The Oysterville Sewing Circle

Oysterville

Author: Susan Wiggs

Publisher: William Morrow

Release Date: August 13, 2019

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

The kind of special book that is made for book clubs! Women helping women and a warmth throughout that will leave readers smiling as they turn the last page.

 After setting off for the big city to launch a career in the fashion industry, Caroline Shelby has worked hard to prove herself to have it all explode in her face. With nowhere else to turn, she returns to her hometown of Oysterville, Washington. She isn’t returning alone, coming home with her are two children that become orphans when their mom, her friend died. It has been ten years since she left, and a lot has changed. When she arrives on her parent’s doorstep, she isn’t sure where her life is headed. It isn’t long before she runs into Will Jensesn, one of her oldest and closest friends until she left town. Will went into the Navy and was wounded causing him to return home with his wife Sierra, Caroline’s best friend. It doesn’t take long for Caroline to return to her favorite place in town, the sewing shop, and discovers secrets the town has been hiding for years. Finding a purpose with the secret, Caroline starts the Oysterville Sewing Circle and sees lives changed, especially her own.

 For me, the name of this book was very misleading. I was expecting one thing and ended up with something very different. This is a great women’s fiction domestic drama, lots going on in the pages of this story with so many life lessons we can learn from helping a friend to dealing with long lost love. Even if you think a book about sewing and fashion isn’t for you, give it a chance as there is so much more to this story. Caroline is a great protagonist, she has to go up against a lot, not only the people in the fashion industry but also taking on the responsibility of the kids thrust into her life. A lot of people put in her position wouldn’t have made the decision she did. The story flowed great, not only with all she went through but how others reacted to her and the way she kept her values at the forefront of all she did. The subject of domestic violence, drug abuse, and others tackled here are not easy, but when handled with care it can make for a story very much worth reading. I loved the way Wiggs dealt with these characters and the issues they faced. This is the first book I have read by Wiggs but can easily see myself picking up more by her. I recommend this book to readers that enjoy contemporary women’s fiction with a message and heart to the story.

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

Have You Seen Luis Velez?

Luis Velez

Author: Catherine Ryan Hyde

Publisher: Lake Union

Release Date: May 21, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Another wonderful, heartwarming and deep story by an author I have come to rely on to pull my heartstrings and deliver a tale like no one else.

 It can be hard growing up and feeling like you don’t belong anywhere. Raymond Jaffe feels this way living with his mother and her new family.  He spends the weekends with his father and stepmother he is even more out of place. When his best friend moves, he is left with a stray cat he has taken a liking to and a blind ninety-two-year old woman from his building who needs his help. The first time he met her, she was asking about a man named Luis Velez. Luis had been coming to help her go to the bank and grocery story and has disappeared. Mildred Gutterman is worried about him but also needs help to provide her basic needs she can’t do on her own. She and her family escaped the Holocaust and has been on her own since her husband passed away. Luis came to help her and when he stopped coming without an explanation, she feared the worst might have happened. Raymond works to help Mildred survive and find out what happened to Luis and give her closure. The more they dig, the farther Mildred retreats into herself and Raymond makes it his mission to show her that even in the hard times there is always hope.

 Every single novel I read by Catherine Ryan Hyde pulls me in further and shows me she is one of the very best at crafting a story that pulls at your heartstrings and character relationships that very few other author could pull off. The relation between Raymond and Mildred is one that normally wouldn’t have worked out, but the way they came together here was so natural and beautiful. There are so many life lessons in this book: friendship, kindness, hope when things seem lost, family, even if it isn’t blood relatives. The job that Raymond has, trying to help Mildred, isn’t an easy one; he could have just made a call and tried to get her government assistance, but he didn’t. Raymond needed Mildred as much as she needed him, even if he didn’t realize it or want to admit it. One thing this book teaches us it to pay attention to who is around us.  It may be easy to look the other way or pass the person down the hall and think they aren’t are problem or concern, but we might be the only thing keeping them handing on in a tough time. I could go on and on about the lessons and little gems in this book for readers, but it is better to soak them in with the passing of each page. I highly recommend this book to readers looking for a read that will touch their heart and show them that good people are still out there ready and willing to do what is right.

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

A Glitter of Gold

Glitter of Gold

Author: Liz Johnson

Series: Georgia Coast Romance #2

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: August 6, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Fun, witty, charming, and pirates make for the best kind of summer story.

 Anne Norris is trying to escape her past life back in California.  A series of wrong choices landed her in places that she would rather never have visited.  As soon as she could, she packed up and moved across country to Savannah, Georgia where no one has a clue who she is.  She even started up a business as a pirate tour guide, but she isn’t making much and barely scrapes by from month to month.  After a hurricane passes over, she spends a morning at the beach and stumbles upon what appears to be a solid gold sword hilt.  If this is real, it could change her life, but also bring in unwanted publicity.  When she visits the local maritime museum, the curator is ecstatic and wants to find the remainder of the treasure but won’t be able to do it without Anne’s help.  Can she trust him?  Or is she better off alone?

 This was a fun quick read that was just perfect to start closing out the summer reading list.  Stories set in Savannah are always fun to take a stroll down the setting.  And when a pirate’s story comes to surface, that makes it even better.  I quickly fell into Anne’s backstory to understand why she was so skittish and lacked self-esteem, which became evident pretty quickly.  Carter was self-assured, but to focused on living up to his family name to actually enjoy life for what it was.  With a colorful group of supporting character, both Anne and Carter were able to grow both individually and together.  The romance never felt forced and was pretty predictable, but fun all the same.  I recommend this book to those who love a good summer read!

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

The Silence Between Us

Silence between usAuthor: Alison Gervais

Publisher: Blink YA Books

Release Date: August 13, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

At its core, The Silence Between Us is about learning to listen with more than just our ears.  Once we learn that, the space between us can close beautifully.

After losing her hearing in her early teens due to meningitis, Maya has had learned to adapt to the deaf world. Things get complicated though when her mom moves her and her brother to Colorado and Maya’s senior year is spent being the only deaf girl at a hearing school. Even though she is deaf, Maya has hopes of getting into the right college to help her get into the medical field. It doesn’t matter to her if she is the only one that feels she can accomplish this, she is determined to prove that the only thing she can’t do is hear. After arriving at Englemann High School Maya meets Beau Watson, student body president and one of the only students who attempts to learn sign language to communicate with Maya. With each passing day, Beau and Maya’s feelings for each other grow but staring them in the face are their differences. Even though Maya knows what it is like to hear, she has no desire to get a cochlear implant.  She is proud of being deaf and doesn’t want to change. Beau doesn’t understand why Maya wouldn’t want to hear again and Maya doesn’t know if she can be with someone that doesn’t accept her for who she is and always will be.

The Silence Between Us is a perfect young adult novel that teaches acceptance in a way that may not always appear to most of us. Hearing loss is not something that is easily noticeable, especially if the person doesn’t have a hearing aid or cochlear implant that is visible. I loved the way Alison Gervais made it relatable to anyone of us that could find ourselves in the situation Maya and Beau did. The writing is easy to follow with all the signing in all caps so the reader can differentiate between signs and other communications. Maya has had some hardships in her life, she has lost her hearing, her brother has cystic fibrosis, and now they have moved to a new town and she must attend a hearing school after years being at a deaf school. Maya is uneasy to trust any of the new friends she makes at her new school.  She appreciates the effort Beau makes to communicate in her language, but she can’t see them as ever being anything more than friends with her being deaf. She takes her only limitation and sets it up to be her failure until she is presented with the option of seeing it in a new light. I loved how every obstacle was a chance to look at things in a new way. Every reader will come away from reading this with a new-found respect for the deaf community. I highly recommend this book to young adults and even adults that want to learn a little bit about a different culture and how they can hear us, but we need to see them.

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

Just One Kiss

Just One KissAuthor: Courtney Walsh

Publisher: Independent

Release Date: July 23, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A beautifully written story about love, redemption and how strong family relationships can be.

Carly Collins has spent the last sixteen years raising her son Jaden by herself when his father, Josh walked out on them. Josh was her fist love and broke her heart when he left them. Leaving Harbor Pointe and his family was the hardest decision Josh Dixon ever had to make. After a hard upbringing with an abusive father, Josh feared he would turn out like his father and hurt the ones he loved. Now he is a highly successful tech mogul and should have everything he wants, except his heart is empty. When Jaden’s health is in danger, Carly and Josh are brought together in the most difficult circumstances and have to decide if they can be a family again or if the second chance at love they are being is worth the risk of heartache all over again.

Just One Kiss is a sweet love story of redemption, love, and how some mistakes are worth forgiving. I loved the family dynamic and how that played out pulling at the heartstrings of not only the characters but also the readers. The parents love for their child helps them put aside their differences and do what is best for him no matter how hard it is. I loved the way these relationships played out, being a mother, it felt raw and real, just as it should. Carly was the perfect character for me, she loved her son and would do anything for him, even if it meant dealing with the man that completely shattered her heart. Even though Josh was a little rough around the edges, I couldn’t help but fall in love with him. The backstory that gives readers a glimpse into Josh’s history with his family helped to flesh out his reasoning for leaving and why accepting the fact that maybe he did deserve a family wasn’t so hard to believe. Even without a suspense element to it, which is what usually drives a book for me, the pace moved quickly with the tension between the characters and the uneasiness of what was happening with their son. This is quality writing and one I want more of. I can’t wait to read the next novel Walsh publishes. I recommend this to fans of romance writing that will give you all the feels and tug at your heartstrings at all the right moments.

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

Last Summer

Last SummerAuthor: Kerry Lonsdale

Publisher: Lake Union

Release Date: July 9, 2019

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A thrilling read that will leave readers guessing until they finally know the truth.

Ella Skye wakes up in a hospital to find that she has been in a car accident.  Initially, she can’t remember what happened but begins to remember some details of her life.  The one thing that she can’t remember is being pregnant for the last five months.  She can remember what happened five days ago, but no memory whatsoever of carrying a child.  She returns home to find a nursery that she decorated and all sorts of plans she had set up for a child.  Even her husband Damien, who never wanted children, seems to be devasted by this loss.  She and Damien’s relationship has been strained since the accident, but they seem to be finding some sort of new normal.  Then she gets a call from the magazine she works for to pick up where she left off on an interview with a world explorer named Nathan Donovan.  Amazingly, Ella can’t remember a thing about this man either, even after spending two weeks in solidarity with him.  With her husband begging her not to go interview him, Ella decides she must take the chance to find out if he can trigger anything about her lost memories.  What else can she lose?

If there is one thing that I’ve learned from Kerry Lonsdale, it’s that her books will always give you a dose of the unexpected.  Another thing is that the antagonist is always very crafty.  I loved getting to know Ella’s story just as I have her previous books.  This one had a bit of a twist to it at the end, which I had a feeling was coming, but still had me pleasantly surprised.  Ella is a strong confident woman, who must become very vulnerable to try to find out what happened in her past.  Having carried two children, I can’t imagine waking up to not being able to remember them.  That would an earth-shattering moment, which is obvious in her behavior.  I’m not sure I would have made the same choices in her place, but then again, I don’t share her past either.   Needless to say, this book stayed suspenseful, but not in a murder thrilling kind of way, just in a way that made me have to find out what happened.  The ending also leaves a potential opening for a follow up, but we will have to wait and see on Lonsdale’s intentions!

There is some strong language throughout the book as well as some sex scenes that make this a read for mature audiences only.

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

Love and Other Mistakes

Love and other mistakesAuthor: Jessica Kate

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: July 30, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A debut that will leave readers content and smiling throughout.

Natalie Groves thought she had her life all set until her fiancé, Jeremy Walters, breaks her heart and leaves town with no explanation and not even a glance back. Shortly thereafter, her father gets diagnosed with cancer and she has to drop everything to help her family. Feeling lost and alone with no way out or up, she lets the next seven years go by without pursuing her dreams. Now, Jeremy has returned to Charlottesville and he is not alone.  He has brought his infant son with him along with all the regrets he has lived with for the past seven years. Natalie is working towards an internship at her dream job but must find a way to make money in the meantime. Together, the two must find a way to put aside their differences and help each other. The more time they spend together, the more feelings from the past collide with feelings from the present and they must decide if staying together or staying apart is the bigger mistake.

Jessica Kate has poured her bubbly Aussie personality into every page of her debut novel. Lots of charm, romance and sass to be found throughout every page. Both Natalie and Jeremy are very well written and the chemistry between the two is undeniable. At times, the relationship teeters on the edge of unbelievable but does work itself out pretty well. The story line of how Jeremy became a single dad needed a little work for me.  As a mom, I find it hard to just want to give up a child, it would take a lot for me to not want to be with my kids. I did enjoy the storyline of Jeremy helping with his niece to get the of the whole family involved without that feeling forced. For me, the writing is well done but that of a first-time author, well written but not as fully polished as a seasoned writer. I am sure that will come with time. For a debut author, I can’t say with certainty that she put in her time and effort and really made this story what it should be even if at times I thought the storyline didn’t flow as smoothly as it could. Overall this was an enjoyable read leaving me looking forward to more from Jessica Kate. I recommend this book to readers that enjoy a clean romantic comedy with a little bit of sass and a lot of heart.

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

All Manner of Things

all manner of thingsAuthor: Susie Finkbeiner

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: June 4, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A beautifully written masterpiece about a broken family learning to heal.

When Annie Jacobson’s father returned from the Korean War, he was the shell of the man that he was before he left.  His depression finally got to the point that he decided that his family would be better off if he left them.  So, he did.  Twelve years later, Annie is now out of high school working at the town diner.  Her younger brother, Joel, is fourteen and moving into 8th grade.  Her older brother Mike also works at the diner and has just told her he plans to enlist in the army.  His draft number will be coming up anyway, so may as well have some say in where he gets placed.  Her mother has been working ever since her father left to provide some semblance of home for them.   They’ve had their share of trials but have always managed together.

After Mike leaves for basic training, a family tragedy occurs, and Annie’s dad returns home after twelve years.  There is plenty of tension among the family members, but they will have to find away to work together.  As Mike corresponds through letters with each member of the family, the need for them to stay together becomes more apparent and they must work through twelve years of hurt, despair, and love.

I absolutely love this book!  I love that it is a snapshot into a family during this time and what each family member was going through.  I can only imagine that even though they didn’t feel like a normal family, several families were facing the same situations that were presented throughout this book.  I love that the family had to work out their issues with one another and learn to lean on each other.  Told from Annie’s point of view, she is a very strong character that can be overcome at times.  Several people lean on her for support and she finally meets someone that she can lean on when she needs it most.

Throughout this book, I become nostalgic for simpler times when there were no electronic gadgets that took time away from families.  This family really connected.  There were times that they were sitting on the front porch talking about the issues going on in the world that day.  Finkbeiner did a great job of making me feel like I was in the time period by dropping in major events that happened and referencing different television shows of the time.  I didn’t live during the Vietnam war, but I remember growing up in the 1980s and 1990s and having those type of moments with my family.

One of my favorite aspects of the book may have been all the literary Easter egg references.  From Travels with Charley by Steinbeck to A Wrinkle in Time, there were several of my favorite books mentioned.  I love it when an author throws in little tidbits like that to make me enjoy the book even more.

Fair warning, this book may make you emotional.  There are some very sad moments that occur that may leave some readers feeling depressed.  Even so, it is well worth picking up a copy of this book.  It is a clean read that will be sure to remain on reader’s personal bookshelves for years to come!

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

The Islanders

The Islanders

Author: Meg Mitchell Moore

Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks

Release Date: June 11, 2019

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

The absolute best quick, fun summer read I have enjoyed in some time. Readers will not be disappointed by what is found within these pages.

 Anthony Puckett’s world changes after his debut novel spends two years atop the best sellers list. Before he can release his second book, something goes terribly wrong and he finds himself borrowing a beach house on Block Island from a friend to try and get his life back on track. Joy Sousa has founded a successful bakery on the same island with her daughter after her divorce over a decade ago. When a new food truck comes to the island taking business away from Joy, she must figure out a way to get her life and business back on track before she loses everything. Lu Trusdale reluctantly agrees to spend the summer with her two boys on the island at the request of her in-laws. Her husband goes back and forth to the mainland to work at the hospital leaving her to tend to the kids alone most of the time. At first, she was fine staying home with the kids, but as the years progressed she found herself missing something deep down and started to work on a secret project making her question if she made the right decision. During the summer, these three strangers will find their lives intertwined and must decide which road they need to take to secure the future they want most.

 I must admit when I started this book I wasn’t very sure I was going to like it. For some reason I just wasn’t feeling it on the first few pages; however, that changed very quickly. By about the third or fourth chapter I was hooked and flying through. I read this in two quick days. I enjoyed the fast pace, the way the stories between the characters intertwined, and the way it all wrapped up in the end. With multiple viewpoints tied to a back and forth perspective, readers get a much more thorough picture of what is happening in these characters lives. The Anthony story line was probably my favorite, I especially liked the little twist toward the end with his parents. (No spoilers but it is a good one).  The characters are all written so well, I cheered for them and I found myself frowning and getting angry with them at all the right moments. I can’t say much that I didn’t enjoy, there is some harsh language but not a ton which would be more suitable for the mature audience which it is written. This is the perfect read for anyone wanting a fun, summer beach read with a little bit of extra drama to spice things up.

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

On a Summer Tide

summer tideAuthor: Suzanne Woods Fisher

Series: Three Sisters Island #1

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: April 30, 2019

Reviewer: Jennifer S. Roman

Even close families can grow apart during the best of circumstances, and in the case of the Grayson family, it happened during one of the worst times of their lives.  Sisters Camden, Blaine, and Maddie Grayson were close despite their varying personalities, but after the tragic death of their mother, they seemed to grow apart.  Cam adopted her best friend’s son upon her friend’s death and put her business acumen to work in a high-stress job.  Maddie immersed herself in her social work studies, but became distant and unattached from anyone else.  Blaine went to community college but couldn’t decide on a major, so after several years without earning a degree, the school asked her to sit out so she could make some plans about her life.  They all thought their dad was taking things well until he told them out of the blue that he had sold their family home and bought a small island off the coast of Maine.  Thinking he was out of his mind and had gotten in way over his head, the girls take some time off and spend it with him, helping to get the former camp where he and their mother met back into working order.

While there, the Grayson family meets up with some friendly locals, while others are downright hostile.  Some welcome the chance to reinvigorate the island, but some are clearly against it.  As the story progresses and more characters show their true colors, we learn why they have such a problem with change.  Along the way, the sisters each do some soul searching and changing themselves as they finally acknowledge their denial to their mother’s death.

Suzanne Woods Fisher is generally known for her Amish fiction, but in it she always shows the humanity of the characters while they solve some kind of personal conflict.  This story is not about the Amish culture, but it does still stick to the same formula of having complex characters deal with a tough situation.  In this case, it takes until the end of the book to reveal why the mother’s death is such a huge impact on everyone’s life.

I tend to enjoy Suzanne Woods Fisher’s books for her likeable characters and interestingly complex situations.  This book definitely fit the bill, and I was immersed as soon as I picked it up.  It’s a quick and easy read, but the situations definitely stick with the reader long after being done.  I am still dreaming of owning my own island off the coast of Maine because of her ability to bring things to life and make them real.  Having a family member randomly buy such an island is not that common, but the family dynamics and conflicts definitely are, and even in such an idyllic setting, they show how difficult yet beautiful life can be.

The characters were all interesting, and except for the “villains,” likeable.  The scenery is described in such vivid detail that I felt as though I were there.  All in all, I really enjoyed this story and look forward to more in the series.

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