Quarantined Pages

I am typing this in June of 2020. Since March 13 of 2020 life has been . . . odd. The country has been dealing with the impact of a world wide pandemic. Schools and universities finished their year with students learning and working online from home. Business shifted to work-from-home set ups whenever and wherever possible . . . it’s been a shut-down/quarantine/isolation of sorts. Introverts loved it (until they realized that the rest of their family was going to constantly be underfoot!) and extroverts weren’t sure how we were going to survive!

Enter seven outstanding Booktube personalities! (If you don’t know what Booktube is you are missing out! It’s an entire community of book lovers and book reviewers who create content on Youtube!) They created a daily reading time that they called Quarantined Pages. Using Zoom meetings, readers from all over the world gathered together for an hour of silent reading after which we would discuss the books we were reading. As time went on, the group was acknowledged by Forbes and others which brought new members to our get-togethers! The organizers even found authors willing to come chat about their work! Some have been debut authors trying to get their first book out into the world at a time when book tours and book signings are not happening. Others have been established authors talking about their newest work. No matter the case, each of those “author chats” has been an absolute joy to be a part of!

A Twitter feed, a reading list on Goodreads, special registrations for the author chats . . . the numbers varied from one meeting to the next and we were checking in from LITERALLY all over the world. But one thing has been constant – At 51 years of age I might be the oldest face to show up and I feel completely embraced each and every time – they have become, for lack of a better term, my “bookish family”. Those who attend cover all ages, ethnic groups, gender identity groups . . . the only thing about us that is exactly the same is that we love to share books. And some of us get REALLY expressive when we experience “bookish joy” (I’m lookin’ at you Adri and Noria!).

I’ve had a few people chuckle when I’ve told them about this. But for this extroverted people person, this daily get-together of fellow book lovers became the one thing on my calendar that I could count on to occur exactly when it was scheduled to in a world when so many things were cancelled. Many of us have connected on Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads . . . several of us have found new Booktube personalities to follow and we ALL have gotten a number of books to add to our personal wish lists!

To some it might seem like a simple thing. Maybe even a little silly. But when the world shut down from a pandemic, reading became a thing that connected a group of strangers and gave me something to look forward to every day. And I’m ever so grateful to have found such a unique, special online community.

From My Bookshelf – Kingdom of Liars (Nick Martell)

Michael Kingman has grown up under a dark cloud. When he was merely a child, his father was executed for killing the prince. Michael and his sister, Gwen, and brother, Lyon, were branded, forever marked as traitors. Raised by a foster father, the three siblings attempt to forge their way in a world that once revered their family name. “There must always be a Kingman in Hollow.” But what exactly were the Kingman children supposed to do when they were no longer tasked with protecting the members of the royal family to whom they had pledged? To make matters worse, their mother is in an asylum, her mind seemingly gone. But she does not possess the ability to wield any kind of Fabrication so her loss of memory makes absolutely no sense. Then Michael begins to hear rumors that maybe, just maybe, his father had been framed. But who can he trust? Not everyone in his life is who he or she appears to be. And he has never shown any ability with Fabrications so why are their holes in his own memory?

The world-building is outstanding, the character development captivating, and the story . . . well, the story will draw you in and refuse to let you go. Not everyone is who they claim to be and there are more secrets being kept than Michael can possibly imagine. This may be the first novel from author Nick Martell, but what a debut! This is to be the first in a series and there is PLENTY yet to be revealed in Michael’s story. Martell has definitely planted himself firmly on my “best of the year” list.

From My Bookshelf – Conscience by Cecilia London

Book 2 picks up right where book 1, Dissident, left us. The action is intense from the first page and it doesn’t let up. As she did in the first book, London artfully weaves flashbacks with current-day scenes creating an artistic approach that is captivating. With the simple headings “Present” and “The Fed” the reader has no difficulty keeping track of where they are in time.

What can I say about Caroline and Jack?! Two political opposites who find a loving partnership with one another and become a power couple to be reckoned with. They may not always see eye to eye but they ALWAYS support one another in the end.

The story is intense, fast-paced, emotionally rich, and left me with my hands shaking and a small knot in my stomach. I can’t wait to see what happens next!

From My Bookshelf – Enchant by Demelza Carlton

Retellings are a guilty pleasure of mine so I was drawn to this book (and the others in the series!). I’m especially fond of Beauty & the Beast and have read a few retellings of the familiar tale. So it takes something truly original to surprise.

Carlton delivered! When a young enchantress must assist an evil king who wishes to curse his brother, she has no clue the long-reaching impact it will have. Or that she will have the chance to make it right once she discovers what has happened. But will the Prince still love her once he realizes she is the cause of his curse?

Demelza Carlton has re-told several well-known tales. This is the first I’ve read and it will definitely not be the last!

From My Bookshelf – Buried by Lynda Plante

This is the first book I’ve read by Lynda La Plante and I’m more than a little excited to have gotten in on the first book in a new series! DC Jack Warr has done a decent job as an officer of the law. He isn’t the most driven individual on the force, but he can get the job done. His girlfriend, Maggie, and his new boss, DCI Simon Ridley, would like to see a little more passion from Jack when it comes to career aspirations. When Jack receives devastating news right as an intriguing case has landed in his lap, it’s all the motivation he needs to become truly passionate about pursuing the truth. But is his focus really on getting the job done? Or finding answers for himself? Where is the line between diligent investigating and obsession?

Tying together crimes committed decades apart, La Plante creates characters that are simultaneously frustrating and likable. The plot was well-crafted and just complex enough to keep you guessing. I look forward to the rest of the series!

From My Bookshelf – Cambiare by Avery Ames

If you start reading this book expecting a typical fae story, you are going to be shocked. Very, VERY shocked. Princess Cirelle makes a deal with a mysterious fae named Ellian to save her brother and former lover from a plague that is devastating her kingdom. The price Cirelle has to pay? One year of servitude in Ellian’s home. Cirelle knows much of the lore concerning fae and thinks she is prepared for her adventure. But there’s a dark side to her that is brought to the surface in the fae realm. As Ellian says, “There’s something dark inside you, Princess, and I’m afraid I’m setting it free.”

Intense emotions, subterfuge and plotting, and a small rebellion trying to prevent the queen of the Unseelie Court from locking the door between the fae realm and the human world. This one will keep you guessing right up until the last page and then leave you waiting for the sequel!

From My Bookshelf – Shadow City by Anna Mocikat (4 Stars)

There is absolutely no hint that this is the first in a series so the cliffhanger ending was a surprise. A pleasant surprise but definitely unexpected.

I loved everything about this book. Vampires, cyborgs, and humans working together to keep people safe in a world that has been torn apart by an explosive incident known as “the Glitch”. But that explosion has allowed pure evil into the world. And all the death and suffering that has followed is simply enhancing that evil. It’s an evil force that would love to wipe out humans – vampires too! – and take control of the world.

The book leaves you with sooooo many questions. Will Colton ever remember ANYTHING about his past? What exactly is the being inhabiting the body of Human Force officer? They’ve been stopped temporarily but they certainly haven’t given up. What will the Dark Ones do next?

You’ll notice I said I loved everything about this book yet I gave it a four-star rating. The ONLY thing that kept me from giving it a five star was the presence of some editing mistakes – words that were missing and sentences that were awkwardly worded. It didn’t detract from the plot but did cause my reading to slow down a few times. The awkward wording was really only an issue in that last couple of chapters; it almost read like the book had been written in a different language (I believe the author was born in Poland and lived in Germany until 2016) and then was translated into English. But PLEASE read this book – even with the language hiccups it’s a fantastic story!

Bonus Book Review – Girl Desecrated (Cheryl Cowtan)

I know I’ve already posted a book reveiw this week . . . but I just finished a book by a new-to-me author and wanted to share!

Rachel has grown up with a fanatically religious mother who believes her daughter is possessed. While visiting her mother in the asylum, Rachel is befriended by Dr. Casbus who offers Rachel psychiatric help to deal with what appears to be a “split personality.” But is Dr. Casbus really who he claims to be? And is Rachel dealing with mental illness or something far worse?

A highland curse from the 1800’s rears it’s ugly head to completely alter Rachel’s life. Her mother’s fear of a demon wasn’t terribly far off the mark and Rachel’s encounter with an irresistibly handsome Scotsman sets in motion a terrifying change in Rachel that she is determined to fight against.

Cowtan uses carefully placed, well-crafted flashbacks to help with the backstory here. Jumping from the colonial era in the Jamestown settlement to the 1980s in Canada, we are given glimpses into the life of an otherworldly creature referred to as The Fergus She – also known as Scarlett – as well as Rachal Anam, just turned 18. Cowtan does a beautiful job keeping her reader guessing about the connection between the two women until the inevitable reveal near the end of the book. As the truth is revealed, the reader is left facing a well-crafted cliffhanger and wondering what will happen in the second book. The characters are complex and well-thought-out. I was drawn into Rachel’s story and I love it when an author can make me care about a character, flaws and all. This was definitely a worthwhile read and I can’t wait to get my hands on the sequel.

Book Review- Souls of Three (Starseed Trilogy #2)

As the second book of The Starseed Trilogy opens, the triplets – Lily, Evelyn, and Sara – are taking a break from their “magical training”. Lily has traveled back to Oregon to spend some time with those who raised her while Evelyn returns to New York City and her job with her adopted dad’s company. When Lily returns to Fern Cottage, she is told that Evelyn’s work will be keeping her in New York City longer than was originally planned – an important new client to get settled in. To REALLY complicate matters, Evelyn falls for this new client, a charming man by the name of Roman Simons. Does she really want to leave him and return to Fern Cottage? Would he understand if she told him who she really was? And then he invites her on a weekend getaway in some remote luxury home.

Meanwhile, Lily, who is more than a little frustrated that Evelyn hasn’t yet returned, discovers that Sara and Evelyn have been talking on the phone during Evelyn’s prolonged absence. And when Lily finds out that Evelyn is enjoying a weekend getaway with the new man in her life? Things can’t help but get more tense between two sisters who have had difficulty getting along from the start.

But the handsome, charming Roman Simons is not all that he appears to be and Evelyn quickly finds herself in a nightmarish situation that she, with her fledgling magic skills, cannot handle alone. She doesn’t know if her sisters even know she is in trouble, much less if they can do anything to help.

Back in Fern Cottage, the family discovers a traitor in their midst. A lifelong friend sends a letter to the Brigit, the triplets’ mother, admitting that she was behind the chaos in Alexandria that resulted in Lily losing a family member. But this person isn’t confessing anything because she doesn’t feel the least bit guilty. She openly admits that she has had a hand in helping to abduct Evelyn. The family immediately takes action, seeking to rescue Evelyn and deal once and for all with the vampires Amon and Empusa.

But new powers arise in the girls and new pieces of the prophecy fall into place. The bond between the sisters grows stronger and they learn that their own power increases when they lean on one another.

This captivating sequel moves the story forward with new plot twists and new faces while continuing to beautifully develop the characters and relationships I most loved from the first book. Some enemies are vanquished, others escape, and a traitor has yet to be dealt with. And it all leaves you waiting to see what happens in the final installment! Will the magic skills of the three sisters be enough to defeat Dimia and the Fata? The fate of the human race hangs in the balance.

Book Review – Prophecy of Three (Starseed Trilogy #1)

Where do I begin?!

I discovered this book through a random social media encounter – it was a Twitter discussion about self-published/indie authors – where I met the author, Ashley McLeo. Do yourself a favor – read this book!

I’m going to try to keep this brief because I could go on about this book for awhile. Let’s start with something “technical” – the Bechdel Test. For those who don’t know, the Bechdel Test came about as a result of a 1985 comic strip created by Alison Bechdel. Originally intended as a way to “rate” movies, the Bechdel test has three basic goals – (1) There must be at least two female characters, (2) Both female characters must have names, and (3) They must have a conversation that is about something OTHER than a man. This book EXPLODES those three criteria. The book focuses on three women who don’t know they are sisters (triplets, to be exact) and their mother and her two sisters. Along with these six characters, there are other women who play significant roles in the story as well. In the course of the story, you learn their names and their personal histories. Their conversations involve the family history, the reasons that the triplets were sent to live with adoptive families (with their magic bound since they were born witches), learning to use their now un-bound powers, and the fact that these three just might be a set of sisters spoken of in a prophecy millennia before.

The characters can be strong or vulnerable, confident or frustrated, focused or confused. In other words, they are real and relatable. None of them is perfect or completely flawed but you are rooting for them every step of the way. You cheer as they become more able to control their various powers, you are genuinely worried for them when a loved one is in serious danger . . . and when Lily has to make a heart-wrenching decision regarding someone who helped to raise her? I literally held my breath!

If you like believable, strong, multi-dimensional female characters and a well-written plot, read this book! Warning – there is a mountain of a cliffhanger at the end!