Book Review: Heart Land

Heart Land – Kimberly Stuart – Howard Books – Published 17 July 2017

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Synopsis

Grace Klaren has finally made her dream of living in the Big Apple and working in the fashion industry a reality. But when she’s unexpectedly fired and can’t afford the next month’s rent, Grace does something she never thought she’d do: she moves back home.

Back in Silver Creek, Iowa, Grace is determined to hate it. She rails against the quiet of her small town, where everything closes early, where there’s no nightlife, where everyone knows each other. She’s saving her pennies and plotting her return to New York when she almost runs over a man who’s not paying attention at a crosswalk. It turns out to be Tucker, her high school sweetheart whose heart she broke when she left ten years ago. They reconnect, and Grace remembers why she fell for him in the first place.

And her career begins to turn around when she finds a gorgeous but tattered vintage dress at a flea market. She buys it, rips it apart seam by seam, and re-creates it with new fabric, updating the look with some of her own design ideas. She snaps a picture and lists the dress online, and within a day, it sells for nearly $200. Suddenly, Grace has her ticket out of here.

But Grace can’t fight her growing feelings for Tucker. Sometimes when they’re together, Tucker paints a picture of what their future could be like, and it feels so real. And when she finally gains the funding to move her new business back to New York, Grace must decide where home really is—will she chase her long-held New York dream, or find a new dream here in the heartland?

My thoughts

Heart Land is a sweet romance, a story of love given a second chance, the cost of following your dreams, and a touch of the glamour of high fashion.

Grace Kleren has fought hard to follow her dreams of becoming a top fashion designer. After years of brutal, hard work on the lower rungs, Grace is on the verge of a promotion. But instead of being rewarded for her passion, Grace finds herself without a job and mounting debts she cannot pay. Giving herself time to regroup, Grace returns home to a small town in Iowa, to the love and care of her grandmother, Gigi. But Grace left many people behind in her mad dash to the city, including her first love, Tucker. After a shaky reunion, Tucker and Grace quickly return to their strong friendship and growing romantic feelings. But when a new design opportunity presents itself, Grace will have to choose between the draw of the big city lights of New York or the simple but true love she could only find in Tucker’s arms.

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Book Review: All That I Can Fix

All That I Can Fix – Crystal Chan – Simon Pulse – Published 12 June 2018

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Synopsis

In Makersville, Indiana, people know all about Ronney—he’s from that mixed-race family with the dad who tried to kill himself, the pill-popping mom, and the genius kid sister. If having a family like that wasn’t bad enough, the local eccentric at the edge of town decided one night to open up all the cages of his exotic zoo—lions, cheetahs, tigers—and then shoot himself dead. Go figure. Even more proof that you can’t trust adults to do the right thing.

Overnight, news crews, gun control supporters, and gun rights advocates descend on Makersville, bringing around-the-clock news coverage, rallies, and anti-rallies with them. With his parents checked out, Ronney is left tending to his sister’s mounting fears of roaming lions, stopping his best friend from going on a suburban safari, and shaking loose a lonely boy who follows Ronney wherever he goes. Can Ronney figure out a way to hold it together as all his worlds fall apart?

My thoughts

What to say about a book that is one part humorous, two parts ridiculous, and the rest a bundle of important messages, from mental health, stigma, and racism, to gun control and animal cruelty? All That I Can Fix is a novel that faces difficult topics straight on, with an abruptness that is both disconcerting and refreshing.

When the local exotic zoo owner shoots himself and lets loose his animals, Ronney isn’t fazed. What’s a camel on the loose compared to a father who might be continually physically present but never mentally, a mother who doesn’t know how to cope anymore, a sister on the verge of a meltdown, and a list of things he must do to keep the whole family from falling apart?

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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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New Book Releases May 2018

New Book Releases for May 2018

I hope you have been saving those pennies because May 2018 is going to be an EPIC month for new books. Which books will you choose? There is something for everyone. Here is my list of top releases for May 2018. Click on covers for more information and reviews.

 

Young Adult Fiction

Out of Left Field – Kris Hui Lee – Sourcebooks Fire – Published 1 May 2018

Marnie loves playing baseball with her friends in the neighbourhood park. She loves baseball. But after an incident while pitching for the softball team, Marnie only plays for fun and not competitively. Until, when her best-friend, Cody, is injured, the opportunity arises for her to take his spot as the pitcher on the boy’s baseball team. Trying out for the position challenges Marnie’s faith in herself, her friendships with the other boys on the team, and her relationship (friendship that has the possibility to become so much more) with Cody.

Young adult fiction: Contemporary, Sport.


If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say – Leila Sales – Farrar, Straus and Giroux – Published 1 May 2018

This provocative and relevant young adult novel is about Winter, a one-time National Spelling Bee Champ with a bright future ahead of her. That all changes after she haphazardly writes a racially offensive tweet that she thought was a harmless joke. What unfolds is a barrage of Internet shaming and rejection from her community and closest friends. Winter seeks to redeem herself, but first must come to terms with what she wrote and understand why there was so much backlash.

Young adult fiction – Contemporary, Social Issues.

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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: Puddin’

Puddin’ – Julie Murphy – Dumplin’ #2 – Balzer+Bray – Published 8 May 2018

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Synopsis

Millie Michalchuk has gone to fat camp every year since she was a girl. Not this year. This year she has new plans to chase her secret dream—and to kiss her crush. Callie Reyes is the pretty girl who is next in line for dance team captain and has the popular boyfriend. But when it comes to other girls, she’s more frenemy than friend. When circumstances bring the girls together over the course of a semester, they will surprise everyone (especially themselves) by realizing they might have more in common than they ever imagined.

My thoughts

Puddin’ is a delightful, uplifting, and empowering novel about friendship, fitting in and standing out – for all the right reasons.

Millie has no intention of returning to Fat Camp this summer. She just hasn’t told her mother yet. Millie dreams of becoming a journalist, even if it means she must stand up to the people who would attempt to dissuade her. Callie has the perfect life -boyfriend and co-captaincy of the dance team. But when a dance-team revenge prank gets out of hand, Callie ends up taking the fall – alone. Thrown together, Millie and Callie seemingly have nothing in common. But if anyone can break through Callie’s rough exterior, it is Millie. What starts as forced slowly becomes a strong friendship and the girls realise they might have more in common than they first thought.

Puddin’ is (I’m a little ashamed to admit) the first book I have read by Julie Murphy. Many of her other novels, especially Dumplin’, have been on my to-read list for ages, but for some reason I have never got around to reading them. That will change in the immediate future. While Puddin’ is a companion novel to Dumplin’ I was able to read, enjoy, and understand everything in Puddin’ without any trouble as it is a complete story in its own right and a standalone title. There were a few references that left me very intrigued, though, so I am really looking forward to finally reading Dumplin’. And seriously, how awesome is Willowdean?

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