Castle on the Rise

Castle on the Rise

Author: Kristy Cambron

Series: The Lost Castle #2

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: February 5, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Three more stories centered around a new set of castle ruins.  This series is fantastic!

 As Ellie and Quinn’s wedding approaches, Ellie’s friend Laine Forrester travels to France with her daughter Cassie to attend.  Shortly after the wedding, Ellie drops a bombshell concerning her health to Laine and explains that she and Quinn will be traveling to Ireland to visit his estranged family over a personal mater.  She asks if Laine and Cassie will come along because of her experience with antiques.  But Laine has been holding secrets of a failed marriage from Ellie as well.  Quinn’s brother Cormac has become a welcome distraction in Ellie’s life and Cassie has become quite taken with him as well.  Once in Ireland, Laine begins to learn the history behind the family’s pub that has been in business since the late 18th century and all the events that the pub has survived in the past.  When Laine discovers that the family has been left a castle estate, she begins to help catalogue the items left there, including several pianos.  But no one could believe the role this castle has played in the revolution and rebellion throughout Ireland’s history.

 There have been a lot of reviews about the controversy of this book.  First of all, this is a work of fiction.  The author did a great job portraying the time period that each of the stories are set.  The language and phrases used by the characters fit both with the location that the book is set in as well as the time period.  There was some negativity mentioned about alcohol, which is part of the culture of Ireland and the fact the part of the book is set at a pub yields that this is going to be part of the story.  I challenge readers to not get taken in by minutia, but just to enjoy the stories that have been presented to them.

 As far as the stories go, I enjoyed this book more than the first.  Laine’s story is that of a broken woman who has been dealt blow after blow in life.  She needs a strong companion, who has historically been Ellie, but with Ellie’s condition she won’t be able to fully rely on her.  Enter Cormac who is something of a dark horse that finds a way to Laine’s heart.  The companion stories of the 1916 Easter weekend uprising and the 18th century revolution also completed the story of the present in multiple ways.  If I dive to far into these I’m afraid that I’ll start to reveal spoilers, so I encourage you to pick up a copy of this book to find out more!

 The first book centers around Quinn with the second on his brother Cormac, even though neither is the primary character.  Given that this is a trilogy, will the next book be told with their sister Kiera?  I would love to see this story told with a member of their family as the primary character, but I’ll guess I’ll have to wait until next year.

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

Mending Fences

Mending FencesAuthor: Suzanne Woods Fisher

Series: The Deacon’s Family #1

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: February 5, 2019

Luke Schrock, fresh out of rehab, is apprehensive about returning to his Amish community.  He has hurt so many people and is not sure how he will be welcomed back into the folds.  He is given a second chance by the deacon, Amos Lapp, and his wife Fern, although he has to sleep in the office in the barn.  Amos and Fern have a penchant for helping wayward young people, and they have a young lady, Izzy Lapp, in addition to Luke, living with them.  Izzy knows Luke by reputation and makes it a point to ignore him or direct scathing comments toward him, all to Luke’s frustration.  He is so used to being able to charm any female, Amish or not, that he doesn’t understand why she holds so much animosity toward him.  Part of Luke’s condition of living with Fern and Amos is that he must begin his making amends part of the AA 12-step program.  He thinks just telling people sorry will be good enough, but Amos has other ideas.  Luke must apologize, hear how his actions affected others, and then try to fix the damage he has caused.  As Luke goes through his four-page list, he learns a lot about himself and about damages that others have incurred.

Luke has been mentioned in others of Woods Fisher’s books, but this is the first time he is the center of the story.  As the author develops her world of Stoney Ridge, readers can catch up on previous characters while meeting new ones.  It’s easy to feel as though these people are real-life friends and neighbors the more we read about them, and it’s no small feat not to be sucked into their lives, for the good.  We learn more and more about how the Amish live and how it is much more than being “simple.”  This book focuses on that message, of one’s love for and commitment to God, more than it has in any other book.  Forgiveness and redemption also play a big part in the story, and more than one character is able to heal as a result of that powerful lesson.

This new Bishop series explores the lives of the people of Stoney Creek who have been chosen to be the church and community leaders, and it is refreshing to see how so much of their lives parallel ours, yet on a much simpler level.  They face many of the same problems we do, yet they rely on their faith and community in order to solve them.  Hopefully readers can be entertained while learning something along the way.  If for nothing else, I strongly encourage readers of Amish Fiction or Christian literature to give this book a try for its sweet message of hope and forgiveness.

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

Killer Thriller

Killer thriller

Author: Lee Goldberg

Series: Ian Ludlow #2

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Release Date: February 12, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

When an author’s own work comes to life making him the star of his own story, things take an interesting and thrilling turn. Killer Thriller is not to be missed.

 Ian Ludlow has become an international bestseller with his latest thriller. Everyone loves his stories, but what everyone might not know is his fiction has a way of becoming reality. Ian finds himself in Hong Kong with his assistant Margo French to promote his book being made into a movie and uses the time to research his newest story idea. While he is there, he uncovers a conspiracy by Chinese intelligence connected to those in power in the United States and puts himself in the crosshairs when the Chinese learn what he is researching. Without meaning to, he has stumbled upon this plot and must find a way to keep the whole thing from blowing up in his face. Now Ian finds himself trapped in his own thriller, on the run from assassins and trying to prevent an epic disaster using his imagination to solve the craziest of problems even he couldn’t write.

 This was my first Lee Goldberg novel to read and I must say I am disappointed I didn’t find this series sooner as I loved it very much. Even though this was the second in the series, I enjoyed it greatly as a standalone. The characters were fun, witty, and flawed enough to make them believable in everything they did. Ian and Margo, the main characters, are a perfect pair. She is sarcastic, and he has a dry sense of humor but is able to inject humor into his writing that bleeds off the page and into his own life. There is action, adventure, suspense, romance (kind of) and enough humor to keep it lighthearted at just the right moments.

 There is a fair bit of language and adult content in the book making it unsuitable for a younger audience. With that said, it is exactly right for its intended older audience. I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this book, but it reminded me a lot of one of my favorite authors, Robert Dugoni and his writing style: sharp, tight and full of adventure. I highly recommend this for those that love adventure and a very well written thriller.

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

Between Before and After

Between before and afterAuthor: Maureen Doyle McQuerry

Publisher: Blink YA Books

Release Date: February 5, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A past/present mash up story between a mother and daughter that shows the similarities through the differences in age and time.

Molly is fourteen years old and has the weight of the world on her shoulders. Her parent’s marriage is falling apart, and her mother is falling into a deep depression. She knows her mother has been keeping a big secret, which is part of her problems. Molly helps look after her brother Angus and when her Uncle Stephen shows up claiming to have been involved in a miracle curing a young boy, things get even more interesting. Elaine, Molly’s mother, realizes she can no longer hide behind her stories she has loved and must face the truth of what he life has become. Going between 1918 New York and 1955 California, Between Before and After shows how a family can overcome adversity and find new life even in the most trying of times.

Between Before and After is a very interesting tale told in a unique way. The past/present mash up is becoming a very popular method of story delivery, but it is not usually told from more than two or three viewpoints. So, having multiple viewpoints can be a gamble, but it played out well in this scenario. In 1955 with Molly’s view-point, readers see very little of Elaine and what is going on in her head and how she is really involved with her family. She is much more removed than a normal mother figure would be. Reverting to 1918, readers get a glimpse into Elaine’s history, which makes everything in her present make much more sense. Molly and Elaine are the main characters, but the secondary characters are important and add greatly to the story. I especially liked Stephen and Mr. Seward. The last few chapters that were set in 1955 and the characters that were thrown together really brought everything full circle. I enjoyed the way that all played out; it made perfect sense and tied up the loose ends. At the end of some of the chapters, there were little snippets from Hansel and Gretel.  I understand how this tied into the story, but some readers may feel this takes away from the flow of the story and skip over these parts. I think shorter segments might have played out better and not have been as much of a distraction. Overall, I would recommend this book to young readers that enjoy historical novels with a great tie in between the timelines and viewpoints.

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

The Sky Above US

The Sky Above UsAuthor: Sara Sundin

Series: Sunrise at Normandy #2

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: February 5, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

As the series continues, more is revealed about what happened to change the lives of the Texas brothers.

Burdened by the grief of his past, Lt. Adler Paxton ships off to England as a fighter pilot with his sights set on becoming an ace against the German Luftwaffe.  But the secrets of his past weigh heavily on his mind and have caused him to turn into a hothead in confrontations.  When he learns that he will be a wingman instead of a fighter, he decides to take matters into his own hands, which leaves his partner exposed and frightfully close to being killed.  Realizing that he is on a mission of destruction, Adler turns to God to finally heal his wounds.

Violet Lindstorm has always wanted to be a missionary like her Aunt in Kenya.  To begin her career, she joins up with the American Red Cross to help with the war effort overseas.  Once in England, she becomes the manager of an Aeroclub at a new base.  While there are many challenges, one of the bright spots is the mysterious Lt. Adler Paxton who seems to quickly connect with her, but then draw away just as fast.  Maybe she can help Adler overcome the demons of his family’s past.

I was glad to find out more about the event that started the series in The Sea Before Us.  I was gripped from the beginning in that book and got about one third of the story.  Now in this installment, there is another third that is presented.  So, the whole story is getting closer, but more complications are thrown in that I didn’t know about.  Can’t wait for the next installment to fully understand everything!

As with the first book, this one deals with the main character wrestling demons from the event that split up three brothers.  In both cases, Clay seems to have been betrayed the worst, but his story is not up for telling yet.  Paxton and Violet seem destined to be together, but there are plenty of challenges to keep them apart.  And not just Adler’s past either, though that is a large part of it.  The resounding theme of this book is forgiveness on both main characters.

If you are enjoy historical fiction centered around WWII with a balance of romance, then you need to get this book!

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

Forget You Know Me

Forget you know meAuthor: Jessica Strawser

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Release Date: February 5, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A wonderfully thought out story full of characters that develop beautifully and show us the importance of being there for each other in the good times and the bad.

It is rare to find a friend you can stay close to through thick and thin. Molly and Liza have always thought their relationship could withstand anything. After Molly married Daniel, Liza became an honorary member of the family with no one thinking twice about it. When Liza moved, the relationship became more awkward and strained than either of them wanted to admit. Their friendship may not be able to withstand all they thought, and Molly and Daniel’s marriage may not be as rock solid either. Trying to hang on to the last strands of their relationship, Molly and Liza plan a video chat to reconnect. Just when things are starting to warm up between them, Molly must leave the room to attend to a crying child. Liza waits for her to return, leading to the moment things change forever. Liza sees something on the camera that scares her for her friend. She calls the police and then gets in the car and drives all night to be where she thinks she is needed. When she arrives, she is turned away by an icy Molly, and left wondering what she actually saw and what has come over her friend.  None of them can pretend things are ok and they might never be again.

Forget You Know Me starts with a bang and doesn’t slow down until the last page is turned and the last question left is answered. Strawser did an amazing job of creating characters that are flawed but still clinging to that small hope that all they have done wrongs that can be righted and find their way back to that safe place they once knew and held dear. I had trouble following Molly’s motives at first, but as things play out it becomes clear why she is acting the way she is and by the last chapter we see the characters grow and develop in a way I didn’t really think possible at the beginning. I loved watching them learn what was happening and connect the dots to the bigger picture that was being played out. Molly, Liza, and Daniel are the main characters but even the secondary characters have enough material to flesh them out in a way I really started to care about them as if they were more involved than they were. Max may have been one of my favorite characters to be honest. This is the type of book that takes close concentration to see all that is happening and be able to connect all pieces, there was no skimming or skipping ahead to see what was going to happen and I loved that because I was engaged with the characters and didn’t want to miss anything that was going to happen. Molly might have had a lot going on in her life and felt no way out at times, which is something a lot of us probably feel in some form or fashion at some point in our lives, making her a very relatable character. I recommend this book to those that enjoy a great contemporary read with lots of mystery and a very satisfying conclusion. There is a bit of language making it more suitable for a mature reader.

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

Secrets at Cedar Cabin

Secrets

Author: Colleen Coble

Series: Lavender Tides #3

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: January 22, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

The third installment of the Lavender Tides series brings the whole family together with the most excitement and best storyline yet!

 Bailey Fleming is at a loss after her mother is murdered and she finds out the man she married has been lying to her from the beginning. When her mother’s murderers come after her, Bailey flees to a remote cabin in Lavender Tides. Once she arrives, she finds out more of her life has been a lie than she knew. The cabin she is staying at has been used for human trafficking, which brings FBI agent Lance Phoenix into her life. Lance has been working the case to try and rescue his sister, Ava, who was snatched after running away from home. When his path crosses with Bailey, he wonders if her story is really as true as she says and if she can somehow bring him in touch with his sister.

 I am sad to see this series come to an end. I have really come to enjoy these characters and the circumstances that brought them all together. In this installment, we finally get to meet Bailey and see what has happened in her life. The events that brought her to end up back In Lavender Tides are very interesting and really bring the series full circle. With her bad marriage at the beginning, it is hard to believe she will fall for anyone very quickly, but then again having a great guy like Lance come along after being burned so bad could be just what she needed. I enjoyed the interactions between the two of them and how they gravitated towards each other in the rough times they were going through.  When Bailey finds out who she really is and that she has family she can lean on in the hard times, I was really touched by the way that played out. Going from thinking you are alone to finding out you have a family in the middle of an emotional turmoil was a great scene. I would recommend reading the first two in the series before beginning this one to get the backstory of all the characters and what is happening in their lives to bring them all to the point they find themselves in during this book. Readers will be pleased with how all the loose ends from the entire series will be tied up by the last page.

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