The Beginner’s Guide to Wining an Election

election

Author: Michael R. French

Publisher: Moot Point Productions

Release Date: November 20, 2018

Rating: 3 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A topic that might not seem interesting shows a different side to the world of high school politics.

 Being involved in high school politics is the last thing Brit Kitridge had on her mind. She wanted to finish high school, go to college and then onto med school. She has always loved history, especially her history teacher and looks to him for guidance. After he fuels her passion for politics, she joins the team of Matthew Boltanski, the school’s shoo-in for winning the election. He has a team of fourteen that has helped him win everything he has gone out for and now he wants to be Student Body President. Before she can do much for the team, she is accused of being a spy and trying to sabotage the team. It doesn’t take long for Brit to realize she wants to be the change in her school and sets out to beat Matthew at his own game and win the election herself. Winning is going to be harder than she imagined and the secrets she uncovers go deeper than anyone in school could have predicted.

 I would like to say I enjoyed this book, but I can’t. It started out far too slow, especially for a YA novel that should take off from page one. Not only did it start slow, but for me it was very unbelievable. Set a few years in the future isn’t enough to make the scenarios feel real for me. High school students being paid by a corporation to win elections in high school?  And the amounts paid? It was just too farfetched for me to buy. The rest of the storyline itself is good, a high school election with the underdog going out to try and make a difference for the school. I liked that along with the values that Brit stood for and tried to be a moral compass, even when she made mistakes she owned up to those mistakes. The author did a good job of portraying young adolescents in a difficult time, one of the best aspects of the novel. Several points in the book had language that I am not comfortable recommending to young readers. I don’t recommend this to YA readers with the language and slow start, but older readers might enjoy the story.

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

Have You Seen Luis Velez?

Luis Velez

Author: Catherine Ryan Hyde

Publisher: Lake Union

Release Date: May 21, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Another wonderful, heartwarming and deep story by an author I have come to rely on to pull my heartstrings and deliver a tale like no one else.

 It can be hard growing up and feeling like you don’t belong anywhere. Raymond Jaffe feels this way living with his mother and her new family.  He spends the weekends with his father and stepmother he is even more out of place. When his best friend moves, he is left with a stray cat he has taken a liking to and a blind ninety-two-year old woman from his building who needs his help. The first time he met her, she was asking about a man named Luis Velez. Luis had been coming to help her go to the bank and grocery story and has disappeared. Mildred Gutterman is worried about him but also needs help to provide her basic needs she can’t do on her own. She and her family escaped the Holocaust and has been on her own since her husband passed away. Luis came to help her and when he stopped coming without an explanation, she feared the worst might have happened. Raymond works to help Mildred survive and find out what happened to Luis and give her closure. The more they dig, the farther Mildred retreats into herself and Raymond makes it his mission to show her that even in the hard times there is always hope.

 Every single novel I read by Catherine Ryan Hyde pulls me in further and shows me she is one of the very best at crafting a story that pulls at your heartstrings and character relationships that very few other author could pull off. The relation between Raymond and Mildred is one that normally wouldn’t have worked out, but the way they came together here was so natural and beautiful. There are so many life lessons in this book: friendship, kindness, hope when things seem lost, family, even if it isn’t blood relatives. The job that Raymond has, trying to help Mildred, isn’t an easy one; he could have just made a call and tried to get her government assistance, but he didn’t. Raymond needed Mildred as much as she needed him, even if he didn’t realize it or want to admit it. One thing this book teaches us it to pay attention to who is around us.  It may be easy to look the other way or pass the person down the hall and think they aren’t are problem or concern, but we might be the only thing keeping them handing on in a tough time. I could go on and on about the lessons and little gems in this book for readers, but it is better to soak them in with the passing of each page. I highly recommend this book to readers looking for a read that will touch their heart and show them that good people are still out there ready and willing to do what is right.

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

A Glitter of Gold

Glitter of Gold

Author: Liz Johnson

Series: Georgia Coast Romance #2

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: August 6, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Fun, witty, charming, and pirates make for the best kind of summer story.

 Anne Norris is trying to escape her past life back in California.  A series of wrong choices landed her in places that she would rather never have visited.  As soon as she could, she packed up and moved across country to Savannah, Georgia where no one has a clue who she is.  She even started up a business as a pirate tour guide, but she isn’t making much and barely scrapes by from month to month.  After a hurricane passes over, she spends a morning at the beach and stumbles upon what appears to be a solid gold sword hilt.  If this is real, it could change her life, but also bring in unwanted publicity.  When she visits the local maritime museum, the curator is ecstatic and wants to find the remainder of the treasure but won’t be able to do it without Anne’s help.  Can she trust him?  Or is she better off alone?

 This was a fun quick read that was just perfect to start closing out the summer reading list.  Stories set in Savannah are always fun to take a stroll down the setting.  And when a pirate’s story comes to surface, that makes it even better.  I quickly fell into Anne’s backstory to understand why she was so skittish and lacked self-esteem, which became evident pretty quickly.  Carter was self-assured, but to focused on living up to his family name to actually enjoy life for what it was.  With a colorful group of supporting character, both Anne and Carter were able to grow both individually and together.  The romance never felt forced and was pretty predictable, but fun all the same.  I recommend this book to those who love a good summer read!

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

The Silence Between Us

Silence between usAuthor: Alison Gervais

Publisher: Blink YA Books

Release Date: August 13, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

At its core, The Silence Between Us is about learning to listen with more than just our ears.  Once we learn that, the space between us can close beautifully.

After losing her hearing in her early teens due to meningitis, Maya has had learned to adapt to the deaf world. Things get complicated though when her mom moves her and her brother to Colorado and Maya’s senior year is spent being the only deaf girl at a hearing school. Even though she is deaf, Maya has hopes of getting into the right college to help her get into the medical field. It doesn’t matter to her if she is the only one that feels she can accomplish this, she is determined to prove that the only thing she can’t do is hear. After arriving at Englemann High School Maya meets Beau Watson, student body president and one of the only students who attempts to learn sign language to communicate with Maya. With each passing day, Beau and Maya’s feelings for each other grow but staring them in the face are their differences. Even though Maya knows what it is like to hear, she has no desire to get a cochlear implant.  She is proud of being deaf and doesn’t want to change. Beau doesn’t understand why Maya wouldn’t want to hear again and Maya doesn’t know if she can be with someone that doesn’t accept her for who she is and always will be.

The Silence Between Us is a perfect young adult novel that teaches acceptance in a way that may not always appear to most of us. Hearing loss is not something that is easily noticeable, especially if the person doesn’t have a hearing aid or cochlear implant that is visible. I loved the way Alison Gervais made it relatable to anyone of us that could find ourselves in the situation Maya and Beau did. The writing is easy to follow with all the signing in all caps so the reader can differentiate between signs and other communications. Maya has had some hardships in her life, she has lost her hearing, her brother has cystic fibrosis, and now they have moved to a new town and she must attend a hearing school after years being at a deaf school. Maya is uneasy to trust any of the new friends she makes at her new school.  She appreciates the effort Beau makes to communicate in her language, but she can’t see them as ever being anything more than friends with her being deaf. She takes her only limitation and sets it up to be her failure until she is presented with the option of seeing it in a new light. I loved how every obstacle was a chance to look at things in a new way. Every reader will come away from reading this with a new-found respect for the deaf community. I highly recommend this book to young adults and even adults that want to learn a little bit about a different culture and how they can hear us, but we need to see them.

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

The Lost Vintage

Lost Vintage.jpgAuthor: Ann Mah

Publisher: William Morrow

Release Date: June 18, 2019

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A fantastic story that is not easily put down until it is finished!

Kate has set her life to achieve one goal: become a master of wine.  Given three opportunities to pass the exam, she has already failed twice.  Now she is more focused than ever, but seems to be continually outfoxed by French wine, which happens to be her native homeland even though she hasn’t been there in years.  As the head sommelier at a local San Francisco restaurant, there isn’t as much time as she would hope to dedicate to studying.  But when the restaurant unexpectedly closes its doors, Kate suddenly has time on her hands.  At her mentor’s urging, she reaches out to her cousin in France to see if it would be ok to come for a visit.  As it is time for the grape harvest, he happily agrees and looks forward to seeing her soon.

Being back in France brings back difficult memories.  She and her cousin’s wife were college friends that visited France during a semester abroad.  One thing led to another and her friend stayed behind while she returned home.  Now she is helping clean out the family cellars under the house.  While much of it is junk that has been stored throughout the years, she stumbles upon some photographs in a trunk of a young woman she has never heard about but bears a striking resemblance to herself.  As she begins to pry into the family history, her uncle shuts down the investigation at every turn.  One day, she discovers a hidden cellar behind a false wall that contains numerous bottles of rare wine.  But will this discovery open a door that can never be closed?

This book taught me more about rare wine that I had thought possible.  I had no idea all the different requirements for storing, handling, and more that must be taken into account.  However, this wasn’t the most interesting part of the story.  That was the time slip portion set back in occupied France during World War II.  I love these stories and all that it brings out historically.  There is always more to learn and Mah did a great job on researching this topic.

The character development was spot on as well.  Kate was instantly likable and felt like a close friend, even though she tends to shut people out.  I enjoyed getting to know her better and was really pulling for her relationship to blossom.  All the supporting characters fleshed out great as well.  Nothing felt forced and even though there were some antagonists, it played out like a great story.

There is some very mild language throughout the book, but nothing that would take away from the story.  I recommend this book to people who love time-slip novels concerning World War II and those that just enjoy a great story.

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

Deadly Intentions

Deadly IntentionsAuthor: Lisa Harris

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: August 6, 2019

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

With suspicious murders and random deaths that don’t seem random once the pieces are put together, Lisa Harris has crafted a great thriller that readers will enjoy from beginning to end.

Caitlyn Lindsey has seen her team members dying off one by one. What seemed as random accidents or murders at first are now turning into a pattern that is anything but random. As a research scientist, she knows that the work they do is very sensitive and if it falls into the wrong hands the outcome could be disastrous. Once she starts connecting the dots, she reaches out to one of the first victim’s husbands, Josh Solomon. Josh thought the men responsible for the death of his wife were behind bars but when Caitlyn comes to him with her concerns, he wonders if justice has really been served. Together they must try to find out who is after her and what their end game really is before it is too late.

I have read a lot of Lisa Harris’s books, as well as a lot of romantic suspense in general, and one of the nicest things about Deadly Intentions was the connection I felt between the characters. There is a true connection between Caitlyn and Josh; the way they have a history back when Josh’s wife was alive helped me to believe she would actually come to him and not make it seem a random connection. There is a great pace to the novel that keeps the story moving and readers will easily be able to follow. I read this in two days and thought it was the best one of Harris’s books I have read yet. There was lots of great suspense to go along with the romantic aspect of the story, especially towards the end. Caitlyn was a great protagonist, strong with plenty of weaknesses, able to ask for help but also help others along the way. My only negative issue would be the tie up at the end, which seemed a little rushed and I would have liked a little more backstory on one of our bad guys as to how he actually fit into the role he was playing. I do recommend this to readers that love romantic suspense novels and are looking for a great fast paced read.

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

Vow of Justice

Vow of JusticeAuthor: Lynette Eason

Series: Blue Justice #4

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: August 6, 2019

Rating: 5 Star

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

By far the best book I have read by Lynette Eason and easily one of the best I have read all year!

Linc St. John has had some tough cases being a special agent with the FBI, but nothing prepared him for the heartache off finding out Allison, the woman he loves, is dead. Torn between revenge and justice, Linc works every angle he can to track down the killers. In his search, he finds something he never expected to find, Allison is alive. Linc is greatly confused as to how she is alive and what it all means. With no time to find answers to his questions, he and Allison must work together to stop a killer from her past.

Vow of Justice is the fourth book in the Blue Justice series and easily the best. The St. John family is a great group of characters that have been developed beautifully throughout the series. Readers have been waiting a long time to read Linc’s story and it is well worth the wait. Lynette Eason has crafted her best story yet. The emotional connection I felt with the characters is what kept me plowing through the story at warp speed. I know this is Linc’s story but I have to say I fell in love with Allison, the empathy she showed for the others around her and the way her empathy was used as a weapon against her was brilliantly done. I absolutely loved that aspect of the story. The character development and story arc is one of the very best I have read all year. Readers will without a doubt love the action, suspense, romance and overall story of Vow of Justice.

I have so much more I want to say but can’t without giving more of the story away and it is too good to spoil anything. Even though this is the fourth in the series it can be read as a stand alone, reading the whole series gives the reader backstory that makes each installment more enjoyable but it isn’t necessary for new readers to still get a great read. Fans of Lynette Eason’s will love this latest release and readers looking for a new author to add to their shelves will not want to miss this one, I highly recommend Vow of Justice.

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

The Killing Tide

Killing tide.jpgAuthor: Dani Pettrey

Series: Coast Guardians #1

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: August 6, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

In this fast paced and energetic thriller, Dani Pettrey delivers her best book yet!  Readers will not want to miss this one!

Finn Walker, special agent with the Coast Guard Investigative Service, has spent years doing the job he loves, trying to save others.  But when a member of the Coast guard is found dead and another goes missing, he has his work cut out for him. With very few clues and even less to go on, Finn must stretch the limits of his investigative knowledge to solve the case. When his old flame, investigative reporter Gabby Rowley, comes back into town, it makes things even more complicated. To make matters worse, Gabby is in town because a ruthless crime boss she helped put away has put a price on her head. Gabby came home to wait until things blow over; she doesn’t want to put her family in jeopardy, so she stays in Finn’s guest house. Gabby can’t ignore her investigative instinct and works together with Finn to try to solve the case, stay alive, and keep her feelings for Finn under control.

Dani Pettrey set the bar pretty high with her Alaskan courage series. I was skeptical she could top it. I am pleased to say she blew me out of the water with The Killing Tide. This is a story fans will not want to miss. At first, I was a little unsure how I felt about Gabby but I quickly developed a strong connection with her and couldn’t deny my strong feelings for everything she went through. Her backstory and all that lead up to her becoming the person she is at this moment really made me root for her to succeed in all she attempted. Finn was an easy character for me to connect with. He left his feelings dangling from his sleeves and readers will find it hard to keep from connecting with him. I loved the ending and the way the suspense built up to a maximum at just the right moments. This is a perfect blend of romance and suspense to make an absolutely great story. This book is an exceptionally quick read, the story flows beautifully with short chapters and different point of views giving readers a full scope of how the story plays out. I highly recommend this to fans of Pettrey’s previous works as well as new readers to her, this will be a great place to start and get hooked on a wonderful new author.

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

Recursion

RecursionAuthor: Blake Crouch

Publisher: Crown Publishing

Release Date: June 11, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A fast-paced, mind-bending thriller that could only come from the likes of Blake Crouch!

It’s 2007 and Alzheimer’s disease is becoming more prevalent with no apparent cure in sight.  Helena Smith’s mother is a victim of the disease and she has made it her life’s work to combat the disease with science.  As a researcher, she hasn’t made much progress, but all that changes one day when a stranger walks into her lab and offers her an open checkbook to build the contraption that she dreams of: a memory chair.  Now secluded on an abandoned oil rig that has been outfitted into a secret laboratory, Helena is making advancements on her chair light years ahead of where she was at Stanford.  Once her team finally manages to capture and recreate memories, Helena can’t wait to use it for her mother.  But the chair’s mysterious benefactor seems to have other plans for the chair’s use, plans that she never saw coming or thought possible.

Ten years later, New York City cop Barry Sutton is called to a potential suicide jumper.  As he tries to talk her off the ledge, she confesses that she has FMS or false memory syndrome.  Becoming more prevalent, people are stricken with a second set of false memories of a completely different life that they never lived.  In many cases, it drives the person crazy until they commit suicide to escape from the madness.  Although Barry tries to persuade her, he is unsuccessful, and she jumps to her death.  Experts aren’t sure how the disease is transmitted nor is there any known cure.  He only hopes that he hasn’t contracted it from this woman.  As Barry investigates what loose ends there are, he finds something that doesn’t add up.  What Barry doesn’t realize is that this investigation will set forth a series of events that will change the world as he knows it, and possibly several other alternate worlds too!

Only the mind of Blake Crouch could conjure up a thriller this mind-bending.  His previous novel Dark Matter was such an intense read that it stayed with me for days and I kept telling people about it.  This was just as intense and will be sure to make my top list for the year.  Crouch has a way of making his reader’s question what they think they know.  Sure, it’s science fiction, but just think about it if it were true.  Disrupting the space-time continuum would cause all out chaos.  Where his previous novel dealt with string theory, this one focus in on actually traveling back in time and the ramifications of even living the exact same life over again.  He makes theoretical physics fun to read about and will hopefully inspire some future minds to continue developing this type of science.  I also just learned that this is going to become a movie on Netflix in 2020, so I highly recommended getting your copy now so that you can digest this awesome read.

There is quite a bit of strong language throughout the book as well as implied sex scenes  that is more appropriate for mature audiences.

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

Flowers From Afghanistan

Flowers

Author: Suzy Parish

Publisher: Harbourlight Books

Release Date: August 10, 2018

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A compelling redemption story for both self and marriage.

 After his two-year-old soon is killed in a tragic accident, Mac McCann signs up for a year long stint for overseeing security in a camp at Afghanistan.  Mac sees this as a way to get away from his troubles.  His wife is distraught that he is leaving but he is hoping that this will be a way for them to heal.  But he harbors a secret.  He feels that his son’s death is his fault and he doesn’t want to face his demons.  Once in Afghanistan, he meets other security workers that are there for a myriad of reasons, but many are there to escape problems.  However, the problems never really go away, they just seem to get worse.  As Mac continues his tour, he begins to view life from a new perspective and realizes his mistakes and that he must confront them in he wants to heal and move on.

 I thoroughly enjoyed this book as it was a clean read with redeeming qualities throughout.  Parish did a great job of weaving a story of a grieving couple struggling to heal.  But this book went way deeper than that.  She also brought to life many of the struggles that the both the locals in Afghanistan face as well as those that are over in an attempt to help rebuild the village life so that people can protect themselves.  Parish did a great job setting different scenes between Huntsville, Alabama and Afghanistan.  Her descriptive settings took to me each location in detail but didn’t detract from the story.  Mac and Sophie were wonderfully developed characters.  I could feel the hurt that they both carried and the anger between the two of them.  I could sense what was happening in their relationship before they could, which is the sign of a truly talented author.  I highly recommend this debut novel.

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