A Cowboy for Keeps – Jody Hedlund – Colorado Cowboys #1 – Bethany House Publishers – Published 5 January 2021
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.
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.
Sick Kids In Love – Hannah Moskowitz – Entangled:Teen – Published 5 November 2019
Isabel has one rule: no dating.
–for the other person.
She’s got issues. She’s got secrets. She’s got rheumatoid arthritis.
But then she meets another sick kid.
He’s got a chronic illness Isabel’s never heard of, something she can’t even pronounce. He understands what it means to be sick. He understands her more than her healthy friends. He understands her more than her own father who’s a doctor.
He’s gorgeous, fun, and foul-mouthed. And totally into her.
Isabel has one rule: no dating.
It’s never felt better–
–to consider breaking that rule for him.
I loved this book. Loved the representation of chronic illness in teenagers, something that usually goes unnoticed in fiction. I love the humour woven throughout the story. I loved the friendship, flawed as it was. I loved the character development, as the characters wrestle with things they should or maybe shouldn’t change about themselves. And I loved the romance. So sweet. So based in a strong friendship. So natural and unforced.
Isabel is ready for her junior year of high school. Her advice column is doing well and she has a great group of—mostly understanding—friends. She spends a lot of time at the hospital, mostly because her father is the lead physician and a workaholic, and also because she has rheumatoid arthritis. When she meets Sasha at the hospital, they connect straight away. He’s funny, awkward, handsome, he shares her Jewish faith and he understands exactly what it means to be sick. But Isabel has a no dating rule. A rule she’s not sure if she want to break.
Isabel and Sasha’s friendship and romance is one of the most genuine relationships I’ve read in ages. In fact, as characters they are genuinely flawed, complex, awkward, realistic characters. They both have a great sense of humour and they bounce off each other really well. I loved how they wanted to just be normal with each other.
Daughters of Northern Shores – Joanne Bischof – Blackbird Mountain #2 – Thomas Nelson – Published 12 March 2019
Aven Norgaard understands courage. Orphaned within an Irish workhouse, then widowed at just nineteen, she voyaged to America where she was wooed and wed by Thor Norgaard, a Deaf man in rural Appalachia. That the Lord saw her along the winding journey and that Aven now carries Thor’s child are blessings beyond measure. Yet while Thor holds her heart, it is his younger brother and rival who haunts her memories. Haakon—whose selfish choices shattered her trust in him.
Having fled the farm after trying to take Aven as his own, Haakon sails on the North Atlantic ice trade where his soul is plagued with regrets that distance cannot heal. Not even the beautiful Norwegian woman he’s pursued can ease the torment. When the winds bear him home after four years away, Haakon finds the family on the brink of tragedy. A decades-old feud with the neighboring farm has wrenched them into the fiercest confrontation on Blackbird Mountain since the Civil War. Haakon’s cunning and strength hold the power to seal many fates, including Thor’s which is already at stake through a grave illness brought to him as the first prick of warfare.
Now Haakon faces the hardest choice of his life. One that shapes a battlefield where pride must be broken enough to be restored, and where a prodigal son may finally know the healing peace of surrender and the boundless gift of forgiveness. And when it comes to the woman he left behind in Norway, he just might discover that while his heart belongs to a daughter of the north, she’s been awaiting him on shores more distant than the land he’s fighting for.
It was such a pleasure to return to the Norgaard family in Daughters of Northern Shores, the second book of the Sons of Blackbird Mountain series. I fell in love with Thor, Haakon and Jorgan, their close friends and the women they love in that first book. My heart had also broken a little with the tearing of both friendship, trust and brotherly bonds, so it was with relief that I could continue this wonderful story, return to this little group – some now married, others with children and more on the way – and all with healing, justice and a future to live out.
The Healer – Donna Freitas – HarperTeen – Published 9 October 2018
Marlena Oliveira has—mysteriously, miraculously—been given the power to heal all kinds of ailments. People around the world believe she is a saint. But her power comes at a price: she can’t go to school, she can’t have friends her own age, and she certainly can’t date.
Then she meets Finn, a boy who makes her want to fall in love. For the first time, she begins to doubt whether her gift is worth all that she must give up to keep it.
The Healer is a compelling and unique book. It is a very different coming of age story, yet despite Marlena’s special abilities that set her apart in the world, her story of falling in love for the first time, discovering who she is and is meant to be and learning to stand up for herself is universal.
Marlena is a Healer. Some say she is touched by God, others say she is a saint. For years, her mother has decided how she will live and what she will do. But as Marlena begins to stretch her wings, she must decide if being a healer defines her or if she can heal on her own terms.
At first, I was expecting a book similar to The Secret of a Heart Note by Stacey Lee, but The Healer is not about plants or potions and is far more mystical and religious. Marlena isn’t sure where her powers come from, some days she’s not even sure she really has powers. But her mother is a firm believer that Marlena has been touched by God and a church and religious group has risen up around Marlena. The constant attention is something that Marlena hates the most. She longs for connection with people not awe and fear from afar. She wants to be able to walk down the street of her hometown without seeing her face on souvenirs in the windows of shops. She wants to live a normal life.
Lovely, Dark, and Deep – Justina Chen – Arthur A. Levine Books – Published 31 July 2018
What would you do if the sun became your enemy?
That’s exactly what happens to Viola Li after she returns from a trip abroad and develops a sudden and extreme case of photosensitivity — an inexplicable allergy to sunlight. Thanks to her crisis-manager parents, she doesn’t just have to wear layers of clothes and a hat the size of a spaceship. She has to stay away from all hint of light. Say goodbye to windows and running outdoors. Even her phone becomes a threat when its screen burns her.
Viola is determined to maintain a normal life, particularly after she meets Josh. He’s a funny, talented Thor look-alike who carries his own mysterious grief. But the intensity of their romance makes her take more and more risks, and when a rebellion against her parents backfires dangerously, she must find her way to a life — and love — as deep and lovely as her dreams.
Lovely, Dark, and Deep by Justina Chen is a brilliant novel about chasing life even when what that life might be dramatically different from what you were expecting. Lovely, Dark, and Deep is beautifully written, with a likeable heroine and a nice mix of uplifting messages and humour.
Viola has her life all planned out – first travel overseas with her Aunt, then major in journalism before becoming an international foreign correspondent traveling to war zones and other dangerous places to expose and report the truth. But when Viola develops a reaction to the sun, her whole world shifts – first with sizeable hats and an abundance of sunscreen to blackout curtains and limited screen time. Her diagnosis coincides with meeting Josh – graphic novel writer, Thor-look-alike – who carries his own secrets and grief. Viola is sure that her condition will not limit her, but testing the boundaries brings many risks for which even Viola could never have planned.
Rosemarked – Livia Blackburne – Disney-Hyperion – Published 7 November 2017
A healer who cannot be healed . . . When Zivah falls prey to the deadly rose plague, she knows it’s only a matter of time before she fully succumbs. Now she’s destined to live her last days in isolation, cut off from her people and unable to practice her art—until a threat to her village creates a need that only she can fill.
A soldier shattered by war . . . Broken by torture at the hands of the Amparan Empire, Dineas thirsts for revenge against his captors. Now escaped and reunited with his tribe, he’ll do anything to free them from Amparan rule—even if it means undertaking a plan that risks not only his life but his very self.
Thrust together on a high-stakes mission to spy on the capital, the two couldn’t be more different: Zivah, deeply committed to her vow of healing, and Dineas, yearning for vengeance. But as they grow closer, they must find common ground to protect those they love. And amidst the constant fear of discovery, the two grapple with a mutual attraction that could break both of their carefully guarded hearts.
Rosemarked is a richly detailed fantasy that has a fairytale feel but is entirely unique and cleverly crafted. I so enjoyed sinking into this delightful story. I was enraptured by the first chapter. Here are just a few of the things I loved most about it: the references to herbs and their uses for healing; the complicated morality aspect and the way in which is this so cleverly conveyed through the chapters; the girl who takes down a trained warrior by using her poisonous pet snake; the use of a variety of weapons from bows and arrows to swords, daggers and poison; the messenger crows; that tantalising hint of romance, high-stakes tension and the quote: “I may not be a walking armory, but I’m not completely helpless”.
Other Breakable Things – Kelley York and Rowan Altwood – Entangled:Teen – Published 4 April 2017
According to Japanese legend, folding a thousand paper cranes will grant you healing.
Evelyn Abel will fold two thousand if it will bring Luc back to her.
Luc Argent has always been intimately acquainted with death. After a car crash got him a second chance at life—via someone else’s transplanted heart—he tried to embrace it. He truly did. But he always knew death could be right around the corner again.
And now it is.
Sick of hospitals and tired of transplants, Luc is ready to let his failing heart give out, ready to give up. A road trip to Oregon—where death with dignity is legal—is his answer. But along for the ride is his best friend, Evelyn.
And she’s not giving up so easily.
A thousand miles, a handful of roadside attractions, and one life-altering kiss later, Evelyn’s fallen, and Luc’s heart is full. But is it enough to save him? Evelyn’s betting her heart, her life, that it can be.
Right down to the thousandth paper crane.
Hmmm. What can you say about a book that attempts to pick you up, take you on a roller coaster of emotions and then rip your heart out? I wasn’t sure which path this book would take – ultimately hopeful, focusing on the joys and hurts of living or a complete and utter sob fest? Even after finishing I’m still not sure – a bit of both, maybe? Either way, Other Breakable Things is a very interesting book and quick to read, perfect for contemporary fiction fans.
Evelyn has always loved Luc. Loved him throughout their stilted friendship and then the past three years of silence when she moved away from him. Now she is back in the same town as Luc but still isn’t sure if he will reach out to her, or include her in his life. She is used to being the second choice in people’s lives. But to Luc, Evelyn was never the second choice, just a choice he never allowed himself to make. Luc’s heart is failing. The second time in his short, nineteen-year life. He knows that he doesn’t want to try another transplant, and is sick of hospitals and tests and doctors. So, instead, he takes off on a road trip – one last effort to really live. And he takes Evelyn with him. Evelyn has always suspected that Luc was unwell, but it isn’t until she is on the road with him that she finally, fully begins to understand as she uncovers everything he has been hiding.
Ghostboy, Chameleon and the Duke of Graffiti – Olivia Wildenstein – Smashwords – Published 8 April 2015
Some endings are inevitable, but so are some stories.
Cora Matthews, the principal’s gloomy goth daughter, is not exactly popular Duke Meyer’s type. Still, Duke finds himself inexplicably drawn to her dark eyes and mysterious manner. She makes it clear she doesn’t return his admiration, but when a burst appendix lands Duke in the hospital, he and Cora will be forced to come together by the most unlikely intermediary: her eight-year-old brother, Jaime.
Duke learns Jaime has brain cancer and little chance of long-term survival. He admires the kid’s plucky positivity and wild imagination and offers to write a story about Jaime’s make-believe superheroes. So begins an epic tale—that of Ghostboy, Chameleon, and the Duke of Graffiti—and a deep friendship between Duke and Jaime.
Despite their outward differences, Cora and Duke bond over their affection for Jaime, but unintended betrayal and Jaime’s advancing disease threaten to derail their blossoming romance before it can truly take root.
A beautiful story. It took me over half the book to become truly connected to the characters and invested in the plot, but it was totally worth it for the sweet and touching end.