The Heart of Hero

Heart of a heroAuthor: Susan May Warren

Series: Global Search and Rescue #2

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: June 2, 2020

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Susan May Warren delivers in a big way with the second in her Global Search and Rescue series. The Heart of a Hero is a fast, intense, adventurous read with all the feels.

After a crazy adventure on the snow-capped mountains of Alaska, Jake Silver is having trouble moving on from the feelings he has for Dr. Aria Sinclair. He and his team helped rescue her and her friends after their expedition went horrible wrong. Jake is trying to move on from Aria and his time as a Navy SEAL to start working as part of a rescue team. Aria heads down to Key West to speak at a medical conference when a hurricane hits, stranding her in Florida trying to help others. When Jake hears of the hurricane and Aria being in danger, he can’t help himself. He jumps on a plane and heads to once again rescue the woman he can’t get out of his head.

Susan May Warren has done it again! Just when I think she is at her peak for creating the most entertaining and adventurous story, she outdoes herself. The Heart of a Hero, the second edition to the Global Search and Rescue series, picks up where the first left off. This time readers get to dive deep into the lives of Jake and Aria. In the beginning, I was thinking this one wasn’t going to be as action packed as the first installment as it took a little longer for the action to start but once it did there was no stopping it. Even though it took a little bit to get going, the end had me glued to my seat, it was so well written with tension at all the right places.

Aria is a strong capable woman but does have a lot of issues to work through. She is a perfect character for readers to be able to relate to. Her drive to help others, even at the expense of her own happiness, is obvious. You can easily see that in her heart she wants to be with Jake but doesn’t feel she is worthy of anything good.

With most romantic suspense writers, there is a formula used and if you read a lot of romantic suspense it doesn’t take long to figure out that formula. Once you have figured that out the books become less enjoyable. Susan May Warren is one of the best Romantic Suspense authors I have read because just when I think she is starting to follow that formula she surprises me with the next story. She puts her characters in hard spots and makes them work to get out of them. It isn’t easy and usually very messy, but in the end, she uses their mess to portray a beautiful message to readers. If you have never read Susan May Warren and you love romantic suspense adventures, you are missing out. I would recommend reading the first in this series before diving into this one to get the back story of the characters and fully enjoy the story.

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

Driftwood Dreams

driftwood dreamsAuthor: T.I. Lowe

Series: Carolina Coast #2

Publisher: Tyndale House

Release Date: June 1, 2020

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

The second edition to the Carolina Coast series takes us right back to Sunset Cove and sets the romance up right from the start! Characters that are old friends are brought together again to see what might have been.

After her mother’s death, Josie Slater let her dreams slip away and set her sights in helping her dad run the Driftwood Diner. She has kept close with her two best friends, Opal and Sophia, and watched in envy as they followed their dreams. Josie always dreamed of being an artist but let that goal, along with all her others, go when her mother died. When a blast from her past comes back to town, she starts to wonder if any of her long-lost dreams might still be possible.

August Bradford comes back to Sunset Cove settle down and see if there is any hope of salvaging the one relationship that he regrets letting go. His time with Josie is one he can’t easily forget and now that he is back in town, he needs her help setting up a children’s art camp. It won’t be easy, but he hopes he can show her there is so much more to her life and her dreams are still within reach.

With summer fast approaching, Driftwood Dreams is the perfect story for a relaxing read for romance fans that will kick off right mood for the season! Josie is so stuck in her ways and the thought of not being there to help her father with the diner after the death of her mother isn’t even something she can consider. Her sense of duty to family is worth more to her than following her own dreams. A noble gesture to be sure but the lesson readers learn is that we can’t sacrifice our own happiness to keep others happy in the way we think will make them happy.

August knows that he is right for Josie. Trying to get her to see that and be okay with following her dreams is a task more complicated than he anticipated. Their back and forth dialogue brought so much tension to the story; knowing they were meant to be but having so much internal conflict keeping them apart kept me turning the pages quickly.

The setting of this book is one that will take readers away for a few precious hours and let them escape to a beautiful beach with great characters and a fun, enjoyable setting. Each book in this series brings about characters we can easily fall in love with, scenery you can’t help but want to run away to, and a story that readers can’t help but go back to again and again for the perfect escape. This was a quick fun read that many readers will devour over a weekend. I recommend reading the first in the series before this one to familiarize yourself with the characters that play a role in this one. Readers that enjoy a great romantic read will want to snatch this one up for their enjoyment.

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

Ali Cross

ali crossAuthor: James Patterson

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson Publishing

Release Date: November 25, 2019

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A fun way for fans of the Alex Cross series to introduce their kids to the detective and his family, including his son Ali, who wants to be just like his dad and solve mysteries.

Ali cross has a lot to live up to as the son of famed detective and FBI agent Alex Cross. Ali has watched as his father worked to solve some of the most difficult crimes that left everyone else stumped. When Ali’s best friend, Gabe, goes missing, he decides to see if he has what it takes to be in the family business and find out what happened to his best friend. At the same time Gabe goes missing, a string of burglaries in the neighborhood start up including Ali’s house. Everyone warns Ali not to get involved but he can’t keep from following his instincts to find out how the events are connected and what it means for his friend. He is on his own investigating while his father is dealing with his own problems at work. Ali must decide if his detective work is worth it or if following his instincts will put his family in more danger.

If you have ever read have ever read any James Patterson book, you know the way his stories usually play out. Each contains scenes of action and adventure but yet the story is somewhat predictable. Taking his writing style and putting it towards a children’s mystery has worked out well in this case. For most of my experiences with James Patterson books, I have felt he writes down to readers, it doesn’t take a lot of thought to identify the villain is or what is happening. For that reason, I haven’t read much of his writing in a long time but thought this was worth giving a try. I bought this book for my son to read since I have read and enjoyed some of the earlier Alex Cross books. Like most books for young adult books he chooses, I read this one before him and enjoyed it.

Ali is the perfect spin off for Alex Cross to get kids interested in a fun, interesting new series. Readers will notice that Ali doesn’t act or talk like a normal kid, but then again, he doesn’t have normal parents which can be attributed to his being more mature in his actions and the way he speaks to others. He does still fly off the handle as a kid would sometimes do and his interest in video games keeps him grounded as a kid. To me this is written just the way it should be for its intended audience. Young readers will have no trouble flying through the story and have fun figuring out the mystery within. I recommend this book to young readers that are ready for something a little harder than the shorter chapter books but not something that will be too difficult and intimidating for them to finish and enjoy.

Chasing Helicity: Through the Storm

Through the storm

Author: Ginger Zee

Series: Chasing Helicity #3

Publisher: Disney Hyperion

Release Date: April 21, 2020

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Ginger Zee hits it out of the park with the third installment in her Chasing Helicity series! Young readers will once again fall in love with Helicity Dunlap and her adventurous spirit.

After finding shelter in a Lighthouse on the Bolivar Peninsula in Texas during a hurricane, Helicity Dunlap is found alive with a dog she somehow managed to rescue during the storm. When she is released from the hospital, she and her mom, along with her friend Sam, make the drive back to Michigan while her dad stays to help her brother, Andy, get the support he needs for addiction. Once again, Helicity finds herself in the spotlight after the dog she rescued is on the news with its owner thanking Helicity for saving him. A local reporter wants to interview her about all she has been through and survived and the owner of the rescued dog wants to thank Helicity by bringing her to Albuquerque for the international Hot Air Balloon Festival. While at the festival, Helicity once again finds herself at the mercy of mother nature.

With all of her knowledge of science and weather, Ginger Zee is able to craft a wonderful story that young readers will find both entertaining and enlightening. Helicity is a fun, spunky kid that has a knack for finding herself in precarious situations. Most of the time it is her curiosity that gets her into trouble, but it is also what saves her. There is a great relationship between Helicity, her family, and friends that we see grow and mature as these books have progressed. There is something about Helicity that makes her the perfect protagonist as she is smart, creative, emotional, devoted to those she cares about, and not afraid to go out on an adventure to learn. She shows that it is cool to be into science and things most young kids might not be into.

I loved reading this series with my young son. I read the book before him just so we can discuss it after he has read it. He enjoyed all the weather information and the way the story played out. This is the perfect middle grade book that will have readers invested in the characters and what they are going through but also leaves out all the inappropriate material that is thrown into so many books today. I am thankful there are fun, entertaining and informative books out there that I can get to enjoy with my son and not worry about inappropriate material. I recommend this book to young readers that are interested in STEM and want a great read that will take them on an adventure.

Dead End

Dead endAuthor: Nancy Mehl

Series: Kaely Quinn Profiler #3

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: March 31, 2020

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Kaely Quinn is back in her most heart pounding case yet as Nancy Mehl delivers the third installment in the series!

Kaely Quinn thought she had left her past behind her. After changing her name to get away from her father, a famous serial killer, she joined the FBI to stop predators like him. But when a body is discovered in a field near the town she grew up in and then more bodies are unearthed dating back to the time he killed with his same MO, she is brought in to see if she can get information from her father on who he is working with. Kaely doesn’t know if she is ready to face her father and she hasn’t spoken to him since he was arrested and put in jail. The more Kaely pursues this new killer, the more she feels she is losing her own identity. With each new clue that turns up, Kaely feels more involved in the case and more afraid for her own life. Will she be able to solve the case before anyone else dies? Or is she the killer’s next victim?

If you have read any of this series, you know you are in for a real treat. There is action, suspense, drama, and a sprinkling of romance at just the right moments. I love the relationship Kaely has with Noah and the way her relationship with her father is portrayed. Both those relationships are so very different but so vital in shaping how she approaches life and what she is dealt. I have been waiting since the first book in the series to meet, Ed Oliphant, the notorious Raggedy Man serial killer. Nancy Mehl sure did deliver with these interactions. Even though they were few and we didn’t get to see much of Ed, it was just the right amount along with his interactions with Kaely made for such good story telling.

Throughout this book I felt I was really able to connect with Kaely as a character and understand her more. There was such a good character arc for everyone in this story; the way it played out in the final few chapters were executed so well. Readers will feel it is a very satisfying conclusion to the series, even if we might want more of the story was tied up nicely. It’s one of those fine lines an author must walk of continuing on with the characters or leaving the reader wanting just a little bit more. There easily could have been more but at what cost? Would we have loved the story or tired of the characters? Ending here is the perfect place to leave readers enjoying these characters and the adventures they went on. Even though this can be read as a standalone, I would recommend reading the series from start to finish to get a feel for the story and characters. Readers that enjoy a good mystery with characters full of flaws and looking for what matters most in life 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.

Fire Storm

Fire stormAuthor: Nancy Mehl

Series: Kaely Quinn Profiler #2

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: August 6, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

The second book in the Kaely Quinn Profiler series is one of the best I have read in a very long time! By far the best by Nancy Mehl!

Kaely Quinn has put her heart and soul into her work as an FBI profiler and left little time for anything else, including family. When her brother calls to tell her their mother has been diagnosed with cancer and he needs help taking care of her, she agrees to put aside their differences and try to come salvage the relationship with her mother. As she heads to Dark Water, Nebraska, Kaely thinks about the emotional distance between her and the rest of her family. She tried to put as much space as she could between everyone related to her after her dad was arrested as a serial killer and sent to prison. Since then, she has tried to show she is nothing like him, even changing her name to distance herself. Dark Water has been dealing with a string of fires that the fire chief claims is a misuse of space heaters during the cold winter, but Kaely feels otherwise as she studies the pattern of infernos. After her arrival and another fire, she is determined they have a serial arsonist in their town but unraveling who is behind it all might just prove to be too hot to handle for Kaely Quinn.

It has been some time since I have read the first book in this series, but I remember loving Kaely and wanted to see what she was up to in Fire Storm. This book is by far the best I have read by Nancy Mehl. The characters have more heart and are easy to relate to, which pulled me in and wouldn’t let go, even after the last page is turned. I loved the way she played the dynamic between Kaely and her family. Each member of the family has their own demons they are struggling with and they inevitably take it out on each other. The tension when Kaely is in the room with her mother or brother is so tight, I felt a little uncomfortable at times, which was fantastic. The writing really brought these feelings out in me and I applaud Mehl on her use of family dysfunction to move the story along.

There were lots of points throughout the story that readers will think they know who is behind the fires but then on the next page they will question their theories, which makes this read so much fun. Kaely’s dynamic with her partner Noah is another aspect of the story I think readers will really enjoy. The slow build and tension between the two of them played out beautifully. As good as Fire Storm is, I am anxious to see how the third book in the series, Dead End, holds up. I recommend this book to readers that enjoy a good romantic suspense book with enough suspense to keep them on the edge of their seat and up reading far past their bedtime

Brave Girl, Quiet Girl

Brave girlAuthor: Catherine Ryan Hyde

Publisher: Lake Union Press

Release Date: May 19, 2020

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Friendships can happen in the most least likely of places and with the most unexpected people; but when it is meant to be, it can be a beautiful thing!

The only thing that is keeping Brooke going is her little girl, two-year-old Etta. When her husband wants nothing to do with having a child, Brooke leaves and goes back to live with her mother. While not the most ideal situation, it is the only thing she can do with her little means. One night when she is out with Etta, her life changes forever when she is carjacked and watches her car speed away with Etta inside. Los Angeles is large and getting Etta back won’t be easy. Miles away, Etta is found by Molly, a homeless teenager. She takes Etta with her to the wooden crate she uses as her home and tries to keep her safe and calm. Out of the horror of losing her child and Molly finding her, the two forge a friendship that will help them both learn things about themselves they never knew before.

Each time I pick up a new Catherine Ryan Hyde story, I find myself amazed at how wonderfully she can write a novel. It doesn’t matter what the story is about, I am pulled in and fly through the pages each time. This story was one that tugged at my heart strings for both Brooke and Molly; each character is put through very trying times and fall on hard times. Both have mothers that they wouldn’t wish on their own worst enemies and are able to understand one another because of the hard times they have experienced and the lack of understanding from those who should be there to understand them the most. Building characters that are relatable can be very difficult, but it is one of the qualities that Hyde is best at doing. Each of her novels is so very different from one another and yet she still writes characters we want to see find happiness, success and love. We get to feel what they feel and live through their eyes. The combination of Brooke, Etta and Molly is so beautifully written that no matter the circumstances I wanted to see each of them find a happy ending.

Each new book by Hyde explores themes that are relevant to today’s world and this is no exception, we see the problem of acceptance, love, homelessness and LGBTQ issues. There is nothing that gets graphic or too heavy into these topics, but it does bring to light problems that can be glossed over and easy to ignore. I loved the flow of this book, I read it in just over two days and could have been quicker if I would have cut out sleep. I recommend this book to readers that enjoy a story that tackles tough topics and brings characters together in a perfect and emotional ending.

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

Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish

Hadley BeckettAuthor: Bethany Turner

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: May 5, 2020

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Turner pulls off yet another Hallmark Movie story that her readers will love!

Hadley Beckett, famous TV chef, has a horrific experience facing rude, drunk, chauvinistic chef, Max Cavanaugh. Hadley’s popularity skyrockets as Max enters rehab for anger management. A world class agent wants to represent Hadley, promising to fulfill her dreams of cooking in a spectacular kitchen at her home in Nashville. One day, Chef Max shows up on Hadley’s doorstep humbled and apologizing. This begins a tumultuous relationship between the two chefs. Hadley and Max are cast together in a biographical TV show that is coveted by top chefs. The two must weather forming a friendship while learning about each other and moving past their challenging history.

I thought this story was a nice read. The beginning did not automatically draw me in but I’m glad I continued reading. The character development is well written. The plot is interesting and not all sunshine and rainbows but has a lovely happy ending. I found myself cheering for Hadley and Max in the end. I recommend this book to readers that enjoy contemporary romances that are a little cheesy and make them smile as they read.

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

Standoff

standoffAuthor: Patricia Bradley

Series: Natchez Trace Park Rangers #1

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: May 5, 2020

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Patricia Bradley knocks it out of the park with the first installment of her new series! Twist and turns, romance, action and suspense galore keep readers glued to the edge of their seat until the very last page.

Brooke Danvers is ready to join her father and become a Natchez Trace park ranger. On the night he is supposed to let her go for a ride along to start her training, he cancels on her and then his dead body is found. It is ruled a suicide, something Brooke refuses to believe and uses her first days on the job trying to prove her father would never kill himself. Luke Fereday is one of the only people in town to believe her and wants to help prove her case. Working with Luke isn’t going to be easy. She hasn’t seen him in years, and the last time she did, he broke her heart. Luke is working undercover trying to take down a large drug ring in town and keeping his secret is going to be harder than ever as he grows closer to Brooke. Trying to keep his distance without hurting her is going to be difficult as his feelings for her continue to grow.

Standoff was a perfect start to this new series. I loved Brooke and Luke as the main characters. The little mysteries throughout of who was behind the murders played out so great and kept me intrigued all the way through. Luke was a complicated character, but he had a lot of heart and I enjoyed seeing him open up and grow closer to Brooke. Starting her job with the death of her father hanging over her and then transitioning to her life being in danger with the investigation will keep readers flying through the pages to find out what is going to happen. The history that Brooke and Luke have helps move the story along as well as their relationship. There was plenty of suspense and the romance moved smoothly except for the end, which, to me, just felt too rushed. That is the only drawback I have with this story. That said, I enjoyed the story very much, but wish the ending would have played out a little smoother. I will be curious to see how the next in the series will play out using some of the minor characters in this book.

I recommend this book to readers that enjoy romantic suspense and characters they can relate to and feel a deep connection to. Since this is the start of a new series, it is the perfect time for readers new to Patricia Bradley to jump on board and find a great new author.

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

On a Coastal Breeze

on a coastal breezeAuthor: Suzanne Woods Fisher

Series: Three Sisters Island #2

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: May 5, 2020

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A great story to show that anyone can change!

Maddie Grayson is finally starting up her own counseling practice on Three Sisters Island. She leases space in a building that shares space for the local church office. The island has been looking for a new pastor for quite some time and one finally agreed to come parish the small island off the coast of Maine. On the opening day of her practice, Maddie hears a commotion and discovers that the new pastor is parachuting into town. This doesn’t surprise her as much as when she learns that the new pastor is someone who she went to school with from kindergarten to graduation named Ricky O’Shea. Ricky tormented Maddie throughout her entire school life and she thought she was rid of him for good. But what is he doing as a pastor now? Can Maddie accept him to be the man he is today instead of the boy he was?

The second book in the Three Sisters Island picks up pretty much where the first left off. Cam and Seth are engaged, but a project to get the island on reliable renewable energy has taken Cam’s attention away and causing some problems. Blaine is back home from culinary school and facing challenges in her life and with her palette. Maddie is getting her practice going and having sessions with some of the islands characters.

The story is mostly centered on Maddie, although all three sisters experience growth of some sort. Maddie had to overcome past hard feelings about Rick and many of the experiences she had at his hands are relived at the end of several chapters. But what made Rick decide to join the marines and become the man he is today just might surprise some of the readers. I also enjoyed Maddie’s therapy sessions with her sisters and her clients. It made each of the characters come to life. The next book is set to be Blaine’s story as she travels across Europe and I can’t wait to help her find herself.

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