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.


BridgesAuthor: Maria Murnane

Series: Daphne White #2

Publisher: Wink’s Link

Release Date: April 4, 2017

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

The three musketeers are back with some shocking surprises that may throw readers for a loop!

Daphne has taken control of her life and is using her journalism background to write a novel based on the trip she and her two friends took to the Caribbean. It’s a great book, but all the agents she has sent it off to don’t feel it is within their representation area.  Then on a surprise video chat, Skylar drops a bombshell, she is getting married!  The upcoming 4th or July weekend brings the three of them back together for a bachelorette party.  However, there are more surprises in the work from both KC and Skylar.  Just because they look like they’ve got it together, doesn’t mean they don’t have problems.

I’m so happy that I read the first book in this series because a lot of it builds off what happened there. And it’s always good to come back to loveable characters when you start a new book.  It’s like getting back together with old friends.  That was the case in this book, I was just one of the musketeers along for the ride.  Daphne is back in her insecure mode after she sees how Skylar actually lives.  And it gets the best of her a couple of times.  This book really goes deeper into the problems that Skylar and KC have and brings everyone to a common level more than the first book.  There were definitely a couple of shockers that the author dropped in, but that’s what makes it fun.  You will enjoy this one, I guarantee it.

There is some mild language and some implied sex, but nothing graphic. I recommend this book to those who love a good coming of older age story.

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

Wait for Rain

Wait for RainAuthor: Maria Murnane

Series: Daphne White #1

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

Release Date: February 24, 2015

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A refreshing look at turning forty when life hasn’t gone as planned.

Daphne White has not lived the life she planned. She graduated with honors from Northwestern University in journalism and was ready to set the world on fire while winning a Pulitzer in the process.  Then she met Brian, slight sidetrack in plans but she was in love.  A few short months later brought a new daughter, Emma into her life.  Then she made the decision to be a stay at home mom and put her dreams on hold.  Fifteen years later, she and Brian grew apart and are divorced.  He is getting remarried, but she is stuck in a rut.   So when her two college friends suggest a girls getaway to the island of St. Mirika for Daphne’s fortieth birthday, she hopes the trip can help her put some perspective into her life.  But will being around old friends help her or make her feel worse compared to their accomplishments?

I wasn’t sure how this story was going to play out, but it is was really enjoyable. It centers around Daphne turning forty and feeling like a failure in her marriage and missing out professionally.  With the help of her workaholic friend Skylar and her super fit energetic friend KC, Daphne discovers how to move forward with her life.  She even manages to have her first date, maybe even a little more if you want to read to find out.  I’m sure many people feel the way that Daphne does and reading this book may help them put their life in perspective as well.

There is some mild language and some implied sex, but nothing graphic. I recommend this book to those who love a good coming of older age story.

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

The Summer that made Us

SummerAuthor: Robyn Carr

Publisher: Mira

Release Date: September 5, 2017

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

And you think your family is screwed up!

Charley’s world has just been turned upside down. After years of having her own successful morning talk show in San Francisco, she suddenly finds it cancelled without any job options available.  Incredibly, her life partner of twenty-two years decides now would be the perfect time to get married to fix her problems.  But the worse thing is that her sister Meg is slowly dying from stage four breast cancer.  When Meg decides she wants to spend the summer at the lake house that the family used growing up, Charley knows it will be a huge undertaking to restore the house and the family after twenty seven years.  Meg soon sends out letters to the cousins and hopes that everyone will show up, even though she doubts they will.  But they eventually do.  One cousin is just released from prison, another lives in a make believe world, and the other one fully separated from the family after the accident that split the family apart all those years ago.  As they come back together, they start working through the events that tore them down as they are made whole again.

Having only read Robyn Carr’s Sullivan Crossing series, this was not exactly what I expected, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. The recurring theme of hope and restoration of the family shines through in this new novel.  This family is messed up, but in reality, aren’t so many others?

The majority of the book is told around the central character of Charley, but does also have a few sideline character views as well. Each of the characters shares their life experience in different viewpoints that really puts everything into perspective.  The event that I thought split everyone up wasn’t actually the case.  It was something completely different.  That added a little bit of mystery.

There is some harsh language and sex scenes throughout, so I 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.

Portrait of Vengeance

Portrait of VengenaceAuthor: Carrie Stuart Parks

Series: Gwen Marcey #4

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: August 8, 2017

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Things get personal for Gwen as she finally unravels some of her own history.

After returning from her previous assignment in Kentucky, forensic artist Gwen Marcey is looking forward to some vacation time with her new romantic partner Blake, whom she also met in Kentucky on the previous case. However, a new case so close to her own childhood story has struck a nerve that she can’t refuse it, which may jeopardize her relationship with Blake for good.  A double homicide and a missing four-year-old girl on a tribal reservation in Idaho echoes a memory of when she was fourteen.  But as she investigates the case, memories from her past begin to unravel and she starts to realize the truth she has held onto may be all lies.  With her best friend, Beth, and trusty dog, Winston, Gwen sets events that started over thirty years ago, back in motion.

This was another exciting story that landed the main character in continual peril. Gwen finds her share of hardships in both her professional and personal life.  This book gets really personal for Gwen as it deals with the death of her parents and her life in-between.  There is a lot of irony in that the people she meets are somehow all connected to her past, but that may happen more often than it gets credit for.  Even so, there is a lot of area history included in this book that made it interesting to account for the current murders in the area. And as in previous books, Ginger and MaryAnn come to her rescue again, although likely for the last time.  If you have no idea what I’m talking about, then you need to read it to find out.

I was a little disappointed that the after the connection that Gwen and her daughter made in the previous book, there was little this book built on that. Her ex-husband is still a piece of work that shows up with the occasional phone call and in her thoughts.  Other than seeing Gwen continually build up her esteem, it’s almost like the last book didn’t happen.  I hope to see more of what went on previously show up in the next installment.

If you enjoy a good mystery with some humor and history thrown in, grab a copy and enjoy!

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

One Wrong Turn

one wrong turnAuthor: Deanna Lynn Sletten

Publisher: Lake Union

Release Date: June 20, 2017

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

All it takes is one wrong turn to change a life. One moment perfect, the next moment shattered.

When Clay gets a call that is wife Jess has been involved in a vehicular accident, he races from Los Angeles to the Victorian home in northern California that his wife has been converting to a bed and breakfast. Due to the impact of the accident, she is currently in a coma.  Things might go easier when he sees his daughters, Maddie and Jilly, except that he hasn’t talked to them in almost two years.  Clay has been recovering from alcoholism and after rehab for the third time planned to make it stick because he couldn’t lose his family, but in the end, he almost did anyway.  Maddie is twelve and is angry with him and scared.  Jilly is seven and doesn’t remember him enough to be angry.  Can the stress of this situation keep him from turning back to the bottle?  What if Jess never wakes up?  All because of one wrong turn.

Okay, so I was hooked after the first chapter. A few short hours later, I was done.  That’s just how good this book is and how well written it is.  Sletten knows how to garner an emotional response from me that makes me keep reading to find out what is going to happen.  Even when one of the main characters has a debilitating problem that is destroying his or her life, you just have to keep reading.  It’s painful to watch this because you can tell what is about to happen, but you just must keep going.  You can’t help it as a reader.  In this case, it happened twice.  The back story for Clay was necessary, but just so sad to keep continuing.  But Jess always had a ton of love for him.  But the most difficult to watch was Maddie’s transition in present day.  To realize that the story she had made up about her father wasn’t true and to finally she her walls crumble.

I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure how this was going to play out. I was prepared for a broken heart as a reader at the end, but still had hope for a miracle.  If you want to know what happened, you are just going to have to read it yourself!

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