Book Review – East of Evil

****Special preorder price of $1.99 until release day, May 7, 2023****

East of Evil is the fourth book in Fisher’s Compass Crime Series. I was drawn in from the first sentence—“Nefi’s life-changing day started ordinary and turned peculiar on the way to morning classes.” Fisher’s writing style is snappy and fun, and lots of intrigue keeps readers turning the pages quickly to see what happens next.

East of Evil is filled with well-drawn, unique characters. Nefi Jenkins, the main character, is getting ready to graduate from Harvard. Raised in the Amazon jungle by missionary parents who were killed when she was 16, Nefi isn’t the typical college-age American girl. Fisher does a great job of bringing this out in the way Nefi thinks and acts. For example, the people she is closest to are part of her tribe, and those who betray her must be kicked out of her tribe. Some mannerisms have carried forward into her new way of life, too, like tapping the chest of someone she loves during times of stress to make sure they are really there (although she recognizes this as odd in the US and tries to refrain from it). Learning she has inherited a 10-million-dollar trust fund doesn’t change the way she lives (other than the fact someone now wants her dead!) because money wasn’t a thing in the jungle. Creating a character with a completely foreign upbringing is always a challenge, and Fisher does it superbly. Besides her fascinating background, Nefi is smart, strong, blunt and good at reading people’s emotions in their facial expressions (a great skill to have since she’s planning on a career with the FBI).

Nefi’s college roommates, Cassie and Michael Ulysses Trace the Third (“Mutt” for short), are Marines studying on the GI bill. Cassie bakes brownies and cookies when stressed, and Mutt has an aversion to kitchen duty, PTSD that sometimes has him sleeping outside on the patio, and a variety of t-shirts with sayings like “Gun control means using both hands” and “There’s no such thing as too much ammo unless your house is on fire.” East of Evil features a whole cast of characters who are fun, interesting and, in the case of the villain, cunningly evil.

The book is full of fun exchanges between the characters, too. For example, this one when Nefi is going to hire Arlo, a private investigator who is a friend of a friend:

“Barlow Investigations, how can I help you?”
“Hey, stalker. I have a job for you.”
“Nefi Jenkins?”
“Wait. Is your name Arlo Barlow?”
“Are you sure you want to make fun of my name? Because I know your real first name.”
Nefi gasped. “How?”
“I am a private investigator.”
“I’m impressed, and I apologize.”
“Apology accepted.”

East of Evil’s intricate plot will keep the reader turning pages as Nefi discovers that the trust fund she just inherited has a large chunk missing and sets out to learn what happened to the missing money.

I highly recommend East of Evil (as well as the other books in the series). They are all clean, with God and strong family values woven throughout.

A colossal fortune. A secret reaper. A young woman whose drive for due process makes her the target of dangerous people…

Nefi Jenkins dreams of becoming an FBI agent. After outing her parents’ heartless killer, the Harvard grad focuses on getting into a stellar criminal justice master’s degree program. But her career goals take a back seat when she inherits a ten-million-dollar trust from her late parents…with a hefty chunk gone.

Seeking the help of a forensic accountant, Nefi discovers a cunning thief has been stealing from her inheritance. And with her legacy at stake, the hidden enemy’s scheme to swipe her cash could turn deadly.

Can Nefi restore her parent’s wealth before her investigation turns fatal?

If you like strong heroines, greed-driven crimes, and jaw-dropping twists, then you’ll love Joni M Fisher’s hunt for the truth. Order here.

Book Review – Becoming Future You, Mel Jolly

You’re already becoming Future You, but do you like who you’re becoming? Life coach Mel Jolly encourages us to answer that question and make the journey with purpose in Becoming Future You: Be the Hero of your Own Life. She writes with an easy, conversational style and a good dose of humor. Her personal examples really help the points she’s making hit home, and the questions in the free companion workbook help readers get clarity on their goals, dreams and desires and proactively move toward becoming the best version of themselves. At the end of each chapter is a recap followed by questions and/or action items.

Mel says, “Sometimes we create a vision of our Future Selves who is less stressed and more organized and has her act together… and then we continue to do the same things we’ve always done and wonder why she hasn’t shown up yet.” She encourages us to look at our thoughts, words and responses through the filter of whether it’s helping you become Future You, and to start noticing the difference between what Future You would say and do and what Present You is currently doing. Becoming the best version of ourselves takes work, but Mel encourages us to enjoy the growth journey and make it like an epic road trip with sightseeing destinations (your dreams) and a map (strategy).

Working to fulfill our purpose and become the best we can be isn’t selfish. Just the opposite. As Mel puts it, “It’s only in embracing your talents and desires and chasing your dreams and taking care of yourself that you fill your well. That’s what gives you joy and energy and enthusiasm, which you can then pass on to others.” She says, “Becoming Future You is not about being dissatisfied with your life and wishing it were different. It’s about listening to your gut, embracing who you truly are, and striving to become that version of yourself with joy and gratitude.”

Unfortunately, most of us carry beliefs that hold us back, and we unknowingly sabotage who we want to be in our future. Becoming Future You helps us identify the stumbling blocks that keep us from becoming the best version of ourselves and offers a game plan for overcoming them. One way of sabotaging Future You that hit home with me is committing to things in the near future that we don’t have time for now but somehow think we’ll have time for then. But Mel points out that Near-Future You is probably going to be just as busy as Present You (maybe even more so because we don’t know what unexpected things might arise), and Future You won’t thank you for putting that responsibility on her plate.

Mel poses the question, “Are you going to choose to be the hero of your story? Or are you going to use the excuse that you’re not in control and continue to let life be something that just happens to you?” I highly recommend Becoming Future You. This book isn’t just for those who feel trapped, stuck, defeated or sick and tired of surviving instead of thriving. It’s for everyone who wants to become the best version of themselves that they can be.


Review – All That I Dread, Linda J. White

Recently I was looking for a romantic suspense book featuring K-9 search and rescue and found All That I Dread, by Linda K. White. I wasn’t familiar with Linda’s writing before, but I’m definitely a fan now. All That I Dread had everything I look for in a story—relatable characters, an intriguing plot with twists and turns, and lots of emotion. I could tell the author really did her research. From search and rescue information to police and FBI procedures, it was clear the author knew her stuff.

Early in the story, K-9 handlers Nate and Jessica are participating in a search and rescue training exercise when they find a young woman’s body in the woods. Turns out, there have been others found in varying locations over the years, and FBI agent Scott is determined to find the connection between them. He is driven to the point of obsession, due to a long-ago tragedy in his own life. All three of these characters were so real. Nate and Jessica were both dealing with PTSD issues and in need of healing—Nate from his experiences in the military, and Jessica’s from another traumatic event.

The story has a great faith thread, too, portraying how people can find healing and forgiveness, done in a way that is completely natural and not preachy.

All That I Dread is a must-read. I give it five stars.

Jessica Chamberlain and her German shepherd, Luke, volunteer with the Battlefield Search and Rescue group in Virginia. Called out to help an FBI team investigating a series of abductions, Jess discovers she’s not finished with the past she thought she’d escaped.

Available for purchase at Amazon in Kindle, audiobook and paperback.