Posted in Contemporary, Young Adult

Rajdeep Paulus’ Swimming Through Clouds

About

When high school cell phone disruption forces a classroom ban, the words on a Post-it note spark a sticky romance between two unlikely friends. Transfer student Talia Vanderbilt has one goal at her new school: to blend in with the walls. Lagan Desai, basketball captain and mathlete, would do just about anything to befriend the new girl. One Post-it note at a time, Lagan persuades Talia to peel back her heart, slowly revealing her treasure chest of pain—an absent mother, a bedridden brother, and an abusive father. In a world where hurt is inevitable, the two teens search for a safe place to weather the storms of life. Together.

Review

There’s this new thing in YA/NA books where the female protagonist is dealing with some kind of trauma in her past or present and she meets a guy and somehow he helps her get over the trauma or get out of the trauma. This book follows that similar format (though it’s not the same). Here, we have Talia, who is living with the psycho father of the year, when Lagan begins to reach out to her.

Talia: I will admit, that the first 25% of the novel is a bit depressing and I was wondering where the novel was going. But once I got past that, and got really involved in Talia, I did not want to put the book down. Ms. Paulus does a wonderful job of making me nervous when Talia is nervous, hopeful when she is hopeful, and scared when she is scared. I was really concerned that the whole novel would be about poor Talia and while there was plenty of reason to feel pity for Talia, that is not always fun to read. But it wasn’t. Talia may have been going through some crazy things, but she has this wonderful personality that looks for hope on the other side and you can’t help but be drawn to her.

Lagan. The only thing wrong with Lagan is that he is perfect. I wished that he had a flaw or two so that he seemed more real. That said, I loved Lagan’s idea of post notes. That was creative and really kind of romantic to leave someone post it notes as a form of communication. And you can’t fault Lagan for his patience. He waits for Talia and that’s beautiful. And frankly, it’s better than most secular novels which have a tendency to rush the romance regardless of the scars that the protagonist has. I also really liked that the story doesn’t just end with high school and you begin to see their relationship mature as they get older. The only other critique I have, is that Lagan does everything he can to get to know Talia, but I didn’t get the feeling that Talia did everything she could to know him.

Let me just note, that I really liked this book, in the case that you feel that I’ve criticized it too much (I read a ton of YA books so I just happen to focus on the small things). It was engaging. It’s different than most Christian YA novels. I hated the ending merely because I desperately want to know what happens next (excited for book 2!). I really felt for the characters and was completely drawn in.

Spiritually, the novel approaches the things of God in a kind of vague, but still there way. It’s complicated to explain, but I love how she shows that Jesus is who you need him to be at the time you need him there (this may sound vague, but if you read the book, you’ll understand). I also love that though Talia really likes Lagan, she turns to prayer first and foremost and doesn’t rely on Lagan to fix her situation.

Overall, if you love YA fiction, get this book!

Romantic Scale: 8.9

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Posted in Contemporary

Susan May Warren’s It Had to Be You

About

Eden Christiansen never imagined her role as her younger brother Owen’s cheerleader would keep her on the sidelines of her own life. Sure, it feels good to be needed, but looking after the reckless NHL rookie leaves little time for Eden to focus on her own career. She dreamed of making a name for herself as a reporter, but is stuck writing obits—and starting to fear she doesn’t have the chops to land a major story. If only someone would step up to mentor Owen . . . but she knows better than to expect help from team veteran and bad-boy enforcer Jace Jacobsen.

Jace has built his career on the infamous reputation of his aggressive behavior—on and off the ice. Now at a crossroads about his future in hockey, that reputation has him trapped. And the guilt-trip he’s getting from Eden Christiansen isn’t making things any easier. But when Owen’s carelessness leads to a career-threatening injury and Eden stumbles upon a story that could be her big break, she and Jace are thrown together . . . and begin to wonder if they belong on the same team after all.

Review

This novel is the second book about the Christiansen family. The first one, for me, was a solid read. This one, however, I didn’t want to put down. Maybe it was just the lure of Jace, he is quite the hero. And a great hero can make for a great novel. So, here are things I noticed about the book:

Eden was a borderline heroine for me. I’ve noticed that I’m fairly harsh to the females in romance novels, so I really tried to put myself in her shoes, with her thoughts. And while this helped me understand her a bit more, she still managed to come off a bit self-absorbed sometimes. That said, I really liked that she was straightforward and so the novel didn’t suffer from self-absorbed-ness and lack of communication. Yet, there were times where I really liked her. And so, she was on the tightrope as a heroine.

Jace was amazing (why do men’s flaws make more sense?!). He’s a hockey player who is trying to redo his image. He’s also a good friend and someone who cares for others deeply. He does have a tendency to jump the gun, but I think he does a great job fixing it. I really did like him with Eden though. There’s a lot of chemistry there and more importantly you could really see them fall for each other and that was cute.

There’s this great side mystery in the book that brings Jace and Eden together. It’s kind of a sad mystery (when you find out all the facts), but completely intriguing.

Ms. Warren has a tendency in these novels to have two romances running alongside each other. Well, not so much in this one. It’s more like one romance and Jace’s friend’s pov. And frankly, I liked it more that way.

Spiritually, there is a lot going on, but what struck me is how you have to trust that God loves you and cares about you far more that you can grasp or think.

Overall, this is a wonderful novel and it reminded why I love Susan May Warren. I will admit, it deals with some tough topics that may play with your heart a bit, but you won’t want to put it down.

Romantic Scale: 9

P.S. Really enjoyed the prequel as well!

Posted in Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense

Steven James’ Singularity

About

When his friend is murdered, illusionist Jevin Banks is determined to find out what really happened. Drawn into a web of conspiracy and top-secret research on human consciousness, Jevin won’t stop digging until the truth is revealed. Soon he uncovers a dark secret–one that could change the very fabric of human life on the planet.

Bristling with mystery, suspense, and intrigue, Singularity is the second riveting book in The Jevin Banks Experience. Readers will devour this scientific thriller, flipping pages late into the night until the final shocking page.

Review

What I liked about this book:

The suspense! Mr. James knows how to keep you on the edge of your seat. The buildup, in certain parts of the book, was amazing.

Jevin Banks is a magician. It’s such an original concept and I’m so glad that his tricks take center stage a couple of times in this book. Unlike in the first novel, Jevin Banks actually performs in Vegas.

This may sound more complicated, but I liked that Jevin Banks doesn’t quiet play detective, and yet he does. He’s not quite as smooth as Patrick Bowers (I can’t help but compare!) and that’s perfect, because he’s not a detective.

The creepy, scary bad guys. No one does it quite like Steven James.

Charlene. There’s a bit more weight on the romance. Oh. Yes.

Spiritually, it is God’s love that separates from evil. Without Him, we are predisposed to do anything.

What I didn’t like:

Research. It felt like a lot of research was done in this book and with good reason. However, I found myself not as interested in the scientific explanations for things.

It seemed a bit too convenient that every time there was something Jevin didn’t know, one of the six people around him did know the answer. They just had it like that.

Teaching. There were moments when I felt like someone was trying to get a point across that often had very little to do with the mystery and very much to do with, um, for example, homeschooling. Yes Fiona and your four children. I’m looking at you.

Overall, a very interesting read that will have you thinking. Though it probably wasn’t my favorite Steven James novel, if you have read his other books and liked them, you will like this one.

Romantic scale: 6.5

**I received this novel from Netgalley. My opinion was not affected in any way.**

Posted in Contemporary

Amy Matayo’s The Wedding Game

About

Cannon James has a plan: Sign on as a contestant for his father’s new reality show, marry a blonde hand-picked by the producers, and walk away two million dollars richer. It’s all been arranged. Easy. Clean. No regrets. Until Ellie McAllister ruins everything by winning the viewer’s vote. Now he has to convince America that he’s head over heels in love with her. Not easy to do since she’s a walking disaster.

Ellie McAllister has her own problems. She needs money, and she needs it now. Despite her parent’s objections and her belief that marriage is sacred, she signs on to The Wedding Game…and wins. Now she’s married to a guy she can’t stand, and if she wants her hands on the money, she has six months to make voters believe she loves him. Not easy to do since he’s the most arrogant man in America.

It doesn’t take long for Ellie and Cannon to realize they’ve made a mess of things…even less time for their feelings for one another to change. But is it too late for them? More importantly, can the worst decision they’ve ever made actually become one of the best?

Review

What I liked about this book: The concept. It was different, fresh, funny, clever and I could see the potential romance right off the bat. The first page pulled me right in and I was thoroughly engrossed. Sometimes you need some light chick lit to read and this one completely fit that bill. Though Cannon and Ellie had issues to deal with, at the heart of this novel is romance. I also really liked that this was not a love at first sight kind of novel. Cannon and Ellie had some real problems with each other and I liked that it took them time to learn to like and eventually fall in love with each other.

What I didn’t like: the deception. Cannon and Ellie each had a secret that they kept from each other, which in my opinion was totally understandable in the beginning. However, there is a certain point in the novel where circumstances changed. And once that happened, I failed to understand why they were keeping secrets from each other. It kind of felt like the novel was being made longer and so I got kind of irritated with Cannon and Ellie.

Spiritually….well…let me just begin by saying that when writing Christian novels you are, to a degree, limited to certain types of circumstances because there are just some situations you ought not find yourself in. This is one of them. That said, Ellie fully recognizes that she had stopped trusting God to handle her problems and that she must learn to let Him be in control. Cannon, on the other hand, though he prays, there’s never really a moment where you can believe that he has a relationship with God. Yet, again, I totally understand what the author was doing. I felt like the novel was going for pure entertainment and fun and that’s what I got.

Romantic Scale: 8.9

Posted in Contemporary

Katherine Reay’s Dear Mr. Knightly

About

Samantha Moore has always hidden behind the words of others—namely, her favorite characters in literature. Now, she will learn to write her own story—by giving that story to a complete stranger.

Sam is, to say the least, bookish. An English major of the highest order, her diet has always been Austen, Dickens, and Shakespeare. The problem is, both her prose and conversation tend to be more Elizabeth Bennet than Samantha Moore.

But life for the twenty-three-year-old orphan is about to get stranger than fiction. An anonymous, Dickensian benefactor (calling himself Mr. Knightley) offers to put Sam through Northwestern University’s prestigious Medill School of Journalism. There is only one catch: Sam must write frequent letters to the mysterious donor, detailing her progress.

As Sam’s dark memory mingles with that of eligible novelist Alex Powell, her letters to Mr. Knightley become increasingly confessional. While Alex draws Sam into a world of warmth and literature that feels like it’s straight out of a book, old secrets are drawn to light. And as Sam learns to love and trust Alex and herself, she learns once again how quickly trust can be broken.

Reminding us all that our own true character is not meant to be hidden, Reay’s debut novel follows one young woman’s journey as she sheds her protective persona and embraces the person she was meant to become.

Review

Dear Ms. Reay,

I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed this book! When I first heard about it, I was so excited! How did you know I love epistolary novels? How did you know Daddy Long Legs is one of my favorite books (not the movie, per se, Fred Astaire came off as a bit creepy lol)? And that Emma was my favorite Jane Austen novel? Mr. Knightly far surpasses Darcy in my opinion. And then, to top if off, the novel took place in my hometown of Chicago! Amazing.

I will say, that at first, I was nervous, because to do a kind of remake might not have turned out so well. Let me just say, that Samantha is her own person and infuses the novel with her personality. I loved everything about her. Her insecurities, her love of reading, and her awkwardness.  I even liked her age and dealing with grad school and finding a job (yes, that might be about where I am in life). Her experiences felt real. I know people like that. And the guy? I loved him on so many different levels, even when he messed up. I thought the romance was beautifully done, real and raw. I did however wish that it wasn’t tied up so quickly. I wish there could be a book two. I want to see more of Sam and her guy together.

As an English major with a love for all things British, I felt like you got me. I recognized the quotes, I understood the references, I got it. None Austen-Bronte fans may not get every reference, but for those of us who do, the novel was very rich.

Spiritually, I loved how you showed God’s love through his people and how you can do things your way, but only God will bring you contentment and joy.*

Overall, Ms. Reay, this novel warmed my heart and made me want to immediately reread it again. Loved your novel, and I look forward to anything you write from here on!

Your new biggest fan,

remaininhislove

*For my sensitive readers, there is a swear word in the novel that may or may not be jarring.

Romantic Scale: 9.5

**I received this novel from Netgalley. My opinion was not affected in any way.**

Posted in Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense

Irene Hannon’s Trapped

About

When Laura Griffith’s sixteen-year-old sister disappears on a frigid February day, leaving only a brief note behind, Laura resolves to do whatever it takes to track down the runaway teen. That includes recruiting ATF agent turned private investigator James Devlin to help. Dev knows time is of the essence with runaways–just forty-eight hours can mean the difference between recovery and ruin.

But the deeper he and Laura dig, the more Dev begins to suspect that something sinister is at work in the girl’s disappearance. And in the icy winter weather, the trail is going cold . . .

In her latest thrilling read, queen of romantic suspense Irene Hannon outdoes herself with a fast-paced tale of fear, deception, and just the right dose of romance.

Review

I’m always glad when a new mystery novel comes out by Ms. Hannon. Her novels are fun and easy to read and this is one is no different. With Trapped, we are back with the Phoenix PIs and this time Devlin is on the hotseat. Devlin is a very rich character with a strong personality and a complex background. He is immediately a character the reader can trust. Laura is the same way, and you can’t help but like her. The only thing is, if you have read all of Ms. Hannon’s books (like me), they do come off as a tad bit familiar (but this won’t detract from the story at all).

This mystery was a bit heavy on the romance (the best kind!). The only thing was that there were these moments of mental checklist in the book that though it fit their personalities, kind of lacked a natural flow. It went like this nice guy? check; pays his bills on time? check; doesn’t talk back to his mama? check. Don’t get me wrong, people definitely do that in real life, however it just stood out to me here. There was also this kind of instant-attraction thing where there was no rhyme or reason why Laura was “the one” for Devlin. That said, I enjoyed the balance of romance and mystery and some of the greatest parts of the novel are when Laura and Devlin are together.

As for the mystery, Ms. Hannon, in my opinion really shines with her bad guys (not quite so sure what that says about her :)). They all manage to be unique and scary in their own way and this guy is a nut if ever there was one. Darcy is a bit hard to like though because  she come across as selfish and a bit…um…naive at first, but I do like the way she deals with the bad guy. This is not a who-dun-it novel but how to find out they dun it kind of mystery. I enjoyed the process of watching Laura and Devlin figure that person out.

Spiritually, you have Laura who works as the spiritual rock in this book and it’s nice to see her lean on God. You definitely get the impression that she has a close relationship with God. I would have to say the theme is turning to God in times of trouble.

Overall, a fun read that has the pages turning quickly!

Romantic scale: 8

**I received a copy of this novel from Netgalley. My opinion was not affected in any way.**

Posted in Contemporary

Melissa Tagg’s Made to Last

About

Miranda Woodruff has it all. At least, that’s how it looks when she’s starring in her homebuilding television show, From the Ground Up. So when her network begins to talk about making cuts, she’ll do anything to boost ratings and save her show–even if it means pretending to be married to a man who’s definitely not the fiance who ran out on her three years ago.

When a handsome reporter starts shadowing Miranda’s every move, all his digging into her personal life brings him a little too close to the truth–and to her. Can the girl whose entire identity is wrapped up in her on-screen persona finally find the nerve to set the record straight? And if she does, will the life she’s built come crashing down just as she’s found a love to last?

Review

Am I the only here who is not a fan of deception? It never really ends up well. And then I read this novel. It appeared to me that Ms. Tagg read the usual deception novels and flipped them. I can not tell you how pleased I was with the way this novel turned out! So, what I loved about it?

The characters. All of them. Blaze was fascinating (does he get his own book?), Matthew handled everything gracefully, Miranda’s best friends were full of personality. Their reactions in the novel were often hilarious and yet, realistic. Miranda’s struggle for acceptance with God in spite of her past was real.

I liked that Ms. Tagg also didn’t go the way I thought she would with this story. I kept having to ask myself, now how is all this going to work out (sorry, this review will be vague, too many possible spoilers). But the ending was nice and really worked out well.

The romance was light and fluffy and though I usually enjoy more serious romances, it really fit the story.

What I didn’t like:

Matthew beating himself up so much. He messed up once, but it wasn’t the end of the world.

The novel didn’t pull me in right away, and my own frustration with deception had me hesitant to continue (don’t hesitate, it’s all going to work out fine!)

Overall, a great contemporary romance that you will enjoy!

Romantic scale: 7.5

**I received this novel from Netgalley. My opinion was not affected in any way.**