A Brush with the Beast

A brush with the beastAuthor: Richard Sones

Publisher: Self-Published

Release Date: June 20, 2017

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

An epic battle between the ultimate good and evil spread across the globe and through the heart of humanity to show what could happen if we believe.

When Nick Gooseberry has tried every method available to rid himself of back pain, he turns to the only option he sees left, The Order, a secret society that promises him relief from pain and so much more. With the power of The Order behind him, Nick works his way up the ladder of success to ultimately rule the world.  In a small town in Texas, Sarah Johnson has been trying unsuccessfully to get away from her past.  She thinks her boss is trying to help her, instead he is setting her up to go back to prison. While back in prison, she turns to the Lord and finds a way to escape. She finds out she is pregnant and attracts the attention of the Beast who takes her away to the other side of the globe and now she has to survive an entirely new prison.  After watching the death of his parents, Fanak grows up to become a terrorist driven with a thirst for revenge and a plan to take down the United States. He thinks everything he is doing are his own thoughts without ever realizing he is at the mercy of the Beast like so many.

A Brush with the Beast is a book that had several things I enjoyed and several I didn’t.  It is not for a young audience, a little bit of mature language and other mature content. The story flips back and forth between several different viewpoints. Most of the time this doesn’t bother me but for some reason it didn’t work as well for me here. I enjoyed the storyline with Sarah but everything else left me wanting to get to the rest of her story.  While each story line was supposed to tie in and bring the story full circle, by the end I felt a good portion could have been shortened.  Not everything with Nick’s storyline added up either. Everything with Sarah was intriguing and I felt a good emotional connection to her and everything that was going on while in her point of view.  Overall it was still an enjoyable read. I recommend this for a mature audience wanting to read about end times and what might come.

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

The Unclaimed Victim

Unclaimed victimAuthor: D.M. Pulley

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Release Date: November 14, 2017

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Pulley dives back into Cleveland to tackle a historical serial killer’s story that’s yet to be solved.

Cleveland in 1938 is a rough place to be. Little work, no booze, and a notorious serial killer that keeps leaving parts of his victims, but never the whole body.  The “Torso Killer” has been active for a while and continues to stump the police.  Most of his victims cannot be identified because he doesn’t leave them anything to be identified with, such as a head or hands.  The targets of his crimes are mainly prostitues and drug dealers that live in the less desireable places within Cleveland.  Once such person is Ethel Harding who never asked for this life, but does what she must to get by.  When a young woman from a nearby mission named Mary Alice convinces Ethel to come to the mission, she finds that her life may not be as bad as she thought.

Fast forward to 1999, Kris Wiley gets a call that her father has been killed and she must identify the remains, which there is only a torso. As she goes through her fathers things, she begins to find that he was obsessed with a serial killer from the 1930s that was never caught.  In fact, there is a whole network of people obsessed with the case.  As she tries to uncover what he was messed up in, she begins to receive threats to stop her search and go home.  Can she unravel her father’s death and solve a decades old cold case at the same time?

Pulley’s historical suspense writing is ratcheting her up to a new level of writers. I was hooked in the old story and had to research parts of it myself.  She placed the names of the officers and investigators at just the right place to match history.  And her depiction of Cleveland in the depression took me there to see it in my mind.  There is no doubt that this is a seedy novel, but it is supposed to reflect that era and way of life.  If you can indulge yourself a little, you’ll find that this story is more than face value.  There is a lot of foul language and sexual content, so it is recommended only for mature readers.

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

The Lacemaker

The LacemakerAuthor: Laura Frantz

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: January 2, 2018

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Another great work of historical fiction! Lovers of the American Revolution era will enjoy this romance.

Young Lady Elisabeth “Liberty” Lawson is set to be engaged to Miles Roth, who appears to be a well-respected member of the town in the Tory party. However, when he disappears on the eve of the American Revolution, several accuse him of being a British spy and have no sympathy for young Liberty.  With no one to help her, the skilled lace maker is on her own until she receives help of a patriot named Noble Rynalt, who is known for his generosity but is very cautious of his political dealings.  Liberty must decide between what her family desires and what she knows is right in her heart.

As always, Frantz brings her settings to life with descriptive scenery, language, and notable characters. Within moments of beginning this book, I was quickly transported to Colonial Williamsburg and began walking the streets, hearing the distinct sounds, and smelling what must have been at the time.  Granted, it helps having been to the reenactment colony, but even without that it is easy to get lost in the setting.  As with her previous novels, Frantz has a knack for setting characters up in perilous situations that will keep you engaged through the entire book as you quickly turn the pages to find out what is going to happen next.  Readers will also find themselves pondering Liberty’s situation as she finds her feelings changing from one man to another and hoping that she makes the right decisions in her life.

If you love historical fiction, especially set in the American colonies, you need to start your year off with this book.

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

Under a Cloudless Sky

Under a Cloudless SkyAuthor: Chris Fabry

Publisher: Tyndale

Release Date: January 9, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A remarkable story bringing past and present events that collide that can only be reconciled with forgiveness.

In 1933, the mining town of Beulah Mountain, West Virginia has it shares of ups and downs. The mine owners have the ups and the workers have the downs.  But not all owners are unfair.  Jacob Handley agreed to be a financial backer of the mine if he could put measures in place that would make it more fair for the workers, including housing, food and supplies from a company store, etc.  However, other members felt that increasing the bottom line was the primary goal by whatever means necessary.  Even so, a friendship between Handley’s daughter, Ruby, and one of the mine workers daughters named Bean struck up and became inseparable.  Through Bean’s mama and their church, Ruby became saved and was baptized.  They were inseparable, until an unfortunate series of events set a massacre in place that would change their lives forever.

Several decades later in 2004, Hollis Beasley is trying to prevent the land in Beulah Mountain from being bought out by Coalman Coal and Energy. Unfortunately, the company has deep pockets with roots in the tax appraisal office that is making it impossible for the land owners to pay taxes on their land, forcing many to sell.  Ruby Handley Freedman now lives in Kentucky and is fighting her children to keep her independence.  Having not been back to Beulah Mountain since the massacre, the town has changed and the historical society has refurbished her old childhood home above the company store as a museum.  Feeling the need to return for forgiveness as well as to prove to her children that she can still take care of herself, Ruby takes off with no notice to head to Beulah Mountain.  This decisions starts a series of events that will change everyone’s lives in Beulah Mountain just as the day she left.

I have never been disappointed in a book by Chris Fabry, so it comes as no surprise that I quickly devoured this one as well. With a resounding theme of forgiveness throughout the book, Fabry weaves a tragic story planted with a seed of hope.  I was so caught up in both stories that I couldn’t pick which one I wanted to follow more.  Fabry also did a great job taking me back to 2004 with the reference to Switchfoot as well as a few other tidbits such as internet browsers of the past.  You don’t realize how much your forget until you’re confronted with it again.  And yes, Meant to Live is still playing in my head now much like it did then.

Ruby’s story was humorous, suspenseful, and downright terrifying at times. To hear about the poor treatment of people at any time in history (or present) is never an enjoyable experience.  However, we must learn what happened or we are doomed to repeat it.  I also liked that he showed how people prefer to sugarcoat the bad and focus on the good.  By understanding this, we can look past the surface and see the hurt that people are facing.

I always enjoy books that allow me to have a bit of a prediction and this one was no exception. I’m happy to say that my prediction of the story came true.  However, there was a twist that also happened as part of the prediction, which made it even better.  Be sure to pick up a copy of this great new book for 2018.  You’ll be glad you did.

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

Another One Bites the Crust

Another one bites the crustAuthor: Ellie Alexander

Series: A Bakeshop Mystery #7

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Release Date: January 2, 2018

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Another deliciously tasteful mystery by Ellie Alexander. Another One Bites the Crust is sure to please your taste buds and satisfy your craving for a good mystery.

When a Shakespeare Festival returns to Ashland, the local bakery, Torte, is called upon as the main supplier of treats for the event. Before the main event can begin, the town is hit with a murder and Jules’s friend Lance, the theater director is the main suspect. Juliet knows Lance is big into drama but has a hard time believing he would murder anyone.  It now falls to Juliet to find the real murderer and prove her friend innocent before anyone else gets cooked.

One of the nicest things about the Bakeshop Mysteries is they are fun cozy mysteries that you can just relax and enjoy. There is nothing too complicated that takes a lot of thinking or over analyzing.  I enjoy the witty banter, the quick pace and the character interactions.  Even though this is the seventh in the series, it can be read as a stand-alone. The author does a great job of giving just enough back story so a new reader can enjoy it without having to have read all in the series.  By this point, if you have read all in the series it is easy to see how well developed the characters are and the flow of the story is great.  I enjoyed how this story focused more on Jules and Thomas and had less to do with Carlos. However, I do foresee him coming back in the next installment with what was mentioned at the end. I recommend this to readers that want a nice, sit by the fire with a blanket story that will make them laugh at times and keep them guessing at what is to come next.

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

A Song of Home

A Song of HomeAuthor: Susie Finkbeiner

Series: Pearl Spence #3

Publisher: Kregel Books

Release Date: November 28, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

An emotional conclusion to the Pearl Spence trilogy!

Pearl Spence is going through the motions of life. In 1930s Michigan, life is already hard enough with the depression.  But when her mama ran off with the newspaper owner, things got even more difficult with the town gossiping.  Fortunately, they have the help of a young woman named Opal, who is half white and half colored.  Most people don’t think of her as much, but she can sure dance to swing music.  Pearl finally manages to get her to teach her how to dance and people who she didn’t see eye to eye with before now want her to teach them what she knows.  Everything seems to be going better, until one day her mama comes home.  But it’s not the mama she remembers from Oklahoma, she is much more distant and moody.  The way her mama treats her daddy makes her wish she had never come back and with the unfortunate surprise she brought with her.  Can Pearl weather yet another storm in her young life?

I have immensely enjoyed getting to know Pearl through these three books and really hope that the trilogy turns into a series as Pearl grows older. All the historical accuracies have contributed to making each book enlightening and educational to someone who enjoys historical fiction.  Couple that with the emotional turmoil that Pearl continues to find herself in and each book becomes very personal.  I’m glad to see that Finkbeiner is writing these books on this level so that we can understand not only what kids during the depression went through, but also that several kids in today’s world are going through the exact same thing.  Seasons change but the same problems are still there.  In several instances, the reader dwells on what would be best to handle the situation.  Would he/she react like Mary Spence or more like Aunt Carrie?  Each of these books is filled with characters to aspire to be more like as well as those that should be avoided.

If you haven’t started this wonderful series, I strongly urge you to pick up A Cup of Dust first.  If has a lot of background and as each book is a continuation, you will need to read them in order.  This has quickly become one of my favorite series and I can’t wait to see what she comes out with next.

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

Oath of Honor

oath of honorAuthor: Lynette Eason

Series: Blue Justice #1

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: January 2, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A hard hitting, nail-biting, good as they get thrill ride!

Isabelle (Izzy) St. John has joined several others in her family to pursue a career in law enforcement. Her mother is the chief of police and with three brothers and two sisters, they make for a loud and interesting bunch. During a stake out with her partner that goes south, Izzy barely escapes with her own life; unfortunately, her partner does not get out so lucky. She begins to pursue what happened with a determination like never before. She teams up with Ryan, her late partner’s brother, and together they chase lead after lead to get justice and hopefully put away the bad guys. Her family worries for her safety while she worries her heart won’t be able to handle the road she is going down with Ryan.

It is so nice to start the year out with such a fun thrilling read. Oath of Honor is by far the best I have read from Lynette Eason. It is fast paced, witty, and filled with edge-of-your-seat action until the very last page. This is also one of the most realistic works I have read from an author in a long time. The timing of events along with the motivation behind each action made for a thrilling story that I was unable to put down. As the beginning of a new series, I see such potential for where these characters can go for the next books.  Ryan and Izzy sizzle together and it is an easy romance to happen; its natural, just like each step they take to solve the case feels natural instead of forced. With so many in the St. John family, it will be fun to see how the others stories unfold.  I recommend this to readers that enjoy a fast paced, action filled story that they will be unable to put down.

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