A Beautiful Poison

A Beautiful PoisomnAuthor: Lydia Kang

Publisher: Lake Union

Release Date: August 1, 2017

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Beautifully written historical fiction, yet slightly confusing at times.

Set in Manhattan in 1918, several American soldiers have just returned from World War I and brought home the Spanish influenza with them. As the disease begins its widespread outbreak, Allene recruits her two estranged childhood friends Birdie and Jasper to try and find a cure.  But as the disease begins to affect family and friends, it becomes apparent that this may not be stopped until several more have met their fate.

This was a very fast read that was mostly enjoyable. I always enjoy historical fiction and making it a medical thriller added some suspense.  But there were times that the storyline was a little bit confusing.  There were lots of twist and turns that keep the pages moving, but sometimes didn’t make a lot of sense, especially when I went back to reread how the twist had happened.  Even so, the writing is very well done and the characters finally became more likable the closer you get to the end of the book.  If you are up for something a little different or enjoy the time period that the book is set in, give it a try.

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

Egypt’s Sister

Egypts SsiterAuthor: Angela Hunt

Series: The Silent Years #1

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: July 4, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

You’ve heard of Cleopatra, but have you heard of her friend?

Chava is daughter to a Hebrew royal tutor living in Alexandria during the time of Julius Caesar. She has always had the opportunity to spend time at the palace with her friend and princess, Urbi, daughter to Ptolemy.  But when he suddenly passes away, Urbi becomes Queen Cleopatra.  No one has heard from Yahweh for over 300 years, but one night Chava clearly hears a message that she will be with the Queen on her best day and her last day and will bless her.  But Chava finds herself in some unfavorable situations with the Queen that ultimately lead to her imprisonment and sale into slavery.  Could she have misheard her mission?  Or is there still hope for her and her family?

I love reading Angela Hunt’s historical fiction novels because she pours so much research into her work that it makes it an amazing read. The amount of history that shines through makes it so interesting.  I’ve always been fascinated with this time period, so needless to say, I enjoyed the book.  However, there are some disturbing sections of the book that represent the way of live in the Roman world during that time that some readers will find difficultly reading.  However, Hunt keeps the read clean and enjoyable throughout.

Chava was an interesting character to get to know. She was extremely naïve throughout much of the first portion of the book, but then had to learn life lessons the hard way.  Even then, she stayed very optimistic despite being used as a pawn in wealthy men’s wars.  She grew and found grace.

I recommend this book to history lovers, especially if you enjoy reading about the life of Cleopatra.

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

 

Betrayal at Iga

betrayal.jpgAuthor: Susan Spann

Series: A Shinobi Mystery #5

Publisher: 7th Street Books

Release Date: July 11, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

This is quickly becoming my favorite series!

With Portuguese being evacuated from Kyoto, Hiro must take Father Mateo and his housekeeper Ana with him to Iga, which is the last place he wants to go. Everyone at Iga is trained to be a spy and an assassin, but at least Father Mateo should be safe.  After they arrive, Iga’s leader Hattori Hanzo invites the guest to a feast.  Also arriving at Iga are four emissaries from the nearby Koga clan, which Hanzo hopes to form an alliance with to stand against the new shogun.  During the second meal course, the lead emissary suddenly starts retching and dies shortly thereafter from poison.  Immediately the Koga clan blame Hanzo.  After much deliberation, it is decided that Father Mateo and Hiro have three days to determine who the killer is in order to maintain peace or start a war.  But when everyone is a trained assassin, can anyone be trusted?

I absolutely love this book and this series. These are some of the best stories with the quirkiest characters that I have ever read.  It’s hard to explain, but the way that everyone plays off of each over is masterfully done.  Father Mateo and Hiro’s demeanor is hilarious at times that you can help but laugh out loud.  Add Hiro’s family and it is almost like watching a samurai soap opera unfold.  Finally, Hiro’s past life’s story comes to life that has always been hinted about in the previous books.  We’ve heard about Neko and finally get to meet her.  And his mother and grandmother and some odd characters too, but make the story great.

It is so easy to get wrapped up in this story that I almost forget it is set in 1565. Even so, the historically accuracy is spot on and makes the reader feel like they are right in the middle of it.  I highly recommend this book for mystery lovers and those who just love a good read.  There is some history in the previous books, so I would suggest starting at the beginning, but don’t let that hinder you if you want to start it now!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The comments and views stated in the above review are my own.

The Writing Desk

The Writing DeskAuthor: Rachel Hauck

Publisher: Zondervan

Release Date: July 11, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A romance that spans the ages, and continents, to bring people together even in the hardest of times.

After her first book became a runaway success, Tenley Roth feels the pressure to bring another hit. However, due to the pressure, she is unable to get any words on the page.  During this time, her estranged mother calls asking for Tenley to help her through chemotherapy in Florida.  Shortly after arriving, she ends up meeting a furniture designer that shows her what real romance is about.  Tenley finds an old desk at her mother’s house that she uses to try and kick-start her new book.  The desk has history to it that ties everything together between the families and past writing.

Birdie Shehorn is the daughter of old money who wants to be her own person and not have her parents make her every decision, especially about who she will marry. Birdie wants to write novels and get her stories out in the world, a difficult feat for an unknown woman in this time.  Her mother is working behind her to get her future set the way she believes it should be, which is not want Birdie wants.  Tied together through time and circumstances, Birdie and Tenley find that even though their circumstances are not what they want, they can make the best of it if they follow their hearts.

This is one of those books that at first I thought I was going to give up on, the back and forth between the timelines and characters was a little confusing and took me out of the story. However, by the end of the book, it worked together so well.  The decisions made by each character and how it brought about the actions and reactions of those around them was done incredibly well.  Rachel Hauck did a fantastic job bringing about the sympathy for Tenley and the hard times she went through with the decisions she made and the consequences she had to face.  The relationship between Jonas and Tenley was a nice slow build up instead of an instant attraction that exploded into a full-blown romance that took over the whole story.  Even though this is an inspirational novel, it never gets preachy in any way that would be a turn off to some.  One of the nicest aspects is this is a story of forgiveness and redemption and how it can soothe the soul.  This book will be great for those that love romance and a story of hope and moving on to make the best of a situation.

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

High as the Heavens

High as the heavensAuthor: Kate Breslin

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: June 6, 2017

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Fantastic historical fiction, mystery, and redemption all in one terrific story!

In 1917 German occupied Brussels, Evelyn Marche is just trying help the Allies while working as a nurse for the Red Cross. She believed that she had lost many of her family members during the occupation, until she recently learns that her brother and sister were able to escape a work camp train and flee to France.  She also believed herself to be a widow of the war until a plane crashes near her hospital and she finds her husband was a survivor, but also an Allied spy.  Now she must figure out a way to save him without jeopardizing her position.  But being apart three years has changed both of them.  The more they learn about each other, the more secrets between them are uncovered.  Will they be able to be a family again if this war ever stops?

As usual, Kate Breslin does a great job weaving a story together set in war ravaged Europe. Not much focuses on the Great War itself, but on the internal war within Evelyn.  She has gone through so much in a short period of time that has really challenged her faith, as I have to believe it would have mine as well.  The treatment she received the first night of the occupation as well as losing most of her family members would easily tear up someone’s soul.  Simon’s had to rely on his faith to make it through multiple POW camps just to hope to see his wife again.  Setback after setback, he still managed to make it through and trust in God.  He was a very likable character that we all need to have a friend that resembles him.  If you are going through inner struggles today, I suggest you read Eve’s story.

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

A Name Unknown

A name unknownAuthor: Roseanna M. White

Series: Shadows over England #1

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: July 4, 2017

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Are a thief and an author really that much different?

Rosemary Gresham is one of the best thieves in England, even pulling off a museum heist. Now with England on the brink of war with Germany, everybody’s loyalty is being examined. Who better to find documents to exploit someone’s disloyalty than a thief?  That is exactly what Rosemary has been hired to do.  Peter Holtstein has the King’s ear and many believe that he is loyal to Germany given that his German parents left England so that Peter could be born in Germany to maintain citizenship.  But this may be the biggest challenge Rosemary has ever accepted.  Disguised as a librarian hired to help catalogue Peter’s massive library, Rosemary must try to find letters or record archives that prove his is sympathetic to Germany.  But she isn’t allowed in his study where he spends most everyday typing.  What could he be doing that involves typing all day?

This was a fun and well thought out story. I always enjoy literature during the Great War period as it typically provides a lot of conflict throughout the story, but this particular story had mostly inner conflict that occurred within Rosemary.  Her character development was fun to watch.  She grew from being a street rat thief to finally believing in God after seeing someone who chose to do good to help her.  The romance was brief but the growing feelings for each other were a welcome part of the story.  It didn’t center around that, it actually centered around the theme of God’s love and that is what made the story so worthwhile.  I’ll be very interested in the future installments of this series.

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

The Man With Two Names

Two NamesAuthor: Vincent B. Davis II

Series: The Setorius Scrolls #1

Publisher: Thirteenth Press

Release Date: June 30, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Can I have the next set of scrolls, please?

These scrolls tell the story of the life of Quintus Setorius, who was a Roman statesman and general during the time of 102 to 72 B.C. This particular book focuses on his early political career that ultimately led to his joining of the Roman military and the base of building his military career.  Based on true events, the book is a fantastic piece of historical fiction that I recommend to readers who enjoy the genre or love the world of Rome, such as I.

The writing is very detailed and may take some readers a few pages to get into, but once you get hooked it wraps up in no time. The character development of Setorius and Lucius are both very well done and believable throughout the book.  Not a lot of scene is set within Rome itself; however, it is described very well on the battlefields.  There is very little language throughout the book, which also made it easier to enjoy.  I found myself enjoying the spark of romance between Setorius and Arrea.  I really hope that it goes deeper in the future volumes.  The only complaint that I have is that it ended with me wanting so much more.  Can I have the next set of scrolls, please?

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