Book Review: Crisis Shot

Crisis Shot – Janice Cantore – The Line of Duty #1 – Tyndale – Published 5 September 2017

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Synopsis

Tess O’Rourke dreams of becoming the first female chief of police in Long Beach, California. As commander of the East Division, she is well on her way . . . until the night she responds to an officer-needs-assistance call and fatally shoots an unarmed teenager. Despite being cleared of wrongdoing by a grand jury, Tess is so hounded by the public that she takes a job in Oregon to escape the bad press.

Winning over the residents of Rogue’s Hollow might be more difficult than adjusting to her new role as police chief in the small, backwater town. Especially when her closest friend, the pastor’s wife, goes missing and the woman’s cousin is found shot. Tess finds an ally in sheriff’s deputy Steve Logan, but as they track down Rogue’s Hollow’s first murderer, she worries that she’s breaking one of her rules and getting too close to him.

My thoughts

Crisis Shot is the first book in a new series by Janice Cantore. It is full of gripping suspense, and has a very real quality to the crime that hits home.

When Tess is involved with a police shooting, the fallout threatens to destroy the career she has worked so hard to build. Left with few options, she decides to leave Long Beach and apply for a position as Chief of Police in a small rural town in Oregon. In her first few weeks she faces much opposition, but she had the chance to prove herself when a man is murdered and the local pastor’s wife goes missing.

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Book Review: You Don’t Know Me But I Know You

You Don’t Know Me But I Know You – Rebecca Barrow – HarperTeen – Published 29 August 2017

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Synopsis

There’s a box in the back of Audrey’s closet that she rarely thinks about.

Inside is a letter, seventeen years old, from a mother she’s never met, handed to her by the woman she’s called Mom her whole life.

Being adopted, though, is just one piece in the puzzle of Audrey’s life—the picture painstakingly put together by Audrey herself, consisting not only of the greatest family ever but of a snarky, loyal, sometimes infuriating best friend, Rose; a sweet, smart musician boyfriend, Julian; and a beloved camera that turns the most fleeting moments of her day-to-day routine into precious, permanent memories.

But when Audrey realizes that she’s pregnant, she feels something—a tightly sealed box in the closet corners of her heart—crack open, spilling her dormant fears and unanswered questions all over the life she loves.

Almost two decades ago, a girl in Audrey’s situation made a choice, one that started Audrey’s entire story. Now Audrey is paralyzed by her own what-ifs and terrified by the distance she feels growing between her and Rose. Down every possible path is a different unfamiliar version of her life, and as she weighs the options in her mind, she starts to wonder—what does it even mean to be Audrey Spencer?

My thoughts

You Don’t Know Me But I Know You is another book that has left me with very mixed feelings. It has a writing style that is easy to read, but without characters who really grabbed me, I struggled with reading this book. In the end, I would pick it up only to put it down and distract myself with another book. I guess I was expecting something different. Something that broke all the moulds and would make me care about this story, care especially about this girl and her journey through a surprising discovery and hard decisions.

When Audrey discovers she is pregnant it forces her to evaluate her life and what she wants from it, who she wants to be. It brings into focus her relationships, with her supportive, musician, going-places boyfriend, her snarky, infuriating best friend, her wider group of friends, her adoptive mother, and even her biological mother, who has always remained somewhat of a mystery.

There are a lot of things to give the author points for in this book. Her main character is a person of colour. There is a bisexual best friend. There are plenty of other characters from diverse ethnicity. But sometimes it felt a little like they were also just boxes on a checklist that had been ticked off. There was nothing new or groundbreaking to make this story or the characters’ stories within jump out and grab me by the heartstrings.

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Book Review: Dress Codes for Small Towns

Dress Codes for Small Towns – Courtney C. Stevens – HarperTeen – Published 22 August 2017

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Synopsis

As the tomboy daughter of the town’s preacher, Billie McCaffrey has always struggled with fitting the mold of what everyone says she should be. She’d rather wear sweats, build furniture, and get into trouble with her solid group of friends: Woods, Mash, Davey, Fifty, and Janie Lee.

But when Janie Lee confesses to Billie that she’s in love with Woods, Billie’s filled with a nagging sadness as she realizes that she is also in love with Woods…and maybe with Janie Lee, too.

Always considered “one of the guys,” Billie doesn’t want anyone slapping a label on her sexuality before she can understand it herself. So she keeps her conflicting feelings to herself, for fear of ruining the group dynamic. Except it’s not just about keeping the peace, it’s about understanding love on her terms—this thing that has always been defined as a boy and a girl falling in love and living happily ever after. For Billie—a box-defying dynamo—it’s not that simple.

My thoughts

There was one reason I chose to pick up this book – it was written by Courtney C. Stevens. I have been hugely impressed with her books so far, I love sharing them with our readers and our readers love reading her books.

Dress Codes For Small Towns is a magnificent book. It is so heartfelt, honest, and true to itself, just like its main character. And Billie truly is the star of this show. It is her story and she won over my heart almost instantly.

Billie McCaffrey is the preacher’s daughter in a small town in Western Kentucky most famous for its harvest festival and annual Corn Dolly competition. Despite the many rude comments and judgemental looks, Billie dresses and acts in a way that is true to who she is. An artist. An adventurer. A member of the Hexagon, her group of friends who she has collected over the years. But as her feelings for two of her best friends grow and change into something unexpected and her relationship with another friend brings new experiences and freedom into her life, who Billie is and what she thinks about herself collides with her father’s (and the town’s), expectations.

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Book Review: Our Broken Pieces

Our Broken Pieces – Sarah White – HarperTeen – Published 8 August 2017

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Synopsis

The only thing worse than having your boyfriend dump you is having him dump you for your best friend. For Everly Morgan the betrayal came out of nowhere. One moment she had what seemed like the perfect high school relationship, and the next, she wanted to avoid the two most important people in her life. Every time she sees them kiss in the hallways her heart breaks a little more.

The last thing on Everly’s mind is getting into another relationship, but when she meets Gabe in her therapist’s waiting room she can’t deny their immediate connection. Somehow he seems to understand Everly in a way that no one else in her life does, and maybe it’s because Gabe also has experience grappling with issues outside of his control. Just because they share so many of the same interests and there is an undeniable spark between them doesn’t mean Everly wants anything more than friendship. After all, when you only barely survived your last breakup, is it really worth risking your heart again?

My thoughts

Our Broken Pieces is a passionate YA romance, light, fun to read, and with a touch of sentimentality.

This book begins with the flip side to the usual YA happily-ever-after, found-my-soul-mate story. Everly lost her boyfriend and her best friend at the same time when they began a relationship behind her back. Now, she is battling anxiety and dodging them in the school hallways rather than fulfilling her dreams of senior year. But when she meets Gabe in her therapist’s office, they begin a new friendship that, amidst the trauma in their lives, soon becomes much more.

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Book Review: Coming Up For Air

Coming Up For Air – Miranda Kenneally – Hundred Oaks – Sourcebooks Fire – Published 4 July 2017

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Synopsis

Swim. Eat. Shower. School. Snack. Swim. Swim. Swim. Dinner. Homework. Bed. Repeat.

All of Maggie’s focus and free time is spent swimming. She’s not only striving to earn scholarships—she’s training to qualify for the Olympics. It helps that her best friend, Levi, is also on the team and cheers her on. But Levi’s already earned an Olympic try out, so she feels even more pressure to succeed. And it’s not until Maggie’s away on a college visit that she realizes how much of the “typical” high school experience she’s missed by being in the pool.

Not one to shy away from a challenge, Maggie decides to squeeze the most out of her senior year. First up? Making out with a guy. And Levi could be the perfect candidate. After all, they already spend a lot of time together. But as Maggie slowly starts to uncover new feelings for Levi, how much is she willing to lose to win?

My thoughts

I fondly remember reading Catching Jordan – my first book by Miranda Kenneally. Since then I have greatly enjoyed her Hundred Oaks series. Coming Up for Air brings us almost full circle, once again providing a best-friends romance set against elite sport and coming of age issues.

Maggie’s life revolves around swimming. It has to if she wants to make it to an Olympics trial this year. Fortunately she has friends who are also athletes and understand that training comes first. Her best friend Levi is also a swimmer and they spend most of their time together, training, eating, and training some more. But a trip to her chosen college leaves Maggie feeling a little behind in the social department. Determined to stay focused on swimming and beating her rival, but also wanting to experiment a little she asks Levi for some guidance. But neither she nor Levi are prepared for the change it sparks in their relationship.

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Book Review: Changes in Latitudes

Changes in Latitudes – Jen Malone – HarperTeen – Published 25 July 2017

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Synopsis

After concluding that her is to blame for her parents’ recent divorce, Cassandra McClure is hoping to stay as far away from her as possible. With a summer of freedom right around the corner, it shouldn’t be too hard. But when a forty-foot sailboat appears in her driveway and her mom announces that Cassie and her brother Drew will be accompanying her on a four-month sailing trip down to Mexico, Cassie’s plans for the summer go, quite literally, overboard.

Once the three set sail, tensions quickly rise. So meeting Jonah—a gorgeous, whip-smart deckhand—is an unexpected bright spot on an otherwise dim horizon. Though she tries to keep him at a distance—considering the upheaval of her home life—their chemistry is impossible to ignore, and Cassie soon finds herself questioning everything: Should she go for it with Jonah? Can she forgive her mom? Will home ever feel the same? With life’s unpredictable tides working against her, Cassie must decide whether to swim against them, or dive right in.

My thoughts

Changes is Latitudes is a road trip novel set at sea. A story about big changes, facing the difficulties life throws up, family – whether it is broken or healing – and maybe even a chance at love.

Cassie’s life has been one curve ball after another recently. Like her parents’ divorce and her father moving to Hong Kong. But the sailboat that appears in her driveway might beat it all, especially when her mother explains that she, Cassie, and Cassie’s brother Drew will be skipping their summer plans and sailing the yacht down the coast to Mexico. Life on board is just as awful as Cassie expects – seasickness, tight quarters, separation from her friends and their summer plans, and no distance from her mother who Cassie blames for all the recent changes in her life. But there might also be a few unexpected benefits, like the cute guy who is sailing on another boat in their group. It’s a summer of big changes, but it might also be a summer of new discoveries and healing old hurts.

Who doesn’t love a road trip and this book takes that to the next level by setting the trip at sea along the West Coast of USA. Rugged weather, gorgeous animal encounters, and amazing scenery provide a fantastic backdrop for the story.

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Book Review: Amid Stars and Darkness

Amid Stars and Darkness – Chani Lynn Feener – The Xenith Trilogy #1 – Swoon Reads – Published 18 July 2017

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Synopsis

Delaney’s entire world is thrown into chaos after she is mistaken for Lissa Olena, an alien princess hiding out on Earth in order to escape an arranged marriage.

Kidnapped by the princess’s head bodyguard, Ruckus, and imprisoned in an alien palace, Delaney is forced to impersonate the princess until Olena can be found. If she fails, it will lead to an alien war and the eventual enslavement of the entire human race.

No pressure or anything.

Factor in Trystan, the princess’s terrifying betrothed who is intent on unraveling all her secrets, and her own growing feelings for Ruckus, and Delaney is in way over her head.

My thoughts

Amid Stars and Darkness is an enjoyable science-fiction novel. It mixes lots of romance with a touch of suspense in a story where aliens regularly visit Earth and a human girl is forced to experience life on an alien planet first hand.

When Delaney is mistaken as the alien princess, Lissa Olena, from a neighbouring planet, she is forcibly removed from Earth by Olena’s bodyguard. It’s one thing to know aliens walk around on Earth, Delaney’s even met a few, but it’s very different pretending to be their princess. She will have to convince everyone she is Olena – even Olena’s betrothed – if she is to prevent a war.

Every so often I have the desire to read a really epic fantasy or sci fi. Something that transports me to a vivid place far, far away. Amid Stars and Darkness certainly captured my attention. I enjoyed disappearing into its pages and the world building was good, even if I would have enjoyed seeing a lot more of the society, culture, and landscape of the alien world. The alien world is actually quite familiar to our Earth. It makes it easy to recognise, different enough to feel ‘alien’, but is ultimately very similar. Technology is more advanced, but no more than something Tony Stark might carry with him. The aliens are all physically and anatomically the same as humans, and while they have different names for ranks and roles, most are parallel to those on Earth. There are also no changes in gravity or atmosphere. Food, animals and plant life were the things that were slightly different but all had reference points to earthly things. Actually, this book sometimes felt a little like Stephenie Meyer’s The Host and it does share a few similarities – a girl with another girl’s face and identity, two guys, one seemingly the enemy the other a nice ally, and, despite the universe being much bigger than originally known, a restricted setting.

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Book Review: If Birds Fly Back

If Birds Fly Back – Carlie Sorosiak – HarperTeen – Published 27 June 2017

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Synopsis

Linny has been fascinated by disappearances, ever since her sister Grace ran away in the middle of the night without saying goodbye.

Sebastian can tell you how many galaxies there are, and knows how much plutonium weighs. But the one thing he can’t figure out is the identity of his birth father. 

They’ve never met, but Linny and Sebastian have one thing in common: an obsession with famous novelist and filmmaker Alvaro Herrera, who went missing three years ago and has just reappeared. As they learn more about the mystery of Alvaro, Linny and Sebastian uncover the answers they’ve been searching for.

My thoughts

If Birds Fly Back is a poignant debut. This book is refreshingly heartwarming. A little sad, a lot realistic, and something a bit magical.

Linny is obsessed with people who disappear and then reappear again. Her sister Grace left home one night and hasn’t been seen since. Linny believes if she can study enough reappearances she might be able to bring Grace back somehow. So, when Linny spots Alvero Herera – missing, presumed dead for three years – at the nursing home where she volunteers, she knows she needs to learn his secrets. Sebastian too wonders why people leave, why they can turn their backs on their families. He, too wants to know Alvero, to know his secrets. But Sebastian has a secret of his own.

At first Sebastian and Linny repel each other. They get in each other’s way, they think they are so different from the other. I love it when characters begin by disliking each other. It brings so much more growth to the story. As Sebastian and Linny start to share their secrets, they learn that they have more in common than they originally thought. And, through a summer of piecing together secrets, they form a strong relationship.

If Birds Fly Back is told in alternating chapters, which switch between Sebastian and Linny’s points of view. They both have experienced the grief of losing someone who disappears without warning. They both are compelled by mysteries and questions, disappearances, theories, and reappearances. They are both wonderful characters. And yet their voices are unique. Sebastian has a colourful imagination, enhanced by his love of science and theories and testing the unknown. Linny has an artful creativity. Added to her chapters are sections from the screenplay that she is writing about losing her sister and trying to find her again.

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Book Review: Stray

Stray – Joni Johnson – Independently Published – published 22 March 2017

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Synopsis

Lila Baxter, 17, is abandoned at a gas station in a small town when her father, who was taking her to live with her grandmother, has a lapse in sobriety. Lila is left alone, unsure of where she is, with no money, and no cell phone. Gas station cashier Vance Larson, 18, offers to help the unwanted girl. And how does Lila repay him? By unwittingly unhinging Vance’s whole life. Fixing the trouble she’s caused is next to impossible. And will any of it matter when her father returns?

My thoughts

Stray’s synopsis promised exactly what I love in YA fiction – tortured teens and a touch of romance. It reminded me of a story I read and loved many years ago by Cindy C. Bennett.

Lila has just graduated high school. She knows she only has a few days until she must find her own place to live, but she doesn’t expect her father to pack her into his truck and drive halfway across the country. And, despite his disinterest over the past years, nor does she expect him to abandon her in a small town in the middle of nowhere. Alone and unsure what to do she accepts the help of Vance, a (admittedly handsome) guy she meets, who takes her home. There she experiences the love of a family for the first time as Vance and his mother, Vicki, welcome Lila into their home and lives.

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Book Review: Heart on the Line

Heart on the Line – Karen Witemeyer – Ladies of Harper Station #2 – Bethany House – Published 6 June 2017

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Synopsis

Grace Mallory is tired of running, of hiding. But when an old friend sends an after-hours telegraph transmission warning Grace that the man who has hunted her for nearly a year has discovered her location, she fears she has no choice. She can’t let the villain she believes responsible for her father’s death release his wrath in Harper’s Station, the town that has sheltered her and blessed her with the dearest friends she’s ever known. 

Amos Bledsoe prefers bicycles to horses and private conversations over the telegraph wire to social gatherings with young ladies who see him as nothing more than an oddity. His telegraph companion, the mysterious Miss G, listens eagerly to his ramblings every night and delights him with tales all her own. For months, their friendship–dare he believe, courtship?–has fed his hope that he has finally found the woman God intended for him. Yet when he takes the next step to meet her in person, he discovers her life is in peril, and Amos must decide if he can shed the cocoon of his quiet nature to become the hero Grace requires.

My thoughts

Heart on the Line features a long-distance, technology-assisted romance. Yes, this is still a historical romance, with a touch of drama and excitement, set in the charming women’s colony of Harper’s Station.

Grace Mallory has found refuge at Harper’s Station. The murder of her father sent her into hiding, running from the man who wishes to silence her and retrieve the documents Grace’s father secreted away. When Grace is warned by a friend over the telegraph wires that danger is heading her way she knows she must prepare. Amos Bledsoe has long been intrigued by the telegraph operator Miss G. When he overhears her issued a dire warning he races to her aid. The time together might give him a chance to propose a courtship, if they can outwit Grace’s pursuer.

It was an absolute pleasure to return to the wonderful world Karen Witemeyer has created. Harper’s Station and it’s colourful inhabitants are quickly become fondly familiar. There is never a dull moment.

Karen Witemeyer is wonderfully gifted at writing charming romance – heart-pounding and perfectly suited to the historical setting. Even before meeting Grace, Amos is quite smitten. And then, when he does meet her, he promptly falls head over heels. Grace is a little more reserved with her ardour (hard not to be), and takes the time to assess Amos, his character and motivation. He is not what she first expected, but he slowly proves himself to her.

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