The Happy Camper

The Happy CamperAuthor: Melody Carlson

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: March 4, 2020

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

This book is a real Christian Hallmark movie!

Dillon Michaels breaks up with her boyfriend of two years and quits her job leaving her feeling lost. On a whim, she loads up her car and moves home to Oregon to help her aging grandfather. On the way, she stops at a cute trailer park and rests for the first time in a long time. When she arrives home, she finds that her mother has moved in with her grandfather, leaving her nowhere to sleep but the old couch. Her living situation is starting to wear on her when her grandfather gives her an old trailer to fix up and live in. This is a dream come true for Dillon. She has independence, a trailer she loves, and is interested in the local hardware store owner. A wrench is thrown in her plans when her ex shows up to win her back. Dillon must fight for her new life and the new joy she has found.

This book was a light and easy read. Dillon felt like a real person. I felt at times the book got a little bogged down on some plot points, but I really enjoyed it and wasn’t ready for it to end. Carlson always finds a way to draw me into an easy read that I find enjoyable. It’s nice to throw in a story that is not always so tense and suspenseful to balance out the reading stack! A true feel good book!

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

I Am Awesome

I am awesomeAuthor: Ryan K. Maule

Publisher: Westbow Press

Release Date: January 6, 2020

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A cute book to help explain that each person in the world has been created to be awesome.

Goodland is a place where everybody is good. The inventor created Goodland and all the things in it. His favorite inventions are the followers and if you ever ask them how they are doing, they will always respond “Good”. Grace and Zeal are two of the followers that love to play together. One day that meet another follow named Hope. When they ask Hope how she is doing, she responds “I Am Awesome!” Grace and Zeal don’t understand how Hope can be awesome. After all, this is Goodland where everybody is good. In a quest for answers, they seek out the inventor to find out if someone really can be awesome.

This is a cute book that helps kids understand the purpose for which they were created. I read this book with my four-year-old and now it has become a nightly read for us. We have talked about how the Inventor represents God and the followers represent people throughout the Earth. Each person was specifically created to do awesome things. He understands what is being taught and likes to read about Grace and Zeal’s adventures. And maybe most importantly, he likes to say, “I Am Awesome!” at each point in the book.

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

Hide Away

Hide AwayAuthor: Jason Pinter

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Release Date: March 1, 2020

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Jason Pinter has just made his way to the top of my list with Hide Away, an action-packed thrill ride with one of the best protagonist characters I have read in a long time.

Rachel Marin is working her hardest to lead a normal life with her two children while trying to keep the rest of the world unaware of her deepest darkest secrets. When a violent crime shatters her life, she takes her children and changes all their identities to start a new life in a small town in Illinois. Even though she is trying to lead a normal life, trouble seems to follow her wherever she goes. Once in her new town, the previous mayor is discovered dead. At first it is considered a suicide until Rachel finds clues the department missed. She gets involved in the case deeper than intended and finds herself in danger. Can she help the detectives solve the case before it is too late? Or will her hide away no longer be a safe place?

Hide Away is easily one of the best books I have read all year. The action, drama and suspense were all top notch and exactly what a great suspense thriller is all about. I loved Rachel as the protagonist; she may have gone through a horrible ordeal, but she doesn’t let that define her and keep her down, she uses it to drive her and she becomes so much stronger because of it. She knows she must keep her children safe and there are a lot of monsters out in the world. The only way to keep her family safe is to be on the lookout for the monsters and stop them whenever possible. It could be argued that she puts herself and her kids in harm’s way at times, but everything she does is to protect them because she loves them so fiercely. Sometimes that does lead to reckless thinking, which can be dangerous, but her intentions are always good. I loved that the layout of the book and they way her past wasn’t given to us upfront, instead it was sprinkled throughout at just the right times. She might not have been a detective and the way she went about solving each piece of the puzzle could be seen as too convenient, but for me it played out just right as there was an explanation for every time she knew something and a reason she would be able to figure it out. It takes a very talented writer to be able to craft out a story that ties everything together so well and is also entertaining. This was the first book I have read by Jason Pinter but will certainly not be the last. I would even go so far as to say he ranks close to Robert Dugoni on my list of favorite suspense writers. I recommend this book to readers that enjoy an excellent suspense thriller but know that there will be a small amount of harsh language throughout.

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

Eat Sleep Work Repeat

eatAuthor: Bruce Daisley

Publisher: Harper One

Release Date: February 25, 2020

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

If you’ve reached the point of burnout in your career or just don’t find it fulfilling, this book gives some tips to rediscover joy in your job.

Bruce Daisley, vice president of Twitter Europe and host of the podcast Eat Sleep Work Repeat, delves into why people no longer find fulfillment in their careers. It can range from many different things including company culture to management expectations to personal burnout. So, how does one rediscover joy in their job? Daisley breaks this down into three different areas: recharge, sync, and buzz. Most of these items are for personal ownership and common sense. Recharge includes measures as ditching long meetings for short walking meetings as the endorphins created by exercise will give you a boost throughout the day. Other recharges including getting a goodnight sleep and shortening the work week. Syncs are more of a company approach that suggest noncompany social times, knowing when to encourage people and when to leave them alone, and letting divisions take breaks and lunches together so that they can develop cohesiveness. Lastly, buzzes focus on how to energize a team. These items include making work seem like problem solving exercises instead of mundane activity and removing outside electronics from meetings to have the full team attention. Whatever the need, there is likely a subject that touches on it in this book.

Overall this book was an enjoyable read. Several of the items within it are common to other business books as well. I did enjoy getting to see the view of American work culture from the European perspective. I knew that several companies expect their employees to work long hours in order to move up the ladder, but it was alarming to discover how many different fields this occurs in. My favorite part may have been when it talked about how you can’t create company culture, it has to happen organically. So, if a company has a group dedicated to creating company culture, it has already failed. There was some foul language in this book as a result of some direct quotes, but otherwise was pretty clean. If you enjoy books on making employees feel empowered, then this one is for you.

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

Dead to Her

dead to herAuthor: Sarah Pinborough

Publisher: William Morrow

Release Date: February 11, 2020

Rating: 3 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A web of lies and dark secrets makes for a very interesting read with an ending that will leave readers satisfied.

Marcie Maddox is thrust into the high life when she has an affair with Jason Maddox and marries into his luxurious life. She has secrets from her past she would like to keep hidden from her new husband and everyone else. Even though she married into the world of money, she feels she will never be able to fit into it. When Jason’s boss comes back from a trip to London with a young new wife, Keisha, Marcie’s world is turned upside down. Keisha is wild and quickly brings Marcie into her crazy antics. Marcie loves her husband but is intrigued by Keisha and the more time the two spend together the closer they become. As lies come to the surface and emotions are heated, Marcie sees her lavish life start to fall apart. Now she must decide what she is willing to do to keep it.

,This book is not for the faint of heart. A large portion of it spent on sexual acts between many of the characters and the language can get very harsh at times. The story itself was good and very involved with the way the mystery intertwined between the timelines and different characters. Descriptions flowing throughout helps readers to put themselves in the shoes of these characters. I had trouble getting past the many sex scenes and language, which for some readers that is no big deal. Unfortunately, for me that tends to take me out of the story. At times I did feel sympathy for Keisha and Marcie and what they were going through; however, some of the other characters I really had no connection with and could have enjoyed the book more if they were not in it. The fact that Pinborough saved some of the best twists for the last few chapters helped to redeem the book a little for me. I would recommend this to readers that love psychological thrillers and don’t mind the sex scenes or harsh language.

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

More Than We Remember

more than we rememberAuthor: Christina Suzann Nelson

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: February 18, 2020

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Nelson’s work continues to shine!

One moment changes everything in the lives of three women.

Deputy Emilia Cruz is the first responder to the scene of an accident in the early hours of the morning. She discovers a two-vehicle head on collision which claims the life of a single mother to three boys. The other car contained the high school basketball coach who survived but is believed to have been drinking. This infuriates Deputy Cruz as her husband was a first responder fire fighter to an accident caused by an alcoholic the left his physically disabled. She’s more determined than ever to fight for justice regardless of who the victim is.

Addison Kilbourn is woken up in the night to find that her husband still hasn’t returned home from meeting someone in a neighboring town. She answers the door to find a deputy sheriff with news that her husband was in an accident and has been taken to the hospital. Life has been difficult enough moving to her husband’s hometown and living with her mother-in-law while they build their house, but she soon learns public opinion about her husband accident brands her family.

Brianne Demanno is trying to hide from her past and present. She always wanted to be a counselor and she got her wish, but after one of her patients committed suicide, she doubts her abilities and decides to delve into the solitude of artwork. When a deputy accidentally knocks on her door instead of the Kilbourn’s, she decides to go over and help the family by staying with the children so that the mom can go to the hospital. Brianne begins to connect with the kids and with their mom Addison, who may be the first real friend that she has had. Will this family be enough to pull her out of seclusion and help her start to live again?

One of the greatest aspects of Nelson’s writing is that she is able to connect her characters in ways that mimic real life. In every book that I’ve read by her, she brings multiple broken families together and connects them in a healing process. This book was no exception. Each woman’s story showed the immense struggle they were going through. Addison was insecure dealing with her husband’s accident, mother-in-law’s memory loss, and her oldest daughter that was now a teenage. Emilia struggled with her job, husband’s disability, and daughter’s friends. Brianne struggled internally with feeling inadequate. Each woman on their own would have faltered, but together they made bonds that helped them move forward. In some cases, it wasn’t even the relationship between the women, but between their kids. Nelson is becoming one of my favorite authors for this genre and I hope that others find her work encouraging too.

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

The Solid Grounds Coffee Company

Supper clubAuthor: Carla Laureano

Series: Supper Club Novel #3

Publisher: Tyndale House

Release Date: February 4, 2020

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Another terrific installment to the Saturday Night Supper Club series!

Bryan Shaw is one of the best rock climbers in the world. After a climbing incident in Colombia involving his past flame, Bryan loses his sponsor, turning him into an unemployed hobbyist. The night before he plans to return to the States, Bryan is approached by a man who is in need on an interpreter to help with a ministry that converts farms used to grow drug products into coffee beans. This chance encounter leads to Bryan purchasing the coffee farm to see if he can put that BA degree he has to good use.

Ana Sanchez is a high-profile public relations specialist in Denver. She makes her living cleaning up other people’s messes and she is one of the best. When a high maintenance client puts her in the position of trying to cover up the drug overdose of an underage girl, Ana makes a judgement call, which saves the girls life but lands Ana on a paid suspension. Now with loads of time on her hands, she is not sure what to focus her time on.

When Bryan returns to Denver to start up a roastery business, he visits and old group of friends who run the Bittersweet Café. Ana is there too and while the two are polar opposites, Bryan offers Ana a business proposition to help get the roastery off the ground. She accepts the challenge and the two begin to work closely together. While neither is looking for a relationship, they become closer. Could this match bring fulfillment to their lives?

This series is such fun to read. Each installment has become like a member of the family or at least of the supper club on family and friends night. Even though this is the third in the series, it can easily be read as a stand-alone. I loved the story between Bryan and Ana. They both had to overcome their demons, Bryan in the early stages of the book and Ana in the later part, but they were still able to do it. Ana’s story spoke volumes to me. She had been through so much and always took failure as a personal blame and built walls up around herself so that even her most personal friends could not get through. Once those walls finally came down, she was a different person. I feel as though she could easily be one of my closest friends.

I’m not a coffee drinker, but I learned a lot about the process. It was very interesting to see what all goes into making a cup of coffee. Laureano did a lot of research into this process and if you love cover art, there is a story behind it that you can read about. If you haven’t picked up a supper club novel yet, then you need to grab a copy of one today!

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

Mercy House

Mercy HouseAuthor: Alena Dillon

Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks

Release Date: February 11, 2020

Rating: 3 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A very deep, difficult book containing lots of heavy topics. Not recommended for the faint of heart or young reader, but a good story nonetheless.

Mercy House is a safe place for abused women run by Sister Evelyn and a group of fellow nuns. Evelyn wants to help these abused women because she knows what it is like. When she was first starting out as a nun with the Catholic Church, she was abused and has held it inside that the very man who abused her is none other than Bishop Hawkins. The nuns must hide many of the ways they go about helping the women who come to Mercy House as the church would condemn their methods and shut them down. Evelyn must use all her resources to save the ones she has worked decades to help and vows to let nothing get in her way. Her courage and drive to save Mercy House pushes those within its walls to work just as hard to keep their doors open and not let someone in power run all over them.

The overall storyline was good demonstrating hope and overcoming such difficult obstacles when everything else is going against them. Evelyn is a strong protagonist that female readers will enjoy getting to know. I enjoyed the way she would stop at nothing to keep Mercy House open for those she cared about. The storyline and the strong characters are what kept me reading. There were several points I wanted to stop reading as the content was a little too graphic for my taste, but I’m glad that I persevered to finish the story. Between the use of very harsh language and graphic sex scenes, I was turned off of the story. While this wasn’t my cup of tea, I feel that there is an audience out there that will be very entertained by this story.

For those that are interested, check out more on the book page at Harper Collins.

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

3 Words That Will Change Your Life

3 wordsAuthor: Mike Novotny

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: January 7, 2020

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Who knew three words in the right context could have so much meaning?

There are three words that we have likely all heard at some point in our lives. But maybe we hear them quietly, which suppresses the meaning. God is here. That is easy to glance at and read over without having any real feeling or indication that God is actually here. But if we look at it as GOD IS HERE, just by seeing it more pronounced we take more notice and can begin to seek out that GOD is, in fact, here!

The synopsis of this book had me very intrigued and the content was good. The author begins by being easily relatable to anyone who has searched out God in the past and not received a strong feeling in return. He explains that by just reading over those three powerful words, we can be missing out on a powerful relationship because God is Here and he wants to be with us. Novotny does a good job debunking some different myths/beliefs and also throws around a lot of lighthearted humor to keep the reader moving.

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

The Land Beneath Us

landAuthor: Sarah Sundin

Series: Sunrise at Normandy #3

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: February 4, 2020

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

An ending that brings the series full circle and shows that three brothers can all be prodigal sons.

In 1943, Clay Paxton was betrayed by his two older brothers. After an unfortunate incident that led to all three brothers quarreling, his older brother Wyatt left out of town and took all of money Clay had saved to go to college for medical school. Later that same day, Clay found his other brother and girlfriend together in a more than friendly embrace. Now Clay has joined the Army and is working on becoming a Ranger at Camp Forrest, Tennessee. He has managed to put his past and his faults behind him as he focuses on becoming a Ranger. He knows that the battle ahead will be difficult, but he knows he will be a hero to those around him because he has dreams. In these dreams he dies in battle and he is looking forward to it.

Leah Jones has finally left the orphanage behind and is excited that her love for books has landed her a job as an assistant librarian at Camp Forrest. She hopes to be able to find the original orphanage she was left at with her two baby sisters and find a path to reunite with them. But one night outside the library she is brutally attacked but saved by her friend Private Paxton. When the results of the attack are life altering, Clay proposes a marriage of convenience, which will leave Leah with death benefits after he dies in battle. But the one thing that never of them expected was life without the other.

This was a fantastic conclusion to the Sunrise at Normandy series. Each book told the story of a wayward brother that ended up in a branch of the service at D-Day in Normandy. The final book wraps up all the chaos caused by a single event perfectly. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to see each brother grow in character in their respective book. Clay’s maybe the most difficult because he was wronged by both brothers. He was a genuinely nice guy, but he had a lot of personal growth to do and demons to overcome. It was interesting how each book related to the parable of the prodigal son. Both Wyatt and Adler were the brothers that left, but Clay was the brother that stayed and had to overcome the feelings he had developed against his older brothers.

Leah also had a lot of growth occur in this book. She started out as a naïve character, but quickly got hard knock lessons in a hurry. As a reader, you feel protective of her, especially after the ordeal that she goes through. The women in each book are just as unique as the brothers and it is fun to see how that complement each other. I also enjoyed getting to have some dialogue with the Paxton parents and see the family dynamic that occurred.

I love historical fiction during this era and Sundin makes the books very enjoyable. The romance isn’t forced and encouraged to play out. As a reader, I wanted to see these two get together and had a fretful moment at the end when I thought it might fall apart because of false pretenses.

One of the scenes in this book includes a rape. While not graphic, it may make some readers uncomfortable or cause distress for any reader that has been in this situation.

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

Interested in the first two books of this series?  Check out the reviews for The Sky Above Us and The Sea Before Us.