Where Hope Begins

Where Hope BeginsAuthor: Catherine West

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: May 22, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

An emotional roller coaster ride that some may find difficult to read but will find closure in the end.

Savannah Barrington has just lost the one person she never dreamed would betray her. Her husband, Kevin, has had an affair and has decided to leave her for his younger love.  Now with Kevin gone, their daughter Zoe in college and son Adam at a boarding school, the house feels as empty as ever.  Savannah decides to go stay at the lake house her mother owns up in the Berkshires for a change of scenery.  While there, she is introduced to a  young girl who is the spitting image of her first daughter who died in a bicycle accident several years ago.  The girl’s father turns out to be a famous author that both she and Kevin always loved to read.  They are staying with his aunt, who has been prepared to help Savannah heal through tending her late husband’s greenhouse.  But healing won’t come easy, it will take faith and forgiveness.  Can Savannah find the strength to forgive her husband and move on?

I have been wanting to read a book by Catherine West for a long time and I am glad that I finally did. This book was really hard for me to read because half way through my three year old son had a freak accident that could have easily resulted in death.  It really shook my husband and I to the core and it was hard to pick up the book and continue reading when the main character was feeling the same emotions that were going through me at the time.  Fortunately, he is ok and the book had a silver lining at the end.

I love getting to read a great story that is clean and relatable. I understood the emotions of the characters and have seen what they were going through first hand.  There is a lot of family drama and struggle in this book and it makes it very real.  West also did a great job of setting her scenes so that I could easily find my way into the characters world.  I am going to go get a couple more of her books for future reading!

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

 

The Armoire

The ArmoireAuthor: Ione Joy

Publisher: eLectico Publishing

Release Date: August 25, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

True purposes can be easily unlocked when seen, but greater are those who find their purpose through faith in the unseen!

All her life Maxine has been curious as to what was always hidden away in her grandmother’s armoire. She was always told it was for her when she would be ready.  After her grandmother passes away, she receives the armoire, but no key.  After a frantic search, she finally locates the key and opens the doors to discover a single beautiful feather.  Bewildered, she touches the feather only to come face to face with an angel named Abia.  Abia has been instructed to show Maxine several scenes that will help her understand her true potential.  Maxine is then whisked from scene to scene to witness heartbreaks, sadness, happiness, true joy, and unspeakable devastation.  These scenes are provided as a gift that shapes the remainder of Maxine’s life on this earth.

This was a fantastic book that easily fits in with Christian end times fiction, but not in the Left Behind sense.  This gives the main character, Maxine, an understanding of who she is meant to be, the purpose she was made for.  And when she tries to use the “after college” approach, it is said that Jesus will be coming back soon and there is no time to waste.  The bulk of the book is about Maxine’s life and how all the scenes that she witnessed with Abia become encounters in her own life.  She meets these people after these events have happened and understands what happened so that she can help them.  Even so, she still faces great tragedy and personal losses and tries to cope with them as best she can understand.

If you are looking for a great book to read this summer, please get a copy of this one! It will be well worth your while.

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

Heaven Adjacent

heaven adjacentAuthor: Catherine Ryan Hyde

Publisher:  Lake Union Publishing

Release Date: June 19, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A beautifully written novel of what is important in love and why we need to hold on to it when we find it.

After spending her entire life as a high-powered attorney in Manhattan, Roseanna Chaldecott has decided she has had enough after her best friend and partner suddenly dies. With only the clothes on her back and a tank of gas, Roseanna heads out of the city with no plans of return. Deep in the mountains of the Adirondacks, she finds a plot of land and a ramshackle farm that turns out to be her Heaven.  On the land are squatters she wants to get rid of to be alone, but doesn’t have the heart to turn them away. Roseanna starts working with her hands creating sculptures out of the junk found on the farm, which attracts attention she doesn’t want, including her son, Lance.  He wants her to come back to the city, which she refuses to do.  He isn’t the only one that wants her back, her partners at her law firm want her back or she might just lose all she has worked for her entire life.  She has to decide what it is she truly wants and can live without in order to be happy.

Heaven Adjacent needs to be read by so many, especially in the day and age we are living in.  Our culture has become so obsessed with the material things we have to offer that we have forgotten what is truly important.  Roseanna decides that things have to change for her after her best friend dies without having experienced all there is in the world.  She doesn’t want to work herself to death and regret the time she has had on this earth.  Taking time to find out what matters is so important, by slowing down and enjoying the simple things in life she is able to actually find happiness again.  I loved the idea of this because so many times we think that we need the newest and coolest things out there to be happy, but we don’t.  The characters were completely believable and completely in track with the actions they took and the consequences of those actions.  I loved how Hyde was able to bring these characters to life and draw the action forward without action scenes or major suspense.  She used tension in each scene in a different way to move the story forward and keep the reader entranced.  This story reminds us to stay encouraged and not lose hope in the difficult times but go back to the basic simple things in life and there we will find our happiness.  I recommend this book to readers that have enjoyed her work and are looking for a book unlike any they have read and one they won’t soon forget.

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

Dominic

DominicAuthor: Mark Pryor

Series: Hollow Man #2

Publisher: 7th Street Books

Release Date: January 2, 2018

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Not every main character is honorable. Sometimes, they’re just a psychopath!

Originally from England, Dominic has made quite a life for himself in Austin, Texas. He is a prosecutor with the district attorney’s office for Travis County and primarily works with juvenile cases.  He also is a local musician that plays at a lot of different scenes.  But only two people know that he is also a psychopath.  And the saying goes that three people can keep a secret when two of them are dead.  The two people are his special lady and her teenage brother, who also happens to be a psychopath.

When a cop starts poking around asking about Dominic’s involvement in a past murder investigation that left his roommate in prison, Dominic is afraid that his teenage protégé is going to do something stupid like kill her. So, when she is found dead, his thoughts naturally drift toward what must have happened and how this could all lead back to him.  With only himself in mind (he is a psychopath after all), Dominic begins the process to transfer all involvement of any of the crimes to someone else.

This is a very different, but interesting concept. I haven’t read Hollow Man, but don’t feel like I missed much, maybe just a little backstory.  I’ll probably go ahead and read it so that I can fill in some of the blanks.  Having the main character as a psychopath with no regard for human life is a little different from my normal reading genre.  However, it is interesting that the reader can still form a bond with him as a main character.  Its also told in an exciting way that makes the reader want to find out what he is planning.  Usually this would be told from the police procedural point of view, but this turns the tables in an effort to thwart the police from discovering the truth.  That in itself makes me want to continue with this series.  It also helps that I frequent Austin and I love it when scenes and settings can easily come to life for me because I’ve been to the locations that the author is describing.

There is some strong language used throughout the book, so I recommend this title for mature readers.

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

Garden of Blue Roses

garden of blue rosesAuthor: Michael Barsa

Publisher: Underland Press

Release Date: April 17, 2018

Reviewer: Jennifer S. Roman

Milo and Klara, son and daughter of the famous horror novelist John Crane, immediately become orphans after their parents’ car slides off a slippery winter road and crashes upside down in a ravine.  Although they are both adults, they decide to stay in their family home.  Klara, now the executor of the estate,  is licking her wounds after a divorce and unsuccessful stint teaching at a reform school.  Milo returns from college and settles into his own world of building model boats and other structures.  Both just slide from day to day in their own little worlds until Klara decides to hire a gardener referred to her by one of the prominent ladies of their small town.  Milo immediately suspects the gardener, Henri, of something… but he can’t put his finger on it.  As he finally does, he reveals many haunting family secrets.

Klara is rather eccentric.  Milo has something not right about him.  As the book moves on, it becomes abundantly clear just what their issues are: their parents.  Their mother is a raging alcoholic.  Many of their father’s plots mimic real life, and in many cases, the real life of Milo and Klara.  Milo realizes that Henri is living the life of one of his father’s most evil characters, Keith.  Klara of course dismisses it as part of Milo’s unusual personality, but maybe Milo really is on to something.

A slow burn.  The majority of the reviews I read about this book (after I read it, of course) described this story using that exact phrase.  It fits perfectly.  I was about halfway through the book and knew a lot at this point about Klara and Milo, but not much about what was happening.  Then, out of nowhere, things began to happen.  The majority of well-written story was a setup for what was about to happen next, and when it did, it shot off like a rocket.  The next thing I knew, all kinds of things were happening and even more excitement was building as I was swept into Milo’s and Klara’s past, which was much more of a horror story than anything their father could have written.

I am all about action and moving along in a story, but every now and again a book so well-written and so engaging comes along that you want to savor each and every word.  That was definitely the case for me with Garden of Blue Roses, and Michael Barsa earned his numerous five-star reviews with this one.  The plot is engaging and the writing almost exotic.  One can’t help but sit on the edge of one’s seat for not only the plotline but the language in this book.  The ending did not fail to impress me, and it definitely was not what I was expecting.  I heartily recommend this book!

True to gothic writing, the majority of the book doesn’t mention anything graphic, but rather relies on scenery to spook the reader.  However, there are several sections that do give a horrific picture of child abuse and more.  Faint-of-heart readers may not find this book to be as engaging or captivating as I did, but those who are into a good scare with a just a few grisly scenes will delight in it as much as I did.

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

Justice Betrayed

Justice BetrayedAuthor: Patricia Bradley

Series: Memphis Cold Case #3

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: June 5, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

With Elvis impersonators, unsolved murders, and an unstable murderer, Justice Betrayed is bound to leave readers all shook up!

Detective Rachel Sloan thinks she is ready for whatever comes her way until an Elvis impersonator comes asking for her help. Vic Vegas knew her before her mother died and wants Rachel to help look into a cold case that might even be related to what happened to her mother.  When Vic’s house is broken into and trouble follows the case, Rachel starts to think there might be more to this case than she or anyone else originally thought.  As things heat up in the case, so does the tension between Rachel and her Lieutenant, Boone Callahan.  They had a small spark between them once but were not able to pursue the relationship being in the same unit at the department.  Trying to solve the case will take them working together and putting aside any differences they might have in order to stop a potential serial killer from claiming any more victims.

Patricia Bradley has found a knock-out formula for romantic suspense with the Memphis cold case series. The characters are real and easy to relate to and the story itself is one that readers will enjoy to the end.  I found Rachel a great lead, she was sure of herself but not cocky. She went after what she wanted even if others around her didn’t agree with her decisions and she followed her heart and stayed true to that.  I didn’t want to like Boone at first but it didn’t take long at all for him to grow on me and find myself not only routing for him but also the relationship between the him and Rachel.  It was a fun mystery with the cold cases and the relationship between that and the murder of Rachel’s mother.  I’m sure there is an entire circuit of people devoted to that and cases within as well so I enjoyed seeing how Bradley brought the story to life.  This is one of those books that fans of not only Patricia Bradley but fans of romantic suspense in general will enjoy and want to continue the series to see what happens with the characters and what other cold cases they can try and solve.

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

A Rebel Heart

A Rebel heartAuthor: Beth White

Series: Daughtry House #1

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: June 5, 2018

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

It is obvious through every page that Beth White has done her research and turned A Rebel Heart into a must read for lovers of historical fiction.

It’s been five years since the War Between the States ended and Selah Daughtry has worked day in and out to keep herself and her family safe, and fed. Their land is about to go under in debt and giving it up is the last thing she wants to do.  When it seems like all hope is lost Levi Riggins, a former union cavalryman comes and starts to investigate some inconsistences and possible sabotage to the Daughtry family land.  Selah doesn’t know if she can trust him when he tells her he can help save her land if she agrees to turn the family home into a hotel.  Trusting Levi is the only option she has, what she didn’t expect was her heart to fall for him during this difficult time when love is the last thing she is looking for.

A Rebel Heart is the perfect book for lovers of historical fiction. With the setting in Mississippi and the family struggling to keep their land and each other together, the tension mounts quickly as the fight to keep what is theirs together.  The connection between Levi and Selah is immediate and you know the tension between them is going to build to a romance they won’t be able to turn away from.  I enjoyed the way Levi worked to keep his mission a secret and still do the work he was there to do.  It was hard for him to keep his distance when he obviously wanted to be with Selah.  The book kept a good pace throughout and I enjoyed the way it played out at the end leaving room for more to come but wrapping things up nicely.

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