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.

A Mother’s Book of Blessings

Mothers book of blessingAuthor: Natasha Tabori Fried and Lena Tabori

Publisher: National Geographic

Release Date: March 27, 2018

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A delightful, inspiring compilation for all mothers to read and remember the joys of motherhood even through the trying times.

A Mother’s Book of Blessings is a fun and delightful gathering of stories, poems, psalms, and quote’s about what it means to be a mother.  With each writing comes a beautiful piece of art to illustrate the journey as well.  There are classics that we have all heard as well as new bits of wisdom sprinkled throughout.  The topics covered throughout include, Mealtimes, Bedtimes, Holidays, Birthdays, New Moms, Weddings, Gratitude and so much more that will celebrate the moments big and small throughout a mother’s life.

These books are always enjoyable to look back at after becoming a mom. So many times we get wrapped up in the busyness of our day-to-day activities that we forget to enjoy the little moments that mean so very much.  Several of the quote’s I had heard and read before but a few were new and very inspiring.  The art was very generic and leaves a lot to be desired as far as diversity goes.  While the art is not very diverse, the writings are from a nice mixture of sources including Christian writings, Native American, Jewish, Muslim, Irish and even good old Dr. Seuss.  This is a great gift for a new mother or even for grandmothers who will enjoy sitting and reminiscing about all the good times they have had with their loved ones.  Book collectors will also enjoy adding this to their collection for the quotes and pictures throughout.  With the broad range of topics covered, there is something inside for everyone to enjoy and be able to take away a little nugget of wisdom to help brighten their day.

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

The Man He Never Was

The man he never wasAuthor: James L. Rubart

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: February 20, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

An intensely intriguing story that will leave readers looking into their own dark sides wondering whether dark or light will win the ultimate battle.

We all have darkness inside of us just waiting to come out. Torin Daniels has been trying and failing all his life to control that darkness. Eight months ago, he vanished and his wife and kids decided to move on and find happiness without his darkness hanging over them. When he reappears without any memory of where he has been the last eight months, he is a different person.  His temper is gone and he feels like life is giving him a second chance.  It doesn’t take long for glimpses of his old self to begin reappearing and Torin does not want to be that man again.  He starts desperately searching for answers to where he has been and why whatever happened to quell his temper isn’t lasting and to find a permanent solution.  If he can truly be a changed man, there is the chance he can win his family back once and for all.

This is the second book I have read by Rubart and I went into it thinking there was no way it could be better than The Long Journey to Jake Palmer.  Boy was I wrong.  I remember reading Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde when I was younger and always enjoyed the story.  I was curious to see what kind of a spin Rubart was going to take on the story.  Going into the book, I knew there would be elements of faith and the supernatural, that’s just how Rubart writes and he does it so incredibly well.  Oddly enough, I have to say that the parts of the story that flowed most quickly were the most enjoyable for me happened to be the flashbacks to Torin’s childhood.  Usually flashbacks work the opposite, taking the reader out of the story and making it harder for the story to flow in its entirety.  There was just something about the way those scenes were written that kept the pages turning at breakneck speed.  The characters were set together just right for tension and believability.  It would have been hard to want to keep going if things didn’t play out in a way that seemed natural.  If you have read some of Rubart’s other books and enjoyed them, I am certain this one will be just as enjoyable, if not more so, for you as well.  I also recommend this to readers who haven’t read his works but are looking for a deep supernatural thriller that will look at the darkness inside us all and hopefully help us find a way to the light.

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

The Other Mother

The Other MotherAuthor: Carol Goodman

Publisher: William Morrow Books

Release Date: March 27, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Just when you think you might have things figured out, this story takes a different turn you would never have seen coming.

Daphne Marist has had a difficult time since her daughter Chloe was born. She tried as hard as she could to be a good mother but Post-Partum depression hit her hard making the difficult even more trying.  When she joins a mother’s support group, she meets Laurel Hobbes and they quickly connect and find they have a lot in common, including both having little girls named Chloe.  The more time they spend together the more alike they become until the day things go dangerously wrong and Daphne is left fleeing everything she knows with Chloe and heads to a new job in secret.  She has found a position working with her favorite author in her mansion that happens to be next to a mental asylum.  With the world trying to tell her she is crazy and the mental asylum just outside her window, Daphne begins to wonder what is real and what the voices in her head are telling her are real.

It took me a while to realize I hadn’t read anything by Carol Goodman before this, the writing and story were so good I just figured I had been reading her books for years. While this story was mostly about Daphne, it did have a few other viewpoints that greatly added to the story. Along with the viewpoints, the reader is exposed to diary entries that give a behind the scene look at what is happening between these characters and what has led them to be in their current situations.  Goodman did a fantastic job of weaving together several different story lines and tying them all up by the end of the book. Several of which I wouldn’t have guessed tied in with each other until the end of the book, which opened the path to see how clues were sprinkled throughout to show the connections I had missed.  This is something that rarely happens for me when reading a novel. I am usually very good at seeing all connections and figuring things out before they happen.  I am pleased to say that Goodman worked it out so beautifully I didn’t see it until it was all right in front of my face and the story was laid out for me to connect the dots and make an amazing picture.  I really wasn’t sure what to expect with this book but wound up thoroughly enjoying the entire story.  I would highly recommend this to readers that love suspense and mystery and want to be guessing until the very last page.

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

Not That I Could Tell

Not that I could tellAuthor: Jessica Strawser

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Release Date: March 27, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

DO NOT PUT THIS BOOK DOWN!! Read until the very last chapter to see the right way a suspense novel should be played out.

What seems to be an innocent girls night out turns into something so much more. When the neighborhood moms gather at one of the houses to enjoy some wine and relax away for a few minutes, none of them imagine that by Monday morning one of them would be gone and the police would be involved.  Yellow Springs, Ohio is a small town that keeps everyone involved in everyone else’s lives in one way or another; so when Kristin and her twins disappear leaving her estranged husband behind, secrets start to turn up making everyone question what they thought to be true.  Her husband Paul is at the center of the investigation but when nothing turns up, the police seem to let the case go. Clara, their closest neighbor is pulled into the drama when the case dredges up memories of a past she has tried hard to leave behind.  Izzy, one of the newest neighbors in town isn’t sure what to think but also doesn’t have time to deal with too much drama when her own life is falling to shambles.  As more details turn up, everyone realizes things are not what they seem and everyone has their secrets, some more deadly than others.

I have to admit that part way through I was feeling a little disappointed with how the story was playing out. I thought the suspense could be played up a little more.  But just when I started to get disappointed, things turned around and I couldn’t put the book down.  This is the kind of book that if readers will be patient the pay off at the end will be worth every page.  I loved how things unfolded and the characters brought out the best, and worst, in each other.  You can really see the way they care for each other and used their own experiences to help one another.  I did not like Paul from the very beginning and am glad that Strawser let him play out the way that she did.  The dynamic between all the characters really was spot on; I didn’t feel that any of them acted out of character but instead played out the story deliberately and intentionally the way the story should unfold.  By the end I was taking the title of the book and rolling it around in my head with what different characters would say and it totally made sense for each and every one of them to be able to utter that sentiment and be truthful.  On the last few pages I had a smile on my face as I read the last scene unfold.  I am pleased to say that I highly recommend this book to any and all readers that are looking for a story that will keep them guessing and characters that are genuine and play out beautifully.  This will for sure be one of my top books of the year.

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

Rainbirds

RainbirdsAuthor: Clarissa Goenawan

Publisher: Soho Press

Release Date: March 6, 2018

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Intriguing, mischievous, and well thought out. A spring must read!

Ren Ishida is finishing up graduate school at a university in Tokyo when he receives word that his sister, Keiko, has been murdered. Ren travels to the small town of Akakawa to take care of the memorial service and see to his sister’s affairs as neither of his parents want anything to do with his sister since she left several years ago.  Ren and his sister were always close and often alone together as he grew up since his parents were always fighting.  The police have no leads on the murder investigation, so Ren plans to wrap things up and head back to Tokyo.  While at the cram school that Keiko taught at, the owner finds out that Ren also studied American and British literature and offers him his sister’s position for the rest of the semester.  On a whim, he decides to take up the offer to also try to find out what happened to his sister.  As he meets his sister’s colleagues, he finds that his sister changed from whom he knew and the woman he talked to on the phone every week.  Ren comes to find that perhaps he would rather not know who she became but he can’t stop himself from falling down her rabbit hole.

This is by far one of the best written books that I have read so far this year. The story flowed seamlessly and keep me intertwined through all the developments of Keiko’s past life and Ren’s current affairs.  The story was ultimately about Ren fining closure and maturity through his sister’s murder.  I was glad to see progressive character development for once on multiple characters, primarily Ren and Rio.  I was also glad to see that Ren didn’t repeat his sister’s past mistakes, even though he came very close.

Part of what I love about this book is the glimpse into a different culture. As an American, I often forget that other parts of the world are very different from what we see every day.  The thought of still having arranged marriages in today’s society mixed with shunning a child due to disobedience is drastically different then what I am used to.  It’s books like these that really have the opportunity to open a reader’s mind to a real place outside of their current area.  The scenes were set beautifully and I could feel the chill in the air at Akakawa.

Although there is not any foul language in this book, there are some implied sex scenes; however, there is nothing explicit. There is also some alcohol/tobacco use and scene concerning a suicide.  I recommend this book to mature young adult readers and up.

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

A Dangerous Game

A dangerous gameAuthor: Heather Graham

Series: New York Confidential #3

Publisher: Mira

Release Date: March 13, 2018

Rating 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

An intriguing plot with a fun, flirty crime-fighting pair that is better at solving crimes than most seasoned detectives.

Kieran Finnegan has just finished up what she thought was going to be a normal day at the office. Being a criminal psychologist, she sees and hears things on a daily basis that most don’t. However, upon leaving the office, she hears a lady yelling her name who then thrust a small infant into her arms, which is by no means an ordinary end to her day.  The woman runs off and is killed on the streets in front of Kieran moments later.  Kieran has never met this woman and has no idea why she would bring this child to her.  Kieran’s boyfriend, Craig Frasier works for the FBI and gets himself involved in the case to make sure Kieran stays safe.  Even though he tells her to stay out of the case, she can’t help but look into what is going on and find out what it has to do with her.

The first thing to note is that this is the third in a series. The second thing to say is for me that didn’t seem to be a problem. I really enjoyed the story and the characters and didn’t feel that having not read the first two in the series deterred from that in any way.  With many elements to the complicated plot, it takes careful attention by the reader to make sure they follow along until the very end to see how things wrap up, which they do quite nicely.  Even though it can be classified as a romantic suspense, the romance didn’t over shadow the suspense.  The story can be a little intense with the content included, between the stolen baby and other aspects it isn’t recommended for a young audience at all.  I thought the story flowed at a very enjoyable pace and the characters meshed well with each other.  Graham did a great job showing the different aspects between Craig being with the FBI and Kieran not but also wanting to help solve the case.  Overall I really enjoyed this book and would recommend this to fans of Graham’s writing and readers that enjoy a good suspense thriller with twists and turns throughout.

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