Deborah Calling

Deborah CallingAuthor: Avraham Azrieli

Publisher: Harper/Legend

Release Date: July 25, 2017

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

As the saga continues, will Deborah finally fulfill her personal wish to be a man? And will it impact her true calling?

Deborah has overcome loss, hardship, and physical labor to seek out the elixirist and become a man. After finally locating him at a tannery, she agrees to work for him will he prepares all of the doses of the male elixir.  Now that she has completed the first two doses, she is ready for the final task.  But first they must return to Edom to retrieve the final ingredients.  On the way, they must pass through her hometown and collect Kassite’s old friend that runs the basket factory for the judge.  This trip proves to be even more deadly than Deborah could have considered.  Will anyone recognize her?  If they do, will her quest be over?  And what of her true calling as one of Yahweh’s prophets?

This book picks up directly where the first book ended. And the excitement picks up even more.  After being pursed throughout much of the first book, Deborah must now face some of her past demons.  Her remarkable character shines throughout this book as does the enjoyable banter between her and Kassite.  What happens will surprise many readers as it is not expected, but with more twists also come more turns.  I keep thinking that the story will be over and it will be where it is picked up in the bible, but it just keeps on continuing.  I’m not sure which direction it will go next, but you can bet I’ll be reading it!

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

Deborah Rising

Deborah RisingAuthor: Avraham Azrieli

Publisher: Harper/Legend

Release Date: September 27, 2016

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Based on biblical events, this story has the potential to be the prequel to the passage many have heard.

Deborah lost her parents a year ago, so the local judge took her and her sister in to live with them. The judge’s son chose her sister to marry and things were beginning to look positive.  But the night of the wedding, her sister was slandered a nonvirgin since she did not bleed and must go through a trial.  Throughout the trial, Deborah must watch her sister in the pit of shame while her husband speaks for her since she has no father or male relative.  She is sentenced to death and Deborah must watch as her sister is stoned to death and finds herself suddenly engaged to the same man who killed her sister.  In an attempt to run away, she hears the story of an elixirist from Edom who managed to turn women into men to win a war.  After being returned to the camp, she works in the basket factory and the foreman is a slave from Edom who confirms the story of the elixirist.  With help from a guilt ridden priest, Deborah escapes and sets off on a journey to find this mysterious figure to turn her into a man so that she can avenge her sister’s death and reclaim her family’s land.  But will she ever manage to get away successfully?

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started reading this book other than a story about Deborah the prophet. Did I ever get more than what I bargained for.  This story took me for a wild ride in directions I never expected.  The way the story was told was exceptional and I was hooked from the first page.  Deborah’s desire to be a man defined her very character and when she set her mind to a task, she accomplished it.  It was interesting to see her personality develop into a leader as well.  She got into some perilous situations, but was always able to work them out, sometimes with a little help.

There is always a lot of interpretation left to the imagination on biblical stories, so don’t go thinking this is debunking the bible or anything. Just enjoy the story for what it is.  With no language or anything graphic, I flew through this book ready to jump into next one!

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

Babylon Berlin

BABYLON BERLIN AW.inddAuthor: Volker Kutscher

Publisher: Sandstone Press

Release Date: May 19, 2016

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Netlflix’s newest crime noir has some deep roots from the base novel!

Berlin in 1929 is a dangerous place to be, but for Gereon Rath, it proves to be even less fun than dangerous. He was a rising star on the police force in the Cologne Homicide Division when one case went sideways and he ended up killing man.  Now transferred to vice in Berlin, Gereon finds himself working to shut down pornography factories as part of the health division’s effort to clean up the city.  Even though his new boss is a great guy and confidant, Gereon still wants back in homicide.  When a car is pulled out of a canal containing a corpse that can’t be identified, Gereon believes that he has found his chance to make is way back into his preferred line of work.  But what he discovers can hardly be what he signed up for!

As far as crime noirs go, this one was spelled out pretty well. The scene was done well as was the presentation of the timeframe of political clashes.  I also thought that the flow was great and pushed the story along pretty quickly.  However, I had trouble relating with Gereon.  I just couldn’t find that connection that made me want to see how things were going to work out for him.  Fortunately, several other aspects of the story keep it moving and I really enjoyed it.

There is a lot of language throughout the book as well as sex as it is dealing with pornography. I recommend this book for mature readers and those that want to compare it to the television series.

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

Hope in the Holler

Hope in the HollerAuthor: Lisa Lewis Tyre

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Release Date: January 9, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica  Higgins

A young girl who is stronger than she knows must now face the scheming family she has never known to survive living in the Holler. Another outstanding book by Lisa Lewis Tyre that is perfect for young readers!

It has always been Wavie and her mom; they didn’t need anybody else and they both liked it that way. When Wavie’s mom gets sick and knows she is about to die, she gives Wavie a list of instructions for her life. The one she is trying the hardest to live by is Be Brave.  It’s hard, especially now that she is having to go and live with an aunt she has never known that seems intent on taking anything she can get from Wavie.  Now that Wavie is back in the town her mother tried so hard to leave and never return, she starts to learn more about her mother than she thought possible.  With the help of a few new friends, Wavie works to improve her situation and solve one of the oldest mysteries in town.

I absolutely loved this book. Lisa Lewis Tyre has figured out the perfect formula for writing a book that middle grade children will love.  There is mystery, friendships, life lessons and strength throughout every page.  Wavie and her friends have so much spunk and perseverance that it will be difficult for any reader to not relate to them and want to root for them to succeed.  Even though it is a serious subject matter, it never gets more than the intended audience will be able to handle.  Wavie may have had a lot of harsh blows handed to her in her short life, but the strength and grace in which she handles them can be a lesson to all of us.  The wit Tyre brings to the story helps counter the heavy subject matter bringing the reader right into the story with no desire to leave.  The short chapters are great to keep young readers turning the page and engaged in the story.  I really can’t find anything negative to say about this book and sincerely hope Lisa Lewis Tyre continues to write books for young readers with a message. I recommend this book to all young readers, parents and teachers for a starting point of conversations that will help all involved.

Phoebe’s Light

phoebe lightAuthor: Suzanne Woods Fisher

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: February 6, 2018

Reviewer: Jennifer S. Roman

The first book in the Nantucket Legacy series finds Quakeress Phoebe Starbuck overjoyed that the widowed and handsome Captain Phineas Foulger has returned with his ship, the Fortuna, overflowing with whale oil.  She has a crush on him even though he is old enough to be her father, and she is overwhelmed when he reciprocates his feelings for her.  Her former love interest, Matthew Macy, and her father, Barnabas Starbuck, wonder what ulterior motive the Captain has for his sudden interest in Phoebe, but all lovestruck Phoebe can think of is marrying the man of her dreams.  Despite their warnings, Phoebe marries the Captain and insists on joining him for a late-season whaling trip.  Matthew joins as the boat’s cooper, and because the regular crew is superstitious of a woman being on the boat, a rag-tag collection of boys and felons make up the new crew.  Phoebe immediately falls ill with a life-threatening case of seasickness, and spends her entire trip in the cabin.  It’s only when they finally encounter land and she is able to recover in a local’s home that she sees the captain’s true colors.  He leaves her on the island with Matthew and continues his search for whales, which gives Phoebe the time she needs to come to her senses.  She also discovers why he married her in the first place, so she and Matthew devise a plan to change their lives for the better once they arrive back on Nantucket.

This is a great book told in two different perspectives.  The reader keeps up with Phoebe’s daily life through narrative, and her history (and family secrets) are revealed through her great aunt’s journal entries.  As Phoebe reads the journal, readers are told the story of how Nantucket was settled and how Phoebe’s aunt became a wise and prominent citizen.  The history of Nantucket is told through this story, and while some names and places are fictional, many of them are true.  It’s a new history of America that has not been told often, and it’s told from a fascinating perspective.  I absolutely loved learning about the Quakers and settling of Nantucket through this compelling and fast-moving story.  I was never bored or left wondering why I picked up the book, and the characters, although good people, are flawed and therefore relatable.   Even Phoebe, the seemingly most pious character, has flaws that we all have experienced at some point of our lives, so she brings our sympathy instead of disinterest.  All in all, the book was interesting and fun without dwelling too much on any one thing.  I highly recommend it to readers who enjoy historical novels with a smattering of romance thrown in for entertainment.

There is some violence in the book that is mild by today’s standards, and there is also some drug abuse.  Overall, however, Phoebe’s Light does not have much objectionable in it.  Adults and mature teens should be fine reading it.

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

The Lost Castle

The Lost CastleAuthor: Kristy Cambron

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: February 6, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Three romances all woven together through time. If castles could talk!

Ellie Carver has been taking care of her aging grandmother, returning the favor after her grandmother took her in when her parents were killed in a car accident. She has loved to hear her grandmother’s past stories.  One day, her grandmother suddenly seems anxious and begins talking about a castle and a man that she needs Ellie to find to tell her that she has chosen him.  With only a photograph for reference, Ellie takes a leap of faith and boards a plane to France to help fulfill her grandmother’s dying wish without knowing of anything that awaits her.

In 1944, France’s Loire Valley is under German occupation, but the French Resistance is growing strong. Viola is a British implant who has escaped from Paris and is trying to find a way to get information she has learned back to Britain.  She stumbles upon a dilapidated church where she finds hidden food stores.  It is here she meets members of the French Resistance who already know who she is.  Hoping to make her way back to freedom, she finds herself falling for one of the members and hopes they can survive the way to see the Allied invasion.

The same location in the 1700s holds a country estate for members of the French Nobility. Lady Avaline is engaged to one of the sons of the estate holder, but on the eve of their engagement, the peasants attack the castle.  As they search for Lady Avaline to make an example of her, Robert, her soon to be brother-in-law, hides her and nurses her back to health after the attack while her fiancé and his father turn tail and run from trouble.  As they put the estate back in operation, the pair find themselves growing closer together, but can this romance actually happen?

As the first book in a trilogy, this was almost having a full trilogy. Following three stories from three different time periods gives everyone something to love.  Centered around the castle known as the sleeping beauty, each story tells of love, loss, and the willingness to change.  I found myself enraptured with all three stories, but I felt most in tune with the WWII setting as that is time period that I feel Cambron excels at telling.  However, each story was exciting and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know all of the characters.

Cambron also did a great job with scenery for each time period including how the landscape had changed at each juncture. From the French Revolution, to WWII into a war with Alzheimer’s, each story faced it’s set of challenges.  I recommend this book to both historical fiction and romance fans.  I challenge readers to find their favorite of the three stories.

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

Out of the Ashes

Out of the AshesAuthor: Tracie Peterson & Kimberley Woodhouse

Series: Heart of Alaska #2

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: January 29, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Another great historical romance set along the Alaskan frontier at the Curry Hotel!

Katherine Demarchis has recently been windowed (and released) from her abusive husband, who was also a US senator. Now a shell of her former self, her grandmother Maria Harrison is bound and determined to get her to find her happiness again.  The last time that she was actually happy was with a young man that she truly loved when she lived in France.  Her grandmother suggest a summer spent in Alaska with a sightseeing trip along the way.  Knowing that she will be constantly badgered by her grandmother if she doesn’t agree, she relents and hopes that just maybe she will be released from the blackness along the way.

Jean-Michel lives with the torments of war in Syria from the Druze revolt. He returned home in France to his sister Colette and their father, but their father took ill rather quickly and passed away.  With his share of the business bought out, Jean-Michel and Collette do not have to worry for money and father wrote them letters before he died suggesting that they take a trip after he is gone.  Shortly thereafter, Jean-Michel receives a letter from Maria Harrison telling him part of the horrors of his lost love Katherine and sends tickets to join them in Alaska this summer.  Might this be what Jean-Michel needs to let go of the past?

Traveling back to Curry again was an absolute treat, especially getting to see so many of the central characters from the first book. The storyline intertwined between that of Jean-Michel and Katherine, Colette, and Allan and Cassidy.  As with the first book, the main characters do not have a central relationship with God which would allow them to release the baggage that they carry throughout much of the book.  As they progress, they find they cannot do this alone.  The suspense is also kicked up a notch when the influenza virus hits the curry hotel and some of the characters take ill, possibly never to be heard from again.

The book is filled with history, suspense, humor, and a resounding theme of forgiveness. I recommend this book to all ages that love a great story about the history of Alaska.

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