Murder at the Flamingo

Murder flamingoAuthor: Rachel McMillan

Series: Van Buren & DeLuca Mystery #1

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: July 10, 2018

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

An intriguing historical mystery set in Boston’s North End in the 1930s. Could Van Buren and DeLuca be the next Sherlock & Watson?

Hamish DeLuca has fought bouts of nerves all his life. But after freezing up in the courtroom on his first case, he gets tired of feeling as thought his father is trying to protect him and buys a train ticket from Toronto to Boston to visit his cousin Luca Valari.  Lucas has a magnetic personality, yet a troublesome past.  Even so, he easily conjures influence and people invest in his ideas.  The newest one is to open up a new club in Boston called The Flamingo.  Luca believes it will be wildly successful and launch additional clubs across the county.  Hamish can’t help but get caught up in the excitement, but soon realizes that not everything in Luca’s life is as it seems.  People seem to be following him and claim that they will catch him.  But what could he be up to?

Regina Van Buren, or Reggie for short, is tired of living of the life that her parents have planned out for her. She is spontaneous and wants to become skilled at several things, not just being a high society housewife.  When her suitor suddenly announces their engagement without even asking, she slaps him across the face and takes off from New Haven to Boston.  There she quickly realizes that she may have bit off more than she can chew, but manages to find a boardinghouse and get work for a man named Luca Valari.  As a secretary, she takes phone calls from men that are trying to hunt him and tells them about the great Flamingo Club that will be opening soon.  She and Luca’s cousin Hamish quickly strike up a friendship over cannoli and begin to work together to determine what sort of business Luca is really in.  On the club’s opening night, one of the cigarette girls is found dead in the basement.  Although the police rule it as an accident, both Hamish and Reggie believe otherwise.  Can the solve both the mystery around Luca and who killed this poor girl?

It’s not often that I find a book that can actually transport me to the location of the setting. But this book did just that.  The descriptions that McMillan gave took me to Boston during the time frame when clubs were beginning to pop up all over the place.  I could see the Flamingo and walk along the cobble stones in the north end.  I cycled through Back Bay and felt the breeze off the water.  I also quickly related to Hamish through his personal struggles and could feel the same emotions as they were splashed across the pages.  However, I do wish there had been a third member of the detective group.  I have become accustomed to some enjoyable banter between characters and just didn’t feel it was quite there with Reggie and Hamish.  I’ve seen some authors throw in a another male character to the mix that breaks it up a bit between the romance and sleuthing and it works quite well.  Even so, this is definitely an interesting new series that I will be following.

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

Hotel on Shadow Lake

Hotel on Shadow LakeAuthor: Daniela Tully

Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books

Release Date: April 10, 2018

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Intriguing past/present mystery mash up with a forbidden romance.

Maya Weisberg grew up in Germany and shared an intimate bond with her grandmother. When she took a trip over to the United States for a year, her grandmother disappeared a month into her trip, but her father never told her because she knew she would come back.  Feeling betrayed, she left Germany upon her return and never came back, until they found her grandmother’s remains.  To make matters more interesting, her remains were found about 70 miles north of where Maya was staying in New York when she disappeared.  Filled with remorse, Maya decides to make the trip back to New York to the Montgomery Resort close to where she was found.  While there, she discovers that her grandmother was murdered.  The Montgomery family that runs the resort is full of secrets and any one of them could be tied to her grandmother’s death.

I always enjoy a good past/present mashup that involves World War II Germany and this was no exception.  Throughout this book the characters are mysterious, treacherous, deceitful, and downright nasty.  But in the end it makes for a very intriguing mystery.  The whole Montgomery family itself could be its own book.  I enjoyed getting the read the backstory into the family history almost as much as the story itself.  It was easy to see that the author has had experience in the film industry as it almost played out like its own movie.  Add that it is a book clean of language or graphic sex and several readers will find it very enjoyable.

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

The Love Letter

The Love LetterAuthor: Rachel Hauck

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: June 12, 2018

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Two timelines combined with two love stories and the way Hauck brings them together is better than the best Love Letter ever written.

Chloe Daschle has become known as the queen of the death scene and is in dire need of a change. She doesn’t want to be cast in a movie to just be killed off at the end.  She wants to prove she can be deeper than what is shown on screen.  Romance has never been successful for her, either on screen or in real life.  When Chloe is given the script for the best love story she has ever read, she knows she is perfect for the role of Esther Kingsley.  The story is one of romance, war, and finding out if true love can really exist.  Jesse Gates, the screenwriter, has written this based off of a one-page letter found from his ancestors.  He has had rocky relationships in the past and doesn’t feel he deserves happiness.  Jesse wants to be deeply involved in the film and ends up as one of the extras. During a scene with Chloe, the chemistry is undeniable and they both start to play out their own love story.

I have to admit I had just a little bit of trouble getting into this book, a fact that surprised me since I have loved Rachel Hauck’s previous books. Luckily, I didn’t give up on the story and loved how it played out in the end.  The love stories, both in the past and present played out in such a way that worked beautifully for the characters and settings they were in.  There were some really special moments between some of the characters, in particular between Chloe and her dad and even Jesse and Chloe’s Dad.  A few moments felt a little slow, especially towards the beginning, but once the story was part way in it really picked up the pace and captured my attention until the very end. I don’t want to give away any spoilers but the ending is well worth sticking with the story.  Rachel Hauck is quickly becoming one of the best romance writers out there and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next. I recommend this to readers that love historical romance and a love story that spans time.

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

StarPassage Book Three: Honor and Mercy

Star Passage 3Author: Clark Rich Burbidge

Publisher: Deep River Books

Release Date: June 21, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

The time travel and adventures are more explosive than ever in the third installment of the this exciting series.

After his adventures with the Star, Mike wants to help others around him struggling which may end up causing more trouble than any of them could foresee. The leader of the Trackers has made it to the present time and has plans to cause problems for all those involved in the Starpassages and more. The Tracker wants to use Mike’s new friend to bring the others down and take possession of the Star himself.  Now using the Star is a guessing game of danger and determining if it is worth the risk to travel becomes harder than ever.

The third book in the StarPassage series picks up right where the previous left off and takes us on more crazy adventures. The storyline continues as before with a back and forth between the Carsons’ and the Trackers giving us a view from each side.  In this installment, Burbidge dives deeper into the faith and Christianity than in the previous two books, but at no point does it get too preachy for the intended audience.  Young adults reading this are going to find this a fun read with the history lessons and the travel back and forth in time.  Not only is it an adventure but it is a chance to learn something fun for readers.  I was a little concerned that with all the travel back and forth and the changing of history we were going to see a ripple effect, and maybe that could work in to the next installment, but for die hard fantasy/science fiction fans they may have a small problem with that part of the story.  Overall this was a very enjoyable read and one I think kids 8-12 years of age will probably really enjoy.  I like the fact that it is a clean read and parents won’t have to worry about what their kids are reading and finding inappropriate material within. I can’t wait to get my hands on the next in the series.

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

StarPassage Book Two: Heroes and Martyrs

Star Passage 2Author: Clark Rich Burbidge

Publisher: Deep River Books

Release Date: July 27, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

With more time travel and adventure than the first, the next installment is sure to be an even bigger hit with readers.

The Carson family is back ready for another StarPassage adventure, this time with a new family. Brothers, bobby and Mike are having a hard time after an accident has left Mike in the hospital.  Bobby blames himself and is having trouble getting past what happened.  Together the brothers and the Carson’s travel first to D-Day and then to 9-11 to learn the lessons the star has for them and help others in the process.  During each time travel, they have to worry about the Trackers getting to them and the star, if that happens both the past and future could be in danger.

I have to say that the second book in the series is even better than the first. I felt like the action was ramped up causing me to feel more emotionally connected to the characters.  I really liked the way the author weaved the different time travel episodes together with the present and how the little changes affected each time period.  The addition of Bobby and Mike really helped the story.  For some reason, I felt like their relationship was more believable than Tim and Martie. Even in this book they have too good of a relationship, it just needs a little tension between the siblings to make the relationship connect and feel more real.  Overall this book was really enjoyable and I recommend it to readers that enjoy time travel mysteries with lots of action.

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

The Solace of Water

The Solace of WaterAuthor: Elizabeth Byler Younts

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: June 5, 2018

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A turbulent picture of life in the 1950s that sparks a relationship between an southern African American woman and a reclusive white Pennsylvania Amish woman.

Life is not easy for African Americans in Alabama in the 1950s. But for Delilah Evans, it just got a whole lot harder after losing her young son, Carver.  Her husband decides to move them from Montgomery to his homeplace of Sinking Creek, Pennsylvania, which borders on an Amish community.  There, Delilah strikes up an unlikely relationship with an Amish woman named Emma Mullet.  But even with friendship, everyone harbors secrets within their heart.  As social issues heat up between the whites, blacks, and Amish, all the secrets begin to come to light.  Is there hope for forgiveness and restoration?

I’m usually not a huge reader of Amish fiction, but this one was not your typical book either. There seems to be more of a trend in Amish fiction showing racial tensions with Amish at the center, but this is the first I’ve read with it focused during the civil rights era as most of it has been directed toward a dystopian setting.  The author did a fantastic job putting this all into place.  The entire story is emotionally gripping and kept me turning each page with the character transitions between Delilah, Emma, and Sparrow.  It was so difficult to decide who’s story I wanted to read more.  In the end, it was all intertwined but I just couldn’t help but love every minute of it.  My heart went out to these three women and I couldn’t imagine what they were going through.  Ultimately the theme of the book is redemption, which couldn’t be a more appropriate message.

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

What Blooms From Dust

What Blooms From DustAuthor: James Markert

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: June 26, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Beautifully written, yet mysterious novel of the Oklahoma Dust Bowl.

Just as the electricity was jolting into Jeremiah Goodbye in the electric chair, a tornado struck the prison freeing him and giving him a second chance at life. Penned as the coin flip killer after being convicted of the death of four men, Jeremiah spent three years in prison awaiting his turn to die.  After being released, his Oklahoma no longer looks like it did when he went into prison.  With the flip of his coin, he decides to return to his hometown of Nowhere to settle a score with his twin brother Josiah.  On the way, he rescues a young boy, Peter, being sold to feed a family.  Peter tags along with Jeremiah to Nowhere where the dusters have ravaged the town and the spirits of the people.  When a huge duster that becomes known Black Sunday hits the town, people start to speak the truth in their hearts, however ugly it may be.  Before long, it’s up to Jeremiah and Peter to become unlikely saviors for the town that cast him out three years ago.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked up this book, but I enjoyed every minute of it. I’m a huge fan of history of the dust bowl, which may be because I live in the Texas panhandle, so I always read up on it every chance I get.  This book was beautifully written and carried a great message to all readers on kindness.  The book description made me think that I would be reading more about a mystery, and it was mysterious, but not in the ways that I originally thought it would be.  I really enjoyed getting to see the goodness come out of the main character and how it spread through an unlikely boy to all of the townsfolk.  It would be easy to give away the secrets of this book, but I would rather have people read it and find them for themselves.

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