A Christmas by the Sea

A christmas by the seaAuthor: Melody Carlson

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: September 4, 2018

Reviewer: Jennifer S. Roman

Wendy Harper and her son Jackson are driving to Seaside, Maine, the weekend before Thanksgiving to clean up and prepare her recently-inherited seaside cottage for sale.  A recent widow, Wendy can use the proceeds from the sale of the cottage to pay for her late husband’s medical bills and to get herself back on solid ground financially.  It’s going to be hard, considering all the summers she spent with her grandparents in that cabin, and Jackson is especially excited to be going there.  Jackson assumes they are moving from their home in Cincinnati to live in Seaside full time, and she doesn’t have the heart to correct him.  She herself entertains the fantasy of living in the tourist town, but she doesn’t expect to find a good income there.  She definitely does not expect to find the cabin in good shape after her grandfather has done some recent updates, and more importantly, she does not expect to make so many friends so quickly.  One in particular, Caleb Colton, seems to take an interest in Wendy and Jackson, and with all the work she has to do at the cottage, she is happy to accept.  As she finishes her projects and comes to love the house, Wendy has to decide if she really can go back to her old life again, right before Christmas.

True to form, Melody Carlson creates a sweet story with personal conflicts that immediately garner interest from the reader.  Her light writing style makes the story go quickly, leaving readers wanting more.  I know that as I went through the book, I was looking forward to finding out what would happen next.  The whole book was enjoyable and, while dealing with some serious concerns, still light and easy to read.

One criticism of the book comes at the end, and that is the big problem.  The book unfolds nicely and does a good job of moving along at a good pace.  By the end, however, everything was resolved in just a few pages.  What life-changing decisions Wendy and Jackson are making are wrapped up like a bow, neat and tidy.  While I am all for getting through things in an efficient manner, it seems overly simple and quick, even for a short romance novel.  While I enjoyed the ending, it was all too quick and simple to overlook.  That being said, I still enjoyed the book and would gladly recommend it to my friends who enjoy the genre.

There is nothing in this book that should be offensive to readers.  The story is short and sweet yet still carries a strong message of hope and relating to the past.  I don’t see any reason that anyone who would be interested in this book shouldn’t read it.

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

When Through Deep Waters

When through deep watersAuthor: Rachelle Dekker

Publisher: Tyndale House

Release Date: July 3, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Tackling the difficult topics of grief and mental illness, Rachelle Dekker has written a book far removed from that of her first trilogy, but in all the right ways. Dekker has found her voice as a writer in a way I have been waiting for.

It’s hard to live your own life when you are always trying to please someone else. Alicen McCaffrey has the life her mother wants for her, but its not the life she wants.  With a wildly successful husband, California home, and a daughter she adores, things seem perfect, until it all falls apart.  Alicen feels completely responsible and hits rock bottom feeling she has nothing left to live for.  Almost everyone abandons her and she turns to the one person she has left, a childhood friend who takes her back to their childhood home in Red Lodge, Montana.  Memories of their good times spent together and her grandmother who lived there come flooding back.  However, the good times aren’t the only things that come back.  Alicen starts hearing voices and seeing things that aren’t there and she fears she is losing it completely just as her grandmother was rumored to have done.  Is any of it real?  Or is this going to be more than she can take?

The name Dekker for me always draws me to books by Rachelle’s father, wo is one of my all time favorite authors with stories like no one else writes. The first books Rachelle wrote reminded me all too well of her father’s writing which disappointed me, I was hoping for her own voice.  In When Through Deep Waters I finally saw that individual voice of hers coming out.  There was a moment or two she tried to put tie-ins to her father’s writing that could have been left out, but readers who haven’t read anything by him won’t even notice.  This story hit really close to home for me because I read it right after my son had been in an accident that could have been catastrophic; luckily it wasn’t, but the emotions were at a passionate high point anyway.  I felt a solid connection with the characters more than in any of her previous novels and could really see a growth in the writing.  A great deal of detail helped make the setting and the characters mesh in just the right way and brought the story to life.  I not only enjoyed Alicen as the main character, but also several of the secondary characters as well.  Labeling it as a thriller might be a stretch since that didn’t happen until close to the end; regardless, it is a book worth reading and keeping on the shelves for a long time.  I recommend this book to fans of both Dekkers’ and those that enjoy the writing of Tosca Lee and James Rubart.

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

Where Hope Begins

Where Hope BeginsAuthor: Catherine West

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: May 22, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

An emotional roller coaster ride that some may find difficult to read but will find closure in the end.

Savannah Barrington has just lost the one person she never dreamed would betray her. Her husband, Kevin, has had an affair and has decided to leave her for his younger love.  Now with Kevin gone, their daughter Zoe in college and son Adam at a boarding school, the house feels as empty as ever.  Savannah decides to go stay at the lake house her mother owns up in the Berkshires for a change of scenery.  While there, she is introduced to a  young girl who is the spitting image of her first daughter who died in a bicycle accident several years ago.  The girl’s father turns out to be a famous author that both she and Kevin always loved to read.  They are staying with his aunt, who has been prepared to help Savannah heal through tending her late husband’s greenhouse.  But healing won’t come easy, it will take faith and forgiveness.  Can Savannah find the strength to forgive her husband and move on?

I have been wanting to read a book by Catherine West for a long time and I am glad that I finally did. This book was really hard for me to read because half way through my three year old son had a freak accident that could have easily resulted in death.  It really shook my husband and I to the core and it was hard to pick up the book and continue reading when the main character was feeling the same emotions that were going through me at the time.  Fortunately, he is ok and the book had a silver lining at the end.

I love getting to read a great story that is clean and relatable. I understood the emotions of the characters and have seen what they were going through first hand.  There is a lot of family drama and struggle in this book and it makes it very real.  West also did a great job of setting her scenes so that I could easily find my way into the characters world.  I am going to go get a couple more of her books for future reading!

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


The Armoire

The ArmoireAuthor: Ione Joy

Publisher: eLectico Publishing

Release Date: August 25, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

True purposes can be easily unlocked when seen, but greater are those who find their purpose through faith in the unseen!

All her life Maxine has been curious as to what was always hidden away in her grandmother’s armoire. She was always told it was for her when she would be ready.  After her grandmother passes away, she receives the armoire, but no key.  After a frantic search, she finally locates the key and opens the doors to discover a single beautiful feather.  Bewildered, she touches the feather only to come face to face with an angel named Abia.  Abia has been instructed to show Maxine several scenes that will help her understand her true potential.  Maxine is then whisked from scene to scene to witness heartbreaks, sadness, happiness, true joy, and unspeakable devastation.  These scenes are provided as a gift that shapes the remainder of Maxine’s life on this earth.

This was a fantastic book that easily fits in with Christian end times fiction, but not in the Left Behind sense.  This gives the main character, Maxine, an understanding of who she is meant to be, the purpose she was made for.  And when she tries to use the “after college” approach, it is said that Jesus will be coming back soon and there is no time to waste.  The bulk of the book is about Maxine’s life and how all the scenes that she witnessed with Abia become encounters in her own life.  She meets these people after these events have happened and understands what happened so that she can help them.  Even so, she still faces great tragedy and personal losses and tries to cope with them as best she can understand.

If you are looking for a great book to read this summer, please get a copy of this one! It will be well worth your while.

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

All She Left Behind

All She Left BehindAuthor: Jane Kirkpatrick

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: September 5, 2017

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

As always, great historical fiction based on factual events!

Jennie Pickett’s life has taught her how to become a healer using natural herbs. She loves to help people with their ailments and longs to become a doctor.  But in the Oregon Frontier of the 1870s, professional life for a woman has not yet become a reality.  So, when she has the opportunity to take care of an elderly woman, she takes it.  But after her patient dies, Jennie discovers that she has developed a romantic interest in the widowed husband, who is several years older than her.  However, he may be able to open doors to where she could become a professional healer.

The prologue of this book had me hooked. I was ready to find out what happened immediately after reading that only to find that I had to fill in a few gaps first.  Kirkpatrick is a master of historical fiction based on actual events and it appears that she is a fan of the Oregon frontier as well.  Having read her previous novel The Road We Traveled, I knew some of what to expect on her research, which also makes me research.  For historical fiction lovers, pick up a copy of this one!

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

To Wager Her Heart

To Wager Her HeartAuthor: Tamera Alexander

Series: Belle Meade Plantation #3

Publisher: Zondervan

Release Date: August 8, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A brilliant work of historical fiction coupled with a meant to be romance sure to consume many readers.

In 1871 Nashville, Alexandra Jamison comes from a high society family that requires her to put her family’s best interest above her own. Two of her older brothers left the state and married to get away from their father, while her third brother perished in the war.  In an effort to make her own life, she fell in love with a scholar that believed in racial equality only to lose him to a train accident at Dutchmen’s Curve just outside of Nashville.  Now with her father intent on marrying her to a wealthy older gentleman, Alexandra makes the decision to leave her family to teach at the freedman’s college Fisk University, but the cost is far greater than she anticipated.

Sylas Rutledge is a young railroad owner from Colorado intent on expanding his rail system by bringing the railroad to General William Harding’s Belle Meade Plantation. But he is going to have to bid against several other railroaders to win.  Being in Nashville brings an emotional torment to Sylas as his father was on his final run as an engineer when he perished in the train wreck of Dutchmen’s Curve and was blamed for the incident.  Intent on clearing his father’s name, Sylas attempts to track down the truth while trying to win the railroad bid.  But Nashville wealth has still not fully accepted racial equality and at what cost will Sylas be willing to make to ensure he wins the railroad bid?

I’m always a little weary when I start third book in a series; however, this is a perfect example of a standalone novel that has no need of a series. I felt immediately drawn into the story and the characters.  The conflict that was introduced almost immediately between Alexandra and Sylas keep the story propelling forward quickly making me want to see what the outcome would be.  Alexandra has her share of hardships and  I can’t begin to imagine what she (and all those who actually encountered) the Dutchmen Curve wreck.  And then to have her father turn his back on her for her beliefs, which I know was not uncommon of that time period.

I immensely enjoyed the setting of Belle Meade Plantation and getting to know some of history’s supporting characters such as Uncle Bob. I also enjoyed that the author referenced other major historical events as well.  I enjoy getting to research what I read as I read it.  My only complaint was that the actual Dutchmen Curve wreck occurred in a different time period, which was acknowledged by the author.  However, I understand that the conflict created between the characters of this even made for a terrific plot.

Highly recommended for lovers of historical fiction!

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

The Writing Desk

The Writing DeskAuthor: Rachel Hauck

Publisher: Zondervan

Release Date: July 11, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A romance that spans the ages, and continents, to bring people together even in the hardest of times.

After her first book became a runaway success, Tenley Roth feels the pressure to bring another hit. However, due to the pressure, she is unable to get any words on the page.  During this time, her estranged mother calls asking for Tenley to help her through chemotherapy in Florida.  Shortly after arriving, she ends up meeting a furniture designer that shows her what real romance is about.  Tenley finds an old desk at her mother’s house that she uses to try and kick-start her new book.  The desk has history to it that ties everything together between the families and past writing.

Birdie Shehorn is the daughter of old money who wants to be her own person and not have her parents make her every decision, especially about who she will marry. Birdie wants to write novels and get her stories out in the world, a difficult feat for an unknown woman in this time.  Her mother is working behind her to get her future set the way she believes it should be, which is not want Birdie wants.  Tied together through time and circumstances, Birdie and Tenley find that even though their circumstances are not what they want, they can make the best of it if they follow their hearts.

This is one of those books that at first I thought I was going to give up on, the back and forth between the timelines and characters was a little confusing and took me out of the story. However, by the end of the book, it worked together so well.  The decisions made by each character and how it brought about the actions and reactions of those around them was done incredibly well.  Rachel Hauck did a fantastic job bringing about the sympathy for Tenley and the hard times she went through with the decisions she made and the consequences she had to face.  The relationship between Jonas and Tenley was a nice slow build up instead of an instant attraction that exploded into a full-blown romance that took over the whole story.  Even though this is an inspirational novel, it never gets preachy in any way that would be a turn off to some.  One of the nicest aspects is this is a story of forgiveness and redemption and how it can soothe the soul.  This book will be great for those that love romance and a story of hope and moving on to make the best of a situation.

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