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Saturday, June 24, 2017

A Different Blue by Amy Harmon

Title: A Different Blue
Author: Amy Harmon
Publisher: 30 May 2017 by Spencer Hill Press
Pages: 330 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: young adult, romance contemporary
My Rating: 5 crowns


Blue Echohawk doesn't know who she is. She doesn't know her real name or when she was born. Abandoned at two and raised by a drifter, she didn't attend school until she was ten years old. At nineteen, when most kids her age are attending college or moving on with life, she is just a senior in high school. With no mother, no father, no faith, and no future, Blue Echohawk is a difficult student, to say the least. Tough, hard, and overtly sexy, she is the complete opposite of the young British teacher who decides he is up for the challenge, and takes the troublemaker under his wing.

This is the story of a nobody who becomes somebody. It is the story of an unlikely friendship, where hope fosters healing and redemption becomes love. But falling in love can be hard when you don't know who you are. Falling in love with someone who knows exactly who they are and exactly why they can't love you back might be impossible.

My Thoughts

‘What we believe affects our choices, our actions, and subsequently, our lives.’

Having read Amy’s previous books (though of a different genre - ‘The Bird and the Sword Chronicles’) I was intrigued to try something of hers that was not fantasy.  I went in with no real expectations, except knowing Amy to be a talented author, and in the end, was blown away by, ‘A Different Blue’. Amy Harmon can most certainly write, and this little book is really quite extraordinary in making you a part of Blue’s journey.

‘My life, my history, would be laid out before me like a movie script . . . complete with crime scenes and character descriptions. And like a movie script, none of it seemed real.’

This tale slowly and subtly creeps up on you, until you cannot put it down until complete. The power lies in it’s quiet reflections and intricately weaved sublayers. So many lessons here to learn from and move on from. Blue is a wonderful leading character with so many complexities that you cannot help but feel her hurt and pain. Then there is Wilson, this extraordinary caregiver, putting her first all the way through. The synopsis does not begin to convey the power of this book and I am so glad I went into this trusting the storytelling gifts of Amy.

‘My heart pounded in my throat and my mind screamed at me, demanding I catalog every detail of the event I had dreamed about but never dared hope for.’

Let me make it very clear, romance is not the sole focus here. This is a story about a girl and her journey of self discovery - literally and figuratively. Yes, Wilson (our leading man) assists with that but he is a guiding hand in what remains a story about Blue. Their relationship is a slow burn so as not to be drawn away from other key elements and the slow and steady evolution of their relationship is all the more rich for the gradual growth and understanding.

‘Why don’t you focus on where you’re going and less on where you come from?’

Then there is the symbolism which is infiltrated throughout, with again subtle ties to Native American legends, woven both perfectly and poignantly. Often reading like a history lesson, there is much to love and appreciate here.

Amy Harmon's writing is beautiful and lyrical and this book holds such depth and soul, sorrow and pain, hope and humor, with moments that will simply steal your heart away. Do yourself a favour and go read some Amy Harmon. You won’t be disappointed.
‘Who we are is made up of the little choices, the little acts, the little moments that comprise our lives, day after day.’


This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Along Country Roads by Mandy Magro

Title: Along Country Roads
Author: Mandy Magro
Publisher: 22 May 2017 by Harlequin (Australia), Teen/Mira
Pages: 320 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: womens fiction, romance
My Rating: 3 crowns


Can love ever be enough to heal two damaged souls?

On the run from her troubled past in a stolen four-wheel drive, Matilda Denver seeks the sanctuary of sleepy Moonstone Valley where she hopes to heal and make a fresh start. But her plans go awry when the vehicle breaks down and she's stranded at the side of a deserted country road.

Ryan Hunter, after working himself into the ground at his interstate truck-driving job since his sister's death, is making his last run before a well-earned month off. On the last stretch home, he happens across a beautiful woman and scraggy dog hitchhiking. It's not long before he connects Matilda's bruises to her past and what she's on the run from. He instinctively wants to protect Matilda and offers her a place to stay at Heartsong Hills.

Although both battling their own demons, they start to discover how much they have in common – and soon they're also battling the strong desire to fall hard for one another. But when Ryan tries to help by organising for the four-wheel drive to be fixed, he unwittingly gives away Matilda's location and her life may be on the line. Can Ryan find her before it's too late?

My Thoughts

Having read Mandy’s previous book, I was looking forward to another escape to the country. All the right ingredients are there for an enjoyable escape as Mandy portrays real characters facing real issues, thus ensuring that the reader is always engaged. There is a bit of background mystery to our two main leads in this tale which helps to build the tension. Add to the mix a sincere and swoon worthy male lead, a female looking to break free and some wonderful secondary characters, even including the stray dog Huckleberry, and what you have here is some great escapism.

‘They were both too broken to be anything other than friends.’

On a serious note, this is a heartbreaking look at the trauma of domestic violence to all of those involved. Nothing is left unturned here as an authentic portrayal of perpetrator, victim and victim’s family are all given credence in this tale. I also appreciated the inclusion of a look at anxiety and how it can inhibit individuals to a staggering degree. I believe Mandy uses this medium to take the opportunity to present serious issues in today’s society and, especially concerning the anxiety attacks some useful strategies, and I applaud her for that.

‘It was a terrible illness and people often shunned those who experienced it because they didn’t understand it. But given the right tools, panic attacks were something to never fear again.’

Unfortunately this one did not quite hit the mark for me, despite the commendable stance taken on some relevant issues. Even though you know what you are getting in for in picking up these lovely rural romances, I found this one to be somewhat cliched. The ‘insta-love’ in the first few hours of meeting was sadly unbelievable for me, as were a few coincidental outcomes.

‘She couldn’t help but admire Ryan’s depth—she’d never met a man quite like him.’
I would still read Mandy again as her detailed Aussie outback locations are always inviting.  Combine that with her efforts to always bring a different slant to the usual formulaic approaches on this genre, and one is always assured of some fruitful time spent reading.

‘You read much?’ ‘Whenever I can. It’s my way of shutting off from the world for a while.’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release