You Belong With Me

You belong with meAuthor: Tari Faris

Series: Restoring Heritage #1

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: September 3, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Fans of small town reads will enjoy this book!

Hannah Thornton has one main goal in her mind, restore the heart of her hometown Heritage, Michigan. As a realtor in a small town, she works hard to sell off historic properties.  Unfortunately, people would rather buy newer properties than put up the money to restore older worn out houses.  Even her own brother is selling his house to pay for all the things that his fiancée wants.  When a local developer offers to buy up several properties, people begin to think it may be better to just sell out.  Hannah turns to her oldest friend, Luke, for help.  A local handyman with a dream of becoming fire chief, he reluctantly agrees to help her.  However, Luke has been facing his own demons and this endeavor will either bring them together or drive them apart.

This was a fun read that had me keep turning page after page. I enjoyed getting to see Hannah grow and mature as a person as she learned to let go of control and let things play out.  She came across as shallow at first (not as much as her brother’s fiancée, now there is a character) but she gained depth and bonded with me as a female reader.  She overcame challenges and put up a good fight to make her dream come true.  Likewise, Luke had his own challenges of abandonment, but turned out to be different than we he had believed his whole life.  Once each character was able to truly move past themselves, the romance played out great.  I’m looking forward to the next installment in Heritage.

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

If Only I Could Tell You

If only I could tell youAuthor: Hannah Beckerman

Publisher: William Morrow

Release Date: October 15, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

When is a lie better than the truth? Secrets come back to haunt in this chilling tale that will leave readers guessing as to who really knew what and the damage caused when we assume we know what happened.

Audrey always dreamed and wished for her daughters to grow up and be best friends to each other. Unfortunately as they grew up, a secret tore them apart and as adults now they no longer speak to each other and refuse to let their own daughters have anything to do with one another. Audrey has watched her family come undone over the last few decades and as her time on this earth is coming to a close, she wonders if there is any way to make her family whole again. What she doesn’t realize, is a secret from three decades ago is the root cause of the problem and confronting the truth might be the hardest thing any of them have ever had to do.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I picked up this book. What I got was an engaging story with a tight plot and tension in all the right places to keep the story flowing beautifully. The back and forth point of views between Audrey, Jess, and Lily combined with the timelines helped encompass the whole story and kept me from feeling lost at times. I really enjoyed the setting even though none of it was familiar to me; everything was written in a way that helped me be able to picture the houses, and office buildings and each different place the characters found themselves. Hannah Beckerman did an outstanding job of weaving the different layers of time and points of view together to craft a story that kept me guessing as to what the final outcome would be right up to the very last pages. Each character had a special message to bring to the story and I don’t believe it could have been told any differently than it was. A few of the storylines could have been cut without affecting the story, Audrey and her outings with her granddaughters seemed at little monotonous and didn’t add to the story, but that is one of my only negatives about the book. Overall it was a very enjoyable read and one I would recommend to readers that like a story that will keep them guessing with intriguing characters and real scenarios they might find themselves in.

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

The Words Between Us

The Words between usAuthor: Erin Bartels

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: September 3, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A story of learning to trust.

Fourteen year old, Robin Windsor, finds herself living with her estranged grandmother in Sussex, Michigan, after her parents are arrested for unthinkable crimes, leaving Robin feeling lost and abandoned.  She soon meets Peter Flynt, who recently lost his mother.  Peter and Robin develop a unique friendship.  Through a shared love of books, they bond, as he gives her his mother’s books and she repays him with her poetry.  After a series of unfortunate events, including her grandmother’s death,  Robin feels betrayed by Peter and runs away.  After returning to Sussex years later, Robin opens a used bookstore and tries to recreate her life, while still hiding her true self, ashamed of her past.  She reconnects with a high school friend who encourages her to stretch out of her comfort zone, and maybe even attempt to have a romance.  Robin begins receiving packages in the mail containing Peter’s mother’s book collection, which she returned after her grandmother’s death.  She knows that Peter is reaching out to her.  Also, Robin begins to uncover the truth about her parents’ crimes, which she isn’t sure what to do with.  As she searches for truth, she reconciles her past with her future. In the end, Robin discovers that the truth is powerful and that there are good people in the world that she can trust.

This book switches back and forth between grown Robin and a youthful Robin, allowing the reader to see and understand her past and how it has created the person she is today.

I have mixed emotions after finishing this book.  I feel like the beginning was a series of negative events, with no redemption, or bright places for Robin.  She is a tragic character, like she reads about in her books.  Peter tries to draw her out, but it lacks a lightness, which didn’t inspire me to become enthralled in the book.  She kept her guard up through much of the book.  The second half was lighter and good things begin to happen to Robin, despite her efforts to hide and be invisible.  Even though so many parts of Robin’s life are tragic and she suffers many losses, she overcomes, and is able to reconcile many of the hurts caused by her parents.  She is able to regain trust in people.  I feel like this book, like Robin in her youth, lacked an emotional depth that would have made it better.  I liked seeing Robin both in her youth and as an adult, striving to overcome.  I like that this book ends with the idea that Robin will have her “happily ever after” allowing her to let go of the heartbreaks of her youth and start again. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves the beauty of a book or who loves a happy ending.

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

Christmas in Winter Hill

Christmas in Winter HIllAuthor: Melody Carlson

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: September 3, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

If you love a good Hallmark movie, you will enjoy this book

Krista Galloway has taken a job as City Manager in the small town of Winter Hill, famous for its Christmasville celebration.  Not being a fan of the Christmas season, Krista is hesitant, but knows this is a great opportunity.  She and her daughter settle into their small apartment and life in their new town.  Krista faces many challenges as a young executive taking on a big position.  She is slow to accept the idea of Christmasville that so many citizens adore, which makes some of the citizens question her.  The CFO of the town gives her a run for her money, challenging her authority.  While facing many of the challenges of putting Christmasville on in City Hall, Krista grows close to Conner Harris, the son of her assistant.  She and Emily are taken in by the Harris family, making Krista realize that life in a small town may not be so bad.  She even realizes that she finds some joy in Christmas, which up to this point has been a reminder of her difficult past.  After Emily wins a town contest, Krista and Emily move into “The Christmas House” but Krista believes that it is too good to be true. After fighting for the good of the town, Krista fears she will be turned away as the new-comer who wants to run it into the ground.  Truth is revealed and Krista is accepted as a member of the community.   Like all feel-good books, this one ends happily for Krista and Emily.

This book was an easy read and very spirited.  The Christmas theme was fun to delve into.  Krista has a difficult past, including growing up in foster care and a divorce.  Her fear of good happening to her can be off-putting at times, but in the end, she is redeemed and gets her happy ending.  This book lacked an emotional depth.  It was a light and easy read.  While feeling slightly bored with the book in the middle portion, the end really did bring me back in.  Krista was able to overcome her fears and see that she may have a future in this small Christmas centered town.  I even had a tear in my eye reading her daughter, Emily’s, letter she wrote to the Christmasville Council.  Overall, I enjoyed reading the book.

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

No Judgements

No JudgementsAuthor: Meg Cabot

Series: Little Bridge Island #1

Publisher: William Morrow

Release Date: September 24, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Animal lovers and romantics will truly enjoy this book!

Bree Beckham has run away to Little Bridge Island in Key West, Florida, after suffering some major setbacks in her life. The death of her father and inappropriate behavior by a close friend have led her to drop out of law school and move to her favorite vacation spot, despite her mother’s disapproval. As Bree makes a life for herself on the little island as a waitress, she finds herself loving her new life. She has sworn off men and is enjoying her new found freedom.

As Hurricane Marilyn looms in the distance, Bree finds herself on the receiving end of calls from her past, her mother and ex-boyfriend begging her to evacuate. Bree is determined to weather out the storm. She finds herself drawn to the playboy of the island, Drew Hartwell, as she relies on the kindness of his family for protection from the storm.

After the hurricane, Bree finds a new passion in helping the pets who had been left behind when their owner evacuated, no judgment. This draws Bree and Drew closer as he helps her.

Bree’s past threatens to catch up with her and ruin her new and perfect life when her mother and ex-boyfriend arrive in Little Bridge. Bree learns to stand up for herself with the new confidence she has found.

This was a fun, easy book. Bree was a relatable character with passion for her new life.   Her chemistry with Drew is electric. The plot kept me interested and wanting to come back to the book. I feel that this book could have pulled on the heartstrings of the reader more by putting more emotion into the climax, but overall a great read.

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

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.