Promised Land

Promised landAuthor: Robert Whitlow

Series: Chosen People #2

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: January 14, 2020

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Another terrific story with one of my favorite characters ever written!

A lot has changed since Hana and Daud were married. They feel that they can no longer stay in their homeland of Israel because of enemies Daud made while working with the Mossad. They believe it is best to return to America and live in Atlanta, which is where Hana’s law office. Hana continues with her work and Daud sets himself up a company to assist corporations looking to open an office in the middle east as his primary employment, but the CIA likes to use him as a contractor. While on a covert mission to extract a Ukrainian scientist, events don’t go as planned and Daud becomes the suspect of interest in a disturbance, branding him as a fugitive in Egypt.

When Jakob Brodsky calls Hana about another client, she knows it will never be a dull moment. Jakob has a new case involving some artifacts that were stolen by the Russian government during World War II. His client is hoping to locate and recover them if possible. Hana agrees to help in a limited capacity as her firm only wants her time spent on billable clients. Her boss, Leon Lowenstein, has also asked Hana to participate in a Jewish information forum to share her story. Daud agrees to oversee security for the event to not only keep Hana safe, but also show people in the United States what attending an event is like in the middle east.

Hana likes the safety of living in Atlanta, but Daud feels the call of Jerusalem. While overseas for work, he stops over in Jerusalem to talk to someone about Jakob Brodsky’s case. He never knew the events set off by this trip would eventually put everything he loves in jeopardy.

I’d like to start off by letting people know that this is the sequel to Chosen People and while it can be read as a standalone, to get the full effect of the book and characters, I highly recommended reading the first book. Promised Land is the continuation of Hana and Daud’s journey together after they were joined in the first book. This story really focuses on struggles of a newlywed couple and their adjustment to a new life. Through it all, readers get to see the selflessness of both Daud and Hana and how they are willing to give up on their own dream to see their partner’s dream come true. Sure, there are times that each character struggles with the actions of the other, but Whitlow shows how important constant communication is in a marriage.

Hana is one of my favorite characters that has ever been put into print. Her actions and demeanor speak to my soul when I read about her. I loved how her habit of waking up during the night and praying carried over from the first book. She speaks life to me and I feel like I know her. That is an extremely powerful attribute to any book. I hope she does the same to other readers.

The only issue I have with the whole book was the lack of Emily’s presence. She was a consistent supporting character for Jakob in the first book and now she is reference by name only. Here is to hoping that there is a third book that will reprise her role.

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

A Long Time Comin’

long time cominAuthor: Robin W. Pearson

Publisher: Tyndale House

Release Date: January 7, 2019

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A breakout debut novel about love, family, heartbreak and healing. Great read to kick off the new year!

Evelyn Lester is trying to figure out if she wants to save her marriage. She discovered that her husband has been having an emotional affair with a subordinate at work. Once discovered, he quickly dissolved the relationship and is trying to show Evelyn that he wants to keep their marriage alive. To complicate matters, she just found out she is pregnant, which is making the decision that much more difficult. She decides to take some time away and goes to stay at her mother’s home. Shortly after arriving, she learns that her grandmother, known as Granny B, has leukemia and has decided not to pursue treatment. Granny B has had a rough life herself raising seven children without having a husband present. She became a hard woman and even harder on her children. Even so, her children have become very successful professionally, but they all harbor secrets from the past and present. Evelyn begins spending more and more time with Granny B and each begins to unburden their secrets to the other. Before long, they devise a plan to help Granny B close out her grievances before she passes on from this life.

This was really an incredible debut novel. There is a lot of pain displayed throughout this book caused between family members. But deep down, people begin to realize how alike they are, which can be why the pain is caused. And do we ever really understand each other’s circumstances to judge? As it is said, Remove the log in your own eye so that you can see the speck in your neighbor’s eye more clearly. That is part of the message of this book. Everyone seemed to think they knew what was best, but no one knew the whole story.

The local North Carolina dialect written throughout the book made me feel like I was there. The letters written showed the education that some of the characters received made it very believable. Sometimes it is easy to take for granted how things were in the past because some of the readers never experienced it. Pearson did a great job with this story. Terrific novel to kick off the new year!

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

Top Contemporary for 2019

It’s time to release our top picks for the contemporary category.  This category has stories set in modern times that focus on realistic fiction.  Any of these books are all around great reads, which is why we couldn’t narrow it to five!

how the light gets in

  1. 1Th
  2. 1. How the Light Gets In by Jolina Petersheim

This modern day retelling of the bibilcal story of Ruth is simply phenomenal.  There is so much raw emotion in this book that every reader will be affected.  However, we must warn you that there is a controversial ending that has left many readers unsettled.

Read the full review here.

 

 

 

Unscripted

 

2. Unscripted by Davis Bunn

This was easily one of our favorite stories of the entire tire.  This fun and easy read boasts some great character growth and Bunn’s trademark ability to engage the reader within the first paragraph.

Read the full review here.

 

 

 

Offscript

 

3. Off-Script and Over-Caffeinated by Kaley Rhea and Rhonda Rhea

This book may have just released but it was such a fun read that it quickly worked its way up our ranks.  When the Rheas get together to write a book, you know it’s going to be fun, witty, and good.

Read the full review here.

 

 

 

Last Summer

 

4. Last Summer by Kerry Lonsdale

Lonsdale is no stranger to our annual top contemporary selections.  Last Summer took us for one crazy ride that will keep readers heads spinning to the last page trying to figure out what actually happened.  She has created some devious characters in the past and this story is no exception.

Read the full review here.

 

 

Luis Velez

 

5. Have You Seen Luis Velez? by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Every single novel we’ve read by Catherine Ryan Hyde pulls us in further and shows that she is one of the best at crafting a story that pulls at readers’ heartstrings and character relationships that very few other authors could pull off.

Read the full review here.

 

 

Glitter of Gold

 

5. A Glitter of Gold by Liz Johnson

Johnson has a way of developing flawed characters that readers can easily relate to.  Set against the backdrop of picturesque Savannah, Georgia, its easy to get lost in the folklore of this story.  Oh, and there be pirates!

Read the full review here.

 

 

 

brunch

 

6. Brunch at Bittersweet Café by Carla Laureano

A sweet savory treat that will leave the reader’s palate thirsting for more of this scrumptious tale.

Read the full review here.

Off-Script and Over Caffeinated

OffscriptAuthors: Kaley Rhea, Rhonda Rhea

Publisher: Bold Vision Books

Release Date: December 11, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

When Rhonda and Kaley Rhea join forces, readers are guaranteed to have an excited read full of laughs, adventure and enough romance to put an extra smile on your face!

Harlow Cruise secretly despises the fact that she loves the cute little Heartcasts movies on TV. Her life is full of drama and the last thing she needs is to add more to it with drama from television. She spends her days directing the small community theatre for the church and helping her best friend Teagan work on screen plays for the theatre. When Teagan finds out Heartcast channel has opened submissions for new movies, she feels this is her chance to get her movie on the network. Harlow sets herself up to work through Teagan’s newest script and ends up being partnered with Jack Bentley, the newest member of the theatre team. Jack has never seen a Heartcast movie and isn’t sure how he got roped into helping with the production. When he meets Harlow, he wonders if all their talk of romance and made for TV movie plots can actually happen in real life.

When Rhonda Rhea and Kaley Rhea team up to write, the outcome is truly wonderful. Reading this right before Christmas is perfect to get you in the holiday spirit with fun filled dialogue, festive storylines and genuine characters connections. There aren’t that many books that are just fun to read; many are thrilling and keep you on the edge of your seat, but it is hard to find a book that is just fun. I love picking up a book by the Rhea’s, because I know I am going to get a fun read. Harlow and Jack had a great relationship and even the unlikeable characters brought the perfect amount of rust and hardness to the story. The theater is a fun setting for the characters to work in along with a dragon, a very pregnant screen writer and a crusty old church member that is against most of what they are trying to accomplish in their fun little community plays. There is something for every reader here, a little romance, a lot of laughs and a sprinkling of suspense at the will they or won’t they moments. I recommend this book to readers looking for a fun read this holiday season. Once you pick up a Rhea book you won’t be able to put it down.

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

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.