The Triumphant

The triumphantAuthor: Lesley Livingston

Series: The Valiant #3

Publisher: Razorbill

Release Date: February 12, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

The last book in the Valiant series wraps things up better than readers could have hoped for bringing the series full circle. Fans of the series will not want to miss out on this thrilling finale.

Fallon and her band of gladiatrix sisters have won their battle and reclaimed the Ludus Achillea, but it came at a price. Cai, Fallon’s love has lost his Decurion rank and is now having to serve as one of Caesar’s Gladiators for helping in the uprising. Fallon is fighting for his freedom and learns that Caesar’s enemies are planning revenge. These enemies assassinate Caesar and leave Fallon and the others with no one to protect them and on a mission to save Cleopatra, who could very easily be their next target. They must work together to free Cai and get Cleopatra out of the city before the bloodshed spreads.

I have loved this series since the first book came out. The female gladiators are strong, resilient and determined in every challenge they face. This is the perfect series for young girls looking for strong female leads that face the odds and learn from their mistakes and adversaries to come out on top. Fallon has always felt behind her sister and trying to prove herself. In this final book in the series, readers see her come into her own and find a strength she didn’t know she had deep within herself. I love the way she is shown strong but also flawed and afraid at times. She relies on those around her to help her make the hard decisions and face the toughest of enemies. It took me a while to get through this because I had to make sure I didn’t miss anything. I needed soak in every word and detail to really get a connection with the characters and what is about to happen in the story. These stories really are the better stories that I take with me and remember long after I have turned the last page instead of looking back a year later and questioning if I actually read it or not. I would recommend that readers start with the first two in the series before reading this one, there is just too much back story that will keep this moving forward instead of seeming confusing. For readers that enjoy a great historical fiction with lots of action and strong female leads, I highly recommend The Triumphant, they won’t be disappointed.

Castle on the Rise

Castle on the Rise

Author: Kristy Cambron

Series: The Lost Castle #2

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: February 5, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Three more stories centered around a new set of castle ruins.  This series is fantastic!

 As Ellie and Quinn’s wedding approaches, Ellie’s friend Laine Forrester travels to France with her daughter Cassie to attend.  Shortly after the wedding, Ellie drops a bombshell concerning her health to Laine and explains that she and Quinn will be traveling to Ireland to visit his estranged family over a personal mater.  She asks if Laine and Cassie will come along because of her experience with antiques.  But Laine has been holding secrets of a failed marriage from Ellie as well.  Quinn’s brother Cormac has become a welcome distraction in Ellie’s life and Cassie has become quite taken with him as well.  Once in Ireland, Laine begins to learn the history behind the family’s pub that has been in business since the late 18th century and all the events that the pub has survived in the past.  When Laine discovers that the family has been left a castle estate, she begins to help catalogue the items left there, including several pianos.  But no one could believe the role this castle has played in the revolution and rebellion throughout Ireland’s history.

 There have been a lot of reviews about the controversy of this book.  First of all, this is a work of fiction.  The author did a great job portraying the time period that each of the stories are set.  The language and phrases used by the characters fit both with the location that the book is set in as well as the time period.  There was some negativity mentioned about alcohol, which is part of the culture of Ireland and the fact the part of the book is set at a pub yields that this is going to be part of the story.  I challenge readers to not get taken in by minutia, but just to enjoy the stories that have been presented to them.

 As far as the stories go, I enjoyed this book more than the first.  Laine’s story is that of a broken woman who has been dealt blow after blow in life.  She needs a strong companion, who has historically been Ellie, but with Ellie’s condition she won’t be able to fully rely on her.  Enter Cormac who is something of a dark horse that finds a way to Laine’s heart.  The companion stories of the 1916 Easter weekend uprising and the 18th century revolution also completed the story of the present in multiple ways.  If I dive to far into these I’m afraid that I’ll start to reveal spoilers, so I encourage you to pick up a copy of this book to find out more!

 The first book centers around Quinn with the second on his brother Cormac, even though neither is the primary character.  Given that this is a trilogy, will the next book be told with their sister Kiera?  I would love to see this story told with a member of their family as the primary character, but I’ll guess I’ll have to wait until next year.

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

Mending Fences

Mending FencesAuthor: Suzanne Woods Fisher

Series: The Deacon’s Family #1

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: February 5, 2019

Luke Schrock, fresh out of rehab, is apprehensive about returning to his Amish community.  He has hurt so many people and is not sure how he will be welcomed back into the folds.  He is given a second chance by the deacon, Amos Lapp, and his wife Fern, although he has to sleep in the office in the barn.  Amos and Fern have a penchant for helping wayward young people, and they have a young lady, Izzy Lapp, in addition to Luke, living with them.  Izzy knows Luke by reputation and makes it a point to ignore him or direct scathing comments toward him, all to Luke’s frustration.  He is so used to being able to charm any female, Amish or not, that he doesn’t understand why she holds so much animosity toward him.  Part of Luke’s condition of living with Fern and Amos is that he must begin his making amends part of the AA 12-step program.  He thinks just telling people sorry will be good enough, but Amos has other ideas.  Luke must apologize, hear how his actions affected others, and then try to fix the damage he has caused.  As Luke goes through his four-page list, he learns a lot about himself and about damages that others have incurred.

Luke has been mentioned in others of Woods Fisher’s books, but this is the first time he is the center of the story.  As the author develops her world of Stoney Ridge, readers can catch up on previous characters while meeting new ones.  It’s easy to feel as though these people are real-life friends and neighbors the more we read about them, and it’s no small feat not to be sucked into their lives, for the good.  We learn more and more about how the Amish live and how it is much more than being “simple.”  This book focuses on that message, of one’s love for and commitment to God, more than it has in any other book.  Forgiveness and redemption also play a big part in the story, and more than one character is able to heal as a result of that powerful lesson.

This new Bishop series explores the lives of the people of Stoney Creek who have been chosen to be the church and community leaders, and it is refreshing to see how so much of their lives parallel ours, yet on a much simpler level.  They face many of the same problems we do, yet they rely on their faith and community in order to solve them.  Hopefully readers can be entertained while learning something along the way.  If for nothing else, I strongly encourage readers of Amish Fiction or Christian literature to give this book a try for its sweet message of hope and forgiveness.

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

Between Before and After

Between before and afterAuthor: Maureen Doyle McQuerry

Publisher: Blink YA Books

Release Date: February 5, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A past/present mash up story between a mother and daughter that shows the similarities through the differences in age and time.

Molly is fourteen years old and has the weight of the world on her shoulders. Her parent’s marriage is falling apart, and her mother is falling into a deep depression. She knows her mother has been keeping a big secret, which is part of her problems. Molly helps look after her brother Angus and when her Uncle Stephen shows up claiming to have been involved in a miracle curing a young boy, things get even more interesting. Elaine, Molly’s mother, realizes she can no longer hide behind her stories she has loved and must face the truth of what he life has become. Going between 1918 New York and 1955 California, Between Before and After shows how a family can overcome adversity and find new life even in the most trying of times.

Between Before and After is a very interesting tale told in a unique way. The past/present mash up is becoming a very popular method of story delivery, but it is not usually told from more than two or three viewpoints. So, having multiple viewpoints can be a gamble, but it played out well in this scenario. In 1955 with Molly’s view-point, readers see very little of Elaine and what is going on in her head and how she is really involved with her family. She is much more removed than a normal mother figure would be. Reverting to 1918, readers get a glimpse into Elaine’s history, which makes everything in her present make much more sense. Molly and Elaine are the main characters, but the secondary characters are important and add greatly to the story. I especially liked Stephen and Mr. Seward. The last few chapters that were set in 1955 and the characters that were thrown together really brought everything full circle. I enjoyed the way that all played out; it made perfect sense and tied up the loose ends. At the end of some of the chapters, there were little snippets from Hansel and Gretel.  I understand how this tied into the story, but some readers may feel this takes away from the flow of the story and skip over these parts. I think shorter segments might have played out better and not have been as much of a distraction. Overall, I would recommend this book to young readers that enjoy historical novels with a great tie in between the timelines and viewpoints.

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

The Sky Above US

The Sky Above UsAuthor: Sara Sundin

Series: Sunrise at Normandy #2

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: February 5, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

As the series continues, more is revealed about what happened to change the lives of the Texas brothers.

Burdened by the grief of his past, Lt. Adler Paxton ships off to England as a fighter pilot with his sights set on becoming an ace against the German Luftwaffe.  But the secrets of his past weigh heavily on his mind and have caused him to turn into a hothead in confrontations.  When he learns that he will be a wingman instead of a fighter, he decides to take matters into his own hands, which leaves his partner exposed and frightfully close to being killed.  Realizing that he is on a mission of destruction, Adler turns to God to finally heal his wounds.

Violet Lindstorm has always wanted to be a missionary like her Aunt in Kenya.  To begin her career, she joins up with the American Red Cross to help with the war effort overseas.  Once in England, she becomes the manager of an Aeroclub at a new base.  While there are many challenges, one of the bright spots is the mysterious Lt. Adler Paxton who seems to quickly connect with her, but then draw away just as fast.  Maybe she can help Adler overcome the demons of his family’s past.

I was glad to find out more about the event that started the series in The Sea Before Us.  I was gripped from the beginning in that book and got about one third of the story.  Now in this installment, there is another third that is presented.  So, the whole story is getting closer, but more complications are thrown in that I didn’t know about.  Can’t wait for the next installment to fully understand everything!

As with the first book, this one deals with the main character wrestling demons from the event that split up three brothers.  In both cases, Clay seems to have been betrayed the worst, but his story is not up for telling yet.  Paxton and Violet seem destined to be together, but there are plenty of challenges to keep them apart.  And not just Adler’s past either, though that is a large part of it.  The resounding theme of this book is forgiveness on both main characters.

If you are enjoy historical fiction centered around WWII with a balance of romance, then you need to get this book!

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

The Curse of Misty Wayfair

curse of misty wayfairAuthor: Jaime Jo Wright

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: January 22, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Two tales twist together to reveal a superstitious mystery.

Traveling photographer Thea Reed has been making her way to the small town of Pleasant Valley, Wisconsin to locate the mother who abandoned her in an orphanage when she was four.  Taken in by a photographer and his wife, Thea has learned the trade on production of memorial photographs, which she takes of Rose Coyle and her recently deceased sister Mary.  As Thea settles in the small town, she learns of a curse that has been put upon the Coyles’ so that they often die unexpectedly.  And each time before they pass, it’s said the ghost of a woman who was murdered is seen.  Clues eventually lead Thea to an asylum just outside of the town’s border in the neighboring woods.  Will her quest lead her to be haunted by the ghost as well?

One hundred years later, Heidi Lane ventures to Pleasant Valley, Wisconsin because of a letter that her mother wrote.  Heidi always felt that she didn’t belong with her structured family, so she left out as soon as she could.  Now her father has died, her mother has dementia, and her sister and brother-in-law are running a lodge complex.  Her sister Vicki needs her help, but when she stumbles on a photo album in an antiques shop that contains a photo of a deceased woman who looks just like her with the name Misty Wayfair scribbled on the back, Heidi begins to have strange occurrences happen to her.  From messages on a mirror to random notes to arson, Heidi starts to fear for her life.  But will people believe her? Or just assume she is trying to get attention?

Wow!  This book was really hard to put down at night because you felt like someone was going to be watching you though a window.  Seriously, it puts goosebumps on your arms while you read it.  What a great story that Jaime Jo Wright has brought to life.  Two tales that intertwine to reveal the mystery behind a curse.  It’s interesting to see that what may be solved can still live as a misguided legend for another century.

Both Thea and Heidi are similar in character.  They are insecure, but for different reasons.  Thea for her abandonment and Heidi for her need for independence.  Both women also strike up relationships with men that are quite different from society as well, but still good natured at heart.  The story flowed flawlessly between two time periods and several times I found myself wanting to just continue with one storyline to get the final answer but was so much more intrigued each time it switched.

If you love great fiction, especially with a storyline that will frighten you at times when reading, give this book a chance.

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

A Study in Treason

study in treasonAuthor: Leonard Goldberg

Series: Daughter of Sherlock Holmes #2

Publisher: Minotaur

Release Date: June 12, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

My interest in Sherlock Holmes has been renewed by this new series!

After a top-secret document outlining the treaty between England and France to stand against Germany disappears, Dr. John Watson is solicited to assist England in finding the document.  Dr. Watson agrees on one condition, that his son Dr. John Watson, Jr. and his wife Joanna assist in the investigation.  Joanna is the daughter of Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler and she is just as astute as her father, if not more.  As they assist Scotland Yard in the investigation, evidence starts to point in the opposite direction of the investigation, which brings out more questions than answers.  As with her father, everything must be cut and dried with no middle ground.  With an apparent hurry up investigation, the trio attempt to work out the facts to solve the case and restore the document.

If you enjoyed Sherlock Holmes, then this new series is a must.  Told from the perspective of Dr. John Watson, Jr, a new mystery has surfaced that resembles the volumes of work that his father documented for Sherlock Holmes.  The story line is very interesting and told in a way that keeps the reader engaged.  Just as things seem to be wrapping up, a new curve is thrown into the mix that resets all the knowledge gathered so far.  Goldberg does a great job leading readers down the path, but keeping them right where he wants them.  Scotland Yard still bumbles a bit and is too hasty to wrap up investigations, but Joanna mimics her fathers’ antics from pacing to smoking while deep in thought.

Even though this is the second in a series, it easily reads as a standalone.  However, it garnered enough of my interest to go get the first book to fill in any blanks that I may not have noticed.  If you’re a fan of Holmes or just love a good mystery, give this a try!

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