Book Review: Indigo Blue

Indigo Blue – Jessica Watson – Hachette Australia – Published 11 January 2018

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Synopsis

Alex feels like a fish out of water in her new hometown – the sleepy little lakeside village of Boreen Point where she is reluctantly sent to live with her slightly eccentric aunt for her final year of high school. None of Alex’s classmates could care less about the new girl, so Alex couldn’t care less about them . . . or so she tries to tell herself.

As a distraction from what is quickly shaping up to be a very lonely year, Alex spends her savings on a rundown little yacht and throws herself into restoring it. An offer to help a shy classmate with a history assignment leads to a curious discovery and the beginnings of a friendship, but it’s Sam – the sailmaker’s apprentice – and his mysterious ways that really capture Alex’s attention . .

My thoughts

Indigo blue is the fiction debut from renown Australian sailor, Jessica Watson. Along with her excellent knowledge of sailing, Jessica brings to this fun and quirky story an obvious familiarity with the landscape and history of the coastal setting. Indigo Blue seamlessly combines sailing, friendship, and romance with magical realism.

When Alex is forced to move to the tiny coastal town of Boreen Point when her father moves oversea, she expects boredom. But an old sailing boat in need of repair and new school friendships quickly fill her time. And then there is the mysterious sail-repair apprentice, Sam. As Alex discovers a piece of local history she also begins to untangle the mystery that surrounds Sam and what makes him so different.

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Book Review: Together At Midnight

Together At Midnight – Jennifer Castle – HarperTeen – Published 2 January 2018

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Synopsis

What does it really mean to be kind . . . and why does it sometimes feel like the hardest thing in the world to do? High school senior Kendall, who just returned from a life-changing semester in Europe, and Max, who is drifting his way through a gap year before college, struggle with these questions when they witness a tragic accident in New York City during the holiday season. Racked with guilt, the two accept a dare to perform random acts of kindness to strangers. The challenge pulls these two teens, who have a history together from back home, closer and closer as they explore a vibrant city filled with other people’s stories and secrets.

Kendall and Max can’t deny their growing bond, even though they both have other romantic entanglements and uncertain futures. As the clock counts down on New Year’s Eve, will they find themselves together at midnight?

My thoughts

Together At Midnight is an inspiring YA novel – romantic, but also so much more about kindness, society, and being brave enough to step outside yourself to help others.

Kendall, just home from a year studying abroad, doesn’t want to resume her regular life, including returning to her old high school. So she flees to New York to stay with her brother and reconnect with an old friend-and unrequited crush-hoping that the past months talking online mean there is a chance for a romantic future. She doesn’t expect to run into Max, Jamie’s friend, and the guy who saw her breakdown over Jamie’s rejection last year. She certainly doesn’t expect to bond with him after witnessing a traumatic event. But as they traverse the streets of New York, working together on a dare to spread kindness and hopefully make up for their previous lack of action, there is no denying their growing connection.

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Book Review: A Taxonomy of Love

A Taxonomy of Love – Rachael Allen – Amulet Books – Published 9 January 2018

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Synopsis

The moment Spencer meets Hope the summer before seventh grade, it’s . . . something at first sight. He knows she’s special, possibly even magical. The pair become fast friends, climbing trees and planning world travels. After years of being outshone by his older brother and teased because of his Tourette syndrome, Spencer finally feels like he belongs. But as Hope and Spencer get older and life gets messier, the clear label of “friend” gets messier, too.

Through sibling feuds and family tragedies, new relationships and broken hearts, the two grow together and apart, and Spencer, an aspiring scientist, tries to map it all out using his trusty system of taxonomy. He wants to identify and classify their relationship, but in the end, he finds that life doesn’t always fit into easy-to-manage boxes, and it’s this messy complexity that makes life so rich and beautiful.

My thoughts

Is there a way to understand and capture the complexities of life, friendship, and love? A Taxonomy of Love is a sweet story that captures all the magic and heartbreak of friendship and growing up.

When the new girl moves in next door, she and Spencer become strong friends. Who else but Hope could understand Spencer’s love of bugs and climbing trees. Who else could understand the ways in which he is different and yet not treat him as if he is any different at all. But sometimes life is messy and not as easy to categorise as Spencer would like. Friends, more than friends, not friends at all?

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Book Review: Mallee Boys

Mallee Boys – Charlie Archbold – Wakefield Press – Published 30 September 2017

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Synopsis

‘Sometimes I feel like I’m neither one thing nor another. I live in the Mallee but I don’t like the desert. I live on a farm but I get hay fever and I’m scared of goats. I like school but my best mates don’t.’

Sandy Douglas knows that life at fifteen is hard, but it’s even harder when your mother died a year ago and nothing’s gone right since. Sandy’s brother Red, on the other hand, is eighteen now and working the farm. He’s amped up on rage and always looking for a fight. And then there’s their dad Tom. He does his best, but – really – he doesn’t have a clue.

As Sandy and Red deal with girls, dirt biking, footy and friendship, both boys have to work out who they want to be, without their mum around. The Mallee, where they live, may seem like the middle of nowhere, but it turns out this is going to be one hell of a year.

My thoughts

Mallee Boys is an enthralling novel that captures the unique voices and lives of two young brothers living in rural Australia as they bridge the gap from childhood to adulthood. Parties, schooling, farming, deadly snakes, grief and loss, family, and friends, Mallee Boys encompasses the simplicity of everyday life and the many complications it brings.

Sandy has only months left of Year Ten. Months to decide if or where he can continue his schooling. Red is happy his school days are behind him. Now he can help his dad on their farm, play footy and hang with his mates. Both boys are still grieving the sudden loss of their mother who suddenly died only one year ago. As their days fill with work, dirt biking, friendship complications, and trouble with girls, both Sandy and Red face decisions that will shape their futures.

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Book Review: Imperfect Justice

Imperfect Justice – Cara Putman – Hidden Justice #2 – Thomas Nelson – published 5 December 2017

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Synopsis

To the world it seems obvious: Kaylene Adams killed her daughter and then was shot by police. Attorney Emilie Wesley knows a different story: Kaylene would never hurt anyone and was looking for a way out of a controlling, abusive relationship. Her death shakes Emilie’s belief that she can make a difference for women in violent marriages. Self-doubt plagues her as she struggles to continue her work in the wake of the tragedy.

Reid Billings thought he knew his sister—right up until he learned how she died. He discovers a letter from Kaylene begging him to fight for custody of her daughters if anything should happen to her. No attorney in her right mind would support an uncle instead of the father in a custody case, but Kaylene’s letter claims Emilie Wesley will help him.

Thrown together in a race to save Kaylene’s surviving daughter, Emily and Reid pursue the constantly evasive truth. If they can hang on to hope together, can they save a young girl—and find a future for themselves in the process?

My thoughts

Imperfect Justice slowly builds from an intriguing start to a fast-paced ending, weaving together legal cases, journalism, romance, financial investment, and a murder investigation.

Attorney Emilie Wesley is finding it hard to believe that the woman she was helping to leave her controlling and abusive husband is the same woman who shot and killed her young daughter before killing herself. But that’s exactly what the press and police are saying about Kaylene Adams. Emilie wants to discover the truth, but knows it will be hard while balancing her work at The Haven, as well as her freelance investigative journalism work. When Kaylene’s brother Reid shares his own suspicions with Emilie, they begin to work together to discover the truth and protect Kaylene’s remaining daughter.

This book builds slowly. The first 100 pages provide a lot of information around the backstory and lead-in events and it’s not until after this first section that Emilie and Reid start to dig and the mystery really starts to unfold. It does make the first half of the book rather slow and a little hard to get into, but the suspense quickly builds after that. This lead in to the story also gives the reader time to become familiar with Reid and Emilie as individuals before they have much interaction.

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Book Review: You’re Gonna Love Me

You’re Gonna Love Me – Robin Lee Hatcher – Thomas Nelson – Published 12 December 2017

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Synopsis

Samantha Winters lives her life the way a good accountant should—measured, deliberate, and safe. After watching her father die in a tragic skiing accident, she decided never to allow risk into her life again. But she didn’t count on falling for Nick Chastain, who embodies everything she doesn’t want in her safely constructed world.

Against Samantha’s warnings, Nick plans a dangerous kayaking trip over spring break. Furious that he’s so careless with his life, she ends their fledgling relationship with harsh words.

Two years later, Samantha is desperately in need of a change. When she learns her grandmother has had an accident and is in need of a caretaker, Samantha quickly packs her bags and heads to Thunder Creek, Idaho. But nothing could prepare her for the surprise awaiting her in her grandmother’s hospital room . . . Nick.

My thoughts

You’re Gonna Love Me returns readers to the charming, small country town of Thunder Creek. Farmland, orchards, horses, fresh air and friendship – the charm of the setting seeps from the pages and infuses the story. This is a sweeping and relaxing love story. A story about forgiveness and second chances. A story about facing your fears. A story about finding love in places you least expect it.

When Samantha returns to Thunder Creek to care for her grandmother, the very last person she expects to see in Ruth’s hospital room is Nick Chastain. Two years ago Sam and Nick spent eight months dating. Eight months in which Sam spent most of that time fearful he would be injured on one of his wild adventures – kayaking, waterskiing, absailing. They ended their relationship with harsh words and silence. Now Nick, recovering from a serious head injury that has left him with memory loss and other side effects, is staring life over. Thunder Creek offers him peace and a fresh start. Seeing Sam again gives him hope he isn’t sure he deserves. Is it worth trying to start a relationship with Sam, can he convince her he is a changed man?

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Book Review: Any Way You Slice It

Any Way You Slice It – Kristine Carlson Asselin – Wicked Whale Publishing – Published 15 November 2017

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Synopsis

Penelope Spaulding just can’t catch a break. Between long hours at the family pizza shop, piles of homework, and her dad’s new obsession—getting the restaurant on a new foodie reality show—it’s hard to find a spare moment to breathe. But when she laces up her skates and steps on the ice, the world is hers to control and everything else slips away.

When the bad boy who lives down the street dares her to join the Rink Rats, the local misfit hockey team, she surprises herself and joins in silent defiance of her controlling parents.

The more she plays, the easier it is to keep lying, and soon Pen finds it impossible to come clean. She’s sneaking out to practice—and loving every minute of it. It doesn’t take long for her to fall in love with hockey…but she’s not entirely sure if it’s the game she’s falling for or the boy. Because it can’t last. As soon as her dad finds out, she’ll be benched. For good.

And the one thing she IS sure of…she can’t stop playing.

My thoughts

Ice hockey. Cute romance. Pizza. What more could you want? Any Way You Slice It is the perfect light-hearted YA contemporary.

For Penelope, skating gives her a break from school and endlessly working at her family’s pizza restaurant. When Jake, resident bad boy and her old friend turned we-don’t-speak-anymore-because-of-that-6th-grade-incident enemy, asks Pen to join their recreational ice hockey team, Pen surprises herself by considering it. But she knows her father will never let her play hockey, especially now when he is solely focused on getting their restaurant on a (sure-to-be-humiliating) TV show. But Pen can’t resist the game or Jake’s company and soon she is wrapped up in a tangle of lies, which, if she doesn’t manage a spectacular interception soon, is set to be revealed on national TV.

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Book Review: Love, Life, and the List

Love, Life, and the List – Kasie West – HarperTeen – Published 26 December 2017

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Synopsis

Seventeen-year-old Abby Turner’s summer isn’t going the way she’d planned. She has a not-so-secret but definitely unrequited crush on her best friend, Cooper. She hasn’t been able to manage her mother’s growing issues with anxiety. And now she’s been rejected from an art show because her work “has no heart.” So when she gets another opportunity to show her paintings Abby isn’t going to take any chances.

Which is where the list comes in.

Abby gives herself one month to do ten things, ranging from face a fear (#3) to learn a stranger’s story (#5) to fall in love (#8). She knows that if she can complete the list she’ll become the kind of artist she’s always dreamed of being. But as the deadline approaches, Abby realizes that getting through the list isn’t as straightforward as it seems… and that maybe—just maybe—she can’t change her art if she isn’t first willing to change herself.

This is the first in a set of three standalone books with crossover characters.

My thoughts

Can you make your best friend fall in love with you? Can you change your heart, become a better person with a few simple steps? Maybe, maybe not. But it’s what Abby learns in the process that makes Love, Life and the List such a fun, contemporary YA novel.

Abby’s goal is to make it into a prestigious art program. The one obstacle in her way is showing her art in an exhibit. When her work is turned away as ‘lacking in heart’, she creates a list of things to help her develop a deeper understand and appreciation of the world that will hopefully translate to her paintings. As she and her best friend Cooper work their way through Abby’s list, Abby is determined to make the experience a chance to finally get over her unrequited feelings for Cooper and hopeful fulfill her art goals at the same time.

A list that can change a person’s heart? Well, maybe it’s not as crazy as it sounds. I actually really love how Abby creates her list. It isn’t the typical flighty, ridiculous list of summer plans gone awry. Instead, Abby chooses things she likes best about each of her friends and family members and adds something that will help her become more like that. It’s a beautiful idea.

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Book Review: The Heart of An Agent

The Heart of an Agent – Tracey J. Lyons – The Adirondack Pinkertons #2 – Waterfall Press – Published 7 November 2017

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Synopsis

Former Pinkerton spy Lily Handland has always dreamed of a quiet, safe life, free from chasing criminals and putting herself at risk. So when the opportunity to invest in a failing Great Camp in the Adirondacks comes to her attention, she quickly jumps at the chance.

Filled with grief, widower Owen Murphy wants to run away from it all. Though he’s worked hard to forge a future for himself, his guilt has kept him mired in the past. But all that changes when a headstrong, mysterious woman shows up at Owen’s door. Together, as Lily and Owen restore the beauty of the Great Camp, he begins to finally see a future. But will learning about Lily’s past destroy it all?

My thoughts

The Heart of an Agent is a winsome historical romance that aptly captures the beauty and relaxing nature of the historic Great Camps of the Adirondack Mountains. The Heart of an Agent sounded delicious, and I was delighted to find it very enjoyable.

Lily Handland is ready to move on from her life as a Pinkerton agent. Determined to stay in the small town of Heartston, she begins looking for a project. The run-down Murphy Great Camp is the perfect fit for Lily. But the owner, Owen Murphy, still grieving his wife and their lost dream, fights Lily on every new idea and expense. But just as Lily finds hope of finally having somewhere to belong, someone to love, the shadow of her past threatens everything for which she has worked so hard.

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Book Review: Hometown Girl

Hometown Girl – Courtney Walsh – Waterfall Press – Published 19 September 2017

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Synopsis

Beth Whitaker isn’t supposed to be a small-town girl. She’s always dreamed of leaving Willow Grove, Illinois, for the big city, but she feels trapped, struggling to make up for a mistake that’s haunted her for years. Just when Beth is finally ready to break free, her sister impulsively buys a beloved but run-down farm on the outskirts of town, and she begs Beth to help with the restoration. Reluctantly, Beth agrees to help—and puts her own dreams on hold once again.

Drew Barlow hasn’t been back to Fairwind Farm since he was a boy, and he’s spent all these years trying to outrun the pain of a past he thought he buried long ago. When he learns that the owner has passed away, his heart knows it’s finally time to do the right thing. Returning to Willow Grove, Drew revisits the old farm, where he attempts to piece together his memories and the puzzle of the crime he witnessed so long ago.

Both on a journey to find peace, Beth and Drew are surprised when they begin to experience a restoration of their own. But when long-buried secrets break through the soil and the truth unfurls, will it threaten their budding relationship—and the very future of the farm?

My thoughts

What’s not to love about a book that celebrates life’s challenges, love, the support of a small-town community, and finding your purpose. Hometown Girl takes all these themes and wraps them in a charming novel that combines romance with self-discovery, and even adds a dash of mystery.

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