Book Review: Fatal Mistake

Fatal Mistake – Susan Sleeman – White Knights #1 – FaithWords – Published 9 May 2017

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Synopsis

Each day could be her last…but not if he can help it.
Tara Parrish is the only person ever to survive an attack by the Lone Wolf bomber. Scared and emotionally scarred by her near death, she goes into hiding with only one plan–to stay alive for another day. She knows he’s coming after her, and if he finds her, he will finish what he started.

Agent Cal Riggins has had only one goal for the past six months–to save lives by ending the Lone Wolf’s bombing spree. To succeed, he needs the help of Tara Parrish, the one person who can lead them to the bomber. Cal puts his all into finding Tara, but once he locates her, he realizes if he can find her, the Lone Wolf can, too. He must protect Tara at all costs, and they’ll both need to resist the mutual attraction growing between them to focus on hunting down the bomber, because one wrong move could be fatal.

My thoughts

I’m always on the lookout for new books within the Christian suspense genre and Fatal Mistake by Susan Sleeman looked very promising. It didn’t disappoint. Fatal Mistake carries echoes of DiAnn Mills, Irene Hannon and Dani Pettrey’s knack for excellent suspense and authentic crime investigation.

Fatal Mistake has plenty of suspense, fantastic characters – including a team of specialist FBI agents many of whom are ex spec-op – and a deadly killer. Faith is also seamlessly woven into the story and the romance brings welcome relief from the action (though it creates a few heart-pounding moments of its own).

Tara knows her life is in danger when she discovers that her old childhood friend must be the Lone Wolf bomber who has already killed many women. The bricks of explosives and detailed plans left in her aunt’s pump house attest to that. Scared, she rings the FBI hotline but not before Oren returns home to find she has discovered his secret. Now in serious danger, Tara must decide if she will work with the special FBI team who is tasked with the arrest of the Lone Wolf or if she must go out alone to ensure her safety. Cal Riggings knows he needs Tara’s insight into the Lone Wolf if he is to prevent any more killings, but assuring Tara of her safety is hard when her life has already been put in serious danger. And then there is the attraction he feels towards her that risks getting in the way of his focus.

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Book Review: Someone Else’s Summer

Someone Else’s Summer – Rachel Bateman – Running Press Kids – Published 9 May 2017

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Synopsis

Anna’s always idolized her older sister, Storm. So when Storm dies in a tragic car accident on the night of her high school graduation, Anna is completely lost and her family is torn apart. That is, until she finds Storm’s summer bucket list and decides to honor her sister by having the best summer ever—which includes taking an epic road trip to the coast from her sleepy Iowa town. Setting out to do everything on Storm’s list along with her sisters best friend Cameron—the boy next door—who knew that Storm’s dream summer would eventually lead to Anna’s own self-discovery?

My thoughts

Can you fall in love with a book because of its dedication? Because that’s when I first knew I was going to enjoy Someone Else’s Summer. I cautioned myself to actually start reading the book before judging it, but, it turns out, I was right. I enjoyed this book of road trips and love finally realised, summer lists, larger-than-life big sisters, shared memories, shared grief, and unanswered questions. Someone Else’s Summer was refreshing and fun.

Anna’s sister was tragically killed in a car accident just after her high school graduation. Anna and her family are devastated. So when Anna finds one last summer list that her sister left behind, she knows she must complete it. She recruits her sister’s best-friend, boy-next-door, Cameron, and together they set off for a summer of skinny dipping, tattoos, Polaroid photos, and kisses.

I have to say I loved the romance in this story. Anna and Cameron know each other. They have too many shared childhood memories not to. But they drifted apart over the past few years, just like Anna drifted from being her sister’s little shadow. They reconnect through their shared grief and their time on the road trip. Their relationship starts with a familiarity and comfort that comes from being a perfect fit. So it only makes perfect sense when their relationship turns romantic. And boy, does their chemistry leap off the page. Their kisses were literally heart-pounding.

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Book Review: Love and Vandalism

Love and Vandalism – Laurie Boyle Crompton – Sourcebooks Fire – Published 1 May 2017

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Synopsis

He calls it fate. She calls it blackmail.

Rory has a secret: she’s the vandal who paints graffiti lions all over her small town. If her policeman dad knew, he’d probably disown her. So when Hayes, a former screw-up on the path to recovery, catches her in the act, Rory’s sure she’s busted. Instead, he makes her a deal. If Rory shows him around town, he won’t turn her in. It might be coercion, but at least the boy is hot.

As they spend more time together, Rory worries she made the wrong choice. Hayes has a way of making her want things she shouldn’t want and feel emotions she’s tried to bury. Rory’s going to have to distance herself from Hayes or confront a secret she can’t bring herself to face…

My thoughts

Love and Vandalism is a surprising and heartfelt novel about art, family, emotional overload, and reconnecting.

Rory creates her art in the dark depths of night, spray painting her lions onto vacant walls and overpasses. It helps her control her rage and rebel against her father. Art is the thing she has most in common with her artist mother. But Rory has a plan to escalate her art and paint a lion that is larger and far more visible than all her previous pieces. She knows she will need help to pull it off but the new guy in town is probably last on her list of limited choices. Never mind his city-boy looks and his determination to stay away from trouble (especially the illegal kind), it’s enough that he is threatening to reveal Rory’s identity as the lion graffiti artist if she doesn’t show him around town.

I really latched onto the first few pages of Love and Vandalism. The writing and story line drew me in. And while Rory at first seems like your average ‘bad girl’, she soon reveals plenty of hidden layers, secrets, and reasons for her actions. I have to admit that I wasn’t all that impressed with Rory to begin with. Within the first chapter she heads to a strange guy’s apartment to smoke drugs, so I wasn’t sure how we were going get along. But I’m well aware that often characters who make puzzling and seemingly stupid decisions usually have an interesting and complicated story to tell. I figured Rory deserved to have her story told, and I’m very glad I kept reading because her story is as saddening as it is encouraging.

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Book Review: True To You

True To You – Becky Wade – Bradford Sisters Romance #1 – Bethany House – Published 2 May 2017

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Synopsis

After a devastating heartbreak three years ago, genealogist and historical village owner Nora Bradford has decided that burying her nose in her work and her books is far safer than romance in the here and now.

Unlike Nora, former Navy SEAL and Medal of Honor recipient John Lawson is a modern-day man, usually 100 percent focused on the present. But when he’s diagnosed with an inherited condition, he’s forced to dig into the secrets of his past and his adoption as an infant, enlisting Nora to help him uncover the identity of his birth mother.

The more time they spend together, the more this pair of opposites suspects they just might be a perfect match. However, John’s already dating someone and Nora’s not sure she’s ready to trade her crushes on fictional heroes for the risks of a real relationship. Finding the answers they’re seeking will test the limits of their identity, their faith, and their devotion to one another.

My thoughts

True To You was part light and whimsical romance and partly a story of serious adversity and hard-hitting secrets that force the characters to be honest with themselves and God as they search for answers and love.

Nora Bradford is a historian. A researcher. Someone who enjoys all things past. But her own past, particularly her romantic past, has left her slightly jaded, more than happy to remain safely single, and determined to rely on no one but herself for success. John Lawson knows what it’s like to test himself and push himself to the very limits. Being a Navy SEAL ensured that. But a medical diagnosis has rocked him and driven him to uncover his own past and the story of his adoption. Nora and John are brought together by the past and enticed by a chance for the future.

True To You was light and whimsical and fluffy. A delicious book to enjoy. It felt the littlest bit silly and wholly charming. And then, with a quarter of the book to go, a huge bombshell is landed. Wow!! I did not see that coming. Nor did the characters. But that’s exactly when this book digs its heels in and becomes so much more than a fluffy romance – nothing wrong with those, of course – but with that twist this book looks deeper at God and accepting God’s plans for one’s life even when there seems to be only hurt and pain ahead.

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Book Review: You’ll Think of Me

You'll Think of Me

You’ll Think of Me – Robin Lee Hatcher – Thomas Nelson – Published 11 April 2017

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Synopsis

Her mother abandoned her, her father disowned her, and her husband left her. Can Brooklyn be convinced that it is possible to forgive the greatest of betrayals?

Brooklyn Myers escaped her broken home and her embittered, unloving father by eloping to Reno at the age of 17. But when she was pregnant with their first child, her husband abandoned her as well. Not welcome back home in Thunder Creek, Brooklyn stayed in Reno and raised her daughter Alycia on her own, doing her best to make sure Alycia never knew the heartache and rejection Brooklyn herself had known.

When her estranged husband Chad Hallston dies, he leaves the family home in Thunder Creek to his daughter. Believing it is the best way to give her daughter a stable home, Brooklyn does what she thought she would never do. She goes home to the orchard and wine country of Southwest Idaho. There, she encounters Chad’s best friend, Derek Johnson, a part time sheriff’s deputy who also owns an organic produce farm next door. Derek was never a fan of former bad girl Brooklyn Myers, but he made a promise to his dying friend that he would be the father to Alycia that Chad had never been.

Although Derek and Brooklyn get off to a bumpy start, he and Alycia quickly form a bond. And soon, Derek realizes that he wants Brooklyn to trust him too . . .  even knowing that her trust won’t come easily. And then he realizes he wants even more than her trust. He wants to win her love.

While Brooklyn may be tempted to give her heart to Derek, risking her daughter’s happiness is another story. Will Brooklyn hold onto her self-reliance for dear life, or will she come to understand that the greatest gift she can give her daughter is showing her how to love and trust others?

My thoughts

A charming and relaxing romance, You’ll Think Of Me is a story of starting over and creating family.

Brooklyn knows what it takes to stand alone. So when she receives a letter from her estranged husband’s lawyer stating that she and her ten-year-old daughter have been left his family home, Brooklyn is wary of returning to her hometown. But returning to Thunder Creek isn’t the hardship she imagines. She is soon surrounded by caring townspeople including her neighbour Derek, who has his own reasons for getting close to Brooklyn and her daughter Alycia.

Absolutely every time I think about this book’s title I start humming the song by Keith Urban of the same name. I just can’t help it. Not a bad thing, I like that song, but its message is very different from that of this book. This book is all about coming together, community joining to offer support, and a young family healing and finding love.

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Book Review: The Hideaway

The Hideaway

The Hideaway – Lauren K. Denton – Thomas Nelson – Published 11 April 2017

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Synopsis

When her grandmother’s will wrenches Sara back home from New Orleans, she learns more about Margaret Van Buren in the wake of her death than she ever did in life.

After her last remaining family member dies, Sara Jenkins goes home to The Hideaway, her grandmother Mags’s ramshackle B&B in Sweet Bay, Alabama. She intends to quickly tie up loose ends then return to her busy life and thriving antique shop in New Orleans. Instead, she learns Mags has willed her The Hideaway and charged her with renovating it—no small task considering Mags’s best friends, a motley crew of senior citizens, still live there.

Rather than hurrying back to New Orleans, Sara stays in Sweet Bay and begins the biggest house-rehabbing project of her career. Amid Sheetrock dust, old memories, and a charming contractor, she discovers that slipping back into life at The Hideaway is easier than she expected.

Then she discovers a box Mags left in the attic with clues to a life Sara never imagined for her grandmother. With help from Mags’s friends, Sara begins to piece together the mysterious life of bravery, passion, and choices that changed Mags’s destiny in both marvelous and devastating ways.

When an opportunistic land developer threatens to seize The Hideaway, Sara is forced to make a choice—stay in Sweet Bay and fight for the house and the people she’s grown to love or leave again and return to her successful but solitary life in New Orleans.

My thoughts

The Hideaway is absolutely charming, featuring two intertwined stories of love, self-discovery, and the search for peace.

Deep in the heart of the South is a dilapidated, quirky, and much-loved old home. The Hideaway is a shelter for those who are lost or want to escape society. For Sara, growing up there with her equally quirky grandmother, the Hideaway was embarrassing and as a young adult she quickly escaped to New Orleans to start her own business. Now her grandmother is dead and Sara has been left with the Hideaway, its remaining occupants, and the task of refurbishing the house. But the longer she stays, the harder it is to imagine leaving. She also begins to uncover the secrets her grandmother closely guarded and starts to fall in love with the charming contractor refurbishing what is quickly becoming her home.

This book is written in two sets of alternating chapters. The first from Sara, present day as she returns to her childhood home after the death of her grandmother. The other chapters are written from the perspective of Mags, Sara’s grandmother, dating from the 1960s as Mags escaped an unfaithful husband, learned to love again, stand on her own feet, and never again let someone’s judgement shape who she was.

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Book Review: The Upside of Unrequited

Upside of Unrequited

The Upside of Unrequited – Becky Albertalli – Balzer+Bray – Published 11 April 2017

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Synopsis

Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love. No matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. If Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.

There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker, Reid. He’s a chubby Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him.

My thoughts

A forthright book about love, falling in love, that crazy feeling of falling in love, family, dating, and relationships.

Molly had has twenty-six crushes and counting. Her twin sister has had many dates, kisses and relationships, even if they only last a short time. But when Molly’s sister falls in love – for real this time – Molly senses that their close relationship is changing. And then there are the two boys – one, the boy her sister would like her to date and the other her geeky, new co-worker who makes her laugh and not totally tongue tied.

I admired Molly’s voice. It is so authentically and uniquely her. Her character is layered and realistic. I liked how there were so many little things that were just a part of who she is. For example, Molly has anxiety. She takes medication for it and she mentions it offhandedly a few times and feels anxious about some things and laughed about a few times anxiety got the better of her, but her anxiety wasn’t a defining feature of her character, especially not in her eyes. The same goes for her weight. She is totally upfront about her weight but she herself is ok with her size. The only thing she worries about is how others view her. She wishes they could be as accepting of her as she is. Again, just another facet that makes up Molly. But the majority of her focus and that of the book’s is on dating and falling in love.

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Book Review: The End of Our Story

The End of Our Story

The End of Our Story – Meg Haston – HarperTeen – Published 4 April 2017

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Synopsis

Bridge and Wil have been entangled in each other’s lives for years. Under the white-hot Florida sun, they went from kids daring each other to swim past the breakers to teenagers stealing kisses between classes. But when Bridge betrayed Wil during their junior year, she shattered his heart and their relationship along with it.

Then Wil’s family suffers a violent loss, and Bridge rushes back to Wil’s side. As they struggle to heal old wounds and start falling for each other all over again, Bridge and Wil discover just how much has changed in the past year. As the fierce current of tragedy threatens to pull them under, they must learn how to swim on their own—or risk drowning together.

My thoughts

The End Of Our Story is a powerful and heartbreaking story of family secrets and relationship breakdown.

I thought The End Of Our Story would be about a traumatic romance. A big break up, getting back together, breaking up again and then maybe, finally sorting out the issues and getting back together again. But the romance in The End Of Our Story is really just a backdrop for the story of family breakdown and social issues. What happens to you when your world shatters and the people you love aren’t who you thought they were?

I was surprised by the turn The End of Our Story took. I liked that it was about more than romance. Family, family breakdown, choosing who you want to be, actions defining who someone is, and doing the ‘right’ thing are all important themes.

Bridge and Wil have been friends since childhood. Love soon followed, but in their second-last year of high school their relationship shattered. A year on, following family tragedy, Bridge knows she needs to be there for Wil, while Wil is still reeling from the events of the previous year.

The book is written in alternating chapters from the perspective of the two main character but from different times. Bridge narrates the current time period, their last year of high school, and Wil narrates from the year previous. From the start of the book, the reader knows that something happened between Bridge and Wil to destroy both their childhood friendship and teenage romance. But the reader isn’t left in suspense for too long before the details of what happened are revealed. I liked that the story of their breakup was revealed early on rather than building suspense to a reveal that could have felt anti-climactic. But Wil and Bridge’s relationship drama is really only a backdrop to Wil’s family story, which is fleshed out through his chapters. Bridge discovers these family secrets for the first time as she reconnects with Wil in their senior year in the wake of Wil’s family tragedy. The big question is what happened on that night that changed everything for Wil. Bridge wants to ask him but doesn’t want to scare him away. You can see I am writing this review almost in code as I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I think it is fair to say this book is much less about romance than it is self-reflection, family breakdown and (I’ll put this in spoiler tags just in case) Continue reading

Book Review: Zenn Diagram

zenn-diagram

Zenn Diagram – Wendy Brant – Kids Can Press – Published 4 April 2017

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Synopsis

Eva Walker is a seventeen-year-old math genius. And if that doesn’t do wonders for her popularity, there’s another thing that makes it even worse: when she touches another person or anything that belongs to them — from clothes to textbooks to cell phones — she sees a vision of their emotions. She can read a person’s fears and anxieties, their secrets and loves … and what they have yet to learn about calculus. This is helpful for her work as a math tutor, but it means she can never get close to people. Eva avoids touching anyone and everyone. People think it’s because she’s a clean freak — with the emphasis on freak — but it’s all she can do to protect herself from other people’s issues. 

Then one day a new student walks into Eva’s life. His jacket gives off so much emotional trauma that she falls to the floor. Eva is instantly drawn to Zenn, a handsome and soulful artist who also has a troubled home life, and her feelings only grow when she realizes that she can touch Zenn’s skin without having visions. But when she discovers the history that links them, the truth threatens to tear the two apart.

My thoughts

For some reason I knew I would love Zenn Diagram. Something about the synopsis just hit me and I knew I had to read it. Math genius – check. Paranormal abilities – check. Dark, foreboding secrets – check. And yet it surprised me by being even better than I imagined. It was a combination of everything I love in a YA romance.

Eva is a math genius. But she also has another talent she isn’t so open about. When she touches people or their things she gets flashes of their feelings. She calls them fractals because (insert a complicated math explanation that I’ll leave to Eva to explain here). So Eva has learnt to keep her hands to herself. It has limited her social interactions and greatly increased her notoriety as a weirdo. But that’s okay, because Eva has a good family, a great friend and she can use her gift/curse to help find the solution to anyone’s trouble with math. It makes her a good tutor. But Eva lastest student makes her wish for the impossible – an uncomplicated relationship, a chance to touch and be touched, to have someone see her. But one accidental brush against Zenn’s jacket gives Eva the impression that Zenn has dark and haunting secrets.

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Book Review: But Then I Came Back

but-then-i-came-back

But Then I Came Back – Estelle Laure – HMH Books – Published 4 April 2017

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Synopsis

Eden Jones, a 17-year-old girl, feels lost after surviving a near fatal accident. Unable to connect with her family and friends, Eden forms an unlikely relationship with Joe, a boy who comes to the hospital to visit Jasmine, a friend who may soon be gone forever. Eden is the only person who can get through to Jasmine, but is she brave enough to face a world that’s bigger and more magical than she ever would have allowed?

My thoughts

This companion novel to This Raging Light returns readers to the same cast of loveable characters and the same incredibly lyrical writing, but also brings new possibilities and ideas in a story of facing life, understanding death, and finding hope.

Eden Jones has been in a coma for weeks, but to her it feels like only a small amount of time has passed. She has to come to terms with life as it is now – her best friend dating her brother, no more ballet, smoothies and shakes instead of solid food, and mood swings that drive her crazy. She has questions about what comes After that no one wants to talk about, Oh, and now she can see things that no one else can see. It seems that the only person who might have answers is the girl in the hospital room next to Eden’s – but she’s still in a coma. And then there is Joe, the sole visitor for the girl in the next room over, to whom Eden is inexplicably drawn and yet seems so untouchable.

I don’t know why, but it wasn’t until quarter way through this book that I realised that Lucille was the Lucille from This Raging Light. And that meant Digby was Digby, the brother of her best friend with whom she wasn’t supposed to fall in love. And Eden, now our main character, was Eden the best friend, who slipped, cracked her head and entered a coma in the last section of This Raging Light. It was Wren’s name and a sentence about her cooking dinner that finally triggered my admittedly slow brain to catch up. For some reason I hadn’t pegged this book as a companion novel. And in a way, it doesn’t have to be. It is its own story, complete in its own right, but it is also seamlessly woven into This Raging Light.

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