The Family Gathering

The Family gatheringAuthor: Robyn Carr

Series: Sullivan’s Crossing #3

Publisher: Mira Books

Release Date: April 17, 2018

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

More second chances occur in Sullivan’s Crossing for more than just one new couple!

Dakota Jones spent several years of his life as an army ranger. But one decision to protect his men by defying a direct order left him discharged trying to figure out what to do with his life.  After a walkabout in Australia, he decides to head to Timberlake, Colorado to visit his brother Cal and meet his newborn niece.  His sister Sierra has also decided to stay in Timberlake with her fiancée Connie.  Shortly after arriving, he can understand why his family feels rooted her.  He also starts to meet the local women and has two prospects almost immediately.  Alyssa has a hair salon and Neely is a looker that comes on a little strong the first time he meets her.  In both cases, he is just not that interested.  He is interested in the bartender at a local bar and grille, but she is not interested in him.  Sidney has had a bad divorce and doesn’t know if she can ever trust men again, but Dakota is persistent.  However, the other women don’t like that they are not receiving his affection and he has picked up a stalker.  Can Dakota show this young woman that he is truly enraptured by her?  Or will someone beat him to the punch?

Of the Sullivan Crossing series, this book probably goes the deepest of any of the characters. Each main character is so real, flawed, and raw that they become alive instantly.  Dakota and Sid’s past romances were really tough to stomach based on the loss that each had.  Sierra and Connie’s predicament will likely make readers very emotional.  All this combined made the story fly off the page.  I couldn’t wait to get back to Sullivan’s Crossing after the last book as I was interested in what was going to happen to the final Jones sibling.  I couldn’t be happier with the outcome.  I would love to see this series continue with the family to see how the future plays out.

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

Hurricane Season

Hurricane SeasonAuthor: Lauren K. Denton

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: April 3, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Emotional, well-written, with a little suspense mixed in for good measure.

Ty and Betsy Franklin are owners of the Franklin Dairy in Alabama. Ty knew he wanted to take over his grandfather’s farm since he was fifteen, but it took a lot of hard work and sacrifice.  Betsy sacrificed a lot too, including her promising career in marketing to be with the man she fell in love with.  Together they’ve brought the farm into the modern era, but still have problems that come and go.  One problem they never planned on was being unsuccessful at having children, which tears at Betsy’s heart through their whole marriage.  That all changes when Betsy’s sister Jenna calls out of the blue asking Betsy to watch her two girls for two weeks while she goes on a writing retreat in Florida.  Jenna is a free spirit to say the least.  She never measured up to her parent’s expectations and once she was in college, she jumped from one adventure to the next, leaving her a single mom who currently manages a coffee shop.  Jenna who never wanted kids has two and Betsy who yearns for kids has none.  As the days with the girls continue, things begin to get strained in her and Ty’s marriage.  As hurricane season approaches, they must prepare the farm for the storm but may face one even greater in their relationship.

This book really stirred up my emotions. My heart yearned for Betsy as she went through her life often defeated because she couldn’t have kids.  The things she felt and some of her actions really hit home hard because we all struggle and do things that don’t make sense to anyone but ourselves.  Then in retrospect, we can look back and question why we even did those things in the first place.  It was this attribute that really brought Betsy to life for me.  Ty came alive quickly as well.  His loving heart towards his wife was wonderful, but he still got frustrated with her and would just shut down at times because he didn’t know what to do or what to say.  It was like this was based on a real life marriage.  In many instances, I understood how each character felt thinking through my own marriage.  Jenna reminds me of a few women in my life.  Doing what she did seems completely abnormal to me, but I know a few people that wouldn’t think otherwise.  It was easy to put faces to the characters and see the whole book acted out in front of me.

This book could easily be a case study for groups to read about and reflect on the behavior. I recommend it to all who love a good story.

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

Rainbirds

RainbirdsAuthor: Clarissa Goenawan

Publisher: Soho Press

Release Date: March 6, 2018

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Intriguing, mischievous, and well thought out. A spring must read!

Ren Ishida is finishing up graduate school at a university in Tokyo when he receives word that his sister, Keiko, has been murdered. Ren travels to the small town of Akakawa to take care of the memorial service and see to his sister’s affairs as neither of his parents want anything to do with his sister since she left several years ago.  Ren and his sister were always close and often alone together as he grew up since his parents were always fighting.  The police have no leads on the murder investigation, so Ren plans to wrap things up and head back to Tokyo.  While at the cram school that Keiko taught at, the owner finds out that Ren also studied American and British literature and offers him his sister’s position for the rest of the semester.  On a whim, he decides to take up the offer to also try to find out what happened to his sister.  As he meets his sister’s colleagues, he finds that his sister changed from whom he knew and the woman he talked to on the phone every week.  Ren comes to find that perhaps he would rather not know who she became but he can’t stop himself from falling down her rabbit hole.

This is by far one of the best written books that I have read so far this year. The story flowed seamlessly and keep me intertwined through all the developments of Keiko’s past life and Ren’s current affairs.  The story was ultimately about Ren fining closure and maturity through his sister’s murder.  I was glad to see progressive character development for once on multiple characters, primarily Ren and Rio.  I was also glad to see that Ren didn’t repeat his sister’s past mistakes, even though he came very close.

Part of what I love about this book is the glimpse into a different culture. As an American, I often forget that other parts of the world are very different from what we see every day.  The thought of still having arranged marriages in today’s society mixed with shunning a child due to disobedience is drastically different then what I am used to.  It’s books like these that really have the opportunity to open a reader’s mind to a real place outside of their current area.  The scenes were set beautifully and I could feel the chill in the air at Akakawa.

Although there is not any foul language in this book, there are some implied sex scenes; however, there is nothing explicit. There is also some alcohol/tobacco use and scene concerning a suicide.  I recommend this book to mature young adult readers and up.

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

Under a Cloudless Sky

Under a Cloudless SkyAuthor: Chris Fabry

Publisher: Tyndale

Release Date: January 9, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A remarkable story bringing past and present events that collide that can only be reconciled with forgiveness.

In 1933, the mining town of Beulah Mountain, West Virginia has it shares of ups and downs. The mine owners have the ups and the workers have the downs.  But not all owners are unfair.  Jacob Handley agreed to be a financial backer of the mine if he could put measures in place that would make it more fair for the workers, including housing, food and supplies from a company store, etc.  However, other members felt that increasing the bottom line was the primary goal by whatever means necessary.  Even so, a friendship between Handley’s daughter, Ruby, and one of the mine workers daughters named Bean struck up and became inseparable.  Through Bean’s mama and their church, Ruby became saved and was baptized.  They were inseparable, until an unfortunate series of events set a massacre in place that would change their lives forever.

Several decades later in 2004, Hollis Beasley is trying to prevent the land in Beulah Mountain from being bought out by Coalman Coal and Energy. Unfortunately, the company has deep pockets with roots in the tax appraisal office that is making it impossible for the land owners to pay taxes on their land, forcing many to sell.  Ruby Handley Freedman now lives in Kentucky and is fighting her children to keep her independence.  Having not been back to Beulah Mountain since the massacre, the town has changed and the historical society has refurbished her old childhood home above the company store as a museum.  Feeling the need to return for forgiveness as well as to prove to her children that she can still take care of herself, Ruby takes off with no notice to head to Beulah Mountain.  This decisions starts a series of events that will change everyone’s lives in Beulah Mountain just as the day she left.

I have never been disappointed in a book by Chris Fabry, so it comes as no surprise that I quickly devoured this one as well. With a resounding theme of forgiveness throughout the book, Fabry weaves a tragic story planted with a seed of hope.  I was so caught up in both stories that I couldn’t pick which one I wanted to follow more.  Fabry also did a great job taking me back to 2004 with the reference to Switchfoot as well as a few other tidbits such as internet browsers of the past.  You don’t realize how much your forget until you’re confronted with it again.  And yes, Meant to Live is still playing in my head now much like it did then.

Ruby’s story was humorous, suspenseful, and downright terrifying at times. To hear about the poor treatment of people at any time in history (or present) is never an enjoyable experience.  However, we must learn what happened or we are doomed to repeat it.  I also liked that he showed how people prefer to sugarcoat the bad and focus on the good.  By understanding this, we can look past the surface and see the hurt that people are facing.

I always enjoy books that allow me to have a bit of a prediction and this one was no exception. I’m happy to say that my prediction of the story came true.  However, there was a twist that also happened as part of the prediction, which made it even better.  Be sure to pick up a copy of this great new book for 2018.  You’ll be glad you did.

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

Top Contemporary Fiction

Next up is one of our favorite categories for the year.  We’re never disappointed with the quality of work we find in this category and 2017 is not exception.

one wrong turn

1. One Wrong Turn by Deanna Lynn Sletten

This was one of the fastest reads of the year.  What started out as tragedy quickly turned into hope.  Terrific read for anytime of the year!

Read the full review here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before we were yours

2. Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Lisa Wingate is one of the most prolific authors we read that can balance the past and present.  She delivers a story based on true events that will undoubtedly leave you in tears.

Read the full review here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

everything we left behind

3. Everything We Left Behind by Kerry Lonsdale

We’ve been waiting for this book to release the minute we finished Everything We Keep.  Now the story continues through James’s perspective and we finally find out the truth about that fateful trip to Mexico!

Read the full review here.

 

 

 

 

 

The Writing Desk

4. The Writing Desk by Rachel Hauck

Another fantastic story that bounces between past and present that connects two people across time and continents by a single piece of furniture.

Read the full review here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer

 

5. The Summer that Made Us by Robyn Carr

A terrific story about a dysfunctional family that finally begins to heal after 30 years of hurt and deceit.  If you think your family is nuts, just wait until you read this.

Read the full review here.

A Hundred Small Lessons

A hundred small lessonsAuthor: Ashley Hay

Publisher: Atria Books

Release Date: November 28, 2017

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Beautifully written, compelling, thought provoking, and just overall a good read.

After a fall that left her alone and helpless in her house, Elsie Gromley’s two kids make the decision to move her from the house she had lived in for sixty years to a nursing home. They put the house up for sale and a young family purchases the house.  Lucy Kiss, her husband Ben, and their young son move in and being to adjust to being a family rather than two lovers who have been skirting the globe.  Soon, the house begins to share its secrets with Lucy as it seems that there are little tidbits of Elsie left throughout the house that begins to connect Lucy and Elsie in unimaginable ways.

Sometimes it’s good to have a good, mellow book to read as you move into the holidays. The writing really help bring some introspection as the stories of Lucy and Elsie intertwined.  It hits a little close to home as my husband’s grandmother had almost the same experience not two years ago.  She fell in her house, which she had lived in for fifty-eight years, since the day of her wedding.  She broke her ankle and had to be moved into a nursing home for rehab.  Sadly, she passed shortly thereafter and never had a chance to return home.

There wasn’t much of a plot to the story, but more of just a steady flow of memories from Elsie and coming of age by Lucy. Even so, this was an interesting read and recommended for the genre audience.

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

Bridges

BridgesAuthor: Maria Murnane

Series: Daphne White #2

Publisher: Wink’s Link

Release Date: April 4, 2017

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

The three musketeers are back with some shocking surprises that may throw readers for a loop!

Daphne has taken control of her life and is using her journalism background to write a novel based on the trip she and her two friends took to the Caribbean. It’s a great book, but all the agents she has sent it off to don’t feel it is within their representation area.  Then on a surprise video chat, Skylar drops a bombshell, she is getting married!  The upcoming 4th or July weekend brings the three of them back together for a bachelorette party.  However, there are more surprises in the work from both KC and Skylar.  Just because they look like they’ve got it together, doesn’t mean they don’t have problems.

I’m so happy that I read the first book in this series because a lot of it builds off what happened there. And it’s always good to come back to loveable characters when you start a new book.  It’s like getting back together with old friends.  That was the case in this book, I was just one of the musketeers along for the ride.  Daphne is back in her insecure mode after she sees how Skylar actually lives.  And it gets the best of her a couple of times.  This book really goes deeper into the problems that Skylar and KC have and brings everyone to a common level more than the first book.  There were definitely a couple of shockers that the author dropped in, but that’s what makes it fun.  You will enjoy this one, I guarantee it.

There is some mild language and some implied sex, but nothing graphic. I recommend this book to those who love a good coming of older age story.

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