The Essence of Nathan Biddle

Author: J. William Lewis

Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group Press

Release Date; June 1, 2021

Rating: 3 out of 5.

To be trapped in the mind of a confuse

Kit Biddle has been struggling with several things over the last year and it seems that it’s all coming to a head.  He attends a local academy that he has thrived at, but over the last few months his grades have started to drop.  He was a star in athletics and could run faster than anyone, but he just doesn’t care about practicing or participating for that matter.  His girlfriend (perfect in his own mind) feels that she can’t be committed to anyone and needs to play the field before she settles down.  His best friend, usually always good to cheer him up, feels Kit is acting too depressed to deal with.  The bulk of this depression may stem from an act that his uncle committed against his cousin Nathan claiming to be orders from God himself.

Being stuck with Kit as the protagonist made this book rather depressing to read.  As the reader, you see what is going on around him, but he just can’t see it for himself and it got quite infuriating at times.  Plus, being set in the late 1950s, did high school kids really read that much classical literature that would cause them to talk the way they did?  Maybe at this academy they do, but it seemed like something out of a Shakespeare story that was within a Shakespeare story, if you know what I mean.  I did enjoy once Kit started working through everything and seeing things more in the light, which was the point of the story.  I also thought the reference to Don Quixote were very well timed.

There is some occasional language throughout plus two moderately detailed sex scenes in the book.  I recommend this book for mature audiences.

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


Author: Tracy Wolff

Series: Crave #1

Publisher: Entangled Teen Publishing

Release Date: April 7, 2020

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Fans of Twilight will not want to miss this series that is fun, engrossing, and a swoon worthy read. Like Twilight but oh so different and oh so fun to read.

Grace’s world turned upside down when her parents died and she is sent to live with her only other family in Alaska, a complete opposite environment from her home in California. When she steps foot inside the academy where her uncle is headmaster of the boarding school, she feels as lost as Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. The place is filled with monsters of all kind and the one thing they have in common is their hatred for her. Upon her arrival, Jaxon Vega gives her a warning that if she won’t leave, she better watch her back. It doesn’t take long though for him to follow her every move and vow to do all he can to protect her.

There are several aspects of this series that have totally hooked me. I was a huge fan of Twilight when it came out and looking back now, I can say it isn’t the best writing, but the story is engaging and the characters pull you in. Same thing can be said for Crave, the story is very intriguing, and I love the references to Twilight. Wolff doesn’t just play it off like no one here has ever heard of the series, instead she very cleverly adds nods to the other famous YA Vampire series.

Grace comes into the scene with lots of baggage and trying to figure out how to move on with her life with her parents gone. The last thing she expects to find is all the fantastical things the academy holds within. The way it leads up to revealing who and what all is around her is done beautifully. The story slowly unfolds but at just the right speed to keep the reader’s attention. There is a lot to unpack here and one of the best aspects of the story is the ending with the three chapters from Jaxon’s point of view. This gave so much more to the story than having to only rely on the single point of view, but it also was a tease with only three chapters of the story done this way.  Readers are left with a perfect cliffhanger ending that left me thirsty for more,

I am really happy I already have book two in hand and can start it right away and don’t have to wait for it come out, that would be torture. My only problem with the book is all the harsh language, especially with a target audience of teens and young adults I have a hard time with seeing some of those words. The story itself is good enough that I can overlook most of that and recommend to those that loved Twilight and enjoy a great read full of characters of all kinds.

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

‘Til I Want No More

Author: Robin W. Pearson

Publisher: Tyndale

Release Date: February 2, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Great character development coupled with finding your self-worth makes this a must read for 2021!

Maxine has had her ups and downs in life, but she finally thinks that she has things in order.  She writes a column for a faith publication and is engaged to a young headmaster that oversees a local school.  Things seem to be going in the right direction.  But when they begin their year of premarital classes, things from Maxine’s past she has tried to put behind her begin to work their way back.  When the man that she fell in love with back in high school returns to town, even more skeletons emerge from the closet.  She’s trying to convince everyone that she is fine, but no one close to her believes it.  As they move closer to the wedding date, Maxine realizes that the secrets that she has been holding from everyone have to become known, which could alter her future.  She must look and learn what it means to be truly known and loved by the one who wonderfully and fearfully made her.

To put this book in context, it is geared toward Maxine’s character development, which puts it at a little bit slower pace than reading for action or suspense.  The focus is on her life and what she has gone through to get where she is and how she is not quite where she really needs to be with herself or with God.  I love that Pearson used some of the same characters from her previous book to help Maxine in her progression.  It’s always fun when a reader gets to visit characters from a previous novel to see how they are moving in their journey as well, almost like catching up with an old friend.  It’s very easy to form an emotional connection with Maxine and even get pulled down when she finds herself in despair.  As a reader, you just want the truth to come out for her so that she can finally begin to heal and stop spiraling downward.  This book just goes to show that even people who appear like they have it all together can be just a depressed as anyone else.

I’m not going to give anything away in this book, but just when you think you have something figured out about Maxine, the truth comes out and it throws you for a loop.  This happened multiple times.  I also liked the twist at the end that showed the one person she tried to keep in the dark already knew and that was causing more of a strain than anything else.  Great story to kick off the new year! I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

All That We Carried

Author: Erin Bartels

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: January 5, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Tension coupled with redemption makes this a stellar tale!

It’s been ten years since Olivia and Melanie’s parents died in a car accident while they were away on a hiking trip.  Ten years since the sisters have really spoken to each other.  With reconciliation on her mind, Melanie asks her sister to join her on a hiking trip in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  Olivia reluctantly agrees but does so on her terms; she picks the place and plans out the whole adventure.  While on the trail, the sisters face uncertainty, accidents, and disasters, which forces them to evaluate their lives, choices, and beliefs.

From the onset of the book, Olivia and Melanie could not be more polar opposite.  Olivia is a prosecutor that is a driven, goal-oriented, planner who has mapped out her life for any possible contingency that could occur.  Melanie is a free-spirited life coach with a YouTube following that believes the good in every belief system while trying to shut out the bad.  Needless to say, tension starts on the first page and doesn’t slow down until the epilogue.  These two women face all sorts of challenges in the wilderness that force them to rely on each other.  I love that both had to reflect on their view of spirituality to truly discover the truth about themselves and each other.  There are some twist and turns that will take readers for quite a bit of a ride, but those with siblings will likely find they have had some of the same arguments.

Bartels description of the beauty of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and that of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and Porcupine Mountains State Park easily drew me in.  I’ve not been to Michigan, but I’ve read a lot of stories set there and until now have really not had a desire to go.  The descriptions of waterfalls and that of Lake Superior made me research the park while I was reading the book and have now added it to my bucket list!  The pictures were so beautiful, and I never would have known about it!

I recommend this book to readers who enjoy a great story and like to see relationships restored!

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

The Sowing Season

Author: Katie Powner

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: October 6, 2020

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A delightful read that teaches readers about the need to slow down and care about others around them.

Gerrit Laninga has finally decided to sell his family’s farm.  At sixty-three, he has put in almost all his years on the farm, sacrificing his family and health along the way.  He carries the weight of his failures on his shoulders including the death of his brother, his estranged relationship with his wife and children, and now the farm.  Once he got home from signing the papers, he found his wife with a suitcase ready to leave in case he backed out of the deal and chose the farm again.  Can he begin to make amends in his retirement?

Rae Walters has grown up according to The Plan.  She will gain enough volunteer hours, get a part time job, make National Honor Society, become the society president, set the three-point shooting record for basketball in her high school, get accepted to Columbia University, and then attend Columbia Law.  But at fifteen years old, The Plan is starting to put a little bit of pressure on Rae as she begins drivers ed.  She has always found solitude in an old barn, but when she is discovered, she meets a bitter old man.  Is it possible that they could help each other?

This is the first book that I’ve read by Katie Powner, but I really connected with both main characters.  Gerritt’s transformation was just fun to watch.  I love how Hannie’s corgi, Daisy, decided to become his dog and how they became an inseparable pair, even when he acted like he didn’t want Daisy around.  It took a long time for him to finally realize what he needed to do, but he finally found grace.  Rae was your typical overachiever teenager.  She was confident on the outside, but wildly insecure on the inside.  She was scared to think of anything outside of The Plan because that is all she knew.  I’m glad to see that she was able to overcome that fear as well.

I feel like there is much more of this story to be told.  This is just a snippet into their lives, and I would love to find out what happens to them both in the future.  I recommend this to people who just need a good read this year!

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

The Edge of Belonging

Author: Amanda Cox

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: September 8, 2020

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A fantastic coming of age story about finding yourself in the darkest of times and learning that no matter what, everyone deserves happiness!

Ivy Rose has been returned to her hometown to sort out the affairs of her recently deceased grandmother. It is the only place she feels she can go after the relationship with her fiancé ends badly. She is hurt and wants to know about her past, the one thing no one has ever been willing to share with her. Her Grandmother left her clues to the mystery of her adoption, but a key piece to the puzzle has gone missing.

Over two decades earlier, Harvey James found a newborn baby abandoned on the side of the road. Harvey is homeless and has lacked someone to love and have a real connection with until he finds this baby that needs him. He knows he needs supplies to take care of a baby and goes to the church for help and ends up intertwined with two people trying to help him and the young baby he has found. But Harvey has spent years staying away from others after a lifetime of being abandoned. What matters most is the safety of the innocent child and keeping her safe. Harvey is willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen.

In this beautifully written dual-time story, readers will have no choice but to fall in love with Ivy, Harvey and all those they touch. I must admit, I put off starting this book, just didn’t seem like one that would touch me, but was I wrong. I tackled each page of this novel with rabid enthusiasm to follow the stories of Harvey and Ivy. The dual-time story gave a great dynamic to what was happening to the characters and why they would react the way they did in the present timeline.  The romance aspect of the story was one of the best written I have read in a long time. Each relationship played out in step as I felt it naturally would have. Nothing was forced and each character resonated with me on a deep level. The gem of the whole story would probably be Grandma Pearl in the flashback timelines of the story; she was so spunky and loved everyone with a kind of love we all should strive to show. After reading this, I sat and just thought about the way these characters truly found themselves.  They may have had to go through some hardships, but they came out the other side stronger and better for it. I think if we would all focus on the hard times we go through and find the happiness at the end, like Ivy and Harvey were able to do, we would see our lives in a much better way. I recommend this book to readers that enjoy a story full of mystery, intrigue, drama, hope, and so much more!

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

The Key to Everything

The Key to EverythingAuthor: Valerie Fraser Luesse

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: June 2, 2020

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

With fun characters and a theme of restoration, this coming of age tale is perfect to kick off the summer.

Fifteen-year-old, Peyton Cabot, isn’t sure what to make of the life before him: stuck in a wealthy family, feeling like he doesn’t belong, and in love with a beautiful red headed girl. After losing his father in a tragic accident, Peyton decides to follow in his father’s footprints and take a life changing bicycle trip down the coast of Florida to Key West. Using his father’s map, he seeks answers to unknown questions and a connection to his father. Along the way, he meets many people who invest in him and change him. Some even become family. Arriving in Key West and reuniting with his love, he finds many answers and finds the peace he’s been seeking.

Set after the end of World War II, you can see a difference in the way people live. I can’t imagine letting my fifteen-year-old son go on an adventure like Peyton did. His character reads much older than fifteen. The relationships portrayed between Peyton and Lisa is often unbelievable when you think about their ages. Realizing that times were different is imperative when reading this book.

I loved many of the characters Peyton met along the way. His adventures were interesting and fun to read.

Peyton’s journey is best summed up in his own words, “You can’t follow anyone else’s path, like I tried to do with Daddy- like Daddy thought he had to do with Grandaddy. Somewhere along the way, you gotta draw your own map.”

I give this book 4 stars. It is well written and creative. The characters are well written and easy to connect to. Overall, an excellent book.

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

Brave Girl, Quiet Girl

Brave girlAuthor: Catherine Ryan Hyde

Publisher: Lake Union Press

Release Date: May 19, 2020

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Friendships can happen in the most least likely of places and with the most unexpected people; but when it is meant to be, it can be a beautiful thing!

The only thing that is keeping Brooke going is her little girl, two-year-old Etta. When her husband wants nothing to do with having a child, Brooke leaves and goes back to live with her mother. While not the most ideal situation, it is the only thing she can do with her little means. One night when she is out with Etta, her life changes forever when she is carjacked and watches her car speed away with Etta inside. Los Angeles is large and getting Etta back won’t be easy. Miles away, Etta is found by Molly, a homeless teenager. She takes Etta with her to the wooden crate she uses as her home and tries to keep her safe and calm. Out of the horror of losing her child and Molly finding her, the two forge a friendship that will help them both learn things about themselves they never knew before.

Each time I pick up a new Catherine Ryan Hyde story, I find myself amazed at how wonderfully she can write a novel. It doesn’t matter what the story is about, I am pulled in and fly through the pages each time. This story was one that tugged at my heart strings for both Brooke and Molly; each character is put through very trying times and fall on hard times. Both have mothers that they wouldn’t wish on their own worst enemies and are able to understand one another because of the hard times they have experienced and the lack of understanding from those who should be there to understand them the most. Building characters that are relatable can be very difficult, but it is one of the qualities that Hyde is best at doing. Each of her novels is so very different from one another and yet she still writes characters we want to see find happiness, success and love. We get to feel what they feel and live through their eyes. The combination of Brooke, Etta and Molly is so beautifully written that no matter the circumstances I wanted to see each of them find a happy ending.

Each new book by Hyde explores themes that are relevant to today’s world and this is no exception, we see the problem of acceptance, love, homelessness and LGBTQ issues. There is nothing that gets graphic or too heavy into these topics, but it does bring to light problems that can be glossed over and easy to ignore. I loved the flow of this book, I read it in just over two days and could have been quicker if I would have cut out sleep. I recommend this book to readers that enjoy a story that tackles tough topics and brings characters together in a perfect and emotional ending.

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

A Long Time Comin’

long time cominAuthor: Robin W. Pearson

Publisher: Tyndale House

Release Date: January 7, 2019

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A breakout debut novel about love, family, heartbreak and healing. Great read to kick off the new year!

Evelyn Lester is trying to figure out if she wants to save her marriage. She discovered that her husband has been having an emotional affair with a subordinate at work. Once discovered, he quickly dissolved the relationship and is trying to show Evelyn that he wants to keep their marriage alive. To complicate matters, she just found out she is pregnant, which is making the decision that much more difficult. She decides to take some time away and goes to stay at her mother’s home. Shortly after arriving, she learns that her grandmother, known as Granny B, has leukemia and has decided not to pursue treatment. Granny B has had a rough life herself raising seven children without having a husband present. She became a hard woman and even harder on her children. Even so, her children have become very successful professionally, but they all harbor secrets from the past and present. Evelyn begins spending more and more time with Granny B and each begins to unburden their secrets to the other. Before long, they devise a plan to help Granny B close out her grievances before she passes on from this life.

This was really an incredible debut novel. There is a lot of pain displayed throughout this book caused between family members. But deep down, people begin to realize how alike they are, which can be why the pain is caused. And do we ever really understand each other’s circumstances to judge? As it is said, Remove the log in your own eye so that you can see the speck in your neighbor’s eye more clearly. That is part of the message of this book. Everyone seemed to think they knew what was best, but no one knew the whole story.

The local North Carolina dialect written throughout the book made me feel like I was there. The letters written showed the education that some of the characters received made it very believable. Sometimes it is easy to take for granted how things were in the past because some of the readers never experienced it. Pearson did a great job with this story. Terrific novel to kick off the new year!

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


Hyde-Stay-27325-CV-JK-v3.inddAuthor: Catherine Ryan Hyde

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

Release Date: December 3, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

In true form, Catherine Ryan Hyde delivers another outstanding story about the power of friendship and how much a simple kindness can do for a person.

Lucas Painter has a bigger load to carry than most fourteen-year old boys he knows. His brother is off fighting in Vietnam and his best friend Connor is spiraling into a deep depression with family issues. All this combines with his own difficulties at home as his parents continue to fight relentlessly. Lucas needs a relief from the pressure of his life, so he takes off running through the woods. One day while running, he comes across two large dogs. At first, he is scared but then the dogs start running with him and it becomes just what he needs. After a while he meets the owner of the dogs, Zoe Dinsmore. She has kept herself isolated from the rest of the town after a tragic event that rocked her life and everyone in the town. Lucas finds the chance in meeting Zoe to do something to help those closest to him and hopefully save a life in the process.

Each time I pick up a Catherine Ryan Hyde book I think to myself it can’t possibly be better than the last, but she proves me wrong every single time. Stay is a perfectly crafted tale of what it means to care for someone and love them enough to want them to stay in this world. Lucas has so much going against him, but he still tries to help those around him. He is such a rich and vulnerable character that the reader can’t help but want to follow along in his journey. He isn’t the only perfect character in the book; his relationship with every other character is perfectly laid out. Zoe is the character that probably has the biggest arc throughout the story and I loved seeing her grow and the advice she gives out was just right. The thing that makes the characters so relatable is the flaws they have, not even one of them are written as perfect and having their life totally together. The flaws bring out the best and worst in them and help move the story along. Each chapter brought a new struggle that Lucas faced that helped him to grow and be able to help those around him. The story moves quickly with tension at the right spots and the characters showing growth with the turning of the pages. I recommend this book to anyone that has enjoyed a Catherine Ryan Hyde book before and is looking for another great read. If you haven’t read anything by Hyde yet this would be a perfect one to get you started with a phenomenal author.

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