Between the Lies

Between the LiesAuthor: Cynthia A. Graham

Publisher: Blank Slate Press

Release Date: March 27, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Racial tensions heat up during the civil rights era that could be just as accurate today!

Sheriff Hick Blackburn has overseen order in Cherokee Crossing, Arkansas since he came back from the war. He stands for justice and truth regardless of skin color.  The same can’t be said for the sheriff in nearby Broken Creek, especially after he arrests a colored boy for a murder.  A local priest comes to Hick asking him to help in any way he can.  The more he pries into the case, the more things don’t add up.  In fact, Hick is 100% sure that this boy couldn’t have committed the crime he is being accused of.  The deputy sheriff at Broken Creek also comes to realize this and works to aid Hick in trying to figure out a way to make this right.  But there is an agenda at stake and the sheriff has everyone in town in his pocket, including the judge.  What sort of miracle would Hick be able to pull out to get this kid freed?

As usual, Cynthia Graham has produced a fantastic southern crime novel that feeds on tension. I was immediately drawn into this book and couldn’t put it down until I finished it!  Best of all with the main character, Hick Blackburn.  He was a good ole boy that saw right and wrong for what it was regardless of who committed the crime.  Throw some other unforgettable supporting characters and it gets entertaining with plenty of wit, banter, and investigating.  I felt like I was right alongside Hick as we tried to figure out what was going on throughout the town.  I felt disappointed when I learned how low people can stoop in the book, even though there are plenty today that would be the same.  There was a little bit of strong language, but nothing that deters the story at all.

The only disappointment that I had was in the last chapter. I’m not giving anything away, but it will be a shock to most readers, it especially was to me.  Even so, I highly recommend this book!

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

Ms. Mulligan and the Enchanted Ice Cream

mulliganAuthor: Tiffany Elaine

Publisher: Ingramelliot Publishing

Release Date: February 18, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A fun mix of magic, young friends on an adventure, and evil trying to take them down at every turn makes for a great read!

After having a fun filled birthday with friends, Tabby Easterland wakes up to find she has been transformed into a twenty-five-year-old woman. She takes the identity of Ms. Mulligan and begins teaching at her own school.  With the help of her friends, Dolly and Kate, she goes on a search to figure out what happened to her and how she can get back to her twelve year old self.  The search leads her to find out about her long lost father and the fight against an evil set of sisters that just might have put the curse on Tabby and all those she cares about are in danger.

I wasn’t totally sure what to think about this book at first. After giving it a go, I realized how enchanting and enjoyable this was going to be.  Young readers will enjoy this book and find themselves wanting more.  The story flowed perfectly and had just the right amount of tension to drive the story forward but not so much that it would not be considered appropriate for a young audience.  Even though the girls found themselves facing trouble at every corner, they never give up showing that when times are hard they need to stick together to conquer their obstacles.  When looking at what all Tabby had to go through, you have to remind yourself while reading that even though she is in the body of a twenty-five year old, she is still a twelve year old and the emotions she must be experiencing must be overwhelming.  This is a character with a very strong will and one that girls will be able to look up to.  This book was nice since it was exactly what it was supposed to be for young readers, no language, and nothing inappropriate.  So many books for young readers today don’t adhere to this and put things in that shouldn’t be and that bothers me. I loved the way this story was wrapped up but still left open for more to come.  I for one can’t wait to see what the next in the series will have in store for readers.

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

A Touch of Gold

A touch of goldAuthor: Annie Sullivan

Publisher: Blink YA Books

Release Date: August 14, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Filled with fun, adventure and a tale that kept me deeply intrigued by the richness of the story!

We all know the story of King Midas and his golden touch, but there is more to the story than many have heard. After his golden touch almost killed his daughter, Kora, King Midas had the golden touch taken back from him.  Princess Kora still shows the effects of her father’s curse, her skin has a golden shine and she is rumored to have secret powers of her own.  Afraid to be out in public, she stays hidden away in the castle and keeps her skin covered from everyone.  One day, a young duke arrives and helps Kora see that there might be some in the world who won’t run in fear from her. Things turn frantic when a thief steals her father’s gold and Kora is the only person able to track him.  She can sense the gold and sails off on an adventure unlike any she has ever had to keep the kingdom from falling apart and her father from fading away.

This is the first book I have read by Annie Sullivan as well as the first about King Midas. I was very intrigued by the premise of this story and it did not disappoint.  Each chapter brought new characters and adventures that propelled the story ever forward.  Kora was stronger than she realized, it just took being in a different location with different people for her to test her limits and see what she was capable of.  I loved the way the characters naturally flowed together, regardless of if they were for or against Kora and her mission. Even the secondary characters made an impact and I felt connected to each and every one of them.  There is a good bit of romance throughout but that just adds to the tension when things are not going the way the characters would like.  This story is one I can truly say is driven forward with tension, what each character desires most is put in danger, and what that may be is different for each character making the story tight and true to its purpose.  Overall this was a very enjoyable read and I recommend it to readers who enjoy adventure, suspense, a little romance, and a fun look at a fantastical tale.

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

Jane Doe

Jane DoeAuthor: Victoria Helen Stone

Publisher: Lake Union

Release Date: August 1, 2018

Reviewer: Jennifer S. Roman

Jane returns to her college town of Minneapolis after taking a leave of absence from her high-paying and impressive job as a corporate lawyer in Kuala Lumpur for one reason only: to get revenge on the man she blames for her best friend Meg’s suicide.  A self-diagnosed sociopath, Jane has changed her entire personality in order to befriend and eventually seduce Steven, Meg’s ex.  Instead of dark hair, a power suit, and a strong, confident personality, Jane turns into a floral and lace dress wearing Christian girl who wants to do anything to please her man.  She quickly grabs Steven’s attention at her new data entry job at the insurance company where Steve works, and soon, he is asking her out on dates.  Once she gains Steve’s love and trust, Jane is able to put her plan of destroying Steven’s life into motion.  The only complication is Luke, a boyfriend from college, who immediately recognizes the Jane he knew back in the day.  He wants to renew their relationship, and Jane starts seeing him again for fun.  The problem is, she’s falling in love with him, too.

Rarely have I come across a book, movie, or TV show in which the main character wants to get revenge on someone and actually goes through with it.  Usually, the character comes to a moral epiphany, or the plan gets thwarted, or something else happens that prevents the revenge from taking place.  I was pleasantly surprised to see some form of revenge- whether the original plan or not I won’t say- for once.  It’s refreshing to see someone plan and carry out the plan when nobody gets hurt in real life.

Jane has self-diagnosed as a sociopath because she cannot feel empathy for others.  She talks about her struggle to fit in as a functioning member of society when she feels so differently from others, and I am sure many people can relate.  Rather than making her seem unlikeable because of her personality, Stone manages to make her more relatable because of her ownership of it.  We readers can see her struggle and therefore feel for her.

The story is pretty far-fetched as far as plots go, at least in my experience, but the fantasy of getting back at someone for a wrongdoing exists in each and every one of us.  That part is fun and cathartic as we live out scenarios we know we would never personally do.

I can’t say enough about this book, and other than the obvious fantasy of the plot, it’s all positive.  I was worried when I received this book that I wouldn’t have enough time to read it, but that was a fantasy, too. From the first line I was hooked, and I quickly devoured the story.  The characters are each fascinating in their own way, some acting as wonderful studies of human nature.  The plot moves along quickly although the reader doesn’t know until the very end what will end up happening.  There are plenty of twists and turns to keep us interested until the very last page.  I couldn’t get enough of Jane and her flawed personality just because she kept me on my toes.

No matter how much I loved this book, I would not recommend it for everyone.  The language is frequently crude and not recommended for younger readers.  The subject matter itself is for mature readers who will not take it to heart.  There is a suicide (The basis behind the whole story) and revenge porn.  Some mild violence and rough sex are also included.  This book came in way beyond my expectations, and I believe that readers who enjoy thrillers and who can overlook some challenging themes will have an enjoyable read.

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

Murder at the Flamingo

Murder flamingoAuthor: Rachel McMillan

Series: Van Buren & DeLuca Mystery #1

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: July 10, 2018

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

An intriguing historical mystery set in Boston’s North End in the 1930s. Could Van Buren and DeLuca be the next Sherlock & Watson?

Hamish DeLuca has fought bouts of nerves all his life. But after freezing up in the courtroom on his first case, he gets tired of feeling as thought his father is trying to protect him and buys a train ticket from Toronto to Boston to visit his cousin Luca Valari.  Lucas has a magnetic personality, yet a troublesome past.  Even so, he easily conjures influence and people invest in his ideas.  The newest one is to open up a new club in Boston called The Flamingo.  Luca believes it will be wildly successful and launch additional clubs across the county.  Hamish can’t help but get caught up in the excitement, but soon realizes that not everything in Luca’s life is as it seems.  People seem to be following him and claim that they will catch him.  But what could he be up to?

Regina Van Buren, or Reggie for short, is tired of living of the life that her parents have planned out for her. She is spontaneous and wants to become skilled at several things, not just being a high society housewife.  When her suitor suddenly announces their engagement without even asking, she slaps him across the face and takes off from New Haven to Boston.  There she quickly realizes that she may have bit off more than she can chew, but manages to find a boardinghouse and get work for a man named Luca Valari.  As a secretary, she takes phone calls from men that are trying to hunt him and tells them about the great Flamingo Club that will be opening soon.  She and Luca’s cousin Hamish quickly strike up a friendship over cannoli and begin to work together to determine what sort of business Luca is really in.  On the club’s opening night, one of the cigarette girls is found dead in the basement.  Although the police rule it as an accident, both Hamish and Reggie believe otherwise.  Can the solve both the mystery around Luca and who killed this poor girl?

It’s not often that I find a book that can actually transport me to the location of the setting. But this book did just that.  The descriptions that McMillan gave took me to Boston during the time frame when clubs were beginning to pop up all over the place.  I could see the Flamingo and walk along the cobble stones in the north end.  I cycled through Back Bay and felt the breeze off the water.  I also quickly related to Hamish through his personal struggles and could feel the same emotions as they were splashed across the pages.  However, I do wish there had been a third member of the detective group.  I have become accustomed to some enjoyable banter between characters and just didn’t feel it was quite there with Reggie and Hamish.  I’ve seen some authors throw in a another male character to the mix that breaks it up a bit between the romance and sleuthing and it works quite well.  Even so, this is definitely an interesting new series that I will be following.

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

Hotel on Shadow Lake

Hotel on Shadow LakeAuthor: Daniela Tully

Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books

Release Date: April 10, 2018

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Intriguing past/present mystery mash up with a forbidden romance.

Maya Weisberg grew up in Germany and shared an intimate bond with her grandmother. When she took a trip over to the United States for a year, her grandmother disappeared a month into her trip, but her father never told her because she knew she would come back.  Feeling betrayed, she left Germany upon her return and never came back, until they found her grandmother’s remains.  To make matters more interesting, her remains were found about 70 miles north of where Maya was staying in New York when she disappeared.  Filled with remorse, Maya decides to make the trip back to New York to the Montgomery Resort close to where she was found.  While there, she discovers that her grandmother was murdered.  The Montgomery family that runs the resort is full of secrets and any one of them could be tied to her grandmother’s death.

I always enjoy a good past/present mashup that involves World War II Germany and this was no exception.  Throughout this book the characters are mysterious, treacherous, deceitful, and downright nasty.  But in the end it makes for a very intriguing mystery.  The whole Montgomery family itself could be its own book.  I enjoyed getting the read the backstory into the family history almost as much as the story itself.  It was easy to see that the author has had experience in the film industry as it almost played out like its own movie.  Add that it is a book clean of language or graphic sex and several readers will find it very enjoyable.

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

Thirst of Steel

Thirst of SteelAuthor: Ronie Kendig

Series: The Tox Files #3

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: July 31, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

As the final book in the Tox Files concludes, readers will have their emotions taken on a roller coaster ride. Ronie Kendig brings one of the best novels of the year and all others I’ve read will have a hard time toping it. 

The Arrow and Flame Order has plagued Cole Russell and his group for years. Just when they think it’s over, things heat up again when Tox has to leave Haven Cortes, the woman he loves, to go deep undercover and complete a final mission to find the sword of Goliath and keep it from the order.  The AFO wants the sword more than anything and use Tzivia and Ram’s father to get them to find the sword for them.  Tzivia wants to see her father alive again, even after he walked out on them years ago, and Ram is afraid his secret will be exposed and his life in more danger if he doesn’t do this.  With the team being split apart and loyalties in question, Tox, Ram and the others have to work harder than ever before to protect those around them and do what is right.

Ronie Kendig has done it again with another spectacular novel about Tox and his team. After three books, it is hard to not love these characters and feel deeply impacted by what happens to them. Thirst of Steel is one of the best books as far as getting the reader deeply invested in every single character, no matter how much page time they receive.  I enjoyed seeing Ram and Tzivia at the fore front of this novel and watching them flesh out a little more than in the previous novels in the series.  There is no stop to the action, adventure and suspense in this novel and I am very sad to see this series come to an end.

I have really enjoyed the teams adventures and the way they have tied their missions in with history and ancient artifacts. It kind of makes it feel like national treasure at times, which makes the story even more fun and exciting.  When reading a Ronie Kendig book you can be sure of a few things, you are going to have characters you can’t help but fall in love with and root for them to succeed.  Secondly, you are going to have a story that will leave you on the edge of your seat until the very last page.  I love that I know that going into these books, it makes everything better and Kendig never disappoints.  A lot of books written today have a lot of unnecessary filler material that could be skipped and still enjoy the story, these are not like that.  I read every page and get something from every line and feel so much more connected to the story and characters by the end.  That shows how good the writing is and how much effort was put into it and I for one appreciate that as a reader.  This is a book I recommend to all Kendig fans as well as those looking for a great suspense thriller.  I do recommend reading the first in the series before starting this one to have a better understanding of the story.

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