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.

One Wrong Turn

one wrong turnAuthor: Deanna Lynn Sletten

Publisher: Lake Union

Release Date: June 20, 2017

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

All it takes is one wrong turn to change a life. One moment perfect, the next moment shattered.

When Clay gets a call that is wife Jess has been involved in a vehicular accident, he races from Los Angeles to the Victorian home in northern California that his wife has been converting to a bed and breakfast. Due to the impact of the accident, she is currently in a coma.  Things might go easier when he sees his daughters, Maddie and Jilly, except that he hasn’t talked to them in almost two years.  Clay has been recovering from alcoholism and after rehab for the third time planned to make it stick because he couldn’t lose his family, but in the end, he almost did anyway.  Maddie is twelve and is angry with him and scared.  Jilly is seven and doesn’t remember him enough to be angry.  Can the stress of this situation keep him from turning back to the bottle?  What if Jess never wakes up?  All because of one wrong turn.

Okay, so I was hooked after the first chapter. A few short hours later, I was done.  That’s just how good this book is and how well written it is.  Sletten knows how to garner an emotional response from me that makes me keep reading to find out what is going to happen.  Even when one of the main characters has a debilitating problem that is destroying his or her life, you just have to keep reading.  It’s painful to watch this because you can tell what is about to happen, but you just must keep going.  You can’t help it as a reader.  In this case, it happened twice.  The back story for Clay was necessary, but just so sad to keep continuing.  But Jess always had a ton of love for him.  But the most difficult to watch was Maddie’s transition in present day.  To realize that the story she had made up about her father wasn’t true and to finally she her walls crumble.

I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure how this was going to play out. I was prepared for a broken heart as a reader at the end, but still had hope for a miracle.  If you want to know what happened, you are just going to have to read it yourself!

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

Bashert

BashertAuthor: Herb Freed

Publisher: Bellrock Press

Release Date: February 14, 2017

Rating: 3 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A love story that goes beyond this world and into the next.

The second that Dan Sobol and Marion Gladstone meet, they know they are meant to be together. Dan is an ex-rabbi that has made his way into the film industry.  Marion is a writer and film editor who is getting over a divorce that has made her an outcast in the industry.  Together, they travel the world making movies and enjoying their time together until it all comes to an end far too soon.

Finding true love is something seen in movies and rarely experienced in real life. Herb Freed takes the reader on an adventure in love that goes beyond this world.  While the premise of the story is very intriguing, I had a hard time sticking with it.  There were points that I felt could have been skipped completely because they closed the story off from flowing.  However, other parts  of the story kept me reading quickly to find out what was going to happen.  The writing flows at times and stalls at others.  Even so, this is a story that will make the reader believe in true love and want to achieve what Marion and Dan did.  It also makes you want to avoid the qualities of some of the other characters, as well as others we are around every day.  Overall it was a decent read, but not one I will likely pick up again.

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

Eggshells

EggshellsAuthor: Caitriona Lally

Publisher: Melville House

Release Date: March 14, 2017

Rating: 3 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

An interesting debut novel that explores loneliness even when you don’t know you’re lonely.

Vivian just doesn’t fit in. Never really has.  She now lives in a house that was willed to her by her late Great Aunt in Northern Dublin.  She was raised to believe that she was a changeling and could travel to other worlds, which she now attempts to access by walking around new neighborhoods and mapping them out, just in case.  She isn’t very close with her sister, also named Vivian, but tries all the same.  She is a society misfit.  One day she places an ad for a friend named Penelope just to find out why it doesn’t rhyme with antelope.  She takes adventures all the time even when those around her don’t understand what is going on.

This was a very different kind of book. I’m not really sure if Vivian has a bit of mental illness or just absolutely no understanding of society, even though she is in her twenties.  I can honestly say that I’ve never personally met anyone like her, but it would be interesting if I did.  I had the same reaction as the people around Vivian when she often opened her mouth because it was surprising what would come out.  Even so, it was still interesting to see where the story led.  It was literally just a snapshot in time of her life and didn’t really end.  It just didn’t continue even though we know that Vivian is out there somewhere on holiday with Penelope.

It was humorous at times and confusing at times. There was some pretty harsh language with some of the characters, but it was pretty believable based on their characters.  I recommend this book to mature audiences.

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

Best Laid Plans & Other Disasters

best-laid-plansAuthor: Amy Rivers

Publisher: Wooden Pants Publishing

Release Date: January 17, 2017

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

When life throws a curveball, hit it back!

Gwen Marsh has finally achieved one of her dreams of becoming mayor of the town of Cambria, Colorado. Just a stepping stone on the way to the Governor’s mansion.  But when she finds out that she is pregnant, things begin to fall apart.  The city manager is making her job miserable with her boyfriend Jason who worked in the city finance department.  Then Jason took a new job that required a lot of travel and they have been fighting a lot lately.  Plus his new flawless looking coworker appears to have a thing for him.  What else could go wrong?  Oh, wait!  Her estranged mother has suddenly appeared in town two weeks before her cousin Val’s wedding.  If she can get through the next two weeks, hopefully motherhood will be a snap!

I enjoyed this book much more than the previous, Wallflower Blooming.  I think that Rivers writing has improved and the story line flowed a lot better.  Plus, the tension between Gwen and Jason was a lot more believable as were the city politics.  Gwen is an exceptional woman who can accomplish anything that she puts her mind to and I believe that motherhood will be no exception to her.  She experienced a lot at once, but don’t we all know that storms come when least expected.  The book was also left open for Val to possibly be pregnant as well.  I wonder if we will get to continue on with these interesting characters.

There is some implied sexual content and mild language in the book. I would recommend this to mature young adults and up.

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

Christmas Embers

christmas-ebmersAuthor: Chautona Havig

Publisher: Create Space

Release Date: November 23, 2016

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

When the thing you least expect to happen to you happens, how do you handle it?

Every year Emily Byrne plans a project she can do that is a way to give back. This year she sits in her daughter’s kindergarten classroom to draw portraits and write little stories of what each child’s deepest wish is.  Everything is going good until Joey Cordell sits in front of her with tears in his eyes and says the only thing he wants for Christmas is to find his father.  His mother is dying and came to Rockland to find his father.  She had been living in Las Vegas as a prostitute and Joey’s father is a man she met there and she fell in love with after a few short hours.  She knew he was married but as usual it didn’t make a difference to her.  Emily meets her and promises to do all she can to help her find Joey’s father.  As time runs out and Joey’s mother is about to die, Emily doubts she can find the father in time.  With death seconds away, Emily promises to continue looking and to care for Joey who she has already fallen in love with.  As the truth emerges, a family is crushed and the damage is going to be hard to overcome.

While reading this story, several times I pictured myself as these characters and tried to determine how I would act if this happened to me. I don’t want to give too much away in the synopsis or review, but I will say it is a story to be read by those in a marriage or preparing for marriage.  Infidelity in marriage is a horrible thing.  Some can get past it and some can’t.  Seeing the way Chautona Havig crafted these characters, the situations they found themselves in, and how they dealt with it all put the reader in those situations as those characters.  A few characters annoyed me, but not enough to pull me from the rest of the story. I really don’t know how I would feel if I was placed in this situation but am glad I read Christmas Embers to have a better understanding of the biblical principles behind infidelity and how it affects all those involved.  A lot of this I didn’t know and am better for learning it all in this way.  This was a very quick enjoyable read that I recommend to all.

Secrets of Worry Dolls

secrets-of-worry-dollsAuthor: Amy Impellizzeri

Publisher: Wyatt-McKenzie

Release Date: December 1, 2016

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Whispering your secrets to worry dolls is supposed to keep you from stressing, but it’s not always that easy.

Mayan tradition says that if you whisper your troubles to the Worry Dolls you won’t have to worry, they will do it for you. Kind of like a dream catcher to keep away the bad dreams.  The Mayan’s also have a calendar that says the world is about to end.  Mari and her daughter Lu have been through their fair share of tragedies.  Mari was supposed to be at the Twin Towers on 9/11 with her twin sister and father who died that day.  She was also supposed to be on a plane headed to Guatemala that crashes in her neighborhood.  Just as the plane crashes, Lu sees her world come crashing down just as quickly.  Secrets from both past and present come out and Lu has to find the strength to deal with them all on her own, if that is possible.

It is very hard to tell a story where you jump from past to present, along with alternating view-points. Many authors try this and it almost always falls flat.  Amy Impellizzeri may be the exception.  For some strange reason it worked here.  I am a twin so I found Impellizzeri’s use of twins in the story interesting, she did a good job showing the relationship and how losing her sister had an impact on Lu.  The chapters were short making the story flow just right.  There were a few points that things seemed to veer of topic but came back just as quickly.  I don’t want to give too much of the story away but I will say that even if it is hard to get into at times it is worth sticking with till the very end.  It would be nice if having Worry dolls and giving them our problems really did take them away, unfortunately it is harder than that.  I try my best not to worry but I fall short, just as we all do.  I love the concept here and the lessons taught in this book.  There were a few mature themes throughout making it not suitable for anyone beside the target audience age group.  Overall it was an enjoyable and I recommend it for those that enjoy an intriguing story with a few good twists.

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