The Forgotten Hours

Forgotten hours

Author: Katrin Schumann

Publisher: Lake Union Press

Release Date: February 1, 2019

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Emotional, intense, and thought provoking.

 When Katie Gregory’s father was imprisoned for the statutory rape of her best friend, she never believed it to be true.  Her life fell apart and she had to change her name to get away from all the reporters and other people snooping around in her family’s life.  Now at the ripe age of twenty-four, she has a great job in Manhattan and finally a stable romantic relationship with an artist.  Her mother divorced her father and remarried, and her younger brother has had no interest in keeping in touch with their father or anyone else in the family for that matter.  Katie has always sought her father’s approval, even now that he is locked away.

 But the time for his sentence has almost been served and he is about to be released.  As Katie is the only one he has been talking to, he asks her to head back to the lake cabin to get it ready for him to stay at.  The same cabin where everything fell apart.  Going back to this place is the last thing Katie wants to do as it starts to dredge up memories that she would rather keep locked away.  As these memories start to climb back to the surface, Katie’s curiosity gets the best of her and she starts digging around to find out more information about the trial and the events.  But what she finds may change how she views the man whose approval she always needed.

 This book had a lot of promise, but it took a long time for it to deliver.  The story line was good and Katie played out her character’s insecurities as expected, but it just didn’t move along very quickly.  Katie was a fragile person, even though she had been moving on with her life after her father was taken away.  She was also very naïve, but is it really that surprising given what she went through?  It just goes to show that one random comment made in public can bring about a firestorm.

 The book jumps around between past and present quite a bit, with no indication that the reader was just transported back in time.  The reader then has to figure out when in the past this was.  It doesn’t always move chronologically, so it may be a memory from one of the summers that Katie and Lulu were together, to the first summer that they met, to the last summer they were together.  It got a little confusing and took away from the story to continually figure out how each scene tied into the overall plot.

 There is quite a bit of harsh language throughout the book as well as implied sex scenes including graphic description of statutory rape.  I recommended this book for mature readers.

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

How the Light Gets In

how the light gets inAuthor: Jolina Petersheim

Publisher: Tyndale House

Release Date: March 5, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

The emotional conflict is so intense throughout this book that I couldn’t put down.

Ruth has been living in Ireland with her mother and two daughters while her husband has been in Afghanistan with his father working as doctors for a relief organization.  One night, the hospital that they are working at is bombed, killing both men.  Ruth takes her daughters and travels to Wisconsin to a Mennonite community to bury her husband and father-in-law.  Ruth hopes that being in the community will give her a chance to grieve and let her girls get to know their grandmother, Mabel.  Her husband’s first cousin, Elam, allows Ruth and Mabel stay in his house during this time.

Elam is a quiet, introverted man who has overseen the cranberry farms production for years but has never settled down to make a family of his own.  When Ruth asks Elam to allow her to work during the cranberry harvest, he allows her to work even though he doesn’t really need her.  Her work ethic impresses Elam and he and Ruth begin to build a friendship with the promise of blossoming into something more that they both have been missing.

With a promising future on the horizon, Ruth receives work that her husband may not be dead after all, which threatens the true happiness she has found with Elam as well as Elam’s fulfillment from Ruth’s companionship.  What is the right path to choose?

Jolina Petersheim has always had a knack for writing stories that stir up controversy amongst her readers.  But she has really elevated the sense of conflict within this book.  I love conflict; it is what moves a story along and keeps the reader engaged.  This particular book has some of the best figurative examples of these emotions splayed across the pages that I was hooked from the beginning.  The opening paragraph begins with the burial of her husband and by the second page there is already conflict between Ruth and her six year old daughter Sofie.  And it only escalates from there.  And it was such an emotional conflict that I couldn’t help but feel as though I was Ruth and was experiencing the same things in life.  On part of the flashbacks, I had personal experiences of what Ruth was describing, so it made it even easier to connect with this fragile woman, who had been broken long before her husband’s death.

I enjoyed how Petersheim paralleled the story of Ruth throughout the book.  From being widowed and living with her mother-in-law to gleaning cranberries in a bog in Wisconsin rather than wheat in a field.  The tragedy and redemption was told quite well throughout the story.  However, just when there seemed a happy ending in sight, something had to crop up and suddenly make life more difficult.  And this happened several times, which had me close to tears.  At one point I had to put the book down because I was just plain mad that Petersheim would do this to a reader.  But as I read along, she redeemed the story just as Ruth was redeemed.  Funny how she was able to even bring me into the story of redemption personally.

This book will definitely wreck you as you read it, but it is worth it.  I’ve loved all of her books, but this one is in a category of its own.  This will be one of my highest recommendations of the year!

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

Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe

brunch

Author: Carla Laureano

Series: Supper Club #2

Publisher: Tyndale House

Release Date: February 5, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

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

 After seven years living in Denver, Melody Johansson feels she is going nowhere. Baking is her passion, more so than her love life. As she is working late one night at a chain bakery she meets Justin Keller, a private pilot who has been stranded when his car gets stuck in the snowstorm. She is instantly attracted to him, but her luck hasn’t always been the best and is afraid to have another disaster. Justin is also attracted to Melody but doesn’t want to start anything new at the moment. His luck hasn’t always been the best either and he is fixing to try and open a new business in Florida with his sister and brother-in-law. Trying to deny their attraction to each other is no use, Melody and Justin begin a full-on romance, but when Melody falls into an unexpected sum of money she uses it to open her dream café with her best friend. Now she must decide if she has made the right choice in her dream job and if it is worth the cost of losing her dream guy.

 I guess when I started this I didn’t realize it was second in a series. However, having not read the first didn’t affect my enjoyment of this in any way. The story was cute with a great romance that played out very efficiently and I really enjoyed the way the characters came about finding themselves with the difficult choices they were facing. Melody is a strong independent woman who doesn’t need a man to feel a sense of accomplishment. When she meets Justin everything seems right, except for the fact that he is fixing to move away and since she is starting her own business she can’t go with him. It gives just the right amount of tension to draw the reader in and keep them intrigued throughout the story. The secondary characters were all well fleshed making me want to go back and read the first book in the series to fully see Rachel’s story, and anxious to see what happens in the next with Ana. One aspect that really played out well was the relationship Melody had with her mother. For most of the book, I didn’t think much about it but the last interaction they had really made me smile, it was written really well, and I think if it hadn’t been in the book would have been lacking. Overall this was a very enjoyable read and I recommend to readers who enjoy a good contemporary read with a romance that will leave happy hearts everywhere.

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

Swimming in the Deep End

swimmingAuthor: Christina Suzann Nelson

Publisher: Kregel

Release Date: September 25, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

This book is a prime example of how everything can come full circle.

Izzy Cline is a terrific swimmer who has a dream of competing in the Olympics.  At least until she realizes that she is pregnant.  Still in high school, she and her boyfriend Travis had plans.  He was going to be the first in his family to go to college and he would do it on a baseball scholarship.  Izzy would swim in college and at the Olympics.  That all seems like a distant dream now.  At least nothing can tear her and Travis apart.

Izzy’s mom Jillian is pinning her hopes on her daughter.  But when she sees that Izzy is pregnant, it conjures up painful memories of her past.  As she tries to force Izzy to do things her way, she begins to cause a huge rift between herself and the rest of the family.  Will she be able to deal with the issue before the family is completely torn apart?

Travis’s mom Margaret wants a different life for her son than she had.  Travis father was a drunk who was rarely around with Travis’s older brothers and once Travis was born he pretty much took off.  But this pregnancy worries Margaret that the will get trapped in the same kind of life she is in and she wants to make sure this doesn’t affect her dreams for him.

Stacey Frey and her husband have just moved to the area.  Not able to conceive children of their own, they have recently gone through a horrible adoption experience and have been healing to try the process again.  God works in mysterious ways and Stacey begins to get involved in a home for young mothers.  As events begin to play out, an unexpected story of healing affects all four main characters.

This was one of the most interesting books that I have read where the main characters are all interconnected.  At least three separate stories that appear to have little relevance with each other begin to weave a pattern until they are fully intertwined.  Nelson has always done a great job of taken women with a broken spirit as her characters and forming them into someone that is strong and both supported and supportive.  This book is no different.  Each of these women has gone through a traumatic experience that has broken their spirit and it takes all of them to realize how to move forward.

I highly recommend this book to all readers.  It’s just a great story that should be read by all.

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

We Hope for Better Things

we hope for better thingsAuthor: Erin Bartels

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: January 1, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Three significant stories all woven together through a common theme of racial tension.

Elizabeth Basalm is a reporter for the Detroit Free Press who has just gotten a strange request from James Rich.  An elderly man, Mr. Rich asks Elizabeth if she is related to a Nora Basalm, as he has something of hers that needs to be returned.  It is a camera that has been in police evidence since the 1960s riots.  Elizabeth has never heard of Nora, but she has been trying to pin part of the riots activity on the elusive Judge Sharpe.  If these pictures have incriminating evidence, she might just be able to punch her ticket to major headlines.  But to do so will mean opening doors that some people want to be left closed.

Nora Basalm lives in Detroit’s Bloomfield Hills, which is all upper class and all white.  In the 1960s, even though the north doesn’t have the Jim Crowe laws, there is still natural segregation.  While at an art expo, she stumbles on a photograph of her father looking angry and hateful, she finds the photographer and asks if he will take down the picture.  He agrees, but only if she buys him a new camera since the man in the photograph smashed his.  After she meets him again with the camera, she begins to learn more about the man that she might even have feelings of love.  But to fall in love and marry him might mean career and social suicide.  It seems neither race wants to see this relationship succeed.

The civil war has just broken out and Mary Basalm’s husband Nathaniel has decided to enlist leaving her behind at the family farm.  As she frets over his wellbeing, his trunk and a letter arrive one day.  Terrified of the worst, she opens the trunk to reveal a runaway slave named George has been packed inside of it.  As the war progresses, George and Mary become equals on running the farm and managing the affairs in Nathaniel’s absence.  Mary becomes to rely on George more than anyone else in her life, which begins to cause a huge rift between her and everyone she knows.

This was an incredible debut novel that tackles a subject that has been sensitive for centuries.  Bartels weaves three different stories that all center around racial tensions at three different time periods: present day, civil rights era, and the civil war.  The main characters of each story are involved in different interracial relationships, one in marriage, one in dating, and one that is completely forbidden.  Each story addresses the situation of the time period, but also shows how strong the main female characters are.  The entire book is educational, historical, entertaining, and unfortunately, sad.  All of the stories are also centered around a family farm house.  It’s sad to think of all the stories within a house that have occurred but have been forgotten over time.

I highly recommended this book for people who enjoy reading about controversy as well as about the time periods included.  Great book to start off the year!

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

Top Contemporary Fiction

As an added Christmas bonus, we are releasing our top picks for contemporary fiction!  This category was a little more difficult to narrow down to five, so we cut it to six!

sam hell1. The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell by Robert Dugoni

To call this book extraordinary doesn’t do it justice!  A change from his usual police procedural thriller, Dugoni has written a coming of age story with some of the best character development we have ever read.

Read the full review here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everything We Give2. Everything We Give by Kerry Lonsdale

We’ve been waiting for the conclusion of this series for well over a year.  Ian’s story finally  makes everything come full circle to understand what has happened since the beginning.

Read the full review here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Send Down the Rain3. Send Down the Rain by Charles Martin

This was an incredible read that kept us engaged through the whole story.  Martin’s storytelling is flawless throughout and the characters spring to life and become your truest friends.

Read the full review here.

 

 

 

 

 

Under a Cloudless Sky4. Under a Cloudless Sky by Chris Fabry

Fabry’s past/present storytelling is once again a hit with this new read.  With forgiveness at the heart of this novel, it should be on everyone’s list!

Read the full review here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rainbirds5. Rainbirds by Clarissa Goenawan

Probably the most beautifully written book of the whole year.  Dealing with grief is never easy, but Goenawan puts a story into prose that is intriguing, mischievous, and well thought out!

Read the full review here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just after midnight6. Just After Midnight by Catherine Ryan Hyde

While dog might just be man’s best friend, Hyde shows that a horse might just be woman’s best friend.

Read the full review here.

Just After Midnight

Just after midnightAuthor: Catherine Ryan Hyde

Publisher: Lake Union

Release Date: December 4, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

While dog might be man’s best friend, Hyde shows that horses may very well be a girl’s best friend.

Faith has left her husband after taking all that she can take and heads to her parents’ California beach house. She doesn’t know what the future holds, but knows she has to do it on her own. She never expected to get involved helping a young girl running away from her father and trying to deal with the death of her mother. Sarah is living with her grandmother after her mother’s death. It was ruled a suicide but Sarah knows more than she has told the authorities about what really happened to her mom. Sarah’s grandmother is trying to get custody of her and needs to keep her away from her father. Faith ends up taking Sarah on a journey to try and lift her spirits. Her father has sold her beloved horse and together Faith and Sarah spend the summer following the horse from show to show and learning a lot about themselves in the process.

Catherine Ryan Hyde has solidified herself as one of the very best in writing literary and women’s fiction. Her writing gets to the reader’s heart and soul, showing that there is still kindness in the world. I loved everything about this book. The characters were relatable, strong and yet not afraid to show their sensitive side. I thought the story would be more about Faith and what happened with her husband but instead it was more about Sarah and how she is dealing with the problems she is facing with the loss of her mother and her father’s involvement in what happened. The relationship between Faith and Sarah blossoms and shows that the two need each other even if they don’t realize it. The way Hyde builds these characters and makes the readers care deeply what happens is better than almost anyone I have read before. She is able to get to the heart of the story and keep us enthralled so much so that it is hard to believe the story is over until the last page is turned. I recommend this book to readers who love a good story with characters they will fall in love with. Those that love a story about horses will also enjoy this story but being a horse lover is not a requirement to enjoy.

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