Eye of the Storm

Eye of the StormAuthor: Frank Cavallo

Publisher: Create Space

Release Date: August 11, 2016

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

An interesting Sci/Fi novel that will take the reader to another world full of danger and mythical creatures.

Eric Slade is a retired Navy SEAL that now works in remote parts of the world making documentaries. When he is hired by Dr. Anna Fayne for a new mission, he thinks it will be just another day at the office for him. When the two, along with the rest of their team, are caught up in a mysterious storm and sent through a rift in space/time, they end up stranded in a strange lost world.  Eventually they are the only two still alive and are desperate to survive and find a way back home from the savage land they now find themselves in.

This book is one I thought I would really like. I enjoy fantasy novels and this one sounded very interesting.  Unfortunately for me, Eye of the Storm went farther to the sci/fi aspect than fantasy for my liking.  I believe that lovers of science fiction will thoroughly enjoy this book though.  The story was good, but when getting into the science fiction and mythical terminology I found myself lost more often than not trying to figure out how to say something or what it was even talking about.  I think a glossary at the front might help readers as a reference for some of the harder words and what they refer to.  There is a little bit of everything in the story: action, romance, adventure, danger and science beyond our world.  Some of the characters were more relatable than others, I think that was the way the scenes were set up more than everything.  There was a lot of potential here but it fell flat for me.  I do recommend this to readers that love science fiction novels with a little bit of fantasy and romance sprinkled in the mix.

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

Under a Summer Sky

Under a summer skyAuthor: Melody Carlson

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: June 6, 2017

Reviewer: Jennifer S. Roman

Melody Carlson brings another sweet yet fun romance to her many readers in Under a Summer Sky: A Savannah Romance.  Nicole Anderson, art teacher in Seattle, is languishing teaching high school students.  She knows her lectures are boring and she is not creating art as she had hoped.  With summer break looming on the horizon, she hopes her summer is quiet and productive.  That is, until her mother shows up unexpectedly at the end of her school day on a Friday.  It turns out that her mother’s friends are taking a summer-long tour around the world, and her mother has recommended that Nicole manage the friends’ art gallery in Savannah while they are gone.

The trip is spur-of-the-moment, and Nicole has no formal training to run an art gallery, but she decides it would be fun.  Besides, her childhood crush, Alex, the son of her parents’ friends, is going to be around as he finalizes his divorce.  She knows she can rely on him to help her with the gallery, and maybe start up a romance.  What Nicole doesn’t expect, however, is that Alex is irresponsible with his teenage daughter Bernice.  Additionally, Amyra, her co-worker at the gallery is a snobbish, rude woman who tries to control Nicole.  To make matters worse, Nicole was told that she would be managing the gallery, not Amyra, but nobody told Amyra that.  Nicole must deal with her frustrated colleague while also trying to keep an eye on Bernice.

As the summer progresses, Nicole manages to sell several pieces of art at the gallery while signing new artists.  She realizes she is good at running the gallery and that she has feelings for Alex’ nerdy brother Ryan instead of Alex.  How this will play out with the boys’ sibling rivalry is anyone’s guess.

True to form, Melody Carlson has written a sweet romance novel set in a beautiful setting.  She brings just the right amount of conflict to make the story interesting while not going overboard.  The characters are likeable and realistic, albeit predictable.  Still, for a summer romance with plenty of southern charm, this book fits the bill.

Readers who take this book for its simple romantic story will enjoy it.  There are not a lot of complex situations or characters, but they are fun and easy to understand.  The romance is not bodice-ripper; rather, it’s the first stage of romance that involves butterflies in the stomach and hand-holding.  It’s a fun read that relies as much on the setting as the characters to tell the story.

This is a charming book that does not contain violence, sex, or foul language.  For this reason, I recommend this book for young adult readers and up.  Fans of Melody Carlson and sweet romances in general will find this book enjoyable.

Naomi’s Hope

Naomi's HopeAuthor: Jan Drexler

Series: Journey to Pleasant Prairie #3

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: June 6, 2017

Reviewer: Jennifer S. Roman

The third and final installment in the Journey to Pleasant Prairie series finds a newcomer, Cap Stoltzfus, joining the two groups of Amish who have arrived in LaGrange County, Indiana, in the 1840s.  One group is from Ohio, and one group is from Pennsylvania.  Although one group is considered more progressive than the other, they live and work together across a wide area separated by marsh and forest.  They make miles-long treks on Sundays for church services and during the week to help their neighbors with chores.  Cap finds himself settling in nicely, and is especially happy when he meets Naomi Schrock, a single girl who lives with her family and son near Cap’s new cabin.  She has rescued a young boy whose family perished in a deadly storm, and even though her neighbors accept it, some people gossip that the boy, Davey, is the product of a sinful relationship.  Cap is determined to get to know Naomi while finding out the truth of Davey’s coming to live with Naomi.

Meanwhile, a new preacher has arrived in the settlement, and he brings back horrible memories for Cap.  Shem Fischer used to bully Cap when they were boys, and while Cap does his best to forgive Shem and put that experience in the past, he can’t help but feel that Shem is stirring up trouble throughout the settlement.  Rumors fly, people refuse to help one another, and there is talk of breaking the church into two different sects.  Shem seems to be behind all of it, but Cap has no proof.  It’s up to the other members of the church to see Shem for his bad behavior and keep him in check.

I have enjoyed the first two books in this series, so I was excited to read the final book, as well.  I have to admit that I had no idea there could be such Peyton Place-like drama playing out in an Amish settlement in the middle of Indiana, but after reading this book, it’s a whole new possibility.  People are quarreling over where to hold church, how to plant and harvest crops, and what to serve for Sunday dinner.  Married people have their eyes on someone other than their spouses, and rumors fly like birds.  This is probably not typical of the average Amish settlement, but in this book, it was quite common.  While the Amish are not immune to drama and conflicting personalities, it seems like this is an awful lot for a small new community.

I enjoyed the characters this book has, including the many newcomers.  Several main characters and side characters have personal conflicts that need to be addressed, and they realize that until they give them up to God, the issues won’t go away.  This causes stress in a few relationships, and the people involved learn how to work together instead of apart.  There are many lessons for the characters to earn, the biggest being to trust God above all others.  While some of the drama may be a bit over-the-top, the storylines and true commitment to living a simple life make the book a worthwhile read.

This is a charming book that does not contain violence, sex, or foul language.  For this reason, I recommend this book for young adult readers and up.  Fans of Amish fiction, Amish romance, or a good clean story about the settling of America will enjoy the story.

Cast the First Stone

Cast the First StoneAuthor: James W. Ziski

Series: Ellie Stone Mystery #4

Publisher: Seventh Street Books

Release Date: June 6, 2017

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Set in the 1960’s with a female reporter investigating a missing person and a murder, this is a must read for all mystery lovers.

Ellie Stone is a reporter for the New Holland Republic and is assigned to travel to Hollywood to interview Tony Eberle, the hometown actor that is making his big break in the big city. Upon arriving, she finds that Eberle has disappeared and the producer that was vital in getting him the part has been found murdered with Tony is now the prime suspect.  Ellie puts all her investigating tactics to the test to find Tony and figure out what is behind this mystery, hoping it isn’t Tony, which would have the citizens of New Holland reading about their beloved Tony being a murderer.

The first thing I need to say about this book is it is the fourth in a series, I didn’t realize this when reading it and don’t believe it influenced how I enjoyed the book. Ellie is a very ambitious woman that is looking to make a name for herself in the world of reporters.  In this time period, bring a woman and breaking into this area is a very difficult thing to accomplish.  Ellie didn’t let any of that keep her from pursuing what she felt she was meant to do. Having an assignment that sends her to Hollywood and then investigating the disappearance of Tony and the murder ends up putting all of her skills to the test.  Even when she finds herself in danger while trying to get the next lead in her story, she still keeps pushing forward.  I liked her and the spunk she had.  It is probably one of the best aspects of the story.  A few of the characters are questionable at times in how they react in different situations that could have played out better.  While Ellie is the main character, there are too many secondary characters to keep track of.  If a few had been left out or combined, the story would have flowed a little better for readers.  You do have to keep in mind that this is set in the 1960s while reading to keep from getting confused about prices of things and landmarks.  While this isn’t one I would normally pick up, I did enjoy the story and will recommend it to mystery lovers for a good read.

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

The Runaway

The RunawayAuthor: Claire Wong

Publisher: Lion Fiction

Release Date: February 17, 2017

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

One small move of defiance can send a full village out of control.

Seventeen-year-old Rhiannon Morgan has finally had her fill of her aunt. She’s tired of her small village’s hypocrisy, especially from her Aunt Diana.  So, she takes matters into her own hands and sets off to live in the woods a short distance from the village.  Once there, she begins to craft her own imaginary world full of stories of heroes that she learned from the village storyteller.  But back in the village, life begins to unravel for many of its occupants.   A dark secret from the past begins to reveal itself causing a chain reaction that could ensure that history repeats itself.

This was a fascinating debut novel. Wong really brought the character of Rhiannon to life in a relatable way.  Being essentially orphaned and having to live with her Aunt’s family and the uncle that she actually made a connection with died a few short years later.  Now she has developed a thick skin, she pushes people away rather than being accepted by them.  Diana too developed a habit of pushing people away, but also bullied others into getting her way as a leader.  The story is ultimately about forgiveness in many different fashions.

I liked that the stories that the children were told were actually based on fact rather than myth, but isn’t that always the case? Just because something seems farfetched or not attainable doesn’t mean that it is true.

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

Dark Deception

Dark DeceptionAuthor: Nancy Mehl

Series: Defenders of Justice #2

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: June 6, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A fast paced, gripping story that will leave readers wanting more until the very last page. By far the best I have read by Nancy Mehl.

After surviving an attack by a serial killer four years ago, Kate O’Brien has been living a quiet life in the small town of Shelter Cove, Arkansas in the witness protection program. It has been a struggle to get her life back to something she can be happy with, especially in the beginning when she wanted to end it all.  The man that attacked her has been in prison, but now there is new evidence showing he might not be the murderer.  Kate is subpoenaed to testify in the new trial. Afraid to face her past, Kate refuses to go until Tony DeLuca, the deputy Marshal who was assigned to protect her during the original trial, comes to escort her back.  This is one assignment Tony has no problem taking.  He has had a hard time getting over Kate O’Brien.  She made an impression on him and he hasn’t been able to get her out of his mind.  As Tony arrives and prepares to take Kate back, the case takes an interesting turn that ends up putting both him and Kate in danger.

I have been a fan of Nancy Mehl for a while now and I must say that Dark Deception is her best yet. The character development and the situations they found themselves in were what I enjoyed the most.  Part of it could be that that Kate is a twin and so am I.  Seeing how Kate had to deal with that loss was played out really well.  A few instances with Tony could have been fleshed out better to make him more believable in his role.  But other than that, I don’t have many negatives to say about this book.  The scenes were tight, the characters were written to play out as I felt they actually would, and the suspense was very well written.  It can be difficult writing romantic suspense and find the right balance between the two in order to keep the story flowing just right.  With each book, I feel Mehl is getting better and better at fining that stride and getting the dynamic just right.  I recommend this book to fans of Mehl and romantic suspense novels that will keep you guessing till the end.

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

The Divide

The DivideAuthor: Jolina Petersheim

Series: The Alliance #2

Publisher: Tyndale

Release Date: June 6, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

The stunning sequel to The Alliance is even better than I imagined!

For the last six months, Leora Ebersole and Jabil Snyder have moved the Mennonite community from their village up to the mountains in order to escape disaster. Every night, Leora still wonders about the fate of Moses Hughes, who stayed behind to give the community a chance to get away before a gang overtook their village to plunder anything that was left.  But the winter has been very harsh and people are beginning to starve.  The men who hunt and gather for food are starting to grow weary of providing for those who are not able to help.  Worse yet, a sickness comes into the camp, threatening to kill many of the other members that are already in a weekend state.  Can they survive the winter? Much less the outside world?

Okay, I realize that the synopsis is a bit vague and doesn’t really hint much on the fate of Moses and whether he continues to be a main character in the story. But that is because you really need to read this to find out for yourself.  Let’s just say that there was so much tension in the Jabil-Leora-Moses triangle in the first book, that Petersheim found a way to continue that tension throughout this story.  Now the title definitely draws you into believing that some event or relationship within the story causing a divide between the community.  And that is true, but it is not just the Mennonite community that it divides.  There is another group that is in this story that must make a decision similar to drawing a line in the sand.  And the reason behind it is shocking.

I really hope that they make these two books into movies. I think they would be awesome to watch.  And Petersheim has mastered the art of cliff hangers at the end of chapters to make you keep turning the pages to see what is going to happen.  Spoiler alert: (two of the main characters from the first book get killed off)!  Once again, the events in this book could easily happen at any time, but I hope that they never do.  But if they did, I can assure you there would be natural division just as described.  This is one of the must reads of 2017!

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