Another Man’s Ground

Another mans groundAuthor: Claire Booth

Series: Sheriff Hank Worth #2

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Release Date: July 2017

Reviewer: Jennifer S. Roman

Sheriff Hank Worth and his friends and family, along with some new characters, are back in Another Man’s Ground.  Just as Hank is in the midst of his campaign to be elected Sheriff, he is called to what seems to be a simple, and almost silly, theft case.  Vern Miles has called Hank because all of the bark has been stripped off his slippery elm trees, and he has been selling the bark to herbalists for its medicinal properties.  Since Vern has inherited the old family homestead, he has been selling the bark to pay the property taxes until he can decide what to do with the property itself.  However, as Hank walks the property to investigate, he comes across someone stuck in a crevice.  It turns out to be an illegal immigrant worker, but additionally, the worker has fallen onto a body.  The forensics tell Hank that the person died at someone else’s hand, so now he has a homicide to contend with.  Using his wits and relying on his faithful team to help him solve the crime, Hank gets more than he bargained for when family secrets come out and a local family dynasty falls.

This is the second in the Hank Worth series, and I have read both.  I really enjoyed the first one for its setting in Branson, MO, not the most typical location for a book.  The scenery and characters speak to me and to many readers because they are regular people.  Hank refuses to be bought and just wants to do his job and spend time with his family.  This second book, I must say, is even better than the first.  The characters are developed more, and are given more opportunities to shine.  The setting this time is summer in a woods, which gives a lot more possibility to crime and excitement.  Having a “good old boy” selling to natural medicine companies is unusual, but that makes the story all the more fun.  Throw in generations of a family that is so feared in the county that nobody will challenge them, let alone investigate them for a crime, and you have the makings of a great read.  As mentioned before, the book is the second of a series, but each could be read alone and appreciated with ease.  My hope is that there will be at least a book three, if not more.  It is refreshing to read a book in which the main character is witty but not out to be a hero and cannot be bought by local politicians.

I highly recommend this book for people who enjoy a good mystery, whether murder or otherwise.  This book has a lot of action and excitement, and even a few twists that keep it interesting until the very last page.  There is some strong profanity that may be offensive to some readers, but it is used sparingly and not unnecessarily.  Otherwise, the story is a great read for mature teens and up.

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

Everything We Left Behind

everything we left behindAuthor: Kerry Lonsdale

Series: Everything We Keep #2

Publisher: Lake Union

Release Date: July 4, 2017

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Filling in the gaps from Everything We Keep. This is a terrific series!

James Donato has just woken up to find himself in a strange room in Mexico with two young boys that speak only Spanish. When they realize that he is only speaking English and appears afraid and confused, they bring him a book full of journals and other information where he discovers that he has been living the last six years of his life as Carlos Dominguez, a talented artist who has two children and his wife died five years ago.  He also discovers that his fiancée Aimee has left him and is now married to someone else and they have a child together.  Crushed, he takes his sons back to California to see his brother Thomas and move into his childhood home when he learns that his other brother Phil is about to be released from prison after he attacked James in Mexico, which is believed to have caused the memory loss.  In an effort to keep his sons safe, James takes them to Hawaii to see his sister-in-law to try to understand what happened during the last five years.

This was a much needed book to finally understand what happened to James to make him Carlos and what happened to Carlos to switch him back to James. The epilogue of Everything We Keep matches the beginning of this book with James suddenly waking up to his alternate reality.  However, we as readers didn’t know what happened during that five-year period.  Now we do.  With an alternating story line between Carlos during the past and James in the present, the pieces begin to fit together and we find that James family is more screwed up than we thought possible.

James uses a lot of harsh language throughout this book, but he is very angry and confused and was believable. I felt that the romance in this book was a little more predictable.  During the previous, it was intense trying to figure out what Aimee was going to do.  However, this one played along really well.  The big question is would James and Raquel be able to find each other again after his switch.  However, I did not guess what was going to happen with Phil.  That was a surprise that I didn’t see coming.  I can’t wait for the next installment.

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

The Man With Two Names

Two NamesAuthor: Vincent B. Davis II

Series: The Setorius Scrolls #1

Publisher: Thirteenth Press

Release Date: June 30, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Can I have the next set of scrolls, please?

These scrolls tell the story of the life of Quintus Setorius, who was a Roman statesman and general during the time of 102 to 72 B.C. This particular book focuses on his early political career that ultimately led to his joining of the Roman military and the base of building his military career.  Based on true events, the book is a fantastic piece of historical fiction that I recommend to readers who enjoy the genre or love the world of Rome, such as I.

The writing is very detailed and may take some readers a few pages to get into, but once you get hooked it wraps up in no time. The character development of Setorius and Lucius are both very well done and believable throughout the book.  Not a lot of scene is set within Rome itself; however, it is described very well on the battlefields.  There is very little language throughout the book, which also made it easier to enjoy.  I found myself enjoying the spark of romance between Setorius and Arrea.  I really hope that it goes deeper in the future volumes.  The only complaint that I have is that it ended with me wanting so much more.  Can I have the next set of scrolls, please?

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

Every Deadly Kiss

Every Deadly KissAuthor: Steven James

Series: The Bowers FIles #2

Publisher: Berkley

Release Date: July 4, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

If you have never read a Steven James novel, I suggest you start now with this one. It will keep you up at night and have you looking twice and double locking the doors.

FBI Special Agent Patrick Bowers is back and ready to solve a series of murders taking place in Detroit. Not only are there murders to be solved, there is also a terrorist plot that is more than a century old making it one of the toughest cases Patrick has ever had to tackle.  When Patrick is called in by his old girlfriend to help on a case, he questions briefly if it will affect his current relationship but tries to convince himself it is just for work and can be kept professional.  When he arrives, he finds a connection between the murders and his former lover.  With the murders continuing and the threat of a bioweapon attack increasing, Patrick finds himself digging deep to solve all the clues before it is too late.

I have been telling people for several years that Steven James is the best there is. The way he can spin a story and keep you on the edge of your seat is better than anyone out there and he is at the top of his game with Every Deadly Kiss.  The amount of time and research he puts into these books shows as you read. This is not the kind of book you can skim and still get everything out of it you need to understand the story.  Every page, paragraph, and sentence is full of information that is vital to the story and the way James gets that information across will keep you on the edge of your seat and up way past bedtime.  With this book set as another prequel to the original Bowers files, it is interesting to see the relationships develop between Patrick and the other key characters that we have grown to love throughout the years.  Patrick still has his quirks and we see them develop more into what they eventually become.  For me, a Steven James novel is always going to be at my “Top of the Year” list.  There is just something about his writing that resonates with me more than almost any other author I read.  Unlike his earlier books, this one has a bit more language and adult content, not a lot compared to what many authors like to put in, but still a little more than I’m used to from him.  With that being said, it completely fit in with the characters and how they would react with something that they would actually say.  That’s what I want, the character to act as they naturally would and every character James writes in his novels fulfills their role. That is an incredible difficult task but one that he pulls off with ease.  I cannot recommend a Steven James novel highly enough and Every Deadly Kiss is no exception.

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

The Gypsy Moth Summer

Gypsy mothAuthor: Julia Fierro

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Release Date: June 6, 2017

Reviewer: Jennifer S. Roman

We all remember those summers of our youth, especially the ones in which we try to appear grown up while trying to fit in with the cool kids.  Maddie Pencott LaRosa tries to do just that the summer of ‘92 on a small island that is overwhelmingly white and divided by social class.  On the West side are the laborers of Grudder Aviation Factory, and on the East are the rich upper crust who run the factory.  Maddie’s mother comes from the East side, but after marrying Maddie’s abusive husband from the West side, they live in a small cottage off her grandparents’ estate with Maddie and her brother Dom.  Maddie wants more than anything to fit in with the rich girls at school, and she finally has an in.  When the prodigal daughter, Leslie Day Marshall moves back “home” after her parents’ deaths, she brings with her a black husband and mixed-race children.  Maddie immediately falls for Leslie’s son, Brooks, and invites him to hang out every night with her new friends.  Trouble starts happening for everyone involved as a historic gypsy moth “plague” invades the island and threatens to remove every bit of green within eyesight.

Told in six different perspectives, the story unfolds as each person brings secrets and revelations to the mix.  Maddie is hiding the fact that her mother is slowly killing herself with pills and alcohol, while her abusive father cheats on her mother.  Brooks, Leslie’s son, is not happy to be away from the city, where he is accepted and well-liked.  He feels uncomfortable around all the white people and is very careful.  Leslie has a mission of social justice now that she has her parents’ money and power.  Jules, Leslie’s black Ivy League-educated husband, is a botanist and works to revive the fabulous gardens at Leslie’s parents’ estate.  He doesn’t understand how Leslie can do the air-kiss socialite party thing when she is so quickly angered by these people’s actions towards the “help,” especially when they think Jules is the help.  Dom, Maddie’s brother, is a bit of an outcast and lives on the fringe of the island.  He drinks whenever he can and suspects he is gay, which makes him feel even worse about himself.  Veronica, Maddie’s grandmother, is hiding her terminal breast cancer diagnosis while keeping track of her dementia-riddled husband Bob, AKA the Colonel, as he wanders their property with a gun in tow.  Veronica has lived her life as a society woman and now realizes how fake her life is, so she vows to make some life-changing decisions that will hopefully benefit her grandchildren before it is too late.

There is so much going on in this 400-page book so I was glad I started it way before this review was due.  It brought back a lot of memories as I also was a teen (albeit a bit older) during the 90s and experienced many of the same world events as these people did.  The characters were appealing and interesting, and while not all were likeable, they were as the author intended.  It was easy to feel empathy for Dom and Maddie living the lives they did, and although at first Veronica was unbearable, she evolved into a person I was rooting for until the very end.  Brooks and Jules were quickly likeable, and one had to feel for them as they entered a very challenging world that would eventually make them miserable.  Each character had good traits and bad ones to make them interesting.

The story itself was interesting, but at times it either plodded along or had so much going on that it was difficult to follow.  For example, without giving away spoilers, first this would happen, then this happened, then something else happened, then another thing happened.  It was almost as if the author could not decide which challenge to throw at the characters, so she threw several of them at her.  Considering the book was long, there were plenty of opportunities to throw some wrenches into the system, yet they all seemed to happen at the end of the book and really didn’t do much for the story.  I did enjoy the overall premise of the book, but again, these wrenches thrown into the system detracted from how great it could have been.  I would have loved to have seen a little bit more focus on Leslie’s family and its story and how it related to her return to the island.  I would still recommend this book to friends, but would let them know my reservations about the second half.

This is a book that touches on a variety of hot topics and therefore contains violence, sex, and foul language.  For this reason, I recommend this book for mature readers.  Fans of coming of age stories, the 1990s, and family dysfunction will enjoy this book.

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

Freedom’s Price

FreedomAuthor: Christine Johnson

Series: Keys of Promise #3

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: June 6, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Can Pirates of the Caribbean characters come to life in an alternate book?  

Catherine Haynes is facing a difficult situation. With both of her parents now deceased, her cousin has taking control of their estate, but must pay a stipend to Catherine until she is wed.  Now he is in a hurry to get her married and sell the estate.  Rather than succumb to his wishes, Catherine decides to take a severance from him and sail to her mother’s homeland of Louisiana to meet the family that doesn’t know she exists.  Along the way, she is shipwrecked on the island of Key West, where she meets dashing Captain Tom Worthington, who may be the only man she has met that can match her wit, which infuriates her more.  Even so, Catherine and Tom find themselves drawn to one another even though each has their own plans.  Would it be better to stay with Tom in Key West or venture to an uncertain future in New Orleans?

This was a fun historical fiction read that had me picturing Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann from Pirates of the Caribbean. Not because of their situation, but because of their personalities.  There was lots of fun, wit, and action throughout the book.  But there were also valuable lessons learned about trust and love.  Johnson did a great job of setting the scene in pre-Civil War New Orleans.  I hadn’t realized that England had already abolished slavery by that time period, so I was happy to get to do some research based on the book.  I also love the Key West area, so anytime I get to go there in my mind is well worth it.

Even though this was the third in the series, it is easily a standalone. I recommend reading it even without a copy of the first two.

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

Under a Summer Sky

Under a summer skyAuthor: Melody Carlson

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: June 6, 2017

Reviewer: Jennifer S. Roman

Melody Carlson brings another sweet yet fun romance to her many readers in Under a Summer Sky: A Savannah Romance.  Nicole Anderson, art teacher in Seattle, is languishing teaching high school students.  She knows her lectures are boring and she is not creating art as she had hoped.  With summer break looming on the horizon, she hopes her summer is quiet and productive.  That is, until her mother shows up unexpectedly at the end of her school day on a Friday.  It turns out that her mother’s friends are taking a summer-long tour around the world, and her mother has recommended that Nicole manage the friends’ art gallery in Savannah while they are gone.

The trip is spur-of-the-moment, and Nicole has no formal training to run an art gallery, but she decides it would be fun.  Besides, her childhood crush, Alex, the son of her parents’ friends, is going to be around as he finalizes his divorce.  She knows she can rely on him to help her with the gallery, and maybe start up a romance.  What Nicole doesn’t expect, however, is that Alex is irresponsible with his teenage daughter Bernice.  Additionally, Amyra, her co-worker at the gallery is a snobbish, rude woman who tries to control Nicole.  To make matters worse, Nicole was told that she would be managing the gallery, not Amyra, but nobody told Amyra that.  Nicole must deal with her frustrated colleague while also trying to keep an eye on Bernice.

As the summer progresses, Nicole manages to sell several pieces of art at the gallery while signing new artists.  She realizes she is good at running the gallery and that she has feelings for Alex’ nerdy brother Ryan instead of Alex.  How this will play out with the boys’ sibling rivalry is anyone’s guess.

True to form, Melody Carlson has written a sweet romance novel set in a beautiful setting.  She brings just the right amount of conflict to make the story interesting while not going overboard.  The characters are likeable and realistic, albeit predictable.  Still, for a summer romance with plenty of southern charm, this book fits the bill.

Readers who take this book for its simple romantic story will enjoy it.  There are not a lot of complex situations or characters, but they are fun and easy to understand.  The romance is not bodice-ripper; rather, it’s the first stage of romance that involves butterflies in the stomach and hand-holding.  It’s a fun read that relies as much on the setting as the characters to tell the story.

This is a charming book that does not contain violence, sex, or foul language.  For this reason, I recommend this book for young adult readers and up.  Fans of Melody Carlson and sweet romances in general will find this book enjoyable.