Book Review: Now Is Everything

Now Is Everything – Amy Giles – HarperTeen – Published 7 November 2017

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Synopsis

The McCauleys look perfect on the outside. But nothing is ever as it seems, and this family is hiding a dark secret.

Hadley McCauley will do anything to keep her sister safe from their father. But when Hadley’s forbidden relationship with Charlie Simmons deepens, the violence at home escalates, culminating in an explosive accident that will leave everyone changed.

When Hadley attempts to take her own life at the hospital post-accident, her friends, doctors, family, and the investigator on the case want to know why. Only Hadley knows what really happened that day, and she’s not talking.

My thoughts

I’m not sure I will be able to write this review without crying. And I’m not sure if they would be tears of heartbreak, overwhelming relief, or joy. Simple words will not do justice to this incredible book. It captured my attention, enthralled my curiosity, and, most of all, worked its way into my heart. There is something so important in this book, so vital we must share it and shout it from roof tops. The survival, the resilience, the importance of friendship and love in this book, the display of emotions and fear and strength is truly amazing. It all makes Now Is Everything such a vibrant, heartbreaking, and incredible book.

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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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Book Review: Good and Gone

Good and Gone – Megan Frazer Blakemore – HarperTeen – Published 14 November 2017

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Synopsis

When Lexi Green’s older brother, Charlie, starts plotting a road trip to find Adrian Wildes, a famous musician who’s been reported missing, she’s beyond confused. Her brother hasn’t said a nice word to her or left the couch since his girlfriend dumped him months ago—but he’ll hop in a car to find some hipster? Concerned at how quickly he seems to be rebounding, Lexi decides to go along for the ride.

Besides, Lexi could use the distraction. The anger and bewilderment coursing through her after getting dumped by her pretentious boyfriend, Seth, has left her on edge. As Lexi, Charlie, and their neighbor Zack hit the road, Lexi recalls bits and pieces of her short-lived romance and sees, for the first time, what it truly was: a one-sided, coldhearted manipulation game. Not only did Seth completely isolate her, but he took something from her that she didn’t give him permission to. 

The farther from home they get, the three uncover much more than empty clues about a reclusive rocker’s whereabouts. Instead, what starts off as a car ride turns into an exploration of self as each of them faces questions they have been avoiding for too long. Like the real reason Charlie has been so withdrawn lately. What Seth stole from Lexi in the pool house. And if shattered girls can ever put themselves back together.

My thoughts

Wow. What a tangle of emotions. In the best way. There is an unguarded truth to this story, an earnest rawness that is at times hilarious and heartbreaking. It touches on so many important points – unhealthy abusive relationships, mental health and depression, and when it is time to let go and when it is important to hang on with all your might.

When Lexi’s brother Charlie suggests a road trip to locate missing pop star, Adrian Wildes, Lexi is shocked. Charlie hasn’t moved from the couch since he broke up with his girlfriend and dropped out of college. So despite Lexi’s scepticism, despite the hurt she has been feeling, she agrees. Along for the ride (and actually providing the means of transport for this road trip) is their neighbour, Zack. As Lexi, Charlie, and Zack hunt for the elusive pop star, they begin to work through the emotions, hurt, and actions of the past year.

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Book Review: The First To Know

The First To Know – Abigail Johnson – Harlequin Teen – Published 23 October 2017 (Aus) 7 November 2017 (US)

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Synopsis

Dana Fields’s father never knew his parents. When Dana secretly does a DNA test for her dad, hoping to find him some distant relatives for his birthday, her entire world implodes. Instead of a few third cousins, Dana discovers a half brother her age whose very existence means her parents’ happy marriage is a lie.

Dana’s desire to know her half brother, Brandon, and the extent of her dad’s deception, clashes with her wish not to destroy her family. When she sees the opportunity to get to know Brandon through his cousin, the intense yet kind Chase, she takes it. But the more she finds out about Brandon, her father’s past and the irresistible guy who’ll never forgive her if he discovers the truth, the more she sees the inevitable fallout from her own lies. With her family crumbling around her, Dana must own up to her actions and find a way to heal the breach—for everyone—before they’re torn apart for good.

My thoughts

Once again I am left utterly speechless by an Abigail Johnson novel. How does she do it!?!! Because The First To Know is the most incredible, agonising, rip-your-heart-out-and-then-sew-it-back-together, amazing book. Asdffdhngikaldnvj….I hope the publisher wasn’t expecting a put-together, coherent review, because all they are going to get is swooning, sighs, exclamation marks and fan-girling. Because it really is just. that. good.

When Dana decides to surprise her father with a birthday present to beat all birthday presents, she could never have expected the bombshell she would unleash. The DNA testing kit was supposed to unveil some long-lost family members – parents or cousins perhaps – for her father who grew up in foster care never knowing anything about his heritage or family. Instead, Dana discovers that her father has a son. A son who is not that much older than she is…and not that much younger than her sister. Confused and devastated, Dana keeps her secret while desperately trying to learn more about her brother, even if it means getting close to Chase, her brother’s cousin, a guy who is starting to mean so much to her, a guy she really shouldn’t be lying to.

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Book Review: Dangerous Illusions

Dangerous Illusions – Irene Hannon – Code of Honor #1 – Revell – Published 3 October 2017

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Synopsis

Trish Bailey is on overload trying to deal with a demanding job, an ailing mother, and a healing heart. When a series of unsettling memory lapses leads to a tragic death–and puts Trish under police scrutiny–her world is once again thrown into turmoil.

Detective Colin Flynn isn’t certain what to think of the facts he uncovers during his investigation. Did Trish simply make a terrible mistake or is there more to the case than meets the eye? As he searches for answers, disturbing information begins to emerge–and if the forces at work are as evil as he suspects, the situation isn’t just dangerous . . . it’s deadly.

My thoughts

I knew I was going to love this book. It’s written by IRENE HANNON, after all! I love her suspense books almost as much as I adore her contemporary novels, so each of her books go immediately on my must-read list. Dangerous Illusions certainly did not disappoint. With suspense, romance, detective work and big twists – Dangerous Illusions is a thrilling read from start to finish.

The past two years have taken their toll on Trish Bailey, an art teacher. When her mother dies unexpectedly, Trish is thrown back into grief and headlong into a criminal investigation. Could she really have been so forgetful as to mess up her mother’s medication? Detective Colin Flynn is immediately drawn to Trish Bailey – who appears a strong woman despite recent events. But he has sworn to remain impartial during the investigation and knows he will uncover the truth – whatever the cost.

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Book Review: Blind Spot

Blind Spot – Dani Pettrey – Chesapeake Valor #3 – Bethany House Publishers – Published 3 October 2017

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Synopsis

FBI agent Declan Grey is in the chase of his life–but isn’t sure exactly what he’s chasing after. Threatened by a terrorist that “the wrath is coming,” Grey fears something horrible is about to be unleashed on American soil. When his investigation leads him to a closed immigrant community, he turns to Tanner Shaw to help him. She’s sought justice for refugees and the hurting around the world, and if there’s anyone who can help him, it’s Tanner.

Tanner Shaw has joined the FBI as a crisis counselor . . . meaning she now has more opportunity to butt heads with Declan. But that tension also includes a spark she can’t deny, and she’s pretty sure Declan feels the same. But before anything can develop between them, they discover evidence of a terror cell–and soon are in a race against the clock to stop the coming “wrath” that could cost thousands their lives.

My thoughts

Warning: do not start reading this book unless you have a good few hours spare, because you are not going to want to put this one down! Non-stop action, heart-pounding romance, strong friendship, numerous high-stakes criminal investigations, high-speed motorcycle chases through traffic with bullets flying – this book has everything to keep readers madly flipping pages.

Declan Grey, FBI agent, knows in his gut that there is more to be uncovered about the boat he caught smuggling drugs and humans into the USA. But he is surprised when he is paired with Tanner Shaw, a recent FBI recruit and someone well versed in working with the immigrant population, to work the case, and even more surprised when she agrees with his assessment of imminent danger. Their proximity as they work the case allows them both to examine their growing feelings as they race against the clock to prevent what appears to be a planned terrorist attack.

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Book Review: Warcross

Warcross – Marie Lu – G.P Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers – Published 12 September 2017

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Synopsis

For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down Warcross players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty-hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem…and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.

My thoughts

Warcross is a dramatic and thrilling science-fiction. All-too believable technology, fast-paced action, a compelling mystery, complicated and forbidden romance, and a really likeable main character – Warcross has everything that will keep readers glued to the pages.

Emika Chen is a bounty hunter. She hunts criminals who gamble on the world-wide phenomenon, virtual reality game, Warcross. It’s the only way she can afford to live and slowly repay her father’s debts. But in a moment of desperation, Em accidentally glitches herself into the biggest Warcross game of the season, instantly displayed across the vision of millions of people. Instead of begin arrested, though, Emika is recruited by the game’s founder, Hideo Tanaka, to play in the Warcross championship, working undercover to help him find the person responsible for dangerously hacking into the games.

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Book Review: Dare Mighty Things

Dare Mighty Things – Heather Kaczynski – HarperTeen – Published 10 October 2017

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Synopsis

THE RULES ARE SIMPLE: You must be gifted. You must be younger than twenty-five. You must be willing to accept the dangers that you will face if you win.

Seventeen-year-old Cassandra Gupta’s entire life has been leading up to this—the opportunity to travel to space. But to secure a spot on this classified mission, she must first compete against the best and brightest people on the planet. People who are as determined as she to win a place on a journey to the farthest reaches of the universe.

Cassie is ready for the toll that the competition will take; the rigorous mental and physical tests designed to push her to the brink of her endurance. But nothing could have prepared her for the bonds she would form with the very people she hopes to beat. Or that with each passing day it would be more and more difficult to ignore the feeling that the true objective of the mission is being kept from her.

As the days until the launch tick down and the stakes rise higher than ever before, only one thing is clear to Cassie: she’ll never back down . . . even if it costs her everything.

My thoughts

From the very beginning this book was completely exciting. I had a huge grin of anticipation that I couldn’t wipe off my face – but maybe that was more to do with Cassandra’s smarts and humour. It’s so much fun hanging with someone who is clever, knows she is clever, and isn’t afraid to correct her internship boss’s math in front all his coworkers – go girl.

Cassandra knows she was born for something great – it’s expected of a child who was one of the first genetically engineered babies. When she is offered a place in a competition for a highly secretive NASA mission, Cass jumps at the opportunity. Leaving her family behind, Cass spends the next few months being tested to her limits and trying to outclass the other competitors. But no amount of physical or mental aptitude can prepare her for the challenges she will face, including making friends amongst her competitors. But the greatest challenge will be revealed if she makes it to the top spot and discovers what this mission aims to achieve.

Dare Mighty Things is set 26(ish) years in the future. Cass’ world largely resembles our own. Most things appear to have remained the same, despite increased weather disasters and decreased fertility levels. There also hasn’t been a space exploration – no funding – for years, which is why Cassandra is surprised to be asked to join a competition that offers a chance to travel into space.

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Book Review: These Healing Hills

These Healing Hills – Ann H. Gabhart – Revell – Published 5 September 2017

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Synopsis

Francine Howard has her life all mapped out until the soldier she planned to marry at WWII’s end writes to tell her he’s in love with a woman in England. Devastated, Francine seeks a fresh start in the Appalachian Mountains, training to be a nurse midwife for the Frontier Nursing Service.

Deeply affected by the horrors he witnessed at war, Ben Locke has never thought further ahead than making it home to Kentucky. His future shrouded in as much mist as his beloved mountains, he’s at a loss when it comes to envisioning what’s next for his life.

When Francine’s and Ben’s paths intersect, it’s immediately clear that they are from different worlds and value different things. But love has a way of healing old wounds . . . and revealing tantalizing new possibilities.

My thoughts

These Healing Hills is a delightful historical romance novel. The descriptive writing firmly places the reader in the gorgeous scenery and amongst the friendly people of the Appalachian Mountains. It was wonderful to sink into this story and journey with Fran and Ben as they overcome the obstacles before them, each find a place to call home, and find peace.

Francine Howard didn’t start her life looking for adventure, but when her fiancé writes home from the war to tell her he has found someone else, she knows home in Cincinnati is no longer where she wants to stay. Instead, she takes up the offer to travel to the Appalachian Mountains and put her training as a nurse to use as one of the Frontier Nurses. It is a vast change in culture, but Fran soon feels at home there. Ben Locke has spent many years away at war and wants nothing more than to return to his home in the mountains. He isn’t sure what his future holds, but the kind nurse with the amazing smile draws him like no one has before.

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Book Review: A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares

A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares – Krystal Sutherland – G.P Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers – Published 5 September 2017

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Synopsis

Ever since Esther Solar’s grandfather was cursed by Death, everyone in her family has been doomed to suffer one great fear in their lifetime. Esther’s father is agoraphobic and hasn’t left the basement in six years, her twin brother can t be in the dark without a light on, and her mother is terrified of bad luck.

The Solars are consumed by their fears and, according to the legend of the curse, destined to die from them.

Esther doesn’t know what her great fear is yet (nor does she want to), a feat achieved by avoiding pretty much everything. Elevators, small spaces, and crowds are all off-limits. So are haircuts, spiders, dolls, mirrors and three dozen other phobias she keeps a record of in her semi-definitive list of worst nightmares.

Then Esther is pickpocketed by Jonah Smallwood, an old elementary school classmate. Along with her phone, money and a fruit roll-up she d been saving, Jonah also steals her list of fears. Despite the theft, Esther and Jonah become friends, and he sets a challenge for them: in an effort to break the curse that has crippled her family, they will meet every Sunday of senior year to work their way through the list, facing one terrifying fear at a time, including one that Esther hadn’t counted on: love.

My thoughts

This amazing books takes mental health and family breakdown and wraps it in a layer of magic and imagery so strong it glows like a thousand candles in the dark. It is a story of family and fear and bravery and love. It is funny and clever and sad and just a little bit frightening.

Esther Solar’s family is cursed. Cursed to die of their greatest fear. It’s why her father hasn’t left the basement in six years, why her brother is constantly surrounded by multiple sources of light, and why she herself has decided to never find her greatest fear. Instead, Esther has created a list of her worst nightmares and has worked hard to avoid each and every one of them. But then an old classmate (and crush) reappears in her life, pickpockets her belongings, and discovers her list. Jonah decides that Esther must face her fears and that he will help.

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