Book Reviews, Lists, Discussions, and Displays

Tag: Relationships (Page 1 of 14)

Book Review: The Key To Love

The Key To Love – Betsy St. Amant – Revell – Published 13 October 2020

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Synopsis

The only thing Bri Duval loves more than baking petit fours is romance. So much so, she’s created her own version of the famous Parisian lovelock wall at her bakery in Story, Kansas. She never expects it to go viral–or for Trek Magazine to send travel writer Gerard Fortier to feature the bakery. He’s definitely handsome, but Bri has been holding out for a love story like the one her parents had, and that certainly will not include the love-scorned-and-therefore-love-scorning Gerard.

Just when it seems Bri’s bakery is poised for unprecedented success, a series of events threaten not just her business but the pedestal she’s kept her parents on all these years. Maybe Gerard is right about romance. Or maybe Bri’s recipe just needs to be tweaked.

My thoughts

The Key to Love is a very sweet (so many macaroons and petit fours!!) romance about finding love in unexpected places.

Bri is a romantic. She’s holding out for a big romance, just like the one her parents shared. But her aunts’ bakery, where she works and tries to recreate both her mother’s legacy and recipes, is in danger of being sold, demolished and replaced with a chain store. When a travel magazine sends a reporter to write about the bakery, Bri hopes it will be just what they need to save it. But the journalist, Gerard is nothing like she expected and seems against them and her from the start.

I really enjoyed the romance between Gerard and Bri. They are complete opposites. Bri has stayed in her comfort zone, living and working in her home town. She likes bitter coffee and sweet treats. She loves all things romance. Gerard has sworn off love after a relationship gone bad and words of advice from a trusted mentor. He lives a life with no strings holding him back and is cynical about relationships. Settling down is the very last thing on his plan. He also has no desire to write a sappy article about a bakery, but it’s the only thing between him and a promotion.

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Book Review: Dear Hero

Dear Hero – Hope Bolinger and Alyssa Roat – INtense Publications – Published 28 September 2020

 

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Synopsis

Cortex and V need a new nemesis. Cortex’s last villain dumped him, and V got a little overeager and took out her hero prematurely. They meet on Meta-Match, a nemesis pairing site for heroes and villains. After throwing punches at each other behind coffee shops and hiring henchman to do their bidding (mostly just getting them coffee), they realize they have a lot more in common than meets the eye. And they may have a lot more hero and villain inside than they realize.

My thoughts

I am always on the lookout for superhero novels. a) they are an awesome mix of action and either fantasy or science fiction and b) they are hard to come by, so I jumped at the chance to read Dear Hero. Dear Hero is written entirely in short messages shared between the two main characters, which makes for a creative novel, if one that leaves the backstory and world building a little unclear.

Cortex is a hero. When his last villain leaves him, he decides to reach out on Meta-Match to find a new one. V is looking for a hero to fight with. She and Cortex begin exchanging messages and then they start to meet to practice their hero villain routine, but when someone close to them is kidnapped, they have to team up.

My main problem with this books comes down to the format. I applaud the authors for giving it a go. Writing an entire book in text messages or DMs would not be easy. It’s creative and quick to read. The problem comes with the reader trying to get an accurate view of the characters, backstory, world and culture. All those things remained unclear. I needed, wanted to know more about the concept of how the hero and villain structure works, why they do what they do, more about the governance of heroes and villains and how they fit into the larger world picture, the pop culture that surrounds it and the world that had been created. Continue reading

Book Review: The List of Things That Will Not Change

The List of Things That Will Not Change – Rebecca Stead – Wendy Lamb Books – Published 7 April 2020

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Synopsis

After her parents’ divorce, Bea’s life became different in many ways. But she can always look back at the list she keeps in her green notebook to remember the things that will stay the same. The first and most important: Mom and Dad will always love Bea, and each other.

When Dad tells Bea that he and his boyfriend, Jesse, are getting married, Bea is thrilled. Bea loves Jesse, and when he and Dad get married, she’ll finally (finally!) have what she’s always wanted–a sister. Even though she’s never met Jesse’s daughter, Sonia, Bea is sure that they’ll be “just like sisters anywhere.”

As the wedding day approaches, Bea will learn that making a new family brings questions, surprises, and joy

My thoughts

List of Things That Will Not Change is a beautiful uplifting novel about acceptance and family of all shapes and sizes. Perfect for those looking for a middle-grade novel about LGBT families, step-siblings, divorce, making mistakes and growing up.

Bea keeps a notebook that contains the List of Things That Will Not Change. Ever since her parents’ divorce she knows that some things are now different and some things will stay the same. When her Dad announces his engagement to his boyfriend, Jesse, Bea couldn’t be happier. But the best news of all is that she will be getting a sister. Meeting Sonia, Jesse’s daughter, is exciting for Bea, but Sonia has a lot of changes in her life and she isn’t exactly sure how she feels about those changes. Bea is sure she can help, but Bea is hiding her own secrets.

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Book Review: A Life Once Dreamed

A Life Once Dreamed – Rachel Fordham – Revell – Published 4 August 2020

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Synopsis

Six years ago, a shocking secret sent Agnes Pratt running in search of a new start. She found it in Penance, a rugged town of miners and lumberjacks in the Dakota Territory, where she became Miss Aggie, respected schoolteacher and confirmed old maid. But the past has a way of catching up with people.

When childhood friend and former sweetheart James Harris accepts a position as the town doctor, Aggie’s pleasantly predictable days suddenly become anything but. James wants to know why Agnes left behind the life they had dreamed of creating for themselves–but he is the one person who can never know.

In the shadows of the Black Hills, can a healing light be shed on the past? Or will the secret Agnes can’t seem to outrun destroy her chance at happiness?

My thoughts

Rachel Fordham returns to the 1880s frontier in her latest novel, A Life Once Dreamed. This is a historical romance that plunges readers into a setting where disease can wipe out families, birth holds many dangers and morals dictate social standing. This is a story about belonging and acceptance and finding your true family.

Agnes Pratt left Boston six years ago. She left behind the love of her life, but she knew they could never had a future together. Now she is teacher in a small frontier town. When James Harris appears in town as the new doctor, it brings up all their past and Aggie’s hurt. But she refuses to share the secret of why she left him all those years ago. When two disasters chance the course of their lives, Aggie and James will need to decide if what they share is enough to overlook all the obstacles that stand between them.

The setting Fordham creates feels very realistic. Times are hard and facilities basic for the people of Penance. The arrival of a doctor is cause for celebration – for everyone that is, except Aggie. Seeing James again shows her that her feelings haven’t changed, a love that is built on years of friendship and shared adventure, which we readers learn about through reflections, flashbacks and letters. Aggie closely guards her secret, even from readers for a good part of the book. I didn’t guess the direction her secret would take the book until the first disaster. I won’t spoil anything here.

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Book Review: Love and A Little White Lie

Love and A Little White Lie – Tammy L. Gray – Bethany House Publishers – Published 4 August 2020

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Synopsis

After hitting rock bottom, January decides she has nothing to lose in working at her aunt’s church–while hiding a lack of faith. A minor deception until she meets the church’s guitarist and sparks fly. Can she avoid disaster–especially when a handsome landscape architect has an annoying ability to push her to deal with feelings she’d rather keep buried?

My thoughts

I loved this romantic story about finding somewhere to belong and connecting with a faith. Love and A Little White Lie has a love triangle that provides a romance that is really fun and sweet as well as a romance that is full of connection and honesty.

January is looking to start over. Her last relationship failed just after she gave up her joy and spend all her savings moving across the country to be with her fiancé. Now she has returned to her Aunt’s property. Her aunt has also secured her a job at the local church. The only problem is that January doesn’t believe in God and isn’t an Christian. She decides not to tell anyone. But Grace Community is more welcoming than she expected, especially Cameron, one of the musicians, and she feels needed and like she is finally making a difference. Everything would be great if it wasn’t for Dillon, a landscaper working at her Aunt’s property, who calls January out on her deceit.

Love and A Little White Lie is a fun and easy book to read. I loved January’s voice. She is a genuinely nice character and reaches out to help others without even thinking about it. I was intrigued by the way she noticed little details and remembered information. While we are told this is one of her gifts (she considers it more a quirk), it’s also shown throughout the story, which made it really believable and nice detail in the story.

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Book Review: All Our Worst Ideas

All Our Worst Ideas – Vicky Skinner – Swoon Readers – Published 11 August 2020

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Synopsis

When Amy, on her way to becoming valedictorian of her graduating class and getting accepted to her dream school, gets dumped by her long-term boyfriend, she takes a job at a record store to ease the pain. She needs a distraction, badly.

Oliver, Amy’s record store co-worker, isn’t so sure about Amy—his complete opposite—but what he is sure of is his decision not to go to college. He just can’t figure out how to tell his mother.

As they work late-night shifts at the record store, Amy and Oliver become friends and then confidantes and then something more, but when Amy has a hard time letting go of what she thought was her perfect future with her ex, she risks losing the future she didn’t even know she wanted with Oliver.

My thoughts

If you are looking for a teenage true love story about finding the one, you’ll love All Our Worst Ideas. Touching on topics about following your dreams and dealing with family issues, All Our Worst Ideas is a sweet mature YA contemporary romance.

Amy is ready to finish her high schooling as valedictorian, get into Stanford with a full ride scholarship. Then every Friday night spent studying, every sacrifice will be worth it. Until her mother asks her to get a job while her stepdad is out of work. Until her boyfriend dumps her for not spending enough time with him. Until she starts to like hanging out with her new, if slightly grumpy co-worker. But Amy doesn’t have time for distractions and she will have to decide what is most important to her and what she is willing to risk to achieve her dreams.

Amy is your typical YA heroine who is excellent at school and spends her time studying. Oliver is a year older, finished with high school and working full time at the record store.

Amy starts the novel in a very serious, long-term relationship. Fortunately, she isn’t quick to fall out of love after her boyfriend ends their relationship nor quick to move straight onto a new relationship.

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Book Review: All Eyes on Her

All Eyes on Her – Laurie Elizabeth Flynn – Imprint – Published 18 August 2020

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Synopsis

You heard the story on the news. A girl and a boy went into the woods. The girl carried a picnic basket. The boy wore bright yellow running shoes. The girl found her way out, but the boy never did….

Everyone thinks they know what happened. Some say Tabby pushed him off that cliff— she didn’t even like hiking. She was jealous. She had more than her share of demons. Others think he fell accidentally—she loved Mark. She would never hurt him…even if he hurt her.

But what’s the real story? All Eyes On Her is told from everyone but Tabby herself as the people in her life string together the events that led Tabby to that cliff. Her best friend. Her sister. Her enemy. Her ex-boyfriend. Because everybody thinks they know a girl better than she knows herself.

My thoughts

If you like gritty, edgy novels about sex, the teenage party scene and a little bit of murder (maybe?) you’ll love All Eyes On Her.

Tabitha went into the woods for a hike with her boyfriend, Mark. Tabby made it out alive. Mark didn’t. Everyone thinks they know what happened. Everyone thinks they know what kind of girl Tabby is and they fondly remember Mark. But what really happened that day?

I would be amiss in not first discussing the writing style and layout of the book. Each section is written from the perspective of many different characters, main and side characters. All except Tabby and Mark themselves. This works perfectly for emphasising the message of perspective, assumptions, labels and making up your own mind about what happened and why, but also being aware of the things that impact this decision. Honestly, it would make a perfect book for group discussion. While the ending does provide some closure, which I was happy about, because if it was an open ending I was going to be be mega cross! But there is room for doubt. The author at no point gives a final retelling, or she does but you still have to decide what you believe. You have all the stories and truths and lies to wade through, so it would be perfect for getting a group to decide themselves and argue about why they think that.

Speaking of plot, the author does a superb job of piecing together the story, bringing in clues just when you need them. The middle section is a bit slow and repetitive, but a bombshell twist caught my attention again just in time.

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Book Review: More Than Just A Pretty Face

More Than Just A Pretty Face – Syed M. Masood – Little, Brown Books for Young Readers – Published 4 August 2020

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Synopsis

Danyal Jilani doesn’t lack confidence. He may not be the smartest guy in the room, but he’s funny, gorgeous, and going to make a great chef one day. His father doesn’t approve of his career choice, but that hardly matters. What does matter is the opinion of Danyal’s longtime crush, the perfect-in-all-ways Kaval, and her family, who consider him a less than ideal arranged marriage prospect.

When Danyal gets selected for Renaissance Man–a school-wide academic championship–it’s the perfect opportunity to show everyone he’s smarter than they think. He recruits the brilliant, totally-uninterested-in-him Bisma to help with the competition, but the more time Danyal spends with her…the more he learns from her…the more he cooks for her…the more he realizes that happiness may be staring him right in his pretty face.

My thoughts

More Than Just A Pretty Face is an uplifting, fun book that also comes with sweet romance and a feel-good, save the world message. Diverse representation – both ethnically and faith based, #OwnVoices, this has all the boxes ticked to make it an “important” book, but basically it’s just lots of fun to read.

Danyal is going to be a chef. Sure, his teachers and classmates think he’s a joke and his father disapproves of pretty much everything he does, but Danyal isn’t fazed. His goal is to get his best-friend’s twin, Kaval to value him as he is, even if their parents might not approve an arranged marriage match. When his mother sets up a meeting with Bisma, he is shocked with her open honesty and the way she gets him, even if she says she’s not interested in him. When he is selected for a school academic championship, he asks Bisma for help researching his topic – a topic everyone else has cautioned him against. But working with Bisma makes him feel like nothing else does and it might just mean he has to reevaluate his other goals too.

More Than Just A Pretty Face is Syed M. Mason’s YA debut and I really hope he sticks with it, as I would love to read another YA contemporary novel from him. He has such a great way of capturing the characters’ voices and bringing them to life. The situations are almost ridiculous – people don’t treat their family that way, right? – but it is so ridiculous it feels entirely true and hits home. The teens in this book struggle to balance their faith and personal values with the ideals and standards of the world – something that brings conflict into their relationships with friends and family. Danyal is open about his faith, but can’t quite relate to the more devout devotion his friend is showing.

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Book Review: How Sweet It Is

How Sweet It Is – Robin Lee Hatcher – Legacy of Faith #3 – Thomas Nelson – Published 14 July 2020

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Synopsis

Holly Stanford is doing the best she can with the restaurant she inherited from her late uncle. But after her fiancé abandons her and the business, Holly regrets having given up her dream of becoming a pastry chef. Now a few bad financial decisions might cost her everything, including her hope for the future.

Jed Henning has done well with his new company despite his prodigal brother’s behavior. When Jed‘s father , the controlling member of the board of directors, temporarily suspends operations until his sons work out their differences, Jed resentfully chases his brother, Chris, to Boise. There Jed rents a basement apartment from Holly and hopes to convince Chris to get his act together before their company collapses.

Unaware that Holly is the one person who can help him get through to Chris, Jed starts the tough work of reconciliation armed with little more than a few family photographs, a stack of old letters, and a Bible that belonged to his great-grandfather, Andrew Henning. And as romance blossoms between Holly and Jed, the story of Jed’s great-grandfather highlights the power of God across the generations and the legacy of a family’s courageous faith.

My thoughts

How Sweet It Is is the very sweet third book in the Legacy of Faith series. Like its predecessors, it combines the present day story of two people meeting and falling in love with the continuation of the story of the Henning family, set in the late 1960s. It is faith filled and an endearing tale of family, belonging and love.

Holly just wants to bake. Instead she has been left with a restaurant to run and crippling debt, thanks to a fiancé who left her just before their wedding. Jed is a successful businessman but is father has given him an ultimatum: make it right with his brother or sell the business. Jed travels to Idaho to try to reconnect with his brother and his family’s past and finds himself renting the same basement apartment his great grandfather, Andrew Henning, once lived in. For Holly, it’s a blessing to be able to finally rent the apartment and gain some much needed income. But she is drawn to Jed and isn’t sure she should trust herself to be in a relationship again.

There is no doubt that this is Christian Fiction. The faith, prayer, scripture, church, community and belief is evident in every chapter. Some Christian fiction doesn’t reference faith aside from a few prayers or themes, but not so in this book. Both the present day characters and the characters from the past rely heavily on God and reflect and want to grow in their faith.

Andrew Henning’s story, set in 1969, is a wonderful reflection of the modern day love story. I love how Hatcher has woven the threads of the two generations together, as she has done in the previous two novels in this series. Readers of the first two books will no doubt enjoy the continuation of Andrew Henning’s story, but new comers to the series should be able to follow along without too much confusion.

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Book Review: Accidental

Accidental – Alex Richards – Bloomsbury YA – Published 7 July 2020

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Synopsis

Johanna has had more than enough trauma in her life. She lost her mom in a car accident, and her father went AWOL when Johanna was just a baby. At sixteen, life is steady, boring . . . maybe even stifling, since she’s being raised by her grandparents who never talk about their daughter, her mother Mandy.

Then he comes back: Robert Newsome, Johanna’s father, bringing memories and pictures of Mandy. But that’s not all he shares. A tragic car accident didn’t kill Mandy–it was Johanna, who at two years old, accidentally shot her own mother with an unsecured gun.

Now Johanna has to sort through it all–the return of her absentee father, her grandparents’ lies, her part in her mother’s death. But no one, neither her loyal best friends nor her sweet new boyfriend, can help her forgive them. Most of all, can she ever find a way to forgive herself?

My thoughts

What would happen if you discovered you were the reason your mother was dead? That’s exactly what Johanna learns in Accidental. It’s a heartbreaking novel about family, death, grief, uncontrollable emotions, huge letdowns, and broken relationships, yet it is also about learning to breath again, hanging onto those friendships, mending relationships and letting go of others, about making a difference, fall in love and even making out.

Jo has always missed her mother, but respected the boundaries her grandparents have put in place – no talking about her, no photos, no memories. They put their life on hold to raise a granddaughter. But when Jo’s father suddenly appears in her life and tells her that she accidentally shot her own mother, Jo’s life is upended. Not sure what to do, not sure what to believe, Jo relies on her friendship and growing relationship with new student, Milo, to navigated the complex emotions she is feeling.

Gut punch comes to mind from the emotions in this book that feel so big and real. The roller coaster Jo rides from before she knew to the absolute devastation she feels after discovering the truth of her mother’s death is compelling. It’s messy and complicated. There are also so happy times. I loved the friendship she has with Leah and Gabby. Those two friends are there for her and even when they hit hard times, they stick together. Jo, despite everything she’s going through is a decent friend. All three girls must learn how to cope and support each other.

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