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.

Never Look Back

Never look back

Author: Alison Gaylin

Publisher: William Morrow

Release Date: July 2, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A fast paced, tightly woven, intricate thriller that will keep readers up at night with chills and thrills.

 In 1976, April Cooper and Gabriel LeRoy set off on a thirteen day murder spree and became known as the Inland Empire Killers. They were both thought to have perished in a fire until decades later when April is recognized and a young podcast producer, Quentin, investigates. His family was directly impacted by the killings and he hopes finding closure will help him get past the demons that have haunted him for years. While he is investigating the killings, New York columnist Robin Diamond is trying to figure out if her husband is being faithful when Quentin calls her up asking about the Empire Killings. Shortly thereafter, her parents are attacked in their home making her wonder if anything she has ever been told is true.

 With the back and forth writing style between the present and past, the story is told in a way that gives readers a full understanding of what is happening and how things played out. I loved the letters April writes to her future daughter that tell of the past and how it relates to the present, it was a clever way to show all aspects of the story. There are a lot of characters that change names throughout the story which might throw some readers off, but if you pay close attention it shouldn’t be a problem.  This is not a book that can be skimmed or even taken lightly; it is detailed and so many parts wind together to make the story flow to the end that it is important readers understand they will need their full attention to the very end. Gabriel and April played out so well as well as many other characters that might not have had as big of a role, but each one was instrumental in bringing the story to where it needed to be by the last page. There are a lot of ways this could have played out and I am usually good at figuring out the antagonist or the twist before the end, but I am pleased to say I was surprised by a few points at the end, a job well done. There is a little bit of harsh language and the story content is for mature audiences only. This is a book that I recommend to fans of suspense thrillers and any one that has read previous works by Alison Gaylin, If this is your first Gaylin novel, it is a perfect one to dive into and enjoy.

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

Light From Distant Stars

LIght from distant starsAuthor: Shawn Smucker

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: July 16, 2019

Reviewer: Jennifer S. Roman

Cohen Marah has lived near death his whole life.  As a young boy, his parents divorced, and his father moved into an apartment above a funeral home.  Later, Cohen works as a funeral director with his family.  One day, he enters the embalming room and finds his father on the floor, blood everywhere, and an embalming instrument shoved up through his father’s chin.  Freaked out because he thinks his father is dead and he is somehow to blame, he exits the room and leaves his father’s body for someone else to find.  Much to his surprise, he is called and told that his father is alive but in critical condition at the hospital.  The rest of the story takes place in the hospital as Cohen revisits some of his childhood memories and attempts to come to terms with his fragile relationship with his father.

The story bounces between the past and present, with readers finding out a lot about Cohen from the flashbacks.  His parents’ divorce is hard on him because they each took a child, so Cohen does not get to see his beloved sister as much as before.  He has a hard time making friends, and is especially thrilled when he meets a brother and sister at an abandoned, burned-out trailer that they used to live in.  He spends a lot of time with them when he can find them, but they are secretive and very rarely available to spend time with him.  Baseball is his one salvation.  It ties him and his father together and causes him to meet a girl, Ava, who turns out to be a reliable friend.  Present day Cohen turns to the church for healing while his father is fighting for his life, and it brings Ava back to him because she is the detective investigating his father’s injuries.  He knows he is a prime suspect, especially because Ava knows his background.  Cohen can’t tell for sure if he killed his father, or if his imagination is running away with him.  He’s hoping his more frequent meetings with the priest will help him figure it out.

Yes, this synopsis seems helter-skelter, but I promise that if you read through the book, it will make sense.  Once I started, I was hooked.  I too had a hard time deciding if Cohen’s memories and actions were real or just part of his imagination.  It was quick reading because it was so enthralling and fascinating, and yet, by the time it was over, I was just as confused as I had been throughout.  I am not sure if that was the author’s intent or if it was just me missing something really big, but I didn’t really get the final resolution of the story.

I really enjoyed the various characters throughout the book; they are messy, human, and ultimately interesting.  Cohen’s father’s misguided ways lead his family to shatter, and each family member deals with it in unique ways.  For Cohen, he is stuck with a fallen man who doesn’t seem to connect, and Cohen is left to his own devices.  His loneliness is a catalyst to a lot of the story, and it’s easy to see how things happen as they do.  His mother is just a side note to the majority of the story, but she plays a big part at the end.  His sister Kaye is the stability and normalness that Cohen so desperately wants, but being separated from her, he misses out on that.

I did enjoy the whole story until the confusing ending.  That is not to say that this is not a good book, but rather, I am one who needs things to be wrapped up at the end.  If you enjoy books that leave a lot up to the reader, you will be happy to read Light from Distant Stars.

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

 

The String

The StringAuthor: Caleb Breakey

Series: Deadly Games #1

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: July 16, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

It has been a long time since I have read a debut novel that reminded me of the writing of seasoned writers that is a thrilling, elaborate, intricately woven story and deeply twisted all at the same time.

A ruthless psychopath decides to play a game by choosing participants and threatening those closest to them if they don’t play. The Conductor has been adding knots to his string to play out his own little plot. Both students and staff from the university are involved and university cop Markus Haas is at the center. His girlfriend and her daughters are taken and used as leverage as the Conductor gives him assignments, each harder and potentially deadlier as the game progresses.

Steven James, Ted Dekker, and James Rubart, these are the names I go to when I know I am going to get top-notch edge of my seat thriller. Now I must add another name to the list: Caleb Breakey. The String is the best debut novel I have read in a very long time. The story starts with a bang and doesn’t let up. With so many characters tied up in the string, the motives and real bad guys can get a little confusing at times but the story itself pulls you in at such a pace there is no time to think until the last page. Markus is a strong protagonist against an equally strong antagonist with a story that readers can’t help but fall in love with. It really is hard to believe this is the first novel by Breakey.  The way he interwove the story with so many different characters was extremely well done and not something many others could have done to this level. The story is wrapped up to an extent but left open beautifully for the next in the series. I foresee potential for several in this series but only if Breakey is able to continue the story in a believable way and build these characters to make readers have an even stronger attachment to them. In a way it reminds me of Steven James’s Patrick Bowers series showing a very deep, tightly woven plot with characters that can take you on a thrill ride and save the day all while making readers fall in love with them. I love the fact that this is an edge of your seat thriller but also clean, no language and no excessive blood or violence. There is still plenty of thrill to keep readers turning the pages but in a way that shouldn’t turn away readers that don’t want any foul language or crazy. bloody scenes. I recommend this book to readers that are fans of Dekker, James and Rubart and might be looking for a new author to throw in the mix and keep them reading long into the night.

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

A Family of Strangers

Family of strangers

Author: Emilie Richards

Publisher: MIRA Publishing

Release Date: June 25, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

No matter how much we think we know someone, even the closest to us can be hiding deep, dark secrets that could affect everyone.

 It is hard growing up in the shadows of an older sibling you feel can do no wrong. Ryan Gracey has spent her entire life watching her perfect older sister, Wendy. achieve everything she went for. Ryan tried her hardest to be her own person and not live in the shadow of her sister but still got overlooked. Wendy was about to go to college when Ryan was born so the two have never been extremely close. When Wendy calls Ryan saying there has been a murder and she might be accused, Ryan uses her expertise from her podcast looking into cold cases to help figure out what kind of mess her sister has gotten into. All this while taking care of Wendy’s two girls and helping take care of her father who just had heart surgery. The more Ryan digs into the past of her sister, the more sinister things start to look and the more she starts to question what she has always thought was the truth about their lives.

 How well do we ever really know someone? Even if they are part of our family, can we ever really know someone? These are great questions that really made me think while reading this book. The beginning started a little slow but once the story started going it really picked up and the last few chapters were irresistible. I loved the way Richards brought about the secrets the family had been keeping and how it all intertwined throughout time and reached farther than Ryan could have realized. I didn’t like or trust Wendy from the very beginning, her story never added up and the lack of emotion she showed for her family was shockingly well written. I enjoyed the relationship that developed between Ryan and her nieces, it wasn’t rushed and felt natural and timed perfectly. Once I got past the first half and had the setup of the story fully established, the story it read quickly and was very enjoyable. If readers want a story that will keep them guessing until the very end they will enjoy this very much.

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

Pieces of Her

Pieces of Her

Author: Karin Slaughter

Publisher: William Morrow Publishing

Release Date: May 21, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

What do you do when the person you thought you knew best turns out to be a stranger with a life that you never could have imagined that has now put your life at risk?

 Laura has spent the last thirty years protecting herself and her daughter Andrea from her past. A past she isn’t proud of and wants to keep secret. When they go out to celebrate Andrea’s birthday, a shooting throws their world into turmoil. Andrea sees a side of her mother she has never witnessed before and finds out that before her mother was Laura, she was someone completely different. Piece by piece, Andrea works to figure out who exactly her mother is and what is causing her past to attack them all. Without her mother giving her information she needs, Andrea travels across the country collecting the puzzle pieces to put it all together and keep them both alive.

 Aside from the incredibly harsh language used throughout the entire novel, this was an incredibly engaging read. The story, the characters, and the predicaments they found themselves in kept me hooked throughout. I loved the concept of the book and how the characters had such intricate pasts that caught up with them in the end. The back and forth timelines took a little bit to keep up with who was who and how it related in the past compared to what was happening in the present timeline. Andy had trouble getting her words and thoughts out at times which was a little irritating, I wanted to see more out of her. I do think she had good growth as a character along with her mother. The “bad guys” didn’t really evolve much for me, they started bad and they stayed that way. This was a very engaging and enjoyable story for me but I do wish the language would have been toned down, it just wasn’t necessary to the extent it was used. I do recommend this to readers that enjoy a great mystery. This is the first book by Karen Slaughter and I enjoyed the writing style and will be tempted to pick up more in the future.

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

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.

The Persian Gamble

persianAuthor: Joel C. Rosenberg

Series: Marcus Ryker #2

Publisher: Tyndale

Release Date: March 12, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Yet another superb current events thriller from Rosenberg!

The unthinkable has happened.  The Russian president and head of the FSB have just been assassinated!  And it was done by the mole that the Americans have been working to get out of Russia.  Now it a desperate escape attempt, Marcus Ryker, Oleg Kraskin, and Jenny Morris make it out of Moscow alive, but not for long.  The plane is soon shot down by Russian MiGs, but the three manage to jump to safety, but still land on Russian soil.  Jenny has been shot and needs medical attention.  The United States believes that Marcus and Oleg should be labeled as traitors and Ryker should be tried for treason while Oleg should be handed back over to the Russians.  But Marcus has a trick card up his sleeve that he must play to get presidential pardons and it concerns the transfer of Russian nuclear warheads from North Korea to Iran.  If what Oleg has said is true, Iran seems to be on a time crunch to launch several nuclear missiles at Israel and the United States.  It’s a gamble to be sure, but Marcus and Oleg haven’t lied yet.

Rosenberg continues yet another incredible series.  Picking up at the exact spot where the previous book left off, readers focus on Marcus continuing troubles.  Now a fugitive from his own country, he must figure out a way to get the group back to safety.  Marcus traits as a true leader really emerge in this installment as does his compassion for others.  He does what he must when it is kill or be killed, but that is never his motive.  Several supporting characters return for this book including Vinetti and Pete Huang.  Unfortunately, not everyone will remain alive be the end of this book.  Packed with action and a very believable story line that could easily be in tomorrow’s papers, The Persian Gamble  is as epic as it gets.

I always recommend his books for readers who love current events and a fantastic story!  Pick up a copy of this book as soon as you can!

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.

Border Son

Border sonAuthor: Samuel Parker

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: March 5, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

The story of the Prodigal Son continues in a turn that will leave readers’ emotions spinning after the very last page. 

When Edward Kazmierski receives a phone call saying his son needs him in Mexico, he isn’t sure he wants to go. It has been years since he has even thought about Tyler. They haven’t had the best relationship and Tyler hasn’t been one to reach out to his father either. After the initial phone call, he receives another from a federal agent wanting information on Tyler and two men show up at his house wanting to know if he knows where his son is.  All this leads Ed to head south of the border where his son has started a chain reaction with one decision that causes a ripple effect of pain and destruction for everyone involved. Even though Ed is going to rescue his son, he is first going to have to prove to Tyler that he still loves him and wants to help him out of the mess he has found himself in and try and get them both out alive.

Samuel Parker has a unique way of taking a story we are all familiar with, such as the Prodigal Son, and reforming it as a suspenseful page turner. The story is one of redemption and self-sacrifice. Ed must be willing to sacrifice everything to try and save his son who needs the redemption himself to try and turn his life around. The dynamic between father and son played out well; even though Tyler knows he needs his father’s help he is hesitant to accept it after feeling abandoned for so many years. Now that they are stuck together and have to rely on each other to find a way out to safety they find that even though they haven’t been close in years, there is still a connection that can never be broken. With short chapters that go back and forth on viewpoints, the story reads quickly and clearly, more so than if it had been from one solitary point of view.  I am really enjoying books that go in this multiple point of view format because it gives so much more of the story and keeps the pages turning much quicker. There is a true feeling of fatherly love throughout the story with not only Ed trying to help his son but also Roberto feeling the need to help this young man who had once helped him. Each character brought their own sense of need to the story in how they interacted and helped the other for their own reasons. Fans of Parker’s other novels will be sure to enjoy Border Son. And if you haven’t read anything by Samuel parker I highly recommend picking up a copy today!

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