You Belong With Me

You belong with meAuthor: Tari Faris

Series: Restoring Heritage #1

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: September 3, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Fans of small town reads will enjoy this book!

Hannah Thornton has one main goal in her mind, restore the heart of her hometown Heritage, Michigan. As a realtor in a small town, she works hard to sell off historic properties.  Unfortunately, people would rather buy newer properties than put up the money to restore older worn out houses.  Even her own brother is selling his house to pay for all the things that his fiancée wants.  When a local developer offers to buy up several properties, people begin to think it may be better to just sell out.  Hannah turns to her oldest friend, Luke, for help.  A local handyman with a dream of becoming fire chief, he reluctantly agrees to help her.  However, Luke has been facing his own demons and this endeavor will either bring them together or drive them apart.

This was a fun read that had me keep turning page after page. I enjoyed getting to see Hannah grow and mature as a person as she learned to let go of control and let things play out.  She came across as shallow at first (not as much as her brother’s fiancée, now there is a character) but she gained depth and bonded with me as a female reader.  She overcame challenges and put up a good fight to make her dream come true.  Likewise, Luke had his own challenges of abandonment, but turned out to be different than we he had believed his whole life.  Once each character was able to truly move past themselves, the romance played out great.  I’m looking forward to the next installment in Heritage.

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

The Time Collector

time collectorAuthor: Gwendolyn Womack

Publisher: Picador

Release Date: April 16, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Great story interweaving science fiction and history

Roan West has made a very comfortable living as an antique collector. He has an unfair advantage as a psychometrist, which means he can sense the past imprint by touching an object.  He has been able to find many valuable artifacts throughout his life, but he has also found that touching something that spans too many years might kill him.  His friend Stuart introduced him to a group of psychometrists that have been looking into artifacts that seem to have been misplaced through time known as ooparts.  Its strange that a ring appears in a cretaceous rock.  When part of the group begins working on solving the mystery, one ends up missing and another dead.  When Stuart doesn’t show up to a rendezvous with Roan, he knows something is amiss.  On the flight back to New Orleans, he discovers that a young woman named Melicent Tilpin has just used her gift in front of the world on Antiques Roadshow.  When it appears she might become a target, Roan decides he must help her and find his friend Stuart as well.

This was a really interesting read that wove several different parts of history into a common thread. Having the ability to sense the past by touching an object would be really cool, but could also be deadly as shown time and again in this book.  My favorite part was the stories that were shared by touching the objects as a first person account.  I also really enjoyed getting to see Roan and Melicent’s relationship bud as the story grew.  I think my only drawback to the story was the way it wrapped up.  For 300 pages there is such tension and excitement as the plot builds and the characters develop and then it just kind of finishes out over the last 50 pages.  I would love to see this story expanded upon.  I’m not a big fan of stories that have too much fluff, but this one was just building it up and could have kept it going.  Hopefully there is a sequel coming up that will help explain the overall mystery of the oopart.

There is some occasional harsh language as well as an implied sex scene, but nothing graphic.

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

Carry Me Away

Carry Me AwayAuthor: Dorothy Adamek

Series: Blue Wren Shallows #2

Publisher: Crabapple Press

Release Date: November 5, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Unlikely circumstances result in an unlikely romance.

Ada Carmichael has just lost her entire family in a shipwreck. The Black Swallow has sunk of the coast of Australia and Ada herself would have been a causality had it not been for the heroic action of midshipman Tom Darley.  As the two only survivors of the catastrophe, the media begins to go crazy.  Ada desperately needs to stay hidden before her past comes back to haunt her, but Tom could really use this publicity to make his dream come true.  When Tom’s plan to protect Ada go awry, it will take both of them to find redemption.

This is my first book by Adamek and she has a unique gift to bring a story setting to life. It takes a lot of talent to transport readers not only to a different time setting but an entirely different continent.  It is easy to see that she is a native of Australia as her descriptive scenery was bar none.  I felt as though I stood alongside the characters as I viewed the settings of the mainland and the island farms.  The romance felt natural and didn’t seem forced.  The characters fleshed out beautifully, flaws and all.  This is the second in a series but easily a standalone.  I recommend this to readers who love historical romances.

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

If Only I Could Tell You

If only I could tell youAuthor: Hannah Beckerman

Publisher: William Morrow

Release Date: October 15, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

When is a lie better than the truth? Secrets come back to haunt in this chilling tale that will leave readers guessing as to who really knew what and the damage caused when we assume we know what happened.

Audrey always dreamed and wished for her daughters to grow up and be best friends to each other. Unfortunately as they grew up, a secret tore them apart and as adults now they no longer speak to each other and refuse to let their own daughters have anything to do with one another. Audrey has watched her family come undone over the last few decades and as her time on this earth is coming to a close, she wonders if there is any way to make her family whole again. What she doesn’t realize, is a secret from three decades ago is the root cause of the problem and confronting the truth might be the hardest thing any of them have ever had to do.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I picked up this book. What I got was an engaging story with a tight plot and tension in all the right places to keep the story flowing beautifully. The back and forth point of views between Audrey, Jess, and Lily combined with the timelines helped encompass the whole story and kept me from feeling lost at times. I really enjoyed the setting even though none of it was familiar to me; everything was written in a way that helped me be able to picture the houses, and office buildings and each different place the characters found themselves. Hannah Beckerman did an outstanding job of weaving the different layers of time and points of view together to craft a story that kept me guessing as to what the final outcome would be right up to the very last pages. Each character had a special message to bring to the story and I don’t believe it could have been told any differently than it was. A few of the storylines could have been cut without affecting the story, Audrey and her outings with her granddaughters seemed at little monotonous and didn’t add to the story, but that is one of my only negatives about the book. Overall it was a very enjoyable read and one I would recommend to readers that like a story that will keep them guessing with intriguing characters and real scenarios they might find themselves in.

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

The Words Between Us

The Words between usAuthor: Erin Bartels

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: September 3, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A story of learning to trust.

Fourteen year old, Robin Windsor, finds herself living with her estranged grandmother in Sussex, Michigan, after her parents are arrested for unthinkable crimes, leaving Robin feeling lost and abandoned.  She soon meets Peter Flynt, who recently lost his mother.  Peter and Robin develop a unique friendship.  Through a shared love of books, they bond, as he gives her his mother’s books and she repays him with her poetry.  After a series of unfortunate events, including her grandmother’s death,  Robin feels betrayed by Peter and runs away.  After returning to Sussex years later, Robin opens a used bookstore and tries to recreate her life, while still hiding her true self, ashamed of her past.  She reconnects with a high school friend who encourages her to stretch out of her comfort zone, and maybe even attempt to have a romance.  Robin begins receiving packages in the mail containing Peter’s mother’s book collection, which she returned after her grandmother’s death.  She knows that Peter is reaching out to her.  Also, Robin begins to uncover the truth about her parents’ crimes, which she isn’t sure what to do with.  As she searches for truth, she reconciles her past with her future. In the end, Robin discovers that the truth is powerful and that there are good people in the world that she can trust.

This book switches back and forth between grown Robin and a youthful Robin, allowing the reader to see and understand her past and how it has created the person she is today.

I have mixed emotions after finishing this book.  I feel like the beginning was a series of negative events, with no redemption, or bright places for Robin.  She is a tragic character, like she reads about in her books.  Peter tries to draw her out, but it lacks a lightness, which didn’t inspire me to become enthralled in the book.  She kept her guard up through much of the book.  The second half was lighter and good things begin to happen to Robin, despite her efforts to hide and be invisible.  Even though so many parts of Robin’s life are tragic and she suffers many losses, she overcomes, and is able to reconcile many of the hurts caused by her parents.  She is able to regain trust in people.  I feel like this book, like Robin in her youth, lacked an emotional depth that would have made it better.  I liked seeing Robin both in her youth and as an adult, striving to overcome.  I like that this book ends with the idea that Robin will have her “happily ever after” allowing her to let go of the heartbreaks of her youth and start again. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves the beauty of a book or who loves a happy ending.

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

Wyatt

wyattAuthor: Susan May Warren

Series: Montana Marshalls #4

Publisher: SDG Publishing

Release Date: October 12, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

The fourth book in the Montana Marshalls series brings the action to a whole new level with threats crossing borders and relationships at an all-time high making this a must read by Susan May Warren

Wyatt Marshall has always felt like the outcast of the Marshall family. He never wanted to work on the family ranch or be a Ranger or SEAL like his brothers. Instead, hockey was his passion and he followed it all the way to the NHL. He is the most famous of his family and should be on top of the world but his life is missing something. He lost the only woman he has ever truly loved. Coco Stanley came to live with his family when she was fourteen and the two had a short relationship before she left to return to her home country of Russia. When Wyatt finds out Coco has been shot in Russia he lets nothing stop him from finding her and proving to her that he has never stopped loving her. Coco has never forgotten the time she spent at the Marshall ranch and the connection she had with everyone there, especially Wyatt. Is she ready to let herself love again after all this time?

Wyatt is a wonderful continuation of the Montana Marshall series. I love the way Susan May Warren has crafted this family comprised of strong, tough, and uniquely skilled individuals that all have their own talents and bring those talents together to help each other and the ones they love. Book three in the series wasn’t my favorite, so going into this installment I was a little hesitant I would enjoy it as much. I didn’t have to worry long, the pace was spectacular, the romance only fueled the tension, and suspense was spot on. Wyatt pulled at my heartstrings the way he wanted to be liked and respected but had a hard time believing he was worthy enough, something we all struggle with at one time or another. With the action taking place in Russia as well as back in the U.S., there was a lot to follow at times but Warren does a great job taking the reader along for the ride in whichever country readers find themselves. I loved the theme of redemption throughout and the calling for us to come to our Father and he will welcome us with open arms no matter how far we have strayed. Fans of Warren’s and this series will love the tie in of all the other characters and the way we get to see Wyatt’s story unfold. There is also a nice set up for the final book with a focus on Ruby Jane, which I for one can’t wait to see a female Marshall take the lead and teach the boys a thing or two. I recommend this to readers that love a great romantic suspense novel, even if you haven’t read any of Susan May Warren’s books before give this one a go and enjoy. I would recommend reading the other in the series first for readers to get a good feel for the backstory of the characters.

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

Eve 2.0

EVE 2.0Author: Winter Lawrence

Publisher: Melange Books Fire & Ice YA

Release Date: August 14, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A virtual reality game becomes more than players bargained for when they are put into a coma and wake up inside the game. Video gamers and even those that don’t play will have a hard time turning this one off until the last page, nonstop thrills and action that flies off the page makes Eve 2.0 a must read.

Gwen has spent the last few years isolating herself from those around her and immersing herself in the world of video games. She is one of the best around and her boyfriend, Pete, whom she met playing games but has never actually met in person, can’t wait to try his dad’s newest game. This game has been under lock and key, but somehow Pete sneaks a copy for both of them to try. As soon as they put on the gear they find themselves stuck in a top-secret government simulator called Eve 2.0 with no way out until they complete the objectives put before them. With each minute they are stuck in the game, the A.I. learns from them making it harder and harder for them to defeat the game. In the game with them are Gwen’s ex-boyfriend Ryan and his little brother. Not only does Gwen have to face her ex and the feelings still lurking beneath the surface but also try to get them all out of the game alive.

I was hesitant to read this book at first, I am not big into video games and wasn’t sure if it was going to interest me. I am happy to say that even though I am not into video games I thoroughly enjoyed Eve 2.0. Gwen, Ryan and Pete had a perfect dynamic with each other and the way they had to interact in the game and work together to survive made me ache for them to come out the other side. The world in which they find themselves is described so perfectly I had no trouble picturing them in each game they turned up in. With the knowledge that Pete and Gwen have from their extensive play-time with these games they are able to believably make their way through each obstacle they encounter. I loved the dynamic between Gwen, Ryan and Pete, it was so natural they way they played off of each other and the tension, as well as the humor, was all perfectly placed to keep me engaged and entertained. I am thrilled that this is the first in a series and can’t wait to see how the story unfolds next. I recommend this to readers that enjoy gaming books but that is not a necessary requirement to enjoy the story, gamers and non-gamers will enjoy this thrill ride.

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

Christmas in Winter Hill

Christmas in Winter HIllAuthor: Melody Carlson

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: September 3, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

If you love a good Hallmark movie, you will enjoy this book

Krista Galloway has taken a job as City Manager in the small town of Winter Hill, famous for its Christmasville celebration.  Not being a fan of the Christmas season, Krista is hesitant, but knows this is a great opportunity.  She and her daughter settle into their small apartment and life in their new town.  Krista faces many challenges as a young executive taking on a big position.  She is slow to accept the idea of Christmasville that so many citizens adore, which makes some of the citizens question her.  The CFO of the town gives her a run for her money, challenging her authority.  While facing many of the challenges of putting Christmasville on in City Hall, Krista grows close to Conner Harris, the son of her assistant.  She and Emily are taken in by the Harris family, making Krista realize that life in a small town may not be so bad.  She even realizes that she finds some joy in Christmas, which up to this point has been a reminder of her difficult past.  After Emily wins a town contest, Krista and Emily move into “The Christmas House” but Krista believes that it is too good to be true. After fighting for the good of the town, Krista fears she will be turned away as the new-comer who wants to run it into the ground.  Truth is revealed and Krista is accepted as a member of the community.   Like all feel-good books, this one ends happily for Krista and Emily.

This book was an easy read and very spirited.  The Christmas theme was fun to delve into.  Krista has a difficult past, including growing up in foster care and a divorce.  Her fear of good happening to her can be off-putting at times, but in the end, she is redeemed and gets her happy ending.  This book lacked an emotional depth.  It was a light and easy read.  While feeling slightly bored with the book in the middle portion, the end really did bring me back in.  Krista was able to overcome her fears and see that she may have a future in this small Christmas centered town.  I even had a tear in my eye reading her daughter, Emily’s, letter she wrote to the Christmasville Council.  Overall, I enjoyed reading the book.

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

The Painted Castle

Painted castleAuthor: Kristy Cambron

Series: Lost Castle #3

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: October 15, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Cambron does an incredible job bringing this series to a close!

In present day Dublin, Kiera Foley has returned home from a venture in New York working on art history. Her career and relationship both fell apart at the hands of the family she hoped to join.  Now working at the family pub, she has a patron that continually comes in every night, orders a pint of Guinness that he never drinks, and offers her a job proposal.  Emory Scott, also disgraced from the art world, has found what appears to be a lost copy of a famous painting of Queen Victoria.  This could be a tremendous find, but he needs Kiera to help authenticate the painting.  As the pair begin to investigate the estate that the painting was discovered, they find information linking the painting to two other time periods.  The stories that surround this painting begin to bring life back into the manor that was once forgotten.

Once again Kristy Cambon does a great job of weaving three stories that center around a common object, which is painting in this book.  The present day time period centers on the youngest of the Foley siblings, who has been mentioned in previous books but not met until now.  Kiera is young and has been recently hurt both emotionally and professionally.  She returns home to heal and figure out a new direction for her life.  Similarly, Amelia Woods, who is set in 1945 during the end of the second great war, has also been hurt emotionally by the death of her husband.  But her hurt is much deeper than just his death.  One hundred years prior, Elisabeth has been lied to her entire life and once she finally learns the truth, it shocks her to the core.

I’ve so enjoyed this series and am sad to see it end. Each story has centered around a strong female lead that isn’t looking for romance, but always manages to find it at just the time it is needed.  I love the history that she weaves into each of the books.  Readers will be able to tell that her passion is writing during the World War II era as it shines through each of the books.  The previous books centered around a castle and this one centers around an English estate, but still has plenty of charm.  I recommend this book to readers who love different history periods as well as great time slip reads.

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

Unscripted

UnscriptedAuthor: Davis Bunn

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: October 1, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Davis Bunn gives readers a terrific story that will be sure to have them talking to others about the uniqueness of this book!

Danny Byrd has made quite the reputation for himself in Hollywood as being someone who is reliable in the film industry. As a behind the scenes accountant, he manages production of films with a tight crew that always make money.  However, that all changes when his business partner, and best friend, empties out all the accounts and leaves town with the money.  When checks start bouncing, only Danny is left to take the fall.  Now sitting in a jail cell, Danny begins to wonder if all his luck has run out.  Then he meets Megan Pierce, a high dollar LA attorney who has been hired to secure his release.  Megan has been struggling with her career herself and what she has sacrificed to work at her firm.  After she get’s Danny released, the two head to San Luis Obispo to meet with another legal firm that has a beneficiary package for Danny.  At this meeting, both of their lives change.  Can they both take advantage of a second chance?  And is there an attraction between the two that can overcome each person’s baggage?

This was just an overall great book! There are a few authors out there that I can just pick up and enjoy a good story and Davis Bunn has just added himself to the list.  There is not really a common theme that several other books out there follow.  This book has a message of redemption and Bunn subtly explores that with Danny.  It is so different from his science fiction and fantasy novels, that it just feels right.  The characters undergo a transformation for the better, tough conversations are had, and people are helped out in the end.  It reminds me a bit of Charles Martin’s writing in that its just enjoyable.  I hope that Bunn writes more stories like this that aren’t necessarily in a series, just a snapshot in time of someone’s life.

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