The Roanoke Girls

The Roanoke GirlsAuthor: Amy Engel

Publisher: Crown

Release Date: March 7, 2017

Rating: 3 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Disturbing and creepy. That’s all I’m saying.

Lane Roanoke is fifteen years old and her mom has just committed suicide, which is really not surprising to her as she has been threatening it for most of her life. What is surprising is that her mom’s parents want Lane to come live with them in Kansas, which is vastly different than New York City.  Once she gets there, she is greeted by her cousin Allegra and they become like sisters, even look like sisters too.  Her grandparents are filthy rich from oil and she becomes one of the Roanoke girls, which pretty much gets you whatever you want.  However, one day she discovers the secret that drives all Roanoke girls either to run or to die.  She runs away and never looks back.

Eleven years later, Allegra has gone missing and Lane is called back to Roanoke. Even though time has passed, it feels the same as soon as she pulls up.  Everyone she left is still there and her messed up family is still the same.  But with Allegra gone, sights are now set on Lane to take her place as the next Roanoke girl.

This book was very disturbing and creepy too. I can’t delve too much into it because it would give away the context to the readers, but needless to say, this is not what I was expecting in some big Kansas farmhouse.  Still gives me the heebie jeebies.  One point that I do have to make is that I can tell this author has written YA novels previously.  The flow and characterizations still tended to show up as YA, which I actually like.  However, what I don’t like is when there is a great YA author that decides to go into mainstream adult fiction and it reads like a YA novel with lots of profanity and sex, which is a bit of the case here.  I’ve seen this happen with lots of great authors in the YA genre.  I like the YA better because it is usually cleaner.  I understand that this book had to have sex since that is the pretense of the whole things, but the profanity could have been cut way back.  This is why I only recommend this book to mature older readers.

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

As Red As Blood

as red as bloodAuthor: Salla Simukka

Series: Lumikki Andersson #1

Publisher: Crown for Young Readers

Release Date: January 17, 2017

Rating: 3 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

This book had such potential to shine like the fairy tales it eludes, but for me it fell flat.

Lumikki Andersson likes to keep to herself and out of the business of others. Even though she is only sixteen she is living by herself and going to a charter school for the gifted.  It is an ideal situation after the problems she had at her old school with some not so nice girls that attended the school.  Trying to stay out of others business usually works well for her, until she stumbles upon thousands of washed Euro notes hanging in the school’s darkroom and three of her classmates acting very suspiciously.  It doesn’t take long for Lumikki to become completely involved in the center of the problem these three have found themselves in.  They all end up going against a drug lord, Polar Bear, and many others that end up hunting them for what they have and know.  Lumikki is now in a race to stay alive and uncover the truth to try and save them all.

When I first heard about As Red as Blood I thought it sounded like a very intriguing read, especially for a YA, which are some of my favorites.  I’m not sure if it is the fact that it was translated from Finnish or maybe just the story itself, but it didn’t live up to my expectations.  One of my biggest pet peeves is a book marketed to young adults that has vulgar language.  I’m not naive, I know that is how many kids speak but I still don’t like seeing it in books for this audience.  I also felt like the story didn’t really get going until it was almost over.  The best part of the book for me was the last twenty-five pages or so.  Finding out more about the main character should have come earlier to help make the connection and establish a better relationship.  I still think some of it could have been lost in the translation and don’t want to fault the author too much on that part.  The two female leads really had good potential and I think there is further development to explore there, I just don’t feel compelled to explore it personally.

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


The Travelers

the-travelersAuthor: Chris Pavone

Publisher: Crown

Release Date: March 8, 2016

Rating: 3 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Spy thriller that lacked most of the thriller.

Will Rhodes is a travel writer who has really been ramping up the travel part lately. His wife used to work for the same magazine that he does, but to limit competition between them, she left to be an editor at another magazine.  They move through the motions of marriage, but since they haven’t been able to get pregnant, things have started to dissolve lately and Will is not sure why.  When he is at a conference in Europe, he meets a young Australian freelance writer who really hits it off with him.  He is very drawn to her, but manages to stay faithful to his wife.  Later while in South America, he meets her again and things end up going a little too far.  Only then does Will realize that he has been played.  The young woman is actually an American secret agent who is now using their videoed affair as blackmail to recruit him into the CIA.  After all, he already has the perfect cover to move around without arising suspicions.  But can Will actually do this?  Is it worth it for his marriage?  And is it really legit?

This seemed like a really interesting concept story. A travel writer turned into a spy sounds like a great idea.  I mean, sure it’s been done before, but a good story is just that, a good story.  Unfortunately, that is not how this one felt.  The story was very disjointed in my opinion and just never really got traction.  The prologue hooked me in, but then it was just like the line couldn’t reel me in.  There were a lot of characters to set up and you spend half your reading time trying to figure out who this is referring to, maybe it’s her, maybe it’s him, maybe it’s someone who hasn’t even been introduced yet.  Which got a little frustrating overall, but it is what it is.  There was also a lot of strong language throughout the book which could have been handled a lot differently.  Should you decide to read it, I would recommend it for mature audiences.

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

The Freedom Broker

the-freedom-brokerAuthor: K. J. Howe

Publisher: Quercus Books

Release Date: February 7, 2017

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A fast paced, action packed story that will keep readers guessing until the very end!

When Thea Paris was a little girl she witnessed her brother being kidnapped. He was returned to the family after nine months, but that experience would shape the future for everyone in the Paris family.  Thea is one of the best kidnap and ransom specialists in the world and she is the only woman in the freedom broker business.  She is the team leader at Quantum Security International’s black-ops team, which goes on sensitive rescue missions to recover high value targets.  On the eve of the party for her father’s sixtieth birthday party, Christos Paris is taken from his yacht, mere days before the biggest deal of his career.  Everyone aboard the boat is killed and Thea waits for a ransom demand that is slow to come.  Pushing aside the fact that she is too close to the case, she throws herself in to the job more determined to find her father than any case she has ever worked.  The more she digs, the more the past comes to haunt them all and it becomes clear this is no ordinary case.

It is hard to believe that this is the debut novel. Howe wrote a very intriguing fast paced thriller that I very much enjoyed.  One of the best aspects of the novel was the pace, it flowed easily even with chapters of different length.  This actually helped because as the action intensified, the chapters got shorter making the pages fly faster and faster.  The main character, Thea is the heroine, but is also very relatable with her weakness, diabetes.  She is reluctant to share this information with anyone because she doesn’t want them to view her as weak because of it.  I have read kidnap books before but never one where the focus is on the team that is sent in to get them back.  It was a unique view of how things unfold on that side of the story.  There was a fair amount of back and forth between past and present, usually this can be confusing and take the reader out of the story.  Howe was able to make the transitions smoothly with the past scenes providing emotional support for the characters in the story.  There were a few graphic moments of sexual content and some adult language making this only appropriate for a mature audience.

I picked this up after seeing a favorite author recommended it and I am really glad I did. I really hope there will be more to come from Thea Paris and her rescue missions.  I recommend this book to lovers of suspense thrillers.

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

The Trapped Girl

the-trapped-girlAuthor: Robert Dugoni

Series: Tracy Crosswhite #4

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Release Date: January 24, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

The fourth book in the Tracy Crosswhite series is a must read, top notch thriller with twists at every turn. This is Dugoni at his best!

Tracy Crosswhite finds herself called out when a woman’s body is found submerged in a crab pot in Puget Sound. This is not going to be an easy case.  Before they can do anything else, Tracy and her team must first identify the victim who has gone to great lengths to keep her identity a secret.  This raises the question, who and what was she running from.  Following the evidence the team is lead to believe that their Jane Doe might be a woman who disappeared several months earlier climbing Mt. Rainier with her husband, who was a suspect in her disappearance.  Without a body on the mountain, it was hard to make a case against the husband.  All this hits close to home with Tracy as she remembers the disappearance of her sister and how that case consumed her life.  Each clue brings about another one that conflicts with the previous, making the investigation that much harder.  Tracy is more determined than ever to find the truth of what happened and is determined not to let anything get in her way.

Robert Dugoni is now one of my top favorite authors with the Tracy Crosswhite novels as one of my most recommended series. The first in the series is my favorite, but The Trapped Girl gives it a run for its money.  This story goes back and forth at times between Tracy and what is happening with her and then to Andrea Strickland, the woman they think they found dead.  This can sometimes be confusing but Dugoni has found a way to write both scenes without losing the reader at any point.  These are the stories I love to sit down and devour in one siting if I have the time. With two boys at home it took me a few days to read but I loved every page.  I’m can definitely say that a Dugoni novel has never bored me and a Tracy Crosswhite novel keeps me up well into the night. Dugoni has found a way to write characters that are easily likable (Tracy), and characters that you can’t help but despise, (Nolasco, Fields).  I really hope this isn’t the last in the series.  There is so much more I could see happening with Tracy and the squad.  Her relationship with Dan is continuing to pay out nicely and the rest of the squad has developed a dynamic that is hard to find in other books.  I know it is early in the year but I feel certain I can say this will be in my best of the year list, it will be hard for another book to top this one.  I can’t say that this is the best in the series, the first one is one of my top books of all time and that’s just hard to beat.  But this one is a very close second.  The way I know a book is one of the best, like My Sister’s Grave, is several years later I can think about that book and recall most of it.  Many of the books I read fade from my memory within the next year.  I am sure The Trapped Girl will stick around and be one I recommend for a long time.

I highly recommend this book to anyone that loves a story that keeps you on the edge of your seat guessing at what is going to happen next. There is some mild language that may not be suitable for young readers.

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

Purgatory Road


purgatory-roadAuthor: Samuel Parker

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: January 3, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A dark and twisted tale of survival in a remote part of the country where there is more to fear than you can imagine.

Jack and Laura are on a little vacation in Las Vegas to try and spark something back into their relationship. Jack wants a day out of the city so they set off on an adventure that turns into more than they can handle.  On a road in the middle of nowhere, the car breaks down and leaves them stranded in the desert.  As the hours pass and their supplies dwindle, they begin to wonder if anyone will come down the road to rescue them.  Rescue does come, but not in the form they would expect.  A desert hermit stumbles upon them and takes them back to his trailer further into the desert.  They are grateful for the help, but soon realize he isn’t helping them get home.  One night the hermit comes back with a kidnapped girl he found in a cave.  It doesn’t take long for Jack and Laura to realize that their vacation has turned into a nightmare.  Jack wants to go for help as it might be their only way to survive.  What he doesn’t realize is by leaving Laura alone the kidnapper has an opening to get back what was taken from him and more.

Purgatory Road is a gripping tale of what can happen when we take what we have for granted and to be aware of those around us.  Jack doesn’t think or seem to really care about his wife very much anymore.  It takes going through a terrifying ordeal for him to realize how much he needs to be there for her and what he needs to do to be the husband she needs. Boots, the hermit, was a very interesting character.  He was there to help but in his own special way.  Seth was like the little devil on your shoulder pushing people down the wrong path.  The way Parker wove these characters together made the story a riveting tale that was hard to put down.  This is the kind of novel that could easily be read in a single sitting.  I had a hard time liking Jack till the very end, but I think that is the way Parker intended it.  He’s not very likeable until he realizes the changes he needs to make.  I liked that Laura and Jack had these issues they needed to work through and the way the story made them do it.  Life can be tough plain and simple.  When you throw in the worst humanity has to offer, it can be too much for some without having a little faith to survive.  I recommend this to those looking for answers to some difficult questions and want a gripping tale to help them along the way.

If this sounds interesting to you, click here to purchase from Amazon.

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

The Chemist

the-chemistAuthor: Stephenie Meyer

Publisher: Little Brown & Co.

Release Date: November 8, 2016

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A surprisingly good read that keeps you guessing and rooting for the characters survival.

After being on the run for three years trying to stay alive, Juliana must do one more job to clear her name. Juliana might be her real name but it’s not one she has gone by in the last three years. She has had to change her identity several times over the years to stay hidden.  She used to work for the U.S. Government, not something many ever knew.  She was the one they called on as a last resort to get information needed.  She liked to refer to herself as The Chemist.  In order to get secrets out of even the hardest to break, all she had to do was administer a few chemicals and wait for them to do their magic.  When she saw something she wasn’t supposed to see, she became a liability.  They want her dead.  Then she gets a cryptic email from her former handler, one last job to clear her name and ensure her safety.  She thinks it is too good to be true but has to find out more.  When she has the subject in a safe place and begins the process of extracting information, she quickly finds out that she was not given all the details.  It doesn’t take long for her to realize she has even fewer choices than she did before coming out of hiding and her life is now in more danger than ever.  Without knowing who to trust, she ends up forming an alliance with an unlikely partner in order to ensure both their safety and survival.

I’ll admit, I was a little skeptical when starting this. I read the Twilight series almost ten years ago and really enjoyed.  Now, as I look back at them after having read many, many more books, I feel they could have been written better.  But Stephanie Meyer was a first time writer at that point and even if they were not written as well as others out there, they sold like crazy so it really doesn’t matter.  A decade later, I am pleased to say Meyer’s writing has greatly improved.  I found The Chemist an overall improvement.  At times it did seem to drag a smidge and it could probably stand to cut close to a hundred pages and make the story flow better.  If you were to take out some of the unnecessary fluff, it would be a top notch thriller.  With that being said, I did enjoy this much more than anticipated.  The tension at the end, where it mattered most was delivered beautifully.  These characters had some real spunk to them.  The main character did get a bit confusing at times with the name changes but wasn’t too difficult to follow.  If this is an avenue that Meyer plans to continue writing down I see a bright future for her and an audience ready to read whatever she puts on the shelf.