Sunrise

Author: Susan May Warren

Series: Sky King Ranch #1

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: January 4, 2022

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Susan May Warren does a fantastic job crafting a Contemporary Romance story that readers will enjoy and a setting that is downright chilling!

Dodge Kingston left home over a decade ago after a family fight. He now returns to help salvage Sky King Ranch after his father is in an accident. What he doesn’t count on is meeting back up with his old flame, Echo Yazzie and having all the same feelings come right back to the surface. Echo never left Alaska and has been working as a dogsledder and research guide for the DNR; it is a dangerous life but one she loves. One of the researchers working with Echo goes missing and Echo doesn’t hesitate to head out in search with her dog team. Dodge now must put hurt feelings aside and try to find Echo before it is too late. Not only are they racing against the Alaskan wilderness, but other dangers await them in the wild.

Susan May Warren is a great Christian fiction writer that puts out books faster than most any other author out there. I have loved her romantic suspense series and her collaboration writing the Rembrant Stone series. Sunrise is her newest and it is a contemporary romance; the story is good with characters that intrigued me from the beginning. I did feel that things got a little repetitive at times causing the story to drag a bit, not a lot, but at a few key points I was wanting it to pick up when it was moving at the slower pace. The ending was by far the best part and left me aching for more! Luckily with her. you don’t have to wait too long for the next book to come out.

One thing that got me scratching my head was the use of so many unique names, Dodge, Echo, Idaho, Colt, and Range, not many normal names throughout the book. I get wanting to have names that will stick with the reader but at times it can take readers out of the story with so many unique names. I must admit, I’m more of a fan of suspense than contemporary but this was a good read and I think fans of Warren’s writing will enjoy this new story and beautiful setting.

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

The Girl Who Could Breathe Underwater

Author: Erin Bartels

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: January 4, 2022

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Bartels brings difficult conversations to light coupled with raw emotion in her latest novel!

Kendra Brennan is an author whose debut novel made a huge splash on best seller lists.  She was celebrated, gave several talks and tours, and was given a contract for a second book.  Through all the fan mail, one letter caught her attention: a very disappointed reader who seems to know her personally.  With this personal disappointment weighing on her, Kendra returns to the lake that she spent summers at as a child, at her grandfather’s cabin, now her cabin after his passing.  The letter has been causing writer’s block and she can only hope that this will make the words flow again.  But returning to the lake is unearthing ghosts from her past.  The antagonist from her first book returns in the flesh and he isn’t easy to face in person.  Perhaps she can resurrect a failed friendship with his sister before it’s too late.

Erin Bartels has become one of those authors that I read every book she writes without even reading the synopsis or looking at the cover.  The stories are just that good and the tension and internal conflict her characters have intensifies with each story.  The Girl Who Can Breathe Underwater is no exception to either tension or conflict.  Told from Kendra’s point of view at current day as well as remembering her past, specifically her friendship with Cami, readers get a glimpse into what happened to make Kendra become the woman she is.  She has so much personal growth in this book as a character, that readers can’t help but connect with her and hope that she manages to sort out her life.

Fair warning, this book will be difficult for some readers.  There is a scene of non-consensual sex in a manner that unfortunately happens all too often.  Some readers may have experienced this before, and it may dredge up past memories and feelings that would rather be forgotten.  The same can be said for one of the characters using drugs and alcohol to weaken a woman’s resolve to stop things from happening.  It’s uncomfortable, but the way it is written is so realistic that as a reader I hope it will help others heal and see that it is not their fault when they read it as well! 

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

2021 Top Comtemporary

Every year we have a genre with so many good books that we simply can’t narrow it down to just five. And why should we? Each of these authors brings a unique voice to their craft that makes us simply blend into the story and forget about reality for a little while! Enjoy our top picks for 2021!

After She Falls by Carmen Schober

Our top pick follows a young mixed martial artist who trades love for her passion only to find herself trapped in an abusive marriage. Readers will see not only fighting in the octagon but fighting internal battles as well!

Read the full review.

All That We Carried by Erin Bartels

If you want a story with tension and conflict, this is the book for you! Two sisters with years of hurt and anger between them finally have a confrontation in the middle of the Michigan wilderness. The raw emotion as well as beautiful scenery will draw readers in for the long haul.

Read the full review!

No More Words by Kerry Lonsdale

This start of this new trilogy begins with what Lonsdale does best, bringing family drama out front and center. Readers will be jumping to the wrong conclusions throughout the pages only to be shocked by the revelation at the end!

Read the full review!

The World Played Chess by Robert Dugoni

Dugoni is no stranger is our suspense/thriller list, but every once in a while he brings out a book in a different genre that is just as good. He has a way of writing a story that goes deeper than most and characters that will pull you by the heartstrings.

Read the full review!

A Piece of the Moon by Chris Fabry

Fabry has a way of making readers feel a part of the story and this is no exception. The first chapter will have readers hooked and then tag along with the different groups hunting for treasure.

Read the full review!

Provenance by Carla Laureano

Who doesn’t love an unlikely romance discovered in a small town nestled in the Colorado Rockies? With loveable characters and some references to past novels, this is one of her best!

Read the full review!

Seven Perfect Things by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Every time we pick up a Catherine Ryan Hyde novel, I am reminded why she is one of out favorites. The way Hyde writes these stories pulls me in and has us turning the pages as if we’re reading a thriller. Seven Perfect Things is by far our favorite of her novels, it didn’t take more than two pages to pull us into the story and kept us hooked the whole way through.

Read the full review!

The Letter Keeper by Charles Martin

Martin’s writing is like none other. All his stories are just feel good type stores, but the Murphy Shepherd series has such action and suspense packed in, it’s almost difficult to keep it tied to one genre. This is his best series so far and we can’t wait to see what comes next!

Read the full review!

Mona Passage by Thomas Bardenwerper

Another story laced with internal conflict. Plus it’s set in Puerto Rico, which is a past roaming ground, so it was fun to see the accuracy of the island throughout the pages!

Read the full review!

Facing the Dawn by Cynthia Ruchti

A story full of heart, faith, strength, and a longing to survive even during the hardest of circumstances.

Read the full review!

After She Falls

Author: Carmen Schober

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: November 2, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

One of the best books I have read this year! Not your ordinary Christian Fiction; so much good within these pages!

Adri Rivera had been on track to be one of the best in the world of mixed martial arts, but then she fell in love with a man that took all the fight from her. Adri gets pregnant and puts the world of fighting behind her until her husband’s abuse becomes more than she can handle. She goes back to her hometown to live with her uncle who raised her and taught her all about the world of martial arts. While she is back home, she runs into her old flame, Max Lyons. Max has opened his own gym in town and wants to help Adri, so he gives her a job as an instructor for the kid’s class. It doesn’t take long for Adri to get the itch to fight again and Max agrees to coach her. The more time they spend together, the more sparks start to fly causing them to confront their past to determine if they have a future together.

When I think of Christian Fiction, particularly Contemporary Christian Fiction, a fast action, MMA fighting book is not what normally comes to mind. This story is one of the best I have read all year long. I loved the interactions between characters from beginning to end, Adri is strong but has been beaten down for so long she has forgotten her strength, until she must protect her daughter who she cares more about than her own safety. The fight scenes were written so well, I actually felt like I was in the ring with Adri fighting and felt every blow she landed and received. Her relationship with both her husband and Max are complicated but that is also what makes them believable. This book had me gripped and on the edge of my seat until the very last page. I so admired Adri as a main character and the strength she had to find for herself. This is the type of book that I think many, even those that don’t normally read Christian fiction, will greatly enjoy. It is a true underdog story with romance and drama sprinkled in at just the right places. If you are a fan of MMA and fighting give this book a chance, you won’t be disappointed.

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

A Christmas in the Alps

Author: Melody Carlson

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: September 7, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Carlson delivers another lighthearted Christmas story, just in time for the season!

Simone Winthrop’s world has been turned upside down when her last living relative passes away. She is left with an old house with some boxes of things to go with it. In the mix, Simone and her friend, Andrea find a letter addressed to her from her great-grandmother. She has inherited a treasure in a small French city that she has heard about. The fear of flying makes Simone hesitant to go, but Andrea persuades her. On the journey, Simone meets a kind and handsome clockmaker, Kyle, to whom she feels an instant connection.

Simone makes it to the Alps and finds relatives, including a crotchety great-aunt. Simone gets to know her new family as she looks for the treasure. Kyle shows up at her family’s clock factory unexpectedly and the two begin a romance as he helps her find the treasure she seeks.

Christmas in the Alps is an easy, but predictable read. A lovely story of Christmas and family.  Melody Carlson just has a way of creating fun characters that you love to read about that manage to find a way to your heart.  Simone seemed weak at first, but managed to conquer her fears and gain so much more than just freedom.  Her story is one that readers will enjoy for years to come.  Easily a book that readers will want to read again each year.

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

Since You’ve Been Gone

Author: Tari Faris

Series: Restoring Heritage #3

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: September 7, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

If you loved the first two books in this series, you’re in for a treat with the third!

After spending a few years in Costa Rica helping her brother’s mission organization, Leah Williams returns to her hometown of Heritage, Michigan, keen on revitalizing her grandfather’s business: The Want It Find It store, abbreviated WIFI for short.  Sure, the acronym is a bit misleading, but she can’t help but want to try to make it as grand as it was for her as a kid.  When she goes to the bank to get a loan, she expects to meet with Dale Kensington, who is well known throughout town and a hard nose for business.  Instead, she finds that she is working with his nephew Jon, who made her life in high school insanely difficult.  She tries to find anyway that she can avoid him, but utterly realizes that she will have to put their differences in the past and work alongside him as a business partner.  Can this relationship get any worse?

So, if you’ve read the first two books, then you know how the formula is going to for in this series:  two relationships spring up between people that you would least expect that have to reconcile their differences to make it work.  Two of the people are from Heritage and the other relationship has one from Heritage and one outside.  Ultimately something happens from the past that jeopardizes one of the relationships, but then the “wronged” person learns something they did for them that makes them realize they love them and BAM, you have a future marriage.  All that said, the story lines of the characters are all different and each resonates differently with readers.  I love the return of Madison Westmore from the first book, who was such a disliked character.  Her maturity and backstory will soften readers’ hearts towards her and make all enjoy the story!

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

The World Played Chess

Author: Robert Dugoni

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

Release Date: September 14, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Robert Dugoni has done something no other author has ever been able to do: write a book about war that I couldn’t put down! The World Played Chess is a fantastic book with life lessons for all.

Vincent Bianco just graduated high school in 1979 and all he wants to do is enjoy his summer before going to college and maybe make a little beer money. His sister’s boyfriend gets him a job working as a laborer on a construction crew where he meets two Vietnam vets that give him a better world education than any he could have received in school. Fast-forward forty years ahead and Vincent has his own son getting ready to leave for college when he receives a journal from William, one of the vets he worked with that summer decades ago, full of life lessons that help him prepare himself and his son for what lays ahead for them.

Robert Dugoni is by far one of the best authors I have ever read. He has a way of writing a story that goes deeper than most and characters that will pull you by the heartstrings. Never in my life did I think I would enjoy a book about war, just not my genre that interested me. But The World Played Chess is written so beautifully that I couldn’t help but enjoy every page. It didn’t matter if it was Vincent’s point of view or William’s time in war, I couldn’t help but want to know how the story would turn out and if these characters would have their happy ending. The way the life lessons of one character would influence the life of another and each one grew better because of the exchange. Usually, my favorite genre to read is suspense thrillers, they move fast and keep me hooked better than most. But anytime I pick up a Robert Dugoni book, I know I am going to have a fantastic read on my hands, it doesn’t matter if it is one of his suspense books or contemporary, it will be a book to remember. I could think all day and not come up with a single bad thing to say about this book; there is a little bit of language, but it is not written for a younger audience. I recommend this book for all adults that love a good contemporary novel with honest characters you will fall in love with and each chapter full of life lessons we can all walk away feeling better for having read the words written.

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

The Secret Keepers of Old Grocery Depot

Author: Amanda Cox

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: September 7, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Amanda Cox knocks it out of the park with a story that has all the feels in just the right places! An emotional and inspiring story that is beautifully written and perfect to the very last page!

Set in both present day and the past, The Secret Keepers of Old Depot Grocery follows Sarah Ashby as she returns to her childhood home after her husband’s death. Along with her mother and grandmother, she works at the family grocery story she loved so much as a child. Her mother, Rosemary, announces that the store is closing much to the dismay of Sarah and her grandmother, Glory Ann, who work together to save the store. Rosemary worked her whole life to make sure Sarah would have a different life than the one she grew up with and hates to see her daughter follow in her footsteps.

In 1965, Glory Ann confesses to her family that she is pregnant out of wedlock and the father was sent to war and killed. She is then married to a man she has just met to save the reputation of herself and her family. Glory Ann promises herself she will never love again but it ends up being a promise she can’t keep.

Amanda Cox has done it again with a contemporary novel that blew me away with its complexity, emotional moments, and perfect mix of past and present problems that converge to a perfect ending with beautiful moments throughout. Usually a contemporary novel, especially one with half the story set in the past, is a slow read for me that has trouble holding my interest. Amanda Cox has become one of the exceptions. There was a solid connection between me and the characters. Sarah and her family are solid leads that are written in a way that readers will want to see them succeed in whatever their hearts are wishing for. I loved the way the past and present lined up to give glimpses of what was going to happen and lead to little surprises at the end. So much to love about this novel, the pacing, the relationships; nothing felt rushed, and the feel-good moments throughout. I recommend this book to readers that want a feel-good book with nothing too heavy or anything that you have to think too hard about.

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

Beyond the Tides

Author: Liz Johnson

Series: Prince Edward Island Shores #1

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: August 3, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Johnson returns to PEI in her new series and fans will not be disappointed!

Meg Whitaker’s mother’s health has been deteriorating for several years and when her father decides he needs to stay home to be with her, she is shocked to learn he is going to sell his lobster fishing business.  Meg never had an interest in the business and loves her profession as a teacher, but when she learns he is going to sell it to the one person who single handedly crushed her dreams of attending an Ivy league university, she decides to convince her dad to sell to her to keep it in the family.

Oliver isn’t proud of his past and he is now trying to make an honest living so that he, his mom, and his younger brother can keep their home.  After working for the Whitaker’s lobster fishing business for years, he can’t believe that Mr. Whitaker has selected him as the individual to buy his business.  After scraping and saving to make the down payment, the one thing he didn’t expect was Meg to try to buy it first. 

Meg’s dad arranges a solution that neither finds appealing yet must do if they want the business.  During lobster season, the two must work together to operate the business and then he will make his decision on who will buy it.  Although cut from different cloths, they begin to find similarities and that they need to rely on each other for more than just the business.

Leave it to Liz Johnson to find two polar opposite personalities that can’t stand one another and put them in a situation that makes them confront their past to discover the truth.  There is a lot to unpack in this first series installment and I can’t wait to see how the others play out.  I’m guessing that it will be a trilogy that show cases Oliver and his two brothers set in the beautiful coast of Prince Edward Island.  Johnson does such a great job of descriptive scenery that readers will feel they are walking through town or tasting the sea air while about the Pinch

Readers will fall in love with Meg and Oliver’s story and enjoy watching the romance slowly develop as well as both characters arc to their intended storyline.  Both characters are stubborn, but as iron sharpens iron, they bring out the best in each other. 

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

Provenance

Author: Carla Laureano

Publisher: Tyndale House

Release Date: August 3, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Such a fun redemption story set in the high altitude of Colorado.

Kendall Green is an interior designer with a specialty in historic preservation who is in high demand for her work.  However, most people don’t know her past; she was abandoned in Denver as a little girl and shuffled through the foster care system.  Once she aged out of the system, she chose a path and never looked back.  Returning from a business trip in Europe, she opens a letter addressed from the town of Jasper Lake, Colorado.  Her grandmother passed away and she has been named the sole heir of her property.  Surprised that she had a family member who knew who she was, yet overjoyed this could be just what she needs to finally purchase her Southern California property and take her business to the next level.

Upon arrival in Jasper Lake, Kendall meets young mayor Gabe Brandt.  She discovers that the town is close to ruin due to previous flooding disasters and a developer wants to build a new resort but needs her property for the lake front access.  Gabe wants to try to save the town without the resort and has tried multiple ways, but nothing has worked.  He hopes that he can sway Kendall to keep the property so that the resort plans cannot move forward.  However, she has no interest in doing that until she sees the five historic houses on the lot.  Will Gabe be able to convince Kendall to help save the town?  Can Kendall stomach the demolition of such unique houses even if it saves her business?

There is nothing quite like a fun, contemporary romance with lots of friction between the two main characters and even more tension surrounding them.  Throw in a redemption story aspect and you’ve got yourself a signature Carla Laureano novel.  I loved going back to Colorado in this series with a nod to the Solid Grounds Coffee Company (be sure to give a shout out when you spot it).  I was kind of hoping for Brunch at Bittersweet Café one day, but maybe it will show up in the future.

Kendall was a difficult character to get to know.  She shuts everyone out (even the reader at times) with her feelings because she has been hurt so badly in the past.  She has no memory of what happened and has felt abandoned all her life.  Interestingly enough, she finds it easier to confide in Gabe about her past and tells him more than anyone else she has met.  I loved seeing her transformation throughout the story and discovering the power of being an adopted child of God. 

Gabe is a fixer and wants to have a hand in solving every problem he encounters.  He has difficulty sitting back and letting other people figure things out, even God.  So, to see him become humble in this book was really intriguing.  I loved the supporting characters and hope that there might be a couple future installments with their stories (fingers crossed!) 

The romance wasn’t forced in the story, and frankly I got a little worried if it was even going to play out, but I think readers will be quite satisfied with the conclusion! I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.