Spirit of the Fox

Spirit of the FoxAuthor: Matthew O’Connel

Publisher: Station Square Media

Release Date: October 23, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Supernatural folklore twists make this a very compelling mystery.

It’s been nine years since Meiko Wright’s mother abandoned her and her father in San Diego and fled back to her native country of Japan. Since then she and her father have continued to live in San Diego through her teenage years and she has resented her mother ever since.  She blames her for all the missed first times that she should have had with a mother.  But now her father, an esteemed professor in folklore, has taken an assignment in Tokyo to allow Meiko to have some time with her mother to try to heal their relationship, even though Meiko wants nothing to do with it.  Even so, they begin a process of healing.

Meiko being half Japanese, decides to take in some of the tour scenes while in country. She decides to take a trip to Kyoto to see the temples and while at one of the most popular shrines, she is suddenly overcome and loses consciousness.  When she awakes, she has lost her memory and a priest vows to help her.  Since disappearing, both of her parents are worried about her.  When pictures of her surface with men no one knows who wind up committing suicide, she becomes a person of interest.  It becomes a race to see who can find Meiko before something worse becomes of her.

Interestingly, this is the fifth book that I’ve read this year set in Japan. More interestingly, they have all been set around murders.  This particular book was definitely intriguing.  The story of the fox spirit was interesting and how it has been in the Japanese folklore really brought it to life.  Couple this with finding a way to rebuild a damaged family brought the emotion aspect to the story as well.  The story is a bit predictable, but don’t let that take anything away.  It is very well written and worth reading.  There is some language and discussion of sex, but nothing too over the top.  I recommend this book to people who are interested in Japanese folklore or just love a good mystery.

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

In Too Deep

In too deepAuthor: Lynn H. Blackburn

Series: Dive Team Investigations #2

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: November 6, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Fans of the first Dive Team Investigations will be thrilled with this new installment. Adam and Sabrina’s story is so much better than I expected and I loved every single minute I got to spend with them.

After a car is found submerged in a lake the dive team is called in to recover the body. What they find is more than any of them expected: an encrypted laptop and a message linking the dead accountant and investigator Adam Campbell. Adam calls in his friend, Dr. Sabrina Fleming, a computer security and forensics expert, to help figure out what is on the laptop. With each layer they peel back, more about the case is revealed showing things are much more sinister than they originally thought. Their dead woman has information on a human trafficking ring that might involve some of Adam’s own family. There is more at stake here than solving a murder and Sabrina has to decide how much she is willing to risk to solve the case and maybe confront her feelings for Adam in the process.

Lynn H. Blackburn hit it out of the park with the first Dive Team book and the follow up is even better. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to get into Adam and Sabrina’s story as much as I did with Leigh and Ryan, but I am happy to report I fell more in love with the story of Adam and Sabrina. Something about the way they had known each other for so long and yet let this stressful situation bring them together at just the right moment felt right. The story was tight and the romance so real I felt like I was one of the characters cheering them on and in agony when they were in trouble. One aspect of a strong writer is the way they can weave the tension into the dramatic high paced scenes as well as any other. It doesn’t take a high speed car chase to move a story along or keep readers on the edge of their seat.  If it is done right, edge of the seat scenes can be between two people just talking or in need of help in some way. Blackburn did a fantastic job of bringing the tension at all the right moments. I was hooked from the very beginning and didn’t want the story to end at the last page. I can’t wait to see what book three will bring.  Even though this is the second in a series, it can easily be read as a standalone, but I would still recommend reading the whole series so you don’t miss out on an excellent story. I recommend this book to readers that enjoy romantic suspense with an element of faith.

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

Dead Sea Rising

Dead Sea RisingAuthor: Jerry B. Jenkins

Series: Dead Sea Chronicles #1

Publisher: Worthy Publishing

Release Date: November 13, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

With all the success of the Left Behind series it is hard to imagine anything better; however, Dead Sea Rising is by far the best Jenkins novel I have ever read. This is not one to be missed.

Nicole Berman is waiting for the news that could change her life. She has applied to lead an archeological dig in the middle east and is waiting for the answer when she gets the call that her mom is in the hospital with a broken hip. When she gets there, she finds out her mother was actually attacked and she is a suspect. Someone doesn’t want her to go on the dig and uncover the artifacts she believes she has found, evidence of a biblical patriarch that could change history. While Nicole and her father work to prove they would never do anything to hurt her mother, the search for what is really going on and why Nicole and her family are now being threatened intensifies and no one is safe.

I honestly don’t know how to go about describing this book. All I can say is it will be hard for any book to top this for my number one book of the year. There was a back and forth element to the story, one chapter in the present with Nicole and the next 4,000 years in the past. The interesting thing is it can actually be read one of two ways, straight through like normal or readers can chose to read one timeline (every other chapter) all the way through and then go back and read the other timeline without compromising the way they understand the story. Even though the timelines don’t intercede with one another, by the end they will have relevance as the series continues. The characters and the way Jenkins weaved the tension was amazing. I also think the super short chapters helped move the story along. As readers want to put the book down for the night, they might look ahead to the next chapter and see it is only a few pages and decide it is short enough to keep going making it a sit down and read in one sitting kind of book. When most people think of a fast paced page-turner, it probably has to do with a car chase or a serial killer attacking someone. With Dead Sea Rising that isn’t the case, the tension is right from the start, as soon as Nicole is suspecting of hurting her mother and the depths of the case made me want to turn the page as fast as I could. There is a reason that Jenkins is one of the very top Christian authors, he has perfected his writing and anyone wanting to learn the craft of writing needs to read and reread everything he has writing, it doesn’t get any better. I recommend this book to lovers of biblical fiction and suspense.

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

A Dangerous Duet

Dangerous DUetAuthor: Karen Odden

Publisher: William Morrow

Release Date: November 6, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Odden composes a delightful mystery!

Nell Hallam has a dream to study piano at the Royal Academy in London, but since her father passed, it will be difficult to earn the tuition. She and her brother Matthew live in Mayfair, which is a nice area of London, and he is an inspector at Scotland Yard.  Determined not to trouble her brother with her dream, Nell has developed an alias as a man named Ed Nell and lands a gig playing the piano at the Octavian, a music hall in Soho.  She knows her brother wouldn’t approve, but fortunately he works late into the night and she is always able to make it home before he arrives.  One night on her way home, she finds one of the performers beaten and left for dead.  Soon, other murders start to occur throughout the Soho district.  The more that she is immersed in the world of the Octavian, the more she finds that people aren’t what they seem on the outside.  Performing is all just an act, but will Nell be able to separate the people who are guanine and who are criminals?

This is by far one of my favorite historical fiction reads of the year. I was pulled into this book within the first two paragraphs and couldn’t let it go until the end.  I struck up a quick friendship with Nell and she tugged me along through late 1800s London.  I loved getting to meet the characters at the Octavian and see how everyone performed.  I shared all of Nell’s emotions and loving heart that made her extremely genuine.  I fell for Jack’s character as I got to know him and learned that things aren’t always what they seem.

The suspense throughout this book stayed very tight and kept me tearing through the pages. There were a few surprises thrown in for good measure that you might not expect, but it was well worth reading.  I’m glad that I got a copy of this book as a new author has found a place on my shelf.

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

Lethal Target

Lethal TargetAuthor: Janice Cantore

Series: Line of Duty #2

Publisher: Tyndale House

Release Date: October 9, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

With tighter action, better characters and an overall excellent story, Lethal Target is by far the best I have read from Janice Cantore.

Tess O’Rourke has grown to love her new home of Rogue’s Hollow and being the Chief of Police is just the right fit for her. When the town becomes divided over the vote to legalize the sale of marijuana and a young high school graduate is found dead of a possible overdose, Tess has to put her knowledge to the test to crack the case. As emotions come to a boiling point, Tess starts to lose the support of those she has sworn to protect. To make matters worse, a familiar face from her past resurfaces causing even more problems. Needing a friend and an ear to help her keep things in perspective, she turns to pastor Oliver Macpherson. As things heat up with the case, so do her feelings for the pastor and his for hers, but her father’s death when she was just a teenager has her questioning faith and even Oliver himself. When the cases collide and the danger becomes lethal, Tess has to use everything she has to save herself and those in her town.

Lethal Target is by far the best Cantore novel I have read yet, and I have read them all. The characters are sharp, the tension is tight and the story is really on point. I felt a stronger connection with the characters and what they were going through than in the previous in the series. Tess was going through some really hard times but I never felt sorry for her in a way that would make the character annoying, something that happens all too often. The romance aspect played out in the right way, nothing was too strong that had me rolling my eyes, instead I smiled as the characters drew strength from one another and used that to solve the problems they encountered. This is the second in the series but readers new to Cantore will have no problem starting with this book having not read the first. There is just enough back story on the characters, mainly Tess, to keep new readers up to speed on what is happening. As always, the fact that Janice Cantore has a back ground in law enforcement provides so much to the story and the plot making the details be just what is needed to make everything realistic. I highly recommend this to fans of Cantore and those that love a good police procedural, mystery with just a sprinkle of romance. With no language or over the top violence this is even appropriate for any age group.

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

The Stranger Game

The Stranger GameAuthor: Peter Gadol

Publisher: Hanover Square Press

Release Date: October 2, 2018

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Intriguing concept of mistaking personal connection for stimulation.

Rebecca has had an off and on relationship with Ezra for several years. It started in college and has spanned most of their professional life.  When they go cold, they never separate for more than two weeks.  Ezra even followed Rebecca to the west coast after she took a job as an architect because he just couldn’t live without her.  But now he has gone missing.  When Rebecca checks his apartment to make sure he hasn’t hurt himself, she finds a print out of an article describing a phenomenon called the stranger game.  This game has people following random strangers to see if they can determine where they are going or what their life is about.  But society has taken the original concept and made it darker, now working to seduce victims that they are following.  They even begin staging violence to heighten peoples senses for playing the game.  In some cases, people just disappear.  Will Rebecca ever be able to find Ezra?  Or is he gone for good?  Just another stranger in a game?

The concept of this novel was really intriguing. It is basically saying that people have lost personal connections and have become isolated, lonely, and depressed.  Even when they have a relationship, they are still depressed because they don’t connect the way that nature intended.  Enter the stranger game.  This game allows people to imagine how another person’s life is lived, what they might be thinking, where they might be going, what they will be doing after that.  But the initial rules are never to make contact and never follow the same person twice.  But I suppose rules are meant to be broken and society has a knack for doing that.  It is terrifying to think that something like this could actually happen.  The book indicates that almost everyone starts playing the game.  Players are following players that are following players.

Overall it is a mystery and it is really a great read. I don’t want to give anything away, but you should really pick up a copy of this book.  It is worth your time.  There is some harsh language throughout the book as well as some mild sex scenes that still are more suited for mature audiences.

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

Delayed Justice

Delayed JusticeAuthor: Cara Putman

Series: Delayed Justice #3

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: October 16, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

An absolutely fantastic book with a very timely message about speaking out on abuse even if it takes time and strength to say the right words.

Jaime Nichols has spent her whole life trying to get the strength to move on from the abuse she faced as a child. Now she is a lawyer fighting in the courtroom to give a voice to victims like her. After decades of counseling, she has gained the voice she needs to go against her uncle, the man who molested her when she was just a small child. He is up for promotion to become a one star general and with his power he is determined not to let Jaime ruin him.  While Jaime fights her own case, she is also helping a young girl who was abused and needs help healing. Chandler Bolton brings his therapy dog to help the young girl and is instantly drawn to Jaime. He sees her strength but also her pain and wants to help her heal. As Chandler and Jaime work together to help those hurt and without a voice, they are drawn to each other and find strength they didn’t know they had at just the right moments.

This is a book that can tackle a tough topic, but does it in a way readers will really be able to connect with and feel for the characters. Cara Putman has a way with legal thrillers, she brings out the drama in all scenes, inside the courtroom and out.  I love the fact that the court scenes aren’t boring and slow paced; there is still tension and heart pounding moments. It was obvious there was going to be chemistry between Jaime and Chandler, their connection was apparent from the first moment they saw each other. Both Jaime and Chandler have demons they are fighting but together they are able to work through these difficult times and find a strength they didn’t know existed. Faith is a big element throughout and I loved the way Putman incorporated The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, such a timeless novel that played well with the struggles being faced here.  None of the moments of faith were too forward or in your face to push readers away that might not want to read that. It is enough to make readers think and maybe instill a few seeds to keep the reader thinking and possibly nudge them towards faith of their own.  It’s simple enough to show readers there is more out there if they will trust and look to God without trying to shove religion down anyone’s throat.  I recommend this book to fans of Putnam and also anyone that enjoys a good romantic suspense.  While this is a third in a series it can be read as a standalone without losing anything.

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

A Sparkle of Silver

Sparkle of SilverAuthor: Liz Johnson

Series: Georgia Coast Romance #1

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: October 16, 2018

Reviewer: Jennifer S. Roman

Camilla “Millie” Sullivan is having a hard go of it.  Living in the small beach town of St. Simons Island, Georgia, and working as a waitress at the Hermit Crab Café, Millie also looks out for her elderly grandmother, who has dementia.  As Grandma Joy gets worse, she is being evicted from her care facility because her dementia is too severe for her current home, yet she is being denied funding for anything more suitable.  Her life savings have been squandered as the result of her being a victim of a scam, and Millie has no idea what to do.  She takes a second job at Chateau Devereaux, a local historical home, and remembers that Grandma Joy mentioned a relative who stayed there one summer.  The relative supposedly left a diary there with clues to a buried treasure.  Not expecting much, Millie decides to search the library for the missing tome, and amazingly, finds it.  Before she can leave with the book, however, she is accosted by Ben, a security guard.  Not wanting to lose both their jobs, she makes him an offer he can’t refuse: help her find the buried treasure, and she will split the spoils with him.  Needing the money himself, Ben reluctantly agrees.  Ben is working three jobs in an effort to pay back money that his mother has swindled out of people.  While they don’t hit it off at first, Ben and Millie grow to trust each other and to find that they are actually quite attracted to one another.  But will they find any treasure and be able to claim it as their own in time to keep Grandma Joy from being homeless?

This is a quick, easy read with plenty to enjoy.  On one hand, the reader gets to know Millie very quickly and understands the immense love she holds for her dear Grandma Joy.  Ben comes off as gruff and unfeeling until we see him with his students and later as he explains why he works so hard.  Together, their chemistry makes us want to read more.  On the other side, the story unfolds through diary entries that Millie’s relatives wrote while enjoying St. Simons Island over the summer as a guest of a friend.  Ruth is a country girl from a farm, and a whole new world of mystery, romance, and danger greet her at the wealthy friends’ home.  Together, Ben and Millie get to know one another, and Millie’s heritage, while looking for what could be the answer to their problems.  The characters are likeable and easy to get to know, and the situation, while definitely unrealistic, is a fun break from real life.  I had no problem engaging in the book and quickly wanting more.  It was a quick read that left me satisfied when I was done.  I would definitely recommend this book as a fun, uncomplicated read to anyone who enjoys romance and mysteries, especially when we get an interesting glimpse into the past.

While the language is not offensive to the readers and the main characters don’t do anything more involved than kiss passionately, there is a murder and thwarted sexual assault.  Not many details are given, but if anyone is easily upset by these topics, I do recommend caution.  Otherwise, the story is short and sweet and full of historical references.  It is a chaste romance and interesting treasure hunt.  Any reader who enjoys this kind of story should find A Sparkle of Silver as charming as I did.

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

I Know You Know

I know you knowAuthor: Gilly MacMillan

Publisher: William Morrow Books

Release Date: September 18, 2018

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A gripping tale of a decades old murder and present schemes to find the truth by some and keep it hidden by others.

It’s been twenty years since the brutal murder of eleven-year-old Charlie Paige and Scott Ashby. Even though a man was convicted of the crime, there have always been questions regarding his actual guilt. The boys childhood friend Cody Swift feels guilty for not being with his friends the night they were killed and has decided to do his own investigation into what happened. Not everyone is happy about his investigation. Cody starts a podcast and puts up recordings of interviews he has with people who were close to the boys and involved in the case. When another body is found in the same location the boys were murdered at, another investigation is opened and finds the cases linked together. Detective John Fletcher, the man who worked the original case, decides to open his old files and dig into the past to see if it helps solve the present case and possibly put his own career on the line while doing it.

The concept of this book was extremely intriguing and overall I did enjoy it but had a rough time staying with it. My biggest problem is it is far too wordy.  When I open a book and see very little dialogue along with massive amounts of narrative it is hard to keep going, it makes the story read much slower.  As we hit the moments of dialogue, things start to pick up and it did here as well bringing the story to life.  There was a lot of repetitiveness when Cody was doing his podcast; things that could have been mentioned once and then not brought up again every time the podcast was written about.  Switching between past and present can be confusing for readers but it seemed to work well here. Even the back and forth with point of views worked well in this story, the readers needed to see all of these different sides to the case in order to follow along. I will say the ending surprised me, just as I thought things would be wrapped up there was another little twist that brought the story up a notch.  I recommend this book to readers that enjoy a good mystery without being able to figure everything out before it happens and being pleasantly surprised by the little things that happen throughout.

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

Burden of Proof

Burden of ProofAuthor: DiAnn Mills

Series: FBI Rapid Response #1

Publisher: Tyndale

Release Date: October 9, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

DiAnn Mills has been a top suspense writer for years, but this may be her best work yet.

April Ramos has been a negotiator with the FBI for years and it is work she is proud to do, but it also takes a toll on her. When she isn’t able to talk a man out of committing suicide, she feels maybe she isn’t doing what she is meant to do. With no time to process what she is been through, a woman shoves a crying baby into her arms and runs off. A man claiming to be the child’s father takes April and the baby at gunpoint making her put her skills to use once again. Jason, the baby’s father, tells April a story of how he is being framed for murder and his child was kidnapped. The more April learns about what is happening in this little town, the more she believes everything Jason is telling her and discovers just how deep the sinister connections run. April has to determine if helping Jason is worth risking her career and possibly her life.

I have been reading DiAnn Mills for years and there is something different about her most recent work, Buden of Proof. Her writing has changed, the way she delivers the story and the tension throughout is all so much better than ever.  April instantly connected with me and her desire to help others made her a protagonist for everyone to connect with. The way that Mills was able to weave the complex story together and make each character and their actions relevant to the overall story was excellent writing and something that will set her apart from the many story tellers out there.  It was not only the character connections that I enjoyed but also the extra tension throughout the story, especially the end. In her previous books, I found the ending very predictable but not here.  This story surprised me up until the very last pages. Readers will enjoy not only the page turning action but also the heart of the story.  April is struggling with her faith and even with everything Jason has gone through he tries to stay strong and help April come closer to God. I don’t know what has changed for Mills to make her writing so much better but I hope she keeps it up. I recommend this book for anyone looking an amazing read with a heart to the story and characters to connect with.

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