The Best Medicine

Author: Walt Larimore, MD

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: October 6, 2020

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

An enjoyable look back at the life of a country doctor in suburban Orlando, Florida.

Dr. Walt Larimore was a content family doctor practicing medicine in a small town of the Smoky Mountains, but an event one day changed the course of his and his family’s life.  A gentleman was brought into the clinic after having suffered multiple yellow jacket stings.  Dr. Larimore recognized what was happening and was able to quickly treat the allergic reaction and save the man’s life.  The man and his wife just happened to be on the board for a hospital in Kissimmee, Florida and encouraged Walt to relocate to Florida and serve at their hospital.  Walt and his wife became friends with the couple but were resigned to stay in the smoky mountains.  Fast forward a few years later, and they are now in Kissimmee.  In The Best Medicine, Walt reflects on his early years of practicing medicine in Kissimmee and the impact his friends and family have had on both his practice and his life.

Memoirs are always fun to read, and this was no exception.  I thoroughly enjoyed getting a depiction of Walt’s life and how he managed his practice as well as sought out spiritual mentorship.  It was very inspiring to meet these characters and also humbling to see how many mishaps and mess-ups Walt had during his life and how he overcame these challenges with God’s help.   This would be a great gift for people going through a tough time during the holidays this year to cheer them up. 

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

The Conqueror

Author: Bryan Litfin

Series: Constantine’s Empire #1

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: October 13, 2020

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Litfin’s Ancient Roman world brings light to members of the early church and the push for Constantine’s conversion.

Brandulf Rex, a barbican warrior from the Germani tribe, has worked his way through the ranks to become one of the youngest speculators of the Roman military.  Now serving the great Emperor Constantine, he has been stationed as both a personal bodyguard and spy for the Emperor.  The three remaining rulers of the tetrarch, Constantine, Licinius, and Maxentius, have become involved in a civil war.  Each rules a portion of Rome, but any of the three would love to be the sole Emperor of the Republic.  Rex is sent on a mission with two other speculators to breach and observe the situation in Rome under Maxentius and infiltrate the ranks of the Pretorian Guard.  Upon arriving in Rome, Rex happens to meet a young woman trying to escape a death sentence in the Colosseum.  This meeting changes Rex’s life in a manner he never could have expected.

Lady Flavia Junia is a senator’s daughter and known Christian in the early church.  At seventeen years old, she is fortunate to have not had to endure the religious persecution of the previous rulers, but Maxentius could be easily persuaded to begin again.  When her father’s political opponent finds a way to have Flavia accused of going against the emperor’s order, she is sentenced to death by way of facing wild animals in the Colosseum.  When she tries to escape and crashes into the arms of a tall, blonde, barbarian, he vows that he will save her.  The adventure this sets the two on puts them in a front row seat for a civil war.

It’s no secret that I thoroughly enjoy a well research novel concerning ancient Rome and Litfin did not disappoint.  The Conqueror is filled with rich Roman history and lush tidbits of the early church in Rome.  Several well-known historical characters that played a part in Christianity becoming the official religion of the Roman Empire make an appearance throughout this book.  Litfin did a great job explaining the events that led to the battle between Constantine and Maxentius as well as a great depiction of the actual battle that led to Maxentius’s fall.

Liftin also does a fantastic job of the portrayal of Roman politics at the time and the ramifications and consequences of different events and actions.  His knowledge of architecture of public buildings was also astounding as he was able to describe buildings and areas, but not bog down the storyline.

The book is very detailed, so readers that prefer a light and casual read will probably need to find something else.  However, if you’re a fan of this time period and history, it will definitely need to find a way to your bookshelf.  There are sexual references made throughout that depict that time period that is being represented, but nothing lewd or inappropriate.  There are also several scenes of violence, but it is a war book after all.

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

Everywhere to Hide

Author: Siri Mitchell

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: October 6, 2020

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

With a unique disability and witness to a crime, Whitney Garrison is the perfect protagonist in this top-notch new thriller!

Whitney Garrison has survived an abusive boyfriend, law school and growing up with a unique disorder, face blindness. She is working at a local coffee shop and tutoring kids to make enough money to survive until she passes the bar and gets a job at a high-end law firm. She has done all this on her own, not wanting to burden her father and let him know the mistakes she has made. One afternoon she inadvertently witnesses a murder; even though she saw the killer, she has no idea what the killer actually looks like. He could be right in front of her and she would have no idea.  He follows her every move and thinks she has information he is willing to kill for. Both the local detective, Leo Baroni, and the Feds get involved trying to keep Whitney safe and find their murderer.

Everywhere to Hide is a unique read that kept me guessing and on the edge of my seat, not an easy task with as many thrillers as I read. I loved Whitney for the protagonist in this story. She has gone through a tremendous amount in her short life so far, and even with her face blindness, she never plays the victim card. She finds a way to work around the problems she faces and learn and grow from the experiences. The face blindness was a new one for me, I have never read anything with that as an issue for one of the characters, it was unique and intriguing. Always wondering if Whitney was about to interact with the killer and not know it made the story that much more thrilling for me and kept me glued to the page. Leo was a great character to be there for her and the way Mitchell brought on the romance aspect of the story was just right for me. It was subtle but enough was there to make it believable and easy to follow. Little hints were dropped throughout that helped everything that happened by the end make total sense. This story is a fun blend of complicated mystery and fun thrill rides, the type of book that can be read in one sitting because you are so sucked into the story. I recommend this to readers that enjoy a fun, clean thriller that will keep them guessing and smiling with delight long after they turn the last page.

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

Burden of Proof

Author: Davis Bunn

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: November 3, 2020

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Bunn continues to show why he’s a master at crossing sci-fi into other genres with this new legal thriller!

Ethan Barrett has been handed a death sentence by means of skin cancer.  His reflection on his life is anything except to be proud of.  He regrets his selfish decisions that have caused hurt to so many others.  His late brother’s widow unexpectedly finds him one day while he is making his final kayak paddle in Cocoa Beach, Florida and offers him an impossible, yet alluring offer.  As a neuroscientist, she can match his brain wave frequency that will have the effect to transport his consciousness back in time to a certain point where he will be able to pick up at that point in time with his future knowledge, giving him the chance to save his brother.  The only catch is, he will die, both at the present time and shortly after he transitions to the past.  With nothing to lose, can Ethan alter the course of history?

So, fun fact about me, I’m a huge fan of quantum mechanics research dealing with string theory and time alternation, so this book was right up my alley.  It wasn’t completely originally as Blake Crouch published Recursion last year, which had a lot of the same replaced consciousness perspectives, but I was glad to see that Bunn took this in a different direction and pushed it more into a legal thriller than medical based.  He doesn’t get too detailed in the science, so the average everyday reader will enjoy the story without getting too bogged down in the whole science of things like some geeks so as myself thrive on. 

One of my favorite aspects of this book is the theme of the prodigal son compared to Ethan.  It is a progressive retelling for sure, but he is able to realize his past for what is was and when given the chance, make amends and return to the family that he loves with forgiveness even when he doesn’t deserve it.  It has a resounding theme of treating others with kindness and truthfulness while not being selfish can cause a completely different relationship between people.  High recommended read for the end of the wacky year of 2020!

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

Still the One

Authors: Susan May Warren & Rachel D. Russell

Publisher: Sunrise Publishing

Release Date: January 12, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Readers of Susan May Warren’s Deep Haven Series will not want to miss this new edition set in Deep Haven written with Rachel Russell that will give you all the feels! 

When Cole Barrett returns to Deep Haven to deal with selling his grandfather’s house after he is sent to a nursing home with dementia, he only wants to get the house sold and leave. His memories of his grandfather and time in Deep Haven are not the best. The only good memory of his time there was a friend, Megan Carter. When he had to leave quickly as a teenager, he never even got to say goodbye to her and in the years that passed as he entered the army and served, he never forgot the kindness she showed him.

Megan is barely keeping her head above water. She and her nine-year-old son, Josh, live in the apartment above Cole’s grandfather’s garage and she works as a wedding planner to support her son by herself. His father has never been in the picture and since the rest of her family moved away, it has just been the two of them. When Cole shows back up in town trying to sell the house, she is furious that he left without saying goodbye, never kept in touch and is now trying to ruin her life by making her find another place to live. It doesn’t take long for sparks to fly between the two of them, something neither are ready for. Will they be able to work out their differences and find some common ground or end up at each other’s throats?

Let me start off by making a confession. Before reading Still the One, I had not read any of the Deep Haven novels. I have read many other novels by Susan May Warren and was well assured that I would enjoy this one. I was curious how a new author would compare to Warren’s style. Having said that, I am pleased to say I thoroughly enjoyed this story, Rachel Russell did a fantastic job of bringing these characters to light, making me have an immediate connection to them and letting the story progress at a perfect pace. With contemporary romance, if you read much in this genre, you know what you are going to get when you start the story, how it plays out depends on the skill of the author. I have come to expect a lot from the writing of Susan May Warren and loved the idea of her guiding a new author down this path. Even though I had yet to read any other novels in the Deep Haven series, I had no trouble following this one and enjoying the story. Cole and Megan had such a wonderful story and the way they had to intertwine their relationship with her son Josh being in the picture made me connect and root for them so much more. They are flawed, real, and emotional characters that made it more enjoyable for me, things didn’t work out picture perfect and nothing was rushed. This is one I highly recommend to readers that have loved the Deep Haven series and those new to it but are fans of Warren and Contemporary Romance writing.

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

The Sowing Season

Author: Katie Powner

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: October 6, 2020

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A delightful read that teaches readers about the need to slow down and care about others around them.

Gerrit Laninga has finally decided to sell his family’s farm.  At sixty-three, he has put in almost all his years on the farm, sacrificing his family and health along the way.  He carries the weight of his failures on his shoulders including the death of his brother, his estranged relationship with his wife and children, and now the farm.  Once he got home from signing the papers, he found his wife with a suitcase ready to leave in case he backed out of the deal and chose the farm again.  Can he begin to make amends in his retirement?

Rae Walters has grown up according to The Plan.  She will gain enough volunteer hours, get a part time job, make National Honor Society, become the society president, set the three-point shooting record for basketball in her high school, get accepted to Columbia University, and then attend Columbia Law.  But at fifteen years old, The Plan is starting to put a little bit of pressure on Rae as she begins drivers ed.  She has always found solitude in an old barn, but when she is discovered, she meets a bitter old man.  Is it possible that they could help each other?

This is the first book that I’ve read by Katie Powner, but I really connected with both main characters.  Gerritt’s transformation was just fun to watch.  I love how Hannie’s corgi, Daisy, decided to become his dog and how they became an inseparable pair, even when he acted like he didn’t want Daisy around.  It took a long time for him to finally realize what he needed to do, but he finally found grace.  Rae was your typical overachiever teenager.  She was confident on the outside, but wildly insecure on the inside.  She was scared to think of anything outside of The Plan because that is all she knew.  I’m glad to see that she was able to overcome that fear as well.

I feel like there is much more of this story to be told.  This is just a snippet into their lives, and I would love to find out what happens to them both in the future.  I recommend this to people who just need a good read this year!

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

Finding Quiet: My Journey to Peace in Anxious World

Author: Jamie Grace

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: October 13, 2020

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Our world is loud and crazy right now which makes finding a quiet moment very difficult. Jamie Grace delivers a wonderful addition to anyone’s library of little ways to find quiet when it seems impossible.

The world we live in today is loud. There is no getting around it, there is noise all around us, external and internal. How do we find quiet when we are constantly being bombarded with noise? Not only do we have outside noise but there is also so much anxiety we live with today. Jamie Grace is a singer, songwriter and storyteller with hits on the radio and breaks down what it’s like to conquer her own anxiety in this loud crazy world, all while living with Tourette Syndrome and ADHD. With these struggles, it has been even harder for Jamie Grace to find the quiet she needs to reset and recharge in order to survive and thrive in the world. Instead of focusing on the negative aspects of her diagnoses and spiraling down a “woe is me” mentality, she remembers that God is leading her on this journey and uses each moment as a lesson to grow and work on herself and help others through her music and other platforms.

So many of the things written in this book resonated with me. It can be really hard to take the time to just sit and be quiet. With so many avenues of entertainment and connectivity around us, we are rarely able to find that quiet. Smart phones and technology are a great thing, when used right. However, we can find ourselves going down a rabbit hole on social media and instead of enjoying ourselves we become depressed by what we see and hear and compare ourselves to these images. It can be a very detrimental thing to our mental health. At one point, Grace talks about taking an intentional break from social media and how good that can be for all of us. I loved the way she pours so much of her life experiences onto the pages and helps readers see that no matter your struggles it is okay to step back, take a minute for yourself and make sure you are okay before moving on. That moment of quiet, inner reflection can do better than almost anything else, and it is seldom taken advantage of like it should. Whether you are an introvert, or an extrovert, quiet time is essential to enjoy all other moments of your life. Readers that have enjoyed Jamie Grace’s music and even those that have never heard of her but are looking for thoughts on helping deal with an anxious heart would benefit from reading this. I recommend readers to take the time to work through this book and let it work for them as it is meant to. I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

The Patriots

Author: Winston Groom

Publisher: National Geographic

Release Date: September 8, 2020

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A phenomenal historical account of the structure of the American government system by three of the founding fathers.

The American revolutionary war took six years of fighting and another year of British occupation before the treaty was finally signed.  But the fighting was far from over.  Now it turned inward as the colonies tried to figure out the best form of government.  No one wanted a monarchy or a tyranny, but democracy seemed like a pipe dream that couldn’t be obtained.  Each state had their preferences, and no one seemed to want to have collective oversight.  Multiple plans were presented and dismissed before the founding fathers finally came to an agreement and ratified the constitution.

Three of the founding fathers were instrumental in this process.  Alexander Hamilton, who was an immigrant from the island of St. Croix; Thomas Jefferson, who was born into wealth and a widely known southern Renaissance man; and John Adams, the outspoken lawyer from Massachusetts.  All three men played heavy parts in the war, from Hamilton as General Washington’s top aide to both Adams and Jefferson as delegates to the Continental Congress.  But their interaction did not stop there.  They also played huge roles in framing the constitution and keeping their respective colony’s interests uncompromised.  While they each had visions of a great county, the visions could not have been more different, and the three men developed a hatred for each other.

Groom’s account is comprised of nine chapters, three dedicated to each person.  The first three chapters give an overview of each man’s upbringing and involvement in the revolutionary war.  The second three chapters describe their involvement during the framing of the constitution as well as their private affairs.  And the final three chapters close out their lives.  Groom’s histories are always very well received and interesting.  It feels more as though you are reading a story than a nonfiction historical account.  I couldn’t put the book down.  I haven’t read as much about these gentlemen as I should, but this book really brought their stories to light.  This will definitely stay in my collection.  I recommend this to history buffs as well as anyone who has an interest in how our country’s politics came to be. I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

The Escape

Author: Lisa Harris

Series: US Marshals #1

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: November 3, 2020

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

By far one of the best romantic suspense books I have read this year! Action packed with tension at all the right moments that kept me on the edge of my seat until the very last page.

A prisoner transfer seems like a routine assignment for US Marshals Madison James and Jonas Quinn, until the plane crashes and they are lost in the wilderness somewhere between the Pacific Northwest and Colorado. One prisoner is dead and the other escapes in the chaos of the crash. This is the first assignment Madison and Jonas have had together; they met once before at a training but this is their first time working together and it is going to take all of their combined skills to stay alive and accomplish their mission. Their escaped prisoner is smart, cunning, dangerous and determined to not get caught. They follow his trail across the country in a game of cat and mouse as they learn more about each other and fear the danger of losing one another.

I have read a lot of Lisa Harris books and enjoyed some and felt let down by others. This story though gripped me from the very beginning and didn’t let go. The action was right there and pulled me into the story and stayed straight until the very end. There was just the right amount of romance at the right times to keep the story moving and not slow down the pace with the suspense and action. A lot of romantic suspense books lean more to the romance side than suspense and for me that just slows the story down. I enjoy a very slow build on the romance, much more realistic for me. Madison and Jonas had the past meeting to start their relationship but nothing is rushed. They stay focused on the task at hand of finding the escaped prisoner and not making lovey eyes at each other. One of the most recent books I read started that way and it threw me out of the story quickly and kept me from really enjoying what turned out to be a decent book, could have been great if it didn’t start that way.

The plot of this book is great and fast moving. By starting it with the plane crash our main characters are in peril and danger right away and my heart was pumping just as fast as I could turn the page. Madison is a tough female protagonist that also has a lot of pain from her past keeping her from moving on in relationships, it makes her real and relatable. She has a great relationship with her sister which is also used to show the danger she faces in her job, and those she cares about end up in danger as well. Of all the Lisa Harris books I have read I would easily say this is my favorite and one I recommend to readers that like a high thrill ride with characters they can relate to and a story that will keep them on the edge of their seat late into the night.

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

Soul Raging

Author: Ronie Kendig

Series: Book of Wars #3

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: November 3, 2020

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

In the final installment of The Book of the Wars, Ronie Kendig brings readers on a wild adventure across the globe as characters we have fallen in love with begin the final battle prophesied in the series.

Leif Metcalfe has had about all he can take without getting any answers to what has happened to him. He decides to take matters into his own hands; a calculated risk that comes at a high price. He must now join forces with the very enemy he swore to fight against. Those he cares about are at a loss to understand his actions and how to help him come back to them and the man they know him to be. Iskra Todorova is most worried about his soul and knows more than anyone that the course he is on is not one he can survive for long. With not only Leif’s life at stake, Iskra fights for the safety of her daughter and to take down the man behind it all, Ciro Veratti. With a heavy heart, the Reaper sets out to hunt one of their own and in the process start the final battle from the Book of the Wars.

Ronie Kendig is a master when it comes to writing a story with intense detail, action, suspense and so much more. There are some books I read that can be considered lighthearted and simply flow with little attention to detail. I read them but don’t have to pay very close attention to get the gist of the story and follow along. Others, like anything Ronie Kendig writes, need to be read with a fine-tooth comb in order to not miss the important details and all the subtle hints given throughout to connect the story by the end.

Going along with that is following the series in order, so much of what she writes connects with the other books in the series; these are not ones that can be read out of order or as a standalone, each one needs to be read in the order it was written in order to follow the characters and story line on their journey. For fans of her previous work, you will not want to miss this one. I loved this series and felt a deep connection with the characters. The way she writes characters with such dynamic personalities is like no other writer out there. This is a great conclusion to a fun action-packed series and readers will thoroughly enjoy this edition to what is one of the best reads of the year for me. I recommend this to readers that have read the previous in the series and enjoy military thrillers with drama, action, suspense and so much more. I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.