Pretty in Punxsutawney

Pretty in Punxsatawney_RD3Author: Laurie Boyle Crompton

Publisher: Blink YA Books

Release Date: January 15, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A great coming of age story that shows how important it is to not judge a book by its cover and find what’s beneath the surface.

Andie loves movies more than most anybody she knows. When she moves to Punxsutawney with her family right before the start of her senior year in high school, she gets caught in her very own version of Groundhog Day. Being the new kid in school is hard enough but having to live the first day at a new school over and over again is even worse. Andie gets stuck in a time loop reliving the first day of school with only her realizing the day is repeating. After watching Pretty in Pink and other classic teen romances, she becomes convinced she needs to meet her true love and get a kiss to break the curse. Each day she tries to infiltrate a new clique and finds the best in each of them she never would have seen or known otherwise. With each passing day, she learns more about her new friends but also loses hope she will end the time loop and be able to continue with her life.

Confession time, I have seen neither of the main movies it talks about here: Groundhog Day or Pretty in Pink. Even so, I knew what the stories are about and was able follow along without a problem. This was a very cute story that has a lot of heart to it. I loved the way Andie used each new day as a way to learn something and bring all that together in the end to help solve her problem instead of getting discouraged to the point she gave up altogether.  Even though I found certain parts of it predictable, it didn’t take away from making me want to keep turning the pages to find out what was going to happen. Andie’s relationship with her parents played out well, the more she continued in the time loop the more worried they became with her behavior and with good reason. I enjoyed the fact that this is a YA read that is clean and not anything I would have concern letting my children read. I recommend this book to young readers that want a fun romance with heart, and maybe even older readers looking for a little nostalgia.

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

 

Never Let Go

Never Let Go

Author: Elizabeth Goddard

Series: Uncommon Justice #1

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: February 5, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

It may be a two decade old cold case but things are just heating up for the team.

 After her grandfather is killed in a hit and run and evidence starts to surface that it wasn’t an accident, Willow Anderson starts looking into his last case and trying to find a connection. The case is that of an abducted baby from a hospital over twenty years ago. The mother is dying and wants more than anything to what happened to her only child. Willow finds out her grandfather enlisted the help of her former flame, Austin McKade. Together Austin and Willow will have to deal with their feelings and all they left unsaid to try and solve a case someone is determined to keep them from solving. The clues lead them across the country from Texas to Wyoming, forcing Austin to face his past and the family he has drifted away from. It’s not only their lives they are risking by looking into this case, but also their hearts.

 This storyline is one that will pull readers in and keep them until the very last page. I was very pleased with how well this story played out. I was hooked from the very first page with the kidnapping of a baby from the hospital until the very end. Willow and Austin are a good couple to play off each other. They had good chemistry and the way Goddard used trust issues to show tension between the two really helped propel the story forward. I wasn’t sure at a few parts how things were going to play out, the back and forth viewpoints coupled with new ones added about midway through almost through me for a loop but I was able to quickly catch on and keep track of who’s head we were supposed to be in. Maybe if the chapters had been headed with who’s view point we were in the transition might have been a little smoother, but that’s just me. I really enjoyed the dynamic between Austin and Heath, his brother, which leads me to guess Heath’s story will be coming up next. There was a very good mix of romance and suspense to keep the pages turning but also keep me engaged with the characters and why I really needed to care about them. I recommend this book to fans of romantic suspense novels and looking for a great start to a new series.

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

The Cost of Betrayal

cost of betrayalAuthors: Dee Henderson; Dani Pettrey; & Lynette Eason

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: September 4, 2018

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A collection of novellas by three of the leading authors in Christian fiction makes for a great read.

First up is Dee Henderson’s Betrayed. After spending years in prison Janelle Roberts is freed after an FBI Agent and his wife buy a box of possessions at an auction and find evidence showing there is no way she could have committed the murder she is accused of. To keep Janelle safe, they hide her away while they all search for the murderer who is still at large and might threaten Janelle’s life and freedom.

Second, we have Dani Pettrey’s Deadly Isle. When a storm hits her childhood home, Tennyson Kent is trapped along with the rest of the island residents with a murderer. The storm cuts them off from anyone that could help. Together with Callen Frost, her first love, Tennyson hopes to figure out who the killer is and stop anymore tragedy from coming to their island.

Finally, Lynette Eason’s Code of Ethics gives us the story of Ruthie St. John saving the life of Detective Isaac Martinez. Isaac is trying to prove one of the others on the squad is betraying all they believe, and it puts his life on the line.  Together he and Ruthie must stay alive and prove who in the department is corrupt.

This was a great group of stories and even though they don’t tie in to one another, they are very well written. I think when I started this I was expecting the stories to connect in some way and was a little confused when they didn’t. Had I realized this to begin with, it would have helped while reading. The first story to me was the slowest to get through. Deadly Isle and Code of Ethics were really quick reads and made the entire set worth reading for me. I really enjoyed the fact that Eason’s Code of Ethics tied in with her latest series. If any are like me and the first third seems a little slow to you I recommend sticking with it through the other two thirds where the suspense really kicks it to another level and the stories are extremely riveting. I recommend this to readers who enjoy all three of these authors and enjoy a great romantic suspense reads. I have the feeling that some of these stories will be further developed as time goes on, either in another collection of short stories or on their own. Either way I can’t wait to see what happens with these characters.

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

A Bound Heart

a bound heartAuthor: Laura Frantz

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: January 1, 2019

Reviewer: Jennifer S. Roman

Laura Frantz introduces readers to Lark MacDougall, a Scottish maid, and Magnus MacLeish, a Scottish lord.  Growing up, the two were inseparable as Lark’s maid raised her alongside Magnus after Lark’s family castle crumbled with the loss of the family’s power.  Lark was forced to become a servant, but because of her family ties to Magnus, she had opportunities uncommon to her new class of citizen.  Lark becomes the castle gardener/herb grower and is responsible for making healing poultices and potions out of the herbs and honey she collects from her bee skeps.  She and Magnus maintain a strong bond even though he eventually marries a woman of means and high rank in society.  Unfortunately, his new wife, Lady MacLeish, is unable to have children, and one night, in a fit of despair, she gets into Lark’s herb cabinet.  There she drinks a potion that alters her mental state, resulting in her falling off a cliff to her death.  Despite the cabinet being locked and her not even being present, Lark is charged with Lady MacLeish’s death, and for defending her, Magnus is charged as well.  Both lives are spared; instead of most likely dying in jail or being hung, the pair is put on a convict ship headed for Virginia.  The majority of the story follows the lives of Magnus and Lark as they reach their new homes.

A romance with a great deal of fact woven into it, A Bound Heart fascinates and captures the hearts of readers through adventure, romance, tribulation, and faith.  Lark is a good girl who doesn’t have much experience in the world outside of her herb gardens, but she is fortunate to be taken under the wing of the kindly woman who oversees the plantation where Lark has been indentured.  Lark is given a job tending to the flowers and herbs, and it suits her just fine.  Magnus faces an uphill battle against a slave-owning culture in sugar cane fields.  After being transported to the Caribbean Magnus finds himself as a field manager on a sugar plantation.  Used to being the one in charge, he now has to follow the orders of landowners despite knowing from experience that working with the laborers is more effective than working against them.

The characters develop as the book progresses, and the historical significance keeps interest while educating.  Several tertiary characters provide more story development and conflict to make things much more exciting.  Frantz uses common Scottish dialogue throughout the book, especially at the beginning when they are still in Scotland, to provide authenticity.  It’s difficult to understand at first, but is explained enough and is used with enough frequency that readers should not have any trouble understanding the story.  The development from arrest to sea voyage to the new life for each moves along at a pace that does not seem slow; rather, things seem to happen quickly enough that a lot transpires in a short amount of time.  I sped through this book and enjoyed every minute, never wishing that I was further along than I was.

A Bound Heart offers something for historical fiction and romance readers alike: adventure, star-crossed lovers, complications, separations, and facts about a new place.  I enjoyed it immensely and believe that readers of this genre will as well.

As a word of caution, I must mention that there are some topics that require consideration.  There are some threats of sexual violence as well as physical violence.  Language is often harsh, but never downright profane.

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

Code of Valor

Code of Valor

Author: Lynette Eason

Series: Blue Justice #3

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: January 1, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

The newest Blue Justice series installment follows Brady St. John and is sure to please readers with a wild and crazy adventure!

 While trying to get some much needed relaxation time, Brady St. John takes a vacation only to be interrupted. He has rented a friend’s lake cabin when he hears screams. He races to rescue a woman as she is about to be killed. The killer escapes but quickly comes back to finish the job putting them both in danger. Emily Chastain is a financial crimes investigator and has had a hard time trusting people since she was a young girl. With a past she is trying to escape, she tries to help those around her and somehow finds herself a target. Together with Brady and his siblings, Emily will try to solve a crime and stay alive.

 This is exactly what I have come to expect from Lynette Eason. Action packed suspense with just the right amount of romance sprinkled in. As the third book in the Blue Justice series, we get a look into Brady St. John as well as the rest of the family helping to solve the case. I enjoyed the character of Emily, such a vulnerable character with trust issues having to trust Brady and his family to help solve the case and keep her safe. Eason does a fantastic job of creating a story with plenty of twists and turns and characters that are both delightful and delightfully evil.

 I liked the way the story was broken up into parts based on the day and time things were occurring. It made the story move quicker and kept track of the time frame events were occurring in. With so many members of the St. John family, it is great to see each member get their own story and still see how all the others are doing as side characters throughout. I’m hoping the next in the series will focus on Linc since we have yet to read his backstory. I recommend this book to fans of Eason and even those who are new to her writing and enjoy romantic suspense. Even though this is the third in a series it can be read as a standalone without missing out on too much.

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