Book Reviews, Lists, Discussions, and Displays

Tag: Romance (Page 1 of 61)

Book Review: ‘Til I Want No More

‘Til I Want No More – Robin W. Pearson – Tyndale House Publishers – Published 2 February 2021

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Synopsis

If Maxine could put her finger on the moment when her life went into a tailspin, she would point back twenty years to the day her daddy died. She tells herself he’s the only person who ever really knew and loved her, and if he hadn’t left her behind, her future would’ve taken a different path. No absentee mother, no stepfather, no rebellious ripping and running during her teenage years. And no JD, who gave her wandering young heart a home, at least for a time.

But that’s over and done with. All grown-up now, Maxine’s heart and ring finger belong to Theodore Charles, the man she’ll pledge to love, honor, and obey in front of God and everybody. At least that’s what she’s telling anybody who will listen. The only folks buying it are the dog and the readers of her column, however. Her best friend and family aren’t having it–not even Celeste, the double bass-playing thirteen-year-old the community of Mount Laurel, North Carolina, believes is Maxine’s adopted sister. And apparently, neither is the newly returned JD, who seems intent on toppling Maxine’s reconstructed life. As her wedding day marches ever closer, Maxine confronts what it means to be really known and loved by examining what’s buried in her own heart and exposing truth that has never seen the light of day.

My thoughts

’Til I Want No More is a story to settle in with and enjoy. This is perfect for readers who like a slow read, a story that develops with care and love over time. As we learn more about these characters, especially our main character, Maxine, we learn that the secrets she is keeping run far deeper than first expected. As these secrets are slowly and agonisingly revealed, I was glued to the pages to learn how she would handle the unveiling of the things she had worked so hard to keep hidden. 

Maxine is getting married and the countdown to her big day is ever present in this book. Maxine is also a writer and her columns are included in the book, giving the reader a deeper insight into her turmoil. She carries hurt from her childhood, the death of her father and her mother leaving her in her grandparents’ care while she left to deal with her own grief. She carries hurt from her older childhood, being reunited with her mother and her new stepfather. She carries hurt from her teen years, a failed romance and a baby that she handed over to her mother and stepfather to raise. All this pain simmers below the surface, recently brought to light thanks to her engagement and dreams that are preventing her from sleeping. 

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Book Review: Amelia Unabridged

Amelia Unabridged – Ashley Schumacher – Wednesday Books – Published 16 February 2021

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Synopsis

Eighteen-year-old Amelia Griffin is obsessed with the famous Orman Chronicles, written by the young and reclusive prodigy N. E. Endsley. They’re the books that brought her and her best friend Jenna together after Amelia’s father left and her family imploded. So when Amelia and Jenna get the opportunity to attend a book festival with Endsley in attendance, Amelia is ecstatic. It’s the perfect way to start off their last summer before college.

In a heartbeat, everything goes horribly wrong. When Jenna gets a chance to meet the author and Amelia doesn’t, the two have a blowout fight like they’ve never experienced. And before Amelia has a chance to mend things, Jenna is killed in a freak car accident. Grief-stricken, and without her best friend to guide her, Amelia questions everything she had planned for the future.

When a mysterious, rare edition of the Orman Chronicles arrives, Amelia is convinced that it somehow came from Jenna. Tracking the book to an obscure but enchanting bookstore in Michigan, Amelia is shocked to find herself face-to-face with the enigmatic and handsome N. E. Endsley himself, the reason for Amelia’s and Jenna’s fight and perhaps the clue to what Jenna wanted to tell her all along.

My thoughts

Amelia Unabridged is a beautiful, beautiful story about grief and loss. It is also about magic. Magic that happens in the everyday world. The magic of books. The magic of friendship. The magic of a new love and the way it can bring out the very best in people and grapple them back from the edge. The magic of a perfectly amazing bookstore. Amelia Unabridged has all of this and more. It was exactly the book I was looking for – deep, heartbreaking, uplifting, inspiring and honestly so easy to read and snuggle up with, but also lyrical and poetic and metaphoric and so I felt a little bit smart reading it.

Amelia loves her best friend Jenna. They are alike as much as they are different. Jenna has the most amazing, loving, supportive parents. Amelia’s father checked out with his young girlfriend and her mother has checked out in the aftermath. Jenna has their future all planned out while Amelia isn’t sure what she wants. But they both love books. Especially the Orman Chronicles. When the chance to meet the reclusive author of their favourite series, they jump at it, only to be disappointed and torn apart by their experience. A few weeks later, Jenna is dead and Amelia is reeling from the loss. Weighed down by grief and guilt, a surprise package sends Amelia chasing something that feels like Jenna directing things from beyond the grave, and what Amelia finds is more than she could have ever imagined – if she is brave enough to reach and and grab it.

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Book Review: Glimpsed

Glimpsed – G.F. Miller – Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers – Published 5 January 2021

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Synopsis

Charity is a fairy godmother. She doesn’t wear a poofy dress or go around waving a wand, but she does make sure the deepest desires of the student population at Jack London High School come true. And she knows what they want even better than they do because she can glimpse their perfect futures.

But when Charity fulfills a glimpse that gets Vibha crowned homecoming queen, it ends in disaster. Suddenly, every wish Charity has ever granted is called into question. Has she really been helping people? Where do these glimpses come from, anyway? What if she’s not getting the whole picture?

Making this existential crisis way worse is Noah—the adorkable and (in Charity’s opinion) diabolical ex of one of her past clients—who blames her for sabotaging his prom plans and claims her interventions are doing more harm than good. He demands that she stop granting wishes and help him get his girl back. At first, Charity has no choice but to play along. But soon, Noah becomes an unexpected ally in getting to the bottom of the glimpses. Before long, Charity dares to call him her friend…and even starts to wish he were something more. But can the fairy godmother ever get the happily ever after?

My thoughts

I wasn’t entirely convinced from the summary that Glimpsed was going to be the right book for me. Then one of my favourite authors, Abigail Johnson, posted her enjoyed of the novel and I knew I needed to give it a go. Despite my dislike of the cover (sorry, it just doesn’t appeal to me), this is a really fun, flirty, enjoyable romp. And yet, it also has a depth of character, character growth and introspection, enough for me to really enjoy it.

Charity is a fairy godmother. She’s also an average teenager – student bogged down by homework, cheerleader, and daughter of an absent workaholic mother. Her mission is to grant the wish of her Cindys and she is good at it. But when she receives a message telling her to stop or face having her secret revealed, Charity decides she will not bow to her blackmailer. Instead, she decides to grant her blackmailer a wish – he wants his best friend back – but it means working closely with Noah and he is determined to change her mind about the good she does with her fairy godmother skills.

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Book Review: A Shot At Normal

A Shot At Normal – Marisa Reichardt – Farrar, Straus and Giroux – Published 16 February 2021

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Synopsis

Juniper Jade’s parents are hippies. They didn’t attend the first Woodstock, but they were there for the second one. The Jade family lives an all-organic homeschool lifestyle that means no plastics, no cell phones, and no vaccines. It isn’t exactly normal, but it’s the only thing Juniper has ever known. She doesn’t agree with her parents on everything, but she knows that to be in this family, you’ve got to stick to the rules. That is, until the unthinkable happens.

Juniper contracts the measles and unknowingly passes the disease along, with tragic consequences. She is shell-shocked. Juniper knows she is responsible and feels simultaneously helpless and furious at her parents, and herself.

Now, with the help of Nico, the boy who works at the library and loves movies and may just be more than a friend, Juniper comes to a decision: she is going to get vaccinated. Her parents refuse so Juniper arms herself with a lawyer and prepares for battle. But is waging war for her autonomy worth losing her family? How much is Juniper willing to risk for a shot at normal?

My thoughts

A Shot At Normal is a really intriguing novel and totally thought-provoking. It raises the issue of vaccinations, anti-vaccinations and the teenagers caught in the middle. Set against the backdrop of a loving family and a new and sweet romance, A Shot At Normal is a story about growing up, learning to make tough decisions and standing up for what you believe in.

Juniper wants to be normal. She’d give anything to attend high school like normal teens instead of being homeschooled with her younger siblings. She’d love to join a school team, make friends or get a job. None of that is possible, as she has never had the required vaccinations. Not that her alternative parents would every let her. When Juniper contracts the measles, she realises the consequences for not being vaccinated are far more serious than not being allowed to attend school and she must decide how far she wants to go to fight for her right to have the immunisation injections.

This novel is presented as clearly pro vaccinations. I thought maybe there would be more deliberating and weighing backwards and forwards, but once Juniper learns about the consequences of not being vaccinated, she very firmly becomes pro vaccinations. As a result of her contracting and spreading the measles, Juniper is faced with a whole lot of guilt and grief, as well as the negative response from the towns people.

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Book Review: Love in English

Love In English – Maria E. Andreu – Balzer+Bray – Published 2 February 2021

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Synopsis

Sixteen-year-old Ana has just moved to New Jersey from Argentina for her Junior year of high school. She’s a poet and a lover of language—except that now, she can barely understand what’s going on around her, let alone find the words to express how she feels in the language she’s expected to speak.

All Ana wants to do is go home—until she meets Harrison, the very cute, very American boy in her math class. And then there’s her new friend Neo, the Greek boy she’s partnered up with in ESL class, who she bonds with over the 80s teen movies they are assigned to watch for class (but later keep watching together for fun), and Altagracia, her artistic and Instagram-fabulous friend, who thankfully is fluent in Spanish and able to help her settle into American high school.

But is it possible that she’s becoming too American—as her father accuses—and what does it mean when her feelings for Harrison and Neo start to change? Ana will spend her year learning that the rules of English may be confounding, but there are no rules when it comes to love.

My thoughts

Love in English is a YA contemporary novel about fitting in and finding the words to speak in your own voice to reflect your heart. This book is written by an author who can relate to how hard it is to move to a new country and learn a new language, and how complicated it is to balance trying to fit in with the ‘American’ culture, but also retaining what is special and true about your own culture, self and family. 

When Ana moves from Argentina to New Jersey, she doesn’t expect it to be so hard or so isolating. Her father, having lived in the US for a few years, demands that she and her mother speak only English – a language of which she only knows a little. High school seems in some ways so different and yet so similar to the things she saw in movies. She is a poet and loves learning the strange idiosyncrasies of the English language, but she longs to be able to truly communicate. 

Set against powerful themes of immigration, belonging and challenging the ‘American Dream’, In Love in English Ana has to stand up to her father, to embrace what she is and where she came from, as well as where she is now. This book is about finding out who you truly are, even if that is not as clear or defined as you thought it once was.

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Book Review: Playing With Fire

Playing With Fire – April Henry – Henry Holt and Co – Published 19 January 2021

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Synopsis

Natalia is not the kind of girl who takes risks. Six years ago, she barely survived the house fire that killed her baby brother. Now she is cautious and always plays it safe. For months, her co-worker Wyatt has begged her to come hiking with him, and Natalia finally agrees.

But when a wildfire breaks out, blocking the trail back, a perfect sunny day quickly morphs into a nightmare. With no cell service, few supplies, and no clear way out of the burning forest, a group of strangers will have to become allies if they’re going to survive. Hiking in the dark, they must reach the only way out―a foot bridge over a deep canyon―before the fire catches them.

My thoughts

Fires, bush, wild, deliberately lit and with devastating impacts, are a fact of life for many. You have only to look to the previous summer or two to see the evidence of their far reaching effects. Sadly, so many of them are deliberately lit or caused by stupidity or carelessness and that is exactly what happens in Playing With Fire. The book does a fantastic job of exploring the horrific consequences of fires and the importance of treating it responsibly, without being sanctimonious, and all  within the plot of adventure and survival.

Natalia knows first hand just how bad fire can be. She survived the house fire that killed her baby brother, but she carries the heavy burden of guilt and grief. When she goes hiking with her co-worker Wyatt, she is both prepared and playing it safe. She could never have planned for a wildfire that blocks them in with no choice to trek deeper into the woods, trying to outrun the flames. 

Natalia and Wyatt are not alone. With them are the others in the same clearing. From different walks of life and some not at all prepared for a fast and dangerous race through thick terrain. Wyatt and Natalia make a great team. It’s easy to see their connection, though Natalia is playing it safe and keeping the walls up around her heart, knowing Wyatt may not look at her in the same way once he knows the truth about what her past holds. 

As Natalia faces the wildfires, she has flashbacks to six years ago and the fire that changed her life. This allows the reader to learn more about why she fears fire so much and the trauma she is facing now she is confronted with flames again.

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Book Review: You Have A Match

You Have A Match – Emma Lord – Wednesday Books – Published 12 January 2021

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Synopsis

When Abby signs up for a DNA service, it’s mainly to give her friend and secret love interest, Leo, a nudge. After all, she knows who she is already: Avid photographer. Injury-prone tree climber. Best friend to Leo and Connie…although ever since the B.E.I. (Big Embarrassing Incident) with Leo, things have been awkward on that front.

But she didn’t know she’s a younger sister.

When the DNA service reveals Abby has a secret sister, shimmery-haired Instagram star Savannah Tully, it’s hard to believe they’re from the same planet, never mind the same parents—especially considering Savannah, queen of green smoothies, is only a year and a half older than Abby herself.

The logical course of action? Meet up at summer camp (obviously) and figure out why Abby’s parents gave Savvy up for adoption. But there are complications: Savvy is a rigid rule-follower and total narc. Leo is the camp’s co-chef, putting Abby’s growing feelings for him on blast. And her parents have a secret that threatens to unravel everything.

My thoughts

I thought this might have some deep, family drama but You Have A Match is a light, fun, summery romance with a focus on sisterly relationships. 

When Abby signs up to a DNA match service along with her best friend Leo, she is shocked to discover she has a match – a slightly older sister. Determined to get to know her sister and discover how her parents kept such a massive secret from her and why, Abby ends up at a summer camp, along with her sister and Leo. 

The summer camp setting makes this book perfect for reading on a warm summer day sitting on a beach towel, enjoying the sun and sand. Or perhaps when you are dreaming of being able to do all those things. 

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Book Review: To Whatever End

To Whatever End – Lindsey Frydman –  Entangled:Teen – Published 4 January 2021

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Synopsis

What if with every person you met, after just one touch, you have a vision of the last time you’ll see each other? Ever. Normally, these visions are innocent—two friends just drifting apart, a random stranger that brushed past you then never crossed your path again.

But not today.

When I accidentally touch him, within only moments of our first meeting, I’m bombarded by visions of his death.

And from what I can see, I’m the reason he dies.

Now I just need to figure out why, and how to stop this from happening. Because not only am I to blame, but his very last words to me are…I love you.

My thoughts

Visions. Death. Visions of death. Romance. Count me in! At least, that’s what I thought I was getting. Instead, right from the first page you know there is going to be a whole lot of romantic tension, chemistry and flirting. This book ended up being completely about the romance and very little about the visions. This just didn’t grab me. It’s a book that I will sadly easily forget. 

Quinn is cursed to experience the end of every relationship she has with anyone she touches. While this is the underlying thread, Quinn’s curse doesn’t feature all that much in the story. Instead, Quinn and Griffin’s romance takes centre stage. Quinn states that she isn’t interested in romance or guys, yet just seconds after meeting Griffin, Quinn is pretty ready to give love a go. Quinn is a few years older and has finished school, so that gives the book an older feel. He is living by himself, while Quinn lives with grandmother. 

I would have liked to learn more about Quinn’s curse. Cursed seems a strong word for Quinn’s curse. It seems she only experiences the vision the first time she touches a person. Sometimes, with casual contacts, their relationship end is the same experience they have just had, never to meet again. With others, like the vision she has of Griffin, it’s a far more dramatic vision. The only explanation given for Quinn’s curse is that all the women in her family have experienced similar curses. Something I couldn’t understand is why do girls with special gifts or ‘curses’ only start experimenting with them or their ability to control that gift once a guy is involved? If I had special skills, especially one I didn’t like, I’d be playing, testing and learning from the day I first realised it. Not Quinn. Previously she has just shied away from people, except her one best friend, and she is only motivated to start investigating once Griffin’s life is threatened. 

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Book Review: The Girls I’ve Been

The Girls I’ve Been – Tess Sharpe – G.P. Putman’s Sons Books for Young Readers – Published 26 January 2021

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Synopsis

Nora O’Malley’s been a lot of girls. As the daughter of a con-artist who targets criminal men, she grew up as her mother’s protégé. But when mom fell for the mark instead of conning him, Nora pulled the ultimate con: escape.

For five years Nora’s been playing at normal. But she needs to dust off the skills she ditched because she has three problems:

#1: Her ex walked in on her with her girlfriend. Even though they’re all friends, Wes didn’t know about her and Iris.

#2: The morning after Wes finds them kissing, they all have to meet to deposit the fundraiser money they raised at the bank. It’s a nightmare that goes from awkward to deadly, because:

#3: Right after they enter bank, two guys start robbing it.

The bank robbers may be trouble, but Nora’s something else entirely. They have no idea who they’re really holding hostage…

My thoughts

Looking for a thriller novel that will keep you on the edge of your seat? The Girls I’ve Been is an exciting novel that is part heist novel, part mystery. It is unique, romantic (lgbt+), and will have you desperate to uncover the truth about the girls Nora has been (and what that even means).

I adore mystery/thriller novels. And sometimes, it is a little hard to find good YA mystery/thriller novels. Books that justify why the teenager is involved in the crime/crime fighting. The Girls I’ve Been does that and so much more. Two main mystery threads run through the story and are told in alternating chapters that span the past and present. It kept me hooked to the pages and eager to learn what had transpired to make Nora the girl she is today (kind of scary, totally cool, wouldn’t want to meet her in a dark alley, but also totally in awe of her).

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Book Review: A Cowboy For Keeps

A Cowboy for Keeps – Jody Hedlund – Colorado Cowboys #1 – Bethany House Publishers – Published 5 January 2021

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Synopsis

Greta Nilsson’s trip west to save her ailing little sister, Astrid, could not have gone more wrong. First, bandits hold up her stagecoach, stealing all her money. Then, upon arriving in Fairplay, Colorado, she learns the man she was betrothed to as a mail-order bride has died. Homeless, penniless, and jobless, Greta and her sister are worse off than when they started.

Wyatt McQuaid is struggling to get his new ranch up and running and is in town to purchase cattle when the mayor proposes the most unlikely of bargains. He’ll invest in a herd of cattle for Wyatt’s ranch if Wyatt agrees to help the town become more respectable by marrying and starting a family. And the mayor, who has promised to try to help Greta, has just the candidate in mind for Wyatt to marry.

My thoughts

This was exactly the book I needed to start my holidays with. It is extremely romantic, relaxing, exciting and so warming. It was also really easy to read – both a rest for my brain but also something that kept me eager to keep picking it back up. A Cowboy For Keeps is a charming historical romance and another fantastic offering from Jody Hedlund.

Greta and her younger sister have traveled west. As a mail-order bride, Greta hopes to finally be able to provide for herself and hopes the change will be good for her sister’s ailing health. But, when the stage is robbed, her savings stolen and she discovers that her intended is dead, Greta is scared about their prospects. Wyatt is working hard to build up his ranch, but with no funds and a competitor that is buying up many of the available livestock, he fears he will never be able to send for his mother and younger siblings. Then the town mayor proposes a deal – he’ll fund Wyatt’s herd if he marries Greta. What starts as a marriage of convenience has the chance to bloom into something real, if Greta and Wyatt can work past their hurts and fears.

Greta and Wyatt have a wonderful relationship. What starts as a slightly awkward arrangement that benefits them both slowly grows into a strong partnership. Neither of them are very good at communicating their feelings, but the chemistry between them is very sweet.

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