The Separatists by Lis Wiehl

Book description:

After getting the green light from her network to launch an investigative news show, Erica flies to Bismarck, North Dakota, to investigate Take Back Our Homeland, the largest secessionist group. What she finds is profoundly disturbing – a growing threat to the future of our union.

Back home, her husband Greg is drinking more and talking less—and taking an unusual interest in the glamorous author Leslie Burke Wilson. Erica’s teenage daughter has also begun acting out in troubling ways.

Then she discovers a potential informant murdered in her Bismarck hotel. Take Back Our Homelandmight be even more dangerous than she had thought—and she’s unwittingly become one of the key players in the story. Her fear and anxiety escalate – for her marriage, her daughter, and her own life.

Bestselling novelist and former legal analyst for Fox News Lis Wiehl takes us behind the anchor’s desk in this gripping look at high-stakes reporting in a country torn apart.

My review:

It is very rare when I begin a book and do not finish it. Even if I have to put a book down and read another one, I always come back to the first book and give it the college try to read it. Sometimes it really pays off and the book ends up being really, really great! However, I just could not finish this book.

In the previous books in The Newsmakers series, it was clear to me that they were written with a liberal slant, but there was just too much bias within the first 50 or so pages for me to continue. I think authors have opinions about current events and topics that sometimes creep into their writing.  However, referring to “Trump Derangement Syndrome”, promoting a Michelle Obama book, and injecting her views on gun control was just too much.

I was rather disappointed because reading the description of this book struck me as the most interesting of all the Newsmakers books. I just couldn’t get past the political slant. However, I appreciate Wiehl taking on the topic of secessionists due to the fact that there are murmurings throughout various states about putting it on the ballot to leave the Union.

If you share the author’s political views or are able to overlook the references to liberal social views, you will probably enjoy this book. However, if you are looking for a story written with an impartial plot, this might not be the best choice.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

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The Candidate by Lis Wiehl

Book description:

Mike Ortiz is a dynamic war hero favored to win the White House. Standing by his side is his glamorous and adoring wife, Celeste. But something about this seemingly perfect couple troubles Erica. Is Celeste really who she seems? And most importantly, what really happened in that squalid Al-Qaeda prison where Mike Ortiz spent nine months?

But more than the nation’s future is at stake. Erica’s relentless search for the truth puts the life of her preteen daughter Jenny in danger, even as Erica’s own dark past threatens to overtake her.

In her latest Newsmakers thriller, New York Times bestselling author and Fox News legal analyst Lis Wiehl weaves a taut and chilling story. The Candidate is packed with political intrigue and media manipulation as the lust for power turns deadly indeed.

My review:

I had read the first book in the Newsmakers series by Wiehl, so I was already familiar with her writing style. They are not books that readers can race through, but need to read for details and understanding. It took me awhile to get through The Newsmakers, so I anticipated that it would take me a bit of time to read this one.

There are clear similarities between this story and The Manchurian Candidate. It was pretty easy to understand the nuances in the relationship between Mike and Celeste early on. There were a couple of surprises toward the end of the book, that I thought made the ending go a bit more quickly, but overall this was not one of my favorite books.

If you are looking for a quick and easy read, this is not the book for you. However, if you enjoy a detailed read with a lot of nuances and connections to current events and politics, you will probably enjoy this book.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

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Sweetbriar Cottage by Denise Hunter

Book description:

When Noah and Josephine discover their divorce was never actually finalized, their lives are turned upside down.

Following his divorce, Noah gave up his dream job and settled at a remote horse ranch in the Blue Ridge Mountains of northern Georgia, putting much-needed distance between himself and the former love of his life. But then Noah gets a letter from the IRS claiming he and Josephine are still married. When he confronts Josephine, they discover that she missed the final step in filing the paperwork and they are, in fact, still married.

Josephine is no happier about the news than Noah. Maybe the failed marriage—and botched divorce—was her fault, but her heart was shattered right alongside his, more than he would ever believe. The sooner they put this marriage behind them, the better for both of their sakes.

But when Josephine delivers the final paperwork to his ranch, the two become stranded in his cottage during the worst spring snowstorm in a decade. Being trapped with Josephine is a test of Noah’s endurance. He wrestles with resentment and an unmistakable pull to his wife—still beautiful, still brave, and still more intriguing than any woman he’s ever known.

As they find themselves confronted with each other and their shared past, old wounds surface and tempers flare. But when they are forced out into the storm, they must rely on each other in a way they never have before. Josephine finally opens up about her tragic past, and Noah realizes she’s never been loved unconditionally by anyone—including him. Will Noah accept the challenge to pursue Josephine’s heart? And can she finally find the courage to trust Noah?

My review:

This was a different take on the typical romance story. Noah and Josephine were married once and then thought they were divorced, even though they both still had feelings for one another. I enjoyed reading it because it was different than other stories I have read.

The biggest lesson in this book is that there is always hope for relationships. It was a little frustrating to read at parts because if Noah and Josephine had been honest with one another in the past, their relationship might not have deteriorated to the extent that it did. However, there is a lesson in that as well.

This was a super-quick read, as so many of Hunter’s books are. The characters are engaging and relatable, the setting is beautifully described, and the story keeps moving along at a perfect pace.

This story is perfect for an afternoon relaxing at home and enjoying a good book!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

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You’ll Think of Me by Robin Lee Hatcher

Book description:

In a small town in Idaho’s idyllic wine country where the past looms large, can two people realize their individual dreams for the future . . . together?

Abandoned once too often, Brooklyn Meyers never intended to return to Thunder Creek, Idaho. Her hometown holds too many memories of heartache and rejection. But when her estranged husband Chad Hallston dies and leaves his family home and acreage to her and their ten-year-old daughter Alycia, it’s an opportunity to change their lives for the better—a chance Brooklyn can’t pass up, for Alycia’s sake if not her own.

Derek Johnson, Chad’s best friend since boyhood, isn’t keen on the return of Brooklyn Meyers to Thunder Creek. He still blames her for leading his friend astray. And now she has ruined his chance to buy the neighboring ten acres that would have allowed him to expand his organic farm. To add insult to injury, Chad’s dying request was that Derek become the father to Alycia that Chad never was. How can he keep that promise without also spending time with the girl’s mother?

Brought together by unexpected circumstances, Derek and Brooklyn must both confront challenges to their dreams and expectations. He must overcome long held misconceptions about Brooklyn, while she must learn to trust someone other than herself. And if they can do it, they just might discover that God has something better in mind than either of them ever imagined.

My review:

The thing about romance novels is that it is pretty clear very early on which characters are going to end up together. Due to the fact that the couple is pretty obvious, I always judge romance stories by the process by which the characters end up together.

I thought this was a nice take on the quintessential romance story. Brooklyn and Chad offer interesting characters with interesting conflicts. I thought the addition of Chad wanting to buy some of her property and her having specific plans for said property offered a bit of question and wondering how it would be resolved.

This story offered a nice lesson that people can make mistakes and redeem them, even from the grave at times. It is a quick read that would be perfect for an afternoon at the pool, on the beach, or in front of the fireplace.

If you enjoy light-hearted romances, this is an endearing choice.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

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Christmas at Carnton by Tamera Alexander

Book description:

Amid war and the fading dream of the Confederacy, a wounded soldier and a destitute widow discover the true meaning of Christmas – and of sacrificial love.
Recently widowed, Aletta Prescott struggles to hold life together for herself and her six-year old son. With the bank threatening to evict, she discovers an advertisement for the Women’s Relief Society auction and applies for a position – only to discover it’s been filled. Then a chance meeting with a wounded soldier offers another opportunity – and friendship. But can Aletta trust this man?
Captain Jake Winston, a revered Confederate sharpshooter, suffered a head wound at the Battle of Chickamauga. When doctors deliver their diagnosis, Jake fears losing not only his greatest skill but his very identity. As he heals, Jake is ordered to assist with a local Women’s Relief Society auction. He respectfully objects. Kowtowing to a bunch of “crinolines” isn’t his idea of soldiering. But orders are orders, and he soon discovers this group of ladies – one, in particular – is far more than he bargained for.
My review:
I love to read historical fiction because it is a great way to experience history in a way that connects us to the way that people of the time might have lived or the emotions they might have felt. There is also an educational component of historical fiction that gives readers the names and dates or battles or important locations in history.
It has been awhile since I have read a Civil War story, but as I read this one I was reminded of an important fact of the Civil War that Americans frequently seem to be unaware of. Most people identify the cause of the Civil War as divided opinions about slavery. While slavery was an important issue, the Civil War was ultimately fought over state’s rights. I appreciated the way that Alexander reminded readers of that fact while also reminding us of the hard lives of slaves.
I wish this book had been longer. Due to the fact that there was an excerpt of another novel and recipes at the end of the book, it felt like there was a lot more to read when all of a sudden, I was reading the epilogue. It was a nice ending and a complete story, but I thought that there could have been more to the story to how Jake and Aletta reached the epilogue.
I’m excited to try the recipes from the story. It is always nice when an author offers recipes that are featured in the story. It adds another dimension to experiencing the story that I always appreciate.
If you enjoy reading historical fiction from the Civil War period, this is a solid choice.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.
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The Crooked Path by Irma Joubert

Book description:

Lettie has always felt different from and overshadowed by the women around her– this friend is richer, that friend is more beautiful, those friends are closer. Still, she doesn’t let this hold her back. She works hard to apply her mind, trying to compensate for her perceived lack of beauty with diligent academic work and a successful career as a doctor. She learns to treasure her friendships, but she still wonders if any man will ever return her interest.

Marco’s experience in the second world war have robbed him of love and health. When winters in his native Italy prove dangerous to his health even after the war has ended, he moves to South Africa to be with his brother, husband to one of Lettie’s best friends. Marco is Lettie’s first patient, and their relationship grows as she aids him on the road back to restored health.

In the company of beloved characters from The Child of the River, Marco and Lettie find a happiness that neither of them thought possible. With that joy comes pain and loss, but Lettie learns that life—while perhaps a crooked path—is always a journey worth taking.

My review:

I didn’t realize that this book would incorporate characters from another Joubert book I had previously read, so it was a very pleasant surprise to visit with old friends. I was excited to read more about post-WWII South Africa and learn more about the people. While The Child of the River dealt more with legal issues and segregation in South Africa, this one included medical care. We take polio vaccine for granted, so it was so interesting to imagine a time in which polio was a terrifying disease.

I don’t always enjoy books in which the scene shifts from character to character because readers do not always get a complete picture of each character and it ends up being disappointing when reading about a different character after becoming acquainted with the first one. However, Joubert does a magnificent job of fully developing all of her characters. Perhaps it is because she was a teacher, but I always feel like I learn something from her books.

There were many unexpected twists and turns in this book. I love it when a book makes me say out loud, “Oh no” while I am reading it because something happens out of the blue that I don’t see coming.

I would love to read a novel where readers can learn more about Annabel and why she made some of the choices she did; it would be interesting to read about the role of women jounalists at that time.

I can’t wait to read the next book by Joubert; she is such an amazing storyteller. If you are looking for a quick read with intriguing characters, you will love this book.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

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Blue Ridge Sunrise by Denise Hunter

Book description:

Former free spirit Zoe Collins swore she’d never again set foot in Copper Creek or speak to the man who broke her heart. But return she must when her beloved Granny dies, leaving the family legacy to Zoe–a peach orchard nestled at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
When Zoe returns home with her daughter and boyfriend Kyle, she finds that she’s the only person in town who doesn’t expect her to give up the life she’s established far away from Copper Creek. Everyone believes she was born to run the orchard, but how can she make it her home after so many years?
Cruz Huntley never quite got over his first love, Zoe Collins, the little sister of his best friend Brady. Not when she cheated on him during their “break,” not when she took off to parts unknown with good-for-nothing Kyle Jenkins, and not even now–five years later.
As life-changing decisions and a history with Cruz hang over Zoe’s head, tensions rise between her and Kyle. Even as she comes to terms with the shifting relationships in her life, Zoe still isn’t sure if she can remain in Copper Creek with her new responsibilities . . . and her first love.

My review:

I enjoyed this book. I was happy to revisit some of my favorite characters in Noah and Josephine from a previous Hunter book. There is always a sense of seeing old friends when characters pop up in subsequent books, even if they are not sequels. It seemed as if Brady and Hope might have a story of their own coming up at some point.

One thing I really liked about this book was that the characters were depicted as Christians that had made many mistakes in their lives. The fact is that Christians sometimes make mistakes and have children or live together without being married. The most important thing is that they make the changes in their lives to reflect God’s will.

I do wish that there was a little more clarity of Zoe and her father’s relationship. It was never quite clear why there was so much conflict between them and I would have liked to have seen that relationship explored a bit more.

The only criticism that I have of this book is that it almost seemed to try to do too much toward the end with Kyle and Zoe and it felt a little rushed. It was easy to see where it was going and it might have made more sense had Hunter gone a different direction.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

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Perennials by Julie Cantrell

Book description:

When two estranged sisters reunite for their parents’ 50th anniversary, a family tragedy brings unexpected lessons of hope and healing amid the flowers of their mother’s perennial garden.

Eva Sutherland—known to all as Lovey—grew up safe and secure in Oxford, Mississippi, surrounded by a rich literary history and her mother’s stunning flower gardens. But a shed fire, and the injuries it caused, changed everything. Her older sister, Bitsy, blamed Lovey for the irreparable damage. Bitsy became the homecoming queen and the perfect Southern belle who could do no wrong. All the while, Lovey served as the family scapegoat, always bearing the brunt when Bitsy threw blame her way.

At eighteen, suffocating in her sister’s shadow, Lovey turned down a marriage proposal and fled to Arizona. Free from Bitsy’s vicious lies, she became a successful advertising executive and a weekend yoga instructor, carving a satisfying life for herself. But at forty-five, Lovey is feeling more alone than ever and questioning the choices that led her here.

When her father calls insisting she come home three weeks early for her parents’ 50th anniversary, Lovey is at her wits’ end. She’s about to close the biggest contract of her career, and there’s a lot on the line. But despite the risks, her father’s words, “Family First,” draw her back to the red-dirt roads of Mississippi.

Lovey is drawn in to a secret project—a memory garden her father has planned as an anniversary surprise. As she helps create this sacred space, Lovey begins to rediscover her roots, learning how to live perennially in spite of life’s many trials and tragedies.

Years ago, Lovey chose to leave her family and the South far behind. But now that she’s returned, she’s realizing things at home were not always what they seemed.

My review:

Cantrell has firmly secured a place as one of my top ten favorite authors. Having read and loved The Feathered Bone and When Mountains Move, I was excited to read Perennials. This book did not disappoint! I knew about halfway through that it was probably going to make me cry and it delivered.

My favorite aspect of Cantrell’s writing is that she does not shy away from difficult or painful topics. Her characters are real and complete; they have an integrity to themselves in the choices they make within their story. The relationship of Lovey’s parents in the book is particularly inspiring and honest.

I did find it a little odd that there was such a focus on alternative spirituality throughout the book. It might be off-putting for readers that are looking for a very Christian book and story. However, if one understands that it is not a story with a strong faith-filled lesson and reads it for the beautiful story of forgiveness and strength within the characters, it is possible to skip over parts that might offend some readers.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

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A Time to Stand by Robert Whitlow

Book description:

In a small Georgia town where racial tensions run high and lives are at stake, can one lawyer stand up for justice against the tide of prejudice on every side?

Adisa Johnson, a young African-American attorney, is living her dream of practicing law with a prestigious firm in downtown Atlanta. Then a split-second mistake changes the course of her career.

Left with no other options, Adisa returns to her hometown where a few days earlier a white police officer shot an unarmed black teen who is now lying comatose in the hospital.

Adisa is itching to jump into the fight as a special prosecutor, but feels pulled to do what she considers unthinkable—defend the officer.

As the court case unfolds, everyone in the small community must confront their own prejudices. Caught in the middle, Adisa also tries to chart her way along a path complicated by her budding relationship with a charismatic young preacher who leads the local movement demanding the police officer answer for his crime.

This highly relevant and gripping novel challenges us to ask what it means to forgive while seeking justice and to pursue reconciliation while loving others as ourselves.

My review:

This is such a timely story of police officers accused of using extreme force, whether it is justified or not. In the case in the story, a police officer shot an unarmed teen which sent shock waves throughout the community.

The characters are so well-developed, especially Adisa. Readers can admire her for standing up for her convictions, even when confronted with pressure from those around her. The story keeps moving forward and is impossible to put down. The best part about it for me was that Whitlow kept the characters filled with integrity, which made it easy for me to empathize with them, even when reading about a police officer that shot an unarmed teen.

It is very rare when I read a book and have no idea how it will end up. This one did a great job delivering a lot of suspense. I had no idea whether Luke was going to be convicted or if Deshaun was going to survive; it kept me reading like to wind to try to find out.

If you are a fan of legal novels or court cases, you will enjoy this book.

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

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Home All Along by Beth Wiseman

Book description:

Charlotte has made a home for herself in Amish Country with Daniel. But unforeseen events rock their fragile world and may move them even further away from the life they long for.

Charlotte, an Englisher, is living in Amish Country, and she has formed strong and lasting bonds with the people in her new community. She has even fallen in love with an Amish man. But just when she is considering a permanent conversion to the Amish way of life, her world crashes around her. An unexpected death and a mysterious visitor unsettle Charlotte, and she begins to question her faith and her choices.

Daniel loves Charlotte and wants to share his life with her, even it if means leaving the only world he’s ever known. But as he walks alongside of her through her struggles, his own world is turned upside down when a loved one receives a grim medical diagnosis and a prodigal relative returns home. Will Charlotte and Daniel’s relationship succumb to the many pressures around them, or will their faith and the strong community around them allow them to weather the storms of their own lives in order to build a life together?

My review:

Although I have read a lot of Amish fiction books, this is the first one in which the main character is an “Englischer” considering joining the Amish community. I found it to be an interesting approach to Amish fiction. I have not read the other books in this series, but that did not affect my understanding or enjoyment of this novel.

One thing I really enjoy about novels is when the characters have to cope with real-life struggles and challenges. This one does not disappoint! All of the characters have to survive challenges and real-lfe problems that are normal parts of life, in addition to other problems that might not be so commonplace, but readers can be sympathetic to because the characters are so relatable. Wiseman incorporates issues such a grief, life-support, and relationship problems and deals with them in a very tactful and real way.

If you are looking for an Amish novel that is different from any you have read before, this is one for you. It was so good, I want to go back and read the other books in the series!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

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