Book Review: Just Lucky

Just Lucky – Melanie Florence – Second Story Press – Published 17 September 2019 

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Synopsis

Fifteen-year-old Lucky loves her grandparents. True, her grandmother forgets things, like turning the stove off, or Lucky’s name, but her grandfather takes such good care of them that Lucky doesn’t realize how bad things are . . . until she loses her grandfather and is left caring for her grandmother on her own. When her grandma sets the kitchen on fire, Lucky can’t hide what’s happening any longer, and she is sent into foster care. She quickly learns that some families are okay, and some aren’t. And some really, really aren’t. None of them feel like home. And they’re certainly not family.

My thoughts

Just Lucky is a touching story about a girl’s journey through losing the only home and family she has ever known and a series of foster homes as she learns to embrace her new reality.

When Lucky’s grandfather suddenly dies, it’s not long before someone realises that her grandmother is unwell and unable to care for herself or Lucky. As her grandmother is taken to a care facility, Lucky is placed in one foster home after another. Finding somewhere to belong is hard when you’ve already lost your home.

What you see is what you get in Just Lucky. Lucky is a straightforward narrator. Short, sharp chapters divide this book into easy to read chunks. There is lots of dialogue, and minimal extra details. We don’t learn a lot about life for Lucky before the start of the book and events move quickly. It’s a short book and will be perfect and easy to read for reluctant readers.

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Book Review: Lake Season

Lake Season – Denise Hunter – Bluebell Inn Romance #1 – Thomas Nelson – Published 12 November 2019

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Synopsis

When their parents die in a tragic accident, Molly Bennett and her siblings pull together to fulfill their parents’ dream: turning their historic home back into an inn.

Adam Bradford (a.k.a. bestselling author Nathanial Grey) is a reclusive author with a bad case of writer’s block. Desperate for inspiration as his deadline approaches, he travels to a North Carolina lake town, the setting of his next novel. There he immediately meets his muse, a young innkeeper who fancies herself in love with his alter ego.

When Molly finds an old letter in the walls of her inn she embarks on a mission with Adam to find the star-crossed lovers and bring them the closure they deserve. But the guest she invites along has secrets of his own. Past and present collide as truths are revealed, and Molly and Adam will have to decide if love is worth trusting.

My thoughts

Lake Season is the latest romantic novel by Denise Hunter. It is the first book in a new series, and this one starts the series off with a good helping of romance, history, and family. It’s a sweet story and well worth enjoying.

When Molly’s parents die in a car crash, she and her two siblings commit to finishing their parents’ dream — the refurbishment of their home as an inn. In the midst of final preparations, an unexpected guest arrives and Molly doesn’t have the heart to turn him away. Little does she know that the shy, unassuming Adam Bradford is actually Molly’s favourite author, Nathaniel Quinn. When they find a 50-year-old letter hidden in the walls, Molly recruits Adam to help her track down the intended recipient.

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Book Review: Impossible Music

Impossible Music – Sean Williams – Clarion Books – Published 2 July 2019 

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Synopsis

Music is Simon’s life—which is why he is devastated when a stroke destroys his hearing. He resists attempts to help him adjust to his new state, refusing to be counselled, refusing to learn sign-language, refusing to have anything to do with Deaf culture. Refusing, that is, until he meets G, a tough-as-nails girl dealing with her own newly-experienced deafness.

My thoughts

If music was your everything, what would you do if you suddenly went deaf? This is the question Sean Williams explores in his gritty, upfront novel, Impossible Music. Questions about family, relationships, facing the future and following your dreams, even when they seem impossible, are the focus of Impossible Music. With a realistic teen male narrator, this book is gripping and compelling.

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Book Review: The How and the Why

The How and the Why – Cynthia Hand – HarperTeen – Published 5 November 2019

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Synopsis

Today Melly had us writing letters to our babies…

Cassandra McMurtrey has the best parents a girl could ask for. They’ve given Cass a life she wouldn’t trade for the world. She has everything she needs—except maybe the one thing she wants. Like, to know who she is. Where she came from. Questions her adoptive parents can’t answer, no matter how much they love her.

But eighteen years ago, someone wrote Cass a series of letters. And they may just hold the answers Cass has been searching for.

My thoughts

The How and the Why is a touching, remarkable novel about family. Cynthia Hand delivers sad and funny moments that will have readers chuckling even as they wipe away tears. A story about adoption, belonging, acceptance and love.

Cass has always known she was adopted. It’s something her parents have shared with her, even if there were no details about her birth parents, their lives or why they gave her up for adoption. But as Cass’s mother waits for a heart transplant that seems increasingly unlikely, Cass is struck by a desire to find her birth mother.

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Book Review: Now Entering Addamsville

Now Entering Addamsville – Francesca Zappia – Greenwillow Books – Published 1 October 2019

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Synopsis

Zora Novak has been framed.

When someone burns down the home of the school janitor and he dies in the blaze, everyone in Addamsville, Indiana, points a finger at Zora. Never mind that Zora has been on the straight and narrow since her father was thrown in jail. With everyone looking for evidence against her, her only choice is to uncover the identity of the real killer. There’s one big problem—Zora has no leads. No one does. Addamsville has a history of tragedy, and thirty years ago a similar string of fires left several townspeople dead. The arsonist was never caught.

Now, Zora must team up with her cousin Artemis—an annoying self-proclaimed Addamsville historian—to clear her name. But with a popular ghost-hunting television show riling up the townspeople, almost no support from her family and friends, and rumors spinning out of control, things aren’t looking good. Zora will have to read between the lines of Addamsville’s ghost stories before she becomes one herself.

My thoughts

I don’t read a lot of paranormal YA and even fewer ghosts stories, but I added this to my reading pile because it is written by Francesca Zappa. And I’m so glad I did. Take-no-prisoners female lead character (armed with an axe, seriously), a story of intrigue, murder, and mystery, and yes, ghosts, but with a complex storyline and plenty of layers of details about the rules for this paranormal version of a small town with plenty of secrets, all contribute to make Now Entering Addamsville an intense and compelling read.

When the school’s janitor is killed as his house burns down, the town of Addamsville blame Zora Novak. With her father in jail for a failed Ponzi scheme, her mother still missing after she disappeared five years ago and the fire incident that left a field burnt and Zora untouched save for two missing fingers, Zora is the easy target. But Zora knows the truth. She is being framed and the person framing her isn’t a person, it’s a firestarter, a demon-like creature who can inhabit people and set fires at will, and Zora, who inherited her ability to see ghosts from her mother, along with her ghost-sensing cousin, is the only one who can stop it.

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Book Review: You Belong With Me

You Belong With Me – Tari Faris – Restoring Heritage #1 – Revell – Published 3 September 2019

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Synopsis

Small-town realtor Hannah Thornton has many talents–unfortunately, selling houses isn’t one of them. When a developer sets his sights on the historic homes in Heritage, Hannah turns to her best friend Luke for help. Will Luke risk his future and confront his past to help her succeed?

My thoughts

Two romances in one, a story about second chances at a love once thought missed and a compassionate reflection of learning to accept your path in life even when faced with challenges and disappointments. You Belong With Me is the first book in a new series by Tari Faris that explores love, family and belonging, set against the charming backdrop of a small town.

Hannah loves her home town of Heritage. Sure, a lot of businesses have closed down and the building have seen better days, but she believes with the right attention it could be so much more. When an opportunity arises to enter a competition to win prize money for the town’s redevelopment, Hannah jumps at it and volunteers her best friend Luke to help out. But with the return of her best friend, the engagement of her brother to a women who is all wrong for him, simmering unfinished tension between her and Luke and a series of disasters, Hannah despairs of ever being able to make Heritage the town she knows it could be.

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Book Review: Returning to Eden

Returning To Eden – Rebecca Hartt – Acts of Valor #1 – Rise UP Publications – Published 1 October 2019

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Synopsis

Declared MIA a year prior, the Navy wrote him off as dead. Now, Eden’s husband, Navy SEAL Jonah Mills has returned after three years to disrupt her tranquility. Diagnosed with PTSD and amnesia, he has no recollection of their marriage or their fourteen-year-old step-daughter. Still, Eden accepts her obligation to nurse Jonah back to health while secretly longing to regain her freedom, despite the reminiscent attraction she feels.

Jonah Mills knows he has work to do. Unfit for active duty, he commits himself to therapy and relies on faith in the loving God who sustained him through torture and hardship to also heal his body, mind and family.

But as the memories lurking in his wife’s haunted eyes and behind his step-daughter’s uncertain smile begin to return to him, a disturbing chain of events is revealed. If his memories are truly real, not only is his career at stake, but so is the welfare of his small, cherished family.

My thoughts

I am always on the lookout for new authors within the Christian genre and so I was excited to give Rebecca Hartt’s Returning To Eden a try. Exciting, and tense, Returning To Eden is part romance and part suspense.

When Eden receives a phone call saying her husband, missing in action presumed dead, is actually alive and on his way home, it’s a shock. And not necessarily a good one. Eden and her daughter were just getting used to their freedom without a neglectful and controlling husband and stepfather. But Eden is resolved to offer Jonah support in his recovery, especially when she discovers he has no memory of the past two years, no memory of her or their marriage, and it seems he is a new and changed man. But Jonah is certain the dangers of the past year have followed him home and he is determined to protect his family, even if following his hunch means he could lose them forever.

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Book Review: Lost and Found

Lost and Found – Orson Scott Card – Blackstone – Published 10 September 2019

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Synopsis

“Are you really a thief?”

That’s the question that has haunted fourteen-year-old Ezekiel Blast all his life. But he’s not a thief, he just has a talent for finding things. Not a superpower–a micropower. Because what good is finding lost bicycles and hair scrunchies, especially when you return them to their owners and everyone thinks you must have stolen them in the first place? If only there were some way to use Ezekiel’s micropower for good, to turn a curse into a blessing. His friend Beth thinks there must be, and so does a police detective investigating the disappearance of a little girl. When tragedy strikes, it’s up to Ezekiel to use his talent to find what matters most.

My thoughts

Orson Scott Card has a fantastic writing style that provides such a compelling and put-together story. Lost and Found had me hooked – I didn’t want to put it down and I just had to know what would happen next, all while loving every moment of this fun and unique story.

Ezekiel can find lost things. He’s not sure why he has this usual talent and it has certainly made his life hard, especially when everyone – from his classmates to the police- think he is a thief when he returns the lost items to their owners. His new friend Beth, a girl with her own reasons for staying away from other people, tries to convince him that his talent has the power to help people and encourages him to experiment with it. Then Ezekiel is approached by a police detective who thinks Ezekiel may be the key to solving a little girl’s kidnapping.

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Book Review: Frankly in Love

Frankly in Love – David Yoon – G.P. Putnam’s Sons – Published 10 September 2019

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Synopsis

High school senior Frank Li is a Limbo–his term for Korean-American kids who find themselves caught between their parents’ traditional expectations and their own Southern California upbringing. His parents have one rule when it comes to romance–“Date Korean”–which proves complicated when Frank falls for Brit Means, who is smart, beautiful–and white. Fellow Limbo Joy Song is in a similar predicament, and so they make a pact: they’ll pretend to date each other in order to gain their freedom. Frank thinks it’s the perfect plan, but in the end, Frank and Joy’s fake-dating maneuver leaves him wondering if he ever really understood love–or himself–at all.

My thoughts

Dramatic writing and a strong and humorous narrator drive this coming-of-age story about acceptance and belonging, falling in love and growing up.

Frank has two names. His American name and his Korean name. He has two sides – perpetually separated. When his parents strongly encourage a relationship with a fellow Korean-American family friend, Joy, and Frank finds himself falling in love with a definitely-not-parental-approved White girl, he and Joy concoct a plan to secretly date to give each other the freedom to be who (and date whomever) they want to be.

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Book Review: Six Goodbyes We Never Said

Six Goodbyes We Never Said – Candace Ganger – Wednesday Books – Published 24 September 2019

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Synopsis

Naima Rodriguez doesn’t want your patronizing sympathy as she grieves her father, her hero—a fallen Marine. She’ll hate you forever if you ask her to open up and remember him “as he was,” though that’s all her loving family wants her to do in order to manage her complex OCD and GAD. She’d rather everyone back the-eff off while she separates her Lucky Charms marshmallows into six, always six, Ziploc bags, while she avoids friends and people and living the life her father so desperately wanted for her. 

Dew respectfully requests a little more time to process the sudden loss of his parents. It’s causing an avalanche of secret anxieties, so he counts on his trusty voice recorder to convey the things he can’t otherwise say aloud. He could really use a friend to navigate a life swimming with pain and loss and all the lovely moments in between. And then he meets Naima and everything’s changed—just not in the way he, or she, expects.

My thoughts

Six Goodbyes We Never Said is an honest reflection of the complications and messiness of grief, an upfront and realistic portrayal of mental health and an ode to friendship and family, which can sometimes be as weird and tangled as it can be necessary and life saving. This book unfurls the journey of grief in a compelling and frank way, at times moving while other times delightfully amusing. It’s the perfect book for reflective readers or those who need something or someone to relate to when the world around them doesn’t reflect back what they see in the mirror.

Naima and Dew are what mainstream society would wrongly label as outsiders. Those who are different or who behave differently from society’s perception of acceptable or normalised behaviour. Both are struggling, not only under the heavy burden of grief so complex they can hardly speak of it, but with social anxiety (Dew) and the rituals and counting patterns (Naima) that has become a part of their every day existences. In each other they find someone who is facing the same complex emotional roller coaster.

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