Between Heaven and the Real World: My Story

HeavenAuthor: Steven Curtis Chapman

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: March 7, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

An in-depth look at one of Christian music’s most popular artist that will pull at the heart-strings of every reader.

Steven Curtis Chapman has been one of the most popular artist in the Christian music world for decades. His life has been shaped by tragedy, heartache, and blessings.  In Between Heaven and the Real World, Chapman shares these events with readers in an exclusive look at his childhood through his upbringing to meeting his wife and the family they have built together.  His story is one that some of his fans may be aware of, but many aspects of his life that he shares in the book will be new to even his most devoted fans making this book worth reading.

I have been a fan of Christian music for about fifteen years and Steven Curtis Chapman is a name I have heard frequently over the years. Most of his story is new to me and it is a very important story for fans to read.  His openness to share even the hardest parts of his life is refreshing.  He didn’t try to sugar coat even the toughest parts of his life, and there were some very difficult tragedies he has experienced.  Reading about the death of his daughter, especially the way it happened, brought me to tears.  I had a hard time getting through that part, but I’m glad I did.  The way the family overcame that tragedy showed their faith and the way worked through things was nice to see, even more so when it is said that 95% of families that experience a death of a child don’t stay together.  The whole family dealt with the tragedy in different ways, but were still able to find comfort in each other.  One of the nicest things was how real and refreshing the story was.  I didn’t want to pick this up and not feel it was authentic, (especially since it was written with someone).  Fans of Steven Curtis Chapman have nothing to worry about, he shines through on every page from learning about the behind the scenes aspects of some of his greatest songs to the struggles his marriage has faced.  It was a joy to read this and it makes me look forward to hearing songs by him on the radio even more.  I recommend this book to fans of Chapman’s music and also those that might be struggling in their faith that could gain something from the stories in this book.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Allie and Bea

AllieAuthor: Catherine Ryan Hyde

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

Release Date: May 23, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

I always forget how much I enjoy Catherine Ryan Hyde books until I pick them up. This might just be the best I have read by her.

After Bea’s husband died, she was able to get by, but just barely. That is, until she falls for a telephone scam that takes everything she has.  She leaves her small trailer behind and sets of in her van towards the Pacific Ocean with only her cat and easy chair in the back of the van.  After a short while on her journey, she runs into fifteen-year-old Allie who is on her own after her parents are put in jail for tax fraud and she was put in a group home.  Things in the group home are worse than she could have imagined, but not as bad as other places she could, and almost does, end up.  Fate throws the two together and they have to learn to trust each other.  As they journey up the Pacific Coast, they find that even though they were thrown together under unusual circumstances, maybe things won’t be as bad as they thought.

Allie and Bea is a very heartwarming novel on several levels.  If at first you think you are not going to enjoy this book, I encourage you to give it a little time.  Divided up into sections, one following Bea and the other following Allie, we get to see the story from the viewpoints of both characters and what they go through in order to end up in the place that ultimately throws them together.  At first it didn’t seem logical that their paths would cross, but Hyde did a beautiful job of bringing them together in a way that flowed with the story.  It took each of their life experiences to be able to help the other.  If Bea hadn’t gone through what she did, she never would have been there to help Allie when she desperately needed help. And if Allie hadn’t been through what she had, she wouldn’t have been able to help Bea in the way she needed also.  The way Hyde wove these characters together and the relationship they had was done in a way that I didn’t once question if this was what the characters would naturally do, it just made sense.  I felt for both Allie and Bea with what they went through and rejoiced in their triumphs and even had a few laughs. This book is full of life lessons and showing that family is not all about being related by blood, sometimes it is about so much more than what is in our DNA.

I have found with each new Catherine Ryan Hyde novel I read, I am continually adding her to my list of favorite authors.  I recommend this book to anyone who wants a good read that will help them think about how they view those around them and even restore a little faith in humanity at times.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Kitty Hawk and the Icelandic Intrigue

Kitty Hawk3Author: Iain Reading

Series: Kitty Hawk Flying Detective Agency #3

Publisher: Create Space

Release Date: April 19, 2013

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Kitty Hawk is back on her next adventure that takes her to the rugged landscape of Iceland and her strangest case yet.

Continuing her flight around the world, Kitty Hawk arrives in Reykjavik Iceland. Her friend Charlie has found her a nice place to stay with friends of his to help her get the real, authentic Icelandic experience.  As she finds herself in the land of Vikings, volcanoes, and even trolls and elves, she discovers the true beauty of the land and what some of the locals are willing to do to keep it from being changed too much.  As she explores and makes new friends, Kitty finds herself in more danger and surrounded by more mystery and intrigue than ever before.

As the third installment in the Kitty Hawk series takes us to Iceland, I found myself having trouble warming up to this one. The story itself is good and fast paced, but for me it didn’t take me as deep into the story as I would have liked.  I just didn’t feel a real connection with the characters as I did in the first two.  Kitty herself is still on top of finding herself in the middle of a whole mess of trouble.  It seems that she has a knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time in order to help solve the mystery, but isn’t that the case with most mysteries?  This series is still a great read for young adults looking for adventure and to learn a little about different areas around the world.  The setting was set up very well and maybe that was part of my problem, this is not an area I have a desire to go so it didn’t interest me as much.  I will recommend this to young readers ready for an adventure and even older readers looking to familiarize themselves with the landscape before going.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Kitty Hawk and the Hunt for Hemingway’s Ghost

Kitty HawkAuthor: Iain Reading

Series: Kitty Hawk Flying Detective Agency #2

Publisher: Create Space

Release Date: September 11, 2013

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A fun adventure for kids that is just as intriguing and better written than the first in the series.

Kitty Hawk is back on another crazy adventure. She still wants to follow in the footsteps of her hero Amelia Earhart and make her own epic flight around the world.  This time her travels take her to Florida where she plans to relax before continuing.  The Florida Keys is a magical place for many and Kitty gets caught up in the magic of shipwrecks, treasure and ghost stories of Ernest Hemingway she wonders if she is in over her head.

The second installment in the Kitty Hawk series is even better than the first. Reading seems to have found his grove in writing the young adventures.  There was a little more down time in this book that had Kitty just relaxing and not going strong, which made me yearn to get back to the action.  I enjoyed that compared to the previous book, this one did not have near the amount of harsh language, especially since these are geared towards young readers.  The setting was very beautifully done, it made me want to go explore the area.  There was a great history about the story and I loved the Hemingway aspect of it and how it tied in with the missing treasure.  The short chapters are a plus for young readers so they don’t get bored with long chapters.  My only concern with this book is with the format.  The chapters are short, which is great, but the print is so small it makes reading one page seem like reading three and that is a problem for the younger readers.  I will still recommend this to young readers that are looking for a fun adventure book.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

I Found You

I found youAuthor: Lisa Jewell

Publisher: Atria Books

Release Date: April 25, 2017

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

I almost gave up on this, but found it a worthwhile read by the end.

A back and forth story between time and characters that weaves their stories together. Set in a British seaside town, single mom Alice finds a man sitting on the beach with no memory of who he is or how he got there.  Against her better judgement, she invites him inside and ties to help him.  In London, Lily Monrose is trying to find her husband of three weeks who has disappeared.  The police are saying his passport is fake making her think she never really knew him.  The scenes set in the past explore Gray and Kirsty who are on vacation with their parents.  They meet a young man who quickly becomes infatuated with Kirsty, which makes Gray uneasy.

At about a third to halfway through this book, I almost gave up but decided to keep going. Even though it wasn’t the best overall, the last third of the book was really well done with the suspense brought to an even higher level.  The back and forth between timelines and characters got a little confusing, especially with one having lost his memory.  It can be difficult to juggle multiple narratives but Jewell did a pretty good job.  At first it can seem a little out of sorts and confusing but it all ties up in the end nicely.  I was a little worried at first that it wouldn’t tie together, but Jewell was able to tie up all loose ends without causing me to eye roll (which has happened on more than one occasion with more than one author).  If I hadn’t finished I would have only given this a two star but having stuck with it to the end I will give it four.  I recommend this to readers that enjoy a good mystery that will make you think.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

What Hope Remembers

What hope remembersAuthor: Johnnie Alexander

Series: Misty Willow #3

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: May 2, 2017

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

The third installment in the Misty Willow books brings the heat and is a pleasant addition to the charming series.

Gabe Kendall has decided to try and make a fresh start at his aunt’s horse ranch. Having just been released from prison, he is skeptical of being found trustworthy anywhere he goes.  As he goes for a ride one day, he bumps into a face from the past, Amy Somers.  He has been in love with her since he was a teenager, but fell out of contact for many years.  He doesn’t think she will ever want to be with him after finding out about his past.  The thing Gabe doesn’t know is that Amy has a past and secrets of her own, some she isn’t proud of either.  Can these two let go of what has been holding them back and find a way to move forward?  Or are they going to be stuck in their own self-made prisons?

What Hope Remembers is a nice addition to the Misty Willow books.  The nice thing is you don’t have to read them all to enjoy each one individually.  It has been a while since I read the previous in the series and didn’t remember a whole lot going into this one, but that didn’t keep me from connecting with the characters and enjoying the story.  I did think that both Gabe and Amy were a little too hard on themselves at times.  Yes, they made mistakes, and yes, they had things in the past neither was proud of, but that was all they seemed to think about for most of the book.  The last quarter of the book was the best, the suspense kicked in and made the pages fly.  I think fans of the series, and the author, will really enjoy this one.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

It Started With Goodbye

It Started With GoodbyeAuthor: Christina June

Publisher: Blink YA Books

Release Date: May 9, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Sometimes being in the wrong place at the wrong time can lead to more than expected as Tatum Elsea finds out.

Tatum Elsea thinks she is about to have the worst summer of her life. She has just been given her punishment after being accused of a crime she didn’t commit.  She must pay a fine, do community service and be under the watchful eye of her stepmother.  To top it off, she has lost her best friend.  Her days are now filled with community service and working on her new graphic design business, something she is keeping secret from the rest of her family for now.  She is not the only one in the family keeping secrets, a fact that will change the relationships she has with those closest to her.  Tatum is ready for a fresh start and hoping for a happy ending.

It Started With Goodbye was a delightful read that had some of the best character development I have seen in a very long time.  The way the relationships with the characters changed throughout the course of the book was so natural.  Tatum’s relationship with many individuals changed so much and amazingly it all felt natural.  That is a difficult thing to accomplish.  I am spending a lot of time talking about the character development, but that is because it is the best I have seen in so long, it just blew me away.  I loved the way Christina June used the fact that sometimes being in the wrong place at the wrong time doesn’t always have to be a bad thing.  Even if at first it seems horrible, it can turn out to be good.  There are lessons to be learned from every situation we find ourselves in if we just take the opportunity to look for the lesson and take all we can from it.  I recommend this book to young adults looking for a good read but also one that will give them something to think about.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.