Since You’ve Been Gone

Author: Tari Faris

Series: Restoring Heritage #3

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: September 7, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

If you loved the first two books in this series, you’re in for a treat with the third!

After spending a few years in Costa Rica helping her brother’s mission organization, Leah Williams returns to her hometown of Heritage, Michigan, keen on revitalizing her grandfather’s business: The Want It Find It store, abbreviated WIFI for short.  Sure, the acronym is a bit misleading, but she can’t help but want to try to make it as grand as it was for her as a kid.  When she goes to the bank to get a loan, she expects to meet with Dale Kensington, who is well known throughout town and a hard nose for business.  Instead, she finds that she is working with his nephew Jon, who made her life in high school insanely difficult.  She tries to find anyway that she can avoid him, but utterly realizes that she will have to put their differences in the past and work alongside him as a business partner.  Can this relationship get any worse?

So, if you’ve read the first two books, then you know how the formula is going to for in this series:  two relationships spring up between people that you would least expect that have to reconcile their differences to make it work.  Two of the people are from Heritage and the other relationship has one from Heritage and one outside.  Ultimately something happens from the past that jeopardizes one of the relationships, but then the “wronged” person learns something they did for them that makes them realize they love them and BAM, you have a future marriage.  All that said, the story lines of the characters are all different and each resonates differently with readers.  I love the return of Madison Westmore from the first book, who was such a disliked character.  Her maturity and backstory will soften readers’ hearts towards her and make all enjoy the story!

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

The World Played Chess

Author: Robert Dugoni

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

Release Date: September 14, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Robert Dugoni has done something no other author has ever been able to do: write a book about war that I couldn’t put down! The World Played Chess is a fantastic book with life lessons for all.

Vincent Bianco just graduated high school in 1979 and all he wants to do is enjoy his summer before going to college and maybe make a little beer money. His sister’s boyfriend gets him a job working as a laborer on a construction crew where he meets two Vietnam vets that give him a better world education than any he could have received in school. Fast-forward forty years ahead and Vincent has his own son getting ready to leave for college when he receives a journal from William, one of the vets he worked with that summer decades ago, full of life lessons that help him prepare himself and his son for what lays ahead for them.

Robert Dugoni is by far one of the best authors I have ever read. He has a way of writing a story that goes deeper than most and characters that will pull you by the heartstrings. Never in my life did I think I would enjoy a book about war, just not my genre that interested me. But The World Played Chess is written so beautifully that I couldn’t help but enjoy every page. It didn’t matter if it was Vincent’s point of view or William’s time in war, I couldn’t help but want to know how the story would turn out and if these characters would have their happy ending. The way the life lessons of one character would influence the life of another and each one grew better because of the exchange. Usually, my favorite genre to read is suspense thrillers, they move fast and keep me hooked better than most. But anytime I pick up a Robert Dugoni book, I know I am going to have a fantastic read on my hands, it doesn’t matter if it is one of his suspense books or contemporary, it will be a book to remember. I could think all day and not come up with a single bad thing to say about this book; there is a little bit of language, but it is not written for a younger audience. I recommend this book for all adults that love a good contemporary novel with honest characters you will fall in love with and each chapter full of life lessons we can all walk away feeling better for having read the words written.

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

The Secret Keepers of Old Grocery Depot

Author: Amanda Cox

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: September 7, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Amanda Cox knocks it out of the park with a story that has all the feels in just the right places! An emotional and inspiring story that is beautifully written and perfect to the very last page!

Set in both present day and the past, The Secret Keepers of Old Depot Grocery follows Sarah Ashby as she returns to her childhood home after her husband’s death. Along with her mother and grandmother, she works at the family grocery story she loved so much as a child. Her mother, Rosemary, announces that the store is closing much to the dismay of Sarah and her grandmother, Glory Ann, who work together to save the store. Rosemary worked her whole life to make sure Sarah would have a different life than the one she grew up with and hates to see her daughter follow in her footsteps.

In 1965, Glory Ann confesses to her family that she is pregnant out of wedlock and the father was sent to war and killed. She is then married to a man she has just met to save the reputation of herself and her family. Glory Ann promises herself she will never love again but it ends up being a promise she can’t keep.

Amanda Cox has done it again with a contemporary novel that blew me away with its complexity, emotional moments, and perfect mix of past and present problems that converge to a perfect ending with beautiful moments throughout. Usually a contemporary novel, especially one with half the story set in the past, is a slow read for me that has trouble holding my interest. Amanda Cox has become one of the exceptions. There was a solid connection between me and the characters. Sarah and her family are solid leads that are written in a way that readers will want to see them succeed in whatever their hearts are wishing for. I loved the way the past and present lined up to give glimpses of what was going to happen and lead to little surprises at the end. So much to love about this novel, the pacing, the relationships; nothing felt rushed, and the feel-good moments throughout. I recommend this book to readers that want a feel-good book with nothing too heavy or anything that you have to think too hard about.

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

Beyond the Tides

Author: Liz Johnson

Series: Prince Edward Island Shores #1

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: August 3, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Johnson returns to PEI in her new series and fans will not be disappointed!

Meg Whitaker’s mother’s health has been deteriorating for several years and when her father decides he needs to stay home to be with her, she is shocked to learn he is going to sell his lobster fishing business.  Meg never had an interest in the business and loves her profession as a teacher, but when she learns he is going to sell it to the one person who single handedly crushed her dreams of attending an Ivy league university, she decides to convince her dad to sell to her to keep it in the family.

Oliver isn’t proud of his past and he is now trying to make an honest living so that he, his mom, and his younger brother can keep their home.  After working for the Whitaker’s lobster fishing business for years, he can’t believe that Mr. Whitaker has selected him as the individual to buy his business.  After scraping and saving to make the down payment, the one thing he didn’t expect was Meg to try to buy it first. 

Meg’s dad arranges a solution that neither finds appealing yet must do if they want the business.  During lobster season, the two must work together to operate the business and then he will make his decision on who will buy it.  Although cut from different cloths, they begin to find similarities and that they need to rely on each other for more than just the business.

Leave it to Liz Johnson to find two polar opposite personalities that can’t stand one another and put them in a situation that makes them confront their past to discover the truth.  There is a lot to unpack in this first series installment and I can’t wait to see how the others play out.  I’m guessing that it will be a trilogy that show cases Oliver and his two brothers set in the beautiful coast of Prince Edward Island.  Johnson does such a great job of descriptive scenery that readers will feel they are walking through town or tasting the sea air while about the Pinch

Readers will fall in love with Meg and Oliver’s story and enjoy watching the romance slowly develop as well as both characters arc to their intended storyline.  Both characters are stubborn, but as iron sharpens iron, they bring out the best in each other. 

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

Provenance

Author: Carla Laureano

Publisher: Tyndale House

Release Date: August 3, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Such a fun redemption story set in the high altitude of Colorado.

Kendall Green is an interior designer with a specialty in historic preservation who is in high demand for her work.  However, most people don’t know her past; she was abandoned in Denver as a little girl and shuffled through the foster care system.  Once she aged out of the system, she chose a path and never looked back.  Returning from a business trip in Europe, she opens a letter addressed from the town of Jasper Lake, Colorado.  Her grandmother passed away and she has been named the sole heir of her property.  Surprised that she had a family member who knew who she was, yet overjoyed this could be just what she needs to finally purchase her Southern California property and take her business to the next level.

Upon arrival in Jasper Lake, Kendall meets young mayor Gabe Brandt.  She discovers that the town is close to ruin due to previous flooding disasters and a developer wants to build a new resort but needs her property for the lake front access.  Gabe wants to try to save the town without the resort and has tried multiple ways, but nothing has worked.  He hopes that he can sway Kendall to keep the property so that the resort plans cannot move forward.  However, she has no interest in doing that until she sees the five historic houses on the lot.  Will Gabe be able to convince Kendall to help save the town?  Can Kendall stomach the demolition of such unique houses even if it saves her business?

There is nothing quite like a fun, contemporary romance with lots of friction between the two main characters and even more tension surrounding them.  Throw in a redemption story aspect and you’ve got yourself a signature Carla Laureano novel.  I loved going back to Colorado in this series with a nod to the Solid Grounds Coffee Company (be sure to give a shout out when you spot it).  I was kind of hoping for Brunch at Bittersweet Café one day, but maybe it will show up in the future.

Kendall was a difficult character to get to know.  She shuts everyone out (even the reader at times) with her feelings because she has been hurt so badly in the past.  She has no memory of what happened and has felt abandoned all her life.  Interestingly enough, she finds it easier to confide in Gabe about her past and tells him more than anyone else she has met.  I loved seeing her transformation throughout the story and discovering the power of being an adopted child of God. 

Gabe is a fixer and wants to have a hand in solving every problem he encounters.  He has difficulty sitting back and letting other people figure things out, even God.  So, to see him become humble in this book was really intriguing.  I loved the supporting characters and hope that there might be a couple future installments with their stories (fingers crossed!) 

The romance wasn’t forced in the story, and frankly I got a little worried if it was even going to play out, but I think readers will be quite satisfied with the conclusion! I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

No More Words

Author: No More Words

Series: No More #1

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

Release Date: July 6, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Lonsdale has stepped up her intrigue and suspense game with the start of this new series!

Olivia Carson has always had trouble with relationships, whether with guys or even family.  It largely stems from when her little sister Lily ran away from home after she got pregnant at sixteen.  Their father wanted her to abort the baby and their mother wanted to put the baby up for adoption, so she ran away to keep it.  She’s never returned home but sends a picture of her son Josh each year on his birthday to Olivia.  The letters stopped coming recently and then something completely unexpected happens, Josh shows up at Olivia’s house alone and doesn’t know what happened to his mom. 

Josh had an accident recently where he hit his head and now has trouble forming words to explain what has happened.  Olivia quickly realizes that Josh has a gift for drawing and urges him to draw his memories to show what happened to Lily.  Hopefully together they can save Lily before something worse happens!

Kerry Lonsdale is a master at pulling readers into her stories.  With unforgettable characters, sometimes mixed with a flair of the supernatural, she creates stories that readers will want to read again and again.  This book didn’t have the supernatural aspect that several of her previous hinted at, but it was remarkable none the same.  She amped up the suspense and intrigue to pull readers in and wouldn’t let up until then end.  Another well-known attribute of her writing is the deception she weaves through the pages, typically at the hands of a specific character. There is plenty in this book, but maybe not where readers fully expect.  Most gets revealed, but I bet there is plenty more in the two future installments that will have readers reeling when they find out the whole truth.

Lonsdale also shines a light on the condition of aphasia that can occur after a brain bleed.  She manages to bring much more than just a fictional tale in each one of her books and this is no different.  There is quite a bit of foul language throughout (to be expected with the characters) as well as a somewhat graphic sex scene (and maybe a few memories) between two of the characters that will require audiences be more mature to fully enjoy this novel.

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

Want to know more about the inspiration behind this book? Check out Kerry Lonsdale’s guest post!

Ember of Night

Author: Molly E. Lee

Publisher: Entangled Teen

Release Date: May 4, 2021

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Great world building with a heroine you can’t help but root for in a story that takes readers on a wild ride.

Harley feels completely alone and unloved in this world, except for her baby sister, who she tries desperately to protect from their abusive father. About to turn 18, Harley has saved all she can from her job at a dinner to be able to get her own place and take her sister with you. Just when she thinks her life can’t get any more complicated, a stranger shows up and tells her she is the key in a war against Heaven and Hell. Not what she wanted to hear and definitely not something she has the time or energy to deal with. Draven has shown up at the dinner and is working with her to fight the war that is coming. With more at stake than she has ever had to deal with, Harley feels more alone than ever in a battle that will take all she has to give and maybe more.

I want to start with the positives on Ember of Night: the world building was great and the characters are very well put together. Harley has such a passion for helping protect her sister that I couldn’t help but feel invested in her story and the outcome. Those points of the book were really great for me; unfortunately, the rest fell flat. The story was slow at times, I didn’t connect with some of the other characters, and the way the twists came about at the end, especially the very last page, did not sit right for me. Sometimes YA books just go a little too predictable and it just didn’t work for me. I also have a problem with books marketed to young adults that have a large amount of language and mature themes throughout. It’s much more acceptable if it is marketed to adults with those themes, these are just problems I have, may not be a problem for others. I do think readers that enjoy Twilight and other fantasy type novels will enjoy this one.

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

At Lighthouse Point

Author: Suzanne Woods Fisher

Series: Three Sisters Island #3

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: May 4, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Three Sisters Island series predictably wraps up with the third sister, but maybe in a way readers didn’t expect!

After completing her dream of traveling Europe and graduation from Le Cordon Bleu culinary school, Blaine Grayson returns home to Three Sisters Island off the coast of Maine.  But she never expected what she finds when she comes home.  Both her sisters are pregnant! The diner she loves has become run down.  And her family took out a kitchen remodel project at Camp Kicking Moose to be ready for the busy season.  Only the layout and material selection are completely wrong!  Her longtime childhood friend Artie won’t even look at her.  What has happened while she was away?  As she settles back into island life, old wounds between sisters began to flare up  and she finds that she has to begin to forgive so that she can move one with the life she wants, which opens up possibilities she never imagined.

All three books of this series were fun reads where each sister learns something about themselves.  This was Blaine’s story and even though it is mostly focused on her, we see that the two other sisters still have plenty of room to grow, especially Cam whose personality is so hard to turn off that readers will have a hard time feeling sorry for her.  I loved how Jean Paul was a constant figure throughout the book that helped everyone see their true potential and help the family heal.  Great story!

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

Seven Perfect Things

Author: Catherine Ryan Hyde

Publisher: Lake Union Press

Release Date: May 4, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I would say this is one of the best contemporary books I have read in a long time but that isn’t completely true. This is one of the best overall books I have read in a very long time!

Abby Hubble has had to deal with a difficult home life. She is thirteen and her dad does everything he can to make her life miserable. Her mom, Mary, tries to help Abby have a nice childhood, as much as she can. As Abby is walking home from school one day, she sees a man dump a bag full of puppies into the river. She doesn’t hesitate to jump in and save them, but she knows that there is no way she can take them home. Taking them to the pound isn’t much of an option either so she takes them to an abandoned cabin in the woods and a promise to return to them. What Abby doesn’t realize is the cabin isn’t abandoned, the owner, Elliot Colvin who just lost his wife decides to return to the cabin and spend some quiet time thinking about his future. When he arrives to find seven puppies and a young girl with a lot of spunk, his future becomes even more uncertain. Abby starts to imagine how great her life would be if her mom was married to Elliot instead of her dad. How long will Abby and her mom stay unhappy and what would happen if they set out to find true happiness?

Every time I pick up a Catherine Ryan Hyde novel, I am reminded why she is one of my favorites. It is an odd thing for me to say because Contemporary is not my go-to genre, I am more of a suspense lover and will usually pick a suspense over contemporary any day, except when it comes to her. the way Hyde writes these stories pulls me in and has me turning the pages as if I am reading a thriller. Seven Perfect Things is by far my favorite of her novels, it didn’t take more than two pages to pull me into the story and keep me hooked the whole way through. It didn’t matter if I was in Abby’s or Elliot’s point of view, I enjoyed reading either storyline. Abby is a strong, capable young girl and uses everything she can think of to help her in the rescue of these innocent puppies. Her drive and determination are an example to her mother and actually helps her mother find strength. I loved the way the story unfolded and each character grew and melded into the perfect blend for the story to be what it was meant to be. This was a perfect blend of a great plot, wonderful characters, and puppies. Gotta love the puppies! I recommend this book to everyone, even if you don’t normally pick up contemporary novels give this one a try. I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Blackberry Beach

Author: Irene Hannon

Series: Hope Harbor #7

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: April 6, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Fans of the Hope Harbor series will enjoy this newest edition with a few new characters and some favorites making recurring appearances.

Katherine Parker has escaped to Hope Harbor to try and make some very difficult life decisions in peace. The rental house she has come to try and relax is tucked away overlooking the pacific and Katherine uses the time away from everyone to think about the direction her life needs to go. With the last year being wrapped up in scandal and more attention than she would like, the slower pace of life in Hope Harbor is just what she wants.

Local coffee shop owner Zach Garrett has left the corporate life to follow his dreams of opening a coffee shop in the quant town of Hope Harbor. His family life is rough, and he has plenty to keep him busy at the shop without getting involved with his new neighbor. When Katherine and Zach end up working on a project in town together, they both notice the sparks flying between the two of them. The more time they spend together, the harder the decisions become, and both must decide if love is worth fighting for or if they are better parting ways now before they get hurt.

Blackberry Beach is the latest installment in Irene Hannon’s Hope Harbor series. At first, I thought the story line was going to go the way of Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks, with Katherine running and hiding from an abuser; I was wrong on that front and once I realized that the pace slowed up a little, but not much. I’ve said this with most of the Hope Harbor books and I’ll say it again, Charlie is the best character and what keeps me coming back for more. I was happy to see him in a fair number of scenes and his interaction with so many different characters. For a contemporary romance it is top notch; a fast read with characters that interact in believable and relatable ways. If you are into romance reads such as these, I recommend this one, even if you haven’t read the others in the series you will still be able to enjoy this by itself.

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