Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Books

This was an excellent year of reading.

Top 10 fiction:

Shine Shine Shine by Lydia Netzer
A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty by Joshilyn Jackson 
MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood
The Dog Stars by Peter Heller
Someone Else's Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson
Perfect by Rachel Joyce  
The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout
Vacationland by Sarah Stonich 
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
The Death of Bees by Lisa O'Donnell
 (I had a struggle deciding on the top 10 fiction, but decided on these.  There are several other books I could easily add to this list but then it would be over 10 books...)

Top 5 Short Stories:
Bobcat and Other Stories by Rebecca Lee 
Appearances and Other Stories by Margo Krasner
T.C. Boyle Stories II: The Collected Stories of T. Coraghessan Boyle
My Own Miraculous: A Short Story by Joshilyn Jackson
Beyond the Rift by Peter Watts

Top 10 nonfiction:
The Telling Room by Michael Paterniti
The Men Who United the States by Simon Winchester
This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett 
Visit Sunny Chernobyl by Andrew Blackwell 
Bossypants by Tina Fey
Square Peg by Todd Rose with Katherine Ellison 
Candyfreak by Steve Almond
Tim Rowland’s Creature Features  by Tim Rowland
Emotions: Confront the Lies. Conquer with Truth by Charles F. Stanley
Scammed by Art Maines

2013 Books - 151 Books

January - 12 books

1. Great North Road by Peter F. Hamilton, 976 pages, 1/1/13, very highly recommended
2. Hunting Marfa Lights by James Bunnell, 320 pages, 1/3/13, highly recommended
3. The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan, 320 pages, 1/8/13, very highly recommended - YA
4. Flesh by Khanh Ha, 368 pages, 1/10/13, highly recommended
5. The Archaeological Evidence of Noah's Flood by Philip Lee Williams, 411 pages, 1/11/13, recommended, nonfiction
6. My Dead Friend Sarah by Peter Rosch, 228 pages, 1/13/13, highly recommended
7. The Drowning House by Elizabeth Black, 288 pages, 1/17/13, highly recommended
8. The Kingdom of Rarities by Eric Dinerstein, 336 pages, 1/19/13, very highly recommended, nonfiction
9. Blast from the Past by Lauren Carr, 260 pages, 1/21/13, very highly recommended
10. Book of Why by Nicholas Montemarano, 320 pages, 1/23/13, highly recommended
11. The Cartel by A. K. Alexander, 494 pages, 1/25/13, not recommended
12. Speaking from Among the Bones by Alan Bradley, 400 pages, 1/29/13, very highly recommended, YA

February - 10 books
13. Stories from Jonestown by Leigh Fondakowski, 312 pages, 2/1/13, very highly recommended, nonfiction
14. The Expats by Chris Pavone, 336 pages, 1/4/13, very highly recommended
15. Scammed by Art Maines, 210 pages, 2/11/13, very highly recommended - nonfiction
16. Three Graves Full by Jamie Mason, 320 pages, 2/13/13, highly recommended
17. The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord, 320 pages, 2/14/13, so-so
18. Domino Falls by Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due, 384 pages, 2/19/13, very highly recommended
19. Shine Shine Shine by Lydia Netzer, (audio book) 320 pages, 2/23/13, very highly recommended
20. Against My Will by Benjamin Berkley, 271 pages, 2/26/13, recommended
21. With or Without You by Domenica Ruta, 224 pages, 2/27/13, highly recommended, nonfiction
22. Another Forgotten Child by Cathy Glass, 309 pages, 2/28/13, very highly recommended, nonfiction

March - 13 books

23.Corporeality by Hollis Seamon, 204 pages, 3/1/13, very highly recommended, short stories
24. Replacement Child: A Memoir by Judy L. Mandel, 320 pages, 3/5/13, highly recommended, nonfiction
25. Square Peg by Todd Rose with Katherine Ellison, 256 pages, 3/6/13, very highly recommended, non-fiction
26. The Tale of Lucia Grandi; The Early Years by Susan Speranza, 426 pages, 3/7/13, very highly recommended
27. Tim Rowland’s Creature Features by Tim Rowland, 160 pages, 3/11/13, very highly recommended, nonfiction
28. Appearances and Other Stories by Margo Krasne, 160 pages, 3/12/13, very highly recommended, short stories
29. A Thousand Pardons by Jonathan Dee, 224 pages, 3/13/13, recommended
30. The End of the Point by Elizabeth Graver, 352 pages, 3/14/13, highly recommended
31. Heart Like Mine by Amy Hatvany, 384 pages, 3/19/13, recommended
32. The Guilty One by Lisa Ballantyne, 480 pages, 3/21/13, very highly recommended
33. The Rainbow Virus by Dennis Meredith, 408 pages, 3/23/13, very highly recommended
34. Children of No One by Nicole Cushing, 50 pages, 3/26/13, highly recommended
35. The Missing File by D. A. Mishani, 304 pages, 3/28/13, highly recommended

April – 8 books

36. Vacationland by Sarah Stonich, 288 pages, 4/1/13, very highly recommended
37. Something About Sophie by Mary Kay McComas, 320 pages, 4/4/13, highly recommended
38. Live and Let Die by Bianca Sloane, 290 pages, 4/9/13, very highly recommended
39. The Spark: A Mother's Story of Nurturing Genius by Kristine Barnett, 272 pages, 4/10/13, recommended
40. The New Republic by Lionel Shriver, 380 pages, 4/11/13, recommended
41. One Step Too Far by Tina Seskis, 352 pages, 4/15/13, very highly recommended
42. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter, 352 pages, 4/18/13, very highly recommended
43. Untold Damage by Robert K. Lewis, 278 pages, 4/25/13, highly recommended

May – 8 books

44. Half as Happy by Gregory Spatz, 188 pages, 5/2/13, very highly recommended
45.Immortal Bird by Doron Weber, 358 pages, 5/16/13, highly recommended
46. Snapper by Brian Kimberling, 224 pages, 5/17/13, very highly recommended
47. Blood Drama by Christopher Meeks, 242 pages, 5/22/13, very highly recommended
48. The Humanity Project by Jean Thompson, 352 pages, 5/23/13, highly recommended
49. The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan, 373 pages, 5/26/13, very highly recommended
50.15 Days Without a Head by Dave Cousins, 302 pages, 5/27/13, highly recommended
51. The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout, 336 pages, 5/31/13, very highly recommended

June – 13 books

52. Mistrial by Mark Geragos and Pat Harris, 304 pages, 6/3/13, highly recommended
53.Worm by Tim Curran, 100 pages (est) 6/5/13, highly recommended
54. The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes, 375 pages, 6/7/13, highly recommeded
55. Bobcat an Other Stories by Rebecca Lee, 256 pages, 6/11/13, very highly recommended
56. The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls, 288 pages, 6/12/13, highly recommended
57. Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver, 464 pages, 6/13/13, very highly recommended
58. Glass House 51 by John Hampel, 432 pages, 6/15/13, highly recommended
59. The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen, 320 pages, 6/16/13, recommended
60. And When She Was Good by Laura Lippman, 314 pages, 6/20/13, highly recommended
61.Salt Sugar Fat by Michael Moss, 480 pages, 6/21/13, very highly recommended
62. F9 by Michael McBride, 65 pages, 6/22/13, very highly recommended
63. The New Flesh by Keith Deininger, 260 pages, 6/22/13, not recommended
64. The Registry by Shannon Stoker, 336 pages, 6/27/13 highly recommended
July – 18 books 

65. Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall, 320 pages, 7/2/13, highly recommended
66. The Longings of Wayward Girls by Karen Brown, 336 pages 7/3/13, recommended
67. Three Lives of Tomomi Ishikawa by Benjamin Constable, 352 pages, 7/3/13, very highly recommended
68. Accidents Happen by Louise Millar, 385 pages, 7/5/13, highly recommended
69. Loteria by Mario Alberto Zambrano, 288 pages, 7/10/13, highly recommended
70. Between You and Me by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus, 288 pages, 7/12/13, not recommended 
71. Marathon Man by William Goldman, 336 pages, 7/14/13, highly recommended
72. The Romanov Cross by Robert Masello, 512 pages, 7/18/13, very highly recommended
73. The Illusion of Separateness by Simon Van Booy, 211 pages, 7/18/13, very highly recommended
74. There are Reasons Noah Packed No Clothes by Robert Jacoby, 342 pages,7/19/13, recommended
75. 14 by Peter Clines, 352 pages, 7/20/13, very highly recommended
76. After The Ending by Lindsey Fairleigh and Lindsey Pogue, 478 pages, 7/22/13, so-so
77. True North: The Shocking Truth about Yours, Mine & Ours by Tom North, 365 pages, 7/23/13, Recommended
78. Sweet Little Lies by Bianca Sloane, 278 pages, 7/24/13, highly recommende
79. Mayor of Hollywood by M.B. Brophy, 337 pages, 7/26/13, recommended
80. Notown by Tess Collins, 428 pages, 7/28/13 highly recommended
81. The Telling Room: A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, and the World's Greatest Piece of Cheese by Michael Paterniti, 368 pages , 7/30/13, Very Highly Recommended
82. That Touch of Ink by Diane Vallere, 290 pages, 7/30/13, recommended

August – 18 books

83. A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty by Joshilyn Jackson, 352 pages, 8/1/13, very highly recommended
84. Going Home: A Novel of Survival by A. American, 480 pages 8/3/13, recommended
85. Surviving Home by A. American, 528 pages, 8/3/13 recommended
86. Going Away by Clancy Sigal, 513 pages, 8/3/13, highly recommended
87. The Will by Harvey Swados, 272 pages, 8/7/13, highly recommended
88. Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick, 288 pages, 8/7/13, very highly recommended
89. All Pets are Off: A Collection of Hairy Columns by Tim Rowland, 177 pages, 8/8/13, very highly recommended
90. Bossypants by Tina Fey, 283 pages, 8/9/13, very highly recommended
91. Strong Rain Falling by Jon Land, 368 pages, 8/10/13, very highly recommended
92. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs, 386 pages, 8/11/13, highly recommended
93. The Color Master: Stories by Aimee Bender, 240 pages, 8/14/13, highly recommended
94. Eyewall by H.W. Buzz Bernard, 246 pages, 8/17/13, recommended
95. The One I Left Behind by Jennifer McMahon, 422 pages, 8/19/13, very highly recommended
96. Etched in Sand: A True Story of Five Siblings Who Survived an Unspeakable Childhood on Long Island by Regina Calcaterra, 306 pages, 8/22/13, very highly recommended
97. The Returned by Jason Mott, 352 pages, 8/23/13, very highly recommended
98. MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood, 416 pages, 8/25/13, very highly recommended
99. In the Company of Wolves: Thinning the Herd by James Michael Larranaga, 350 pages, 8/28/13, recommended
100. Candyfreak by Steve Almond, 284 pages, 8/30/13, very highly recommended

September - 14

101. Arctic Fire by Paul Byers, 412 pages, 9/4/13, recommended
102. Enon by Paul Harding, 256 pages, 9/4/13, very highly recommended
103. The Silent Wife by A. S. A. Harrison, 336 pages, 9/6/13, very highly recommended
104. The Dog Stars by Peter Heller, 336 pages, 9/8/13, very highly recommended
105. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery , 336 pages, 9/10/13, very highly recommended
106. Iron Council by China MiƩville , 576 pages, 9/14/13, recommended
107. Big Brother by Lionel Shriver, 384 pages, 9/17/13, very highly recommended
108. A Wilder Rose by Susan Wittig Albert, 302 pages, 9/22/13, recommended
109. Unraveling: Hanging Onto Faith Through the End of a Christian Marriage by Elisabeth Klein Corcoran, 208 pages, 9/22/13, very highly recommended
110. The Round House by Louise Erdrich, 368 pages, 9/25/13, very highly recommended
111. The Sky Manifest by Brian Panhuyzen, 240 pages, 9/25/13, highly recommended
112. The Science of Ocean Waves by J. B. Zirker, 272 pages, 9/27/13, very highly recommended
113. Suburban Legends: True Tales of Murder, Mayhem, and Minivans by Sam Stall, 240, 9/29/13, highly recommended
114. T.C. Boyle Stories II: The Collected Stories of T. Coraghessan Boyle, Volume II, 944 pages, 9/30/13, very highly recommended

October – 15 books 

115. The Preservationist by Justin Kramon, 336 pages, 10/1/13, recommended
116. Hush Little Baby by Suzanne Redfearn, 368 pages, 10/2/13, highly recommended
117. Cartwheel by Jennifer duBois, 384 pages, 10/9/13, highly recommended
118. How To Be a Good Wife by Emma Chapman, 282 pages, 10/11/13, very highly recommended
119. The Men Who United the States by Simon Winchester, 496 pages, 10/12/13, very highly recommended
120. Cities at Sea by Martin Simons, 185 pages, 10/13/13, so-so 121. The Prodigal by Michael Hurley, 358 pages, 10/14/13, very highly recommended
122. The Heavens Rise by Christopher Rice 336 pages, 10/16/13, highly recommended
123. Emotions: Confront the Lies. Conquer with Truth by Charles F. Stanley, 304, 10/18/13, very highly recommended
124. Parasite by Mira Grant, 512 pages, 10/23/13 very highly recommended
125. The Stranger You Know by Andrea Kane, 368 pages, 10/25/13, highly recommended
126. The Death of Bees by Lisa O'Donnell, 311 pages, 10/28/13, very highly recommended
127. The Death of Santini: The Story of a Father and His Son by Pat Conroy, 352 pages, 10/29/13, highly recommended
128. The Clearing by Dan Newman, 336 pages, 10/30/13, recommended
129. Blood Brothers by James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell, 50 pages, 10/31/13, very highly recommended

November - 10 books

130. Bitter Like Orange Peel by Jessica Bell, 268 pages, 11/1/13, so-so
131. Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield, 336 pages, 11/2/13, highly recommended
132. The Whole Golden World by Kristina Riggle, 448 pages, 11/11/13, very highly recommended
133. White Fire by Douglas Preston, Lincoln Child, 384 pages, 11/12/13, very highly recommended
134. Limit by Frank Schatzing, 11/13/13, 960 pages, highly recommended
135. Beyond the Rift by Peter Watts, 240 pages, 11/15/3, very highly recommended (short stories)
136. Visit Sunny Chernobyl by Andrew Blackwell, 320 pages, 11/17/13, very highly recommended
137. Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson, 384 pages, 11/19/13, highly recommended
138. This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett, 320 pages, 11/27/13, very highly recommended
139. Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami, 416 pages, 11/29/13, highly recommended

December - 12 books

140. Escaping Home by A. American, 336 pages, 12/2/13, recommended
141. Plague by Lisa Hinsley, 129 pages, 12/9/13, very highly recommended
142. The Tenth Circle by Jon Land, 536 pages, 12/17/13, recommended
143. Camels Are Easy, Comedy's Hard by Roy Blount Jr., 303 pages, 12/10/13, highly recommended
144. Game by Anders de la Motte, 400 pages, 12/15/13, so-so
145. Buzz by Anders de la Motte, 496 pages, 12/15/13, so-so
146. Perfect by Rachel Joyce, 400 pages, 12/17/13, very highly recommended
147. My Own Miraculous: A Short Story by Joshilyn Jackson, 128 pages, 12/18/13, very highly recommended
148. Someone Else's Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson, 320 pages, 12/19/143, very highly recommended
149. The Moses Virus by Jack Hyland, 256 pages, 12/20/13, highly recommended
150. Cry of The Children by J. M. Gregson, 224 pages, 12/21/13, very highly recommended
151.Memes of Loss and Devotion by Darren White, 221 pages, 12/23/13, highly recommended

Monday, December 23, 2013

Memes of Loss and Devotion

Memes of Loss and Devotion by Darren White
Amazon Digital Services, 10/2/13
eBook or paperback, 221 pages 

ISBN: 1492875023


Memes of Loss and Devotion" is a science fiction and horror short story collection. It examines the human condition, our possible futures, our challenges as a species and our failings as sentient, supposedly intelligent beings.
Journey to a far future where all human minds are connected not only to each other but also to benevolent Artificial Intelligences. Technology may have changed, but the human condition has not, and neither has the human heart.
A not so random encounter in a hotel bar triggers unforeseen consequences, but just who is the hunter and who is the prey? If you thought that romance in the early 21st century is a minefield, just add advanced technology and see how much more dangerous it can get.
Can love survive death? What happens when devotion unexpectedly returns from beyond the grave? A doomed love triangle is destined to end in disaster in a haunting story of passion that can never be reciprocated.
What if men were obsolete? What if new technology meant that the human race could continue without them? How far would you go to prevent this?
Finally, a gun-toting, resourceful hero will get the girl, kill the baddies, and save the entire planet, probably...
In this collection, you will also witness a little girl arguing colonization morals with an elderly alien, while another girl will be 'fixed' by time travelling angels. An astronaut will be rescued (eventually) while another never will be. A deadly connection will be made. A private investigator will lose important parts of his memory on a distant moon. A future colonist never get his girl. A time machine will be abused. An alien observer will be lost. A sister's sister will find her true home.
Just where might future technology take us if we are not mindful of the unintentional consequences?
What will we get? The future we want, or the future we deserve?

My Thoughts:

Memes of Loss and Devotion by Darren White is a collection of 15 short stories and an excerpt from his upcoming book. All of the stories are primarily science fiction/speculative fiction, although a couple also venture toward horror. White manages to infuse his stories with some timeless themes that explore the human condition and pack an immediate visceral reaction. White does an exceptional job of capturing the emotion or condition he wants to explore in the short story format, which is a notable accomplishment. 

White also faces clearly the struggle we have or soon will have with technology integrating into our very bodies, begging the question: Will future technology change what it means to be human or does humanity remain the same even when augmented?

I really enjoyed the majority of the short stories included in this collection (with a few exceptions). All in all I would highly recommend it for those interested in science fiction short story collections. Please note that the Amazon Kindle price is only 2.99 as of this review date, so it's a great bargain too.


Hope: "In the far future, a man returns to his former home to retrieve the woman he loves."

Seduction Games: "A supposedly random encounter in a hotel leads to romance, but is there more going on here than there first seems?"

Soul Destroying: "A ghost story of a love returning from the grave."

Ethnomethodology: "A little girl discusses colonization morals with an elderly alien, whose planet we now share."
Sub Rosa: A young girl’s visions of angels coincide with her parent’s separation.""
Every Silver Lining Has A Cloud: "A lone crew member on a stranded star ship longs for rescue. When he spots another ship he believes that against all hope his dreams have come true."
Connections: "An ordinary life lived against a backdrop of a sinister spate of murders…"
All In The Mind: "A futuristic private investigator is hired to uncover the truth behind a team of researchers who have failed to produce a working faster than light space ship drive".
Spoilt for Choice: "A man with a tragic past hides a dark secret life."
Participant Observation: "A man struggles to come to terms with overwhelming loss. He’s not helped by the unsettling dreams that eventually protrude into his reality."
Life Chances: "For a brave, hardy colonist, there’s a less than ideal outcome to a ‘suspended animation’ voyage to a distant star."
False Positive: "Following the brutal murder of his ex-girlfriend and her new love, the prime suspect produces the perfect alibi."
Ourselves Alone: "A twin, or is she a triplet, comes to terms with a seething sibling rivalry that threatens everything and everyone."
22T: "A scientist has been taken hostage by a man determined to halt her research into human reproduction without the need for men."
Death Ship: "A one man killing machine protects the woman he loves from a hoard of aliens on board a giant star ship bound for the stars. Or does he?"
Plus an excerpt from the book The Fomalhaut Plague due to be released in 2014 which was based off his short story "Every Silver Lining Has A Cloud" which is included in this collection.

Darren White's website for more information and anecdotal notes about each story.

Disclosure: Darren White sent me a copy of this book for

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Cry of The Children

Cry of The Children by J. M. Gregson
Severn House Publishers, 1/1/14
Hardcover, 224 pages
ISBN-13: 9780727882868
Lambert and Hook series #26

Seven-year-old Lucy Gibson can barely contain her excitement when she learns that the funfair has come to town and Matt, her mother's new boyfriend, has agreed to take her. Despite her slight uneasiness in Matt's company and her upset over her parent's split, she readily goes off with him one evening, as excited as only a young innocent child can be.
The next morning, Chief Superintendent Lambert briefs DS Bert Hook and DS Ruth David on the disappearance of a young seven-year-old local girl from a funfair the previous evening. On questioning her distraught mother, it appears that Lucy has vanished into thin air and so begins an intense investigation, racing against time, to discover who took the young girl - and to prevent more children from going missing before it's too late . . .

My Thoughts:

Cry of The Children by J. M. Gregson is the 26th book in his Lambert and Hook series of British police procedurals.

The search begins for seven-year-old Lucy Gibson, who disappeared from the village fair. As Det. Chief Supt. John Lambert, Det. Sgt. Bert Hook, and Det. Sgt. Ruth David begin the investigation, the unthinkable happens: Lucy's body is discovered in the Wye River. Several suspects are identified. High on the list of suspects is Lucy's mother's boyfriend, Matt Boyd, the man who took Lucy to the fair and didn't immediately report her missing, but there are 4 other equally qualified, albeit ignobly, suspects.  Fair worker Rory Burns has already reportedly tried to molest another young girl. Then there is 70 year-old Dennis Robson, a known pedophile. Big Julie Foster is a mentally challenged woman who they know longs to have a child to care for and love. Even Lucy's father, Dean Gibson, is a suspect. The police rush to solve the crime before harm comes to another child.

This is not a novel full of breath-taking twists and turns in the plot. What it is, however, is an excellent, very traditional British police procedural that moves along at a fast pace and will keep your interest right up to the end. Gregson did an outstanding job keeping me guessing. As I followed along the information and clues the police uncovered, I'm going to admit here and now that I didn't have a clue who the guilty party was for sure until the very end. Oh, I had some good guesses, but nothing was confirmed until the end.

Although I have not read all the books in this series, that wasn't a hindrance at all in my enjoyment of this latest mystery. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel.

Very Highly Recommended

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Severn House Publishers via Netgalley for review purposes.

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Moses Virus

The Moses Virus by Jack Hyland
Taylor Trade Publishing; 1/7/2014
Hardcover, 256 pages

ISBN-13: 9781589799080

Modern-day Rome: Two American archaeologists suddenly die in an underground passageway in the Roman Forum leading to the buried rooms of Emperor Nero’s Golden Palace. The Italian authorities conclude the deaths were caused by a devastating and highly contagious virus. Tom Stewart, an NYU forensic archaeologist who was present when the deaths occurred, becomes entangled in the race to find the supply of the virus—a race involving many powerful players desperately seeking the deadly contagion. Stewart must find and destroy the virus before others harness its sinister power.
The Vatican, foreign groups, the world’s largest genetic seed manufacturer—all have their reasons, and none will stop until they succeed, no matter the cost or risk to millions of people if the virus escapes and causes a pandemic.
My Thoughts: 

In The Moses Virus by Jack Hyland forensic archaeologist Tom Stewart has been invited by friend and fellow American, Doc Brown, to witness the excavation of an underground passage discovered that could lead to the rooms of Emperor Nero’s fabled imperial palace, called the Domus Aurea, or the Golden House. Instead of witnessing the pinnacle of his friend's career, Tom instead is there for his death when Doc and a colleague mysteriously die a quick but torturous death. Their bodies are recovered, contorted from the pain and with a green dust on them.

As the bodies are taken away by men in full Hazmat suits to the Communicable Substances Lab, Tom suspects that what killed them was very lethal and highly contagious. Then what happened is explained as a cave-in, clearly in an attempt to cover up the truth.  It soon becomes clear to Tom that what his friend Doc uncovered was a source for a mysterious virus, the Moses Virus, which is so deadly it kills almost immediately and could be lethal for the human race if it should accidentally be released again.

Because Tom had his picture taken with Doc before the excavation, suddenly he finds himself in great danger, as he is being watched and threatened by what may be several different men. So, while Tom tries to figure out what the virus is, where it came from, and where it is now, he must also evade what seem to be representatives from several sources that are tracking him, and trying to discover whatever information he uncovers. And anyone he talks to may not be safe either.

Hyland does an excellent job describing and capturing the setting as Tom tries to unravel the mystery and discover what really happened to his friend Doc in this thriller. It is a given that I will pretty much read any book about any plague you can throw at me, so The Moses Virus was an obvious choice. After a quick start, the writing becomes uneven, eventually picking up again toward the end. Because it's not a long novel, though, you can read through the uneven bits quickly to get back to more action. Hyland does have an interesting twist so the pursuers may not be who you think they are at first.
highly recommended for escapism
Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Taylor Trade Publishing via Netgalley for review purposes.


This morning Tom was going to the Palatine Hill in the Roman Forum. Doc Brown, a professor of archaeology, a member of the Academy, and an old friend, invited him to observe the excavation of an underground passage discovered last year. If his theory was correct, it could lead to the rooms of Emperor Nero’s fabled imperial palace, called the Domus Aurea, or the Golden House. If he was right, it would be a find of historic proportions. Tom was excited for the opportunity that promised to be the crowning glory of his friend’s career. Location 38

Part of Rome’s magic for Tom was that its many layers of past, present, and future were all jumbled together. Standing high on the hill overlooking the piazza was the monument to Victor Emmanuel II, ridiculed for years as resembling a white wedding cake, yet important for honoring the first king of a united Italy in 1861. Behind the monument lay the Roman Forum, once the center of the Roman Republic and later the Roman Empire. On the same square, in the Renaissance Palazzo Venezia, Mussolini had had his headquarters. In the ancient palazzo, a photographer was busy shooting an impossibly thin model for some chic fashion magazine. Location 46

“It was dark and narrow. I called to them as I went through the tunnel. I saw a light. The tunnel got bigger. I kept calling. Then, I saw them. They were on the floor in a large room. I shouted. I shone the light on their faces. They were covered with some kind of . . . green dust. Their eyes were wide open like they had seen something horrible.”
“And? What else?”
Greg stared up. “They’re dead.” Location 139

“I’m Lieutenant Giovanni Gabrielli from the Italian Environmental Protection Command,” he said in English, extending his hand. “My sympathies for the loss of your colleagues. We’re here to assess the situation.” Two men emerged from the Unimog, tethered to the vehicle with long lines feeding them oxygen. The lines unspooled as they walked. The men were garbed in full white Hazmat suits and gloves. The police officers directed them to the passageway at the site. Gabrielli, Tom, and Alex followed close behind. “These men are equipped with a video data line so that we’ll be able to see exactly what’s in the tunnel. We can observe it on this mobile monitor,” Gabrielli said, pointing to small flat screen set up on a cart near the opening. Location 170

The article went on but had no further information of consequence. Cave-in? Tom thought. There was no evidence of a cave-in. Tom felt troubled. What could the reason be for covering up the truth of what had happened yesterday in the Forum? Location 263

“There’s got to be more to it,” Alex said. “Sealing the passageway and stopping excavation—very unusual. And assigning someone from the Communicable Substances Lab? It may be that what killed Doc and Eric was not only very lethal but highly contagious. Remember the green dust that Greg mentioned? Maybe it’s involved somehow.” Location 421

“You could say Moses was the first leader to use plagues as weapons against his enemy. Essentially biological warfare.” Location 433

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Someone Else's Love Story

Someone Else's Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson
HarperCollins; 11/19/2013
Hardcover, 320 pages

ISBN-13: 9780062105653

I fell in love with William Ashe at gunpoint, in a Circle K
For single mom Shandi Pierce, life is a juggling act. She's finishing college; raising her delightful three-year-old genius son, Nathan, aka Natty Bumppo; and keeping the peace between her eternally warring, long-divorced Christian mother and Jewish father. She's got enough to deal with before she gets caught in the middle of a stickup in a gas station mini-mart and falls in love with a great wall of a man named William Ashe, who steps between the armed robber and her son to shield the child from danger.
Shandi doesn't know that her blond god has his own baggage. When he looked down the barrel of the gun in the gas station he believed it was destiny: it's been exactly one year since a tragic act of physics shattered his universe. But William doesn't define destiny the way other people do. A brilliant geneticist who believes in science and numbers, destiny to him is about choice.
Now, William and Shandi are about to meet their so-called destinies head-on, making choices that will reveal unexpected truths about love, life, and the world they think they know.
Someone Else's Love Story is Joshilyn Jackson's funny, charming, and poignant novel about science and miracles, secrets and truths, faith and forgiveness; about falling in love and learning that things aren't always what they seem—or what we hope they will be. It's a story about discovering what we want and ultimately finding what we need.

My Thoughts:

In Someone Else's Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson Shandi Pierce and her three year old son, Natty, are moving to Atlanta where they will live in her dad's condo while Shandi finishes college. Her best friend, Walcott, is helping her move. At a Circle K convenience store right outside the metro area, Shandi and Natty get stuck in the middle of an armed robbery and become hostages. Shandi immediately falls in love with another hostage, a huge blond Thor-like geneticist named William Ashe, when he puts himself between Natty and the robber. William and Shandi end up needing assistance from each other, but it is clear that friends of the two disapprove. Walcott tries to convey his disappointment in Shandi's choices and Shandi is locking horns with William's best friend, Paula.

Someone Else's Love Story is narrated by Shandi and William. While Shandi can be very emotional, it is clear, even before it is confirmed, that William is on the spectrum (Asperger's) and remains emotionally detached. Seemingly these two would be a good match, but something is not quite right. William has issues in his past that are unresolved and unknown to Shandi, but the same can be said of her.

Joshilyn Jackson is one of the best southern writers around today, in my opinion, and continues to impress me more and more with each book she writes. (I think I need to start praying for her health so she'll be writing books for a long time.) All of her characters feel like real people. Each of them has a head full of secret thoughts that keeps them apart even while their hearts want to connect to someone or something. In this case a near tragedy draws Shandi to William, but at the same time Shandi needs William to do something only he can do for her. 

In Someone Else's Love Story she has created a real sense of time and place and then populated her world with characters that are easy to empathize with. I wanted everything to work out, somehow, for everyone in this book. This isn't a conventional love story, though, even if it seems it might be. Jackson has a few twists and turns for the reader. She sends us through those twists and turns with a good dose of humor and heart, faith and redemption, and family. This is a book that you will stay up too late reading and not regret it for a moment.

Even though I had an advanced reading copy, I simply must share two quotes. (Let's be clear, if I can't stop myself from quoting an ARC, you know the writing is incredible - and it is that good.)

"Anniversaries can open up old wounds, he'd said.... William is not a fan of metaphors; they are so often inaccurate. William, the priest should have said, anniversaries are just like being vivisected."(pg 64)

"It was an ugly thing to witness. Betrayal is always ugly, even on a shaded patio full of little birds." (pg. 205)

Very Highly Recommended 

Disclosure: I received an advanced reading copy of this book from HarperCollins for review purposes. 

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

My Own Miraculous

My Own Miraculous: A Short Story by Joshilyn Jackson
HarperCollins: 11/12/2013
ebook, 128 pages
ISBN-13: 9780062307323

From New York Times bestselling novelist Joshilyn Jackson comes an e-original short story that gives a fierce and funny character from Someone Else's Love Story a standalone adventure all her own.
Shandi Pierce got pregnant when she was only seventeen years old. She fell for her son—deeply, instantly, completely—but as she sat at the table feeding him, her own mother was sliding eggs and bacon onto her plate, feeding her.
Now, four years later, Shandi is still more parented than parent. She lives with her mom, her dad pays her bills, and her best friend, Walcott, acts as her white knight. But Natty is no ordinary kid, and when his savant behavior catches the attention of an obsessive stranger, only Shandi sees the true menace.
To protect her son, Shandi must grow up—fast—and find an answer to the question, how can a girl remake herself into a mother?
My Thoughts:

My Own Miraculous is a short story by Joshilyn Jackson that is a prequel to her latest novel Someone Else's Love Story (which will be reviewed tomorrow).  

Shandi Pierce is the narrator of My Own Miraculous. She is the mother of a son, 3 year old  Natty (Nathan) and best friends with Walcott. Shandi found herself pregnant at 17 under mysterious conditions. Her pregnancy resulted in her dropping out of high school, but her mother and Walcott are both there to help take care of her and Natty, so she has yet to experience the fierce protective love a mother can have for her child. An encounter with a strange young woman and her mother at the local blood drive results in Shandi's sudden realization of two facts. First, Natty is not like other three year olds; Natty may be a genius. Second, Shandi discovers that she will do what it takes to protect her son when the strange teen's behavior becomes threatening to Natty.

As Jaskson writes at Goodreads: "One of the main characters from the novel narrates, and the action takes place about 2 months before SELS begins. It's about how we become mothers, But not in the obvious, biological way. *grin* It's about the transformative nature of parenthood." 

My Own Miraculous is a compelling story, as well as an excellent introduction to the characters in Someone Else's Love Story. I already loved Shandi, Walcott, Natty, and Mimmy which made Someone Else's Love Story that much better. Jackson has the ability to make her characters feel like real people and there is always an element of humor even when the circumstances seem dire.

I can see why Jackson chose to release My Own Miraculous as a separate story rather than the opening to Someone Else's Love Story. Although many of the characters are in both, this short story needed to be separate and stand on its own rather than with the novel.

Very Highly Recommended - and then get Someone Else's Love Story.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of HarperCollins via edelweiss for review purposes.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


Perfect by Rachel Joyce
Random House; 1/14/2014
Hardcover, 400 pages
ISBN-13: 9780812993301

Perfect tells the story of a young boy who is thrown into the murky, difficult realities of the adult world with far-reaching consequences.
Byron Hemmings wakes to a morning that looks like any other: his school uniform draped over his wooden desk chair, his sister arguing over the breakfast cereal, the click of his mother’s heels as she crosses the kitchen. But when the three of them leave home, driving into a dense summer fog, the morning takes an unmistakable turn. In one terrible moment, something happens, something completely unexpected and at odds with life as Byron understands it. While his mother seems not to have noticed, eleven-year-old Byron understands that from now on nothing can be the same.

What happened and who is to blame? Over the days and weeks that follow, Byron’s perfect world is shattered. Unable to trust his parents, he confides in his best friend, James, and together they concoct a plan. . . .

As she did in her debut, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Rachel Joyce has imagined bewitching characters who find their ordinary lives unexpectedly thrown into chaos, who learn that there are times when children must become parents to their parents, and who discover that in confronting the hard truths about their pasts, they will forge unexpected relationships that have profound and surprising impacts. Brimming with love, forgiveness, and redemption, Perfect will cement Rachel Joyce’s reputation as one of fiction’s brightest talents.
My Thoughts:

Let me start with an affirmation: Perfect by Rachel Joyce is every bit as good as her debut novel, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. 

Perfect is set in Britain and follows two different storylines. In the first it is 1972 and 11-year-old Byron Hemmings has several things he is concerned about. First his best friend, James Lowe, tells him that two seconds are going to be added to the official time to balance things on this leap year. Byron knows that two seconds may seem inconsequential, but two seconds can make a huge difference. They can mean taking a firm step or stumbling off the edge of a cliff. While James and his mother, Diana, don't seem too concerned, a day comes when those two seconds changed the life of Byron's family. While driving Byron and his younger sister to school in the fog his mother hits a child on a bicycle. The only problem is that she didn't realize it happened and only Byron saw the accident. Should he tell her?

Alternating chapters are set in the present and follow the life of Jim, a man in his fifties with OCD. Jim has been in and out of the mental health system and endured many rounds of electroconvulsive therapy. His current job is as a table washer at a local cafe. He stutters badly and has a difficult time dealing with people, although he desperately tries to get along as best as he can.

It soon becomes clear to the reader that Byron's family is much more dysfunctional than even he realizes and it doesn't take much to topple the tightly regimented routine his mother keeps in order to endure his controlling and older father, who only comes to the country estate to see his family on the weekends. In the meantime Byron and James start "Operation Perfect," a plan to protect Diana, who James worships from afar.

Joyce keeps the pace moving and I just flew through Perfect racing to see what was going to happen next in the two storylines. All of the chapters set in 1972 are seen through Byron's eyes so, while he is observant, he doesn't always recognize the reality of what is going on around him, although he does, with James's help, have some keen insights. He loves his mother and sees her through those eyes rather than how she is viewed by his classmates mothers. Jim's situation is heartbreaking as he struggles along as best he can.

I might as well admit that I was a sobbing mess at the end of this novel. Yes, it is that good. I think I even liked it more than Harold Fry and I liked Joyce's first novel a whole lot. Joyce manages to portray her character's personalities and actions while describing the settings flawlessly. Even when propelling the story forward through the voice of an 11 year-old she manages to capture a sense of depth and purpose. She slowly shows us the steps toward the both of the unfolding tragedies that seem to be looming on the horizon. Perfect is permeated with an overwhelming sadness(thus the crying  going on here) though there is redemption at the end.

The writing is superb. It is perfect. I wouldn't change a word. I loved this novel.

Very Highly Recommended

Disclosure: I received an advanced reading copy of this book from Random House for review purposes.