The Family Gathering

The Family gatheringAuthor: Robyn Carr

Series: Sullivan’s Crossing #3

Publisher: Mira Books

Release Date: April 17, 2018

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

More second chances occur in Sullivan’s Crossing for more than just one new couple!

Dakota Jones spent several years of his life as an army ranger. But one decision to protect his men by defying a direct order left him discharged trying to figure out what to do with his life.  After a walkabout in Australia, he decides to head to Timberlake, Colorado to visit his brother Cal and meet his newborn niece.  His sister Sierra has also decided to stay in Timberlake with her fiancée Connie.  Shortly after arriving, he can understand why his family feels rooted her.  He also starts to meet the local women and has two prospects almost immediately.  Alyssa has a hair salon and Neely is a looker that comes on a little strong the first time he meets her.  In both cases, he is just not that interested.  He is interested in the bartender at a local bar and grille, but she is not interested in him.  Sidney has had a bad divorce and doesn’t know if she can ever trust men again, but Dakota is persistent.  However, the other women don’t like that they are not receiving his affection and he has picked up a stalker.  Can Dakota show this young woman that he is truly enraptured by her?  Or will someone beat him to the punch?

Of the Sullivan Crossing series, this book probably goes the deepest of any of the characters. Each main character is so real, flawed, and raw that they become alive instantly.  Dakota and Sid’s past romances were really tough to stomach based on the loss that each had.  Sierra and Connie’s predicament will likely make readers very emotional.  All this combined made the story fly off the page.  I couldn’t wait to get back to Sullivan’s Crossing after the last book as I was interested in what was going to happen to the final Jones sibling.  I couldn’t be happier with the outcome.  I would love to see this series continue with the family to see how the future plays out.

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

Before I Let You Go

Before I let you goAuthor: Kelly Rimmer

Publisher: Graydon House

Release Date: April 3, 2018

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A heart wrenching, emotional ride that is sure to make you reconsider your opinion on those affected through the story.

At 2:00 AM one morning, Lexie receives a phone call. Even before she looks at the phone, she knows exactly who it is: her sister, Annie.  Even though they haven’t spoken in two years, she knows what it is going to be.  Annie is high and in some sort of trouble.  Sure enough she’s high, but then she throws a curveball that Lexie didn’t see.  She’s also pregnant and in severe distress.  Lexie and her fiancé Sam must make the decision to convince Annie to go to the hospital before something worse happens to both her and the baby.  As she is stabilized, she tests positive for heroin, which opens a new legal battle for Annie.  In Alabama, if a women test positive during a pregnancy it is considered chemical endangerment of the child.  Annie’s only hope of ever seeing her daughter again is completing a rehab course at a court appointment facility while Lexie takes care of her daughter.  But is it too much to ask after all they’ve been through?

If you’ve never had to deal with a close relative going through addiction, this book may change your opinion on the matter. If you have had this situation, this book may be very difficult to read.  People should take the time to really research the brain when it becomes addicted to a substance and how it becomes addicted.  It is really remarkable to understand that it is an illness and not just a willpower issue that many people consider.  So much so that people often shame or belittle those with addiction problems, which actually drives them further down in the addiction process rather than help them.  This concept is seen here in this story.  The emotional frustration and tension is evident from the first chapter.  Fortunately, the reader gets to see Annie’s past through letters and discovers an understanding of how she got to be where she is.  I really appreciate all that the author has done to bring this issue to light and also educate readers on the different laws that govern issues such as this.

There is some strong foul language throughout the book that would be expected of the characters. Based on the content of the book, I recommend it for mature readers.

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

Hurricane Season

Hurricane SeasonAuthor: Lauren K. Denton

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: April 3, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Emotional, well-written, with a little suspense mixed in for good measure.

Ty and Betsy Franklin are owners of the Franklin Dairy in Alabama. Ty knew he wanted to take over his grandfather’s farm since he was fifteen, but it took a lot of hard work and sacrifice.  Betsy sacrificed a lot too, including her promising career in marketing to be with the man she fell in love with.  Together they’ve brought the farm into the modern era, but still have problems that come and go.  One problem they never planned on was being unsuccessful at having children, which tears at Betsy’s heart through their whole marriage.  That all changes when Betsy’s sister Jenna calls out of the blue asking Betsy to watch her two girls for two weeks while she goes on a writing retreat in Florida.  Jenna is a free spirit to say the least.  She never measured up to her parent’s expectations and once she was in college, she jumped from one adventure to the next, leaving her a single mom who currently manages a coffee shop.  Jenna who never wanted kids has two and Betsy who yearns for kids has none.  As the days with the girls continue, things begin to get strained in her and Ty’s marriage.  As hurricane season approaches, they must prepare the farm for the storm but may face one even greater in their relationship.

This book really stirred up my emotions. My heart yearned for Betsy as she went through her life often defeated because she couldn’t have kids.  The things she felt and some of her actions really hit home hard because we all struggle and do things that don’t make sense to anyone but ourselves.  Then in retrospect, we can look back and question why we even did those things in the first place.  It was this attribute that really brought Betsy to life for me.  Ty came alive quickly as well.  His loving heart towards his wife was wonderful, but he still got frustrated with her and would just shut down at times because he didn’t know what to do or what to say.  It was like this was based on a real life marriage.  In many instances, I understood how each character felt thinking through my own marriage.  Jenna reminds me of a few women in my life.  Doing what she did seems completely abnormal to me, but I know a few people that wouldn’t think otherwise.  It was easy to put faces to the characters and see the whole book acted out in front of me.

This book could easily be a case study for groups to read about and reflect on the behavior. I recommend it to all who love a good story.

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

Night Music

Night MusicAuthor: Deanna Lynn Sletten

Publisher: Self-Published

Release Date: March 13, 2018

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

When you can hear the night music, you know everything is safe. It’s when it stops that you know the storm is about to hit!

In 1968, Joe Russo has been shipped off to Vietnam. He has done well to keep himself and his fellow soldiers alive.  He doesn’t have any family and didn’t leave any friends behind, so when he gets offered a letter from a volunteer, he jumps at the chance.  His pen pal is a young girl named Charlotte (Char) Parsons, whose older brother died earlier in the war.  She writes to Joe of life in small college town that gives Joe hope after war.  If he can make it back stateside, maybe he will find a small town like that to settle down.

Fast-forward to 1970, Char is just starting her freshman year of college. Her friends are envious because she has a boyfriend that is a senior, who is very outspoken about ending the so called “Vietnam War.”  Char never really thought much about his opinions until she meets the new student Joe, who is a vet that was wounded in the war.  Joe brings a new perspective to Char and she starts to question her relationship with her boyfriend.  As the anti-war movement grows more intense, so do the emotions within Char who must decide the direction her life will go once and for all.

As usual, Sletten has crafted an emotional story centered with conflict that brings the characters to life. It happened so fast in this book, that the Joe, Char, and Deke had faces in no time.  I could picture them with ease and I’m pretty sure that Deke looked like Geoffrey Blake from Forrest Gump. The conflict within Char was raw and made it feel very real throughout the whole story.  I couldn’t help but root for her and Joe to be together and cringed when Joe kept Tony’s box because I knew what was going to happen and sure enough it did!  Why Joe?  Seriously, I can’t take things like that when I’ve fallen in love with someone’s relationship!

All that to say, if you enjoy romances written around the Vietnam war (or if you’ve ever read another Deanna Lynn Sletten book), I recommend this one as you will not be disappointed.

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

A Hundred Small Lessons

A hundred small lessonsAuthor: Ashley Hay

Publisher: Atria Books

Release Date: November 28, 2017

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Beautifully written, compelling, thought provoking, and just overall a good read.

After a fall that left her alone and helpless in her house, Elsie Gromley’s two kids make the decision to move her from the house she had lived in for sixty years to a nursing home. They put the house up for sale and a young family purchases the house.  Lucy Kiss, her husband Ben, and their young son move in and being to adjust to being a family rather than two lovers who have been skirting the globe.  Soon, the house begins to share its secrets with Lucy as it seems that there are little tidbits of Elsie left throughout the house that begins to connect Lucy and Elsie in unimaginable ways.

Sometimes it’s good to have a good, mellow book to read as you move into the holidays. The writing really help bring some introspection as the stories of Lucy and Elsie intertwined.  It hits a little close to home as my husband’s grandmother had almost the same experience not two years ago.  She fell in her house, which she had lived in for fifty-eight years, since the day of her wedding.  She broke her ankle and had to be moved into a nursing home for rehab.  Sadly, she passed shortly thereafter and never had a chance to return home.

There wasn’t much of a plot to the story, but more of just a steady flow of memories from Elsie and coming of age by Lucy. Even so, this was an interesting read and recommended for the genre audience.

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

The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck

Sarah HollenbeckAuthor: Bethany Turner

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: October 3, 2017

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Nothing like a fun romantic comedy for a fall read!

Sarah Hollenbeck has fallen from society’s grace. Having been stuck in a loveless marriage to a wealthy businessmen wasn’t too bad until she caught him in the act with another woman.  Now that she is divorced, she finds herself with nothing.  No friends, no job, and no resources.  Desperate for something, she joins a book club and decides to write poetry, which she finds is not her forte.  However, when she ventures into writing steamy romance novels where she pours her past lackluster love life into the words, she finds that not only is she good, she makes other women long for her books as well.  She is so good in fact, that she is able to land a trilogy book deal.  Everything is going great for her new life and then she finds that she has been lacking the one thing that makes her life even more meaningful: a true relationship with Christ.  Now she is in a dilemma.  She has a deadline for her next installment of steamy romance but feels that this writing is no longer the course she could take.  Couple that with she is falling for her new pastor makes for a fun and entertaining read.

This was a fun, quick, and witty read. Told from a first person view of the main character, the reader has a real chance to get to know her personally and quickly find that she is very flawed, which makes her seem more human.  I really enjoyed the relationships that she developed and getting to see how they played out as well as how she was her own worst enemy in keeping some of those relationships.  I have had some of the same thoughts she has and it was good to see that the author was likely drawing on personal experience on her main character.  A great fall book to have in your to-read pile!

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

If We Make It Home

If we make it homeAuthor: Christina Suzann Nelson

Publisher: Kregel

Release Date: September 26, 2017

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Inspirational, yet terrifying at times! No sleeping till this one is finished!

Three women who were college roommates venture back to their college home when they learn that the house is closing. Ireland has made a life as a college professor and has always had an eco-conscious lifestyle.  But a threat of a lawsuit from a student claiming he was denied grad school because he refused Ireland’s advances may ruin her career.  Jenna made a lifestyle as a stay at home mom after she and her husband had triplets.  But now that they have left the nest, Jenna has lost her identity and fears she may no longer be loved.  Victoria runs a huge ministry in Dallas, Texas but has just learned that her husband and her assistant may be romantically involved.  While at the reunion, they learn their fourth roommate passed away a few months before, who was the gel of their group.  At her daughter’s store, the meet a woman who takes other women up the in mountains for survival training and on a whim decide to do it in honor of their friend.  But will they make it home?

This was very a very inspirational book yet had the makings of a thriller at times. These three women are all introduced with the problems that each face.  Each personality begins to show through as each character is further developed.  And the way that the accomplish their fears is courageous.  But the wilderness exercise was the thrilling part of the story.  Nelson didn’t let up on the characters for a second.  After they overcame one impossible obstacle, another was thrown directly at them without even time for a breather.  It’s amazing that they made it through as much as they did.  If you feel that it is a little slow starting out, just wait until you get about halfway through the book.  There is no turning back!

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