The Last Widow

Last widow

Author: Karin Slaughter

Series: Will Trent #9

Publisher: William Morrow

Release Date: August 20, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A kidnapping, an explosion, and the threat of a biological weapon bring together a story that is intricately laid out and hard to put down.

 When a scientist from the Centers for Disease Control is kidnapped in broad daylight from the parking lot of a shopping center, authorities search high and low for any clue as to who took her and why. Days and weeks go by with no sign of her and no ransom demand until bombs start going off in Atlanta’s busiest neighborhood as a statement and a distraction. As first responders rush to the scene, Will Trent, an investigator with the Georgia Bureau of Investigations, and his partner Sara Linton reach a car crash at the outskirts of the bomb radius. Not knowing they have just stumbled upon the bombers, Sara tries to help and ends up being kidnapped as well. Will works from the outside to get his partner back while Sara works from the inside to figure out who this group is and what they are really after before it is too late.

 First of all, I went into reading this book not realizing it was the ninth in the series. Not totally sure if that helped or hurt my take on the story. Maybe having a little backstory on Will and Sara might have helped my enjoyment, although I did get a lot out of the chemistry between the two characters. They had a great dynamic and I had no idea this was not their first book, but it does make sense the way they were written so well together. There was A LOT going on in this book and if readers aren’t careful, they will miss key elements to the story. That being said, I felt a good hundred pages could have been cut and the story wouldn’t have lacked anything. With so much going on, it was hard to follow at times, but I will say Slaughter did a great job with tension at critical moments. The last 50-75 pages really brought the emotion out and made me care about the characters when it counted. I have seen lots of mixed reviews on this title and agree with both sides There are lots of good points in the book, but it was a little slow at times. One of the best parts for me was the different points of view, this gave me as the reader more of the story to see and understand. There is a lot of harsh language throughout, and while it does fit with the characters and how they would respond to a situation, readers need to be aware before reading. I would recommend this to an audience who love thrillers, especially ones that deal with medical issues, bombings and radical groups.

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

The Only Skill That Matters

Only Skill that Matters

Author: Jonathan A. Levi

Publisher: Lioncrest Publishing

Release Date: August 27, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Learn the attributes to speed reading and retaining information.

 Jonathan Levi is known for the program SuperLearners, which is geared toward expanding memory and increasing reading speed.  The program has been very successful and isn’t focused on a specific subject, such as business, but is tailored toward the specific goal of the learner.  This could be learning a musical instrument, a new language, or even mathematics.  In Levi’s newest book, he describes the steps in the program to master this skill and explains the importance of each step.

 I’ve heard of the SuperLearners program but haven’t actually tried it out.  Reading this book gave the an inside look at the program and a shortened version of how to be successful.  I liked that Levi gave personal stories about why he was not initially successful with different personal endeavors and what he did differently to learn better.  There were several other personal stories of participants that include links to watch interviews.  The flow of the book was smooth, and paragraphs were broken up physically so that readers checking this out wouldn’t be intimated with less white space.  I like that he gives examples and references throughout so that readers can easily return to a section that they feel may need more attention.

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

The Disappearance of Alistair Ainsworth

alistar ainsworth

Author: Leonard Goldberg

Series: Daughter of Sherlock Holmes #3

Publisher: Minotaur

Release Date: June 11, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Great story, great mystery, and great pace!

 One stormy night, the occupants of 221b Baker Street receive an unexpected visitor.  An old colleague of Dr. Watson, Dr. Alexander Verner, comes to them with an extraordinary tale.  He was requested to make a house call to someone complaining of stomach pains, but not before he was blindfolded and taken by carriage to the house.  Once there, he realized that the patient did not have stomach pains and was actually signaling for help.  Unfortunately, he was unable to convince the captors that the man needed to be hospitalized, so upon being returned to London, he came strait to the Watsons and the daughter of Sherlock Holmes.  As the crew begin their investigation, it quickly becomes apparent that this is yet another national intelligence case and it appears to involve German spies as well as a group of unorthodox code breakers for the Royal Navy.  As the group unravels the clues, it seems that the German’s always have a head start which can only mean one thing, someone on the inside is working for the Germans.  With no time to spare, the group works alongside Scotland Yard and Naval Intelligence to rescue the victim before secrets can be released that will be devasting to Britain’s success in the war.

 These books are quickly becoming my favorite mystery series.  The demeanor between the three main characters is always entertaining.  I always find myself wandering how Joanna will end up solving the case.  She is intelligent, attentive, and very persistent.  Her character reminds me of Sherlock himself and I enjoyed getting to see the glimpse of her son in this novel.  He is very headstrong, but she knows what is best for him but allows him to make his own decisions, even if she might have had a bit of play in determining the outcome.  The story is very entertaining and the mystery will have you wrapped up quickly in trying to figure out the whole story, which only Joanna can truly unravel.

 Although this is a series, it easily reads as a standalone.  Fair warning though, if you do read this first, you will probably want to go buy the first two!  If you’re a fan of Holmes or just love a good mystery, give this a try!

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

The Girl Behind the Red Rope

Girl behind red rope

Authors: Ted Dekker & Rachelle Dekker

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: September 3, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Teaming up for the first time, father and daughter Ted and Rachelle Dekker deliver an intense and fascinating read that will leave fans thirsting for them to team up again and again and again.

 It has been over ten years since Grace and the rest of her community saw something that would forever change their lives. Since that time, they have lived within the confines of the red rope, a boundary that is supposed to keep them all save from the evil furies of the world. They live under strict rules put in place by Sylous, their leader who only shows himself when necessary and usually only to one in the community, Rose. After so many years, Grace and her brother Jamie wonder if it might be safe to venture outside the rope and see what is happening with the rest of the world. Jamie has gone a few times without any consequences and when they speak up to the community with their concerns, they are sent out further to see what happens. It only takes one night out for them to encounter the Fury and let the community know. While the community lets them return, they are now looked at in a different light. It doesn’t take Jamie long to repent and change to the ways of the community, but Grace has a harder time going back to believing so easily. With each passing day, the things Grace has been taught and believed for the past decade start to unfold before her eyes and she must decide if what she has always believed is still true or trust what she sees.

 Anyone that has ever read a Ted Dekker novel knows they are going to be in for a fantastic ride full of fantasy, thrills, emotions and allegorical underlying spiritual tones that can be interpreted in several ways. Dekker has always had a way of pulling readers in and giving them a story that is more than an escape. His newest novel is going to give readers an escape into this world and leave their minds churning long after they turn the last page. While this was a collaboration between him and his daughter, Rachelle Dekker, I found it to be another incredible Dekker novel, no matter it was written by two Dekkers. I can’t tell yet if that gave it strength or not. It is hard to say whose writing is where within the pages. As I have read Rachelle’s novels, I have noticed the influence of her father in her writing; they are good books, but I couldn’t really see her own individual distinct voice. I enjoyed her books and maybe with her style so similar to the Elder Dekker it enhanced the story to make it more than what it would have been without the two writing together. With the two Dekker’s combined, the story takes off and pulls the reader in with no chance of escaping until the story is over. I almost read this in one sitting, if I hadn’t had anything to do, I could have easily finished this in one sitting and I can’t say when the last time I sat with a book and wanted to finish like that was. The authors did a fantastic job of portraying these characters in a way that kept the reader from questioning their actions. The empathy used to reach an emotional level was stunning. I loved Grace and the way she kept her head and tried to solve the ridiculously hard puzzle life was putting in front of her. The evil she goes up against is written in a way we can all relate to in one form or another. I recommend this book to fans of Dekker and those that enjoy a great mystery/thriller. If you have read Ted Dekker before, you will see little snippets that relate to other books he has written, (not in actual characters or settings but similar themes). If you have never read a Dekker book this would be the perfect one to get you hooked.

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

State of Lies

State of Lies.jpgAuthor: Siri Mitchell

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: August 13, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Filled with international espionage, domestic terrorism, and danger coming from every page, readers will not want to miss a page of State of Lies!

Georgie Brennan has had months to deal with the death of her husband after a hit and run accident and still aches from the loss. When Georgie discovers that Sean lied about where he was going the day he was killed, she starts digging deeper into the man she thought she knew best and realizes maybe she didn’t know him as well as she thought she did. She finds a missing notebook with cryptic messages; strange noises around the house worry her with each passing day and her job as a physicist is in jeopardy as she continues to dig into her husband and what actually happened to him. During her struggles she relies on her family, her son is struggling to deal with the death of his father and her own father, a four-star general is being considered for secretary of defense. Her life is threatened more than once, along with everyone she cares about and she is running out of people to trust.

With danger around every corner, this was a great read that surprised me with how much I enjoyed it. This was the first book I have read by Siri Mitchell but will for sure not be the last. The story was fast paced and solid throughout with a storyline that was riveting and engaging throughout. So many aspects of this story were spot on for me; the characters, each and every one, even the minor characters reacted exactly as I felt they should making the story exceedingly enjoyable. Those minor characters had some of the best scenes for me, not something you see in every book. One of the things I enjoyed most about this book was the way Mitchell tastefully addressed the subject of sex within marriage. So many times, especially in a book from a Christian publisher, sex is a topic not even touched. It was refreshing to see this addressed in this way that would keep me from wanting to read or recommend to anyone. One other point to me is even though this was published by Thomas Nelson, a Christian publishing house, not much at all was mentioned or even hinted at to make a reader aware of that fact. I know many readers don’t want to be preached at but even a hint would have been nice. I have to say though this story was good enough that even that didn’t take away my enjoyment of the story. It was obvious the author had real knowledge of military and DoD that flowed throughout the story and deep within the bones of the characters. Overall this was a great read that I highly recommend to fans of political thrillers and wanting a fun, fast-paced, and all in all great read.

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

One Final Breath

One final breathAuthor: Lynn Blackburn

Series: Dive Team Investigations #3

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: September 3, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Lynn Blackburn finishes up the Dive Team Investigations series with the very best yet! Fans of the series will have no choice but to fall in love with Gabe and Anissa’s story.

Anissa Bell, captain of the dive team investigators, has had a problem with Gabe Chavez since before he was on her team. He worked undercover and would only dive once or twice a year, not enough in her opinion to stay up to speed with the rest of the team. Anissa was a missionary kid growing up until she went to college and her best friend was murdered and the three-year-old child she was watching disappeared. From that moment on, she spent her time trying to solve the case leading her to be with the dive team and around Gabe. When an investigation surfaces into the death of a young boy on the lake, they must figure out how to put their issues with each other aside and work to solve the case.

With each book in this series I have seen Blackburn come alive in her writing. One Final Breath brings the best of the series and gives readers even more to love. The suspense is top notch, the romance is right on point and the story flows without even trying. Each character brings just the right amount of believability to the story to make it an easy enjoyable read. I loved everything about this series and am sad to see it come to an end, but happy to say it is a satisfying end. Gabe and Anissa have been mentioned in the other books but this one is devoted to them and their story, and oh what a story it is! Both have a past that wasn’t the easiest, but they use that past to fuel them going forward making them a great team. Each of the main characters from the previous books have a role here and it lets us see how those relationships have progressed as well. The ending was my favorite in every way. The suspense was at its peak, and the romance was there without getting in the way of the tension driving the story forward. This is by far Blackburn’s best novel to date, fans of hers will love the conclusion to this series. Readers that enjoy Lynnette Eason, Dani Pettrey and other Christian Romantic Suspense authors will want to add Lynn Blackburn to their list of go to authors. Even though this is the third in the series, it could be read as a stand-alone without feeling lost. This is one of those books I wish I could rate more than five stars. I highly recommend this to fans of romantic suspense and all those that enjoy a good clean, quick read.

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

King’s Shadow

Kings shadowAuthor: Angela Hunt

Series: The Silent Years #4

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: August 6, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

As the silent years come to a close, the story of Herod the Great is put on display.

Salome is sister to Herod the Great.  Her family is from Idumean descent, who the Jews believe are inferior.  Herod was placed in power by the Roman Republic as a puppet king to rule over the lands.  Salome is determined to protect and defend her brother with her life as he once came to her rescue.  Unfortunately, sometimes his choices make that difficult to do.  His decision to marry Mariamne, daughter of Alexandra whose father was Hyrcanus the previous Jewish leader who was a Hasmonean.  They always speak ill of Herod and his family and plot ways to get the kingdom back.  Their offspring prove to be no better.  Herod begins to rule emotionally, his decisions often swift and sometimes unjust.  What will become of the Jewish nation?

Zara is a young Jewish girl who is selected to be handmaid to Salome.  She learns to trust her mistress and do her bidding indiscreetly.  However, as she ages, she sees the bitterness and lack of trust begin to tear the Herodians apart.  She continues to live selflessly, hoping to one day have a family of her own.

I have read a little into King Herod’s time, but have never delved as deep as what Hunt has just given me.  I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the historical timeline played out between Herod and Marc Antony of Rome with Cleopatra which lead to the battle with Octavian and eventually to Augusts Caesar.  I’ve dived much deeper into Roman history and was happy to see how well this all accurately connected.  As always, Hunt is a master historian that can easily weave the knowledge into her novels.  I haven’t found any book by her that I haven’t loved.  I also enjoy that she uses more minor characters from history to be her main characters so that readers get to witness the events in a first person setting.  I’ve heard of Salome, but more from the reference of Herodias’s daughter that ask for John the Baptist head on a platter.  So it was very interesting to see the story of her ancestor played out up through the birth of Jesus.

I recommend this book to historical fiction lovers, biblical fiction lovers, and people who enjoy Hunt’s work!

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

Castle of Concrete

Castle

Author: Katia Raina

Publisher: Young Europe

Release Date: June 11, 2019

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Historical novel from the eyes of a teenage girl in the collapse of the Soviet Union.

 The school year of 1990-1991 is ushering in a lot of change in Russia, especially in Moscow.  Democracy is starting to take shape with the face of Boris Yeltsin.  Gorbachev is starting to be forced out but isn’t ready to give it up just yet.  Sonya Solovay is experiencing several changes too.  She is finally able to live fully with her mother, who is a dissident of the Russian government.  She leaves her grandmothers in a small remote village and moves with her mother to the outskirts of Moscow.  To complicate things, they are Jewish and many of Russia’s disgruntled residents blame the Jews for their problems.  However, Sonya is determined to make a new life for herself at her new school.  She butts heads with some of the teachers but manages to strike up a relationship with the best-looking boy at school.  She finds it easy to fall in love, but her Jewish ethnicity may cause a problem.  When her mom decides that it may be best to move to America, Sonya is torn between her friends love for Russia and her love for her mother.

 This book is a prime example of why I love historical fiction.  I learned quite a bit about the social climate in Moscow during the fall of the Soviet Union.  I had no idea that there was such an anti-Semite feeling across the country during this time frame.  I would have figured earlier in the century but was surprised to find this out.  History aside, I had a lot of trouble connecting with Sonya.  I understand that she is a teenage girl out to make a new life, but she seems to just go about it all wrong.  I didn’t really understand the relationship between her and Reslan either.  If the intent was to see this time period though the eyes of a confused teenager, then it was definitely successful.  There is some tension throughout the book between Sonya and two of the boy characters, which plays out great at the end.  Stay through the end of the book and you will enjoy it.

 There is some foul language throughout the book as well as some implied young adult intimate scenes that makes is suitable for a mature audience.

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

Ford

FordAuthor: Susan May Warren

Series: The Montana Marshalls #3

Publisher: SDG Publishing

Release Date: September 3, 2019

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

The third book in the Montana Marshalls lets readers glimpse into the life of Navy Seal Ford Marshall. Readers will love this strong courageous man that will stop at nothing to protect the ones he loves.

Ford Marshall went into the Navy to become a Seal and prove he was just as tough or tougher than his brothers, but when his twin sister RJ is in trouble, he must use every ounce of strength he has to not fall apart. The family finds out RJ has been accused of an international incident, but Ford won’t let anything stop him from getting to her. Knowing this isn’t something he can do on his own, he calls on the one person he knows will have his back, Petty Officer Scarlett Hathaway. Scarlett can help him get into the country and he wouldn’t mind one more mission with her before she leaves to be a Rescue Swimmer. If he is being honest with himself, what he really wants is to convince her to give the two of them a chance. Scarlett has complications of her own since her mother died and she has a little brother to take care of. Being single in the navy isn’t the best life for that and she is left with a tough decision to make. Thrown into the search for Ford’s sister, Scarlett puts aside her troubles and together they both must decide how much they are willing to sacrifice for love.

Ford is the third book in the Montana Marshalls series following Knox and Tate. Each of the Marshall men have their own strengths and special talents making them swoon worthy with Ford potentially being the most of all as a navy seal. He is strong, independent, capable and will stop at nothing when someone he cares about is in danger. The relationship between Ford and RJ was an interesting dynamic. Being twins, they have a special bond the other siblings don’t share, but that bond was damaged when they were young, and it still hasn’t been repaired. As a twin, I know how hard a strained relationship can be and the way Ford knew that his sister was in trouble and needed him is true of a twin relationship and the bond that can’t be broken. For me, this is not the best of the series but still a very enjoyable read. Fans of Warren’s books will surely enjoy the story. It read a little slower than the first two, maybe because of the setting and so much of it being in Russia just didn’t pull me in as much as her writing usually does. Even so, I was still able to get through the book quickly and can’t wait for the next in the series.

One thing about a Susan May Warren book is you know you are getting a good story that is filled with inspiration, romance, action, suspense and a good time. I recommend this to fans of her work and even those that are new to her writing will find the series enjoyable.

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

The Oysterville Sewing Circle

Oysterville

Author: Susan Wiggs

Publisher: William Morrow

Release Date: August 13, 2019

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

The kind of special book that is made for book clubs! Women helping women and a warmth throughout that will leave readers smiling as they turn the last page.

 After setting off for the big city to launch a career in the fashion industry, Caroline Shelby has worked hard to prove herself to have it all explode in her face. With nowhere else to turn, she returns to her hometown of Oysterville, Washington. She isn’t returning alone, coming home with her are two children that become orphans when their mom, her friend died. It has been ten years since she left, and a lot has changed. When she arrives on her parent’s doorstep, she isn’t sure where her life is headed. It isn’t long before she runs into Will Jensesn, one of her oldest and closest friends until she left town. Will went into the Navy and was wounded causing him to return home with his wife Sierra, Caroline’s best friend. It doesn’t take long for Caroline to return to her favorite place in town, the sewing shop, and discovers secrets the town has been hiding for years. Finding a purpose with the secret, Caroline starts the Oysterville Sewing Circle and sees lives changed, especially her own.

 For me, the name of this book was very misleading. I was expecting one thing and ended up with something very different. This is a great women’s fiction domestic drama, lots going on in the pages of this story with so many life lessons we can learn from helping a friend to dealing with long lost love. Even if you think a book about sewing and fashion isn’t for you, give it a chance as there is so much more to this story. Caroline is a great protagonist, she has to go up against a lot, not only the people in the fashion industry but also taking on the responsibility of the kids thrust into her life. A lot of people put in her position wouldn’t have made the decision she did. The story flowed great, not only with all she went through but how others reacted to her and the way she kept her values at the forefront of all she did. The subject of domestic violence, drug abuse, and others tackled here are not easy, but when handled with care it can make for a story very much worth reading. I loved the way Wiggs dealt with these characters and the issues they faced. This is the first book I have read by Wiggs but can easily see myself picking up more by her. I recommend this book to readers that enjoy contemporary women’s fiction with a message and heart to the story.

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