Pretty in Punxsutawney

Pretty in Punxsatawney_RD3Author: Laurie Boyle Crompton

Publisher: Blink YA Books

Release Date: January 15, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A great coming of age story that shows how important it is to not judge a book by its cover and find what’s beneath the surface.

Andie loves movies more than most anybody she knows. When she moves to Punxsutawney with her family right before the start of her senior year in high school, she gets caught in her very own version of Groundhog Day. Being the new kid in school is hard enough but having to live the first day at a new school over and over again is even worse. Andie gets stuck in a time loop reliving the first day of school with only her realizing the day is repeating. After watching Pretty in Pink and other classic teen romances, she becomes convinced she needs to meet her true love and get a kiss to break the curse. Each day she tries to infiltrate a new clique and finds the best in each of them she never would have seen or known otherwise. With each passing day, she learns more about her new friends but also loses hope she will end the time loop and be able to continue with her life.

Confession time, I have seen neither of the main movies it talks about here: Groundhog Day or Pretty in Pink. Even so, I knew what the stories are about and was able follow along without a problem. This was a very cute story that has a lot of heart to it. I loved the way Andie used each new day as a way to learn something and bring all that together in the end to help solve her problem instead of getting discouraged to the point she gave up altogether.  Even though I found certain parts of it predictable, it didn’t take away from making me want to keep turning the pages to find out what was going to happen. Andie’s relationship with her parents played out well, the more she continued in the time loop the more worried they became with her behavior and with good reason. I enjoyed the fact that this is a YA read that is clean and not anything I would have concern letting my children read. I recommend this book to young readers that want a fun romance with heart, and maybe even older readers looking for a little nostalgia.

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

 

Never Let Go

Never Let Go

Author: Elizabeth Goddard

Series: Uncommon Justice #1

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: February 5, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

It may be a two decade old cold case but things are just heating up for the team.

 After her grandfather is killed in a hit and run and evidence starts to surface that it wasn’t an accident, Willow Anderson starts looking into his last case and trying to find a connection. The case is that of an abducted baby from a hospital over twenty years ago. The mother is dying and wants more than anything to what happened to her only child. Willow finds out her grandfather enlisted the help of her former flame, Austin McKade. Together Austin and Willow will have to deal with their feelings and all they left unsaid to try and solve a case someone is determined to keep them from solving. The clues lead them across the country from Texas to Wyoming, forcing Austin to face his past and the family he has drifted away from. It’s not only their lives they are risking by looking into this case, but also their hearts.

 This storyline is one that will pull readers in and keep them until the very last page. I was very pleased with how well this story played out. I was hooked from the very first page with the kidnapping of a baby from the hospital until the very end. Willow and Austin are a good couple to play off each other. They had good chemistry and the way Goddard used trust issues to show tension between the two really helped propel the story forward. I wasn’t sure at a few parts how things were going to play out, the back and forth viewpoints coupled with new ones added about midway through almost through me for a loop but I was able to quickly catch on and keep track of who’s head we were supposed to be in. Maybe if the chapters had been headed with who’s view point we were in the transition might have been a little smoother, but that’s just me. I really enjoyed the dynamic between Austin and Heath, his brother, which leads me to guess Heath’s story will be coming up next. There was a very good mix of romance and suspense to keep the pages turning but also keep me engaged with the characters and why I really needed to care about them. I recommend this book to fans of romantic suspense novels and looking for a great start to a new series.

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

The Forgotten Hours

Forgotten hours

Author: Katrin Schumann

Publisher: Lake Union Press

Release Date: February 1, 2019

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Emotional, intense, and thought provoking.

 When Katie Gregory’s father was imprisoned for the statutory rape of her best friend, she never believed it to be true.  Her life fell apart and she had to change her name to get away from all the reporters and other people snooping around in her family’s life.  Now at the ripe age of twenty-four, she has a great job in Manhattan and finally a stable romantic relationship with an artist.  Her mother divorced her father and remarried, and her younger brother has had no interest in keeping in touch with their father or anyone else in the family for that matter.  Katie has always sought her father’s approval, even now that he is locked away.

 But the time for his sentence has almost been served and he is about to be released.  As Katie is the only one he has been talking to, he asks her to head back to the lake cabin to get it ready for him to stay at.  The same cabin where everything fell apart.  Going back to this place is the last thing Katie wants to do as it starts to dredge up memories that she would rather keep locked away.  As these memories start to climb back to the surface, Katie’s curiosity gets the best of her and she starts digging around to find out more information about the trial and the events.  But what she finds may change how she views the man whose approval she always needed.

 This book had a lot of promise, but it took a long time for it to deliver.  The story line was good and Katie played out her character’s insecurities as expected, but it just didn’t move along very quickly.  Katie was a fragile person, even though she had been moving on with her life after her father was taken away.  She was also very naïve, but is it really that surprising given what she went through?  It just goes to show that one random comment made in public can bring about a firestorm.

 The book jumps around between past and present quite a bit, with no indication that the reader was just transported back in time.  The reader then has to figure out when in the past this was.  It doesn’t always move chronologically, so it may be a memory from one of the summers that Katie and Lulu were together, to the first summer that they met, to the last summer they were together.  It got a little confusing and took away from the story to continually figure out how each scene tied into the overall plot.

 There is quite a bit of harsh language throughout the book as well as implied sex scenes including graphic description of statutory rape.  I recommended this book for mature readers.

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

The Killer Collective

thekillercollective

Author: Barry Eisler

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Release Date: February 1, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A deep thriller with ties that span the globe and a group willing to do anything to stop a horrible group of people before more are hurt.

 After Seattle Police officer Livia Lone finds evidence of a child pornography ring involving high officials in the government, she becomes a target. Livia and her boss believe the FBI is behind the attack and reach out to a former marine Dox. They quickly assemble a group to keep them safe and take down the threat. One of the main members of the group is John Rain, a retired specialist initially contacted to neutralize Livia. Also in the group are black ops soldiers Ben Treven, Daniel Larison and Colonel Scot Horton. Going across the country, the group fights to keep others safe and bring down the threat, even if it is at the highest levels of the government.

 Let me start this by saying it was a good read. The story matter was intense, and the characters were very well driven in their pursuit of stopping the villains to save the children being hurt. That being said, one thing about this book is there is A LOT going on. Not only in the number of characters to keep up with but also with the number of places they go and all that they must do to bring about some justice. I found it hard at times to keep up with who all was on what team and what exactly their role was. Aside from keeping up with that, the story was great. I enjoyed the way Livia’s background played into her passion for what she was doing and the fact that anyone helping her didn’t hesitate once they knew her mission and what she was fighting for. I found the relationships throughout very believable. These are characters that are thrown into difficult and stressful situations and have to have someone to rely on and have their back.

 One of the absolute best aspects of the book were the action scenes, especially towards the beginning with Livia and her Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Judo moves she used in self-defense. Those scenes played out extremely well and I enjoyed reading them and felt as if I was there in the moment. I love when a scene plays out that way and really puts me in the room with the characters. I recommend this to readers that enjoy a good thriller with a heart at the center of the story and a lot of good versus evil. Readers need to be aware of some very harsh language throughout, so I wouldn’t recommend for a younger audience

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

How the Light Gets In

how the light gets inAuthor: Jolina Petersheim

Publisher: Tyndale House

Release Date: March 5, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

The emotional conflict is so intense throughout this book that I couldn’t put down.

Ruth has been living in Ireland with her mother and two daughters while her husband has been in Afghanistan with his father working as doctors for a relief organization.  One night, the hospital that they are working at is bombed, killing both men.  Ruth takes her daughters and travels to Wisconsin to a Mennonite community to bury her husband and father-in-law.  Ruth hopes that being in the community will give her a chance to grieve and let her girls get to know their grandmother, Mabel.  Her husband’s first cousin, Elam, allows Ruth and Mabel stay in his house during this time.

Elam is a quiet, introverted man who has overseen the cranberry farms production for years but has never settled down to make a family of his own.  When Ruth asks Elam to allow her to work during the cranberry harvest, he allows her to work even though he doesn’t really need her.  Her work ethic impresses Elam and he and Ruth begin to build a friendship with the promise of blossoming into something more that they both have been missing.

With a promising future on the horizon, Ruth receives work that her husband may not be dead after all, which threatens the true happiness she has found with Elam as well as Elam’s fulfillment from Ruth’s companionship.  What is the right path to choose?

Jolina Petersheim has always had a knack for writing stories that stir up controversy amongst her readers.  But she has really elevated the sense of conflict within this book.  I love conflict; it is what moves a story along and keeps the reader engaged.  This particular book has some of the best figurative examples of these emotions splayed across the pages that I was hooked from the beginning.  The opening paragraph begins with the burial of her husband and by the second page there is already conflict between Ruth and her six year old daughter Sofie.  And it only escalates from there.  And it was such an emotional conflict that I couldn’t help but feel as though I was Ruth and was experiencing the same things in life.  On part of the flashbacks, I had personal experiences of what Ruth was describing, so it made it even easier to connect with this fragile woman, who had been broken long before her husband’s death.

I enjoyed how Petersheim paralleled the story of Ruth throughout the book.  From being widowed and living with her mother-in-law to gleaning cranberries in a bog in Wisconsin rather than wheat in a field.  The tragedy and redemption was told quite well throughout the story.  However, just when there seemed a happy ending in sight, something had to crop up and suddenly make life more difficult.  And this happened several times, which had me close to tears.  At one point I had to put the book down because I was just plain mad that Petersheim would do this to a reader.  But as I read along, she redeemed the story just as Ruth was redeemed.  Funny how she was able to even bring me into the story of redemption personally.

This book will definitely wreck you as you read it, but it is worth it.  I’ve loved all of her books, but this one is in a category of its own.  This will be one of my highest recommendations of the year!

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

The Line Between

the line betweenAuthor: Tosca Lee

Publisher: Howard Books

Release Date: January 29, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

In one of the most intense and believable thrillers I have ever read, Tosca Lee takes readers on a journey they will never forget in a story they will beg for more before the last page is turned!

After spending most of her life in a doomsday cult called New Earth, Wynter Roth is cast out with nowhere to turn. An old family friend takes her in and she learns how to deal in the real world. Pretty soon, all of the cults predictions of the horrible things destined to happen in the world start to come true. Wynter tries to figure out how much of this they knew about and how much of it might be because of New Earth and its leader, Magnus. One night, Wynter’s sister shows up and gives her medical samples that are a key to understanding the sickness ravaging the country. Power across the country is starting to go out spreading panic with every passing hour. Wynter must get the samples to Colorado to a lab ready to help. In a world going mad it is hard to know who to trust.  With hesitation, she receives help from a former military man, Chase Miller. At first, she doesn’t understand his motivation to help her but embraces the only help she has before time runs out.

In all the years I’ve been reading, I don’t know that I have ever been able to pinpoint my number one book for the year this early. Now something could come along later to snag that spot, but it would have to be out of this world good. I have always been a fan of Tosca Lee but this one right here is by far the best I have read, (and that’s saying a lot because her last two books The Progeny and First Born were my top books of their release years) I didn’t think anything would top Progeny, and it is still one of my favorite reads. The Line Between just has something about it that pulled me in and refused to let go until the final page, and now I’m chomping at the bit waiting for the sequel to come out. The characters, especially Wynter, were so believable and well fleshed out that I pictured each scene as though I was right there with them. Although it isn’t very conventional, I found the back and forth timeline to work very well for this story.  Seeing what happened to Wynter during the time she was with the cult and how that has affected her now with how she sees the world and everyone in it worked this way. If it had been a straight timeline, I think some of the story would have been lost and not connected well. The fact that everything talked about in this book could actually happen is a little scary and shows how well Lee did her research and poured her heart into this book. If you have never read anything by Tosca Lee you are sorely missing out.  She is solidified herself as one of my very favorite authors and I can’t wait to see what comes next. I recommend this book to fans of Dystopian thrillers that are ready for a thrill ride they won’t soon forget.

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

Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe

brunch

Author: Carla Laureano

Series: Supper Club #2

Publisher: Tyndale House

Release Date: February 5, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A sweet savory treat that will leave the reader’s palate thirsting for more of this scrumptious tale.

 After seven years living in Denver, Melody Johansson feels she is going nowhere. Baking is her passion, more so than her love life. As she is working late one night at a chain bakery she meets Justin Keller, a private pilot who has been stranded when his car gets stuck in the snowstorm. She is instantly attracted to him, but her luck hasn’t always been the best and is afraid to have another disaster. Justin is also attracted to Melody but doesn’t want to start anything new at the moment. His luck hasn’t always been the best either and he is fixing to try and open a new business in Florida with his sister and brother-in-law. Trying to deny their attraction to each other is no use, Melody and Justin begin a full-on romance, but when Melody falls into an unexpected sum of money she uses it to open her dream café with her best friend. Now she must decide if she has made the right choice in her dream job and if it is worth the cost of losing her dream guy.

 I guess when I started this I didn’t realize it was second in a series. However, having not read the first didn’t affect my enjoyment of this in any way. The story was cute with a great romance that played out very efficiently and I really enjoyed the way the characters came about finding themselves with the difficult choices they were facing. Melody is a strong independent woman who doesn’t need a man to feel a sense of accomplishment. When she meets Justin everything seems right, except for the fact that he is fixing to move away and since she is starting her own business she can’t go with him. It gives just the right amount of tension to draw the reader in and keep them intrigued throughout the story. The secondary characters were all well fleshed making me want to go back and read the first book in the series to fully see Rachel’s story, and anxious to see what happens in the next with Ana. One aspect that really played out well was the relationship Melody had with her mother. For most of the book, I didn’t think much about it but the last interaction they had really made me smile, it was written really well, and I think if it hadn’t been in the book would have been lacking. Overall this was a very enjoyable read and I recommend to readers who enjoy a good contemporary read with a romance that will leave happy hearts everywhere.

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