Book Review: It Came From the Sky

It Came From the Sky – Chelsea Sedoti – Sourcebooks Fire – Published 1 August 2020

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Synopsis

This is the absolutely true account of how Lansburg, Pennsylvania was invaded by aliens and the weeks of chaos that followed. There were sightings of UFOs, close encounters, and even abductions. There were believers, Truth Seekers, and, above all, people who looked to the sky and hoped for more.

Only…there were no aliens.

Gideon Hofstadt knows what really happened. When one of his science experiments went wrong, he and his older brother blamed the resulting explosion on extraterrestrial activity. And their lie was not only believed by their town―it was embraced. As the brothers go to increasingly greater lengths to keep up the ruse and avoid getting caught, the hoax flourishes. But Gideon’s obsession with their tale threatened his whole world. Can he find a way to banish the aliens before Lansburg, and his life, are changed forever?

My thoughts

Well that was a whole heap of fun. Great plot – tick. Interesting premise – tick. Unique (diverse representation) character voice – tick. Writing style that mixes character narration with document files and interviews with other characters – tick. Laugh out loud funny and with a touch of lgbt romance – tick tick. Seriously It Came From The Sky has it all and is an enjoyable, make-you-smile kind of story.

When a science experiment causes a larger than expected explosion and creates a massive crater on their family farm, Gideon and his brother Ishmael decide to create the most epic prank/sociology research experiment by trying to convince their town that the crater was caused by aliens. Neither of them expect how big the hoax gets, drawing attention nationally and having far reaching consequences.

I loved so much about this book. It’s easy to read – the narrative is all written from Gideon’s perspective broken up by files, text conversations, interview transcripts and other asides. The book is meant to represent Gideon’s research case notes, but it makes for some funny insights.

While the plot is fun and there is never a dull moment as the hoax gets wilder and more complex, my favourite thing about It Came From the Sky is the characters.

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Book Review: Accidental

Accidental – Alex Richards – Bloomsbury YA – Published 7 July 2020

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Synopsis

Johanna has had more than enough trauma in her life. She lost her mom in a car accident, and her father went AWOL when Johanna was just a baby. At sixteen, life is steady, boring . . . maybe even stifling, since she’s being raised by her grandparents who never talk about their daughter, her mother Mandy.

Then he comes back: Robert Newsome, Johanna’s father, bringing memories and pictures of Mandy. But that’s not all he shares. A tragic car accident didn’t kill Mandy–it was Johanna, who at two years old, accidentally shot her own mother with an unsecured gun.

Now Johanna has to sort through it all–the return of her absentee father, her grandparents’ lies, her part in her mother’s death. But no one, neither her loyal best friends nor her sweet new boyfriend, can help her forgive them. Most of all, can she ever find a way to forgive herself?

My thoughts

What would happen if you discovered you were the reason your mother was dead? That’s exactly what Johanna learns in Accidental. It’s a heartbreaking novel about family, death, grief, uncontrollable emotions, huge letdowns, and broken relationships, yet it is also about learning to breath again, hanging onto those friendships, mending relationships and letting go of others, about making a difference, fall in love and even making out.

Jo has always missed her mother, but respected the boundaries her grandparents have put in place – no talking about her, no photos, no memories. They put their life on hold to raise a granddaughter. But when Jo’s father suddenly appears in her life and tells her that she accidentally shot her own mother, Jo’s life is upended. Not sure what to do, not sure what to believe, Jo relies on her friendship and growing relationship with new student, Milo, to navigated the complex emotions she is feeling.

Gut punch comes to mind from the emotions in this book that feel so big and real. The roller coaster Jo rides from before she knew to the absolute devastation she feels after discovering the truth of her mother’s death is compelling. It’s messy and complicated. There are also so happy times. I loved the friendship she has with Leah and Gabby. Those two friends are there for her and even when they hit hard times, they stick together. Jo, despite everything she’s going through is a decent friend. All three girls must learn how to cope and support each other.

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Book Review: Seasons of the Storm

Seasons of the Storm – Elle Cosimano – Seasons of the Storm #1 – HarperTeen – Published 23 June 2020

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Synopsis

One cold, crisp night, Jack Sommers was faced with a choice—live forever according to the ancient, magical rules of Gaia, or die.

Jack chose to live, and in exchange, he became a Winter—an immortal physical embodiment of the season on Earth. Every year, he must hunt the Season who comes before him. Summer kills Spring. Autumn kills Summer. Winter kills Autumn. And Spring kills Winter.

Jack and Fleur, a Winter and a Spring, fall for each other against all odds. To be together, they’ll have to escape the cycle that’s been forcing them apart. But their creator won’t let them go without a fight.

My thoughts

Seasons of the Storm is the first book in a new fantasy duology. It’s kind of like Hunger Games meets the folklore of Jack Frost. Fighting, hunting, rebellions, breakouts, romance, teamwork and magical powers connected to nature and the weather combine to make an epic fantasy.

Jack is the embodiment of winter, just one of hundreds of seasons who have been saved from death and given a second life. There are strict rules a season must follow and the only interaction one season has with other seasons is to hunt and kill the season that comes before them and be hunted and be killed by the season that comes after them. But Jack is falling for Fleur, the spring whose job it is to kill him each year, and her reciprocated feelings are causing her to plummet on the rankings board and risk termination. For a chance to be together, Jack and Fleur have to decide if it is worth risking everything to challenge the system, break the cycle and try and find another way to survive.

This book is set on Earth in a very real and recognisable world. The only difference is that seasons, embodiments of the four seasons, walk among us and control the passing and changing of the seasons with their magic. What the seasons do during their season isn’t really explored all that much. The focus is on the times of change over, when Spring comes to kill Winter, and the time spend in stasis and recharging to go back out into the world again. We also have Chronos and Gaia as Father Time and Mother Earth who are father and daughter. Together with Chronos’ guard, they control the seasons, turning the days spent above ground into a sort of game, with rankings, a score board and a system where those who fall below the red line are culled.

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Book Review: The Summer House

The Summer House – Lauren K. Denton – Thomas Nelson – Published 2 June 2020

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Synopsis

Lily Bishop wakes up one morning to find a good-bye note and divorce papers from her husband on the kitchen counter. Having moved to Alabama for his job only weeks before, Lily is devastated, but a flyer at the grocery store for a hair stylist position in a local retirement community provides a refuge while she contemplates her next steps.

Rose Carrigan built the small retirement village of Safe Harbor years ago—just before her husband ran off with his assistant. Now she runs a tight ship, making sure the residents follow her strict rules. Rose keeps everyone at arm’s length, including her own family. But when Lily shows up asking for a job and a place to live, Rose’s cold exterior begins to thaw.

Lily and Rose form an unlikely friendship, and Lily’s salon soon becomes the place where residents share town gossip, as well as a few secrets. Lily soon finds herself drawn to Rose’s nephew, Rawlins—a single dad and shrimper who’s had some practice at starting over—and one of the residents may be carrying a torch for Rose as well.

My thoughts

The Summer House by Lauren K. Denton is utterly delightful. With a touch of US Deep South charm, two multigenerational romances to enjoy and a story of learning to love and live again after a life of hurt, it’s the perfect light read.

Lily Bishop has recently moved to Alabama for her husband’s work. He promised her a new start, but one morning she wakes to find him gone, leaving behind a rented house she has just days to move out of, furniture she doesn’t want, no job or income to speak of and divorce papers. An opening for a hairdresser at a nearby retirement community seems providential. After just a few days, Lily feels more at home in the safe and peaceful community than she has in the years since she lost her mother. Rose Carrigan owns and runs Safe Harbor community village. She gives Lily the second start she needs, but it also opens up the chance for a second chance for Rose – at love, at reconnecting with her brother and with finally stepping out and enjoying life.

The Summer House is a really easy book to sink into and enjoy. If you are looking for something light, but with lots of heart, look no further. The romance is light and sweet. The problems the characters face – from divorce to hurts that span decades give the book depth without making it a heavy or overly sad book. And the setting, Safe Harbor, is as safe and comforting as it sounds, with the added bonus of all the fun that come with a retirement village full of elders who aren’t afraid of a good party, hair dye or gossip.

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Book Review: The Heart of a Hero

The Heart of a Hero – Susan May Warren – Global Search and Rescue #2 – Revell – Published 2 June 2020

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Synopsis

Rescuing Aria Sinclair is just what former SEAL Jake Silver needs in order to redeem his past mistakes. Keeping her distance from Jake is what Aria needs to protect her heart. As a hurricane turns paradise into peril, they must save themselves and others in this story of second chances and survival–and the cost of both.

My thoughts

Heart of a Hero is the second book in the Global Search and Rescue series. This book has one disaster after another, as the characters are pushed to their limits (again) and face the truth behind God’s sovereignty, accepting forgiveness and maybe even a romantic future.

We met Aria and Jake in book one of the series as they climbed, fell off and then were rescued off Mt Denali. Now, Aria has been forced to take a vacation by her boss, this time in Florida, and she’s pointedly ignoring what happened between her and Jake. Jake wants nothing more than to chase Aria down and convince her they could be together, but he’s not sure she should want him, especially knowing the secrets and bodies his past hides. When a category 5 hurricane bears down on Florida, Jake jumps on a plane to go and help Aria, but they will have to rescue each other many times over before the storm is done.

I think I’ve said in a review before that I love reading Susan May Warren’s books but I am rather glad I’m not one of her characters. They seem to have to face an endless stream of disasters where everything that could go wrong does. But it doesn’t feel overly dramatised. It kind of feels like real life at the moment. And if anyone could survive a tropical storm and everything that follows, it would be Jake (former SEAL and genuine good guy) and Aria (doctor, trauma and heart specialist). But the events of this book push them both to the edge and they have no choice but to rely on each other and God.

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Book Review: At Love’s Command

At Love’s Command – Karen Witemeyer – Hanger’s Horsemen #1 – Bethany House Publishers – Published 2 June 2020

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Synopsis

Ex-cavalry officer Matthew Hanger leads a band of mercenaries who defend the innocent, but when a rustler’s bullet leaves one of them at death’s door, they seek out help from Dr. Josephine Burkett. When Josephine’s brother is abducted and she is caught in the crossfire, Matthew may have to sacrifice everything–even his team–to save her.

My thoughts

Every time I read a Karen Witemeyer book I am surprised all over again at how much I love her writing style, characters and the romance that just leaps off the page. Either I’ve got a bad memory or every book she writes just gets better and better.

I was a little worried by the first chapter. Would the heroes of the book be made heroic at the expense of Native Americans and a white-washed history? I need not have worried. Horrified by the events and massacre he and his men are commanded to be involved in, Matthew Hanger and his three men leave the cavalry and create Hanger’s Horsemen. They are hired guns, working to arrest criminals and help those needing protection from gangs and bad guys. During one such job, one of Matt’s men is injured and he races to find the nearest doctor. He is surprised to find Dr Jo is actually Dr Josephine Burkett. Josephine is a good doctor and striving to prove that women make excellent health practitioners. When Jo’s brother is taken captive and held for ransom, she turns to Matt and his men for help.

As always, the love story Karen Witemeyer has penned comes to life off the page. It’s romantic, and the chemistry between Josephine and Matt is off the charts. But there is also a shared understanding between them. Even though there isn’t a lot of time for them to connect between pulling bullets out of shoulders and riding after the gang who hold her brother hostage, Josephine and Matt do get some time to share their past hurts, something the other can relate to, and a shared respect for each other. There is also lots of time for kisses, which I am pleased to report.

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Book Review: Carolina Breeze

Carolina Breeze – Denise Hunter – Bluebell Inn Romance #2 – Thomas Nelson – Published 19 May 2020

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Synopsis

Rising Hollywood star Mia Emerson is looking for a safe place to land in the wake of a public breakup and scandal, and she finds it in the lake town of Bluebell, North Carolina—the location of her canceled honeymoon. She wants nothing more than to hide and wait for the tabloids to die down.

Soon after her arrival at the Bluebell Inn, Mia meets Levi Bennett, who runs the inn along with his two younger sisters. Drawn to one another from the start, Mia trusts Levi to keep her location from the press, and Levi confides in Mia about the financial state of the inn—a secret he’s been keeping from his sisters.

When Mia and Levi discover an old journal that hints at a rare diamond necklace hidden in the inn, they set off on a treasure hunt to find the long-lost heirloom. What they don’t expect to surface are feelings they thought were safely locked away. Mia and Levi must decide if falling in love again is too big a risk—or if it will uncover a treasure of its own instead.

My thoughts

Carolina Breeze is another utterly charming book by Denise Hunter. This is the second book in the Bluebird Inn series and I think it is one of my all time favourites of Denise Hunter’s series. Delightful, heartfelt, very romantic, and with just a touch of historical mystery.

Carolina Breeze continues the story of the Bennett siblings. Levi and his two sisters, Molly (who featured in book 1) and Grace are bringing to life their late parents’ dream to restore their home into an inn. But it hasn’t been easy. Their latest guest has the whole inn booked for a honeymoon. But it doesn’t take the three siblings long to discovery Mia Emerson is a Hollywood star and she is hiding out at the Bluebird Inn after her marriage fell through and a colleague dragged her into a scandal that threatens her career. As Levi works to provide Mia with everything she could need during her stay, he is drawn to her hurt and vulnerability. Together, Mia and Levi challenge themselves to find Mia’s ancestor’s long lost diamond necklace, rumoured to be hidden at the Inn. But Levi has so many worries, he’s not sure he can take on more responsibility and Mia’s life is set to catch up with her.

I love the Bennett family. Love how they argue and annoy each other, but also how they are there for each other despite all that. While we got to know Levi a little in Molly’s story, it was very much through her eyes, so it was great to see him through another lens in Carolina Breeze. He is trying so hard to keep the inn afloat and protect his sisters, even if that’s the last thing they want. I thought he might keel over due to a heart attack or something in the novel, he is so stressed. Mia is wonderful for him. She helps him to relax, to enjoy the moments and gives him other things to think about. Levi is equally good for Mia, giving her security and someone to really listen to her.

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Book Review: Renegades

Renegades – Marissa Meyer – Renegades #1 – Feiwel and Friends – Published 7 November 2017

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Synopsis

The Renegades are a syndicate of prodigies — humans with extraordinary abilities — who emerged from the ruins of a crumbled society and established peace and order where chaos reigned. As champions of justice, they remain a symbol of hope and courage to everyone… except the villains they once overthrew.

Nova has a reason to hate the Renegades, and she is on a mission for vengeance. As she gets closer to her target, she meets Adrian, a Renegade boy who believes in justice — and in Nova. But Nova’s allegiance is to a villain who has the power to end them both.

My thoughts

Well. This. Was. AWESOME. Seriously, how have I not read this before? I love superhero novels but I’m really picky and struggle to find good ones. This was just fabulous from beginning to startling end.

Nova is a villain. Has been ever since her uncle, Ace Anarchy took her in when her family was murdered and the Renegades – superheroes- did nothing to save them. When Nova’s attempt on the life of the head superhero, Captain Chromium goes awry, she has to take a new tact for taking down the Renegades – this time from the inside.

Nova is just the kind of character I love. Conflicted, hiding multiple secrets and secret identities, trying to be moral and do the right thing bust also working on the “bad guys” team, industrious and clever and also slightly sarcastic.

Our second main character is Adrian. He is a Renegade Team Captain, adoptive son to the two lead superheroes and a believer in the Renegade justice system. He is also hiding a secret. His prodigy power, to bring anything he draws into reality, has allowed him to create an extra superhero identity. Adrian is the perfect offset to Nova. And they connect almost straight away, after fighting each other in their other identities, of course. As Nova works her way into the Renegade program and onto Adrian’s team, she gathers a lot more information about the Renegades. Maybe they are not all bad, but she is determined to get revenge for her family’s deaths.

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Book Review: Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish

Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish – Bethany Turner – Revell – Published 5 May 2020

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Synopsis

Celebrity chef Maxwell Cavanaugh is known for many things: his multiple Michelin stars, his top-rated Culinary Channel show To the Max, and most of all his horrible temper. Hadley Beckett, host of the Culinary Channel’s other top-rated show, At Home with Hadley, is beloved for her Southern charm and for making her viewers feel like family.

When Max experiences a very public temper tantrum, he’s sent packing to get his life in order. When he returns, career in shambles, his only chance to get back on TV and in the public’s good graces is to work alongside Hadley.

As these polar-opposite celeb chefs begin to peel away the layers of public persona and reputation, they will not only discover the key ingredients for getting along, but also learn the secret recipe for unexpected forgiveness . . . and maybe even love. In the meantime, hide the knives.

My thoughts

Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish is everything I needed from this book. It’s light and funny, but doesn’t shy away from some deeper topics. It’s relaxing to read and just so much fun. It’s sexy but clean, redemptive but not preachy, has lots of yummy food to imagine eating, and have I mentioned how fun it is to read?

Hadley Beckett is an up and coming chef. She has Michelin stars, restaurants, magazines and even her own cooking show, At Home With Hadley. Her latest accomplishment is making it through the finals of America’s Fiercest Chef. But when her competitor, the foul-mouthed and rude Max Cavanaugh, throws a temper tantrum when she wins, her moment of triumph is dampened. A few months on, Hadley is offered the chance to feature on her most favourite cooking show, the only catch is that she must work alongside Max. Max claims he has changed, but Hadley’s not sure she can trust him.

Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish had me doing a complete 180 when reading it. I went from hating Max and thinking there was no way he was good enough for Hadley (after reading the first chapter, I even went back to check the synopsis because I thought he couldn’t possibly be the love interest) to rooting so hard for the characters. Oh my gosh. I loved them both so much. You know how some books just don’t give you enough time spent between the two love interests and it’s hard to believe their relationship or growing feelings? This is not that book. The majority of the book is spend with the two characters interacting, face-to-face, texting, phone calls, while shooting on the cooking show, cooking, arguing, facing off. We get to see them in so many situations and I adored their banter, teasing, full-out fighting and every moment in between.

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Book Review: What Grew In Larry’s Garden

What Grew in Larry’s Garden – Laura Alary and Kass Reich (ill) – Hachette Book Group – Published 7 April 2020

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Synopsis

Grace thinks Larry’s garden is one of the wonders of the world. In his tiny backyard next door to hers, Larry grows the most extraordinary vegetables. Grace loves helping him – watering and weeding, planting and pruning, hoeing and harvesting. And whenever there’s a problem – like bugs burrowing into the carrots or slugs chewing the lettuce – Grace and Larry solve it together. Grace soon learns that Larry has big plans for the vegetables in his special garden. And when that garden faces its biggest problem yet, Grace follows Larry’s example to find the perfect solution.

My thoughts

In this story about a little girl and a man with a garden sits a message about community and helping people to grow and flourish. Inspired by a true story, What Grew in Larry’s Garden is a book that shares a love of nature, problem solving and kindness.

Bright but soft illustrations bring the story to life in greens, browns and splashes of bright red watercolour.

There is much to cherish about this book. Initially it seems a simple story about a young girl who enjoys gardening with her older neighbour. I love the cross-generational friendship and the way the pair work together to creatively and kindly solve the problems they come across in their garden from bugs to squirrels. The tomato plants they grow together have a big future, though, and that’s where the true story comes into the book. Larry is a teacher and he grows tomato plants to share with his students. He then shares with Grace the letters they write to others as they give their tomato plants away. From overcoming broken friendships, sharing small acts of kindness, or giving thanks for service. The author shares a note at the back of the book explaining the inspiration of the book and how Larry’s work with his students and the giving away of tomato plants helped to grow a community and possibility within those students.

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