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.

The Glass Ocean

Glass OceannAuthors: Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, & Karen White

Publisher: William Morrow

Release Date: September 10, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Very intriguing time-slip mystery that will keep readers turning the pages to discover the truth!

Set between 2013 and 1915, three women find themselves entangled in the tragedy of the RMS Lusitania.  In 2013, Sarah Blake is beginning to see that she is running out of money from her big-time book deal five years ago.  She was enjoying being offered talk shows and interviews, but now must settle for the occasional book club.  Her mother has Alzheimer’s and the nursing home bill is looming over Sarah.  When she opens her great-grandfather’s trunk that was found in the wreckage of the Lusitania, she discovers that a new chapter in history could be written.  Unfortunately, she will have to obtain help from a disgraced member of British parliament to do it.

In 1915, Caroline Hochsetter yearns to return to her home of Savannah, where she can enjoy the warmth and hospitality of the south.  Unfortunately, she is stuck in New York with her husband who seems to be out to prove that he is just as well off with his self-made fortune as the old money families.  He decides that they need to set off to England in first class accommodations aboard the Lusitania to sell an unfinished piece of classical music that also happened to be a gift to Caroline.  Caroline tries to convince him to not sell the piece nor make the trip to England as the war is escalating between the Germans and Britain. The only bright spot is that a good friend of hers is also on the ship, whom she discovers she has developed romantic feelings for, but can Caroline take charge of her own happiness?

Con artist Tessa Fairweather is trying to get out of the family line of work, but there always seems to be one more job she gets pulled into.  When her sister convinces her to steal a music manuscript from Caroline Hochsetter, she believes that she can finally put the past in the past.  Unfortunately, the manuscript isn’t where it should be the night she enters the house and in order to obtain it, she will have to board the Lusitania.

This was an incredibly interesting story.  Sometimes three points of view can be a little intimidating, but it worked great in this case.  Each story was uniquely crafted and brought out great character development for each of the main characters.  I often found myself wanting to continue one of the stories further but realized that I was going to have to read the next chapter in a different point of view to really get the whole picture.  Everything wound together perfectly spiraling toward a collision until the truth was discovered.   Great story.  Would love to read another book by these three authors.

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

The Gryphon Heist

Gryphon HeistAuthor: James R. Hannibal

Series: Talia Inger #1

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: September 3, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Readers are set up for a thrill ride full of suspense, danger, mystery and so many twists and turns they won’t be able to stop until the very last page!

After passing her final tests to become a CIA agent, Talia Inger gets assigned to a case she is less than thrilled about at first. She is assigned to work in the “Other” department. Her first assignment is working with Adam Tyler, a Moldovian executive, to retrieve his technology for their own defense. What seems like a simple task at first turns into the more than she could have bargained for when finds out who else is after the technology and what it is going to take to retrieve it. As the get closer to completing their mission, things get more complicated and Talia starts to wonder who she can trust and if she has been given all the information she needs to complete the mission and return home in one piece.

The Gryphon Heist is a novel full of so many things. That can be both good and bad. It is obvious that Hannibal did his research and knows his stuff, the plot would have been incredibly weak had he not, and this plot was anything but weak. The problem is there was so much going on it was a little difficult to keep up at times. Not only is the plot and storyline very intricate, there are also a lot of characters to keep up with. In my opinion, a few of the characters could have been cut without impacting the story. There were other chapters that just felt awkward and better left on the cutting room floor.  Those were the only items that took the book down a notch for me. When the tension picked up, it did so at warp speed. The last few chapters made the book, I’m talking unstoppable action that left me thirsting for me. The little tidbits about who might be the bad guy on the inside was played out so well I found myself smiling with the turn off each page. I’m so happy that this is the first in a series and we will get to see these characters further developed. I see so much potential for this series and the characters and will be chomping at the bit to get my hands on the next installment. I recommend this book to readers that enjoy the television show Alias and the Mission Impossible movie series type thrillers and a great read.

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

Diamond in the Rough

Diamond in the Rough

Author: Jen Turano

Series: American Heiresses #2

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: September 3, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Witty, hysterical, and all-around fun story!

 Poppy Garrison is a social misfit.  She doesn’t feel that she truly belongs in high society and wouldn’t be a part of the New York Four Hundred if she hadn’t had to agree to her grandmother’s terms to help save her family from financial ruin.  Every step she takes towards becoming high class seems to land herself in some sort of unexpected fiasco.  Through it all she keeps her wits about her if she can manage to make it through.

 After almost being plowed over by Poppy during the Gypsy Quadrille, Reginald Blackburn wonders if he will see her again.  To his surprise, he is requested to teach etiquette to Poppy by her grandmother, who admires his British manners.  If their first encounter is anything to judge by, he just bit off more than he can chew.

 I’ll admit that reading historical romance set in 1880s New York is not one of my usual go to genres.  However, this book was downright hilarious to read.  The situations that Poppy found herself in were so comical that I often laughed out loud.  The wit displayed by both Poppy and Reginald made the book flow so smoothly that I just had to keep moving forward to get a little bit more.  Not in a suspenseful way, but just in a way that you want to keep that feel good feeling as you read.  The character development was spot on throughout the entire book.  This is the first book that I’ve read by Jen Turano, but I can see why so many people see her as a go-to author.  It is also the second in a series, but easily reads as a stand-alone.  I recommend this to readers who love historical romances and to those who just want a good clean story.

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

Fatal Strike

Fatal StrikeAuthor: DiAnn Mills

Publisher: Tyndale House

Release Date: September 3, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

With a combination of FBI Snipers, murder using rattlesnake venom, and a budding romance, DiAnn Mills has crafted a thriller fans will not want to miss.

Galveston is being hit by a new kind of killer using rattlesnake venom for murder. A local gang called the Veneno is the prime suspect and the FBI calls in agents Leah Riesel and Jon Colbert to tackle the case. They have a witness that saw a body being left on a church doorstep but soon disappears. Without their witness, they don’t have much of a case. No one around is willing to help without the fear of being the next victim and the more Leah and Jon dig, the darker the motives become.  The more secrets they uncover, the more they have to face fears they didn’t even know they had.

DiAnn Mills says to expect an adventure with her books and that is definitely what readers will get with this book. The premise is gripping: death by snake venom, no thanks! My mind was reeling with what could be coming as I turned the pages.  Leah and Jon had a great story, I really connected with them and the feelings they developed for each other over the course of the story. The ending kept me guessing, which I love in a suspense novel.  I don’t want to be able to figure everything out quickly, I like those little surprises and DiAnn Mills always exceeds my expectations.

I have always enjoyed DiAnn Mills books and know I am going to get a great story. Fatal Strike was a really good story, but certain aspects of this story fell short for me. Leah had the ability to be a great female lead but the way her backstory was written didn’t resonate with me. If you take that out of the story, readers will have a heart pounding thrill ride. While this is not my favorite novel Mills has written, it was still a very enjoyable read and one I recommend to readers that enjoy a good romantic suspense novel with a great romance and a story line that will keep you up thinking late into the night.

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