Book Review: Cracking the Bell

Cracking the Bell – Geoff Herbach – Katherine Tegen Books – Published 10 September 2019

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Synopsis

Isaiah loves football. In fact, football saved Isaiah’s life, giving him structure and discipline after his sister’s death tore his family apart. Now, nothing makes Isaiah happier than setting up the perfect defense and delivering a big hit. But when Isaiah gets knocked out cold on the field, he learns there’s a lot more to lose than football.

While recovering from another concussion, Isaiah wonders what his life would look without football. All his friends are on the team, and Isaiah knows they can’t win without him. There’s also the scholarship offer from Cornell, which is only on the table if he keeps playing. And without football, what would keep his family together? What would prevent him from sliding back into the habits that nearly destroyed him?

As Isaiah begins to piece his life together with help from unexpected places, he must decide how much he’s willing to sacrifice for the sport that gave him everything, even if playing football threatens to take away his future.

My thoughts

I love YA sports novels and Geoff Herbach knows exactly how to write one that is on-trend, poignant, realistic, gritty and doesn’t pull its punches. And that’s exactly what I got from Cracking The Bell.

Isaiah lives for football. It’s what keeps him busy and away from the temptations that come with down time. It saved him when he fell into bad habits and did things he wishes he could forget. It helps keep what remains of his broken family together. It keeps him from mourning too deeply his sister. But when Isaiah sustains a serious concussion, the lifeline of football may be removed from him and Isaiah must decide if the safety of football are worth the risks.

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Book Review: Serpent & Dove

Serpent & Dove – Shelby Mahurin – Serpent & Dove #1 – HarperTeen – Published 3 September 2019

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Synopsis

Two years ago, Louise le Blanc fled her coven and took shelter in the city of Cesarine, forsaking all magic and living off whatever she could steal. There, witches like Lou are hunted. They are feared. And they are burned.

Sworn to the Church as a Chasseur, Reid Diggory has lived his life by one principle: thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. His path was never meant to cross with Lou’s, but a wicked stunt forces them into an impossible union—holy matrimony.

The war between witches and Church is an ancient one, and Lou’s most dangerous enemies bring a fate worse than fire. Unable to ignore her growing feelings, yet powerless to change what she is, a choice must be made.

My thoughts

Serpent & Dove is an evocative fantasy, with witches and the clergymen that hunt them, one girl torn between two worlds, determined to survive, and very steamy romance.

Lou is a witch. Having left her coven, her magic is something she keeps hidden from most people to avoid the stake and the Chasseurs who hunt witches. But Lou also has another secret, one that makes her do dangerous things. When she and her friend and fellow witch, Coco, attempt to steal a magical ring, she unwittingly puts herself in the crosshairs of Chasseur Reid Diggory. Neither she nor Reid could ever work together, but their paths are irrevocable tied when they are forced into an arranged marriage. As the Chasseurs continue their hunts and the witches grow more bold in their attacks, Lou must keep her identity hidden or risk certain death – from both sides.

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Book Review: Deadly Intentions

Deadly Intentions – Lisa Harris – Revell – Published 6 August 2019

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Synopsis

Research scientist Caitlyn Lindsey is convinced that someone is taking out her team one by one. First, a friend and research partner was killed in a home invasion. Three months ago, her boss died in a suspicious car accident. Four days ago, another partner supposedly committed suicide. And now Caitlyn herself has miraculously survived a hit-and-run. Afraid for her life with nowhere to turn, she reaches out to one of the victim’s husbands, Detective Josh Solomon.

Though initially skeptical about Caitlyn’s theory, Josh soon realizes that the attack that took his wife’s life was anything but random. Now the two of them must discover the truth about who is after Caitlyn’s team–and what their end game is–before it’s too late.

My thoughts

Deadly intentions by Lisa Harris is a fantastic thriller. It reads like one of my favourite TV crime shows, with just the right amount of action, intrigue, nail-biting they’re-not-going-to-get-out-of-this-alive tension, and just a touch of romance.

Caitlin knows something is wrong in the research science lab where she works. Three people have died in apparently unrelated ways, yet now, with the last death and the sharing of a secret, Caitlin suspects there is more to the deaths. But someone is following her and if she can’t discover who is behind the deaths, own life may be in danger. Unsure what else to do, Caitlin turns to Detective Josh Solomon, husband of the first victim. But if they are going to work together, she’ll have to convince him she’s right about her theories first.

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Book Review: Vow of Justice

Vow of Justice – Lynette Eason – Blue Justice #4 – Revell – Published 6 August 2019

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Synopsis

When Allison Radcliffe is killed, FBI Special Agent Linc St. John goes after her killer with a vengeance until he discovers she’s been in hiding. He must put aside their unfinished business before she becomes the next victim.

My thoughts

Vow of Justice is the fourth instalment in Lynnette Eason’s Blue Justice series, which follows the crime-fighting St John family. Vow of Justice is FBI Agent Linc St John’s story and it is chock full of tension, buried secrets, dark pasts, evil bad guys and chemistry-charged romance.

When an undercover case involving the Russian Mafia goes wrong, Linc St John is devastated to learn his partner, Allie has been killed. Determined to hunt down her killer, he is shocked to find her alive and well. But Allie has been keeping secrets from her partner and they might be enough to get them both killed.

Vow of Justice is gripping from the very first pages. The crimes Allie and Linc are investigating are the work of the Russian Mafia, involving multiple assassinations and murders. But it is also personal. Allie’s past is entangled with the crimes and people she and Linc are investigating now and that makes everything so much more deadly and important to them both.

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Book Review: Promise Me Happy

Promise Me Happy – Robert Newton – Penguin Books Australia – Published 7 May 2019

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Synopsis

Nate’s had it tough. An abusive father. His mother dead. He’s done things he regrets.

But he’s never met anyone like Gem. She’s a tiny piece of wonderful and she’ll change everything he knows about himself. Is this the beginning of happiness? Or is there more hardship around the corner?

My thoughts

Promise Me Happy – a moving, authentically Aussie coming of age story at its best. Perfect for fans of YA contemporary fiction about relationships, family and finding a place to belong, Promise Me Happy is a soothing, gently-paced and touching novel.

Nate knows this is his last chance. Leaving juvie to live with an uncle he doesn’t know, Nate has low expectations about this next phase in his life, yet it can’t be worse than returning to live with his drunk and abusive father and memories of his dead mother. But living with uncle isn’t at all what he expects, nor the charming little fishing town, the slower lifestyle, space to breath, quirky young neighbour, Henry or the intriguing, combat-boot and tartan-wearing Gem. It may be just the second chance Nate needs, if he can hang on to it.

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Book Review: Fan the Fame

Fan The Fame – Anna Priemaza – HarperTeen – Published 20 August 2019

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Synopsis

Lainey wouldn’t mind lugging a camera around a video game convention for her brother, aka YouTube superstar Codemeister, except for one big problem. He’s funny and charming online, but behind closed doors, Cody is a sexist jerk.

SamTheBrave came to this year’s con with one mission: meeting Codemeister—because getting his idol’s attention could be the big break Sam needs.

ShadowWillow is already a successful streamer. But when her fans start shipping her with Code, Shadow concocts a plan to turn the rumors to her advantage.

The three teens’ paths collide when Lainey records one of Cody’s hateful rants on video. Because she’s determined to spill the truth to her brother’s fans—even if that means putting Sam and Shadow in the crosshairs.

My thoughts

Fan The Fame is a relatable novel about responsibility, doing and saying the right thing and speaking up – or choosing not to. With three distinct character perspectives and voices, this is a clever and thought-provoking novel.

Lainey: not much into gaming. Her brother is a huge YouTube star and she can’t quite understand why so many people subscribe to his videos when he so racist, sexist and rude. Working for Cody, aka Codemeister, this summer means carting around his video gear at the gaming conference and seeing his jerkiness up close.
ShadowWillow: an up and coming successful, and very good, female gamer and streamer. When her fans start shipping her with Codemeister, she knows joining someone so famous would really up her subscriber numbers.
SamTheBrave: young gamer with not many subscribers, but hilarious jokes. Feels like the gaming world is the one place he might actually belong. Also wants to get the attention of Codemeister at the conference.

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Book Review: Fragments of Fear

Fragments of Fear – Carrie Stuart Parks – Thomas Nelson – Published 23 July 2019

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Synopsis

Evelyn McTavish’s world came crashing down with the suicide of her fiancé. As she struggles to put her life back together and make a living from her art, she receives a call that her dog is about to be destroyed at the pound. Except she doesn’t own a dog. The shelter is adamant that the microchip embedded in the canine with her name and address makes it hers.

Evelyn recognizes the dog as one owned by archaeologist John Coyote because she was commissioned to draw the two of them. The simple solution is to return the dog to his owner—but she arrives only to discover John’s murdered body.

As Evelyn herself becomes a target, she crosses paths with undercover FBI agent Sawyer Price. The more he gets to know her, the more personally invested he becomes in keeping her safe. Together, they’re desperate to find the links between so many disparate pieces.

And the clock is ticking.

My thoughts

Fragments of Fear is a thrilling and intricately woven suspense novel. With endless twists and loads of action, it is a novel that continued to keep me guessing and marvelling at the unexpected strength of the main character. Fragments of Fear is the first novel I have read by Carrie Stuart Parks and I was impressed with her storytelling and mastery of the suspense details.

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Book Review: The Killing Tide

The Killing Tide – Dani Pettrey – Coastal Guardians #1 – Bethany House – Published 6 August 2019

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Synopsis

When one Coast Guard officer is found dead and another goes missing, Coast Guard Investigative Service special agent Finn Walker faces his most dangerous crime yet. His only clues are what little evidence remains aboard the dead officer’s boat, and the direction the clues point to will test Finn and the Guard to their limits.

When investigative reporter–and Finn’s boss’s sister–Gabby Rowley arrives, her unrelenting questions complicate an already volatile situation. Now that she’s back, the tug on Finn’s heart is strong, but with the risks she’s taking for her next big story, he fears she might not live through it.

Thrown together by the heinous crime, Finn and Gabby can’t ignore the sparks or judgments flying between them. But will they be able to see past their preconceptions long enough to track down an elusive killer, or will they become his next mark?

My thoughts

The Killing Tide follows in the way of Dani Pettrey’s previous titles with a strong mystery story, plenty of action and high-stakes suspense, and charming, faith-filled romance.

When investigative journalist, Gabby Rowley’s life is threatened by the drug lord she helped send to prison, her protective big brother, Noah, insists she return home with him to Wilmington, North Carolina, where he and his Coast Guard Investigative Service team can keep an eye on her. But when bodies begin to pile up, including one of their own, Gabby is drawn to the investigation, even if it means working alongside old flame and the man she left behind, Finn Walker.

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Book Review: Past Perfect Life

Past Perfect Life – Elizabeth Eulberg – Bloomsbury YA – Published 9 July 2019

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Synopsis

Small-town Wisconsin high school senior Allison Smith loves her life the way it is-spending quality time with her widowed father and her tight-knit circle of friends, including best friend Marian and maybe-more-than-friends Neil. Sure she is stressed out about college applications . . . who wouldn’t be? In a few short months, everything’s going to change, big time.

But when Ally files her applications, they send up a red flag . . . because she’s not Allison Smith. And Ally’s-make that Amanda’s-ordinary life is suddenly blown apart. Was everything before a lie? Who will she be after? And what will she do as now comes crashing down around her?

My thoughts

What would you do when you discover you’re not who you thought you were? A homage to home, friendship and family, Past Perfect Life delves into the questions of what family really means and what it takes to discover where you truly belong. With a strong female lead character who walks that balance between determined and flexible, cautious but brave, and a wonderful cast of secondary characters, Past Perfect Life is a compelling YA contemporary novel.

Ally Smith’s life is turned inside out when, while applying to college, has her social security number denied. She discovers her dad – the dad she loves spending time with, who is her best friend and rock – isn’t who he said he was. Everything she thought she knew was a lie, but Ally isn’t so sure what to hang on to from her old life and what to embrace in her new one.

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Book Review: Uprooted

Uprooted – Naomi Novik – Pan Macmillan – Published 12 May 2016 (first pub 2015)

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Synopsis

Agnieszka loves her village, set in a peaceful valley. But the nearby enchanted forest casts a shadow over her home. Many have been lost to the Wood and none return unchanged. The villagers depend on an ageless wizard, the Dragon, to protect them from the forest’s dark magic. However, his help comes at a terrible price. A young woman must serve him for ten years, leaving all she values behind. 

Agnieszka fears her dearest friend Kasia will be picked at the next choosing, for she is everything Agnieszka is not – beautiful, graceful and brave. Yet when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he takes.

My thoughts

Loosely based around a Beauty and the Beast retelling, Uprooted is gloriously imagined, with intricate storytelling and a world where witches and wizards must fight against the ever encroaching and corruptive powers of the Woods.

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