Exhibit Alexandra

Exhibit AAuthor: Natasha Bell

Publisher: Crown Publishing

Release Date: March 13, 2018

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

An intense, twist turning thriller that will take you for a ride though art!

Alexandra Southwood has gone missing. She was supposed to come home at night for her girls swimming lessons, but never showed up. Her husband Marc is going frantic, pacing the floor trying to get the police to start looking for her before she has been gone for 48 hours.  Finally they start looking for her and discover her bloody belongings by the river.  Everything points to a homicide investigation rather than a missing persons case, but Marc cannot let go that she may still be alive.  He hunts through all their personal belongings trying to find some sort of clue that would tell him where she is.  Marc should focus his attention on his daughters, but he is fixated on finding Alexandra.

Meanwhile, Alexandra is being held in a room against her will. A man shows her newsreels of Marc pleading help for finding Alexandra.  News clippings and press releases are left for her to view while she tortures herself wondering how her family is coping with her disappearance.  The man seems to have something in mind but will never tell her what it is.  Will she ever be free to see her family again?

This was a twisted story that was well told. From the beginning, the reader understands that Alexandra is being held against her will, but the truth will set readers spinning.  Told from Alexandra’s point of view, we have speculation of what Marc and the girls must be going through and how they are putting their life in order after Alexandra’s disappearance.  Each chapter is separated by a letter between Alexandra’s college roommate Amelia telling of how she misses Alexandra and how dull life  has become.  The book may be a little predictable for readers who enjoy mysteries, but it was still exciting to put the pieces together.

There is some strong foul language throughout the book that would be expected of the characters. Based on the content of the book, I recommend it for mature readers.

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

Worth Killing For

Work Killing ForAuthor: Jane Haseldine

Series: Julia Gooden Mystery #3

Publisher: Kensington Publishing

Release Date: March 27, 2018

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

When her past comes back to haunt her, Julia Gooden uses all she has learned as a reporter to solve a cold case that has been clinging to her for decades.

Julia Gooden is a crime reporter that just can’t let go of her past. Her parents neglected her and her siblings growing up and then left them for good when her brother disappeared.  Julia has tried and seemed to be succeeding in overcoming the odds of such a difficult childhood.  Her boyfriend, Ray Navarro is one of the best things in her life, along with her two boys and she wants to continue the streak of happiness she has found.  However, after three decades, ghosts from her past have come back to haunt her when she sees her father.  After so long, she wants to know what he is doing back in town and why he left in the first place.  She also has a feeling deep down that he was involved in whatever happened to her brother and if so needs to make him pay for taking him from her.  As Julia looks deeper into things, she starts to see a pattern for what is happening now and what happened thirty years ago, leading her to believe she may finally find out what happened to her brother all those years ago.

Even though this is the third in a series, it can totally be read as a stand-alone. I didn’t realize that when I started reading it and don’t think it would have made much of a difference had I read the first two in the series.  The characters were intriguing, even if they were a bit predictable at times.  The boyfriend being a cop makes the story flow with getting information for the case and Julia having a source for her stories but they do fit well together.  The different family dynamics were interesting, I enjoyed how it showed Julia with Ray and her boys as compared to how she was with her sister and father.  Families are like that, some people get along better than others and that’s just life, so I enjoyed how the author played the story out in those dynamics contrasting each other.  It is clear from the beginning of the novel that the current case ties in with what happened to Julia’s brother all those years ago setting the stage for a nonstop page turner.  I enjoyed the way things tied together with many of the different characters that if you told me at the beginning would end up this way I wouldn’t have believed you, but somehow it all worked out beautifully.  I would recommend this book to readers that enjoy a good mystery with clues throughout but the ending not given away until the very end.  There was just a bit of harsh language throughout so I don’t recommend if for younger readers.

I received a compliment 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.

Not That I Could Tell

Not that I could tellAuthor: Jessica Strawser

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Release Date: March 27, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

DO NOT PUT THIS BOOK DOWN!! Read until the very last chapter to see the right way a suspense novel should be played out.

What seems to be an innocent girls night out turns into something so much more. When the neighborhood moms gather at one of the houses to enjoy some wine and relax away for a few minutes, none of them imagine that by Monday morning one of them would be gone and the police would be involved.  Yellow Springs, Ohio is a small town that keeps everyone involved in everyone else’s lives in one way or another; so when Kristin and her twins disappear leaving her estranged husband behind, secrets start to turn up making everyone question what they thought to be true.  Her husband Paul is at the center of the investigation but when nothing turns up, the police seem to let the case go. Clara, their closest neighbor is pulled into the drama when the case dredges up memories of a past she has tried hard to leave behind.  Izzy, one of the newest neighbors in town isn’t sure what to think but also doesn’t have time to deal with too much drama when her own life is falling to shambles.  As more details turn up, everyone realizes things are not what they seem and everyone has their secrets, some more deadly than others.

I have to admit that part way through I was feeling a little disappointed with how the story was playing out. I thought the suspense could be played up a little more.  But just when I started to get disappointed, things turned around and I couldn’t put the book down.  This is the kind of book that if readers will be patient the pay off at the end will be worth every page.  I loved how things unfolded and the characters brought out the best, and worst, in each other.  You can really see the way they care for each other and used their own experiences to help one another.  I did not like Paul from the very beginning and am glad that Strawser let him play out the way that she did.  The dynamic between all the characters really was spot on; I didn’t feel that any of them acted out of character but instead played out the story deliberately and intentionally the way the story should unfold.  By the end I was taking the title of the book and rolling it around in my head with what different characters would say and it totally made sense for each and every one of them to be able to utter that sentiment and be truthful.  On the last few pages I had a smile on my face as I read the last scene unfold.  I am pleased to say that I highly recommend this book to any and all readers that are looking for a story that will keep them guessing and characters that are genuine and play out beautifully.  This will for sure be one of my top books of the year.

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

A Dangerous Game

A dangerous gameAuthor: Heather Graham

Series: New York Confidential #3

Publisher: Mira

Release Date: March 13, 2018

Rating 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

An intriguing plot with a fun, flirty crime-fighting pair that is better at solving crimes than most seasoned detectives.

Kieran Finnegan has just finished up what she thought was going to be a normal day at the office. Being a criminal psychologist, she sees and hears things on a daily basis that most don’t. However, upon leaving the office, she hears a lady yelling her name who then thrust a small infant into her arms, which is by no means an ordinary end to her day.  The woman runs off and is killed on the streets in front of Kieran moments later.  Kieran has never met this woman and has no idea why she would bring this child to her.  Kieran’s boyfriend, Craig Frasier works for the FBI and gets himself involved in the case to make sure Kieran stays safe.  Even though he tells her to stay out of the case, she can’t help but look into what is going on and find out what it has to do with her.

The first thing to note is that this is the third in a series. The second thing to say is for me that didn’t seem to be a problem. I really enjoyed the story and the characters and didn’t feel that having not read the first two in the series deterred from that in any way.  With many elements to the complicated plot, it takes careful attention by the reader to make sure they follow along until the very end to see how things wrap up, which they do quite nicely.  Even though it can be classified as a romantic suspense, the romance didn’t over shadow the suspense.  The story can be a little intense with the content included, between the stolen baby and other aspects it isn’t recommended for a young audience at all.  I thought the story flowed at a very enjoyable pace and the characters meshed well with each other.  Graham did a great job showing the different aspects between Craig being with the FBI and Kieran not but also wanting to help solve the case.  Overall I really enjoyed this book and would recommend this to fans of Graham’s writing and readers that enjoy a good suspense thriller with twists and turns throughout.

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

If I Die Tonight

If I Die TonightAuthor: Alison Gaylin

Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks

Release Date: March 6, 2018

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Things are never as open and shut as they seem!

The quiet town of Havenkill, New York rarely sees any action. In fact, the most action that Officer Pearl Maze has seen has been when dealing with some teenagers who were pool hopping in the dark.  But that all changes one stormy night when a washed up 80s pop music icon crashes through the police station doors claiming that someone hijacked her precious green jaguar and then ran over a teenage boy.

As Liam Miller fights for his life, the town’s teenagers take to social media. Liam traverses from being a spoiled rich kid to all American small town hero.  And those who were ever opposed to the status quo start to become a target.  Can the state police get to the bottom of the case?  Was it the pop star?  Could it be another teenage boy who ran Liam over?  As Pearl works to find the truth, even one of her fellow officers begins to ignore the facts and trust his gut.  The ugliness of social media is brought on full display for all of Havenkill to see.

After reading this book, I’m wondering why I have never picked up an Alison Gaylin book before. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was quickly hooked and couldn’t put it down until I knew the full truth.  Throughout the book, the reader has the opportunity to form opinions about several of the characters to determine who ran over Liam.  Gaylin did an expert job of leading the reader down certain paths only to suddenly take a hard left turn of out nowhere, which left me reeling several times as I thought I had the mystery solved.

One of the things I loved about this book was the ability to read the behavior of the characters. They way there were acting was very realistic and I could figure out what was going on behind the scenes, particularly with two of the main characters.  It is not often that you have an author talented enough to make you fully immersed into the book in a way that you feel like you are witnessing it in person.  Gaylin also did a great job showing the power of social media in both a positive and negative way.  So many teens today take to social media when things happen and it can create an ugly monster, just like it witnessed in this book.

There is some strong language throughout, so I recommend this book to older mature teens and an audience that enjoys such a story as this.

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

If I Live

If I liveAuthor: Terri Blackstock

Series: If I Run #3

Publisher: Zondervan

Release Date: March 6, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

One of the best conclusions to a series I have read in a long time! Blackstock does not disappoint!

Casey Cox is still running for her life and trying to prove she is not a murderer. She has been indicted for murder, but has information that proves she isn’t a killer, if she can only find someone to believe her. Her face is all over the news and even with changing her appearance she still fears being recognized. Dylan Roberts may have been tasked with finding Casey and bringing her to justice, but after discovering all the information Casey has to prove her case, he is now the only one to help her.  The more they work together the closer they become and Casey’s enemies use that to lure her out by putting Dylan’s life in danger.  Neither of them want to put the other in danger, but is it worth staying safe if it means the real killer goes free?

Terri Blackstock is one of the premier Christian fictions writers for a reason. With her latest installment in the If I Run series, she shows what it takes to write a story readers will want to not just read but devour.  This series is by far her best yet and the conclusion will make readers ecstatic.   Both Casey and Dylan are characters that are flawed and trying to figure things out as they go.  They don’t have it all together and make it easy for readers to picture themselves in their shoes.  I was surprised halfway through the book at the direction the story was going.  I didn’t see it being able to stay worthwhile if it continued along this course.  Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised with how well Blackstock worked things out to bring the story to an entirely new level of suspense.

These days it is hard to find writers that are able to bring things to a new level. When you discover a writer with the caliber of Blackstock, you want to hang on tightly and remember her. The only negative aspect of the book is how sad I am that this is the last in the series.  I’m not saying this because the story wasn’t wrapped up but because I would love to see more with these characters and more by Blackstock. I’ve learned a lot from reading books written by Terri Blackstock, not just how well written novels actually look, but also from the stories themselves.  Research is key to making key points believable and it is obvious an immense amount of research went into making these novels what they are. While this is the last book in the series, I recommend reading the series in order for the story to be at its fullest. I highly recommend If I Live to fans of Blackstock new and old that want an incredible read.

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