Where I Was Planted

Where I was plantedAuthor: Heather Norman Smith

Publisher: Ambassador International

Release Date: July 16, 2019

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A very poignant and delightful read with characters readers will love to cheer for through the toughest of situations.

In 1961, ten-year-old Nate Dooley comes home one day to find his kitchen stocked with food and his Dad nowhere to be found.  He figures now is as good a time as any to be on his own. With a stray dog as his companion, Nate tries to hide the fact that his father is gone from everyone around him for as long as possible. He likes being in his home by himself and doesn’t want the county to take him away. Even though his father has left, Nate starts to realize he isn’t alone.  His heavenly father will never leave him and will always provide for him. Nate finds these provisions in the form of newfound friends, neighbors and family he never knew he had.

Where I Was Planted is a beautifully written novel with the most wonderful protagonist around in Nate Dooley. Set in the 1960s, things are different than they are today.  If a ten-year-old were left alone for any period of time today, it wouldn’t take long for authorities to be notified and things to change. I loved how independent Nate was but also the way he realized he needed a little help. No matter how grown up he felt or wanted to be, the fact remains he is still a little boy. Even characters that had a small role made a big impact and a lasting impression. I would have liked a little more insight into Nate’s dad and why he left without talking to Nate or anyone about his plans, I know it explains a little, but I felt that part of the storyline could have developed a little further to bring the story up a notch. Nate was wonderfully developed, and I found myself wanting to hug that little boy and tell him how strong he was. The story pace was perfect and not once did I find myself wanting to put it down and move on to something else. The ending tied up just right and left me satisfied with the whole story. This is the first book I’ve read by Heather Norman Smith, but I am sure it will not be the last. I recommend this book to those that enjoy historical fiction with heart and a good message. The religious message comes across evenly, not to strong but also not too weak.

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

Almost Home

Almost HomeAuthor: Valeria Fraser Luesse

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: March 5, 2019

Reviewer: Jennifer S. Roman

Set in rural Blackberry Springs, Alabama, during World War II, Almost Home takes a look at how people have to take time to get to know themselves before they can connect with others.  

Blackberry Springs is home to a variety of transplants looking for work after the war sunk the United States into tough economic times, and Dolly Chandler’s large family home-turned-boarding house is full to the brim.  A young married couple from the Midwest is there after selling the farm and needing a new income; a young war hero is there to set himself right after the war’s ravages on his mind; a married couple of college professors is there because nobody is attending school.  Along with a few locals, the newcomers manage to forge friendships and even some romance out of the destruction that the war inflicted on their lives.  Dolly and her husband act as guardians and even parents to some of these people who really need someone to rely on, and in the meantime, these visitors help Dolly reconnect with her family’s heritage through her home’s secrets.

This is one of those books that, just like the setting, is a warm, lazy summer day with a cold drink at the ready.  It’s no trouble at all to read the book and soak it all in, but by the end, you feel refreshed and full.  The characters all have flaws that, while sometimes obvious how they will be fixed, still show a human side that makes them likeable.  I can’t say the storyline is anything new or unique, but it is a warm, fun reflection on a time when people helped others who were often in the same dire straits that they were.  Old-fashioned and charming, Almost Home truly made me feel welcome.

I loved this book for its message and characters, and the subplot of adventure woven through tied it all together.  Some of it may not be entirely plausible, but it makes for a fun read that kept me entertained from the last page to the first.  Pick up this book for a fun summer read or a quiet weekend in.  It’s a sweet story sure to please.

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

 

All Manner of Things

all manner of thingsAuthor: Susie Finkbeiner

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: June 4, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A beautifully written masterpiece about a broken family learning to heal.

When Annie Jacobson’s father returned from the Korean War, he was the shell of the man that he was before he left.  His depression finally got to the point that he decided that his family would be better off if he left them.  So, he did.  Twelve years later, Annie is now out of high school working at the town diner.  Her younger brother, Joel, is fourteen and moving into 8th grade.  Her older brother Mike also works at the diner and has just told her he plans to enlist in the army.  His draft number will be coming up anyway, so may as well have some say in where he gets placed.  Her mother has been working ever since her father left to provide some semblance of home for them.   They’ve had their share of trials but have always managed together.

After Mike leaves for basic training, a family tragedy occurs, and Annie’s dad returns home after twelve years.  There is plenty of tension among the family members, but they will have to find away to work together.  As Mike corresponds through letters with each member of the family, the need for them to stay together becomes more apparent and they must work through twelve years of hurt, despair, and love.

I absolutely love this book!  I love that it is a snapshot into a family during this time and what each family member was going through.  I can only imagine that even though they didn’t feel like a normal family, several families were facing the same situations that were presented throughout this book.  I love that the family had to work out their issues with one another and learn to lean on each other.  Told from Annie’s point of view, she is a very strong character that can be overcome at times.  Several people lean on her for support and she finally meets someone that she can lean on when she needs it most.

Throughout this book, I become nostalgic for simpler times when there were no electronic gadgets that took time away from families.  This family really connected.  There were times that they were sitting on the front porch talking about the issues going on in the world that day.  Finkbeiner did a great job of making me feel like I was in the time period by dropping in major events that happened and referencing different television shows of the time.  I didn’t live during the Vietnam war, but I remember growing up in the 1980s and 1990s and having those type of moments with my family.

One of my favorite aspects of the book may have been all the literary Easter egg references.  From Travels with Charley by Steinbeck to A Wrinkle in Time, there were several of my favorite books mentioned.  I love it when an author throws in little tidbits like that to make me enjoy the book even more.

Fair warning, this book may make you emotional.  There are some very sad moments that occur that may leave some readers feeling depressed.  Even so, it is well worth picking up a copy of this book.  It is a clean read that will be sure to remain on reader’s personal bookshelves for years to come!

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

Murder in Liberty City

Murder in Liberty City

Author: Rachel McMillan

Series: Van Buren & DeLuca Mystery #2

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: May 28, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

As Van Buren and De Luca help the residents of North End Boston, they find themselves investigating their own relationship!

 Three years have passed since the infamous case of murder at the Flamingo Club that left Hamish shot on the club floor.  His nefarious cousin Luca Valari has vanished back to Chicago but may have an opportunity to return to Boston to pursue some racketeering for the possibility of the United States entering the second great war.  Meanwhile, Hamish and Reggie have been building up their investigative practice of Van Buren and De Luca.  The pair have grown much closer during the time, but still haven’t crossed any lines of intimacy.  They get a call from Pete Kelly, who has been using the harbor area in the North End for black market business for years but keeps the tenants with decent prospects and jobs.  The prestigious architectural firm Hyatt and Price (the same firm that the Vaughn of Reggie’s past is employed) is working to develop the area into affordable housing.  But after learning of Hamish’s connections to his cousin Luca, Kelly steps away from working with them.  Shortly after, Hamish receives a visit from a colored farm league baseball player for the Boston Patriots, Errol Parker.  Errol has always been on the receiving end of pranks, but lately they’ve escalated to threats.  Hamish and Reggie agree to investigate this and shortly a murder takes place at the stadium.  As the investigation continues, all the events that have been taking place begin to become intertwined and it will take both of them to figure it out.

 Although three years has passed from when the previous book ended, it was evident that Hamish and Reggie have grown closer.  The was a parallel investigation of their personal relationship to that of the murder that was being investigated.  It was put through a very trying time in this book and readers will finally get to see what it is made of.  The previous book did a great job of setting up a new series including character development and the scenery of the time of the North End of Boston.  Since that had already been done, this book just took that previous momentum and carried it forward.  There wasn’t as much descriptive scenery, but both Reggie and Hamish continued to develop.  Several of the supporting characters from the previous book continued in their progress as well.  As a reader, I still didn’t like Vaughn because of his relationship with Reggie, but he was such a good guy and had matured.  Dirk of course was still lowly and easy to dislike.   I still enjoy the series and will be looking forward to what comes next.

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

The Number of Love

Number of Love

Author: Roseanna M. White

Series: Codebreakers #1

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: June 4, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A mysterious read that crosses between A Beautiful Mind and Bing Bang Theory.

 Margot De Wilde understands mathematics and finds comfort in numbers.  After her family fled Belgium at the beginning of the Great War, Margot has found use for her talents as one of the lead codebreakers in the British navy.  An unconventional position for a woman at the time, but Margot is quite unconventional herself.  She does not notice any of the attentiveness of men and hopes to secure a professorship at a university after the war.  While at work one day, she meets a new young lady named Dot, who is to be serving as a secretary.  Dot has her own quirks and doesn’t like to leave her house but knows she must.  Margot and Dot strike up a mutual friendship where each person can accept their own faults.  But when Dot’s brother Drake shows up, things become much more interesting.

 Drake Elton serves as a spy for the British navy.  Fluent in three languages and having a grandfather in Spain who runs a prosperous shipping business gives him the perfect cover to set up a base of operations there.  But after a botched mission lands him in the infirmary in London, Drake dreads the recovery time.  His sister Dot comes to visit him quite often as does her friend the mathematician, Margot.  Drake has never met anyone like Margot, who is extremely intelligent and can match wits with Drake on any occasion.  When remnants from his mission in Spain begin to show up in London, Drake knows that he must return to duty to save his country and Margot.

 This was a very entertaining story from the beginning to the last sentence.  Margot became my best friend instantly and we had a great adventure throughout the journey.  Granted, I’m married to an engineer, so maybe math people are my friends.  Even so, the best way that I can describe Margot is like a female Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory.  She fully understands numbers and math but is completely oblivious to social norms.  The romance between her and Drake evolved in its own time and wasn’t forced like so many books attempt.  Everything flowed great and her armor was slowly chipped by Drake until it was worn down and she finally understood what it was to love and be loved.  I also appreciated the author weaving faith into the story and the trials and tribulations that Margot had to go through to become the woman she was meant to be.

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

Realm

RealmAuthor: Alexandrea Weis

Publisher: Vesuvian Books

Release Date; May 14, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Behind every great leader is the woman he loves, even if she is not his queen.

Roxana is the daughter of a Persian tribal chief who stands at opposition to Alexander the Great.  But when he is territory is conquered, Roxana’s father must make a treaty or lose his life.  He decides to make peace with Alexander and offers his son to serve in his service.  Later that week when they are having a great banquet, Roxana is presented as the daughter of the chief.  Alexander is quickly taken by her exquisite beauty and knows that he must have this woman as his wife, which comes a quite shock to everyone.  The leader of the Greeks marry a Persian?  Certainly not!  But yes, Alexander wills it, so it does happen.  Roxana, who is immensely terrified, is suddenly thrust into a marriage with the most powerful man in the world.  She comes to love Alexander as he is tender and thoughtful to her.  He appreciates her intellect and quick wit that can match his own.  But being married to the most powerful man on earth has its own consequences.  She must watch out not just for Alexander but also for herself as jealously and treachery lurk at every turn.

I love a good historical fiction novel that incorporates actual events within the story to make it seem more alive.  Alexandra Weis did a tremendous job in her research to bring the story of Roxana to life.  Many have heard of Alexander the great, but history books haven’t done such a great job of teaching about Roxana to the masses.  She was no doubt unparalleled in beauty, but I loved that she was smart, knew multiple languages, and could match Alexander the Great in a game of wits.  It’s fun to see strong females in lead history roles when so many were suppressed.  That said, Roxana was a wide range of emotion, but I think that is true to what someone would have been feeling in her position.  From thrilled to sorrow to strength, she embodied it all.  I would love to see more stories like this one come to life.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own. ;\lsdpriority5

The Woman in the White Kimono

Woman in the white kimono

Author: Ana Johns

Publisher: Park Row

Release Date: May 28, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

One of the best Japanese literature selections that we’ve seen!

 In 1957, tensions continue to run high in American occupied Japan.  The Japanese industry is still working on recovery and families that previously enjoyed a lavish lifestyle are looking at diminished returns.  Naoko Nakamura’s family is facing this possibility and her father arranges a marriage to try to solidify a partnership for his company.  Naoko has her own plans as she has given her heart to an American sailor and wants to live for true happiness.  When her family discovers that she has conceived his child, it causes a huge amount of disgrace and she is outcast while her beau is on an American tour.  The consequences of her choice will haunt her all the days of her life and cause unknown ramifications for future generations.

 Tori Kovac has been taking care of her dying father when she discovers a letter in his mail from Japan.  After he dies, she reads the letter and begins to discover that the man she has always known as her father had another life that she never knew about.  As the secrets begin to unravel, she wonders if she ever truly knew her father.  Without hesitation, Tori sets off for Japan to unravel the mystery that her father left in his wake.

 I’m a huge fan of literature set in Japan and this may be the best that I’ve read.  It’s a time slip novel crossing between 1957 and present day.  The amount of research that was put into writing this book is incredible.  Throughout Naoko’s story, everything felt like I was right there along side her during the time period.  From understanding the culture at the time to the emotions that were being felt within the country.  The pain that Naoko experienced was also so raw that it could have only been based on a true story, which is very sad indeed.  My eyes stung with tears as I read what had happened to these poor women during a dark period.  I’m glad that the author felt compelled to bring this era to light to help people understand what occurred so that we can learn from it as a society.  I also enjoyed that this was a novel free from foul language, which shows that a great story can be accomplished just on the merits.

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

Westside

WestsideAuthor: W.M. Akers

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Release Date: May 7, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Funny how tiny mysteries have a way of asserting themselves into bigger problems!

Manhattan Island, New York in 1921.  Things have gone amiss for several years in the Westside of Manhattan.  While the Eastside is prosperous, the Westside has a darkness.  Ten years ago, people started disappearing along with other objects.  In an effort to stop the madness, a thirteen-mile fence was constructed to separate the eastside and westside with guards to man the gates.  Several people left for the eastside, but not everyone.  One of those people is Gilda Carr, a detective who specializes in “tiny mysteries.”  After all, big mysteries just take up too much effort and energy.

While working a case about a missing glove, Gilda becomes witness to murders.  But not just any killings, murders using guns.  But guns have never worked on the westside, so how is it that these weapons work?  Before she knows it, she is wrapped up in the biggest case she could imagine between the two superpowers of the westside.  What is Even more interesting is that everything seems to connect to her late father.  Will this finally answer what truly happened to her father?  Or will it just lead her down another rabbit hole?

I’m not sure what I expected from this book, but I definitely got more than I bargained for.  I really enjoyed the sleuthing aspect of this novel, especially since Gilda didn’t really want to do it.  I bonded with her immediately, even though I’m not really sure why.  Her character was quirky, likeable, and just a bit facetious.   As a reader I couldn’t help feeling compassionate for her.  The dark fantasy of this was interesting too.  There have been a few dark historical fantasy novels involving Manhattan, but this one just seemed different.  My favorite parts of the story is where a tiny mystery would be solved.  It would just pop out of nowhere and reference back to a previous part of the story.  Well done.

There is some strong language throughout the book, so I would not advise this to younger readers.

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

The Refuge

The refugeAuthor: Ann H. Gabhart

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: April 30, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A historical romance showing how hard it can be to not only survive, but also find and make a lasting connection with the right someone in the hardest of times. 

Darcie and Walter Goodwin only want to survive the cholera epidemic ravaging the country.  The only way they see to survive is to join the Shakers who seem to have a way of steering clear of the disease. This is not meant to be a permanent stay, being with the Shakers means they can’t be together as man and wife, this community doesn’t believe in marriage. When Walter is killed in a boating accident and Darcie is left by herself to raise the child she finds growing inside of her, she is left with a difficult decision: does she stay and know that she and her baby will grow and have what they need or leave and find happiness and keep her family together?

I have always been a fan of Ann. H. Gabhart’s romantic suspense writing and wanted to see how the historical romance would compare.  Normally I am much more of a fan of suspense but have to say The Refuge was an enjoyable read with characters that made me feel for what they were going through and cheer for their small victories.  I thought that Gabhart did a very nice job showing the difficulties these characters went through with the illnesses ravaging the country and the lack of modern technology and medicines we have today to help with such matters. When you have to spend your time just being about to provide to live there doesn’t leave much time to find love. Men and women being together is more of a convenience of what each can do for the other instead of finding a true love and having to fight to be together. One thing about it though, marriage was not taken as lightly as it is today with the divorce rate so high, back then if you got married it was till death do you part. I liked the way that was mentioned so many times, it is something you must work at and not just throw away when you feel like it. Each of these characters had a responsibility and work they had to keep up with to keep the community running, it showed a great work ethic on their parts and is something that is lacking in today’s society. I think fans of historical romance will really enjoy this read.

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

The Noise of War

The Noise of WarAuthor: Vincent B. Davis II

Series: Scrolls of Sertorius #2

Publisher: Thirteenth Press

Release Date: April 8, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

If you are a fan of ancient Roman history, then you need to get on this series! 

After the massacre of the Roman army by the Cimbri at Arausio, Quintus Sertorius finds that he is not the only survivor.  He lost his brother, 90,000 fellow soldiers, and his own eye, but he still has his good friend Lucius and his lover Arrea.  But such a crushing defeat weighs heavy on a man.  Eventually, he and Lucius discover about a dozen more survivors who Quintus then leads back to the Roman camp now commanded by Marius.  Once they arrive at the camp and begin to recover, Quintus reunites with Marius and meets his new legate Lucius Cornelius Sulla.  They have devised a plan for Quintus to become a spy and infiltrate the Cimbri camp.  Quintus realizes that this is likely suicide, but he feels compelled to accept the mission to avenge his brother and fellow soldiers.  As he embarks on this new quest, will he be able to muster the courage to help save the Republic?  Or is it all for naught anyway?

If you are a fan of ancient Roman history, then you need to get on this series!  Davis has dug up some great history that is not well known to many people, even those of us that frequent Roman history quite a bit.  He has chosen to chronicle out the life of Quintus Sertorius in this series of books.  The first book, The Man with Two Names, is of his early service in politics and joining the legion through the defeat of Arausio.  This new installment picks up where the previous left off and focuses on the continuation of his military service.  This installment also introduces readers to Lucius Cornelius Sulla, who is much more well known throughout history as a consul, and who future books will no doubt clash with as he and Sertorius lead opposite ends in a future civil war.  This book is rich with history of the Battles of Aquae Sextiae and Vercellae.  Sertorius character continues to be developed in this book as he goes from a leader, threw a period of self-pity, to becoming a leader again, who often second guesses himself but displays a brilliant military mind nonetheless.  One of my favorite parts of the first book was the developing relationship between Sertorius and Arrea.  There are aspects of this in the book, but I leave it up to readers to discover what is going on between them.

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