Book Review: Dress Codes for Small Towns

Dress Codes for Small Towns – Courtney C. Stevens – HarperTeen – Published 22 August 2017

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Synopsis

As the tomboy daughter of the town’s preacher, Billie McCaffrey has always struggled with fitting the mold of what everyone says she should be. She’d rather wear sweats, build furniture, and get into trouble with her solid group of friends: Woods, Mash, Davey, Fifty, and Janie Lee.

But when Janie Lee confesses to Billie that she’s in love with Woods, Billie’s filled with a nagging sadness as she realizes that she is also in love with Woods…and maybe with Janie Lee, too.

Always considered “one of the guys,” Billie doesn’t want anyone slapping a label on her sexuality before she can understand it herself. So she keeps her conflicting feelings to herself, for fear of ruining the group dynamic. Except it’s not just about keeping the peace, it’s about understanding love on her terms—this thing that has always been defined as a boy and a girl falling in love and living happily ever after. For Billie—a box-defying dynamo—it’s not that simple.

My thoughts

There was one reason I chose to pick up this book – it was written by Courtney C. Stevens. I have been hugely impressed with her books so far, I love sharing them with our readers and our readers love reading her books.

Dress Codes For Small Towns is a magnificent book. It is so heartfelt, honest, and true to itself, just like its main character. And Billie truly is the star of this show. It is her story and she won over my heart almost instantly.

Billie McCaffrey is the preacher’s daughter in a small town in Western Kentucky most famous for its harvest festival and annual Corn Dolly competition. Despite the many rude comments and judgemental looks, Billie dresses and acts in a way that is true to who she is. An artist. An adventurer. A member of the Hexagon, her group of friends who she has collected over the years. But as her feelings for two of her best friends grow and change into something unexpected and her relationship with another friend brings new experiences and freedom into her life, who Billie is and what she thinks about herself collides with her father’s (and the town’s), expectations.

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Book Review: Burnin’ for You

Burnin’ For You – Susan May Warren – Montana Fire #3 – Published 2 August 2016

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Synopsis

He’s loved her for years . . . 

Smoke jumper Reuben Marshall harbors a deep regret—a split second decision he made that cost the life of his crew boss. His paralyzing grief has kept him from pursuing his long-burning interest in pretty, petite smoke jumper/bomber pilot Gilly Priest. Not that he has a prayer at winning her heart. Not only is she not interested in dating a teammate, she’s also the preacher’s daughter. And while Rueben’s not the chiefest of sinners, he’s no saint… 

A dark secret that keeps her from trusting . . . 

Gilly Priest has worked hard to carve out her niche as a female bomber pilot in the dangerous world of firefighting. Sure she’s small, but she’s made up for her statue in courage, grit and the tenacity to face danger other pilots wouldn’t dare. And yes, she’s noticed handsome Rueben Marshall—who wouldn’t? Dependable and strong, he takes up most of the space in the room. But Gilly’s dark secrets won’t allow her close enough to talk to him, let alone let herself fall for him. 

A race to rescue the people they love . . . 

When their smokejumper plane goes down in the northwestern Montana mountains, wounding their team, Gilly and Reuben are the only ones capable of hiking out to find help. But when their rescue mission turns out to be a fight for their lives against the elements, a saboteur, and a forest fire, they discover they’ll have to put aside their fears and learn to trust each other. But will trust ignite something they both long for . . .and fear? And can they save their team before tragedy strikes—again?

My thoughts

I loved this book! Awesomeness, the whole lot of it. Romance (such romance, I think Susan May Warren might be my favourite author for building romantic tension and then letting the sparks fly), with a huge helping of suspense as the characters fight for their lives. There is also such a feeling of team connectedness. It so much fun joining these brave men and women as they jump from planes, fight fires, fly over dangerous terrain, and fall in love.

Gilly knows what it takes to face her fears and prove herself every single day. It’s what she must do to hold onto her place as pilot for the smokejumper team. For Reuben, smoke jumping is something he is good at, it gave him a chance at a new life, but he has many regrets, especially surrounding the deaths of his teammates. Gilly has decided to never trust a man again. Reuben knows Gilly deserves more than he could offer her, particularly when he can hardly construct a sentence when she is near. But when a simple jump turns deadly and it is revealed that someone is targeting the team, Gilly and Reuben will have to work together to save both their and their team’s lives.

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Book Review: Playing With Fire

Playing With Fire – Susan May Warren – Montana Fire #2 – Published 5 July 2016

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Synopsis

She can’t forget the man she walked away from . . . 

Liza Beaumont knew she was playing with fire when she let smoke jumper Conner Young into her life. Just friends, she promised herself, but she couldn’t help but fall for the tall, blond firefighter who needed her. But loving him got her burned, and she’s not about to risk her heart again. 

His once chance to get her back . . . 

Conner Young knows he blew his one chance with Liza. His personal losses—and his profession—made him wary of offering any promises he couldn’t be sure he’d live to keep. So he let her walk away, but he never forgot the place she’d held in his heart. 

A race to find a missing girl . . . 

Until Liza is attacked in the mountains by a rogue grizzly. Her panicked phone call alerts Conner to everything he lost—and still wants. Now, with a teenage girl missing in the woods, and a predator on the loose, Conner and Liza must fight against time and the elements to save her. But when the old friendship ignites into fresh sparks, are they setting themselves up to get burned again? And when disaster happens, will their nightmares pull them apart, or will they find the courage to survive?

My thoughts

Once again, Susan May Warren delivers a book that is teeming with action, dangerous moments that leave you anxious for the characters’ survival, and romance that grips your heart (with a few toe-curling kisses thrown in for good measure).

Playing With Fire is the second book in the Montana Fire series, returning to the brave group of men and women smokejumpers who fight fires and save lives. It also colides rather nicely with characters and settings from Warren’s Christiansen Family series and the Deep Haven series. It was wonderful to reconnect with so many familiar and dearly loved faces.

Liza Beaumont, artist and resident of Deep Haven, knows to never to trust men – certainly not with her heart. A friendship with smokejumper Conner Young, showed her how true that was. But when a young girl is lost in the wilderness and Liza faces down a bear while attempting to rescue her, she reaches out to Conner. Is this their chance to reconnect and finally take a chance on love?

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Book Review: A Broken Kind of Beautiful

A Broken Kind of Beautiful – Katie Ganshert – WaterBrook – Published 15 April 2014

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Synopsis

Fashion is a fickle industry, a frightening fact for twenty-four year old model Ivy Clark. Ten years in and she’s learned a sacred truth—appearance is everything. Nobody cares about her broken past as long as she looks beautiful for the camera. This is the only life Ivy knows—so when it starts to unravel, she’ll do anything to hold on. Even if that means moving to the quaint island town of Greenbrier, South Carolina, to be the new face of her stepmother’s bridal wear line—an irony too rich for words, since Ivy is far from the pure bride in white.

If only her tenuous future didn’t rest in the hands of Davis Knight, her mysterious new photographer. Not only did he walk away from the kind of success Ivy longs for to work maintenance at a local church, he treats her differently than any man ever has. Somehow, Davis sees through the façade she works so hard to maintain. He, along with a cast of other characters, challenges everything Ivy has come to believe about beauty and worth. Is it possible that God sees her—a woman stained and broken by the world—yet wants her still?

My thoughts

I put this book on my to-read list some time ago but never had the occasion to pick it up. Now, after reading the magnificence that is Life After, I knew I needed to get my hands on all of Katie Ganshert’s books. For some reason, I thought A Broken Kind of Beautiful wouldn’t be as good as Life After. Maybe something to do with a review that said Life After was her best book yet. I would disagree. I don’t think A Broken Kind of Beautiful is better than Life After, just more of the same extremely powerful, amazingly wonderful writing. There is something that is awesome about Katie’s writing that makes these books an absolute pleasure to read.

Ivy has never known love. Not from the father who ignored her existence. Not from the mother who was trapped by alcohol and drugs. Certainly not from her uncle who only values Ivy for the money she can make him. And not from the fashion industry that used and idolised her beauty but which is all too quick to overlook her for the newer and younger models. Her last shot as saving her career sees her forced back to the Southern town of Greenbrier to participate in her stepmother’s bridal shop promotions. Returning to the town forces Ivy to relive all her past and present hurts, but it might also force her to see the people who care for her and who see beyond the broken and hurting spirit and beautiful face.

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Book Review: Life After

Life After – Katie Ganshert – Waterbrook – Published 18 April 2017

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Synopsis

It could have been me.

Snow whirls around an elevated train platform in Chicago. A distracted woman boards the train, takes her seat, and moments later a fiery explosion rips through the frigid air, tearing the car apart in a horrific attack on the city’s transit system. One life is spared. Twenty-two are lost.

A year later, Autumn Manning can’t remember the day of the bombing and she is tormented by grief—by guilt. Twelve months of the question constantly echoing. Why? Why? Why? Searching for answers, she haunts the lives of the victims, unable to rest.

Paul Elliott lost his wife in the train bombing and wants to let the dead rest in peace, undisturbed and unable to cause more pain for his loved ones. He wants normalcy for his twelve-year-old daughter and young son, to see them move beyond the heartbreak. But when the Elliotts and Autumn are unexpectedly forced together, he fears she’ll bring more wreckage in her wake.

My thoughts

Confession: I’ve never read a book by Katie Ganshert before. Now, I am asking myself why? WHY NOT? Exaggerated forehead smack, Tate style. So I picked up Life After because it sounded really good and my Goodreads friends were giving it great reviews. And now I have learned my lesson and I will definitely be reading more of Katie Ganshert’s books. Life After is a beautiful, incredible book. Moving, sad, and uplifting. It digs deep, faces some really hard questions and packages it all up in a story that is incredibly enjoyable to read.

Autumn Manning was the sole survivor in a tragic attack that killed twenty-two others. Twenty-two lives that she obsesses and worries over each night. Twenty-two unfinished stories. When Reese Elliott, the daughter of one of those twenty-two people, reaches out to Autumn, their lives become entangled, forcing hidden truths into the light and maybe even starting a new future for Autumn and the Elliott family. Continue reading

Book Review: Threads of Suspicion

Threads of Suspicion – Dee Henderson – Evie Blackwell Cold Case series #2 – Bethany House Publishers – Published 2 May 2017 

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Synopsis

Evie Blackwell’s reputation as a top investigator for the Illinois State Police has landed her an appointment to the governor’s new Missing Persons Task Force. This elite investigative team is launched with plenty of public fanfare. The governor has made this initiative a high priority, so they will have to produce results–and quickly.

Evie and her new partner, David Marshal, are assigned to a pair of unrelated cases in suburban Chicago, and while both involve persons now missing for several years, the cases couldn’t be more different. While Evie opens old wounds in a close-knit neighborhood to find a missing college student, David searches for a private investigator working for a high-powered client.

With a deep conviction that -justice for all- truly matters, Evie and David are unrelenting in their search for the truth. But Evie must also find answers to the questions that lie just beneath the surface in her personal life.

My thoughts

Threads of Suspicion is an excellent suspense novel. Procedural, comprehensive and delightful, it was a pleasure to sink within its pages and join the investigators as they search for answers.

Evie Blackwell has officially joined the Missing Persons Task Force. Their first case load takes them to Briar County, Illinois, where Evie begins investigating the disappearance of a college student. Meanwhile, Evie’s new partner, David Marshall is investigating a missing PI. When their cases unexpectedly connect and then take a very personal turn, Evie and David will have their work cut out for them if they are to close both cases.

This is the second book in the Evie Blackwell Cold Case series. In the first book we met Evie Blackwell as she began a trial investigation for the newly created Missing Persons Task Force. Now that task force has official begun work and Evie, along with her new colleagues, are travelling to a new county within Illinois to investigate a series of cold cases. Despite this being the second book in the series, readers could easily begin their adventure with Evie with this book or read the books in any order, as they each feature a separate set of crimes and investigations. That said, it was lovely to rejoin Evie, reunite with a range of familiar faces from Dee Henderson’s previously published books, and meet some new characters. David, Evie’s new cold case partner is a particularly lovely new character, as is his girlfriend. I’m looking forward to getting to know them both a little better in future Evie Blackwell novels.

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Book Review: 180 Seconds

180 Seconds – Jessica Park – Skyscape – Published 25 April 2017

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Synopsis

After a life spent bouncing from one foster home to the next, Allison is determined to keep others at arm’s length. Adopted at sixteen, she knows better than to believe in the permanence of anything. But as she begins her third year in college, she finds it increasingly difficult to disappear into the white noise pouring from her earbuds.

One unsuspecting afternoon, Allison is roped into a social experiment just off campus. Suddenly, she finds herself in front of a crowd, forced to interact with a complete stranger for 180 seconds. Neither she, nor Esben Baylor, the dreamy social media star seated opposite her, is prepared for the outcome.

When time is called, the intensity of the experience overwhelms Allison and Esben in a way that unnerves and electrifies them both. With a push from her oldest friend, Allison embarks on a journey to find out if what she and Esben shared is the real thing—and if she can finally trust in herself, in others, and in love.

My thoughts

Wow. Wow. God save the Queen. God save the Queen wow. Whatever that was I was not expecting that. That!!! That mess of human emotions that was so achingly, amazingly, indulgently perfect. I want to read it again. Indulge and fall in love and feel it all again. I melted and laughed and overheated and cried buckets. This review may not be coherent because of reasons. Many reasons.

Allison is starting her junior years of college. She is happy her roommate never shows and is content to spend her college experience as she always has – hiding in her room, studying and blocking out the world. Her sixteen years in foster care taught her to never expect anything, to protect herself and build the walls around her heart as high and thick as she can. It’s safer to keep everyone out, even her adoptive father. Everyone except her best friend Steffi. And then, Allison finds herself pulled into a social experiment, where she unwittingly spends 180 seconds with (unbeknownst to her) social media celebrity Ebsen Baylor. 180 torturous, amazing, emotional-roller-coaster seconds. Her reaction: run. Steffi encourages her to chase after what could be and to be brave, but Allison isn’t sure if it could ever be worth the risk.

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Book Review: Made You Up

Made You Up – Francesca Zappia – Greenwillow Books – Published 19 May 2015

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Synopsis

Alex fights a daily battle to figure out the difference between reality and delusion. Armed with a take-no-prisoners attitude, her camera, a Magic 8-Ball, and her only ally (her little sister), Alex wages a war against her schizophrenia, determined to stay sane long enough to get into college. She’s pretty optimistic about her chances until classes begin, and she runs into Miles. Didn’t she imagine him? Before she knows it, Alex is making friends, going to parties, falling in love, and experiencing all the usual rites of passage for teenagers. But Alex is used to being crazy. She’s not prepared for normal.

My thoughts

Made You Up has been on my to-read list for a while but I only picked it up after reading Fancesca Zappia’s new book Eliza and Her Monsters which is AMAZING!! So I had high expectations for Made You Up. And it certainly lived up to them in terms of writing style and story and characters, obviously it doesn’t have the extra story and accompanying webcomic panels, but it shares the refreshing honest and up-front way of talking about teenage mental health within a totally authentic setting.

Alex is starting at a new high school after an Incident at her last school involving spray paint, the gym floor and the possibility of communists. Alex is hoping that she will be able hide the fact that she has paranoid schizophrenia from her new classmates. But that might be hard when her new principal could be crazy, the school’s scoreboard is haunted and the boy from her childhood, whom she previously thought was a hallucination, might actually be real.

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Book Review: The Lost Kingdom of Bamarre

The Lost Kingdom of Bamarre – Gail Carson Levine – The Two Princesses of Bamarre #0.5 – HarperCollins – Published 2 May 2017

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Synopsis

Peregrine strives to live up to the ideal of her people, the Lakti—and to impress her parents: affectionate Lord Tove, who despises only the Bamarre, and stern Lady Klausine. Perry runs the fastest, speaks her mind, and doesn’t give much thought to the castle’s Bamarre servants, whom she knows to be weak and cowardly.

But just as she’s about to join her father on the front lines, she is visited by the fairy Halina, who reveals that Perry isn’t Lakti-born. She is Bamarre. The fairy issues a daunting challenge: against the Lakti power, Perry must free her people from tyranny.

My thoughts

Achingly gorgeous, this is a tale of courage, family, love, loyalty, and a dangerous quest for freedom.

The name Gail Carson Levine evokes strong memories – my first discovery of her beautiful stories, an eternal love for her wonderful characters, sharing her books with other readers, and rereading the tales many, many times over. Of all her books, The Two Princesses of Bamarre was always my favourite, so let’s just say I was completely thrilled that there was to be a new book, a prequel to this wonderful story. Starting The Lost Kingdom of Bamarre I was both excited and cautious – could this story possibly live up to the wonder I feel when reading The Two Princesses? At first, no, it could never have that sparkle of first discovery, but this new story shares all the same wonder, vibrant character, clever storytelling, and magic as the original, and by the end I was just as in love with this book as I am with The Two Princesses of Bamarre.

Perry is the daughter of Lord and Lady Tove – a true Lakti in strength and ability and courage. She can run and fight better than all of her peers. But when she discovers that she is actually Bamarre, stolen from her true family, her eyes are opened to the treatment of the Bamarre and how, with a little courage, freedom could be theirs.

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Book Review: Sandpiper Cove

Sandpiper Cove – Irene Hannon – Hope Harbor #3 – Revell – Published 4 April 2017

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Synopsis

Hope Harbor police chief Lexie Graham has plenty on her plate raising her son alone and dealing with a sudden rash of petty theft and vandalism in her coastal Oregon hometown. As a result, she has zero time for extracurricular activities–including romance. Ex-con Adam Stone isn’t looking for love either–but how ironic is it that the first woman to catch his eye is a police chief? Yet wishing for things that can never be is foolish.

Nevertheless, when Lexie enlists Adam’s help to keep a young man from falling into a life of crime, sparks begin to fly. And as they work together, it soon becomes apparent that God may have a different–and better–future planned for them than either could imagine.

My thoughts

Throughout this series I have fallen more and more in love with Hope Harbor, its residents, and the love, joy, and peace that can be found within its town borders. Sandpiper Cove compounds that love in a book that is utterly charming – a story of second chances, helping hands, the support of a community, and, of course, romance.

Sandpiper Cove is the third book in the Hope Harbor series and tells the story of Lexie Graham, Hope Harbor’s police chief, and Adam Stone. Readers will have first met Adam (or Stone, as he is more commonly known) in Sea Rose Lane. Ex-con, construction worker, stray-dog rescuer, he is a mix of bad boy and kind soul. Lexi has been married before and had her heart broken by her husband’s sudden death. Now she is content to raise her young son, Matt, and protect the people of Hope Harbor. But when Adam is targeted by vandals, Lexi starts to get to know him, and a glimpse beneath his hardened exterior shows a man who is kind, gentle, and giving, and for whom it just may be worth risking her heart again.

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