The Virus by Janelle Diller

I’m not entirely sure that early 2021 was the best time to read The Virus especially as the various vaccines are being rolled out across the world and all are being thrust upon the population and lauded as “safe” and “effective.” Nevertheless, I did read it for the PopSugar Challenge and it was eye opening.

The Virus begins with the death of one person, a middle easterner, from Smallpox. Soon there are unconfirmed cases popping up all over the US and deaths are reported in every region of the country. Smallpox is a virus that has been tackled before so the government quickly ushered out a vaccine before the economy could suffer too badly and before too much hysteria set in. In order to travel, attend school, etc., you had to have the vaccine. 🙂 Sounds a little familiar already, doesn’t it? The itty bitty problem is that there is no “vaccine.” What it actually does do is for you to find out by reading this fast paced, wonderfully written thriller.

After reading other reviews I would like to post that this is not an anti-vaxxer book. It is a government conspiracy book not unlike so many others out there. That is what fiction writing is about – asking the what if’s, how about’s, could it be’s…. To read something other than what it actually is into this book shows that reviewer’s own prejudices. This was a great thriller and I highly recommend it – even now.

Aftershock by Judy Melinek & T.J. Mitchell

You know, I realize that I am a horrible blogger. I’m inconsistent. I rarely follow up like I should. My heart is in a good place but my bipolar brain sometimes does it own thing. Then the guilt sets in and I think, oh god, I’m so far behind or my reviews are too lame or too short or too far behind so I just don’t post. It’s a never ended cycle. SO just know that I’m trying. I’m reading like the crazy person that I am and will post as often as my brain allows….

Aftershock is the second in the Jessie Teska series revolving around Teska, an abrasive, hard core forensic pathologist in San Fransicso. I absolutely loved (!) First Cut, the first in the series by this writing duo and anxiously awaited the arrival of this Aftershock. I was quite disappointed with myself, actually, because I simply could not connect with the story line or even with Teska, herself, in this follow up. There is another questionable cause of death, this one at a construction site, but then there is a major earthquake which Teska must survive. Simply put, there was too much going on. Pick one – forensic thriller or earthquake thriller but I didn’t need both on top of Teska’s already bit over the top personality. I’m just not sure I’ll bother with another book, if there is one, in this series despite my love of the first.

Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano

Dear Edward is the story of Edward Adler, the sole survivor of a plane crash that killed his entire family along with many others. Told primarily through Edward’s perspective, we also flashback to other passengers on the plane and follow their stories leading up to the crash. This, of course, is hearwrenching as we learn of their good and bad qualities, their secrets and their desires, all of which vanish with them in an instant. Except for Edward’s. As Edward physically recuperates, we also see him mentally grow stronger as he deals with his new reality with the help of his aunt, uncle and their wonderful next door neighbors. This is a story of pain, love, growth and giving and it is one that I am so thankful that I read.

So, why not 5 stars? There was a point about midway through where I almost quit reading the book. It meandered to the point of feeling lost and confused. Then, just as I was about to put it down, it turned a corner and the remainder of the book was far better than the first; so much so that Dear Edward will go into my top favorite reads. It is a book that stays with you to remind you just how precious life truly is.

The Plus One by #SarahArcher

Part Sci-Fi, part RomCom, The Plus One is a fun, funny and endearing story about what may possibly be our near future.

I actually hesitated even calling this “sci-fi” because the reality is that AI is far to close to the reality portrayed in The Plus One. Kelly is a robotics engineer who is a genius but also a bit socially inept. When she needs a date to a wedding and cannot find one, she builds him instead. Meet Ethan, the perfect “man” for Kelly. But that is the problem, he IS the perfect man for her. She knows she cannot “keep” him, he isn’t a pet, but she has developed real feeling for her AI creation. The story of Kelly and Ethan is as endearing as it is funny. I loved them BOTH and love the perfect ending even more.

Salem’s Cypher and Mercy’s Chase by Jess Lourey

I absolutely LOVED Bloodline, the newest series by Jess Lourey so I decided to pick up another book or two by the author. Salem’s Cipher is a fast paced thriller revolving around Salem and her childhood friend, Bel. The two women were raised under auspice of parents who belong to a secret society known as the Underground, a society that revolves around the power of the female. Of course, they are opposed by “the Order” a group of very powerful, extremely wealthy men. When Salem and Bel’s mothers are kidnapped, they are charged with solving a series of ciphers in order to discover what is truly going on.

Most reviewers compare Salem’s Cipher and the subsequent book, Mercy’s Chase, to Dan Brown’s books, particularly Angels and Demons. I’ve read all of Dan Brown and I found that this series is more similar to James Rollins’ books. Both include underground subversives, both revolve around a massive amount of history and both contain a fair amount of action. Also, they stretch the reader to the point of disbelieving…. except.

If you follow the history that is presented in both books, Salem’s Cipher and Mercy’s Chase, you’re going to find a whole lot of facts about women that you never knew existed. If you’ve been following current events in the US, well ever, but particularly over the past few month (November 2020 through the present, January 2021) you shouldn’t have any problem comprehending the fact that there ARE subversive groups in the US. Someone is funding these Fascist groups, now aren’t they? The interesting thing about both books is that they don’t necessarily lean one way or another politically. They lean hard on being pro-Female and that is where I fall as well. I’m tired of pretending that men are the best and brightest in our culture when, in fact, we – women – have sat silently on the sidelines allowing them to get the glory for OUR work. So, with that in mind, I hope you will read these books AND follow up with your research. You will be amazed at what history has to show you!

For the sake of reviewing both books simultaneously, Salem’s Cipher was a better read than the second book, Mercy’s Chase but both were fascinating.

She Has a Broken Thing Where Her Heart Should Be by #JDBARKER

NOTE: I read this book as an ARC and wrote a review that is now missing. How do these things happen? I’ll never know.

JD Barker is rapidly becoming my favorite author. I read his books the moment they are available to me, usually from Barker himeself, and then impatiently wait for the next one. At times my reviews seem a bit harsh, especially considering that I let others books slide, but this is only because I know Barker to be a masterful storyteller and there are times I want more. This book, whose title is unweidingly long, is quite near perfection. It is dark yet beautiful, suspenseful yet a love story, it has crime, suspense and marvelously witty dialogue – as always. The book is LONG but you will read it quickly because you HAVE to know where Barker is taking you, that place that resides deep in his very dark mind. To say that I loved She Has a Broken Thing Where Her Should Be is an understatement. It is a book that has now become part me. It truly is a MUST READ. 

PS – How gorgeous is that Cover!?

Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley

You know that if there is a circus in town, I’ll be there and if there is a circus book to be read, then it will be in my pile. Imagine my delight when I discovered this amazingly wonderful book, Circus Mirandus, that is filled from cover to cover with wonder, awe and magic.

Micah’s grandfather has told him tales about Circus Mirandus all of his life. Part of the telling is that eventually the Circus will provide a much needed miracle. When the need and time for that miracle arrives, Micah, a pet parrot and his very pragmatic friend set off on their adventure. Part magical, part realism and all of the beauty of true fantasy that younger readers love so much, the author has provided a perfect balance between the fatastical and the miraculas where love and magic blends and balances together perfectly through this tale. Meant for “middle grades,” I have no idea what that really means since this very mature adult loved the book, a good starting age might be around nine years old. There is a tad bit of darkness in parts of the book but what is a good book without both light and dark? If you don’t select any other book for your tween this year, make sure that the one you do get is Circus Mirandus.

The Lake of Dead Languages by #CarolGoodman #PopSugarReadingChallenge

In 2018, I participated in the Pop Sugar Reading Challenge and was amazed how far and how often it had me reading outside of my comfort zone. For the last year I have been so incredibly bored with the books I’ve been choosing to read that I thought I would give the PSRC a whirl again this year. If The Lake of Dead Languages is any indication, 2021 is going to be a great reading year!

For the prompt “a book about dark academia,” I chose The lake of Dead Languages by Carol Goodman, a very dark, twisty atmospheric suspense novel set at an all girls boarding school. Honestly, I cannot believe people still send their children to these schools but, obviously, they do. Set in the remote mountains of northern New York, the school – which sits by a lake – often is snowed or iced in. The school is housed in an old mansion that was bequethed to the school after the death of the owner’s daughter. As tales begin to swirl, the child’s death turned into a story of three girls who committed suicide, the lake calling the girls to their death and the calling for more girls over the years. Jane Hudson was one of the girls who survived the deaths of two of her room mates – both who died in the lake. Now, she has returned to the school as a teacher but someone, somewhere blames Jane for the deaths of the girls all those years ago – or is it really the lake rising up to claim the “third girl.”

I readily will admit that this book will not be for every reader of mystery and suspense. It has a gothic feel to it but, more importantly, it relies heavily on Latin and the classics that the students are studying at the school. I loved it. A few good basic Latin lessons, a nice brush up on my Roman classics and it felt as though I was back in school myself. I suspect some may find those passages tedious. I did not. I love the story, felt the characters were well created and the ending was perfection for me. I highly recommend The Lake of Dead Languages especially if you are looking for a book for this particular Pop Sugar prompt.

Out of Her Mind by T.R.Ragan

T.R. Ragan has officially become my new favorite crime fiction author – I just cannot stop reading her books!

Out of Her Mind is the second book in the Sawyer Brooks series. If you haven’t read the first one, Don’t Make a Sound then stop – drop everything – and go read it right now. It’s fantastic. Sawyer Brooks is a crime beat reporter with a amazingly sordid past. Her past, and that of her sisters, is what drives Brooks to investigate a story without stopping until she discovers the truth. I honestly wish we still had crime reporters like this. The world needs them! When a child’s bones are found and another child goes missing, Brooks begins searching for similarities. With the help of her sister, Aria, they soon discover a string of missing children. Could this be the work of seriel kidnapper/murder? Brooks certainly thinks so.

There is a seperate sub-plot that runs along with this primary one revolving around The Black Wig women. I won’t divulge much about this group but I find their story just as fascinating as Sawyer Brooks.

This series, like others that Ragan writes, is a well done piece of crime fiction. The characters – all of them – are well written and fully fleshed out for the reader. You see their weaknesses as well as their strengths and, beginning in this second book, you also begin to see their growth past their pain and their insecurities. I highly recommend Out of Her Mind as well as the remainder of the series.

Thanks to #Netgalley and #ThomasMercer for my copy of Our of Her Mind.

Thankfully in Love: A Thanksgiving Anthology

What a delight to find a book that features my favorite holiday: Thanksgiving! Not just one but FOUR short stories that center around Thanksgiving, families and love. Lest you think this is only for Americans, one of the stories takes place over the Canadian Thanksgiving holiday!

Written by four well known and well loved authors, each of the stories described below accentuate family, love and gratitude which we all need in abundance in this crazy Covid year!

No Place Like Home by Anna J Stewart is very family centric with a whole lot of romance thrown in for good measure

Second Chance by Kayla Perrin is about, yep, second chances at love. This one, with its wonderful repartee, was my favorite of the four

Dog Gone Holiday by Melinda Curtis tells the story of a couple who is struggling during the holiday but find hope in one another.

Love Guides the Way by Cari Lynn Webb is your typical romance about two people brought together but who doubt the sincerity of one another.

While the anthology started out strong, the last story was not a favorite of mine. However, that is likely due to the fact that I’m not a big romance fan. I like them light and sweet and only during the holidays. Never-the-less, as a whole, I absolutely recommend Thankfully in Love to start off your holiday season with a grategul, thankful heart.

Thanks to each of the authors mentioned above, @Netgalley for my copy of this warm and entertaining book.