Book Reviews, Lists, Discussions, and Displays

Tag: Community (Page 1 of 2)

Book Review: The Sowing Season

The Sowing Season – Katie Powner – Bethany House Publishers – Published 6 October 2020

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Synopsis

After he’s forced to sell the family farm he’s labored on his whole life, 63-year-old Gerrit Laninga doesn’t know what to do with himself. He sacrificed everything for the land–his time, his health, his family–with nothing to show for it but bitterness, regret, and two grown children who want nothing to do with him.

Fifteen-year-old Rae Walters has growing doubts and fears about The Plan–the detailed blueprint for high school that will help her follow in her lawyer father’s footsteps. She’s always been committed to The Plan, but now that the pressure to succeed is building, what was supposed to unite her family in purpose, may end up tearing it apart.

When their paths cross just as they each need a friend the most, Gerrit’s and Rae’s lives begin to change in unexpected ways. Can they discover together what really matters in life and learn it’s never too late for a second chance?

My thoughts

This is such a charming, inter-generational story about healing wounds and finding your purpose in life.

Rae Walters is a teenager with a plan. Or at least, her parents have a plan for her life. As Rae fits in as much study, volunteer time and gets everything perfect for the plan to become a lawyer, she struggles to put her heart in it, especially when she gets behind the wheel of a car. It might be the first time she has failed something, and it is set to derail her plan and her relationship with her parents. Gerrit has just sold his family farm. Generations in his family has ended and all his sacrifices – time with his wife and children – gone. Now, with little to do, Gerrit finds himself assessing his relationships, or lack of them, with his wife and grown children. He wants to do better, but isn’t sure where to start.

I loved so much about this book. Mainly, I loved how relaxing it was to pick this book up and sink between the pages. Gerrit is hilarious (and he doesn’t mean to be and he would absolutely hate me for finding him funny). His character is so clear and so strong. Katie Powner does a fantastic job of painting him as the grump, out-of-sorts, awkward farmer. He doesn’t know how to talk to his children, wife, or neighbours. He continually denies any softness, especially about his wife’s dog, Daisy.  But despite his gruff exterior, he really does want to change. Being inside Gerrit’s head, gives the reader an insight into his thoughts, crazy ideas and inner softy.

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Book Review: The Cul-de-Sac War

The Cul-de-Sac War – Melissa Ferguson – Thomas Nelson – Published 10 November 2020

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Synopsis

Bree Leake doesn’t want to be tied down. She’s had more jobs than she can count, and she plans to move as soon as the curtains fall on her less-than-minor stage role at The Barter—the oldest live performance theater in the US. But just when it’s time to move on again, Bree’s parents make her an offer: hold steady for a full year, and they will give her the one thing she’s always wanted—her grandmother’s house. Her dreams are coming true . . . until life at the theater throws her some curve balls.

And then there’s Chip McBride—her handsome and infuriating next-door neighbor.

Chip just might be the only person whose stubborn streak can match Bree’s. She would move heaven and earth to have him off her cul-de-sac and out of her life, but according to the bargain she’s struck, she can’t move out of her house and away from the man who’s making her life miserable. So begins Bree’s obsessive new mission: to drive Chip out of the neighborhood—and fast.

Bree isn’t the only one who’s a tad competitive, and Chip is more than willing to fight fire with fire. But as their pranks escalate, the line between love and hate starts to blur—and their heated rivalry threatens to take a hilarious, heartwarming, and romantic new turn. 

My thoughts

Aside from having my mouth open in stunned disbelief for the majority of this book, it is actually quite a fun read and quite amazingly hilarious. From gentle animosity to full out war, The Cul-de-Sac War is the very definition of a hate to love romance. With pranks.

Bree wants to hold down her job at the theatre and maybe, one day reclaim her Grandmother’s home as her own. The only thing standing in her way is job cuts at the theatre and her new, extremely annoying neighbour. Chip has just moved in, is planning to renovate the house and start his new construction company, away from the restrictions of his family’s company. But when his neighbour declares war, he has no choice but to retaliate. And he can’t help it if he is enjoying annoying Bree a little too much.

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Book Review: We’re Stuck

We’re Stuck – Sue deGennaro – Scholastic Australia – Published 1 April 2019

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Synopsis

When Turtle races into the lift of Building 24, there is a nod and a blink and a step to the side. A grunt and a sigh and a lean to the right. But what happens when the lift stops moving?

Crocodile has a meeting to get to. And Giraffe has a doctors appointment. And Turtle really, really needs to get to the shop.

My thoughts

A beautiful story about community and connections in a busy, moving world. We’re Stuck forces its characters to stop and connect. Together, they must work through their problems and they discover they actually have everything they need. They also join forces to brighten someone else’s day.


Werestuck

Do you know your neighbours? Many of us, especially those living in crowded cities and multi-storey apartment buildings pass one another each day without stopping to say hello or share names or stories.

In We’re Stuck, one day, Turtle is racing to the lift. He has a very important list and he needs to get to the shops and back to his mum. In Building 24, the residents often meet in the lift. They shuffle and move over to let in Crocodile, who needs to get to a meeting, Giraffe who is on the way to the doctors, Lion is due for a haircut and Hippo needs to get the cafe open. But then, suddenly the lift stops. The residents of Building of 24 are STUCK! Much commotion ensues. They are busy and important people with important places to go to and people to meet. But Turtle sits quietly and sadly says it’s his birthday. The others in the lift quickly rally. Balloons made from rubber gloves and fishing line are stung and paper hats are made. But the group also discover that, if they work together, they can solve the others’ problems. Doctor Crocodile takes a look at Giraffe, and whale offers to cut Lion’s hair.

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Book Review: What Grew In Larry’s Garden

What Grew in Larry’s Garden – Laura Alary and Kass Reich (ill) – Hachette Book Group – Published 7 April 2020

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Synopsis

Grace thinks Larry’s garden is one of the wonders of the world. In his tiny backyard next door to hers, Larry grows the most extraordinary vegetables. Grace loves helping him – watering and weeding, planting and pruning, hoeing and harvesting. And whenever there’s a problem – like bugs burrowing into the carrots or slugs chewing the lettuce – Grace and Larry solve it together. Grace soon learns that Larry has big plans for the vegetables in his special garden. And when that garden faces its biggest problem yet, Grace follows Larry’s example to find the perfect solution.

My thoughts

In this story about a little girl and a man with a garden sits a message about community and helping people to grow and flourish. Inspired by a true story, What Grew in Larry’s Garden is a book that shares a love of nature, problem solving and kindness.

Bright but soft illustrations bring the story to life in greens, browns and splashes of bright red watercolour.

There is much to cherish about this book. Initially it seems a simple story about a young girl who enjoys gardening with her older neighbour. I love the cross-generational friendship and the way the pair work together to creatively and kindly solve the problems they come across in their garden from bugs to squirrels. The tomato plants they grow together have a big future, though, and that’s where the true story comes into the book. Larry is a teacher and he grows tomato plants to share with his students. He then shares with Grace the letters they write to others as they give their tomato plants away. From overcoming broken friendships, sharing small acts of kindness, or giving thanks for service. The author shares a note at the back of the book explaining the inspiration of the book and how Larry’s work with his students and the giving away of tomato plants helped to grow a community and possibility within those students.

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Book Review: Rogue

Rogue – A.J. Betts – The Vault #1 – Pan Australia – Published 26 June 2018

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Synopsis

There was no going back; there was no choice, anymore. I’d chosen out and this was it: hot-cold, dry-wet, bright-dark and lonely.

Hayley has gone rogue.

She’s left everything she’s ever known – her friends, her bees, her whole world – all because her curiosity was too big to fit within the walls of the underwater home she was forced to flee.

But what is this new world she’s come to? Has Hayley finally found somewhere she can belong?

Or will she have to keep running?

My thoughts

Rogue is the second book in the two book dystopian series, The Vault. As the follow-up to Hive, Rogue took the world of Hive and blew it wide open. With the same curious and ever-searching main character and even more incredible descriptions of the surrounding landscape, Rogue gives readers and Hayley the answers they were searching for in book one.

Hayley had so many questions and when the son gave her the option to leave her confined life behind and explore what else was out there, she took it. Now, Hayley finds herself in a place she never could have imagined, with new creatures, landscapes and rules. But she can’t forget the people she left behind, and, as she learns more about this new world, she isn’t sure if she should let her old world go or if she should share her new-found discoveries.

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Book Review: Hive

Hive – A.J. Betts – The Vault #1 – Pan Australia – Published 26 June 2018

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Synopsis

Hayley tends to her bees and follows the rules in the only world she has ever known.

Until she witnesses the impossible: a drip from the ceiling.

A drip? It doesn’t make sense.

Yet she hears it, catches it. Tastes it.

Curiosity is a hook.

What starts as a drip leads to a lie, a death, a boy, a beast, and too many awful questions.

My thoughts

Hive is a unique dystopian story. Intricately crafted, the world beautifully written, this gentle and compelling story is just the start of an exciting two-book series. The narrator, alongside the reader, knows only of the day-to-day rhythm of life and the stories she has been told. As she questions, explores and discovers scant details, she, and the reader, learns there is far more to the world than she could have expected.

Hayley is a beekeeper. It is her job to tend the Hive, just one of the gardeners in the gardener house, one of the six houses, that rely on water from the source and follow the patterns set out by the generations before them. But Hayley has a secret, one that has her questioning everything around and soon the walls of her world seem to hem her in. But will questioning provide the answers she is looking for?

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Book Review: Driftwood Bay

Driftwood Bay – Irene Hannon- Hope Harbor #5 – Revell – Published 2 April 2019

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Synopsis

After tragedy upends her world, Jeannette Mason retreats to the tiny Oregon seaside town of Hope Harbor to create a new life. Vowing to avoid emotional attachments, she focuses on running her lavender farm and tea-room–until a new neighbor with a destructive dog and a forlorn little girl invades her turf. But she needn’t worry. Dr. Logan West is too busy coping with an unexpected family, a radical lifestyle change, and an unruly pup to have any interest in his aloof and disagreeable neighbor.

Yet when both Jeanette and Logan find themselves pulled into the life of a tattered Christian family fleeing persecution in war-torn Syria, might they discover that love sometimes comes calling when it’s least expected?

My thoughts

Driftwood Bay returns readers to Hope Harbor, where faith and romance, friendship and community come together to give hope and new beginnings.

Jeanette likes the privacy her little lavender farm and tea rooms in Hope Harbor give her. She is good at shutting out the world and she likes it that way. When Logan West and his niece, along with their boisterous beagle, move next door they, along with the new refugee family in town, threaten the walls Jeanette has built around her heart. Will she let them in and risk her heart again, or will fear keep her from the chance of love and new friends.

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Book Review: The XY

The XY – Virginia Bergin – Sourcebooks Fire – Published 6 November 2018

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Synopsis

In River’s world, XYs are a relic of the past, along with things like war and violence. Thanks to the Global Agreements, River’s life is simple, safe, and peaceful…until she comes across a body in the road one day. A body that is definitely male, definitely still alive.

River isn’t prepared for this. There’s nothing in the Agreements about how to deal with an XY. Yet one lies before her, sick, suffering, and at her mercy.

River can kill him, or she can save him. Either way, nothing will ever be the same.

My thoughts

The XY is a compelling and unique work of speculative fiction that asks the question, what if? What if a drastic illness reduced the population by half. What would the world look like? How would things have changed 60 years on? What if the half that was left to start over were all female? What if a young girl, who has only know life in this new era, met a boy, a strange creature she recognises only from history lessons? How would she treat him, how would it change her world?

River lives in a world two generations on from an event that changed everything. When she finds an injured stranger on the road home, she is shocked to discover it is an XY – a boy. When she saves his life and takes him back to her community, it will forever change her life and how she views her world.

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Book Review: Saving Winslow

Saving Winslow – Sharon Creech – HarperCollins – Published 11 September 2018

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Synopsis

Louie doesn’t have the best luck when it comes to nurturing small creatures. So when his father brings home a sickly newborn mini donkey, he’s determined to save him. He names him Winslow. Taking care of him helps Louie feel closer to his brother, Gus, who is far, far away in the army.

Everyone worries that Winslow won’t survive, especially Louie’s quirky new friend, Nora, who has experienced loss of her own. But as Louie’s bond with Winslow grows, surprising and life-altering events prove that this fragile donkey is stronger than anyone could have imagined.

My thoughts

A heartwarming story of a young donkey, the boy who is determined to save him, and the way in which small things can sometimes have the biggest impact. Lyrical and sweet, Saving Winslow is a simple but touching story for young and middle-grade readers.

When Louie is given another of his Uncle Pete’s orphan animals, a newborn donkey, everyone warns him not to get too attached, as it will probably die anyway. But there is something about the tiny, grey bundle that whispers to Louie that here is an animal who wants to survive, and Louie is determined to be the one to save him. So, Louie names him Winslow and begins raise him.

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Book Review: Heart Land

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

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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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