At Lighthouse Point

Author: Suzanne Woods Fisher

Series: Three Sisters Island #3

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: May 4, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Three Sisters Island series predictably wraps up with the third sister, but maybe in a way readers didn’t expect!

After completing her dream of traveling Europe and graduation from Le Cordon Bleu culinary school, Blaine Grayson returns home to Three Sisters Island off the coast of Maine.  But she never expected what she finds when she comes home.  Both her sisters are pregnant! The diner she loves has become run down.  And her family took out a kitchen remodel project at Camp Kicking Moose to be ready for the busy season.  Only the layout and material selection are completely wrong!  Her longtime childhood friend Artie won’t even look at her.  What has happened while she was away?  As she settles back into island life, old wounds between sisters began to flare up  and she finds that she has to begin to forgive so that she can move one with the life she wants, which opens up possibilities she never imagined.

All three books of this series were fun reads where each sister learns something about themselves.  This was Blaine’s story and even though it is mostly focused on her, we see that the two other sisters still have plenty of room to grow, especially Cam whose personality is so hard to turn off that readers will have a hard time feeling sorry for her.  I loved how Jean Paul was a constant figure throughout the book that helped everyone see their true potential and help the family heal.  Great story!

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

Runaway Train

Author: Lee Matthew Goldberg

Publisher: Wise Wolf Books

Release Date: April 26, 2021

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Go back to the 90’s on an adventure of self-exploration and finding yourself after almost losing everything.

Nico is sixteen when her world is turned upside down, her sister died of a brain aneurysm and her parents can’t deal with her acting out while being so self-absorbed in their own lives. Nico decides it might be best if she ran away and discovered herself before totally spiraling out of control. She sets out to find the grunge scene and the home of her idol, Kurt Cobain. While on the road, she discovers more about herself than she ever expected and is able to check a few items off her bucket list.

Runaway Train had a lot of potential but tried way, way too hard to portray a hip teenager in the 90s. For being a young adult novel, I always hate it when there is so much harsh language and mature themes. I get it, I was there in the 90s as part of the alternative scene, but it can be portrayed in a different way to still be effective.  So many times throughout the novel it was obvious Goldberg was trying to channel a teenage girl in the 90’s, and speaking as someone who was a teenage girl in the 90s, he missed the mark big time. Not once could I picture myself as Nico or any of the other characters in the book, and not just that they acted different than I would have, none of what was being said worked for me as slang or anything else for this time period. I do remember wearing Doc Martins and the music of the era is correct but once again used in over the top ways. Watch Captain Marvel and you can see how to portray the 90s without going to this level.  It is a good story of self-exploration and adventure, but not enough to make me want to give it another shot or recommend to anyone. And yes, the title reference to Soul Asylum was not lost on me.

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

Play Dead

Author: Ted Dekker

Publisher: Scripturo Publishing

Release Date: April 23, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Play Dead is classic Ted Dekker! Fans of his work will love his newest thriller and get lost in the pages as so often happens with a Dekker novel.

Play Dead takes place in the near future where technology and virtual reality have taken over the world, making it difficult to tell what is real and what is virtual. Angie Channing is an author known for her work dealing with Virtual Reality programs and the dangers they can pose to everyone. What no one knows, is Angie is a closet “Dead Head,” and has been deep diving into the world of Virtual Reality for a very long time. After two Austin teens are brutally murdered, Angie gets a letter from one of them two days later saying they have information that is very sensitive and she knows she has to get involved in the case. Her husband is a lawyer and together they set out to prove the innocence of Jamie, the young man arrested for the murders. So much more is at stake than just the murders and Angie will have to dive deeper into the world of VR than ever before to get to the bottom of he real problem and help save them all.

When Ted Dekker is involved, you fall into one of two categories: you love his writing or you don’t. There really is no in between. I have been a Dekker fan for over a decade. His writing is really like no one else. There should be a genre just for him, it’s not suspense, it’s not romance or thriller, its Dekker! It has been a long time since we have had a true Dekker suspense novel and this one is classic Dekker. What that means is you are getting a top-notch thriller with a deep message about Virtual Reality, what awaits us in this life and the afterlife, and maybe even a little more. It is not a story you can skip through and casually read, this is a book that needs to be read slowly and absorbed deeply. A lot of what happens within Play Dead reminds me of the Circle series. To me, most of Ted Dekker books are the same in certain ways, which is a good thing and a bad thing. It makes some of the writing predictable, same story, different characters, but readers also get a new way of looking at things. I always love a new Dekker novel because it is a perfect escape from reality, just like what he is talking about in the pages of Play Dead with the virtual reality and how it affects people in so many ways. We use these escapes in books and VR to give us pleasure and satisfaction we otherwise are missing. So, if you are looking for a great story with a deep meaning you can ponder on long after the story is finished then Dive Deep with Play Dead and enjoy the thrill!

Seven Perfect Things

Author: Catherine Ryan Hyde

Publisher: Lake Union Press

Release Date: May 4, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I would say this is one of the best contemporary books I have read in a long time but that isn’t completely true. This is one of the best overall books I have read in a very long time!

Abby Hubble has had to deal with a difficult home life. She is thirteen and her dad does everything he can to make her life miserable. Her mom, Mary, tries to help Abby have a nice childhood, as much as she can. As Abby is walking home from school one day, she sees a man dump a bag full of puppies into the river. She doesn’t hesitate to jump in and save them, but she knows that there is no way she can take them home. Taking them to the pound isn’t much of an option either so she takes them to an abandoned cabin in the woods and a promise to return to them. What Abby doesn’t realize is the cabin isn’t abandoned, the owner, Elliot Colvin who just lost his wife decides to return to the cabin and spend some quiet time thinking about his future. When he arrives to find seven puppies and a young girl with a lot of spunk, his future becomes even more uncertain. Abby starts to imagine how great her life would be if her mom was married to Elliot instead of her dad. How long will Abby and her mom stay unhappy and what would happen if they set out to find true happiness?

Every time I pick up a Catherine Ryan Hyde novel, I am reminded why she is one of my favorites. It is an odd thing for me to say because Contemporary is not my go-to genre, I am more of a suspense lover and will usually pick a suspense over contemporary any day, except when it comes to her. the way Hyde writes these stories pulls me in and has me turning the pages as if I am reading a thriller. Seven Perfect Things is by far my favorite of her novels, it didn’t take more than two pages to pull me into the story and keep me hooked the whole way through. It didn’t matter if I was in Abby’s or Elliot’s point of view, I enjoyed reading either storyline. Abby is a strong, capable young girl and uses everything she can think of to help her in the rescue of these innocent puppies. Her drive and determination are an example to her mother and actually helps her mother find strength. I loved the way the story unfolded and each character grew and melded into the perfect blend for the story to be what it was meant to be. This was a perfect blend of a great plot, wonderful characters, and puppies. Gotta love the puppies! I recommend this book to everyone, even if you don’t normally pick up contemporary novels give this one a try. I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Her Last Holiday

Author: C. L. Taylor

Publisher: Avon Publishers

Release Date: April 27, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A complex thriller with a killer twist and characters that have all the right moves at all the right times!

It has been two years since Fran’s sister, Jenna, disappeared after attending a wellness retreat. The family hasn’t been close for a while, but they still want to know what happened to Jenna. Tom Wade, the founder of Soul Shrink Retreats, the same retreat Jenna disappeared on, has just been released from prison after serving a sentence for the deaths of two others that died on the same retreat as Jenna. Tom sets up another retreat and Fran decides the only way to get answers about what happened to her sister is to confront one of the last people to see her alive. The longer she is at the retreat the more questions Fran has and the more she fears she might end up just like Jenna.

This was my first C.L. Taylor book and I am torn as falls in the middle of the pack of what I’ve read this year. It is well written and has lots of great twists and turns. Readers will need to be aware that this is not set in America and some of the lingo and characters might be confusing at times. With that aside, I will say that the suspense and tension of the novel was spot on. So many times, I was really concerned for what might have happened to Jenna or was about to happen to one of the other characters that I couldn’t put the book down. Lots of language and mature themes throughout which was a turn off for me at points. I’m not saying I can’t handle a book with language and mature themes, but it must be done in such a way that helps the story and doesn’t take me out of it. Fran is a good bit older than Jenna and that makes their relationship tense at times but also gives her the big sister drive of wanting to know what happened to her sister and make sure it doesn’t happen to anyone else again. There is a lot of back and forth between timelines and different characters point of views. The different point of views helps give the story a wider range making it easier to follow. A few errors in the writing that wasn’t consistent throughout that bugged me but that was more towards the end of the novel. Readers that enjoy a good thriller and don’t mind a little language will enjoy this one.

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

Replaced Parts

Author: Stephanie Hansen

Series: Transformed Nexus #1

Publisher: Fire & Ice Young Adult Books

Release Date: January 5, 2021

Rating: 3 out of 5.

A sci-fi thriller for young adults that will take them to far away planets with action, suspense and nothing is as it seems.

It’s the year 2163 and our world and government are more corrupt than ever. Not only here on Earth, but their control reaches to other planets as well. Sixteen-year-old Sierra is on a mission to save animal test subjects and help those she can. Her father disappeared years ago and when she discovers clues as to where he is, she knows she has to go try to find him and bring him home. Together with a friend she has never met in real life, only online, she takes off on an interplanetary mission to bring him home. Once she gets there, she discovers her father is secretly trying to save the human test subjects and stop the mad scientist, Cromwell. Sierra must decide if her original mission of bringing her dad home is worth abandoning the ones he has been trying to help or if she now needs to join his cause.

If you are a fan of Science Fiction and dystopian novels, this is definitely one you need to put on your list to read. If you are like me and that is not the normal genre that you like to read, it might be a little difficult for you to get through. I enjoyed most of the book, a few parts went over my head as it is not the normal kind of book I pick up to read, but overall it was enjoyable. The writing is well done for a sci-fi thriller, lots of different lingo and words that coincide with a book set in the future and on another planet, and characters that are very different from the kinds of people we would expect to see in a book set in modern times and here on earth. All those points make it what it is intended, a good sci-fi read, they also make it hard from someone that is not used to reading in that genre to follow. But like I said, it is well written for the intended audience. I picked this one up looking for a good YA read, for me though I just had trouble getting into the story and connecting with the characters enough to really enjoy the story as much as I could have. This is the first in a series and I see it being one that I recommend to sci-fi lovers.

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

Never Miss

Author: Melissa Koslin

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: May 4, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

An absolutely fantastic debut by Melissa Koslin! So much suspense, action and truly believable moments. Can’t wait to see what she comes out with next.

Kadance Tolle spent years as a sniper for the CIA and is the best. Her entire family has the special skill when it comes to being a crack shot, but none as good as Kadance. She has left the family business of being an assassin and the rest of the family is not happy about it. While on the run, she saves the life of Lyndon Vaile and ends up in the middle of a deadly plan to release a manmade virus as a weapon. Lyndon has been researching the virus for years and is one of the only people that could possibly stop the attack. Kadance and Lyndon must work together to stop the mastermind behind the attack and save as many people as possible. After years on the run, Kadance hasn’t trusted anyone in a long time and is surprised by how quickly she believes Lyndon and risks everything to help him.

The debut novel by Melissa Koslin is one of the best that I have read in a very long time. After reading the book, I looked up a little more about Koslin and found out she is a fourth-degree black belt in Taekwondo, which became apparent as she used this knowledge within the pages of her writing to make it all the more real. Sometimes fight scenes are poorly written and not believable. This novel had some of the best authentic fight scenes I have read. I have been in martial arts for four years and as I read these scenes I actually pictured myself in the fight throwing the moves and in the action. That is what I loved best about this novel, the believable scenes and action that moved the story forward. Each scene was well written with I really loved the characters.

Kadance was so well written and relatable, with all she went through she was so strong and when she felt weak and let the emotion take over, I was fully able to picture myself in her shoes. I am an emotional person, but I also try to be strong; seeing Kadance channel her strength but also willing to admit she was feeling something for Lyndon and not block out that emotion helped me to connect to her. One of the best additions to the story was probably Mac. There were a few inconsistencies throughout the story, but they were minor and only noticeable if you are paying close attention to those details.

Overall, for a debut novel I was blown away by Koslin’s way to write scenes and characters that flowed well and sucked readers into the story. I recommend this story to readers that enjoy a fast-paced thriller with action, suspense and a deadly virus on the loose.

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

The Paris Betrayal

Author: James R. Hannibal

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: May 4, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A fast action, spy thriller that had me hooked and my heart racing until the final chapter!

Ben Calix has his world turned upside down after his latest mission with the Company goes wrong. For many years, Ben has been lived and breathed the world of being a spy, and now, everything he has ever known is falling apart around him and his life is in more danger than ever before. The French SWAT is coming for him and Ben is now branded a traitor by his Company and on the run with a woman he barely knows, help from a sniper who tried to kill him, a medic who has saved him over and over, and others he only hopes he can trust. His mission now is to stop a bioweapon from being unleashed and prove he is no traitor.

The first James Hannibal books I read were good but still left me scratching my head with questions about the story. The Paris Betrayal is fast paced action with a much more satisfying feeling. The first ten chapters or so left me a little confused and wondering what was happening, but after that, the story kept a nice pace and was easy to follow. By the final few chapters, I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough to find out what was going to happen.

Ben had complicated relationships and that only made him more relatable to me. I enjoyed watching his journey unfold and the way he went about solving each new problem set before him. His interactions with others, whether they were on his side or against him, played out nicely, especially when you thought he was at the end of his rope. The end of the story unfolded more is to come and I can’t wait to see what else is in store for us with The Company and Ben Calix. Hopefully, Clara, Tess and more will be back to help him with is next mission. I recommend this book to anyone that loves a good spy thriller that is clean with lots of action, a little bit of romance, and a whole lot more to enjoy.

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

Project Hail Mary

Author: Andy Weir

Publisher: Ballantine Books

Release Date: May 4, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Andy Weir is back with an incredible science fiction novel that will have fans of The Martian excited to find out what happens next!

When Ryland Grace wakes up, he realizes that something is very, very wrong.  His memory is gone, and it feels like he has been asleep for years.  When he finally able to get out of bed, he can’t figure out why he is so sluggish and then he realizes, it’s because gravity is heavier than normal.  But that doesn’t make sense.  Perhaps someone has placed him in a centrifuge, but that can’t be because of the amount of gravitational force that he is experiencing.  There is only one other possibility: he is on a spaceship.  Once he makes his way to the control room and sees the panel, he realizes that not only is he on a ship, the star he is heading towards is in a completely different solar system than his own.  As his memory begins to return in bits and pieces, he realizes that he is on a last-ditch effort mission to save Earth and all the people who live there. 

How to review this book without giving anything away?  Let’s just say that if you loved The Martian and where then slightly (or horribly) disappointed in Weir’s second book Artemis, then you are not alone.  But rest assured, this book gets back to what Weir did best in The Martian.  Readers will ride alongside protagonist, Ryland Grace, as he struggles to understand why he is on this mission.  His amnesia allows readers to discover the same tidbits of information at the same time he does so that the revelation is gradual.  Grace is a microbiologist with a great understanding of science that explains everything to readers.  It does get technical at times, but the plot and story line make up for anything that readers may not fully understand.  I’m married to a mechanical engineer and he got even more out of this book than I did.  Plus having the science mixed with humor throughout makes for several good laughs.  Readers will also experience some emotion throughout the book, but you’re just going to have to read it for yourself to understand why.

Compared to the previous books, there is only a fraction of foul language.  There is also some discussion of sex, but nothing graphic and it is written in a humorous manner.  I highly recommend this book to readers who enjoyed The Martian or just love science fiction.

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

Almost Damned

Author: Christopher Leibig

Publisher: Koehler Books

Release Date: April 1, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A legal thriller of Heavenly proportions!

Samson Young has learned a lot in the last year, both about himself and the world in general.  As his caseload has grown, he has started to realize that the people in his life and those that he has represented are remarkably interconnected.  As events start to unfold before him, he realizes that all the difficult cases he has been involved in are leading up to the biggest case of his life, where we will literally have to lay out good and evil.  But not everyone wants this case to happen and are willing to do whatever it takes to stop it coming to pass!

So, everything in Chris’s previous book written five years ago that was confusing, yet somewhat interesting, has finally come into focus with his new release.  This book was much more interesting and really delves into an area that a lot of people don’t know about.  Readers will be transported to a world in the time of Genesis before the flood of Noah when the Sons of God fell from earth to mate with human woman, thereby creating a mixed race.  A large part of this book calls on the Book of Enoch, which is only used in the Ethiopian bible, but goes into much more detail on the events concerning this.  If you haven’t read (or even heard) of that, don’t worry, Leibig does the legwork for you in this and may cause you to even do research on your own.  The way this is all laid out makes it really interesting and worth a read.

There is a lot of foul language throughout the book as well as some implied sex scenes, though nothing is graphic.  This book is recommended for mature audiences.

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