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: On Love’s Gentle Shore

On Love’s Gentle Shore – Liz Johnson – Prince Edward Island Dreams #3 – Revell – Published 4 July 2017

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Synopsis

When Natalie O’Ryan returns to Prince Edward Island to plan her wedding, she runs into her childhood best friend–and discovers that the love she’s been looking for is right where she left it.

Fifteen years after she left Prince Edward Island, Natalie O’Ryan had no plans to return. But when her fiancé, music producer Russell Jacobs, books their wedding in her hometown and schedules a summer at Rose’s Red Door Inn, she sets out to put the finishing touches on the perfect wedding. But she can’t possibly prepare for a run-in with Justin Kane–the best friend she left behind all those years ago after promising to stay.

Justin’s never forgotten Natalie or the music career he always dreamed of pursuing. He’d been prepared to follow her off the island until his dad died and he was left to run the family dairy farm. He’s done the best he can with the life that was thrust upon him–but with Natalie back in the picture, he begins to realize just how much joy he’s been missing.

After Natalie’s reception venue falls through, she must scramble to find an alternative, and the only option seems to be a barn on Justin’s property. As they work together to get the dilapidated building ready for the party, Natalie and Justin discover the groundwork for forgiveness–and that there may be more than an old friendship between them.

My thoughts

What fun to return to the shores of Prince Edward Island. This series has continued to delight, and the third book, On Love’s Gentle Shore, share the same mix of love story and characters who yearn to find a place to call home.

For Natalie, returning home to Prince Edward Island only brings back the childhood trauma that she tried to outrun years ago. But her fiancé, music producer Russell Jacobs, decides that PEI is the perfect place to hold their wedding. Before Natalie knows it, she is back home neck deep in wedding preparations and face to face with old memories and people she would rather have never seen again. And then there is Justin. Her childhood best friend, he was her everything until she ran and he never followed. Thrown together with Justin, Natalie will have to face her past if she wants to follow her heart in the future.

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Book Review: A Matter of Trust

A Matter of Trust – Susan May Warren – Montana Rescue #3 – Revell – Published 4 July 2017

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Synopsis

Champion backcountry snowboarder Gage Watson has left the limelight behind after the death of one of his fans. After being sued for negligence and stripped of his sponsorships, he’s remade his life as a ski patrol in Montana’s rugged mountains, as well as serving on the PEAK Rescue team. But he can’t seem to find his footing–or forget the woman he loved, who betrayed him.

Senator and former attorney Ella Blair spends much of her time in the limelight as the second-youngest senator in the country. But she has a secret–one that cost Gage his career. More than anything, she wants to atone for her betrayal of him in the courtroom and find a way to help him put his career back on track.

When Ella’s brother goes missing on one of Glacier National Park’s most dangerous peaks, Gage and his team are called in for the rescue. But Gage isn’t so sure he wants to help the woman who destroyed his life. More, when she insists on joining the search, he’ll have to keep her safe while finding her reckless brother, a recipe for disaster when a snowstorm hits the mountain.

But old sparks relight as they search for the missing snowboarder–and suddenly, they are faced with emotions neither can deny. But when Ella’s secret is revealed, can they learn to trust each other–even when disaster happens again?

My thoughts

There is something about Susan May Warren’s writing that grabs you and drags you into the story. Not that I mind that one bit. Her writing is truly evocative. In A Matter of Trust, readers are taken on a wild, death-defying adventure through the snowy peaks of Montana. I could practically smell the fresh, crisp snow and feel the sharp snap of the freezing air. But don’t worry, there is plenty of romance to keep you warm.

Gage left behind his life as a champion freestyle snowboarder after a tragic death and vicious lawsuit left him stripped of sponsors and determined to never take such risks again. Now he is a member of the PEAK Rescue team and the snow patrol unit, working to save lives. But then Ella Blair, the girl who he once upon a time thought might be the love of his life and who played a role in the lawsuit that saw him lose everything, renters his life. Together Ella and Gage face the dangers of untamed wilderness and the secrets and hurts of their past as they fight to rescue Ella’s brother.

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Book Review: Burnin’ for You

Burnin’ For You – Susan May Warren – Montana Fire #3 – Published 2 August 2016

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Synopsis

He’s loved her for years . . . 

Smoke jumper Reuben Marshall harbors a deep regret—a split second decision he made that cost the life of his crew boss. His paralyzing grief has kept him from pursuing his long-burning interest in pretty, petite smoke jumper/bomber pilot Gilly Priest. Not that he has a prayer at winning her heart. Not only is she not interested in dating a teammate, she’s also the preacher’s daughter. And while Rueben’s not the chiefest of sinners, he’s no saint… 

A dark secret that keeps her from trusting . . . 

Gilly Priest has worked hard to carve out her niche as a female bomber pilot in the dangerous world of firefighting. Sure she’s small, but she’s made up for her statue in courage, grit and the tenacity to face danger other pilots wouldn’t dare. And yes, she’s noticed handsome Rueben Marshall—who wouldn’t? Dependable and strong, he takes up most of the space in the room. But Gilly’s dark secrets won’t allow her close enough to talk to him, let alone let herself fall for him. 

A race to rescue the people they love . . . 

When their smokejumper plane goes down in the northwestern Montana mountains, wounding their team, Gilly and Reuben are the only ones capable of hiking out to find help. But when their rescue mission turns out to be a fight for their lives against the elements, a saboteur, and a forest fire, they discover they’ll have to put aside their fears and learn to trust each other. But will trust ignite something they both long for . . .and fear? And can they save their team before tragedy strikes—again?

My thoughts

I loved this book! Awesomeness, the whole lot of it. Romance (such romance, I think Susan May Warren might be my favourite author for building romantic tension and then letting the sparks fly), with a huge helping of suspense as the characters fight for their lives. There is also such a feeling of team connectedness. It so much fun joining these brave men and women as they jump from planes, fight fires, fly over dangerous terrain, and fall in love.

Gilly knows what it takes to face her fears and prove herself every single day. It’s what she must do to hold onto her place as pilot for the smokejumper team. For Reuben, smoke jumping is something he is good at, it gave him a chance at a new life, but he has many regrets, especially surrounding the deaths of his teammates. Gilly has decided to never trust a man again. Reuben knows Gilly deserves more than he could offer her, particularly when he can hardly construct a sentence when she is near. But when a simple jump turns deadly and it is revealed that someone is targeting the team, Gilly and Reuben will have to work together to save both their and their team’s lives.

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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: Playing With Fire

Playing With Fire – Susan May Warren – Montana Fire #2 – Published 5 July 2016

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Synopsis

She can’t forget the man she walked away from . . . 

Liza Beaumont knew she was playing with fire when she let smoke jumper Conner Young into her life. Just friends, she promised herself, but she couldn’t help but fall for the tall, blond firefighter who needed her. But loving him got her burned, and she’s not about to risk her heart again. 

His once chance to get her back . . . 

Conner Young knows he blew his one chance with Liza. His personal losses—and his profession—made him wary of offering any promises he couldn’t be sure he’d live to keep. So he let her walk away, but he never forgot the place she’d held in his heart. 

A race to find a missing girl . . . 

Until Liza is attacked in the mountains by a rogue grizzly. Her panicked phone call alerts Conner to everything he lost—and still wants. Now, with a teenage girl missing in the woods, and a predator on the loose, Conner and Liza must fight against time and the elements to save her. But when the old friendship ignites into fresh sparks, are they setting themselves up to get burned again? And when disaster happens, will their nightmares pull them apart, or will they find the courage to survive?

My thoughts

Once again, Susan May Warren delivers a book that is teeming with action, dangerous moments that leave you anxious for the characters’ survival, and romance that grips your heart (with a few toe-curling kisses thrown in for good measure).

Playing With Fire is the second book in the Montana Fire series, returning to the brave group of men and women smokejumpers who fight fires and save lives. It also colides rather nicely with characters and settings from Warren’s Christiansen Family series and the Deep Haven series. It was wonderful to reconnect with so many familiar and dearly loved faces.

Liza Beaumont, artist and resident of Deep Haven, knows to never to trust men – certainly not with her heart. A friendship with smokejumper Conner Young, showed her how true that was. But when a young girl is lost in the wilderness and Liza faces down a bear while attempting to rescue her, she reaches out to Conner. Is this their chance to reconnect and finally take a chance on love?

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Book Review: A Broken Kind of Beautiful

A Broken Kind of Beautiful – Katie Ganshert – WaterBrook – Published 15 April 2014

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Synopsis

Fashion is a fickle industry, a frightening fact for twenty-four year old model Ivy Clark. Ten years in and she’s learned a sacred truth—appearance is everything. Nobody cares about her broken past as long as she looks beautiful for the camera. This is the only life Ivy knows—so when it starts to unravel, she’ll do anything to hold on. Even if that means moving to the quaint island town of Greenbrier, South Carolina, to be the new face of her stepmother’s bridal wear line—an irony too rich for words, since Ivy is far from the pure bride in white.

If only her tenuous future didn’t rest in the hands of Davis Knight, her mysterious new photographer. Not only did he walk away from the kind of success Ivy longs for to work maintenance at a local church, he treats her differently than any man ever has. Somehow, Davis sees through the façade she works so hard to maintain. He, along with a cast of other characters, challenges everything Ivy has come to believe about beauty and worth. Is it possible that God sees her—a woman stained and broken by the world—yet wants her still?

My thoughts

I put this book on my to-read list some time ago but never had the occasion to pick it up. Now, after reading the magnificence that is Life After, I knew I needed to get my hands on all of Katie Ganshert’s books. For some reason, I thought A Broken Kind of Beautiful wouldn’t be as good as Life After. Maybe something to do with a review that said Life After was her best book yet. I would disagree. I don’t think A Broken Kind of Beautiful is better than Life After, just more of the same extremely powerful, amazingly wonderful writing. There is something that is awesome about Katie’s writing that makes these books an absolute pleasure to read.

Ivy has never known love. Not from the father who ignored her existence. Not from the mother who was trapped by alcohol and drugs. Certainly not from her uncle who only values Ivy for the money she can make him. And not from the fashion industry that used and idolised her beauty but which is all too quick to overlook her for the newer and younger models. Her last shot as saving her career sees her forced back to the Southern town of Greenbrier to participate in her stepmother’s bridal shop promotions. Returning to the town forces Ivy to relive all her past and present hurts, but it might also force her to see the people who care for her and who see beyond the broken and hurting spirit and beautiful face.

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Book Review: The Unwanteds

The Unwanteds – Lisa McMann – Aladdin – Published 30 August 2011

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Synopsis

When Alex finds out he is Unwanted, he expects to die. That is the way of the people of Quill. Each year, all the thirteen-year-olds are labeled as Wanted, Necessary, or Unwanted. Wanteds get more schooling and train to join the Quillitary. Necessaries keep the farms running. Unwanteds are set for elimination. 

It’s hard for Alex to leave behind his twin, Aaron, a Wanted, but he makes peace with his fate—until he discovers that instead of a “death farm,” what awaits him is a magical place called Artimé. There, Alex and his fellow Unwanteds are encouraged to cultivate their creative abilities and use them magically. Everything Alex has ever known changes before his eyes, and it’s a wondrous transformation. 

But it’s a rare, unique occurrence for twins to be divided between Wanted and Unwanted, and as Alex and Aaron’s bond stretches across their separation, a threat arises for the survival of Artimé that will pit brother against brother in an ultimate magical battle.

My thoughts

I was forced to read this book. It has quickly become a favourite amongst my book club members and I was fearful that my membership (despite being the group leader) was going to be revoked if I, too, did not read it. I was also intrigued when those same readers said they would rather go to Artimè from the Unwanteds than Hogwarts from Harry Potter. I thought that a) it was obviously a fantastic book or b) they were all crazy. Now I have read it for myself and, while it is certainly a fun book that teems with creativity and fresh ideas, I would still (and will probably always) choose Hogwarts, should my letter ever finally arrive.

I cannot overstate the popularity this book has amassed in the last few months at our school. It has been quickly passed from hand to hand, spreading through word of mouth and recommendations. The middle-school boys have been the driving force behind the fandom, but girls from that age group, and older, have equally loved it. And I can understand why. The Unwanteds is the ideal book for readers – those who value creativity and imagination for whom simple articles of stationary or clay or drawings or anything can always be more than they first appear.

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Book Review: Just Look Up

Just Look Up – Courtney Walsh – Tyndale House – Published 4 July 2017

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Synopsis

After tirelessly climbing the ranks of her Chicago-based interior design firm, Lane Kelley is about to land her dream promotion when devastating news about her brother draws her back home–a quaint tourist town full of memories she’d just as soon forget. With her cell phone and laptop always within reach, Lane aims to check on her brother while staying focused on work–something her eclectic family doesn’t understand.

Ryan Brooks never expected to settle down in Harbor Pointe, Michigan, but after his final tour of duty, it was the only place that felt like home. Now knee-deep in a renovation project that could boost tourism for the struggling town, he is thrilled to see Lane, the girl he secretly once loved, even if the circumstances of her homecoming aren’t ideal.

Their reunion gets off to a rocky start, however, when Ryan can’t find a trace of the girl he once knew in the woman she is today. As he slowly chips away at the walls Lane has built, secrets from his past collide with a terrible truth even he is reluctant to believe. Facing a crossroads that could define his future with Lane and jeopardize his relationship with the surrogate family he’s found in the Kelleys, Ryan hopes Lane can see that maybe what really matters has been right in front of her all along–if only she’d just look up.

My thoughts

Just Look Up is an enthralling contemporary novel, with a very relatable message of discovering one’s self worth and beauty. I was wonderfully content to settle within the pages of this story and surround myself with the vibrant characters.

Lane Kelley left her home town of Harbor Pointe and never looked back. She surrounds herself with work and is content to let that dictate her life – work can’t hurt her like a relationship or family could. But a family accident drags Lane back home, risking a promotion and subjecting her to the shame of the past that she was so eager to escape. Ryan Brooks found solace in Harbor Pointe. To him, it is a refuge away from the trauma of war and his childhood. But the accident that nearly claims both his and his friend’s life brings up his past, as does Lane returning home. He hopes that he can show Lane that she is worth far more than her work life and that in taking the time to slow down she might find contentment and be willing to risk her heart again.

I am so glad I read this novel. I didn’t overly enjoy Paper Hearts, the only other book I have previously read by this author, and I was a little reluctant to take the risk on this, her latest release. But I am so glad I did read it because it was so worth it. Just Look Up was simply wonderful. The characters and settings, both Lane’s busy work of Chicago and the small-town Harbor Pointe, leapt off the page.

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Book Review: The Secret Science of Magic

The Secret Science of Magic – Melissa Keil – Hardie Grant Egmont – Published 1 April 2017

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Synopsis

Sophia is smart, like genius-calculator-brain smart. But there are some things no amount of genius can prepare you for, and the messiness of real life is one of them. When everything she knows is falling apart, how can she crack the puzzle of what to do with her life?

Joshua spends his time honing magic tricks and planning how to win Sophia’s heart. But when your best trick is making schoolwork disappear, how do you possibly romance a genius?

In life and love, timing is everything.

My thoughts

I have come to really love Melissa Keil’s writing and I was eagerly awaiting the release of this, her latest title. The Secret Science of Magic was one part wonderful, one part heartwarming, and totally teenagery (yes, that’s a word).

Sophia is a genius. She excels at maths and calculations, but struggles with social situations. Without her friend Elsie, she would be isolated. Joshua sees Sophia. For years he has longed to connect with her, really get to know her rather than observing from afar. But he knows she deserves more than a guy who is only good at magic tricks and doesn’t have a plan for his life. But as Joshua will tell you, timing is everything, and, maybe, it is the right time for Sophia and Joshua to finally connect.

I really enjoyed reading this book. I especially loved the characters. Sophia is awesome. She is incredibly smart when it comes to maths, but she is also terribly unsure about everything else, from reading facial expressions to understand others’ emotions. She knows she is different from the people around her, she longs to understand how to fit in better, and she really struggles with the feeling that different equals bad. Also, her favourite Doctor Who is Matt Smith, so clearly we are soul mates. Joshua is also an excellent character. A magician, he is constantly fidgeting or shuffling cards. He cares about Sophia but has a lot to learn about his role in her life and the role he should play in his own life. I loved his journey of discovery, I loved his friends, and I loved the way he loved Sophia.

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