The Art of Friendship

The art of weaknessAuthor: Kim Wier

Publisher: Bethany House Publishers

Release Date: January 7, 2020

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

In the day and age of Facebook friends and followers, it can be difficult to have and cultivate true relationships. The Art of Friendship explores these issues and gives the reader insight into what it really means to be a true friend, something we all desperately need.

We live in the world of Instafriends with Likes and Shares that provide many avenues at our fingertips for connecting to others. With that in mind, it is amazing to consider the fact that we are more lonely than ever before. Loneliness is harder on our minds and bodies than smoking or obesity. It’s not the fact that we have more connections than ever but that we are lacking deeper more meaningful ones. The Art of Friendship will give you an inside look at what God has meant for you in your life with meaningful friendships. There are many different types of friends we can have and each one fulfills a role in our lives to make it the fullest and richest it can be. But we can’t get that from only online friends and relationships. Through this book you will discover the friendships that can be life changing and give you all you seek.

When you first look at the title of this book you might think it’s not for you or think that you have lots of friends and don’t need help in that department. But the deeper you look, the more you will see that what you thought of as true relationships are not really that. With Facebook and the other social media platforms available, it can be so easy to get wrapped up in the world of likes, tweets, hearts, and other ways to show people you are invested in their lives. But even that lacks a heartfelt connection that a true face-to-face interaction can fill. It truly is God’s will for us to have close relationships to have a life lived to the fullest. Not only will it enrich our lives, but we can enrich the lives of those we are involved in as well. I love when Wier says, “If we want friendships that will fuel our body, mind, and soul in a way that helps us move forward, we need to fill up with the right kind of friendships.” There is so much truth in this book that we can all learn from if we keep an open mind as we read through the pages. I recommend this book to everyone, not a single person can pick this up and walk away without feeling as if they have grown.

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

Cross Her Heart

Cross her heartAuthor: Sarah Pinborough

Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks

Release Date: January 14, 2020

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Cross your heart and hope to die can be a very serious pact to some. Cross Her Heart shows just how dangerous breaking that kind of promise can be.

Lisa’s life was going great, things with her job have never been better, and although her relationship with her daughter Ava is not at its best, she wouldn’t trade it for the world. A new client at work has started showing interest in her and she wonders if maybe it is time to explore that part of her world she has shut off for so long. Secrets she has kept locked deep inside have kept her from venturing out and letting others in too close. Even her best friend Marilyn doesn’t know all her secrets. Things all come unhinged when Ava rescues a boy from drowning at the lake and they all get their picture in the news bringing her past to light. With her world crumbling and not knowing who she can trust, Lisa has to figure out who is behind the horrible events in her life and how she can stop them before Lisa and Ava pay the ultimate price.

This is the first Sarah Pinborough book I have read and I have to say I was most impressed with her character development and the way she kept the secrets hidden for so long into the story. I put the pieces of the puzzle together just before all was revealed, but that isn’t because it was easy to figure things out. I am just a huge fan of thrillers and pride myself on figuring things out and not getting surprised. I loved seeing things unfold and the back and forth dialogue to reveal the story little by little. A lot of time, the dialogue between the past and present can be confusing and pull readers from the story. It takes a very skilled writer to be able to pull that off and I am happy to say Pinborough is one of the best I have read at this. Lisa was a very complicated character, and with a past as complicated as hers, she is one that readers will enjoy getting to know. Ava is a typical teenager and was written as such. One of the nicest things about this novel was the fact that even the secondary characters were relevant at every moment they were written. The language and themes throughout make this for a mature audience only and did turn me off at times. Overall I recommend this for a mature audience that loves a psychological thriller.

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

For more information of this title, please check Harper Collins.

The Way of the Brave

Way of the braveAuthor: Susan May Warren

Series: Global Search & Rescue #1

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: January 7, 2020

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Wow! Wow! Wow! Susan May Warren has started her new series off with a bang. The Way of the Brave will take readers on a chilling ride with so much action, adventure and just the right amount of romance sprinkled in they will be aching for more.

Orion Starr is trying to put his past as a pararescue jumper and the last rescue that went wrong behind him. He is finally recovered from his injuries and living alone in Alaska. He still has nightmares about his time in Afghanistan and when his buddy Hamilton Jones ask him to join his rescue team, he wants to tell him no, but deep down he still wants to help others. When a group of climbers gets lost on Denali, Orion can’t not help, especially when he finds out that someone from his past that he thought he would never see again is with the group.

Jenny Calhoun is a former CIA profiler and psychiatrist who has been climbing mountains every year trying to get away from the guilt she feels for a top-secret mission going horribly wrong. With two of her friends on this climb, she hopes they can prove they are stronger than they think and become closer to one another. The last thing she expects to see when she gets to Denali is the man she was falling in love with when her world fell apart. When the climb goes horribly wrong and they are trapped on the side of the mountain, Jenny prays that Orion will keep his promise from Afghanistan and find her no matter what.

I have been a fan of Susan May Warren for a long time. This book is very different from any previous books of hers I have read, but in a very good way. The action and suspense here aren’t focused on a villain chasing someone, instead readers see the characters trying to survive the dangerous mountain and elements they are in. In this story, the main characters are Orion and Jenny with many supporting characters on each side that will shine in the upcoming sequels. Orion and Jenny both have a difficult past and are using their time climbing to work through their issues. I am not a climber and much of the book is about the actual climbing experience. Some of the terms and technical aspects were unfamiliar to me but written in a way that made it easy for me to follow along with the story even though I haven’t been on a climb or had these experiences myself. The research that went into this made the story flow brilliantly and kept me engaged with what the characters were going through. It is hard to write a suspenseful story with no real bad guy to move the action along, but Warren has done just that with The Way of the Brave. That said, there is a minor villain involved and I am curious to see how that will be played out in the next installment of the series. This is a wonderful start to a new series and I for one can’t wait to see what adventures lie ahead for us. If you are a fan of Romantic Suspense you will not want to miss this one. And if you have never read anything by Susan May Warren this is the perfect one to start with.

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

An Uncommon Woman

an uncommon womanAuthor: Laura Franz

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: January 7, 2020

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Franz shows why she is one of the elite authors of historical fiction during the prerevolutionary war time period!

Tessa Swan grew up the only daughter of a Scotsman in western Virginia during the 18th century. To say that she is an uncommon woman is an understatement. Living in the wild frontier borderland and having to fight off the local native American tribes has made her a bit rough around the edges and she’s not sorry for it, especially after her Pa was felled by a tomahawk. She’s seen friends be taken by the tribes and had to wonder what happened to them. When she meets the new Fort Commander, Clay Tygart, she can’t deny that there is something unspoken that passes between them. But as Clay tries to focus on his leadership duties, will she manage to distract him long enough for more than a passing glance?

Clay Tygart grew up wild after he was taken as a child by the Lenape tribe. After he was rescued, he made it his mission to keep other people safe from the same occurrence. He fought in the French and Indian War and become a hero, which resulted in a frontier fort bearing his surname. Once he arrives at Fort Tygart, he meets the Swan clan. The lone daughter named Tessa quickly garners his attention, but he knows that he must focus on being the commander now and not on a romance, which he has always easily avoided. When Tessa gets taken by the same Lenape tribe that kidnapped him as a child, he realizes that his heart has been taken captive as well. Clay knows he must get her back.

Laura Franz does a terrific job taking readers directly to the time period she is writing about. This has always impressed me about her books and An Uncommon Woman is no exception. I felt as though I was transported to the western frontier of Virginia in the opening scene while journeying down the river and spying the two native American tribes on the bank. The language she uses easily sets the scene and the use of dialect made me feel I was hearing the characters talk. She reminds me of reading James Fennimore Cooper but does it in the present. If you enjoy historical romance stories set in this time period, this is a must read to add to your shelf.

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

A Long Time Comin’

long time cominAuthor: Robin W. Pearson

Publisher: Tyndale House

Release Date: January 7, 2019

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A breakout debut novel about love, family, heartbreak and healing. Great read to kick off the new year!

Evelyn Lester is trying to figure out if she wants to save her marriage. She discovered that her husband has been having an emotional affair with a subordinate at work. Once discovered, he quickly dissolved the relationship and is trying to show Evelyn that he wants to keep their marriage alive. To complicate matters, she just found out she is pregnant, which is making the decision that much more difficult. She decides to take some time away and goes to stay at her mother’s home. Shortly after arriving, she learns that her grandmother, known as Granny B, has leukemia and has decided not to pursue treatment. Granny B has had a rough life herself raising seven children without having a husband present. She became a hard woman and even harder on her children. Even so, her children have become very successful professionally, but they all harbor secrets from the past and present. Evelyn begins spending more and more time with Granny B and each begins to unburden their secrets to the other. Before long, they devise a plan to help Granny B close out her grievances before she passes on from this life.

This was really an incredible debut novel. There is a lot of pain displayed throughout this book caused between family members. But deep down, people begin to realize how alike they are, which can be why the pain is caused. And do we ever really understand each other’s circumstances to judge? As it is said, Remove the log in your own eye so that you can see the speck in your neighbor’s eye more clearly. That is part of the message of this book. Everyone seemed to think they knew what was best, but no one knew the whole story.

The local North Carolina dialect written throughout the book made me feel like I was there. The letters written showed the education that some of the characters received made it very believable. Sometimes it is easy to take for granted how things were in the past because some of the readers never experienced it. Pearson did a great job with this story. Terrific novel to kick off the new year!

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

End Game

End gameAuthor: Rachel Dylan

Series: Capital Intrigue #1

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: January 7, 2020

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

With danger around every corner, every clue brings more trouble! End Game is a non-stop suspense ride that readers will have trouble putting down to do anything else!

FBI Special Agent Bailey Ryan finds herself partnered with NCIS Special Agent Marco Agostini when several members of elite military members are murdered on the streets of Washington DC. Even though their evidence leads them to a Navy SEAL sniper, Bailey has doubts he is the one behind the murders. Each new clue that brings them closer to the truth also brings them closer to danger. Bailey has several attempts made on her life as she gets closer to uncovering the truth and Marco realizes his feelings for her go far beyond that of a fellow agent. Whoever is behind this is willing to kill anyone that gets in their way and Bailey and Marco must do whatever they can to stop them before anyone else gets hurt.

End Game is the first in the new Capital Intrigue series by Rachel Dylan and she has started this new series off with a bang. I loved the main characters. Actually, I loved all of the characters. Bailey and Marco have a great chemistry from the start. They are from different agencies and are a little hesitant of each other at the beginning but quickly learn that in order to solve the case they are going to have to trust each other. The way that Bailey became a target as Marco’s feelings intensified made my connection with both characters that much more involved and kept me with a vested interest in what was going to happen next. The only downfall for me was the fact that the romance aspect outweighed the suspense at times. Being in an intense situation can make feelings run high but some of the dialogue seemed a little out of place at times. Fans of romantic suspense will surely want to add this to their list. If you have never read anything by Rachel Dylan this is the perfect time to get started with this intriguing new series.

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

Listen Well, Lead Better

listenAuthors: Steve & Becky Harling

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: January 7, 2020

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Listening is a key component of good leadership and this book does a great job demonstrating the benefits.

Listening is a crucial action that everyone has the ability to do. Unfortunately, people don’t always view the true value of it. More focus is typically put on speaking skills and other actions, but so much more can be learned through simple listening. In Listen Well, Lead Better, Steve and Becky Harling outline different areas of listening that are beneficial to everyone. In addition, they also provide personal stories of what they’ve learned from listening as well as times when they didn’t listen. Scripture is also provided throughout each chapter to support the biblical truths of listening.

My husband is a partner in an engineering/architecture firm and has had the benefit of attending leadership conferences. He also read this book and said that it contains everything that is in multiple books that he has read. However, most leadership books have a chapter dedicated to listening and he liked that there was a book dedicated to the entire topic. He agrees that listening is very crucial to leadership. To resolve conflict between employees or to have a crucial conversation with a coworker, you need to really listen to understand what is going on. Not listening to respond but to understand. I love how this book gives questions to ask people that you may be a leader of as well as self-reflection questions. Sometimes I dread getting a book like this to review because I think it is going to be a slow pace, but this moved quickly and stayed interesting. This should be a book on every current and potential leader’s bookshelf.

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

Collateral Damage

collateral damageAuthor: Lynette Eason

Series: Danger Never Sleeps #1

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: January 7, 2020

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Lynette Eason keeps getting better with each new novel and fans of her work will absolutely love the start to this new series.

Brooke Adams thought she left the danger behind after being honorably discharged from the army as a military psychiatrist. She still has nightmares about the explosion that nearly killed her while trying to move on with her life at home. When a stranger from her past shows up in her life, things get complicated and she finds her life in danger once again. Sergeant First Class Asher James may be out of the army, but he is far from danger. When he closes his eyes, the terror he faced comes back full force. After a bad family encounter, he decides it is time to see someone for help. When he sees a picture of Brooke in the paper from their time together overseas and learns she is now counseling close by, he makes an appointment hoping she will be able to understand and help him. He arrives at her office hoping to see her and finds a dead body instead. Brooke walks in moments later and is as shocked to see him as she is the dead body on her floor. It doesn’t take long for either of them to realize Brooke was the real target and now they are both in danger. Asher promises to protect her and get to the bottom of who is after her and what they want.

With each new book, Lynette Eason is developing stories that are fresh, feel real and will leave readers wanting more. I am falling more and more in love with her writing as she releases each new book. Brooke and Asher were a great lead couple in this series; I loved the way their relationship started and the fact that none of the romance in this novel felt forced. Sometimes in a romantic suspense novel, the romance can feel forced and take away from the storyline for me. Here readers get to see it all flow as it naturally should. I have to say there were a few moments I was caught by surprise with a few of the characters and their actions, a job well done. Even though part of the story takes part overseas with the fighting it was never difficult to follow who was where and keep up with the different story lines. This book has a good number of characters and I can’t wait to see how they continue to develop with the next in the series. My only complaint would be the ending fizzled just a little bit when I was hoping the tension would be ticked up an extra notch or two. Still, it was an overall wonderful read and I highly recommend it to fans of Romantic Suspense and especially fans of Lynette Eason’s writing.

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

Ghost of the Bamboo Road

Ghost of bambooAuthor: Susan Spann

Series: Shinobi Mystery #7

Publisher: Seventh Street Books

Release Date: July 16, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

I forgot how much I’ve missed these characters until I picked up this book!

As Hiro and Father Mateo make their journey to Edo to warn Iga assassins that their cover may have been comprised, they must stop in a rural mountain village along the way. Another Iga assassin has been stationed here to watch the travel road. They stop at the local ryokan to stay the night and discover that they owners are completing a mourning period. Hiro immediately senses that something is off about this village and wants to find the operative and leave as soon as possible. Unfortunately, that night there is a murder in the burial yard. The innkeeper’s mother is murdered and the village residents believe that a vengeful spirit is responsible. Another murder soon follows and the residents believe that the visitors are responsible for angering the spirit. Father Mateo’s servant Ana is soon accused of theft as well. In order to appease the local Samurai, as well as prove there is no such thing as ghosts, Hiro and Father Mateo begin to investigate the murders and the theft. Hopefully they will find the operative as well and all be able to continue their mission.

It has been quite a while since I had a Hiro and Father Mateo mystery. Way too long actually. I hadn’t realized just how much I had missed their constant banter and adventures. As a reader, I have enjoyed getting to watch the professional relationship between the two become much more personal. Even though they still don’t agree on everything, they can be respectful of each other and work together. This is a lesson from 1566 that could be applied to almost everyone in 2020. I also appreciated that this book focused on the mystery and a showing of Japanese customs as several of the previous books have done. One drawback that I had from the last book was the amount of detail that was given to describing the temples. I know that the author had just finished a pilgrimage and visited several of the temples, so the details were fresh on her mind, but it took away from the overall story. That said, every time I hear there is a new Shinobi mystery coming out, I get excited to continue the journey. I hope it takes several more books to complete the series.

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

Echoes Among the Stones

echoesAuthor: Jaime Jo Wright

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: December 3, 2019

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Wright continues to deliver intriguing time slip mysteries, but goes a little different this time.

Aggie Dunkirk reluctantly agrees to return to live with her grandmother after she receives a letter that she broke her hip. Of course, once she is there, she finds that her grandmother lied just to get her to come. Even so, after losing her job in real estate because her team didn’t keep up their licenses, she doesn’t have much of an option. She takes a job as a secretary at the town cemetery where she will work alongside an archaeologist to remap the burial plots after a heavy rain has disturbed several areas. But as they begin work, strange things begin to happen. Files at the cemetery go missing. A skeleton appears in her grandmother’s yard. Bone fragments are delivered to both her and the archaeologist. And maybe most mysteriously of all, a pink rose continues to appear on the grave for a woman named Hazel Grayson. She wishes she could talk about it to her grandmother, but she has been acting even stranger than usual.

Decades prior in 1946, Imogene Grayson’s world is turned upside down when her sister Hazel is murdered. She worked in a beauty salon, but always dreamed of being a glam girl in Hollywood. Hazel’s death shatters her core and devastates her. Her brother is a deputy sheriff in charge of the investigation but isn’t making much progress. Genie decides to begin her own investigation and starts working at the artillery powder plant where Hazel used to work. Shortly after, the post office is bombed. Then the town hall is burned down. One day on her walk home, she is almost run over by a black pickup truck. It seems that someone is out to make sure she doesn’t find out the truth about her sister’s killer.

Having read all of Wright’s books, there were some comforting similarities that I’ve found in her previous writing. She always manages to reveal a twist that occurs in the past setting that completely shifts the train of thought about what happened. However, this particular book had something a little different too. One of the main characters is common to both time periods. She is young in the past and elderly in the present, but it is her story. This subtle change really brought the story out a little more.

A common theme in this book is learning to put your faith in God and not in a relationship. Both Aggie and Genie had such strong relationships with someone that was taken from them and it utterly devastates them both. Only when they finally manage to let God have control are they actually able to move forward. This is a hard truth to accept, but many will find this book useful.

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