What Happens Next

Author: Christina Suzann Nelson

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: January 17, 2023

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A little different that what I’ve come to expect from Nelson, but I like it!

Recently divorced Faith Byrne has taken her past career as an investigative reporter and shifted to performing a podcast that focus on redemptive stories of people who have experience traumatic events.  When her ex-husband gets permission to take their two daughters to Hawaii for the entire summer, Faith isn’t sure what to do with herself until she receives an unexpected letter from one of her childhood friend’s sister.  Faith had always wondered what she had done for her summer of 1987 friend to never respond to her letters, but she finds out that she went missing after school started that year, but her family never told her.  Heather’s sister, Brooke, solicits Faith’s help on her podcast to bring her missing sister’s story to light so that her family might finally find closure.  But as Faith digs into the story, what she finds is anything that she expected.

I love Christina Suzann Nelson’s contemporary stories and look forward to her newest book every year.  This one was a little different than anything she has written in the past, but I loved it!  It was interesting to see how everything played out and if the reader could follow the clues to discover the truth before Faith did.  Nelson did a great job of balancing mystery and intrigue with hope and healing for Heather’s family.  Showing how grief support groups can help families heal and not store grief for years is something that needs to be shown more throughout our society.  If you love a good mystery, this will be a good story for you to pick up on!

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

Everything is Just Beginning

Author: Erin Bartels

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: January 17, 2023

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Bartels delivers yet another unparalleled story about friendship, conflict, and healing.

On New Years Eve of 1989, the world is changing and possibilities seem endless.  But for Michael Sullivan, its just another reminder of how his life is turning out.  After being kicked out of his band and apartment, he ends up sharing a room in his uncle’s trailer across the road from a sprawling mansion of a talented music artist and producer.  His uncle shares his name and goes by Mike, so when Michael stumbles on an invitation to a New  Year’s Eve party at the mansion and his uncle on an extended road trip in Vegas, Michael decides to test fate and go see how the other half lives.  While at the party, he meets Natalie, daughter to the music legends who live in the mansion.  Through this chance encounter, he learns more about music, more about this family, and more about himself than he could ever bargain for.

I love that Erin Bartels usually releases her novels around the start of the year because she sets the bar for what I expect of the year!   Each book is so different from the rest that you can’t help but be pulled into each new story.  Michael and Natalie’s story is just so good that you’ll want to read it again and again.  Set in the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan in 1990 brings back so many memories of life and music during that time, I just loved it.

As with most of her novels, the emotion is raw and laid out bare for all readers to see.  It deals with some heavy things that people deal with today, not just 30 years ago.  It is so easy to connect with her characters and have them draw you into their story so that you feel more like a participant than an outsider.  This will easily be one of my favorite books of 2023!

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

Her Heart’s Desire

Author: Shelley Shepard Gray

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: January 3, 2023

Rating: 4 out of 5.

What a fun story to kick off the New Year!

Mary Margaret Miller has always had trouble connecting with people, especially in her small Amish community.  So, she decides that she needs to get away and selects a bed in breakfast in Pinecraft, Florida, which will be much more pleasant than her snowy Ohio home.  On the bus ride, she meets two other girls that she begins to connect with.  When bad weather delays the trip in Georgia, they share a motel room, and their friendship deepens as they even stay at the same bed and breakfast in Pinecraft.  While there, they encounter two Amish men and a romance ensues, but appearances do always hold the truth as Mary Margaret will soon discover.

Amish fiction is not my usual go to genre, but this one was a good read.  With chance encounters and romance, it took the edge off some cold weather while I read (especially being set in Florida).  While an enjoyable read, it also featured some valuable lessons concerning forgiveness, especially when it is difficult to do so after you’ve been hurt. 

I recommend this book to people who like Amish fiction, contemporary romance, and an overall good story.

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

2022 Top Contemporary Fiction

We hope that everyone had a great Christmas and were gifted all the new books you wanted! If you still hunger for more, check out our top picks for Contemporary Fiction!

Top Pick: The Extraordinary Deaths of Mrs. Kip by Sara Brunsvold

The Extraordinary Death of Mrs. Kip is just that, an extraordinary book, especially when you realize this is a debut book. Sara Brunsvold has written a delightful new story that is going to be in the running for one of my favorite books of the year. This book hit me in all the right places and even had me wiping away a tear or two towards the end, not something that happens often when reading.

Read the full review here.

Order your copy today!

Runner Up: No More Lies by Kerry Lonsdale

If you enjoyed No More Words, then you will love this book even more.  I was initially expecting a continuation, but this is a retelling of the same time period from Jenna and Josh’s perspective.  So, readers know the elements of what happened to Lily, but now get to read about it firsthand and understand how the characters became who they are today.  Needless to say, Lonsdale placed plenty of intrigue throughout the pages to keep her readers hooked through the full story.  There are references to events in the first book that readers may need to go back and enjoy again to get the full effect. 

Read the full review here.

Order your copy today!

Honorable Mention: The Local by Joey Hartstone

As a fellow Texan, I have friends who are patent lawyers in Marshall, so it was fun to pick their brain while I read this story to get an idea of what goes on.  The book centers more on the criminal case of the murdered judge instead of patent law, which probably makes the book move faster and get readers more engaged.  Hartstone did a great job of setting up the scene quickly and bringing characters in to connect with readers. 

Read the full review here.

Order your copy today!

Honorable Mention: Among the Innocent by Mary Alford

Normally a book on Amish fiction would not be one I eagerly pick up to read, but I’m happy to say Among the Innocent was so much better than I expected. Mary Alford crafted a story set within the Amish community that was engaging, suspenseful, delightful, and more.

Read the full review here.

Order your copy today!

Honorable Mention: Shaped by the Waves by Christina Suzann Nelson

Christina Suzann Nelson always manages to craft characters who are hurting, yet strong willed, and make them become a reader’s best friend while trying to help them work out their problems.  I have been a fan of many of her books and this is an excellent addition to the collection. The main character within the pages is my favorite character from any book this year!

Read the full review here.

Order your copy today!

Pretty Little Pieces

Author: Carmen Schober

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: December 6, 2022

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Carmon Schober follows up her debut novel with another great contemporary read that fans of HGTV will fall in love with!

Georgina Havoc and her boyfriend Lance Broussard are the newest up and comers following in the footsteps of Chip and Joanna Gaines. But when their fairytale romance falls apart, Georgina comes up with the idea of reinventing herself and creating her own show by renovating a cottage in a tiny town on the outskirts of Tennessee. Having been billed as a package deal, Georgina now must prove that she has enough to offer the network without their star, Lance. The town and trying to get her show in order are stressful enough, but when her sister comes to town, things get even tougher. To top it off, she finds herself around Cassidy Stokes, an ex-sniper that quickly develops feelings for Georgina. While trying to pick up the pieces of her life, she must decide if she is going to stick with what she knows or trying something new.

Carmen Schober blew me away last year with her debut novel, After She Falls. I was excited to read her next book, Pretty Little Pieces. The hard thing is when an author writes such an amazing book it becomes difficult to follow it up with something as wonderful. Pretty Little Pieces was a good read but falls in a completely different genre than what I was expecting. The story of Georgina and all that she went through while Lance decided he needed time is well played out, it is written where it is very easy to dislike Lance and cheer for Georgina to come out on top. Schober has a way of writing characters with such depth that readers will be pulled in deep and not be able to look away until the story is over. Georgina and Cassidy had a great connection and I loved the way they are written. Georgina has gone through a lot in a very short amount of time and as a reader I felt for her deeply and that is the mark of a great author. I recommend this book to readers that love contemporary romance novels.

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

All My Rage

Author: Sabaa Tahir

Publisher: Razorbill

Release Date: March 1, 2022

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A contemporary story that will pull at your heartstrings and climb deep into your soul long after you have finished the very last page.

Starting out in Pakistan, Misbah has just married Toufiq in a pre-arranged marriage and they quickly leave the country they have always been in to move to America and open a motel. Jump ahead many years to the present with Sslahudin, the son of Misbah and Toufiq, is trying to navigate the world he is growing up in and the ever-changing relationship with his best friend Noor. They are both outcasts at school and try to restore their relationship after a huge fight. When Misbah falls ill, Sal tries to run the family business as his father drinks away his grief. Noor works for her uncle who owns a liquor store and wants nothing more than to get away, so she applies to college to hopefully leave him and the town that means so little to her. Sal and Noor must figure out what they mean to each other and if what they have is worth fighting for.

This is not the normal novel written by Tahir as this is very different but in a very good way. In All My Rage, readers get to see characters that grow in such a drastic way you can’t help but feel for them and all they go through. I thought it was very helpful that the front of the book contained trigger warnings for those reading it to be aware of some of the content. Even though this book is in the Young Adult category, I think that label can be misleading at times. I wouldn’t consider this great for young teens but older teens and those in their early twenty’s would probably really enjoy this one.

I enjoyed the way the story played out and the characters; I loved many of them and the ones I couldn’t stand were okay because I wasn’t supposed to like them. Being able to write characters in this way shows just how amazing Sabaa Tahir is as an author. Her first series is nothing like this and goes in a completely different direction, which shows she has great range.

I would recommend this book to those that enjoy seeing characters go through very difficult circumstances but work hard to overcome them and grow with the story.

The Fifth Daughter of Thorn Ranch

Author: Julia Brewer Daily

Publisher: Admission Press, Inc.

Release Date: November 1, 2022

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Unique story set amongst scenic South Texas.

Emma Rosales is the heir to her family’s ranch, The Thorn.  As owners of the largest ranch in Texas, each generation of Rosales produce only one child, a daughter who inherits and runs the ranch.  For five generations this pattern has continued, and Emma is next in line, but not sure she wants the life set out for her.  While obtaining her veterinarian’s degree at Texas A&M University, Emma begins to wonder what it would be like to settle down in a small town with her own vet practice, but she still returns home after graduation.  One day while riding out on the ranch, her favorite horse breaks his leg, and she must put him down and walk back to the ranch house.  But what she discovers along the way will not only prevent her return home but change everything she knew about the ranch she has spent her life on.

This book turned into nothing that I expected.  I was intrigued by the setting of Southwest Texas, which is near the area I live and have traveled through much of it, so I always enjoy books set close to home.  I’m not sure what I thought I would get into, but this was very different than what I thought it would be.  That said, I still enjoyed the story of Emma and how she went from heir apparent to captive amongst an almost primitive tribe.  The story was written very well and believable given the different story lines between Emma and her mother Josie.  I also enjoyed the switchover to Kai when Emma become sick and turned into a shell of herself.  The ending, while partly sad due to what is implied by Kai working on the ranch, was still an overly happy ending with two people that seemed destined to be together.

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

Sundown

Author: Susan May Warren

Series: Sky King Ranch #3

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: November 1, 2022

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Warren hits it out of the park once again with Sundown to conclude a fantastic series readers will love!

Once thing Colt Kingston is best at is spotting someone trying to lie to him. As a former Delta Operative, he has many skills and has used them in many different dangerous situations. He is suspicious of Tae, the woman taking care of his father at Sky King Ranch. His suspicions of her, up until men come looking for her at the ranch. The secrets she holds go much deeper than Colt would have predicted when he finds out she knows the antidote to a plague that could threaten the whole world. Colt is going to have to work with his brothers to protect both Tae and the rest of the country.

Susan May Warren is a master with Romantic Suspense and blows it out of the park with the conclusion to the fantastic Sky King Ranch Book. These characters are fun, strong, and full of all the action you would want from a great romantic suspense read. The character of Colt is probably my favorite of all the Kingston brothers, just the way his story unfolded made the story click in the best way for me. Tae had so much intrigue and mystery that I loved how her story played out as well. With these two as main characters, the pages of this book fly. To be honest, there isn’t much I didn’t like about this story, it was a classic Susan May Warren Romantic Suspense making for a great weekend read. If you are a fan of her writing or just love romantic suspense novels, I would highly recommend this series.

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

A Quilt for Christmas

Author: Melody Carlson

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: September 6, 2022

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A sweet Christmas story about loss, love and how much we all need each other!

Vera Swanson has always loved Christmas, that is until she had no one to spend it with. When her husband passed away and when she relocated to be closer to her children, she thought it would be perfect for the holidays, but when the kids move away, she is left alone in her small condo. One day, the children next door come knocking and need help. Their mother is sick, and their father is out of town. Fiona, the youngest ask Vera to help make her mom a quilt for Christmas. Vera knows she can make the quilt but not in time for Christmas by herself. With the help of others in town, they work to make the Christmas extra special for Fiona and her family.

When the current season is getting to you, slipping away into a nice and cozy Christmas novella is just the thing you need. A Quilt for Christmas is a fun and sweet little read that was quick, easy and the perfect little escape. Vera and Fiona made the perfect little pair, I loved the young and old dynamic showing different perspectives in what they were going through. Readers will love the different characters and how they are all pulled together by such an unexpected event. This is a perfect afternoon read for anyone wanting to escape for a few hours into a story that will pull at your heartstrings and leave you with a smile by the turn of the last page. I recommend this book to anyone looking for a sweet Christmas story.

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

Where the Blue Sky Begins

Author: Katie Powner

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: October 11, 2022

Rating: 5 out of 5.

If you are looking for a book that will make you feel connected to the characters in a way few authors can, this is the book for you!

Small towns have a vibe all their own. When Eric Larson leaves Seattle to help in his uncle’s financial company in a small town in Montana, he wants nothing to do with the town, only to return to the big city. Eunice Parker has been diagnosed with a terminal illness and wants to make amends with anyone she has wronged before the illness takes her. When Eric and Eunice are brought together through an unlikely set of events and try to work to determine what is most important, especially when there isn’t much time left.

Katie Powner has a way of very different way of writing than most, which is very refreshing. So many of the books published the same version of each other with different names and settings, making reading very monotonous at times. Katie Powner is a breath of fresh air with her books about everyday people and the struggles they face.  Readers will be able to relate and enjoy seeing the struggles these characters go through and how they overcome. This story takes characters in hard times and real moments that so many of us go through and helps us relate. Lately I have been in a slump of not wanting to read after reading so many books that seem like the same ole thing. Fortunately, I came across this book at just the right moment. I recommend this book to readers that enjoy a great contemporary read.

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