Book Review: The Center of the Universe

The Center of the Universe – Ria Voros – Kids Can Press – Published 2 April 2019

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Synopsis

Grace Carter’s mother — the celebrity news anchor GG Carter — is everything Grace is not. GG is a star, with a flawless wardrobe and a following of thousands, while Grace — an aspiring astrophysicist — is into stars of another kind. She and her mother have always been in different orbits. 

Then one day GG is just … gone. Cameras descend on their house, news shows speculate about what might have happened and Grace’s family struggles to find a new rhythm as they wait for answers.

While the authorities unravel the mystery behind GG’s disappearance, Grace grows closer to her high school’s golden boy, Mylo, who has faced a black hole of his own. She also uncovers some secrets from her mother’s long-lost past. The more Grace learns, the more she wonders. Did she ever really know her mother? Was GG abducted … or did she leave? And if she left, why?

My thoughts

The Center of the Universe is an fascinating YA contemporary novel about growing up, about family, about love and friendship, about horrible events that change and shape lives, about waiting and overcoming, about learning to listen, and about watching the stars. Part mystery, part coming-of-age contemporary, The Center of the Universe is sure to delight and surprise YA contemporary readers.

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Book Review: The Unexpected Champion

The Unexpected Champion – Mary Connealy – High Sierra Sweethearts #3 – Bethany House – Published 5 March 2019

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Synopsis

City dweller John McCall never expected to be out in the High Sierras of 1868 on a wild-goose chase to find the Chiltons’ supposedly lost grandson. But now that he’s out here, things have gotten even more complicated, mostly due to wildcat Penny Scott. She’s not like any woman he’s ever met–comfortable in the woods, with a horse, and with a gun.

When Penny and John are taken against their will by a shadowy figure looking for evidence they don’t have, both realize they’ve stumbled into something dangerous and complicated. With their friends and family desperately searching for them, Penny and John must make a daring escape.

When they emerge back into the real world, they are confronted with a kidnapper who just won’t stop. They must bring a powerful, ruthless man to justice, even as this city man and country woman fight a very inconvenient attraction to each other.

My thoughts

The Unexpected Champion is the third book in the High Sierra Sweethearts series and it concludes this trilogy with fast-paced action, mystery, kidnapping, wilderness survival, sleuthing, disguises and -of course- romance.

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Book Review: In Another Life

In Another Life – C.C. Hunter – Wednesday Books – Published 26 March 2019

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Synopsis

Chloe was three years old when she became Chloe Holden, but her adoption didn’t scar her, and she’s had a great life. Now, fourteen years later, her loving parents’ marriage has fallen apart and her mom has moved them to Joyful, Texas. Starting twelfth grade as the new kid at school, everything Chloe loved about her life is gone. And feelings of déjà vu from her early childhood start haunting her.

When Chloe meets Cash Colton she feels drawn to him, as though they’re kindred spirits. Until Cash tells her the real reason he sought her out: Chloe looks exactly like the daughter his foster parents lost years ago, and he’s determined to figure out the truth.

As Chloe and Cash delve deeper into her adoption, the more things don’t add up, and the more strange things start happening. Why is Chloe’s adoption a secret that people would kill for?

My thoughts

What would you do if you discovered there was more to the story behind your childhood? If you were someone else? In Another Life is a light mystery, with plenty of family drama and a touch of romance.

Chloe Holden’s lire has been torn apart. First her parents went through a messy divorce after her father had an affair, then her mother was diagnosed with cancer and now she has been forced to move to a new town, away from her friends. But when she literally runs into a hot guy her first moment in town, perhaps things are looking up. Until Cash reveals that he thinks she is the long lost daughter of his foster parents, kidnapped when she was just three years old. Together, Cash and Chloe work to uncover the truth about her adoption, growing closer, but their investigation could lead them both into serious danger.

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Book Review: If You’re Out There

If You’re Out There – Katy Loutzenhiser – Balzer+Bray – Published 5 March 2019

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Synopsis

After Zan’s best friend moves to California, she’s baffled and crushed when Priya suddenly ghosts. Worse, Priya’s social media has turned into a stream of ungrammatical posts chronicling a sunny, vapid new life that doesn’t sound like her at all. Everyone tells Zan not to be an idiot: Let Priya do her reinvention thing, and move on. But until Zan hears Priya say it, she won’t be able to admit that the friendship is finished.

It’s only when she meets Logan, the compelling new guy in Spanish class, that Zan begins to open up about her sadness, her insecurity, her sense of total betrayal. And he’s just as willing to throw himself into the investigation when everyone else thinks her suspicions are crazy.

Then a clue hidden in Priya’s latest selfie introduces a new, deeply disturbing possibility. Maybe Priya isn’t just not answering Zan’s emails. Maybe she can’t.

My thoughts

If You’re Out There is an ode to the power of friendship. And while this YA title’s focus is on the friendship between two girls, there is the added bonus of sweet romance, diverse characters, and interesting and complex family dynamics, as well as the thread of mystery that weaves throughout the story. All in all, If You’re Out There is unique and delightful.

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Book Review: The Secrets of Paper and Ink

The Secrets of Paper and Ink – Lindsay Harrel – Thomas Nelson – Published 26 February 2019

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Synopsis

A year after the death of her abusive fiancé, domestic violence counselor Sophia Barrett finds returning to work too painful. She escapes to Cornwall, England–a place she’s learned to love through the words of her favorite author–and finds a place to stay with the requirement that she help out in the bookstore underneath the room she’s renting. Given her love of all things literary, it seems like the perfect place to find peace.

Ginny Rose is an American living in Cornwall, sure that if she saves the bookstore she co-owns with her husband then she can save her marriage as well. Fighting to keep the first place she feels like she belongs, she brainstorms with her brother-in-law, William, and Sophia to try to keep the charming bookstore afloat.

Two hundred years before, governess Emily Fairfax knew two things for certain: she wanted to be a published author, and she was in love with her childhood best friend. But he was a wealthy heir and well out of her league. Sophia discovers Emily’s journals, and she and William embark on a mission to find out more about this mysterious and determined woman, all the while getting closer to each other as they get closer to the truth.

My thoughts

The Secrets of Paper and Ink is a charming story, combing the stories of three very strong women as they face the challenges of love, family, heartbreak, and following their dreams.

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Book Review: Never Let Go

Never Let Go – Elizabeth Goddard – Uncommon Justice #1 – Revell – Published 5 February 2019

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Synopsis

As a forensic genealogist, Willow Anderson is following in her late grandfather’s footsteps in her quest for answers about a baby abducted from the hospital more than twenty years ago. The case may be cold, but things are about to heat up when someone makes an attempt on her life to keep her from discovering the truth.

Ex-FBI agent–and Willow’s ex-flame–Austin McKade readily offers his help to protect the woman he never should have let get away. Together they’ll follow where the clues lead them, even if it means Austin must face the past he’s spent much of his life trying to forget. And even if it puts Willow’s tender heart at risk.

My thoughts

Never Let Go is the first book in a new inspirational suspense series by new-to-me author Elizabeth Goddard. While the synopsis for Never Let Go was intriguing and the prologue had me hooked, I sadly lost interest in this story as it progressed. Introspection heavy, the characters spend a lot of time thinking and then rethinking things, making it hard for me to stay focused on the story. While I am sure some readers will love this book with its mix of tension, second-chance love story, and complex mystery, it wasn’t a book that held my attention.

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Book Review: Mind Games

Mind Games – Nancy Mehl – Kaely Quinn Profiler #1 – Bethany House Publishers – Published 4 December 2018

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Synopsis

Kaely Quinn’s talents as an FBI behavior analyst are impossible to ignore, no matter how unorthodox her methods. But when a reporter outs her as the daughter of an infamous serial killer, she’s demoted to field agent and transferred to St. Louis.

When the same reporter who ruined her career claims to have received an anonymous poem predicting a string of murders, ending with Kaely’s, the reporter’s ulterior motives bring his claim into question. But when a body is found that fits the poem’s predictions, the threat is undeniable, and the FBI sends Special Agent Noah Hunter to St. Louis.

Initially resentful of the assignment, Noah is surprised at how quickly his respect for Kaely grows, despite her oddities. But with a brazen serial killer who breaks all the normal patterns on the loose, Noah and Kaely are tested to their limits to catch the murderer before anyone else–including Kaely herself–is killed.

My thoughts

Mind Games is the first thrilling book in a new series that follows FBI profiler Kaely Quinn. Mind Games is a tantalising mix of suspense, solid detective work and a unique and interesting twist that Kaely’s individual talents bring to the story. I found the hunt for the serial killer intriguing but it was Kaely’s personal journey that kept me glued to the pages.

Kaely Quinn’s unique methods as a behaviour analyst and her past as the daughter of a serial killer has made her career with the FBI challenging. But despite a recent relocation and few friends within the Bureau, there is no doubting Kaely’s ability to close cases. When a letter is received hinting at the start of a killing spree that will end with Kaely’s death, it will take everything Kaely and her newly assigned partner, Special Agent Noah Hunter, have to stop the killer.

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Book Review: What You Hide

What You Hide – Natalie D. Richards – Sourcebooks Fire – Published 4 December 2018

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Synopsis

Spencer volunteers at the library. Sure, it’s community service, but he likes his work. Especially if it means getting to see Mallory.

Mallory spends a lot of time keeping her head down. When you’re sixteen and homeless, nothing matters more than being anonymous. But Spencer’s charm makes her want to be noticed.

Then sinister things start happening at the library. Mysterious symbols and terrifying warnings begin to appear, and management grows suspicious. Spencer and Mallory know a homeless teenager makes an easy target, and if they can’t find the real culprit soon, they could lose more than just their safe haven…

My thoughts

What You Hide is one part contemporary, the other part mystery thriller. It is a touching and thought-provoking story of family breakdown and youth homelessness, a coming of age story and a love story rolled into one.

When Mallory’s pregnant mother changes her mind about leaving her controlling and demanding husband (Malloy’s stepfather), Mallory makes the decision to leave by herself. This new plan means that she has nowhere to go. Enrolled in online school, she spends her days at the library and, once her welcome wears out her friend’s home, her nights too. It’s at the library that she meets Spencer. Seemingly living a perfect life, Spencer reveals he is working at the library to serve out his community service sentence and that he is struggling with decisions about the future. But then a body is found in the library and signs show that Mallory isn’t the only one hiding in the library.

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Book Review: In Too Deep

In Too Deep – Lynn H. Blackburn – Dive Team Investigations #2 – Revell- Published 6 November 2018

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Synopsis

When the dive team is called in to recover a body from a submerged car, they aren’t prepared to find an encrypted laptop–or an unsettling connection between investigator Adam Campbell and the dead accountant.

Adam turns to his friend Dr. Sabrina Fleming–a professor at the local university with unparalleled computer security and forensics skills–to recover the files from the laptop. But the deeper they dig, the deadlier the investigation becomes. When evidence uncovers a human trafficking ring and implicates members of Adam’s own family, he and Sabrina will have to risk everything to solve the case.

The truth could set hundreds free–but someone is willing to do whatever it takes to silence anyone who threatens to reveal their secrets. Award-winning author Lynn H. Blackburn invites readers back to Carrington, North Carolina, where everything is not as it seems and sinister elements lurk behind the idyllic façade.

My thoughts

In Too Deep is the thrilling second instalment in the Dive Team Investigations series. I think, if it’s possible, I loved this book even more than the first one. The writing style is so easy to sink into – perfectly balanced between details and dialog. The characters are a wonderful team of friends that I love hanging out with. The mystery totally hooked me and the ending was a big surprise. And the romance is utterly charming. In Too Deep had everything I look for in a romantic suspense novel and I can very highly recommend it.

When Adam Campbell and his fellow dive team investigators help recover a submersed car and the body found within, they are shocked to find a message that seems to tie the case to Adam himself. Adam calls on computer forensic analyst Dr Sabrina Fleming to decrypt the dead woman’s computer and help piece together the clues of the case. But someone is willing to do anything to keep their secrets safe, and Adam and Sabrina and the rest of the dive team soon find themselves in a killer’s crosshairs.

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Book Review: Little White Lies

Little White Lies – Jennifer Lynn Barnes – Freeform – Published 6 November 2018

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Synopsis

Eighteen-year-old auto mechanic Sawyer Taft did not expect her estranged grandmother to show up at her apartment door and offer her a six-figure contract to participate in debutante season. And she definitely never imagined she would accept. But when she realizes that immersing herself in her grandmother’s “society” might mean discovering the answer to the biggest mystery of her life-her father’s identity-she signs on the dotted line and braces herself for a year of makeovers, big dresses, bigger egos, and a whole lot of bless your heart. The one thing she doesn’t expect to find is friendship, but as she’s drawn into a group of debutantes with scandalous, dangerous secrets of their own, Sawyer quickly discovers that her family isn’t the only mainstay of high society with skeletons in their closet. There are people in her grandmother’s glittering world who are not what they appear, and no one wants Sawyer poking her nose into the past. As she navigates the twisted relationships between her new friends and their powerful parents, Sawyer’s search for the truth about her own origins is just the beginning.

My thoughts

I would usually steer away from books about Debutante balls and the drama that might accompany such events, but Little White Lies is written by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, so instead it became one of my most anticipated reads of 2018. And it did not disappoint. Only Barnes could create such a setting and accompany it with breathless tension and mystery, expertly combined with humour and good old insult-laden compliments.

Sawyer Taft has never known who her father is – her mother refused to speak of him or the life she left behind. But when Sawyer’s maternal grandmother makes a sudden appearance, she promises both answers and a whole lot of money if Sawyer will agree to live with her for nine months and become a Debutante. While trying to find her own answers about her mother’s past and her unknown father, Sawyer becomes entangled in another mystery, all while juggling brunch, dress fittings, and the special kind of horror that is a spa day.

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