Choose Me

Author: Tess Gerritsen & Gary Braver

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Release Date: July 1, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A fast paced thriller that makes it easy to see why it is the number one thriller with a great start and even better finish.

Taryn Moore is found dead on the sidewalk in front of her apartment. At first glance, the police believe she jumped from her fifth story balcony, but the more Detective Frankie Loomis investigates, the more doubts she has that this is a suicide. Taryn is young, attractive, and smart; she had every reason to live, so why would she kill herself? As new evidence comes to light, it becomes clear that this wasn’t a suicide. Now the question is, who would want her dead?

English professor Jack Dorian, Taryn’s professor, thinks she is one of the most talented and beautiful students he has ever had, the fact that she adores him doesn’t hurt. He is in a hard place with his marriage and the attention is nice. But when Taryn turns up dead, he is one of the first suspects and realizes he has gotten in way over his head. Detective Frankie Loomis works to uncover the secrets and solve the case before anyone else gets hurt.

Tess Gerritsen is a good go-to thriller author for me. If I want a good mystery with plenty of suspense, I know I won’t be disappointed with one of her books. The book goes back and forth between before and after giving readers a look at Taryn and what lead to her death. Each back and forth gave me a little more insight into the characters and kept me guessing as to what actually happened. By the time I got to the final few chapters, I was very pleased with how the story played out. Frankie is a great lead character as a detective and gives a sense of purpose in trying to solve the case. Her partner had a hard time believing her instincts, that it wasn’t just a suicide, but Frankie followed her instincts and used every clue she could find to get to the bottom of it. I loved her tenacity and heart for those she was trying to help. Taryn is a very interesting character that I couldn’t help but connect with. In all her struggles, she spirals out of control a little more and with each new struggle she becomes more and more interesting for the readers. I enjoyed this story and read it in a day and recommend it to those that enjoy a good police procedural, crime drama.

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 Essence of Nathan Biddle

Author: J. William Lewis

Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group Press

Release Date; June 1, 2021

Rating: 3 out of 5.

To be trapped in the mind of a confuse

Kit Biddle has been struggling with several things over the last year and it seems that it’s all coming to a head.  He attends a local academy that he has thrived at, but over the last few months his grades have started to drop.  He was a star in athletics and could run faster than anyone, but he just doesn’t care about practicing or participating for that matter.  His girlfriend (perfect in his own mind) feels that she can’t be committed to anyone and needs to play the field before she settles down.  His best friend, usually always good to cheer him up, feels Kit is acting too depressed to deal with.  The bulk of this depression may stem from an act that his uncle committed against his cousin Nathan claiming to be orders from God himself.

Being stuck with Kit as the protagonist made this book rather depressing to read.  As the reader, you see what is going on around him, but he just can’t see it for himself and it got quite infuriating at times.  Plus, being set in the late 1950s, did high school kids really read that much classical literature that would cause them to talk the way they did?  Maybe at this academy they do, but it seemed like something out of a Shakespeare story that was within a Shakespeare story, if you know what I mean.  I did enjoy once Kit started working through everything and seeing things more in the light, which was the point of the story.  I also thought the reference to Don Quixote were very well timed.

There is some occasional language throughout plus two moderately detailed sex scenes in the book.  I recommend this book for mature audiences.

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

A Faith Unleashed

Author: Joshua J. Masters

Publisher: Bold Vision Books

Release Date: April 21, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

An absolutely precious and powerful book that will give readers all the feels and bring you closer to God with each new chapter.

Franklin is an abused and neglected little pup before coming to live in his forever home. He spent his youngest days in a puppy mill and was severely neglected which left him afraid of most everything life had to offer. His journey from brokenness to a life of joy and belonging is a lot like our own. Each chapter gives us a cute story of Franklin’s life and then connects it to a biblical application for our own lives. With the passing of each chapter, readers see the similarities of Franklin’s journey of being rescued and our own as we allow Christ to rescue us from our lives and give us new life in him.

I was amazed as I read each new chapter and saw the way Masters wove together how we ourselves are like a rescued pup when we allow Jesus to come into our lives and make things so much better than we ever knew possible. At the start of each chapter we get a cute little Franklin story and then see how that can apply to our lives, which made me look at things in an entirely new light. All the comparisons are down to earth, easy to relate to with nothing too crazy that the readers will have trouble believing. One of the nicest things about this book is I could hand it over to my pre-teen son and feel like he would get a closer connection to the Lord through the pages. It is a great book for new believers and especially animal lovers.

Denied

Author: Mary Keliikoa

Series: Kelly Pruett Mystery #2

Publisher: Self

Release Date: May 11, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Crafty, clever, and totally unexpected!

PI Kelly Pruett is recovering from her last case after taking over her father’s PI business, when she is approached by a friend from the past.  A very pregnant friend is looking into why she hasn’t heard from her father since she has been trying to contact him for over a month.  They had a falling out a few months ago and now she wants to make amends before she has the baby so that he or she can know their grandfather.  As Kelly dives into the case, she discovers a world of gambling, mafia, sickness, betrayal, and illegal dumping.  Can Kelly unravel the case before someone silences her from uncovering the truth?

I haven’t read the first book in this series, but the second pulled me in quickly and did a good job of filling in some backstory.  I’m sure there would have been more had I read the first, but I think this can be a standalone.  Kelly is a very strong woman to be going through everything with her ex-husband, ex-best friend, and PI business.  Her persistence and perseverance was fun to watch when she just couldn’t let things drop. I also like the supporting role of Detective Kuni and hope to see more of him in future stories.  I also thought that tying in the experiences of living with a deaf daughter was a neat aspect.  I plan to go back and get the first to tie it all together, but I’m also looking forward to the next installment.

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.

Searching for Normal

Author: C.J. Darlington

Series: Riverbend Friends #2

Publisher: Focus on the Family

Release Date: April 6, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The second book in the Riverbend Friends series picks up where the first left off, but now readers get to focus on Shay and see her story. A great YA/Coming of age story that is perfect for young adult readers.

The second book in the Riverbend Friends series focuses on the life of Shay Mitchell. Her life changed forever six months ago when she came to live with her aunt and started a new school that brought about her being bullied. Living with her Aunt Laura above a bookstore is nice, but none of her new friends know the real reason she came to live with her aunt and what happened in her past that is causing her to be bullied. While living with her aunt, Shay learns the truth about her biological father and rushes at the chance to meet him. All she wants is a normal family life and to be happy without all the bad stuff hanging over her. But what she wishes for and how she thinks it will happen might be the farthest thing from a happy normal life.

With this second book in the Riverbend Friends series, I am falling in love with these four friends and the way these books are written to young adults, especially young girl readers. For me, this is the perfect series because it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, it shows these girls going through hard things and the way they lean on each other and find a deeper relationship with God through the problems they are facing. They go through hard things, but they realize that even through bad, good things come out of it, like the new friendships they find with each other. I think that is one of the most important things, especially now, finding a few good friends you can trust and rely on through the hard times makes getting through those hard times a little bit easier.

Shay and her story picked up where the first book left off but also gives readers some good back story as to what happened to her and makes the first book even better because I was able to reflect on why she reacted the way she did to some of what happened in that book. I liked this character and how she handled what happened to her, her aunt was one of my favorite characters with her taking Shay in and dealing with how she was treated by both family and school issues. I would recommend reading the first in the series with this one, it could be read after but in my opinion to get the most out of the series go in order. Young girls will be the target audience for this one and parents can enjoy the fact that it is a good story that is clean and no questionable content. I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Real, Not Perfect

Author: Stephanie Coleman

Series: Riverbend Friends #1

Publisher: Focus on the Family

Release Date: April 6, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A great teen book about family, relationships, and the struggles young girls can face growing up and why it is important to have a close relationship with God.

Tessa’s life has always been pretty easy; she goes to swim practice, gets good grades and has two loving parents. All of that changes as she comes home one afternoon to find out her parents are getting a divorce and her best friend is moving away. To top things off, she is put in drama, the worst class ever. As Tessa tries to cope with her new family life, her mom gets more and more depressed, her best friend is posting about how great her new life is, and Tessa feels like everyone has a great life except her. Her goal is to convince herself and others that she is fine and nothing is wrong, but it only takes a little bit for her new friends to realize she is anything but fine and they help her discover that it is ok for things to not be perfect.

This was such a great fast read; I loved how real it was (no pun intended). It’s true though, being real and not perfect in this day and age of social media is so hard to do. Everyone tries to put their very best little snap shots up to post for all to see when that isn’t real life. Life is hard and messy and if we realize that and let others see the real life we are living, it will take away the stress and weight of trying to be perfect all the time. Tessa is going through what a lot of kids end up going through these days and to see her angry, hurt and letting her emotions get the best of her at times is what really made this book connect with me. This is the first book in the series about four friends that have different lives but find a way to connect with each other through their struggles and come closer because of it. While Tessa was the main character, readers get to see a small glimpse into the lives of the others that will shine in their own upcoming stories. The fact that Tessa didn’t get the perfect fairy tale ending was something I give props to the author for, very rarely does life give us that fairy tale ending and to see things play out there the way they did is going to be bringing me back for more. I am thankful that teens will have a realistic view of life when picking this one up. I recommend this to young teen girls that are looking for characters they can relate to and want to feel connected to a storyline that is more than just an escape.

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

Whom God’s Destroy

Author: Vincent B. Davis II

Series: Sertoris Scrolls #4

Publisher: Self Published

Release Date: May 1, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Davis is back in his element with Quintus Sertoris again on the war path!

After his tenure as senator and following the disaster that befell the senate, Quintus Sertoris is now serving as a legate for Rome to Greece.  While this should be a mission of peace, he quickly realizes that his new commander expects to return with a tribute of at least 5,000 deaths.  Once the legion is in Greece, Quintus begins to realize that Roman citizens are disappearing, some being sold into slavery, which is illegal.  As he investigates, he realizes that he is up against a villain known as Cerebus that is bent upon the full destruction of Rome.  Sertoris must devise a way to put an end to the conspiracy while making new friends, and losing some, along the way.

I love this series, but after Bodies in the Tiber, I was ready to get back on the war path and leave the politics behind.  Luckily, Davis does just that in his new Sertoris Scroll.  Now under the command of Proconsul Titus Didius, he is dispatched to Greece as a legate.  Unfortunately, this leaves readers without the Quintus/Arrea love story that many were hoping to get back on track, but it does allow for good banter with his old friend Apollonius once again.  This book introduces new friendships and sees some old friendships start to dwindle.  The drama with Sulla continues at a distance, mainly through letters of Rome’s impending civil war.  Everything is being set up nicely for the Social War that Sertorius is greatly known for.

Highly recommended for lovers of ancient roman literature.