Book Reviews - April & May Favorites

There are four outstanding writers who entertained me during the months of April and May, Beth Flynn, Theresa Shaver, Nora Roberts, and Holly Tierney-Bedord.

I became a fan of Theresa Shaver many years ago when I first read her Stranded Series. I was delighted to find out that there was a book five! (As a side note, for those of you who read a lot and want to keep track of new releases by authors you love, take the time to follow them on Amazon or BookBub or on the author’s website. You’ll get a nice notification when their next book releases, so you don’t miss anything.)

Frozen: A Stranded Novel continues the story of a class of Canadian teens who are originally stranded at Disneyland in California when an EMP hits North America. The class fractures into groups who attempt to survive in different ways as they forge a path back to their small town in Canada. These are great survivor stories. The good news is there will be one more, from what I understand.


Winter temperatures in Alberta, Canada can drop as low as -30 to -40 C (-22 to -40 F) for weeks at a time. These temperatures are manageable in modern civilization. The odds of survival at these temperatures decrease when all modern conveniences such as furnaces and electricity are taken out of the equation. Such is the life many would face after an EMP. Mrs. Moore’s students had faced unsurmountable odds of getting home. Each and every teenager in the group had been forced to do and act well beyond their years to survive to this point. Unfortunately, their parents, grateful to have them back refuse to accept the changes in their children and attempt to force them back into the young roles their children had before the end of civilization. What they don’t understand is that it’s not possible to erase those changes. When the teen’s town is hit with a devastating virus, they take it upon themselves to travel first to the closest military encampment to find the medicine their loved ones so desperately need. Stone walled at every turn they make the hard decision to embark on an epic journey to a faraway city to search the ruins for help they need. Traveling through a Frozen wasteland, they not only have to fight the elements and other survivors but also the inner struggles and changes each one has to accept and live with. It’s not just the weather that has Frozen.


Theresa Shaver has also authored the Endless Winter series, Snow & Ash, Rain & Ruin, and Sun & Smoke. This is a nuclear winter survival story and skillfully written.


Bomb after bomb dropped across the globe sending the world tumbling into a seemingly never ending nuclear winter. Skylar Ross is ten that day when she's ripped from dance classes and sleepovers to being an orphan in a prepper's paradise of a mountain bunker. Her determination to protect her baby brother keeps her locked away with nothing but responsibility and loneliness. Her father's words are a continuous echo, "Trust no one. Help no one." Rex Larson is eleven that day. He's left stranded on the side of the road in a strange place far from home when his mother dies the first day. With his own small brother to look after he is lost and alone. Rex has no choice but to trust complete strangers with his and his brother's future. Two different survivors in two different circumstances spend the next seven years trying to survive until an explosive meeting changes both their courses and lives forever. Trust is almost impossible when your whole life is spent in the Snow & Ash.


So, if you like your authors to be “wrecking worlds one book at a time” as Shaver states on her website, you’ll enjoy her books.

Sometimes I hesitate to feature an author as famous and prolific as Nora Roberts (like she needs my help getting readers). But a good book is a good book, and she deserves the shout out. I could hardly put down Shelter in Place, her newest suspense novel. The story begins with a mass shooting at a mall and movie theater and focuses on the survivors who years later begin to die in ways that at first seem random but are eventually realized to be connected and the work of one deranged person.


It was a typical evening at a mall outside Portland, Maine. Three teenage friends waited for the movie to start. A boy flirted with the girl selling sunglasses. Mothers and children shopped together, and the manager at video game store tended to customers. Then the shooters arrived.

The chaos and carnage lasted only eight minutes before the killers were taken down. But for those who lived through it, the effects would last forever. In the years that followed, one would dedicate himself to a law enforcement career. Another would close herself off, trying to bury the memory of huddling in a ladies' room, helplessly clutching her cell phone--until she finally found a way to pour her emotions into her art.

But one person wasn't satisfied with the shockingly high death toll at the DownEast Mall. And as the survivors slowly heal, find shelter, and rebuild, they will discover that another conspirator is lying in wait--and this time, there might be nowhere safe to hide.


Holly Tierney-Bedord is my newest find and she is quite a treasure. Sweet Hollow Women takes us on a multi-generational journey with the women of one family from Sweet Hollow, Louisiana. The story is told from different perspectives, combining a decades old family mystery and life’s ups and downs into a lovely story. I cannot wait to read the rest of this author’s books.


As part of a family where life happens to you, fifteen-year-old Carasine Busey is devastated but not surprised when her family drops everything in Sweet Hollow, Louisiana to follow her dad's shaky career as a welder. It's not especially shocking, either, when he abandons them all shortly after they settle into their new home in the city. Carasine, her mom Rhonda, and the rest of the Busey clan have adapted to roll with the punches. From Rhonda's secret broken heart to Great-Great-Grandpa Jimbo's eccentric failed dreams, Carasine and her family are used to disappointment. It's not until Carasine gets a second chance with an unlikely pair of long-lost relatives that she realizes her path in life might be up to her to navigate. Being their flesh and blood convinces her that there may be some hope for her after all.


Finally, Beth Flynn . . . some day if I ever get to meet this author, I’m going to be a fan girl mess. Tethered Souls is the second spin-off novel from the Nine Minutes Trilogy. (And if you haven’t read the Nine Minutes Trilogy yet – get your butt in gear.)  Do not read these out of order. You need to know what comes before to truly understand and enjoy the following books. I was lucky enough to get an advance reader copy of this book. I am continually amazed how Flynn crafts characters that are flawed but so engaging from the minute you open the book (or click the cover on your e-reader.) She strikes such a perfect balance. Her plot mastery is clear as this novel weaves old characters in with new as we move into the intrigue of the second generation of the Nine Minutes Trilogy. I loved the twist reveal at the end. (NO SPOILERS HERE!) You're going to have to read it to get to that OMG moment. I so didn't see THAT coming. 


My family has secrets. I’m always the good girl, doing what’s necessary to keep my loved ones safe. I've kept the darkest secrets from everyone I know. As painful as it is to hold them all inside where they live and gnaw away at me, that’s where they must stay. I haven't seen my closest childhood friend, Christian Bear, since I was a teenager—he hasn't changed a bit. He’s still temperamental and plays by his own rules with the law following two steps behind him. Christian remembers me. But he doesn’t know the first thing about me anymore. I should've shared my feelings with him the day before I moved away with my family, promising him I'd stay in touch. It broke my heart when he didn't keep his end of the bargain. As a consequence, we haven't spoken in years. Even though Christian and I have always had undeniable chemistry, I won't let him shatter my heart a second time. Christian has shown up in my life again with secrets of his own, and demanding answers. That doesn't mean I'm willing to give them. He'll know my secrets when I’m ready. Our secrets, the risks we’re taking, and the danger he imposes make it impossible to know what our future holds. Either our tethered souls will bind back together, or our secrets will separate us forever. Tethered Souls is the second spin-off novel from The Nine Minutes Trilogy. It can be read as a standalone, but would most likely be more enjoyable if read after Nine Minutes, Out of Time, and A Gift of Time. It contains major spoilers from the trilogy, and although not necessary, the reader might benefit by understanding the background stories of the main characters that are described in the series. There are many twists and turns in all my books that can best be connected if read consecutively. RECOMMENDED FOR READERS 18 AND OLDER DUE TO STRONG LANGUAGE, SEXUAL SITUATIONS, AND VIOLENCE.


Happy summer reading everyone! (If you missed my February & March reviews, you can catch up with those here.)  -- Valerie



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