Choosing a Top Ten list was harder this year than ever before. I read 91 books in 2021, and believe me, choosing just ten took a while. The books listed here affected my life and they linger still. I hope you see something new that piques your interest!
The purchase links are on the images if you see one you want to grab.
And before I close out the year, I want to pay tribute to an author who passed away in 2021. Suzanne Burke was bold in her writing and delved deep into the psyche of twisted characters. But the book that changed me forever, was her memoir, EMPTY CHAIRS. The horrific abuse she suffered would destroy a lesser person, but not Sooz. She was a warrior.
Welcome to my November Book Reviews! I hope you find something new that you can’t resist! 🙂 I only post 4 or 5-star reviews, and all reviews are strictly my own opinions.
This post-apocalyptic book is like reading a diary. I had to keep reminding myself it is fiction. The author did a great job of drawing me into the story and into the struggle for survival after a devastating EMP. Whether it came from the sun or a radioactive blast, there was no way to know. But for Bea Crenshaw and her four grandchildren, it all came down to basic survival. When the EMP fries electric grids, a tremendous train wreck that releases chemical toxins begins this harrowing tale. The after-effects grow direr with each day that passes. Vehicles are rendered useless. There is no running water, no gas to cook with and no way to flush toilets. At first, Bea and her grandchildren are sure their lives will return to normal within a few days – surely government aid is on the way. However, as the days turn into months, it becomes apparent no help will arrive—EVER. Bea is more prepared than most. She’s been stockpiling food and essentials for years, in a house she’s kept a secret from everyone, including her husband. Continuing to keep it a secret becomes a matter of life and death. Looting takes place in every store within the first few days. As time passes, people are killed over a drink of water. Carrying arms becomes normality. The intensity builds throughout the story, as Bea and her grandchildren cope with this life-altering event. Bea’s husband, Hank, and the children’s parents had gone to Waco for a football game. So, the unanswered question as to what happened to them grates on frayed nerves as weeks turned into months with no return and no word. Bea is nothing short of a superhero in this book. While dealing with an illness and caring for the grandchildren, she brings the neighborhood together to work for a common goal—that of survival. Her stockpiles in the secret house save lives, that is until thugs break in and steal what they can. A grandchild dies because of no medical care. Bea never quite recovers from that blow. Then a stroke renders her helpless. This book is not a heart-warming feel-good story. It caused me some worry and sleepless nights, but I feel the message is not far off the target. Would you be able to survive in an apocalypse? This book might give you some ideas. I highly recommend it!
Silverhills is not just a story, it’s a saga—a legacy. Brandon Wade is a Texas rancher. He raises Longhorn cattle and has earned a reputation as a tough no-nonsense businessman as well as a ladies’ man. He and his crew are on a cattle drive when a young boy wearing a six-shooter rides into their camp atop a wild back stallion. He’s looking for work. Only Alex O’Malley isn’t a boy at all. And she’s desperate to keep that hidden. She’s running from something that terrifies her more than rattlesnakes and scorpions. It takes a little while for Wade to realize Alex is not a boy, and he swears to protect her, although she makes it clear she can take care of herself. She has an Irish temper to match her auburn hair. She can rope, ride and shoot as well as or better than any man on the payroll. That is until she’s captured by ruthless Comancheros. Wade will stop at nothing to rescue her. As much as he wants to ignore it, the feelings he’s developing for Alex go beyond duty and honor. And that’s just the beginning of the story. The author did a superb job of describing settings, life on a Texas ranch, and working with animals. Silverhills is the ranch, but it is so much more. It’s an entire self-sufficient community. I loved all of the side characters, especially Jeff, Cookie, and Maria. The obstacles both Alex and Brandon Wade must overcome are daunting and seemingly impossible. The author did a great job of keeping Alex’s secret until the last quarter of the book. But the story has more than a satisfying conclusion. From the plains of Kansas to Texas and on into Mexico, the characters cover a lot of territories. This is an action-packed nail-biting western drama with just the right touch of romance to satisfy any western romance reader!
I first heard of Michael A. Kroll when he interviewed my late husband, Rick Sikes, for a magazine article he was writing about inmates in Leavenworth Prison. So, when I saw Kroll had written a book, I grabbed it, and am I glad I did. This story goes deep into some very big social issues but does it in such a way that it is entertaining, yet while being brutally honest. The story begins with a traffic catastrophe on a bridge. Cars and people are stuck for hours. The main character, Harrison Ovitz, is an observer. He takes notice of each vehicle and person around him. Next to him is a pickup with a janitorial advertisement on the door. A black man sits in that pickup holding his phone to his ear but never speaking. When the man suddenly exits the pickup, Harrison makes eye contact with him, then locks his car door. That simple act of fear is reflected in the man’s eyes as he calmly walks to the edge of the bridge and hurls himself off. That sets the story in motion. People flock to the side of the bridge to try and get a glimpse of the man, but the deep black waters have swallowed him up. Harrison looks in the pickup and finds a small dog curled up on the seat asleep next to a suicide note. Over the next few days, while taking care of the little dog, Harrison is haunted by what he witnessed, the way the man’s eyes locked with his, and the horror that followed. It sends him on a mission. He is obsessed with discovering why Joshua Jeppards committed suicide. I do not want to leave any spoilers here. But I do want to express my thoughts about this story. It is well-written, as I would expect from a journalist, and it addresses some raw social issues such as sexual child abuse and racism. It also exposes an unspeakable incident that is a huge blight on American history which has all but been swept under the rug. I did not know about the tragedy that took place at Port Chicago, a Naval port in 1944. I do now, thanks to Kroll’s story. If you enjoy a story that deals with real issues, the human psyche, and raw honesty, you will enjoy this book. I do highly recommend it!
This segment of Emlyn’s journey is broken into two parts. We get a closer look at Haldis, The Watcher, and see her backstory. We also see that she is getting very old and tired, but her connection to the Lost Library is permanent and cannot be changed. She gives us a deeper look into the original powers and magic of the Daes Matres. Emlyn and the Daes Matres are trapped in the Realm of the Dead and are unable to find the rip in the veil to return to the land of the living. Everything is dark and gray. The setting is creepy and energy levels are low. The group continues their search for the Lost Library and finds what only appears to be remnants of ruins long decayed. The omniscient POV the author writes in, also allows us to see through Arawan’s eyes for a short minute. This gives more insight into his character. This segment ends with tension and I am eagerly looking forward to what’s next.
This may be my favorite part of the story so far. When the Daes Matres finally discover the Lost Library, the author’s description is stunning. I can picture the ancient walls, levels, and rows of books, rooms that appear as though they are still in use, although it’s now been buried for hundreds of years. But the possession of Zasha by a former reincarnation of herself is a fascinating concept. We think of reincarnation only in terms of karmic debt or unfinished business, but Fotia fully possesses Zasha, even changing her physical appearance. Emlyn’s experience with the magic of the ancient staff is another favorite scene in this part of the story. Much is revealed about Emlyn and Osabide as well as Zasha here. Now, to see what they do with this new knowledge! The author has a unique way of drawing the reader into the story and feeling each character’s personality. I’m looking forward to the next segment.
A wonderful holiday story that leaves you feeling warm and fuzzy. Grace Donovan has moved with her six-year-old daughter, Cassie, to a new town. She is hopeful her daughter, who has Leukemia, can participate in a trial treatment program. What she hasn’t bargained for is the kindhearted school principal that sets her heart racing. Widowed, Grace has not considered falling in love again. But Cassie wants to see her mother happy and her Christmas wish is for someone to make her mother smile again. Well, and she also wants a puppy. I loved all the characters from Avery, who quickly befriends Cassie, to Kyle the handsome school principal, and his twin brother, Keith. They are all realistic and believable. This story has all the elements to create a wonderful holiday tale. From children to puppies, a sleigh ride, and a romance, it has it all. This is a short two-hour read and well worth the time. Jacquie Biggar is a talented writer and has the ability to draw the reader into the story with the characters. I highly recommend this story for any time of year, but especially around the holidays!
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