The Witches’ Tree

The Witches' TreeAuthor: M.C. Beaton

Series: Agatha Raisin

Publisher: Minotaur Books

Release Date: October 3, 2017

Reviewer: Jennifer S. Roman

Readers of the Agatha Raisin series find their heroine PR exec and private detective happy to be at a really interesting case instead of her of-late cases of divorces and lost cats.  This time, she is investigating a murder: a woman is found hanged in a tree called the Witches’ Tree.  Late at night, on the way home from a dinner party, the new vicar and his lovely wife are returning to their Cotswolds village when they see the elderly spinster hanging there. At first they think it is clearly a suicide, but as Agatha and her team do some investigating, they realize that it is actually a murder.  While investigating the death of this lady, several other people turn up dead, and an attempt is even made on Agatha’s life.  Doing her best to solve the mystery while contemplating hanging up her detective’s hat, Agatha finds trouble, adventure, and lots of buried secrets along the way.

Written as the next in a long Agatha Raisin series, The Witches’ Tree is the perfect mystery for Halloween time.  It has real-life witches, several deaths, and sinister characters at every turn.  The weather is cold and dreary, adding to the setting of the crimes.  Reading the book immediately puts one in the mood for a good blanket, a cup of hot beverage, and a few uninterrupted hours to sit back and enjoy an autumn day.  The characters provide constant banter and even romantic tension to keep things interesting.

While the book is interesting and fun, because of the large cast of characters and the intricate plotlines from previous stories, it is very difficult to keep track of everything.  At some points I had to stop and research who each person was so I could understand the part he or she played in the story.  For this reason, it is not necessarily a great stand-alone book.  Surely faithful readers of the Agatha Raisin series will know the many tertiary characters and will find the story and everyone to be delightful.

Other than the confusion I felt at trying to keep the characters and storylines straight, the story itself was fun and moved quickly.  I enjoyed the new characters as well as some who had been around for a while.  I would recommend this book to mystery lovers and to those who just love a good story with witty banter.  There were some sexual situations and profanity that may be off-putting, so this book is recommended for mature readers.

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

These Healing Hills

These Healing hillsAuthor: Ann H. Gabhart

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: September 5, 2017

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Delightful, historical romance at it’s best.

Francine Howard has a plan for her life. She is promised to a young soldier off to fight in the second great war.  But things have a way of changing when least expected, especially when she receives a letter saying that he has falling in love with someone else in Europe and plans to remain there.  Reeling from this shock, Francine must figure out what to do with her life now.  She decides to move to the Appalachian Mountains in Kentucky and join the Frontier Nursing Service.  And as always, plans change when she meets another young soldier home from the horrors of war.

I love Ann Gabhart’s cozy mystery series, but have never tried one of her historical novels. So, I got the chance and gave it a try.  Her descriptive settings brings the beauty of the Kentucky Hills to life.  I have read several books set in the Appalachians during this time frame, but this one by far takes me there the best.  I also really enjoyed the history that Gabhart brought for the Frontier Nursing Service.  I hadn’t read about this before and as with any great historical fiction novel, I found myself researching as much as I could about it as I read along.  Terrific read for lovers of historical fiction and those looking to give it a try.

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

If We Make It Home

If we make it homeAuthor: Christina Suzann Nelson

Publisher: Kregel

Release Date: September 26, 2017

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Inspirational, yet terrifying at times! No sleeping till this one is finished!

Three women who were college roommates venture back to their college home when they learn that the house is closing. Ireland has made a life as a college professor and has always had an eco-conscious lifestyle.  But a threat of a lawsuit from a student claiming he was denied grad school because he refused Ireland’s advances may ruin her career.  Jenna made a lifestyle as a stay at home mom after she and her husband had triplets.  But now that they have left the nest, Jenna has lost her identity and fears she may no longer be loved.  Victoria runs a huge ministry in Dallas, Texas but has just learned that her husband and her assistant may be romantically involved.  While at the reunion, they learn their fourth roommate passed away a few months before, who was the gel of their group.  At her daughter’s store, the meet a woman who takes other women up the in mountains for survival training and on a whim decide to do it in honor of their friend.  But will they make it home?

This was very a very inspirational book yet had the makings of a thriller at times. These three women are all introduced with the problems that each face.  Each personality begins to show through as each character is further developed.  And the way that the accomplish their fears is courageous.  But the wilderness exercise was the thrilling part of the story.  Nelson didn’t let up on the characters for a second.  After they overcame one impossible obstacle, another was thrown directly at them without even time for a breather.  It’s amazing that they made it through as much as they did.  If you feel that it is a little slow starting out, just wait until you get about halfway through the book.  There is no turning back!

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

Assassin’s Code

Assassins CodeAuthor: Ward Larsen

Series: David Slaton #4

Publisher: Forge

Release Date: August 22, 2017

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Fast paced, suspenseful, and thoughtful! My favorite kind of story.

Former Mossad assassin David Slaton has been off the grid in the Philippines for eight months with his wife and son. When his wife is approached by a young mother scared for her missing husband, David agrees to go out to an abandoned government vessel to search for him.  Instead of a missing man, he finds for armed French Nationals intent of killing him.  After eliminating all threats, David finds a flash drive with his name on it in the pocket of one of the thugs.  What he finds is unexpected, a photo of Zavier Baland, the deputy direction of France’s antiterrorism division.  Only one problem enters his mind, he killed this man fifteen years ago by the name of Ali Samir.

This book was a fast paced cat and mouse game where part of the time the reader is sure who the cat and the mouse are. Although it is the fourth in a series, it has no problem being read as a standalone.  There is some history between a few of the characters, but it still plays out really well.  David Slaton is a very clever and shrewd character, but to be a Mossad assassin and still alive, I suppose that you would have to.  It reminds me of watching a Jason Bourne movie and watching the main character’s plan unfold out before your eyes.  I will definitely be on the lookout for future books in this series.  Might even have to go back and read some of the previous installments as well.  Good clean stories are getting harder to find, but if you like a good spy novel that will leave you second guessing throughout, this is the series for you!

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

To Wager Her Heart

To Wager Her HeartAuthor: Tamera Alexander

Series: Belle Meade Plantation #3

Publisher: Zondervan

Release Date: August 8, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A brilliant work of historical fiction coupled with a meant to be romance sure to consume many readers.

In 1871 Nashville, Alexandra Jamison comes from a high society family that requires her to put her family’s best interest above her own. Two of her older brothers left the state and married to get away from their father, while her third brother perished in the war.  In an effort to make her own life, she fell in love with a scholar that believed in racial equality only to lose him to a train accident at Dutchmen’s Curve just outside of Nashville.  Now with her father intent on marrying her to a wealthy older gentleman, Alexandra makes the decision to leave her family to teach at the freedman’s college Fisk University, but the cost is far greater than she anticipated.

Sylas Rutledge is a young railroad owner from Colorado intent on expanding his rail system by bringing the railroad to General William Harding’s Belle Meade Plantation. But he is going to have to bid against several other railroaders to win.  Being in Nashville brings an emotional torment to Sylas as his father was on his final run as an engineer when he perished in the train wreck of Dutchmen’s Curve and was blamed for the incident.  Intent on clearing his father’s name, Sylas attempts to track down the truth while trying to win the railroad bid.  But Nashville wealth has still not fully accepted racial equality and at what cost will Sylas be willing to make to ensure he wins the railroad bid?

I’m always a little weary when I start third book in a series; however, this is a perfect example of a standalone novel that has no need of a series. I felt immediately drawn into the story and the characters.  The conflict that was introduced almost immediately between Alexandra and Sylas keep the story propelling forward quickly making me want to see what the outcome would be.  Alexandra has her share of hardships and  I can’t begin to imagine what she (and all those who actually encountered) the Dutchmen Curve wreck.  And then to have her father turn his back on her for her beliefs, which I know was not uncommon of that time period.

I immensely enjoyed the setting of Belle Meade Plantation and getting to know some of history’s supporting characters such as Uncle Bob. I also enjoyed that the author referenced other major historical events as well.  I enjoy getting to research what I read as I read it.  My only complaint was that the actual Dutchmen Curve wreck occurred in a different time period, which was acknowledged by the author.  However, I understand that the conflict created between the characters of this even made for a terrific plot.

Highly recommended for lovers of historical fiction!

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

Crown of Souls

Crown of SoulsAuthor: Ronie Kendig

Series: Tox Files #2

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: September 5, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

In less than one ten-thousandth of a second, lives will be changed causing Tox and his crew to face their toughest mission yet and not all will survive.

Having earned some much-needed rest, Cole “Tox” Russell and his crew have hit the beach to relax. When a sniper hits Cole and the shooter is discovered to be one of their past team members, things quickly become more interesting. The shooter, Alec King is one of the only other people that could be considered as good as Tox. He is carrying a grudge from years ago when a mission they were both on didn’t end as he would have liked.  Ever since, he has been enacting his own form of justice. He wants Tox to join him to prove that they can be unstoppable and Alec is willing to stop at nothing to convince Tox to join him. Tox worries that maybe Alec is right and he is more like his old friend than he would like to admit.  Secrets long kept are unearthed along with a mysterious artifact that could lead to the destruction of humanity. Tox and his team must race against the clock and find a way to stop Alec before more death and destruction is unleashed.

If you are a fan of Indiana Jones, Tomb Raider, or even National Treasure, I would highly recommend Crown of Souls and The Tox Files. Ronie Kendig has become a master of Military Thrillers. This book goes back and forth between Tox and his mission, to the past and why the artifact they are hunting is so important. If you don’t follow both times lines closely, you might miss some important information for the story. The best thing about a Ronie Kendig novel is there is something there for everyone, Romance, Suspense, History, Mystery and so much more. There are intense moments at just the right time and then things mellow out to calm the reader before being thrust right into the next tough and tense situation. It was hard for me at times to follow the past and present parts, but they did enhance the story and made the mystery all the more intense. It is obvious throughout the entire book that Kendig is familiar with the military and isn’t just writing about something she has no clue about. The lingo, the way they team interacts with each other on missions and during down time makes each one believable as a valuable member of the team and an asset to the story. One of my favorite things about reading books by Kendig is I know I’m going to be entertained and enjoy the story along with the characters and how they connect with one another. I recommend Crown of Souls to all readers that enjoy a good thriller with a military background and strong ties to an ancient mystery that could devastate the lives of all it comes in contact with.

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