Recursion

RecursionAuthor: Blake Crouch

Publisher: Crown Publishing

Release Date: June 11, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A fast-paced, mind-bending thriller that could only come from the likes of Blake Crouch!

It’s 2007 and Alzheimer’s disease is becoming more prevalent with no apparent cure in sight.  Helena Smith’s mother is a victim of the disease and she has made it her life’s work to combat the disease with science.  As a researcher, she hasn’t made much progress, but all that changes one day when a stranger walks into her lab and offers her an open checkbook to build the contraption that she dreams of: a memory chair.  Now secluded on an abandoned oil rig that has been outfitted into a secret laboratory, Helena is making advancements on her chair light years ahead of where she was at Stanford.  Once her team finally manages to capture and recreate memories, Helena can’t wait to use it for her mother.  But the chair’s mysterious benefactor seems to have other plans for the chair’s use, plans that she never saw coming or thought possible.

Ten years later, New York City cop Barry Sutton is called to a potential suicide jumper.  As he tries to talk her off the ledge, she confesses that she has FMS or false memory syndrome.  Becoming more prevalent, people are stricken with a second set of false memories of a completely different life that they never lived.  In many cases, it drives the person crazy until they commit suicide to escape from the madness.  Although Barry tries to persuade her, he is unsuccessful, and she jumps to her death.  Experts aren’t sure how the disease is transmitted nor is there any known cure.  He only hopes that he hasn’t contracted it from this woman.  As Barry investigates what loose ends there are, he finds something that doesn’t add up.  What Barry doesn’t realize is that this investigation will set forth a series of events that will change the world as he knows it, and possibly several other alternate worlds too!

Only the mind of Blake Crouch could conjure up a thriller this mind-bending.  His previous novel Dark Matter was such an intense read that it stayed with me for days and I kept telling people about it.  This was just as intense and will be sure to make my top list for the year.  Crouch has a way of making his reader’s question what they think they know.  Sure, it’s science fiction, but just think about it if it were true.  Disrupting the space-time continuum would cause all out chaos.  Where his previous novel dealt with string theory, this one focus in on actually traveling back in time and the ramifications of even living the exact same life over again.  He makes theoretical physics fun to read about and will hopefully inspire some future minds to continue developing this type of science.  I also just learned that this is going to become a movie on Netflix in 2020, so I highly recommended getting your copy now so that you can digest this awesome read.

There is quite a bit of strong language throughout the book as well as implied sex scenes  that is more appropriate for mature audiences.

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

The Immortal Gene

Immortal GeneAuthor: Jonas Saul

Publisher: Vesuvian Books

Release Date: July 17, 2018

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A new police procedural series with a bit of a sci-fi twist.

Jeffrey Harris takes families as he needs them, which is every so often. He has been coined as the Blood Eagle killer because of the shape that he leaves the father in when he is finished.  He has never been caught because he is very, very careful.  It’s always the same: take the mother, take the father, and then take the children.  He is very good at what he does, which is why they’ve never caught him in the years he’s been doing this.

Detective Jake Wood has been working with his partner Kirk Aiken for quite some time and have developed a friendly relationship. Jake is shaken when the Blood Eagle killer murders an entire family in his jurisdiction.  While on site, he comes in contact with horses and suddenly discovers that he has an allergy after he goes into shock.  While in the hospital, he comes in contact with an old friend who needs him to come down to Brazil.  He initially declines, but then heads down there after he finds out that it may be life or death.  While there, he gets into some serious consequences that leave him in the hospital for at least 18 months.  Upon release, Jake finds that his fiancée has moved on and so has his partner.  Jake also learns that he suddenly has some new reptilian powers after a dose of snake venom.  When he finds himself under tough circumstances now, Jake can use his powers to help protect himself and others.

This book started out as a typical serial killer novel with a little suspense here and there mixed with a lot of personal troubles for the protagonist of the story, Jake Wood. From there, it begin to mix with some sci-fi and sort of turned into a vigilante/police procedural mash up.  It was definitely entertaining throughout, but had some weak dialogue at points.  There were also times that the serial killer didn’t follow his profile, which makes for an interesting fiction concept, but not so much in real life.  There was some strong language throughout much of the book as well as some sex scenes that make the book more suitable for mature audiences.  I suggest readers give the book a chance before they make final decision.

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

The Golden Vial

The Golden VialAuthor: Thomas Locke

Series: Legends of the Realm #3

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: March 20, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

The battle for the realm continues brining in some new characters to freshen up the story.

Darkness has settled over the Three Valleys area, cutting off the towns from the outside world. Little by little the darkness squeezes the area in closer.  The townspeople have started to ignore the threat and accepted that it was always this way.  There is one that has not.  Dally’s entire family was killed by the dark force and she was left orphaned and taken in by the town mayor.  She hasn’t gotten along well with people, but she has always had the ability to talk with the mayor’s dogs.  When Lady Shona arrives to combat the evil forces, she request the presence of Dally and her ability.  It is also discovered the Dally has the power of a great mage, but has never been taught.  She joins Lady Shona’s band of faithful followers on her quest to save the realm, with hopes to save Hyam as well.

This series has been my favorite fantasy series in quite some time and I have been looking forward to this book for well over two years. It went in a different direction than what I expected, but it is a transition novel to the next storyline.  Locke has done a really good job of weaving everything in the world together, which can be daunting when you have to create the world to begin with.  The descriptive nature of the scenery has continued so that it is easy to jump back into the realm at a moment’s notice.  The cast of characters continue to be a fun bunch to be around much of the time.  As the main character, Dally struggles with confidence much like Hyam did in the first book.  Given their similarities, I would not be surprised to find that they are related in some way in the future.

Undoubtedly, this series will not be for everyone; however, I recommend that you give it a try. Each book is serious, but has a lot of humor to keep it a little lighter.  This book is a great read for young adults and up.  If you haven’t read the first two, I recommended it as there is a lot of back story that needs to fill you in.

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

Reclaiming Shilo Snow

Reclaiming Shilo SnowAuthor: Mary Weber

Series: Shilo Snow #2

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: March 6, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

The perfect book for those that are into the gaming world including what it could turn into in the future. A little darker than the first but oh so good!

Seventeen-year-old Sofi Snow is one of the world’s greatest hackers alive. She has left our world to go to the alien planet Delon to find her brother Shilo who everyone believes is dead. She knows that isn’t true, she can feel it.  With the help of Ambassador Miguel, they seek out the truth in finding her brother and also letting the people of Earth in on the secrets about the alien planet and what intentions it has for Earth.  However, this isn’t the first time she has been with the Delonese.  When she was younger, she and her brother were taken by them, but she has no memory of this time.  As the second installment in the Sofi Snow series, readers will see what is next for this brother and sister and how it will impact all of Earth and beyond.

Not all books in a series have to be read in order but this one most definitely does. If you haven’t read The Evaporation of Sofi Snow or don’t remember the story very well it will be difficult to connect to this one.  With that being said, if you have read it, get ready to pick up where it left off and see how the rest of the story unfolds.  The characters continue their journey and we seem them grow closer to each other as the story unfolds.  There is sacrifice and betrayal and all the things that make a good story great.  I loved how Weber continued with the multiple viewpoints to give readers a deeper sense of what was happening in the story instead of sticking with one POV and having to figure some of it out without really seeing it unfold.  There were times in the story that I felt confused and thought I needed to go back to clear something up but within a few pages it all seemed to work itself out for me.  Readers that love YA/Dystopian novels and have a passion for gaming will not want to miss this one.

I received a complimentary 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.

Shattered Minds

Shattered MindsAuthor: Laura Lam

Publisher: Tor

Release Date: June 20, 2017

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Techno thriller, Scifi, Steampunk, and high paced twists and turns that will make the pages fly!

Being one of the best biohackers in Pacifica lead Carina to work for Sudice, a cutting edge company that experimented on brains. After the company took things too far, she decided it was too disturbing when she found herself enjoying the pain she was inflicting on her patients. Once she thought about murder and she knew things were going too far. She quit the company and started taking the drug they had been administering to their patients that put them in a dream world where they could carry out their fantasies without hurting anyone in the real world.  This drug, Zeal, helped her deal with these feelings as well as lead her to an old coworker who has been secretly working with a rebel group to take Sudice down.  Carina has to make a choice whether to follow this lead or leave it all behind.

Shattered Minds is the kind of novel you have to pay close attention to with the alternating point of views throughout.  That can be confusing at times but works for the benefit of the reader here, giving more to the story than if it had stayed with a single point of view.  There are moments of romance throughout but for the most part they are on the backburner for the action.  The techno talk can be intimidating at times making it hard to follow the story for someone who isn’t very technologically savvy.  I really am not sure what all to say about this book.  The concept is very different and yet very intriguing.  I would recommend this to fans of science fiction and dystopian novels with a techno futuristic feel to it.

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

A Brush with the Beast

A brush with the beastAuthor: Richard Sones

Publisher: Self-Published

Release Date: June 20, 2017

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

An epic battle between the ultimate good and evil spread across the globe and through the heart of humanity to show what could happen if we believe.

When Nick Gooseberry has tried every method available to rid himself of back pain, he turns to the only option he sees left, The Order, a secret society that promises him relief from pain and so much more. With the power of The Order behind him, Nick works his way up the ladder of success to ultimately rule the world.  In a small town in Texas, Sarah Johnson has been trying unsuccessfully to get away from her past.  She thinks her boss is trying to help her, instead he is setting her up to go back to prison. While back in prison, she turns to the Lord and finds a way to escape. She finds out she is pregnant and attracts the attention of the Beast who takes her away to the other side of the globe and now she has to survive an entirely new prison.  After watching the death of his parents, Fanak grows up to become a terrorist driven with a thirst for revenge and a plan to take down the United States. He thinks everything he is doing are his own thoughts without ever realizing he is at the mercy of the Beast like so many.

A Brush with the Beast is a book that had several things I enjoyed and several I didn’t.  It is not for a young audience, a little bit of mature language and other mature content. The story flips back and forth between several different viewpoints. Most of the time this doesn’t bother me but for some reason it didn’t work as well for me here. I enjoyed the storyline with Sarah but everything else left me wanting to get to the rest of her story.  While each story line was supposed to tie in and bring the story full circle, by the end I felt a good portion could have been shortened.  Not everything with Nick’s storyline added up either. Everything with Sarah was intriguing and I felt a good emotional connection to her and everything that was going on while in her point of view.  Overall it was still an enjoyable read. I recommend this for a mature audience wanting to read about end times and what might come.

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

Probing

ProbingAuthor: Bill Myers, Frank Peretti, Angela Hunt & Alton Gansky

Series: Harbingers Cycle 3

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: December 5, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Our ragtag team of heroes are back to tackle the newest evil lurking around every corner, and dimension.

The third installment of the Harbingers series picks things up where the team left off. Bill Myers starts things off with Leviathan, where our team has been invited to Hollywood for a taping of a new reality show, Live or Die: The Ultimate Reality.  Things get a little too tense when they realize how much control the dark side has over those involved. Frank Peretti continues the story taking us on an amazing adventure with The Mind Pirates. The team has to deal with an enchanted pirate earring and an evil scheme at sea. Part three, Hybrids by Angela Hunt, gets even more chilling as the team encounters two children with black eyes and a pregnant woman who is no longer pregnant with no recollection of what happened to her baby. Our story concludes with The Village from Alton Gansky, where the team is sent to the Blue Ridge Mountains to a town that is more mysterious than anything they have ever encountered.  And with this team, that is saying a lot.

If you are a fan of supernatural suspense you have probably heard of and read one or more of these authors. I don’t know whose idea it was to get them together in this way, but it works. Each book in the series gets better. You do have to enjoy the supernatural aspect to get into these books. While it is beneficial to have read both the previous installments, I wouldn’t say it is absolutely necessary. Each story is broken up with enough backstory that the reader can tell what is happening if they haven’t read the previous two.  Just like most of the works I have read by these authors, there is a lot written that we can’t explain and some of the events will make you scratch your head, but these characters tackle each situation they encounter and bring it to life for the reader. It is nice that there isn’t a lot of time between releases of each book; with each author only writing a quarter of the story, it doesn’t take them as long to get it out to the anxiously awaiting readers.  I do enjoy how each section is from a different character’s view point. Each author has done a fantastic job embodying their character and bringing in to life in a realistic manner. I don’t particularly care for a few of the characters, however it is in the way I’m not really supposed to care for them, which can actually make them more memorable and enjoyable.  I recommend this book to those readers who enjoy a supernatural suspense story by some of the best in the business. Putting these four together was a great idea and I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.

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

Ferocious

FerorciousAuthor: Paula Stokes

Series: Vicarious #2

Publisher: Tor Teen

Release Date: August 15, 2017

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Winter Kim is back and ready for revenge in this explosive follow up to Vicarious.

Winter Kim is on a mission. After her sister was murdered and the only ones she loves were taken from her, she finds out she has a brother she never knew about.  His life is in danger if she doesn’t travel to South Korea and confront Kyung, the man responsible for all the misery in her life.  Helping her along the way are her friends, Jesse and Sebastian.  Together they gain access to Kyung’s corporation and try to gather as much information as possible to get her brother to safety and get out alive herself.  Winter must decide if the revenge she is seeking is worth risking everything or will she be able to release the darkness within her.

The follow up to Vicarious picks up right where things lift off in the first one. Vicarious was very action packed and moved at a quick pace, Ferocious takes things down a notch and moves slower for several different reasons.  The main point of this story is the revenge Winter is seeking.  Revenge takes planning, planning takes time, which ended up making the story less action packed and slower.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; the set-up of what Winter was going to do was well laid out giving the characters more depth.  Even though I can’t call this as action packed as the first, there certainly were a lot of twists and turns that kept me guessing until the very end.  As far as I can tell, there isn’t another book to follow in the series.  I can see the story mostly wrapped up here but there are still a few threads that could be played out further if the author decided to pursue the storyline further.  I recommend this book to an older YA audience that enjoys thrillers with plenty to keep them guessing.  It is marketed as a YA but I don’t think a few of the themes would be appropriate for the younger YA audience.

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

Vicarious

VicariousAuthor: Paula Stokes

Publisher: Tor Teen

Release Date: August 16, 2016

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A total thrill ride with mind-bending twists and turns throughout that will leave the reader craving more.

The bond between sisters is a strong one, and almost none compared to that of Winter Kim and her sister Rose. They work for Rose’s ex-boyfriend, Gideon, who has them engaging in dangerous and exciting activities while he records their neural impulses making a Vicarious Sensory Experience for others he calls ViSEs.  Their adventures include shark diving, hooking up with celebrities at dance clubs, and any and all thrills anyone would want to experience safely for a price.  Winter’s world is turned upside down when her sister disappears and her murder is recorded on a ViSe and sent to Gideon.  Winter can’t do anything until she finds her sister’s killer and becomes consumed with revenge.  With each clue, she uncovers the story of what happened to her sister doesn’t add up and Winter starts to question everything she has known to trust and believe in.

I love a good YA book that keeps up with the direction the world is going and Vicarious is just that kind of book. Each chapter flows into the next bringing the story and the characters into more chaos that will leave the reader aching for more. The characters are strong and even though they go through challenges they learn from each and every obstacle they encounter and use that to push them forward.  There is a romance in the story but it is played out in a very different way than most books, which I really enjoyed.  This is classified as a YA/Teen book and it is good for that in most areas, the only problem I have is the occasional language and sexual scenes throughout.  I don’t like to see those in books marketed to a younger audience but feel like it wasn’t played up nearly as much as it could have been and for that I am thankful.  This is the kind of book that so many readers will be able to find something to enjoy.  I recommend this book to teens and adults that like a good thriller with a sci-fi undertone to it.

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