Living Lies

Living lies

Author: Natalie Walters

Series: Harbored Secrets #1

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: May 21, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Great debut series for the romantic suspense market!

 When Lane Kent returns to her home town of Walton, Georgia after the death of her husband, she needs to find hope to want to stay alive. Her five-year-old son is with her and she wants to live for him but the depression she has had for years is getting dangerously close to overtaking her. Her father is running for congress and under the watchful eyes of everyone in town. Lane feels the pressure of those watchful eyes causing her world to close in on her. Things get even harder when Lane stumbles upon a dead body in the woods. She is working with the newest deputy in town, Charlie Lynch, to figure out the truth behind the murder and if her own life is worth living after all she has seen and been through.

 For her debut novel, Natalie Walters has crafted a story that will keep readers glued to the edge of their seats waiting until the final page to see how things will turn out. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this novel, with it being the first by Walters, but I am pleased to say that I will be greatly looking forward to whatever comes next. The characters, especially Lane, were so well written that I had no trouble rooting for her to succeed and find a way out of the darkness within. The tension in each scene is brought to the surface by the way readers will fall in love with the characters. The way that Charlie develops the bond with Lane’s son and becomes involved in his life and not just Lane shows he is the perfect fit for their little broken family. One of the most interesting aspects of the book for me was the dynamic between Lane and the rest of her family. The problems she has been dealing with for years come full circle showing a great character arc. The flow of the story was well done, and I felt it was just the right length with little fluff to take away from the story. Romantic suspense in the Christian market has a lot of really great authors and can be hard to compete with but Walters had found her own unique voice and style of writing here that will please readers.  I will gladly pick up the next in the series as soon as I can and can’t wait to see what happens next with these characters. I recommend this book to readers that enjoy a good romantic suspense novel and are fans of Lynnette Eason, Diann Mills, and even Irene Hannon are going to want to pick this one up.

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

 

No Place Like Here

No Place like Here

Author: Christina June

Publisher: Blink YA Books

Release Date: May 21, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

An absolutely beautifully written coming of age story that will leave readers smiling long after turning the last page.

 After a year away at boarding school, Ashlyn Zanotti feels she has deserved a second chance to come home for her senior year of high school. As she prepares to head home and ask her parents for her second chance, she gets the news that her father is being sent to prison for tax evasion and her mother is going to rehab for exhaustion. With no one at home, Ashlyn is sent away to work with her cousin at a team building retreat center. Dreading the summer but knowing she has no other choice, Ashlyn decides to make the best of the situation which turns out to be more than she ever imagined. The center’s new manager is disorganized and makes more than her fair share of mistakes leaving Ashlyn with the difficult decision of staying quiet or standing up for what she knows is right.

 This book is the very thing that should be in all school libraries and recommended to young readers. I loved the way the story played out and the characters evolved. Ashlyn shows so much growth as a person having to deal with incredibly tough issues not only at her new job but with her family as well. Spending time with a cousin she barely knows is awkward enough but having others at camp find out about her father makes things even more difficult. Being a teenager at camp there brings about opportunities for a summer romance.  These moments played out both realistically and sweet. All of the relationships made sense, not once was I questioning why a character was acting a certain way, they all played their parts exactly as I felt they should. I disliked Deb, as was intended, she didn’t technically have a lot of page time but what she did have was memorable. June has a way of writing these characters that have no other choice but to get the readers hooked and become deeply emotionally involved with the outcome of each of the characters. I recommend this book to young readers looking for a good story to relate to and feel like they might be at summer camp with learning the life lessons along beside them. I also recommend this to adults that might need an insight into the emotions of the younger kids in their lives.

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

The Woman in the White Kimono

Woman in the white kimono

Author: Ana Johns

Publisher: Park Row

Release Date: May 28, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

One of the best Japanese literature selections that we’ve seen!

 In 1957, tensions continue to run high in American occupied Japan.  The Japanese industry is still working on recovery and families that previously enjoyed a lavish lifestyle are looking at diminished returns.  Naoko Nakamura’s family is facing this possibility and her father arranges a marriage to try to solidify a partnership for his company.  Naoko has her own plans as she has given her heart to an American sailor and wants to live for true happiness.  When her family discovers that she has conceived his child, it causes a huge amount of disgrace and she is outcast while her beau is on an American tour.  The consequences of her choice will haunt her all the days of her life and cause unknown ramifications for future generations.

 Tori Kovac has been taking care of her dying father when she discovers a letter in his mail from Japan.  After he dies, she reads the letter and begins to discover that the man she has always known as her father had another life that she never knew about.  As the secrets begin to unravel, she wonders if she ever truly knew her father.  Without hesitation, Tori sets off for Japan to unravel the mystery that her father left in his wake.

 I’m a huge fan of literature set in Japan and this may be the best that I’ve read.  It’s a time slip novel crossing between 1957 and present day.  The amount of research that was put into writing this book is incredible.  Throughout Naoko’s story, everything felt like I was right there along side her during the time period.  From understanding the culture at the time to the emotions that were being felt within the country.  The pain that Naoko experienced was also so raw that it could have only been based on a true story, which is very sad indeed.  My eyes stung with tears as I read what had happened to these poor women during a dark period.  I’m glad that the author felt compelled to bring this era to light to help people understand what occurred so that we can learn from it as a society.  I also enjoyed that this was a novel free from foul language, which shows that a great story can be accomplished just on the merits.

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

Into the Wind

Into the WindAuthor: Ginger Zee

Series: Chasing Helicity #2

Publisher: Disney Hyperion

Release Date: April 23, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

In the follow up to Chasing Helicity, Ginger Zee brings more action, adventure, and even a little romance that readers will not want to miss.

After the crazy adventures Helicity Dunlap has gone through, her parents think a change of scenery to recuperate from the turmoil. Helicity’s best friend Mia has gone to be with her Aunt in Texas and help with her bed and breakfast. Mia invites Helicity to come spend some time at the beach with her. Helicity enjoys roaming the beach, spending time with her friend, and trying her best to get past the trauma of the last few months. When her brother, Andy, shows up to surprise her she knows something is going on with him but doesn’t want to upset him by accusing him of something she can’t be sure of. After the tornado at home that injured Andy, he hasn’t been the same and Helicity feels responsible. She wanted to escape all of that by coming to Texas but that doesn’t seem possible. When she and her friends go out sailing and get caught in intense weather, Helicity once again finds herself in the eye of the storm.

Ginger Zee has done it again. I was very impressed with the first Chasing Helicity book and the second is just as good, if not better. I love the character of Helicity, she is strong but also willing to admit her faults and learn from her shortcomings. This book picks up pretty quick where the first left off and we see the trauma each of the characters has gone through and how it affects the actions they take moving forward. There are a lot of difficult issues tackled here and readers will be pleased with the way each is handled. The tension was tight with each chapter making the reading quick and enjoyable. I love when an author makes a story that is both enjoyable and something that will make engage young readers. I read a lot of young adult novels and so many of them are short on tension and full of fluff, but not this series. These novels will keep young readers turning the page and aching to learn more about the weather and what they need to know to stay safe when forces of nature come their way. I highly recommend this novel to young readers that love science, adventure, and maybe a smidge of romance sprinkled in.

Chasing Helicity

Chasing HelicityAuthor: Ginger Zee

Series: Chasing Helicity #1

Publisher: Disney Hyperion

Release Date: April 24, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

From Chief Meteorologist Ginger Zee comes a whirlwind of a tale from which young readers will love and learn. 

For as long as she can remember, Helicity has been in awe of the weather. Her name came from her grandmother who passed down her love for all things meteorological. With her brother about to leave for college and her own school work giving her problems, she tries to escape reality by focusing on the weather. One day Helicity is out riding her horse when a tornado hits her town. Her own family, along with most of the community, is devastated by the force of nature. Her father doesn’t understand how she can be fascinated by something so deadly, but Helicity only sees the beauty and knows the more she studies the weather the more help she can be to everyone by being prepared when the next natural disaster strikes.

When it comes to writing is it good to have a good knowledge of the material you are writing about. Ginger Zee comes in full steam ahead with Chasing Helicity and shows she truly is an expert in the field but can also make it interesting and entertaining for young readers. I walked away from reading this with a newfound interest in weather patterns and how to tell what the bad weather might bring. For her first YA novel Ginger Zee did a fantastic job of creating young characters that readers will fall in love with in a story that is thoroughly entertaining. I loved all the characters and the predicaments they found themselves in. Helicity is a strong female lead that isn’t scared to show she’s afraid but also wants to move beyond that fear to help those she cares about. Her family and her friends mean the world to her and when they all find themselves in trouble, Helicity feels her world spinning out of control and is at a loss for what to do until she turns to the one thing she knows, weather. Using her knowledge, she is able to help. I love how Ginger Zee uses Helicity to show it can be cool for young kids to know and have a love for science. The writing is quick without much to slow readers down. I honestly don’t think young readers will have any trouble following along with the science terminology, they might walk away having learned a few things about weather patterns and safety. While there is a slight bit of language I don’t believe it is anything worth staying away from for young readers. I highly recommend this book to young readers that are looking for a fun, entertaining adventure with characters they will easily fall in love with.

Westside

WestsideAuthor: W.M. Akers

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Release Date: May 7, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Funny how tiny mysteries have a way of asserting themselves into bigger problems!

Manhattan Island, New York in 1921.  Things have gone amiss for several years in the Westside of Manhattan.  While the Eastside is prosperous, the Westside has a darkness.  Ten years ago, people started disappearing along with other objects.  In an effort to stop the madness, a thirteen-mile fence was constructed to separate the eastside and westside with guards to man the gates.  Several people left for the eastside, but not everyone.  One of those people is Gilda Carr, a detective who specializes in “tiny mysteries.”  After all, big mysteries just take up too much effort and energy.

While working a case about a missing glove, Gilda becomes witness to murders.  But not just any killings, murders using guns.  But guns have never worked on the westside, so how is it that these weapons work?  Before she knows it, she is wrapped up in the biggest case she could imagine between the two superpowers of the westside.  What is Even more interesting is that everything seems to connect to her late father.  Will this finally answer what truly happened to her father?  Or will it just lead her down another rabbit hole?

I’m not sure what I expected from this book, but I definitely got more than I bargained for.  I really enjoyed the sleuthing aspect of this novel, especially since Gilda didn’t really want to do it.  I bonded with her immediately, even though I’m not really sure why.  Her character was quirky, likeable, and just a bit facetious.   As a reader I couldn’t help feeling compassionate for her.  The dark fantasy of this was interesting too.  There have been a few dark historical fantasy novels involving Manhattan, but this one just seemed different.  My favorite parts of the story is where a tiny mystery would be solved.  It would just pop out of nowhere and reference back to a previous part of the story.  Well done.

There is some strong language throughout the book, so I would not advise this to younger readers.

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

Only Ever Her

Only ever herAuthor: Marybeth Mayhew Whalen

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

Release Date: May 7, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

The wedding of the century for a small South Carolina town becomes a search when the bride goes missing and the suspects are endless. 

Annie Taft has been the town sweetheart ever since her mother was murdered leaving her to be raised by her Aunt. With her wedding in four days, the town has come together to celebrate. Things are going according to plan until Annie disappears. No one knows where she is or what could have happened to her. To make matters worse, the man that was accused of killing her mother has been found innocent after all these years and released from prison right as Annie goes missing. Is he somehow responsible for Annie’s disappearance or once again being falsely accused?

As far as psychological thrillers go this one ranks high for me. There are a lot of characters to keep up with and at times it did get a little confusing, but by the end things tied together in a nice way. I must admit I did not see the little twist at the end coming, very nicely done on that part. I usually see twist coming but that one snuck up on me. The pace of the book was good, at times there seemed a bit much narration, which slowed the pace just a little. The frequent character changes and short chapters were nice to keep things moving. I was a little surprised there wasn’t more with Annie; I know the book is about her disappearance, but I felt a little mislead by the opening with her and how she was portrayed and how it ended. Several of the minor characters really brought the scenes to life and kept the story flowing when I might have been tempted to put it down. But I was glad I kept with it and let the story play out in its entirety. I read this in two days and enjoyed the story, I probably could have finished it in one sitting if life and kids needs hadn’t gotten in the way. I think it is one for readers that enjoy psychological thrillers and a good mystery. There is some adult content so I don’t recommend it for a younger audience, but the adult audience will enjoy the read.

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