Thursday, June 11, 2015

Hearts Made Whole {by Jody Hedlund}

Hearts Made Whole by Jody Hedlund
Title: Hearts Made Whole
Author: Jody Hedlund
Series: Beacons of Hope, #2
Genre: Christian Historical Romance
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Source: publisher

After her father’s death, Caroline Taylor has grown confident running the Windmill Point Lighthouse. But in 1865 Michigan, women aren’t supposed to have such roles, so it’s only a matter of time before the lighthouse inspector appoints a new keeper–even though Caroline has nowhere else to go and no other job available to her.
Ryan Chambers is a Civil War veteran still haunted by the horrors of battle. He’s been given the post as lighthouse keeper, and the isolation where he can drown in drink and hide from his past is appealing. He’s not expecting the current keeper to be a feisty and beautiful woman who’s none-too-pleased to be giving up her position. They both quickly realize he’s in no shape to run the lighthouse, but Ryan’s unwilling to let anyone close, ravaged by memories and guilt. Caroline’s drawn to this wounded soul, but with both of them relying on that single position, can they look past their loss to a future filled with hope…and possibly love?

I will admit, the first in this series was my favorite. However, this was a light, enjoyable read as well. This book follow's the brother of the MC from the first book. He's now grown-up, has fought in the war, and is coming back broken and disabled, trying to put his life back together. He ends up getting a job as a lighthouse keeper. The only problem? The current lighthouse keeper, who is being kicked out of the job simply because she is a woman. She has four younger siblings to take care of, and no way to take care of them now.

I think this one definitely dealt with some deeper and darker issues than the first one. Ryan has a serious problem with drinking and being addicted to his pain pills. But slowly we get to see the person he is underneath, the person he is trying to get back to. Caroline is a strong character. First being a mother to her siblings, and then taking over the lighthouse duties when her father died, as well as running the house. And now, being kicked out only because she's a woman.

This was your typical light romance story. There was a darker sense of mystery and foreboding around it that added a layer of complexity and interest. It was still a pretty light and fast read, but enjoyable.

This review can also be found on   Goodreads

Jody Hedlund:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads

Friday, June 5, 2015

Charlie, Presumed Dead {by Anne Heltzel}

Charlie, Presumed Dead by Anne Heltzel}
Title: Charlie, Presumed Dead
Author: Anne Heltzel
Genre: YA/NA Contemporary/Mystery
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Source: NetGalley
In Paris, family and friends gather to mourn the tragic passing of Charlie Price—young, handsome, charming, a world-traveler—who is presumed dead after an explosion. Authorities find only a bloodied jacket, ID’d as Charlie’s. At the funeral, two teens who are perfect strangers, Lena Whitney and Aubrey Boroughs, make another shocking discovery: they have both been dating Charlie, both think Charlie loved them and them alone, and there is a lot they didn’t know about their boyfriend. Over the next week, a mind-bending trip unfolds: first in London—then in Mumbai, Kerala, and Bangkok, the girls go in search of Charlie. Is he still alive? What did their love for him even mean? The truth is out there, but soon it becomes clear that the girls are harboring secrets of their own.
No one knows whom to trust in this thrilling tale of suspense and deception.

I was mixed on this one. I'm not super into mysteries or thrillers but this one caught my attention. I did enjoy it, and it kept me wondering. While it did have its ups and downs, I did think it was executed well.

Aubrey flies across the ocean to London to attend the funeral of her boyfriend when she makes a shocking discovery: he had another girlfriend. And while Aubrey was kept secret from his family, everyone knew about Lena. When the two girls come face-to-face, they agree that something suspicious is going on, and set out to discover what it is. Lena is sure that Charlie isn't actually dead, while Aubrey has a terrible secret she needs to make sure no one finds out.

I thought both the characters were established very well. Although it was dual perspective, both girls remained clear and separate. These girls can barely trust each other, yet they set out to London, India, Bangkok together to find out the truth. I loved how they came to a friendship, even though they still are uneasy. Both are harboring secrets, but realize they have to trust each other to make it work. Both girls have never really had best friends before, so this is new for them. I thought their characters were built up very well and grew very well.

The plot also kept me guessing. There were some things that I did not see coming. The story was suspenseful and exciting, and even takes a deadly turn. However, some things were built up only to fall flat. I also had issue with the ending, which was quite abrupt. I went into it thinking it was a standalone, and now I'm not sure. I did love the different settings, and even the surprise of a third perspective I won't say because of spoilers. But it brought a depth and interest to the story.

All in all, I think this story was well done. While it was mysterious, I'm not sure how much of a "thriller" it was. Although there were some plot twists, some things also fell flat. But I did love the characters and how they change and grow. However, if there were to be a sequel, I'm not necessarily sure that I would read it.
This review can also be found on   Goodreads

Anne Heltzel:

Website | Twitter | Instagram | tumblr | Goodreads

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Because You'll Never Meet Me {by Leah Thomas}

Because You'll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas
Title: Because You'll Never Meet Me
Author: Leah Thomas
Genre: YA Contemporary
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Source: NetGalley
Ollie and Moritz are best friends, but they can never meet. Ollie is allergic to electricity. Contact with it causes debilitating seizures. Moritz’s weak heart is kept pumping by an electronic pacemaker. If they ever did meet, Ollie would seize. But Moritz would die without his pacemaker. Both hermits from society, the boys develop a fierce bond through letters that become a lifeline during dark times—as Ollie loses his only friend, Liz, to the normalcy of high school and Moritz deals with a bully set on destroying him.
A story of impossible friendship and hope under strange circumstances, this debut is powerful, dark and humorous in equal measure. These extraordinary voices bring readers into the hearts and minds of two special boys who, like many teens, are just waiting for their moment to shine.

Wow. Guys, I loved this one. It was amazing. It was a wholly unique plot, which drew me in from the beginning. It was told with such a unique and strong voice that it's almost hard to believe that this is a debut.

This story is told in letters, which makes it all the more interesting. We follow two boys who live across the ocean from each other. Ollie lives in a cabin in the woods with just his mother, because he is allergic to electricity. He's missed out on all the normal childhood experiences. Moritz, while not a hermit, also has some...interesting issues that keep him from people. While he still has to go to school, he keeps to himself in hopes that people will not find out what is actually wrong with him. On top of that, his pacemaker means he and Ollie can never actually meet.

I love that this was a guy friendship book. I feel as if there's not nearly enough of those out there, and I really loved this bromance between the two. Thomas also managed to keep their voices distinct, which is a hard thing to do, especially in letter form. But she built up both the characters complexly, separately. Ollie is fun, quirky. Only having known a handful of people in his life, he doesn't adhere to normal social rules. I thought he was hilarious, although his super-happy outlook on life is often hiding his loneliness and despair. Ollie decides to write Moritz his autobiography of sorts, leading up to whatever happened with his friend, Liz. Moritz is a bit darker, closed in, he has a very cynical and angry outlook on life. I loved these characters, and I thought they were written very well. Both we complex and interesting and different.

But slowly, the boys begin opening up to each other, and become best friends. They help each other through dark times. Moritz is dealing with some serious bullying at school, and Ollie is spiraling deeper into despair over what happened with Liz. Both boys have some heavy baggage, and we slowly get to see it unfold. We get past rememberings with present happenings, and it all comes together to make one beautiful, complex story.

At the end, things come to light that take a turn from contemporary. Some people have said that it takes more of a Sci-Fi turn. I loved it. It wasn't what I was expecting, but it added an air of intrigue. I'm not sure that I would call it Sci-Fi, but just maybe not so realistic. I loved this book so much, and I'm not sure I was quite ready to say goodbye to Ollie and Moritz.

This review can also be found on   Goodreads

Leah Thomas:

Twitter | Goodreads

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Conviction {by Kelly Loy Gilbert}

Conviction by Kelly Loy Gilbert
Title: Conviction
Author: Kelly Loy Gilbert
Genre: YA Contemporary
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Source: NetGalley
Ten years ago, God gave Braden a sign, a promise that his family wouldn’t fall apart the way he feared.
But Braden got it wrong: his older brother, Trey, has been estranged from the family for almost as long, and his father, the only parent Braden has ever known, has been accused of murder. The arrest of Braden’s father, a well-known Christian radio host, has sparked national media attention. His fate lies in his son’s hands; Braden is the key witness in the upcoming trial.
Braden has always measured himself through baseball. He is the star pitcher in his small town of Ornette, and his ninety-four-mile-per-hour pitch already has minor league scouts buzzing in his junior year. Now the rules of the sport that has always been Braden’s saving grace are blurred in ways he never realized, and the prospect of playing against Alex Reyes, the nephew of the police officer his father is accused of killing, is haunting his every pitch.
Braden faces an impossible choice, one that will define him for the rest of his life, in this brutally honest debut novel about family, faith, and the ultimate test of conviction

I loved this one. I wasn't sure about it going in, because I've never really been a fan of sports books, but this one was so much more than baseball. It was unique, distinct, thrilling, and emotional.
At first, Braden may seem like a simple character. But don't let that fool you. He is complex, with many layers that we slowly see peeled away. He lives a simple life with his father, where baseball is pretty much his whole life. His brother left as soon as he could, leaving Braden feeling abandoned. Then, Braden's father is accused of murder, and his brother Trey has to come back to watch over him until the trial is over.
The story is also told a lot in flashbacks, leading up to what actually happened that night. While Braden looks like he has it all together, we see that is not actually the case. There are a lot of sides to his dad as well, and things start coming to light as the story progresses. This gives the story a sense of mystery and suspense, as we wait to see what happened.
Braden is also trying to find himself. His dad is a famous Christian radio host, so Braden has had a lot stuffed down his throat. While there is religion in this book, it's not necessarily religious. Braden is trying to figure out what he believes. This book deals with a lot, from faith to race to who Braden actually is. This book deals with a lot of gray areas. Things aren't always black and white, and that's a hard place to navigate for a teen on his own.
Like I said, this book deals with a lot of gray. Braden may make mistakes, but he learns from them. He's learning who he is, and that he isn't who his father made him to be. He also learns things about his father, his brother, that he didn't know before, and they shake his world. I think this book did a great job of dealing with those issues and those gray areas. It was definitely an emotional ride, the farther we get and the more we see his father. And the way everything could be metaphorically tied back to baseball was quite beautiful. This was an amazing story.
This review can also be found on   Goodreads

Kelly Loy Gilbert:

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads