The Secret Keepers of Old Grocery Depot

Author: Amanda Cox

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: September 7, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Amanda Cox knocks it out of the park with a story that has all the feels in just the right places! An emotional and inspiring story that is beautifully written and perfect to the very last page!

Set in both present day and the past, The Secret Keepers of Old Depot Grocery follows Sarah Ashby as she returns to her childhood home after her husband’s death. Along with her mother and grandmother, she works at the family grocery story she loved so much as a child. Her mother, Rosemary, announces that the store is closing much to the dismay of Sarah and her grandmother, Glory Ann, who work together to save the store. Rosemary worked her whole life to make sure Sarah would have a different life than the one she grew up with and hates to see her daughter follow in her footsteps.

In 1965, Glory Ann confesses to her family that she is pregnant out of wedlock and the father was sent to war and killed. She is then married to a man she has just met to save the reputation of herself and her family. Glory Ann promises herself she will never love again but it ends up being a promise she can’t keep.

Amanda Cox has done it again with a contemporary novel that blew me away with its complexity, emotional moments, and perfect mix of past and present problems that converge to a perfect ending with beautiful moments throughout. Usually a contemporary novel, especially one with half the story set in the past, is a slow read for me that has trouble holding my interest. Amanda Cox has become one of the exceptions. There was a solid connection between me and the characters. Sarah and her family are solid leads that are written in a way that readers will want to see them succeed in whatever their hearts are wishing for. I loved the way the past and present lined up to give glimpses of what was going to happen and lead to little surprises at the end. So much to love about this novel, the pacing, the relationships; nothing felt rushed, and the feel-good moments throughout. I recommend this book to readers that want a feel-good book with nothing too heavy or anything that you have to think too hard about.

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

The Nature of Small Birds

Author: Susie Finkbeiner

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: July 6, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Finkbeiner’s story telling shines in this tale of love, family, and discovery!

Bruce and Linda have been trying for years to have a second child with no luck.  They decide that the best option would be to adopt a little baby boy who needs a family, but when the call from the adoption agency comes in, it is not what anyone expected.  A little girl named Minh was a child airlifted during the fall of Saigon and the family who initially took her in has returned her to the agency.  Bruce and Linda have no qualms taking this child into their family but know that other family members won’t feel the same since Bruce’s brother died during the war and his sister’s husband returned home with war torn memories.

As the years pass, the family becomes more accepting, but little do they know all the challenges that Minh, now called Mindy, has faced in her upbringing in a small Michigan town during the 1980s and 1990s.  She recently discovered that an organization is working to restore the children lifted out of Saigon with their families.  With her family’s support, Mindy decides to reach out and discover more about her past to learn who she really is.

Wow!  Can Susie Finkbeiner write a story that makes you feel like you are part of the family and come away as friends.  Her ability to draw readers into the characters is such a gift.  Picking the book up for the first time makes it feel like you are about to read a classic story that you love, even though you’ve never read it!

The story is told from three perspectives at three different times.  The first is from Linda’s (mom) point of view in 1975 when they initially adopt Mindy and the challenges that they face during that time.  Fast forward to 1988 with Sonny’s (older sister) POV when she and Mindy and in high school and roommates.  Lastly is Bruce’s (dad) POV in 2013 when Mindy has discovered the possibility of reconnecting with her family.  It was fun to see the minor characters develop in one story and then mature in another. 

The theme is about family and supporting each other through difficulties.  I want to dive into this so much more, but its really better if you read it for yourself.  Easily one of the top books of 2021! I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

On the Cliffs of Foxglove Manor

Author: Jamie Jo Wright

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: June 1, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Jaime Jo Wright does it again!! I could not put this book down. Such a fantastic back and forth story that will grab your attention at the very beginning and make you feel like you are on the edge of the cliffs.

In 1885, Adria Fontaine is on a mission to retrieve what her father has pirated and return it to him. She must go to Foxglove Manor, a house on the cliff overlooking Lake Superior. This mission is the only way to keep her father from putting her into an institution and Adria is determined to find the treasure. Standing in her way is the mistress of Foxglove, a cruel old woman with more secrets and danger than Adria left behind at home. In present time, Kailey Gibson finds herself and her autistic brother at Foxglove, which has been turned into a senior home, as the new nurse’s aide. When she was younger, her family took a vacation to Foxglove when it was a rental and shortly after she was kidnapped for a day and returned home safely. She has repressed memories of this time but is hoping returning to Foxglove will help her figure out what really happened. To get to the truth, she is going to have to uncover deep, hidden secrets the manor doesn’t want exposed to the world.

Anyone that has ever read a Jaime Jo Wright book knows that you are going to have to set aside a good chunk of time to read and not be bothered. These are the types of books you want to read and never put down. I devoured this book as there is so much good within the pages. Not only am I floored by the way she takes two different timelines and weaves the stories together flawlessly, but each story also holds my interest equally. Some writers focus more energy on only one of the timelines, causing the other to be more dull, but not Wright!. Each of the characters, no matter if they were minor or not, had me vested in their story and wanting to see it turnout for the best. Jaime Jo Wright is fast becoming one of my favorite authors and keeps me aching for more stories and worlds to lose myself in. I recommend this book to anyone that enjoys a beautifully crafted mystery with lots of depth to it and has a lot of time to set aside to devote to the story.

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

Come Back to Me

Author: Jody Hedlund

Series: Waters of Time #1

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: June 1, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A fun twist to a time slip with some time travel!

When Marian Creighton receives a phone call from one of her father’s colleague’s in Canterbury telling her that he has fallen into a coma, she hops on the first flight across the pond to find out what is wrong.  Her family has been a mess since her mother had a rare genetic disease that was fatal and was passed along to her sister.  She quickly discovers that this may be connected to his lunacy in searching for a single cure for all diseases.  As she begins to uncover his research, she discovers he has some artifacts that are tied to holy water stored centuries ago.  She also finds that she is not the only one looking for items that he left hidden.  When Marian ingest some of the residue from the artifact, she finds herself transported back to the middle ages, during a very inconvenient time to be without protection.  Can she find her way back to the present?  And will she want to?

For my first Jody Hedlund novel, this was quite a ride.  I’ve read several time slip novels, but none that have the same character split centuries apart.   It was a little bit romance, a little bit time travel, and a little bit time slip, but it was quite entertaining.  For those that enjoy the unlikely romance aspect in a novel, this one is for you.  And if you enjoy a little bit of high stress situations with some suspense, this will fall into your favorites as well.  Hedlund did a great job of both character development and world building.  It makes me look forward to what is going to happen in the second book of the series!

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.

The English Wife

Author: Adrienne Chinn

Publisher: One More Chapter

Release Date: June 23, 2020

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Two stories full of secrets that can finally bring out the truth!

Ellie Burgess has kept her life in order with the way she wants it to be in London with the threat of war.  She is studying art and engaged to her lifelong friend George.  But after the war begins and her best friend is killed in a bombing, she feels that she must do her part and join the fire service.  Her predictable love life also takes a turn when she meets a Newfoundlander named Thomas Parsons.  She realizes that she loves George but has never been in love with him as she is with Thomas.  She makes a decision that compromises every relationship within in her family and elopes with Thomas before he is sent off to war.  After almost of year of no correspondence after he is taken a POW, Ellie has all but decided that Thomas has perished until she finally receives a letter from him back in Newfoundland.  She packs up her belongings with their newborn son and heads across the Atlantic in a course that will forever change her life.

Sophie Parry is on a flight from London to New York for an interview with a prestigious architecture firm on September 11, 2001.  When her plan is diverted to Gander, Newfoundland and she realizes that she is not getting to New York anytime soon, she decides to call on her Aunt Ellie that she has never known.  Her mother hated her aunt and she never knew why.  Could it be fate that brought them together now?

I love a book that manages to come full circle from beginning to end.  There were quite a lot of little twists towards the end of the book, several of which were quite surprising.  I loved reading both stories, and it took having Ellie’s backstory to really understand Sophie.  I really felt for Ellie with all that she had to go through, but she was a trooper.  I also enjoyed watching Sophie’s character get developed and grow with an understanding of what to live for instead of how she was living.  There is so much going on in this novel that it would take a long time to unpack, but I feel that the reader should enjoy the gift that this book really is.  There is a lot of Newfoundland slang throughout the book that is pretty easy to pick up on.  This is the first book that I’ve read set there, but it seems like it would be a beautiful place to visit. 

There is a little bit of foul language throughout the book, but it doesn’t overpower the story.  Even so, I recommend this book for mature readers.

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

The Orchard House

Author: Heidi Chiavaroli

Publisher: Tyndale House

Release Date: February 9, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Two great stories that crossover in ways you won’t expect!

Taylor has had a rough go at life.  Abandoned by her mother at a young age and left with her uncle.  The uncle ends up going to prison and Taylor is placed in the foster care system.  Then in 1995, she is adopted by her best friend’s parents and she now has not only a sister, but a family.  Even so, she still feels like she is outside of their love and is more of a hindrance than a gift.  But she and her new sister, Victoria, share a common interest: writing.  Living in Concord, Massachusetts right down the street from Louisa May Alcott’s home, The Orchard House, makes many a young girl dream of writing.  They have their ups and downs over the next few years, but one evening Victoria betrays Taylor in one of the worst ways she can imagine and there is no going back.

Just after the civil war, Johanna Suhre has become acquainted through letters with Louise May Alcott after Louisa used Johanna’s late brother John as the basis of her publication Hospital Sketches.  When Louisa decides to go abroad to Europe for a time, she offers an adventure to Johanna to come stay at Orchard House in her absence to help take care of the house.  While there, Johanna becomes smitten with the neighbor Nathan Bancroft who Louisa does not hold in high regard.  Could this romance be the end of their friendship? 

This is the first book that I’ve read by Heidi Chiavaroli, but WOW!  I was hooked at the beginning and couldn’t stop reading until I found out what happened in both stories!  It’s easy to get lost in one of the stories of a time-slip novel but it takes a very talented author to get readers to lose themselves in both stories.  I loved how much detail she paid to each time period, not only the 1800s but even 1995 and early 2000s.  It was fun to have the main character my own age for a change and reminisce about how things were back when I was in high school and college.  A walk down memory lane for sure.

I related most to Taylor.  I’ve haven’t had the rough beginning that she did, but it was so easy to cheer for her when she was wronged that you didn’t want her family to pull her back.  In the end, it worked out for the best, but the process was a little messy, which made it real.  I’ve known women like Victoria and those in her situation and it is really tough to deal with.  It takes a lot of time and emotional withdraws to get someone through those times.  I loved how the author was able to use those two stories to draw similarities, but it might be in such a way that readers won’t notice until is right upon them.  She also managed to show the importance of faith and a relationship with God in a subtle yet very real way!  Great story!

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

2020 Top Time Slip Novels

One of our favorite genres is the time slip, where we get to enjoy both historical fiction as well as a present storyline. This is almost like having two novels in one and any of these books will keep you well occupied into the night!

The Edge of Belonging by Amanda Cox

A fantastic coming of age story about finding yourself in the darkest of times and learning that no matter what, everyone deserves happiness! The way the two stories of Ivy and Harvey intertwined kept us intrigued and made this an easy top choice.

Read the full review.

The Haunting of Bonaventure Circus by Jaime Jo Wright

Wright always delivers a spectacular tale that balances darkness and light and her newest release was no exception! This story is thrilling, mysterious, and moving focusing on brokenness, revenge, love, and a yearning to belong.

Read the full review.

The Book of Lost Friends by Lisa Wingate

Even though it made its way onto our historical fiction list (both timelines were historical), it is still a masterful time slip by Lisa Wingate. Both stories were intriguing and it took both to find out the truth.

Read the full review.

Fragments of Light by Michele Phoenix

This book had so much raw emotion that readers can’t help but feel for the characters involved. The healing encountered in this book makes it the icing on the cake.

Read the full review.

The Haunting at Bonaventure Circus

Author: Jaime Jo Wright

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: September 1, 2020

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

In her newest release, Jaime Jo Wright will blow readers away with this thrilling, mysterious, and moving tale of brokenness, revenge, love and a yearning to belong. 

Split between 1928 and present day in the fictional town of Bluff River, Wisconsin. In 1928, readers meet Pippa Ripley, whose father is the owner of Bonaventure circus. Pippa was rejected from the circus as a baby and left on the doorstep of the owners who raised her as their own. Pippa receives mysterious packages and messages from someone called the Watchman, which lead her to look for clues to her birth. Pippa joins forces with a man trying to find answers to who murdered his sister and leads them both to evidence of a serial killer associated with the circus.  Fast forward to present day and the old circus is in jeopardy of being torn down. Chandler Faulk works for her uncle at his real estate firm and has been tasked with seeing if it is worth, preserving for history or tearing it down. She moves to the small town with her young son to dive into the history of the circus depot all while trying to balance living with her newly diagnosed autoimmune disease and being a single mother. As she researches, she finds clues to unsolved murders of the past and newer murders. The more she digs into the past, the darker things seem, and Chandler must determine if saving the depot is worth her safety.

Jaime Jo Wright has done it again! The Haunting at Bonaventure Circus is a stunning, thrilling tale that is hard to put down. Any time you pick up a book by Wright, you know you are going to be in for an adventure. It is hard to do a dual timeline and keep the reader engaged and not confused. The set up for this one does take a little bit longer but is worth it in the end. She developed such a great backstory for the characters that helped me connect with them on a deep level. Pippa and Chandler both have very different stories and each of them is unique but ties in by the end in such a beautiful way.  I loved the way Wright brought it all full circle. This book tackles a lot of tough issues, a character with a physical deformity and one with a chronic illness, not something that is written about enough these days considering how common it is becoming in our world. She does this in a way that doesn’t make the character seem weak, instead readers are able to see her as one of us and connect; if it were a character that had nothing wrong they would seem too perfect and be a turn off. I am thankful for the authors that tackle these difficult subjects in such a way that will leave readers thinking about it but not turned off either. If you have never picked up a Jaime Jo Wright book, I would say run, don’t walk, to your bookstore and grab a copy of this one today, you won’t regret it. Readers that enjoy stories full of mystery, adventure, a little romance and a whole lot of hope will not want to miss this one.

The Book of Lost Friends

Book of lost friendsAuthor: Lisa Wingate

Publisher: Ballantine

Release Date: April 7, 2020

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Wingate again brings history to life with a tale based on real world events that will reconnect people!

Louisiana in 1875 is in the full swing of post-civil war reconstruction. Hannie Gossett is now a free colored woman, but with no place to go she remained on the Gossett Grove planation and entered into a share cropping contract with the master of the planation. But when he goes to Texas to bring back his troublesome son, it is believed that he has been felled by some ill luck and perhaps dead. One night, the half-breed creole daughter of the master’s mistress shows up to seek her inheritance. When his rightful daughter, Missy Lavina, and her half-sister, Juneau Jane set off to find out the truth about his will, Hannie knows that she must tag along to find out the truth so that she can keep her share cropping land. She could never have imagined this trip would have spanned across half of Texas and introduced her to more truth than she had ever known.

In 1987, Benny Silva has taken a teaching job in Augustine, Louisiana to assist in forgiveness on her student loan. The first day in class she learns the truth about this school, no one really cares. She is just a babysitter for a group of kids between the bells. Almost all the kids are from impoverished families and many don’t have enough food to eat. When a guest speaker spurs the movement of a project in her classroom that excites her kids, things start to take a turn for the better, until members of the community that don’t want things to change get involved. Benny decides that she will do whatever it takes to get her kids to improve their learning and participation at school, even if it cost her the job.

I love how Lisa Wingate can connect the past and present (or at least closer to the present in this case) with a book. The Book of Lost Friends centers on the Lost Friends column that was published in Southern newspapers that reconnected families separated by slavery. Several of the actual stories are shared throughout the book in-between chapters. Both stories were powerful. Hannie become the matriarch of the town of Augustine, but not before a lifetime of adventure that developed the book. Benny was able to connect seemingly worthless kids to their past ancestors and give them hope for the future. I’m not sure which story that I enjoyed better. As always, her research on the time period is spot on. I enjoyed reading about the Texas hill country during this time period with references to present day Menard and Fort McKavett.

I hope that as many readers as possible will enjoy this book as with her previous.

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