Book Review: Infinite Blue

Infinite Blue – Darren Groth and Simon Groth – Orca Book Publishers – Published 11 September 2018

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Synopsis

Ashley Drummond is an elite swimmer. Clayton Sandalford is a talented artist. From the  moment of their first meeting, they were destined to be together.

Staying together, however, will test the limits of their love. A world-record swim, and the strange vision that accompanies it, raises questions about the couple’s connection.

Then a life-altering incident triggers a mystical change, which will demand that both of them let go in ways never imagined.

My thoughts

Just like its cover, Infinite Blue is beautiful, ethereal and just a little bit magic. Mixing fantasy with realism, Infinite Blue is an epic love story about accepting your destiny and letting go.

The day Ashley and Clayton meet seems fated. Ashley appears almost out of nowhere to save Clayton’s life. As Ashley’s swimming career progresses to new heights, Clayton is her steadfast support. Yet as they face the challenges of time and distance they promise each other forever. Yet, neither could predict the impact that a terrible accident will have or the ways in which they will both have to let go.

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Book Review: Grace and Fury

Grace and Fury – Tracy Banghart – Hodder Children’s Books – Published 26 July 2018

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Synopsis

In a world where women have no rights, sisters Serina and Nomi face two very different fates: one in the palace, the other on an island prison where women must fight to survive.

Serina has spent her whole life preparing to become a Grace – selected to stand by the heir to the throne as a shining example of the perfect woman.

But her headstrong and rebellious younger sister has a dangerous secret, and one wrong move could cost both sisters everything.

Can Serina fight? And will Nomi win?

My thoughts

Grace and Fury is a compelling and thought-provoking fantasy – no magic, just an invented world that feels historical and transports you to a place much like Venice – that asks, what would you do if you were a girl in a world where women had no power?

I am a huge fan of Tracy Banghart’s Rebel Wing series, so when a fellow reader recommended Grace and Fury to me I was quick to take up the opportunity to read and review an advanced copy of this thrilling and unique YA fantasy.

Tracy has a wonderful way of capturing the essence and voice of her characters, and Grace and Fury centres around Nomi and Serina – two sisters, both trapped in a world that offers women very few choices. Serina has trained all her life to become a Grace – a concubine of the King’s Heir, a position of esteem and luxury, if not power. Nomi hates everything about the world she lives in and rages against the constraints forced upon her. When she accompanied her sister to the palace as her handmaiden, Nomi knows she must hide her rebellion and her deadly secret. But when Nomi is chosen as the Heir’s Grace and Serina is sentenced to an island prison for Nomi’s crime, both girls must decide how much they will risk to survive.

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Book Review: The Queen’s Rising

The Queen’s Rising – Rebecca Ross – The Queen’s Rising #1 – HarperTeen – Published 6 February 2018

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Synopsis

When her seventeenth summer solstice arrives, Brienna desires only two things: to master her passion and to be chosen by a patron.

Growing up in the southern Kingdom of Valenia at the renowned Magnalia House should have prepared her for such a life. While some are born with an innate talent for one of the five passions—art, music, dramatics, wit, and knowledge—Brienna struggled to find hers until she belatedly chose to study knowledge. However, despite all her preparations, Brienna’s greatest fear comes true—the solstice does not go according to plan and she is left without a patron.

Months later, her life takes an unexpected turn when a disgraced lord offers her patronage. Suspicious of his intent, and with no other choices, she accepts. But there is much more to his story, and Brienna soon discovers that he has sought her out for his own vengeful gain. For there is a dangerous plot being planned to overthrow the king of Maevana—the archrival kingdom of Valenia—and restore the rightful queen, and her magic, to the northern throne. And others are involved—some closer to Brienna than she realizes.

My thoughts

The Queen’s Rising is a gorgeous fantasy, spectacularly crafted, imaginative, unique and so deliciously easy to be swept up in. It came as a complete surprise and I loved every minute of it.

For seven years, Brienna has struggled to master a passion – music, art, whit, drama and finally knowledge. On the eve of her seventeenth solstice, Brienna will have to prove she has the right to become a Passion and earn a patron. When her fears of failing are realised, she is granted reprieve when a lord agrees to become her patron father. But he seems less interested in her knowledge passion than he is in her new and volatile ability to flash back hundreds of years ago, to a time when the realm to the north was rightfully ruled by a queen. Brienna must decide if she is to become entangled in a plot to over throw a king, and if it is worth the risk to discover more about her secret paternal heritage.

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Book Review: The Other Side of Lost

The Other Side of Lost – Jessi Kirby – HarperTeen – published 7 August 2018

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Synopsis

Mari Turner’s life is perfect. That is, at least to her thousands of followers who have helped her become an internet starlet. But when she breaks down and posts a video confessing she’s been living a lie—that she isn’t the happy, in-love, inspirational online personality she’s been trying so hard to portray—it goes viral and she receives major backlash. To get away from it all, she makes an impulsive decision: to hike the entire John Muir trail. Mari and her late cousin, Bri, were supposed to do it together, to celebrate their shared eighteenth birthday. But that was before Mari got so wrapped up in her online world that she shut anyone out who questioned its worth—like Bri.

With Bri’s boots and trail diary, a heart full of regret, and a group of strangers that she meets along the way, Mari tries to navigate the difficult terrain of the hike. But the true challenge lies within, as she searches for the way back to the girl she fears may be too lost to find: herself.

My thoughts

Jessi Kirby is no stranger to writing heartfelt stories that touch on grief and strength in the face of it, and she does it again so expertly in The Other Side of Lost. Grief, loneliness, the cost of false facades and things you can’t undo are combined with the beauty of nature, the importance of friendship and the strength and resilience that can be found within. The Other Side of Lost made me want to grab a pair of hiking boots and hit a trail.

Mari has constructed an identity online, carefully editing and filtering for optimum followers and likes. But online celebrity cost her a relationship with her cousin, and on her eighteenth birthday, evaluating where’s she come from and all that she has lost, she decides to throw everything away. After posting a video online outing herself and her false identity, she takes up her cousin’s plans to hike the John Muir Trail. Over 200 miles will push Mari to her limits, but it just might give her the chance to start over.

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Book Review: Dead Drift

Dead Drift – Dani Pettrey – Chesapeake Valor #4 – Bethany House Publishers – Published 3 July 2018

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Synopsis

Private Investigator Kate Maxwell never stopped loving Luke Gallagher after he disappeared. Now he’s back, and together they must unravel a twisting thread of secrets, lies, and betrayal while on the brink of a biological disaster that will shake America to its core. Will they and their love survive, or will Luke and Kate become the terrorist’s next target?

My thoughts

Dead Drift is the thrilling fourth (and sadly last) book in the Chesapeake Valor series by Dani Pettrey. Dead Drift concludes the series in stunning style, with touching romance, non-stop action and life and death tension that will keep you guessing and hanging on the edge of your seat.

Kate has always believed -hoped- that the love of her life, Luke Gallagher was alive and out there somewhere. Meanwhile, Luke has spent the last seven years with one mission – bring a major criminal and terrorist to justice and finally return home to Kate. Now, Kate knows Luke is alive, but his being back in her life and the lives of their friends threatens them all. Luke and Kate must team up as the terrorist threat to US soil increases and overlaps with FBI Agent Declan Grey’s case. As danger looms ever closer, Luke, Kate and the whole gang will have to push harder than ever before to find answers and justice.

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Book Review: Heart Land

Heart Land – Kimberly Stuart – Howard Books – Published 17 July 2017

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Synopsis

Grace Klaren has finally made her dream of living in the Big Apple and working in the fashion industry a reality. But when she’s unexpectedly fired and can’t afford the next month’s rent, Grace does something she never thought she’d do: she moves back home.

Back in Silver Creek, Iowa, Grace is determined to hate it. She rails against the quiet of her small town, where everything closes early, where there’s no nightlife, where everyone knows each other. She’s saving her pennies and plotting her return to New York when she almost runs over a man who’s not paying attention at a crosswalk. It turns out to be Tucker, her high school sweetheart whose heart she broke when she left ten years ago. They reconnect, and Grace remembers why she fell for him in the first place.

And her career begins to turn around when she finds a gorgeous but tattered vintage dress at a flea market. She buys it, rips it apart seam by seam, and re-creates it with new fabric, updating the look with some of her own design ideas. She snaps a picture and lists the dress online, and within a day, it sells for nearly $200. Suddenly, Grace has her ticket out of here.

But Grace can’t fight her growing feelings for Tucker. Sometimes when they’re together, Tucker paints a picture of what their future could be like, and it feels so real. And when she finally gains the funding to move her new business back to New York, Grace must decide where home really is—will she chase her long-held New York dream, or find a new dream here in the heartland?

My thoughts

Heart Land is a sweet romance, a story of love given a second chance, the cost of following your dreams, and a touch of the glamour of high fashion.

Grace Kleren has fought hard to follow her dreams of becoming a top fashion designer. After years of brutal, hard work on the lower rungs, Grace is on the verge of a promotion. But instead of being rewarded for her passion, Grace finds herself without a job and mounting debts she cannot pay. Giving herself time to regroup, Grace returns home to a small town in Iowa, to the love and care of her grandmother, Gigi. But Grace left many people behind in her mad dash to the city, including her first love, Tucker. After a shaky reunion, Tucker and Grace quickly return to their strong friendship and growing romantic feelings. But when a new design opportunity presents itself, Grace will have to choose between the draw of the big city lights of New York or the simple but true love she could only find in Tucker’s arms.

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Book Review: Justice Betrayed

Justice Betrayed – Patricia Bradley – Memphis Cold Case #3 – Revell – Published 5 June 2018

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Synopsis

It’s Elvis Week in Memphis, and homicide Detective Rachel Sloan isn’t sure her day could get any stranger when aging Elvis impersonator Vic Vegas asks to see her. But when he produces a photo of her murdered mother with four Elvis impersonators–one of whom had also been murdered soon after the photo was taken–she’s forced to reevaluate. Is there some connection between the two unsolved cases? And could the recent break-in at Vic’s home be tied to his obsession with finding his friend’s killer?

When yet another person in the photo is murdered, Rachel suddenly has her hands full investigating three cases. Lieutenant Boone Callahan offers his help, but their checkered romantic past threatens to get in the way. Can they solve the cases before the murderer makes Rachel victim number four?

My thoughts

Justice Betrayed is the third book in the Memphis Cold Case series, a collection of stand-alone novels that follow individuals with a gift for finding answers to crimes long left unsolved. Justice Betrayed follows its predecessors as an exciting romantic mystery.

Detective Rachel Sloan joined the police force hoping to one day solve her mother’s cold murder case. When an Elvis impersonator demands to speak with Rachel about another cold case he is sure is tied to her mother’s death, Rachel isn’t sure if he is crazy or has discovered fragments of truth long buried. But when Rachel receives threats to leave the case alone, she and her supervisor, Lieutenant Boone Callahan will have to work hard to piece together the clues of this puzzling case.

Justice Betrayed opens with a prologue set nearly 40 years ago, and offers the first tantalising clue in this story that combines both cold and new cases. Readers first met Detective Rachel Sloan and Lieutenant Boone Callahan in the second book in the Memphis Cold Case series, when they handled the main case involved in that story. However, if you haven’t read Justice Buried, it’s easy to pick up on their shared history and roles within the police department.

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Book Review: Wild Blue Wonder

Wild Blue Wonder – Carlie Sorosiak – HarperTeen – Published 26 June 2018

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Synopsis

Ask anyone in Winship, Maine, and they’ll tell you the summer camp Quinn’s family owns is a magical place. Paper wishes hang from the ceiling. Blueberries grow in the dead of winter. According to local legend, a sea monster even lurks off the coast. Mostly, there’s just a feeling that something extraordinary could happen there.

Like Quinn falling in love with her best friend, Dylan.

After the accident, the magic drained from Quinn’s life. Now Dylan is gone, the camp is a lonely place, and Quinn knows it’s her fault.

But the new boy in town, Alexander, doesn’t see her as the monster she believes herself to be. As Quinn lets herself open up again, she begins to understand the truth about love, loss, and monsters—real and imagined.

My thoughts

Stunning and heart wrenching, Wild Blue Wonder is a beautifully written book. Right from the first chapter it is clear that Wild Blue Wonder is magical. Whether it springs from the legends that surround Quinn’s family campground complete with ancient forests and a lake monster or perhaps from the captivating writing style, everything about Wild Blue Wonder seems to glow.

Quinn Sawyer has always known her family’s campground, The Hundreds, was special. But recent events have shown her that even things that seem magical can be dangerous – deadly. Before, the camp was filled with laughter and sunshine. Now her siblings no longer speak to her. Before, water was Quinn’s haven. Now it holds the darkest secrets and the deepest hurts.

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Book Review: Just Let Go

Just Let Go – Courtney Walsh – Harbor Pointe #2 – Tyndale – Published 5 June 2018

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Synopsis

For Quinn Collins, buying the flower shop in downtown Harbor Pointe fulfills a childhood dream, but also gives her the chance to stick it to her mom, who owned the store before skipping town twenty years ago and never looking back. Completing much-needed renovations, however, while also competing for a prestigious flower competition with her mother as the head judge, soon has Quinn in over her head. Not that she’d ever ask for help.

Luckily, she may not need to. Quinn’s father and his meddling friends find the perfect solution in notorious Olympic skier Grady Benson, who had only planned on passing through the old-fashioned lakeside town. But when a heated confrontation leads to property damage, helping Quinn as a community-service sentence seems like the quickest way out–and the best way to avoid more negative press.

Quinn finds Grady reckless and entitled; he thinks she’s uptight and too regimented. Yet as the two begin to hammer and saw, Quinn sees glimpses of the vulnerability behind the bravado, and Grady learns from her passion and determination, qualities he seems to have lost along the way. But when a well-intentioned omission has devastating consequences, Grady finds himself cast out of town–and Quinn’s life–possibly forever. Forced to face the hurt holding her back, Quinn must finally let go or risk missing out on the adventure of a lifetime.

My thoughts

Just Let Go is as delightful as its gorgeous cover; a beautiful story of redemption, forgiveness, and starting over, of learning to work for your dreams and learning when to let go.

Grady is a professional skier, Olympian, and, according to the world, a wash-up bound for forced retirement. A self-imposed road trip leads Grady to Harbor Pointe, where a judgmental comment leads to a fist-fight, which leads to Grady being sentenced to weeks of community service and being stuck in the infuriatingly small town. As soon as she sets eyes on Grady Benson, Quinn Collins knows he is bad news. They come from different worlds – while he was off living the high life and has no qualms putting holes in the walls of diners, she has lived her whole life in Harbor Pointe, working towards her dream of owning her own flower shop, creating the best design for the upcoming Winter Carnival, and entering her designs into the Floral Expo. She is on the verge of realising that dream and the last thing she needs is to babysit the egotistical skier for the duration of his community service. But there is more to Grady than is reported in the tabloids, and Quinn is holding onto her own hurts. Can the two learn to work together?

Just Let Go was one of my most anticipated reads of the year, and it was everything I expected it to be. After reading Just Look Up and loving it, I was excited to read this second novel in the Harbor Pointe series. Each of the two books can be read as standalones, with complete story lines, a few character crossovers, and the same delightful, small-town setting. Just Let Go is a complicated and layered story of relationships, dreams, and the faith needed to overcome the hurts of the past.

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Book Review: A Touch of Romance

A Touch of Romance – Kimberly Rae Jordan – The Callaghans & McFaddens #6 – Three Strand Press – Published 29 April 2018

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Synopsis

Mitch Callaghan had a great example of a wonderful relationship as he grew up. Watching his dad show his love for Emily, Mitch’s step-mom, through the years has made Mitch want to do the same for a special woman in his life. But instead, he’s watched as his brothers and sisters have found love while it has continued to elude him.

Belle Jacobs spent most of her growing up years watching her mom’s never-ending search for her prince charming. As an adult, she found out the hard way that flowery declarations of love and gifts of bouquets and candy didn’t mean the feelings were genuine. So while she’s busy running Belles and Beaus, the wedding planner/bridal clothing business her mom had started years ago, Belle has no plans to make use of the services for herself.

When Mitch accompanies Maya, his twin brother’s fiancée, to the meeting with the wedding planner, it’s under duress. He soon realizes, though, that what he’d seen as a favor for Gabe and Maya has become a life changing moment for him. But only him. Though Mitch has hoped for a love-at-first-sight type start to the most important relationship of his life, he’s also kind of assumed it would work that way for both of them.

Belle trusts very few people in her life, and she trusts emotions even less. So when a client’s brother seems interested in her, she tries to gently dissuade him while still keeping their business. Unfortunately, she has a situation in her life that he is perfect to help her out with.

Mitch never figured he’d have to battle for the love of his life, or that she would resist his attempts to romance her. Will the challenge scare Mitch away? Will Belle trust her heart once again? Or will she let fear of history repeating itself keep her from opening up?

My thoughts

A Touch of Romance is the sixth book in the Callaghans & McFaddens series. It continues the story of this large, loud, and loving blended family that I have come to love so much. A Touch of Romance is Mitch Callaghan’s story. And what could be more touching, sweet and romantic than a young man finally finding the answer of his dreams to fall in love?

Mitch Callaghan has watched his brothers and sisters one by one find their perfect match, fall in love and, in some cases, tie the knot. If you had asked him years ago, he would have said that he would have been the first sibling down the isle. Yet lasting love has eluded him so far. When his twin brother asks him to step in for him at a wedding planning meeting, Mitch meets Belle Jacobs. Yet, Belle, after years of planning weddings and experiencing her own crushing relationship that has left her weary of men, has no desire for anything other than a friendship with Mitch. Mitch is sure Belle is the girl for him, but he knows that pushing her too hard might mean losing her forever.

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