Book Review: Heart Land

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

♥♥♥/♥

 

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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Book Review: Save The Date

Save The Date – Morgan Matson – Simon Schuster – Published 5 June 2018

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Synopsis

Charlie Grant’s older sister is getting married this weekend at their family home, and Charlie can’t wait—for the first time in years, all four of her older siblings will be under one roof. Charlie is desperate for one last perfect weekend, before the house is sold and everything changes. The house will be filled with jokes and games and laughs again. Making decisions about things like what college to attend and reuniting with longstanding crush Jesse Foster—all that can wait. She wants to focus on making the weekend perfect.

The only problem? The weekend is shaping up to be an absolute disaster.

There’s the unexpected dog with a penchant for howling, house alarm that won’t stop going off, and a papergirl with a grudge.

There are the relatives who aren’t speaking, the (awful) girl her favorite brother brought home unannounced, and a missing tuxedo.

Not to mention the neighbor who seems to be bent on sabotage and a storm that is bent on drenching everything. The justice of the peace is missing. The band will only play covers. The guests are all crazy. And the wedding planner’s nephew is unexpectedly, distractingly…cute.

Over the course of three ridiculously chaotic days, Charlie will learn more than she ever expected about the family she thought she knew by heart. And she’ll realize that sometimes, trying to keep everything like it was in the past means missing out on the future.

My thoughts

Save The Date is a hilarious novel about family, growing up, and learning to accept change. In the midst of a wedding where everything that could go wrong does, the characters of Save The Date will warm your heart and make you smile.

Charlie Grant loves her big, loud, crazy family. So Charlie can’t wait for this weekend, her sister’s wedding and a chance for all her siblings to return home, for them to be a united family unit again. But when the wedding planner bails, Charlie’s absentee brother actually turns up, and Good Morning America plans to do a home interview upon the conclusion of her mother’s famous cartoon, Charlie knows that she will have to fight to ensure everything is perfect.

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Book Review: More Than Meets The Eye

More Than Meets The Eye – Karen Witemeyer – Patchwork Family #1 – Bethany House Publishers – Published 5 June 2018

♥♥♥♥/♥

 

Synopsis

Seeking justice against the man who destroyed his family, Logan Fowler arrives in Pecan Gap, Texas, to confront the person responsible. But his quest is derailed when, instead of a hardened criminal, he finds an ordinary man with a sister named Evangeline–an unusual beauty with mismatched eyes and a sweet spirit that he finds utterly captivating.

My thoughts

More Than Meets The Eye is a delightful historical Christian romance, with a touch of mystery, plenty of suspense, and a warm heart that celebrates family and belonging. From the gorgeous cover to the heartwarming story where family is the people you choose, More Than Meets The Eye was wonderful from start to finish.

Evangeline Hamilton knows the cost of heartbreak. Yet she chooses to remain optimistic, celebrating the family God gave her and the simply joys in life. When a stranger purchases the land adjoining her brothers’ land, she intends to discover his true intentions, and if she shows him a little happiness and kindness along the way, all the better. Logan never intended to entwine Evie in his quest for revenge on her brother, but the Hamilton family is not what he expected. Evie and Logan must face the truth of the past and the dangers and mystery of the present if they are to have a future together.

Karen Witemeyer writes such excellent romance, and More Than Meets The Eye was certainly no exception. Logan and Evie’s connection is undeniable, tangible and so much fun to revel in. But Logan’s secrets and his plan for justice threaten the foundation of their growing friendship and romance.

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Book Review: The Disappearance of Sloane Sullivan

The Disappearance of Sloane Sullivan – Gia Cribbs – Harlequin Teen – Published 29 May 2018

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Synopsis

Seventeen-year-old Sloane Sullivan has survived witness protection by learning three important lessons: blend in, don’t let anyone get too close, and follow the rules.

After nearly eight years and countless identities, blending in is easy. Now that someone has confessed to the murder she witnessed, Sloane’s been given her final identity. All she has to do is turn eighteen and coast through the last two months of her senior year without any complications, and she’ll be officially released from WITSEC. Piece of cake.

Then on her first day she runs into Jason Thomas—literally the boy next door from her childhood. She knows she shouldn’t have contact with him, but she doesn’t expect the feelings that come with seeing Jason again. Feelings of finally belonging somewhere, of remembering who she really is, and of suspicion that there’s more to the crime she witnessed than she ever knew.

Sloane knows the rule for this situation, but telling the Marshals about Jason would mean getting whisked away to yet another new identity, leaving both Jason and the future she’s painstakingly planned behind. If she can keep Jason a secret, Sloane has a chance to take back her life in a way that she never imagined possible. But doing so puts both their lives at risk: the closer Sloane gets to Jason, the more she remembers and the clearer it becomes that someone is still after her.

My thoughts

The Disappearance of Sloane Sullivan is a mystery thriller with some amazing twists that I never saw coming and it touches upon some pretty dark crimes, but on the whole it is quite a lighthearted book, focusing on interpersonal relationships, high-school drama, and romance. The Disappearance of Sloane Sullivan is an easy book to read and enjoy, with a likeable main protagonist and some intense relationships.

Sloane knows how to stay hidden in plain sight. This move and name change will be her nineteenth in eight years, ever since she witnessed a horrible crime and was forced to enter witness protection. Now Sloane is restarting her final year of high school, counting down the weeks until she will be finally free, but is thrown when one of the first people she meets is her childhood best friend, Jason Thomas. Sloane is convinced she can maintain her new identity to prevent having to move again, but staying means putting Jason in danger and risking her own future.

The Disappearance of Sloane Sullivan starts with a bang and a seriously awesome prologue. Immediately gripping and then downright clever, I was hooked right from the very first page and couldn’t wait to jump into the rest of the story. The details of Sloane’s life emerge slowly, woven through the story of Sloane starting yet another high school and through flashback snippets from the past eight years.

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Book Review: Where Hope Begins

Where Hope Begins – Catherine West Thomas Nelson – Published 22 May 2018

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Synopsis

In the aftermath of her husband’s act of adultery and abandonment, Savannah must finally face the ghosts that haunt her and discover for herself whether authentic faith, grace, and ultimate healing really do exist.

When her husband of twenty-one years leaves her, Savannah Barrington believes she’s lost almost everything she’s ever loved. With her daughter in college and her son in boarding school, Savannah retreats to her parents’ lake house in the Berkshires, where hope and healing come in the form of an old woman’s wisdom, a little girl’s laughter, a touch of magic, and a handsome man who’s willing to risk his own heart to prove she’s still worth loving.

But when her husband asks to reconcile, Savannah is faced with the hardest challenge of all: Forgiving the unforgivable. Somehow she must find freedom from the chains of their past and move forward, or face an unknown future without him.

My thoughts

How do you cope with something that tears apart your marriage and destroys your dreams for the future, leaving your self-esteem in tatters? How do you hold on to hope through all that? Catherine West delivers a powerful novel that is at once both utterly heartbreaking and ultimately hopeful. As the title suggests, Where Hope Begins is about starting over and finding that glimmer of hope in the harshness of broken dreams.

Savannah’s husband is leaving her. After twenty-one years of marriage, three children, and facing devastating challenges, he is leaving her for another woman. Unsure what her next move should be, Savannah heads to the safety of her parents’ holiday home. There she connects with her charming neighbours, writer and single dad, Brock and his sweet daughter Maysie, and Brock’s charming and quaint aunt, Clarice. They open their hearts, home, and greenhouse to Savannah and show her that she is worthy of love and grace. But when her husband asks to reconcile, Savannah’s world is sent into a spin once again as she must decide what she wants.

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Book Review: We’ll Fly Away

We’ll Fly Away – Bryan Bliss – Greenwillow Books – Published 8 May 2018

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Synopsis

Luke feels like he’s been looking after Toby his entire life. He patches Toby up when Toby’s father, a drunk and a petty criminal, beats on him, he gives him a place to stay, and he diffuses the situation at school when wise-cracking Toby inevitably gets into fights. Someday, Luke and Toby will leave this small town, riding the tails of Luke’s wrestling scholarship, and never look back.

But during their senior year, they begin to drift apart. Luke is dealing with his unreliable mother and her new boyfriend. And Toby unwittingly begins to get drawn into his father’s world, and falls for an older woman. All their long-held dreams seem to be unraveling.

My thoughts

We’ll Fly Away is a well-written, hard-hitting YA novel with important messages about poverty, child abuse, the justice system, and friendship. I knew We’ll Fly Away would be heartbreaking. I also expected it to be raw, upfront, exposed, and almost crude. It certainly is an unflinching book, with threads of hope (but mainly heartbreak) and a positive message.

Luke and Toby are best friends – the only ones to see inside the truths of the other’s life, the only ones who could understand. But Luke struggles to maintain his wrestling record for a college scholarship with his mother’s ever increased neglect and caring for his two younger brothers, and Toby falls into a relationship with an older woman while continuing to face his father’s abuse. Events will come to a head as the boys fight for their friendship, their future, and their freedom.

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