PASSIONATE ABOUT SCHOOL LIBRARIES

Tag: June 2020

Book Review: Set The Stars Alight

Set the Stars Alight – Amanda Dykes – Bethany House Publishers  -Published 30 June 2020

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Synopsis

Lucy Clairmont’s family treasured the magic of the past, and her childhood fascination with stories of the high seas led her to become a marine archaeologist. But when tragedy strikes, it’s Dashel, an American forensic astronomer, and his knowledge of the stars that may help her unearth the truth behind the puzzle she’s discovered in her family home.

Two hundred years earlier, the seeds of love are sown between a boy and a girl who spend their days playing in a secret sea cave, while the privileged young son of the estate looks on, wishing to join. As the children grow and war leads to unthinkable heartbreak, a story of love, betrayal, sacrifice, and redemption unfolds, held secret by the passage of time.

As Lucy and Dash journey to a mysterious old estate on the East Sussex coast, their search leads them to a community of souls and a long-hidden tale that may hold the answers–and the healing–they so desperately seek.

My thoughts

I am amazed at how Amanda Dykes has crafted the stories in Set The Stars Alight, how she has woven together two stories or overcoming great grief and challenges, incorporated a thrilling mystery that seems hard to believe isn’t real and all this done with a lyrical prose that sweeps the reader away.

Lucy grew up knowing the love of her parents and the stories they told her and her childhood friend, Dash. Now she has lost both parents and Dash has moved away to study the stars, but her career path – marine archaeologist – was formed through the mysteries and stories her parents shared with her. When her application for a grant to uncover the story of a ship that disappeared over 200 years ago is threatened, Dash remarkably returns to Lucy’s life and offers to join with her in her search. 200 years earlier, three lives were interwoven – a shepherd’s daughter, the young man she loved and the young boy of the estate. Their journey is forged through grief, wars, betrayal, great sacrifice and song and now 200 years later, Lucy and Dash are determined to unravel the clues of their story.

I confess I didn’t read this book at the best of times. I started it during the last week of the school term and tried to read it even though my brain was running on fumes and all I wanted to do was sleep. I don’t feel as I gave this book the attention it deserved and I would recommend to other readers that you save this for when you have a few spare afternoons, time and brain power to devote to the very clever story and wonderfully detailed writing style. Nevertheless, I was swept away by this remarkable book. It really is a little magical, a story of great sacrifice, puzzles, adventure, seafaring and romance.

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Book Review: An Appalachian Summer

An Appalachian Summer – Ann H. Gabhart – Revell – Published 30 June 2020

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Synopsis

In 1933, most people are focused on the Great Depression but all Piper Danson can think about is how to get out of being a debutante and marrying Braxton Crandall. In an act of defiance, Piper volunteers as a frontier nursing courier in the Appalachian Mountains where adventure awaits.

My thoughts

An Appalachian Summer is an atmospheric novel about the frontier nurses of the Appalachian Mountains, women couriers, and life and love in the in 1930s. With romance aplenty, adventure and lighthearted moments, An Appalachian Summer is a light and easy book to enjoy.

Piper is grateful her family has weathered the crash of the economy so well, even if it means she must go ahead with her Debut Ball. Being pressured by her father to accept an engagement to Braxton Crandall and heartbroken over the silence she is receiving from her best friend and keeper of her heart Jamie Russel, Piper seizes upon the opportunity to join the frontier nursing courier service in the Appalachian Mountains. From the journey there, to the surprises in store for her, it is all a great adventure. She just wants to forget men and romance for a summer, which is fine until a mystery man from her aunt’s past re-emerges, Jamie follows her all the way to the mountains and she must decide where her heart and future will lay.

Set against the backdrop of the Great Depression, this is a novel that mixes the past with more modern ideas of women’s liberation and a changing society. I sometimes forgot the time setting and had to do a double take at some of the more casual language and use of jeans and such.

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Book Review: The Crushing Depths

The Crushing Depths – Dani Pettrey – Coastal Guardians #2  Bethany House Publishers – Published 30 June 2020

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Synopsis

When an accident claims the life of an oil-rig worker, Coast Guard Investigators Rissi Dawson and Mason Rogers are flown to the scene thirty-eight miles from shore. Tensions aboard the rig are high, and the death has everyone on edge. Environmental activists are threatening to do whatever it takes to stop the “plague on the environment” from continuing its work. Meanwhile, rumors are circulating on board about an ancient curse lurking in the depths below.

Mounting evidence shows the death might not have been an accident. Was the man killed by one of the activists or, more frighteningly, a member of his own crew? Rissi and Mason have to sort through not only numerous suspects, but also their own haunted pasts and their attraction to each other.

Just as the case seems about to break open, worse news arrives: a tropical storm has turned their way. Now they’re cut off from any rescue–right where the killer wants them.

My thoughts

The Crushing Depths is the second book in the Coastal Guardian series. This series follows a team of Coast Guard Investigators as they seek justice. Action, tension, mystery and romance create a compelling story.

A death on an oil rig seems like an unfortunate accident, but Coast Guard are called to investigate the details of what happened. Investigators Rissi and Mason are flown to the rig, but their helicopter crashes on its way. Both investigators are fortunate to survive and even more determined to find out what is going on. Their investigation leads them to consider the rising tension between the rig crew and a group of environmental protestors and rumours of a curse that has the men on edge.

Book two in this Coastal Guardians series follows Rissi Dawson and Mason Rogers. Rissi and Mason were childhood friends. They both resided in a children’s home, following the breakdown of their own families. They both suffered horrific trauma and abuse in that children’s home. They were each the other’s support system. They were separated and only found each other recently. Working together gives them a chance to reconnect, but it is quickly clear to both of them that their past ties them together and their feelings run far deeper than friendship. Alongside their deepening feelings, both Mason and Rissi must face the hurts of their past. Flashbacks give the reader some insight into the trauma they faced. It gives a solid background to their romance and justifies why their feelings deepen so quickly.

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Book Review: Sisters of Sword and Song

Sisters of Sword and Song – Rebecca Ross – HarperTeen – Published 23 June 2020

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Synopsis

After eight long years, Evadne will finally be reunited with her older sister, Halcyon, who has been proudly serving in the queen’s army. But when Halcyon appears earlier than expected, Eva knows something has gone terribly wrong. Halcyon is on the run, hunted by her commander and charged with murder.

Though Halcyon’s life is spared during her trial, the punishment is heavy. And when Eva volunteers to serve part of Halcyon’s sentence, she’s determined to find out exactly what happened. But as Eva begins her sentence, she quickly learns that there are fates much worse than death.

My thoughts

Sisters of Sword and Song is a new book by Rebecca Ross. It is not part of the same world or series as her previous two books. Magic combine with legend of gods and relics infused with power. Hand combat joins magic woven in song to wage war against the evil powers that hold the Queen captive. It is a book about the love between sisters. It is a book about powerful women. It is a story about honour and devotion. It feels as if it has been taken from the pages of history.

Sisters of Sword and Song is set in a world that is reminiscent of Ancient Greece. From the dress and the legends of gods and myths to the rocky setting with olive groves and mountains and the fighting and legions of hoplites, everything feels decidedly ancient. Halcyon and Evadne are sisters. They are due to be reunited when Halcyon, long been training and serving in the army, is set to return to their home. But Halcyon arrives a day early and asks Evadne to help her outrun the commander who follows her and seeks justice for the murder of his son. As Halcyon runs and Evadne learns more about the path that Halcyon has trod, she is drawn into a dangerous war involving magic, battles, spies and deceit and a journey to retrieve ancient, powerful relics.

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Book Review: Seasons of the Storm

Seasons of the Storm – Elle Cosimano – Seasons of the Storm #1 – HarperTeen – Published 23 June 2020

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Synopsis

One cold, crisp night, Jack Sommers was faced with a choice—live forever according to the ancient, magical rules of Gaia, or die.

Jack chose to live, and in exchange, he became a Winter—an immortal physical embodiment of the season on Earth. Every year, he must hunt the Season who comes before him. Summer kills Spring. Autumn kills Summer. Winter kills Autumn. And Spring kills Winter.

Jack and Fleur, a Winter and a Spring, fall for each other against all odds. To be together, they’ll have to escape the cycle that’s been forcing them apart. But their creator won’t let them go without a fight.

My thoughts

Seasons of the Storm is the first book in a new fantasy duology. It’s kind of like Hunger Games meets the folklore of Jack Frost. Fighting, hunting, rebellions, breakouts, romance, teamwork and magical powers connected to nature and the weather combine to make an epic fantasy.

Jack is the embodiment of winter, just one of hundreds of seasons who have been saved from death and given a second life. There are strict rules a season must follow and the only interaction one season has with other seasons is to hunt and kill the season that comes before them and be hunted and be killed by the season that comes after them. But Jack is falling for Fleur, the spring whose job it is to kill him each year, and her reciprocated feelings are causing her to plummet on the rankings board and risk termination. For a chance to be together, Jack and Fleur have to decide if it is worth risking everything to challenge the system, break the cycle and try and find another way to survive.

This book is set on Earth in a very real and recognisable world. The only difference is that seasons, embodiments of the four seasons, walk among us and control the passing and changing of the seasons with their magic. What the seasons do during their season isn’t really explored all that much. The focus is on the times of change over, when Spring comes to kill Winter, and the time spend in stasis and recharging to go back out into the world again. We also have Chronos and Gaia as Father Time and Mother Earth who are father and daughter. Together with Chronos’ guard, they control the seasons, turning the days spent above ground into a sort of game, with rankings, a score board and a system where those who fall below the red line are culled.

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Book Review: The Summer House

The Summer House – Lauren K. Denton – Thomas Nelson – Published 2 June 2020

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Synopsis

Lily Bishop wakes up one morning to find a good-bye note and divorce papers from her husband on the kitchen counter. Having moved to Alabama for his job only weeks before, Lily is devastated, but a flyer at the grocery store for a hair stylist position in a local retirement community provides a refuge while she contemplates her next steps.

Rose Carrigan built the small retirement village of Safe Harbor years ago—just before her husband ran off with his assistant. Now she runs a tight ship, making sure the residents follow her strict rules. Rose keeps everyone at arm’s length, including her own family. But when Lily shows up asking for a job and a place to live, Rose’s cold exterior begins to thaw.

Lily and Rose form an unlikely friendship, and Lily’s salon soon becomes the place where residents share town gossip, as well as a few secrets. Lily soon finds herself drawn to Rose’s nephew, Rawlins—a single dad and shrimper who’s had some practice at starting over—and one of the residents may be carrying a torch for Rose as well.

My thoughts

The Summer House by Lauren K. Denton is utterly delightful. With a touch of US Deep South charm, two multigenerational romances to enjoy and a story of learning to love and live again after a life of hurt, it’s the perfect light read.

Lily Bishop has recently moved to Alabama for her husband’s work. He promised her a new start, but one morning she wakes to find him gone, leaving behind a rented house she has just days to move out of, furniture she doesn’t want, no job or income to speak of and divorce papers. An opening for a hairdresser at a nearby retirement community seems providential. After just a few days, Lily feels more at home in the safe and peaceful community than she has in the years since she lost her mother. Rose Carrigan owns and runs Safe Harbor community village. She gives Lily the second start she needs, but it also opens up the chance for a second chance for Rose – at love, at reconnecting with her brother and with finally stepping out and enjoying life.

The Summer House is a really easy book to sink into and enjoy. If you are looking for something light, but with lots of heart, look no further. The romance is light and sweet. The problems the characters face – from divorce to hurts that span decades give the book depth without making it a heavy or overly sad book. And the setting, Safe Harbor, is as safe and comforting as it sounds, with the added bonus of all the fun that come with a retirement village full of elders who aren’t afraid of a good party, hair dye or gossip.

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Book Review: The Heart of a Hero

The Heart of a Hero – Susan May Warren – Global Search and Rescue #2 – Revell – Published 2 June 2020

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Synopsis

Rescuing Aria Sinclair is just what former SEAL Jake Silver needs in order to redeem his past mistakes. Keeping her distance from Jake is what Aria needs to protect her heart. As a hurricane turns paradise into peril, they must save themselves and others in this story of second chances and survival–and the cost of both.

My thoughts

Heart of a Hero is the second book in the Global Search and Rescue series. This book has one disaster after another, as the characters are pushed to their limits (again) and face the truth behind God’s sovereignty, accepting forgiveness and maybe even a romantic future.

We met Aria and Jake in book one of the series as they climbed, fell off and then were rescued off Mt Denali. Now, Aria has been forced to take a vacation by her boss, this time in Florida, and she’s pointedly ignoring what happened between her and Jake. Jake wants nothing more than to chase Aria down and convince her they could be together, but he’s not sure she should want him, especially knowing the secrets and bodies his past hides. When a category 5 hurricane bears down on Florida, Jake jumps on a plane to go and help Aria, but they will have to rescue each other many times over before the storm is done.

I think I’ve said in a review before that I love reading Susan May Warren’s books but I am rather glad I’m not one of her characters. They seem to have to face an endless stream of disasters where everything that could go wrong does. But it doesn’t feel overly dramatised. It kind of feels like real life at the moment. And if anyone could survive a tropical storm and everything that follows, it would be Jake (former SEAL and genuine good guy) and Aria (doctor, trauma and heart specialist). But the events of this book push them both to the edge and they have no choice but to rely on each other and God.

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Book Review: At Love’s Command

At Love’s Command – Karen Witemeyer – Hanger’s Horsemen #1 – Bethany House Publishers – Published 2 June 2020

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Synopsis

Ex-cavalry officer Matthew Hanger leads a band of mercenaries who defend the innocent, but when a rustler’s bullet leaves one of them at death’s door, they seek out help from Dr. Josephine Burkett. When Josephine’s brother is abducted and she is caught in the crossfire, Matthew may have to sacrifice everything–even his team–to save her.

My thoughts

Every time I read a Karen Witemeyer book I am surprised all over again at how much I love her writing style, characters and the romance that just leaps off the page. Either I’ve got a bad memory or every book she writes just gets better and better.

I was a little worried by the first chapter. Would the heroes of the book be made heroic at the expense of Native Americans and a white-washed history? I need not have worried. Horrified by the events and massacre he and his men are commanded to be involved in, Matthew Hanger and his three men leave the cavalry and create Hanger’s Horsemen. They are hired guns, working to arrest criminals and help those needing protection from gangs and bad guys. During one such job, one of Matt’s men is injured and he races to find the nearest doctor. He is surprised to find Dr Jo is actually Dr Josephine Burkett. Josephine is a good doctor and striving to prove that women make excellent health practitioners. When Jo’s brother is taken captive and held for ransom, she turns to Matt and his men for help.

As always, the love story Karen Witemeyer has penned comes to life off the page. It’s romantic, and the chemistry between Josephine and Matt is off the charts. But there is also a shared understanding between them. Even though there isn’t a lot of time for them to connect between pulling bullets out of shoulders and riding after the gang who hold her brother hostage, Josephine and Matt do get some time to share their past hurts, something the other can relate to, and a shared respect for each other. There is also lots of time for kisses, which I am pleased to report.

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Book Review: Brave Like That

Brave Like That – Lindsey Stoddard – HarperCollins – Published June 2 2020

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Synopsis

Cyrus Olson’s dad is a hero—Northfield’s former football star and now one of their finest firefighters. Everyone expects Cyrus to follow in his dad’s record-breaking footsteps, and he wishes they were right—except he’s never been brave like that. But this year, with the help of a stray dog, a few new friends, a little bit of rhythm, and a lot of nerve, he may just discover that actually…he is.

Lauded as “remarkable” by the New York Times Book Review, Lindsey Stoddard’s heartfelt stories continue to garner critical acclaim, and her latest novel will have fans new and old rooting for Cyrus and Parker’s special bond and the courage it helps them both to find.

My thoughts

Brave Like That is the same kind of feel-good, heartwarming, uplifting book as Wonder. Brave Like That is utterly delightful to read and I can’t wait to share this with our middle-grade readers.

Cyrus knows very well the story of the night he was found on the steps of the firehouse. He knows how his father had every intention of finding him a new home but decided to keep him. Cyrus has grown up in that firehouse, just as much a part of the fire crew as his dad and the other firefighters. When he discovers a dog, which he names Parker, on the steps of the firehouse, on the eve of his own discovery, he knows that dog belongs with him. He just doesn’t know how to convince his dad, nor how to tell him that he doesn’t actually like football and he would never be brave enough to actually be a fireman. With football season just starting, a new student in school who is being bullied, changes in his friendship group, and the ultimate desire to fight for Parker, Cyrus will have to discover if he can be the kind of brave that stands up for what is right.

I adored everything about this book. It is so easy to read, the story just unfolds and I didn’t want to put it down. There are so many important messages in this book and while they are pretty clearly outlined by Cyrus, the book doesn’t feel self-righteous. Cyrus learns a lot in the book and I was cheering him on every step of the way.

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