Acceptable Risk

Acceptable RiskAuthor: Lynette Eason

Series: Danger Never Sleeps #2

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: August 4, 2020

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Another fantastic installment in the Danger Never Sleeps series! Lynette Eason has delivered her best book yet! She continues to get better at giving readers the story they want and so much more. Acceptable Risk is at the top of my list for best of the year so far.

Sarah Denning joined the army to become a military journalist and uncover the truth where others run from it. While in the Middle East, she is attacked and taken prisoner. A group of special soldiers is sent in to rescue her, including former Army Ranger Gavin Black, who was asked by Sarah’s father, a General in the army, to rescue her. Once Sarah is back home in the States recovering from being taken hostage, she finds out her father helped have her discharged on a false psychiatric evaluation. She will stop at nothing to prove to him and anyone else that she is still fit for duty and ready to return to her unit. Before she can do that, she learns of her brother’s suicide and can’t believe he would do such a thing. Now, Sarah must use all her journalistic abilities to find out the truth of what happened to her brother. In order to do that she is going to need help, so she asks Gavin to assist in her investigation to determine the truth and uncover the biggest story of her career.

Lynette Eason seriously gets better with each new book. Every time I pick up one of her novels, I know I am going to be in for a thrill ride. I had such an easy time connecting with the characters in this story, the way she started with Sarah in danger but doing all she could to protect others captured my attention and kept me on the edge of my seat until the very last page. My biggest complaint is I didn’t have enough time to just sit and read this cover-to-cover.  I absolutely loved the way I was able to immediately connect with Sarah from page one. I felt for her and wanted to see her come through the whole ordeal alive and safe. The relationship she had with each male in her life was so different and portrayed so well. Her father’s treatment of her only spurs her on to prove she is capable of so much more than he realizes. Their relationship hit home for me and was so raw and believable. The way Eason wrote Sarah at the first half of the book was perfect for me. She is recovering from tragedy and having to rely on others around her but refuses to play the victim and puts every ounce of her soul into doing what she can to help those around her.

I feel like each time Lynette Eason releases a new book it is my new favorite, I didn’t know if she would be able to top Vow of Justice but Acceptable Risk might just beat it, if not I’ll have to call it a tie. I recommend this book to anyone that loves a fantastic romantic suspense, with characters they can cheer on and a story that will pull them in and keep them on the edge of their seat. It is the second in the series but could be read as a standalone if so desired.

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

One Small Sacrifice

One small sacrificeAuthor: Hilary Davison

Series: Shadows of New York #1

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Release Date: June 1, 2019

Rating: 4. 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A dark and twisty thriller that is written with skill and easily draws readers into a web of deception.

For over a year Sheryn Sterling has been trying to find enough evidence to make a conviction stick on Alex Traynor after his friend Cori fell to her death. Even though her death was ruled a suicide, she has never believed that to be true. Alex, a wartime photographer is struggling with PTSD and Sheryn refuses to let him get away with murder. When Alex’s fiancée, Emily, goes missing he is once again the prime suspect. With each new clue Sheryn finds, her theories as to what happened to both Emily and Cori fall apart and a new mystery begins bigger than anything she has investigated before.

Alex has so many issues to deal with, the biggest is his PTSD, throughout the story it is obvious Davidson has done research to help bring about the most realistic portrayal for readers dealing with such issues. I wasn’t as pulled in by Alex as I was Sheryn and even the chapters with Emily. Those little glimpses kept me turning the page to see what was going to happen next. Seeing Emily in trouble and trying to figure out what happened to her was more entertaining than Alex trying to find her and figure out what was going on. As a detective, Sheryn Sterling had a good start in this novel.  She is smart, witty and persistent to find out the truth no matter the cost. At times Alex was a little annoying as he dealt with his issues but as the chapters progressed the story picked up speed and the action took off causing me to not want to put the book down. As the start to a new series, I can see following the characters and what is to come for several books. It could also be read as a standalone and enjoyed without missing out on anything. I would recommend this book to those that enjoy a good thriller but don’t mind a little language throughout.

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

Side Trip

Side TripAuthor: Kerry Lonsdale

Publisher: Lake Union

Release Date: July 7, 2020

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Lonsdale shines as a master of relationship what-ifs play out in this two-sided story of love, growth, and loss!

Joy Evers has been carrying her sister’s death on her shoulders since it happened.  She gave up her interests of skateboarding and surfing to make her late sister’s dreams come true.  She went to UCLA and achieved a degree in chemical engineering and has lined up a job to develop a new line of lipstick for a large cosmetic firm in New York.  She decides to take a road trip down Route 66 on her way to New York from LA to check off the items from her sister’s bucket list before she begins the life she never wanted.

Dylan Westfield loves writing music, but he hates performing.  His dad and uncle were well known musicians and he has always been in the shadows except when his dad made him perform on stage.  Hid dad recently died and to obtain his inheritance, Dylan must travel along Route 66 and play the same dive bars that his dad did on his way to LA before he made it big.  Not only that, but he must drive the same car his dad did, which doesn’t even make it out of California.

By chance, both Joy and Dylan are at the same diner in Ludlow, California.  He manages to convince her to drive him to his gigs, but she has three rules.  1. No last names.  2. What happens on the road, stays on the road.  And 3. If they take a side trip, both parties have to agree.

Every year in July I look forward to a new Kerry Lonsdale book, which frequently shows up on my top 10 books of the year.  This year was no exception!  Readers are suddenly thrown into Joy and Dylan’s wild ride and find themselves tagging along for the adventure.  This book was both exciting and heart wrenching.  Readers will easily connect with either Joy or Dylan.  Told from both perspectives, it’s easy to get lost in both of their back stories, present stories, and future stories.

Joy carried the guilt of her sister’s death by herself and wouldn’t let anyone truly see her for who she was.  Dylan never wanted a serious relationship because the life of a musician isn’t kind to relationships, which proved true of his parents.  But when they are together, something special happens.  In her true fashion, Lonsdale’s books have an epic ending that nobody will see coming.  At first, I was really angry for what happened because I was cheering for both of them and then I was broken hearted.  But maybe a silver lining promise will keep readers fully engaged until the end!

There was a little difficulty at times when the story suddenly shifted between past and present without any kind of visible break, but it didn’t take long to figure out.  There is also a lot of language and well as implied sex that makes the book suitable for mature audiences.

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

Stories That Bind Us

Stories that bind usAuthor: Susie Finkbeiner

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: June 2, 2020

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Set in the civil rights movement of the 1960s, this story could just as easily be told today!

When Betty married her high school sweetheart, Norman Sweet, she had dreams of a long life together.  But after 20 years of marriage, her husband felt ill one afternoon and quickly passed due to a heart attack.  They’d had a good marriage filled with love and lots of bakery treats from the Sweet Family Bakery that they helped run.  But she quickly fell into depression and if not for her sister-in-law, she might have stayed there.  Then one day she had a surprise visitor at her door, her estranged sister and her five-year-old son.  Betty forges a bond with her biracial nephew and learns the ugly truth about the world as well as herself.  She reflects upon stories that her mother told her growing up that begin to bind their family’s relationships even tighter.

Susie Finkbeiner is a master at storytelling.  Her books can bring historical events into a picture that allow readers to see what happened in a new light.  From the dust bowl to the Vietnam War to the Civil Rights movement, she doesn’t capture the high points of the era and press on.  What she captures is so much more beautiful and crucial to our understanding of the times.  She captures everyday life of a normal person and family.

Betty is this person.  An average white female living in Michigan.  She’s far from the throes of the racially charged south and she sees the news, but largely ignores it as it does not directly affect her.  But when she meets her nephew Hugo, that begins to change.  She never sees him as anything more than a little boy, which is all that he is.  And her family only sees that as well.  But other people in the town do see him as different and she quickly realizes how ugly people can be.  I hope that readers are able to take this book to heart and begin to understand the importance of true relationships with one other.  As the stories Betty shares throughout the book bind her and Hugo, so do they bind us as readers!

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

These Nameless Things

These Nameless ThingsAuthor: Shawn Smucker

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: June 30, 2020

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A retelling of Inferno that will draw readers from all genres.

Dan has lived in the village for a long time.  He escaped captivity from the mountain long ago and occupies the first house of the village that other people come to after they have escaped captivity.  He keeps watch as they come through and rushes them to the village leader to best decide how to help and rehabilitate them.  There is one person that Dan has been waiting to see come out of the mountain: his brother.  He knows that he can’t leave this village until his brother comes through.  Many of the villagers have begun to move out of the village toward the eastern plains, but some remain and are unsure why they are waiting.  But one day a woman comes through the mountain and people begin to remember their lives before the mountain.  One thing begins to become clear; everyone seems to be waiting for Dan’s brother.

At its core, this is a modernization of Inferno by Dante Alighieri.  Readers will discover many parallels between this book and the original.  However, if you haven’t read Inferno, it will not take away from this story.  I was quickly pulled in by the intrigue of Dan’s experience in the village and the appearance of Kathy.  I devoured this book to discover what was going on and why people were suddenly remembering past lives and what it all had to do with Dan.  The first half of the book sets up the base of the story and the second half is the trip through the inferno to rescue Dan’s brother.  There were several tie ins -between the two parts that I had to reflect on to fully understand the significance.  My one complaint is that the ending just wrapped up to quickly.  I felt that there was a lot of tension built up and it just sort of ended.  Aside from that, it is a worthwhile read that many will enjoy.

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

Don’t Keep Silent

Dont keep silentAuthor: Elizabeth Goddard

Series: Uncommon Justice #3

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: June 30, 2020

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Get ready for a chill to race down your spine as the suspense unfolds!  This is the best installment in the Uncommon Justice series!

Rae Burke has spent her life investigating stories trying to follow in her father’s footsteps as an investigative reporter. When she hears her sister-in-law is missing, she does whatever she can to track her down and get to the bottom of her story. In order to find her sister-in-law, she must ask for help from the one man who took a bullet for her. Liam McKade left the DEA after his cover was blown when he saved Rae when her story got her in with the wrong people. Liam has gone to his family ranch in Wyoming to figure out what his next step is going to be. Rae finds Liam and fills him in on what she needs. He reluctantly agrees to help her in this search for her sister-in-law. The more time they spend together, the more danger they find themselves in, and the harder it is for them to keep their feelings for each other hidden.

After being introduced to Liam McKade earlier in the series, I was intrigued and wanted to learn more about him and see his story unfold.  My desire was answered! Don’t Keep Silent gives readers a deep dive into his past and his heart for helping others. Even though he took a bullet for Rae and thinks he never wants to see her again, the moment he lays eyes on her he knows he will do whatever he can to help her. She infuriates him with every step of the investigation as she puts her life at risk time and time again in her search for the truth. The back and forth dialogue between the two of them makes the story flow so well. Rae hires him to protect her but makes that job almost impossible with each step they take as she puts herself in danger to try and find her sister-in-law and figure out how everything ties in together. For me, there could have been a little more suspense built up at a few key points; right when the tension was at its highest things seemed to fizzle out. The romance was very subtle throughout until the end where it went to warp speed. That’s the problem with some romantic suspense novels, a slow build and then the end goes light sped where it’s not believable. At least Rae and Liam had past history and it wasn’t just straight to love and marriage after they first met. While the ending was a little rushed, the whole story was enjoyable and a fun easy read. My only problem was I didn’t have enough time to sit and read it all at once. Fans of Gooddard’s novels and those that enjoy romantic suspense 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.

Nine Elms

Nine ElmsAuthor: Robert Bryndza

Series: Kate Marshall Thriller #1

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Release Date: December 1, 2019

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

An intense psychological thriller that is twisty, dark and chilling with characters you will love to love and hate from beginning to end.

Kate Marshall was just getting started in her career as a police detective when she caught the famous Nine Elms serial Killer. Her victory is short lived as she loses her job over circumstances of the case and trial. Fifteen years later, she is still haunted by the events of that case and how it stays with her day after day. Now a lecturer at a small university, a copycat killer shows up bringing her past back to haunt her. With the help of her research assistant, Tristan Harper, Kate digs deep into her past as an investigator to catch this new killer. Not only does Kate try and figure out who the copycat killer is, but she also must keep him from finishing the original killer’s plans: her as the final victim.

This book is exactly what it sets out to be: dark, twisty, deep, emotional and thrilling. It is most definitely a book for a mature audience as it contains a lot of harsh language and mature themes throughout. Kate Marshall is a protagonist readers will have an easy time cheering for and yearning to see her succeed. The trials she endures, not only professionally but also personally, are more than most would be able to handle, and yet she follows through on her promise to help others when it puts her own life at risk. She makes for such a strong protagonist and the story moves flawlessly between her point of view combined with that of the antagonist. I was gripped when we were in the point of view of both killers, both the original nine elms killer and the copycat; the way Bryndza portrayed the evil of these men kept me on the edge of my seat. This is the kind of psychological thriller that will keep readers guessing until the end if all will turn out as they hope. I recommend this book to readers that enjoy being on the edge of their seat but don’t mind the mature themes throughout, that was the only thing that took sometimes took me out of the story as the sexual language was a little more than I prefer.

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

Let Them be Kids

let them be kidsAuthor: Jessica Smartt

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: June 9, 2020

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A very practical guide to helping raise strong, well-mannered kids which also focuses on letting kids be kids and how to foster that childlike nature and fun within all of us.

Jessica Smartt crafts a well-balanced guide on raising kids that have values, good manners and also know how to have fun. It’s one thing to raise kids that are nice but also foster creativity and fun. Being a former English teacher and homeschooling mom of three, Jessica Smartt has spent years with young kids discovering the trial and error of what works and what doesn’t when raising kids. We don’t want to be the Pintrest mom or the Facebook mom who all we see is little snippets of their greatest moments, we have to be ourselves and let our kids see us as our true selves so they can be comfortable in their own skin.

Let Them Be Kids is a perfect read for parents, new and experienced. We can all learn something from the pages of this book. Being part story and part guidebook, readers will find great resources to help them in the trying times of raising young ones. I loved the way she talks about helping instill creativity in young children and how it is okay for them to be bored and learn to entertain themselves. That is so key; it would be easy to hand over a screen for entertainment these days but if we think back to when we were kids, we didn’t have near the options our kids do today for entertainment. I have to tell my boys a lot that it’s not my job to entertain them all the time. Several of the chapters give great advice on ways to entertain kids and help them entertain themselves. Never once does Smartt make us feel as if we aren’t doing a good job as parents, instead she gives us tools to help instill confidence in us as parents and ways to enjoy this time with our children. We only have a short amount of time with our kids and it would be a shame to look back and regret these younger years having not spent enough time together and enjoying the little moments. This is a book for all parents and parents to be, so many good take-aways that I will be pondering for days to come to implement in my routine with my boys.

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

The Crushing Depths

Crushing depthsAuthor: Dani Pettrey

Series: Costal Guardians #2

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: June 30, 2020

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

The second book in the Coastal Guardians series will have readers so deeply invested in the characters it will be difficult to come up for air!

After a death on an oil rig off the coast of North Carolina, the Coast Guard is called in to investigate. Rissi Dawson and Mason Rogers are sent out to determine if it was foul play or just an accident. There are rumors the oil rig is haunted and a group of environmental activists are trying to do whatever they can to shut the rig down. When their helicopter crashes on the way to the rig and they run into trouble with every turn they take, the evidence points to foul play in the death of the oil rig worker. They have to tread lightly to determine who the killer is without putting themselves in the crosshairs. Before they can finish their investigation, a tropical storm heads their way trapping them on the oil rig with a killer.

After reading the Alaskan Courage series, I didn’t know if Dani Pettrey would be able to top it. However, the first book in this series started out great and now the second continues to make this series one of the best. I loved the dynamic between Rissi and Mason; the history they shared was very powerful and one of the aspects that kept me glued to their story as it unfolded. A few moments throughout the book left me underwhelmed, I could tell what was about to happen and it just didn’t feel right with the story. But most of the novel had me on the edge of my seat waiting to see how things would turn out. While this book focuses on Rissi and Mason, readers get a little more insight into characters from the first in the series and see a set up for the next. I’m guessing the Book three will center around Brooke and Noah, or at least that’s what I’m hoping! I would recommend readers read the first book in the series before starting this one, but if picked up it could be read as a stand-alone novel. Readers that enjoy romantic suspense novels will not want to miss this one.

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

What Momma Left Behind

What momma left behindAuthor: Cindy K. Sproles

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: June 2, 2020

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

With plenty of tension, heart and trying moments, this is a book historical fiction readers will not want to miss!

Deep in the Appalachian Mountains in 1877 the “Fever,” influenza and typhoid, are ravaging the land leaving many orphaned children with no one to care for them. Worie Dressar is seventeen when she is left on her own after her mother’s death. She quickly finds out that her mother had been taking care of the orphaned children in the area and the more she takes in the more she finds. Her two brothers aren’t much help, one is a drunk and the other a greedy man who wants anything their mother left behind. As she grows, Worie realizes the power of love and forgiveness as she cares for her Momma’s children.

Let me start out by saying that historical fiction set in this particular time period is not my normal genre to read. I just haven’t been able to relate to it as well as other periods that hold my interest better. However, this was a good stor. At its heart is a story of forgiveness, love and how what we don’t know or understand, if given time, will all come to make sense. By the end of the story, a lot of what Worrie goes through comes to make sense. The way her mother went about leaving her doesn’t make sense; so many things she could have made known before and not made it so difficult for her children. Being set in the 1800s, seventeen is considered grown and old enough to have a family, yet Worie acts immature and like a little brat much of the time. The way she acts doesn’t suite her and what she is supposed to be portraying. I couldn’t find many redeeming qualities throughout the book. I’m sure that there are many readers who will enjoy this so much more than I did. I did enjoy a few of the characters, the pastor, Ely and Bess made the story so much better than if they had not been written in. I would recommend this to lovers of Historical fiction, especially those that enjoy reading about the Appalachian Mountain region.

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