If I Live

If I liveAuthor: Terri Blackstock

Series: If I Run #3

Publisher: Zondervan

Release Date: March 6, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

One of the best conclusions to a series I have read in a long time! Blackstock does not disappoint!

Casey Cox is still running for her life and trying to prove she is not a murderer. She has been indicted for murder, but has information that proves she isn’t a killer, if she can only find someone to believe her. Her face is all over the news and even with changing her appearance she still fears being recognized. Dylan Roberts may have been tasked with finding Casey and bringing her to justice, but after discovering all the information Casey has to prove her case, he is now the only one to help her.  The more they work together the closer they become and Casey’s enemies use that to lure her out by putting Dylan’s life in danger.  Neither of them want to put the other in danger, but is it worth staying safe if it means the real killer goes free?

Terri Blackstock is one of the premier Christian fictions writers for a reason. With her latest installment in the If I Run series, she shows what it takes to write a story readers will want to not just read but devour.  This series is by far her best yet and the conclusion will make readers ecstatic.   Both Casey and Dylan are characters that are flawed and trying to figure things out as they go.  They don’t have it all together and make it easy for readers to picture themselves in their shoes.  I was surprised halfway through the book at the direction the story was going.  I didn’t see it being able to stay worthwhile if it continued along this course.  Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised with how well Blackstock worked things out to bring the story to an entirely new level of suspense.

These days it is hard to find writers that are able to bring things to a new level. When you discover a writer with the caliber of Blackstock, you want to hang on tightly and remember her. The only negative aspect of the book is how sad I am that this is the last in the series.  I’m not saying this because the story wasn’t wrapped up but because I would love to see more with these characters and more by Blackstock. I’ve learned a lot from reading books written by Terri Blackstock, not just how well written novels actually look, but also from the stories themselves.  Research is key to making key points believable and it is obvious an immense amount of research went into making these novels what they are. While this is the last book in the series, I recommend reading the series in order for the story to be at its fullest. I highly recommend If I Live to fans of Blackstock new and old that want an incredible read.

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

The Escape Artist

The escape artistAuthor: Brad Meltzer

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Release Date: March 6, 2018

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Who is Nola Brown and why is she supposed to be dead? Throughout this book, readers will be left stunned and salivating for answers for these two questions in addition to many, many more!

When a plane falls from the sky with seven passengers, one of them very important to the President of the United States, all of the bodies are sent to Jim “Zig” Zigarowski at Dover Air Force Base.  However, one body causes a problem or him.  The ID tag says she is Nola Brown but Zig can’t believe that is true.  He hasn’t seen Nola in years but will never forget the night she saved his daughter at a campfire. That same night, she got a scar on her ear that would be unmistakable, the body in the morgue has no such scar.  Zig feels he owes Nola a debt and is now on a mission to find out what happened and why her death is being faked.  Nola works for the army as their artist-in-residence, a painter who goes into battle and shares a different point of view of what has happened than most.  On her last mission, she witnessed something nobody was supposed to see that set in motion a course of events leading to the plane crash and her running for her life.  Nola doesn’t know if she can trust Zig but she is running out of options and time.  Together they will work to unearth the mysteries dating back to Harry Houdini and a mystery bigger than they could have ever imagined.

This book had a lot going on, between the military aspect to the story, the magic and Harry Houdini references and the actual mystery itself, so readers are going to need to pay close attention to all that is going on. I liked the way Meltzer made the characters memorable, Nola was a unique character in not only her attitude and mannerisms but also the physical features that set her aside making Zig know she wasn’t on that plane. There were a few points throughout the book when it was hard to believe the characters could do what they did without any others becoming suspicious or asking questions, but if you can look past that is still makes for a very enjoyable read.  All questions were not tied up until the very last page keeping the reader engaged until the very end.  In order to tell the whole story, Meltzer has to give Nola’s backstory in flashbacks. These can sometimes take the reader out of the story because it can stop the progression of what is happening in the present time and the back and forth can leave readers scratching their heads.  I understand the need for this and think overall it was done fairly well but would have liked a little less flashbacks and a little more time spent in present tense, especially towards the end.  I recommend this book to readers that like a thriller that will leave them thinking,, but not too hard because if they do the realism of the story will seem a little unbelievable.

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

The Tuscan Child

The Tuscan CHildAuthor: Rhys Bowen

Publisher: Lake Union

Release Date: February 20, 2018

Rating; 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Can a young woman uncover her estranged father’s mysterious past to find a brother she never knew?

In 1944, British pilot Hugo Langley is flying a doomed mission across the Italian countryside when his plane is hit by the Germans. Hugo parachutes to safety in a section of German control Tuscany.  His leg has been shot and he must find food and shelter to survive.  A young woman named Sofia Bartoli discovers him and gives him aid.  They work together to hide him in the old monastery that has been bombed.  As the days go by, Hugo and Sofia build a relationship and begin to develop feelings for one another, even though both are still married.  As the Allies continue to push the Axis powers out of Italy, the Germans become more desperate to find the pilot that was missing in the plane wreckage.  Will Hugo and Sofia be able to escape together?  Or is their relationship doomed?

Twenty-nine years later in England, Hugo’s daughter Joanna, has returned to Langley Hall after word of her father’s death. Now a boarding school for girls, the headmistress is ready to have her father’s belongings gone from the property.  While going through the items, Joanna discovers an unopened letter addressed to Sofia Bartoli in a remote village in Tuscany with a reference to having hidden their little boy where only she can find it.  On a whim, Joanna decides to embark for the small village of San Salvatore to discover more about her father.  But when she arrives, she discovers that digging around in the past does not always find a warm welcome.

This was a really interesting book to read that was set in two past time periods. The author did a great job setting the scene for each of these periods based on technology.  Many times I find a slip up or too when authors try to do this, but Bowen did a masterful job.  I enjoyed reading both story lines, but tend to find myself more drawn to Hugo and Sofia’s story.  I really enjoy that time period and it kept the story moving fast for me.  The Italian hospitality was a keen as it has ever been throughout this story.  Lots of talk of food that often made my mouth water.  Especially for polenta!  Love that stuff.

There is very mild language at times in the book and a small sex scene, but nothing graphic at all. I recommend this book to readers that love a good story and those that enjoy WWII era novels.

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

Babylon Berlin

BABYLON BERLIN AW.inddAuthor: Volker Kutscher

Publisher: Sandstone Press

Release Date: May 19, 2016

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Netlflix’s newest crime noir has some deep roots from the base novel!

Berlin in 1929 is a dangerous place to be, but for Gereon Rath, it proves to be even less fun than dangerous. He was a rising star on the police force in the Cologne Homicide Division when one case went sideways and he ended up killing man.  Now transferred to vice in Berlin, Gereon finds himself working to shut down pornography factories as part of the health division’s effort to clean up the city.  Even though his new boss is a great guy and confidant, Gereon still wants back in homicide.  When a car is pulled out of a canal containing a corpse that can’t be identified, Gereon believes that he has found his chance to make is way back into his preferred line of work.  But what he discovers can hardly be what he signed up for!

As far as crime noirs go, this one was spelled out pretty well. The scene was done well as was the presentation of the timeframe of political clashes.  I also thought that the flow was great and pushed the story along pretty quickly.  However, I had trouble relating with Gereon.  I just couldn’t find that connection that made me want to see how things were going to work out for him.  Fortunately, several other aspects of the story keep it moving and I really enjoyed it.

There is a lot of language throughout the book as well as sex as it is dealing with pornography. I recommend this book for mature readers and those that want to compare it to the television series.

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

Hope in the Holler

Hope in the HollerAuthor: Lisa Lewis Tyre

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Release Date: January 9, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica  Higgins

A young girl who is stronger than she knows must now face the scheming family she has never known to survive living in the Holler. Another outstanding book by Lisa Lewis Tyre that is perfect for young readers!

It has always been Wavie and her mom; they didn’t need anybody else and they both liked it that way. When Wavie’s mom gets sick and knows she is about to die, she gives Wavie a list of instructions for her life. The one she is trying the hardest to live by is Be Brave.  It’s hard, especially now that she is having to go and live with an aunt she has never known that seems intent on taking anything she can get from Wavie.  Now that Wavie is back in the town her mother tried so hard to leave and never return, she starts to learn more about her mother than she thought possible.  With the help of a few new friends, Wavie works to improve her situation and solve one of the oldest mysteries in town.

I absolutely loved this book. Lisa Lewis Tyre has figured out the perfect formula for writing a book that middle grade children will love.  There is mystery, friendships, life lessons and strength throughout every page.  Wavie and her friends have so much spunk and perseverance that it will be difficult for any reader to not relate to them and want to root for them to succeed.  Even though it is a serious subject matter, it never gets more than the intended audience will be able to handle.  Wavie may have had a lot of harsh blows handed to her in her short life, but the strength and grace in which she handles them can be a lesson to all of us.  The wit Tyre brings to the story helps counter the heavy subject matter bringing the reader right into the story with no desire to leave.  The short chapters are great to keep young readers turning the page and engaged in the story.  I really can’t find anything negative to say about this book and sincerely hope Lisa Lewis Tyre continues to write books for young readers with a message. I recommend this book to all young readers, parents and teachers for a starting point of conversations that will help all involved.

Girl Unknown

Girl UnknownAuthor: Karen Perry

Publisher: Henry Holt & Co.

Release Date: February 6, 2018

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A twisting, gritty tale that isn’t over until the very last word, building to an incredibly tight finale that no one will see coming!

David and Caroline Connolly have had their share of marital troubles over the years, but with work and patience, they have worked through their problems. With two kids, having to care for David’s aging mother, and both trying to advance their careers, the stress can be overwhelming at times. But nothing prepares them for their biggest trial of all when one day a student of David’s at the university comes and says she is his daughter.  David’s past of the fleeting romance he had before he met and married Caroline comes rushing back at him. Now he finds out that out of that romance came a child, a child he never had a chance to know until now. The entire family is thrown into the chaos that ensues from the announcement and the ripple effects are more than any of them could have imagined.

This story had so many twists and turns, and just when I thought I had it all figured out, I was wrong. The back and forth point of views between David and Caroline really give the reader extra insight into the story and wouldn’t have been the same had it been focused solely on only one of their points of view.  It can be confusing going back and forth like this, but the author did a great job tying up loose ends and showing the different sides to the characters.  The family had a very complex dynamic and even though they had problems, they were dealing with them all realistically.  I think that was one of the best parts for me; it was very believable and didn’t have moments that made me roll my eyes in disbelief that can so often happen. It took until the very last page, but all loose ends are taken care of and there are even some surprises thrown in that readers will have no idea they should have been expecting, which was a nice touch.  I recommend this book to mystery and suspense lovers that enjoy a book about a family that isn’t what it seems from the outside.

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

Sunday Silence

Sunday SilenceAuthor: Nicci French

Series: Frieda Klein #7

Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks

Release Date: January 9, 2018

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A very enjoyable read; however, it is recommended to read the previous installments to enjoy it even more!

Frieda Klein is often consulted by the police for her help in difficult cases, but when a body is found beneath her floorboards, she becomes a suspect in a murder case. While the body appears to have been dead a few months, the main suspect, besides Frieda, has been dead seven years. Is he really dead? Or did he inspire a copycat to carry on his work?  Frieda finds herself, and everyone she cares about, being targeted and in danger. With each day that passes, the body count gets higher and everyone involved wonders who is really behind the death and destruction.  Is anything as it seems?

This started out very promising for me but I felt as though I were missing some key elements to the story part way through. I do believe if I had read the previous installments I would have enjoyed this one much more. But since I haven’t, I’ll say that the story has great potential and fans of the series will most likely find this one more enjoyable than those that haven’t.

French did and incredible job building the setting and the characters did seem to have a bond I could tell has been built up over the series. Frieda is put in a very difficult situation and while she is the one people go to when they have a problem, she doesn’t have anyone to talk to about her problems making it an internal struggle.   Seems to be a common issue for several people that when they need someone, they have no one to turn too.

I recommend this to fans of the series and those that enjoy the mysteries. Also, if readers enjoy stories set in Europe, this is a must read.

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

Purchase a copy of this book at Harper Collins.