Escape from the Everglades

Author: Tim Shoemaker

Series: High Water #1

Publisher: Focus on the Family

Release Date: July 6, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A fantastic thriller for young adults that is fierce, gripping, and full of more suspense and less fluff, making for a wonderful read!

Parker Buckman is the son of a park ranger stationed in the Everglades, a place full of danger both in the water and out of it. When Parker ends up mauled by an alligator and almost dies, he can’t help but see it as a place full of death. The only thing he wants is to get out while he still has a chance. His dad puts in for a transfer, but before they can leave, a friend goes missing.  Parker knows can’t leave until he helps find her. Together with his friends, they search high and low throughout the Everglades and discover alligators aren’t the only monsters they are facing.

The first thing I have to say about this book is WOW!! There was so much suspense and action I felt like I was getting a workout as my heart rate got high at times. I loved the action and suspense, especially for a young adult. The next thing that made it such a great read for me was the fact that it was clean, there was no language, it never got too graphic and I will feel completely comfortable letting my eleven-year-old son read this one. So many young adult novels out there are filled with content that I just don’t feel comfortable exposing my kids to. I am grateful for authors that have figured out how to write a great thriller for young adults without filling it with language or content I wouldn’t approve of them reading. This was definitely an adventurous read with the alligator attacks and drama on land. Both boys and girls will love this one I believe, something there for everyone to enjoy. I recommend this to readers that enjoy a high suspense read with very little fluff to fill the pages, great characters and a storyline that is riveting.

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

The Box in the Woods

Author: Maureen Johnson

Series: Truly Devious Mystery #4

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

Release Date: June 15, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A fantastic YA thriller that kept me enthralled in the story and unable to put it down!

Stevie Bell needs a good mystery. She helped catch a killer at her high school and now she feels lost with nothing to do having to live a normal, boring life. Then, she gets a message from the new owner of Sunny Pines, formally called Camp Wonder Falls, where there is an unsolved case from decades ago. The Box in the Woods Murders, four camp counselors were killed in the woods and their bodies left on display outside Barlow Corners. The new owner of the camp wants the mystery solved and brings in Stevie to help. Stevie is curious about the case and agrees to come if she can bring some of her friends. As they arrive at the camp and start investigating, it quickly becomes clear that someone doesn’t want them there. The more they investigate things, the more danger they are in and this just might be the case Stevie doesn’t make it out alive from.

First off, I did not realize this was the fourth in a series when I started this book, I didn’t even realize it until I finished. That being said, I was fully able to enjoy this story without having read the first three in the series. The characters were fun, witty, interesting, and full of vigor that kept me glued to the page. They were like a modern-day Scooby gang solving mysteries together. Even though Stevie is young, it wasn’t hard for me to believe her and the way she went about solving the crimes. She found clues that no one else was able to find and put them all together just like the pieces of a puzzle. After reading it, I am dying to go back and read the first in the series and see where it all started and how these characters came together. The story had a great flow to it and tension at all the right spots. The back and forth timelines can sometimes throw things off and take readers out of the story, but here it brought the story to a whole new level. This was my first time reading a book by Maureen Johnson, but it definitely won’t be my last. I recommend this to readers that love a good mystery and having it solved in just the right way.

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

The North Face of the Heart

Author: Dolores Redondo

Publisher: Amazon Crossing Publishing

Release Date: June 1, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

An intense and well-fashioned thriller with lots of twists and turns until the very end.

Amaaia Salazar has been working as a detective in northern Spain using her unique skill set to solve crimes. Now, she finds herself with a group of trainees at the FBI Academy in Virginia. Amaia is assigned to work with FBI agent Aloisius Dupree, who is very familiar with her skills and way of understanding evil using her intuition. They are searching for a serial killer known as “the Composer,” and Dupree is looking to solve another case that has evaded him for years. The Composer sends them on a search from New Jersey to Oklahoma to Texas over years that coincides with natural disasters. The latest natural disaster, Hurricane Katrina, sends them to New Orleans where the destruction is worse than ever and the body count climbs higher and higher. As Amaia works to figure out little clues to bring the Composer to justice, ghosts from her childhood reemerge making the case hit closer to home and causing her to question everything she’s ever known.

The North Face of the Heart is a great suspense thriller with a lot of depth to it. The story is not one you can rush through, lots of depth to the characters and mysteries they are trying to solve. All of that made for a great story; for me though, the hardest part to get past was the head hopping. It’s common to have different characters points of views throughout a book but it is supposed to be one point of view at time. Here there were several instances readers would be in one character’s head and what they were feeling and thinking and the very next paragraph would be a different character’s point of view. At first it was very confusing and hard to tell who’s head I was in and then it would switch. For me this is a problem because it took me out of the story, I would be reading along and then have to stop to figure this out, I couldn’t just keep reading, I had to go back and reread to figure out what was happening. If there was a break in paragraphs to show it was changing, that would have helped but that wasn’t the case. Overall, it was a great story if the writing had been cleaner. Now, this book was written and then translated so some of it could have been lost in translation. I would recommend this book to readers that enjoy a good mystery that is detailed and full of twists that will keep them guessing.

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

The Letter Keeper

Author: Charles Martin

Series: Murphy Shepherd #2

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: June 8, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

If the first book in the series didn’t draw you in, this one is a sure bet!

Murphy Shepherd always leaves the ninety-nine behind to search for the one.  The one that no one else could find that’s being trafficked.  And he’s made a lot of enemies along the way that would love nothing more than to silence the man who has destroyed their profits once and for all.  Unfortunately, someone has found the ability to do just that and not only have they destroyed his beloved island, they have captured his new wife and teenage daughters.  Murphy must race against time with the tables turned on him to find his family before they meet a fate worse than death.

So, if you loved the rough, tough persona of Murphy Shepherd created during in The Water Keeper then you are in for a treat in this new book.  There is not as much action as the first book, but readers get to see the man behind the persona and really begin to understand who he is.  From childhood to university to how he become involved in this line of work.  In addition to all of this, readers get to know some of the supporting characters better including Bones and his daughter Ellie.  One of the most surprising elements of the book was developing the story of Casey, who was found at the end of the first book.  She develops into such a beautiful, yet fierce, character with some unexpected twist and turns along the way.

If you thought the first book mirror the move Taken, this was makes you think it will be like Taken 2, but it is much more than that.  Grab a copy 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.

Sticks and Stone

Author: David James Warren

Series: The True Lies of Rembrandt Stone #3

Publisher: Tristone Media

Release Date: June 1, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The third installment of The True Lies of Rembrandt Stone is just as good, if not better, than the first two. The worst thing about this series is finishing one book and having to wait for the next! Such a fantastic fun series that I can’t get enough of! Don’t miss this epic adventure!

If there is one thing Rembrant Stone has learned, it’s this: messing with time is not easy and has a ripple effect no one could see coming. This is the third time he has used the watch given to him by his mentor to go back in time and try and change the past to correct the future, his future. Now, his closest friendship is no more, Andrew Burke is not the man he once knew, and he goes back to try and save him without messing anything else up. As he arrives in the past, he is not only trying to save his best friend, he is also trying to stop a serial killer and save two children that have gone missing in the middle of a Minneapolis blizzard. With lives at stake and a future he can live with and be happy in, Stone races time to do the impossible once more.

With the third installment of the Rembrandt Stone series at my fingertips I have found myself more and more enthralled with these characters and their stories. A perfect length, I finished in a day and found myself craving more, just as I have with the finish of each in the series. The combination of Susan May Warren, James Rubart and David Warren is, without a doubt, one of the best groupings I have ever read. They have a way of crafting a story that is unputdownable, engaging, intense, exciting, and so much more. All the characters have me invested in their lives and if they are going to end up with their happily ever after. Everything I have ever read by Warren and Rubart has left me so satisfied and in that happy book hangover. Such great writing brought together to make a fantastic story and series.

Each book has a cliffhanger ending that leaves you thirsting for more and Sticks and Stones is no different. I loved the softer side of Rembrandt in this one along with the deeper look into some of the secondary characters. I have no clue what is going to happen with the rest of the series, but I know for certain I will be along for the ride.  I recommend this book to readers that enjoy time travel and suspense thrillers and don’t mind staying up way too late to read.

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

The Perfect Couple

Author: Jackie Kabler

Publisher: One More Chapter

Release Date: May 4, 2021

Rating: 3 out of 5.

A domestic thriller with so many twists and thrills it will be hard to turn the lights out and go to sleep at night.

It’s been a year since Gemma met and married the love of her life, Danny and she feels like they have the perfect life. One night as she returns from a business trip and expects to find her husband waiting for her, she comes home to an empty house. Gemma goes to the police and discovers there is a serial killer on the lose and Danny might be the latest victim. All the victims look like Danny and even though Gemma and Danny moved to their new house weeks ago, no one remembers seeing him, only her. It doesn’t take long for the police to look at Gemma as the prime suspect in the disappearance of her husband, which also connects her to the other murders. With each new clue, the police and Gemma race to figure out the truth before anyone else dies.

An excellent premise with lots of twists and turns that just fell a little shorter than I would have liked. For me, it was a bit long winded and could have been cut down by at least a third if so many of the details were not repeated multiple times. Being set in the UK it can be hard to follow at times, which can slow the story down. I thought I had it figured out at several moments and then would be a little surprised by a twist, but that would be too little too late to keep me enthralled in the story. The start was interesting with just enough twists throughout to keep me turning the pages, but the excitement died shortly into the book. Several of the secondary characters could have been cut completely and not hurt the story at all. The main point of view is Gemma but readers do go back and forth with some of the detectives that gave a little bit better view of the story. I think this book will really appeal to fans of suspense that are set in the UK with lots of detail throughout.

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

Play Dead

Author: Ted Dekker

Publisher: Scripturo Publishing

Release Date: April 23, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Play Dead is classic Ted Dekker! Fans of his work will love his newest thriller and get lost in the pages as so often happens with a Dekker novel.

Play Dead takes place in the near future where technology and virtual reality have taken over the world, making it difficult to tell what is real and what is virtual. Angie Channing is an author known for her work dealing with Virtual Reality programs and the dangers they can pose to everyone. What no one knows, is Angie is a closet “Dead Head,” and has been deep diving into the world of Virtual Reality for a very long time. After two Austin teens are brutally murdered, Angie gets a letter from one of them two days later saying they have information that is very sensitive and she knows she has to get involved in the case. Her husband is a lawyer and together they set out to prove the innocence of Jamie, the young man arrested for the murders. So much more is at stake than just the murders and Angie will have to dive deeper into the world of VR than ever before to get to the bottom of he real problem and help save them all.

When Ted Dekker is involved, you fall into one of two categories: you love his writing or you don’t. There really is no in between. I have been a Dekker fan for over a decade. His writing is really like no one else. There should be a genre just for him, it’s not suspense, it’s not romance or thriller, its Dekker! It has been a long time since we have had a true Dekker suspense novel and this one is classic Dekker. What that means is you are getting a top-notch thriller with a deep message about Virtual Reality, what awaits us in this life and the afterlife, and maybe even a little more. It is not a story you can skip through and casually read, this is a book that needs to be read slowly and absorbed deeply. A lot of what happens within Play Dead reminds me of the Circle series. To me, most of Ted Dekker books are the same in certain ways, which is a good thing and a bad thing. It makes some of the writing predictable, same story, different characters, but readers also get a new way of looking at things. I always love a new Dekker novel because it is a perfect escape from reality, just like what he is talking about in the pages of Play Dead with the virtual reality and how it affects people in so many ways. We use these escapes in books and VR to give us pleasure and satisfaction we otherwise are missing. So, if you are looking for a great story with a deep meaning you can ponder on long after the story is finished then Dive Deep with Play Dead and enjoy the thrill!

Her Last Holiday

Author: C. L. Taylor

Publisher: Avon Publishers

Release Date: April 27, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A complex thriller with a killer twist and characters that have all the right moves at all the right times!

It has been two years since Fran’s sister, Jenna, disappeared after attending a wellness retreat. The family hasn’t been close for a while, but they still want to know what happened to Jenna. Tom Wade, the founder of Soul Shrink Retreats, the same retreat Jenna disappeared on, has just been released from prison after serving a sentence for the deaths of two others that died on the same retreat as Jenna. Tom sets up another retreat and Fran decides the only way to get answers about what happened to her sister is to confront one of the last people to see her alive. The longer she is at the retreat the more questions Fran has and the more she fears she might end up just like Jenna.

This was my first C.L. Taylor book and I am torn as falls in the middle of the pack of what I’ve read this year. It is well written and has lots of great twists and turns. Readers will need to be aware that this is not set in America and some of the lingo and characters might be confusing at times. With that aside, I will say that the suspense and tension of the novel was spot on. So many times, I was really concerned for what might have happened to Jenna or was about to happen to one of the other characters that I couldn’t put the book down. Lots of language and mature themes throughout which was a turn off for me at points. I’m not saying I can’t handle a book with language and mature themes, but it must be done in such a way that helps the story and doesn’t take me out of it. Fran is a good bit older than Jenna and that makes their relationship tense at times but also gives her the big sister drive of wanting to know what happened to her sister and make sure it doesn’t happen to anyone else again. There is a lot of back and forth between timelines and different characters point of views. The different point of views helps give the story a wider range making it easier to follow. A few errors in the writing that wasn’t consistent throughout that bugged me but that was more towards the end of the novel. Readers that enjoy a good thriller and don’t mind a little language will enjoy this one.

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

The Paris Betrayal

Author: James R. Hannibal

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: May 4, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A fast action, spy thriller that had me hooked and my heart racing until the final chapter!

Ben Calix has his world turned upside down after his latest mission with the Company goes wrong. For many years, Ben has been lived and breathed the world of being a spy, and now, everything he has ever known is falling apart around him and his life is in more danger than ever before. The French SWAT is coming for him and Ben is now branded a traitor by his Company and on the run with a woman he barely knows, help from a sniper who tried to kill him, a medic who has saved him over and over, and others he only hopes he can trust. His mission now is to stop a bioweapon from being unleashed and prove he is no traitor.

The first James Hannibal books I read were good but still left me scratching my head with questions about the story. The Paris Betrayal is fast paced action with a much more satisfying feeling. The first ten chapters or so left me a little confused and wondering what was happening, but after that, the story kept a nice pace and was easy to follow. By the final few chapters, I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough to find out what was going to happen.

Ben had complicated relationships and that only made him more relatable to me. I enjoyed watching his journey unfold and the way he went about solving each new problem set before him. His interactions with others, whether they were on his side or against him, played out nicely, especially when you thought he was at the end of his rope. The end of the story unfolded more is to come and I can’t wait to see what else is in store for us with The Company and Ben Calix. Hopefully, Clara, Tess and more will be back to help him with is next mission. I recommend this book to anyone that loves a good spy thriller that is clean with lots of action, a little bit of romance, and a whole lot more to enjoy.

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

In Her Tracks

Author: Robert Dugoni

Series: Tracy Crosswhite #8

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Release Date: April 20, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Robert Dugoni is at his finest when writing a Tracy Crosswhite novel! The newest addition in this fantastic series comes close to the first installment in terms of being my favorite! Fans of the series, and thrillers in general, will not want to miss this one!

Tracy Crosswhite is returning to work after an extended leave in her hometown of Cedar Grove and now finds her spot with the A team gone as she is reassigned to the cold case unit. With her young daughter at home, Tracy considers the new assignment a good fit with less hectic hours and a chance to solve some of the cases others have forgotten about. Her first case is an abduction of a five-year-old girl whose parents, going through a bitter divorce, are the prime suspects. The case is five years old and Tracy is ready to give it fresh eyes and see if she can find the clues that have evaded everyone else. Along with her cold case, Tracy ends up helping her old partner, Kinsington Rowe, with the investigation into a missing young woman. The search leads them to others missing and Tracy has flashbacks to the case that made her chose the path she has been on for over twenty years: her sister’s disappearance and murder. Tracy must follow her instincts to try and solve the case and not lose herself in the process.

Tracy Crosswhite is one of my very favorite series and favorite characters. I absolutely love the way Dugoni has crafted the character of Tracy and every one of the supporting characters. In Her Tracks is a fantastic new addition to the series as I found myself drawn to the cases Tracy was investigating. With her now being a mother, she has a new and different connection to the cases she works.  Of course, there is still the wonderful dynamic between her and Kinsington and the tension between her and their boss, Johnny Nolasco, which drives the story even deeper into the readers hearts. Dugoni is one of the very best when it comes to writing suspense; he has found a way to craft a story that pulls readers in and makes it hard to do anything but finish the story. That’s what always happens with a Robert Dugoni book, you pick it up and you are transported to the world of his imagination and it is a fabulous get away of fictional delight.

I recommend this book to anyone that loves suspense, action, drama, and so much more. If you haven’t read any of the previous Crosswhite books, you can still enjoy this one but not as much as if you start with the beginning of the series and see it all the way through.

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