Flowers From Afghanistan

Flowers

Author: Suzy Parish

Publisher: Harbourlight Books

Release Date: August 10, 2018

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A compelling redemption story for both self and marriage.

 After his two-year-old soon is killed in a tragic accident, Mac McCann signs up for a year long stint for overseeing security in a camp at Afghanistan.  Mac sees this as a way to get away from his troubles.  His wife is distraught that he is leaving but he is hoping that this will be a way for them to heal.  But he harbors a secret.  He feels that his son’s death is his fault and he doesn’t want to face his demons.  Once in Afghanistan, he meets other security workers that are there for a myriad of reasons, but many are there to escape problems.  However, the problems never really go away, they just seem to get worse.  As Mac continues his tour, he begins to view life from a new perspective and realizes his mistakes and that he must confront them in he wants to heal and move on.

 I thoroughly enjoyed this book as it was a clean read with redeeming qualities throughout.  Parish did a great job of weaving a story of a grieving couple struggling to heal.  But this book went way deeper than that.  She also brought to life many of the struggles that the both the locals in Afghanistan face as well as those that are over in an attempt to help rebuild the village life so that people can protect themselves.  Parish did a great job setting different scenes between Huntsville, Alabama and Afghanistan.  Her descriptive settings took to me each location in detail but didn’t detract from the story.  Mac and Sophie were wonderfully developed characters.  I could feel the hurt that they both carried and the anger between the two of them.  I could sense what was happening in their relationship before they could, which is the sign of a truly talented author.  I highly recommend this debut novel.

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

Overcomer

Overcomer.jpgAuthor: Chris Fabry

Publisher: Tynale House

Release Date: July 23, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A inspirational story that is sure to give readers what they need even when they weren’t looking for it.

Sometime life draws up a play that throws everything off.  When the largest manufacturing plant in Franklin closes its doors, it has unseen ramifications.  People now have to leave to find jobs in other places.  Other business close because of the reduced population.  Basketball coach John Harrison and his son Ethan can only watch as the championship quality team they had stacked for the year dwindles down to only four players.  Fortunately, Brookshire School that employs John and his wife Amy hasn’t had to close its doors, but they did have to take a pay cut.  Now without a team, John is struggling to fit in.  When the principal asks him to coach cross county, he reluctantly agrees because he doesn’t believe it is a real sport.  On the day of tryouts, he has one runner come forward and she has asthma.  As John begins to coach Hannah, he finds that he is about to embark on a journey that only God can control.

Sometimes God just knows what book you need to read next.  This was the case for me as I picked up this book to eagerly read about the upcoming feature film.  This story is very powerful and it makes you stripped to your core as a reader to evaluate who you are.  If everything you poured your time into were suddenly stripped away, who would you be?  What could you say about yourself?  Would you be proud?  Or would it make you reevaluate your life?

Having seen several of the Kendrick brother’s movies, I could easily hear the character’s voices as the book played out in front of me, just like one of their movies.  I haven’t read any of the novelizations before, but this one was very enjoyable.  I loved both John’s and Hannah’s stories.  Each was different but connected.  John was used in a way to bring healing to a family full of bitterness for over 15 years.  Hannah was finally able to stop filling her void with useless items and have it filled with love.  There are still some sad parts to the story, but it is worth the read.  Highly recommended for those who love the Kendrick brothers’ movies as well as those who enjoy Fabry’s unique writing voice.

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

Where I Was Planted

Where I was plantedAuthor: Heather Norman Smith

Publisher: Ambassador International

Release Date: July 16, 2019

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A very poignant and delightful read with characters readers will love to cheer for through the toughest of situations.

In 1961, ten-year-old Nate Dooley comes home one day to find his kitchen stocked with food and his Dad nowhere to be found.  He figures now is as good a time as any to be on his own. With a stray dog as his companion, Nate tries to hide the fact that his father is gone from everyone around him for as long as possible. He likes being in his home by himself and doesn’t want the county to take him away. Even though his father has left, Nate starts to realize he isn’t alone.  His heavenly father will never leave him and will always provide for him. Nate finds these provisions in the form of newfound friends, neighbors and family he never knew he had.

Where I Was Planted is a beautifully written novel with the most wonderful protagonist around in Nate Dooley. Set in the 1960s, things are different than they are today.  If a ten-year-old were left alone for any period of time today, it wouldn’t take long for authorities to be notified and things to change. I loved how independent Nate was but also the way he realized he needed a little help. No matter how grown up he felt or wanted to be, the fact remains he is still a little boy. Even characters that had a small role made a big impact and a lasting impression. I would have liked a little more insight into Nate’s dad and why he left without talking to Nate or anyone about his plans, I know it explains a little, but I felt that part of the storyline could have developed a little further to bring the story up a notch. Nate was wonderfully developed, and I found myself wanting to hug that little boy and tell him how strong he was. The story pace was perfect and not once did I find myself wanting to put it down and move on to something else. The ending tied up just right and left me satisfied with the whole story. This is the first book I’ve read by Heather Norman Smith, but I am sure it will not be the last. I recommend this book to those that enjoy historical fiction with heart and a good message. The religious message comes across evenly, not to strong but also not too weak.

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

Tate

Tate.jpgAuthor: Susan May Warren

Series: Montana Marshalls #2

Publisher: Stonewater Books

Release Date: July 9, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

The second book in the Montana Marshall series gives readers a look into the family troublemaker.  Fans of the series will not be disappointed by this cowboy.

Tate Marshall has always been considered the family troublemaker, not a trait he likes but one he can’t seem to get past. If he sees something wrong, he can’t stop himself from trying to make things right, no matter what it costs him. When he gets assigned to be the Bodyguard of Glo Jackson, daughter of a U. S. Senator and presidential candidate, he can’t help falling hard for her, which puts them both in danger. Glo is a member of the Yankee Belles, a country western band and a target for terrorist trying to keep her mother from running for president. The band takes a break as Glo helps her mother on the campaign trail. Tate continues to protect Glo until her mother fires him for breaking his promise to not pursue Glo romantically. Tate refuses to stay at arm’s length and will stop at nothing to keep the woman he is falling in love with safe.

Susan May Warren is by far one of the top Christian Romantic Suspense writers out there today. Her second installment in the Montana Marshall series keeps the tension and romance going full force. I absolutely loved the Montana Rescue series and was hoping this series would continue my love for Montana romance by Susan May Warren. Luckily, she nailed it with Knox and now Tate follows suit keeping my love for Montana Marshalls alive and kicking. Tate is such a strong character, even if he feels weak at times.  The little vulnerabilities shown throughout make him relatable and one that readers will want to cheer for. Glo has her own issues to work through and she doesn’t feel she deserves the love Tate is willing to offer. The backstory with her family brings everything to light and shows us why readers should cheer for her and Tate. The book also gives us a glimpse into other members of the Marshall family and helps set up what will come in future books. If you have read anything by Susan May Warren before, you will be familiar with her writing style will know what is coming but still enjoy every page. I have always loved reading her books; I know what I am going to get, a great love story with plenty of suspense to keep the story moving along. I recommend this book to fans of romantic suspense novels that are clean, fast-paced, and full of characters you will fall in love with.

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

Turtles in the Road

TurtlesAuthors: Rhonda Rhea and Kaley Rhea

Publisher: Bold Vision Books

Release Date: April 21, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A wonderfully enticing story that I couldn’t devour fast enough. Readers will truly fall in love with these characters and the trials they go through to find out who they are and what God has in store for them that is so much better than they would have ever imagined.

Piper Cope thought she had her life figured out. She felt certain God had called her to be a pastor’s wife. When her fiancé breaks off their engagement, she is left uncertain of her future. She packs her car and leaves to go live with her sister, another complicated relationship in her life, while she sorts out what her future holds. While driving on the rainy roads, she swerves to miss a turtle in the road and ends up in the ditch with a broken car stuck in a little unknown town. With her car in the shop and not a lot of money, she ends up at the little bed and breakfast in town and working at the community center. She quickly falls for the little town but doesn’t want to get her heart broken again. The community center director decides to take a chance giving Piper a job and helping her out in her time of need but doesn’t expect to have feelings for her grow as quickly as they do. Will Piper find what she has been looking for or find herself at another dead end and more confused than ever?

Rhonda Rhea and her daughter Kaley Rhea have written one delightful read that I devoured in a single day. This may be one of the most enjoyable Christian Romance books I have ever read. The best thing about this story for me was the fact that nothing felt rushed, the characters acted out exactly as I felt they should, the romance was not rushed in the slightest and I found myself picturing exactly what was happening as I jumped into the pages head first. The writing style is unique and hit the spot; when I say this was funny I mean it was actually funny where it was supposed to be funny and for the right reasons. Most of the times when a book is said to be funny it is because a character has certain quirks that make it funny but here it was situations and the characters jut being flat out hilarious. I loved everything about Piper from the way she ended up swerving to miss the turtle to the very end (I don’t want to spoil the end, but I guarantee you will be smiling). Readers that enjoy a fun clean romance with a good message will absolutely adore Turtles in the Road. This will be on my best of list for sure!

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

The Cost of Betrayal

cost of betrayalAuthors: Dee Henderson; Dani Pettrey; & Lynette Eason

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: September 4, 2018

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A collection of novellas by three of the leading authors in Christian fiction makes for a great read.

First up is Dee Henderson’s Betrayed. After spending years in prison Janelle Roberts is freed after an FBI Agent and his wife buy a box of possessions at an auction and find evidence showing there is no way she could have committed the murder she is accused of. To keep Janelle safe, they hide her away while they all search for the murderer who is still at large and might threaten Janelle’s life and freedom.

Second, we have Dani Pettrey’s Deadly Isle. When a storm hits her childhood home, Tennyson Kent is trapped along with the rest of the island residents with a murderer. The storm cuts them off from anyone that could help. Together with Callen Frost, her first love, Tennyson hopes to figure out who the killer is and stop anymore tragedy from coming to their island.

Finally, Lynette Eason’s Code of Ethics gives us the story of Ruthie St. John saving the life of Detective Isaac Martinez. Isaac is trying to prove one of the others on the squad is betraying all they believe, and it puts his life on the line.  Together he and Ruthie must stay alive and prove who in the department is corrupt.

This was a great group of stories and even though they don’t tie in to one another, they are very well written. I think when I started this I was expecting the stories to connect in some way and was a little confused when they didn’t. Had I realized this to begin with, it would have helped while reading. The first story to me was the slowest to get through. Deadly Isle and Code of Ethics were really quick reads and made the entire set worth reading for me. I really enjoyed the fact that Eason’s Code of Ethics tied in with her latest series. If any are like me and the first third seems a little slow to you I recommend sticking with it through the other two thirds where the suspense really kicks it to another level and the stories are extremely riveting. I recommend this to readers who enjoy all three of these authors and enjoy a great romantic suspense reads. I have the feeling that some of these stories will be further developed as time goes on, either in another collection of short stories or on their own. Either way I can’t wait to see what happens with these characters.

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

Jerusalem’s Queen

jerusalem queenAuthor: Angela Hunt

Series: The Silent Years #3

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: November 6, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

As the silent years continue, an unlikely leader emerges to guide the Jewish nation.

Salome Alexandra has spent all of her six years of life in the small town of Modein. But when her father and sister are killed in an accident, she and her mother’s lives are on the brink of change.  A distant relative from Jerusalem has come to claim them to live in his house.    He is the son of the high priest and they will have a good life.  As the time draws near for them to come to Jerusalem, the high priest and two of his sons are murdered and the relative that claimed them has now become high priest.  When they arrive in Jerusalem, Salome begins to get educated and is given a personal attendant.  These two women, slave and free, begin to realize they are merely pawns in a man’s game and neither are truly free.  But God works in mysterious ways and Salome was always told that she had a purpose in life for which God had set her aside.

I think my favorite part of reading historical fiction by Angela Hunt is that she picks characters that I know nothing about and gives me a history lesson. She makes me go research the characters so that I can compare sources I can find against her work and I love it.  I love the research she does to make these past figures come back to life and I love the research she makes me to do learn more about it.  This book was no exception.  I had not heard of Salome Alexandra before, but I know about her now.  Told between viewpoints of Salome and her attendant Kissa, this story unfolds tragedy, growth, forgiveness, and purpose.

I recommend this book to historical fiction lovers, biblical fiction lovers, and people who enjoy Hunt’s work!

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

Mark of the Raven

mark of the ravenAuthor: Morgan L. Busse

Series: The Ravenwood Saga #1

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: November 6, 2018

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

An epic fantasy tale that will leave the readers itching for the next in the series before the conclusion of the first.

Each of the seven great houses has a secret gift that the heir will inherit and the House of Ravenwood is no different. Lady Selene, the eldest of the house of Ravenwood, is about to learn of her family’s secret and experience the dream walking for herself. With this power, she can enter a person’s dreams and use their fears against them. For over a century the women of House Ravenwood have used this secret to keep their people safe, sometimes going as far as to assassinate their enemies.  As Selene comes into her power, she must decide if it is worth upholding her family’s legacy or staying true to what her heart tells her. She does not want to be an assassin, but also doesn’t want to disappoint her mother. With two different paths to choose, she is going to have to make the biggest decision of her life and either direction will lead to consequences.

Fantasy lovers will not want to miss Mark of the Raven.  So much detail brought this story to life and kept me at the edge of my seat.  With fantasy fiction, details are so critical, especially in the first book of a series when the world is being constructed and Busse did a great job creating this world and really bringing us into the house of Ravenwood. The tension between Selene and her mother was so real and brought life to the story. Truthfully, the dynamic between everyone in the family was so real I felt like I could have been a part of the family. I felt the scenes with little dialogue dragged until the conversations picked up. Other than that, there wasn’t much to not like about this book. I recommend this to lovers of fantasy.

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

Dead Sea Rising

Dead Sea RisingAuthor: Jerry B. Jenkins

Series: Dead Sea Chronicles #1

Publisher: Worthy Publishing

Release Date: November 13, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

With all the success of the Left Behind series it is hard to imagine anything better; however, Dead Sea Rising is by far the best Jenkins novel I have ever read. This is not one to be missed.

Nicole Berman is waiting for the news that could change her life. She has applied to lead an archeological dig in the middle east and is waiting for the answer when she gets the call that her mom is in the hospital with a broken hip. When she gets there, she finds out her mother was actually attacked and she is a suspect. Someone doesn’t want her to go on the dig and uncover the artifacts she believes she has found, evidence of a biblical patriarch that could change history. While Nicole and her father work to prove they would never do anything to hurt her mother, the search for what is really going on and why Nicole and her family are now being threatened intensifies and no one is safe.

I honestly don’t know how to go about describing this book. All I can say is it will be hard for any book to top this for my number one book of the year. There was a back and forth element to the story, one chapter in the present with Nicole and the next 4,000 years in the past. The interesting thing is it can actually be read one of two ways, straight through like normal or readers can chose to read one timeline (every other chapter) all the way through and then go back and read the other timeline without compromising the way they understand the story. Even though the timelines don’t intercede with one another, by the end they will have relevance as the series continues. The characters and the way Jenkins weaved the tension was amazing. I also think the super short chapters helped move the story along. As readers want to put the book down for the night, they might look ahead to the next chapter and see it is only a few pages and decide it is short enough to keep going making it a sit down and read in one sitting kind of book. When most people think of a fast paced page-turner, it probably has to do with a car chase or a serial killer attacking someone. With Dead Sea Rising that isn’t the case, the tension is right from the start, as soon as Nicole is suspecting of hurting her mother and the depths of the case made me want to turn the page as fast as I could. There is a reason that Jenkins is one of the very top Christian authors, he has perfected his writing and anyone wanting to learn the craft of writing needs to read and reread everything he has writing, it doesn’t get any better. I recommend this book to lovers of biblical fiction and suspense.

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

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.