Allie and Bea

AllieAuthor: Catherine Ryan Hyde

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

Release Date: May 23, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

I always forget how much I enjoy Catherine Ryan Hyde books until I pick them up. This might just be the best I have read by her.

After Bea’s husband died, she was able to get by, but just barely. That is, until she falls for a telephone scam that takes everything she has.  She leaves her small trailer behind and sets of in her van towards the Pacific Ocean with only her cat and easy chair in the back of the van.  After a short while on her journey, she runs into fifteen-year-old Allie who is on her own after her parents are put in jail for tax fraud and she was put in a group home.  Things in the group home are worse than she could have imagined, but not as bad as other places she could, and almost does, end up.  Fate throws the two together and they have to learn to trust each other.  As they journey up the Pacific Coast, they find that even though they were thrown together under unusual circumstances, maybe things won’t be as bad as they thought.

Allie and Bea is a very heartwarming novel on several levels.  If at first you think you are not going to enjoy this book, I encourage you to give it a little time.  Divided up into sections, one following Bea and the other following Allie, we get to see the story from the viewpoints of both characters and what they go through in order to end up in the place that ultimately throws them together.  At first it didn’t seem logical that their paths would cross, but Hyde did a beautiful job of bringing them together in a way that flowed with the story.  It took each of their life experiences to be able to help the other.  If Bea hadn’t gone through what she did, she never would have been there to help Allie when she desperately needed help. And if Allie hadn’t been through what she had, she wouldn’t have been able to help Bea in the way she needed also.  The way Hyde wove these characters together and the relationship they had was done in a way that I didn’t once question if this was what the characters would naturally do, it just made sense.  I felt for both Allie and Bea with what they went through and rejoiced in their triumphs and even had a few laughs. This book is full of life lessons and showing that family is not all about being related by blood, sometimes it is about so much more than what is in our DNA.

I have found with each new Catherine Ryan Hyde novel I read, I am continually adding her to my list of favorite authors.  I recommend this book to anyone who wants a good read that will help them think about how they view those around them and even restore a little faith in humanity at times.

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.

Bashert

BashertAuthor: Herb Freed

Publisher: Bellrock Press

Release Date: February 14, 2017

Rating: 3 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A love story that goes beyond this world and into the next.

The second that Dan Sobol and Marion Gladstone meet, they know they are meant to be together. Dan is an ex-rabbi that has made his way into the film industry.  Marion is a writer and film editor who is getting over a divorce that has made her an outcast in the industry.  Together, they travel the world making movies and enjoying their time together until it all comes to an end far too soon.

Finding true love is something seen in movies and rarely experienced in real life. Herb Freed takes the reader on an adventure in love that goes beyond this world.  While the premise of the story is very intriguing, I had a hard time sticking with it.  There were points that I felt could have been skipped completely because they closed the story off from flowing.  However, other parts  of the story kept me reading quickly to find out what was going to happen.  The writing flows at times and stalls at others.  Even so, this is a story that will make the reader believe in true love and want to achieve what Marion and Dan did.  It also makes you want to avoid the qualities of some of the other characters, as well as others we are around every day.  Overall it was a decent read, but not one I will likely pick up again.

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

Secrets of Worry Dolls

secrets-of-worry-dollsAuthor: Amy Impellizzeri

Publisher: Wyatt-McKenzie

Release Date: December 1, 2016

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Whispering your secrets to worry dolls is supposed to keep you from stressing, but it’s not always that easy.

Mayan tradition says that if you whisper your troubles to the Worry Dolls you won’t have to worry, they will do it for you. Kind of like a dream catcher to keep away the bad dreams.  The Mayan’s also have a calendar that says the world is about to end.  Mari and her daughter Lu have been through their fair share of tragedies.  Mari was supposed to be at the Twin Towers on 9/11 with her twin sister and father who died that day.  She was also supposed to be on a plane headed to Guatemala that crashes in her neighborhood.  Just as the plane crashes, Lu sees her world come crashing down just as quickly.  Secrets from both past and present come out and Lu has to find the strength to deal with them all on her own, if that is possible.

It is very hard to tell a story where you jump from past to present, along with alternating view-points. Many authors try this and it almost always falls flat.  Amy Impellizzeri may be the exception.  For some strange reason it worked here.  I am a twin so I found Impellizzeri’s use of twins in the story interesting, she did a good job showing the relationship and how losing her sister had an impact on Lu.  The chapters were short making the story flow just right.  There were a few points that things seemed to veer of topic but came back just as quickly.  I don’t want to give too much of the story away but I will say that even if it is hard to get into at times it is worth sticking with till the very end.  It would be nice if having Worry dolls and giving them our problems really did take them away, unfortunately it is harder than that.  I try my best not to worry but I fall short, just as we all do.  I love the concept here and the lessons taught in this book.  There were a few mature themes throughout making it not suitable for anyone beside the target audience age group.  Overall it was an enjoyable and I recommend it for those that enjoy an intriguing story with a few good twists.

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

Of Stillness and Storm

of-stillness-and-stormAuthor: Michele Phoenix

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: December 6, 2016

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A gripping, emotional tale of loss, love, and devastation.

Lauren lives with her husband, Sam, and son, Ryan, in Kathmandu, Nepal. She works as an English teacher at a local university so that Sam can do mission work in the remote villages in the mountain regions of Nepal.  Unfortunately, rather than finding adventure in her home country, Lauren is getting frustrated with living in Nepal, dealing with the unsanitary conditions, traffic, pollution, monsoons, and only seeing Sam for a third of the year.  Worse, Ryan has been closing himself off from them since before they left the states and barely answers questions when directed at him.

After coaxing from one of her stateside friends, Lauren sets up a Facebook account. Within a day, she has been contacted by another friend, Aidan, from the past who was a huge part of her life before college.  As she is drawn into her conversations with Aidan, she finds herself shutting out her other life and her relationship with Ryan starts to suffer further.  How can she work to save the relationships she already has?

First of all, let me say that if you read this book, it is going to affect you emotionally. It certainly did me.  The story is told from Lauren’s point of view and switches between present day in Nepal and her past story including how she and Sam met, her relationship with Aidan, and Ryan’s plunge into depression.  But ultimately, the story is not really about Lauren so much as it is about Ryan.  Michele Phoenix has a ministry set up to support missionary kids and the struggles that they deal with.  It is very evident that Ryan struggles with abandonment from his father, but doesn’t know how to express it.  Even if he did, Sam would probably not have taken it as he should have.

Speaking of Sam, it was interesting to see a missionary as an antagonist throughout the story. I continually got frustrated with his character and even shocked that he would continue to abandon his family.  He had a lot of personal ambition that I believe he took to make his vision come true, even when he had roadblocks in his way that could have been warnings.

This is a very difficult read emotionally and the ending may leave you with more questions than answers, but overall it is extremely well written and presented.

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

In the Blue Hour

in-the-blue-hourAuthor: Elizabeth Hall

Publisher: Lake Union Press

Release Date: November 1, 2016

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

The loss of a loved one is hard and it feels like they never really leave. That feeling lives where we can barely see it, in the blue hour.

When Elise Brooks has a dream about a car accident, she doesn’t think much of it, after all it is just a dream. Then a few weeks later, her husband is killed just like her dream.  She blames herself feeling that she missed the signs and could have somehow prevented his death.  Now she feels his spirit following her in the form of a raven.  There are forces at work beyond her understanding and she turns to both the Native American wisdom she grew up with and psychics, which she has always been skeptical about.  Clues lead her to take a journey after finding a mysterious address found in her late husband’s jacket.  She puts her trust in a new friend, Tom, or at least she hopes he is a friend, and follows the clues. Tom doesn’t believe in the supernatural but is happy to help Elise on her journey.  Together they will both find more than they could have ever imagined.

Let me start by saying that overall I really did enjoy the story. The way it was written, not so much.  The story started with mostly narrative, very little dialogue to move the story forward, and stayed that way throughout much of the rest of the novel.  When a reader opens a book to see if it might be worth their time and find page after page of narrative, it can be a turn off.  I know it is for me.  I think the story would have flowed much smoother if Hall had found a way to portray more of it through dialogue in some way.  This type of story does rely heavily on narrative, I get that, but when it causes me to want to skip over parts of the story just to get to something I deem more important.  However, had I done that with much of the narrative, I’m sure I missed a few key points that could have caused the ending to be a little less enjoyable, if not a little confusing.  The conclusion made me think that perhaps I was missing something from the beginning but it was all there just a little hard to follow at times.  It was still an enjoyable read, but not one I will pick up again.

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