Long Time Gone

Long Time GoneAuthor: Mary Connealy

Series: The Cimarron Legacy #2

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: February 28, 2017

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A charming western romance with action and adventure at just the right spots.

After the patriarch of the Boden family is injured in what appears to be an accidental landslide and sent to Denver for treatment, the rest of the family is left to handle the ranch and quickly uncover it was no accident. Justin Boden is now in charge of the ranch and after seeing his father hurt and now his brother Cole, shot and in critical condition, he feels in over his head.  The doctor trying to save Cole has an assistant, Angie Dupree, that is a distraction to Justin.  Angie came to town to stay with her aunt after her life didn’t go as planned.  Justin and the rest of the family must work together, with the help of Angie, who he is quickly falling for, and a few others to figure out who is out to get their family.  Things are turning out to be much bigger than they first thought and danger is around every corner and deadlier than they could have imagined.

The best thing about a Mary Connealy book is that it is a quick read that is enjoyable. However, sometimes the books can be unmemorable, especially when you read a lot.  It has been a while since I read the first in the series and didn’t remember a whole lot of it before starting this one.  In a way that is good because I can say that if readers haven’t read the first book, they will still enjoy this one.  It does help for some background information with the parents and what the family is facing.  But it is not completely vital to have read the first before starting this one.  I read these and enjoy them while I am reading them and then move on to the next on my list, whereas with some I hate to put it down because it was so good.  I liked the storyline of Justin and Angie, I could see where they were heading and everything felt natural for the characters as they got to where they needed to be.  I’m hoping the third book will go into Cole and his relationship to come, ( I could be wrong but I’m guessing he will fall for Melanie.)  I recommend this book to readers than enjoy a good, clean, historical romance with cowboys, action and a little humor sprinkled in for good measure.

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

When Tides Turn

When Tides TurnAuthor: Sarah Sundin

Series: Waves of Freedom #3

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: March 14, 2017

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A historical romance that is as frustrating as real love, which makes it all the better!

Tess Beaumont has always been thought of as just a pretty face, and she is tired of it. The Navy has recently opened programs for women and Tess decides this is her chance to put her brain to use as much as her pretty face has been in the past. It is hard work and initially she still must overcome the perceptions she has lived with all her life, but eventually the hard work pays off and she sees herself making a difference.  Love is the farthest thing from her mind, until Lt. Dan Avery shows up.  She has known him for years, especially being close with his sisters.  But when he shows up in uniform, something deep inside her stirs with feelings she hasn’t had in years.  She is determined to stay the course with her work and not let love get in the way.  Dan feels the same way, he doesn’t want love to distract him from his duties, even though he can’t deny the attraction he feels for Tess.  As things heat up in the Navy, there are also conspiracies Tess begins to investigate within her own circle of friends that put her in danger.

When Tides Turn is a book that I initially wanted to give up on, but I’m glad I didn’t.  The ending was well worth the wait; although, the first half of the book wasn’t my favorite.  I did not like Tessa until the end.  I think my problem with Tessa had to do with her attitude towards herself.  She had a problem with being seen as a pretty face and the way it came across to me was more of her being conceited and full of herself.  Yes, she might be pretty, but the way she kept thinking it and trying to keep it from being used against her in any way just rubbed me the wrong way.  And then, when someone she cares for calls her beautiful, she blows up and loses it, not the best way to play that scene out for me.  Other than that, I really enjoyed the book, especially the scenes with Tess investigating her group for spies and the danger that brought about.  I am usually very much into military dramas but that part of the story didn’t get me as much for some reason.  I found myself glossing over the parts on the ships and submarines to get to the rest of the story, it wasn’t as compelling as the rest.  The relationship with her and Dan was a little rocky and back and forth, which is very much like real life, making it more believable.  I think readers that enjoy Christian, historical romances will enjoy this one.

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

Christmas Embers

christmas-ebmersAuthor: Chautona Havig

Publisher: Create Space

Release Date: November 23, 2016

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

When the thing you least expect to happen to you happens, how do you handle it?

Every year Emily Byrne plans a project she can do that is a way to give back. This year she sits in her daughter’s kindergarten classroom to draw portraits and write little stories of what each child’s deepest wish is.  Everything is going good until Joey Cordell sits in front of her with tears in his eyes and says the only thing he wants for Christmas is to find his father.  His mother is dying and came to Rockland to find his father.  She had been living in Las Vegas as a prostitute and Joey’s father is a man she met there and she fell in love with after a few short hours.  She knew he was married but as usual it didn’t make a difference to her.  Emily meets her and promises to do all she can to help her find Joey’s father.  As time runs out and Joey’s mother is about to die, Emily doubts she can find the father in time.  With death seconds away, Emily promises to continue looking and to care for Joey who she has already fallen in love with.  As the truth emerges, a family is crushed and the damage is going to be hard to overcome.

While reading this story, several times I pictured myself as these characters and tried to determine how I would act if this happened to me. I don’t want to give too much away in the synopsis or review, but I will say it is a story to be read by those in a marriage or preparing for marriage.  Infidelity in marriage is a horrible thing.  Some can get past it and some can’t.  Seeing the way Chautona Havig crafted these characters, the situations they found themselves in, and how they dealt with it all put the reader in those situations as those characters.  A few characters annoyed me, but not enough to pull me from the rest of the story. I really don’t know how I would feel if I was placed in this situation but am glad I read Christmas Embers to have a better understanding of the biblical principles behind infidelity and how it affects all those involved.  A lot of this I didn’t know and am better for learning it all in this way.  This was a very quick enjoyable read that I recommend to all.

Of Stillness and Storm

of-stillness-and-stormAuthor: Michele Phoenix

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: December 6, 2016

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A gripping, emotional tale of loss, love, and devastation.

Lauren lives with her husband, Sam, and son, Ryan, in Kathmandu, Nepal. She works as an English teacher at a local university so that Sam can do mission work in the remote villages in the mountain regions of Nepal.  Unfortunately, rather than finding adventure in her home country, Lauren is getting frustrated with living in Nepal, dealing with the unsanitary conditions, traffic, pollution, monsoons, and only seeing Sam for a third of the year.  Worse, Ryan has been closing himself off from them since before they left the states and barely answers questions when directed at him.

After coaxing from one of her stateside friends, Lauren sets up a Facebook account. Within a day, she has been contacted by another friend, Aidan, from the past who was a huge part of her life before college.  As she is drawn into her conversations with Aidan, she finds herself shutting out her other life and her relationship with Ryan starts to suffer further.  How can she work to save the relationships she already has?

First of all, let me say that if you read this book, it is going to affect you emotionally. It certainly did me.  The story is told from Lauren’s point of view and switches between present day in Nepal and her past story including how she and Sam met, her relationship with Aidan, and Ryan’s plunge into depression.  But ultimately, the story is not really about Lauren so much as it is about Ryan.  Michele Phoenix has a ministry set up to support missionary kids and the struggles that they deal with.  It is very evident that Ryan struggles with abandonment from his father, but doesn’t know how to express it.  Even if he did, Sam would probably not have taken it as he should have.

Speaking of Sam, it was interesting to see a missionary as an antagonist throughout the story. I continually got frustrated with his character and even shocked that he would continue to abandon his family.  He had a lot of personal ambition that I believe he took to make his vision come true, even when he had roadblocks in his way that could have been warnings.

This is a very difficult read emotionally and the ending may leave you with more questions than answers, but overall it is extremely well written and presented.

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

Knight Kyle and the Magic Silver Lance

knight-kyleAuthor: Oliver Potzsch

Series: Adventures Beyond Dragon Mountain

Publisher: Amazon Crossing

Release Date: December 1, 2016

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Dungeons, Dragons, and much more makes this a great book for young boys!

Knight Kyle lives in Fairyland East along with elves, trolls, dragons, giants, and all sorts of magical creatures. He, along with others, is in search of his great-grandfather’s lost silver lance.  Legend has it that the lance comes with invincible power.  It has been missing for many years and Kyle knows it is his destiny to find it.  He is up against his worst enemies, Rasputin, an evil robber, and Balduin, a magician.  Working with Kyle is Lady Constance, the brave lady of the house, Elf Aurin, and Dragobert the dragon and Prince Nepomuk.  Together they go on crazy adventures and have the best time ever.

All children enjoy a good magical story. With Knight Kyle, you get that along with many valuable lessons, making this a great book for young readers.  I was able to read this in a single day turning the pages quickly to take the next adventure with our young heroes.  The pages are filled with teaching moments about sharing, not excluding others just because you may not like them.  Another good lesson how it might be hard but never lose hope, just when you are about to give up is when what you have been reaching for will be within your grasp.  Kyle and his friends work together and have so much fun on their adventures.  The one down point of this was poor editing.  I received this on an e-reader and had several paragraphs repeated.  I can’t blame poor editing on the author, but feel this shouldn’t have been overlooked. Young children will surely enjoy this magical tale and hopefully learn some good life lessons along the way.

Casting the Net

casting-the-netAuthor: Pam Rhodes

Series: The Dunbridge Chronicles

Publisher: Lion Hudson/Kregel

Release Date: February 22, 2014

Reviewer: Jennifer S. Roman

Neil Fisher is a new vicar at St. Stephen’s in Dunbridge and has his work cut out for him.  In only his second year as curate, he has do deal with enough issues to make Peyton Place look tranquil.  His overbearing mother Iris decides to come stay with him for an extended visit and insists on reorganizing his entire home to suit her needs, but of course under the guise that he “needs her help.”  Not long after performing a christening for a desperately-wanted baby, he is forced to handle two devastating funerals of congregants.  He breaks up with his steady girlfriend Wendy because he realizes he doesn’t truly love her, and she does everything she can to make his life miserable.  His attentions quickly turn to Claire, the church gardener, who even though she is an Atheist, is a perfect partner for him.  They have to deal with the fallout of a man of God involved with a woman who doesn’t believe in God while also untangling the messy lives of their followers.  All in all, Neil’s second year with St. Stephen’s keeps him on his toes and often puts him into precarious and sometimes hilarious predicaments.

This is the second in the Dunbridge Chronicles, about the life of Neil as a curate and the many people of St. Stephen’s who welcome him as their leader.  Of course, just because they go to church and are involved in the church life does not mean they are perfect; they need Neil’s help just as much as anyone else.  Fortunately, Neil takes his ministry out and about and is always around his congregation.  Whether it’s performing a baptism or wedding, or participating as a judge in a church-sponsored bake-off, or even spending time playing darts and drinking a pint in the local pub, Neil manages to entangle himself in the various tangled webs of those around him.  He feels very unimportant and even lacks confidence in his skills, yet his people work out their problems, renew their faith, and increase attendance under Neil’s leadership.  He relies heavily on Margaret, his co-pastor, for guidance and advice, but when something horrible happens to her, he successfully plows on doing the best he can.

This book is written about the life in the church, yet it provides many funny moments that will resonate with church-goers and non-church-goers as well.  It doesn’t have one main plot but instead relies on the various veins of the many characters’ lives to carry the story through.  It continues in another book, as a spurned Wendy decides to take matters into her own hands.  This is a quick and charming read that will make people laugh and understand that nobody is perfect.

There is really nothing in this book that could be found offensive to readers, so anyone interested in a fun book about a church-going community will find it entertaining.  There are some people cohabitating out of wedlock and one couple even conceives a baby that way, but there is no mention of violence, assault, or other objectionable behaviors.  The book takes place in England and uses British terminology, so there may be some profanity that is not obvious to American readers, but it is mild if noticed.  This should be a fun and easy read, so I recommend it for readers high school level and above.

Long Way Gone

long-way-goneAuthor: Charles Martin

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: October 4, 2016

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A fantastic, fast paced, emotionally gripping read! I couldn’t put it down until I knew what was going to happen next!

Cooper O’Connor knows how to make music. Not for personal gain or profit, but how to actually reach into people’s souls and touch them with his notes.  But he also knows trials and tribulations.  One day after playing an impromptu set up with an older man in Leadville, Colorado, Cooper sees a woman thumbing a ride down the road.  He dismisses it, but as he arrives home in Buena Vista, he sees her again with a smashed guitar and a gash on her forehead.  As he quickly gets out of his jeep to help her before she passes out, he realizes that it is a blast from his past.  The one and only Daley Cross, who was once well known on the country music circuit, has just passed out in his arms.  Now in the hospital, Daley wakes up and realizes that Cooper has been the one to rescue her.  Cooper yearns to start over in a relationship with Daley, but also knows that the past twenty years has had other people spinning a few lies to Daley about why he left Nashville.  The journey ahead dives back into the past with an accident that left Cooper with a gunshot wound and left in a burning building.  Can Cooper tell Daley the truth?  And will Daley believe him?

This is easily one of the top ten books that I have read for the year! I apologize if my synopsis is a little vague, but there is so much in this book that must be left for the reader to learn on his or her own.  The way it is set up, I could easily spoil a large part of the story and I really don’t want to do that.  However, I suppose that I could give you a little bit more.

The book is broken up into three parts. It begins is present day set mainly in Buena Vista, Colorado but also in Leadville, which are both mountain towns.  I’m a big fan of each because my husband and I used to frequent Ski Cooper in Leadville and traveled through Buena Vista to get there, so I know a bit about the layout of both towns.  I was a little saddened to see that the Quincy St. Steakhouse (located in both towns) wasn’t mentioned (really good filets at a great price).  Back to the story, part one focuses on Cooper and Daley’s relationship after being separated for twenty years.  This part only last for a few days.  Then part two heads back to memory lane with Cooper’s upbringing as the son of a revival tent preacher through his journey to Nashville and eventual return to Buena Vista.  Part three then picks back up where part one left off.

There is some parallel to the story of the prodigal son, but not identical. Cooper takes the inheritance he feels he deserves and insults his father and eventually returns home, but the journey and the return are not quite what you would expect from the story.  I warn readers that this book has some very raw emotion in it that can easily get to you.  A great story about unconditional love!  Even so, I couldn’t put it down.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson in exchange for an honest and thorough review. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.