Book Review: End Game

End Game – Rachel Dylan – Capital Intrigue #1 – Bethany House Publishers – Published 7 January 2020

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Synopsis

When elite members of the military are murdered on the streets of Washington, DC, FBI Special Agent Bailey Ryan and NCIS Special Agent Marco Agostini must work together to bring the perpetrator to justice. Unfortunately, all evidence points to a Navy SEAL sniper whom Bailey refuses to believe is guilty.

When Bailey and Marco start to connect the dots between the victims, including a link to a powerful defense contractor, they wonder if there’s a deeper cover-up at play. Then Bailey is targeted, and it becomes clear that someone is willing to kill to keep their dark secrets.

With the stakes getting higher by the moment in a twisted conspiracy, there’s a rush against the clock to determine whom they can really trust. As allies turn to enemies, the biggest secret yet to be uncovered could be the end of all of them.

My thoughts

End Game reads like my favourite crime-fighting tv show. The focus is entirely on the investigation of a series of murders. Teamwork between agencies, searching through paperwork, interviews and interrogations, going where the evidence leads, it all works together to form a really interesting detective mystery with just a bit of suspense and life-threatening action. Quick dialogue and a great rapport between the large cast of characters involved in solving the crimes makes End Game a captivating book to read.

I really loved the focus on the investigation and the detective work the team do. While there are moments of suspense and the characters’ own lives are at stake, the action and thrills are not the focus of the story. I thought this was a much more realistic portrayal of criminal investigation work. It also made for very interesting reading as the legal ramifications of the case are considered, the team have to wait for evidence to be found, and they have to really work hard for the leads they discover.

FBI Special Agent Bailey Ryan and NCIS Special Agent Marco Agostini are our main characters. They have been asked to work together to solve two murders that may be linked together – the deaths of a construction worker and a Navy SEAL. When more bodies turn up and it looks more like a larger conspiracy cover-up, the two, with the help of their team, will have to outrun the target on their backs to find the people responsible.

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Book Review: The Finder

The Finder – Kate Hendrick – Text Publishing – Published 1 August 2018

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Synopsis

When Lindsay meets Elias the signs aren’t promising. She’s a grungy introvert who doesn’t want to talk to anyone. He’s a teen fashionista who can’t shut the hell up.

But since Lindsay tracked down a runaway kid, word’s got around that she knows how to find people. And Elias is looking for his birth mother. And he has money, and Lindsay’s perpetually broke… So that’s how this oddest of odd couples teams up.

But the thing is, Lindsay wasn’t actually trying to find the runaway. It’s just how she looks at the world. Not idly, like most people, but really looking. Scanning every house, every face, every car. That’s because someone is missing in Lindsay’s life: her identical twin Frankie, who disappeared when they were eight. Since then, her parents have kept themselves busy. And angry. And Lindsay has been…looking.

My thoughts

The Finder is a light mystery with plenty of heart. I recently read and loved Lost and Found by Orson Scott Card, so I was delighted when I discovered The Finder has a similar tone, with a very Aussie setting. Family, friendship and mystery combine in this book to provide a remarkably uplifting story about loss and the people left behind.

Lindsay has spent her life looking. It’s how she survived since her twin sister went missing when they were kids. Now with a family full of younger siblings, a busy mother and an absent father, Lindsay craves silence. She’s not surprised when she accidentally finds teen runaway, but she is surprised when it brings teen fashionista, Elias to her door asking for her help in locating his birth mother. She agrees, just as an excuse to get out of her crowded house. But even though Elias drives her crazy with his overly styled hair and non-stop chatter, Lindsay finds it comforting to finally have someone to look with.

The Finder brings such a delightful mix of humour and light-hearted joy combined with sorrow and grief. The themes touched upon in the story are quite deep. Lindsay’s discovery of Vogue and being asked to join in Elias’ search bring to the forefront the continued grief and guilt she carries from her twin sister’s disappearance. The trauma tore her family apart. Now her mother is busy with all Lindsay’s new siblings, her father is constantly at work and angry in those rare times he is home and Lindsay is forbidden from even mentioning her sister. This grief has been bottled up and Lindsay is ready to explode. The book captures the raw emotions Lindsay and her family are experiencing. There is also some mystery surrounding what transpired in Lindsay’s sister’s disappearance.

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Book Review: Collateral Damage

Collateral Damage – Lynette Eason – Danger Never Sleeps #1 – Revell – Published 7 January 2020

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Synopsis

Honorably discharged from the Army after an explosion nearly killed her, former military psychiatrist Brooke Adams has set up shop to help others–but her days of helping military personnel are over. She’s got her own battles to fight from her time overseas, and she’s not equipped to take on more. Former Army Special Ops Sergeant First Class Asher James could handle anything that war sent his way–terrorists, bombs, bullets. The only thing that scares him now is sleep. As the shadows close in, the nightmares begin.

Finally convinced that he needs help, Asher makes an appointment with a counselor, and Brooke is pressed by her boss to take him on. When he arrives at her office she isn’t there–but a dead body is. Brooke is devastated when she walks in, and Asher is a conveniently strong shoulder to cry on. But she can’t take him on as a client after sharing such an intimate and unprofessional moment, can she? And he’s not sure he can handle sharing his deepest fears with such a beautiful woman.

When it becomes clear that Brooke was the real target of the attack–and that her secrets go even deeper than his own–Asher vows to protect her no matter what.

My thoughts

There is so much to love about this suspense novel. Multiple storylines come together to reveal a complex plot that has a devastating impact. A team of highly trained professionals, from detectives and medical examiners and investigative journalists, to military men and women and psychiatrist, work together to uncover the threads of this international case. With two main characters that have a great chemistry as well as a heartbreaking connection via shared trauma, this romantic suspense novel is the perfect start to a new series.

Military psychiatrist Brooke Adams left the army after giving her all—and nearly her life—in Afghanistan. Now she is back on American soil and working again as a psychiatrist, she just no longer works with service men or women and struggles with her own traumatic memories and nightmares of the explosion she survived. So when she is assigned a session with former Army Special Ops Sergeant First Class Asher James, she is not sure how she is going to face the memories or the man who helped save her life. When Asher intercepts an attempt on Brooke’s life, the two team up to stay alive and discover how the current attacks fit in with their pasts.

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Book Review: The Way of the Brave

The Way of the Brave – Susan May Warren – Global Search and Rescue #1 – Revell – Published 7 January 2020

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Synopsis

Former pararescue jumper Orion Starr is haunted by the memory of a rescue gone wrong. He may be living alone in Alaska now, but the pain of his failure–and his injuries–has followed him there from Afghanistan. He has no desire to join Hamilton Jones’s elite rescue team, but he also can’t shirk his duty when the call comes in to rescue three lost climbers on Denali.

Former CIA profiler and psychiatrist Jenny Calhoun’s yearly extreme challenge with her best friends is her only escape from the guilt that has sunk its claws into her. As a consultant during a top-secret mission to root out the Taliban, she green-lighted an operation that ended in ambush and lives lost. When her cathartic climb on Denali turns deadly, she’ll be forced to trust her life and the lives of her friends to the most dangerous of heroes–the man she nearly killed.

Her skills and his experience are exactly what’s needed to prevent another tragedy–but in order to truly set Orion free from his painful past, Jenny will have to reveal hers. They’ll have to put their wounds behind them to survive, but at what cost?

My thoughts

The Way of the Brave launches a new series by pro writer Susan May Warren. With her trademark breathtaking romance, fearless heroes and endless suspense and action, The Way of the Brave is a thrilling and slightly daunting read.

Jacie is haunted by mistakes she made while working as an undercover CIA profiler – mistakes that led to good service men being injured and killed. Now, with her two best friends, she is attempting to scale Denali, a ruthless mountain, in a bid to remind herself she is strong and not being held back by her mistakes. Orion lost the only remaining family in the attack on his Parajumping team that left him injured and his teammates dead or taken captive. Coming across Jacie, now going by Jenny, Orion thinks might have a chance of rekindling what they once started, but he has no idea she is the one who holds the answers he seeks or the one to whom his anger is unknowingly directed. When Jacie and her friends are blown off the mountain it will take the strength of both her team and Orion’s to get back to safety.

Mountain climbing is definitely not on my to-do list. In fact, it’s something I just cannot see the appeal of. So it was a little hard to connect with the characters and their drive to scale Mount McKinley. It does, however, make for stunning backdrop scenery and a perfect setup for a suspense novel where everything that could go wrong, does go wrong. Whiteouts, avalanches, falls, injuries, altitude sickness – why do people go mountain climbing again? But it tests the characters, pushes them to their limits and force them to reevaluate their lives, faith and pasts. It also gives them the excuse to snuggle close to keep warm.

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Book Review: The Solid Grounds Coffee Company

The Solid Grounds Coffee Company – Carla Laureano – Supper Club #3 – Tyndale – Published 4 February 2020

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Synopsis

Analyn Sanchez can handle the long hours and arrogant clients that come with her job as a crisis management associate at Denver’s largest publicity firm. The high-powered job, expensive condo, and designer wardrobe are all part of her plan to prove to her family that her life choices haven’t been in vain. But when she’s asked to cover up a client’s misdeeds with serious moral and legal ramifications, she can no longer sacrifice her conscience for her career . . . and the cost is no less than her job.

Ever since a devastating climbing accident in South America eight months ago, and a bad decision that dried up his sponsorships, professional rock climber Bryan Shaw has found himself at similar loose ends. When the opportunity to buy a coffee farm in Colombia arises, he jumps on it–only to discover his wandering ways have left him utterly unprepared to run a business.

When Bryan returns home and offers Ana a role in his company as a solution to both their problems, she’s desperate enough to consider working with the far-too-flippant and far-too-handsome climber, even though he’s the polar opposite of her type A nature. As they delve deeper into the business, however, she begins to suspect there’s much more to Bryan than she’s given him credit for . . . and that sometimes the best plans are the ones you never see coming.

My thoughts

The Solid Grounds Coffee Company is such a delightful novel. I adored books one and two in this series and I was so keen to read this one I pushed it to the top of my rather large reading pile. And I’m so glad I did. I seriously love this series and I fell in love with Ana, Bryan, their coffee company venture and their romance. This book has everything I need – good food, great friendship, passionate kisses, faith and so much heart. I highly recommend this book and highly recommend the entire Supper Club series.

Ana is a publicist. It’s a high-style life, where keeping up appearances is a 24/7 occupation. But when a client asks her to cross moral and legal grounds and Ana refuses, she is asked to take a four month break from work. Bryan is a changed man. After a personal disaster and professional accident he left the world of rock climbing and purchased a coffee bean farm in Columbia. But his plans for creating a coffee roasting company could do with the guidance of a marketing guru. Ana and Bryan join forces, but they each vow to ignore the the physical attraction they’ve been dancing around for years.

This is a powerful story of second chances and learning from past mistakes. Bryan is very open about his past lifestyle and how he has now moved away from that. But he knows there are consequences and a long journey ahead of making different choices. Ana is only just starting to realise her life choices may not be want she actually wants, and she, too, has a past she’s kept very well hidden from the world. Ana and Bryan have far more in common than they realised and watching their friendship grow and mature, even as they fight the sparks of attraction, was so much fun.

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Book Review: A Heart So Fierce and Broken

A Heart So Fierce and Broken – Brigid Kemmerer – Cursebreakers #2 – Bloomsbury – Published 7 January 2020

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Synopsis

Find the heir, win the crown.
The curse is finally broken, but Prince Rhen of Emberfall faces darker troubles still. Rumors circulate that he is not the true heir and that forbidden magic has been unleashed in Emberfall. Although Rhen has Harper by his side, his guardsman Grey is missing, leaving more questions than answers.

Win the crown, save the kingdom.
Rumored to be the heir, Grey has been on the run since he destroyed Lilith. He has no desire to challenge Rhen–until Karis Luran once again threatens to take Emberfall by force. Her own daughter Lia Mara sees the flaws in her mother’s violent plan, but can she convince Grey to stand against Rhen, even for the good of Emberfall?

My thoughts

A Heart So Fierce and Broken is the stunning, beautifully written sequel to A Curse So Dark and Lonely. Just when I thought I couldn’t fall any more in love with the complex, layered characters, Brigid Kemmerer changes everything you thought you knew, and then adds more backstory, more details, new characters, and basically rips your heart to shreds while also tenderly caring for it by giving us new characters to love. The setting is the same lush, detailed fantasy world, but now with more countries to explore and learn about. And there is a mix of action, politics, suspense, friendship, romance, alliances, war brokering and heartbreak to keep you gasping cheering, crying and basically salivating the whole way through the book.

A Heart So Fierce and Broken picks up where A Curse So Dark and Lonely finished. Grey is in hiding after learning that he not only has magic but is the secret heir to Emberfall. Rhen hunts the heir as rumours of his existence divide the already fractured kingdom and entice the neighbouring country of Syhl Shallow. Lia Mara is the eldest daughter of Queen Karis Luran. When Karis Luran tries to negotiate with Rhen and fails, Lia Mara sees the flaws in her plan and sets out to try to broker her own deal. With old friendships torn apart and nw alliances forged, the fight for peace may mean moving ever closer to war.

A Heart So Fierce and Broken is the second book in the series and you must read book one before starting this second book. The ending will also have you desperate to get your hands on a copy of the third book.

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Book Review: Throw Like A Girl

Throw Like A Girl – Sarah Henning – Poppy – Published 7 January 2020

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Synopsis

When softball star Liv Rodinsky throws one ill-advised punch during the most important game of the year, she loses her scholarship to her fancy private school, her boyfriend, and her teammates all in one fell swoop. With no other options, Liv is forced to transfer to the nearest public school, Northland, where she’ll have to convince its coach she deserves a spot on the softball team, all while facing both her ex and the teammates of the girl she punched… Every. Single. Day.

Enter Grey, the injured star quarterback with amazing hair and a foolproof plan: if Liv joins the football team as his temporary replacement, he’ll make sure she gets a spot on the softball team in the spring. But it will take more than just a flawless spiral for Liv to find acceptance in Northland’s halls, and behind that charismatic smile, Grey may not be so perfect after all.

My thoughts

Throw Like A Girl is such a feel-good, girl power (but taking nothing away from the guys) kind of book. I love sports books because of the suspense, the blood, sweat and tears, the team camaraderie, the hard work they put in and those glorious moments of triumph. Throw Like A Girl delivers all of that alongside such great displays of friendship, lessons about lying and the consequences of not disclosing the full truth and swoon. worthy. romance. Such a great book and everything I wanted it to be.

Liv Rodinsky is one of her softball team’s stars. That is, until she punches an opposing team member in the face for an offensive slur. Cast from the team, her scholarship and her school, Liv has to start again, this time on the team of the girl she punched. The coach asks her to display team skills, so when the school’s football team quarterback recruits Liv, she takes him up on the offer.

Oh my gosh I loved this book. From Liv’s fierceness and excellent sport skills to her burgeoning relationship with Grey. She makes an excellent narrator- great friend, good daughter and just a genuinely nice person. But she doesn’t take any nonsense and is quick to set people straight.

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Book Review: Spellhacker

Spellhacker – M.K. England – HarperTeen – Published 21 January 2020

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Synopsis

In Kyrkarta, magic—known as maz—was once a freely available natural resource. Then an earthquake released a magical plague, killing thousands and opening the door for a greedy corporation to make maz a commodity that’s tightly controlled—and, of course, outrageously expensive.

Which is why Diz and her three best friends run a highly lucrative, highly illegal maz siphoning gig on the side. Their next job is supposed to be their last heist ever.

But when their plan turns up a powerful new strain of maz that (literally) blows up in their faces, they’re driven to unravel a conspiracy at the very center of the spellplague—and possibly save the world.

No pressure.

My thoughts

Spellhacker is a fantastic mix of fantasy and science fiction. I can tell you right now it is going to be a pain deciding whether to put it in our YA fantasy or YA Sci-fi section but the pain will be worth it to share this adventure of a novel with our readers. Tech hackers, best friends, diverse romantic relationships, conspiracy theories, magic literally woven with technology and gadgets, explosions, heists and enough action to keep you glued to the pages, M.K England seriously delivers with this fabulous book.

Diz‘s world as she knows it is ending. Her best friends, who, aside from a cousin, are the only family she has since her parents died in the Spellplague that killed thousands, are moving away from their home to new jobs, new Universities. They have time for just one final job, siphoning maz from the tightly controlled supply MMC maintains. But when the job goes horribly wrong, the four friends have to run for their lives, especially when MMC look set to use their mini disaster to cover up the fact they have been secretly mining a new strand of very dangerous maz. To save themselves and clear their names they will have to save their city also.

Spellhacker is such a fun adventure. It’s a combination between a heist novel and fantasy quest, with a bunch of cool tech thrown in. The world in Spellhacker feels almost futuristic – almost dystopian as the destruction caused by maz and the spellplague could easily reflect the natural disasters and impacts of climate change in our own world. Magic, rather than replace or prevent technology, has been neatly intertwined and it makes so much sense. I know readers who frequently ask me for fantasy books that make sense and have scientific backings will love Spellhacker.

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Book Review: Every Other Weekend

Every Other Weekend – Abigail Johnson – Inkyard Press – Published 7 January 2020

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Synopsis

Adam Moynihan’s life used to be awesome. Straight As, close friends and a home life so perfect that it could have been a TV show straight out of the 50s. Then his oldest brother died. Now his fun-loving mom cries constantly, he and his remaining brother can’t talk without fighting, and the father he always admired proved himself a coward by moving out when they needed him most.

Jolene Timber’s life is nothing like the movies she loves—not the happy ones anyway. As an aspiring director, she should know, because she’s been reimagining her life as a film ever since she was a kid. With her divorced parents at each other’s throats and using her as a pawn, no amount of mental reediting will give her the love she’s starving for.

Forced to spend every other weekend in the same apartment building, the boy who thinks forgiveness makes him weak and the girl who thinks love is for fools begin an unlikely friendship. The weekends he dreaded and she endured soon become the best part of their lives. But when one’s life begins to mend while the other’s spirals out of control, they realize that falling in love while surrounded by its demise means nothing is ever guaranteed.

My thoughts

It is no secret that Abigail Johnson is one of my all-time favourite authors. And she did not disappoint with her newest release, Every Other Weekend. So many teens are impacted by their parents’ divorces, so I know this will be a relatable novel for many young people. Johnson captures all the devastation, hope, guilt and grief involved in family breakdown. All too real emotions, push and pull romance, heartbreaking family circumstances and authentic voices, this book will be another YA contemporary favourite.

Adam and Jolene. Two teens forced to spend every other weekend at a rundown apartment block due to their parents’ separations. But their family situations couldn’t be more different. Adam knows it won’t be long until his family is back together, if only Adam’s father would realise he should be there for his mother as they all grieve the death of Adam’s eldest brother. Jolene knows her parents are never getting back together and quite frankly she’s okay with that. She hates the melodrama her mother puts on every time she leaves for a weekend stay at her father’s empty apartment – empty except for her father’s way-too-young girlfriend. Adam and Jolene forge a strong friendship over the weekends they share. But will that friendship last if their family circumstances change?

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Book Review: The Sky Weaver

The Sky Weaver – Kristen Ciccarelli – Iskari #3 – HarperTeen – Published 12 November 2019

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Synopsis

At the end of one world, there always lies another.

Safire, a soldier, knows her role in this world is to serve the King of Firgaard—helping to maintain the peace in her oft-troubled nation.

Eris, a deadly pirate, has no such conviction. Known as the Death Dancer for her ability to evade even the most determined of pursuers, she possesses a superhuman power to move between worlds.

When one can roam from dimension to dimension, can one ever be home? Can love and loyalty truly exist?

Now Safire and Eris—sworn enemies—find themselves on a common mission: to find Asha, the last Namsara. From the port city of Darmoor to the fabled faraway Star Isles, their search and their stories become woven ever more tightly together as they discover the uncertain fate they’re hurtling towards may just be a shared one. In this world—and the next.

My thoughts

And so concludes the Iskari series. I have loved this fantasy series. Three stories which interconnect but feature three sets of separate main characters set against a colourful magical world of dragons, old tales and fearsome gods.

The Sky Weaver is Safire’s story. Throughout books one and two we readers have learnt only a little about Safire. Cousin to the king but never treated as an equal due to her mother’s low standing. Now she is King Dax’s Commander. When a thief steals a precious gem intended to be sold to buy grain after a devastating famine, Safire vows to catch the thief. Eris would do anything to escape the control of pirate Jemsin, including steal precious gems, sneak her way into the palace and even capture the Namsara. As she and Safire go up against each they, they will discover that sometimes the sides are not so clear and the path of right and wrong not so easy to choose.

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