Send Down the Rain

Send Down the RainAuthor: Charles Martin

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: May 8, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A great new story by one of my favorite authors!

Allie has had a rough life. What started as a promising childhood with loving parents owning a popular local restaurant was dashed when her father become addicted to gambling.  Once her father went into debt, he started drinking, which led to physically abusing her mother.  Her childhood sweetheart was lost to Vietnam.  Her first husband was lost to drugs and trying to put him through rehab cost her the restaurant.  Now her second husband has just been tragically killed in a crash with his semi not far from home.  Even though their marriage was far from perfect, being left alone again might be all that Allie can take of life.

Joseph’s life isn’t perfect either. His father left him, his brother and mother when they were young.  So they threw themselves into other things.  Joseph became good at physical activities such as karate.  His brother was good with people so he worked as a grocery sacker.  Joseph ends up shipped to Vietnam where he serves four tours, but each tour takes its toll.  He becomes a trained killer and is tasked to do things that never leave his dreams at night.  He can never shake all the bad that he is done in life no matter how much good he does.  This is why he has isolated himself in a cabin, but fate has ways of bringing people back together when they least expect it.

As usual, Martin brings an incredible story that life that is entertaining and heart wrenching all at the same time. Allie and Jo-Jo were meant to be together, but circumstances in life kept them apart.  And they were not perfect by any means.  That is one of the things I love most about the characters that Martin develops.  Each character is extremely flawed and from the outside you would probably want to avoid them if you ever met them.  But as you get to know them, their edges soften and you begin to understand them.  In fact, you actually want to be friends with them.  The unlikely cast of characters includes a drug addict, alcoholics, physical abuse, Vietnam war vet, and illegal immigrants.

This book is packed full of family issues, romance, PTSD, and even action with a Mexican drug cartel. But through all of the circumstances, wounds heal and they are able to become somewhat of a family.  The theme of the story is forgiveness and it takes the entire story for Joseph to finally accept that.  He has tried to atone for what the has done in the past through good deeds, but it is never enough.

There is so much that goes on in this book that the only way to understand it is to just read it. I highly recommend this book for readers that just want to enjoy a great story!

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

Becoming the Talbot Sisters

Becoming the talbot sistersAuthor: Rachel Linden

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: May 1, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

An unexpected surprise! One of my favorite books of the year so far!

Celebrity chef Waverly Ross has built one of the most successful shows on the Food Network. From the outside, she seems to have it all.  But there is one thing that she has yearned for that she has never been able to obtain: motherhood.  Her estranged twin sister Charlie Talbot has been running from a dark secret of her past and working as a relief aid worker in Hungary.  When the aunt that raised them passes away, Charlie and Waverly and reunited and begin the process of healing old wounds and building a relationship again.  Charlie even offers to be a surrogate so that Waverly and her husband can finally become parents.  When events take a turn that leave both sisters with the possibility of losing their jobs, the dream once again must wait.  But Waverly has a plan to save her show and she needs Charlie’s help to do it.

This is one of those “can’t judge a book by its cover” stories. I had no idea what I was getting into when I opened the cover of this book, but I’m so glad that I did.  The writing was phenomenal.  I loved how Linden developed the characters based on individual perspectives and then blended them together as the story progressed.  I also loved all of the behind the scenes descriptions of what goes on to make a successful cooking show.  Throw that in with travel across parts of Europe and you’ve got a masterpiece of a novel.

The scenery was fantastic throughout the book. Traveling across Europe in a book takes a lot of research into different settings and cultures and Linden really brought those to light.  But the emphasis on the relationship between Waverly and Charlie was probably the best part of the whole thing.  Throughout the book you love the sisters, then you hate the sisters; sometimes only one, sometimes both.  It felt real the whole way through.

Definitely a book that you need to add to you summer reading list. I may even read it again just to enjoy it a little bit more!

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

The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell

sam hellAuthor: Robert Dugoni

Publisher: Lake Union

Release Date: April 24, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

To call this book extraordinary won’t do it justice! Dugoni has written a coming of age story with some of the best character development I have ever read.

Sam Hill started life different than everyone else. He was born with red pupils and ended up with the nicknames, “Devil boy” or “Sam Hell”.  His mother didn’t want him to believe the derogatory things said about him. She told him that God had a plan for his life and to have faith in God’s will.  Nothing she said did any good to comfort Sam, but he kept his head high with the help of his mother’s faith, father’s guidance, and his two best friends.  Growing up in the time he did, it was hard to have red eyes, but it was even harder to have dark skin, which is what made Sam gravitate towards the new kid in school, Ernie Cantwell.  Ernie was the only African American kid in Sam’s class and needed a friend as bad as Sam did.  Mickie Kennedy rounded out their group and she was a force to be reckoned with.  As Sam grows into adulthood, he questions if everything is by a plan or not.  Sam looks back on the life he has lived and takes a journey through the past and around the world to figure his world out for himself.  By the time he finishes his journey, his eyes are truly open to what matters most.

Robert Dugoni is by far one of the best authors I know. His writing is one that will transport you into the story and have you walking hand in hand with the characters.  His Tracy Crosswhite series is one of my favorite series to date and The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell is going to be right up there with some of my all time favorites, but for very different reasons.  Usually my favorite reads are the suspense thrillers, page-turners that keep you guessing about what is going to happen until the very end.  With this book, it was more of an immersion into the characters unlike any other I have ever read. The character development throughout this story is better than any I have ever read.  Each character brings the story to life in their own special way.  Sam has so many challenges but it is nothing he can’t handle.  And having to face those challenges helps mold him into the kind of man he needs to be to help others, a lesson we can all learn from.  Dugoni is well known for his suspense thrillers and legal thrillers so I wasn’t sure how this new venture would turn out for him but am pleased to say this will easily make my list of best of the year reads.  I recommend this book to all readers, especially those looking for a story with heart and a lesson for all to learn.

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

Any Day Now

Any day nowAuthor: Robyn Carr

Series: Sullivan’s Crossing #2

Publisher: Mira

Release Date: April 18, 2017

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Relationships just seem to happen at Sullivan’s Crossing!

Sierra Jones is on the run and Sullivan’s Crossing looks like a good place for a stop over. Her brother Cal and his new wife Maggie are expecting their first child and she could use the time to talk with him.  She has some money, but she is going to need a place to work and a place to stay.  Maggie’s dad, Sully, quickly offers her one of the cabins and some work to do during March, which is the prep month for the cabins and campgrounds.  Sierra has no intentions of love until she meets the local paramedic, Connie.  He is handsome and built like a rock.  But she has a past that she wants to keep closed.  Can she be safe in Sullivan’s Crossing?  Or will she have to keep running?

Another love story set in Colorado is never a bad thing. And this one had quite a bit of suspense and mystery to it.  The layers keep pulling back on Cal’s family, especially his siblings.  It makes me wonder if the future installments will be based on the other two siblings.  It’s been fun to meet his family and learn more about them.  This book was not as difficult to follow on the viewpoint transitions as the first book.  However, there was still some sex scenes and language.  I still recommend this book for mature readers.

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

What We Find

What WE FindAuthor: Robyn Carr

Series: Sullivan’s Crossing #1

Publisher: Mira

Release Date: April 5, 2016

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

When one door closes, another one opens.

Maggie Sullivan needs a break. Her practice had to close after her two partners were indicted for medical malpractice.  She’s been picking up shifts at the ER in the Denver Hospital but the stress and hours are driving her crazy.  A family that lost their teenage son a car accident is now suing her personally.  She just had a miscarriage with her longtime boyfriend, who has now decided that he just can’t be who she needs him to be.  Needless to say, she needs a break.  She loads up her bags and heads across the mountains to the small town of Sullivan’s Crossing where her dad owns the only general store in town.  It’s March, so it is nasty weather, but she needs the break.  Shortly after her arrival, her dad has a heart attack and she decides to stay and take care of him.  Can Maggie find what she is looking for?

This was a fast and exciting read. The story follows Maggie through her troubles and her emotions with trusting men.  Although, she initial doesn’t trust Cal, she succumbs pretty quickly to his charms.  It’s almost a type of coming of age story for Maggie on finding what she wants instead of what others want her to be.  Of course, a book set in the mountains of Colorado is always a fun place to be.

Overall, the story flowed pretty well, but the character transitions didn’t happen smoothly. There wasn’t a method to denote when you suddenly jumped viewpoints until you were halfway into a segment and realized it wasn’t Maggie anymore.  Also, there is a lot of sex in this book and some pretty harsh language as well.  I would recommend this book to mature readers.

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

Forward to Glory: Tempering

Forward to GloryAuthor: Brian Paul Bach

Publisher: Clink Street Publishing

Release Date: March 21, 2017

Rating: 2 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Dealing with television, movies and a screenplay all in one should make it an interesting concept, but I just could not get into this one at all.

With a name like Butterbugs you would think life would be interesting. But it’s not, not even a little.  His only dream is to act, so he drops everything and heads to Hollywood.  He is living in his car and running out of resources.  Even with his high hopes, he eventually becomes isolated from much of the LA scene.  He then begins to meet several other outcasts, but not all of them are bad.  When he gets his first screen test, things seem to be spiraling out of control.  With many other characters, it could be an interesting tale with many different directions.

Ok, I wanted to give this one a chance, and I did. I get what the author was trying to do, but it just wasn’t happening.  The story is really disjointed and even though it is set up more like a screen play, it just wasn’t easy to follow.  Too much of the first part of it goes on and on without getting to the reason for the story.  I have no doubt that some readers may find this more to their liking but I wasn’t one of them.  I’ll give anything a try once is my motto, but this one just didn’t work out for me.

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

A Harvest of Thorns

a-harvest-of-thornsAuthor: Corban Addison

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: January 24, 2017

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

This should be a required read for business ethics courses!

Dhaka, Bangladesh is home to several garment factories that make products sold in stores all across the world. Some are better suited for working conditions than others.  One night, an electrical short in a generator causes a fire at the Millennium factory while workers are trying to complete a last minute order.  As the fire roars up the stairs, which is also the upper floors only exit, several workers try to remove the bars from the windows.  Finally, they get them free only to jump five levels above the ground, many to their death.  A photo of a young girl on the ground, bloody and battered, is shown throughout the news media.  On her face is a mask made of pants sold by one of the world’s largest retailers, Presto.

The next morning in Washington, D.C. Cameron Alexander, Presto’s general counsel, is called into the CEO’s office to watch the scene unfold. The factory was on the company’s red list, meaning they should not have any products being manufactured there.  Cameron’s main job is damage control as well as company reputation and he must figure out why this happened and how to spin it in a positive light.  As he digs into the investigation, he is shocked to find out the code of conduct is not only misused, but many times completely ignored.  He starts cracking down on the factory that the order was with and other items begin to come to light, not just in Bangladesh, but in Malaysia and Jordan as well.  Can the poison be stopped, or will it just keep spreading?

A year later, Joshua Griswold meets a confidential informant from Presto urging him to investigate the matter. Josh has won two Pulitzers, but was disgraced after one of the articles was used to uncover an unfortunate scandal.  Now with his marriage in shambles, he hopes he can rebuild his career with the Presto case and maybe even his family.

This book was an incredible read. From the start of the book, I was hooked and couldn’t put it down until I figured out what was going on.  Then once I did, I was along for the ride to see how everything played out.  As a consumer, this book can really open your eyes if you let it.  Most of us have heard about sweatshops and working conditions, but living in a first world country, you don’t really want to go there, either in person or your mind.  So reading this book can definitely give you an education.  It really makes you think about where the products you purchase come from.  It may have a sticker that says Made in Taiwan, but what do the people who make it go through?  How much do they get paid?  And then the whole set up with labor trafficking and supervisor rape.  It’s sickening to even imagine, but it does happen.

I think this would be a powerful book for business majors to read. Just to get them in a mindset about decisions they will be making and how they can affect other people’s lives.  If we are going to change the system, it will have to be from the top down and everyone will have to work to make a difference.  Thank you Corban Addison for bringing this issue to light and giving these workers a voice to be heard.

Aside from some of the content that will undoubtedly make some people uncomfortable, there is also some harsh language throughout. I would recommend this book to college age and above.

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