Just Before Dawn by Jessica Marie Holt

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Just Before Dawn: A Short Story by Jessica Marie Holt

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Jesse and Grace’s happy marriage shifted when tragedy struck, and positive news might not bring an easy fix for the couple in Just Before Dawn by author Jessica Marie Holt.

This makes the sixth work of short fiction I’ve enjoyed by this author so far. While I found this one labeled as a short story, I’d say it’s a novelette at least.

And it wasn’t quite what I was expecting, given that I didn’t read the blurb beforehand. Although Grace graces the book cover of the edition I got, the story comes from Jesse’s point of view, and it takes a real, pretty nuanced look at depression without being too dismal a read. It has a smidgen of humor and some sweet moments, but it isn’t sugary, and I must say I even found it slightly disturbing at times, which works in favor of the plot.

Now, there’s one character I never fully made heads or tails of, and I think some rushed development in a key area didn’t serve that character well. Also, a few punctuation errors were a bit distracting here and there, particularly some extra quotation marks popping up in the wrong spots.

Nevertheless, this was a satisfying read overall, and it’ll be nice to see what happens in the sequel. (I won’t be reading that blurb beforehand either.)

____________

The Unsung Legacies Series

 

On the Other Side by Jessica Marie Holt

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

On The Other Side by Jessica Marie Holt

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Kevin’s elderly neighbor, Mr. Jones, always has trouble getting into his apartment. So Kevin helps Mr. Jones open his front door in On the Other Side by author Jessica Marie Holt.

A short story. A few pages. About ten minutes of reading time.

Not that I want to preach a sermon on various story forms, here. But this ten-minute tale is a prime example of how a story’s significance is absolutely not a direct equivalent of the story’s length. Short form fiction writing is an art, and while not every author has a knack for getting a complete and compelling message across in just a few well-chosen words, this author does.

What this account about Kevin and Mr. Jones doesn’t say is as important as what it says. Choice tidbits about these two men’s lives and the simple but indicative nature of their brief exchanges tell us enough without expounding on or spelling out every detail for us.

I would that more writers understood the value of trusting a reader’s intelligence and imagination. The power of what’s left unsaid.

Having read this author before, I should’ve known to be prepared with Kleenex. All the little parts that pierced me led to tears running down my face as I finished this poignant and inspiring read.

 

Long Road Home by Jessica Marie Holt

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Long Road Home: A Short Story by Jessica Marie Holt

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Long Road Home by Jessica Marie Holt: yet another story I practically knew nothing about before I read it.

Book blurbs can be something of a necessary evil, for publishing and book selling purposes. But I often only skim blurbs or skip them altogether, and in this case, I’m glad I didn’t read the blurb beforehand.

Some stories, especially short ones, are better when you enter them with a blank slate and discover for yourself what’s in the plot. It hits you harder that way.

Granted, what I did know in advance about this tale is who the author is. I’ve never read one of her blurbs before reading one of her stories, but she’s one of the best short story writers I’ve found in quite a while. Such a simple (but not simplistic), deft, poignant style. Such an understanding of human nature, with its strengths and its weaknesses, and the illustration of how, even with our flaws, there’s hope for us.

It’s brilliant when a story can manage to break my heart and then deeply inspire me in less than a half-hour of reading. (Well, it may’ve taken me a bit longer than that, since I had to stop and cry for a few minutes in the middle.) I ran into a few punctuation errors, but nevertheless…

Goodness. Brilliant.

 

Joe by Jessica Marie Holt

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Joe: Book Three in the Homecoming Series by Jessica Marie Holt

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

“If you don’t heal what’s inside, you’ll never feel content, no matter where you go.”

Despite the aspects of his life that have turned out pretty well over the years, Joe hasn’t gotten over a tragedy from his past. When two strangers show up in his coastal town, it might bring just the change—and challenge—he needs in Joe by author Jessica Marie Holt.

I was no less than captivated by the two preceding short stories in the Homecoming series, so I was anxious to see how this novella would wrap it all up. As I mentioned in my review of the previous story, I appreciate the series for illustrating how people can take new risks (chances) and have new adventures later in life.

I’ll admit the pattern of somber openings to the stories started to wear on me this time. Fortunately, this story seems to reach some of the turning-point activity a bit quicker than the others.

Now, something about the development of events is a bit choppy here and there, even kind of chaotic at one point. And now and then, Joe’s role as a bystander near the returning characters’ lives seems somewhat contrived, serving as a substitute for those other characters’ perspectives earlier in the series. The dialogue/paragraphs sometimes made it tricky to identify the speaker, there’s a good amount of double-dash overuse, and it was a little awkward to arrive at “Part 2” when nothing at the beginning of the book said it was a “Part 1.”

Nevertheless, I like this story’s message about self-pity and cowardice, the ending is simply beautiful, and the series as a whole is one of hope. Anyone else who can enjoy wholesome and uplifting contemporary fiction should give this series a go.

__________

Here’s my review of the first story in the Homecoming series, Elsie.