February and March Book Reviews 2019

I’ve been reading a lot of manuscripts and advance reader copies lately, and right now I’m not allowed to talk about those books. They’ve all been wonderful, and soon I’ll be able to share my reviews of these stories. In the meantime, here are the other books I’ve read these past two months that I recommend.

In March, I interviewed Rochelle Groskreutz and wrote a review of her delightful picture book Easter Elf. I also reviewed a stellar middle-grade ghost story, The Griffins of Castle Cary, written by Heather Shumaker, who also graciously agreed to an interview. These two stories are lovely gems that I highly recommend.



Another spooky middle-grade story that is fun, scary, and magical, often in the same scene, is Peter Green and the Unliving Academy: This Book is Full of Dead People. And that’s no exaggeration, the book is full of dead people. In fact, the main character is definitely of the un-living variety. With no memory of his prior life, Peter has to navigate the world of the un-dead where he will attend the Unliving Academy with all of its quirky residents and faculty. But there’s something nagging at him, something that he needs to remember from his undead life—something important. You’ll enjoy how this well-written story plays out.


(Published by TCK Publishing) 


14-year-old Peter Green can’t remember how he died. All he has are his pajamas, a silk tie, and a one-way bus ticket to Mrs. Battisworth’s Academy and Haven for Unliving Boys and Girls, a strange and spooky school for dead orphans like himself. But that’s all he needs: the Unliving Academy has everything, from vampires in the hallways, to monsters in the cafeteria, to ghosts in the basement. And that’s just the teachers; the students are far stranger.

As Pete learns to fit in with his new supernatural schoolmates, he starts to discover his own uniquely undead abilities, and even begins enjoying his life after death…but he just can’t shake the feeling that he’s forgotten something (or somebody!) important. 


Somebody he left behind in the land of the living.


Somebody he loved very much.


Somebody who’s in terrible danger.



Chris Norbury pens an extremely suspenseful, hard-to-put-down thriller in this prequel to Castle Danger. The author hooks the reader with intrigue from the early pages and never lets go. Growing up in Midwest farm country, I could see my neighbors (and relatives) in many of these characters—likable, quirky, and with their own set of faults which make them feel very real. I seriously stayed up until 2 am to finish this book. The suspense level was off the charts. Norbury handles the twists and turns with real skill and just when you think the resolution is coming, it’s not. Norbury is way ahead of most suspense writers with his plot development. Perfect suspense! 




STRAIGHT RIVER, the prequel to the award-winning thriller CASTLE DANGER, is a mystery-thriller set during the emotional and financial aftermath of the Great Recession.


After his estranged father dies in a farming accident, professional musician Matt Lanier returns to his hometown of Straight River, Minnesota. While he’s settling his father’s estate, an old family friend and neighbor asks Matt for help. Her husband's recent death was ruled a suicide. She insists it wasn’t. If she can’t disprove that ruling, she’ll lose her farm.


The local authorities are uncooperative, so Matt turns to his ex-wife and a young computer prodigy for assistance. As he gets closer to the truth, Matt suspects both deaths are connected to a violent conspiracy with national implications. When the conspirators intensify their efforts to silence him, Matt must decide if it’s worth risking more lives—including his—to protect his friend and hundreds of other farmers from financial catastrophe.



My love for dystopian stories was fed (once again) by Grace Hamilton in book one of her newest series. Surviving the Swamp (Survivalist Reality Show series) is a disaster story with a twist. All the characters are in the middle of a taping a reality TV show about surviving in the Florida Everglades, when a real disaster strikes. The twist is makes this book better than the typical post-apocalyptic tale—everyone was competing to survive already. Looking forward to the remaining books in this series. 




Skin of Your Teeth Survival is a reality show made famous for pairing part-time survivalists with a real-life survival situation. Led by world-famous Prepper and Survivalist Wolf Henderson, season ten promises to be different: this time none of the contestants are survivalists—they’ve all been picked to fail. 


But when an EMP hits, the cast scatters and Wolf is left to guide a group of mis-fits in a suddenly dark and dangerous world. Wolf knows this group will be some of the first casualties if he doesn't help so he offers them safety at his island bug-out location and takes off with his ragtag team to move through the wild and unpredictable swampland of Florida.


The loner of the group, Regan, only joined the reality show to escape her past life. She knows she can’t survive on her own, but connecting with others has never been her strong point. She believes she has a better shot in one of the major cities on the coast than in the swamp, so she joins the team with every intent of striking out on her own once the opportunity arises.


But with the world around them growing more dangerous every day, she has to figure out whether she’s better off with the group or alone in the post-EMP world.And whether Regan or Wolf realize it, the dangerous journey through swampland will soon become a literal fight for survival once they reach the chaos of ‘civilized’ South Florida.


I'm always looking for new books to read! Let me know what your favorites have been so far this year. Comment below!  

Happy Reading, Valerie

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