Book Review: Goodbye Days

goodbye-days

Goodbye Days – Jeff Zentner – Andersen (Aus/UK) (Crown – USA) – Published 6 April 2017 (Aus) 7 March 2017 (USA)

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Synopsis

Can a text message destroy your life?

Carver Briggs never thought a simple text would cause a fatal crash, killing his three best friends, Mars, Eli, and Blake. Now Carver can’t stop blaming himself for the accident and even worse, there could be a criminal investigation into the deaths.

Then Blake’s grandmother asks Carver to remember her grandson with a ‘goodbye day’ together. Carver has his misgivings, but he starts to help the families of his lost friends grieve with their own memorial days, along with Eli’s bereaved girlfriend Jesmyn. But not everyone is willing to forgive. Carver’s own despair and guilt threatens to pull him under into panic and anxiety as he faces punishment for his terrible mistake. Can the goodbye days really help?

My thoughts

Hilarious and heartbreaking, Goodbye Days is a winning combination. Perfection itself.

Goodbye Days is an incredibly poignant and relatable story. How many lives have been affected by the tragic deaths of teenagers – friends, classmates, sons or daughters? How many stories of death and grief are punctuation by questions of why, what if, if only? Guilt and sorrow mixing to form a potent poison. Goodbye Days captures all of that emotion and mixes it with a friendship so strong it can only be called a brotherhood. Mixes it with humour and levity and life so bright it dances in front of your eyes. I was crying one minute and laughing the next.

The day Carver Briggs sent a simple text message irrevocably changed everything. Now his three best friends are dead after a fatal car crash – a crash that may or may not have been caused by Carver’s text message. With a pending criminal investigation and guilt heavy enough to level him, Carver begins to form a new connection with Eli’s girlfriend as they both cope with their grief and he accepts Blake’s grandmother’s request to spend one final day celebrating Blake’s life.

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Book Review: Letters To The Lost

Letters To The Lost

Letters to the Lost – Brigid Kemmerer – Bloomsbury Children’s – Published 6 April 2017

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Synopsis

Juliet Young has always written letters to her mother, a world-traveling photojournalist. Even after her mother’s death, she leaves letters at her grave. It’s the only way Juliet can cope. 

Declan Murphy isn’t the sort of guy you want to cross. In the midst of his court-ordered community service at the local cemetery, he’s trying to escape the demons of his past. 

When Declan reads a haunting letter left beside a grave, he can’t resist writing back. Soon, he’s opening up to a perfect stranger, and their connection is immediate. But neither of them knows that they’re not actually strangers. When real life at school interferes with their secret life of letters, Juliet and Declan discover truths that might tear them apart. This emotional, compulsively-readable romance will sweep everyone off their feet.

My thoughts

Heartbreaking and uplifting, Letters To The Lost is a glorious story of two teens finding each other in the midst of crisis and learning to look past the facades of those around them.

Juliet is supposed to be moving on after the death of her mother. That’s what everyone around her expects. But she can’t stop visiting her mother’s grave or leaving letters for her. Declan is serving his community service sentence mowing lawns at the local cemetery. When he finds a letter at the base of a grave he doesn’t expect the words to hit deep inside. Writing back is impetuous but it sparks a written relationship that might just be the thing to hold him together when the rest of his world threatens to explode.

I wasn’t expecting it, but this book turned into a bit of a “You’ve Got Mail” retelling, but with a whole lot more angst and heartbreak. There have been many, many novels who claim to be the next “You’ve Got Mail” and I don’t think one of them has ever pulled it off like this book does. Letters To The Lost doesn’t boast that similarity, but it takes the best bits of that iconic written relationship – two people writing to each other, one finding out before the other, two opposites attracting and repelling at the same time – and adds deeper layers. I loved it.

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Book Review: Then Came You

Then Came You – Becky Wade – Bradford Sisters Romance #0.5 – Published 7 March 2017

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Synopsis

A leather-bound journal. A single father. A woman in pursuit of freedom.

Garner Bradford, heir to the troubled Bradford Shipping empire, doesn’t know much about babies. But he’s going to have to learn fast because he’s just become a single father to his newborn daughter. As he confesses through his journal entries, he’s not entirely sure how to keep a newborn alive, whether or not he’ll ever patch together his shattered heart, or how to forgive himself for his mistakes.

Career girl Kathleen Burke is wholly uninterested in settling down. She has big dreams, and none of them include Garner and his small hometown in Washington State. Yet she can’t seem to get her handsome boss out of her head or her heart. There’s something extraordinarily tempting about his beautifully sad green eyes. . . .

Told through journal entries, phone conversations, and letters, Then Came You is a unique, heart-stirring romance novella by acclaimed author Becky Wade.

My thoughts

Then Came You is an utterly charming romance told through letter fragments, diary entries, and phone conversations.

Then Came You is the prequel novella to Becky Wade’s new series, Bradford Sisters Romance. At first I was a little confused about how this story fit with the books in the series. Then I realised that this story is set a few decades prior to the first book in the series and Garner, our main male character, is actually the father of the Bradford sisters, around whom the series is based.

The story starts off rather sadly, as Garner makes mistakes and faces much tragedy. We are also introduced to Kathleen, who takes a job at Garner’s family company rather than fulfill her dreams of moving to and working in New York.

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Book Review: The Memory of You

The Memory of You

The Memory of You – Catherine West – Thomas Nelson – Published 28 March 2017

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Synopsis

Thirteen years ago, Natalie lost a part of herself when her twin sister died. Will traveling back to the family winery finally put the memory to rest, or will it completely destroy her?

When Natalie Mitchell learns her beloved grandfather has had a heart attack, she’s forced to return to their family-owned winery in Sonoma, something she never intended to do. She’s avoided her grandparents’ sprawling home and all its memories since the summer her sister died—the awful summer Natalie’s nightmares began. But the winery is failing, and Natalie’s father wants her to shut it down. As the majority shareholder, she has the power to do so. And Natalie never says no to her father.

Tanner Collins, the vintner on Maoilios, is trying to salvage a bad season and put the Mitchell family’s winery back in business. When Natalie Mitchell shows up, Tanner sees his future about to be crushed. Natalie intends to close the gates, unless he can convince her otherwise. But the Natalie he remembers from childhood is long gone, and he’s not so sure he likes the woman she’s become. Still, the haunted look she wears hints at secrets he wants to unearth. He soon discovers that on the night her sister died, the real Natalie died too. And Tanner must do whatever it takes to resurrect her.

My thoughts

The Memory of You is a delightful story. The setting truly comes alive and creates the perfect backdrop for this story of hidden secrets, guilt, and finding peace by facing the past.

Natalie is haunted by memories of her time at her grandparents’ vineyard. She hasn’t returned since that tragic night thirteen years ago and has tried to bury her memories and the truth of how her twin sister Nicole died. But her nightmares have returned and her symptoms are spiralling out of her control. So when her parents suggest she return to the vineyard she thinks it might be a good time to finally find peace. But the head vintner, Tanner Collins, Natalie’s childhood friend (and crush), suspects the real reason Natalie’s father has sent her to Maoilios – to shut them down – and he isn’t happy to see her.

I love a romance that starts off with the characters fighting. Sparks fly, tempers get lost. You can feel the passion, the chemistry, the possibility. I also liked that Tanner and Natalie had history. A tentative teenage friendship that got lost through the tumultuous fallout of Nicole’s death. As they confront each other about the past and challenge each other about the future, especially the future of the vineyard, they slowly (and with a few bumps along the way) rekindle their friendship and learn to trust each other.

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Book Review: Hunted

Hunted

Hunted – Meagan Spooner – Hunted #1 – HarperTeen – Published 14 March 2017

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Synopsis

Beauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones—and in her blood. Though she grew up with the city’s highest aristocrats, far from her father’s old lodge, she knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering them. 

So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there’s no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas…or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. But Yeva’s father’s misfortune may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance. 

Deaf to her sisters’ protests, Yeva hunts this strange Beast back into his own territory—a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of creatures that Yeva’s only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast?

My thoughts

Beauty and the Beast has always been my favourite fairytale. Perhaps it’s because of the magic, used for more than making a fancy ball gown or carriage. Or maybe I like that it is a redemption story, about a selfish man made good. Maybe it’s because the heroine is strong and resourceful but still kind, or because of its similarity to the tale East of the Sun and West of the Moon. Whatever the reason, I love the original fairytale and I equally love Beauty and the Beast retellings. Hunted has all of the elements of the original that I love, with a haunting writing style and gorgeous setting. It is more detailed and clever than a simple Disney tale, but it retains that ethereal quality, with a sharp, deadly edge that offsets the beauty.

It’s been years since Yeva hunted in the woods with her father. Her muscles have grown soft and her training lax after her father moved her family to town and determined that Yeva would be best served playing lady to the baronessa, sewing and wearing fine clothes. But a turn in fortune sees Yeva, her two sisters, and her father removed from their home and returning to the little cabin in the woods. Yeva secretly rejoices at her chance to once again roam the woods with her bow and arrows and traps. But a strange madness overtakes her father, who is sure a beast rules the forest, and, after her father disappears, Yeva goes after him and discovers a world that has previously only belonged in the legends she was told as a child.

This story is gently woven, exactly as a fairytale should be. Yeva is no fainting damsel, but she is understanding and kind. She loves her family and wants to protect them, despite being the youngest. I found Hunted to be one of those books that you are desperate to get to the end so you know how it ends but when you near the last pages you want it to go on forever.

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Book Review: Dare You

dare-you

Dare You – Jennifer Brown – Nikki Kill #2 – Katherine Tegen Books – Published 14 February 2017

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Synopsis

Nikki Kill didn’t realize that trying to find out who killed Peyton Hollis would tangle her in a web of dangerous family secrets that would rock her identity to the core. But now that Nikki knows the truth, the all-powerful Hollises want to frame her for Peyton’s murder. 

And now Nikki’s only chance at escaping the cold black bars of prison or the crimson grip of death is teaming up with the enigmatic Detective Martinez and relying on an ever-shifting kaleidoscope of clues….

My thoughts

Fantastic. Addictive. And now I so very desperately need the next book in this series. Right. Now. I can’t wait to read what happens next and get back to Nikki and Detective Martinez. Ahhh. When can I have book three??? But first, let me tell you about my love for this book.

Dare You picks up where Shade Me left off. Nikki knows who killed Peyton, she just can’t prove it. So she finished school and is about to graduate. But that’s it when it comes to plans, and she is unsure about what to do with her life. She hasn’t heard from Detective Martinez in months. But when she is arrested she knows that those who killed Peyton haven’t forgotten about Nikki and they intend to see her jailed or dead.

It’s great to return to the world of Nikki Kill. Where emotions, words, letter and numbers are colours. Where her senses have helped reveal a classmate’s killer but infinitely complicated Nikki’s world. Dare You and Shade Me are the very best kind of mystery stories, plenty of suspense, a strong protagonist, seemingly impossible odds, and just the barest hint of romance that keeps you desperately hanging on for more.

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Book Review: A Tragic Kind of Wonderful

A Tragic Kind of Wonderful

A Tragic Kind of Wonderful – Eric Lindstrom – Poppy – Published 7 February 2017

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Synopsis

For sixteen-year-old Mel Hannigan, bipolar disorder makes life unpredictable. Her latest struggle is balancing her growing feelings in a new relationship with her instinct to keep everyone at arm’s length. And when a former friend confronts Mel with the truth about the way their relationship ended, deeply buried secrets threaten to come out and upend her shaky equilibrium.

As the walls of Mel’s compartmentalized world crumble, she fears the worst–that her friends will abandon her if they learn the truth about what she’s been hiding. Can Mel bring herself to risk everything to find out?

My thoughts

A Tragic Kind of Wonderful was a must read for me after I read and absolutely adored Eric Lindstrom’s first book Not If I See You First. As a result, I went into reading A Tragic Kind of Wonderful with a mix of trepidation and excitement – could it possibly live up to Not If I See You First, would it be different??

And it is different in a way, but it carries that same incredible power. I’m not sure how he does it, but Eric Lindstrom has a knack for understanding the psyche of teenage girls and bringing that to the page.

Mel Hannigan has everything under control. No one outside her family and doctors know about her having bipolar disorder, she balances her meds, keeps track of her cycling and segments her life so her friends will never find out. But when old friends question her over how their friendship ended, a new relationship sparks and her moods start cycling faster, Mel may have to confront her past.

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Book Review: Dawn Study

dawn-study

Dawn Study – Maria V. Snyder – Soulfinders series #3, Ixia Chronicles #9 – Mira/Harlequin Teen – Published 23 January 2017

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Synopsis

Despite the odds, Yelena and Valek have forged an irrevocable bond and a family that transcends borders. Now, when their two homelands stand on the brink of war, they must fight with magic and cunning to thwart an Ixian plot to invade Sitia.

Yelena seeks to break the hold of the insidious Theobroma that destroys a person’s resistance to magical persuasion. But the Cartel is determined to keep influential citizens and Sitian diplomats in thrall and Yelena at bay. With every bounty hunter after her, Yelena is forced to make a dangerous deal.

With might and magic, Valek peels back the layers of betrayal surrounding the Commander. At its rotten core lies a powerful magician and his latest discovery. The fate of all rests upon two unlikely weapons. One may turn the tide. The other could spell the end of everything.

My thoughts

Dawn Study is the long-awaited conclusion to the Soulfinders series and the Ixia Chronicles. How I have loved every single minute spent with Valek, Yelena, and the gang. They have grabbed my heart, taken me on wild adventures, driven me slightly crazy with tension, and changed forever the way I look at books. Dawn Study is everything I was expecting and waiting for. Incredible doesn’t do it justice. Prepare yourself, because this is going to be a long review – when I am this in love I get longwinded.

Yelena and Valek have long been working towards establishing peace between Ixia and Sitia. Now they must face their final battle. The magicians of Sitia are under the control of a rogue group and the Commander is threatening to invade. Yelena, Valek and their friends have until the hot season before they lose their chance of peace once and for all. They will need to sacrifice everything in the hopes of one day being able to raise their family in safety.

Dawn Study kind of felt like both a second-last and last book in the series rolled into one. There is so much contained within its pages. Along with Yelena’s first-person-narrated chapters, readers are treated to chapters from Janco, Valek, Leif and also Heli’s perspectives, told in third person. This keeps the reader well informed about all the different angles of the story and made me pay attention as it sometimes takes a while to circle back around through all the characters. It also made it a little hard to pick the story back after putting it down (because, you know, my boss doesn’t like it when I read all day, although “it’s Dawn Study” might have proven a worthy excuse). But these multiple perspectives are necessary to continue the story and I absolutely love the extra insight we get into all the characters.  Continue reading

Book Review: Spindle

spindle

Spindle – E.K. Johnston – A Thousand Nights #2 – Disney-Hyperion – Published 6 December 2016

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Synopsis

The world is made safe by a woman…but it is a very big world.

It has been generations since the Storyteller Queen drove the demon out of her husband and saved her country from fire and blood. Her family has prospered beyond the borders of their village, and two new kingdoms have sprouted on either side of the mountains where the demons are kept prisoner by bright iron, and by the creatures the Storyteller Queen made to keep them contained.

But the prison is crumbling. Through years of careful manipulation, a demon has regained her power. She has made one kingdom strong and brought the other to its knees, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. When a princess is born, the demon is ready with the final blow: a curse that will cost the princess her very soul, or force her to destroy her own people to save her life.

The threads of magic are tightly spun, binding princess and exiled spinners into a desperate plot to break the curse before the demon can become a queen of men. But the web of power is dangerously tangled–and they may not see the true pattern until it is unspooled.

My thoughts

Honestly, I don’t think I have the words to convey how wonderful this book is. It simply deserves to be read and enjoyed.

Yashaa’s life changed the night the curse was laid upon the Little Rose. It might have been the princess who was cursed but it was Yashaa, his mother and their community of spinners who left their home in the castle and were forced into exile. Now Yashaa is grown and his mother is dying. He has little choice when she requests him to take his friends and attempt to make a better life away from their camp. She would never expect him to try and find the cursed princess and could never dream how Yashaa’s life threads, and those of his friends, will become tangled with the princess’s.

This book is the second book in the A Thousand Nights series. It is more of a companion novel, set many, many years after the events of A Thousand Nights. It was lovely to, from the distance of time, see how Lo-Melkhiin and the Storyteller Queen’s tale continued and sparked the creation of a new story. Spindle is part adventure quest, part love story. You can see the threads of the fairytale wrapped up and expanded in the delicious details of this world and its vibrant characters. If the characters in A Thousand Nights remained anonymous, those in Spindle become as dear and familiar to you as old friends.

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Book Review: The Secret of a Heart Note

The Secret of a Heart Note

The Secret of a Heart Note – Stacey Lee – Katherine Tegen Books – Published 27 December 2016

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Synopsis

Sometimes love is right under your nose. As one of only two aromateurs left on the planet, sixteen-year-old Mimosa knows what her future holds: a lifetime of weeding, mixing love elixirs, and matchmaking—all while remaining incurably alone. For Mim, the rules are clear: falling in love would render her nose useless, taking away her one great talent. Still, Mimosa doesn’t want to spend her life elbow-deep in soil and begonias. She dreams of a normal high school experience with friends, sports practices, debate club, and even a boyfriend. But when she accidentally gives an elixir to the wrong woman and has to rely on the lovesick woman’s son, the school soccer star, to help fix the situation, Mim quickly begins to realize that falling in love isn’t always a choice you can make.

My thoughts

I savoured this novel, delighting in the sights and vibrant smells of this love story. I loved disappearing into the lush, wonderful world Stacey Lee has created. It made me want to go and enjoy the garden, plant bulbs or run my hands through a lavender plant.

Mim is an aromateur, using her precise and extensive gift of smell to mix elixirs – love potions. But her gift comes at a price. Her mother has warned her many times over – if she falls in love she will lose her strong sense of smell and rob the world of one of its last aromateurs. Meanwhile, Mim just wants to finish high school, maybe convince her classmates she’s not an evil love witch, resist the pull of the charming and popular Court, and try not to cause too much chaos with her love potions.

I didn’t expect for the people around Mim to know about her being an aromateur, but her and her mother’s business is well know, if not understood. It makes for some interesting conversions between Mim and her classmates. I truly loved the world of smell in this novel. I liked how different smells meant different things and how they were all described and I loved how this was seamlessly interwoven into the story. I was happily immersed in Mim’s rich and detailed world.

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