A Welcome Murder

A Welcome MurderAuthor: Robin Yocum

Publisher: Seventh Street Books

Release Date: April 4, 2017

Rating: 3 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Several viewpoints makes an intriguing tale, but this won’t be at the top of my list of best reads

Johnny Earl was at the height of his life. He had everything going for him, until it all fell apart.  He had a promising baseball career that ended with an injury, which led to him selling cocaine.  It didn’t take long for him to end up in prison for seven years.  Prison is just another obstacle for him to overcome.  Once out, his only goal is to retrieve the drug money he stashed before being arrested and leave town.  Before he is even able to start getting his things together, he is picked up for questioning in the murder of the FBI informant who sent him away.  To top matters off, his former cellmate shows up in town wanting Johnny’s money to use to fund an Aryan nation group.  Johnny is stuck between a rock and a hard place and it might just be a jam he can get out of.

Let me break this one down into the good and the bad. The good would have to be the storyline.  The murder mystery was interesting and with the dialogue between the viewpoints it made it even more interesting to see who was involved and how.  The bad is that about does it for the good.  Even though the story was interesting, I couldn’t get into it as much as I would have liked because of all the harsh language and sex.  That might not bother some people but for me it was far too much.  The book is short and I did get through it quickly but I still can’t say it is one I enjoyed much or can recommend.

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

The Horse’s Arse

Horses arseAuthor: Laura Gascoigne

Publisher: Clink Street Publishing

Release Date: April 4, 2017

Rating: 2.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

An intriguing tale of lost art and thief’s afoot with disastrous plans.

Patrick Phelan lives in North London and has always hoped to make it big as an artist. Instead he has settled for running art classes for amateurs in a shed behind his home.  He has spent his life working on a series of canvases of The Seven Seals.  Marty, his son, has always been up to no good.  So when he comes to Phelan with an offer to make copies of paintings of modern masters, he is hesitant but reluctantly agrees for the money.  The deal quickly turns into more than they could have planned for with fraud, kidnapping, murder and even the mafia involved.

I wanted to like this one, I really did. Unfortunately, it just didn’t work for me.  When you first pick up the book, it looks to be a very quick read with just barely over two hundred pages.  It quickly became apparent that it wasn’t going to be quick, I slogged through the pages but nothing got me interested.  Part of the problem for me was the lack of dialogue that kept the story from flowing.  There was a little bit here and there but not enough to keep the pages turning.  The narrative was overwhelming with not having enough to satisfy readers.  The premise is one that I think will interest art history enthusiast, but others will have a hard time getting into the story and sticking with it.

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

Almost Missed You

Almost Missed YouAuthor: Jessica Strawser

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Release Date: March 28, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A wonderful debut novel that will leave the reader guessing at every turn and wondering if we ever really know the people we have in our lives.

Violet and Finn’s relationship has been one people talk about as the couple that was meant to be. They came to be together by not one, but several coincidences.  A chance meeting on a beach, another with a note on a website to find each other again, and friends that connect them as well.  Three years into their marriage Violet thinks things are perfect.  They have a little boy named Bear, whom they both love and are all going on a family vacation back to the beach.  One afternoon as she is relaxing on the beach, Finn offers to take Bear back to the hotel for his nap so she can relax.  As the afternoon wears on, she packs her things and heads back to the room to find it empty, no Finn, no Bear.  All of the boy’s things are gone, it’s like they were never there to begin with.  Violet finds herself living her worst nightmare and starts to wonder if she ever really knew the man she married.

Caitlin and Finn have been best friends for years. When he takes off with Bear it is Caitlin he runs to for help, demanding she help hide them or he will reveal a secret that could destroy her family.  Caitlin is faced with a difficult decision, help her longest, closest friend to protect her secret, or do what she knows deep down is the right thing to do.

This story is told from alternating viewpoints of Violet, Finn and Caitlin and back and forth from present to past. It is rare that an author can pull something like that off, but Jessica Strawser did an outstanding job with Almost Missed You.  For a debut novel, this was outstanding.  Rarely have I read a book that made this kind of emotional connection, was a thrilling page turner, and made me think so hard about the possibility of this actually happening in my own life or the lives of people I know.  It was incredibly easy to see the depth of love all of these characters had for their children and also the hard choices they were facing with each step they took.  Violet lived every mother’s worst fear, losing a child, and more astounding to someone they thought they could trust.  Finn was the epitome of someone in need of help dealing with pent up issues keeping him from moving forward with his life.  And Caitlin is stuck in the middle.  She knows about Finn’s past and doesn’t want to betray him in any way but can’t stand to see Violet hurting.  I think the reason this story worked so well was the fact it was told from so many different viewpoints.  We got to see more of what was happening compared to if it was just from one character’s viewpoint.

I love finding new authors that I will want to stick with for years to come and I am happy to say I think I found one in Strawser. I recommend this book to all those that enjoy a good mystery that is tight with emotional connections that will keep you turning the pages well past bedtime.

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

The Kingdom of Oceana

OceanaAuthor: Mitchell Charles

Publisher: Butterhorse Media

Release Date: November 27, 2015

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A beautiful tale set on a beautiful island that makes for a fun and exciting read.

Sixteen-year-old Prince Ailani has always been in his brother’s shadow and feels that he is where he is destined to be. They live on the island of Hawaii, where there is adventure, surfing, shark taming, fire walking, and even a thousand-year-old curse that they are about to unleash on their paradise. The boys discover an ancient tiki mask at a forbidden burial ground. Then without knowing it, they set about a chain of events that will send the islands of Oceana out of control.  Prince Ailani must get in touch with his inner strength, and his ancestral spirit animal in order to overcome the obstacles they are about to face.

It pains me to say that I have had this on the shelf for a while and just now picked it up. This was a fun adventure that is rich in history and full of fun.  Mitchell Charles did a great job of creating a wonderful tale showing sibling rivalry at its most intense, magic, love and so much more.  While reading, I felt like I was on the islands, and wished I was there experiencing the beauty.  That’s the great thing about a well written book, it can transport you to a magical place you might never be able go to in real life.  The mythical elements were fun to read.  I particularly enjoyed the playful banter between Ailani and the Kahula.  It had just enough humor to keep me smiling but not so much that it took away from the suspense and mystery of the story.

Since I have finished I keep looking and hoping for a second book to come out and continue the story, fingers crossed it will still happen.   I think this could be considered a great YA read, especially with the length, not too long to intimidate younger readers but enough to fully flesh out the story.  I recommend this book to readers that enjoy a good thrill set in a beautiful and magical place.

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

If I’m Found

If I'm FoundAuthor: Terri Blackstock

Series: If I Run #2

Publisher: Zondervan

Release Date:  March 21, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

The second book in the series but might just be Blackstock’s best book yet.  A tight, suspenseful story that will leave you begging for more.

Casey Cox is on the run for a murder she didn’t commit. She has just gotten away again from the man tasked to bring her in, PI Dylan Roberts.  He had her in his grasp but let her go.  She has been emailing him, insisting her innocence and he is starting to believe her.  He still isn’t sure he can trust her but each day a new piece of evidence turns up making her seem more believable than those after her.  Casey is trying to gather evidence about the murder she is accused of and others, exposing deep corruption within the department that is trying to frame her.  During her search, she also uncovers evidence of a child being abused and a man on the verge of suicide.  Even though she knows she should focus on staying safe and clearing her own name, she can’t help trying to help others, even if she ends up found in the process and killed before she would make it to jail.

I have been a fan of Terri Blackstock for a long time and must say this might be her best book. It is hard for a second book in a series to be that good, a lot of times it is just filler for what is coming in the third (and usually final) in the series.  I would advise reading the first in the series, just to have the background necessary to understand what the characters are going through.  The tension was at a whole new level for Blackstock making this the best I have read by her.  Casey and Dylan both have problems that make them flawed characters that we can relate to and want to root for.  We might not all be running from a murder we didn’t commit or have PTSD, but we all have problems.  At times the problems Casey finds herself in might seem a little hard to believe, but the way it is all set up with Casey being a people person and getting involved in others’ lives when she should be keeping to herself makes it easy to see how she could wind up in the situations she does.  With all the close calls that Casey finds herself in, I was on the edge of my seat and couldn’t put the book down.  It is only March but I have no doubt this will be in my top ten for the year.  I recommend this book to everyone that enjoys a good suspense thriller that is clean, without unnecessary crude language or sex scenes throughout.

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

The Roanoke Girls

The Roanoke GirlsAuthor: Amy Engel

Publisher: Crown

Release Date: March 7, 2017

Rating: 3 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Disturbing and creepy. That’s all I’m saying.

Lane Roanoke is fifteen years old and her mom has just committed suicide, which is really not surprising to her as she has been threatening it for most of her life. What is surprising is that her mom’s parents want Lane to come live with them in Kansas, which is vastly different than New York City.  Once she gets there, she is greeted by her cousin Allegra and they become like sisters, even look like sisters too.  Her grandparents are filthy rich from oil and she becomes one of the Roanoke girls, which pretty much gets you whatever you want.  However, one day she discovers the secret that drives all Roanoke girls either to run or to die.  She runs away and never looks back.

Eleven years later, Allegra has gone missing and Lane is called back to Roanoke. Even though time has passed, it feels the same as soon as she pulls up.  Everyone she left is still there and her messed up family is still the same.  But with Allegra gone, sights are now set on Lane to take her place as the next Roanoke girl.

This book was very disturbing and creepy too. I can’t delve too much into it because it would give away the context to the readers, but needless to say, this is not what I was expecting in some big Kansas farmhouse.  Still gives me the heebie jeebies.  One point that I do have to make is that I can tell this author has written YA novels previously.  The flow and characterizations still tended to show up as YA, which I actually like.  However, what I don’t like is when there is a great YA author that decides to go into mainstream adult fiction and it reads like a YA novel with lots of profanity and sex, which is a bit of the case here.  I’ve seen this happen with lots of great authors in the YA genre.  I like the YA better because it is usually cleaner.  I understand that this book had to have sex since that is the pretense of the whole things, but the profanity could have been cut way back.  This is why I only recommend this book to mature older readers.

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

Murder is no Accident

Murder is no accidentAuthor: A. H. Gabhart

Series: Hidden Springs Mysteries #3

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: March 14, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Another cozy mystery in The Hidden Springs series that is sure to be a hit.

Deputy Sheriff Michael Keane gets another call he doesn’t want to hear, there has been another body found in Hidden Springs. A 911 call came in saying someone is dead at a Victorian mansion in town. Maggie Greene is in high school and helps her mother keep the mansion clean, and sometimes goes to the tower to write, which is where she is when she finds the body and calls 911.  Michael assumes the death is a tragic accident until there is another body found in the house.  Then Maggie receives threatening phone calls telling her to stay quiet about what she might know.  Michael now feels more pressure than ever to find the killer and solve his biggest mystery yet.

The Hidden Springs Mysteries are becoming some of my favorites. These are the types of books you can just sit down and read and enjoy without worrying about language or a boring story.  I love the way these stories keep the reader entertained and wanting more throughout the entire book.  It has been awhile since I have read the first two in the series but this might be the best one yet in my opinion.  I really liked the relationships and interactions between Michael, Alex, Maggie, and Anthony.  Each one had its own special dynamic that worked well.  I also really enjoyed the mystery in the mansion with the murder from the past and present and how things related.  I don’t have much negative to say about the story because there wasn’t much I didn’t like.  This is just a nice cozy mystery that I think most everyone who picks it up will enjoy.  I recommend this to readers of all ages that enjoy a good clean page-turner that will keep you smiling and guessing till the end.

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