The Painted Castle

Painted castleAuthor: Kristy Cambron

Series: Lost Castle #3

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: October 15, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Cambron does an incredible job bringing this series to a close!

In present day Dublin, Kiera Foley has returned home from a venture in New York working on art history. Her career and relationship both fell apart at the hands of the family she hoped to join.  Now working at the family pub, she has a patron that continually comes in every night, orders a pint of Guinness that he never drinks, and offers her a job proposal.  Emory Scott, also disgraced from the art world, has found what appears to be a lost copy of a famous painting of Queen Victoria.  This could be a tremendous find, but he needs Kiera to help authenticate the painting.  As the pair begin to investigate the estate that the painting was discovered, they find information linking the painting to two other time periods.  The stories that surround this painting begin to bring life back into the manor that was once forgotten.

Once again Kristy Cambon does a great job of weaving three stories that center around a common object, which is painting in this book.  The present day time period centers on the youngest of the Foley siblings, who has been mentioned in previous books but not met until now.  Kiera is young and has been recently hurt both emotionally and professionally.  She returns home to heal and figure out a new direction for her life.  Similarly, Amelia Woods, who is set in 1945 during the end of the second great war, has also been hurt emotionally by the death of her husband.  But her hurt is much deeper than just his death.  One hundred years prior, Elisabeth has been lied to her entire life and once she finally learns the truth, it shocks her to the core.

I’ve so enjoyed this series and am sad to see it end. Each story has centered around a strong female lead that isn’t looking for romance, but always manages to find it at just the time it is needed.  I love the history that she weaves into each of the books.  Readers will be able to tell that her passion is writing during the World War II era as it shines through each of the books.  The previous books centered around a castle and this one centers around an English estate, but still has plenty of charm.  I recommend this book to readers who love different history periods as well as great time slip reads.

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

Unscripted

UnscriptedAuthor: Davis Bunn

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: October 1, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Davis Bunn gives readers a terrific story that will be sure to have them talking to others about the uniqueness of this book!

Danny Byrd has made quite the reputation for himself in Hollywood as being someone who is reliable in the film industry. As a behind the scenes accountant, he manages production of films with a tight crew that always make money.  However, that all changes when his business partner, and best friend, empties out all the accounts and leaves town with the money.  When checks start bouncing, only Danny is left to take the fall.  Now sitting in a jail cell, Danny begins to wonder if all his luck has run out.  Then he meets Megan Pierce, a high dollar LA attorney who has been hired to secure his release.  Megan has been struggling with her career herself and what she has sacrificed to work at her firm.  After she get’s Danny released, the two head to San Luis Obispo to meet with another legal firm that has a beneficiary package for Danny.  At this meeting, both of their lives change.  Can they both take advantage of a second chance?  And is there an attraction between the two that can overcome each person’s baggage?

This was just an overall great book! There are a few authors out there that I can just pick up and enjoy a good story and Davis Bunn has just added himself to the list.  There is not really a common theme that several other books out there follow.  This book has a message of redemption and Bunn subtly explores that with Danny.  It is so different from his science fiction and fantasy novels, that it just feels right.  The characters undergo a transformation for the better, tough conversations are had, and people are helped out in the end.  It reminds me a bit of Charles Martin’s writing in that its just enjoyable.  I hope that Bunn writes more stories like this that aren’t necessarily in a series, just a snapshot in time of someone’s life.

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

Unruffled: Thriving in Chaos

UnruffledAuthor: Edie Melson & Rhonda Rhea

Publisher: Bold Vision Books

Release Date: September 24, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Edie Melson and Rhonda Rhea bring together a delightful combination of wit, charm and charisma to help us deal with the craziness in life that can cause us to become unruffled.

When life gets busy and stressful, we can find ourselves unruffled and squirming to make sense of our lives and all we have going on. The chaos can become overwhelming and we lose focus of the choice we have to rest and reset our focus on the One that can help us in these most difficult of times. Edie Melson and Rhonda Rhea bring about difficult topics that everyone can relate to and give readers tools to help cope with the hardships.

For me, one of the most helpful chapters was dealing with Smoothing the Emotional Ruffles. Edie Melson hit home with every sentence she wrote. Emotions, especially my own, can easily get the best of me and when I react to a situation based purely on emotion I become unruffled in the worst way. Each and every chapter helps to see that even in the chaos we encounter, we can find ways to thrive and grow to become the very best version of ourselves we can be. The personal examples both authors provide throughout the chapters help readers to see that these aren’t words on a page without experience and meaning behind them. These two ladies know what they are talking about and want us all to be able to thrive.

As the holiday season approaches, the chaos and unruffling will undoubtedly increase for a lot of us and it is nice to have a resource to turn to that will help get our mind where it needs to be so we can keep our heart where it should be as well. I recommend this book to everyone! It doesn’t matter if you are in chaos now, already been through it, or it might be coming your way, there is something here for everyone and every situation you might be facing.  Take heart and get ready to Thrive.

Dark Ambitions

dark ambitionsAuthor: Irene Hannon

Series: Code of Honor #3

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: October 1, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Irene Hannon gives another terrific installment in the Code of Honor series. This book will leave you with all the feels long after you turn the last page!

Rick Jordan has tried hard to leave his army days behind him and is now running a camp to help foster children. During the winter, he has the place to himself and that’s the way he likes it until one night when he finds a trail of blood and clues which lead him to suspect a blast from his army past has come back into his life. Rick hires a detective agency to help him track down his friend and figure out what has happened. Heather Shields has worked as a PI since leaving the police force and is one of the best in her field despite the hardships placed in front of her being a female in a male driven career. When she finds Rick’s friend dead, she wants to continue looking into what might have happened even when Rick asks her to leave the case alone feeling it is getting too dangerous. The questions start to add up along with their feelings for each other.

Anyone that has ever read anything by Irene Hannon exactly what they will be getting when they open one of her books: action, undeniable romance, suspense and a great story. Hannah and Rick made an absolutely wonderful pair and I loved watching their story develop and grow as the story progressed. The story paced easily with plenty of tension and lots of page turning suspense. Over the years, I have grown to love Irene Hannon books. It doesn’t matter if she is writing contemporary romance or romantic suspense, the story is going to be top notch and fully enjoyable. While the story had many changing points of view, which might confuse some readers, I found it an easy way to keep up with all the different aspects of the story. Dark Ambitions is a great romantic suspense with characters that have more than enough chemistry to keep the reader attracted to their romance and pull for them to succeed. Even though this is the third book in the series, it could be read as a standalone.  Some of the secondary characters are from previous books but don’t play a big enough role to keep new readers from enjoying the story. I recommend this book to fans of Hannon’s and new readers alike.

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

A Bitter Feast

a bitter feastAuthor: Deborah Cromble

Series: Duncan Kincaid & Gemma James #18

Publisher: William Morrow

Release Date: October 8, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Fun mystery set in the English countryside.  Does an autumn read get better than that?

Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James have been invited by Gemma’s coworker Melody out to Melody’s parents’ estate in the English country for a harvest festival.  What Gemma hopes to be a restful weekend is abruptly changed when her husband Duncan is broadsided in his car by a local retired hospital administrator named Nell Greene.  Unfortunately, Nell does not survive the crash.  But what is more mysterious is that there was a man in her car who appears to have already died prior to the impact.  As Duncan and Gemma join the local detective investigator to make sense of the situation, another mysterious death occurs.  It will take everyone to figure out what is really going on in the small town of Lower Slaughter and hopefully they can figure it out before more deaths occur.

I thought this book was a stand alone, so imagine my surprise when I discovered that it is actually the 18thbook in a series.  Don’t let that deter you from selecting this title, because it may hook you to go back and read a few of the previous novels.  At first I was a little overwhelmed because there are so many different points of view, several within each chapter.  However, after about fifty to seventy-five pages, the characters voices really fleshed out and the story really took off.  I enjoyed getting to see so many supporting characters build out their flaws and really get developed.  As I said earlier, I’m going to have to go back to some of the previous novels and discover more about these characters.  There is some occasional foul language as well as some implied sex between characters, but nothing graphic.  Even so, I still recommend this to mature readers that enjoy a good mystery with a British setting.

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

No Judgements

No JudgementsAuthor: Meg Cabot

Series: Little Bridge Island #1

Publisher: William Morrow

Release Date: September 24, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Animal lovers and romantics will truly enjoy this book!

Bree Beckham has run away to Little Bridge Island in Key West, Florida, after suffering some major setbacks in her life. The death of her father and inappropriate behavior by a close friend have led her to drop out of law school and move to her favorite vacation spot, despite her mother’s disapproval. As Bree makes a life for herself on the little island as a waitress, she finds herself loving her new life. She has sworn off men and is enjoying her new found freedom.

As Hurricane Marilyn looms in the distance, Bree finds herself on the receiving end of calls from her past, her mother and ex-boyfriend begging her to evacuate. Bree is determined to weather out the storm. She finds herself drawn to the playboy of the island, Drew Hartwell, as she relies on the kindness of his family for protection from the storm.

After the hurricane, Bree finds a new passion in helping the pets who had been left behind when their owner evacuated, no judgment. This draws Bree and Drew closer as he helps her.

Bree’s past threatens to catch up with her and ruin her new and perfect life when her mother and ex-boyfriend arrive in Little Bridge. Bree learns to stand up for herself with the new confidence she has found.

This was a fun, easy book. Bree was a relatable character with passion for her new life.   Her chemistry with Drew is electric. The plot kept me interested and wanting to come back to the book. I feel that this book could have pulled on the heartstrings of the reader more by putting more emotion into the climax, but overall a great read.

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

Synapse

snyapse

Author: Steven James

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: October 8, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Synapse is Steven James at his best! In his first futuristic thriller, he shows readers what an absolutely outstanding writer he truly is and why his books are a must read!

Kestrel Hathaway has just experienced a horrible tragedy when her baby is born without taking a breath. As she leaves the hospital mourning her baby, she witnesses a terrorist attack that sends her world into a tailspin. In a world where Artificial Intelligence (AI) is advancing faster than ever before, Kestrel has never wanted to be a part it, especially after her parents were killed by an AI. Her brother has never held her views against AI’s and has spent the last few years working to advanced Artificial Intelligence higher than ever before. As she mourns the loss of her baby, she receives a gift from her brother, her own Artificial, Jordan. There is another terrorist attack looming and Kestrel begins working with Federal Counterterrorism agent Nick Vernon to figure out who is being targeted and how they can stop the attack. Jordan is not your normal Artificial, he starts asking questions normal Artificials have never asked before. With technology advancing so quickly along with the questions they raise, the world we once knew is not what we live in and we will never be the same because of it.

Anyone who has ever read a Steven James book knows he is one of the very best! Tthe way he crafts a story is unlike any other. It doesn’t matter if you are reading a Patrick Bowers novel or any of his others, the story you get will be exceptional. Synapse is no different. I normally don’t go for science fiction, too much world building that never pulls me into the story. Even though this is only set thirty years in the future, enough must be set up to make the AI’s believable and relatable. I had no trouble following along with this world and picturing myself right there with the characters. What was written in a little under 400 pages could have been pushed to multiple novels and I would have gladly sat and devoured them all. Steven James does an incredible job of pulling readers into the story and that is why he doesn’t need the extra pages other authors might in order to give readers more information. And just like with every other novel he has written, readers will find plot twists at every turn and tension driving the story each step of the way. There is an element of faith throughout and leaves me with a few questions, especially with AI’s and faith.

With multiple viewpoints, readers will also get a full scope of what is happening without feeling lost. For someone who is not a fan of science fiction, I would happily read many more futuristic novels written by James and recommend them to anyone and everyone. I truly hope he will write a follow up (or 10!) for Synapse and keep these characters and their story going for a very long time. I highly recommend this to everyone, I’m not going to even classify a certain group of readers. If this is not your normal genre to read in, please do not let that stop you. This is worth the read and just might open your eyes to things you never thought about. I say this after every single Steven James book I read, but there are not nearly enough people reading his books and that needs to change. If you want a fabulous story, no matter the genre, pick up a Steven James book and enjoy.

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

The Lying Room

The lying roomAuthor: Nicci French

Publisher: William Morrow

Release Date: October 1, 2019

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Secrets and lies weave a dangerous web that can catch multiple people.

Neve Connolly has played her part throughout her marriage. She’s been more of the bread winner allowing her husband to chase his dreams early on, but as of late they have both become tired and depressed. Neve built a publishing company with three friends from college and they have always struggled to keep it going, so when the company gets bought out, they are secretly relieved that they are becoming just employees instead of business owners. Neve’s life had become mundane with work and raising three kids and her oldest Mabel having a tough time falling into the wrong crowd and using drugs. So, when her new boss Saul takes a sudden interest in her, it doesn’t take much for her to fall under his spell and become tightly wrapped up in an affair. One morning she receives a text from Saul to come to his flat one morning before he leaves for a conference. After she enters the flat, she discovers Saul’s body and finds the murder weapon nearby. Neve realizes that if the affair were to come out, it would devastate her family, so she works to erase all traces of herself from the flat. As the police begin to investigate, the lead detective seems to think that Neve is somehow involved and continues showing up at random times and seemingly unraveling any alibi she can concoct. As the investigation continues, Neve realizes that she may be the next target for the killer and she must unravel the mystery before the police can connect her to Saul’s murder.

One thing I have found about Nicci French books is that they always start out with a bang and The Lying Room was no exception. Within the first few pages, readers discover that Neve is being unfaithful to her husband with an affair and she then discovers the dead body of her lover. Even though the book is told in third person, it centers on Neve and her thoughts about what is going on and how to try to salvage her image to her husband and children. As the evidence seems to close in on her, she begins to discover more secrets that involve her husband and close friends. This was a very interesting psychological thriller that also read quickly. After the initial start of the book, it took about another one hundred pages to really set the pace, but once it did, it really took off. There is quite a bit of foul language and some implied sex that renders this book more acceptable for a mature audience.

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

Tiger Queen

Tiger queenAuthor: Annie Sullivan

Publisher: Blink YA Books

Release Date: September 10, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

One of the best books I have read this year. Fast paced, action packed and full of adventure, romance, and tension at all the right moments.

Kateri has grown up thinking the Desert Boys killed her baby brother and mother, the queen. As the only living heir to the throne, she is forced to fight in the arena to prove herself. Every fight she wins puts her one step closer to ruling her people, but if she loses, she will have to marry her opponent and watch as he rules over the people her mother swore her to protect. When her final opponent ends up being her trainer, she knows there is no way she can win so she flees to the desert. If she can find the leader of the Desert Boys and get him to train her, she might have a chance to win in the arena. The more time she spends in the desert th,e more her perception is changed of her life with her father and all that she thought she knew. As she makes her way back into the arena, she has two doors to choose from, one leads to her happiness and the other a tiger.

Tiger Queen is the second book by Annie Sullivan and if she keeps this up, she will quickly be at the top of the pack of Young Adult authors. I loved her first book, but her second book is so much better. Tiger Queen has everything you want in a book, not just for YA, it is fast-paced, action packed, fun, and oh so much more. Kateri was the perfect protagonist, I connected with her from the very beginning. She is strong but also smart enough to know she is in over her head and must ask for help. When she leaves the palace and seeks out the help of the desert boys, the tension really picks up and I couldn’t wait to see what was going to happen. Each relationship had its own special dynamic that played to the characters strengths and weaknesses beautifully. I don’t want to give too much away but will say that there was a lot I didn’t see coming but smiled as it played out. Readers will fall in love with Kateri but also find themselves connecting with Cion, the leader of the Desert boys. While this is written as a standalone, I would absolutely love to see more of this story. So many of the characters have more story to be played out and I am aching to read more about the Tiger Queen and the people she rules over. I recommend this book to readers both young and old that love a fast-paced action packed read that they won’t be able to put down. There is no language that wouldn’t be appropriate for a younger audience and the violence is there but written so well young readers won’t have a problem with the story.

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

The Photo Ark Vanishing

photo arkAuthor: Joel Sartore

Publisher: National Geographic Society

Release Date: September 10, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

As always, National Geographic provides an information book with amazing pictures!

Broken into four main sections, National Geographic profiles animals that have gone extinct or are likely to go extinct.  The first section is labeled Ghosts and provides details and photos about when select animals were no longer seen by humans.  The next section is Disappearing which documents animals that are on the brink of extinction or classified as critically endangered on the Iucn Red List.  Fading provides a look at the animals that are classified as general endangered.  The last section labeled Dimming shows animals that have been labeled as vulnerable.  With incredible photos, stories, and incredible facts, this book is a must have for those interested in protecting our animal habitats.

The most appealing part of this book is the photos.  I love these type of books that I can sit down with my kids and go though the different photos of animals and explain to them what is happening to these creatures.  However, this book is so much more that just a picture book.  It gives the history of when and why certain animals went extinct as well as what is going on today with animals.  The facts surrounding these are incredible and sad at the same time.  I was blown away by how much I had learned in this and my kids are loving finding out more too.

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