The Cost of Knowing by Brittney Morris #bookreview #contemporary #supernatural

Dear Martin meets They Both Die at the End in this gripping, evocative novel about a Black teen who has the power to see into the future, whose life turns upside down when he foresees his younger brother’s imminent death, from the acclaimed author of SLAY.

Sixteen-year-old Alex Rufus is trying his best. He tries to be the best employee he can be at the local ice cream shop; the best boyfriend he can be to his amazing girlfriend, Talia; the best protector he can be over his little brother, Isaiah. But as much as Alex tries, he often comes up short.

It’s hard to for him to be present when every time he touches an object or person, Alex sees into its future. When he touches a scoop, he has a vision of him using it to scoop ice cream. When he touches his car, he sees it years from now, totaled and underwater. When he touches Talia, he sees them at the precipice of breaking up, and that terrifies him. Alex feels these visions are a curse, distracting him, making him anxious and unable to live an ordinary life.

And when Alex touches a photo that gives him a vision of his brother’s imminent death, everything changes.

With Alex now in a race against time, death, and circumstances, he and Isaiah must grapple with their past, their future, and what it means to be a young Black man in America in the present. 

This is the second book I’ve read by this author, and she can count me as a confirmed fan.

Alex and his younger brother, Isaiah, were orphaned four year ago after the family was involved in a car accident. Since then, they’ve been raised by their aunt. Sixteen-year-old Alex is trying to be all things for everyone he knows – his employer, his girlfriend, his brother, and even his deceased parents. He also suffers from panic attacks. Since the car accident, every time he touches someone or something, he sees the future of that person or object. After seeing Isaiah’s death, he’s determined to repair their relationship and close the distance between them that developed after their parents’ passing.

Much of this book is spent in Alex’s head with his swirling thoughts, fears, and visions. The author does an incredible job at making the reader feel the grief, anxieties, and pressures Alex experiences nearly every minute of every day. It’s far too much for someone his age to have to carry. And then there are the racial issues. The brothers live in a predominantly white, upper class, gated community. Neighbors who claim not to be racists very clearly are, but fail to see it.

This book is heartbreaking in so many ways and will absolutely wreck you. But it’s also a powerful story that includes joyous bonding moments between Alex and Isaiah. The vivid supporting characters seem to rise from the pages. Talia, Alex’s girlfriend, is a delight, and Aunt Mackie is a strong, successful woman who loves her nephews unconditionally. Although I dreaded what was coming, you couldn’t have pried this book from my hands over the last thirty percent. It’s bittersweet, but also hopeful and so very timely and important. I can’t wait to see what this author does next.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

The Accidental Apprentice (Wilderlore #1) by Amanda Foody #bookreview #MG #fantasy #TuesdayBookBlog

A boy who accidentally bonds with a magical Beast must set off on an adventure in the mysterious Woods.

The last thing Barclay Thorne ever wanted was an adventure.

Thankfully, as an apprentice to the town’s mushroom farmer, Barclay need only work hard and follow the rules to one day become the head mushroom farmer himself. No danger required. But then Barclay accidentally breaks his town’s most sacred rule: never ever EVER stray into the Woods, for within the Woods lurk vicious magical Beasts.

To Barclay’s horror, he faces a fate far worse than being eaten: he unwittingly bonds with a Beast and is run out of town by an angry mob. Determined to break this bond and return home, Barclay journeys to find the mysterious town of Lore Keepers, people who have also bonded with Beasts and share their powers.

But after making new friends, entering a dangerous apprenticeship exam, and even facing the legendary Beast of the Woods, Barclay must make a difficult choice: return to the home and rules he’s always known, or embrace the adventure awaiting him.

I don’t read many middle grade books, but I make an exception when it’s written by one of my favorite authors.

Barclay Thorne carries the weight of many worries. He was orphaned after a beast killed his parents and now has to work as an apprentice to a mushroom farmer for meals and shelter. He worries about making his deceased parents proud of him. Dullshire (his village) regularly posts new rules he has to remember (sneezing is prohibited in the town square). And then there are all the creatures in the Woods that could potentially eat him. He’s also very determined not to have anything to do with Lore (magic), which is outlawed in Dullshire. When he accidentally bonds with a Beast in the Woods and is barred from his village, his worries become nearly overpowering.

Worldbuilding is richly detailed and full of whimsical appeal. The author has constructed a magical world full of creatively named creatures, plants, etc. The classes of beasts and their powers is clever and easy to understand, and a guide listing all of them is included at the end. I especially enjoyed that the author’s cat inspired one of the creatures (Mitzi is adorable!).

This is an absolutely delightful first book in a series I plan to continue. Barclay is a very relatable MC, and the supporting characters (especially Viola) are fun and well-developed. With plenty of humor, unlikely friendships, a thrilling adventure, and some heartwarming moments, this book is about discovering what truly makes you happy and finding where you belong.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Easter, #AmWriting, and #AmWatching

It occurred to me yesterday evening that I hadn’t prepared my Monday post – so this will be a brief one.

What a gorgeous Easter weekend! The weather was warm, sunny, and perfect, and I took the opportunity to clean up the patio area and add some new outdoor rugs. Yesterday we hosted friends, our youngest son, and a niece who recently moved an hour away for Easter dinner, and we had a wonderful time. Hubby makes a mean fried turkey. If you’ve never tried it fried, I doubt you’d ever go back to the traditional roasted turkey again if sampled it. We were hooked after the first taste many years ago.

My publisher renewed the contracts on my books through 2023 – so that’s good news! Still adding words to the sequel to Subject A36 and plan to write a couple of important chapters this week. One in particular contains some pivotal moments, and I’ve let the characters know they need to be prepared for this. Of course, they may steer it in an entirely different direction. Wouldn’t be the first time.

I recorded the first episode of a new series (it originally aired a year ago in the UK) last night on AMC (after the season finale of The Walking Dead!). Gangs of London looks intriguing, and Rotten Tomatoes rated it 90%. Here’s a brief description: Gangs of London is a British action–crime drama television series produced by Pulse Films & Sister, following struggles between rival gangs and other criminal organisations in present-day London. The first series aired in the UK on 23 April 2020 on Sky Atlantic.

Have a safe and healthy week – get those vaccinations!

#BlogTour Tigers, Not Daughters by Samantha Mabry @algonquinyr #YA #supernatural #TigersNotDaughters

I originally reviewed this YA supernatural novel in March 2020, but the paperback was recently released. If you’d like to read my review, click HERE. At less than 300 pages, it’s a quick read I finished on a two hour flight.

The Torres sisters dream of escape. Escape from their needy and despotic widowed father, and from their San Antonio neighborhood, full of old San Antonio families and all the traditions and expectations that go along with them. In the summer after her senior year of high school, Ana, the oldest sister, falls to her death from her bedroom window. A year later, her three younger sisters, Jessica, Iridian, and Rosa, are still consumed by grief and haunted by their sister’s memory. Their dream of leaving Southtown now seems out of reach. But then strange things start happening around the house: mysterious laughter, mysterious shadows, mysterious writing on the walls. The sisters begin to wonder if Ana really is haunting them, trying to send them a message—and what exactly she’s trying to say.
 
In a stunning follow-up to her National Book Award–longlisted novel All the Wind in the World, Samantha Mabry weaves an aching, magical novel that is one part family drama, one part ghost story, and one part love story.

samantha was born four days before the death of john lennon. she grew up in dallas, playing bass guitar along to vinyl records in her bedroom after school, writing fan letters to rock stars, doodling song lyrics into notebooks, and reading big, big books.

in college at southern methodist university, she majored in english literature, minored in spanish, and studied latin and classics. after that, she went on to receive a master’s degree in english from boston college.

these days, she teaches at a community college and spends as much time as possible in the west texas desert.

Wasteland (Operation Galton #2) by Terry Tyler #bookreview #dystopian #scifi

‘Those who escape ‘the system’ are left to survive outside society. The fortunate find places in off-grid communities; the others disappear into the wasteland.’

The year is 2061, and in the new UK megacities, the government watches every move you make. Speech is no longer free—an ‘offensive’ word reaching the wrong ear means a social demerit and a hefty fine. One too many demerits? Job loss and eviction, with free transport to your nearest community for the homeless: the Hope Villages.

Rae Farrer is a megacity girl through and through, proud of her educational and career achievements, until a shocking discovery about her birth forces her to question every aspect of life in UK Megacity 12.

On the other side of the supposedly safe megacity walls, a few wastelanders suspect that their freedom cannot last forever…

Wasteland is the stand-alone sequel to Hope, and is the second and final book in the Operation Galton series.

The first book in this series, Hope, captivated me, but also left me feeling unnerved because the concept isn’t entirely outside the realm of possibility.  I was thrilled when I learned the author continued the story.

Wasteland is set over thirty years after the first book with an entirely new cast of characters for the most part.  I was excited to see what had become of a couple of my favorites from Hope.  This world is just plain scary.  The government is always watching and controls nearly every aspect of life for its citizens.  Have one drink too many, speak unkindly about someone, eat too many sweets, or do or say something outside the dictated parameters of your job, and you’re slapped with social demerits which can result in entire lifestyle changes.  And they’re not pleasant.  Forget thinking for yourself or making your own decisions – it’s all done for you.

A twist I absolutely didn’t see coming after the halfway point made me see things in a whole new light.  I even went back a few pages to see if what I thought happened actually did.  Love surprises like that!  I enjoyed meeting these new characters (especially Ace!), but after reading several books by this author, I’ve learned not to get too attached to some of them.  They don’t always get their happily ever after, and that’s also the case in this story.

The ending is tense and will give readers an adrenaline rush so be prepared.  Fans of dystopia and sci-fi will enjoy this thought-provoking and sometimes disturbing series.  Each book can be read as a stand-alone, but I’d recommend reading them in order.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

WWW Wednesday: What Am I Reading? #amreading

WWW Wednesday is a meme from Sam at Taking On A World Of Words

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

The Martian will always be a favorite of mine, but I missed this author’s last book. Luckily, I received an ARC of his newest novel. The humor of The Martian is present, but maybe not quite as prevalent. Still, Ryland Grace is one smart dude. And the math is wayyyyy over my head.

Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission–and if he fails, humanity and the earth itself will perish.

Except that right now, he doesn’t know that. He can’t even remember his own name, let alone the nature of his assignment or how to complete it.

All he knows is that he’s been asleep for a very, very long time. And he’s just been awakened to find himself millions of miles from home, with nothing but two corpses for company.

His crewmates dead, his memories fuzzily returning, he realizes that an impossible task now confronts him. Alone on this tiny ship that’s been cobbled together by every government and space agency on the planet and hurled into the depths of space, it’s up to him to conquer an extinction-level threat to our species.

And thanks to an unexpected ally, he just might have a chance.

Part scientific mystery, part dazzling interstellar journey, Project Hail Mary is a tale of discovery, speculation, and survival to rival The Martian–while taking us to places it never dreamed of going. 

I’m such a fan of the Astral Conspiracy Series, and Alexa is reading The Nine to me. Nefarious activities are afoot, and I have no idea what will happen to these characters. Just hope my favs survive!

He can’t trust his allies, won’t trust his enemies. Now he fears that he shouldn’t trust even himself.

Landon Thorne is convinced the key to defeating the Astrals is in the vault — a repository of ancient artifacts, origins unknown, covered with undeciphered glyphs. He’s also convinced he’s the one person on the planet who can translate the markings.

But strange, frightening things happen every time he gets close to the relics.

His allies decide it’s not safe to let him near the vault, so they force him to take a new mission. He’s captured by the Nine — the nefarious organization he’s been running from.

Their leader makes him an offer he can’t refuse — study the Dropa Stones for the answers they seek. Or else. To do that, he needs a cipher. And there’s only one place he can get it.

Getting in will be difficult. Getting out may prove impossible.

It wasn’t the mention of a Jane Eyre retelling that caught my attention – it was the word “exorcist”. Yes, please! This story oozes gothic overtones, and I love that it’s set in Ethiopia. It doesn’t release until November, but I’ll definitely be looking for future releases by this author.

What the heart desires, the house destroys…

Kiersten White meets Tomi Adeyemi in this Ethiopian-inspired debut fantasy retelling of Jane Eyre.

Andromeda is a debtera—an exorcist hired to cleanse households of the Evil Eye. When a handsome young heir named Magnus Rochester reaches out to hire her, Andromeda quickly realizes this is a job like no other, with horrifying manifestations at every turn, and that Magnus is hiding far more than she has been trained for. Death is the most likely outcome if she stays, but leaving Magnus to live out his curse alone isn’t an option. Evil may roam the castle’s halls, but so does a burning desire.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off as a comp title? You know I requested this one. I’m hoping it’s just as entertaining.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off meets Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist in this romp through the city that never sleeps from the New York Times bestselling author of Since You’ve Been Gone, Morgan Matson.

Two girls. One night. Zero phones.

Kat and Stevie—best friends, theater kids, polar opposites—have snuck away from the suburbs to spend a night in New York City. They have it all planned out. They’ll see a play, eat at the city’s hottest restaurant, and have the best. Night. Ever. What could go wrong?

Well. Kind of a lot?

They’re barely off the train before they’re dealing with destroyed phones, family drama, and unexpected Pomeranians. Over the next few hours, they’ll have to grapple with old flames, terrible theater, and unhelpful cab drivers. But there are also cute boys to kiss, parties to crash, dry cleaning to deliver (don’t ask), and the world’s best museum to explore.

Over the course of a wild night in the city that never sleeps, both Kat and Stevie will get a wake-up call about their friendship, their choices…and finally discover what they really want for their future.

That is, assuming they can make it to Grand Central before the clock strikes midnight. 

Bones of a Saint by Grant Farley #bookreview #YA #ComingofAge #TuesdayBookBlog

Set in Northern California in the late ’70s, this timeless coming-of-age story examines the nature of evil, the art of storytelling, and the possibility of redemption.

Fifteen-year-old RJ Armante has never known a life outside his dead-end hometown of Arcangel, CA. The Blackjacks still rule as they have for generations, luring the poorest kids into their monopoly on petty crime. For years, they’ve left RJ alone…until now.

When the Blackjacks come knocking, they want RJ to prey upon an old loner. But RJ is at his breaking point. It’s not just about the gang who rules the town. It’s about Charley, his younger brother, who is disabled. It’s about Roxanne, the girl he can’t reach. It’s about the kids in his crew who have nothing to live for. If RJ is to resist, he must fight to free Arcangel of its past.

It’s the cover that first caught my attention, then the blurb sealed the deal with its 70s setting in Northern California.

RJ hasn’t had the easiest life. His father committed suicide when RJ was just a child, his single mother works long hours leaving him to care for his five younger sibllings, and his family isn’t exactly rolling in cash. RJ also has a knack for getting in trouble with his actions and smart mouth. In some aspects he’s wise beyond his years, but still a mischievous teenager. Despite his antics, he manages to maintain a pretty strong moral compass. He’s also a storyteller. His tales reminded me of Gordie’s in the movie Stand By Me, and the overall tone of this book is similar to that movie.

Although the Blackjacks play a prominent role, don’t go into this novel expecting lots of action and gang wars – it’s not that kind of book. It’s very much a teenager’s journey to facing the realities of life and learning there’s more than one path into the future. The writing is vivid and descriptive, but also humorous – teen boys are absolutely funny and weird at times. RJ’s friendship with Manny and relationship with his family are among my favorite parts of this story. I also enjoyed the references to 70s songs and fashion (bell bottom jeans!).

It’s not exactly what I’d expected, but Bones of a Saint is an engaging read. A couple of twists pop up, but this is a leisurely paced story that’s more about the journey than the destination.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Last Concert and Hauntings

This past weekend was bittersweet. The youngest son graduates in about a month, so Friday and Saturday were his last college concert performances. We’ve truly enjoyed going to all the symphonies and orchestras over the past four years and experiencing the music. Made us feel a little more cultured! Plus, he cleans up well and looks pretty good in a tux. Hubby knew practically nothing about music or instruments when our son began pursuing his love of music in middle school, but he’s learned quite a bit over the years. Even after he graduates we still plan on attending future events.

Most of the concerts have been held at Van Meter Hall on campus. It was constructed in 1910 and is a beautiful example of a historic theater. With its white columns on the exterior, a lofty two story lobby, brass railings, sculptures, and marble arches and staircases, a person could spend hours just touring and appreciating the building.

It’s also haunted. According to several sources, anyway. Stories vary about exactly who died in the theater and how. In one scenario, a construction worker fell through the skylight in the lobby and was killed. Another says a student was hanging lights about the stage and fell to his death. Still another version says there are caverns beneath the campus and a hermit living in the caves found a secret passageway into Van Meter Hall. He carries a blue lantern that explains the blue light associated with the ghost.

Being fascinated with anything supernatural, I’d love to be alone inside the hall. I’d sit on the stage and listen to whatever story the building wanted to tell me. Hubby says I’m crazy (he’s not a believer – a tragic flaw I graciously overlook). If you’re interested in reading more about the ghost haunting Van Meter Hall, click HERE and HERE.

Have a safe and healthy week!

#BlogTour The Seal’s Temptation by Jacquie Biggar #giveaway #romanticsuspense

Happy Friday! You may have seen this author around the blogosphere this week promoting her new release, The Seal’s Temptation, and I’m thrilled to host her today! If you missed my review of Jacquie’s techno-thriller novella, Virtually Gone, yesterday, click HERE. Make sure to register for the giveaway!

The SEAL’s Temptation
Wounded Hearts Book 7
by Jacquie Biggar
Genre: Romantic Suspense
DEA Agent Maggie Holt knows about Hell…
After eighteen months undercover in a Mexican cartel, Maggie is broken. The kickass agent she once was, is gone, leaving her riddled with guilt and nightmares. Forced to take paid leave, Maggie accepts the offer of a vacation on the ranch of the man who’d rescued her from an almost certain death.
Frank Stein knows the signs of PTSD, he’d suffered the symptoms himself as Chief Petty Officer of SEAL Team Five. Honorably retired from duty, Frank has found peace at the family ranch and hopes it will do the same for Magdalena. Ever since he’d first met her when she was interrogating his buddy, Jared, Frank has been fascinated by the raven-haired beauty and wants the chance to see where their relationship could go.
Adam O’Connor is Maggie’s partner. He knows her. He loved her once and could again, if she’d let him in. But he’s also angry she took the chances she did by going undercover against orders. And now, things are different. She’s different.
When a right-wing militia group infiltrates the area, will DEA Agent Maggie Holt, her partner, Adam O’Connor, and ex-SEAL Chief Frank Stein be able to set aside their differences to stop them before someone dies? And who will Maggie choose, the handsome cowboy, or her charismatic DEA partner?
**Only .99 cents!!**
**Check out the rest of the Wounded Hearts series here! **
USA Today bestselling author Jacquie Biggar loves to write Romantic Suspense novels brimming w/Attitude.
Jacquie Biggar is a USA Today bestselling author of romance who loves to write about tough, alpha males and strong, contemporary women willing to show their men that true power comes from love. She lives on Vancouver Island with her husband and loves to hear from readers all over the world!
In her own words: “My name is Jacquie Biggar. When I’m not acting like a total klutz I am a wife, mother of one, grandmother, and a butler to my calico cat. My guilty pleasure are reality tv shows like Amazing Race and The Voice. I can be found every Monday night in my armchair plastered to the television laughing at Blake and Adam’s shenanigans. I love to hang at the beach with DH (darling hubby) taking pictures or reading romance novels (what else?). I have a slight Tim Hortons obsession, enjoy gardening, everything pink and talking to my friends.”
Follow the tour HERE for special content and a giveaway!
$20 Amazon

Excerpt

Dawn was little more than a blush on the horizon when Frank, Jared and Adam set out on their ride the next morning. It was both strange and bittersweet to have his friends on his six again. Frank grinned, the tension easing from between his shoulder blades. Just like old times.

He kicked Sadie into a fast trot and glanced over his shoulder. “You girls think you can keep up?”

Jared shot him a one finger salute. “Maybe if you’d given me a horse instead of this old nag.” The nag in question—a handsome Quarter Horse Frank had trained himself—tossed his head, fighting the tight grip on the reins.

Adam leaned over and gave the bay a slap on the rump with his Red Sox ball cap, a rare smile erasing the grim lines of his face. “What’s the matter, Martin? Married life turning you into a pansy?” He took one glance at his buddy’s expression as he wrestled to bring the startled horse under control and decided to catch up to Frank. “Be one with the horse,” he advised with a laugh.

“I knew you were an a-hole,” Jared shouted.

Frank shook his head at their antics. “You two are worse than a couple of kids.” He kept an eye on Jared until he caught up, then guided Sadie toward the hills, turning up the collar on his shearling jacket against the early morning chill.

Spencer stepped out the door of the foreman’s cottage as they rode by and doffed his stained cowboy hat. “Have a good ride,” he called.

Frank tipped his Stetson in reply but kept going. Spence had managed this ranch for upwards of thirty years—he didn’t need Frank telling him what to do.

“He doesn’t spend the night up at the main house?” Jared asked, his butt bouncing in the saddle.

“No, he does not sleep with my mother.” Tempted to let him suffer, Frank warned, “Loosen your back. Roll with the motion and it’ll go easier on you.”

Adam whistled through his teeth. “I’m sensing some tension, Chief. You do realize your mother is a grown woman, right?” His puppy-dog eyes twinkled with mirth.

Frank snorted. “If you yahoos are done, can we get back to business?”

“Ah,” Jared said, his teeth clacking together with every bounce. “I figured there had to be an ulterior motive to this invite.”

Frank frowned. It was true he’d asked his friends to join them at the ranch after their return from Mexico, but he didn’t mean for it to come with a price tag.

“Listen—” he began.

Jared held up a leather-gloved hand, then just as quickly latched onto the pommel as the bay climbed a steep rise. “Hey, it’s all good. Annie and I have been meaning to come down for a visit anyway. Things have been slightly crazy back home, what with the new baby and setting up the new business and all, or we would have been here sooner.” He gave Adam the stink-eye. “Especially, if you’d let me know you were in trouble.”

Adam shrugged. “Don’t look at me, bro, I was following orders. Besides, we had to move fast once we knew where that bastard had Mags.”

They topped the rise and stopped for a moment to take in the vista. Cows grazed in the field below, their sleek brown and white coats a contrast to the verdant green grass. Bluebonnets flirted with the breeze blowing down from the north, keeping the temperature balmy—at least for the moment. Fluffy Cumulous clouds scattered across the sky like the petticoats under a woman’s skirt; not that many wore them these days except for weddings and such. And why the heck was he thinking about a woman’s underdrawers anyway? Frank scowled.

Desperate to break what felt like an awkward silence, she gestured toward the sparkling constellations over their heads. “Do you study the stars, Mr. Stein? You have quite the view out here.” Maybe not as reach-out-and-touch them as she’d felt on that mesa in Mexico, but a hell of a lot safer. The melancholy that was never very far away filled her chest, a black cloud covering the silvery moon. Her best friend was buried on that hill, a victim of the monster who’d ruined the lives of countless women.

“Not really. My brother and I got into it some as kids but then he… disappeared and I kind of lost heart.” Frank’s voice flowed over her like a warm breeze, dispersing the darkness of her thoughts.

“I’m sorry,” she murmured. “I think I remember reading something about that in your file—the part that wasn’t confidential anyway.” She smiled.

He nodded. “It happened a long time ago. We’ve accepted it, though that’s not to say we’ve stopped looking. Hope lives on, you know?”

Yeah, she did.

The only thing that kept her alive through those hellish months with Chenglei and his band of assholes was hope.

Well, that and a craving for revenge.

“I imagine you’ve exhausted official channels. Have you looked into private investigators?”

He shifted, stretching long jean-clad legs and crossing his ankles, revealing scuffed cowboy boots. The old chair creaked, protesting his movements.

“We tried every avenue there was, but it did no good. He’d vanished.” Frank’s voice was matter-of-fact, but his tone revealed how much the loss of his brother still affected him.

The sad truth was there were thousands just like Cameron Stein—young men and women dissatisfied with their lives who think the grass will be greener on the other side and instead learn, more often than not and sometimes with fatal consequences, that running away is not the answer.

There probably wasn’t a lot she could do, but Maggie wanted to help this family to at least find some closure. Maybe she could pull a few strings within the agency and see what popped. Off the record, of course.

She glanced through the window into the soft vignette-like lighting of the kitchen. Frank’s mom had risen to clear the table, her hands grasping the platter of decimated turkey as she laughed at something the ranch foreman had said, affection apparent on both their faces. Emily leaned down to give him a kiss and he took advantage of the moment to pull her onto his lap. Maggie looked away, her heart pinching.

That kind of relationship was as far away as the moon for her. Even before her captivity, Maggie’s main focus had been career-orientated. Adam blamed himself for their break-up, but truthfully, she just wasn’t a good bet.

“I’m not promising anything, but I can check a couple of things when I get back to work. Sometimes, time can uncover secrets from the past.”

As the Arabian kicked his heels and galloped away, Maggie folded onto the ground at his feet, her arm twisted awkwardly where he held her wrist. Long, black silk hair flowed over her shoulder and breast, hiding her face from his view. He let go, grimacing at the red marks he’d left on her delicate skin.

Dropping to a knee so he could better see her expression, Frank frowned. She was pale, fragile looking. He didn’t think the horse had a chance to hurt her, but with the way he’d yanked on her arm, maybe he had. “Are you injured?” he asked, roughly.

She lifted her head at the sound of his voice, but her eyes looked through him and, suddenly, he realized why.

“Maggie, look at me.” He carefully tucked her hair behind the shell of her ear. “Come back to me, sweetheart. I’ve got you.” He rubbed her shoulder and was relieved to see her eyes lose that vacant, faraway expression. “That’s it, take it easy. You’re safe.” And she would remain that way if he had any say.

Tears formed and she blinked them away. “I… I must have tripped,” she said, her voice gaining strength as she raised her armor, blocking him out.

Much as he wanted to confront her with the truth and force her to talk to him, Frank understood the need to hide the flashbacks away—pretend they didn’t exist.

He rose and held out his hand. “It’s the stallion’s fault, he startled you.”

She accepted the offer and stood with less than her normal grace. “Thanks, I’m not usually so jumpy.” She avoided eye contact while carefully brushing non-existent dust from her slacks. “I guess I was expecting more manners after we gave him an apple and all.” Her wobbly smile begged him not to make a big deal out of her breakdown.

“It was my fault. I should have warned you about Desert Dancer. He’s new to the ranch and still learning his boundaries. He’s a showoff for the ladies—kind of reminds me of O’Connor.”

Maggie lifted a brow. “Does Adam know how you feel?”

He grinned, pleased the sparkle had returned to her beautiful topaz eyes. “He’d be the first to agree. Back on the team we called him our secret weapon because he always managed to get intel for our ops when no one else could.”

“Well, can’t say I’m surprised. He made use of those… talents in the DEA, as well.” She started walking and Frank fell in alongside. “It’s kind of strange being here, with you. Adam used to talk about the great Frank Stein all the time. You’re a legend, you know.” She slipped him an intimate, sideways smile that set lightning bugs buzzing in his chest.

Virtually Gone by Jacquie Biggar #bookreview #thriller #crimefiction

From USA Today Bestselling Author, Jacquie Biggar, comes a gripping techno-thriller, part of a multi-author series tied together by an interlocking cast of characters, all centered around the fantastic new promise of high technology and the endless possibilities for crime that technology offers, in a world where getting away with murder can be not only plausible, but easy…if you just know how.

Investigative reporter Julie Crenshaw stumbles upon the case of a lifetime–one that could cost her everything.

When Julie is called on to investigate a string of sexual abuse cases, she doesn’t expect to land in the crosshairs of a serial rapist. Soon she’s in a race to find the facts before a killer makes her the headline.

Detective Matthew Roy is frustrated with his inability to track a rapist terrorizing his city. Added to that, his partner’s reporter girlfriend is dogging his every step and won’t heed his warnings. Time is ticking with the perpetrator escalating his crime to murder. Matt needs to find the killer soon, or chance losing someone he cares for- the question is, how?

Virtually Gone is part of a multi-author series (this is number six of eight), but can easily be read as a standalone.

Although a quick read, the author provides just enough backstory to introduce the characters without bogging down the pace of the novel. I immediately cared about Julie, a widow who’s tentatively allowing herself to love again. There’s potential for conflict as she’s an ambitious journalist and her boyfriend is a detective – who’s also working the case she’s investigating. Detective Matthew Roy is frustrated a rapist is still running free, but not just from a professional standpoint. He also has a personal interest in the case.

The villain’s arrogance is maddening. He has a seriously skewed vision of himself as someone whose superior intelligence will prevent him from ever being caught. You just really want this guy to get what he deserves for all the despicable things he’s done. As a science geek, the DNA phenotyping used to help track him down fascinated me and was an element I especially enjoyed.

This is a tightly plotted, well-paced thriller that can easily be read in a couple hours and one I’d happily recommend to fans of the genre.