The Christmas Blessing

PrintAuthor: Melody Carlson

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: September 5, 2017

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jennifer S. Roman

Melody Carlson continues her feel-good, sweet stories with the Christmas Blessing.  Amelia Richards decides to go see her seven week old baby’s grandparents in Montana for Christmas.  She is hoping they will accept her and her son despite the fact that she was not yet married to her baby’s father, James, who was killed in the War.  A series of mishaps befalls her on her journey from San Francisco to Montana, and she arrives just in time to spend Thanksgiving in a run-down motel.  She and Jimmy both develop a cold, and with her money and luck run out, she decides to visit the family sooner than originally anticipated.  Word on the street is that James’ father is a doctor and salt-of-the-earth kind of guy, while his mother is a strict, cold woman who would fire a volunteer from the Red Cross for not folding bandages properly.  Desperate and broke, she decides to leave baby Jimmy in the manger that is part of the family’s outdoor Nativity scene.  She just hopes that James’ parents will take in Jimmy and find him a good home and that Amelia can move on with her life.

True to Melody Carlson novels, this one is full of gut-wrenching decisions and heartfelt moments.  Even the coldest person has a good heart inside; it just takes some digging to get there.  This novel is no different.  Amelia is down on her luck and it seems to get worse with each passing day, and she is sure that the only way to give her baby a better life is to give him up.  Stung from the loss of a son, James’ mother shuts down and doesn’t want anything to do with anyone until the baby shows up in the manger.  A baby appearing in a manger during the Christmas season is a sure sign from God, in her opinion, and this may be what she needs to move on.  Of course complications arise and make for interesting reading.

***Spoiler Alert***

I have to say, however, that I was disappointed by the ending.  Things came together a little too quickly and suddenly for my tastes.  I was not upset that James ended up being saved and returned to his hometown, but I was surprised that everything wrapped up neatly afterwards.  Considering that he and Amelia knew each other for just a few days, and then he was held captive as a POW, I was confused as to how they would marry so quickly once reunited.  Then again, I am a skeptic pragmatist, so I don’t usually fall for quick happy endings.  For those of you who do, I am sure you will be pleasantly pleased with the ending.

There is some violence in the book (in a form of POW torture), and there entire book is based on a child being born out of wedlock.  Even this is pretty tame in today’s world, so The Christmas Blessing does not have much objectionable in it.  Adults and mature teens should enjoy it for its sweet story and interesting characters.

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

The Missing Factor

Novel-The-Missing-Factor-Cover.jpgAuthor: Daniel C. Lorti

Series: Jim Factor Novel

Publisher: W & B Publishers Inc.

Release Date: August 16, 2017

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

When an arms dealer becomes the target of a manhunt, the quest to prove his innocence and protect his family becomes more important than any deal he has ever entered into.

Jim Factor has been an arms dealer for years with no problems from the law or his customers. One day he is contacted by a man he has done prior business with and told he has a target on his head and should leave immediately. Jim doesn’t want to put his wife in danger and believes the threat is real, so he takes off leaving everything behind including his family in order to keep everyone safe. He flees to San Francisco to start a new life. Jim’s wife hires a private investigator to find her husband, which leads to ties with the Russian Mafia and an even more deadly case than either of them could have expected.

Jim Factor is either the luckiest man alive or a totally unbelievable character. With every endeavor he undertakes, he is successful and quick to catch on. For some of us, myself included, things don’t come that easily. If I am trying to learn a new skill, it takes me forever to get it down, so that makes people like Jim infuriating to people like me. I liked the persistence of his wife to find him but found her lack of concern for what was really going on a little disturbing. If this were my husband, I would be frantic trying to find him and figure out why he disappeared without an explanation. I liked the characters of Adam and Chris, who both came across as very authentic and good at what they were doing and seemed to carry the story. The story was divided into two parts and could have easily been trimmed down to one part with a hundred fewer pages in my opinion. The story is still a good one that mystery lovers will enjoy. I recommend this to fans of mystery series that won’t mind a little fluff with their story.

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

Laugh it Up

Laught it upAuthor: Candace Payne

Publisher: Zondervan

Release Date: November 7, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Everyone fell in love with Candace Payne with the video of her wearing a Chewbacca mask and loving every minute of it went viral. Now she has a book out that will make you love her even more.

Candace Payne had no idea that buying a simple Star Wars toy would lead to the life she has now. She is a wife and mother of two from Dallas Texas and has captured the hearts of nearly 200 million with her infectious laugh all while wearing a Chewbacca mask and recording a video on her phone for Facebook.  It quickly became the top viewed video at Facebook and lead to a slew of interviews and opportunities she might never have otherwise had. Laugh It Up tells the story of how she has found laughter in some of the most difficult circumstances and worked her way through to become the person she is today.

Like you, I can remember the first time I saw the video of Candace wearing the mask and couldn’t keep from laughing. There was just something about her laugh and wearing that masks that made me watch the video over and over just to put a smile on my face. Laugh It Up goes deep into what has made Candace Payne the woman she is today.  Without knowing the backstory, we can’t truly appreciate her.  Her words are both funny and heartfelt.  Just like most of us she has gone through her share of struggles and luckily has found a way to overcome those struggles and find something to laugh and smile about, which in turn, has made millions of others laugh as well.  There are going to be those that don’t like what she has to say, there always are.  But for the majority of readers they will hopefully come away with a better understanding of Chewbacca Mom and what truly makes her someone for us to look to and say there are good things in this life and things to laugh about, we just have to find them.

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

The Fugitive’s Sister

Fugitive sisterAuthor: Linda L. Case

Publisher: W & B Publishers Inc.

Release Date: October 29, 2015

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A miscarriage of justice of an innocent sister sent to prison as a ploy to get her sister, the real criminal behind bars.

When Linda’s brother dies she promises him that she will take care of their mother and younger sister, Becky. Two days after the funeral, Becky’s company is found to be under investigation by the FBI, who shuts it down and convicts Becky of several white collar crimes looking at a possible seventy five years in prison. Becky, never one to stick around for a punishment, runs off and becomes one of America’s Most Wanted criminals. Shortly after she disappears, she makes contact with Linda for help. Linda is in a tough place; she wants to fulfill her promise to her bother and protect her sister but worries if she is doing the right thing. She soon finds out the FBI has been waiting for her to do something that can be used against her to bring her sister to justice. Linda finds herself where her sister should be, behind bars. While Linda struggles to survive and her family fights to free her, flaws in the justice system become visible and heed the warning of what happened to Linda could happen to anyone.

The true story of what Linda Case went through is one that could rival any crime novel out there. I never really felt like I was reading a biography because the story flowed so well. It was a story of what this family went through and not just a retelling of events, which I enjoyed. Linda had some really difficult times she had to endure and reading about her sister and the way she was treated by not only Becky but also the FBI and judges involved made me feel for her and the situation she was in.  You can easily say the things she went through were not fair, and the lack of remorse her sister showed for what she made everyone go through was enough to make her out to be a very good antagonist in the story. The ending was kind of abrupt to me. I wish there would have been a little more time spent following through on the characters and what happened instead of the ending it had (I don’t want to say anymore and give something away).  I would recommend this to readers that enjoy a good true crime story with elements that each family can relate to in some way.

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

The Delusion

The DelusionAuthor: Laura Gallier

Publisher: Tyndale House

Release Date: October 3, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

When a small town becomes the center of a supernatural battle between good and evil, one young man must face the worst to find the best in everyone.

Owen Edmonds has moved to Masonville, Texas in the middle of his senior year where almost a dozen students have committed suicide. The school and town are becoming the center of a media frenzy and the battle for souls is just getting started.  In the woods one night, Owen has his own near-death experience which causes him to see the people around him differently. Almost everyone is wearing shackles and being followed by what Owen calls Creepers. It takes a while for Owen to reach the conclusion that he is not imagining what he sees but that everyone else is blind to it. Knowing everyone he knows and cares about is in danger, Owen must do everything in his power to warn them and stop the evil beings from taking their souls.

When I started reading this book I was having a hard time with insomnia. Reading this while going through insomnia or something similar is not something I would recommend. A book about someone with delusions while experiencing my own because of lack of sleep made for a difficult start to the book. I found myself not wanting to continue because so much of it hit a cord with me. That’s not a bad thing, everything was portrayed so well it made it hard to want to read and be able to relate with what I was going through. It is difficult for me to believe this is the author’s debut novel. The story flowed smoothly with the characters making a connection that pulled me deep into the book. I didn’t realize when starting that this was going to be the beginning of a series and after reading the last page I am thirsting for more. The good vs. evil is something we all deal with, maybe not in the ways described in the book, but we all have our demons we have to face, even if we don’t want to admit it. This is a book that I think many will enjoy, especially those who enjoy the works of Ted Dekker and others that write supernatural thrillers.

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

Renegades

renegadesAuthor: Thomas Locke

Series: Recruits #2

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: November 7, 2017

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Another fantasy novel that is just out of this world!

Sean and Dillon Kirrel are twin brothers with special abilities. They can transmit their bodies between different worlds and also move their spirits without their bodies to talk to one another.  They have helped prevent an alien invasion, but now that the fun is over, they have to return to their own blend of monotony.  Sean must return to school to learn civic lessons for his future political career within the realm.  Dillon goes back to military training, but also finds this a little boring now without real action.  Top that off that both boys have recently broken up with their girlfriends and you’ve got some serious issues.  But when Dillion’s ex, Carey, contacts them after her cousin has been abducted to another realm, they realize this is just the thing they need.  That is until they both get arrested for an unsanctioned transit.  Will they be able to get themselves out of this one and save Carey’s cousin?

Back to the shape shifting worlds from the mind of Thomas Locke with some of our favorite characters introduced earlier this year. Just when you think things couldn’t get more different, Locke throws a wrench into the works and you find yourself amazed with the newness of the places you’ve already been.  Sean and Dillon are back and their typical teenage boy selves with some advances in powers.  I hated to see the relationships end, but what can you do?  And doesn’t Professor Kaviti just rub you the wrong way throughout the book?

I highly recommend reading the first book Recruits before jumping into this one so that you can get the full back story.  But for a fun sci-fi series, give this one a try.

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

The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck

Sarah HollenbeckAuthor: Bethany Turner

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: October 3, 2017

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Nothing like a fun romantic comedy for a fall read!

Sarah Hollenbeck has fallen from society’s grace. Having been stuck in a loveless marriage to a wealthy businessmen wasn’t too bad until she caught him in the act with another woman.  Now that she is divorced, she finds herself with nothing.  No friends, no job, and no resources.  Desperate for something, she joins a book club and decides to write poetry, which she finds is not her forte.  However, when she ventures into writing steamy romance novels where she pours her past lackluster love life into the words, she finds that not only is she good, she makes other women long for her books as well.  She is so good in fact, that she is able to land a trilogy book deal.  Everything is going great for her new life and then she finds that she has been lacking the one thing that makes her life even more meaningful: a true relationship with Christ.  Now she is in a dilemma.  She has a deadline for her next installment of steamy romance but feels that this writing is no longer the course she could take.  Couple that with she is falling for her new pastor makes for a fun and entertaining read.

This was a fun, quick, and witty read. Told from a first person view of the main character, the reader has a real chance to get to know her personally and quickly find that she is very flawed, which makes her seem more human.  I really enjoyed the relationships that she developed and getting to see how they played out as well as how she was her own worst enemy in keeping some of those relationships.  I have had some of the same thoughts she has and it was good to see that the author was likely drawing on personal experience on her main character.  A great fall book to have in your to-read pile!

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