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.

The Curator’s Daughter

Author: Melanie Dobson

Publisher: Tyndale House

Release Date: March 9, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A great blend of historical and contemporary makes for a terrific read!

In 1940, archaeologist Hannah Tillich is searching for the Holy Grail for Himmler’s antiquities group.  As a child who went through Germany’s defeat and humiliation in the great war, Hannah is proud of the Third Reich and their work to reunite Germans.  But when she learns that she has been reassigned to work as a museum curator in her home of Nuremburg, she finds the façade begins to crumble.  Soon she is forced to marry a SS officer, who has fully bought into Hitler’s vision.  After being unable to conceive, her husband presents her with an adopted daughter, who she comes to love as her own.  When she learns what is happening to Jews across the continent, she comes up with a plan to save their stories that just might cost her own.

In 2019, Ember Ellis is pursing her post doctorate on hatred of the Jewish people while working at a Holocaust museum.  She is no stranger to the hatred of people as she was raised in a white supremacy convent and was able to escape when she was fifteen.  When she reconnects with a former teacher whose mother was a friend to Jewish people in World War II, she sets off to Nuremberg to find out what information she can.  But somebody is watching Ember and doesn’t seem to want her to discover the truth or expose any secrets best left forgotten.

When I first read the synopsis for this book, I thought maybe it would be an Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade type of adventure, mainly because of the holy grail search during World War II.  Even though it wasn’t all action and adventure, it easily captivated me at the first page through the very last sentence.  Dobson did a great job of paralleling not only the two main characters to each other, but also to the story of Saint Katharine.  There are lots of hidden nuggets throughout this book that readers will love to find. 

There are three main points of view throughout the book: Ember, Hannah, and Lilly.  At times, Lilly’s POV can through you off early in the book, but it quickly pieces things together as it moves along.  It also felt more like it was set in the future at times with the march against the Holocaust museum, but that could have easily happened in 2019.  It’s sad that there is still so much hate in the world.  Dobson did a great job of putting that on display and showing how love can help diffuse it.  I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Facing the Dawn

Author: Cynthia Ruchti

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: March 2, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

One of the best contemporary fiction books I have read in a very long time. A story full of heart, faith, strength, and a longing to survive even during the hardest of circumstances.

Mara Jacobs has been struggling for years while her husband, Liam, has been off on humanitarian missions digging wells in Africa. It is admirable that Liam is off helping others while she stays and takes care of their children. She is exhausted working at a cheese factory and having a hard time keeping her kids out of trouble. When Liam doesn’t return home and one hardship leads to another, Mara struggles even more and the future looks darker than ever before. With her darkest days in front of her, Mara quickly realizes that no matter how dark things look she is never alone or unloved.

I don’t read a lot of contemporary books, suspense is more my thing, but occasionally it is nice to have a novel such as this. This book had me so captivated that I read it in one sitting. The story both touched my heart and ripped it in two at times. I loved the way Ruchti was able to make me feel such a connection to these characters. Mara has a beautiful character arc, as well as several other characters throughout the pages, exhibiting so much growth, reflection, and redemption. I did not see several of the twists coming that really pulled at my heart strings, which was such a nice surprise. With a book like this it is usually pretty easy for me to tell where the story is going but so many moments took me by surprise and had me grinning with how well it was written. This is the first book I have read by Cynthia Ruchti but I can guarantee it won’t be my last. I recommend this book to readers that want to sit down, put the troubles of the world behind them and dive into a story that will captivate them and move them to tears.

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

‘Til I Want No More

Author: Robin W. Pearson

Publisher: Tyndale

Release Date: February 2, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Great character development coupled with finding your self-worth makes this a must read for 2021!

Maxine has had her ups and downs in life, but she finally thinks that she has things in order.  She writes a column for a faith publication and is engaged to a young headmaster that oversees a local school.  Things seem to be going in the right direction.  But when they begin their year of premarital classes, things from Maxine’s past she has tried to put behind her begin to work their way back.  When the man that she fell in love with back in high school returns to town, even more skeletons emerge from the closet.  She’s trying to convince everyone that she is fine, but no one close to her believes it.  As they move closer to the wedding date, Maxine realizes that the secrets that she has been holding from everyone have to become known, which could alter her future.  She must look and learn what it means to be truly known and loved by the one who wonderfully and fearfully made her.

To put this book in context, it is geared toward Maxine’s character development, which puts it at a little bit slower pace than reading for action or suspense.  The focus is on her life and what she has gone through to get where she is and how she is not quite where she really needs to be with herself or with God.  I love that Pearson used some of the same characters from her previous book to help Maxine in her progression.  It’s always fun when a reader gets to visit characters from a previous novel to see how they are moving in their journey as well, almost like catching up with an old friend.  It’s very easy to form an emotional connection with Maxine and even get pulled down when she finds herself in despair.  As a reader, you just want the truth to come out for her so that she can finally begin to heal and stop spiraling downward.  This book just goes to show that even people who appear like they have it all together can be just a depressed as anyone else.

I’m not going to give anything away in this book, but just when you think you have something figured out about Maxine, the truth comes out and it throws you for a loop.  This happened multiple times.  I also liked the twist at the end that showed the one person she tried to keep in the dark already knew and that was causing more of a strain than anything else.  Great story 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.

Pudge and Prejudice

Author: A. K. Pittman

Publisher: Tyndale

Release Date: January 12, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Set in fictitious Northfield, Texas during 1984, this story takes readers on a journey similar to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice!

Elyse Nebbitt and her family have just moved to Northfield, Texas and she is faced with finding her place in a new school. Elyse has always had trouble fitting in, being overweight hasn’t helped either. Her beautiful older sister Jayne quickly fits in and starts dating Charlie Bingley, one of the stars of the football team.  While Elyse can’t help but being attracted to Charlie’s best friend, Billy Fitz, Elyse is too insecure in her own body to believe anything could develop in that relationship.  Her new friend, Lottie, helps Elyse to accept herself for who she is and what she can become.

Pudge and Prejudice was just a fun read. I enjoyed the way the characters were laid out with different personalities. There is someone in this book for everyone to relate to in one way or the other. Pudge is bigger, a little insecure at times, but overall a fun character to read about. The rest of her family and friends she meets in her new town make for a well-rounded cast of characters that will leave readers smiling and nodding their heads at the different antics they get into. Her sisters are very different than her in size and attitude at times and the romance aspects of the book progress at a rate that is very relatable for teen angst and drama, although I will say that the end relationships did make me wonder if it was something that would really happen or just playing out well for the sake of the story.

Charlie and Billy are brought into the story to meet the girls by helping the family move in and one thing leads to another as our story progresses. The pace of the story was perfect for teens and anyone wanting a quick read that doesn’t require a lot of deep thought. Overall, this was a fun enjoyable read that I recommend to young readers, probably more suited for girls than boys, but the sports aspect of the story would appeal to male readers.

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

Check out our Q & A with the author!

All That We Carried

Author: Erin Bartels

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: January 5, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Tension coupled with redemption makes this a stellar tale!

It’s been ten years since Olivia and Melanie’s parents died in a car accident while they were away on a hiking trip.  Ten years since the sisters have really spoken to each other.  With reconciliation on her mind, Melanie asks her sister to join her on a hiking trip in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  Olivia reluctantly agrees but does so on her terms; she picks the place and plans out the whole adventure.  While on the trail, the sisters face uncertainty, accidents, and disasters, which forces them to evaluate their lives, choices, and beliefs.

From the onset of the book, Olivia and Melanie could not be more polar opposite.  Olivia is a prosecutor that is a driven, goal-oriented, planner who has mapped out her life for any possible contingency that could occur.  Melanie is a free-spirited life coach with a YouTube following that believes the good in every belief system while trying to shut out the bad.  Needless to say, tension starts on the first page and doesn’t slow down until the epilogue.  These two women face all sorts of challenges in the wilderness that force them to rely on each other.  I love that both had to reflect on their view of spirituality to truly discover the truth about themselves and each other.  There are some twist and turns that will take readers for quite a bit of a ride, but those with siblings will likely find they have had some of the same arguments.

Bartels description of the beauty of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and that of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and Porcupine Mountains State Park easily drew me in.  I’ve not been to Michigan, but I’ve read a lot of stories set there and until now have really not had a desire to go.  The descriptions of waterfalls and that of Lake Superior made me research the park while I was reading the book and have now added it to my bucket list!  The pictures were so beautiful, and I never would have known about it!

I recommend this book to readers who enjoy a great story and like to see relationships restored!

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

2020 Top Contemporary Fiction

With Christmas in our review mirror, we are turning our attention to the start of a new year. Reflecting on this past year brought several great titles in contemporary fiction. It’s so hard to limit these our favorites, but here are our top recommendations!

Solid Ground Coffee Company by Carla Laureano

We’re not sure if it was the fact that we could smell the coffee beans roasting throughout this book, the mountain climbing adventure, or the sizzling romance that couldn’t be ignored between the two main characters. Whatever the reason, it found its way to the top of the list!

Read the full review.

The Water Keeper by Charles Martin

Martin’s tales are just plain great! If you’ve never read one, you need to pick up one today. This particular story does have a tie in with one of his previous novels that makes it even better when you’ve read both, but don’t let that stop you from picking up this book today. You’ll have action, adventure, and healing!

Read the full review.

Side Trip by Kerry Lonsdale

What happens on the road, stays on the road. And if you take a side trip, both parties have to agree! That’s the message in this insanely good, yet messy romance that occurs when two strangers inadvertently meet at a diner in California and agree to spontaneous road trip together following historic Route 66 to Chicago!

Read the full review.

Promised Land by Robert Whitlow

We couldn’t wait to get our hands on this sequel and we were not disappointed. The continuation of Hana and Daud’s journey was nourishment to our souls. Hana has become one of our favorite characters out of any book read. We only hope to see a future book!

Read the full review.

Brave Girl, Quiet Girl by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Each time we pick up a new Catherine Ryan Hyde story, we find ourselves amazed at how wonderfully she can write a novel. It doesn’t matter what the story is about, we are pulled in and fly through the pages each time. Each new book by Hyde explores themes that are relevant to today’s world and this is no exception, we see the problem of acceptance, love, homelessness and LGBTQ issues. There is nothing that gets graphic or too heavy into these topics, but it does bring to light problems that can be glossed over and easy to ignore.

Read the full review.