The Eighth Sister

the eighth sister

Author: Robert Dugoni

Series: Charles Jenkins #1

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Release Date: April 9, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Robert Dugoni’s newest series starts off with a stellar story that will hook readers and keep them guessing until the very end. Another well-crafted story by one of the very best.

 Charles Jenkins thought he had left his spy days behind him decades ago. He has a wife, son, and a new baby on the while with his security business is falling apart.  Just when things are at their worst, his past comes back into the present when his former bureau chief shows up with an assignment for him that could save him financially. He must travel to Moscow to find a secret Russian agent supposed to have been killing members of a US spy cell known as the seven sisters. With no other alternative, Charles agrees to the mission and heads to Russia where he finds what he least expects, the eighth sister. His mission doesn’t go off without complications and he finds himself trying to escape with no help from his country and risks his life to get back to his family he left behind.

 In typical Robert Dugoni fashion. readers are given a thriller that is unlike anything written by most authors out there. When Dugoni writes a thriller, readers are going to be pulled in and given a story they will be thinking about for days after they turn the last page. I loved the way he tied in David Sloane even though this was not a David Sloane novel. Charles Jenkins looks to be a stellar lead character for this new series and is able to bring in secondary characters that I can’t wait to see how they are further developed in future novels. The first half plays out as more of a spy thriller and the second half goes more into a legal thriller. Each are great in their own way and are still able to drive the story forward with tension between the characters and what is going to happen. This is very different from the Tracy Crosswhite series, which is my absolute favorite series. I was a little skeptical going into this that it wouldn’t live up to my expectations, but I am happy to say this was another great read by Dugoni.  I really enjoyed the start to this new series and can’t wait to see what will come next. I recommend this to readers that enjoy Dugoni’s writing style and a great spy/legal thriller. If you have never read anything by Dugoni, the start of this series would be a great place to begin your journey.

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

Far Side of the Sea

Far side of the seaAuthor: Kate Breslin

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: March 5, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A tale of war, pride, romance, and deceit told by the pen of a master.

Lt. Colin Mabry has had a tough go of his service in World War I.  After losing his hand in combat, he took some time away at a family farm before returning to duty.  Now stationed only a stone’s throw across the water to Paris, he is constantly reminded of the horrors of war when he hears the bombs.  As a code breaker, he deciphers messages all day long.  One day he comes across a message that is addressed to him.  A letter asking him to remember his promise and to meet at a café in Paris followed by the salutations of JR.  This could only be Jewel Reyer, the woman who saved his life and he promised to return for and gets permission to undertake this personal mission to Paris.

However, Colin is surprised to meet another young woman that is not Jewel, but rather her self-proclaimed sister Johanna.  She found Jewel’s diary and believes that she is being held against her will by a German officer.  After convincing Colin to help, they set out to find Jewel and bring her to safety.  As their trust within one another grows, so do their feelings toward each other.  But as they will discover, not everything is as it seems.  The danger they are heading into is not only treacherous but filled with espionage.  Can they really trust each other’s intentions and find Jewel safely?

Kate Breslin has a way of weaving readers into her stories so that they are not just observing the story but living it out.  I felt that I was right there with the characters for the entire journey.  I could feel what was unfolding and at times felt just a surprised at what the main characters uncovered.  Colin was flawed not just physically, but also with his pride.  This kept a tension between he and Johanna through much of the story.  Johanna was a broken person based on her past and always longed for a father figure.  She looked for the best in people and it wasn’t hard for her to find it in Colin.  This made the romance much more believable as it played out naturally instead of forced.

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

Beautiful Bad

beautiful bad

Author: Annie Ward

Publisher: Park Row Publishing

Release Date: March 5, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A compelling read that will keep readers guessing until the very last page and maybe even past that.  Just as the title states, this is beautifully written and full of fascinating characters from the beginning until the very end.

 Maddie is working oversees as a travel writer and spends her down time visiting her best friend, Jo. While hanging out with Jo, Maddie meets Ian who she is instantly attracted to but unsure if it is wise to pursue a romantic relationship in the war-torn middle-east. Nearly two decades later, they are married and living a somewhat perfect life in Middle America. After a recent camping trip that leaves Maddie with a bad injury and scared for her life and that of her young son, she attends a writing therapy session and tries to determine how to proceed. With a back and forth from Balkans to England and back to the U.S along with past to present timeline, everything comes together on the day of the killing with a shocking crime to solve and a sordid past uncovered.

 If you are the type of reader that enjoys a fast-paced thrill ride with tight scenes and characters that are full of surprises at every corner, this is one you won’t want to miss. From the first page with the back and forth in timelines and across the country, we see the characters grow and change. I have to say this is one of the best written novels with character growth that kept me guessing that I have read in a very long time. The first half of the book spends time setting up the relationship between the characters to bring everything full circle by the end. Throughout the pages, readers are left questioning why we love the way we do and what we are willing to do for those we love. There are two sides to every story and two sides to every person. We all have our best sides and our worst, which side we let take over says a lot about us. The back and forth between character and timelines might be a little confusing for some, but if you can keep up it will be worth it in the end. These characters, especially Maddie are so complex and full of surprises readers won’t have a choice but to be pulled into the story and feel a deep connection with what they are reading. I recommend this to readers that enjoy a psychological thriller with twists and turns at every corner.

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

Midnight at the Tuscany Hotel

Tuscany

Author: James Markert

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: April 9, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Another interesting book by Market, yet unlike anything I’ve read of his before.

 Vitto has just returned home after thirteen months spent in Europe at the close of World War II.  He witnessed the evils of war that refused to stay behind when he returned home.  Now back home, his five-year-old son doesn’t want anything to do with him and his father’s memory has left him with what doctors have begun to call Alzheimer’s disease.  He has nightmares and is a classic case of post traumatic stress, so he checks himself into a newly constructed VA hospital.  However, one night his father packs his bag and runs away.  After his wife Valerie comes for him, they travel to the one place that would have any semblance of normal for his father, The Tuscany Hotel.  Built and run by Vitto’s parents, the hotel used to be filled with artists, actors, and writers who were looking for inspiration.  Now the famed fountain in the center courtyard is mysteriously flowing again and Vitto’s father has started drinking from it and it seems that his dementia is disappearing.  When word gets out, the rooms begin to be filled again by people seeking control of their minds.  But does drinking this water come with a cost?

 I’ve read the author’s previous books and I must say that this was unlike anything he’s written before.  The story is told primarily at the end of World War II when Vitto returns home from the war.  However, there are also some occasional back stories thrown in concerning his mom, Magdalena, and her upbringing as well as when he and Valerie were kids at the hotel.  Markert does a good job of tying several of the loose ends together, but it’s done at random (almost as if he is trying to simulate a type of mis-organization for the reader).  There is also a lot of Greek mythology throughout the book as it relates to the layout and design of the hotel.  So, if you are not a fan of that, you will likely get bored with multiple areas of the book and the stories that go along with the architecture and sculptures within the hotel.  Ultimately it is a book about memories and how different individuals cope with painful memories.  Markert does a great job weaving his supernatural flair into the story as well, making it his own.

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

The Hiding Place

Hiding placeAuthor: C.J. Tudor

Publisher: Crown

Release Date: February 5, 2019

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Definitely interesting, but I wish it had been darker.

Joe didn’t want to return to his hometown, but after a brutal murder surfaces there, he feels he must because of his past.  He lies his way into a teaching job at the academy, which he also attended as a youngster.  Somethings have changed, but many things haven’t.  He knows he must confront his past and the awful things that he and his gang did.  Betrayal, murder, and suicide just scratch the surface.  But the worst day of Joe’s life wasn’t the day his eight-year-old sister went missing, it was the day she came back.

The best part of this book was the ending.  Not because it was finally over, but because it threw a great twist that I wasn’t prepared for as I thought I had it all figured out.  The first half of the book was largely character development and it developed several characters in a bad, bad way.  The second half of the book finally started to shed some light on the turning points of Joe’s past including what happened to his sister, Annie, what happened at the pit, and why Joe and his chums are no more.

I really enjoyed Tudor’s previous novel The Chalk Man because of how dark it was, and it really kept me intrigued in her specific style of writing.  Unfortunately, I compared this book to some other authors while reading it, so it took a bit of individuality away from it.  I wanted it to dive a lot darker, but it is what it is.  There is quite a bit of harsh language throughout, so I would not advise it for a younger audience.

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

Forget You Know Me

Forget you know meAuthor: Jessica Strawser

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Release Date: February 5, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A wonderfully thought out story full of characters that develop beautifully and show us the importance of being there for each other in the good times and the bad.

It is rare to find a friend you can stay close to through thick and thin. Molly and Liza have always thought their relationship could withstand anything. After Molly married Daniel, Liza became an honorary member of the family with no one thinking twice about it. When Liza moved, the relationship became more awkward and strained than either of them wanted to admit. Their friendship may not be able to withstand all they thought, and Molly and Daniel’s marriage may not be as rock solid either. Trying to hang on to the last strands of their relationship, Molly and Liza plan a video chat to reconnect. Just when things are starting to warm up between them, Molly must leave the room to attend to a crying child. Liza waits for her to return, leading to the moment things change forever. Liza sees something on the camera that scares her for her friend. She calls the police and then gets in the car and drives all night to be where she thinks she is needed. When she arrives, she is turned away by an icy Molly, and left wondering what she actually saw and what has come over her friend.  None of them can pretend things are ok and they might never be again.

Forget You Know Me starts with a bang and doesn’t slow down until the last page is turned and the last question left is answered. Strawser did an amazing job of creating characters that are flawed but still clinging to that small hope that all they have done wrongs that can be righted and find their way back to that safe place they once knew and held dear. I had trouble following Molly’s motives at first, but as things play out it becomes clear why she is acting the way she is and by the last chapter we see the characters grow and develop in a way I didn’t really think possible at the beginning. I loved watching them learn what was happening and connect the dots to the bigger picture that was being played out. Molly, Liza, and Daniel are the main characters but even the secondary characters have enough material to flesh them out in a way I really started to care about them as if they were more involved than they were. Max may have been one of my favorite characters to be honest. This is the type of book that takes close concentration to see all that is happening and be able to connect all pieces, there was no skimming or skipping ahead to see what was going to happen and I loved that because I was engaged with the characters and didn’t want to miss anything that was going to happen. Molly might have had a lot going on in her life and felt no way out at times, which is something a lot of us probably feel in some form or fashion at some point in our lives, making her a very relatable character. I recommend this book to those that enjoy a great contemporary read with lots of mystery and a very satisfying conclusion. There is a bit of language making it more suitable for a mature reader.

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

The Killer Collective

thekillercollective

Author: Barry Eisler

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Release Date: February 1, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A deep thriller with ties that span the globe and a group willing to do anything to stop a horrible group of people before more are hurt.

 After Seattle Police officer Livia Lone finds evidence of a child pornography ring involving high officials in the government, she becomes a target. Livia and her boss believe the FBI is behind the attack and reach out to a former marine Dox. They quickly assemble a group to keep them safe and take down the threat. One of the main members of the group is John Rain, a retired specialist initially contacted to neutralize Livia. Also in the group are black ops soldiers Ben Treven, Daniel Larison and Colonel Scot Horton. Going across the country, the group fights to keep others safe and bring down the threat, even if it is at the highest levels of the government.

 Let me start this by saying it was a good read. The story matter was intense, and the characters were very well driven in their pursuit of stopping the villains to save the children being hurt. That being said, one thing about this book is there is A LOT going on. Not only in the number of characters to keep up with but also with the number of places they go and all that they must do to bring about some justice. I found it hard at times to keep up with who all was on what team and what exactly their role was. Aside from keeping up with that, the story was great. I enjoyed the way Livia’s background played into her passion for what she was doing and the fact that anyone helping her didn’t hesitate once they knew her mission and what she was fighting for. I found the relationships throughout very believable. These are characters that are thrown into difficult and stressful situations and have to have someone to rely on and have their back.

 One of the absolute best aspects of the book were the action scenes, especially towards the beginning with Livia and her Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Judo moves she used in self-defense. Those scenes played out extremely well and I enjoyed reading them and felt as if I was there in the moment. I love when a scene plays out that way and really puts me in the room with the characters. I recommend this to readers that enjoy a good thriller with a heart at the center of the story and a lot of good versus evil. Readers need to be aware of some very harsh language throughout, so I wouldn’t recommend for a younger audience

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