Book Review: Access Restricted

Access Restricted – Gregory Scott Katsoulis – Word$ #2 – Harlequin Teen – Published 28 August 2018

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Synopsis

At the end of All Rights Reserved, Speth and her friends freed the city of Vermaine from Silas Rog and his oppressive litigation. But now, with the Wi-Fi untethered, the citizens of her city are looking to Speth to lead them. Just as Speth never intended to lead a rebellion of Silents, she has no idea how to begin putting Vermaine back to rights. All she wants to do is break out of the dome and track down her parents, who were sold into indentured servitude years before. Leaving the care of the city in the hands of her friend and mentor, Kel, Speth and a few friends embark on a journey to explore the rest of their world and spread the cause of freedom.

My thoughts

Access Restricted is the sequel to the amazing and scarily possible All Rights Reserved. With just as much action and intrigue, Access Restricted once again delves into a world where every form of communication is owned and fees charged accordingly, where history and knowledge have become propriety information only accessible to those with wealth and standing, where one girl unwittingly became the leader in an uprising, and where that girl must once again risk everything for a chance of a better future.

There has been much debate in my high-schoolers book club, who all adored All Rights Reserved, if a sequel was needed. The first book could, arguably, be concluded and left as it was. Others suggested they were happy with the ending, and that any more could possibly ruin the awesomeness of the first book. Others still, myself included, desperately wanted more -more of Speth, more of her accidental rebellion and uprising, and more explanation of the world in which she lives and the consequences for her actions. Would everything she had already done and sacrificed really change things? Had it really made a difference?

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Book Review: The Queen’s Rising

The Queen’s Rising – Rebecca Ross – The Queen’s Rising #1 – HarperTeen – Published 6 February 2018

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Synopsis

When her seventeenth summer solstice arrives, Brienna desires only two things: to master her passion and to be chosen by a patron.

Growing up in the southern Kingdom of Valenia at the renowned Magnalia House should have prepared her for such a life. While some are born with an innate talent for one of the five passions—art, music, dramatics, wit, and knowledge—Brienna struggled to find hers until she belatedly chose to study knowledge. However, despite all her preparations, Brienna’s greatest fear comes true—the solstice does not go according to plan and she is left without a patron.

Months later, her life takes an unexpected turn when a disgraced lord offers her patronage. Suspicious of his intent, and with no other choices, she accepts. But there is much more to his story, and Brienna soon discovers that he has sought her out for his own vengeful gain. For there is a dangerous plot being planned to overthrow the king of Maevana—the archrival kingdom of Valenia—and restore the rightful queen, and her magic, to the northern throne. And others are involved—some closer to Brienna than she realizes.

My thoughts

The Queen’s Rising is a gorgeous fantasy, spectacularly crafted, imaginative, unique and so deliciously easy to be swept up in. It came as a complete surprise and I loved every minute of it.

For seven years, Brienna has struggled to master a passion – music, art, whit, drama and finally knowledge. On the eve of her seventeenth solstice, Brienna will have to prove she has the right to become a Passion and earn a patron. When her fears of failing are realised, she is granted reprieve when a lord agrees to become her patron father. But he seems less interested in her knowledge passion than he is in her new and volatile ability to flash back hundreds of years ago, to a time when the realm to the north was rightfully ruled by a queen. Brienna must decide if she is to become entangled in a plot to over throw a king, and if it is worth the risk to discover more about her secret paternal heritage.

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Book Review: Called To Protect

Called To Protect – Lynette Eason – Blue Justice #2 – Revell – Published 31 July 2018

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Synopsis

For the past year, Chloe St. John has been working as a K-9 cop with her German shepherd partner, Hank. After being dumped by her fiance for another woman, Chloe has decided that Hank is just about the only male she likes. She’s over the whole romance thing and focuses her attention on doing her job. Because a serious case of human trafficking with connections to her missing cousin just landed in her lap.

When US Marshall Blake MacCallum’s daughter goes missing, he’s ordered to kill the judge he’s protecting and tell no one about his daughter’s disappearance or she will die. Blake races against the clock to rescue his daughter while Chloe and Hank are asked to be a part of the task force assembled to bring down the traffickers. Chloe finds herself attracted to the silent, suffering man, but thanks to her previous bad judgment, she wonders if she can trust him. And can Blake trust himself around this firecracker of a woman?

My thoughts

Called To Protect gripped me from the very first page. This exhilarating novel is packed with suspense and action, combined with the camaraderie of friendship, family, and the bonds forged in the midst of terrifying chaos. Cases that threaten the investigators’ family increase the stakes as clues must be unravelled and leads followed, creating a fantastic story.

Lynette Easton’s first book in the Blue Justice series was outstanding and this second book, Called To Protect follows suit. It has everything you could want in a gripping suspense novel, as well as touches of romance. I particularly enjoyed the emphasis on family the Blue Justice books showcase. Each book follows a member of the St. John family, a large, loud and loving group of crime fighters – from FBI agents to detectives and police officers.

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Book Review: Dead Drift

Dead Drift – Dani Pettrey – Chesapeake Valor #4 – Bethany House Publishers – Published 3 July 2018

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Synopsis

Private Investigator Kate Maxwell never stopped loving Luke Gallagher after he disappeared. Now he’s back, and together they must unravel a twisting thread of secrets, lies, and betrayal while on the brink of a biological disaster that will shake America to its core. Will they and their love survive, or will Luke and Kate become the terrorist’s next target?

My thoughts

Dead Drift is the thrilling fourth (and sadly last) book in the Chesapeake Valor series by Dani Pettrey. Dead Drift concludes the series in stunning style, with touching romance, non-stop action and life and death tension that will keep you guessing and hanging on the edge of your seat.

Kate has always believed -hoped- that the love of her life, Luke Gallagher was alive and out there somewhere. Meanwhile, Luke has spent the last seven years with one mission – bring a major criminal and terrorist to justice and finally return home to Kate. Now, Kate knows Luke is alive, but his being back in her life and the lives of their friends threatens them all. Luke and Kate must team up as the terrorist threat to US soil increases and overlaps with FBI Agent Declan Grey’s case. As danger looms ever closer, Luke, Kate and the whole gang will have to push harder than ever before to find answers and justice.

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Book Review: Sons of Blackbird Mountain

Sons of Blackbird Mountain – Joanne Bischof – Blackbird Mountain #1 – Thomas Nelson – Published 3 July 2018

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Synopsis

When Aven Norgaard leaves Norway to serve as housekeeper to her late husband’s cousins in Appalachia, she expects lads in need of care, not three grown men—each in need of a wife and bound by a powerful brotherhood. As the men carve out a living by brewing artisan liquor, young Haakon’s pursuit tempts Aven’s lonely spirit . . . but it is his deaf brother, Thor, whose silent strength shows her the depths of real love.

Unable to speak to any woman, Thor Norgaard never anticipates Aven will befriend him, let alone treat him as her safe harbor. Though hard cider is their livelihood and his greatest talent, he fights his way to sobriety with Haakon’s help, defying the bottle for Aven’s hand—only to face a battle of the heart that tests even the strongest bonds of brotherhood.

My thoughts

Sons of Blackbird Mountain is an utterly charming and beautiful historical novel. Set in the heart of the Appalachian mountains, it combines the complexity of brotherly relationships and finding a place to belong, with the sweet joy of finding a true love connection, despite many challenges.

Aven Norgaard has faced many challenges in her short life. Having escaped from the workhouse, her husband then died. Travelling from Norway across the oceans to Appalachia, America, Aven hopes to find a home with her late husband’s relatives. Upon arriving, Aven is surprised to discover that her cousins-in-law are not the boys she expected but grown men – each with their own demons and attractions. Thor Norgaard has loved Aven from a distance for years, but having her in his house is a new and unsettling feeling. Deaf, Thor is touched that Aven seems to truly hear him, yet his relationship with his brother Haakon -already strained – is stretched further and Thor’s own battle with alcohol addiction is a challenge he must overcome if he wants to court Aven.

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Book Review: Allied

Allied – Amy Tintera – Ruined #3 – Harper Teen – Published 1 May 2018

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Synopsis

Emelina Flores and her sister, Olivia, were determined to bring peace to the people of Ruina. But as the war for liberation raged on, what triumph and freedom meant to Em and Olivia slowly changed. As Olivia’s violence and thirst for vengeance became her only ambition, Em was left to pick up the pieces.

But it’s not only Em who is upset by Olivia’s increased violence. Other members of the Ruined army are beginning to see the cracks, and soon a small group of them defects from Olivia’s army and joins Em instead. The two sisters are soon pitted against each other in an epic battle for the kingdom and the future, and only one will win.

My thoughts

Allied is, sadly, the third and last book in Amy Tintera’s Ruined series. This fabulous fantasy comes to a satisfying end with plenty of action, romance and intrigue.

Em and Cas have faced many challenges in their efforts to bring peace to Lera. But Em’s sister, Olivia, will not stop in her quest to bring down revenge on those she sees as responsible for the plight of the Ruined. Em must once again choose between her future with Cas and deserting her sister. As enemies march on Lera, Em and her allies will have to draw upon all their resources to fight for the peace they so want.

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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: 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: Orca

Orca: How We Came To Know And Love The Ocean’s Greatest Predator – Jason M. Colby – Oxford University Press – Published 1 June 2018

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Synopsis

Since the release of the documentary Blackfish in 2013, millions around the world have focused on the plight of the orca, the most profitable and controversial display animal in history. Yet, until now, no historical account has explained how we came to care about killer whales in the first place.

Drawing on interviews, official records, private archives, and his own family history, Jason M. Colby tells the exhilarating and often heartbreaking story of how people came to love the ocean’s greatest predator. Historically reviled as dangerous pests, killer whales were dying by the hundreds, even thousands, by the 1950s–the victims of whalers, fishermen, and even the US military. In the Pacific Northwest, fishermen shot them, scientists harpooned them, and the Canadian government mounted a machine gun to eliminate them. But that all changed in 1965, when Seattle entrepreneur Ted Griffin became the first person to swim and perform with a captive killer whale. The show proved wildly popular, and he began capturing and selling others, including Sea World’s first Shamu.

Over the following decade, live display transformed views of Orcinus orca. The public embraced killer whales as charismatic and friendly, while scientists enjoyed their first access to live orcas. In the Pacific Northwest, these captive encounters reshaped regional values and helped drive environmental activism, including Greenpeace’s anti-whaling campaigns. Yet even as Northwesterners taught the world to love whales, they came to oppose their captivity and to fight for the freedom of a marine predator that had become a regional icon.

Orca is the definitive history of how the feared and despised “killer” became the beloved “orca”–and what that has meant for our relationship with the ocean and its creatures.

My thoughts

Orca: How We Came To Know and Love the Ocean’s Greatest Predator is an incredible book. It seemingly borders the divide between research tome and story, drawing upon well-written narrative to convey a thorough recall of the history of the interactions between humans and orca.

Like many, I have watched the documentary Blackfish. Like many others, I have been long enthralled with the awesome power and grace of the Orcinus Orca, starting from my childhood love of whales and dolphins. I have seen students complete assignments on the now-popular aforementioned documentary, but wondered what parts of the story might have been missing, what other truths there are to be revealed about the history of humans and orcas. It was with great pleasure that I discovered Orca. Not only could I satisfy my own curiosity, but I could add to our library’s collection and our students’ research a source that provides a thorough investigation of this history, and one that considers all sides of the story.

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Book Review: Whisper

Whisper – Lynette Noni – Kids Can Press – Published 1 May 2018

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Synopsis

For two years, six months, fourteen days, eleven hours and sixteen minutes, Subject Six-Eight-Four — ‘Jane Doe’ — has been locked away and experimented on, without uttering a single word.

As Jane’s resolve begins to crack under the influence of her new — and unexpectedly kind — evaluator, she uncovers the truth about Lengard’s mysterious ‘program’, discovering that her own secret is at the heart of a sinister plot … and one wrong move, one wrong word, could change the world.

My thoughts

Whisper by Lynette Noni is an awesome book. It so very easy to fall into and has so many tantalising clues, mysteries, and big reveals that it was impossible to stop reading. Supernatural sci-fi at its intriguing best.

For the past two years and six months, Jane Doe has been kept captive in a secret lab, continually tested and experimented on. She doesn’t know why she’s there and they don’t know her story or name, because for two years and six months Jane Doe hasn’t uttered a single word. But a new, and surprisingly kind, evaluator starts to break down Jane’s protective walls – and that could spell disaster for Jane and for the world.

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