Just One Kiss

Just One KissAuthor: Courtney Walsh

Publisher: Independent

Release Date: July 23, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A beautifully written story about love, redemption and how strong family relationships can be.

Carly Collins has spent the last sixteen years raising her son Jaden by herself when his father, Josh walked out on them. Josh was her fist love and broke her heart when he left them. Leaving Harbor Pointe and his family was the hardest decision Josh Dixon ever had to make. After a hard upbringing with an abusive father, Josh feared he would turn out like his father and hurt the ones he loved. Now he is a highly successful tech mogul and should have everything he wants, except his heart is empty. When Jaden’s health is in danger, Carly and Josh are brought together in the most difficult circumstances and have to decide if they can be a family again or if the second chance at love they are being is worth the risk of heartache all over again.

Just One Kiss is a sweet love story of redemption, love, and how some mistakes are worth forgiving. I loved the family dynamic and how that played out pulling at the heartstrings of not only the characters but also the readers. The parents love for their child helps them put aside their differences and do what is best for him no matter how hard it is. I loved the way these relationships played out, being a mother, it felt raw and real, just as it should. Carly was the perfect character for me, she loved her son and would do anything for him, even if it meant dealing with the man that completely shattered her heart. Even though Josh was a little rough around the edges, I couldn’t help but fall in love with him. The backstory that gives readers a glimpse into Josh’s history with his family helped to flesh out his reasoning for leaving and why accepting the fact that maybe he did deserve a family wasn’t so hard to believe. Even without a suspense element to it, which is what usually drives a book for me, the pace moved quickly with the tension between the characters and the uneasiness of what was happening with their son. This is quality writing and one I want more of. I can’t wait to read the next novel Walsh publishes. I recommend this to fans of romance writing that will give you all the feels and tug at your heartstrings at all the right moments.

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

Last Summer

Last SummerAuthor: Kerry Lonsdale

Publisher: Lake Union

Release Date: July 9, 2019

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A thrilling read that will leave readers guessing until they finally know the truth.

Ella Skye wakes up in a hospital to find that she has been in a car accident.  Initially, she can’t remember what happened but begins to remember some details of her life.  The one thing that she can’t remember is being pregnant for the last five months.  She can remember what happened five days ago, but no memory whatsoever of carrying a child.  She returns home to find a nursery that she decorated and all sorts of plans she had set up for a child.  Even her husband Damien, who never wanted children, seems to be devasted by this loss.  She and Damien’s relationship has been strained since the accident, but they seem to be finding some sort of new normal.  Then she gets a call from the magazine she works for to pick up where she left off on an interview with a world explorer named Nathan Donovan.  Amazingly, Ella can’t remember a thing about this man either, even after spending two weeks in solidarity with him.  With her husband begging her not to go interview him, Ella decides she must take the chance to find out if he can trigger anything about her lost memories.  What else can she lose?

If there is one thing that I’ve learned from Kerry Lonsdale, it’s that her books will always give you a dose of the unexpected.  Another thing is that the antagonist is always very crafty.  I loved getting to know Ella’s story just as I have her previous books.  This one had a bit of a twist to it at the end, which I had a feeling was coming, but still had me pleasantly surprised.  Ella is a strong confident woman, who must become very vulnerable to try to find out what happened in her past.  Having carried two children, I can’t imagine waking up to not being able to remember them.  That would an earth-shattering moment, which is obvious in her behavior.  I’m not sure I would have made the same choices in her place, but then again, I don’t share her past either.   Needless to say, this book stayed suspenseful, but not in a murder thrilling kind of way, just in a way that made me have to find out what happened.  The ending also leaves a potential opening for a follow up, but we will have to wait and see on Lonsdale’s intentions!

There is some strong language throughout the book as well as some sex scenes that make this a read for mature audiences only.

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

Love and Other Mistakes

Love and other mistakesAuthor: Jessica Kate

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: July 30, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A debut that will leave readers content and smiling throughout.

Natalie Groves thought she had her life all set until her fiancé, Jeremy Walters, breaks her heart and leaves town with no explanation and not even a glance back. Shortly thereafter, her father gets diagnosed with cancer and she has to drop everything to help her family. Feeling lost and alone with no way out or up, she lets the next seven years go by without pursuing her dreams. Now, Jeremy has returned to Charlottesville and he is not alone.  He has brought his infant son with him along with all the regrets he has lived with for the past seven years. Natalie is working towards an internship at her dream job but must find a way to make money in the meantime. Together, the two must find a way to put aside their differences and help each other. The more time they spend together, the more feelings from the past collide with feelings from the present and they must decide if staying together or staying apart is the bigger mistake.

Jessica Kate has poured her bubbly Aussie personality into every page of her debut novel. Lots of charm, romance and sass to be found throughout every page. Both Natalie and Jeremy are very well written and the chemistry between the two is undeniable. At times, the relationship teeters on the edge of unbelievable but does work itself out pretty well. The story line of how Jeremy became a single dad needed a little work for me.  As a mom, I find it hard to just want to give up a child, it would take a lot for me to not want to be with my kids. I did enjoy the storyline of Jeremy helping with his niece to get the of the whole family involved without that feeling forced. For me, the writing is well done but that of a first-time author, well written but not as fully polished as a seasoned writer. I am sure that will come with time. For a debut author, I can’t say with certainty that she put in her time and effort and really made this story what it should be even if at times I thought the storyline didn’t flow as smoothly as it could. Overall this was an enjoyable read leaving me looking forward to more from Jessica Kate. I recommend this book to readers that enjoy a clean romantic comedy with a little bit of sass and a lot of heart.

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

Reclaim Your Happy Space

Fix Her UpperAuthors: Rhonda Rhea & Beth Duewel

Series: Fix Her Upper

Publisher: Bold Vision Books

Release Date: June 27, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Sometimes we all need a little help finding our happy space when life tries to hide it from us. Rhonda Rhea and Beth Duewel deliver a wonderful guide to help readers reclaim the happy that many haven’t even realize is lost.

If we are to find our joy in the Lord, why do we feel so down at times? Is your life in need of a renovation to find your lost happy and restore the joy when it seems all is lost? These questions and many more are answered in a way that will bring a smile to readers faces and show how to live your very best life. We were not meant to survive, we are meant to thrive with the Lord beside us. The authors of the previous Fix Her Upper books bring a new installment that is sure to excite readers and bring back the lost Happy!

I don’t know about you, but sometimes it is rather hard to be happy. Even when things are good, it can still be hard to believe it is okay to be happy. I absolutely loved the way this book showed me it was okay to be happy, we deserve to be happy. Our Father wants us to be Happy. Think about that for a minute, our Father in heaven truly wants us to be happy, that is the most wonderful thing of all. Rhonda describes it beautifully when she says, “It’s impossible to whine about the “robe of righteousness.” It’s borrowed from Christ. And though this whiny woman doesn’t deserve it, it fits perfectly.” We don’t deserve the mercy and goodness we receive, but we receive it nonetheless. Each chapter is laced with happy goodness and scripture that hits the point home that we have so many reasons to be happy. Along with scripture, both Rhonda and Beth deliver the message with such humor I found myself laughing out loud at times and praising God for the happy moments of reading these words and taking to heart what was written within. At times it really can be hard to be happy, life is tough and sometimes the darkness can seem overwhelming. During those times, we need to remember these resources we have at our fingertips to bring the happy back to the forefront. I recommend this book to everyone!  No matter what you are going through, look to this book to help you find something to be happy about and remember how much the Father loves us all.

Overcomer

Overcomer.jpgAuthor: Chris Fabry

Publisher: Tynale House

Release Date: July 23, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A inspirational story that is sure to give readers what they need even when they weren’t looking for it.

Sometime life draws up a play that throws everything off.  When the largest manufacturing plant in Franklin closes its doors, it has unseen ramifications.  People now have to leave to find jobs in other places.  Other business close because of the reduced population.  Basketball coach John Harrison and his son Ethan can only watch as the championship quality team they had stacked for the year dwindles down to only four players.  Fortunately, Brookshire School that employs John and his wife Amy hasn’t had to close its doors, but they did have to take a pay cut.  Now without a team, John is struggling to fit in.  When the principal asks him to coach cross county, he reluctantly agrees because he doesn’t believe it is a real sport.  On the day of tryouts, he has one runner come forward and she has asthma.  As John begins to coach Hannah, he finds that he is about to embark on a journey that only God can control.

Sometimes God just knows what book you need to read next.  This was the case for me as I picked up this book to eagerly read about the upcoming feature film.  This story is very powerful and it makes you stripped to your core as a reader to evaluate who you are.  If everything you poured your time into were suddenly stripped away, who would you be?  What could you say about yourself?  Would you be proud?  Or would it make you reevaluate your life?

Having seen several of the Kendrick brother’s movies, I could easily hear the character’s voices as the book played out in front of me, just like one of their movies.  I haven’t read any of the novelizations before, but this one was very enjoyable.  I loved both John’s and Hannah’s stories.  Each was different but connected.  John was used in a way to bring healing to a family full of bitterness for over 15 years.  Hannah was finally able to stop filling her void with useless items and have it filled with love.  There are still some sad parts to the story, but it is worth the read.  Highly recommended for those who love the Kendrick brothers’ movies as well as those who enjoy Fabry’s unique writing voice.

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

Never Look Back

Never look back

Author: Alison Gaylin

Publisher: William Morrow

Release Date: July 2, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A fast paced, tightly woven, intricate thriller that will keep readers up at night with chills and thrills.

 In 1976, April Cooper and Gabriel LeRoy set off on a thirteen day murder spree and became known as the Inland Empire Killers. They were both thought to have perished in a fire until decades later when April is recognized and a young podcast producer, Quentin, investigates. His family was directly impacted by the killings and he hopes finding closure will help him get past the demons that have haunted him for years. While he is investigating the killings, New York columnist Robin Diamond is trying to figure out if her husband is being faithful when Quentin calls her up asking about the Empire Killings. Shortly thereafter, her parents are attacked in their home making her wonder if anything she has ever been told is true.

 With the back and forth writing style between the present and past, the story is told in a way that gives readers a full understanding of what is happening and how things played out. I loved the letters April writes to her future daughter that tell of the past and how it relates to the present, it was a clever way to show all aspects of the story. There are a lot of characters that change names throughout the story which might throw some readers off, but if you pay close attention it shouldn’t be a problem.  This is not a book that can be skimmed or even taken lightly; it is detailed and so many parts wind together to make the story flow to the end that it is important readers understand they will need their full attention to the very end. Gabriel and April played out so well as well as many other characters that might not have had as big of a role, but each one was instrumental in bringing the story to where it needed to be by the last page. There are a lot of ways this could have played out and I am usually good at figuring out the antagonist or the twist before the end, but I am pleased to say I was surprised by a few points at the end, a job well done. There is a little bit of harsh language and the story content is for mature audiences only. This is a book that I recommend to fans of suspense thrillers and any one that has read previous works by Alison Gaylin, If this is your first Gaylin novel, it is a perfect one to dive into and enjoy.

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

Light From Distant Stars

LIght from distant starsAuthor: Shawn Smucker

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: July 16, 2019

Reviewer: Jennifer S. Roman

Cohen Marah has lived near death his whole life.  As a young boy, his parents divorced, and his father moved into an apartment above a funeral home.  Later, Cohen works as a funeral director with his family.  One day, he enters the embalming room and finds his father on the floor, blood everywhere, and an embalming instrument shoved up through his father’s chin.  Freaked out because he thinks his father is dead and he is somehow to blame, he exits the room and leaves his father’s body for someone else to find.  Much to his surprise, he is called and told that his father is alive but in critical condition at the hospital.  The rest of the story takes place in the hospital as Cohen revisits some of his childhood memories and attempts to come to terms with his fragile relationship with his father.

The story bounces between the past and present, with readers finding out a lot about Cohen from the flashbacks.  His parents’ divorce is hard on him because they each took a child, so Cohen does not get to see his beloved sister as much as before.  He has a hard time making friends, and is especially thrilled when he meets a brother and sister at an abandoned, burned-out trailer that they used to live in.  He spends a lot of time with them when he can find them, but they are secretive and very rarely available to spend time with him.  Baseball is his one salvation.  It ties him and his father together and causes him to meet a girl, Ava, who turns out to be a reliable friend.  Present day Cohen turns to the church for healing while his father is fighting for his life, and it brings Ava back to him because she is the detective investigating his father’s injuries.  He knows he is a prime suspect, especially because Ava knows his background.  Cohen can’t tell for sure if he killed his father, or if his imagination is running away with him.  He’s hoping his more frequent meetings with the priest will help him figure it out.

Yes, this synopsis seems helter-skelter, but I promise that if you read through the book, it will make sense.  Once I started, I was hooked.  I too had a hard time deciding if Cohen’s memories and actions were real or just part of his imagination.  It was quick reading because it was so enthralling and fascinating, and yet, by the time it was over, I was just as confused as I had been throughout.  I am not sure if that was the author’s intent or if it was just me missing something really big, but I didn’t really get the final resolution of the story.

I really enjoyed the various characters throughout the book; they are messy, human, and ultimately interesting.  Cohen’s father’s misguided ways lead his family to shatter, and each family member deals with it in unique ways.  For Cohen, he is stuck with a fallen man who doesn’t seem to connect, and Cohen is left to his own devices.  His loneliness is a catalyst to a lot of the story, and it’s easy to see how things happen as they do.  His mother is just a side note to the majority of the story, but she plays a big part at the end.  His sister Kaye is the stability and normalness that Cohen so desperately wants, but being separated from her, he misses out on that.

I did enjoy the whole story until the confusing ending.  That is not to say that this is not a good book, but rather, I am one who needs things to be wrapped up at the end.  If you enjoy books that leave a lot up to the reader, you will be happy to read Light from Distant Stars.

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

 

The String

The StringAuthor: Caleb Breakey

Series: Deadly Games #1

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: July 16, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

It has been a long time since I have read a debut novel that reminded me of the writing of seasoned writers that is a thrilling, elaborate, intricately woven story and deeply twisted all at the same time.

A ruthless psychopath decides to play a game by choosing participants and threatening those closest to them if they don’t play. The Conductor has been adding knots to his string to play out his own little plot. Both students and staff from the university are involved and university cop Markus Haas is at the center. His girlfriend and her daughters are taken and used as leverage as the Conductor gives him assignments, each harder and potentially deadlier as the game progresses.

Steven James, Ted Dekker, and James Rubart, these are the names I go to when I know I am going to get top-notch edge of my seat thriller. Now I must add another name to the list: Caleb Breakey. The String is the best debut novel I have read in a very long time. The story starts with a bang and doesn’t let up. With so many characters tied up in the string, the motives and real bad guys can get a little confusing at times but the story itself pulls you in at such a pace there is no time to think until the last page. Markus is a strong protagonist against an equally strong antagonist with a story that readers can’t help but fall in love with. It really is hard to believe this is the first novel by Breakey.  The way he interwove the story with so many different characters was extremely well done and not something many others could have done to this level. The story is wrapped up to an extent but left open beautifully for the next in the series. I foresee potential for several in this series but only if Breakey is able to continue the story in a believable way and build these characters to make readers have an even stronger attachment to them. In a way it reminds me of Steven James’s Patrick Bowers series showing a very deep, tightly woven plot with characters that can take you on a thrill ride and save the day all while making readers fall in love with them. I love the fact that this is an edge of your seat thriller but also clean, no language and no excessive blood or violence. There is still plenty of thrill to keep readers turning the pages but in a way that shouldn’t turn away readers that don’t want any foul language or crazy. bloody scenes. I recommend this book to readers that are fans of Dekker, James and Rubart and might be looking for a new author to throw in the mix and keep them reading long into the night.

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

Where I Was Planted

Where I was plantedAuthor: Heather Norman Smith

Publisher: Ambassador International

Release Date: July 16, 2019

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A very poignant and delightful read with characters readers will love to cheer for through the toughest of situations.

In 1961, ten-year-old Nate Dooley comes home one day to find his kitchen stocked with food and his Dad nowhere to be found.  He figures now is as good a time as any to be on his own. With a stray dog as his companion, Nate tries to hide the fact that his father is gone from everyone around him for as long as possible. He likes being in his home by himself and doesn’t want the county to take him away. Even though his father has left, Nate starts to realize he isn’t alone.  His heavenly father will never leave him and will always provide for him. Nate finds these provisions in the form of newfound friends, neighbors and family he never knew he had.

Where I Was Planted is a beautifully written novel with the most wonderful protagonist around in Nate Dooley. Set in the 1960s, things are different than they are today.  If a ten-year-old were left alone for any period of time today, it wouldn’t take long for authorities to be notified and things to change. I loved how independent Nate was but also the way he realized he needed a little help. No matter how grown up he felt or wanted to be, the fact remains he is still a little boy. Even characters that had a small role made a big impact and a lasting impression. I would have liked a little more insight into Nate’s dad and why he left without talking to Nate or anyone about his plans, I know it explains a little, but I felt that part of the storyline could have developed a little further to bring the story up a notch. Nate was wonderfully developed, and I found myself wanting to hug that little boy and tell him how strong he was. The story pace was perfect and not once did I find myself wanting to put it down and move on to something else. The ending tied up just right and left me satisfied with the whole story. This is the first book I’ve read by Heather Norman Smith, but I am sure it will not be the last. I recommend this book to those that enjoy historical fiction with heart and a good message. The religious message comes across evenly, not to strong but also not too weak.

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

Cold Aim

Cold aim

Author: Janice Cantore

Series: Line of Duty #3

Publisher: Tyndale House

Release Date: July 9, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

The third installment in the Line of Duty series gives readers the best yet with more drama, action, adventure and romance than anything Cantore has written to date!

 After a wildfire ravages part of Rogue Hollow, Police Chief Tess O’ Rourke tries to get her town back on its feet when the FBI shows up asking Tess to harbor a witness in a human trafficking case. Tess’s gut tells her that this isn’t the best idea, the town is still reeling from the last traumatic event and to put them in harm’s way again goes against her better judgment.  When Pastor Oliver Macpherson, the man she has been seeing, continues to be an example of showing compassion to those in need, Tess decides to help the young girl. This isn’t the first time Rogue Hollow has been home to sheltering a victim of human trafficking; unknown to anyone in town a woman has been keeping her own secrets for years and may prove vital in helping Tess with this request from the FBI. Tess must decide who she can trust and what the right thing to do is in order to keep everyone safe.

 Janice Cantore uses her years of experience with law enforcement to craft a wonderfully written tale that readers can both relate to and enjoy each character and the situations they tackle. Each book that Cantore writes gets better: better characterization, better story lines and better romance and action. I have enjoyed the story arc of Tess and the people of Rogue Hollow. Tess has evolved into a chief the town can trust after proving herself time and time again. She may have come into town as an outsider but now feels this is truly home and the people around her are family. Her relationship with Oliver has played out in a manner that feels real and timed at a good pace, it’s not rushed and doesn’t drag. Over the course of these novels Cantore has been able to develop these characters, even the minor roles into ones that readers are invested in and want to see pull through in the tough times. My one criticism for this book would be the villain, Ice. At times he was referred to as Ice and other times as Royal. Ice was the nickname he got, and I didn’t have a problem with that, I had a problem with the lack of consistency throughout, the name was switched sometimes within the same paragraph and that was confusing. Once the nickname was given I wish it would’ve stayed consistent. Other than that, the read was very enjoyable, and I can’t wait for Cantore’s next great adventure. I recommend this to fans of Cantore’s books as well as anyone that hasn’t read any of her books.  Even though this is the third in the series it could easily be read as a standalone.

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