Smoke Screen

Smoke Screen.pngAuthor: Terri Blackstock

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: November 5, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Terri Blackstock has done it again with another thrilling story that pulls at the heart-strings in the most suspenseful ways! Smoke Screen had all the right moments that kept me turning the pages well past my bedtime!

After his father is convicted of murdering the preacher, and father, of the girl he has been dating in his hometown, Nate Beckett leaves the lies and rumors behind. It’s been fourteen years and his father has been released from prison. After an injury, Nate takes a break from his work as a smoke jumper, which brings him back home. Coming back home means he will have to face the girl he left behind, Brenna. When his father was accused of the murder, their relationship changed. Brenna is having a hard time dealing with the news that her father’s killer is free and her ex-husband is suing her for custody of her kids, which threatens to send her over the edge. Turning to alcohol to get through the hard times she runs into Nate at her lowest. The spark between the two is still there. With wildfires breaking out across the state and close to home, things have become much more complicated. Nate and Brenna work together to find out the truth from the past and keep her family from falling apart.

Terri Blackstock brings a different type of suspense with Smoke Screen. This is a mystery with a romantic suspense angle, but the suspense here comes more from the drama within the families. Nate with his father coming home and his feelings for Brenna with her problems with her ex coupled with the possibility of losing her kids brought up the suspense. As the story progressed and we see Brenna struggling and dealing with hardships, my heart was in my throat with anticipation. This was such a different form of suspense than most, which made it more special to read. So many characters in this book where unlikable, but they were supposed to be that way and Blackstock wrote them so perfectly. Even so, many of the same characters were very relatable which is hard to do. Making one or two characters is relatable is one thing but being able to fill the pages of a book with so many of them is difficult. Each twist and turn was perfectly placed and the story flowed so well I couldn’t put it down. This is one of my favorites by Blackstock, and I seem to say that after each one which I don’t see that changing anytime soon with the way she always seems to surprise me. I recommend this book to fans of a great mystery with a little bit of romance thrown in at all the right times.

Sins of the Father

Sins of the FatherAuthor: Vincent B. Davis II

Series: Consentino Crime Saga #1

Publisher: Self Published

Release Date: October 22, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Davis creates a new world that readers are sure to enjoy!

Alonzo Consentino leads a very influential Borgata in Sicily that has been in his family for generations. People look to him for protection and fortunately things have been relatively calm. That all changes one night when a young man shows up at his house with a mutilated hand who claims that a neighboring Borgata killed his parents in cold blood because they felt insulted. Alonzo knows that he must retaliate but hates to shed more blood. Violence continues to grow and the killings become more personal until Alonzo decides he has no choice but to immigrate to America with his family. Once in America, Alonzo realizes that he doesn’t have the status he enjoyed in Sicily. With little money to get buy, he accepts a loan to start a barbershop. With hopes to raise his kids with integrity, the past begins to catch up to them in their new home. Can he keep his family safe? Or are his children doomed to repeat the sins of their father?

Davis does an incredible job of building story worlds. First creating the worlds of Rome and the surrounding countryside in his Sertoris novels and now bringing prohibition New York to life. I was easily transported to this setting and felt like I was a part of the story throughout the entire book. I enjoyed being a part of the story and getting to see the characters flesh out. Watching Sonny grow up and understand how he become the man that parts of the book alluded to were very interesting. I haven’t read much in the way of mafia novels, but I enjoyed this one so much that I think it would make a great movie.

One drawback that I have is that I was not able to relate to Sonny Consentino the way that I was able to relate to Quintus Sertoris from Davis’s previous books. I’m not sure why and it didn’t take away from the story, but the connection just wasn’t there for me. The story was still amazing, and I recommend it to readers who love historical fiction and mafia novels. There is some occasional foul language throughout the book, some implied sex scenes, and mentions of a statutory rape. I recommend this book for mature readers.

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

Ruby Jane

Ruby JaneAuthor: Susan May Warren

Series: Montana Marshalls #5

Publisher: SDG Publishing

Release Date: November 26, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

The fifth and final installment in the Montana Marshall series will leave readers satisfied yet yearning for more from the Marshall family.

Ruby Jane has always tried to prove herself being the only girl in the Marshall clan. After running for her life in Russia. she falls in love with a former CIA operative only to lose him after coming home when he disappears and is presumed dead. Mack Jones doesn’t remember his past and winds up in a small town ready to move on with his life. He is working as a bartender when the bar catches fire and he makes the news. Ruby Jane sees him on the news and goes to find him. When she shows up and he doesn’t recognize her. she wants to leave him to this new life he seems happy in; but when he sees her, memories start to resurface. With the return of those memories is also the danger that has followed them from Russia. The whole Marshall family will have to work together to keep them all safe and intact.

I went into this book thinking it wasn’t going to be my favorite of the series but excited to see how it would tie up all the loose ends. The final payoff at the end of Ruby Jane was far better than I could have expected. I absolutely loved the way this book ended and kept me glued to the edge of my seat. Ruby Jane and York had perfect chemistry, even when he couldn’t remember her or anything about their relationship. Each member of the Marshall family brings so much to each book and Susan May Warren is one of the very best at tying together all these amazing characters. Family is at the center of these novels and Ruby Jane is no different with the entire family in the mix to help each other and get to the bottom of the mysteries that has lasted through all five books in the series. Not only is family at the center, but faith plays a big role as well. York is the character that shows the most growth in this book, his passion for wanting to become a better person will leave the reader inspired. I have loved this entire series and hate to see it come to an end. A few little loose ends were left open leaving me to wonder if there might be more to come.

I recommend this book to fans of Susan May Warren and the Montana Marshall series. This is not one that can be read as a stand-alone as so much from the rest of the series is tied up in this final installment. Even though I thought this wasn’t going to be my favorite of the series I am pleased to say it finished up the series wonderfully and I feel readers will be pleased at with the conclusion.

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

Yours Truly, John

yours trulyAuthor: Traci Stead

Publisher: Bowker Publishing

Release Date: October 21, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Traci Stead does an outstanding job crafting a story that will bring readers closer to Jesus and the miracles he performed by giving us scripture from the past and stories from the present in a thought-provoking study for all.

Throughout the book of John, we read of the miracles Jesus performed and how he was the one the world was waiting for. It is hard to relate those ancient miracles with more modern times and terms in an understandable way. In this study, these miracles are presented in both their ancient stories and in an example of more modern miracles which the reader can relate. Each chapter is weaved together with a campfire story of the ancient miracle, the relevant scripture for that miracle with questions, a modern story and an ending reflection. Every section is woven together with beautiful prose and stories that will help the reader in their pursuit of better understanding the bible and these miraculous signs.

This is not a bible study that is meant to be read quickly. Each chapter needs to be savored and let the full meaning of what Jesus has done and will still do soak in. I loved the way this book helped me see the gospel of John in a new way that never presented itself before. Story is one of the most powerful forces in the world, it comes in so many different forms. It was, and still is, one of the most popular ways to share history. Traci uses this story to help readers see that Jesus was and still is the one to come and we can rest assured that if we put our faith in him, we will go far. Miracles still happen and Jesus is out there waiting for us to come to him and see the works his hands can do. I recommend this book to those wanting to take a deeper study into the life of John and the miracles that Jesus has performed. Everyone can get something out of this study and I personally feel a deeper understanding for the material after reading it.

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

Deadly Deceit

Deadly deceitAuthor: Natalie Waters

Series: Harbored Secrets #2

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: November 5, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

The second book in the Harbored Secrets book is even more heart pounding and thrill seeking than the first! With heartthrob Ryan at the helm, this is sure to be a fan favorite!

Vivian DeMarco has no desire to stay in Walton, Georgia after finishing her job. Being a journalist, she goes where the story is and right now the story is in Walton. When her boss calls her about a lead, she shows up at his house to find him dead from an apparent allergic reaction. Vivian knows she must search for the truth. Vivian’s search leads her to assist Deputy Ryan Frost. Together they work to find answers and stay safe as Vivian finds herself in danger and Ryan finds himself falling for her. The person behind all their troubles is called The Watcher and is about to force Vivian to confront her past. She will discover how far she is willing to go for a headline.

Natalie Waters Harbored Secrets is a fantastic series full of fun characters and storylines that will keep you hooked until the very end. Deadly Deceit starts off with a heart-pounding storyline full of emotion that sucked me in and kept me glued to the pages. I loved the way Vivian was having a hard time being in Walton but still connected with her boss and was emotionally invested in finding out the truth of what happened. She wasn’t in it just for the story, she wanted to find the story and protect the people in town she had come to care about. The emotional investment she had in helping to solve the murder is what pulled me into the story. If I can feel that emotion with the characters, I am going to be much more invested in the story. The action and suspense were top notch for me followed by the romance. Vivian and Ryan had a rocky road and I loved how it wasn’t an easy coming together for them. The obstacles put in their way were real and difficult to overcome. It was much more believable than a lot of the romance stories today. I recommend this book to anyone that enjoys a good romantic suspense read with a solid emotional attachment to the characters.

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

Protecting Tanner Hollow

Protecting Tanner HollowAuthor: Lynette Eason

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: November 5, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A wonderful collection of novellas that can be read separately but are all intertwined to make a fantastic read. Lynette Eason at her best!

Lethal Homecoming starts the collection with Nolan Tanner and Kallie Ainsworth. Nolan could never understand why Kallie left town when they were younger and in love. She gave him no explanation and he has yet to get over her. When she comes back to town and someone follows her trying to kill her, Nolan has to do all he can to keep her safe and in town this time.

Lethal Conspiracy continues with Lillian Maloney witnessing a murder and running for her life, which brings her to the town of Tanner Hollow and a chance encounter with a man she never would have expected.

Next up is Lethal Secrets. Eli Murphy helps Honor McBride with what he thought was just a tire change but turns out to be much more in keeping her and her children safe from someone bent on seeing her dead.

Lethal Agenda finishes up the collection with a returning favorite for Eason fans as Detective Derek St. John comes to Tanner Hollow. Derek wants a change of pace after a break up and comes to Tanner Hollow only to meet a woman he knew from his past and was never able to get over.

If you want a fun romantic suspense read, Lynette Eason is a sure bet to pick up and enjoy. Each of these stories could have been expanded into a full-length novel, but as they are, they read quick, concise and full of the best suspense and romance out there. I’m sure fans of Eason’s previous novels will be most thrilled with the return of Derek St. John as the St. John family were by far some of her best stories and this was a great addition. With each story being less than a hundred pages in length, it was perfect for a fun afternoon of entertainment. I enjoyed the first and last stories the most; something about the romances between the characters there hit me the hardest and kept me rooting for them to succeed. Tanner Hollow is a small town that has a lot going for it and many dark secrets that if exposed prove to be deadly. All wrapped up together, Protecting Tanner Hollow is a delightful read that I recommend to fans of Lynnette Eason’s and those that may not have read anything by her but are looking for a new author they can add to their romantic suspense favorites.

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

Zapata

zapataAuthor: Harper McDavid

Series: Border Series #1

Publisher: Soul Mate Publishing

Release Date: August 21, 2019

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Exciting, suspenseful, and a proponent of STEM in the female lead role.

Avery McAndrews has never been the stereotypical female. She chose engineering as her career field and then took a job in the oilfield.  While out on assignment in the Texas border town of Zapata, she begins to expect trouble will find her on her ride out to the production station.  As she surveys the tanks and piping, she finds a crude installation of a “security valve” that is not in the plans and schematics.  As she is preparing to ask questions of the team, two local cartels show up and start saber rattling.  As things start to heat up, Avery hopes that she can get out of Texas with her life.

Alejandro DeLeon hates that he is saddled with babysitting his cartel boss’s son Javier. Javier is a hothead who makes stupid decisions and Alejandro is always left cleaning up the mess.  When Javier concocts a scheme to kidnap a female engineer and force her to draw up construction documents for a drug transport tunnel under the Rio Grande, Alejandro knows that he must finally take action before the cartel’s operations are compromised.

As a fellow Texan, I always enjoy reading about books set in Texas. And for a change, the main character was an engineer, which is the occupation that my spouse has chosen too.  I asked him a few questions here and there about both the engineering terminology as well as about the locations depicted in South Texas as he travels there for work frequently.  I always enjoy when a book makes us have discussions about the contents!

The romance between Avery and Alejandro never seemed forced, but did develop very quickly as that can happen in intense situations. I feel that readers will find this an enjoyable read.  I also like that a book is really promoting the science and engineering field for women and hope that it will spark interest for those reading it.

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

Words of Hope for Women

Words of hopeAuthor: Carolyn Larson

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: October 15, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Having hope in a world that is hard, fast and, at times, cruel can be difficult. Carolyn Larson puts a perfect tool in our hands to find hope when it can be most difficult.

Throughout our daily lives, it can be easy to let our discouragement become overwhelming. Pain from our past combined with the uncertainty of the future can be a bit too much for some to handle without the hope we can find in the Lord. God has no limits and if we will let ourselves hold true to that we will be blessed with all the glory he has writing to bestow upon us.

Each chapter within these pages provides little glimmers of hope in a hopeless world. The scripture starting the chapters can be all we need if we look close enough. Scripture has so much hope, even when we don’t want to admit it is there. There are more words of hope in the bible than hopelessness. Even the stories that start with someone in a hopeless situation end with them finding the hope God has in store for us. Words of Hope for Women is a book that will help everyday women struggling in everyday life situations see the good and prosperous future in store for them. I recommend this book to all those looking for an uplifting read that will help give them hope when they get discouraged.

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

Emergency Skin

Emergency skinAuthor: N.K. Jemisin

Series: Forward Collection #3

Publisher: Amazon Original Stories

Release Date: September 17, 2019

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

What if everything you knew about Earth was a lie?

Several years ago, the founders of a new colony left Earth to form a new civilization. Earth, now known as Tellus, was overpopulated, rivers had run dry, ice caps had melted, and entire cities were lost.  Not everyone could come, so a few thousand were chosen and left to form a new world while leaving everyone else behind to perish.  Now there is need for some cultures from Tellus and a brave individual has volunteered for the effort.  The founders have placed their consciousness along with him so that he can have access to knowledge that may be necessary.  Also packed is an emergency skin that can be used in an emergency, but it will not be needed.  Once the samples have been picked up and returned, the hero will be awarded a beautiful new skin.  But what’s that?  Tellus appears to be inhabited?  This can’t be.  There should be no one here.  What happened after we left?

This was an intriguing read as it was a one side conversation for most of the book. The Founders  consciousness  dictate the conversation with the volunteer.  As questions are asked, the Founders respond in different tones to their mood.  It is pretty easy to determine what the questions where, but it gets hilarious when the humans begin talking to the volunteer and the Founders respond.  Aside from that, the story of how Earth rebuilt civilization was really interesting and worth reading.  I would love to see more of this story and will be picking up some books by this author.

Always Look Twice

Always look twiceAuthor: Elizabeth Goddard

Series: Uncommon Justice #2

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: October 1, 2019

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Elizabeth Goddard has done it again! So many spectacular lines and scenes throughout this book make it a can’t miss for romantic suspense readers.

After being a crime scene photographer, the pictures she has taken along with the trauma of her past force Harper Reynolds to take a year off to focus on some of the more beautiful things she can photograph. Traveling the country with her sister and taking pictures of national parks has been the serenity she needed to sooth her soul. Their last stop before heading home is in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Harper is taking pictures of a bear when she captures a murder. Fearing for her life, she takes off running and loses her camera with pictures of the murder in the process.

Heath Mckade is taking tourists from his ranch around the mountains when he hears shots break out and finds Harper. He is also a reserve deputy for the county and is surprised to find his childhood friend back in the area and in danger. When the sheriff goes to investigate, they can’t find any evidence of a crime and they start to wonder if Harper imagined the entire thing. Together, Heath and Harper must work to prove she saw what she said she did and also to find a murderer before anyone else gets hurt.

Elizabeth Goddard has crafted another great tale of romance, suspense and intrigue. I loved the way she crafted the characters of Harper and Heath and their interactions. Heath I really loved; Harper was great except for the way she let the past drag her down so much. It took away from her as a character and her potential strength. I absolutely loved the line , “She focused her camera on the killer, taking a kill shot of her own.” It was brilliantly done and made the book. Harper was a strong character and other than focusing on the hardships of her past she did grow throughout the story and ended up a character I was rooting for. We can all get stuck focusing on the past and if we do that it can cause us to miss the most wonderful things God has in store for us in the present and future. The suspense was great and the romance hit at just the right moments to make a great story. I would recommend this book to fans of romantic suspense and fans of Goddard. Even if you haven’t read the first in the series this would be a great one to pick up and enjoy.

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