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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Book Review: Sweetbriar Cottage

Sweetbriar Cottage – Denise Hunter – Thomas Nelson – Published 13 June 2017

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Synopsis

When Noah and Josephine Mitchell discover their divorce was never actually finalized, their lives are turned upside down.

Following his divorce, Noah gave up his dream job, settling at a remote horse ranch in the Blue Ridge Mountains of northern Georgia, putting much-needed distance between himself and the former love of his life. But then Noah gets a letter from the IRS claiming he and Josephine are still married. When he confronts Josephine for the first time in months, they discover that she missed the final step in filing the paperwork and they are, in fact, still married.

Josephine is no happier about the news than Noah. Maybe the failed marriage—and okay, the botched divorce—was her fault, but her heart was shattered right alongside his, more than he would ever believe. The sooner they put this marriage behind them, the better for both of their sakes.

But when Josephine delivers the final paperwork to his ranch, the two become stranded in his cottage during the worst spring snowstorm in a decade. Being trapped with Josephine is a test of Noah’s endurance. He wrestles with resentment and an unmistakable pull to his wife—still beautiful, still brave, and still more intriguing than any woman he’s ever known.

As they find themselves confronted with each other and their shared past, old wounds surface and tempers flare. But when they are forced out into the storm, they must rely on each other in a way they never have before. Josephine finally opens up about her tragic past, and Noah realizes she’s never been loved unconditionally by anyone—including him. Will Noah accept the challenge to pursue Josephine’s heart? And can she finally find the courage to trust Noah?

My thoughts

Sweetbriar Cottage is a delightful contemporary romance, one that tugs on your heart and encourages you to take a chance and rediscover the healing power of love.

When Noah Mitchell discovers that his divorce with Josephine was never finalised, to say he is shocked might be an understatement. After the marriage ended, he gave up his job and retreated into the mountain, away from town and reminders of what happened and what he lost. Now, though, he and Josephine must reconnect if they want the divorce to be filed. Josephine is just as shaken as Noah when she learns of the news and sets out to smooth the process as much as she can, after all she feels the end of the marriage was her fault. But a sudden and dangerous storm leaves her stranded at his ranch and when they are forced to confront the wild weather, they also discover that confronting their past just might lead to healing for them both.

Sweetbriar Cottage is a standalone novel. It is written from both Noah and Josephine’s perspective during present day, but includes a number of chapter flashbacks to both the beginning of Noah and Josephine’s courtship and Josephine’s past. And that’s when this novel really digs its heels in and gets serious about the topics of faith, mistakes, and forgiveness.

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Book Review: Once and For All

Once and for All – Sarah Dessen – Viking Books – Published 6 June 2017

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Synopsis

Louna, daughter of famed wedding planner Natalie Barrett, has seen every sort of wedding: on the beach, at historic mansions, in fancy hotels and clubs. Perhaps that’s why she’s cynical about happily-ever-after endings, especially since her own first love ended tragically. When Louna meets charming, happy-go-lucky serial dater Ambrose, she holds him at arm’s length. But Ambrose isn’t about to be discouraged, now that he’s met the one girl he really wants.

My thoughts

A summer of weddings, a girl with a damaged heart, an annoying guy, and a bet – what could go wrong? Once and For All is a delightful new novel with Sarah Dessen’s trademark mix of romance, summer, and starting over.

Louna works for her mother’s wedding planning business. Every week she witnesses the pinnacle of true love. Or at least that’s what it should be. But Louna herself knows how badly love can end, leaving her cynical and sure that romance doesn’t come around all that often. Then she meets Ambrose, a serial dater who enjoys the first few perfect moments of a relationship but never commits to more than a day or two. Ambrose drives Louna nuts with his eternally cheerful and haphazard ways. So she is shocked when her mother employs him to help with the summer weddings. But Louna finds herself enjoying spending time with Ambrose (sometimes, when he isn’t making her crazy) and, even stranger, finds herself making a bet with him – she will agree to start dating again and he will try to commit to a relationship that lasts for seven weeks.

This book was described as sugar and effervescent champagne. But I didn’t get that feeling at all. Yes, there are weddings, flirting, and summer days, but it was far more somber than I was expecting. And yet it perfectly fit the Sarah Dessen mould – sweet romance and a light story, tempered with sad tragedy or hard circumstances with which the character must wrestle. I found Louna’s story to be far sadder than I expected. When it says that her last relationship, her first taste of a true and epic love, ended badly, they mean badly. The reader slowly pieces together what happened and how it changed Louna. Meanwhile, we get to know Ambrose. At first, Louna can’t stand him. But as they work together they build a sweet friendship.

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Book Review: Girl Out of Water

Girl Out of Water – Laura Silverman – Sourcebooks Fire – Published 2 May 2017

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Synopsis

Anise Sawyer plans to spend every minute of summer with her friends: surfing, chowing down on fish tacos drizzled with wasabi balsamic vinegar, and throwing bonfires that blaze until dawn. But when a serious car wreck leaves her aunt, a single mother of three, with two broken legs, it forces Anise to say goodbye for the first time to Santa Cruz, the waves, her friends, and even a kindling romance, and fly with her dad to Nebraska for the entire summer. Living in Nebraska isn’t easy. Anise spends her days caring for her three younger cousins in the childhood home of her runaway mom, a wild figure who’s been flickering in and out of her life since birth, appearing for weeks at a time and then disappearing again for months, or even years, without a word.

Complicating matters is Lincoln, a one-armed, charismatic skater who pushes Anise to trade her surfboard for a skateboard. As Anise draws closer to Lincoln and takes on the full burden and joy of her cousins, she loses touch with her friends back home – leading her to one terrifying question: will she turn out just like her mom and spend her life leaving behind the ones she loves.

My thoughts

Girl Out Of Water is an easy YA contemporary novel about an unexpected summer, family commitments, new relationships, and hanging onto old friendships.

For Anise, surfing is everything, so her summer plans consist of surfing, spending time with her friends surfing, attending the Surf Break festival, and more surfing. So, when her dad informs her that they will be spending the entire summer in Nebraska caring for her cousins as her aunt recuperates from a serious car accident, she is more than a little upset. But the summer ends up being not so bad as she reconnects with her cousins, meets a new guy, learns to skateboard, and finally has a chance to learn a little more about her long-absent mother.

Anise loves the ocean, and you can see why with the way in which the author describes it. The freedom of the sea, the thrill of riding waves, and the connection that it brings to her friends. For Anise, everything pretty much revolves around surfing. Although I did find a few inconsistent details – you actually have to paddle to catch the wave rather than just wait for it to pick you up – the author captures the scenes of Anise’s life well.

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Book Review: Other Breakable Things

Other Breakable Things – Kelley York and Rowan Altwood – Entangled:Teen – Published 4 April 2017

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Giveaway:
Click here to enter to win an Other Breakable Things Prize Pack.

Synopsis

According to Japanese legend, folding a thousand paper cranes will grant you healing.

Evelyn Abel will fold two thousand if it will bring Luc back to her.

Luc Argent has always been intimately acquainted with death. After a car crash got him a second chance at life—via someone else’s transplanted heart—he tried to embrace it. He truly did. But he always knew death could be right around the corner again.

And now it is.

Sick of hospitals and tired of transplants, Luc is ready to let his failing heart give out, ready to give up. A road trip to Oregon—where death with dignity is legal—is his answer. But along for the ride is his best friend, Evelyn.

And she’s not giving up so easily.

A thousand miles, a handful of roadside attractions, and one life-altering kiss later, Evelyn’s fallen, and Luc’s heart is full. But is it enough to save him? Evelyn’s betting her heart, her life, that it can be.

Right down to the thousandth paper crane.

My thoughts

Hmmm. What can you say about a book that attempts to pick you up, take you on a roller coaster of emotions and then rip your heart out? I wasn’t sure which path this book would take – ultimately hopeful, focusing on the joys and hurts of living or a complete and utter sob fest? Even after finishing I’m still not sure – a bit of both, maybe? Either way, Other Breakable Things is a very interesting book and quick to read, perfect for contemporary fiction fans.

Evelyn has always loved Luc. Loved him throughout their stilted friendship and then the past three years of silence when she moved away from him. Now she is back in the same town as Luc but still isn’t sure if he will reach out to her, or include her in his life. She is used to being the second choice in people’s lives. But to Luc, Evelyn was never the second choice, just a choice he never allowed himself to make. Luc’s heart is failing. The second time in his short, nineteen-year life. He knows that he doesn’t want to try another transplant, and is sick of hospitals and tests and doctors. So, instead, he takes off on a road trip – one last effort to really live. And he takes Evelyn with him. Evelyn has always suspected that Luc was unwell, but it isn’t until she is on the road with him that she finally, fully begins to understand as she uncovers everything he has been hiding.

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Book Review: You’ll Think of Me

You'll Think of Me

You’ll Think of Me – Robin Lee Hatcher – Thomas Nelson – Published 11 April 2017

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Synopsis

Her mother abandoned her, her father disowned her, and her husband left her. Can Brooklyn be convinced that it is possible to forgive the greatest of betrayals?

Brooklyn Myers escaped her broken home and her embittered, unloving father by eloping to Reno at the age of 17. But when she was pregnant with their first child, her husband abandoned her as well. Not welcome back home in Thunder Creek, Brooklyn stayed in Reno and raised her daughter Alycia on her own, doing her best to make sure Alycia never knew the heartache and rejection Brooklyn herself had known.

When her estranged husband Chad Hallston dies, he leaves the family home in Thunder Creek to his daughter. Believing it is the best way to give her daughter a stable home, Brooklyn does what she thought she would never do. She goes home to the orchard and wine country of Southwest Idaho. There, she encounters Chad’s best friend, Derek Johnson, a part time sheriff’s deputy who also owns an organic produce farm next door. Derek was never a fan of former bad girl Brooklyn Myers, but he made a promise to his dying friend that he would be the father to Alycia that Chad had never been.

Although Derek and Brooklyn get off to a bumpy start, he and Alycia quickly form a bond. And soon, Derek realizes that he wants Brooklyn to trust him too . . .  even knowing that her trust won’t come easily. And then he realizes he wants even more than her trust. He wants to win her love.

While Brooklyn may be tempted to give her heart to Derek, risking her daughter’s happiness is another story. Will Brooklyn hold onto her self-reliance for dear life, or will she come to understand that the greatest gift she can give her daughter is showing her how to love and trust others?

My thoughts

A charming and relaxing romance, You’ll Think Of Me is a story of starting over and creating family.

Brooklyn knows what it takes to stand alone. So when she receives a letter from her estranged husband’s lawyer stating that she and her ten-year-old daughter have been left his family home, Brooklyn is wary of returning to her hometown. But returning to Thunder Creek isn’t the hardship she imagines. She is soon surrounded by caring townspeople including her neighbour Derek, who has his own reasons for getting close to Brooklyn and her daughter Alycia.

Absolutely every time I think about this book’s title I start humming the song by Keith Urban of the same name. I just can’t help it. Not a bad thing, I like that song, but its message is very different from that of this book. This book is all about coming together, community joining to offer support, and a young family healing and finding love.

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