Jane Doe

Jane DoeAuthor: Victoria Helen Stone

Publisher: Lake Union

Release Date: August 1, 2018

Reviewer: Jennifer S. Roman

Jane returns to her college town of Minneapolis after taking a leave of absence from her high-paying and impressive job as a corporate lawyer in Kuala Lumpur for one reason only: to get revenge on the man she blames for her best friend Meg’s suicide.  A self-diagnosed sociopath, Jane has changed her entire personality in order to befriend and eventually seduce Steven, Meg’s ex.  Instead of dark hair, a power suit, and a strong, confident personality, Jane turns into a floral and lace dress wearing Christian girl who wants to do anything to please her man.  She quickly grabs Steven’s attention at her new data entry job at the insurance company where Steve works, and soon, he is asking her out on dates.  Once she gains Steve’s love and trust, Jane is able to put her plan of destroying Steven’s life into motion.  The only complication is Luke, a boyfriend from college, who immediately recognizes the Jane he knew back in the day.  He wants to renew their relationship, and Jane starts seeing him again for fun.  The problem is, she’s falling in love with him, too.

Rarely have I come across a book, movie, or TV show in which the main character wants to get revenge on someone and actually goes through with it.  Usually, the character comes to a moral epiphany, or the plan gets thwarted, or something else happens that prevents the revenge from taking place.  I was pleasantly surprised to see some form of revenge- whether the original plan or not I won’t say- for once.  It’s refreshing to see someone plan and carry out the plan when nobody gets hurt in real life.

Jane has self-diagnosed as a sociopath because she cannot feel empathy for others.  She talks about her struggle to fit in as a functioning member of society when she feels so differently from others, and I am sure many people can relate.  Rather than making her seem unlikeable because of her personality, Stone manages to make her more relatable because of her ownership of it.  We readers can see her struggle and therefore feel for her.

The story is pretty far-fetched as far as plots go, at least in my experience, but the fantasy of getting back at someone for a wrongdoing exists in each and every one of us.  That part is fun and cathartic as we live out scenarios we know we would never personally do.

I can’t say enough about this book, and other than the obvious fantasy of the plot, it’s all positive.  I was worried when I received this book that I wouldn’t have enough time to read it, but that was a fantasy, too. From the first line I was hooked, and I quickly devoured the story.  The characters are each fascinating in their own way, some acting as wonderful studies of human nature.  The plot moves along quickly although the reader doesn’t know until the very end what will end up happening.  There are plenty of twists and turns to keep us interested until the very last page.  I couldn’t get enough of Jane and her flawed personality just because she kept me on my toes.

No matter how much I loved this book, I would not recommend it for everyone.  The language is frequently crude and not recommended for younger readers.  The subject matter itself is for mature readers who will not take it to heart.  There is a suicide (The basis behind the whole story) and revenge porn.  Some mild violence and rough sex are also included.  This book came in way beyond my expectations, and I believe that readers who enjoy thrillers and who can overlook some challenging themes will have an enjoyable read.

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

Thirst of Steel

Thirst of SteelAuthor: Ronie Kendig

Series: The Tox Files #3

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: July 31, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

As the final book in the Tox Files concludes, readers will have their emotions taken on a roller coaster ride. Ronie Kendig brings one of the best novels of the year and all others I’ve read will have a hard time toping it. 

The Arrow and Flame Order has plagued Cole Russell and his group for years. Just when they think it’s over, things heat up again when Tox has to leave Haven Cortes, the woman he loves, to go deep undercover and complete a final mission to find the sword of Goliath and keep it from the order.  The AFO wants the sword more than anything and use Tzivia and Ram’s father to get them to find the sword for them.  Tzivia wants to see her father alive again, even after he walked out on them years ago, and Ram is afraid his secret will be exposed and his life in more danger if he doesn’t do this.  With the team being split apart and loyalties in question, Tox, Ram and the others have to work harder than ever before to protect those around them and do what is right.

Ronie Kendig has done it again with another spectacular novel about Tox and his team. After three books, it is hard to not love these characters and feel deeply impacted by what happens to them. Thirst of Steel is one of the best books as far as getting the reader deeply invested in every single character, no matter how much page time they receive.  I enjoyed seeing Ram and Tzivia at the fore front of this novel and watching them flesh out a little more than in the previous novels in the series.  There is no stop to the action, adventure and suspense in this novel and I am very sad to see this series come to an end.

I have really enjoyed the teams adventures and the way they have tied their missions in with history and ancient artifacts. It kind of makes it feel like national treasure at times, which makes the story even more fun and exciting.  When reading a Ronie Kendig book you can be sure of a few things, you are going to have characters you can’t help but fall in love with and root for them to succeed.  Secondly, you are going to have a story that will leave you on the edge of your seat until the very last page.  I love that I know that going into these books, it makes everything better and Kendig never disappoints.  A lot of books written today have a lot of unnecessary filler material that could be skipped and still enjoy the story, these are not like that.  I read every page and get something from every line and feel so much more connected to the story and characters by the end.  That shows how good the writing is and how much effort was put into it and I for one appreciate that as a reader.  This is a book I recommend to all Kendig fans as well as those looking for a great suspense thriller.  I do recommend reading the first in the series before starting this one to have a better understanding of the story.

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

After Nightfall

after nightfallAuthor: A. J. Banner

Publisher: Lake Union

Release Date: August 7, 2018

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A fascinating who-dun-it that feels like playing a game of Clue.

Marissa Parlette has finally found joy in her love life. She has loved working as a speech language therapists with children and met her fiancée at the school his daughter attends, who also happens to be one of Marissa’s pupils.  She has also invited her childhood friend Lauren back into her life after several years apart when she discovered Lauren’s betrayal.  On the eve of Marissa’s engagement, Lauren is flirting openly with her fiancée and she confronts Lauren about it.  Lauren suddenly leaves and tells Marissa that she has something to tell her about her fiancée.  Unfortunately she never gets the chance when Marissa discovers Lauren’s lifeless body on the beach after falling over a hundred foot cliff, which doesn’t make sense given Lauren’s fear of heights.  Each of the guests at the party appear to have a motive for Lauren’s death with the secrets that are hidden behind the layers.  Will the true reason and murderer ever be brought to light?

 What a fun mystery read! This book was almost like stepping into a game of Clue.  It opens directly to the setting of the engagement party where the reader gets to meet all of the characters involved.  Personalities are put on display for the reader to see and get an understanding of the dynamic between the characters.  Then the transition to finding the body and the investigation begins.  Each character has something to hide and Marissa is in the middle of it all.  I thoroughly enjoyed working alongside Marissa to try to understand who was behind it all.  And it wasn’t some simple open and shut case, it was more secretive than that.  Needless to say, as the secrets came to light, several were appalling, but still not conducive to finding the murderer.  Being the detective on this case was definitely fun.

There was some strong language throughout the book and a little bit of sex, but nothing graphic for readers. Even so, I still recommend this book to readers who enjoy a good mystery.

I received a complimentary copy of this book 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.

A Steep Price

A Steep priceAuthor: Robert Dugoni

Series: Tracy Crosswhite #6

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Release Date: June 26, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

The newest Tracy Crosswhite book is a must read! Tracy and her crew are back and ready to tackle their toughest case yet, which will hit close to home for Tracy.

Detective Tracy Crosswhite has devoted her life to helping others after her sister went missing. When Tracy is called in to consult on a case involving the disappearance of a young woman, all the old memories come rushing back to her.  When the body is found Tracy knows her instincts were right.  The case becomes more complicated as Tracy is pregnant and trying to stay on the job as long as she can.  A new detective has joined the team and Tracy fears she is here to replace her. Tracy’s partner Vic is also facing trouble when his investigation into the murder of a local community member turns out to be more complicated than any of them could have expected.  With both of their careers on the line, Tracy and the team have to work together to save the lives of those they have sworn to protect and continue working together.

Robert Dugoni has done it again with the latest Tracy Crosswhite story! The nice thing about this story is the focus on the rest of the team.  Tracy is still a main part of the story but we really get to see into the lives of Vic and Del and the rest of the team.  This series has captivated me since My Sister’s Grave; some installments in the series are better than others but this one fits pretty close to the top of the list.  Tracy is my favorite character out of almost all the books I have read in a very long time. She is tough but also has her vulnerable side and Dugoni shows this side at all the right times. Showing her working a case while being pregnant and having to take on new challenges and responsibilities she has into consideration really changes her and the story.  Dugoni has a way of carrying a story forward in ways other authors have yet to figure out.  There are times he goes back and forth between characters as well as time but it never throws the reader from the story.  It is an intricate way of weaving a complicated plot and story line together to make an unforgettable novel and characters.  It’s not only the main characters that shine, each and every character in this novel had their moment to shine, and shine they did. Robert Dugoni is one of the top authors out there for a reason. He has mastered the art of storytelling and I can’t recommend his novels highly enough.  Everyone looking for a remarkable story that will leave you thirsting for more Tracy Crosswhite adventures needs to grab A Steep Price immediately.

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

Dominic

DominicAuthor: Mark Pryor

Series: Hollow Man #2

Publisher: 7th Street Books

Release Date: January 2, 2018

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Not every main character is honorable. Sometimes, they’re just a psychopath!

Originally from England, Dominic has made quite a life for himself in Austin, Texas. He is a prosecutor with the district attorney’s office for Travis County and primarily works with juvenile cases.  He also is a local musician that plays at a lot of different scenes.  But only two people know that he is also a psychopath.  And the saying goes that three people can keep a secret when two of them are dead.  The two people are his special lady and her teenage brother, who also happens to be a psychopath.

When a cop starts poking around asking about Dominic’s involvement in a past murder investigation that left his roommate in prison, Dominic is afraid that his teenage protégé is going to do something stupid like kill her. So, when she is found dead, his thoughts naturally drift toward what must have happened and how this could all lead back to him.  With only himself in mind (he is a psychopath after all), Dominic begins the process to transfer all involvement of any of the crimes to someone else.

This is a very different, but interesting concept. I haven’t read Hollow Man, but don’t feel like I missed much, maybe just a little backstory.  I’ll probably go ahead and read it so that I can fill in some of the blanks.  Having the main character as a psychopath with no regard for human life is a little different from my normal reading genre.  However, it is interesting that the reader can still form a bond with him as a main character.  Its also told in an exciting way that makes the reader want to find out what he is planning.  Usually this would be told from the police procedural point of view, but this turns the tables in an effort to thwart the police from discovering the truth.  That in itself makes me want to continue with this series.  It also helps that I frequent Austin and I love it when scenes and settings can easily come to life for me because I’ve been to the locations that the author is describing.

There is some strong language used throughout the book, so I recommend this title for mature readers.

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

Beneath the Surface

Beneath the SurfaceAuthor: Lynn H. Blackburn

Series: Dive Team Investigations #1

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: March 6, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Sizzling with tension that will make the hair on the back of your neck stand up and the skin tingle beneath the surface.

Leigh Weston needed a fresh start. After dealing with a stalker, she moved back home to Carrington, North Carolina and started working in the hospital emergency department. She thought all her troubles were behind her, but when her brakes fail and she crashes, she fears her past is catching up with her present.  Her friend from high school is now a homicide investigator and she turns to him for help.

Ryan Parker is good at what he does, especially working with the dive team.  When the team finds a body at the bottom of the lake Ryan starts investigating and ends up at Leigh’s front door. Her security footage might have caught something and he needs her help to get to the bottom of what is going on with not only the body but also who is trying to hurt Leigh.

Lynn H. Blackburn has just been added to my list of new favorite authors. Beneath the Surface is more than I expected.  Usually I enjoy seeing a character in distress but fighting back on their own with the help of someone else.  Here though, I loved the way Leigh was put in situations and the way the tension was played out.  I don’t want to say too much and give the good points away.  But I will say that the tension was tightest at all the right moments bringing the story to new levels and keeping the pages flying.  A few moments were a little slow but just when it would get slow Blackburn was able to bring it back in with no problem. I love the way the characters interacted with each other and even themselves.  At times, the characters thoughts were played out on the page making them relatable and the story believable. This was the first book I have read by Lynn H. Blackburn but will not be my last.

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