StarPassage Book Three: Honor and Mercy

Star Passage 3Author: Clark Rich Burbidge

Publisher: Deep River Books

Release Date: June 21, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

The time travel and adventures are more explosive than ever in the third installment of the this exciting series.

After his adventures with the Star, Mike wants to help others around him struggling which may end up causing more trouble than any of them could foresee. The leader of the Trackers has made it to the present time and has plans to cause problems for all those involved in the Starpassages and more. The Tracker wants to use Mike’s new friend to bring the others down and take possession of the Star himself.  Now using the Star is a guessing game of danger and determining if it is worth the risk to travel becomes harder than ever.

The third book in the StarPassage series picks up right where the previous left off and takes us on more crazy adventures. The storyline continues as before with a back and forth between the Carsons’ and the Trackers giving us a view from each side.  In this installment, Burbidge dives deeper into the faith and Christianity than in the previous two books, but at no point does it get too preachy for the intended audience.  Young adults reading this are going to find this a fun read with the history lessons and the travel back and forth in time.  Not only is it an adventure but it is a chance to learn something fun for readers.  I was a little concerned that with all the travel back and forth and the changing of history we were going to see a ripple effect, and maybe that could work in to the next installment, but for die hard fantasy/science fiction fans they may have a small problem with that part of the story.  Overall this was a very enjoyable read and one I think kids 8-12 years of age will probably really enjoy.  I like the fact that it is a clean read and parents won’t have to worry about what their kids are reading and finding inappropriate material within. I can’t wait to get my hands on the next in the series.

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

StarPassage Book Two: Heroes and Martyrs

Star Passage 2Author: Clark Rich Burbidge

Publisher: Deep River Books

Release Date: July 27, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

With more time travel and adventure than the first, the next installment is sure to be an even bigger hit with readers.

The Carson family is back ready for another StarPassage adventure, this time with a new family. Brothers, bobby and Mike are having a hard time after an accident has left Mike in the hospital.  Bobby blames himself and is having trouble getting past what happened.  Together the brothers and the Carson’s travel first to D-Day and then to 9-11 to learn the lessons the star has for them and help others in the process.  During each time travel, they have to worry about the Trackers getting to them and the star, if that happens both the past and future could be in danger.

I have to say that the second book in the series is even better than the first. I felt like the action was ramped up causing me to feel more emotionally connected to the characters.  I really liked the way the author weaved the different time travel episodes together with the present and how the little changes affected each time period.  The addition of Bobby and Mike really helped the story.  For some reason, I felt like their relationship was more believable than Tim and Martie. Even in this book they have too good of a relationship, it just needs a little tension between the siblings to make the relationship connect and feel more real.  Overall this book was really enjoyable and I recommend it to readers that enjoy time travel mysteries with lots of action.

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

StarPassage Book One: The Relic

Star PassageAuthor: Clark Rich Burbidge

Publisher: Deep River Books

Release Date: June 30, 2016

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A fun time travel adventure for teens and adult readers alike!

After months of dealing with their parents’ problems involving their dad’s PTSD from war and the stress it has inflicted on their mom, Tim and Martie are afraid what might happen next. Christmas is supposed to be a happy time, but the family is so torn they have trouble finding anything to celebrate until an ancient Christmas ornament sends the siblings on an adventure across the country and back in time. Tim and Martie are not alone in their travels; a group of dark spirits travel as the star is used and want the power of the star for themselves.  The teens have to work hard to avoid these trackers and get home in one piece to try and save their family before it is too late.

I found StarPassage to be a fun read that surprised me at several points.  I didn’t totally know what to expect starting this but as I read I found myself enjoying the story and really bonding with the main characters.  I liked that these two teenagers were willing to do whatever they needed to do in order to save their family.  They even had several moments during their time travels that they had to choose to help others when it would knowingly put them in danger and they did it anyway.  They might have been on a mission but they didn’t put themselves above others, a good lesson for all.  There are elements of faith throughout but I don’t think it is enough to turn anyone off from reading this book.  The author did a great job of setting up the different times and settings for the readers, even those who might not be into history very much.  Overall this was a very enjoyable read and I am curious to see how the next in the series will continue the travels and see how these characters will continue to grow.

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

The Solace of Water

The Solace of WaterAuthor: Elizabeth Byler Younts

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: June 5, 2018

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A turbulent picture of life in the 1950s that sparks a relationship between an southern African American woman and a reclusive white Pennsylvania Amish woman.

Life is not easy for African Americans in Alabama in the 1950s. But for Delilah Evans, it just got a whole lot harder after losing her young son, Carver.  Her husband decides to move them from Montgomery to his homeplace of Sinking Creek, Pennsylvania, which borders on an Amish community.  There, Delilah strikes up an unlikely relationship with an Amish woman named Emma Mullet.  But even with friendship, everyone harbors secrets within their heart.  As social issues heat up between the whites, blacks, and Amish, all the secrets begin to come to light.  Is there hope for forgiveness and restoration?

I’m usually not a huge reader of Amish fiction, but this one was not your typical book either. There seems to be more of a trend in Amish fiction showing racial tensions with Amish at the center, but this is the first I’ve read with it focused during the civil rights era as most of it has been directed toward a dystopian setting.  The author did a fantastic job putting this all into place.  The entire story is emotionally gripping and kept me turning each page with the character transitions between Delilah, Emma, and Sparrow.  It was so difficult to decide who’s story I wanted to read more.  In the end, it was all intertwined but I just couldn’t help but love every minute of it.  My heart went out to these three women and I couldn’t imagine what they were going through.  Ultimately the theme of the book is redemption, which couldn’t be a more appropriate message.

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

What Blooms From Dust

What Blooms From DustAuthor: James Markert

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: June 26, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Beautifully written, yet mysterious novel of the Oklahoma Dust Bowl.

Just as the electricity was jolting into Jeremiah Goodbye in the electric chair, a tornado struck the prison freeing him and giving him a second chance at life. Penned as the coin flip killer after being convicted of the death of four men, Jeremiah spent three years in prison awaiting his turn to die.  After being released, his Oklahoma no longer looks like it did when he went into prison.  With the flip of his coin, he decides to return to his hometown of Nowhere to settle a score with his twin brother Josiah.  On the way, he rescues a young boy, Peter, being sold to feed a family.  Peter tags along with Jeremiah to Nowhere where the dusters have ravaged the town and the spirits of the people.  When a huge duster that becomes known Black Sunday hits the town, people start to speak the truth in their hearts, however ugly it may be.  Before long, it’s up to Jeremiah and Peter to become unlikely saviors for the town that cast him out three years ago.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked up this book, but I enjoyed every minute of it. I’m a huge fan of history of the dust bowl, which may be because I live in the Texas panhandle, so I always read up on it every chance I get.  This book was beautifully written and carried a great message to all readers on kindness.  The book description made me think that I would be reading more about a mystery, and it was mysterious, but not in the ways that I originally thought it would be.  I really enjoyed getting to see the goodness come out of the main character and how it spread through an unlikely boy to all of the townsfolk.  It would be easy to give away the secrets of this book, but I would rather have people read it and find them for themselves.

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

When Through Deep Waters

When through deep watersAuthor: Rachelle Dekker

Publisher: Tyndale House

Release Date: July 3, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Tackling the difficult topics of grief and mental illness, Rachelle Dekker has written a book far removed from that of her first trilogy, but in all the right ways. Dekker has found her voice as a writer in a way I have been waiting for.

It’s hard to live your own life when you are always trying to please someone else. Alicen McCaffrey has the life her mother wants for her, but its not the life she wants.  With a wildly successful husband, California home, and a daughter she adores, things seem perfect, until it all falls apart.  Alicen feels completely responsible and hits rock bottom feeling she has nothing left to live for.  Almost everyone abandons her and she turns to the one person she has left, a childhood friend who takes her back to their childhood home in Red Lodge, Montana.  Memories of their good times spent together and her grandmother who lived there come flooding back.  However, the good times aren’t the only things that come back.  Alicen starts hearing voices and seeing things that aren’t there and she fears she is losing it completely just as her grandmother was rumored to have done.  Is any of it real?  Or is this going to be more than she can take?

The name Dekker for me always draws me to books by Rachelle’s father, wo is one of my all time favorite authors with stories like no one else writes. The first books Rachelle wrote reminded me all too well of her father’s writing which disappointed me, I was hoping for her own voice.  In When Through Deep Waters I finally saw that individual voice of hers coming out.  There was a moment or two she tried to put tie-ins to her father’s writing that could have been left out, but readers who haven’t read anything by him won’t even notice.  This story hit really close to home for me because I read it right after my son had been in an accident that could have been catastrophic; luckily it wasn’t, but the emotions were at a passionate high point anyway.  I felt a solid connection with the characters more than in any of her previous novels and could really see a growth in the writing.  A great deal of detail helped make the setting and the characters mesh in just the right way and brought the story to life.  I not only enjoyed Alicen as the main character, but also several of the secondary characters as well.  Labeling it as a thriller might be a stretch since that didn’t happen until close to the end; regardless, it is a book worth reading and keeping on the shelves for a long time.  I recommend this book to fans of both Dekkers’ and those that enjoy the writing of Tosca Lee and James Rubart.

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

Reaper at the Gates

ReaperAuthor: Sabaa Tahir

Series: An Ember in the Ashes #3

Publisher: Razorbill

Release Date: June 12, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

The third book in this amazing series changes things up a bit keeping the main characters apart more than together but building for a follow up that is sure to be the very best yet.

As the threat of war within the empire grows, Helene Aquilla, the Blood Shrike, has even more to worry about than protecting her people. Her sister, the only family she has left is now Emperor Marcus’s wife and he uses her to control Helene.  Marcus is haunted by his past and with each passing day he grows more unstable.  Using his weakness, Keris Veturia, the Commandant, puts her plan of gaining control of the empire into action causing Helene one more thing to worry about.  While the empire grows unsteady, Laia of Serra is working to stop the Nightbringer.  He is not her only problem though, she is suddenly thrust into a fight she never wanted to be a part of and doesn’t know if she can help win.  Elias Veturius is now the Soul Catcher, caught in the land between the living and the dead.  He has to put aside the part of him that wants to be with Laia and help the souls pass peacefully. Otherwise, the souls will wreak havoc on the rest of the world.

For some reason, when I started this book I was under the assumption it was going to be the last in the series. As I was reading through, especially when I reached the final few chapters, I was having trouble believing the story would be wrapped up neatly.  I am happy to say that this book itself is tied up but leaves a beautiful opening for the next in the series.  I loved the way things progressed and the characters found themselves independent instead of relying on each other to be complete.  With Laia and Elias spending so much time apart, it really shows them growing into the character I feel they are meant to be, which flowed very naturally.  The very best part is something I can’t say because I don’t want to spoil anything. There is a reveal with one of the characters that once you realize what is happening, it will put a smile on your face and have you remembering parts in the first two books in a very different light.  In writing a YA book, there are so many aspects that are different than most books and Sabaa Tahir has found a way to really embrace her writing and find her audience.  There was a little bit more language than I would have liked to have seen for a YA, but overall it wasn’t bad and it could have been a whole lot worse.  The book goes back and forth between the viewpoints of Laia, Elias, and The Blood Shrike, which gives the reader a full understanding of the world and fully encompassing what is happening and how our characters react to each situation.  I recommend this book to Young readers and those that love a great dystopian read.