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Tag: PTSD

Book Review: A Galaxy of Sea Stars

A Galaxy of Sea Stars – Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo – Farrar, Straus and Giroux – Published 4 February 2020

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Synopsis

At a time when everything in her small town of Seaside, Rhode Island, seems like it’s changing, eleven-year-old Izzy Vitale wants things to stay the same. She wants her dad to start acting like he did before he was deployed to Afghanistan, she wants her mom to move back to the marina where they live, but most of all, she wants best friends – Piper and Zelda (dubbed the Sea Star Posse by their kindergarten teacher) – to stay best friends as they begin sixth grade at the regional middle school.

Then, Izzy’s father invites his former Army interpreter from Afghanistan and his whole family – including eleven-year-old Sitara — to move into the upstairs apartment at the marina. Izzy doesn’t know what to make of Sitara with her hijab and refusal to eat cafeteria food. She does know that her constant presence has become like a rogue wave disrupting the normally easy flow of the Sea Star Posse. But as Izzy gets to know Sitara, she can’t help but admire her self-confidence and pride in her Muslim faith. Little by little, Izzy begins to realize there exists a world much larger than her safe but insulated harbor in Seaside.

When hate messages start showing up at the girls school and at the marina, Izzy and Sitara team up to discover the source of the vandalism. But what Izzy ultimately learns, will force her to make a choice: remain silent and betray Sitara or speak up for what she knows is right – even if it means losing the Sea Star Posse forever.

My thoughts

A Galaxy of Sea Stars is middle grade fiction at its finest. These young girls are just discovering their independence but with these changes come challenges to long-held friendship, discovering things you never knew, looking at life differently and learning to look past your own experiences to consider the feelings of others.

Izzy and her two best friends are the Sea Stars, best friends since they were little. With a new school to navigate and new classes, Izzy is determined to keep the group together. When Izzy’s father invites the interpreter he worked with in Afghanistan and his family to move in, Izzy is worried. Why isn’t her mother moving back home and what will the Sea Stars say about Sitara, who is Izzy’s age and isn’t scared of standing out or explaining about her beliefs?

Izzy is an authentic young teen. She is struggling to balance what she knows and feels is right with trying desperately to hold onto what is comfortable and known in her life. She is right on the cusp of growing up – sometime sounding like a mature teen and other times reverting back to more childish displays of emotion (and sadly, even as an adult I could totally relate to these meltdowns). Growing up is hard, especially when navigating changes in schools, friendship and family circumstances. It’s something so many young people face today, especially family breakdown. Izzy wants her family to go back to the way it was and doesn’t understand why her mother can’t just come home. She also struggles to come to terms with the changes she has seen in her father since he has come back from serving in Afghanistan. These two points aren’t explored in too much depth, the focus of the story remains on other things, but Izzy does come to accept her mother’s choice, she loves and accepts her fathers, and her parents work harder at explaining things to Izzy and making her more comfortable with the new living arrangements.

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Book Review: Collateral Damage

Collateral Damage – Lynette Eason – Danger Never Sleeps #1 – Revell – Published 7 January 2020

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Synopsis

Honorably discharged from the Army after an explosion nearly killed her, former military psychiatrist Brooke Adams has set up shop to help others–but her days of helping military personnel are over. She’s got her own battles to fight from her time overseas, and she’s not equipped to take on more. Former Army Special Ops Sergeant First Class Asher James could handle anything that war sent his way–terrorists, bombs, bullets. The only thing that scares him now is sleep. As the shadows close in, the nightmares begin.

Finally convinced that he needs help, Asher makes an appointment with a counselor, and Brooke is pressed by her boss to take him on. When he arrives at her office she isn’t there–but a dead body is. Brooke is devastated when she walks in, and Asher is a conveniently strong shoulder to cry on. But she can’t take him on as a client after sharing such an intimate and unprofessional moment, can she? And he’s not sure he can handle sharing his deepest fears with such a beautiful woman.

When it becomes clear that Brooke was the real target of the attack–and that her secrets go even deeper than his own–Asher vows to protect her no matter what.

My thoughts

There is so much to love about this suspense novel. Multiple storylines come together to reveal a complex plot that has a devastating impact. A team of highly trained professionals, from detectives and medical examiners and investigative journalists, to military men and women and psychiatrist, work together to uncover the threads of this international case. With two main characters that have a great chemistry as well as a heartbreaking connection via shared trauma, this romantic suspense novel is the perfect start to a new series.

Military psychiatrist Brooke Adams left the army after giving her all—and nearly her life—in Afghanistan. Now she is back on American soil and working again as a psychiatrist, she just no longer works with service men or women and struggles with her own traumatic memories and nightmares of the explosion she survived. So when she is assigned a session with former Army Special Ops Sergeant First Class Asher James, she is not sure how she is going to face the memories or the man who helped save her life. When Asher intercepts an attempt on Brooke’s life, the two team up to stay alive and discover how the current attacks fit in with their pasts.

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Book Review: The Way of the Brave

The Way of the Brave – Susan May Warren – Global Search and Rescue #1 – Revell – Published 7 January 2020

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Synopsis

Former pararescue jumper Orion Starr is haunted by the memory of a rescue gone wrong. He may be living alone in Alaska now, but the pain of his failure–and his injuries–has followed him there from Afghanistan. He has no desire to join Hamilton Jones’s elite rescue team, but he also can’t shirk his duty when the call comes in to rescue three lost climbers on Denali.

Former CIA profiler and psychiatrist Jenny Calhoun’s yearly extreme challenge with her best friends is her only escape from the guilt that has sunk its claws into her. As a consultant during a top-secret mission to root out the Taliban, she green-lighted an operation that ended in ambush and lives lost. When her cathartic climb on Denali turns deadly, she’ll be forced to trust her life and the lives of her friends to the most dangerous of heroes–the man she nearly killed.

Her skills and his experience are exactly what’s needed to prevent another tragedy–but in order to truly set Orion free from his painful past, Jenny will have to reveal hers. They’ll have to put their wounds behind them to survive, but at what cost?

My thoughts

The Way of the Brave launches a new series by pro writer Susan May Warren. With her trademark breathtaking romance, fearless heroes and endless suspense and action, The Way of the Brave is a thrilling and slightly daunting read.

Jacie is haunted by mistakes she made while working as an undercover CIA profiler – mistakes that led to good service men being injured and killed. Now, with her two best friends, she is attempting to scale Denali, a ruthless mountain, in a bid to remind herself she is strong and not being held back by her mistakes. Orion lost the only remaining family in the attack on his Parajumping team that left him injured and his teammates dead or taken captive. Coming across Jacie, now going by Jenny, Orion thinks might have a chance of rekindling what they once started, but he has no idea she is the one who holds the answers he seeks or the one to whom his anger is unknowingly directed. When Jacie and her friends are blown off the mountain it will take the strength of both her team and Orion’s to get back to safety.

Mountain climbing is definitely not on my to-do list. In fact, it’s something I just cannot see the appeal of. So it was a little hard to connect with the characters and their drive to scale Mount McKinley. It does, however, make for stunning backdrop scenery and a perfect setup for a suspense novel where everything that could go wrong, does go wrong. Whiteouts, avalanches, falls, injuries, altitude sickness – why do people go mountain climbing again? But it tests the characters, pushes them to their limits and force them to reevaluate their lives, faith and pasts. It also gives them the excuse to snuggle close to keep warm.

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Book Review: Returning to Eden

Returning To Eden – Rebecca Hartt – Acts of Valor #1 – Rise UP Publications – Published 1 October 2019

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Synopsis

Declared MIA a year prior, the Navy wrote him off as dead. Now, Eden’s husband, Navy SEAL Jonah Mills has returned after three years to disrupt her tranquility. Diagnosed with PTSD and amnesia, he has no recollection of their marriage or their fourteen-year-old step-daughter. Still, Eden accepts her obligation to nurse Jonah back to health while secretly longing to regain her freedom, despite the reminiscent attraction she feels.

Jonah Mills knows he has work to do. Unfit for active duty, he commits himself to therapy and relies on faith in the loving God who sustained him through torture and hardship to also heal his body, mind and family.

But as the memories lurking in his wife’s haunted eyes and behind his step-daughter’s uncertain smile begin to return to him, a disturbing chain of events is revealed. If his memories are truly real, not only is his career at stake, but so is the welfare of his small, cherished family.

My thoughts

I am always on the lookout for new authors within the Christian genre and so I was excited to give Rebecca Hartt’s Returning To Eden a try. Exciting, and tense, Returning To Eden is part romance and part suspense.

When Eden receives a phone call saying her husband, missing in action presumed dead, is actually alive and on his way home, it’s a shock. And not necessarily a good one. Eden and her daughter were just getting used to their freedom without a neglectful and controlling husband and stepfather. But Eden is resolved to offer Jonah support in his recovery, especially when she discovers he has no memory of the past two years, no memory of her or their marriage, and it seems he is a new and changed man. But Jonah is certain the dangers of the past year have followed him home and he is determined to protect his family, even if following his hunch means he could lose them forever.

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Book Review: Cold Summer

Cold Summer – Gwen Cole – Sky Pony Press – Published 2 May 2017

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Synopsis

Today, he’s a high school dropout with no future.
Tomorrow, he’s a soldier in World War II.

Kale Jackson has spent years trying to control his time-traveling ability but hasn’t had much luck. One day he lives in 1945, fighting in the war as a sharpshooter and helplessly watching soldiers—friends—die. Then the next day, he’s back in the present, where WWII has bled into his modern life in the form of PTSD, straining his relationship with his father and the few friends he has left. Every day it becomes harder to hide his battle wounds, both physical and mental, from the past.

When the ex-girl-next-door, Harper, moves back to town, thoughts of what could be if only he had a normal life begin to haunt him. Harper reminds him of the person he was before the PTSD, which helps anchor him to the present. With practice, maybe Kale could remain in the present permanently and never step foot on a battlefield again. Maybe he can have the normal life he craves.

But then Harper finds Kale’s name in a historical article—and he’s listed as a casualty of the war. Kale knows now that he must learn to control his time-traveling ability to save himself and his chance at a life with Harper. Otherwise, he’ll be killed in a time where he doesn’t belong by a bullet that was never meant for him.

My thoughts

The premise for Cold Summer sounded amazing. A time traveller unable to control his travelling who experiences PTSD from his time spent fighting in World War II, coupled with a girl-next-door romance. Unfortunately the execution left a lot to be desired.

I’m sad to be giving this book such a low rating – surely it deserves an extra star just for the cover – but unfortunately it was the writing style, among other things, that I didn’t like about this book.

It’s a long book but it felt like nothing actually happened. There is a bit of action when Kale travels back to World War II, but otherwise it is mainly characters discussing Kale’s situation or Kale bemoaning his lot in life. In the summary, Harper discovers a record of Kale’s life in the past but this doesn’t happen right until the very end of the book. I also felt the story was anticlimactic. It had so much promise, was such a great idea, but I felt it was never developed into something amazing. So much of this book felt convenient or contrived. There are no explanations for why Kale can time travel, no exploration for deeper meaning about it all. Everything that might raise questions or challenges is simply brushed away or too easily resolved.

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Book Review: The Memory of You

The Memory of You

The Memory of You – Catherine West – Thomas Nelson – Published 28 March 2017

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Synopsis

Thirteen years ago, Natalie lost a part of herself when her twin sister died. Will traveling back to the family winery finally put the memory to rest, or will it completely destroy her?

When Natalie Mitchell learns her beloved grandfather has had a heart attack, she’s forced to return to their family-owned winery in Sonoma, something she never intended to do. She’s avoided her grandparents’ sprawling home and all its memories since the summer her sister died—the awful summer Natalie’s nightmares began. But the winery is failing, and Natalie’s father wants her to shut it down. As the majority shareholder, she has the power to do so. And Natalie never says no to her father.

Tanner Collins, the vintner on Maoilios, is trying to salvage a bad season and put the Mitchell family’s winery back in business. When Natalie Mitchell shows up, Tanner sees his future about to be crushed. Natalie intends to close the gates, unless he can convince her otherwise. But the Natalie he remembers from childhood is long gone, and he’s not so sure he likes the woman she’s become. Still, the haunted look she wears hints at secrets he wants to unearth. He soon discovers that on the night her sister died, the real Natalie died too. And Tanner must do whatever it takes to resurrect her.

My thoughts

The Memory of You is a delightful story. The setting truly comes alive and creates the perfect backdrop for this story of hidden secrets, guilt, and finding peace by facing the past.

Natalie is haunted by memories of her time at her grandparents’ vineyard. She hasn’t returned since that tragic night thirteen years ago and has tried to bury her memories and the truth of how her twin sister Nicole died. But her nightmares have returned and her symptoms are spiralling out of her control. So when her parents suggest she return to the vineyard she thinks it might be a good time to finally find peace. But the head vintner, Tanner Collins, Natalie’s childhood friend (and crush), suspects the real reason Natalie’s father has sent her to Maoilios – to shut them down – and he isn’t happy to see her.

I love a romance that starts off with the characters fighting. Sparks fly, tempers get lost. You can feel the passion, the chemistry, the possibility. I also liked that Tanner and Natalie had history. A tentative teenage friendship that got lost through the tumultuous fallout of Nicole’s death. As they confront each other about the past and challenge each other about the future, especially the future of the vineyard, they slowly (and with a few bumps along the way) rekindle their friendship and learn to trust each other.

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Book Review: Tangled Webs

tangled-webs

Tangled Webs – Irene Hannon – Men of Valor #3 – Revell – Published 4 October 2016

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Synopsis

After a disastrous Middle East mission ends his six-year Army Ranger career, Finn McGregor needs some downtime. A peaceful month in the woods sounds like the perfect way to decompress. But peace isn’t on the agenda once he crosses paths with publishing executive Dana Lewis, a neighbor who is nursing wounds of her own. Someone seems bent on disrupting her stay in the lakeside cabin she inherited from her grandfather. As Finn and Dana work together to discover who is behind the disquieting pranks, the incidents begin to take on a menacing tone. And when it becomes apparent Dana’s foe may have deadly intent, Finn finds himself back in the thick of the action–ready or not. 

My thoughts

From first reading an excerpt of this book I knew it was going to provide some fireworks, both in the action and romance departments. I was not wrong. The book starts with Finn McGregor rushing to the aid of a screaming woman, deep in forest at night. And it only gets more exciting from there.

I loved returning once again to the lives of the McGregor brothers. This time Finn is our hero. He is just as upstanding, courteous, handsome and worthy of the title hero as his two older brother are. But Finn’s also got some heavy burdens he carries after his time as an Army Ranger. He expects solitude and peace during his time at the cabin tucked away in national forest, maybe even boredom. He doesn’t expect to find a gorgeous woman living in the neighbouring cabin. Dana, too, is looking for peace and solitude. But when vandals start damaging her remote property it helps to know Finn is nearby, especially as vandalism is only the beginning.

I love Irene Hannon’s mystery-thrillers as much as her contemporary novels. I love how she weaves strong romance with family dynamics and action, all the while keeping me on edge and looking over my shoulder. My fingernails suffer, but the rest of me loves it.

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Book Review: 738 Days

738 Days

738 Days – Stacey Kade – Forge Books – Published 7 June 2016

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Synopsis

At fifteen, Amanda Grace was abducted on her way home from school. 738 days later, she escaped. Her 20/20 interview is what everyone remembers—Amanda describing the room where she was kept, the torn poster of TV heartthrob Chase Henry on the wall. It reminded her of home and gave her the strength to keep fighting.

Now, years later, Amanda is struggling to live normally. Her friends have gone on to college, while she battles PTSD. She’s not getting any better, and she fears that if something doesn’t change soon she never will.

Six years ago, Chase Henry defied astronomical odds, won a coveted role on a new TV show, and was elevated to super-stardom. With it, came drugs, alcohol, arrests, and crazy spending sprees. Now he’s sober and a Hollywood pariah, washed up at twenty-four.

To revamp his image, Chase’s publicist comes up with a plan: surprise Amanda Grace with the chance to meet her hero, followed by a visit to the set of Chase’s new movie. The meeting is a disaster, but out of mutual desperation, Amanda and Chase strike a deal. What starts as a simple arrangement, though, rapidly becomes more complicated when they realize they need each other in more ways than one. But when the past resurfaces in a new threat, will they stand together or fall apart?

My thoughts

The first half of 738 Days could have been a young adult contemporary/thriller, with plenty of heartbreak and family complications, but the second half was definitely new adult romance. I loved the story, love the characters (really, really loved both Chase and Amanda), and loved the mix of movie-star madness with the total heartbreaking reality of Amanda’s story of survival.

Amanda was kidnapped when she was sixteen and spent 738 horrible days as a prisoner and victim of abuse. Now, two years after her rescue, she is sick of being the shaking, terrified victim hiding in her closet. So when an unexpected visit from actor Chase Henry sends her running (literally) for her wardrobe, she takes up Chase’s offer to work together, to help him with his publicity and to hopefully spark her bravery so she can start living her life again and prevent her family from falling completely apart. Amanda doesn’t expect to fall for Chase, nor to finally feel something good, but can’t help her new-found feelings as she gets to know Chase as more than just an out-of-luck actor.

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