The Brothers of Auschwitz

Author: Malka Adler

Publisher: One More Chapter

Release Date: September 1, 2020

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A story that cannot help but bring about emotion from anyone who reads it!

Dov and Yitzhak are brothers in a Jewish family that live high in the Hungarian mountains.  They are isolated from society outside of their small village, but one day in 1944 changes everything.  They knew that a war was going on in Europe, but they weren’t really affected by it.  When the Axis troops show up, they entire family suddenly finds themselves on a train bound for Auschwitz.  Shortly after arriving, all members of the family find themselves separated, some never to be seen again.  Dov and Yitzhak are sent to different work groups and experience the horrors of multiple concentration camps.  After reuniting, they have kept quiet about their experiences until now.  Told to a family friend, the stories and horrors experienced both during the concentration camps as well as after their liberation are told. 

The stories will cause readers to experience a sea of emotions while reading the text.  These are stories that should not be forgotten to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again.  Several of these experiences are generalized in historical fiction, but when it’s truly biographical, it touches the readers soul!  This time period has always been of interest to me, but I haven’t felt this way when reading about the concentration camps since I read Schindler’s List over 20 years ago.  Just knowing that its true brings about a different level of comprehension.  I read this in just a few hours over a couple of flights and found myself talking to random passengers about it after I finished. 

There was only one item that I really disliked throughout the book and that was how it was presented.  There is no differentiation between verbal dialogue and general description.  However, it wasn’t enough to take away from the book itself.  There is some language throughout the book, which is expected of the nature of the book.  I recommend this to mature audiences and those they have an interest in the time period.

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

The Ancestor

Author: Lee Mathew Goldberg

Publisher: All Due Respect Publishing

Release Date: August 20, 2020

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A very intriguing premise with back and forth timelines and a hint of the supernatural with greed, anger, and love at the heart of the story.

When Wyatt Barlow wakes up frozen in the Alaskan wilderness, he has no idea who he is, where he is, or more strangely when he is. The only thing he has with him are a journal with the date 1898 and a mirror. He watches and sees another man hunting close by and realizes the man looks exactly like him, minus the beard. Wyatt follows the other man home and studies him with his family. It doesn’t take him long to realize he is no longer in his own time and his family is long gone. Wyatt soon befriends Travis, his lookalike and concludes Travis is his great-great grandson. Wyatt originally came to Alaska looking for gold and sets his mind at finding it once again and hopefully a family as well.

The Ancestor is an interesting premise with touches of the supernatural that just didn’t finish strong for me. There was no surprise or twist that I didn’t see coming. I was really hoping for a strong ending, instead it fell completely flat with what was easy. For the most part, I didn’t find a connection with any of the characters that made me care enough to be invested in their stories. The dialogue was forced in most instances and the language was too harsh for my liking. Supernatural or Science Fiction is not my usual genre to read, but I decided to give this one a try after first hearing about it and being intrigued. There was not enough evidence or background to show how this might have happened to Wyatt. Even with a science fiction novel you want the story to make sense, but this book didn’t provide that, it was just written and we were expected to believe it without anything to back up the claims. While I think Science Fiction fans will enjoy this one, it just wasn’t for me. I recommend it to those that enjoy sci-fi and speculative fiction without wanting much explanation for the events they read.

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

Until I Met You

Author: Tari Faris

Series: Restoring Heritage #2

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: September 8, 2020

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

As the town square is restored, more relationships are restored between members of the town.

Libby Kingsley decides to take the job of the town librarian in Heritage, Michigan, the town her brother Luke has settled in.  Luke had been kidnapped from their family for many years and was just reunited with them.  Libby has also had her share of tragedy after the bookstore that she worked at in England was robbed by her boyfriend and she was held at knifepoint for cash and a first edition of Moby Dick.  Three years later, she decides to not let her fear control her life anymore and branch out.  When she realizes that the library is in the basement of the town hall, she tried to find a suitable replacement, which becomes the abandoned schoolhouse.  All she must do is convince the town council and a hot, but grumpy landscape contractor to agree to her plan.

Austin Williams wants to get his family business back on track.  But to do so, he must complete the revitalization project in Heritage, which is also the town that his brother serves as a pastor at a church.  To say that the two don’t get along is an understatement, so Austin wants to get this project over with as fast as possible.  When the new librarian throws a wrench in his plans, Austin gets more frustrated by the day.  But when he finds that she is not just book smart but can plan out ways to make his project stay within budget, he finds that he may need to reevaluate his life and his standards.

I enjoyed this book so much more than the first in the series!  Maybe the first book was just setting things up, but this story pulled me in so much more.  I loved Libby’s story, which may have been because she is such a book lover.  She had to overcome agoraphobia and a traumatic event with her boyfriend at the time.  Olivia was such a positive influence throughout the book and quite the opposite of Libby.  I thought casting them as roommates really brought out the best in both of them.  Austin and Nate’s relationship centered around stories that each had of the other.  Nate lived with a dark past that tormented him even though he knew he’d been forgiven by God.  He just couldn’t forgive himself.  Austin didn’t want to forgive Nate for the past and used it as a crutch to forge ahead.  All flawed characters in need of grace who pulled together when it was needed. 

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

The Edge of Belonging

Author: Amanda Cox

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: September 8, 2020

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A fantastic coming of age story about finding yourself in the darkest of times and learning that no matter what, everyone deserves happiness!

Ivy Rose has been returned to her hometown to sort out the affairs of her recently deceased grandmother. It is the only place she feels she can go after the relationship with her fiancé ends badly. She is hurt and wants to know about her past, the one thing no one has ever been willing to share with her. Her Grandmother left her clues to the mystery of her adoption, but a key piece to the puzzle has gone missing.

Over two decades earlier, Harvey James found a newborn baby abandoned on the side of the road. Harvey is homeless and has lacked someone to love and have a real connection with until he finds this baby that needs him. He knows he needs supplies to take care of a baby and goes to the church for help and ends up intertwined with two people trying to help him and the young baby he has found. But Harvey has spent years staying away from others after a lifetime of being abandoned. What matters most is the safety of the innocent child and keeping her safe. Harvey is willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen.

In this beautifully written dual-time story, readers will have no choice but to fall in love with Ivy, Harvey and all those they touch. I must admit, I put off starting this book, just didn’t seem like one that would touch me, but was I wrong. I tackled each page of this novel with rabid enthusiasm to follow the stories of Harvey and Ivy. The dual-time story gave a great dynamic to what was happening to the characters and why they would react the way they did in the present timeline.  The romance aspect of the story was one of the best written I have read in a long time. Each relationship played out in step as I felt it naturally would have. Nothing was forced and each character resonated with me on a deep level. The gem of the whole story would probably be Grandma Pearl in the flashback timelines of the story; she was so spunky and loved everyone with a kind of love we all should strive to show. After reading this, I sat and just thought about the way these characters truly found themselves.  They may have had to go through some hardships, but they came out the other side stronger and better for it. I think if we would all focus on the hard times we go through and find the happiness at the end, like Ivy and Harvey were able to do, we would see our lives in a much better way. I recommend this book to readers that enjoy a story full of mystery, intrigue, drama, hope, and so much more!

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

Ignite the Sun

Author: Hanna C. Howard

Publisher: Blink YA Books

Release Date: August 18, 2020

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A perfect YA fantasy for readers that enjoy magic, romance, adventure and so much more!

Siria Nightingale has only ever heard tales of the Sun.  In the world she lives in, she has never seen the sun, it is only a legend. A witch known as Queen Iyzabel has shrouded the kingdom in shadows claiming it will protect her subjects from the dangers of the light. Even though she has never known the sun or light, Siria has always felt uneasy in the darkness and shadows. After years spent at academy, Siria is chosen by the queen to have a special spot at the Choosing Ball. What she doesn’t know is that she along with the others selected are suspected of being the long-lost Sun Child. Only the Sun Child can break the darkness and bring back the light to the kingdom. Siria along with the rebels sent to watch over her and help her try to save the kingdom and Ignite the Sun.

In Ignite the Sun, I felt Siria was the perfect protagonist. She grows throughout the story and comes into her own by the end. Her arc as a main character was truly enjoyable to read and follow along with. Readers watch as she starst the story as a young, impressionable woman ready to do anything to please the queen, until she learns the truth of her life and all she has believed to be the truth is a lie. The more she learns, the greater we see her grow as a character. She has her flaws, nothing in the story tries to paint her as the perfect person, and she embraces her flaws and learns to grow despite all that is placed in her way. Not once did I lack the ability to visualize setting or characters, Howard did a fantastic job painting a picture with words that readers will easily be able to follow along and enjoy. Readers that enjoy the mythological aspect of stories will be pleased with the history of the kingdom and how the dark came to overtake the light. This is a great story for Young Adults to read dealing with hate, bullying, teasing, and how to come into your own skin and be proud of who you are, even if it isn’t who you expected. I recommend this book to readers that enjoy fantasy, mythology, and hope for a life better than imagined for.

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

Mountain Laurel

Author: Lori Benton

Publisher: Tyndale

Release Date: September 1, 2020

Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Rich historical setting combined with flawed characters seeking redemption make this a can’t miss for genre lovers!

Ian Cameron never planned to set foot again on his uncle’s plantation in North Carolina.  But in 1793 after his cabinet making apprenticeship doesn’t go as planned, he makes the journey back again.  He feels he must put his past behind him and become the man to take over the plantation after his uncle passes.  Upon his arrival, he quickly learns that he doesn’t fit the preferences of his new aunt and her daughters.  Then he meets Seona, a light skinned young lady who is very artistic.  He’s very taken by her, but there is a small problem.  She is enslaved to his uncle.

Seona remembers the last time Mister Ian was at the planation.  She has never forgotten his pale flax hair color and he was one of the first pictures that she drew.  She has continued to draw but keeps it a secret to keep her and her family safe.  When Ian discovers her talent, he encourages it and even offers her the use of his cabinet making shop to continue to develop her drawing.  Can Seona put her trust in Ian?  Somebody who might own her one day?

This is the first novel that I’ve read by Lori Benton and I find it hard to believe that I haven’t come across her works before.  She has tremendous talent for developing rich historical scenery that pulls the reader into the story so that they are walking in the setting rather than reading about it.  She also develops deeply flawed characters that easily give readers the ability to connect with many of them.  Even the supporting characters quickly find a way into the reader’s mind so that they are often left wondering about them. 

This book is written during a difficult time in our country’s history that continues to make the forefront of today’s headlines.  The historical accuracy needs to be read by people so that it’s not sugarcoated into a feel-good story.  This book also deals with the poor treatment of people during the time, even concerning rape.  It will undoubtedly be difficult for some to read, but it is worth it.

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

Nine

Author: Rachelle Dekker

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: September 1, 2020

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

This is the book I have been waiting for Rachelle Dekker to write: her own voice, her own story and one readers will not want to miss!

For the past several years, Zoe Johnson has done her best to stay in the shadows and not draw attention to herself. She has stayed to herself and not let anyone get close to her for fear of what it might mean. While working at a diner to support herself on the edge of a small town, a strange teenager makes her way in and has no memory of her past or anything other than she needs to find a woman in Corpus Christi. From that moment on, Zoe’s world changes and she finds herself on an adventure to steer clear of her past while helping this girl known as Lucy discover what has happened to her and stay one step ahead of those out to find Lucy and keep her secrets from the rest of the world.

Ever since I heard Rachelle Dekker was going to be writing like her father, Ted Dekker, I was super excited to see how her writing would compare to his. With her first few books, I noticed the writing style and voice were very much influenced by Ted, so much so that I thought I was reading one of his books, just not quite as good.  I felt the one they wrote together was just a Ted Dekker book, there was no distinction as to who wrote what part. In each of her books I haven’t heard a solid voice from Rachelle Dekker until now. This book is 100% hers!  I love the story, the style and everything about it. The one thing I didn’t love was not having enough time to sit and read it all at once.

Each character is perfectly crafted and has a beautiful arc throughout the story. Zoe grows up quickly taking on Lucy and helping her on her mission. At the beginning, readers don’t have a clear idea of how old Zoe is but I would say mid-twenties, not old enough to be the mother of a teenager but she quickly fills that roll and has to come to terms with her own issues as she is trying to help Lucy with hers. Seeley is the character we see change the most. It could be said that his change was too abrupt, but Dekker did a really great job of showing why he changed and giving readers a trail to follow to believe in this character. The way she wrote Lucy and Zoe and their relationship pulled me into the story and kept me glued to my seat wanting to know if they would come out okay and how they would get to that point. I felt such a deep connection to these characters and loved the way I was so absorbed into the story.

Again, this is the book I have been waiting for from Rachelle Dekker! She has finally found her voice and I hope she keeps it and continues to churn out amazing stories. I recommend this to readers that enjoy a great suspense thriller that will keep them guessing and give them a solid connection to the characters.

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

Twin Daggers

Author: MarcyKate Connolly

Publisher: Blink YA Books

Release Date: August 25, 2020

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

One of the best YA books I have read in a long time! The suspense was top notch, my emotions were all over the place with the characters, and I continually held my breath to see how things would turn out. Some books deserve more than five stars, and this is one of them!

Aissa and her twin sister Zandria have spent their lives living a lie. They pretend to be normal Technocrats going to school and getting ready to learn the roles they will have in their new apprenticeships. However, at night they plot how they will take down the Technocrats and help resurrect their people, the Magi from hiding.  Aissa is given a new mission; she is to find and kidnap the heir to the Technocrat throne.  Rumor has it the heir is one of the Heartless, a person born with no heart and survives only by using mechanical replacements. When Zandria is captured by the Technocrats and taken away, Aissa has to work everything in her power to help get her sister back, including asking from help from a young Technocrat researcher she has become close to and may be the secret to finding a cure for the Heartless.

“Aissa’s life is a web of carefully constructed lies.”  One of the best opening sentences I’ve read this year. MarcyKate Connolly has crafted a fun, entertaining, heart-pounding, suspenseful read that I feel certain will be read again and again. This was my first book to read by Connolly and it is safe to say I was not disappointed. I absolutely love a great YA book; I am a big fan of The Hunger Games and the like and would easily say this book rates up with those for me. From the very beginning, readers will be pulled in with intrigue and wondering what these characters are going to have to face. It didn’t take very long at all for me to find a connection with Aissa and stick with her through the journey. The fact that she is a twin made the emotions run that much higher when her sister is captured, and she is trying to save her by herself. I’m a twin and I’ll tell you, that emotional connection is huge. Throughout the whole book every different relationship Aissa found herself in, whether with her parents, her sister, Aro, Remy, readers see a connection and each one feels absolutely real and nothing is forced. This is written as the first in a series and I am itching to get my hands on the next. That is the hard thing about finding a new author and book you love so much; you have to wait for the next to come out and it can sometimes be agonizing. I would recommend this to readers that love young adult dystopian novels with characters they can embrace and route for and a story that will pull them in from the first page and not let go. I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Bodies in the Tiber

Author: Vincent B. Davis II

Series: Sertoris Scrolls #3

Publisher: Thirteenth Press

Release Date: May 15, 2020

Rating: 5 Stars

Review: Jessica Higgins

Davis moves the series from the battlefield to the battle of the senate.  Who knew that today’s politics so mimicked Rome’s over two thousand years ago?

Quintus Sertoris has just returned from the northern battle against the Cimbri to secure Rome’s borders.  Hailed as Hero of the North, Quintus is uncomfortable with all the public attention.  He only wants to find his family and start to rebuild his relationship.  He soon learns that his wife has perished by her own hand and is reunited with his servant, his nephew who is also is adopted son, and his true love Arrea.  But he has changed and so has everyone else.  Quintus soon learns that Marius wants Quintus to become a senator to show support for his consulship and elected party.  Quintus left the noble party years ago because of the corruption of politics and has misgivings but finally decides that maybe he can do some good in the world.  What he discovers is that while Rome may be secure at her borders, the Republic is on the brink of collapse within!

I’ve enjoyed all the Sertoris Scrolls, but this one was enjoyable as a political thriller.  What was interesting was how the political parties spend more time trying to stay in power than they actually do for the good of the Republic.  Sound familiar?  Like maybe it could be written in today’s world?  As always, Davis did a great job on his research for the time period and cast of characters.  I’m a huge fan of Ancient Roman history, so I’ve already done a tremendous amount of research on the time period before I read these books and I’m always pleased to see how accurate they are. 

Quintus continues to grow as a noble character, even though he had a bit of a stumble throughout this book with his drinking and depression.  However, I’m glad to see that he was able to overcome and continue to do what he thinks is right even when wrongs continue to confront him.  I’m not going to divulge much, but I’m extremely happy about an event in this book that previously frustrated me in the second.  I think those that read through the book will understand once they read it.

There is quite a bit of harsh language and violence throughout the book, so I recommend that only mature audiences select this title.  Lovers of the time period will surely enjoy this!  I hope to see this series continue!

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

Under Scottish Stars

Can two people who need new beginnings find one together?

Author: Carla Laureano

Series: The MacDonald Family #3

Publisher: Tyndale House

Release Date: July 7, 2020

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Serena Stewart is working to get her life back on track.  Her husband passed a few years ago, leaving her with two young children.  After the oldest child, Em, gets in a fight at her academy, she is given the choice to be withdrawn or expelled.  With little options, Serena decides to buy back her shares of the family hotel in Skye and return for at least the summer to figure things out.  While there, she begins to butt heads with the hotel manager Malcom Blake.  While the don’t get off on the right foot, they begin to learn to trust each other in more than just a working relationship.  While both she and Malcom have given up on their personal dreams to support their family, maybe together they can find a way to find a new dream.

Laureano always manages to write characters that I can relate with.  I wish that I had read the first books in this series to get the full back stories on all the supporting characters as well as any side stories that may have impacted both Serena and Malcom, but I quickly fell into step with both of them.  Both characters had to overcome hardships from loss and even when they thought they found a way forward to happiness; another challenge arose that really tested their will.  I loved the scenery descriptions that really brought the visual of the Scotland area, especially when dealing with the night sky.  Her books always make me want to travel to the location so that I can see it for myself and this was no different. 

I recommend this for those that love the series as well as contemporary romance.  If you are unsure because you haven’t read the others, this can easily be a standalone.

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