Book Review: The Hope of Azure Springs

The Hope of Azure Springs – Rachel Fordham – Revell – Published 3 July 2018

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Synopsis

Seven years ago, orphaned and alone, Em finally arrived at a new home in Iowa after riding the orphan train. But secrets from her past haunt her, and her new life in the Western wilderness is a rough one. When her guardian is shot and killed, Em, now nineteen, finally has the chance to search for her long-lost sister, but she won’t be able to do it alone.

For Azure Springs Sheriff Caleb Reynolds, securing justice for the waifish and injured Em is just part of his job. He’s determined to solve every case put before him in order to impress his parents and make a name for himself. Caleb expects to succeed. What he doesn’t expect is the hold this strange young woman will have on his heart.

My thoughts

I do enjoy a good historical romance and I’m always on the lookout for new titles and authors. The Hope of Azure Springs is Rachel Fordham’s debut novel and she does a superb job of piecing together this inspiring story. It was exactly the book I needed and I loved sinking into it. Comforting, uplifting, joyful and heartwarming, The Hope of Azure Springs was a delight to read.

Seven years ago Em traveled west on an orphan train. After seven years of barely surviving, Em’s only goal is to find her sister. But when her guardian is murdered and Em is injured, she is taken to the town of Azure Springs. There, for the first time in so many years, she is fed, cared for and loved. Taken in by a kind family and protected by the town’s sherif, Caleb Reynolds, Em learns to dream again. But her heart remains focused on reuniting with her sister.

What a stunning and delightful story. At first a little bumpy in places, the tone and flow of the story soon became clear and I was loath to tear myself away from the heartwarming characters and their story of strength, resilience and love. The Hope of Azure Spring feels a little like one of the fairytales so often mentioned within its pages. This book carries a little magic with it and has a style all its own.

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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: The Accidental Guardian

The Accidental Guardian – Mary Connealy – Bethany House Publishers – Published 3 April 2018

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Synopsis

When Trace Riley finds the smoldering ruins of a small wagon train, he recognizes an attack by the same group who left him as sole survivor years ago. Living off the wilderness since then, he’s finally carved out a home and started a herd–while serving as a self-appointed guardian of the trail. He’d hoped the days of driving off dangerous men were over, but the latest attack shows otherwise.

Deborah Harkness saved her younger sister and two toddlers during the attack, and now finds herself at the mercy of her rescuer. Trace becomes an accidental guardian when he offers the only shelter for miles around and agrees to take them in until they can safely continue their journey. His simple bachelor existence never anticipated kids and women in the picture and their arrival is unsettling–yet enticing.

Trace and Deborah find themselves drawing ever closer as they work together to bring justice to the trail and help the group survive the winter–but every day closer to spring means a day closer to leaving the mountains forever.

My thoughts

I have previously steered away from Mary Connealy’s titles after starting a few titles and finding that her writing style wasn’t for me. I know that there are many, many readers who would disagree with my opinion. However, The Accidental Guardian sounded fantastic and I thought it was high time that I gave Mary Connealy’s writing another go. I’m glad I did. I really enjoy the first half of The Accidental Guardian. I enjoyed the setting and the story of lost souls facing much hardship and then finding a family together.

Deb and Gwen Harkness are traveling west in a wagon train. When their group is attacked at night, Deb, Gwen and the children they are minding are lucky to escape with their lives, while everyone else is murdered and the wagons destroyed. Alone in the middle of nowhere with winter settling in, Deb and Gwen are shocked when they are discovered and rescued by Trace Riley. Trace knows the devastation of being the sole survivor of just such an attack. He takes the Harkness women and the children in their care to his ranch, determined to track down the killers and bring them to justice.

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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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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: Break Us

Break Us – Jennifer Brown – Nikki Kill #3 – Katherine Tegen Books – Published 13 February 2018

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Synopsis

Nikki Kill doesn’t see the world in black and white. Her synesthesia shades everything in view, transforming numbers, words, and emotions into colourful clues. Which means she’s a dangerous commodity to anyone with something to hide.

Nikki has already taken on the Hollises—one of L.A.’s most powerful families—for murdering her half sister, Peyton. However, Nikki’s next steps are clouded by the grey of uncertainty. Before she knows it, Nikki is on the trail of a cold case that couldn’t be any more personal—the death of her mother.

But when the web of lies and secrets she uncovers leads back to the people who have tried to silence her, Nikki must pursue the sunbeam gold of justice, or everything—including her life—will be lost.

My thoughts

Break Us is the third and final book in the amazing Nikki Kill series. Mystery, suspense and just a touch of romance (finally!!) culminate in a brilliant conclusion.

This review may contain spoilers for the first and second book in the Nikki Kill series. If you are looking for mature YA mystery, with a daring protagonist and thrilling twists and turns, check out Shade Me.

Nikki has spent the last few months looking for answers. The world might have moved on, but Nikki knows a murderer is still on the loose. Meanwhile, Detective Chris Martinez is slowly recovering on an attack on his life. With Chris’ memories scattered, it is up to Nikki to encourage Chris to continue searching for answers, before they are both targeted again.

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