconcile, Savannah is faced with the hardest challenge of all: Forgiving the unforgivable. Somehow she must find freedom from the chains of their past and move forward, or face an unknown future without him.

My thoughts

How do you cope with something that tears apart your marriage and destroys your dreams for the future, leaving your self-esteem in tatters? How do you hold on to hope through all that? Catherine West delivers a powerful novel that is at once both utterly heartbreaking and ultimately hopeful. As the title suggests, Where Hope Begins is about starting over and finding that glimmer of hope in the harshness of broken dreams.

Savannah’s husband is leaving her. After twenty-one years of marriage, three children, and facing devastating challenges, he is leaving her for another woman. Unsure what her next move should be, Savannah heads to the safety of her parents’ holiday home. There she connects with her charming neighbours, writer and single dad, Brock and his sweet daughter Maysie, and Brock’s charming and quaint aunt, Clarice. They open their hearts, home, and greenhouse to Savannah and show her that she is worthy of love and grace. But when her husband asks to reconcile, Savannah’s world is sent into a spin once again as she must decide what she wants.

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Book Review: Onyx & Ivory

Onyx & Ivory – Mindee Arnett – Balzer+Bray – Published 15 May 2018

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Synopsis

They call her Traitor Kate. It’s a title Kate Brighton inherited from her father after he tried to assassinate the high king years ago. Now Kate lives as an outcast, clinging to the fringes of society as a member of the Relay, the imperial courier service. Only those most skilled in riding and bow hunting ride for the Relay; and only the fastest survive, for when dark falls, the nightdrakes—deadly flightless dragons—come out to hunt. Fortunately, Kate has a secret edge: she is a wilder, born with magic that allows her to influence the minds of animals. But it’s this magic that she needs to keep hidden, as being a wilder is forbidden, punishable by death or exile. And it’s this magic that leads her to a caravan massacred by nightdrakes in broad daylight—the only survivor her childhood friend, her first love, the boy she swore to forget, the boy who broke her heart.

The high king’s second son, Corwin Tormane, never asked to lead. Even as he waits for the uror—the once-in-a-generation ritual to decide which of the king’s children will succeed him—he knows it’s always been his brother who will assume the throne. And that’s fine by him. He’d rather spend his days away from the palace, away from the sight of his father, broken with sickness from the attempt on his life. But the peacekeeping tour Corwin is on has given him too much time to reflect upon the night he saved his father’s life—the night he condemned the would-be killer to death and lost the girl he loved. Which is why he takes it on himself to investigate rumors of unrest in one of the remote city-states, only for his caravan to be attacked—and for him to be saved by Kate.

With their paths once more entangled, Kate and Corwin have to put the past behind them. The threat of drakes who attack in the daylight is only the beginning of a darker menace stirring in the kingdom—one whose origins have dire implications for Kate’s father’s attack upon the king and will thrust them into the middle of a brewing civil war in the kingdom of Rime.

My thoughts

Onyx & Ivory is an epic YA fantasy, with equal shares magic, intrigue, power, desperation, uprisings, politics, friendship, and romance.

Three years ago, Kate Brighton’s father attempted to assassinate the High King. Now, Kate is branded as Traitor Kate and works as a Relay Rider, risking her life as she rides between cities. If she doesn’t make it behind protected barrier walls before nightfall she will be attacked and killed by the monstrous Nightdrakes. But Kate hides another deadly secret – she is a Wilder, magic that if discovered will mean she will be put to death. When Prince Corwin appears in Kate’s new hometown it resurrects memories of their shared childhood. Then a horrible Nightdrake attack leaves Corwin’s travelling company killed and himself injured, and as Kate comes to his rescue, their future becomes intwined once again as they face a growing uprising, spreading Nightdrake attacks, and an unsettled political climate.

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