One Wrong Turn

one wrong turnAuthor: Deanna Lynn Sletten

Publisher: Lake Union

Release Date: June 20, 2017

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

All it takes is one wrong turn to change a life. One moment perfect, the next moment shattered.

When Clay gets a call that is wife Jess has been involved in a vehicular accident, he races from Los Angeles to the Victorian home in northern California that his wife has been converting to a bed and breakfast. Due to the impact of the accident, she is currently in a coma.  Things might go easier when he sees his daughters, Maddie and Jilly, except that he hasn’t talked to them in almost two years.  Clay has been recovering from alcoholism and after rehab for the third time planned to make it stick because he couldn’t lose his family, but in the end, he almost did anyway.  Maddie is twelve and is angry with him and scared.  Jilly is seven and doesn’t remember him enough to be angry.  Can the stress of this situation keep him from turning back to the bottle?  What if Jess never wakes up?  All because of one wrong turn.

Okay, so I was hooked after the first chapter. A few short hours later, I was done.  That’s just how good this book is and how well written it is.  Sletten knows how to garner an emotional response from me that makes me keep reading to find out what is going to happen.  Even when one of the main characters has a debilitating problem that is destroying his or her life, you just have to keep reading.  It’s painful to watch this because you can tell what is about to happen, but you just must keep going.  You can’t help it as a reader.  In this case, it happened twice.  The back story for Clay was necessary, but just so sad to keep continuing.  But Jess always had a ton of love for him.  But the most difficult to watch was Maddie’s transition in present day.  To realize that the story she had made up about her father wasn’t true and to finally she her walls crumble.

I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure how this was going to play out. I was prepared for a broken heart as a reader at the end, but still had hope for a miracle.  If you want to know what happened, you are just going to have to read it yourself!

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

Wilders

WildersAuthor: Brenda Cooper

Series: Project Earth #1

Publisher: PYR

Release Date: June 13, 2017

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Another dystopian novel that is a bit more unique than you might think.

Coryn Williams has grown up in the metropolis of Seacouver, Washington. A town that has been developed under a weather dome.  This is a new generation of smart city that is completely connected with each person and tells them when they need certain items or when to go to the doctor.  But the city is not for everyone, many suffer from it.  Coryn’s parents each took their life and her older sister must get out of the city before it drives her to the same fate, so she sets of to work for a rewilding foundation that is reestablishing the ecosystem that humans have destroyed.

Three years later, Coryn is set to graduate from school and must head into a career. Instead she decides to do the unthinkable; voluntarily go outside of the dome to find her sister.  But will her sister want to see her?  And will the city let her back in?

Dystopian novels are rapidly becoming a dime a dozen. It’s hard to find something new and fresh that doesn’t build upon an already realized idea.  However, Cooper definitely piqued my interests with this one.  I’ve done a lot of research into smart cities and how they currently interact versus how they are planning to connect in the future with the internet of things.  This book easily brings my fears into place with the amount of data that the city knows and how the city can protect itself.

Coryn was an interesting character. She was very independent (and stubborn) and set out to find her sister with no thoughts of what could happen to her.  But she got more than what she bargained for once she found her.  I’m curious if the storms were a result of the damaged ecosphere, but that may come in a future book.

There is some occasional harsh language for a YA novel, which is why I took it down to 4 stars. Even so, it is a really good read.

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

Eve of Redemption

EveAuthor: Tom Mohan

Publisher: BHC Press

Release Date: March 1, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A supernatural thriller that will have you looking deep into your soul and wondering if you can trust what you see.

When John Burke’s family disappeared, he thought his life was over. He no longer had a reason to live and fell into a deep despair.  Four years later, he decides to end it all until a little girl changes his perspective.  Soon after his life collides with the supernatural, his past is all back for him to face once more.  It quickly becomes more than he can handle and he is forced to rely on new found friends and allies before all is lost.

Tom Mohan has brought suspense to a whole new level in this supernatural thriller. With characters that you can connect with on a deep level and feel their distress on every page, this is a story not to be missed.  While this is not my usual genre to read, I decided to give this one a try and am glad I did.  The story was deep with thought provoking scenes that kept me up late into the night.  A lot of thought was put into each character and how their role provided further development to the story and each scene instead of just inserting more characters for the sake of making the story longer.  I enjoyed the relationship between John and Red and how that related to his longing for his daughter.  I recommend this book to readers that love a supernatural thriller that will leave them with questions long after the last page.

The Gypsy Moth Summer

Gypsy mothAuthor: Julia Fierro

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Release Date: June 6, 2017

Reviewer: Jennifer S. Roman

We all remember those summers of our youth, especially the ones in which we try to appear grown up while trying to fit in with the cool kids.  Maddie Pencott LaRosa tries to do just that the summer of ‘92 on a small island that is overwhelmingly white and divided by social class.  On the West side are the laborers of Grudder Aviation Factory, and on the East are the rich upper crust who run the factory.  Maddie’s mother comes from the East side, but after marrying Maddie’s abusive husband from the West side, they live in a small cottage off her grandparents’ estate with Maddie and her brother Dom.  Maddie wants more than anything to fit in with the rich girls at school, and she finally has an in.  When the prodigal daughter, Leslie Day Marshall moves back “home” after her parents’ deaths, she brings with her a black husband and mixed-race children.  Maddie immediately falls for Leslie’s son, Brooks, and invites him to hang out every night with her new friends.  Trouble starts happening for everyone involved as a historic gypsy moth “plague” invades the island and threatens to remove every bit of green within eyesight.

Told in six different perspectives, the story unfolds as each person brings secrets and revelations to the mix.  Maddie is hiding the fact that her mother is slowly killing herself with pills and alcohol, while her abusive father cheats on her mother.  Brooks, Leslie’s son, is not happy to be away from the city, where he is accepted and well-liked.  He feels uncomfortable around all the white people and is very careful.  Leslie has a mission of social justice now that she has her parents’ money and power.  Jules, Leslie’s black Ivy League-educated husband, is a botanist and works to revive the fabulous gardens at Leslie’s parents’ estate.  He doesn’t understand how Leslie can do the air-kiss socialite party thing when she is so quickly angered by these people’s actions towards the “help,” especially when they think Jules is the help.  Dom, Maddie’s brother, is a bit of an outcast and lives on the fringe of the island.  He drinks whenever he can and suspects he is gay, which makes him feel even worse about himself.  Veronica, Maddie’s grandmother, is hiding her terminal breast cancer diagnosis while keeping track of her dementia-riddled husband Bob, AKA the Colonel, as he wanders their property with a gun in tow.  Veronica has lived her life as a society woman and now realizes how fake her life is, so she vows to make some life-changing decisions that will hopefully benefit her grandchildren before it is too late.

There is so much going on in this 400-page book so I was glad I started it way before this review was due.  It brought back a lot of memories as I also was a teen (albeit a bit older) during the 90s and experienced many of the same world events as these people did.  The characters were appealing and interesting, and while not all were likeable, they were as the author intended.  It was easy to feel empathy for Dom and Maddie living the lives they did, and although at first Veronica was unbearable, she evolved into a person I was rooting for until the very end.  Brooks and Jules were quickly likeable, and one had to feel for them as they entered a very challenging world that would eventually make them miserable.  Each character had good traits and bad ones to make them interesting.

The story itself was interesting, but at times it either plodded along or had so much going on that it was difficult to follow.  For example, without giving away spoilers, first this would happen, then this happened, then something else happened, then another thing happened.  It was almost as if the author could not decide which challenge to throw at the characters, so she threw several of them at her.  Considering the book was long, there were plenty of opportunities to throw some wrenches into the system, yet they all seemed to happen at the end of the book and really didn’t do much for the story.  I did enjoy the overall premise of the book, but again, these wrenches thrown into the system detracted from how great it could have been.  I would have loved to have seen a little bit more focus on Leslie’s family and its story and how it related to her return to the island.  I would still recommend this book to friends, but would let them know my reservations about the second half.

This is a book that touches on a variety of hot topics and therefore contains violence, sex, and foul language.  For this reason, I recommend this book for mature readers.  Fans of coming of age stories, the 1990s, and family dysfunction will enjoy this book.

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

Freedom’s Price

FreedomAuthor: Christine Johnson

Series: Keys of Promise #3

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: June 6, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Can Pirates of the Caribbean characters come to life in an alternate book?  

Catherine Haynes is facing a difficult situation. With both of her parents now deceased, her cousin has taking control of their estate, but must pay a stipend to Catherine until she is wed.  Now he is in a hurry to get her married and sell the estate.  Rather than succumb to his wishes, Catherine decides to take a severance from him and sail to her mother’s homeland of Louisiana to meet the family that doesn’t know she exists.  Along the way, she is shipwrecked on the island of Key West, where she meets dashing Captain Tom Worthington, who may be the only man she has met that can match her wit, which infuriates her more.  Even so, Catherine and Tom find themselves drawn to one another even though each has their own plans.  Would it be better to stay with Tom in Key West or venture to an uncertain future in New Orleans?

This was a fun historical fiction read that had me picturing Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann from Pirates of the Caribbean. Not because of their situation, but because of their personalities.  There was lots of fun, wit, and action throughout the book.  But there were also valuable lessons learned about trust and love.  Johnson did a great job of setting the scene in pre-Civil War New Orleans.  I hadn’t realized that England had already abolished slavery by that time period, so I was happy to get to do some research based on the book.  I also love the Key West area, so anytime I get to go there in my mind is well worth it.

Even though this was the third in the series, it is easily a standalone. I recommend reading it even without a copy of the first two.

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

Before We Were Yours

Before we were yoursAuthor: Lisa Wingate

Publisher: Ballantine

Release Date: June 6, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Another fantastic past/present collision story produced by Wingate! This one will make you cry!

Set in 1939 Memphis, Tennessee, Rill Foss and her younger siblings all live with their parents on a riverboat. The great depression has hit several folks hard, but living on the river can get you by if you all love one another.  Their mother is now pregnant with twins and several complications have arisen, so much so that a local midwife won’t help her deliver the babies on the boat.  Forced with a tough decision, their father leaves twelve-year-old Rill in charge of the kids and takes their mother to a hospital.  But in the morning light, a police officer shows up to take the kids to their parents saying that the twins have died, but actually delivers them to the Tennessee Children’s Home.  Once there, Rill begins to realize that the orphanage intends to see all the children into adoption.  Can she keep her family together and get back to their parents?

Fast-forward to present day in Aiken, South Carolina, Avery Stafford is beginning the process she was groomed for, to take over her father’s senate seat. She achieved a law degree and was fast tracked with the US attorney’s office, but her father got cancer and is starting to have to slow down in order to keep his health.  Worse, they have recently had to put her grandmother in a nursing home for Alzheimer’s disease and this has become a hot button on the candidacy due to conditions of lower income nursing homes.  While visiting one of the nursing homes, one of the residents appears to recognize Avery as part of her past and steals her bracelet, which her grandmother gave her.  When she comes back to collect it, she sees a picture in the woman’s room with her grandmother in it.  What secrets was her grandmother involved in?

As expected, Lisa Wingate has written another phenomenal book combining connected lives of the past and present. I’ve enjoyed several of her previous series, which often make me emotional, but this one really struck a nerve.  The book is based on an actual organization that operated as a black-market adoption ring in Memphis called the Tennessee Children’s Home Society, which was operated by Georgia Tann.  The last national interest in this organization was about 25 years ago and has been somewhat forgotten by today’s society, as have many other events that are worthy to note.  But Wingate has resurrected this with passion.  I hope that everyone who reads this book will go do some research on the organization and get an idea of what atrocities were committed.  With two young boys of my own, this really hit home for me.  I don’t know what I would have done had it happened.  I may have ended up just like Quennie.

Wingate’s writing and character developed are superb as usual. She manages to take the reader back in time to understand the scene as well as easily transition back to present day.  I have been looking forward to this book for a long time and I’m glad that I read it.  I hope you will read it too!

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

Ascension of Larks

AscensionAuthor: Rachel Linden

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: June 20, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Making the hard choice is never easy, but in some cases, it is a leap of faith that just might prove worth it in the end.

Magdalena (Maggie) Henry loves her life of traveling and being a renowned photographer. She is a free spirit and has never been tied down to anyone or anything before.  When her best friend Lena calls to say her husband, Marco, has died in an accident on the lake, she drops everything to go help her friend.  Maggie has always been secretly in love with Marco and being at their house with the family is harder than she thought it was going to be.  Maggie gets a call from her boss to give her a once in a lifetime opportunity to compete for the biggest award in the photography community.  Naturally, she doesn’t want to pass it up.  However, she must now decide between her career and being there for some of the only family she has ever had is the hardest decision she has ever had to make.  She knows what her heart is telling her to follow the magic of being with a family and settling down, but will she be able to make the decision?

This is not my normal go to book for a quick enjoyable read, but was worth every minute of my time. The setting was beautiful!  I love the islands of the Pacific Northwest, and every time Maggie went for a run I imagined myself on the beach with her.  While this is marketed towards women, it is one that male readers can still find enjoyable.  Lena finding out the problems her husband has left her with is something that probably happens far more often than any of us realize and was addressed well.  Lena had a hard time dealing with the stress of everything but was fortunate enough to have wonderful people in her life she could rely on to help her through the difficult times.  The few almost romance scenes were done well and not rushed.  I can’t stand to read a scene where you know the relationships are being rushed and completely not believable.  There are religious aspects to the book but nothing that is too “in your face” that might put readers off.  Linden did a fantastic job of writing a smooth flowing dialogue as well as narrative scenes.  I enjoyed the message Linden drove home of no matter how bad your situation is, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, but at the same time seeing the other side can show you a little bit of what you are missing in life.  I recommend this to readers that enjoy a story with heart and a message that will touch them and help them if they are struggling through a difficult time.

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