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.

As Red As Blood

as red as bloodAuthor: Salla Simukka

Series: Lumikki Andersson #1

Publisher: Crown for Young Readers

Release Date: January 17, 2017

Rating: 3 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

This book had such potential to shine like the fairy tales it eludes, but for me it fell flat.

Lumikki Andersson likes to keep to herself and out of the business of others. Even though she is only sixteen she is living by herself and going to a charter school for the gifted.  It is an ideal situation after the problems she had at her old school with some not so nice girls that attended the school.  Trying to stay out of others business usually works well for her, until she stumbles upon thousands of washed Euro notes hanging in the school’s darkroom and three of her classmates acting very suspiciously.  It doesn’t take long for Lumikki to become completely involved in the center of the problem these three have found themselves in.  They all end up going against a drug lord, Polar Bear, and many others that end up hunting them for what they have and know.  Lumikki is now in a race to stay alive and uncover the truth to try and save them all.

When I first heard about As Red as Blood I thought it sounded like a very intriguing read, especially for a YA, which are some of my favorites.  I’m not sure if it is the fact that it was translated from Finnish or maybe just the story itself, but it didn’t live up to my expectations.  One of my biggest pet peeves is a book marketed to young adults that has vulgar language.  I’m not naive, I know that is how many kids speak but I still don’t like seeing it in books for this audience.  I also felt like the story didn’t really get going until it was almost over.  The best part of the book for me was the last twenty-five pages or so.  Finding out more about the main character should have come earlier to help make the connection and establish a better relationship.  I still think some of it could have been lost in the translation and don’t want to fault the author too much on that part.  The two female leads really had good potential and I think there is further development to explore there, I just don’t feel compelled to explore it personally.

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


Murder on the Moor

murder-at-the-moorAuthor: Julianna Deering

Series: A Drew Farthering Mystery #5

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: January 31, 2017

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Another murder, another mystery, and Drew and Madeline are back to solve it!

As Drew and Madeline Fathering get ready for another typical night, the phone suddenly rings with a request to speak with Drew. One of Drew’s old schoolmates, Beaky Bloodworth, is calling with a request for his help.  He has read about Drew’s amateur sleuthing in the newspapers and wants his help to investigate some matters going on up in Yorkshire at his newly inherited lodge.  As it turns out, the local vicar has been recently murdered and no one can figure out why or who would do it.  Beaky’s recently wedded wife, Sabrina, is now hearing things in the lodge and getting rather scared about it.  Drew and Madeline consent to coming to help, but may be stepping off into more than what they expect.  Soon after arriving, they begin meeting many of the residents around the small town as well as the neighbors, who had bad blood with Beaky’s uncle.  There is also a gamekeeper on the property who could give Don Juan a run for his money.  Add a local poacher that lives on the moor and there are more than enough suspects as to who would want to run Beaky and Sabrina off the moor.  But why kill the vicar?  Then when another murder takes place, it has connections to both Sabrina and Beaky’s uncles.  Can Drew and Madeline solve it before they become the next victims?

Julianna Deering writes such fun loving mysteries. I love reading these stories and have been so happy that the common characters always return for each new installment.  I thought I was going to be a little disappointed that Nick Dennison wasn’t going to be in this one, but then he showed up at just the right time, as usual.  However, after five mysteries, I’m beginning to find that I’m a pretty good sleuth right alongside Drew and Madeline.  I actually had this one figured out pretty well into it.  Well, I should say I knew who-did-it, but not actually who it was.  I should have though, so she still has that on me.

I also love the way that we’ve seen Drew grow spiritually throughout the books. He has really gotten some depth to his character.  And the witty banter between himself and Nick is always there.  Not as much in this particular book, but I still love it.  I recommend the entire series, but this one is still a good stand alone as well.  No matter the age, pick up one of these and give it a try!

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

The Fifth Petal

5th-petalAuthor: Brunonia Barry

Series: The Lace Reader #2

Publisher: Crown

Release Date: January 24, 2017

Reviewer: Jennifer S. Roman

On November 1, 1989, a little girls is found, crying and almost catatonic, in some bramble bushes at a murder scene.  Three young women, including the girl’s mother, have been brutally murdered, and the little girl has been spared.  The women have all been accused of witchcraft, and the woman they live with, Rose Whelan, is a scholar on the Salem witches.  She is also accused of the murder.  The little girl, Callie, is taken in by local nuns and the only obvious repercussion to her is a large rose-shaped cut on her hand from the rosary she held tightly all night long.

Present day Salem brings another murder charge to Rose, who was exonerated of the murder of the three girls, commonly known as the Goddesses around town.  They are known for their sexual exploits and the pull they have on the men in town.  Rose has never been the same since the incident, and after this new murder accusation, she becomes catatonic and is hospitalized.  Callie is called to tend to Rose, and all of the secrets of her mother’s and Rose’s past are brought to light again.

Callie becomes involved with the son of a prominent “old money” family, and as she gets to know the family, she learns many more secrets about the Goddesses and Rose.  Close family friends also provide answers and provoke memories that Callie completely forgot.  Callie finishes Rose’s research about the hanging of several accused witches in Salem and discovers things that people have been keeping from her all her life.

This book is a long read that gives its readers many opportunities to figure out what happened to Callie’s mother all those years ago and why.  Just when the reader thinks it is figured out, however, something new comes along to challenge that theory.  There is a lot of backstory involved, which at times is confusing, but it all adds up to a thick, rich story.  Readers will need to pay attention to keep track of the huge cast of characters, both present and past, in order to piece together the events that happened the night Callie lost her mother.  I enjoyed the constant tease of the revelation that was then pulled back to reveal more to the story.  The unfolding of the characters’ involvement with one another and the murders is complex and adds another layer to the mystery of Callie’s past.  There is a bit of mysticism and fantasy at play, as several of the characters see visions, predict the future, and read minds.  All put together, The Fifth Petal is a mystery that has so much more.

I highly recommend this book to people who love mysteries with a bit of fantasy.  It does contain sexual situations, some profanity, and violence, and is therefore recommended for mature readers only.

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