The 49th Mystic

49th mysticAuthor: Ted Dekker

Series: Beyond the Circle #1

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: May 15, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Fans of Dekker can rejoice as he brings us back into the circle and the world we grew to love with Thomas Hunter. A book well worth the wait and meant to be enjoyed by all that call themselves part of The Circle.

Many years ago, a gateway to another world was opened with Thomas Hunter. His death was supposed to sever that gateway for good. For years, no one crossed over until Rachelle Matthews from Eden, Utah crossed that gateway.  Rachelle has always been blind, but when she attempts a procedure to restore her sight she begins waking up in another reality and finds herself wondering which reality is real and which is a dream.  In the new reality, she wakes up with her sight and abilities beyond her wildest dreams.  There is an ancient prophecy that says she must find and recover five ancient seals that will have serious effects on both worlds.  Her success will mean peace for all or keep both worlds locked in darkness forever.

Anyone that has read Ted Dekker knows that his writing is like no other. He isn’t afraid to dive deeper than most with his stories and take you on an adventure you will never forget.  Fans of Dekker will without a doubt be familiar with his circle series and eager to pick up The 49th Mystic to see where the story continues.  I will say that if you haven’t read any of The Circle series, this book might be a little hard to understand at times.  Readers can still enjoy the story but the backstory from the previous books will be beneficial.  With all that being said, it is a wonderful story that I, along with others I’m sure, have waited years for.  Even though this is a continuation of the circle series, in a way it is its own story, something that makes it perfect for new readers of Dekker.

Written with characters that are tough but also relatable, The 49th Mystic has everything readers will want.  There is a depth to the characters along with the storyline that will pull readers in and keep them until the very last page.  I decided to take my time reading and really engross myself in the story, Dekker’s writing requires close attention so that the reader can see different connections throughout the book.  Each chapter and each page contains minute details that drive the story forward and are not to be missed.  Each character is vital and every word the characters say and action they take will lead to where the story is going to take you here and in volume two.  It is almost cruel to make us wait even the few short months for the next one, but wait we will. Be ready to Dive Deep once more.  I recommend this book highly to fans of Dekker’s previous novels and even to newcomers of his work with an open mind to enjoy a new story unlike any they have ever encountered.

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

Exhibit Alexandra

Exhibit AAuthor: Natasha Bell

Publisher: Crown Publishing

Release Date: March 13, 2018

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

An intense, twist turning thriller that will take you for a ride though art!

Alexandra Southwood has gone missing. She was supposed to come home at night for her girls swimming lessons, but never showed up. Her husband Marc is going frantic, pacing the floor trying to get the police to start looking for her before she has been gone for 48 hours.  Finally they start looking for her and discover her bloody belongings by the river.  Everything points to a homicide investigation rather than a missing persons case, but Marc cannot let go that she may still be alive.  He hunts through all their personal belongings trying to find some sort of clue that would tell him where she is.  Marc should focus his attention on his daughters, but he is fixated on finding Alexandra.

Meanwhile, Alexandra is being held in a room against her will. A man shows her newsreels of Marc pleading help for finding Alexandra.  News clippings and press releases are left for her to view while she tortures herself wondering how her family is coping with her disappearance.  The man seems to have something in mind but will never tell her what it is.  Will she ever be free to see her family again?

This was a twisted story that was well told. From the beginning, the reader understands that Alexandra is being held against her will, but the truth will set readers spinning.  Told from Alexandra’s point of view, we have speculation of what Marc and the girls must be going through and how they are putting their life in order after Alexandra’s disappearance.  Each chapter is separated by a letter between Alexandra’s college roommate Amelia telling of how she misses Alexandra and how dull life  has become.  The book may be a little predictable for readers who enjoy mysteries, but it was still exciting to put the pieces together.

There is some strong foul language throughout the book that would be expected of the characters. Based on the content of the book, I recommend it for mature readers.

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

Worth Killing For

Work Killing ForAuthor: Jane Haseldine

Series: Julia Gooden Mystery #3

Publisher: Kensington Publishing

Release Date: March 27, 2018

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

When her past comes back to haunt her, Julia Gooden uses all she has learned as a reporter to solve a cold case that has been clinging to her for decades.

Julia Gooden is a crime reporter that just can’t let go of her past. Her parents neglected her and her siblings growing up and then left them for good when her brother disappeared.  Julia has tried and seemed to be succeeding in overcoming the odds of such a difficult childhood.  Her boyfriend, Ray Navarro is one of the best things in her life, along with her two boys and she wants to continue the streak of happiness she has found.  However, after three decades, ghosts from her past have come back to haunt her when she sees her father.  After so long, she wants to know what he is doing back in town and why he left in the first place.  She also has a feeling deep down that he was involved in whatever happened to her brother and if so needs to make him pay for taking him from her.  As Julia looks deeper into things, she starts to see a pattern for what is happening now and what happened thirty years ago, leading her to believe she may finally find out what happened to her brother all those years ago.

Even though this is the third in a series, it can totally be read as a stand-alone. I didn’t realize that when I started reading it and don’t think it would have made much of a difference had I read the first two in the series.  The characters were intriguing, even if they were a bit predictable at times.  The boyfriend being a cop makes the story flow with getting information for the case and Julia having a source for her stories but they do fit well together.  The different family dynamics were interesting, I enjoyed how it showed Julia with Ray and her boys as compared to how she was with her sister and father.  Families are like that, some people get along better than others and that’s just life, so I enjoyed how the author played the story out in those dynamics contrasting each other.  It is clear from the beginning of the novel that the current case ties in with what happened to Julia’s brother all those years ago setting the stage for a nonstop page turner.  I enjoyed the way things tied together with many of the different characters that if you told me at the beginning would end up this way I wouldn’t have believed you, but somehow it all worked out beautifully.  I would recommend this book to readers that enjoy a good mystery with clues throughout but the ending not given away until the very end.  There was just a bit of harsh language throughout so I don’t recommend if for younger readers.

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

The Man He Never Was

The man he never wasAuthor: James L. Rubart

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: February 20, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

An intensely intriguing story that will leave readers looking into their own dark sides wondering whether dark or light will win the ultimate battle.

We all have darkness inside of us just waiting to come out. Torin Daniels has been trying and failing all his life to control that darkness. Eight months ago, he vanished and his wife and kids decided to move on and find happiness without his darkness hanging over them. When he reappears without any memory of where he has been the last eight months, he is a different person.  His temper is gone and he feels like life is giving him a second chance.  It doesn’t take long for glimpses of his old self to begin reappearing and Torin does not want to be that man again.  He starts desperately searching for answers to where he has been and why whatever happened to quell his temper isn’t lasting and to find a permanent solution.  If he can truly be a changed man, there is the chance he can win his family back once and for all.

This is the second book I have read by Rubart and I went into it thinking there was no way it could be better than The Long Journey to Jake Palmer.  Boy was I wrong.  I remember reading Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde when I was younger and always enjoyed the story.  I was curious to see what kind of a spin Rubart was going to take on the story.  Going into the book, I knew there would be elements of faith and the supernatural, that’s just how Rubart writes and he does it so incredibly well.  Oddly enough, I have to say that the parts of the story that flowed most quickly were the most enjoyable for me happened to be the flashbacks to Torin’s childhood.  Usually flashbacks work the opposite, taking the reader out of the story and making it harder for the story to flow in its entirety.  There was just something about the way those scenes were written that kept the pages turning at breakneck speed.  The characters were set together just right for tension and believability.  It would have been hard to want to keep going if things didn’t play out in a way that seemed natural.  If you have read some of Rubart’s other books and enjoyed them, I am certain this one will be just as enjoyable, if not more so, for you as well.  I also recommend this to readers who haven’t read his works but are looking for a deep supernatural thriller that will look at the darkness inside us all and hopefully help us find a way to the light.

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

The Other Mother

The Other MotherAuthor: Carol Goodman

Publisher: William Morrow Books

Release Date: March 27, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Just when you think you might have things figured out, this story takes a different turn you would never have seen coming.

Daphne Marist has had a difficult time since her daughter Chloe was born. She tried as hard as she could to be a good mother but Post-Partum depression hit her hard making the difficult even more trying.  When she joins a mother’s support group, she meets Laurel Hobbes and they quickly connect and find they have a lot in common, including both having little girls named Chloe.  The more time they spend together the more alike they become until the day things go dangerously wrong and Daphne is left fleeing everything she knows with Chloe and heads to a new job in secret.  She has found a position working with her favorite author in her mansion that happens to be next to a mental asylum.  With the world trying to tell her she is crazy and the mental asylum just outside her window, Daphne begins to wonder what is real and what the voices in her head are telling her are real.

It took me a while to realize I hadn’t read anything by Carol Goodman before this, the writing and story were so good I just figured I had been reading her books for years. While this story was mostly about Daphne, it did have a few other viewpoints that greatly added to the story. Along with the viewpoints, the reader is exposed to diary entries that give a behind the scene look at what is happening between these characters and what has led them to be in their current situations.  Goodman did a fantastic job of weaving together several different story lines and tying them all up by the end of the book. Several of which I wouldn’t have guessed tied in with each other until the end of the book, which opened the path to see how clues were sprinkled throughout to show the connections I had missed.  This is something that rarely happens for me when reading a novel. I am usually very good at seeing all connections and figuring things out before they happen.  I am pleased to say that Goodman worked it out so beautifully I didn’t see it until it was all right in front of my face and the story was laid out for me to connect the dots and make an amazing picture.  I really wasn’t sure what to expect with this book but wound up thoroughly enjoying the entire story.  I would highly recommend this to readers that love suspense and mystery and want to be guessing until the very last page.

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

Not That I Could Tell

Not that I could tellAuthor: Jessica Strawser

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Release Date: March 27, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

DO NOT PUT THIS BOOK DOWN!! Read until the very last chapter to see the right way a suspense novel should be played out.

What seems to be an innocent girls night out turns into something so much more. When the neighborhood moms gather at one of the houses to enjoy some wine and relax away for a few minutes, none of them imagine that by Monday morning one of them would be gone and the police would be involved.  Yellow Springs, Ohio is a small town that keeps everyone involved in everyone else’s lives in one way or another; so when Kristin and her twins disappear leaving her estranged husband behind, secrets start to turn up making everyone question what they thought to be true.  Her husband Paul is at the center of the investigation but when nothing turns up, the police seem to let the case go. Clara, their closest neighbor is pulled into the drama when the case dredges up memories of a past she has tried hard to leave behind.  Izzy, one of the newest neighbors in town isn’t sure what to think but also doesn’t have time to deal with too much drama when her own life is falling to shambles.  As more details turn up, everyone realizes things are not what they seem and everyone has their secrets, some more deadly than others.

I have to admit that part way through I was feeling a little disappointed with how the story was playing out. I thought the suspense could be played up a little more.  But just when I started to get disappointed, things turned around and I couldn’t put the book down.  This is the kind of book that if readers will be patient the pay off at the end will be worth every page.  I loved how things unfolded and the characters brought out the best, and worst, in each other.  You can really see the way they care for each other and used their own experiences to help one another.  I did not like Paul from the very beginning and am glad that Strawser let him play out the way that she did.  The dynamic between all the characters really was spot on; I didn’t feel that any of them acted out of character but instead played out the story deliberately and intentionally the way the story should unfold.  By the end I was taking the title of the book and rolling it around in my head with what different characters would say and it totally made sense for each and every one of them to be able to utter that sentiment and be truthful.  On the last few pages I had a smile on my face as I read the last scene unfold.  I am pleased to say that I highly recommend this book to any and all readers that are looking for a story that will keep them guessing and characters that are genuine and play out beautifully.  This will for sure be one of my top books of the year.

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

Rainbirds

RainbirdsAuthor: Clarissa Goenawan

Publisher: Soho Press

Release Date: March 6, 2018

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Intriguing, mischievous, and well thought out. A spring must read!

Ren Ishida is finishing up graduate school at a university in Tokyo when he receives word that his sister, Keiko, has been murdered. Ren travels to the small town of Akakawa to take care of the memorial service and see to his sister’s affairs as neither of his parents want anything to do with his sister since she left several years ago.  Ren and his sister were always close and often alone together as he grew up since his parents were always fighting.  The police have no leads on the murder investigation, so Ren plans to wrap things up and head back to Tokyo.  While at the cram school that Keiko taught at, the owner finds out that Ren also studied American and British literature and offers him his sister’s position for the rest of the semester.  On a whim, he decides to take up the offer to also try to find out what happened to his sister.  As he meets his sister’s colleagues, he finds that his sister changed from whom he knew and the woman he talked to on the phone every week.  Ren comes to find that perhaps he would rather not know who she became but he can’t stop himself from falling down her rabbit hole.

This is by far one of the best written books that I have read so far this year. The story flowed seamlessly and keep me intertwined through all the developments of Keiko’s past life and Ren’s current affairs.  The story was ultimately about Ren fining closure and maturity through his sister’s murder.  I was glad to see progressive character development for once on multiple characters, primarily Ren and Rio.  I was also glad to see that Ren didn’t repeat his sister’s past mistakes, even though he came very close.

Part of what I love about this book is the glimpse into a different culture. As an American, I often forget that other parts of the world are very different from what we see every day.  The thought of still having arranged marriages in today’s society mixed with shunning a child due to disobedience is drastically different then what I am used to.  It’s books like these that really have the opportunity to open a reader’s mind to a real place outside of their current area.  The scenes were set beautifully and I could feel the chill in the air at Akakawa.

Although there is not any foul language in this book, there are some implied sex scenes; however, there is nothing explicit. There is also some alcohol/tobacco use and scene concerning a suicide.  I recommend this book to mature young adult readers and up.

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