Escape from the Everglades

Author: Tim Shoemaker

Series: High Water #1

Publisher: Focus on the Family

Release Date: July 6, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A fantastic thriller for young adults that is fierce, gripping, and full of more suspense and less fluff, making for a wonderful read!

Parker Buckman is the son of a park ranger stationed in the Everglades, a place full of danger both in the water and out of it. When Parker ends up mauled by an alligator and almost dies, he can’t help but see it as a place full of death. The only thing he wants is to get out while he still has a chance. His dad puts in for a transfer, but before they can leave, a friend goes missing.  Parker knows can’t leave until he helps find her. Together with his friends, they search high and low throughout the Everglades and discover alligators aren’t the only monsters they are facing.

The first thing I have to say about this book is WOW!! There was so much suspense and action I felt like I was getting a workout as my heart rate got high at times. I loved the action and suspense, especially for a young adult. The next thing that made it such a great read for me was the fact that it was clean, there was no language, it never got too graphic and I will feel completely comfortable letting my eleven-year-old son read this one. So many young adult novels out there are filled with content that I just don’t feel comfortable exposing my kids to. I am grateful for authors that have figured out how to write a great thriller for young adults without filling it with language or content I wouldn’t approve of them reading. This was definitely an adventurous read with the alligator attacks and drama on land. Both boys and girls will love this one I believe, something there for everyone to enjoy. I recommend this to readers that enjoy a high suspense read with very little fluff to fill the pages, great characters and a storyline that is riveting.

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

The Weight of Memory

Author: Shawn Smucker

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: July 6, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Smucker’s best story yet!

Paul Elias has just received a terminal diagnosis of cancer and has been given months to live.  He can accept that it is his time to die, but he can’t accept that he doesn’t have alternate arrangements for someone to take care of his granddaughter, Pearl.  Pearl’s dad, Paul’s son John, is not in the picture and frankly, Paul is not sure where to even start.  When he picks up Pearl from school, she seems to have already devised a plan and tells him that they will be taking a trip back to Paul’s hometown of Nysa, where he hasn’t been or spoken about since the drowning death of his wife 40 years ago.

Once in Nysa, Paul gets reacquainted with an old friend and finds that the town is nothing like he remembered.  The longer they stay in Nysa, the more Pearl starts to act like her grandmother, causing Paul to question her sanity as well as everything he knows.  Perhaps this wasn’t the best place to come.

Having read all of Shawn Smucker’s books, I can easily say that this is the best one!  The story is very introspective and will have readers questioning things throughout the entire story.  Told from Paul’s point of view, readers pick up when Paul is in his upper 50s and are introduced to Paul’s world as it is today.  At the beginning, parts of the story seem disorganized and the flow doesn’t necessarily follow any particular format but hang on because everything will be revealed through memories. 

As readers push forward, they will notice many parallels between the past and present, most notably between Pearl and her grandmother, Mary.  There is quite a bit of supernatural elements throughout that aren’t necessarily explained, but it makes the story more suspenseful and will keep readers turning the pages.  I found it difficult to put down the book after each chapter because I wanted to find out what happens next.  The ending is quite subjective and likely some readers won’t enjoy it, but there is ray of sunlight that shines some hope.

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

The Nature of Small Birds

Author: Susie Finkbeiner

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: July 6, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Finkbeiner’s story telling shines in this tale of love, family, and discovery!

Bruce and Linda have been trying for years to have a second child with no luck.  They decide that the best option would be to adopt a little baby boy who needs a family, but when the call from the adoption agency comes in, it is not what anyone expected.  A little girl named Minh was a child airlifted during the fall of Saigon and the family who initially took her in has returned her to the agency.  Bruce and Linda have no qualms taking this child into their family but know that other family members won’t feel the same since Bruce’s brother died during the war and his sister’s husband returned home with war torn memories.

As the years pass, the family becomes more accepting, but little do they know all the challenges that Minh, now called Mindy, has faced in her upbringing in a small Michigan town during the 1980s and 1990s.  She recently discovered that an organization is working to restore the children lifted out of Saigon with their families.  With her family’s support, Mindy decides to reach out and discover more about her past to learn who she really is.

Wow!  Can Susie Finkbeiner write a story that makes you feel like you are part of the family and come away as friends.  Her ability to draw readers into the characters is such a gift.  Picking the book up for the first time makes it feel like you are about to read a classic story that you love, even though you’ve never read it!

The story is told from three perspectives at three different times.  The first is from Linda’s (mom) point of view in 1975 when they initially adopt Mindy and the challenges that they face during that time.  Fast forward to 1988 with Sonny’s (older sister) POV when she and Mindy and in high school and roommates.  Lastly is Bruce’s (dad) POV in 2013 when Mindy has discovered the possibility of reconnecting with her family.  It was fun to see the minor characters develop in one story and then mature in another. 

The theme is about family and supporting each other through difficulties.  I want to dive into this so much more, but its really better if you read it for yourself.  Easily one of the top books of 2021! I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Fool’s Luck

Author: Dave Milbrandt

Publisher: Ambassador International Publishing

Release Date: July 13, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A very different concept from what I normally read, which made for a fast and delightful story.

Myles Bradford was just an ordinary guy, taught high school while trying to be the best husband and father he could. All of that changed when he took a chance and bought a Powerball lottery ticket and won. With the winnings, he decided to run for President of the United States. He has very little experience in politics, except for running for mayor and having to drop out of the race when his son is diagnosed with cancer. His family isn’t as excited about his running as he is when he thrust most of the money into the campaign and starts traveling the country. Wanting to change the way things are done and being able to change them are two different things as Bradford quickly finds out. While his attention is pulled in different directions, he realizes that even if he wins the price might not be worthwhile.

Fool’s Luck starts out great with a unique premise and characters that are easy to like. Myles and his family are your run of the mill American family until his winning changes everything. The beginning was quick and easy to follow, the middle lost my attention, but the back half brought me back into the story. I’m not usually one to get into politics and stories that are of that nature, but this is more of a family story at heart, a story about wanting to do better and be better for others. That is what made it a good read, I didn’t really care about the politics part of the story, not something that interests me, but when Milbrandt got deeper into the family aspect I was involved; I wanted to see what would happen with the kids and his relationship with his wife because of the decisions he made after winning the money. The plot was original, the characters were flawed but relatable which readers will enjoy, and the pace easy to follow other than the middle that lost my interest with all the talk of politics. I read this in a little over a day, just a nice easy read that I didn’t have to think too much about which was nice. I recommend this book to readers that enjoy politics, family stories and a nice clean read.

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

The Chase

Author: Lisa Harris

Series: US Marshals #2

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: July 6, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The second book in the US Marshals book picks up right where the first left off with all the action, drama, suspense and romance a book lover could ask for!

After being shot three months ago, US Marshal Madison James still doesn’t remember who shot her; the one thing she does know is it is time for her to get back to work. Her partner, Jonas Quinn doesn’t want to push Madison on her first day back but when they’re assigned serve a federal warrant to a man connected to several bank robberies. Together they end up at a bank robbery in progress where nothing is going as planned. The bank robbers are all about the thrill and not just the money. When they back the robbers into a corner, all their plans start to spin out making them even more dangerous and making it the most perilous case they have worked together.

 The US Marshals books are by far my favorite by Lisa Harris. I loved the first in the series and the second was just as good. The Chase follows the same main characters, Madison and Jonas, whereas a lot of romantic suspense books will change main characters with each new book in a series this one gives us more of the same, a fact I greatly enjoyed. We really get to see some great character development and depth for Madison and Jonas. There is a lot going on with Madison and the mystery of who killed her husband and why are they still taunting her that helps drive the story and made me have a deeper connection with her as a character. I really enjoy these books because they are fast paced, engaging, great tension and Harris has got me invested in the characters. By keeping the same main characters instead of having new ones with each new book, I am much more involved and determined to see how they pull through the troubles they encounter. There is so much more to develop with them and much more story to tell, I really hope this series goes on for several more books. I recommend this book to those that love a great romantic suspense, but I do recommend reading The Escape first and then diving into The Chase.

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

Breach of Honor

Author: Janice Cantore

Publisher: Tyndale House

Release Date: July 6, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A fantastic police procedural that had me hooked from page one with fantastic character connections and an adrenaline laced story!

Oregon Police officer Leah Radcliff spends every day trying to help others when she is the one that really needs help from Brad, her abusive husband. Even though she has helped countless victims of abuse, she has a hard time believing she is a victim. Brad is a fellow officer and a decorated hero; his family is a staple in town and wields a lot of influence causing Leah to keep her abuse to herself. One night though things go too far and ends up with deadly consequences. Leah has all public opinion against her and is convicted of murdering her husband. Officer Clint Tanner is one of the only ones who believes she acted in self-defense. He works with Leah’s attorney to bring to light the darker side of Brad and others in the department to save Leah.

It has been a long time since I have had a new Janice Cantore novel and I had forgotten how much I enjoy her writing. These books are so well crafted with authentic storylines and characters that are so easy to follow and connect with. Cantore’s time as an officer brings her writing to a higher level than most other authors I have read. I connected with Leah right away, something about the way she was written resonated with me, she had so many struggles, yet she refused to give up. She is a strong female protagonist with a great story. Many of the secondary characters were great too; Nora had a real impact on moving the story along, and Vicki, only in there for a little bit still brought great tension at just the right moments.

The romance aspect of the book played out perfectly for me. Sometimes in a romantic suspense novel, the romance can overshadow the suspense and take me out of the story; here though, there was so much tension I couldn’t do anything else but keep turning the pages to see what was going to happen. A lot happens throughout this book but all of it provides substance to the story and left me wanting more. I don’t know if there will be more coming from these characters, but if there is, you can bet I will be checking it out. I recommend this book to lovers of police procedurals and romantic suspense; you won’t be disappointed.

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

No More Words

Author: No More Words

Series: No More #1

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

Release Date: July 6, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Lonsdale has stepped up her intrigue and suspense game with the start of this new series!

Olivia Carson has always had trouble with relationships, whether with guys or even family.  It largely stems from when her little sister Lily ran away from home after she got pregnant at sixteen.  Their father wanted her to abort the baby and their mother wanted to put the baby up for adoption, so she ran away to keep it.  She’s never returned home but sends a picture of her son Josh each year on his birthday to Olivia.  The letters stopped coming recently and then something completely unexpected happens, Josh shows up at Olivia’s house alone and doesn’t know what happened to his mom. 

Josh had an accident recently where he hit his head and now has trouble forming words to explain what has happened.  Olivia quickly realizes that Josh has a gift for drawing and urges him to draw his memories to show what happened to Lily.  Hopefully together they can save Lily before something worse happens!

Kerry Lonsdale is a master at pulling readers into her stories.  With unforgettable characters, sometimes mixed with a flair of the supernatural, she creates stories that readers will want to read again and again.  This book didn’t have the supernatural aspect that several of her previous hinted at, but it was remarkable none the same.  She amped up the suspense and intrigue to pull readers in and wouldn’t let up until then end.  Another well-known attribute of her writing is the deception she weaves through the pages, typically at the hands of a specific character. There is plenty in this book, but maybe not where readers fully expect.  Most gets revealed, but I bet there is plenty more in the two future installments that will have readers reeling when they find out the whole truth.

Lonsdale also shines a light on the condition of aphasia that can occur after a brain bleed.  She manages to bring much more than just a fictional tale in each one of her books and this is no different.  There is quite a bit of foul language throughout (to be expected with the characters) as well as a somewhat graphic sex scene (and maybe a few memories) between two of the characters that will require audiences be more mature to fully enjoy this novel.

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

Want to know more about the inspiration behind this book? Check out Kerry Lonsdale’s guest post!

Along a Storied Trail

Author: Ann H. Gabhart

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: June 1, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Gabhart crafts a beautifully written tale set in the Appalachian Mountains with characters that tug at the heartstrings.

Tansy Calhoun feels like love will never find her after being left by the man she thought she was going to marry. She spends her time as a librarian, taking books up the rough trails on horseback to others in the area that otherwise wouldn’t have anything to read. The Great Depression is in full swing and her family works together to survive the hard times. Tansy has given up hope of finding love until a young writer comes to town and she believes she might have found her perfect man. Perdita Sweet is a lot like Tansy, love has not been a friend to her, and she eventually stopped trying. Now, she sees a love blooming for Tansy but fears no one will listen to her advice.

Set in the time of the Great Depression when many were struggling financially and had so many problems, Gabhart weaves a beautiful tale of love, longing to belong and so much more. For fans of historical romance this book will hit all the right buttons. A fun read about horseback librarians, something I had never heard of but makes total sense, a way to get literature to those who would otherwise have none. The main focus of this story is love but in so many ways, love of family, finding love for yourself, loving where you are at and what you can do for those around you, love, love, love. While historical romance is not my normal read, I enjoyed the themes and characters. Tansy is a great protagonist as the horseback librarian, ones I think others will relate to and enjoy reading. Fans of Gabhart and historical romance will not want to miss this one. 

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

Choose Me

Author: Tess Gerritsen & Gary Braver

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Release Date: July 1, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A fast paced thriller that makes it easy to see why it is the number one thriller with a great start and even better finish.

Taryn Moore is found dead on the sidewalk in front of her apartment. At first glance, the police believe she jumped from her fifth story balcony, but the more Detective Frankie Loomis investigates, the more doubts she has that this is a suicide. Taryn is young, attractive, and smart; she had every reason to live, so why would she kill herself? As new evidence comes to light, it becomes clear that this wasn’t a suicide. Now the question is, who would want her dead?

English professor Jack Dorian, Taryn’s professor, thinks she is one of the most talented and beautiful students he has ever had, the fact that she adores him doesn’t hurt. He is in a hard place with his marriage and the attention is nice. But when Taryn turns up dead, he is one of the first suspects and realizes he has gotten in way over his head. Detective Frankie Loomis works to uncover the secrets and solve the case before anyone else gets hurt.

Tess Gerritsen is a good go-to thriller author for me. If I want a good mystery with plenty of suspense, I know I won’t be disappointed with one of her books. The book goes back and forth between before and after giving readers a look at Taryn and what lead to her death. Each back and forth gave me a little more insight into the characters and kept me guessing as to what actually happened. By the time I got to the final few chapters, I was very pleased with how the story played out. Frankie is a great lead character as a detective and gives a sense of purpose in trying to solve the case. Her partner had a hard time believing her instincts, that it wasn’t just a suicide, but Frankie followed her instincts and used every clue she could find to get to the bottom of it. I loved her tenacity and heart for those she was trying to help. Taryn is a very interesting character that I couldn’t help but connect with. In all her struggles, she spirals out of control a little more and with each new struggle she becomes more and more interesting for the readers. I enjoyed this story and read it in a day and recommend it to those that enjoy a good police procedural, crime drama.

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

The Box in the Woods

Author: Maureen Johnson

Series: Truly Devious Mystery #4

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

Release Date: June 15, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A fantastic YA thriller that kept me enthralled in the story and unable to put it down!

Stevie Bell needs a good mystery. She helped catch a killer at her high school and now she feels lost with nothing to do having to live a normal, boring life. Then, she gets a message from the new owner of Sunny Pines, formally called Camp Wonder Falls, where there is an unsolved case from decades ago. The Box in the Woods Murders, four camp counselors were killed in the woods and their bodies left on display outside Barlow Corners. The new owner of the camp wants the mystery solved and brings in Stevie to help. Stevie is curious about the case and agrees to come if she can bring some of her friends. As they arrive at the camp and start investigating, it quickly becomes clear that someone doesn’t want them there. The more they investigate things, the more danger they are in and this just might be the case Stevie doesn’t make it out alive from.

First off, I did not realize this was the fourth in a series when I started this book, I didn’t even realize it until I finished. That being said, I was fully able to enjoy this story without having read the first three in the series. The characters were fun, witty, interesting, and full of vigor that kept me glued to the page. They were like a modern-day Scooby gang solving mysteries together. Even though Stevie is young, it wasn’t hard for me to believe her and the way she went about solving the crimes. She found clues that no one else was able to find and put them all together just like the pieces of a puzzle. After reading it, I am dying to go back and read the first in the series and see where it all started and how these characters came together. The story had a great flow to it and tension at all the right spots. The back and forth timelines can sometimes throw things off and take readers out of the story, but here it brought the story to a whole new level. This was my first time reading a book by Maureen Johnson, but it definitely won’t be my last. I recommend this to readers that love a good mystery and having it solved in just the right way.

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