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.

Rise of the Mystics

Rise of the MysticsAuthor: Ted Dekker

Series: Beyond the Circle #2

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: October 2, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Fans of Dekker and the Circle series will not want to miss this this follow-up installment that holds true to all that fans have come to expect from this exceptional writer.

It has been many years since the death of Thomas Hunter, but he is still remembered in our world and the world he still lives in. No one has gone between the worlds like he did until now.  Rachelle Matthews has somehow found a way into that other world just as Thomas Hunter did.  In this world, she learned she was the 49th mystic and is on a mission to find the five ancient seals before they can be destroyed by her enemies.  Having already found the first three seals, she now searches for the final two.  If she fails in her quest, the world will be plunged into darkness.  She is going up against a dark force, Vlad Smith, who has her locked in a dungeon and is about to turn both worlds upside down.  If she can find the Realm of Mystics and the final two seals without losing everything, she just might save both worlds.

If you are a fan of the circle series then this is one you will not want to miss. The 49th Mystic and Rise of the Mystics are a great pair to add to the circle series. I’ve always thought there was so much more story to tell from that series and am glad to see Dekker bringing fans beyond the circle.  It took me a little while to get through this book because you have to follow so closely to everything that is happening.  Dekker’s books have to be slowly absorbed and savored.  It’s not like fast food, it’s more like a five course meal that every bite is better than the last.  Each chapter brings about a part of the story fans will think back on to previous books and it will bring a smile to their face remembering all of the aspects of the circle they might have forgotten.  I don’t want to give anything away, but one part with Thomas Hunter will have fans cheering with delight.  Rachelle is still finding her strength and learning from those around her, just as we should follow the guidance of those that God puts in our lives.  To me this is a much better closeout to the series than Green, what we all thought was the final book in the series.  I’m sure Dekker could find a way to bring more from the story if he so chooses, but for me this was satisfactory and left me with a feeling of closure with all of the characters.  I recommend this book to fans of the circle series.  If you are new to reading Ted Dekker, this is not the one to start with as you will not have even a fraction of what you need to understand what is happening here.  For readers that are intrigued by the premise of Rise of the Mystics I recommend reading the circle series and then diving into The 49th Mystic and Rise of the Mystics, you won’t be disappointed!

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

Under My Skin

Under my skinAuthor: Lisa Unger

Publisher: Park Row Publishing

Release Date: October 2, 2018

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A griping suspense thriller where just when you think you know what is happening you really have no idea!

What do you do when you can’t tell if your nightmares are really that or truly memories? When Poppy’s husband Jack was murdered while going for a run, her world came crashing down.  She couldn’t handle it and disappeared for days only to turn up confused and wearing clothes she didn’t remember putting on and no memory of where she had been.  While she is trying to figure out what happened to her during those missing days and what happened to her husband, more nightmares plague her causing her to fear for her own sanity and safety.  She starts to feel as if she is being followed and wonders if the person responsible for killing Jack could now be after her.  Is finding out the truth worth it?  Or will it even be something she can handle?

Under My Skin did something few books are able to do for me: up until the very end I didn’t guess who the killer was and was pleasantly surprised by the outcome.  I tore through this book because I was so eager to get to the end and see how that was going to play out.  I thought the author did a really good job building up the mystery while keeping the reader guessing about who was a good guy and who might be the bad guy.  Poppy and the relationship she had with Layla, her best friend, and the other characters showed such different sides of her personality and made it a fun game to try and figure out what was really going on.  The more the people around her push to stay close and figure out what is happening with her the more Poppy runs away.  Is she running away from them?  Or running away from the truth?  This was a good read for several reasons: it kept me guessing and showed a good character arc throughout the story.  The language and content is for a more mature audience and that is where I would recommend for readers to really enjoy.

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