Chasing Helicity

Chasing HelicityAuthor: Ginger Zee

Series: Chasing Helicity #1

Publisher: Disney Hyperion

Release Date: April 24, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

From Chief Meteorologist Ginger Zee comes a whirlwind of a tale from which young readers will love and learn. 

For as long as she can remember, Helicity has been in awe of the weather. Her name came from her grandmother who passed down her love for all things meteorological. With her brother about to leave for college and her own school work giving her problems, she tries to escape reality by focusing on the weather. One day Helicity is out riding her horse when a tornado hits her town. Her own family, along with most of the community, is devastated by the force of nature. Her father doesn’t understand how she can be fascinated by something so deadly, but Helicity only sees the beauty and knows the more she studies the weather the more help she can be to everyone by being prepared when the next natural disaster strikes.

When it comes to writing is it good to have a good knowledge of the material you are writing about. Ginger Zee comes in full steam ahead with Chasing Helicity and shows she truly is an expert in the field but can also make it interesting and entertaining for young readers. I walked away from reading this with a newfound interest in weather patterns and how to tell what the bad weather might bring. For her first YA novel Ginger Zee did a fantastic job of creating young characters that readers will fall in love with in a story that is thoroughly entertaining. I loved all the characters and the predicaments they found themselves in. Helicity is a strong female lead that isn’t scared to show she’s afraid but also wants to move beyond that fear to help those she cares about. Her family and her friends mean the world to her and when they all find themselves in trouble, Helicity feels her world spinning out of control and is at a loss for what to do until she turns to the one thing she knows, weather. Using her knowledge, she is able to help. I love how Ginger Zee uses Helicity to show it can be cool for young kids to know and have a love for science. The writing is quick without much to slow readers down. I honestly don’t think young readers will have any trouble following along with the science terminology, they might walk away having learned a few things about weather patterns and safety. While there is a slight bit of language I don’t believe it is anything worth staying away from for young readers. I highly recommend this book to young readers that are looking for a fun, entertaining adventure with characters they will easily fall in love with.

Westside

WestsideAuthor: W.M. Akers

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Release Date: May 7, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Funny how tiny mysteries have a way of asserting themselves into bigger problems!

Manhattan Island, New York in 1921.  Things have gone amiss for several years in the Westside of Manhattan.  While the Eastside is prosperous, the Westside has a darkness.  Ten years ago, people started disappearing along with other objects.  In an effort to stop the madness, a thirteen-mile fence was constructed to separate the eastside and westside with guards to man the gates.  Several people left for the eastside, but not everyone.  One of those people is Gilda Carr, a detective who specializes in “tiny mysteries.”  After all, big mysteries just take up too much effort and energy.

While working a case about a missing glove, Gilda becomes witness to murders.  But not just any killings, murders using guns.  But guns have never worked on the westside, so how is it that these weapons work?  Before she knows it, she is wrapped up in the biggest case she could imagine between the two superpowers of the westside.  What is Even more interesting is that everything seems to connect to her late father.  Will this finally answer what truly happened to her father?  Or will it just lead her down another rabbit hole?

I’m not sure what I expected from this book, but I definitely got more than I bargained for.  I really enjoyed the sleuthing aspect of this novel, especially since Gilda didn’t really want to do it.  I bonded with her immediately, even though I’m not really sure why.  Her character was quirky, likeable, and just a bit facetious.   As a reader I couldn’t help feeling compassionate for her.  The dark fantasy of this was interesting too.  There have been a few dark historical fantasy novels involving Manhattan, but this one just seemed different.  My favorite parts of the story is where a tiny mystery would be solved.  It would just pop out of nowhere and reference back to a previous part of the story.  Well done.

There is some strong language throughout the book, so I would not advise this to younger readers.

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

Only Ever Her

Only ever herAuthor: Marybeth Mayhew Whalen

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

Release Date: May 7, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

The wedding of the century for a small South Carolina town becomes a search when the bride goes missing and the suspects are endless. 

Annie Taft has been the town sweetheart ever since her mother was murdered leaving her to be raised by her Aunt. With her wedding in four days, the town has come together to celebrate. Things are going according to plan until Annie disappears. No one knows where she is or what could have happened to her. To make matters worse, the man that was accused of killing her mother has been found innocent after all these years and released from prison right as Annie goes missing. Is he somehow responsible for Annie’s disappearance or once again being falsely accused?

As far as psychological thrillers go this one ranks high for me. There are a lot of characters to keep up with and at times it did get a little confusing, but by the end things tied together in a nice way. I must admit I did not see the little twist at the end coming, very nicely done on that part. I usually see twist coming but that one snuck up on me. The pace of the book was good, at times there seemed a bit much narration, which slowed the pace just a little. The frequent character changes and short chapters were nice to keep things moving. I was a little surprised there wasn’t more with Annie; I know the book is about her disappearance, but I felt a little mislead by the opening with her and how she was portrayed and how it ended. Several of the minor characters really brought the scenes to life and kept the story flowing when I might have been tempted to put it down. But I was glad I kept with it and let the story play out in its entirety. I read this in two days and enjoyed the story, I probably could have finished it in one sitting if life and kids needs hadn’t gotten in the way. I think it is one for readers that enjoy psychological thrillers and a good mystery. There is some adult content so I don’t recommend it for a younger audience, but the adult audience will enjoy the read.

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

On a Summer Tide

summer tideAuthor: Suzanne Woods Fisher

Series: Three Sisters Island #1

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: April 30, 2019

Reviewer: Jennifer S. Roman

Even close families can grow apart during the best of circumstances, and in the case of the Grayson family, it happened during one of the worst times of their lives.  Sisters Camden, Blaine, and Maddie Grayson were close despite their varying personalities, but after the tragic death of their mother, they seemed to grow apart.  Cam adopted her best friend’s son upon her friend’s death and put her business acumen to work in a high-stress job.  Maddie immersed herself in her social work studies, but became distant and unattached from anyone else.  Blaine went to community college but couldn’t decide on a major, so after several years without earning a degree, the school asked her to sit out so she could make some plans about her life.  They all thought their dad was taking things well until he told them out of the blue that he had sold their family home and bought a small island off the coast of Maine.  Thinking he was out of his mind and had gotten in way over his head, the girls take some time off and spend it with him, helping to get the former camp where he and their mother met back into working order.

While there, the Grayson family meets up with some friendly locals, while others are downright hostile.  Some welcome the chance to reinvigorate the island, but some are clearly against it.  As the story progresses and more characters show their true colors, we learn why they have such a problem with change.  Along the way, the sisters each do some soul searching and changing themselves as they finally acknowledge their denial to their mother’s death.

Suzanne Woods Fisher is generally known for her Amish fiction, but in it she always shows the humanity of the characters while they solve some kind of personal conflict.  This story is not about the Amish culture, but it does still stick to the same formula of having complex characters deal with a tough situation.  In this case, it takes until the end of the book to reveal why the mother’s death is such a huge impact on everyone’s life.

I tend to enjoy Suzanne Woods Fisher’s books for her likeable characters and interestingly complex situations.  This book definitely fit the bill, and I was immersed as soon as I picked it up.  It’s a quick and easy read, but the situations definitely stick with the reader long after being done.  I am still dreaming of owning my own island off the coast of Maine because of her ability to bring things to life and make them real.  Having a family member randomly buy such an island is not that common, but the family dynamics and conflicts definitely are, and even in such an idyllic setting, they show how difficult yet beautiful life can be.

The characters were all interesting, and except for the “villains,” likeable.  The scenery is described in such vivid detail that I felt as though I were there.  All in all, I really enjoyed this story and look forward to more in the series.

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

 

Brief Chronicle of Another Stupid Heartbreak

Brief chronicle

Author: Adi Alsaid

Publisher: Inkyard Press

Release Date: April 30, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A story of young love and the heartache that comes along with life lessons of moving on and finding a brighter side to a rough time growing up.

 With high school over and the summer ahead, Lu Charles wants it to be the best summer ever.  Unfortunately, life has other plan when her boyfriend dumps her causing her to have serious writers block for her relationship column. If she doesn’t get past her block and find material for her column at the online magazine Misnomer, she will lose her scholarship for college.  Her best friend thinks she should use the pain of her breakup to fuel her writing, but the emotion is too raw to write about. As she is sulking, she overhears a couple in the park planning to break up before leaving for college. She thinks they could be just the material she needs to write about and get her out of her block.

 This was a fun little book that probably could have been slightly condensed. The angst that Lu felt just didn’t resonate well with me. Her dilemma and heartbreak were real but the way she handled the situation wasn’t the best. The few sections with her writing from her column didn’t interest me, which I felt should have been one of the most interesting parts. However, I did enjoy the relationship dynamic between her and Pete; I wish this part would have been played out much more to enhance the story. I also would have liked to have seen a little more dialogue throughout the story, the sections with dialogue did move quickly and kept me engaged. The story itself was a cute idea and is one I think will resonate with certain readers, if you are not a young adult fan or fan of heartbreak books, this will not be the one for you. I do feel that fans of Sex and the City and the Carrie Bradshaw types will enjoy this read and find the humor in it to be just right.

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

The Refuge

The refugeAuthor: Ann H. Gabhart

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: April 30, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A historical romance showing how hard it can be to not only survive, but also find and make a lasting connection with the right someone in the hardest of times. 

Darcie and Walter Goodwin only want to survive the cholera epidemic ravaging the country.  The only way they see to survive is to join the Shakers who seem to have a way of steering clear of the disease. This is not meant to be a permanent stay, being with the Shakers means they can’t be together as man and wife, this community doesn’t believe in marriage. When Walter is killed in a boating accident and Darcie is left by herself to raise the child she finds growing inside of her, she is left with a difficult decision: does she stay and know that she and her baby will grow and have what they need or leave and find happiness and keep her family together?

I have always been a fan of Ann. H. Gabhart’s romantic suspense writing and wanted to see how the historical romance would compare.  Normally I am much more of a fan of suspense but have to say The Refuge was an enjoyable read with characters that made me feel for what they were going through and cheer for their small victories.  I thought that Gabhart did a very nice job showing the difficulties these characters went through with the illnesses ravaging the country and the lack of modern technology and medicines we have today to help with such matters. When you have to spend your time just being about to provide to live there doesn’t leave much time to find love. Men and women being together is more of a convenience of what each can do for the other instead of finding a true love and having to fight to be together. One thing about it though, marriage was not taken as lightly as it is today with the divorce rate so high, back then if you got married it was till death do you part. I liked the way that was mentioned so many times, it is something you must work at and not just throw away when you feel like it. Each of these characters had a responsibility and work they had to keep up with to keep the community running, it showed a great work ethic on their parts and is something that is lacking in today’s society. I think fans of historical romance will really enjoy this read.

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

By Invitation Only

By invitation only

Author: Dorothea Benton Frank

Publisher: William Morrow

Release Date: May 15, 2018

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A story of two families coming together and the hardships and blessings they face showing how love can be a beautiful and even brutal thing sometimes.

 When Diane English Stiftel finds out her son is engaged she plans a party to celebrate. She invites him, his fiancé and her family to the low country of South Carolina to their farm. Her brother Floyd and her parents help plan the celebration. When the bride-to-be and her family arrive, they see that they are marrying into a family completely different than their own. Susan Kennedy Cambria, the mother of the bride, has lived a very privileged life. Her husband Alejandro Cambria, a wealthy power broker in Chicago, has spared no expense in their lives and Susan has grown accustomed to this way of living. As the two families clash on money, how their children should live, and correct behavior, the young couple must learn from both sides of the family and see if they can find an outcome that will give them a happily ever after.

 The first part of this book was a little slow for me but once I got about two thirds of the way in I was hooked. The ending is where the tension picked up and made me really care for the characters. Dorothea Benton Frank did an excellent job of making characters I became emotionally connected to. At first, I really despised Susan, as was the author’s intent. Readers will connect with her on several different levels. Her character development is the best in the whole story and the way she evolves was beautifully written.  It’s funny, you might think the story is going to be more about the young couple, which in a way it is, but the focus is more on the mothers of the groom and bride and how this kind of thing can bring families closer together. I have never read anything by Frank before but am glad I decided to pick this one up. There was a great warmth about Diane and her side of the family, the differences between the two families, and how they contrasted with each other was beautifully written. The back and forth point of views between the two characters set a great writing style for this story and worked very well keeping me engaged in the story and turning the page to see what was going to happen next. I recommend this book to fans of southern family dramas with a lot of heart and excellent character development.

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

The Noise of War

The Noise of WarAuthor: Vincent B. Davis II

Series: Scrolls of Sertorius #2

Publisher: Thirteenth Press

Release Date: April 8, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

If you are a fan of ancient Roman history, then you need to get on this series! 

After the massacre of the Roman army by the Cimbri at Arausio, Quintus Sertorius finds that he is not the only survivor.  He lost his brother, 90,000 fellow soldiers, and his own eye, but he still has his good friend Lucius and his lover Arrea.  But such a crushing defeat weighs heavy on a man.  Eventually, he and Lucius discover about a dozen more survivors who Quintus then leads back to the Roman camp now commanded by Marius.  Once they arrive at the camp and begin to recover, Quintus reunites with Marius and meets his new legate Lucius Cornelius Sulla.  They have devised a plan for Quintus to become a spy and infiltrate the Cimbri camp.  Quintus realizes that this is likely suicide, but he feels compelled to accept the mission to avenge his brother and fellow soldiers.  As he embarks on this new quest, will he be able to muster the courage to help save the Republic?  Or is it all for naught anyway?

If you are a fan of ancient Roman history, then you need to get on this series!  Davis has dug up some great history that is not well known to many people, even those of us that frequent Roman history quite a bit.  He has chosen to chronicle out the life of Quintus Sertorius in this series of books.  The first book, The Man with Two Names, is of his early service in politics and joining the legion through the defeat of Arausio.  This new installment picks up where the previous left off and focuses on the continuation of his military service.  This installment also introduces readers to Lucius Cornelius Sulla, who is much more well known throughout history as a consul, and who future books will no doubt clash with as he and Sertorius lead opposite ends in a future civil war.  This book is rich with history of the Battles of Aquae Sextiae and Vercellae.  Sertorius character continues to be developed in this book as he goes from a leader, threw a period of self-pity, to becoming a leader again, who often second guesses himself but displays a brilliant military mind nonetheless.  One of my favorite parts of the first book was the developing relationship between Sertorius and Arrea.  There are aspects of this in the book, but I leave it up to readers to discover what is going on between them.

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

Driftwood Bay

Driftwood bayAuthor: Irene Hannon

Series: Hope Harbor #5

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: April 2, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

The newest installment in the Hope Harbor series brings the best romance yet with characters readers will quickly fall in love with and want to cheer on to the happiest of endings.

Hope Harbor seems to attract the right people at just the right time in their life. When Jeannette Mason needs a new start after losing everyone she has every loved, she retreats to Hope Harbor to start a new life with no intention of getting close to anyone. She feels that if she cuts herself off from everyone, she will keep herself from getting hurt again. Her plan works fine until Dr. Logan West shows up in town with his niece. He never thought he would become a father before he got married, but when his brother died overseas and his mom passes away, he becomes the sole guardian of a little girl he comes to love dearly. Both Jeannette and Logan find themselves in the middle of the town;s effort to help a Syrian family that has fled persecution and come to Hope Harbor. In the midst of helping others, Logan and Jeanette find what they least expected, love for those around them.

I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed Driftwood Bay. I have always enjoyed Irene Hannon’s writing but am usually not as interested in romance as I prefer a little more action. For some reason, this story resonated with me.  I’m not sure if it was the interaction between Logan and Jeannette or the interaction between Logan and his niece. There was something about the way he did all he could to help an innocent child thrown into his life when he least expects it. There is love in his heart that he must let out to take care of her and even let anyone else in. Jeannette has a hard time trusting anyone and it isn’t until near the end that we find out her story and why she likes to keep everyone at arm’s length. I wish that would have been introduced a little sooner, so I could have felt more connected to her without wondering why she refuses to let anyone get close. Other than that, I thought the story flowed great and the characters were written in a way that really made me want to see them succeed. I loved the way Hannon wrote in the Syrian family, I would like to see them develop more in the next book. I love how each book in the series feels like a brand-new start and doesn’t have to be read with the others in the series to be enjoyable. I recommend this to fans of Hannon and those that enjoy a good romantic read.

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

The Eighth Sister

the eighth sister

Author: Robert Dugoni

Series: Charles Jenkins #1

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Release Date: April 9, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Robert Dugoni’s newest series starts off with a stellar story that will hook readers and keep them guessing until the very end. Another well-crafted story by one of the very best.

 Charles Jenkins thought he had left his spy days behind him decades ago. He has a wife, son, and a new baby on the while with his security business is falling apart.  Just when things are at their worst, his past comes back into the present when his former bureau chief shows up with an assignment for him that could save him financially. He must travel to Moscow to find a secret Russian agent supposed to have been killing members of a US spy cell known as the seven sisters. With no other alternative, Charles agrees to the mission and heads to Russia where he finds what he least expects, the eighth sister. His mission doesn’t go off without complications and he finds himself trying to escape with no help from his country and risks his life to get back to his family he left behind.

 In typical Robert Dugoni fashion. readers are given a thriller that is unlike anything written by most authors out there. When Dugoni writes a thriller, readers are going to be pulled in and given a story they will be thinking about for days after they turn the last page. I loved the way he tied in David Sloane even though this was not a David Sloane novel. Charles Jenkins looks to be a stellar lead character for this new series and is able to bring in secondary characters that I can’t wait to see how they are further developed in future novels. The first half plays out as more of a spy thriller and the second half goes more into a legal thriller. Each are great in their own way and are still able to drive the story forward with tension between the characters and what is going to happen. This is very different from the Tracy Crosswhite series, which is my absolute favorite series. I was a little skeptical going into this that it wouldn’t live up to my expectations, but I am happy to say this was another great read by Dugoni.  I really enjoyed the start to this new series and can’t wait to see what will come next. I recommend this to readers that enjoy Dugoni’s writing style and a great spy/legal thriller. If you have never read anything by Dugoni, the start of this series would be a great place to begin your journey.

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