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.









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.


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.

Wait for Rain

Wait for RainAuthor: Maria Murnane

Series: Daphne White #1

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

Release Date: February 24, 2015

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A refreshing look at turning forty when life hasn’t gone as planned.

Daphne White has not lived the life she planned. She graduated with honors from Northwestern University in journalism and was ready to set the world on fire while winning a Pulitzer in the process.  Then she met Brian, slight sidetrack in plans but she was in love.  A few short months later brought a new daughter, Emma into her life.  Then she made the decision to be a stay at home mom and put her dreams on hold.  Fifteen years later, she and Brian grew apart and are divorced.  He is getting remarried, but she is stuck in a rut.   So when her two college friends suggest a girls getaway to the island of St. Mirika for Daphne’s fortieth birthday, she hopes the trip can help her put some perspective into her life.  But will being around old friends help her or make her feel worse compared to their accomplishments?

I wasn’t sure how this story was going to play out, but it is was really enjoyable. It centers around Daphne turning forty and feeling like a failure in her marriage and missing out professionally.  With the help of her workaholic friend Skylar and her super fit energetic friend KC, Daphne discovers how to move forward with her life.  She even manages to have her first date, maybe even a little more if you want to read to find out.  I’m sure many people feel the way that Daphne does and reading this book may help them put their life in perspective as well.

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.

The Summer that made Us

SummerAuthor: Robyn Carr

Publisher: Mira

Release Date: September 5, 2017

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

And you think your family is screwed up!

Charley’s world has just been turned upside down. After years of having her own successful morning talk show in San Francisco, she suddenly finds it cancelled without any job options available.  Incredibly, her life partner of twenty-two years decides now would be the perfect time to get married to fix her problems.  But the worse thing is that her sister Meg is slowly dying from stage four breast cancer.  When Meg decides she wants to spend the summer at the lake house that the family used growing up, Charley knows it will be a huge undertaking to restore the house and the family after twenty seven years.  Meg soon sends out letters to the cousins and hopes that everyone will show up, even though she doubts they will.  But they eventually do.  One cousin is just released from prison, another lives in a make believe world, and the other one fully separated from the family after the accident that split the family apart all those years ago.  As they come back together, they start working through the events that tore them down as they are made whole again.

Having only read Robyn Carr’s Sullivan Crossing series, this was not exactly what I expected, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. The recurring theme of hope and restoration of the family shines through in this new novel.  This family is messed up, but in reality, aren’t so many others?

The majority of the book is told around the central character of Charley, but does also have a few sideline character views as well. Each of the characters shares their life experience in different viewpoints that really puts everything into perspective.  The event that I thought split everyone up wasn’t actually the case.  It was something completely different.  That added a little bit of mystery.

There is some harsh language and sex scenes throughout, so I recommend this book to mature readers.

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

Everything We Left Behind

everything we left behindAuthor: Kerry Lonsdale

Series: Everything We Keep #2

Publisher: Lake Union

Release Date: July 4, 2017

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Filling in the gaps from Everything We Keep. This is a terrific series!

James Donato has just woken up to find himself in a strange room in Mexico with two young boys that speak only Spanish. When they realize that he is only speaking English and appears afraid and confused, they bring him a book full of journals and other information where he discovers that he has been living the last six years of his life as Carlos Dominguez, a talented artist who has two children and his wife died five years ago.  He also discovers that his fiancée Aimee has left him and is now married to someone else and they have a child together.  Crushed, he takes his sons back to California to see his brother Thomas and move into his childhood home when he learns that his other brother Phil is about to be released from prison after he attacked James in Mexico, which is believed to have caused the memory loss.  In an effort to keep his sons safe, James takes them to Hawaii to see his sister-in-law to try to understand what happened during the last five years.

This was a much needed book to finally understand what happened to James to make him Carlos and what happened to Carlos to switch him back to James. The epilogue of Everything We Keep matches the beginning of this book with James suddenly waking up to his alternate reality.  However, we as readers didn’t know what happened during that five-year period.  Now we do.  With an alternating story line between Carlos during the past and James in the present, the pieces begin to fit together and we find that James family is more screwed up than we thought possible.

James uses a lot of harsh language throughout this book, but he is very angry and confused and was believable. I felt that the romance in this book was a little more predictable.  During the previous, it was intense trying to figure out what Aimee was going to do.  However, this one played along really well.  The big question is would James and Raquel be able to find each other again after his switch.  However, I did not guess what was going to happen with Phil.  That was a surprise that I didn’t see coming.  I can’t wait for the next installment.

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