Ghost of the Bamboo Road

Ghost of bambooAuthor: Susan Spann

Series: Shinobi Mystery #7

Publisher: Seventh Street Books

Release Date: July 16, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

I forgot how much I’ve missed these characters until I picked up this book!

As Hiro and Father Mateo make their journey to Edo to warn Iga assassins that their cover may have been comprised, they must stop in a rural mountain village along the way. Another Iga assassin has been stationed here to watch the travel road. They stop at the local ryokan to stay the night and discover that they owners are completing a mourning period. Hiro immediately senses that something is off about this village and wants to find the operative and leave as soon as possible. Unfortunately, that night there is a murder in the burial yard. The innkeeper’s mother is murdered and the village residents believe that a vengeful spirit is responsible. Another murder soon follows and the residents believe that the visitors are responsible for angering the spirit. Father Mateo’s servant Ana is soon accused of theft as well. In order to appease the local Samurai, as well as prove there is no such thing as ghosts, Hiro and Father Mateo begin to investigate the murders and the theft. Hopefully they will find the operative as well and all be able to continue their mission.

It has been quite a while since I had a Hiro and Father Mateo mystery. Way too long actually. I hadn’t realized just how much I had missed their constant banter and adventures. As a reader, I have enjoyed getting to watch the professional relationship between the two become much more personal. Even though they still don’t agree on everything, they can be respectful of each other and work together. This is a lesson from 1566 that could be applied to almost everyone in 2020. I also appreciated that this book focused on the mystery and a showing of Japanese customs as several of the previous books have done. One drawback that I had from the last book was the amount of detail that was given to describing the temples. I know that the author had just finished a pilgrimage and visited several of the temples, so the details were fresh on her mind, but it took away from the overall story. That said, every time I hear there is a new Shinobi mystery coming out, I get excited to continue the journey. I hope it takes several more books to complete the series.

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

Top Historical Fiction for 2019

Historical fiction is always hard to nail down because there are so many amazing books taking place a different times.  This year proved to be extremely difficult (as always) and there was no easy way to narrow it down to five.  So we didn’t!

all manner of things


1.  All Manner of Things by Susie Finkbeiner

Finkbeiner is a master at pulling readers into her settings.  We felt so connected with this family that we yearned for simpler times throughout the entire book.  The book has such raw emotion throughout that readers may find themselves shedding a tear or two.

Read the full review here.







2. Stay by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Each time we pick up a Catherine Ryan Hyde book we think  it can’t possibly be better than the last, but she proves us wrong every single time. Stay is a perfectly crafted tale of what it means to care for someone and love them enough to want them to stay in this world.

Read the full review here.




The Noise of War


3. The Noise of War by Vincent B. Davis II

The next installment in the Sertoris novels takes things to a new level.  The continuation of his progression into politics makes history come alive.  We can’t wait for the next book!

Read the full review here.






Within these lines


4. Within these Lines by Stephanie Morrill

A heart wrenching story about the Japanese internment in California as told through the eyes of a young Italian female in San Francisco.  This book will be great to explain history to today’s younger generation.

Read the full review here.





Number of Love


5. The Number of Love by Roseanna M. White

This book was like a new take on A Beautiful Mind.  We fell in love with the main character’s naivete and her ability to break coded messages.  This is one of our top picks to be make into a film!

Read the full review here.





Sins of the Father


6. Sins of the Father by Vincent B. Davis II

Who doesn’t love a good mafia story?  Davis’s ability to create worlds based on historical events is evident with this new series!

Read the full review here.






The Sky Above Us


7. The Sky Above Us by Sara Sundin

The second book in the Sunrise at Normandy series really progressed the story along.  Each book focuses on a brother who all become estranged because of one ill fated event.  Each went their own way and each entered a separate branch of the service.  Masterfully done!

Read the full review here.




Far side of the sea


8. The Far Side of the Sea by Kate Breslin

Heartbreaking, yet triumphant!  This story is a master of deception as well as a historical masterpiece.

Read the full review here.

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.

Carry Me Away

Carry Me AwayAuthor: Dorothy Adamek

Series: Blue Wren Shallows #2

Publisher: Crabapple Press

Release Date: November 5, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Unlikely circumstances result in an unlikely romance.

Ada Carmichael has just lost her entire family in a shipwreck. The Black Swallow has sunk of the coast of Australia and Ada herself would have been a causality had it not been for the heroic action of midshipman Tom Darley.  As the two only survivors of the catastrophe, the media begins to go crazy.  Ada desperately needs to stay hidden before her past comes back to haunt her, but Tom could really use this publicity to make his dream come true.  When Tom’s plan to protect Ada go awry, it will take both of them to find redemption.

This is my first book by Adamek and she has a unique gift to bring a story setting to life. It takes a lot of talent to transport readers not only to a different time setting but an entirely different continent.  It is easy to see that she is a native of Australia as her descriptive scenery was bar none.  I felt as though I stood alongside the characters as I viewed the settings of the mainland and the island farms.  The romance felt natural and didn’t seem forced.  The characters fleshed out beautifully, flaws and all.  This is the second in a series but easily a standalone.  I recommend this to readers who love historical romances.

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

Tiger Queen

Tiger queenAuthor: Annie Sullivan

Publisher: Blink YA Books

Release Date: September 10, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

One of the best books I have read this year. Fast paced, action packed and full of adventure, romance, and tension at all the right moments.

Kateri has grown up thinking the Desert Boys killed her baby brother and mother, the queen. As the only living heir to the throne, she is forced to fight in the arena to prove herself. Every fight she wins puts her one step closer to ruling her people, but if she loses, she will have to marry her opponent and watch as he rules over the people her mother swore her to protect. When her final opponent ends up being her trainer, she knows there is no way she can win so she flees to the desert. If she can find the leader of the Desert Boys and get him to train her, she might have a chance to win in the arena. The more time she spends in the desert th,e more her perception is changed of her life with her father and all that she thought she knew. As she makes her way back into the arena, she has two doors to choose from, one leads to her happiness and the other a tiger.

Tiger Queen is the second book by Annie Sullivan and if she keeps this up, she will quickly be at the top of the pack of Young Adult authors. I loved her first book, but her second book is so much better. Tiger Queen has everything you want in a book, not just for YA, it is fast-paced, action packed, fun, and oh so much more. Kateri was the perfect protagonist, I connected with her from the very beginning. She is strong but also smart enough to know she is in over her head and must ask for help. When she leaves the palace and seeks out the help of the desert boys, the tension really picks up and I couldn’t wait to see what was going to happen. Each relationship had its own special dynamic that played to the characters strengths and weaknesses beautifully. I don’t want to give too much away but will say that there was a lot I didn’t see coming but smiled as it played out. Readers will fall in love with Kateri but also find themselves connecting with Cion, the leader of the Desert boys. While this is written as a standalone, I would absolutely love to see more of this story. So many of the characters have more story to be played out and I am aching to read more about the Tiger Queen and the people she rules over. I recommend this book to readers both young and old that love a fast-paced action packed read that they won’t be able to put down. There is no language that wouldn’t be appropriate for a younger audience and the violence is there but written so well young readers won’t have a problem with the story.

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

Diamond in the Rough

Diamond in the Rough

Author: Jen Turano

Series: American Heiresses #2

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: September 3, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Witty, hysterical, and all-around fun story!

 Poppy Garrison is a social misfit.  She doesn’t feel that she truly belongs in high society and wouldn’t be a part of the New York Four Hundred if she hadn’t had to agree to her grandmother’s terms to help save her family from financial ruin.  Every step she takes towards becoming high class seems to land herself in some sort of unexpected fiasco.  Through it all she keeps her wits about her if she can manage to make it through.

 After almost being plowed over by Poppy during the Gypsy Quadrille, Reginald Blackburn wonders if he will see her again.  To his surprise, he is requested to teach etiquette to Poppy by her grandmother, who admires his British manners.  If their first encounter is anything to judge by, he just bit off more than he can chew.

 I’ll admit that reading historical romance set in 1880s New York is not one of my usual go to genres.  However, this book was downright hilarious to read.  The situations that Poppy found herself in were so comical that I often laughed out loud.  The wit displayed by both Poppy and Reginald made the book flow so smoothly that I just had to keep moving forward to get a little bit more.  Not in a suspenseful way, but just in a way that you want to keep that feel good feeling as you read.  The character development was spot on throughout the entire book.  This is the first book that I’ve read by Jen Turano, but I can see why so many people see her as a go-to author.  It is also the second in a series, but easily reads as a stand-alone.  I recommend this to readers who love historical romances and to those who just want a good clean story.

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

The Disappearance of Alistair Ainsworth

alistar ainsworth

Author: Leonard Goldberg

Series: Daughter of Sherlock Holmes #3

Publisher: Minotaur

Release Date: June 11, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Great story, great mystery, and great pace!

 One stormy night, the occupants of 221b Baker Street receive an unexpected visitor.  An old colleague of Dr. Watson, Dr. Alexander Verner, comes to them with an extraordinary tale.  He was requested to make a house call to someone complaining of stomach pains, but not before he was blindfolded and taken by carriage to the house.  Once there, he realized that the patient did not have stomach pains and was actually signaling for help.  Unfortunately, he was unable to convince the captors that the man needed to be hospitalized, so upon being returned to London, he came strait to the Watsons and the daughter of Sherlock Holmes.  As the crew begin their investigation, it quickly becomes apparent that this is yet another national intelligence case and it appears to involve German spies as well as a group of unorthodox code breakers for the Royal Navy.  As the group unravels the clues, it seems that the German’s always have a head start which can only mean one thing, someone on the inside is working for the Germans.  With no time to spare, the group works alongside Scotland Yard and Naval Intelligence to rescue the victim before secrets can be released that will be devasting to Britain’s success in the war.

 These books are quickly becoming my favorite mystery series.  The demeanor between the three main characters is always entertaining.  I always find myself wandering how Joanna will end up solving the case.  She is intelligent, attentive, and very persistent.  Her character reminds me of Sherlock himself and I enjoyed getting to see the glimpse of her son in this novel.  He is very headstrong, but she knows what is best for him but allows him to make his own decisions, even if she might have had a bit of play in determining the outcome.  The story is very entertaining and the mystery will have you wrapped up quickly in trying to figure out the whole story, which only Joanna can truly unravel.

 Although this is a series, it easily reads as a standalone.  Fair warning though, if you do read this first, you will probably want to go buy the first two!  If you’re a fan of Holmes or just love a good mystery, give this a try!

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

King’s Shadow

Kings shadowAuthor: Angela Hunt

Series: The Silent Years #4

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: August 6, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

As the silent years come to a close, the story of Herod the Great is put on display.

Salome is sister to Herod the Great.  Her family is from Idumean descent, who the Jews believe are inferior.  Herod was placed in power by the Roman Republic as a puppet king to rule over the lands.  Salome is determined to protect and defend her brother with her life as he once came to her rescue.  Unfortunately, sometimes his choices make that difficult to do.  His decision to marry Mariamne, daughter of Alexandra whose father was Hyrcanus the previous Jewish leader who was a Hasmonean.  They always speak ill of Herod and his family and plot ways to get the kingdom back.  Their offspring prove to be no better.  Herod begins to rule emotionally, his decisions often swift and sometimes unjust.  What will become of the Jewish nation?

Zara is a young Jewish girl who is selected to be handmaid to Salome.  She learns to trust her mistress and do her bidding indiscreetly.  However, as she ages, she sees the bitterness and lack of trust begin to tear the Herodians apart.  She continues to live selflessly, hoping to one day have a family of her own.

I have read a little into King Herod’s time, but have never delved as deep as what Hunt has just given me.  I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the historical timeline played out between Herod and Marc Antony of Rome with Cleopatra which lead to the battle with Octavian and eventually to Augusts Caesar.  I’ve dived much deeper into Roman history and was happy to see how well this all accurately connected.  As always, Hunt is a master historian that can easily weave the knowledge into her novels.  I haven’t found any book by her that I haven’t loved.  I also enjoy that she uses more minor characters from history to be her main characters so that readers get to witness the events in a first person setting.  I’ve heard of Salome, but more from the reference of Herodias’s daughter that ask for John the Baptist head on a platter.  So it was very interesting to see the story of her ancestor played out up through the birth of Jesus.

I recommend this book to historical fiction lovers, biblical fiction lovers, and people who enjoy Hunt’s work!

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

Castle of Concrete


Author: Katia Raina

Publisher: Young Europe

Release Date: June 11, 2019

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Historical novel from the eyes of a teenage girl in the collapse of the Soviet Union.

 The school year of 1990-1991 is ushering in a lot of change in Russia, especially in Moscow.  Democracy is starting to take shape with the face of Boris Yeltsin.  Gorbachev is starting to be forced out but isn’t ready to give it up just yet.  Sonya Solovay is experiencing several changes too.  She is finally able to live fully with her mother, who is a dissident of the Russian government.  She leaves her grandmothers in a small remote village and moves with her mother to the outskirts of Moscow.  To complicate things, they are Jewish and many of Russia’s disgruntled residents blame the Jews for their problems.  However, Sonya is determined to make a new life for herself at her new school.  She butts heads with some of the teachers but manages to strike up a relationship with the best-looking boy at school.  She finds it easy to fall in love, but her Jewish ethnicity may cause a problem.  When her mom decides that it may be best to move to America, Sonya is torn between her friends love for Russia and her love for her mother.

 This book is a prime example of why I love historical fiction.  I learned quite a bit about the social climate in Moscow during the fall of the Soviet Union.  I had no idea that there was such an anti-Semite feeling across the country during this time frame.  I would have figured earlier in the century but was surprised to find this out.  History aside, I had a lot of trouble connecting with Sonya.  I understand that she is a teenage girl out to make a new life, but she seems to just go about it all wrong.  I didn’t really understand the relationship between her and Reslan either.  If the intent was to see this time period though the eyes of a confused teenager, then it was definitely successful.  There is some tension throughout the book between Sonya and two of the boy characters, which plays out great at the end.  Stay through the end of the book and you will enjoy it.

 There is some foul language throughout the book as well as some implied young adult intimate scenes that makes is suitable for a mature audience.

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

Where I Was Planted

Where I was plantedAuthor: Heather Norman Smith

Publisher: Ambassador International

Release Date: July 16, 2019

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A very poignant and delightful read with characters readers will love to cheer for through the toughest of situations.

In 1961, ten-year-old Nate Dooley comes home one day to find his kitchen stocked with food and his Dad nowhere to be found.  He figures now is as good a time as any to be on his own. With a stray dog as his companion, Nate tries to hide the fact that his father is gone from everyone around him for as long as possible. He likes being in his home by himself and doesn’t want the county to take him away. Even though his father has left, Nate starts to realize he isn’t alone.  His heavenly father will never leave him and will always provide for him. Nate finds these provisions in the form of newfound friends, neighbors and family he never knew he had.

Where I Was Planted is a beautifully written novel with the most wonderful protagonist around in Nate Dooley. Set in the 1960s, things are different than they are today.  If a ten-year-old were left alone for any period of time today, it wouldn’t take long for authorities to be notified and things to change. I loved how independent Nate was but also the way he realized he needed a little help. No matter how grown up he felt or wanted to be, the fact remains he is still a little boy. Even characters that had a small role made a big impact and a lasting impression. I would have liked a little more insight into Nate’s dad and why he left without talking to Nate or anyone about his plans, I know it explains a little, but I felt that part of the storyline could have developed a little further to bring the story up a notch. Nate was wonderfully developed, and I found myself wanting to hug that little boy and tell him how strong he was. The story pace was perfect and not once did I find myself wanting to put it down and move on to something else. The ending tied up just right and left me satisfied with the whole story. This is the first book I’ve read by Heather Norman Smith, but I am sure it will not be the last. I recommend this book to those that enjoy historical fiction with heart and a good message. The religious message comes across evenly, not to strong but also not too weak.

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