The Girl Beneath the Sea

girl beneathAuthor: Andrew Mayne

Series: Underwater Investigation Unit #1

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Release Date: May 1, 2020

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

With quick, witty characters and an ending that left me thirsting for more, I can’t wait to see what adventures await in the future for this group of characters!

Sloan McPherson has worked hard to overcome her family’s past as underwater treasure hunters and scammers. Even so, she hasn’t strayed far from the water and works for the police as a diver to recover evidence. While on a dive to find artifacts for her professor at the university where she is studying, she recovers a body dropped in the water while she is diving. When it is discovered she knows the dead woman and could unknowingly be connected to what happens, her colleagues are suspicious of her and keep an eye on her every move, along with the killer. While under watchful eyes, Sloan must turn to the only ally she can think of, the DEA agent who put her uncle in jail who she has loathed ever since. As they work together to uncover facts, it becomes clear that this goes deeper than either of them could have imagined. If they don’t discover the truth quickly, they might not make it to the surface before they run out of air.

Underwater Investigation Unit, also known as legal pirates, is such a great concept for this book. I loved Sloan and her desire to be more than what everyone saw her as because of her family’s past. She worked hard to show she is more than a scammer like her father and uncle, and even though she doesn’t want to see her father in that way, it’s what it is. But when she needs his help most, her father proves he loves her more than a treasure and wants to do right by her. The dynamic between Sloan and each of the other characters is crafted perfectly, her attitude switches between her father and her new partner, and again between her daughter and her ex. There is plenty of danger throughout and Sloan uses all she has learned to keep herself and those around her safe. I felt each moment she was being chased and with each terrifying heartbeat she has in danger, I felt it right there in the moment. I love when I can feel those moments while reading, it is rare and a beautiful thing while engaging in a story. One thing to note is that this story does have a fair bit of language that is not suitable for young readers and is intended for a mature audience. Readers that enjoy an engaging, dynamic, and entertaining story will not want to miss this one. I recommend The Girl Beneath the Sea to fans of thrillers and if you haven’t ever read anything by Andrew Mayne I recommend starting right here.

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

Airborne

airborneAuthor: DiAnn Mills

Publisher: Tyndale House

Release Date: April 28, 2020

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A timely novel about a virus outbreak on a plane that threatens the lives of all aboard and puts the country on the edge of a terrorism outbreak. DiAnn Mills has outdone herself in her latest novel that readers will not want to miss!

FBI Agent Heather Lawrence has needed a vacation for a long time and when her marriage falls apart, she decides to take the vacation they never did. Only a few hours into her flight, she is awakened by a scream for help. Passengers begin showing signs of an unknown infection that spreads quickly and proves to be deadly. By the time the flight lands in New York, the passengers are quarantined at either a hospital for the sick or a secure facility for the ones showing no symptoms. Even though Heather and her husband are separated, she hasn’t wanted to tell him she is pregnant after he left her and said he never wanted to be a father since it would interfere with his medical aspirations. Dr. Chad Lawrence has tried his hardest to put everything he has into finding cures for horrific illnesses and now finds himself the prime suspect in this attack. Heather must decide if Chad is capable of something like this or if the man she married could really have changed so much and put her life in danger along with so many others. Time is not on her side as she searches to find the killer before anyone else falls ill.

DiAnn Mills has outdone herself. Airborne is by far the best book Mills has written and one of the very best I have read all year. It has been an incredibly long time since I have been sucked into the pages of a book unable to put it down until the final pages were finished. The first third of the book flew by as fast as if I were on the plane myself flying across the country. The middle took a little longer but only because I was concentrating so hard to figure out who the villain was. The research for this book shows on every page and the best part about it all is the fact that it isn’t boring. Detailed subject matter such as this it can get to be over the head of many readers with the small points that would turn it into a science class causing readers eyes would glaze over. Not here! DiAnn Mills kept me glued to the story with a vested interest in each of the characters, even the ones that didn’t have a lot of time in the story. I haven’t been so enthralled in a story in a very long time and love the way this one played out. I hate to even classify this one as romantic suspense because the romance played such a small part; this doesn’t need a classification in a genre, it is just a GOOD book to read and enjoy. Good luck to all other authors beating this one for my best of the year. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a great read that will keep them on the edge of their seat and satisfied as the last page turns.

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

The Book of Lost Friends

Book of lost friendsAuthor: Lisa Wingate

Publisher: Ballantine

Release Date: April 7, 2020

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Wingate again brings history to life with a tale based on real world events that will reconnect people!

Louisiana in 1875 is in the full swing of post-civil war reconstruction. Hannie Gossett is now a free colored woman, but with no place to go she remained on the Gossett Grove planation and entered into a share cropping contract with the master of the planation. But when he goes to Texas to bring back his troublesome son, it is believed that he has been felled by some ill luck and perhaps dead. One night, the half-breed creole daughter of the master’s mistress shows up to seek her inheritance. When his rightful daughter, Missy Lavina, and her half-sister, Juneau Jane set off to find out the truth about his will, Hannie knows that she must tag along to find out the truth so that she can keep her share cropping land. She could never have imagined this trip would have spanned across half of Texas and introduced her to more truth than she had ever known.

In 1987, Benny Silva has taken a teaching job in Augustine, Louisiana to assist in forgiveness on her student loan. The first day in class she learns the truth about this school, no one really cares. She is just a babysitter for a group of kids between the bells. Almost all the kids are from impoverished families and many don’t have enough food to eat. When a guest speaker spurs the movement of a project in her classroom that excites her kids, things start to take a turn for the better, until members of the community that don’t want things to change get involved. Benny decides that she will do whatever it takes to get her kids to improve their learning and participation at school, even if it cost her the job.

I love how Lisa Wingate can connect the past and present (or at least closer to the present in this case) with a book. The Book of Lost Friends centers on the Lost Friends column that was published in Southern newspapers that reconnected families separated by slavery. Several of the actual stories are shared throughout the book in-between chapters. Both stories were powerful. Hannie become the matriarch of the town of Augustine, but not before a lifetime of adventure that developed the book. Benny was able to connect seemingly worthless kids to their past ancestors and give them hope for the future. I’m not sure which story that I enjoyed better. As always, her research on the time period is spot on. I enjoyed reading about the Texas hill country during this time period with references to present day Menard and Fort McKavett.

I hope that as many readers as possible will enjoy this book as with her previous.

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

The Jerusalem Assassin

jerusalem assassinAuthor: Joel C. Rosenberg

Series: Marcus Ryker #3

Publisher: Tyndale

Release Date: March 17, 2020

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Marcus Ryker is back in another thrilling, action-packed novel that is sure to keep readers turning the pages!

Marcus Ryker has led anything but a normal life. He spent years in the secret service protecting the president. He was an accomplice for the assassination of the Russian president. He helped stop North Korean warheads from being deployed by the Iranians in the South China sea. Shouldn’t he take a break? Apparently not. As part of his deal to be allowed back into the US after the Russia incident, Marcus now works for the state department. President Andrew Clarke is set on starting a middle eastern peace summit in Jerusalem and Marcus couldn’t disagree more, but no one wants his opinion. He is placed on an advance team to promote the message to Muslim leaders prior to the president’s arrival. But a new terrorist organization known as Kairos is beginning to strike fear into the world. They take out one of the top leaders in a church shooting in Washington DC and then astound intelligence agencies when they manage to detonate a body cavity bomb on the steps of 10 Downing street. With time working against him, Marcus must work to find out who is behind this new organization before the world ends.

This has become one of my favorite series by Rosenberg. Each series has a unique set of characters with a very flawed protagonist who takes on multiple antagonists across several books. Marcus has had his share of trials and tribulations. Everyone around him seems to die including members of his own family. He perseveres through each trial, but he has to have help from friends and family. This book centered almost exclusively on Marcus the entire time. The previous two books had some other characters fleshed out more, but this one is mostly continued development on Marcus. I feel like there may be a fourth book based on the portion with the Russians in the earlier part of the book. At least I hope so!

I like that Marcus has a strong faith in this book. I also like that his character grows to realize that his life may finally be worth living after the death of his wife and son from the previous books. I hated that some of the characters from the previous books were killed off, but that is what keeps the momentum moving in the right direction with this type of book. It is good that there is a current events thriller series that is clean and fun to read at the same time.

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

Becoming the Next Great Generation

Becoming the next generationAuthor: Jonathan Catherman

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: March 17, 2020

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A guide to assist young adults into true leaders!

Many teens and young adults find themselves frustrated with older generations. Many of these individuals want to become leaders and are seeking the opportunity to influence not only their generation, but previous ones as well. The problem is that there is a difference between the generations in communication and experiences. Jonathan Catherman has written a delightful book to help the members of the young generation understand how to overcome those differences. He works to explain the experiences of the older generations and the obstacles that they had to overcome. Catherman does a great job tailoring his book presentation to the intended audience. Many should feel lead to accept the challenge to overcome obstacles and take the reins as the next great generation.

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

Guiding the Next Great Generation

Guiding the next generationAuthor: Jonathan Catherman

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: March 17, 2020

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A guide to assist today’s leaders to transition the reins to true leaders of the next generation!

Doesn’t every generation feel that the next generation is going to be a failure? Or at least that is what I have heard. Yet somehow we always seem to continue down the path. It’s easy to look at the upcoming generation and become worried about what is going to happen in the future. Why passively worry about it when we can actively do something? Jonathan Catherman has given us a simple guide of some thoughts on how we can help young individuals become reader to transition into people of influence. This is a great book for parents, teachers, Sunday school teachers, and workplace leaders. Drawing on real world examples, Catherman shows how this has been overcome in the past and will continue to do so in the future.

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

Starfish Pier

starfishAuthor: Irene Hannon

Series: Hope Harbor #6

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: March 31, 2020

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Another wonderfully written Hope Harbor edition with our favorite characters and more you can’t help but fall in love with!

After moving to Hope Harbor a year ago to reconnect with his brother, Steven Roark left his past as a Delta Force operator and is working as a charter fishing boat captain. During this year, his relationship with his brother hasn’t improved but he has hope that will change. Parts of his past still haunt him and the more he tries to put it behind him the more he finds himself coming face to face with his demons, especially when he runs into first-grade teacher Holly Miller. Holly is trying to help with a fundraiser for the town and asks Steven to donate a fishing expedition. It doesn’t take long for the two of them to feel the sparks for each other and no matter how much they try to deny it, the feelings are real. A problem arises when their pasts come to light and Holly doesn’t know if she can accept some of the decisions Steven has made and let her feelings for him progress.

Hope Harbor is one of the best contemporary Romance series I have read, evident in the fact there are six books in the series so far and each one seems to be better than the previous. I think my favorite thing about the series is Charley and his taco truck. I can’t see any reader not liking Charley. Each new book in the series brings a new set of main characters but also has some of our favorites as secondary characters. Holly and Steven have an interesting dynamic; at first glance you wouldn’t think they would be a good fit, but the longer the story goes it is hard to not see them ending up together. Steven starts out incredibly rough but as the story progresses, we get to see a lighter side to him. He has made mistakes, but he owns up to them and shows that a person can change if they have the right motivation and rely on a higher power for help. Holly has a rough past as well, with her medical issues and trying to convince everyone that she can take care of herself, she has her plate full and isn’t sure how much more she can take from others. It’s a back and forth dialogue between the two and I found the way their relationship was written very satisfying. Even though this is the sixth in the series it could be read by as a standalone. The reader might miss a few things from the previous books that would cause a smile. That being said, I do recommend reading the whole series to get the most enjoyment out of it.

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

Flight Risk

flight riskAuthor: Cara Putman

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: April 7, 2020

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

With sharp characters and a story within the story, Flight Risk is a perfect blend of excitement, adventure, romance and suspense.

Savannah Daniels has had her share of troubles in the past. Her ex-husband left her after going off to war and when he came back, he had a baby with her sister who struggles with substance abuse. Being there for her niece is one of the most important things in her life right now, along with building her law practice. Finding love is one of the last things on her mind, especially after her ex-husband is in an accident and winds up dead.

Jett Glover is a reporter who has been working all his life to get over finding his father dead of suicide by reporting the truth. When he comes across the story of his career, he can’t pass it up and spends months doing research to make sure he comes to the right conclusion. His story is an expose that features a celebrity baseball player and a group of men involved in sex-trafficking; one of the men happens to be Savannah Daniel’s ex-husband. When Jett releases his story, it leads to a chain reaction of events, an airline crashes, the men connected to the sex-trafficking start to mysteriously die, and Savannah’s new clients are implicated in the crash. Together Jett and Savannah work to figure out what is fact and what is fiction with his story and all they have been told before one or both of them wind up dead.

Cara Putman is fantastic at writing romantic suspense. Her main characters as lawyers are totally relatable and easy to cheer for. I particularly enjoyed Savannah and her relationship with her family, it was messy but so real. Even though she doesn’t want reminders of her failed marriage, she also wants nothing more than to be there for her niece who is a shining jewel to her in the chaos of her life. She realizes her sister isn’t the greatest mother, and no matter how much she has tried to help, Savannah realizes she can’t make her sister change if she doesn’t want to. The only thing she can do is be there for her niece and make sure she feels loved. Jett could have been a difficult character to relate to but Putman writes him in a way that even when it is shown that he made a mistake, he tries so hard to make it right you can’t help but cheer him on in the process. Almost every aspect of the story is well thought out and written perfectly except for a few scenes that had me scratching my head by the end of the book as to why they were necessary. I don’t want to say too much about them and give anything away. If you take those out of the equation there is nothing at all for me to complain about. I would recommend this to fans of legal thrillers with a hint of romance, fans of Putman’s previous work will thoroughly enjoy Flight Risk.

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

Thinking Like a Boss

bossAuthor: Kate Crocco

Publisher: Baker Books

Release Date: February 18, 2020

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Are you looking to branch out into a successful business, but don’t feel like you can? Stop listening to those voices and check out this book!

Women are beginning to emerge as successful entrepreneurs all across the country and even the world. Many are feeling the pull to start their own business but are afraid that they don’t have what it takes. Maybe you as a reader fall into that category. Kate Crocco even felt that way and now her business focuses on coaching women to become successful entrepreneurs. If you feel like you can’t do this, then you have at least one lie in your life that is holding you back. Maybe more. Kate outlines twelve common lies that hold women (and many men) back from beginning this journey and steps to overcome them.

I can fully understand where the author is coming from in this book. While not a typical entrepreneur, I used to review with a community blog and circumstances eventually led to me beginning my own blog and when I started it out it was hard. I fell into several of these lies about deciding whether or not to keep it going. Years later, I’m so glad that I did. This book is a great resource even if you are just considering trying something new. I’m glad that Kate put these thoughts into print, and I love that she made it actionable. Having to write things down and make them into commitments really helps to hold yourself accountable.

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

The Successful Speaker

speakerAuthor: Grant Baldwin

Publisher: Baker Books

Release Date: February 18, 2020

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Baldwin delivers some great information for those looking to make speaking a career or just some helpful tips on those looking to speak.

It’s not hard to get a taste of the speaking bug and want more. Once that happens and you realize that this is what you want to do, you need to figure out how to make a career out of it. Unfortunately, many people fail before they ever get their careers off the ground. Grant Baldwin, creator of The Speaker Lab podcast, outlines the steps and guidelines necessary to make the transition from wanting to speak to full fledged career speaker.

Finally, a book that really provides some insight into successful speaking. Not so much on the technique, but on how to be successful getting gigs and booked. There is plenty of material on the method of speaking, so I was glad to find a book that actually helps speakers determine where they want to go. My husband speaks frequently at conferences across the nation as a subject matter expert and I asked him to read the book to get his opinion on it. He agreed with almost all of the concepts this book lays out. He fully agreed that if you want to be asked to speak, you can’t just speak about whatever you want. First you have to find a problem to solve that people are going to want to hear your thought. Then rather than trying to speak about a bunch of different topics, you need to focus on your message and get good at delivery. Then build your brand so that your expertise is recognized.

If you are looking to make a career out of speaking, then this is a great resource for you. It is easy to follow and provides several personal examples from both the author and other speakers.

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